Page:U.S. Department of the Interior Annual Report 1880.djvu/40

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past times has become already too great to be repaired, and the evil consequences are keenly felt. In the United States the consumption of timber is enormous and rapidly increasing. It is in the nature of things that where timber is taken from the public lands without restraint the process is attended with the most reckless waste. No attention is paid to the preservation of young trees or of anything that is not immediately used. What is looked upon as everybody's property is apt to be in nobody's care. Thus, our forests are disappearing with appalling rapidity, especially in those parts of the country where they will not renew themselves when once indiscriminately destroyed. Like spendthrifts, we are living not upon the interest but upon the capital. The consequences can easily be foreseen. They will inevitably be disastrous, unless the Congress of the United States soon wakes up to the greatness of the danger and puts this ruinous business upon a different footing by proper legislation, either according to the principles advocated by this department and the Public Lands Commission, or upon others that may be found equally effective. The action of the government will apply only to the public lands; but those portions of the country in which the great body of the public lands is situated stands most in need of speedy and energetic action. I have considered it my duty to call attention to this subject upon every proper occasion, and that duty has been performed. All further responsibility will rest with the legislative branch of the government. It is to be hoped that the voice of warning will be heeded before it is too late.


The report of the Auditor of Railroad Accounts, herewith presented, gives the operations of his office during the year ending June 30, 1880, under the law relating to indebted Pacific railroad companies and certain land-grant railroads.

The Auditor and railroad engineer made two inspections of railroad property—one during the months of August and September, 1880, the detailed results of which are embodied in his report. About 6,655 miles of railroads, coming under the operations of the bureau, have been inspected.

The Auditor reports a gratifying improvement in the condition of railroad property, more especially in that of the Union and Central Pacific Companies. The largely increased earnings of the companies have enabled them to maintain and improve their property to a much greater extent than heretofore.

Among the properties included in the inspections, aside from the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, were those of the Southern Pacific, Atlantic and Pacific, and Northern Pacific Companies, in all of which the government is more or less interested, either as creditor or otherwise. They are all making increased earnings, although rates both for freight and passengers have been reduced, and it is believed that as the country