51 D. Resource Management: 1950s-1960s

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


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CHAPTER TWELVE: Resource Management In Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


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Resource management issues during the 1950s and 1960s remained similar to those of earlier years. The park continued to have bear problems in the postwar years. In response to a request from the

regional director in San Francisco Superintendent Leavitt in February 1951 reported on the issue and park efforts to eliminate the trouble. Leavitt listed a number of ways in which park management had attempted to meet the problem, “all of which have been partially successful but none of which have been as successful as we might wish.” These efforts included:

1. Education of government, concessioner, and contractor employees and park visitors against feeding bears by hand or from cars

2. Education of campers in protecting food supplies

3. Efforts to discourage bears by daily removal of garbage, particularly late in the afternoon

4. Placement of garbage containers at government residences inside of buildings

Leavitt recommended that the park staff be permitted to give a citation with penalty to anyone feeding the bears. [44]

The park’s bear policies were generally consistent with the wildlife policy as stated in the NPS Administrative Manual developed in the 1950s. That policy read:

The animals indigenous to the parks shall be protected, restored if practicable, and their welfare in a natural wild state perpetuated. Their management shall consist only of measures conforming with the basic laws and which are essential to the maintenance of populations and their natural environments in a healthy condition. [45]

In line with that policy park management, after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Montana Department of Fish and Game, purchased in 1959 a “Cap-chur” gun and necessary accessories and drugs to experiment with removing troublesome bears rather than by trapping. [46]

The issue of fishing and fish planting at Crater Lake had become a subject of intense debate by 1958. As a result O.L. Wallis, an aquatic biologist, undertook a study to determine whether the lake should be restocked to improve fishing or whether sole reliance should be placed upon the limited natural reproduction of rainbow trout and kokanee salmon to maintain limited sport fishing.

As part of his study Wallis examined the history of fish planting in Crater Lake. Since the original stocking of fish in the lake in 1888 various species had been introduced with varying degrees of success. All species died out within several years with the exception of the rainbow trout and kokanee salmon which had been able to maintain small, fluctuating populations by natural reproduction. Areas for natural spawning were few, and the quantity and quality of foods available for fish were limited.

The introduction of exotic fishes had upset the original ecological conditions in the lake to a certain extent. The unique Mazama salamander, endemic to Crater Lake, had been utilized as food by the fish in the lake. This salamander and possibly numbers of various other endemic organisms had been reduced by the exotic fishes.

Prior to 1941 periodic plantings of salmon and trout maintained a small fishery in Crater Lake. During the next two decades, however, natural reproduction supported the entire fishery at a low but fluctuating level, thus providing limited fishing opportunities for those willing to expend the necessary effort.

Even during years when catch successes were relatively high, fishing pressure on Crater Lake was light. Only 1 out of every 183 park visitors fished at the lake in 1941 when this activity was at its peak. The low level of activity in spite of good fishing success was the result of a variety of factors:

1. Crater Lake was not readily accessible
2. Snow and cold weather conditions made the fishing season short
3. Fishing was restricted to daytime hours
4. Boats were not available during the better fishing periods of early morning and evening
5. Fishing on Crater Lake required unique skill and experience

According to Wallis an expanded and reactivated fishery on Crater Lake would be expensive. It had been estimated that only 0.008 percent of the fish stocked in the lake in the past had been caught. After years of planting thousands of trout, the maximum number of rainbow trout taken in a single year was 593 in 1937.

Improved fishing possibilities would increase the numbers of those participating in that recreational activity. Greater numbers of fishing participants would impact park operations and place greater demands on the park staff resulting in:

1. Increase problems of visitor protection
2. Demands for easier access to the lake
3. Additional boating facilities and overnight accommodations at the edge of the lake
4. Introduction of exotic food organisms to supplement the limited natural supply

Wallis concluded his discussion of lake fishing policy by observing that the National Park Service would be more consistent with its major conservation objectives if it did not attempt either an intensive effort to develop an expanded artificial fishery or to maintain the present inadequate one.

Wallis also addressed the question of fishing policy on the park streams. Personnel of the Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed that park streams were “small, cold waters” and that “natural reproduction of brook and rainbow trout was adequate to maintain wild populations” under the existing limited fishing activity. If such pressures should increase and the natural populations became endangered, however, special regulations could be introduced, providing for lower catch and higher size limits, fishing-for-fun only, and use of artificial flies.

In conclusion Wallis recommended that the park adopt a new fishing policy. The policy statement read:

Fishing shall be permitted in Crater Lake and in the streams of Crater Lake National Park, but this activity shall be subordinate importance. The catch shall be dependent upon the self-sustaining populations of fishes. Additional plantings of fishes and other organisms shall not be made in Crater Lake or in the streams. [47]

The proposed policy statement received the endorsement of Regional Director Lawrence C. Merriam on May 2, 1958. While supporting it, however, Merriam felt that the policy should be put into effect gradually:

We believe, however, that care should be taken in putting the policy into effect that we don’t stimulate adverse criticism through too rapid action. We feel that a quietly operated program to de-emphasize fishing, coupled with the low survival factor of young fish in the lake waters, will produce the proper climate for cessation of any planting in a few years. Certainly we feel the policy should be operated on a medium range time schedule, with the probable elimination of a public relations problem, rather than a short range time schedule with the likelihood of developing a controversy. [48]

Forest protection continued to be a prime concern of park management during the 1950s and 1960s. A survey of the park forests in 1959-60 found a downward trend in the severity of attacks by mountain pine beetle infestation in the lodgepole and western white pines. It was discovered, however, that there was an upswing in attacks by western pine beetles in the ponderosa pine stands. Thus, a treatment program was commenced to counter that infestation. [49]

Fire prevention and control also continued to be of prime concern to park management. A park fire historical study conducted in July 1964 found, however, that “fire risks and hazards” were “considered to be generally low in this area compared to other parks.” The study stated:

Climatic conditions and vegetative development at the Park’s high elevations are responsible with its exceptionally high soil moisture content, low litter and debris accumulation and the pumice soil.

The study also provided a summary of the fire history of the park during the previous thirty years:

Annual mean averages during the past 30 years discloses that 7.6 lightning, 1.2 smoker, 0.3 camper, 0.2 debris and 0.5 miscellaneous fires occur each year. The maximum total fires occurring in one season has been 28. During this thirty year period about 85% of all fires were Class A, with 15% being Class B. There have been no Class C, D, or E fires during this period. Non-preventable fires have resulted in 83% Class A fires and 17% Class B fires. Preventable fires resulted in 91% Class A and 9% Class B burns. An average of three acres has burned annually in the Park, with a suppression cost of $645. . . . [50]