Historical Documents: A Summary of Forest Density and Species Composition on the Malheur National Forest

“Fishing with C.J. Bingham” (Bingham was a Ranger ~1918)

The following are the main summary points gleaned from research BMBP did on historic documents dated from the early to mid 1900s. The forest conditions described in these historical documents, such as generally dense forests and abundant representation of fir trees in the pictures, are  conditions that run contrary to USFS assumptions used to justify logging. All photographs are from Mosgrove, J. 1980. The Malheur National Forest An Ethnographic History. USDA Forest Service. Note the generally dense forests and abundant representation of fir trees in the pictures.

The summary below contains a condensed and more generalized version of our scoping comments on the Summit timber sale in the Malheur National Forest. Emphases are added. In our scoping comments on the Summit sale, we showed that the USFS was basing their justifications for logging on flawed and incorrect interpretations of historical documents. If you are interested in  reading more about exactly how the USFS got it wrong and also more in-depth detail on these historical documents, you can link to our comments: Historical accounts_Summit scoping comments BMBP.

 * Clumps of higher density forests are natural and documented in early historical accounts—even within Ponderosa pine forests.

“C.J. Bingham and L. H. Lucas (with pipe) and families on Heckleberrying Expedition 13 June 1908” (note high density forest in background)

* Grand fir and other non-Ponderosa pine species were historically well-represented on the landscape. Historical accounts of mixed conifer stands include descriptions of fir being the most abundant and dominant species in those forest types; Douglas fir and smaller percentages of Western larch were also described. Early seral species were not the dominant or most abundant components of these stands in the majority of historical accounts. Mixed conifer forests comprised large percentages of the forested landscapes in Eastern Oregon. In some watersheds, close to half of the forests were mixed conifer stands. Percentages vary according to historical document and geographic area.

“Forest Service Engineers with Horse-drawn Scraper”

* Ponderosa pine forests also contained a substantial percentage of other tree species, including Grand fir. Pure Ponderosa pine stands were rare.

* Grand fir was targeted for removal as per regional direction to foresters working on National Forests. Current estimates of Grand fir density and volume may be erroneously based on anecdotal observations that occurred after substantial proportions of fir were already removed across the landscape.

* Extensive overgrazing during the turn of the century may have created artificially open forest stands in some areas.

“Reseeding Project on Big Cow Creek Burn 1939”

NOTE: In historical documents from the early to mid 1900s, the common name “White fir” generally refers to Grand fir, but may also include other Abies species. “Western yellow pine” or “yellow pine” refers to Ponderosa pine. (Bright, 1912, Miles 1911, Munger 1912). From Miles (1911), noting common names of specific tree species at the time: “Pinus monticola Western white pine
 ; Pinus albicaulis White-bark pine
; Pinus ponderosa Western yellow pine, Bull pine; Pinus contorta Lodgepole pine, Black pine; Larix occidentalis Western larch, Tamarack; Picea engelmanni Engelmann spruce; Abies lasiocarpa White fir; Abies grandis White fir; Abies concolor White fir (?)”

“Bob Bailey Packing Doe to Camp – 1938”

Merritt (1910) Head Water Middle Fork of the John Day River discusses distinct forest type categories on pgs. 12-13. The “north slope type” is distinct from the “yellow pine type”, and discussed separately. It also describes “north slope type” (mixed conifer) stands as being overwhelmingly comprised of fir and larch, with the most common tree being White fir (Abies). “North Slope Type. 
The north slope type is so-called since it grows mainly upon north hillslopes where it is protected from the hot drying sun so that a sufficient amount of soil moisture is retained to permit the growth of other species than yellow pine, usually to the exclusion of that tree. This type of forest also occurs upon moist stream bottoms and benches generally. Larch, Douglas fir, lodgepole pine, and White fir are the usual species comprising this type. These are desirable in the order named. Larch is present in the greatest quantity as regards merchantable board feet, while numerically and as regards the actual percent of thearea occupied lodgepole pine and White fir are by far the most common.
 Yellow pine is found as scattered trees in many situations where the exposure is such as to give the warming, drying effects of the sun a chance, or where drainage is especially good.” “The north slope type, therefore, comprises stands in all stages of development from young lodgepole burns to mature stands of larch and Douglas fir. Even in the best places, however, fire and insects have worked together, doing so much damage that the forest seldom has much present commercial value.” “In the north slope type there is invariably a superabundance of seedlings wherever the shade is not too great.”

