Conservation Commission

Entity: 169
Entity Type: State Government


The Eighth Legislature created the Conservation Commission through the Conservation Act, to prevent the waste of natural resources in Utah. The Ninth Legislature amended the Commission laws in 1911, and in 1917, the Twelfth Legislature repealed the Conservation Act. Governor William Spry appointed the members of the Commission and held the first meeting on May 26, 1909. The Conference of Governors held May 13-15, 1908, prompted the initiation of the Commission. President Theodore Roosevelt assembled the conference and, in doing so, brought attention to the waste of natural resources throughout the country. The powers-that-be recommended that each state appoint a commission to cooperate with the National Conservation Commission in educating the public about the misuse of natural resources.

Biography/History Notes

The Conservation Commission duties included investigating and gathering information on Utah's natural resources and adopting and carrying out policies and measures to prevent waste. The Commission worked with the National Conservation Commission, the Conservation Commissions of other States; departments, bureaus and officers of the United States, and with departments, commissions and officers of the State of Utah to achieve its goals.

The Conservation Commission compiled an "inventory of the state's resources, developed and undeveloped" and disclosed their findings in reports and a map. The Commission created the map in 1911 and gave it to public libraries and schools. The 1909 preliminary report and the 1913 biennial report detailed the Commission's findings on Utah's natural resources and relayed their work to the public. The Commission presented these reports to the legislative and executive departments of the United States, including the National Reclamation Service and to the public. After this time, no records show continued activity. Although the Commission remained intact until 1917, I find no evidence to support activity after 1913 and therefore believe it was in name only.

Governor William Spry acted as chair and an ex-officio member of the Conservation Commission. The law required that he appoint at least three members to the Commission, Governor Spry appointed six. O. J. Salisbury held the position of vice-chair and Joseph F. Merrill, of secretary. The Governor appointed Lewis A. Merrill in 1912 and he became secretary after Joseph F. Merrill resigned in 1912.

The Commission appointed B. B. Mann as the clerk in the October 6, 1909 meeting and he began his work on October 21, 1909. The Commission also created subcommittees to address the issue of Utah's compelling natural resources. These committees' duties included gathering and assembling a report on their perspective natural resource and determining just how much information belonged in the reports. The task assignments went as follows: Water Power & Irrigation - George Austin, Thomas L. Allen; National Forests - O. J. Salisbury, LeRoy Armstrong, Lewis A. Merrill; Mineral Resources - H. T. Haines, J.E. Petit; Agricultural Resources - John A. Widtsoe, Lewis A. Merrill.