views updated May 09 2018


The first European to sight Oregon may have been Sir Francis Drake (15401596), while he was on a British raiding expedition against the Spanish during the 1500s. Little contact was made during the next 200 years because mariners considered the Oregon coast too treacherous. In 1778, the Englishman Capt. James Cook (17281779) explored the Northwest. He named several of the Oregon capes. Explorers seeking sea otter and other furs soon followed. American Robert Gray (17551806) discovered the Columbia River in 1792.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition was the first overland exploration of Oregon, reaching the mouth of the Columbia in the winter of 1805. Fur traders employed by New York magnate John Jacob Astor (17631848) built a trading post at the mouth of the Columbia and called it Astoria.

The early history of Oregon was marked by competition between Great Britain and the United States for a foothold in the territory. The two countries signed a joint agreement of occupation in 1818. However from 1824 through the early 1840s John McLoughlin (17841857), chief official at Vancouver for the British Hudson's Bay Company, was governor in all but name. Protestant missionaries to the Native Americans, however, established a base for future U.S. settlement. The first of these came by wagon train over the famous Oregon Trail during the early 1840s. In 1843 a provisional government was formed, and in 1846 a treaty with Great Britain firmly established the boundary between the United States and Canada. The Oregon Territory was organized in 1848. It was originally much larger than the state as it exists today. Oregon became the 33rd state of the union in 1859.

Oregon's economic progress was slow until the first transcontinental railroad reached the state in 1883. The fur trade dominated the region up until that time. When the railroad was built, fur traders, who were tired of the rigors of their difficult trade, began to settle on farms. They settled particularly in the Tualatin Valley and in a region near present-day Salem. Most were French-Canadians who were married to Indian women. Others came north from the gold fields of California, including a number of Chinese who continued to seek gold in eastern Oregon. They also worked as salmon packers and farmhands but were best known for their role in completing the Oregon Central Railroad and other railroads.

The California Gold Rush of the 1850s provided the first real impetus to economic growth in the Northwest. The city of Portland grew rapidly as gold miners demanded lumber, flour, wheat, and beef. Portland provided easy access for ship captains, and the city built a rudimentary road to the wheat fields of the Tualatin Valley. Oregon's mountains together with the Columbia River blocked any rivals from providing this wheat through other means. Thus an important export market developed, along with the Northwest's first reliable currency, gold dust. Another gold rush in eastern Oregon brought even more prosperity. Sailing vessel and steamship companies prospered during this time.

Oregon also found ready markets for the salmon taken out of the Columbia River. Lumber and paper industries as well as textile mills began to develop along the Columbia and the Willamette rivers.

Much of the economy remained agricultural because railroads and improved roads were slow in coming to Oregon. Wheat was the most important crop, followed by oats and potatoes. Cattle, horses, pigs, and sheep were the most important livestock. Towns such as The Dalles, Princeville, Klamath Falls, and Pendleton arose to serve the farm market. Before the coming of the Pacific Northwest railroad Oregon was essentially a purveyor of raw materials, with few finished goods being produced there.

By the 1890s several railroads crisscrossed Oregon. Raw materials could now flow to the ocean more efficiently and immigration to the region increased. Consumer goods, farm machinery, and construction materials were now readily available from the East to supply the growing farms and cities. Lumbermen and farmers could compete with those in other sections of the country. The Northern Pacific Railroad and the Great Northern Railroad also had vast publicity bureaus that sent pamphlets to the East, encouraging emigration. The railroad also changed economic patterns. The tracks broke up large cattle ranges and helped to destroy the cattle industry. Because wool was easier to transport by rail than beef, local residents soon preferred to raise sheep.

Waterways were also improved during this time, including canals along the Columbia to bypass falls and rapids. Lumbermen benefited from better water transit, from technological developments in their industry, and from the destruction of forests in the Great Lakes region.

