The push for creating national forests began with the western movement of pioneers, as they moved across from the original 13 States through the Louisiana Purchase and into the territory west of the 100th meridian. The vast forests, swift rivers, and steep mountains were obstacles to be overcome. Through the Great Plains the pioneers found hardly any standing trees until they got into the foothills of the Rockies. The idea of starting anew in the wilderness was a challenge to be overcome. Once settled in their new homes, forests were cut and cleared and rivers spanned by wooden covered bridges. Trees were used for firewood, fences, bridges, and other kinds of products, while the land, after clearing, was used for farming and grazing.
The virgin forests slide show what the forest conditions looked like when the pilgrims came to America in the early 1600s. Most of the forest land was in the East, especially heavily forested in the Southeast.
Three hundred years later, near the turn of the century, much of the forest area in the East had been removed ‑ again most of it for farming purposes. However, the forested lands through the Rockies, the Sierra, and the Cascades were basically intact.
There were a number of homestead laws that Congress enacted to entice people to move West. The Donation Land Claim Act for the Northwest and a number of other homestead acts allowed 160 acres of free land to every settler. Congress also granted millions of acres to various railroad companies on the condition that the railroads would sell land to settlers recoup the cost of building their rail lines. The biggest railroad endeavor was the Northern Pacific Land Grant of about 10 million acres which went across the northern tier states from Minnesota westward to Seattle. In the western part of Oregon, Congress granted to the Oregon and California Railroad Land Grant (O&C) around 3.2 million acres to the O&C Railroad. One of the conditions of these huge land grants was to sell that land to settlers. But around the turn of the century, they decided to stop selling because it was more valuable for the standing timber than it was to sell it.
On March 3, 1891, Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, or the Creative Act as it is sometimes called, in Section 24, a one paragraph amendment. The Creative Act allowed the president to establish forest reserves from the public domain. This act repealed provisions of several of the earlier land laws that were being abused through massive land frauds.
The first forest reserve established in the Yellowstone Park Timberland Reserve on the southern edge of Yellowstone National Park on the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming. It was created on March 30, 1891, to protect the area along the boundary of the park. The second forest reserve created was the White River Plateau Timber Land Reserve in Colorado on October 16, 1891. A number of others were established in 1892 and 1893 with the last two on September 28th (the Cascade Range and the Ashland Forest Reserves). No more would be proclaimed until 1897.
This began a four-year period in which no new forest reserves were created, as the president recognized the need for management of the existing reserves which was not provided in the early forest reserves. Finally on February 22, 1897 (George Washington's birthday), the president established 13 new forest reserves covering 21 million acres throughout the west. In June of 1897, the forest reserves that had been created were suspended for a nine‑month period and then reinstated in 1898.
This is what the forest reserves looked like by 1898. All of the forest reserves were in the Rockies, the Sierras, or the Cascades. There were none east of the Mississippi River (that would have to wait until 1916).
The law which suspended those "Washington's Birthday Reserves" was called the "Organic Act" of 1897. One of the provisions in there was to create a core of forest rangers, forest supervisors, and forest superintendents. In the summer of 1898, they became the first people to do on‑the‑ground management in any of the forest reserves. On the left is Addie Morris, the General Land Office ranger who lived at Big Prairie (now called Oakridge) in the Western foothills of the Cascades of Oregon. On his vest, he is wearing the typical round shield of the General Land Office rangers. These folks were politically appointed by the U.S. Senators who themselves were politically appointed by the State legislatures. To receive an appointment as forest ranger, the only thing that they had to do was be good friends and of the same political party as their U.S. Senator. They didn't need to know anything about the forests or forestry. They were only employed during the high fire season (about three months) until about 1902, after which they were hired for slightly longer periods of time. Many of the rangers tended to look at the experience of being a forest ranger as a summer vacation. Some of the rangers took their families along. Here they set up a long‑term camp and then would go on horseback to monitor the forest reserves. In some cases the rangers and their wives patrolled together on horseback.
In the late 1890s, there was a split of the national conservation movement over sheep grazing in the forest reserves. John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club in California, wanted the total elimination of the "hoofed locusts" (as he referred to them) from the reserves and preservation of the forest reserves like national parks. John Minto, a prominent sheep owner and state horticulturist from Salem, felt that the grass on the forest reserves should be used free by the sheep herders or if that was not possible then totally eliminate the reserves. Gifford Pinchot felt that the forest reserves should be used, but we shouldn't abuse them. The John Muir faction is what we call the preservation or environmental movement today. Another faction is the "Sagebrush Rebellion" or “Property Rights” groups who want to have all the public lands sold to the private sector. In the middle is the Gifford Pinchot faction (the Forest Service, BLM, and the other public land agencies) espousing multiple‑use management. After 1899, the forest reserves allowed sheep grazing on a limited basis in the forest reserves.
