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Unformatted text preview: Cadillac Desert Study Guide: Pg. 1-45 The Mormons created a Mesopotamia in the American desert between the valleys of the Green River and the middle Snake by building canals and irrigation systems into the surrounding desert. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was an irrigation program launched by the US and run mainly by Mormons, following their experience and laws. Everything depends on the manipulation of water and without it the West as we know it wouldn’t exist. Large amounts of water are sitting in underground aquifers, but it is a resource that has been exploited like oil. John Wesley Powell believed that most of the West could not be transformed. With a lot of money and effort, all we have been able to do is turn a Missouri-size piece of the West green mainly through the use of nonrenewable groundwater. Ogallala aquifer is the largest discrete aquifer in the world but also the fastest-disappearing. In the East, to waste water is to consume it needlessly or excessively. In the west to waste water is to not consume it. The Louisiana Purchase between Napoleon and Jefferson led to the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Jefferson set them off to explore Louisiana and they found that there were no trees which to them meant no possibility of agriculture; Louisiana remained an enigma. According to Reisner, the settlement of the American West owes itself to a hat made of beaver felt. Supported by eastern money, mountain men would explore unknown regions to find more beavers. Jedediah Smith went in search of more beaver and crossed the desolate Great Basin and encountered “numbingly primitive” Digger Indians. Mark Twain later called them a reflection of the landscape they found themselves in. Indians are described as mostly hostile: Smith and his party are ambushed by Mojave Indians. A band of the Umpqua tribe stole into their camp, murdered, and looted. Mountain men opened the door to settlement in the West. Powell disagreed with the idea that rainfall would increase once a region was settled, that it would “follow the plow”. When these theories proved wrong, Powell’s irrigation ideas were pursued and gigantic dams were being built on small foundations of economic rationality and need. The “Rain Follows the Plow” theory says that as population increases, the moisture will increase. Many explanations: plowing exposes the soils moisture to the sky; newly planted trees enhanced rainfall, etc. According to Reisner, the railroads are what did away with the Great American desert. Had to get people to use the trains first: false signals: railroads published their own newspapers and advertised the West while concealing their ties with land-sales companies. William Gilpin said “The plains are not deserts” and had a passion for empire, similar to his mentor Senator Thomas Hart Benton: the father of manifest destiny. Homestead Act of 1862: mythical allotment of land.Half-mile square settlements that could hardly be inhabited and prosperous with the regulations that were put on them:...
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