Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/89

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THERE is a natural resource available in many parts of the country, indeed, on a large number of farms or in larger unused tracts of the entire Atlantic and Mississippi Valley region, that is not only almost wholly neglected, but the neglect of which involves a number of phases of economic loss. This loss becomes more serious and the reparation the more difficult as time passes, and hence a note of warning and appeal seems justified.

The present tendency is to reduce not only all accessible forest areas to ordinary farm cultivation, but by drainage of all possible swamp areas to still further increase the area for ordinary tillage and to decrease those tracts which have in some degree the function of holding and regulating the outflow of our rainfall.

Without attempting to discuss all the economic problems connected with this phase of the subject, we may note that it affects the constancy of water level over considerable areas, the flow of streams with its bearings on flood disasters and navigation, but perhaps more vitally the carriage of fertility from the farming regions to the sea, where, if it ever becomes available as a human resource, it is so remotely advantageous to the farm or to the nation that it must be counted an economic loss.

The assumption seems to have been, based, doubtless, on our knowledge of but one kind of farming, that every bit of land not under ordinary farm culture was a loss, and therefore to be transformed as rapidly as possible to cultivated fields. To this end, forests have been felled, and lowland swamps and marshes, even including many extensive and valuable bodies of shallow water, have been drained. This means that instead of acting as natural reservoirs and conservators of moisture and fertility, their surplus moisture content has been discharged as rapidly as possible into the rivers and so on to the seas.

Before making some suggestions as to systems of farming by which it seems possible to avoid this waste, and, on the other hand, to develop some most productive sources of wealth, it will be in place to call attention to the capacity for production resident in every permanent body of water.

Every one is familiar with the rank growth of swamps and lowlands and the most superficial observation will reveal the enormous masses of