Around the turn of the century, there were a lot of newspaper accounts of dealings with land fraud with the forest reserves and the remaining Homestead Laws. As this newspaper from 1901, The Morning Oregonian shows that there were abuses in the lieu land system, the forest reserve establishment system, and problems with the Southern Pacific Railroad and the land grants. It came to a head about 1903 to 1905 with the number of land fraud trials in Oregon. The intent was that those people would file the claims, get the land transferred to them, and then immediately transfer their ownership of that land to timber companies who could take advantage of this heavily timbered country.
Here is a "typical" forest homestead. You can see the big trees and the fact that there is very little agricultural land.
There always has to be some bad guy in the story. Binger Hermann, who had been a U.S. Representative from Oregon, was the General Land Office Commissioner (equivalent today to the director of the Bureau of Land Management). He was indicted in the land frauds, and he was tried two times but acquitted. (He was again elected to the Congress the following year ‑ 1903.) His partners, however, were not quite so lucky. One of them, John Mitchell, U.S. Senator from Oregon, was tried and convicted. While he was appealing his conviction, he died in 1905 from complications of a tooth extraction. Before the trials ended, 33 persons were convicted including U.S. Representatives, members of the Oregon Legislature, and other important persons in the State.
In the spring of 1905, the forest reserves were transferred from the Department of Interior to the Department of Agriculture. In the summer of 1905, the United States Forest Service was formed in the Department of Agriculture. The head of the Forest Service was Gifford Pinchot, the same person for whom the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington State is named. He was a very energetic and charismatic leader. One of the things that he did was change the hiring practices from the political appointments under the Interior Department to civil service jobs in Agriculture. This poster published around 1905 was one of those strongly held ideas that Pinchot had about the incompetence of the earlier General Land Office rangers.
There also was beginning some controversy about the Olympic Forest Reserve. There was mounting pressure from a variety of groups in Washington and nationally to have the center of the Olympic Forest Reserve made into a national park or a national monument to protect the Roosevelt Elk (named after Teddy Roosevelt who was president at that time). President Roosevelt, using the provisions of the Antiquities Act of 1906, established the Mount Olympus National Monument in 1909 right in the heart of the Olympic National Forest.
The mountain areas covered by the new national forests (renamed from forest reserves in 1907) were very wild in those days. There were just a few wagon roads and toll roads. Most of the country was very wild, a true wilderness. There was no timber harvesting or other kinds of developments or improvements on the national forests to speak of. To give you a perspective of the primitive country, on the right, there is a point of land sticking out and there is kind of a stick standing up there, that is a forest ranger by the name of Guy Ingram.
The Forest Homestead Act of June 11, 1906, allowed homesteading inside the boundaries of the national forests. If the land was more valuable for agriculture than for growing trees, the settlers could legally homestead the land. There was a lot of suspicious activity surrounding these land claims and most of the applications were turned down.
William Morris of Spokane, Washington’s, Spokesman Review drew this cartoon in 1907 showing how he felt Uncle Sam would look if the timber harvesting and timber operations from large private corporations was continued. The implied meaning was that saving the forests was very good, and that we needed to have even more national forests to preserve the forested public domain for the future.
The reasons often stated were that big companies like Weyerhaeuser and others were devastating the land. They had a track record in the Lake States of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan of completely devastating the land as they were taking out the pine trees. They were looking very hungrily to the South and the Northwest at the practically untapped forest resources in the Rockies, Sierra, Cascades, and Olympics.
Two persons were basically responsible for how the national forest system looks today ‑ Gifford Pinchot here on the right and President Teddy Roosevelt on the left. Both these men were from wealthy New York families who took great pride in their views about the need to preserve as much of the Western Public Domain as possible for future generations. They, and many others, were part of the "Progressive Movement" of eastern liberal Republicans who felt that the public lands should remain in public ownership, especially those unique lands either for recreation, parks, or national forests. In fact, if we didn't have these two men who were very powerful in the early conservation movement, we wouldn't have half the national forests, national parks, national monuments, and national wildlife refuges that we highly value today.
In early 1907, the Agricultural Bill passed Congress which restricted the president from establishing forest reserves or national forests simply by proclamation. Any new forest reserves would have to go be approved by Congress. Roosevelt had several weeks in which to sign the bill. During this time, Gifford Pinchot and his staff looked at all of the known stands of timber on public domain, to map out those areas, and to quickly establish forest reserves where there had been none before. So in a matter of a few days, Pinchot and his staff in the Washington Office wrote more than 20 proclamations for the president to sign. The story goes that as soon as they finished the proclamation and map, they would run it over to President Roosevelt and he would sign it. Seventeen new forest reserves, totalling around 16 million acres, were created, then President Roosevelt signed the bill on March 4, 1907, which ended his power to establish those reserves by just a stroke of the pen (the act also changed the name from "forest reserves" to "national forests").
