New England - Population & Industry
The New England is not an easy place in which to live and work. Its harsh climate, hilly terrain, and thin, rocky soils limit agriculture, except in a few particularly blessed locations. Few mineral resource deposits of substantial size have been found until recently. Coupled with a small local market and relative isolation, this has limited the development of manufacturing. The advantages that the area does offer thus become relatively more important.
This was not always the New England. Its foreland location, jutting far out into the Atlantic Ocean, meant that its shores were among the first parts of the New World encountered by European explorers and settlers. By the mid-17th century, many of the small harbors of central and southern Maine housed British villages. Settlement was kept out of the interior by the American Indian population until the middle of the 18th century.
To the early European settlers, the rich fishing banks off the coast of Maine were immediately important. The banks, shallow areas 30 to 60 meters deep in the ocean at the outer margins of the continental shelf, underlie waters that are rich in fish. Their shallowness allows the sun's rays to penetrate easily through much of the water's depth, which encourages the growth of plankton, a basic food for many fish. Cold-water fish, such as cod and haddock, are abundant. Using this resource, the early settlers began a substantial export of salted cod.
The other prime resource of the region was its trees. The white pine was dominant in the forests of New England. A magnificent tree, it reached heights in excess of 60 meters and stood straight. Its wood was clean, light yet strong, and easily cut. Almost all of the virgin forests are gone now, and the second- and third-growth forests that remain are short and insignificant in comparison. Forest resources allowed the state of Maine to become a center for ship construction. Offshore fishing has recently been threatened by the high demand for domestic petroleum in the United States. Fears of pollution from offshore oil drilling in the country's rich fishing banks were overruled in 1979 when the Department of the Interior granted exploration leases to several oil companies, and major resources of petroleum and natural gas have been discovered.
Mining other than for offshore petroleum and natural gas in the New England is not currently of great importance. This was not always the case. Iron ore has been mined in the Adirondacks for more than 100 years, and the reserves there are still substantial, but total output from the mines is relatively small.
The igneous and metamorphic rocks of northern New England have made the area an important producer of building stone for years. Many granite quarries operate in central Vermont and along the central coast of Maine. Vermont is also the leading marble-producing state in the United States. The value of all of these rocks is small compared to the minerals industries found in other parts of the continent, but it is still an important element in the economy of the two states.
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