Merritt (1910) pg. 23: North Slope Type. WHITE FIR
 While there are a great number of trees of this species, it is estimated that not to exceed 15% of the volume of any of them is merchantable, this amount being in the top logs. The lumber is chiefly used for boxes.”

“Fishing Magone Lake” (1938)

In the Recommendations for Cutting Inferior Species on the Whitman National Forest, Starker (1915) also notes: “North Slopes. The true north slope type is composed of the following species: Douglas fir, western larch, white fir, lodgepole pine and only an occasional yellow pine. The yellow pine that does occur is usually mature and of good quality, the dense stand making them clean themselves well; but this density prevents the growth of seedlings and small trees are rate, excepting where fire or windfall has made an opening.”

Whitman National Forest, Proposed Timber Sale Dry Fork Clear Creek (1911) pg. 4: “North Slope Type. This type comprises almost one-half of the sale area, much of it containing little or no merchantable timber. The species consist of Douglas fir, larch, lodgepole pine, and white fir, desirable in the order named.”

In The Relative Merits of Larch and Douglas Fir in the Blue Mountains, Oregon Bright, G., (1913) pg. 5 states: “White and grand firs are more tolerant than either larch or Douglas fir and they generally compose the greater portion of the timber of the north slopes.

Mining at Susanville 1901

Matz (1934) discusses “Yellow pine type” forests distinctly from “White Fir-Larch-Douglas Fir Type in his report Descriptive Report Middle Fork John Day River Timber Sale Project Malheur National Forest 1930. White fir is described as being “quite generally distributed”, even in the Ponderosa pine type forest. Additionally, the report shows that the percent of acreage “in Yellow Pine Type” in the timber sale blocks varied greatly, and included a range from 28 to 66%. This report also describes pure yellow pine stands as occurring “only on small acreages”. It is important to note that his description states that most Yellow pine stands commonly contain Douglas and white fir, as well as some Western larch. Also of note is that Matz (1934) describes a severe underestimation of White fir in typical silvicultural calculations in merchantable timber stands, meaning that tables found in other documents that quantify fir volumes (such as sale prospectus records), do not accurately reflect the true amount of fir on the landscape and in fact severely underestimate it.

“Skidding Logs to Landing – 1941”

Matz (1934) page 21: “Forest Types Yellow Pine Type. In the mature age class of this type there are trees of all age classes and a selection method of cutting is recommended. As a whole, the stand is rather light, the trees being widely spaced and more or less grouped. Only small acreages of pure yellow pine stands occur on the project and it is customary to find Douglas fir and white fir quite generally distributed and occasionally some western larch. Percentage of Acreage in Yellow Pine Type: Camp Creek 66%
; Slide Creek 56%
; Beech Creek 54%; Long Creek 28%
; For the Project 59%”. Pages. 23-24: “White Fir-Larch-Douglas Fir Type
 In this type there is a mixture of all species found on the project and the western yellow pine occurring in it is found usually near the outer edges, or in the drier sites. The type prevails on the cool northerly exposures and in the higher elevations along the watercourses.

“Starr Ridge Winter Sports Area, Initial Clearing for Toboggan Course – 1937”

Matz (1934) continues: “White Fir
The B. M. volume tabulated for this specie is computed for trees 24 inches and less d. b.h. Many of the trees of this species attain diameter sizes of 42” and occasionally more, but trees of such large size are worthless for lumber because of conk rot or windshake. The defect in the larger trees is so pronounced that all trees 26 inches and more in diameter were excluded in computing the timber volume, they are accounted for in the tabulations by number only, under the classification of diseased trees.” “White fir-larch-Douglas fir type In this type there is a mixture of all species found on the project and the ponderosa pine occurring in it is found usually near the outer edges, or in the drier sites. The type prevails on the cool, northerly exposures and in the higher elevations along the water courses.”

