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PUBLIC LANDS. I have the honor to present the following abstract of the operations of the General Land Office under the laws relating to the survey and disposal of public lands during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877:

Acres. Disposal of public lands by ordinary cash sales ......

740, 686. 57 Military bounty land warrant locations under acts of 1847, 1850, 1852, and 1855...

97, 480.00 Homestead entries..

2, 178, 098. 17 Timber-culture entries ..........

520, 673. 39 Agricultural college scrip locations..

1, 280.00 Approved to States as swamp ..

320, 935.05 Certified to railroads ...

700,791.96 Certified for wagon-roads........

61, 543. 18 Certified for agricultural colleges....

63, 443.04 Certified for common schools

27,973, 92 Certified for upiversities ...........

3, 235.83 Internal-improvement selections

50, 984. 91 Sioux half-breed scrip locations .....

2,655. 29 Chippewa half-breed scrip locations.

5, 422.94 Special scrip entries under acts of 1858, 1860, and 187

60, 460.45 Entries under the mining laws.....

14, 103.00 Total. .......

4,849, 767.70 Disposals for previous year.......

6,524, 326. 36 Decrease as compared with sales of preceding year .........

1,674,558. 66 CASH RECEIPTS UNDER VARIOUS HEADS. Parcbase-money of land sold....

$969, 317 04 Homestead fees and commissions......

333, 428 34 Timber-culture fees and commissions..

53, 298 00 Agricultural college scrip fees.............

36 00 Fees in pre-emption and homestead filings...

56, 979 00 Fees on military bounty land warrant locations.

1,868 50 Fees for transcripts furnished by local officers..

784 08 Fees on mineral filings and protests ....

7,321 00 Fees on railroad and wagon-road selections ......

14, 999 80 Swamp land indemnity fees......

1,384 00 Donation fees............

1, 635 00 Fees on Valentine scrip and university selections ..

3,080 87 Fees on transcripts furnished by the General Land Office...

8,837 60 Total..........

...... 1, 452, 969 23 SURVEYS.

Acres. Total area of the land States and Territories ....

...... ...... 1,814, 769, 920 Surveyed during past fiscal year............

...... 10, 847,082 Previously surveyed.........

... 702, 725, 655

713,572, 737 Romaining unsurveyed .........

.... 1, 101, 197, 183 TIMBER LANDS. The subject of the extensive depredations committed upon the timber on the public lands of the United States has largely engaged the atten

tion of this department. That question presents itself in a twofold aspect: as a question of law and as a question of public economy. As to the first point, little need be said. That the law prohibits the taking of timber by unauthorized persons from the public lands of the United States, is a universally known fact. That the laws are made to be executed, ought to be a universally accepted doctrine. That the government is in duty bound to act upon that doctrine, needs no argument. There may be circumstances under which the rigorous execution of a law may be difficult or inconvenient, or obnoxious to public sentiment, or working particular hardship; in such cases it is the business of the Jegislative power to adapt the law to such circumstances. It is the business of the Executive to enforce the law as it stands.

As to the second point, the statements made by the Commissioner of the General Land Office, in his report, show the quantity of timber taken from the public lands without authority of law to have been of enormous extent. It probably far exceeds in reality any estimates made upon the data before us. It appears, from authentic information before this department, that in many instances the depredations have been carried on in the way of organized and systematic enterprise, not only to furnish timber, lumber, and fire-wood for the home market, but, on a large scale, for commercial exportation to foreign countries.

The rapidity with which this country is being stripped of its forests must alarm every thinking man. It has been estimated by good authority that, if we go on at the present rate, the supply of timber in the United States will, in less than twenty years, fall considerably short of our home necessities. How disastrously the destruction of the forests of a country affects the regularity of the water supply in its rivers neces. sary for navigation, increases the frequency of freshets and inundations, dries up springs, and transforms fertile agricultural districts into barren wastes, is a matter of universal experience the world over. It is the highest time that we should turn our earnest attention to this subject, which so seriously concerns our national prosperity.