Early forest rangers were few in number and not very well trained, but they were very effective in managing the lands under their control. These are the forest rangers who met in Roseburg, Oregon, in October of 1907. These were all of the forest rangers out on the national forests.
In the end of 1908, Pinchot decided that 130 national forests were too difficult to manage effectively from the Washington Office. Feeling that he and his staff couldn't make good decisions being so far away while all the action was going on‑the‑ground out in the western States. A decision was made to establish an intermediate level between the national forests and the Washington Office and they called these "District Offices" (today known as the "Regional Offices"). They separated the national forests by region. District offices were established in Missoula (Region 1), Denver (Region 2), Albuquerque (Region 3), Salt Lake City (Region 4), and San Francisco (Region 5). In Portland, the new North Pacific District (Region 6) covered the states of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska (Alaska didn't become a separate Region until 1921).
For the ranger on‑the‑ground, the most important aspect of his job was his horse. That was the easiest way to get around the forest because there were no roads. Of course, you had to get all of your equipment and food supplies on the pack horses or mules. So the diamond hitch, a method of attaching packs to pack saddles or the pack frames, was a very item to know, and for many years throwing the diamond hitch was a required part of the forest ranger exam. Because if you didn't do it correctly, then you had to redo the whole thing out in the middle of the wilderness.
There were no roads and travel conditions were very primitive. There were no bridges. If there was a river there and you had to get to the other side, you and your horse just went across. They did everything by hand, building all of the trails and other kinds of access by hand and muscle. They had to fight fire with just a handful of people.
Another major job for the early rangers was doing land surveying of the external boundaries, as well as some of the internal township sections, as well as producing a number of forest atlas maps beginning in 1909.
They also built a lot of ranger stations. Today we probably would call them guard stations, but they were simply made of native materials with no floor or glass windows, taking two or three men a week or so to rough out the construction of these. They were scattered all over the forests often near lakes, streams, and meadows with the idea that they would serve as temporary shelter at night and during inclement weather.
Also about this time, we began realizing that there was a lot of recreation potential in the national forests. The Forest Service also began cooperating with the state fish and game commissions to stock fingerling trout in the high alpine lakes, as well as serve as game wardens on the national forests. In this slide, rangers on are packing fingerlings in five‑gallon milk cans into the high country. Periodically, they would stop along a stream and flood the milk cans with fresh, oxygenated water.
Occasionally, they had the opportunity to enjoy the out‑of‑doors they were managing. When a ranger found a hot spring, he could take a much needed bath and do a little relaxation. But inevitably, he still had to come back to the supervisor's office and write the reports of what he did. One of the things that was required from the General Land Office days until the 50s was to keep a daily diary. At the supervisor's office (which was usually just the forest supervisor, a deputy, and a chief clerk) the ranger had to fill out a number of reports, perhaps about a homestead entry, trespassing, grazing permits, or other uses or abuses of the national forest.
During the summer of 1910, huge fires broke out the northern Rockies, especially in Idaho and Montana. Partially as a result of these devastating fires, Congress passed the Weeks Act of 1911 to provide cooperation between the Forest Service and the states. This was the landmark in the creation of the FS division of State & Private Forestry. This act also authorized the Forest Service to purchase lands for national forest purposes East of the Mississippi River. In 1916, the Pisgah National Forest was the very first of these national forests established in the East under the Weeks Act.
At the same time, the Wind River Nursery on the Gifford Pinchot NF was developed to grow seedlings for planting on the 1902 Yacolt Burn area in the Columbia Gorge area of Washington State. The Nursery was the beginning of the R‑6 forest and range experiment station.
It was also the realization that automobiles were not going to go away. We had to do something to respond to the pressure of people driving into the mountains for their summer vacations as well as just general sight seeing and excursions.
The Southern and Northern Pacific Railroads had problems as they were not fulfilling the terms of their agreements under the Congressional land grants. However, the Southern Pacific Railroad was forced by the Supreme Court to return their unsold grant lands, but Northern Pacific (now called the Burlington Northern) was able to retain their lands. When Mount St. Helens exploded in 1980, there was still one square mile of the summit of Mount St. Helens that was owned by Burlington Northern. When the National Volcanic Monument was established, they generously gave that land to the Forest Service.
In 1917, we went to war with Germany. Two special forestry regiments (the 10th and 20 Forestry Engineers) were established with a lot of staffing by Forest Service volunteers. One of them was William Greeley who, after the war, became the 3rd Chief of the Forest Service. He retained his military title of Colonel, so for many years he was referred to as Colonel Greeley, Chief of the Forest Service.