“Hiyu Ranger Station in 1930 – Destroyed by fire in 1936”

Also from Matz (1934): Percentage of Acreage Block Name in Ponderosa Pine Type: Big Creek 52%
; Indian Creek 57%
; Galena 57%; Desolation 77%
; For the Project – 55%”. Ponderosa pine forests contain “a fair sprinkling” of trees of all age classes. In addition, most Ponderosa forests contain numerous mixed conifer species.

In the Malheur River Timber Survey Project Malheur National Forest Service 1927, Matz (1928) stated (pg. 31): “Forest types: Yellow pine:
Throughout all of the mature age class of this type, there is a fair sprinkling of trees of all age classes which is highly desirable for cutting under the selection system. There is usually a mixture of inferior species of varying density along with the pine in this type.”“Smaller areas of pure pine stands one section and less in size occur in other parts of the project, but throughout most of the area typed as pine there is a representation of Douglas fir, white fir, larch and lodgepole pine.”

“Raddue Ranger Station – 1930”

According to statements within the historical documents (see direct quotes here from Miles 1911, Matz 1934), white fir and other non-Ponderosa pine species were found throughout the area, and were also found throughout Ponderosa pine type forests including in mature Ponderosa pine forests.

“Loader Loading Truck and Trailer for Railroad Spur Several Miles Distant – Bear Valley Sale, Hines Lumber Company”

Miles (1911) from the Annual Silvicultural Report Malheur National Forest states on pgs. 4-5: “SLOPE TYPE. (a) The slope type comprises approximately 60% of the Forest. (b) The type, which has an approximate altitudinal range of from 3,000 to 7,000, or 7,500 feet, has a hot, very dry summer climate with no rainfall from about the first of June to the first of October. The winters are severe with much snow and strong west and northwest winds. Rain is fairly plentiful during spring and autumn. On the lower slopes frost occurs from early fall to late spring, while on the higher slopes the occurrence of frost probably extends over a longer period. The type, as has been stated, may be divided into two classes, the south slope and the north slope. The south slope is found on the long slopes of montain {mountain} sides having a moderate to fairly steep ascent and bearing alluvial soil on the lower slopes and rocky glacial-drift on the upper slopes. Benches and minor ridges frequently break the continuity of the slope, and frequent outcropping of rimrock are found at the upper edges of the type. The north slope is found on a very steep, rough canyon sides. The soil is alluvial near the bottoms of the canyons, and above it is rocky glacial-drift. (c) The best and most important timber occurs in this type. The stand on the south slope is composed chiefly of yellow pine, with a sparse mixture of Douglas fir. Toward the tops of the slopes Douglas fir becomes more prominent, forming nearly one-half of the stand, and white fir appears.

“Snow Course Shelter – 1937 – Prairie Ranger” District

Miles (1911) goes on to state that: “The north slope stand is composed of Douglas fir, white fir, and western larch in about even proportions, with scatteringly yellow pine. Very excellent yellow pine is found at the upper edges of the north slopes, showing its delight in cool, fairly dry and well lighted situations. Throughout both slopes are found dry knobs bearing juniper and mountain mahogany. The stand on the north slopes is much denser than that on the south slopes, being composed of much more tolerant trees. The stand on both slopes is mainly of standards and veterans, with large poles. Reproduction on the south slopes is excellent in wells and only fair under the mature timber. Reproduction on the north slopes is generally good throughout the stand.”

“Loading Log Truck with Wooden Spar Boom Loader and Tongs”

Matz (1934) also gives different descriptions for the different forest types, and Ponderosa pine type is clearly differentiated from other types. Note that the area described by Matz (1934) in the Descriptive Report Middle Fork John Day River Timber Survey Project overlap with the Big Mosquito project area. Numerous timber sales throughout the Malheur National Forest make similar claims to those in the Summit project, i.e., that forests within the project areas should be less dense, and contain a greater proportion of Ponderosa pine and other early seral species in order to be in line with historic norms.

