Federal Judge Charles F. Wolverton has decided that the Southern Pacific and the Oregon & California Railway companies must forfeit to the United States government about two hundred thousand acres of land, which is valued at from forty to seventy-five million dollars. The case will probably be appealed. The court held that Congress intended that this should be sold to bona fide settlers in tracts of not more than one hundred and sixty acres to one individual and at a price not exceeding two dollars and fifty cents an acre. Although he decided in favor of the government, Judge Wolverton decided against the five thousand individual interveners in the case. He held that they had acquired no right whatever, either by settling on the land or by tendering the maximum sums specified by the law. The effect of this portion of the decision is that the lands cannot be procured by any individual until the President or Congress again opens them to entry.

Two years ago the government discovered that American phosphate lands were being largely exploited for the benefit of foreign users of this product, over half of the American production being exported; also that the public phosphate lands were rapidly passing into the hands of private owners. Large areas of lands underlain by phosphate rock in the recently discovered fields in the public-land states were immediately withdrawn, with a view to securing legislation which would prevent the exportation of the phosphate. Since then, through geologic investigations, new deposits of phosphate have been discovered. The area now standing withdrawn is over two and a half million acres, containing an aggregate of many hundred million tons of phosphate rock and having a very great potential value to the farming industry.

May 6, 1911

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