Also on the coasts of Washington and Oregon, there was a unique Army operation of 30,000 soldiers which was established to do nothing but cut trees and build railroads. It was called the Spruce Production Division, U.S. Army Signal Corps. When the Army put the Spruce Division together, they also formed a union called the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen, or the 4 L's. This was basically to counteract the forces of the I.W.W, the radical union called the International Workers of the World or sometimes derogatorily referred to as the "I Won't Work." In the summer of 1917 just as we were going off to war, the I.W.W. struck the saw mills in Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon for which at the time were some quite radical demands. They wanted an 8‑hour work day, time and a half for overtime, and better conditions in the logging camps, especially china plates rather than the tin plates. Also, when men were killed out in the forest, which was quite common in this dangerous occupation, they wanted the operation to shut down to remove the body. Dead loggers, as the story goes, were just propped up against a stump and were left there until the end of the shift and only then were put on a rail car and hauled to town. They didn't get too far with these railroads before the war ended. The Spruce Production Division began in January of 1918, but when the war ended, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the whole Spruce Production became unnecessary.
During the First World War, the first women being employed out in the forest. Previously, there had been a few women clerks, but most of them still were men. But with the coming of the war and the men all going off to the war, there were a number of women employed out in the field. At Red Butte on the Umpqua Forest, the woman on the left was job sharing the lookout job with her sister, on the right. In the man in the middle, the husband of the lookout on the left, was the smoke chaser.
Right after the war, there was a lot of Army Air Corps or Army Air Service pilots. The Forest Service contracted with the Army Air Services to do some experiments with spotting fires from these new fangled airplanes. They flew successfully over the Coast, Cascade, Sierra, and Rocky Mountains of the West from 1919 until the mid‑1930s. One of the very first problems they had was that they didn't have radios. If you are flying at about 10,000 feet and you have no radio but you spot a fire, how do you get the information to the ground? Several of the more innovative pilots and observers took with them a sack of rocks, some twine, a piece of paper with a pencil, and a cloth streamer. When they would spot a fire, they would write a note and tie it around a rock, use a long streamer and they would buzz the local ranger station and drop this rock with a streamer attached. In this crude way, the information was relayed to the ground. The lack of radios was soon overcome.
Here are some of the pilots and observers for the Olympic National Forest. All of them were wearing lynx head caps given to them by the concerned citizens of the Olympic Peninsula.
The Forest Service also experimented with lookout buildings on‑the‑ground or in this case up in the trees. The first lookout trees were established by just topping off trees and building a platform. If you could imagine four grown men standing there looking for fires in the middle of a lightning storm, you can get the picture of the conditions in those early lookouts. It didn't take too long however to realize that they needed more permanent type structures. They started building these lookouts on the tops of most of the mountain peaks or areas where they could observe large amounts of the national forests.
Here is an example of one of the lookouts, this was on top of Mount Hood. The Mount Hood cupola style lookout was built in 1915, and finally the wind and ice blew the station over in the 1920s.
The early lookouts had the same problem as the airplanes did, we still didn't have two‑way radios. Experiments were made with heliographs (flashing mirrors), semaphore signals (waving flags), and even setting off black powder charges to indicate locations of the fire. All proved ineffective. The Forest Service decided to do build an incredible system of telephones out on the forests, which was very expensive for its time. Each lookout had a telephone which required that miles and miles of #9 wire be strung through the forest. This proved to be a very workable system, but it required that maintenance of the telephone wires was an all summer job because trees were always falling down and breaking the wire.
When they got the wires all the way down to the ranger station, they had to have another employee to staff the telephone systems. I might add too that the telephone systems often tapped into or joined by the various homesteads up along the way (sometimes called the farmer lines). Whenever the telephone would ring, everybody would listen in and get all the information or the gossip as the case may be.
The Forest Service also was realizing that since they built these roads into the forest, there were more and more people coming up into the Cascades to recreate. So we needed to improve the roads that we had built earlier. Some of them had been nothing more than just crude wagon roads, some were old toll roads, and others just locally built roads. This for example is just a one lane road. At the corner, as it turns around the big rock, you can see the guard rail which is nothing more than just a couple of trees dropped down along the edge of the road. On the right, you can see the river through the trees.
As we started to improve the access to the forests, we built lots of roads and some major highways in conjunction with the Bureau of Public Roads. Here they are building a highway with a caterpillar with no blade, towing a grader with no engine. This is a typical system to construct roads. I might add that the first bulldozers with blades attached were designed by Forest Service employees in the Portland Lab in the late 20s.
