The National Forests of the Northern Region
Living Legacy—

Chapter 12
The Bitterroot Controversy and the Environmental Movement

The expanded recreational use of the national forests following World War II, along with increased access to those forests made possible by construction of roads and trails within the forests and the expanded interstate highway system, indicated changing uses of forest resources. The public's awareness of the national forests also was changing, as the automobile, airplane, telephone, and modern media truly "nationalized" the national forests. Thus, an issue that began as a matter of concern to local residents in western Montana, and more particularly among those most closely associated with the Bitterroot National Forest, became a "Region-wide" and indeed a "nationwide" controversy.

Origins of the Bitterroot Controversy

World War II enormously increased the demand for timber from the nation's forest resources, but the wartime demand paled in comparison to postwar demand, which began to peak in the 1950's and 1960's as millions of new families began to set up households and cities and suburbs grew throughout the nation. Assistant Chief Edward P. Cliff announced to the Intermountain Logging Conference on March 26, 1956, that "the overall timber policy of the Forest Service is to build up the annual cut to the full [amount] allowable under sustained yield management in each working circle." He also set four objectives for the timber management programs: (1) complete inventories and management plans on all working circles, (2) accelerate salvage logging, (3) intensify forest management, and (4) close the gap between the allowable and the actual cut. [1] In response to burgeoning public needs, production had become a major factor in national forest management. [2]

Northern Region Timber-Sales Policies

A confidential in-Service report in 1956, Guidelines to Timber Phase of the Forest Service 10-Year Program, included estimates of future possible annual allowable cuts by region. The Northern Region, which in 1956 had an allowable cut of 906 million board feet, was projected to have a cut of 2,380 million board feet by the year 2000—an increase of more than 250 percent. [3] Thus, a mandate to raise timber production levels would have had a particularly great impact on Northern Region forests.

Region 1 achieved an increase in its annual allowable cut largely by incorporating species such as lodgepole pine, which had become acceptable for sawtimber as well as for poles and pulpwood, in its merchantable inventories. Under such new industry standards, spruce also could be harvested as a lumber species. Thus the total allowable cut rose by 64 percent between 1958 and 1971 (table 12.1).

Table 12.1—Northern Region Allowable Cut and Harvest, 1958-71

Annual Allowable Cut
(Regeneration Cutting Only)
(Millions of Board Feet)
Timber Harvest
(Millions of Board Feet)


Source: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Statistical Summary, July 1, 1970, Table 8—Annual Allowable Cut of Sawtimber by Fiscal Years, and Table 10—Timber Harvest by Species by Calendar Year.

Within the region, the increase in allowable annual cut for each national forest varied considerably; some forests actually saw a decrease (table 12.2). Total scheduled timber production, however, showed a marked increase. Specifications for timber sales also changed in the postwar era.

Table 12.2—Allowable Annual Cut by National Forest, Northern Region, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1971

National Forest (Allowable Annual Cut (Millions of Board Feet)

Coeur d'Alene90.0100.0100.0100.0
Lewis & Clark26.058.758.740.1
Nez Perce7.098.0100.0100.0
St. Joe52.

Source: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Statistical Summary, July 1, 1970, Table 8 Annual Allowable Cut of Sawtimber by Fiscal Year.

Road Construction in the National Forests

A few years later, in May 1959, again in Congress, the Subcommittee on Forests of the House Committee on Agriculture began hearings on a long-range program for the national forests. Although not directly related to the larger scope of the hearings, Region 1 at these hearings pressed its need for additional timber access roads on the national forests of Idaho and Montana. Table 12.3 shows this planned road construction by national forest. [4]

Table 12.3—Road Development and Construction Needs, Northern Region (miles)

Roads for TimberRoads for Other Purposes

National ForestReconstructionConstructionReconstructionConstruction

Coeur d'Alene1,014.23,069.3433.5499.5
Nez Perce577.63,558.7276.0230.1
St. Joe473.32,612.2393.1426.2

Coeur d'Alene149.71,025.7111.6223.3
Lewis & Clark512.64,913.2315.2749.3

South Dakota


Source: U.S. 86th Congress, 1st Session, House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Forests, "Long-Range Program for National Forests" Hearings (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1959,307 pp.) Table 2, pp. 160-164.

