14 C. Establishment of Cascade Range Forest Reserve

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 the legislation to provide for adequate protection of the forest reserves languished in Congress, President Benjamin Harrison continued the policy of withdrawing lands from the public domain as national forest reserves. In 1892, the Oregon Alpine Club, headed by William G. Steel, circulated a petition for submission to the president calling for establishment of a forest reserve along the entire crest of the Cascades in Oregon. By the summer of 1892 the petition had received the endorsement of the governor, secretary of state, state printer, auditor, mayor of Portland, and the president and secretary of the Portland Chamber of Commerce.

Accordingly, in July 1892 Secretary of the Interior John W. Noble appointed R.G. Savery, Jr., as special agent of the General Land Office with instructions to report on the proposal. Based on meetings with Oregon officials and travels over the state Savery reported on July 23 “that the future welfare of the State of Oregon demands the withdrawal and protection of said proposed reservation.” In support of his recommendation he noted:

The summit of the Cascade Mountains embraces a narrow strip of land running north and south through the State, nearly all of which is unsurveyed and unoccupied. The surface is rough and broken and entirely unfit for cultivation. The altitude ranges from six to twelve thousand feet. Dense forests of very fine timber cover nearly the entire tract. Snow falls to a great depth on these mountains in winter, remaining until late in the summer, and in some places the snow-capped mountains can be seen the year round. . . .

Not only will Western Oregon be greatly benefited by this reservation, but the same facts and conditions can be properly applied to all of that territory lying east of this range of mountains in Oregon. In this proposed reservation are included several points of interest, which in the near future will become places of great interest to the American people. Mt. Hood, a mountain rising to an elevation of nearly thirteen thousand feet, whose snow-capped peak can be seen from nearly every portion of the State the year round, is heavily timbered and is the source of thousands of small streams, and in the immediate future this mountain will become the source of water supply for the city of Portland. The region surrounding this mountain is rugged and elevated and not valuable for agriculture or minerals. There are also included Mt. Pitt, Mt. Scott, Union Peak, Mt. Theilsen, Old Baldy, Diamond Peak, Three Sisters, Black Butte and Mt. Jefferson, all of which are rough, broken and unfit for cultivation.

Besides these mountains, numerous lakes are included, among which is Crater Lake. . . .

This lake, as stated in the petition herewith enclosed, is one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. The surface of the water is 6,239 feet above the level of the sea. Its depth will average two thousand feet. It is entirely surrounded by precipitous walls or cliffs of great height, being at some points nearly two thousand feet. The diameter of this lake is six and one-half miles.

Among the lakes of lesser importance are Diamond Lake, Crescent Lake, Wold’s Lake and Bull Run Lake, all of which add to making this proposed reservation include several of the great natural wonders of the world.

Elk, deer, and other noble game of the country, which have been quite plentiful in that country, are partly disappearing, and unless some reservation of this kind is made it is only a question of a few years when they will become entirely extinct.

While he found that most citizens in the state were in favor of the proposed reservation, he reported rumors that sheepherders from eastern Oregon were opposed. He observed that the sheepherders

from the eastern portion of the State would oppose the proposition from the fact that they penetrate deeper into the mountains each year where they find excellent grass on territory formerly burned over for that purpose. The deliberate setting out of fires and consequent destruction of vast bodies of timber cause constant encroachment of sterility of what is now a source of moisture. [18]

On February 17, 1893, the Oregon state legislature added impetus to the campaign for a forest reserve or reserves in the Cascades by adopting a memorial to the president. The gist of the memorial, copies of which were sent to the Secretary of the Interior and the members of the Oregon congressional delegation, read:

First. The immediate establishment of two reservations, viz: one of Mt. Hood, to be called Mt. Hood Reserve, and the other of Crater Lake, to be called Crater Lake Reserve, with such contiguous territory about each as shall seem proper.

Second. The enlargement and extension of each said reservations so as to include the entire crest of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, with a convenient space on each side thereof, just as soon as the same can be intelligently done after a prompt but careful investigation by the Interior Department, of any vested rights there may be in such territory. [19]

Responding to these petitions President Cleveland on September 28, 1893, issued a proclamation (a copy of which may be seen in Appendix A) establishing the Cascade Range Forest Reserve. In his annual report for 1894 Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith described the reserve:

The Cascade Range Forest Reserve, Oregon, runs across the State from north to south, embracing the crest of the Cascade Range, including at either end Mount Hood and Crater Lake. The reservation is 234 miles long, with an average width of 30 miles. The area is 7,020 square miles, or 4,492,800 acres. The summit of the Cascade Mountains embraces a narrow strip of land, the altitude ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 feet. Dense forests of very fine timber cover nearly the entire tract. Snow falls to a great depth, remaining until late in the summer, and in some places snow-capped mountains are to be seen the year round. This range can be properly called the watershed of the Pacific coast, and is the source of thousands of small streams tributary to larger ones.

The principal rivers whose head waters are in this reserve are Hood River, Molalla River, the Mckenzie Fork, Middle Fork and Coast Fork of the Willamette River, Metolins River, Deschutes River, Forks of the Umpqua River, Rogue River, and Klamath River from Klamath Lake. There are also numerous lakes and points of interest in the reservation.

This reserve, as stated above, embraces Mount Hood and Crater Lake, points of interest to tourists and others, and which had previously been petitioned for as separate reservations. The reserve was created upon petitions presented by citizens of Portland and of the localities directly affected. [20]

In the same report Smith went on to describe the problems of inadequate appropriations for the reserves. The lack of funds was having a deleterious effect on the policing and protection of the natural resources in the reserves. He observed:

Small appropriations for special agents have thus far made it impossible to detail any of them for the protection of the public forest reserves that have been from time to time created by Presidential proclamation, and which now include some 17,000,000 acres of land. Practically this great mass of reserved lands of this kind are no more protected by the Government than are the unreserved lands of the United States, the sole difference being that they are not subject to entry or other disposal under the public-land laws. Under date of May 12, 1894, this office, with the approval of the Secretary, issued a public notice for posting throughout the forest reserves, calling the attention of the public to the fact that the lands included therein were in a state of reservation, and warning the public against setting fire to the forests or otherwise injuring them, and requesting its aid in checking this evil.

As indicative of the spirit of lawlessness prevailing among those depredating upon these lands, it is significant that, soon after these notices were posted, upon at least one reservation one-half of them were torn down and destroyed. In view of such action, it seems imperative that Congress should appropriate sufficient money to place at least one superintendent upon each of these reservations, and upon the larger ones to provide him with a sufficient number of assistants to enable him to see that the laws and regulations of this Department are respected and that public property shall not be wantonly destroyed. That such action is that of only a few, who are desirous of furthering their personal ends, is apparent from the number of memorials from State legislatures, petitions of governors, and other State officials, State forestry associations, as well as the American Forestry Association, proposing additional forest reserves and laying out their boundaries, with cogent reasons for their establishment. But again, owing to the limited force of special agents, it is ordinarily impossible for this office to detail any of them to make the examinations of the proposed reservations, which are necessary, prior to creating them. [21]