We also built campgrounds out on the forests. The first official Forest Service campground was built up at Eagle Creek on the Columbia Gorge. Downhill skiing was starting to be very popular. Also at this time in the mid‑20s, the Forest Service decided that it wanted more people to enjoy the recreational opportunities on the national forests. We granted more and more special use permits for a variety of recreation spots. The hot and mineral springs were very popular and usually were very much of destination resorts all through the mountainous West.
There also were a number of special use permittees that built lodges on some of the national forests. Summer homes were felt to be a valuable resource by the Forest Service to encourage people to get out and use the national forests.
The Forest Service also started to purchase trucks and automobiles, because we had more and more roads where we could use these kinds of vehicles. However, the story goes that although "automobiles could get you there quicker, but horses could get you there oftener."
In the mid‑20s, it was beginning in certain places around the region a number of large timber sales that were usually entire drainages that would take several decades for the timber to be removed. There was a large railroad logging operation designed with the idea that the company over a series of decades eventually would take out all of the timber. The sale worked very effectively until the Depression when the company went downhill and bankrupt.
The Depression was also the first time that the Federal government became involved with trying to help people who were unemployed. When President Franklin Roosevelt came into office, one of the things that he promised to do was to get people back to work. He established a Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933, to hire unemployed young men to work in the forests and parks across America. The enrollment period for the young men was for six months at a time. They had to be between the ages of 18 to 25, and there were about 200 men per camp. There were no women camps. They were paid $30 per month, $25 of which had to be sent home. Later, the program also involved Veterans of World War I, as well as Indians and locally employed men. It worked very effectively and was easily the most popular program of Roosevelt's "New Deal."
The first CCC camps were usually equipped with Army surplus pyramid tent camps, which were quickly transformed into more permanent wooden buildings. Thousands of these camps were established all through the United States. The camps were managed by the U.S. military, who took care of them and fed them. The Forest Service, Park Service, Soil Conservation Service, and the O&C Administration (now BLM) provided the projects and the work supervisors for these various projects on‑the‑ground.
They also had with the CCC some of these local experienced or locally employed men, like the fellow on the left teaching the cobbler trade to a young enrollee. They had a number of other vocational and educational programs in most camps. The CCC program was in existence from 1933 until the War started, but all of the camps were gone by the summer of '42.
The CCC built thousands of structures, this is a typical Forest Service ranger station that they built. Typical of the CCC construction is the diagnostic pine tree symbols over the door and on the shutters. You may find them on almost every CCC structure, although the tree symbol may look slightly different.
CCC and especially the WPA, or the Works Progress Administration built one of the finest structures in the Northwest using public money, Timberline Lodge, which was dedicated in 1937 by President Roosevelt. It is one of only two National Historic Landmark buildings owned by the Forest Service (the other is Grey Towers, Gifford Pinchot’s ancestral home in Milford, PA).
Thousands of CCC boys that were used to help fight fires.
Also in the mid‑30s, because of the severe depression, there was a unique U.S. Resettlement Administration, which went out into the communities near farm and forest areas with the idea of trying to establish permanent homes and permanent communities based on natural resources and available people. The program did a number of studies around the region for various resettlement projects but there was none that came about before the Resettlement Administration ended in the late 30s. One of the Resettlement communities was Beltsville, MD!
In June of 1933, Axel Brandstrom and Burt Kirkland (from the University of Washington and the Forest Service) published a study about the cost and effectiveness of clearcutting in the Douglas‑fir region. Their conclusions were that clearcutting was not economical and they recommended selective cutting. Regional Forester C.J. Buck was convinced and decreed that selective cutting would be used in R‑6. This stirred considerable debate among the research community, with a flurry of new studies that had the opposite conclusions. (In terms of R‑6 policy, clearcutting was brought back after Buck left and finally in the mid‑1950s clearcutting became national policy after many studies had concluded. Yet within 10 years, the public was demanding that the Forest Service quit clearcutting.)
There was more controversy in the late 1930s about Mount Olympus National Monument. A number of people from the Seattle area and other places wanted to create a national park out of the center of the monument. Concern was growing because of a U.S. Biological Survey (now the Fish and Wildlife Service) proposal to reduce the herd of elk there because they were overgrazing and starving. The hunt, which they carried out, was very successful. However, it enraged the people who were trying to protect the elk and create a new national park. One of the more influential people in the Olympics controversy was the daughter of President Roosevelt who was married to the publisher of the Seattle Post‑Intelligencer. It seems that she was personally responsible for getting her father (the President) to be a pro‑park advocate.
