28 A. Legislative Acts

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


Print this page




CHAPTER NINE: Legislation Relating to Crater Lake National Park: 1916-Present


<< Previous | Table of Contents | Next >>


1. An Act Providing for Acceptance by Federal Government of Exclusive Jurisdiction over Park Lands and Establishment of Resident U.S. Commissioner Position (39 Stat. 521–August 21, 1916)

On August 21, 1916, four days before enactment of the act establishing the National Park Service, Congress approved legislation providing for acceptance by the federal government of the State of Oregon’s cession of exclusive jurisdiction over the lands embraced in Crater Lake National Park. The legislation further provided for appointment of a U.S. Commissioner to reside in the park with authority to handle violations of law [misdemeanors] and rules and regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Oregon state legislature approved an act on January 25, 1915, ceding to the United States exclusive jurisdiction over all lands within Crater Lake National Park. [1] The act reserved certain rights for the state, among these being service of “civil or criminal process” in “any suits or prosecutions for, or on account of, rights acquired, obligations incurred, or crimes committed in said State, but outside of said park.” The state also reserved “the right to tax persons and corporations, their franchises and property on lands included in said park.” Exclusive jurisdiction would not be vested in the federal government until after it had notified the state that it was assuming “police and military jurisdiction over said park.”

Section 3 of the act states that confusion existed concerning the jurisdiction of the federal and state courts in the park. Hence passage of the act was “declared to be immediately necessary for the immediate protection of the peace, health, and safety of the State.” An emergency was “declared to exist, and this Act shall go into immediate force and effect from and after its passage and approval by the Governor.”

For more than a year Congress took no formal action to accept the cession of exclusive jurisdiction over Crater Lake National Park. Finally on April 20, 1916, Congressman Nicholas J. Sinnott of Oregon introduced legislation (H.R. 14868) in the House to accept the cession from the State of Oregon. Two days later Senator George E. Chamberlain of Oregon submitted a similar bill (S. 5704) in the Senate. [2]

The Sinnott bill was referred to the House Committee on Public Lands. In response to a request from committee chairman Scott Ferris, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane submitted a letter on May 3 endorsing the legislation:

The provisions of this bill are identical, except for the necessary changes to make it applicable to Crater Lake National Park, instead of Glacier National Park, with the provisions of the act of Congress approved August 22, 1914 (38 Stat., 699), accepting similar jurisdiction ceded by the State of Montana over the Glacier National Park. It also follows generally the provisions of S. 3928, to accept similar jurisdiction over the Mount Rainier National Park, Wash., which passed the Senate on March 9, 1916, and which is now pending in the House of Representatives.

It is very desirable for administrative reasons that the cession of jurisdiction by the State of Oregon over the lands within Crater Lake National Park should be accepted, and I recommend that the bill be enacted into law at the earliest practicable date. [3]

The Committee on Public Lands reported the bill with several minor amendments on June 22, and on July 1 the House passed the legislation. The bill was sent to the Senate on July 3, and nine days later the Senate Committee on Public Lands reported favorably on the bill. [4] After passing the Senate on August 5, the legislation (39 Stat. 521) was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on August 21. [5]

The law, as was customary with such acceptance bills, included detailed regulations for the park’s administration. The park was declared part of the United States judicial district for Oregon. The United States District Court for Oregon, which had jurisdiction over all offenses committed in the park, was to appoint a commissioner who would live in the park for the purpose of hearing and acting “upon all complaints made of any violations of law [misdemeanors] or of the rules and regulations made by the Secretary of the Interior for the government of the park.” The commissioner would receive a salary of $1,500 per year.