During the 1920s Oregonians had to make adjustments as demand for certain materials declined after World War I (19141918). Lumber mills also suffered from a lack of supply because wartime cutting had decimated the forests. Congress acted quickly to pass the Clarke-McNary and McSweeney-McNary acts. The acts provided a model for future federal efforts to conserve forests.

Other changes during the 1920s were related to transportation improvements. Shipping continued to increase because of the Panama Canal. The railroads began to lose business as better roads were built. Oregon had created its first highway department in 1913 and built the Columbia River Highway along the river's south bank.

The 1930s saw a downturn in the economy as a depression rocked the country. After the 1929 stock market crash, lumber companies lost most of their markets but slowly regained strength. However the fishing industry never quite recovered from the market collapses which sent many fishermen to the relief rolls. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's (193345) New Deal programs, especially the Wagner Act, encouraged union organizing. Portland experienced a crippling strike by the International Longshoremen's Association in 1934. In the spring of 1935 the Sawmill and Timber Workers practically shut down the lumber industry in the Northwest. On a more positive note, the federal government's water conservation efforts during this period resulted in the construction of the Grand Coulee and the Bonneville dams along the Columbia River.

World War II (19391945) brought much-needed relief to Oregon's failing economy. Portland shipbuilding in particular was a major beneficiary of wartime contracts. Construction entrepreneur Henry J. Kaiser (18821967) was the genius behind Portland's shipbuilding renaissance. He was the primary contractor on the Bonneville Dam project. Kaiser used his many contacts in Washington and with other construction interests to gain government contracts for the so-called Liberty ships. The ships were 441-foot long freighters that kept the Allies supplied throughout the war. Kaiser also built escort aircraft carriers, tankers, and Victory merchant ships.

The postwar years in Oregon were quite prosperous, with manufacturing and service industries expanding. Government was also heavily involved in water and forest conservation in the state. Farming changed drastically with the number of farms declining from 63,125 in 1945 to 36,000 in 1982. Large corporate farms using high technology methods began to dominate the economy. Oregon fisheries declined as the salmon supply became depleted, causing most of the state's canneries to be closed; the federal government rushed to supply fish eggs to hatcheries. The 1980s and 1990s were marked by a continuing debate between loggers and environmentalists over logging in Oregon's rainforests. A 1993 federal law helped prevent commercial exploitation of older forests, home of the threatened spotted owl. Despite attempts to diversify the state's economic base employment in manufacturing outside Portland was still mostly in the lumber and wood products field in the 1980s. This made the state increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations in the housing construction market.

In addition the trend toward conservation of the forests from commercial development continued into the 1990s. The total commercial land base decreased by more than 24 percent since 1945. While federal lands were increasingly being removed from timber-harvesting, private forests took on a more important role. The reforesting required since 1941 and the Forest Practices Act of 1971 helped replenish the timber supply. Timber still provided the largest percentage of shipments by manufacturers in the state.

The principal economic changes in Oregon since World War II have been in the development of the aluminum and electronics industries, as well as in tourism and the services industry. In 1994 unemployment stood at a 25-year low of five percent. Per capita income was over $22,000 in 1997, putting the state's ranking at 27 in the nation.

See also: John Jacob Astor, Environmentalism, Liberty Ships, Lumber Industry, Henry J. Kaiser, Shipbuilding Industry


Corning, Howard. Dictionary of Oregon History. Portland: Binfords and Morts, 1956.

Dodds, Gordon B. The American Northwest: A History of Oregon and Washington. Arlington Heights, IL: Forum Press, 1986.

. Oregon: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

Johansen, Dorothy, and Charles Gates. Empire of the Columbia: A History of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

Vaughan, Thomas, and Terrence O'Donnell. Portland: A Historical Sketch and Guide. Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 1976.

[oregon] has no history of its own, only ends of histories from other places; it has no complete lives, only beginnings.

h.l. davis, kettle of fire, 1959

Pinchot, Gifford

views updated May 14 2018


Gifford Pinchot (18651946), first head of the U.S. Forest Service, was a pioneer in forest management. He promoted forest conservation as an effective way to provide a steady source of timber. Pinchot was a close advisor to fellow conservationist President Theodore Roosevelt (19011909), and he twice served as governor of Pennsylvania. Pinchot's zeal for conservation earned him loyal friends and bitter enemies. His legacy was the millions of acres of national forests that were preserved as a result of his activism.