On a larger scale, according to Miles (1911) in Annual Silvicultural Report Malheur National Forest 1911, the general Malheur region has 60% slope type of forest (elevation 3,000 to 7,000 or 7,500’). If 60% is an accurate estimate, then the proportion of the “slope type” that faces a southern exposure is a percentage of this (perhaps half?). This would mean that the southern exposure, which has more dominant mature Ponderosa pine forests, would only occur on percent of the forest equal to much less than 60%. Estimates are of course rough and would also depend on general landscape aspect.

“Roadbuilding in Grant County”

Matz (1928) in the Malheur River Timber Survey Project Malheur National Forest Service 1927 noted that White fir dominated mixed conifer stands: “White Fir-Larch-Douglas Fir type:
This type occurs in three age classes on the project and is found mostly on the north slopes or along cool stream beds. It is composed of a mixture of practically all of the commercial species found in the region, and western larch is almost always in evidence. White fir is the most prominent species in the type.”

The Sale Prospectus Camas Creek Unit, Umatilla National Forest (1937) states (pg. 11) that within the project area: “Ponderosa pine type—Very little of the ponderosa pine type in the proposed sale unit consists of a pure stand. The pine is usually found in mixture with other species.

“Loading Chrome-bearing Ore for Hauling to Railroad””Loading Chrome-bearing Ore for Hauling to Railroad”

Starker (1916) in the Annual Technical Report Whitman National Forest Service Instructions for Marking Timber in the Western Yellow Pine Region Pacific Northwest stated (pg. 8): “Stands with little or no yellow pine: This is the kind of an area which is typical of the transition type, and since it contains practically no yellow pine, is usually excluded from the timber sales. However, such areas often occur on the north slopes in patches and if in any considerable size the logger should not be forced to go in and cut, the cost of logging being very high and the acreage value of the material secured generally very low.”

“Road Maintenance Mess Wagon at Myrtle Rock – 1937

Matz (1928) in the Malheur River Timber Survey Project Malheur National Forest Service 1927 also stated: “Most of the larger trees of this species [White fir] are unmerchantable because they are rotten and shaky. When computing the volume of this species, trees indicated as more than 26 inches d.b.h. were considered culls and the volumes of same were not compiled.”

Descriptions suggest that Abies spp., Douglas fir, and Larch dominated in mixed-conifer stands to a much greater extent than is regularly concluded in USFS projects, (for example in the Summit scoping package). It is also interesting to note that Grand fir were considered weeds to be eradicated. Excerpts from Munger (1917) Western Yellow Pine in Oregon:

“Frazier Point Lookout”

Conversion of uneven-aged Ponderosa pine stands to even-aged stands began at the turn of the century. In an official notice included as a preamble letter to responsible officials with the Bright (1912) report: “In preparing this, it strikes me that it would be well to discuss more fully than is done in either Bright’s or Munger’s reports the possibility and the advisability of converting uneven-aged stands of yellow pine into even-aged stands. The intolerance of the tree and the fact that in parts of its range it occurs in large, even-aged groups seem to indicate that the tree is adapted to management in even-aged stands. Doubtless better yields could be obtained from stands of this character. While the change from uneven-aged to even- aged stands in your District may not be practicable at the present time and may involve risks in securing good reproduction on cut-over areas, I feel that this phase of the management of the species deserves serious study.”

“Settler with Team”

Weidman (1921) discussed in his paper Forest Successsion as a Basis of the Silviculture of Western Yellow Pine, how Ponderosa pine forests were being converted from irregular and uneven aged-aged stands to even-aged stands. It is important to remember that this paper refers to “pure yellow pine forest”, which was relatively rare on the landscape (as discussed in this document). Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that Weidman’s account suggests clumps of young growth, and uneven-aged more multi-story structure for pure Ponderosa pine forests than is commonly discussed today. This may be contrary to the common USFS practice of often seeking to convert Old Forest Multi-Strata into Old Forest Single Strata. “In general the pure yellow pine forest is characterized by open, irregular and uneven- aged stands with a preponderance of mature and overmature trees. In addition there is generally an excellent ground cover of advance reproduction made up partly of dense groups of seedlings here and there in the openings of the forest, but mostly of uniformly distributed and suppressed little seedlings struggling along directly under the overwood.” 