In the fall of 1937, when President Roosevelt dedicated Timberline Lodge as well as Bonneville Dam on the Columbia, he also did a circle around the Olympic Peninsula. He arrived at Port Angeles and promised some school children who greeted him on arrival they would have a national park. Roosevelt stayed overnight at Lake Crescent Lodge and the following day had lunch at Lake Quinault Lodge. During the visit Regional Forester C.J. Buck, and the forest supervisor on the Olympic, John Ray Bruckert, both had conferences with Roosevelt and talked about the need to not have a national park there because the forest was needed for community stability on the Olympia Peninsula. Their comments so enraged Roosevelt that after he got back to Washington D.C., he had C.J. Buck transferred from being the regional forester back to the Washington Office, and Bruckart transferred from the Olympic down to the Willamette Forest. By 1939, it had been transformed into a national park.
It was also at this time that the first roadless area inventory was completed in the West by Bob Marshall of the Washington Office (and founder of the Wilderness Society) and several other WO people. On the left is Fred Asam, who was the district ranger on the North Umpqua Ranger District on the Umpqua for 24 years, Bob Marshall, second from the right. Marshall and others came to the region to do evaluate pristine roadless areas and make recommendations for wilderness of primitive areas. Potential wilderness areas had to be larger than 200,000 acres. This is the roadless area inventory on the Umpqua Forest. These are the three potential wildernesses on the Umpqua which were inventoried in the 1938‑39.
In 1939, there were some experiments on the Wenatchee and other places on the feasibility of dropping supplies and men from airplanes. Extensive practice with the first smoke jumpers continued through 1940, with the first jump on an actual fire was in Montana that summer. Here is one of the early style parachutes dropping into a forest area. The smoke jumpers also were useful after World War II began, with the knowledge that the Forest Service gained jumping into heavily forested areas. During part of the war, the all-black 555th (“Triple Nickel” parachute battalion) jumped on a variety of fires in the West. The Army was very interested in their experiences and techniques to help train the parachute battalions who were going to jump into Normandy at D-Day in 1944.
The Forest Service got into the anti‑fire campaign to highlight that the forests were highly vulnerable to attack, especially from Japan. There was the feeling that the forests on both coasts could go up in flames. The Forest Service and even the Japanese felt that gigantic fires could be started with incendiary bombs or balloons. The effort, which was attempted, was not so much as to destroy the forests but rather to have the U.S. deploy soldiers to fight these large fires, and that this would hurt the war effort against Japan. The Japanese also sent across the Pacific Ocean some paper balloons filled with hydrogen and carrying incendiary bombs, one of which exploded in central Oregon in the town of Bly killing a school teacher and several children. Around 7,000 of the balloons were released, taking advantage of the prevailing jet stream (which was largely unknown)–making this the first intercontinental “ballistic-missile.” Most of the balloon bombs fell in the western states, Canada, and Mexico, but a few landed as far away as Michigan.
It was also a time when the women were employed on the forests again. The Forest Service established what they called the Forest Service Reserves, with people coming from outdoor and mountain climbing outdoor clubs to staff these lookouts, as well as to fight fires on the forests.
There also was a program in 1942 and 43 to have selected lookouts to be watching for enemy aircraft which never came. This was known as the Aircraft Warning System (AWS), which used volunteer couples to staff lookouts on a rotating basis, 24‑hours a day, so that there was someone always looking and reporting of any airplane passing near the site. This operation was in existence for about one year, until the advent of the coastal radar system.
There also were some experiments to use chain saws by the timber industry, which was just getting on its feet after the Depression. The tests involved new machines to more quickly cut timber, which was especially a problem during the war years as most of the men had gone off to war. One of the experiments was with an electric chain saw, but it was not a very good system because the sparks sometimes would jump a foot or 18 inches in wet brush and ferns.
They finally settled on a gasoline powered chain saw. It was a two‑man operation with a very heavy piece of equipment. But it was very effective and could out cut a small task force of people with axes and cross‑cut saws. This was a turning point in the technology and saw a dramatic reduction in the types of jobs needed in the woods after the war.
Just before the War ended, the Sustained‑Yield Forest Management Act of 1944 created a situation where lumber companies and towns could cooperate with the Forest Service to establish units where both public and private land would be managed together. Only one ever came into being which was the Shelton Cooperative Sustained Yield Unit on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. It was a combination of mostly logged over private land and unlogged Forest Service land, with the idea that they would cooperate to keep these mills and therefore the towns going forever. (It was very effective for a number of years until the mid‑80s, after they cut most of the Forest Service timber, when the company decided to pull out of the agreement, which it hasn't been successful at.) There were five Federal units established nationwide, which had Forest Service land or timber tied to one company one town, but it didn't involve private lands. While a good idea at the time, opposition was quickly formed by lumber companies and towns that were not chosen for these special relationships, feeling that the cooperative and Federal units were exclusionary, non‑competitive, even communistic!
