Page 6

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Title
Page 6
Source
Partial proceedings of Conference of Governors, Commissioners and advisors of the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming, on the Colorado River
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http://digital.library.unlv.edu/u?/dig,8
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ON THE COLORADO RIVER 5 Taxation in the public land states is burdensome and oppressive because only a small percentage of the land is in private ownership and the small part must bear the entire burden of state, county and municipal government. The public lands, so far as I can see, are irretrievably lost to us, unless the federal government, out of the goodness of its heart, sees fit to restore them to us; and I have a life size picture of a New England congressman voting for that proposition. He believes that New England belongs to New England and that Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California belong to the United States of which New England is an important part. People of the eastern states, where 100 per cent of the land is in private ownership and paying taxes cannot conceive the exasperating burden of making one-fourth of the state support the other three fourths in idleness. In other words, they maintain the unconstitutional doctrine that the western states were not admitted upon an equality with the states of the east, which have always been conceded to own and control the waters of their streams and the beds of their navigable rivers, in their sovereign capacity. The western states were admitted upon equal footing with the eastern states and under our plan of government came into being endowed with the same powers they would have possessed if they had participated in the formation of the union. The most vital of all these powers, especially in an arid region, is jurisdiction over their streams. Preservation of this control is a matter of necessary self defense. We hold that the western states have absolute jurisdiction over their streams, and that the federal government neither owns nor has the right to control any of our streams, whether navigable or unnavigable, and, unless invited to do so, has no authority to do anything on our rivers except to regulate navigation for interstate commerce. Furthermore, we believe no greater catastrophe could befall the western states than to let their rivers fall into the hands of the federal government. I am sure the farmers of Utah, even if they are not exercised over preserving state autonomy, do not want to take orders from federal employes in irrigating their lands; and I suppose the same spirit of independence is alive in the farmers of the rest of the states represented here. The federal government already owns most of our lands. If it now also takes our waters, what will there be left of our boasted statehood? That the beds of navigable streams belong to the states in their sovereign capacity is so well established by numerous decisions of the supreme court of the United States that it would be a waste of time to argue the

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