“Sheep Shading at Noon in Lodgepole Thicket – Malheur National Forest Scott Creek”

Weidman (1921): “It is important now to consider what sort of a forest this remaining stand after selection cutting will develop into and how the proposed periodic cuts at 60-year intervals will affect it. From old private cuttings, a few of which are already 50 years old, it is possible to get a very good idea what the development will be. The private areas cutover previous to years ago had practiced upon them a partial cutting method similar as far as the number of trees left per acre is concerned, to the present selection method on timber sales. Thus the old logger’s cutting and the present timber sale cutting are comparable in effect. On these old cut-over areas–and there are many thousands of acres of them–there are uniformly dense stands of yellow pine second growth which are practically even- aged.” 

“Antlerless Deerhunters Camp on Murderers Creek – 1938”

More from Weidman (1921): “This prevailing occurrence of practically even-aged masses of second growthon large areas of old cuttings indicates what will be the future condition of our timber sale areas. If upon these old cuttings the remaining or overwood trees should be removed, the ‘young growth would then absolutely make an even-aged yellow pine forest in the sapling stage. In the case of the 50-year-old miners’ cutting near Galena, such a removal of the overwood trees was actually effected a number of years ago–by the early settlers for the purpose of getting conveniently located firewood–and the forest now on the ground is a pure, even-aged stand of poles. With this succession of even-aged young growth after heavy selection cutting on old private areas prevailing so universally, it is safe to expect with the passage of time, the same sort of succession after timber sale cutting. If the future is looked into 60 years hence to the first periodic cut when most of the present overwood will be removed, it is not inconceivable that the liberated underwood will then be a stand of small poles very similar to that on the old miner’s cutting at Galena. The statement that western yellow pine, now almost everywhere a many-aged forest in its virgin condition, will develop after heavy cutting into an even-aged forest will perhaps be difficult for most foresters to accept unchallenged. But there is no doubt of the ultimate acceptance of the idea, for the proof of it already exists.”

“Rangers Elliot and Ward Recording Snow – 1936”

Other historical accounts document the prevalence of uneven-aged Ponderosa pine forests. For example, in the Head Watershed Middle Fork of the John Day River Whitman National Forest Oregon 1910, Merritt (1910) notes that Yellow pine forests were predominately uneven-aged: On pg. 11 (discussing specifically Yellow pine type forests): “The forest is uneven aged, being composed of a stand of large mature and overmature trees, young immature pines, known locally as “bull” pines, and large numbers of seedlings, saplings, and poles.” Pg. 29: “Since the yellow pine type is essentially uneven aged, it should be treated as a selection forest, bearing in mind that it is now overstocked with mature and overmature trees.”

Starker (1916) discusses Yellow pine in eastern Oregon and Washington, and notes that this forest type consists primarily of uneven aged stands. Pg. 4: “Since these forests are primarily uneven aged, they should be managed by the selection system, (or a modified form of the selection system).”

“Chick Watson Measures Snow near Snow Course Shelter”


There is evidence to suggest that especially when it occurred with Ponderosa pine, fir was targeted for removal on a widespread, landscape scale basis across the Blue Mountains. Historic accounts show that regional direction existed to remove firs, and give preference to tree species more desirable for timber production. This was true even where firs were documented to be very well represented or be the dominant species in the stand. Exceptions were stated to be when Ponderosa pines were completely absent and unlikely to tolerate the site and firs were needed to stabilize soils for the purpose of protecting creeks in those situations (such as in deep gulch situations). Silvicultural practices have directed favoring Ponderosa pine for future recruitment since the turn of the century, and this stated wholesale conversion of mixed conifer stands to Ponderosa pine stands needs to be recognized by the USFS. Given this conversion of mixed Ponderosa pine stands to pure or near-pure stands, as well as other historical evidence of a heavy fir component including in Ponderosa pine stands, there is little reason to believe that fir spp., including Grand fir, are severely overrepresented in these stands as is stated by the USFS. Also, later historic accounts may have included a landscape in which firs had already been targeted for removal and were underrepresented in Ponderosa stands across the landscape. North slope areas were sometimes left uncut because they were not considered sufficiently commercially profitable due to their predominately fir composition.

