Resources 1984 – J. Federal Forest Reservations

Historic Resource Study, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, 1984

VI. Steps Leading Toward Establishment of Crater Lake National Park


J. Federal Forest Reservations

In 1890 a committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science recommended to President Benjamin Harrison that a commission be set up to investigate the necessity of preserving certain parts of the present public forest as watersheds in order to maintain favorable water conditions. It also suggested that, pending this survey, all U.S. timber lands should be withdrawn from sale, protected from theft and fire, and harvested in a rational manner until some system of forest administration could be set up on a permanent basis. Harrison agreed in March 1891 . Congress then proceeded to repeal the Timber Culture Act of 1873, which had encouraged the staking out of larger holdings by prospective homesteaders, and to approve the Forest Reserve Act empowering the president of the United States, when he saw fit, to set apart as public reservations forested public lands in any state or territory. This law establishing the principle of federal forest reservations was later characterized by Gifford Pinchot, American forester, as “the most important legislation in the history of Forestry in America” because it established the precedent that not all of the public domain would be disposed of to private individuals- -a reversal of former frontier attitudes. [21] Harrison utilized this act during his administration, withdrawing a total of over 13,400,000 acres of the public domain, located chiefly in California, Oregon, and Wyoming, as forest reserves. Still, Congress refused to grant the authority necessary to protect, administer, and utilize the new reserves, thereby enabling western lumbermen, miners, settlers, and stockmen who could not obtain legal title to lands in the federal forest reserves to continue to trespass. The future of conservation-oriented legislation continued to look promising, however, on the eve of Cleveland’s second administration.


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