Although this planned road construction attracted no significant public or media attention at the time, the intent to enlarge the scope of road building and timber harvesting on the national forests of the Northern Region had become a matter of public record. Later, projections for road construction on the forests of the region would be cited as "evidence" of timber "exploitation." The actual record, however, belied these charges because the region had a strong record of cooperation and involvement with the public in its road and timber-harvest planning.

Regional Forester Neal M. Rahm consistently stressed a public oriented and cooperative forest management program. The region's program of work, for example, issued to forest supervisors in 1966, urged the "cultivation of a dynamic team using managerial grid concepts." Rahm told the supervisors that "the days of the one man show"—if they ever really existed—"are gone." [5]

The program of work for the region specified development and implementation of watershed surveys and rehabilitation, including flood prevention and control, of lands on the national forests and those subject to Forest Service management. It also called for application of multiple-use management decisions in all phases of national forest land management. The region proposed to implement improved logging practices that would protect erosive soils and establish and maintain high-quality wilderness. The program of work also recognized the importance of tree planting for erosion control, woodland establishment, and beautification, and the region hired its first landscape architect, Joe Gutkoski, in 1957. [6]

To be sure, the region had not abandoned the earlier emphasis on timber production. The program of work, for example, directed that the amount of timber available for industry where capacity exceeds allowable cut be increased by implementing programs to sell salvable dead, intermediate, and nonregulated classes of timber. More orderly marketing and better production methodologies resulted as the volume of sales was increased to 80 percent of the 1968 planned program by June 30, 1967, and to 100 percent by June 30, 1969. Both development and harvest became more orderly as plans to avoid lumping a large percentage of sales at the end of each year were implemented. [7]

Wilderness Preservation and Timber Production

Wilderness advocates were aware that timber harvesting fit in with the traditional demand in the Western States for exploitation of national resources. They also felt that within the Forest Service, and to a lesser extent within the National Park Service, there were some who believed that however worthwhile wilderness preservation might be, local and regional economic development and welfare were more important. Recognizing this conflict of interest, the Wilderness Society, the Sierra Club, wildlife organizations, and other interested individuals and groups began to urge Federal legislative protection for the Nation's wilderness areas. A wilderness preservation bill was introduced in Congress in 1958 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson 8 years later, in September 1964. According to forest historian Dennis Roth, passage of this bill marked the coming of age of the modern environmental movement. [8]

In very broad terms, what happened next on the Bitterroot National Forest represented the conjunction of two seemingly incompatible forest resource interests—those who would develop and harvest renewable forest resources and those who would preserve both renewable and nonrenewable forest resources in their "natural" state. Thus, the Bitterroot controversy became only one of many conflicts involving environmentalists and the national forests. Disputes over clearcutting developed in West Virginia and in Wyoming. The French Pete Creek confrontation in Oregon, the Sylvania issue in Wisconsin, and the Boundary Water Canoe Area disputes in Minnesota paralleled developments in the Northern Region.

Emerging Local Conflicts Relating to the Bitterroot

The genesis of the controversy in the Northern Region began in 1963, according to Ray Karr. Karr was timber staff officer on the Bitterroot between 1963 and 1966, when, in spite of very strong local opposition, the Secretary of Agriculture approved declassification of those portions of the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness known as the Magruder Corridor. Local residents had organized a "Save the Selway" movement, led by Guy M. Brandborg, retired Bitterroot National Forest supervisor. Doris Milner, a housewife, served as secretary and became a leader of the group after Brandborg stepped down. [9]

In September 1966, the Secretary of Agriculture responded to the continuing controversy over the Magruder Corridor by appointing an independent committee, under the leadership of Dr. George Selke, to review Forest Service plans. His charge to the committee was to "review on a broad basis these Forest Service management plans for the Magruder area and advise me whether, in his opinion, it is feasible to execute those plans or plans of this character." Following receipt of the committee's report, the Secretary issued a statement on May 23, 1967, asking the Forest Service to prepare a new, integrated plan for the orderly development and management of the Magruder Corridor and that "three primary values should govern this management: watershed and fisheries, historic, and recreation." This marked one of the earliest occasions in which a Forest Service decision had been changed due to the involvement of concerned citizens. The significance of the Magruder Corridor and other early challenges to the Forest Service decisionmaking process lies not in those cases in and of themselves, but in the development of a cadre of leadership and expertise essential to the success of ensuing challenges in other portions of the Bitterroot and throughout the Northern Region. [10]

