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President Abraham Lincoln 83 years ago, good farm land upon which an agricultural living can be made as required by the homestead law is scarce on the vacant, unappropriated, and unreserved public domain in the United States.
Meanwhile, another type of use of the public lands which does not require the making of a living by agriculture, has grown during 1945 to become one of the major operational problems confronting the Office. This opportunity for land settlement by World War veterans as well as civilians is afforded under the terms of a law which authorizes the lease or sale of not to exceed 5 acres of public land for home, camp, cabin, health, convalescent, recreational, or business purposes.
Popularity of the plan is indicated by the fact that applications for leases under the law totaled more than 3,200 in 1945, as compared with only 1,600 during the preceding 6-year period. To help meet this increased demand, special land examinations had to be made, with the result that more than 30,000 acres of land, the major portion of which is located in Southern California, were recommended for classification as suitable for use under the Small Tract Act.
As the fiscal year drew to a close with prospects for a rapid return of service personnel to a civilian status, interest in the small tract land settlement program increased, areas in the vicinity of Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz., Sacramento, Calif., and Denver, Colo., being applied for, as well as tracts in Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. Further expansion of the program to provide still more areas for lease and a streamlining of administrative processes to facilitate the work is an essential task confronting the General Land Office in the postwar
The fact that more than nine-tenths of the 375 million acres of land and water in Alaska consist of public domain remaining in Federal ownership places upon the General Land Office a large share of direct responsibility for the proper administration and development of the natural resources of the Territory. Foremost among these is the obligation to furnish authentic information concerning the various types of land-use opportunities within its borders. During 1945, this requirement was met in part by the distribution of an information bulletin on Alaska which not only has served as a standard reference publication for other Federal agencies and members of Congress, but also has provided thousands of servicemen and women with data relating to the privileges and obligations inherent in the administration of the public land laws in Alaska. Shortly after the close of the fiscal year, Congress enacted a law making the provisions of the Small Tract Act which hitherto had been confined to continental United States, equally applicable to the public lands in Alaska. As a result, plans were immediately set
under way to gear General Land Office operations in the Territory to the requirements of the new law.
At the same time, definite steps were taken for strengthening the organization in Alaska to render effective service in meeting land settlement and other problems of resource development during the postwar period. Specifically, a new regional field office of the Branch of Field Examination was established at Anchorage to handle matters formerly routed through San Francisco, while the Alaskan Fire Control Service was vested with broader authority in the protection of public land areas from fire and in the use of timber from the public domain. In addition, special examination of some of the public lands in the Territory was made during the summer of 1945 to insure up-to-date evaluation of the areas from the standpoint of suitability for agriculture or other use in the economic development of Alaska.
Sustained Yield Conservation Maximum benefits from the natural resources of the United States in the postwar period will require a complete cessation of the haphazard use which in former years led to denuded timbered areas, abandoned "ghost towns," and the depletion through overgrazing of the rangelands of the West and Southwest. Responsibility for the attainment of this goal on the public lands under national conservation policies rests in large measure upon the operational activities of tbe General Land Office.
Foremost among its obligations in this field is the establishment of sustained-yield forest-management practices op all the Federal lands under its jurisdiction, as required by Congressional mandate enacted during the 1945 fiscal year. Under this program, forestry operations on the timbered public domain eventually will be brought into a balanced ratio ip which the volume of tree-cutting and of tree-growing will be regulated so as to provide a continuing supply of those natural resources on the land.
Adequate protection from fire of the 262,500,000 acres of timber, grass and brush land areas of the public domain in the United States and Alaska also is an additional administrative task assumed by the General Land Office during 1945, and plans were completed at the close of the fiscal year to preserve these resources for postwar use.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR'S WORK
The dual task of meeting the public land requirements in the Nation's war program while orienting its operations to respond to the demands for public service in the postwar period, highlighted the record of accomplishment of the General Land Office during the 1945 fiscal year. Operating through 4 branches with 12 divisions in Washington, 5 agencies in the field with 25 offices scattered throughout the
West and in Alaska, and 25 district land offices also strategically located for service in the West and in the Territory, this official real estate agent of the Federal Government closed its books for the period with a net profit both in conservation advancement and in financial gains resulting from its year's work.
RECEIPTS AND EXPENDITURES In the aggregate, the activities of the General Land Office produce cash returns several times greater than the expenditures incident to its operations. In 1945, these cash receipts totaled $13,381,654 and represented a ratio of $5.66 for every $1 of the expenditures which aggregated $2,365,005. This was the second consecutive year in which the receipts exceeded $13,000,000, and the fourth time that receipts of the General Land Office have exceeded $10,000,000 since 1880.
Last year's receipts totaled $14,355,342, and expenditures $2,321,664.
Oregon and California Revested Lands Administration World demands for lumber and other forest products in the post-war period were reflected in operations and plans of the Oregon and California Revested Lands Administration during the 1945 fiscal yeur. Established in 1938 to carry out a broad program of sustained yield forestry management on 272 million acres of land in western Oregon, which once was encompassed in a Federal railroad grant but later revested in Government ownership, this branch of the General Land Office maintains its headquarters at Portland, Oreg.
