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Representative WINTER. Mr. Wilson, I have heard it stated several times this year that as to the State of Wyoming as a whole the range was as good or better this year than it ever has been. Is that a correct statement?

Mr. WILSON. That would be true, undoubtedly, in localities that had favorable rainfall and weather conditions. In the desert in the western part of the State that is absolutely true. In our particular part of the State it is not so true. Last year was better than this year. We had more favorable weather conditions. Generally speaking, that is true in the winter; unquestionably true.

Representative WINTER. How long has the overstocking been supposed to have been going on in this State? Has that spread over the entire 20-year period that you speak of that it has been under the Forest Service, since the Forest Service regulations were established, or has it been a late period? When has this destruction or overgrazing of the range taken place, if it has?

Mr. WILSON. Well, it was first alleged probably long before my time, and before I recall, but my first recollection is approximately 20 years ago when the Forest Service told us that it was considerably overgrazed. And those allegations have continued to be made from that time until the present time.

It has always been my observation that when there has been a dearth of forage it is invariably due to lack of moisture and proper growing conditions. Anyone who has been in the stock business or is familiar with range conditions I am sure will bear out that state


It has always seemed to me that the Forest Service has rather fallen down. They seem to be able to regulate everything else, and they ought to be able to regulate the rainfall so that these forests would have a greater carrying capacity.

The company with which I am interested has been running sheep on the same range for approximately 30 years. I can say without any fear of contradiction that that range to-day is better then it was 30 years ago.

A part of the land owned by our company is in the mountains and is timbered to the extent that this year we cut about 165,000 feet of lumber off 40 acres. Of course that is not heavy timber as people understand timber, but, contrary to the Forest Service, it actually has saw timber on it, and in considerable quantity. That has been grazed continuously for probably 35 or 40 years. We have grazed it continuously for 28 years, and we can not see that the growth of the trees has been damaged in the slightest. There is as much grass and as much weeds and as many young trees growing as there were before we started grazing on the land, as nearly as we can determine. So that there has not been the damage to the growing timber that has been frequently alleged.

The proposed bill for grazing control fostered by the departments and bureaus, known as the Finney bill, to which I have heretofore referred, to my mind is as vicious a piece of land legislation as it is possible to imagine. It would place in the hands of the Secretary of the Interior arbitrary power, undreamed of even in monarchies, and certainly never delegated in a representative form of government. And I am frank to say that I do not believe Congress will delegate that power to any officer of the Government.

The matter of turning the remaining public domain over to the States has some supporters in the State of Wyoming. But apparently the majority of our livestock producers are also opposed to this plan, because their experience in the past in leasing lands from the State has not been entirely satisfactory.

I want to say at this point, that if we could be assured that the present Commissioner of Public Lands would continue in office indefinitely, and the present land board could be continued in office indefinitely, it would remove probably a large part of our objection. But this has happened in the administration of the leases of State lands. During the most depressed period of our history, of the livestock business in this country, the State land board raised the rentals on State lands I presume approximately 50 per cent. At any rate, the increase came at a time when wool was selling at 17 cents-from 122 to 17 cents-and ewes were selling, if we could find a buyer that had any money, for about $3 or $3.50. So that we are just a little loath to turn this over to the State. The livestock producers of Wyoming, so far as I have heard, are quite content to leave things exactly as they are.

If Congress were to turn back to the States that part of our birthright which they feel they have taken away from us without any justification-our minerals, our forests-we would then, or at least I, speaking personally, would then be in favor of turning this so-called worthless public domain back to the State. They have taken about everything we have, and now you may offer us the worthless remnants. We want a little more. We want what really is our birthright.

It has always been my opinion that the Government really held these public lands in trust for the people of the States, to be patented to the entrymen under the various land laws. This has been done in all of the States to the east of us. All of the land in these Eastern States was once public domain. These States, too, had forest lands, coal lands, and oil lands, yet they passed into private ownership and are now paying their share of taxation to the States. And now, after taking away our coal, our oil, our forests, the Government is reaching out for the balance of the public domain, which they themselves say is worthless for anything except grazing. Why should not we in the West have the same consideration that our sister States in the East have had?