The Forest Service stepped up the cut and salvage of timber. Driven by the Saddle Mountain and Sleeping Child fires and increasing forest industry demand for timber, by 1963, the timber industry had developed a very large sawmill capacity near the Bitterroot and, with the salvage declining, began to pressure the Forest Service and Bitterroot Forest Supervisor Harold Anderson to allow harvests to the full allowable cut. The existing timber management plan, according to Karr, provided only for harvesting of timber from ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir stands at the lower slopes (and less than 30 million board feet per year). [11]

Jack Shepard, author of The Forest Killers, noted that the allowable cut on the Bitterroot had been 7.5 million board feet per year in 1941 and had risen to 12.5 million board feet by 1957, to 50 million board feet in 1964, and finally to 63 million board feet in the 1966 timber management plan. G.M. Brandborg, who retired in the Bitterroot Valley, believed that the Forest Service had set the "allowable cut too high. And the way they were clearcutting was pure murder," he said. Ernie Townsend, a logger from Darby, Montana, told Dale Burk of the Missoulian, "They're ruining our timber stands for the next three generations. They're taking out all the timber and pretty soon there won't be any more to log." [12] Concerns such as these, expressed by local people who were familiar with and participated in consumptive use (timber harvest and grazing) of forest resources, began to raise the level of local and regional consciousness of the need to protect and preserve national forest resources. These concerns were effectively communicated to recreationists, sportsmen, wilderness advocates, the media, and Congress.

In 1968, the Recreation Committee of the Ravalli County Resource Conservation and Development Committee prepared a report critical of Forest Service clearcutting and reforestation practices on the Bitterroot. The Committee members were particularly disturbed by the potential impact on tourism in the region. Conversely, the Bitterroot Multiple Use Association, representing other local interests, defended the Forest Service. Meetings and letter writing ensued, including contacts with the Montana congressional delegation. [13]

Although not directly related to events on the Bitterroot, considerable controversy also had arisen at this time within the region over proposals to variously develop or protect the Lincoln Back Country (adjoining the Bob Marshall Wilderness) by creating a new Lincoln-Scapegoat Wilderness Area. Each controversy tended to feed the other.

In 1969, while hearings on the proposed Lincoln-Scapegoat Wilderness were being held in Congress, Regional Forester Neal Rahm and Joseph F. Pechanec, Director of the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, requested a special task force review of the situation on the Bitterroot. Rahm received responses from the Recreation Committee and the Multiple Use Association in May 1969; the disagreement quickly assumed overtones far beyond the scope of the Bitterroot or the region. In October, Dale Burk, also the environmental writer for the Missoulian (published in Missoula, Montana, site of the Region 1 headquarters), wrote a series of articles highly critical of management practices on the Bitterroot. Montana Senator Lee Metcalf, in December, asked the University of Montana to investigate the situation. [14]

Environmentalists were particularly opposed to the use of heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, to terrace the land prior to tree planting. Terracing as a means of site preparation on steep slopes was introduced on the Bitterroot in 1964, based on studies conducted on the Boise Basin Experimental Forest through a cooperative research program of the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station and the Boise National Forest. Terracing improved plant survival to the 90-percent level, as opposed to 20, 40, and 50 percent for plants on areas that received only prescribed burning before planting. However, observers noted that terracing clearly impaired scenic beauty and suggested that terracing could contribute to greater sedimentation. Although planting programs affected the entire forest, one specific site at issue on the Bitterroot was in the Mud Creek drainage on the West Fork District. [15]

Experimental terraces constructed for tree planting on steep slopes, Bitterroot National Forest