Rated as the world's largest experimental laboratory in practical cooperative sustained yield forest management, the “O. and C.” lands provide the testing grourd for a world pattern of forestry economy. Under this program all elements would join in opero tions under which tree growing would reasonably balance tree cuttirg to the end that a continuing supply of raw materiols will be available for the existence of industry and dependent communities. Definite plons for the further advancement of the sustained-yield program in the Pacific Northwest were made by the "O. and C.” Administration during the last fiscal year.
Meantime, definite contributions to the Nation's lumber needs were made during the year from the "O. and C.” lands which contain one of the finest stands of Douglas fir trees in the United States. In 1945, sales of timber from these lands exceeded 426,000,000 board feet valued at approximately $1,518,000.
The use of aerial mapping as a means of more speedily completing an inventory of timber resources in the "O. and C." lands is expected to form a part of the work program for 1946.
Further augmenting the post-war program for betterments in the industry on the Pacific coast is the planting of seedlings on the de
nuded lands by the “O. and C.” organization. Utilizing Civilian Public Service enrollees, more than 1,550,000 seedlings were planted and 350,000 trees prepared for transplanting in the field during the year.
With the end of the war, studies for broader use of the “O. and C.” lands for recreational, grazing and other uses which were laid aside during the emergency, were ready to be resumed at the close of the 1945 fiscal year.
Cadastral Engineering Service Plans for reorganization of this scientific branch of the General Land Office so as to meet the demands for accurate surveys in connection with land administration during the postwar period were brought to a completion near the close of the 1945 fiscal year. Involving the transfer of headquarters for this work from Denver to Washington, D. C., the reconversion program of the Cadastral Engineering Service contemplates the execution of a greater amount of actual survey work in the field than in previous years.
One of the major requirements in the first transfer of land from Government to private ownership, cadastral surveying consists of careful measurement of areas on the ground, the recording of such measurements by the placing of monuments or other markers, and the preparation of maps scientifically compiled from field notes made by trained engineers at the time of the on-the-ground measurements.
First undertaken 150 years ago in accordance with the ordinance of 1795, these surveys were carried on in 23 States and the Territory of Alaska in order that the identification of the assets in the people's quarter-billion-dollar real estate might be adequately protected in 1945.
Altogether a total of 9,231 miles was surveyed or resurveyed in 1945, some of the 1,287,490 acres being encompassed in areas acquired for military purposes.
With an increase in land settlement in Alaska looming large as a potential postwar development, the plans of the Cadastral Engineering Service include an expansion of survey work in that Territory.
Branch of Field Examination The examination of land upon which is based the rejection or approval of plans for its use under the public land laws, is the major responsibility of this branch of the General Land Office. By maintaining a staff of trained technicians including mining and civil engineers, geologists, lawyers, auditors, timber cruisers, range specialists, and others experienced in land investigations, the branch handled many difficult and unusual types of cases during 1945.
For example, the reappraisal of unsold lots in a townsite in upper Miami Beach, Fla., was made by field examiners from this agency
and the subsequent auction sale brought out bidders who ran prices up to a new high in Florida beach property.
At another period of the year agents of the branch were assigned to investigate mining claims on areas set aside as military bombing ranges, while a third group made extensive investigations in the now famous Alamogordo area where the atomic bomb experimentation was carried on.
Paving the way for more efficient service to the public in the development of Alaska, a new regional office was established at Anchorage. Other regional offices maintained by the Branch of Field Examination are located in San Francisco, Calif.; Billings, Mont.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Albuquerque, N. Mex.
Responsibilities placed upon the General Land Office by Congress in the enactment of the sustained yield forestry management act greatly increased the task of the Branch of Field Examination during the 1945 fiscal year in preventing trespass upon the public domain. Altogether, over $70,000 was collected in payment of trespass violations of the public land laws.
Alaskan Fire Control Service Prospects of post-war development of Alaska which will increase its burdens in the prevention and suppression of fires on more than 250,000,000 acres of public domain in the Territory, confronted the Alaskan Fire Control Service at the end of the 1945 fiscal year. The end of the war is expected to bring about an unprecedented pumber of tourists and settlers, the reopening of mining operations, and the construction of new airfields and roads, all of which will present new and greater fire hazards.
At the same time, increased popular interest in the Territory will bring about greater demands for the use of the timber and other natural resources of Alaska. In order that full coordination may be attained in both the protection and utilization of the timber resources, expansion of the operations of the Alaskan Fire Control Service to include management and disposal of the timber on the public lands in the Territory, was begun during the year.
Meanwhile, favorable weather conditions in 1945 resulted in the new smallest fire loss in the 6-year history of the organization. During the year, the Service took action on 57 fires with a total burned area of 2,535 acres, of which 624 acres were on private land. There were 13 fires inaccessible to the Service which burned over an estimated 110,200 acres. The number of fires for the year, therefore, totaled 70, with an aggregate loss of 112,735 acres.
Service records show that there were a larger number of fires caused by lightning in 1945 than in former years, about 37 percent of the total number of fires being started by lightning, and approximately 98 percent of the total acreage consumed being due to lightning fires.