“Tom Bennett and A.F. Meyers Packing Doe to Camp – 1938”

Miles (1911) pg. 6: “The mature and over-mature timber on the north slopes should be removed and the poles left for a future crop. The white fir which is of low value, should all be removed and preference given to Douglas fir and western larch.”

Starker (1916) in the Annual Technical Report Whitman National Forest Service Instructions for Marking Timber in the Western Yellow Pine Region Pacific Northwest states on pg. 5: “Most Desirable Species.
In general, the species should be favored in marking in the following order; western yellow pine, Douglas fir, western larch, lodgepole pine, and white fir. Yellow pine is far ahead of any of the other species and should always be given the preference and encouraged to replace one of the more inferior species. Douglas fir, because of its slow growth, is very strong, and yields a good growth of construction timber. It is quite free from defect. Western larch, especially in the larger diameters, is very susceptible to shake, and these are usually filled with pitch. This brings down the general value of larch, although the lumber is especially well adapted for construction work coming in contact with the ground, being very decay resisting. Lodgepole would receive more consideration except for its small size, as it produces a high grade of common lumber, soft in texture, and with small tight knots. White fir in this region is very poor and should be considered a weed. If merchantable, heavy marking should be the rule, especially on the yellow pine areas. Trees of this species over 16 inches D.B.H. are seldom sound because of the heavy attacks of indian paint fungus (Echinodontiom tinctorum) which gain access to the tree through frost cracks and fire scars.”

“Loading Flatcars with Logs – 1941”

Starker (1916) states (pg. 7), regarding “practically pure stands of yellow pine”: “On these areas special endeavor should be made to eliminate all the inferior species, leaving the yellow pine in as pure a stand as possible.”

Starker (1916) goes on to state (pg. 8): Mixed stands with considerable yellow pine:
These north slope areas are well adapted to the growth of yellow pine and perhaps grow a better grade than do the south slope areas. Therefore this species should be favored in marking in preference to all other species, for they, being able to reproduce in dense shade, are competing very severely with the yellow pine. Next to yellow pine, Douglas fir and western larch should be encouraged and the other species cut to a low diameter limit. Judgment will be of value as to where to draw the line between “B” and “C” stands [Mixed stands with considerable yellow pine vs. Stands with little or no yellow pine].”

“Skidding Logs to Loading – 1941”

The Western Yellow Pine Region (Northern Division) for General Instructions for Marking Timber on National Forests (1908) states: “Balsam and white fir should not ordinarily be left in mixture with better species. In cold deep gulches where either grows to good size and spruce is wanting, they may be left. Leave the firs only where needed to protect the watershed, or for seed in default of better species. All trees which will cut one merchantable log should be marked for removal, and the destruction of balsam and white fir reproduction should be permitted in logging operations, but only where reproduction of more valuable kinds may reasonably be expected to take its place.”

“Badger Mill at Susanville 1901”

Starker (1915) in the Recommendations for Cutting Inferior Species on the Whitman National Forest: “Yellow Pine Types On the slopes commonly known as Yellow Pine Types, where yellow pine is the principal tree, with Douglas fir, western larch, white fit and lodgepole occurring only singly or in small scattered groups, the cutting should be heavy in the inferior species. The logger being on the ground can easily afford to take out the small percentage of fir and larch along with the pine, as he has his railroad in and his skidding trails swamped out. Silviculturally it is good policy to remove a big percentage of the inferior species occurring on these slopes, because they are occupying valuable space that could as well or better produce a yellow pine selling at $3.00 per thousand as a western larch, which is financially immature, selling at $1.00, as the pine is at home while the larch is out of its proper site on a dry south slope.”