Gifford Pinchot was born on August 11, 1865 to an affluent family in Simsbury, Connecticut. His boyhood was divided between his family's vastly wooded Pennsylvania estate and at their stylish home in New York City. He often traveled abroad, but he loved to go camping and to hike wilderness trails. Since there wasn't a U.S. college that taught forestry at that time he formulated his own course of study at Yale to provide him with the background he needed. He graduated from Yale University in 1889, and went on to do postgraduate forestry study in Austria, France, Germany, and Switzerland. In Europe forests were under the management of expert woodsmen; these men were Pinchot's teachers. Pinchot learned that European forests were safeguarded from extinction: lumbering was controlled under strict rules, waste was kept to a minimum, and tremendous precautions were taken to prevent fire and blight.

Pinchot returned to the United States with the realization that lumbering needed to be regulated in his own country. A bill was passed in 1891 that allowed the federal government to reserve 13 million wooded acres from lumbering. A year later Pinchot initiated the nation's first organized forestry management program at the Vanderbilt estate in Baltimore, North Carolina. He then became a member of the National Forest Commission and in 1898 Pinchot was appointed the Department of Agriculture's first Chief of Forest Service. He would serve in this position for the next 12 years.

In 1902 Pinchot designed a preservation program for the Philippine Islands. The following year he became a professor of forestry at Yale University, a position he would hold for the next 33 years. Wanting a single, memorable word to describe the great need to protect earth's resources, Pinchot coined the term "conservation" in 1907.

After Pinchot publicly criticized Secretary of the Interior Richard A. Ballinger's policies regarding the administration of coal lands in Alaska, President William Howard Taft (19091913) fired Pinchot for insubordination. The dismissal widened a Republican Party rift between Taft and the party's progressive wing, which was led by Theodore Roosevelt. Two years later, when Roosevelt won the presidency, Pinchot played an important role in Roosevelt's revolutionary conservation program. It was a period that became known as the "golden era of conservation."

Although Pinchot lost the Republican nomination for the Pennsylvania governor's seat in 1914 he eventually served two non-consecutive terms as governor of that state. During his first term (19231927) he directed the reorganization of the state government and enforced Prohibition. During his second term (19311935) he fought for stricter regulation of public utilities. In 1926 William S. Vare defeated Pinchot in a three-candidate race for Pennsylvania's Republican senate nomination. However, the Senate declined Vare after Pinchot announced that the nomination was "partly bought and partly stolen."

Pinchot remained active in conservation affairs throughout his political career and in 1910 he became president of the National Conservation Association. He served on the Inland Waterways Commission, the Commission on Country Life, the United States Food Administration (19171918), and was a member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (19141915). From 1920 to 1922 he was the Pennsylvania Commissioner of Forestry and acted as federal mediator in the anthracite coal strike in 1923. The author of several books on forestry and timber, he also published an autobiography called Breaking New Ground (1947), which told of his commitment to conservation. Gifford Pinchot died on October 4, 1946 in New York, New York.

See also: Environmentalism, William Howard Taft


Anderson, Peter. Gifford Pinchot: American Forester. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995.

Fausold, Martin L. Gifford Pinchot, Bull Moose Progressive. New York: Viking, 1989.

Hirsh, S. Carl. Guardians of Tomorrow: Pioneers in Ecology. New York: Viking Press, 1971.

Peterson, Robert W. "Gifford Pinchot: The First American Forester." Boys' Life, May 1994.

Pinchot, Gifford. Breaking New Ground. 1947. Reprint. New York: Island Press, 1998.

wanting a single, memorable word to describe the great need to protect earth's resources, pinchot coined the term "conservation" in 1907.