After the War, things began changing very quickly out on the national forests. There was a "pent up demand" for new homes, and the Forest Service responded by build more and more miles of roads to access the national forest lands to haul out more and more logs. This marked another major change in managing the national forests, as road systems replaced railroad track, and trucks replaced railroads and river drives as a means to get logs from the forests to the mills.
There was still a lot of "high grading" going on in those days, where they only took the "clear" pieces, the hundred feet or so of trees that didn't have any branches or limbs on them were very highly valued. The tops and the bases were not taken to the saw mill, as those portions of the trees were considered useless.
It also was a time when the Forest Service decided, because of some very bad experiences, that they needed people out there to help them. The Forest Service hired specialists in timber management ‑ silviculturalists ‑ for the first time. Then forest engineers, as the engineering problems were pretty severe, because most of the forests were up in the mountain areas with very steep terrain. This for example is a photograph of what had been a road that was washed out after a culvert had blocked up.
The Forest Service also began doing experiments out on the forests, because we knew a lot about trees but we didn't know much about how best to log to keep roads from slipping, size of openings, stream flows, and sedimentation in the creeks and rivers. This is one at Blue River on the Willamette Forest, now known as the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (where much of the research on ecosystem management was carried out in the 1880s and 90s).
In 1950, Smokey Bear came into existence as a real creature. The bear cub was found badly burned in a fire in the Capitan Mountains on the Lincoln NF in New Mexico. It was shortly thereafter that the Forest Service had costumes made so we could bring the fire prevention message to school children around the Nation. He was sent to the National Zoo in Washington, where he became the only living creature to have his own postal zip code (20252). After Smokey died, he was replaced by Smokey II, but when he died there was a decision to not replace him at the zoo.
There were more and more roads in the 1950s and more and more timber being taken out, really the hey‑day of timber management on the national forests.
By 1960, the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act came into existence which said that wood had to be considered equally along with the water, forage, wildlife, and recreation as multiple‑uses and one did not outrank the other. Part of the reason for the law was a feeling that even though the Forest Service had been opening the NFs and cutting heavily since the end of the war, there was already too much emphasis on timber harvesting. The FS started to design a number of multiple‑use plans to integrate many of these resources, yet many of the public were dismayed to find that what was once a road and a clearcut was now talked and written about as multiple‑use: Roads for fire control, insect control, recreation travel, and so on, while clearcuts were seen as jobs, wood for the national needs, habitat for wildlife (deer & elk), opening scenic vistas, quicker water runoff, forage for sheep and cattle, and so on. Yet, the management was no different than before, the only difference was the description of the road and clearcut.
1964 saw the passage of the Wilderness Act, which Congress became the designator of the nation's wildernesses. The Forest Service had the first administrative wilderness areas as far back as 1924 in New Mexico. Also part of that act was the requirement that the Forest Service was to inventory remaining roadless areas and make recommendations as to the disposition of those areas, and whether wilderness or general use management (RARE study).
Internally, the Forest Service was undergoing significant changes. Probably the most evident were the use of computers, women in a variety of jobs, and minorities coming into the Forest Service system, which had traditionally been a white middle‑class forestry trained organization. Also in 1964, the Job Corps was authorized (the first camps were established in 1965). It was similar to but not quite the same as the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Enrollees spend much of their time out on forestry related projects such as building gabions in one of the creeks to reduce erosion.
At the Willamette National Forest supervisor's office in 1969, they had some of the first demonstrations against the Forest Service when a number of protesters from the University of Oregon came to protest a decision to exclude the French Pete Area from the Three Sisters Wilderness.
There also was continuing work on knowing more about the forests, and a lot of experiments were done on which were the proper kind of trees to plant on the forests, whether they should come from the valley bottoms, from the foothills, or whatever. The era of intensive forestry was just beginning in earnest.
Coinciding with the first Earth Day celebrations at the college campuses around the country in the spring on 1970, Woodsy Owl came into being, with the "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute" slogan again aimed at school children.
There was also a tremendous explosion in outdoor recreation on the national forests, most of which the Forest Service was unprepared for. But it resulted in studies of the use or overuse of some of the areas and in some cases resulted in wilderness permits into some of the more highly used or abused areas.
