Beavers and Indians were Utah's first conservationists. Most of the beaver were trapped out in the short heyday of the mountain men, between 1824 and 1840. About a hundred years later these rodent engineers were reintroduced, protected, and encouraged in their program of damming small streams, delaying runoff, building up the water table, and providing spawning pools for fish. Indians in the greater part of the Utah area had little to conserve, but where there was game to be hunted they took only such animals as they needed, and used every part of the animal for food, for thread, for implements, and for clothing.
The Mormon pioneers were behindhand only in point of time in the use of natural resources and their conservation. Choosing a land that nobody coveted so they would be free to develop their own religious and economic program, the Mormons on the first day of their arrival began to use soil and water, two prime Utah resources, to build a self-sufficient agricultural commonwealth. Timber was scarce, the nearest usable forests being up Big Cottonwood Canyon, whence a long, laborious haul was necessary by ox-team. It is not surprising, therefore, that they established rules limiting the use of green timber, the penalty for violation being "certain fines." In the spring of 1852 Elias Adams, possibly the first man in Utah to realize the value of water storage, built a dam about three miles east of Layton and filled it with water from Adams Canyon. In 1856 Brigham Young spoke of the desirability of a canal between Utah Lake and Salt Lake Valley; "when that work is accomplished," he said, "we shall continue our exertions until Provo river runs to this city."
Nearly all of the arable land in Utah parallels mountain ranges bisecting the State from north to south. Here, with a rich soil, favorable climate, and successful conservation of water, farmers produce nearly every crop known to the temperate zone. The land in this area includes mountain, dry valley, and alkali soils. The mountain soil is loose, loamy, comparatively rich in organic matter, and poor in lime; the dry valley soil is rich in minerals and poor in lime. These two soils support nearly every important crop in the State. Mildly alkali soils produce sweet clover, alfalfa, and sugar beets, but strongly alkali regions remain as poor range or wasteland.