Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 77.djvu/319

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By President WILLIAM H. TAFT

CONSERVATION as an economic and political term has come to mean the preservation of our natural resources for economical use, so as to secure the greatest good to the greatest number. In the development of this country, in the hardships of the pioneer, in the energy of the settler, in the anxiety of the investor for quick returns, there was very little time, opportunity, or desire to prevent waste of those resources supplied by nature which could not be quickly transmuted into money; while the investment of capital was so great a desideratum that the people as a community exercised little or no care to prevent the transfer of absolute ownership of many of the valuable natural resources to private individuals, without retaining some kind of control of their use.

The impulse of the whole new community was to encourage the coming of population, the increase of settlement, and the opening up of business; and he who demurred in the slightest degree to any step which promised additional development of the idle resources at hand was regarded as a traitor to his neighbors and an obstructor to public progress. But now that the communities have become old, now that the flush of enthusiastic expansion has died away, now that the would-be pioneers have come to realize that all the richest lands in the country have been taken up, we have perceived the necessity for a change of policy in the disposition of our national resources so as to prevent the continuance of the waste which has characterized our phenomenal growth in the past. To-day we desire to restrict and retain under public control the acquisition and use by the capitalists of our natural resources.

The danger to the state and to the people at large from the waste