“”New” North Fork Road – 1924″

Starker (1915) goes on to state: “All the unmerchantable white fir growing on the yellow pine areas should be cut under the snag clause, giving additional room for yellow pine.” “The north slope areas, because of the loss commercially and the impossibility of practicing intensive silviculture at this time should be left in a virgin condition. Certain scattered north slope areas may possess enough yellow pine to make it profitable to log them, but this can only be decided in the field. In case the financial or market conditions change so that the lumberman desires more of the inferior species he should first be given the creek bottoms, next the smaller and more isolated patches of fir and larch and lastly the larger areas. This is to leave the inferior species in as compact bodies as possible to later facilitate and cheapen the cost of logging….In the yellow pine type the inferior species should furnish at least 10% of the total volume cut. From assurances of certain lumbermen operating in this region they would be willing to take this amount to keep up their stock and to use around the mill and yard….This 10% will enable the marking of all trees that should be removed; that is, all trees that are either mature, defective or a severe wind risk, and will leave the area stocked with young, thrifty trees, making good growth for the return crop.”

“Lorraine Watson – Lookout on Antelope Mountain”

Proposed Timber Sale Whitman National Forest, Proposed Timber Sale Dry Fork Clear Creek (1911). The area applied for embraces that part of Clear Creek drainage locally known as the Dry Fork Clear Creek. “It is bounded on the north by the Forest boundary; the northern part of the east side is the Forest boundary, the major portion of the east boundary being the divide between this drainage and Squan Creek, which divide is part of the western boundary of the Wm. Eccles and Company Sale of 12/22/10; on the south by the divide between the Middle Fork John Day and the South Fork of Burnt River, which is the boundary line of Baker and Grant Counties; on the west by the divide separating the drainage of Dry Fork and the Main Fork of Clear Creek.” Pg. 3: “Except for the cutting of a few trees and poles in several places throughout the tract for the purposes of sheep corral constructions, there are no old cuttings on or very near the area.”

“Installation of Cross Drain in Forest Service Road”

Proposed Timber Sale Whitman National Forest, Proposed Timber Sale Dry Fork Clear Creek (1911) continues: pg. 11: “North Slope Type. Yellow Pine in Mixture. In this type no such plan as outlined under yellow pine type can be followed. In these situations yellow pine usually grows tall and has scanty crowns, ordinarily precluding retention for seed trees even, owing to their undesirability for this purpose and susceptibility to windthrow. Therefore ordinarily, only such trees should be left as have good seed crowns and those which are not liable to windfall. Where there are an insufficient number of trees left to insure reseeding, artificial seeding should be done in the roads over which logs have been skidded. The soil in these places having been well disturbed, makes an excellent seed bed. By this means a nucleus stand may be had. Douglas fir in these situations should be considered the next desirable species. Thrifty trees of this kind 20 inches in diameter and under should be left. Western larch in such situations, unless growing in gulches or moist places, does not ordinarily attain a diameter greater than 18 or 20 inches before dying. The cause of this is unknown, but probably due to moisture conditions. Since this condition prevails in general where there is a sufficient amount of other species to warrant logging, it would be well to mark larch to as low a diameter as is practical for an operator to handle. White fir is usually totally worthless except for a few of the young trees. All that it is practical to handle should be removed. North Slope Type This type of forest is, for the most part, un-merchantable. At the present time it cannot be expected that any great amount of this type can be exploited. Since by the time the next cutting cycle is here the predominant species in this and the preceding type will be of value sufficient to warrant extensive exploitation, it is not believed to be good policy to sacrifice…”

“Loading Chrome-bearing Ore for Haul to Railroad”

Marking must be done differently in each of the different forest types. The remarks concerning any one type, however, apply equally well in all Blocks. The species to favor throughout the whole area is western yellow pine wherever there is likelihood of that species growing successfully. In other situations, western larch and Douglas fir are most desirable. White fir is always a weed tree and every effort should be made to rid the forest of this species.” Pg. 32: “White fir and lodgepole should be considered undesirable and no effort should be made to reproduce them unless no other species are present.”


“Henry Ringsmeyer’s Sheep Camp – 1931”. Note the description of extensive overgrazing in the paragraph above the picture.

