Utah State University Faculty Honor Lectures
The Faculty Association and Utah State University Press
presented his Report on the Arid Lands of the United States with a More Detailed Account of the Lands of Utah to Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz. The report was not so much a careful scientific report, but a distillation of Powell's experiences in the arid regions and a compilation of his recommendations. The paper "was less a report than a program - even, some western congressmen would begin to say, a manifesto, a revolution" (Stegner 1962). Stegner wrote:
It would ultimately be recognized as one of the most important books ever written about the West, and it was understood at once to be loaded with dynamite. Yet it was by no means a finished piece of work, and by no means a model of the scientific method. The data assembled in its chapters were tentative, approximate, sometimes hardly better than educated guesses; its final chapter had only the remotest connection with the body of the report; and the generalization and recommendations of the first two chapters, considering the imperfections of the statistical data, went considerably beyond the bounds of scientific caution.
While the document itself may have been lacking in scientific perfection, the recommendations were ecologically sound. What might the West have been had Congress followed Powell's advice, using sound ecological principles in the settlement of western lands? They did no
Box, Thadis W., "The Arid Lands Revisited, 100 Years after John Wesley Powell" (1977). Faculty Honor Lectures. Paper 10.