There was controversy beginning in 1970 in Montana over the Bitterroot National Forest. People objected to clear cutting and terracing from a visual sense as well as from soil erosion standpoint. The Forest Service made an internal report which Arnold Bolle, a professor of forestry from the University of Montana, and his team echoed in their report. Basically, both stated that while clear cutting and terracing may be good for growing trees, it wasn't very good for aesthetics or other resource management which the Forest Service needed to be doing. Also about this same time on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, there was more controversy about clear cutting but from a little bit different angle. Several turkey hunters went out to their favorite area on the forest and found that the area had been clear cut. They complained to the forest supervisor and the regional forester but they were rebuffed. A suit was instituted by the Izaak Walton League, which resulted in a decision that the 1897 Organic Act did not allow this kind of management on the national forests. In 1972, there were several congressional hearings on clear cutting in which Professor Bolle and other people were invited to speak. The clear cutting testimony and the court decision resulted in the National Forest Management Act of 1976.
This was also a time when women were used out on the forests again in some of the more dangerous jobs, such as fighting fires rather than just being lookout. It also reminds me of a story of a long time Forest Service employee who started work on the Siskiyous during World War II as a lookout. The rules and regulations were such that even if there was a fire 10 feet away from the lookout tower, she could not go out and fight it. She had to call in a man to do the job. By the mid‑1970s, the situation had changed, and women were being employed out on the forests doing every imaginable job including smoke jumper.
RARE and RARE II were the answers that the Forest Service had to the Wilderness Act of 1964 to inventory and evaluate the roadless areas that were still existing. Both came under heavy fire from environmental groups and from Congress.
RARE II resulted in a lot of controversy. These two cartoons show the difference between the timber industry view of national forest management on the left, and the environmental view of national forest management on the right.
Controversy about aerial spraying especially of herbicides led to a number of confrontations between environmentalists and the Forest Service. (The Courts stepped in during 1984, and stopped the Forest Service and BLM from spraying herbicides until an new environmental impact statement could be made on the herbicide use and their danger to human health.)
By the late 1970s and early 80s, the timber industry which had some banner years of cutting timber. The industry was bidding exorbitant prices for standing timber, when the national economy entered a severe recession. For the timber industry, it was a depression as they had a lot of product but they didn't have anybody to buy it. Interest rates on homes were too high for anybody to build new homes, so the industry came to a standstill.
At the same time, the Forest Service was involved in making more and more of the multiple‑use planning unit reports. When the National Forest Management Act regulations were published in 1979, the Forest Service had to integrate all of these studies and all of these resources into one master plan instead of a lot of smaller unit plans. (The planning effort was finally completed in 1990 for all the forests in the region.)
May 18, 1980, saw Mount St. Helens explode in a fiery and very ashy display which covered much of eastern Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Within a few days, fine ash floated on the wind to the East Coast and within several weeks had circled the globe.
This was also a time when we started getting minorities into line officer positions. Chip Cartwright was the first Black district ranger, then served as the first Black forest supervisor (Jefferson NF), then as the first Black Regional Forester (R-3).
Then in the mid‑80s, the Reagan Administration came out with a proposal to interchange some of the BLM and Forest Service lands. Although the BLM has very little land in the State of Washington, they have a quarter of the land base in the State of Oregon. The interchange program would have effectively merged all of the BLM and O&C lands in western Oregon with the Forest Service. The proposal didn't get very far in Congress, and was tabled because of opposition of various senators and representatives, as well as a number of cities and towns in western Oregon and elsewhere in the West.
It was also a time when the Forest Service nationally decided to have a new computer system to tie together all of the offices. Data General Corporation won the contract and in what was a stroke of genius, instead of having the computers given to the typing pool, the very first computers they put into the Forest Service offices were at the very top level. So Regional Forester Jim Torrence was trying to figure out how to run the Data General System. As a result of this top down introduction to the computer system, the DG was very quickly made apart of everyday national forest management.
In early 1989, a coalition of environmental groups gathered in Eugene to transform the old growth controversy into what they began to call the ancient forest controversy. Their attempt to expand it out of the Northwest and make it a national issue has been extremely successful.
Tied very closely to old growth was the spotted owl, which serves as an indicator species for the old growth or ancient forest. In the summer of 1989, the Fish and Wildlife Service made a tentative decision to list the spotted owl as a threatened species. The Fish and Wildlife decision became permanent in the summer of 1990 and the owl appeared on the cover of Time magazine on June 25, 1990.
Currently, there is a growing controversy about the status of the salmon runs along almost every river flowing into the Pacific Ocean, several of which are already extinct and several others listed in 1991 as threatened. The relation between humans and salmon goes back thousands of years, but it has only been in the past 100 years that the native fish populations have been over utilized. There are many proposals to help alleviate the situation, but all have their costs in terms of fish, energy, and jobs.
At present, the future management of the national forests is not an easy job. There are lots of issues that are facing us. And with no easy simple answers as these headlines from the various papers show, management of the national forests in the future is likely to be even more controversial. But if you think about all of the controversy that the national forests has faced over 100 years of existence, I feel we will easily be able to meet this mounting challenge and to make more history for other people to look at in the future.