CHAPTER THREE: Administered By General Land Office E. CRATER LAKE AND FOREST RESERVE: 1894-1902

Crater Lake National Park: Administrative History by Harlan D. Unrau and Stephen Mark, 1987

 CHAPTER THREE: Crater Lake Administered By The General Land Office As Part Of The Cascade Range Forest Reserve: 1893-1902


While Congress and the Department of the Interior were grappling with forest management issues during the 1890s, Crater Lake and the Cascade Range Forest Reserve received considerable attention from various state and federal government bodies, political interest groups, and scientific experts.

Controversy over sheep grazing in the reserve developed after April 14, 1894, when the federal government took its first official action against such activity in the forest reserves. On that date regulations were issued prohibiting the “driving, feeding, grazing, pasturing, or herding of cattle, sheep or other live stock” in the reserves. Responding to political pressures from eastern Oregon sheepherders, as well as Klamath County settlers, the Oregon state legislature in February 1895 passed a memorial requesting that the portion of the reserve south of township 32, South Willamette Meridian in Klamath County, be opened for “sale, purchase, settlement, and homestead.” [29]

By late 1895 the sheepherding interests of eastern Oregon had developed a scheme to reduce the size of the reserve and thus give them access to greater areas of the Cascades for grazing of their flocks. Their petition was included with a letter sent by Senator John H. Mitchell to S.W. Lamoreaux, Commissioner of the General Land Office, on November 30, 1895:

There is a general belief upon the part of the people of the State of Oregon that a grave mistake was made in the proclamation of the President of September 28, 1893, creating the Cascade Range Forest Reserve in that State in this, that entirely too extensive a region of country was included in that reserve, embracing as it does a strip of land from 30 to 60 odd miles wide, perhaps, the whole length of the State. And it is believed that this proclamation should be so modified as to divide the same into two reservations–one of which shall include Mount Hood and all the land North of it in the State of Oregon and all the land in the present reservation for a distance of 25 or 30 miles south of the base of Mount Hood; the other to include Crater Lake in Southern Oregon and the whole of the present reservation in Oregon South of that Lake, and also for a distance of 25 or 30 miles North of the same; and it is my intention to prepare at an early date an application to the President with a view to such modification. . . .

I would suggest that the Northern line be located at a distance of about 30 miles South of the snow line of Mount Hood and the Southern line about 30 miles North of the North shore of Crater lake, and that the whole of the reservation between these lines be released from the reservation and thrown open to settlement. [30]

Several months later on February 10, 1896, Mitchell followed up this letter with another, recommending that the lands in the reserve be subdivided into five separate tracts. These were to be designated the Mount Hood Public Reservation (322,000 acres), the Crater Lake Public Reservation (936,000 acres), and the Mount Jefferson Public Reservation (30,000 acres), with the two remaining tracts (totaling 3,320,000 acres) to be restored to the public domain. He observed that the forest reserve had been created without protest from the Oregon citizenry, because they did not realize the magnitude of the area it would embrace or that it would exclude from further settlement vast areas of land which he claimed were valuable for agricultural and mining purposes. The sheepherders of eastern Oregon were feeling the economic pinch by having their flocks of more than 400,000 sheep excluded from the eastern slopes of the Cascades for summer grazing.