Resources 1984 – M. The National Forest Commission Visits Crater Lake

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

VI. Steps Leading Toward Establishment of Crater Lake National Park


M. The National Forest Commission Visits Crater Lake

While this widely publicized visit and the ensuing accounts of the lake in scholarly periodicals attracted more attention than any previous scientific studies, it would still require tireless, concentrated effort to fulfill Will Steel’s dream of making Crater Lake a national park. Supporting his cause were an increasing number of Americans concerned over the misuse and squandering of the country’s natural resources who clamored for a policy favoring federal control to protect for future generations our timber, water, and arable land. The realization was dawning that natural resources were not inexhaustible and that the federal government should protect the public interest by regulating the preservation and use of resources, especially those on federally owned lands. In the summer of 1896 the National Academy of Sciences, determined to take steps to bring about the end of the wasteful misuse of forests under federal ownership, asked the Department of the Interior for a report on whether forestry management of public lands would be desirable. At the request of the secretary of the interior, a National Forest Commission set out on an expedition to examine the forests on the public lands of the West. Composed of top scientists and conservationists, the commission would make conservation history and its observations prove valuable for the future of Crater Lake.

John Muir met the group in Chicago and joined others such as botanist Charles Sprague Sargent, Henry L. Abbott of the Army Corps of Engineers, and Gifford Pinchot, first American to become a professional forester, in their thorough investigation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific slope. During this trip they visited Crater Lake. Although not able to deny its fascination, they concentrated their writings on scientific descriptions of the caldera and its surrounding trees and wildlife rather than on the poetical word pictures that previous observers had been wont to indulge in. Of this general section of the Cascade Range they commented: