17 A. Legislative Bills: 1898-1900

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


CHAPTER FOUR: Establishment of Crater Lake National Park: 1902


The legislative struggle to establish Crater Lake National Park was renewed by Thomas H. Tongue in 1898 when he entered the House of Representatives as Oregon’s sole Congressman. On January 25 of that year he introduced a bill (H.R. 7200) that provided for

Reserving from the public lands in the State of Oregon, as a public park for the benefit of the people of the United States, and for the protection and preservation of the game, fish, timber, and all other natural objects therein, a tract of land. . . . That the tract of land bounded north by the parallel forty-three degrees four minutes north latitude, south by forty-two degrees forty-eight minutes north latitude, east by the meridian one hundred and twenty-two degrees west longitude, and west by the meridian one hundred and twenty-two degrees sixteen minutes west longitude, having an area of two hundred and forty-nine square miles, in the State of Oregon, and including Crater Lake, is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale, under the laws of the United States, and dedicated and set apart forever as a public park or pleasure ground for the benefit of the people of the United States, to be known as Crater Lake National Park.

The reservation would be under the control of the Secretary of the Interior whose duty it would be to establish regulations and take appropriate measures

for the preservation of the natural objects within said park, and also for the protection of the timber from wanton depredation, the preservation of all kinds of game and fish, the punishment of trespassers, the removal of unlawful occupants and intruders, and the prevention and extinguishment of forest fires.

It would be unlawful for any person to

establish any settlement or residence within said reserve, or to engage in any lumbering or other enterprise or business occupation therein, or to enter therein for any speculative purpose whatever, and any person violating the provisions of this Act, or the rules and regulations established thereunder, shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars and not more than five hundred dollars, or by imprisonment for not more than one year, and shall further be liable for all destruction of timber or other property of the United States in consequence of any such unlawful act. . . .

The reservation, however, would be open “to all scientists, excursionists, and pleasure seekers.” Furthermore, ‘restaurant and hotel keepers, upon application to the Secretary of the Interior” would be permitted “to establish places of entertainment within the Crater Lake National Park for the accommodation of visitors, at places and under regulations fixed by the Secretary of the Interior.”

The bill provided for judicial and police protection of the proposed park. The United States marshal for the Oregon district would be empowered to appoint one or more deputy marshals for the park. The deputies could live in the park, and the district and circuit courts of the United States Judicial District of Oregon would have jurisdiction over all offenses committed in the park. Upon the request of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of War was authorized

to make the necessary details of troops to prevent trespassers or intruders from entering the park for the purpose of destroying the game or other natural objects therein, or for any other purpose prohibited by law, and to remove such person from the park, if found therein. [1]

After examining the bill the House Committee on Public Lands recommended passage of the legislation with one amendment on March 3. The amendment proposed by the committee was to strike the prohibition against mining in the proposed park. With that exception the committee gave its enthusiastic endorsement to the park bill stating:

The area included within the proposed park is situated in the Cascade Mountain Range in southern Oregon, and does not embrace in its limits any agricultural lands; the altitude is from 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level. While a large part of the tract is covered with timber, it is not of a character suitable for lumber, most of it being what is known as lodge-pole pine, and of very little commercial value.

Near the center of the proposed park is situated Crater Lake, which is conceded by all who have visited it to be one of the greatest scenic wonders in the United States, if not in the known world. Increasing numbers of scientists visit it from year to year for the purpose of making additional investigations, and all of them regard it as one of the greatest natural wonders of our country. The people of the West, as well as tourists, with one accord join the scientist in the wish that this grand work of nature may be preserved in its original beauty for the instruction and pleasure of all who may desire to visit it.

There are no settlers within the limits of the proposed park; hence its establishment would in no way interfere with any vested or squatters’ rights, and for this reason it is desirable that the proposed park be authorized at an early day.

Another argument in favor of such action is the fact that the park would be easily accessible by means of roads already constructed.

We are fully satisfied that the land designed to be set aside for the purpose contemplated by this bill is of such a character that it can not be utilized for agricultural purposes, nor with profit for any purpose of trade whatever, but is chiefly valuable for the purpose for which the proposed act seeks to appropriate it. . . .

The report included supporting letters of endorsement from Binger Hermann, Commissioner of the General Land Office, Acting Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ryan, and the aforementioned scientists J.S. Diller, C. Hart Merriam, Barton W. Everman, and Frederick V. Colville. [2]

The bill died on the House floor, the result of lobbying efforts by timber and other speculative interests. Tongue introduced an identical bill (H.R. 2976) on December 8, 1899, and it was again reported favorably by the Committee on Public Lands on March 6, 1900, this time without recommending the removal of the ban on mining. The bill, however, met a fate similar to its predecessor on the House floor. [3]

Action on the Crater Lake National Park bill focused on the Senate where Oregon’s two senators introduced bills virtually identical to those submitted by Tongue. The bills, however, encountered opposition from various political interest groups and died in the Committee on Public Lands.