National Forest Management Act (1976)

views updated May 11 2018

National Forest Management Act (1976)

William V. Luneburg

Excerpt from the National Forest Management Act

In developing, maintaining, and revising plans for units of the National Forest System, ... the Secretary [of Agriculture] shall assure that such plans ... provide for multiple use and sustained yield of the products and services obtained therefrom ... and, in particular, include coordination of outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish, and wilderness.

Today, the federal government owns 192 million acres that comprise the National Forest System. Most of that land is located west of the Mississippi River in the continental United States and in Alaska. It was included among the land acquired by conquest or purchase from various foreign nations during the first seventy years of the nineteenth century. Congress first authorized the withdrawal of this forestland from public entry and disposal in 1891; those withdrawals increased significantly thereafter. There is also national forestland located east of the Mississippi, much of it acquired from private owners. The original purposes of what were first known as "forest reserves" were watershed protection and timber production, and the reserves were regulated for almost eighty years under the Organic Act of 1897 by the U.S. Forest Service located within the Department of Agriculture.

Until the 1940s, national forestland was not extensively used for timber production. However, wartime needs for wood products and the postwar housing boom required significantly increased timber cutting on federal land. At the same time, recreational uses of the National Forest System increased dramatically along with concerns that the timber cutting practices and the forest road building necessary to extract timber were adversely affecting those uses. When Congress enacted the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act in 1960, for the first time it formally recognized recreation as an important, though not an exclusive or dominant, use of national forestland.

In many areas the Forest Service employed clear-cutting as the predominant timber harvesting technique. That is to say, all or most of the trees within a designated area were removed. This practice in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana and the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia provoked significant controversy and adverse congressional reaction, including the issuance in 1972 of the so-called Church Report (named after Idaho Senator Frank Church) that called for a decrease in the use of clear-cutting and identified certain types of land (e.g., that with fragile soils) where no timber cutting should be permitted. A lawsuit was also brought by the Izaak Walton League of America to stop the clear-cutting in the Monongahela National Forest on the basis that the 1897 Organic Act did not permit it. When the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued its decision in 1975 agreeing with the league, clear-cutting was effectively barred in all national forests. At that point, given pressures from the timber industry and environmental groups, Congress was compelled to enact a new and comprehensive statute that would attempt to allow continued timber production without, at the same time, unduly compromising recreational and environmental goals. The result was the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) (P.L. 94-588, 90 Stat. 2949), adopted in the exercise of Congress's plenary constitutional authority over federally-owned land.

The NFMA requires that the Forest Service prepare and revise at fifteen-year intervals a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) for each national forest. These plans identify what uses are to be made of each part of a forest (e.g., timber production, protection of old growth forest, wildlife protection, recreation) along with the standards and techniques to achieve those uses. Public participation is required in the development and revision of LRMPs. In addition, the NFMA requires that the Forest Service adopt regulations for the management of the national forests to insure that timber production does not undercut non-commodity uses of the land. For example, LRMPs must "provide for diversity of plant and animal communities." Moreover, clear-cutting can be used only where "it is determined to be the optimum method ... to meet the objectives and requirements of the relevant land management plan" and is "carried out in a manner consistent with the protection of soil, watershed, fish, wildlife, recreation, and esthetic resources, and the regeneration of the timber resource."

Despite NFMA's emphasis on ecological and recreational values, the statute's lack of detail leaves the Forest Service great freedom of choice in managing the national forests. While many individuals and groups have sued the Forest Service on the basis of the NFMA to halt plans or projects viewed as environmentally destructive, they have found the courts to be deferential to the agency's implementation based on the generality and ambiguity of the NFMA's language and the alleged technical expertise of the agency. On balance, however, the enactment of NFMA has helped to insure that the Forest Service deals with the National Forest System in a more environmentally-conscious fashion than might otherwise have been the case.

See also: Federal Land Policy and Management Act.


Le Master, Dennis C. Decade of Change: The Remaking of Forest Service Statutory Authority during the 1970s. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1984.