The government cannot prevent the cutting of timber on land owned by private citizens. It is only to be hoped that private owners will grow more careful of their timber as it rises in value. But the government can do two things : 1. It can take determined and, as I think, effectual measures to arrest the stealing of timber from public lands on a large scale, which is always attended with the most reckless waste; and, 2. It can preserve the forests still in its possession by keeping them under its control, and by so regulating the cutting and sale of timber on its lands as to secure the renewal of the forest by natural growth and the careful preservation of the young timber.

With regard to the point first mentioned, I call attention to the elaborate statement made by the Commissioner of the General Land Office in his report concerning the methods followed in enforcing the law against timber depredations hitherto. It appears that those methods

have, in a great measure, been unavailing in arresting the evil, and upon mature consideration of the subject, the conclusion was reached by this department that an important change was imperatively demanded by the public interest. It was found that the “stampage system "formerly in use, and the practice of compromising with the depredators, which uniformly left tempting profits to the latter, tended rather to encourage the depredations than to stop them, and that the only way to arrest the depredations was by seizing the stolen property wherever found and by punishing the depredators. My views on this subject, and the policy adopted and carried out by this department, were set forth in a letter addressed to the honorable the Attorney-General, dated August 29, as follows:

* . * * I avail myself of this opportunity to state the rule of action I have adopted for this and similar cases.

While it is my desire to dispose of the logs seized by the officers of the Government on terms as advantageous as possible to the United States, it is the principal object of the operations of this department, recently set on foot, not only to bring money into the public treasury, but to put an end to the timber depredations committed on the public lands. To this end, it is above all things necessary that the depredators be effectually deprived of every possibility of deriving any benefit or profit from the wrongful acts they have committed. As long as they are permitted to hope that even after the seizure by Government officers of the timber wrongfully taken from the public lands, they may by way of compromise acquire rightful possession of the logs on terms profitable to themselves, the temptatiou to continue the depredations will not cease to exist, and the deprodations will go on. It is for this reason that I have directed that the stumpage system hitherto prevailing be discontinued ; for the same reason I withhold my approval from every compromise which would permit the logs seized to pass into the possession of the depredators with any chance of profit; and I insist upon the current market-price of the logs at the place where they are held.

If in following this role small lots of logs should remain unsold at places where competition is not active, or in cases where the trade combines against the Government, that loss will be trilling compared with the great advantage gained if by strict adherence to this rule the depredations are terminated. I desire to make those who hitherto have carried on these depredations with profit understand that in attempting to steal timber from the public lands they will in any event lose the value of their labor and their expenses, and expose themselves to criminal prosecution.

With regard to the criminal prosecution of depredators, I would recommend that they be not confined to those mostly poor persons who actually cut timber on public lands with their own hands, but that they be directed as well and principally against the parties who are found to have organized and directed the stealing of timber on the public lands on a large scale and derived from that criminal practice the greatest profit.

As is shown by the Commissioner of the General Land Office in his re. port, a considerable number of suits were instituted in different parts of the country, some of which have already been tried and decided in favor of the government. I have reason to believe that the measures taken by the department have already stopped the depredations on the public lands to a very great extent, and that, if continued, they will entirely arrest the evil. A comparatively small number of watchful and energetic agents will suffice to prevent in future, not, indeed, the stealing of

single trees here and there, but at least depredations on a large scale. To this end, however, it is necessary that Congress, by an appropriation for this purpose, to be immediately ayailable, enable this department to keep the agents in the field, and also to provide a more speedy and effective system for the seizure and sale of logs, lumber, or turpentine, cut or manufactured from timber on the public lands, than is now provided by existing laws. I would also recommend that section 4751 of the Revised Statutes be so amended as to provide that all penalties and forfeitures incurred under existing laws for cutting timber on the public lands, except trespasses committed on lands reserved for naval purposes, shall be sued for, recovered, and accounted for under proper regulations by the Secretary of the Interior.

The enforcement by this department of the policy above stated has called forth remonstrance from several parts of the country where seizures were made. Lumber-merchants, saw-mill owners, and timber-operators in some of the timber districts complained that private property bad been or was apt to be seized together with logs wrongfully taken from the public lands of the United States, and that, by the proceedings carried on, business in certain localities would be severely injured and many laboring people put out of work. The agents of this department are instructed to use the utmost care in respecting private property; and, as far as the department is informed, those instructions have, a very few trilling and promptly corrected mistakes excepted, been strictly obeyed. As to the injury done to business, if that business consists in wrong. fully taking timber from the public lands of the United States and man. ufacturing it into lumber and selling it, it is just the business which it is the duty of this department to suppress for the protection of the public interest.

Otber complaints came from some of the mining States and Territories, setting forth that the majority of their lands not having been surveyed nor being adapted to agriculture, and the timber lands not being open to purchase, the people of those States and Territories cannot obtain the timber necessary for their mining operations and smelting-works, por even fuel for their homes, unless they take it from the public lands. This complaint is certainly entitled to consideration, and, with due regard for the equities of the case, the department has abstained from all criminal prosecutions and caused seizures to be made or suits com: menced only where timber had been taken from the public lands in large quantities for sale to railroad companies or smelting.works, or the supply of the market on a large scale. In such cases, also, the plea bas been made that railroad-ties, building-timber, and fire-wood for running smelting-works could not be obtained in any other way, except from a great distance at large expense. This is true; but it is also true that those who have supplied themselves, without authority of law, from the public lands should at least be held to pay a fair price for the prop. erty so taken, as that kind of property must be paid for elsewhere, and for this the department affords them an opportunity until bý proper legislation they are enabled to obtain the necessary supply of timber and fire-wood in a legal way.

Moreover, nowhere is a wasteful destruction of the forests fraught with more dangerous results than in mountainous regions. The timber grows mostly on the mountain-sides, and when these mountain-sides are once stripped bare, the rain will soon wash all the earth necessary for the growth of trees from the slopes down into the valleys, and the renewal of the forests will be rendered impossible forerer; the rivulets and water-courses, which flow with regularity while the forest stands, are dried up for the greater part of the year, and transformed into raging torrents by heavy rains and by the melting of the snow, inundating the valleys below, covering them with gravel and loose rock swept down from the mountain-sides, and gradually rendering them unfit for agriculture, and, finally, for the habitation of men. Proper measures for the preservation of the forest in the mountainous regions of the country appear, therefore, of especially imperative necessity. The experience of parts of Asia, and of some of the most civilized countries in Europe, is so terribly instructive in these respects that we have no excuse if we do not take timely warning.

To avert such evil results, I would suggest the following preventive and remedial measures: All timber-lands still belonging to the United States should be withdrawn from the operation of the pre-emption and homestead laws, as well as the location of the various kinds of scrip.

Timber-lands fit for agricultural purposes should be sold, if sold at all, only for cash, and so graded in price as to make the purchaser pay for the value of the timber on the land. This will be apt to make the settler careful and provident in the disposition he makes of the timber.

A sufficient number of goverument agents should be provided for to protect the timber on public lauds from depredation, and to institute to this end the necessary proceedings against depredators by seizures and by criminal as well as civil action. .

Such agents should also be authorized and instructed, under the direction of the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture, to sell for the United States, in order to satisfy the current local demand, timber from the public lands under proper regulations, and in doing so especially to see to it that no large areas be entirely stripped of their timber, so as not to prevent the natural renewal of the forest. This measure would enable the people of the mining States and Terri. tories to obtain the timber they need in a legal way, at the same time avoiding the dangerous consequences above pointed out.

The extensive as well as wanton destruction of the timber upon the public lands by the willful or negligent and careless setting of fires calls for earnest attention. While in several, if not all, of the States such acts are made highly pepal offenses by statute, yet no law of the United States provides specifically for their punishment when committed upon the public lands, nor for a recovery of the damages thereby

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