The Secretary of the Interior (Ickes) to President Roosevelt

My Dear Mr. President: The war has impressed us with the necessity for an augmented supply of natural resources. In this connection I draw your attention to the importance of the Continental Shelf not only to the defense of our country, but more particularly as a storehouse of natural resources. The extent of these resources can only be guessed at and needs careful investigating.

The Continental Shelf extending some 100 or 150 miles from our shores forms a fine breeding place for fish of all kinds; it is an excellent hiding place for submarines; and since it is a continuation of our continent, it probably contains oil and other resources similar to those found in our States.

I suggest the advisability of laying the ground work now for availing ourselves fully of the riches in this submerged land and in the waters over them. The legal and policy problems involved, both international and domestic, are many and complex. In the international field, it may be necessary to evolve new concepts of maritime territorial limits beyond three miles, and of rights to occupy and exploit the surface and subsoil of the open sea. It may, therefore, be important to consider the matter in the negotiation of any treaties of peace which follow the war. In the domestic field, one of the perplexing questions would be that of the respective sovereign and proprietary roles of the Federal Government and of the several coastal States.

I recommend, therefore, that this Department, in collaboration with the National Resources Planning Board, and the Departments of State and Justice now study the many aspects of such an undertaking and submit their findings and conclusions to you as expeditiously as possible. If you should agree, I would undertake to have these Departments and agencies designate representatives to undertake this joint study.

Sincerely yours,

Harold L. Ickes