Lien, Carsten. Olympic Battleground: The Power Politics of Timber Preservation. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1991.

Steen, Harold K. The U.S. Forest Service: A History. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976.

Wilkinson, Charles F. "Forests for the Home-Builder First of All." In Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1992.


U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. <http://www.fs.fed.us/>.

Smokey the Bear

The campaign to prevent forest fires began in the 1940s, during World War II, when protection of the national forests became a matter of significant concern. The War Advertising Council developed posters with slogans such as "Forest Fires Aid the Enemy," and "Our Carelessness, Their Secret Weapon." In 1944, after the release of the motion picture Bambi, Disney loaned the main character to the prevention campaign for use on what became a successful poster. When the loan period elapsed, the Forest Service selected a bear as its symbol, and its next poster featured a character called Smokey Bear pouring a bucket of water on a camp fire. In 1950 the campaign acquired a living symbol when a black bear cub was rescued from a forest fire in New Mexico. Newswires broadcast the plight of the badly burned cub, eliciting national concern, and the bear eventually found a home at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., where he served as a symbol for fire prevention and conservation campaigns. In 1952 a jingle was created for Smokey. To maintain the proper rhythm of the lyrics, the composers added the word "the" between Smokey and Bear. The character therefore became commonly known as "Smokey the Bear," although his name was never officially changed. Fifty years later, Smokey continues to warn that only YOU can prevent forest fires.

National Forest Management Act (1976)

views updated May 29 2018

National Forest Management Act (1976)

The National Forest Management Act (NFMA), passed in 1976, is the law that established the guidelines for the management of national forests. The act replaced the Organic Act of 1897, which had supplied such guidelines for the previous seventy-nine years. The impetus for this new bill was a court case related to clear-cutting on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. Such clear-cutting had begun on this forest in the 1960s, and many environmental and recreation groups opposed it. When the Forest Service continued this management technique, the Izaak Walton League filed suit against the agency, claiming that clear-cutting violated the Organic Act on three counts: that only mature timber was to be harvested, that all timber cut had to be marked and designated, and that all timber cut had to be removed from the forest. The Court ruled in favor of the Izaak Walton League; clear-cutting did violate the Organic Act on each of these counts (Izaak Walton League v. Butz, (1973)). The judge issued an injunction against any cutting in West Virginia that violated the Organic Act. The Forest Service appealed, but lost, and the injunction was spread throughout the Fourth Circuit of the Court of Appeals (Izaak Walton League v. Butz (1975)). Injunctions based on similar cases were soon issued in Alaska and Texas. With timber harvesting on the national forests in chaos, the Forest Service and timber industry turned to Congress for new management authority.

Congressional action came quickly due to these court decisions. The debate centered around bills introduced by Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, more favorable to industry, and by Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, supported by environmentalists. The final act was based primarily on the Humphrey bill. The act basically gave legislative approval to how the Forest Service had been managing the national forests. It granted the agency a great deal of administrative discretion to manage the forests based on the general philosophy of multiple use and sustained yield.

Five of the most contentious issues regarding national forest management were discussed in the law, but the fundamental issues were left unresolved. Clear-cutting is recognized as a legitimate management technique, and the Forest Service was given qualified discretion to determine when and how this approach would be used. Species diversity is to be considered in forest management, but the specifics are left to agency discretion. The Forest Service is directed to identify marginal lands and, based on agency discretion, to move away from timber management on these lands. Trees should be cut at a mature age when possible, but rotation age can be lessened if the agency deems it necessary. Finally, timber is to be harvested based on nondeclining even flow, which is a very conservative approach to sustained yield. Forest Service management decisions on these decisions have continued to stir debate. The NFMA also substantially amended the interdisciplinary national forest planning provisions of the Resources Planning Act of 1974.

See also Biodiversity; Deforestation; Forest decline; Environmental law; Sustainable development

[Christopher McGrory Klyza ]



Clary, D. A. Timber and the Forest Service. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1986.

Dana, S. T., and S. K. Fairfax. Forest and Range Policy. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.