A letter to Washington, D.C.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2002

In 1906, Gifford Pinchot, the head of President Theodore Roosevelt's forestry program, sent Frederick E. Olmsted, the assistant chief in charge of general inspection, to examine the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve and report on the possibility of creating new reserves. At that time, William Langille, an Oregon mountain guide and forester, was administering the reserve for the government.

The U.S. Rush mentioned in this letter was one of the owners of the Rush and Brown Copper Mine at Karta Bay on Prince of Wales Island and a vocal critic of the reserve. He objected on grounds that there wasn't enough timber to justify the reserve, that the timber would be needed in the region's development and that the rules governing forest reserves were unjust and impractical, among other reasons.

Portland, Oregon

Oct. 4, 1906

The Forester

Forest Service

Washington, D.C.

Dear Sir:

I enclose my report on the Alexander Archipelago Forest Reserve, Alaska, which includes a general discussion of forest conditions of the Panhandle region and suggestions in regard to a better forest policy in the rest of the District. The lateness of the season prevented any extension of field work to the west coast or the interior, which I much regret. ...

The general situation, as I see it, may be very briefly summarized as follows:

The reserve is a maritime forest. Communication and transportation are by water only and the sea is really a part of the reserve. There is lots of good timber, but the demand is insignificant. The sentiment toward the reserve is mildly unfriendly. The objections come from ignorance and misunderstanding of the objects of the reserve, which are not good grounds; from the belief that the forest reserve act is wrong in principle, which is not admitted; and from a feeling that some of the present regulations are unnecessarily strict and not in accord with Alaskan conditions, which feeling is entirely justified and can be easily relieved.

The general sentiment is precisely what it was in many parts of the West three or four years ago. Mr. U.S. Rush, who petitioned the President to abolish the reserve, has personally had no difficulty with it whatsoever; he is afflicted with an acute dread of imaginary evils which might occur at some future time.

Mr. Langille has done excellent work and is a first rate man for the position.

The key to the situation is a boat. Unless we have a boat of our own no extension of the present reserve area is recommended, nor can the present reserve be decently handled. We might just as well try to run the reserves in the States without horses.

There's no fire, no stock, no roads, no trails. Hence we need no Rangers. The Officer in Charge and two Deputy Supervisors can successfully manage the 16,000,000 acres of the proposed enlarged reserve, provided they have boats.

The recommended additions to the present reserve will include the whole of south-east Alaska, except for certain exclusion around principal towns. If created, it will more than pay expenses within a year. ....

Very truly yours,

F.E. Olmsted

Assistant Forester.

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