A Brief History of the Willamette National Forest
Ranger Station at Big Prairie (1903)
The Cascade Forest Reserve was created in September of 1893 by proclamation
of President Grover Cleveland. This proclamation was in response to numerous
petitions from local citizens requesting protection of the Cascade mountain
range. The Cascade Forest Reserve stretched from the Columbia River almost
to the California border. From 1893 to 1897, the Cascade Forest Reserve
was largely managed as a preserve.
The Sundry Civil Appropriations Act of June 1897 (Organic Act) appropriated
funds for management of the national forest reserves and mandated management
goals. Those management goals included: "
conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber
for the use and necessities of the citizens of the United States.";
protection of the forests from destruction by fire and depredations; and
development of mineral resources; among other provisions. The Organic Act
led to establishment of forest reserve boundaries, forest supervisors,
and forest ranger patrol districts. Addie Morris and Cy Bingham were noteworthy
early rangers in areas that would become the Willamette National Forest.
In February of 1905, management of the forest reserves was transferred
from the Department of Interior to the Department of Agriculture. Gifford
Pinchot was appointed as the first chief of the Forest Service. The result
was an increase in professional management of the forests. The philosophy
was sustained utilitarian use of the forest resources. In 1908, the Cascade
Forest Reserve was divided into the Oregon National Forest, the Cascade
National Forest, the Umpqua National Forest and the Crater National Forest.
In 1911, the Santiam National Forest was created from parts of the Oregon
NF and the Cascade NF. The Deschutes NF was created from the portions that
drain into the Deschutes River. In 1933, the Santiam NF and the Cascade
NF were combined to form the Willamette National Forest.
Ranger S.L.Taylor & Fire Protection Force Cascade National Forest
1905 to 1933 was a period of decentralized administration for the forests
of the Western Cascades. Forest and district administrative boundaries
were further refined. The Forest Service made efforts to establish relationships
with local communities and with the forest users. This was a time of extensive
recreation planning in the western Cascades. A fire control organization
was built. Mining claims were established and the first large timber sales
were sold near Detroit and Oakridge.
During the Depression and World War II (1933-1945), the Willamette NF
became a representative of the Federal government in the communities of
the Western Cascades. Efforts were made to improve employment and economic
conditions through the Civilian Conservation Corps and through the use
of sustained yield forestry. During WW II, the Willamette stepped-up timber
sales to provide resources for the war effort. Between 1942 and 1945, the
Willamette sold 559 million board feet (MMBF) of timber.
The years 1945 to 1970 mark an era of intensive forestry and forest management.
This era included dramatic increases in recreation use, timber sales, dam
construction, campground construction, and wildlife management. Mining
claims were looked at much more critically. Grazing on the Willamette NF
was reduced and then virtually discontinued during this era. In 1962, the
Columbus Day storm downed an estimated 140 MMBF of timber and created many
log jams on the rivers. In 1964, the Christmas week flood hit the Willamette
hard. Six campgrounds were totally destroyed, seven more were damaged.
Roads, bridges, and culverts were also lost. The passage of the Wilderness
act in 1964 created new wilderness areas and controversy over the management
for the new areas. This era also marked the establishment and growth of
an activist environmental movement. The movement is best known for the
controversy surrounding the French Pete addition to the Three Sisters Wilderness
The history of the Forest Service, and the Willamette NF, in the period
of 1970 to present is one of dramatic change and heated controversies.
The Willamettes timber sales continued at about 750 MMBF per year
through the 70s, however, the price bid per thousand increased dramatically.
This price speculation led to timber sale defaults and sale buy-backs in
the early 1980s. The volume not cut in the early 80s was resold
in the latter half of the decade. The "section 318" bill passed
by Congress increased the volume sold on the Willamette in 1990 to nearly
1 billion board feet of timber. After that, timber sale volumes declined
rapidly. The Willamette NF Land Management Plan was approved in 1990, two
and one-half years after the release of the draft plan. The Forest Plan
was amended in 1993 by the Northwest Forest Plan (also called the Presidents
Plan). In 1997, the Willamettes planned sale volume is 132 MMBF.