39 1. Yawkey Tract

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


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


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1. Yawkey Tract

Using Public Works Administration (PWA) funds the federal government acquired a fee simple title to 1,872.36 acres of land owned by the Yawkey Lumber Company in the southeastern corner of the park on August 7, 1940. The acquisition under condemnation proceedings, which amounted to $6,560.26 or $3.50 per acre, was subject to the right of the Algoma Lumber Company to remove the timber on approximately 123 acres of land in the SE 1/4 of Section 8 and the N 1/2 NE 1/4 of Section 17. Final judgment on the transaction was rendered on December 4, 1940. [55]

The purchase of the Yawkey Tract was a culmination of sixteen years of effort by the National Park Service. In May 1924 NPS Director Mather expressed interest in acquisition of the property. Three months later C.C. Yawkey, President of the Yawkey Lumber Company with offices in Wausau, Wisconsin, responded by offering a property exchange:

The land which we own in the Park amounts to nearly 2000 acres, and applying the stumpage price at which land has been sold both on the Indian Reservation and in the National Forests, the value of this timber would be something like $250,000, and you can readily see that we would not feel warranted in deeding this to the Government.

However, we have this suggestion to make: The Government has land adjoining our tract in the Cascade National Forest, which, as I understand it, is on both sides of our tract, and if there is anything that adjoins us so that it would leave our timber in a compact tract, we would be willing to make an exchange thousand for thousand and value for value.

There is also timber along our east line in the Klamath Indian Reserve for which we would be willing to trade. [56]

The proposal was not acceptable to the Park Service, and on September 25, 1924, Mather informed Yawkey:

That while your land is nominally within the Park it is not in a location which receives any tourist travel. Under the circumstances it seems advisable not to attempt anything in the way of a trade as you suggested. [57]

Discussions concerning the future of the Yawkey Tract lay dormant until February 1932. At that time Jackson F. Kimball of Klamath Falls, who was managing the local affairs of the Yawkey Lumber Company, sent a letter to Superintendent Solinsky suggesting that an effort be undertaken to change the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park to exclude the Yawkey Tract. Among his reasons for such a recommendation were:

I understand that there is some possibility that a Bill may be introduced in the present session of the Congress for a change in the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park.

Because of the possibility of such legislation it has occurred to me that it might be well to state to you, as the representative of the Park Service, the attitude of the Yawkey Lumber Company in reference to this matter. This Company holds some 2000 acres of land which lie in the southerly portion of the Crater Lake National Park, together with 14,000 acres outside the Park boundaries. The tract is almost entirely surrounded by lands belonging to the Federal Government, i.e., Klamath Indian Reservation, Crater National Forest and Crater Lake National Park.

The size of the tract and the quality of the timber now in the ownership of the Yawkey Lumber Company represents a most attractive operation for lumbering when and if the market conditions justify the expense of constructing a railroad to open this up. It is important however to bear in mind that it is absolutely essential, from the standpoint of the Yawkey Lumber Company, that there shall be no reduction in the volume of stumpage. The present volume represents the minimum for profitable operation . . . .

As the matter now stands it seems apparent that the Park Service would naturally prefer not to have ownership in any lands within the Park vested in a private owner. Certainly the Yawkey Lumber Company could not afford to sell except at a price which would represent compensation for not only the timber but for all the other losses accruing to the balance of its property. This in my judgment would set up a prohibitive price.

The obvious action, affording the least injury to all parties concerned, would seem to be to change the National Park boundaries to exclude the lands of the Yawkey Lumber Company from the Crater Lake National Park. [58]

After a negative response from the National Park Service negotiations concerning the Yawkey Tract lay moribund for another six years until March 1938 when Superintendent Leavitt again initiated correspondence with Kimball. As the merchantable lumber on the tract was being logged off, Leavitt suggested that when the timber was removed the company might be willing to donate the land to the government. He pointed out that the land would have little value to a lumber company after the merchantable timber was removed Thus, he suggested that, rather than continue to pay taxes on it or to grow a new stand of timber, the company might be willing to donate it to the government. [59]

In October 1938 a meeting and field inspection was arranged with park officials and representatives of the Yawkey Lumber Company. It was found that while the sugar pine and yellow pine on the tract had been harvested, the work had been done with a minimum destruction to the forest cover. The fire and logging roads followed acceptable planning models, and efforts had been made for the care of the remaining forest cover which was principally fir. Following the field inspection Kimball made a proposition to the Park Service. The proposal was described as follows by Superintendent Leavitt:

Within the holdings of the Yawkey Lumber Company within the park is a strip of land 40 acres wide and half a mile long, which belongs to the government. No one seems to know why this particular strip was not included in the original acquisition of lands by the Yawkey Lumber Company or their predecessors but apparently it was due to some error which left it out of the original filings. In any event, it belongs to the federal government, and now is an island within this logged-over area. Within this island are 1301 M feet BM of yellow pine timber and 135 M feet BM of sugar pine timber.

The Algoma Lumber Company of Modoc Point, Oregon, has purchased all of the merchantable timber owned by the Yawkey Lumber Company and have been cutting on the company’s land within the park this last season. They have about one more season of cutting to do before all of the merchantable timber is removed. The Yawkey Lumber Company and the Algoma Lumber Company would like to secure the merchantable timber on this strip of government owned land. Mr. Kimball stated that Mr. Yawkey has agreed in return for the merchantable timber on this strip to deed the 1872 acres of their land within the boundaries of Crater Lake National Park. [60]

The proposal was quickly submitted to the NPS regional office in San Francisco for review. On October 24 Regional Forester Burnett Sanford responded to Kimball’s proposal:

. . . I do not believe it is a good policy for a Park to exchange timber for cutover lands as it increases the area of devastation within the park. In this case there is some justification for such an exchange since the government land which Mr. Leavitt proposes to exchange is completely surrounded by cutover area and as nearly as I can tell from the map lies adjacent to the Park boundary.

I feel that a value of $3.50 per acre is high for cut-over land as the Forest Service seldom pays more than $2.50. Actually this land will be costing the Park closer to $7.50 per acre due to the contemplated agreement on our part to burn the slash over the whole area. There is a compulsory slash disposal law in Oregon so we would be relieving the lumber Company of an obligation which I estimate would cost them in the neighborhood of $7500.00 if the job is done without excessive damage to the remaining timber. If broadcast burning of slash is practiced the job could be done for $1,500 but the value of the cut-over lands will be greatly depreciated.

I imagine that the government could purchase these cut-over lands for $4,000 cash and that would appear to be the most satisfactory solution of the problem. [61]

On November 5 NPS Chief Counsel G.A. Moskey offered his comments on the proposed exchange. He stated that it violated the NPS establishing act in that moneys received for timber sold under its provisions were to be deposited in the Treasury Department. The funds could not be used for the purchase of privately owned lands within the park.[62]

In October 1939 the Public Works Administration allotted $8,000 for the purchase of the Yawkey Tract. The Park Service immediately asked for and received assurances from the company to postpone slash burning, pending the final consummation of the purchase. In view of the interest of the U.S. Forest Service in acquiring the remaining lands by the Yawkey Lumber Company, the Park Service began exploring the possibility of collaborating with that agency in negotiating for the entire holdings of the company. It was assumed that such a joint effort might result in a more reasonable purchase price. [63] When the Forest Service demurred because of what it considered to be an excessive asking price, the Park Service pushed ahead for final condemnation proceedings which culminated on August 7, 1940. [64]

On August 18, 1941, the U.S. Attorney General stated that the Yawkey case could be considered closed, as he was satisfied from an examination of the abstract of title and a review of the proceedings that a valid fee simple title to the land was vested in the United States of America. To provide access to the tract for fire protection purposes, it was necessary to build a 5-stringer standard log bridge 43 feet in length across Annie Creek. The construction of the bridge shortened the travel distance to the area by approximately 15 miles. Slash burning operations were carried on until winter snows stopped the work. [65]