Wernstendt 1906 (pg. 8) in A Favorable Report on a Proposed Addition to the Blue Mountains Forest Reserve: “The condition of the open range is, however, in a state of rapid deterioration, and the grass cannot be compared at all with what it used to be or with what it ought to be. According to everybody this used to be an exceptionally fine feed country with the grass knee deep. Now the grass is more open, more stunted, and on a base that is smaller and thinner. The condition of the timbered range is decidedly poor. Over portions the grass cover is destroyed by the sheep.”

Tucker 1940: “In the Northern Blues:
Sheep and cattle began to graze in what later became the Umatilla National Forest to a limited extent about 1875. The use of the forest area for summer grazing increased from year to year, particularly insofar as the sheep were concerned. In these earlier days the grazing of cattle in the mountains was confined to the outer edges of the timber and in the lower canyons along the fringes of the settlements. More and more sheepmen began to use the mountain ranges until there were so many sheep in the mountains that each band was confined to a small area. There would be a grand rush of the sheepmen to the mountains as soon as the high country was free of snow with the idea of being first on the ground and getting the pick of the range.”

“Henry Ringsmeyer’s Sheep Camp – 1931”

Sparkawk (1918) discusses using grazing as a strategy to reduce understory fuels, and posits that this could affect fire behavior. This suggests that grazing may have artificially decreased understory vegetation. Since overgrazing was widespread and extensive, artificially open forests may have been widespread across the landscape. Sparhawk (1918): “White fir and lodgepole should be considered undesirable and no effort should be made to reproduce them unless no other species are present.”


Most documents were found online on the Umatilla National Forest Historic Documents webpage at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/umatilla/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsbdev7_016132

Bright, G., 1912. A Study of the Growth of Yellow Pine in Eastern Oregon. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5394377.pdf

Bright, G., 1913. The Relative Merits of Larch and Douglas Fir in the Blue Mountains, Oregon. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015570.pdf

Langille, H., 1906. Report on the Proposed Blue Mountains Forest Reserve. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015626.pdf

Matz, F. 1928. Malheur River Timber Survey Project Malheur National Forest Service 1927. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5413616.pdf

Matz, F., 1934. Descriptive Report Middle Fork John Day River Timber Survey Project Whitman National Forest 1930. Accessed online at: https://fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5381973.pdf

Merritt, M., 1910. Head Watershed Middle Fork John Day River Whitman National Forest 1910. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015531.pdf

Miles, H., 1911. Annual Silvicultural Report Malheur National Forest 1911. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015584.pdf

Munger, T., 1912. The Future Yield of Yellow Pine Forests. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015579.pdf

Munger, T., 1917. Western Yellow Pine in Oregon USDA Bulletin 418. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015581.pdf

National Forest Officials, 1908. The Western Yellow Pine Region (Northern Division) for General Instructions for Marking Timber on National Forests. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5396230.pdf

Powell, D., 2004. Forest Inventory Data for the Blue Mountains 1910-1911. USDA, Umatilla National Forest. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015509.pdf

Sparhawk, W., 1918. Effects of Grazing Upon Western Yellow Pine Reproduction in Central Idaho. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015572.pdf

Starker, T., 1915. Recommendations for Cutting Inferior Species on the Whitman National Forest, Oregon January 15, 1915. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5414184.pdf

Starker, T., 1916. Annual Technical Report Whitman National Forest Service Instructions for Marking Timber in the Western Yellow Pine Region Pacific Northwest. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5414126.pdf

Tucker, G., 1940. History of the Northern Blue Mountains. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015563.pdf

USFS (1937). Sale Prospectus Camas Creek Unit, Umatilla National Forest. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015566.pdf

Weidman, R., 1921. Forest Succession as a Basis of the Silviculture of Western Yellow Pine. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015622.pdf

Wernstendt, L., 1906. A Favorable Report on a Proposed Addition to the Blue Mountains Forest Reserve. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fsbdev7_015619.pdf

Whitman National Forest, 1911. Proposed Timber Sale Dry Fork Clear Creek, Application of Sumpter Timber and Lumber Company. Accessed online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5405399.pdf