I do not imagine that I can find any argument with the committee on that, but it does seem to me that they have succeeded in taking practically everything, and now they want the rest of it, even the water of the State of Wyoming.

We are also opposed to the leasing of the public domain. Our organization has been opposing similar legislation for the past 20 years. We simply desire to be let alone and work out our own salvation. We feel competent to do this in the future as we have in the past. The woolgrowing industry has adapted itself to the changing conditions, and feel that we can continue to meet them if left alone. We are satisfied with the conditions as they are, and do not wish to be disturbed. We are fearful that any leasing bill will make conditions infinitely worse than they are now. We can only judge the future by the past, and our experience with both the Forestry Department and the Department of the Interior certainly

does not make us look with confidence toward any plan of Federal control or lease of the public domain.

It has always been our understanding that the United States. holds the public land within a State only for sale and settlement or other proper disposal. The language of all our history-the cessions, the Constitution, and all the laws-is in accordance with this idea. The United States holds the lands not to cultivate, not to lease, but simply to sell and dispose of. They protect the lands until sold or disposed of, and there their authority ends. I feel that it is not in accordance with the Constitution nor the history of our legislation for the Government to retain permanent control and permanent ownership of large tracts of land within the borders of the several States.

I submit that the people of the West ought to be permitted to determine for themselves how they shall best utilize the range. Their judgment should be better than the judgment of the heads of the bureaus and departments in Washington. It will be difficult for anyone to demonstrate how or why the range can be parceled out better and unrestricted grazing more successfully combated from Washington than from local areas or local centers.

Since the settling of the frontier the West has had the free use of the public range. That this free use of the range has helped greatly in the development of this country can not be denied, and I can see no reason why this custom should be changed at this time.

Any bill providing for the leasing of the public domain would have to take so many factors into consideration that it is difficult to conceive how such a bill could be made fair and equitable.

Take, for example, the question of preferential rights or preference rights. Assuming that leases would be given to the prior occupants of the range. Just how could this be determined? Take, for example, a range which may be used in common by cattle, sheep, and horses. If the horses had used the range for the longest period would the preference be given to them even though the owner of the horses did not own land in the vicinity of or adjacent to the range while the owners of the sheep and cattle did own such lands? Are you going to say that the homesteader or landowner living adjacent to the range which he uses now for grazing his milch cows and his stock is to be deprived of that privilege? Are you going to say that the owner of a ranch who through the vicissitudes of fortune and the falling markets now has no cattle or sheep, particularly those in the cattle business who have been forced to liquidate practically their entire holdings and now have nothing but the ranch left-are you going to say that they shall not be considered in leasing this land even though they may have been using a portion of this public domain for a period of 20, 30, or even 40 years because just at this particular time they haven't any cattle? How these preference rights can be fixed by law seems to be a very perplexing question. As I see it this question alone would. lead to endless controversy. So we believe that we are far better off than we would be under a lease law.

It has been said that such a law should have been passed 50 years ago. I rather think that was an unwise statement. Probably the gentleman who made it did not give it careful consideration.

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Certainly if such a law had been passed 50 years ago the State of Wyoming would still be entirely undeveloped. Senator Kendrick even would not be within the State of Wyoming in the cattle business, except as he might have acquired by purchase cattle or land holdings. Practically all of us who are here in this room would not be in the livestock business in the State of Wyoming. It would be just as undeveloped as the great deserts-even more undeveloped than the great deserts in the western part of this State.

Senator KENDRICK. It is your contention that the use of the public domain by the pioneers contributed in the most economical way to the development of the State?

Mr. WILSON. Unquestionably so. Unquestionably so.

The CHAIRMAN. But if those who were originally here had been granted leases that would have foreclosed the development of the others coming in?

Mr. WILSON. Absolutely, sir. The State of Wyoming would still be practically undeveloped.

The CHAIRMAN. And do you think that the leasing of the public domain at this time would be a hindrance to the future development of the State of Wyoming in the same manner?

Mr. WILSON. I do. Senator; certainly, sir. I do not think any of us in Wyoming would want to go back to the conditions 50 years ago, we that know Casper, know Sheridan, know Cheyenne. We would have a few large cattle ranches but very few people.

In running livestock, as the members of the committee know, there must of necessity be a good deal of flexibility in the amount of range on account of climatic conditions. This matter has been explained to the committee before. On account of deep snow fall we may be unable to use a certain portion of our range this winter, while next winter those conditions may be entirely reversed, and that portion which is covered by snow this year may be bare and open to grazing. So that that also would be true of the summer, spring, and fall grazing. Due to climatic conditions; the lack of rainfall. If we had a fixed lease in many parts of this State it would disrupt the present livestock industry.

Now, assuming that you are given a certain area; you are confined to that area. As it is now, if we have snow on our ranges we can move around up to the ranges which do not have snow and move back to those ranges covered with snow as the snow gradually disappears.

Any leasing bill which might pass Congress, unless the 640-acre homestead act was repealed, would, in my judgment, be an invitation to the unscrupulous to enter 640 acres on some strategic location on the lease and blackmail the lessee. I think the committee realizes about how this would work out. A man would take a waterhole and the lease would be practically valueless.

Now, as to the local option features of the lease law. Because of the fact that in nearly all our western States livestock range across State lines, it seems to me inevitable that in order to protect the grazing within its borders each State would be compelled under the option plan to make the entire State a leasing district. That is to say, if our neighboring State of Colorado was a leasing district and we remained as we are, having the free use of the unappropriated public domain, the influx of livestock from other States would force our State, and I think all other States, to become a leasing district.

Now, you have heard the 640-acre homestead discussed more or less at these hearings and there seems to be an almost unanimous opinion among stockmen that it has not been much good. I do not think there is anyone in this country that was more opposed to the 640-acre homestead bill when it was passed than I was. I was not looking to the future development of the State of Wyoming. My opposition was actuated by purely selfish motives. I wanted to be continued to be allowed to use the public domain without any interference by homesteaders, and anything that we may say in that respect must be more or less colored by our selfishness.

It has been said that practically all of the 640-acre homesteads were failures. I am not prepared to go that far. I know of several 640-acre homesteads in our locality where the people were industrious, and on land that I may say I did not think anyone could make a living on, who have accumulated a few cattle, usually milch cows, have worked hard, have acquired other lands adjoining their holdings, and are now on the way to a competence. So that in my own particular locality the 640-acre homestead bill has not been entirely a failure. I am perfectly willing to admit that many of the entrymen have been compelled to leave their homesteads to abandon them. That might be equally their fault as well as the fault of the land they have taken.

And I am also prepared to admit that a good many of the entrymen took land because they thought they could sell it at a fairly attractive price and make money thereby. But because of those things it seems to me unfair to condemn the entire system.

If we are prepared to say that there is no land available within the limits of the State of Wyoming which can be successfully homesteaded, it seems to me we are making a very, very broad statement. I can recall in reading that the same statement was made about Kansas and Nebraska. And I assume that the same statement was made even about the States farther east. And it has always been that as civilization, or not necessarily civilization, but as the people moved westward, the first group of settlers, only a few of them remained on the land. That, I think, was true in the Ohio Valley. And it has been true ever since. That is true in this particular case. But certainly we can not say that the next group or the third group may not remain and make a success of their homesteads.

I know Bob Taylor, whom most of you gentlemen here know, told me that he bought a great deal of this land around Abbott, Nebr., at 75 cents an acre. That land to-day is worth, I presume, from $20 an acre up. That right close to Abbott, of course, is worth a great deal more than that. But his grazing land is worth approximately $20 an acre or more. He bought that in some cases from the original entrymen and in some cases from the second entrymen. But they did settle up that country despite the fact that those living in the the country assured not only Congress but everyone else that it could never be settled up. That it was a great waste. And I don't think that we can make that same statement safely about the conditions existing in this State to-day with relation to the 640-acre homestead act.

Representative WINTER. May I ask a question there? Do you think the entries will continue so that ultimately the balance of the

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