Region 1 Task Force Study

In 1970, a special Forest Service task force, created as an autonomous investigative body independent of higher authorities and not subject to review by anyone outside of the task group, recommended substantive changes in planting and harvest programs on the Bitterroot. The task force report, written and published without review by anyone outside of the Forest Service, was released by Regional Forester Rahm on May 11, 1970, at Hamilton. The following week, a ranger-staff meeting was held on the Bitterroot to discuss the report and to plan implementation of its recommendations. The foresters decided that reform and revision of existing policies were required and that the Bitterroot and the region should develop a new timber management plan, integrated with a multiple-use plan that included landscape management. [16]

Drawing upon the work of the task force study, the region later issued a broader analysis of timber management policies, Quality in Timber Management: A Current Evaluation, July 1970. This report reviewed timber-sale policies and timber resource management practices employed in 13 timber sales conducted in 12 ranger districts on 8 different forests in the region. The report criticized past policies and recommended a "clearer understanding" of both timber sales and road planning and development. In the summary, the report concluded: "It is interesting, though perhaps not surprising, that our overall observations were similar and in many cases identical, to those of the Bitterroot Task Force." The region promulgated an action plan for implementing the recommendations of the timber management study on September 22, 1970. [17]

The Bolle Report

Two months later, in November 1970, an independent select committee sponsored by the University of Montana and chaired by Arnold Bolle, Dean of the Forestry School at the University, presented its own report on Bitterroot harvest and planting programs. The report was based in part on the data and analyses developed by the Forest Service task force study concluded in May, but it reached markedly different conclusions and recommendations. Moreover, this report was presented directly to Senator Metcalf without review by Forest Service personnel. Metcalf forwarded the report to the Forest Service on November 17, and the next day requested that the report be printed in the Congressional Record. Regional Forester Rahm forwarded copies of the report and a rough draft of the response to forest supervisors, division chiefs, and the director of the Equipment Development Center on November 20, 1970. The Forest Service response to the Bolle report suggested, among other things, that some of the allegations in the report could not be supported by fact or logic. [18] The controversy, however, now extended far beyond the Bitterroot and the Northern Region. It had become a matter of national interest.

The Bolle report became a divisive and controversial document in itself. According to historian David A. Clary:

The Forest Service was devastated, partly because Bolle's report upstaged the Service's own self-examinations but mostly because the document made the Service's protestations about multiple use seem empty and its claims of professional correctitude false. No longer could the Forest Service presume to speak for all of forestry or to say that its actions reflected universal technical judgments, unalloyed with other consider-slogan, hiding a devotion to timber production. [19]

Northern Region Timber Management Chief John Milodragovich issued a response to the findings of the Bolle report in January 1971. The response questioned some of the Bolle report's findings, conceded mistakes by the Forest Service, and sought more efficient management practices. Regional Forester Rahm directed a memorandum to the supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest, outlining new management directions for the Bitterroot, on February 22, 1971. Rahm highlighted the phrase "A definite and visible change in approach to management on the Bitterroot National Forest is required." Rahm was particularly concerned that the public be kept informed and that changing management programs were understood. [20] However, beneath these restrained responses, the level of acrimony and emotionalism generated by the Bolle report, both within and outside of the Forest Service community, rose precipitously. It would have lasting consequences within the Northern Region.

In a speech before the Inland Empire Section of the Society of American Foresters on March 5, 1971, a member of the Bolle committee, Richard E. Shannon, discussing the committee's operational philosophy, responded to a statement about the status quo by saying, "... we are intent on upsetting that status quo." He added, "forestry was once a proud profession. We want it to be a proud profession again....To function as leaders we must be aggressive, innovative, and responsive to changes in the world around us. This is the kind of thinking that motivated our report." [21]

Thus, the Bolle report may have been motivated as much by preconceived mandates for change as by an analysis of conditions on the Bitterroot. A staff review by the Environmental Policy Division of the Library of Congress stated: "Conclusions reached in both studies [the Forest Service task force and the University select committee] are similar in many respects. Both conceded that mistakes had been made and that drastic changes in management practices are in order." [22]

Even as the repercussions of the Bitterroot affair continued to unfold, changes in management policies and philosophy were occurring within Region 1. As Neal Rahm stated:

The need is for change and the time is short. To merit the respect of the people we must seek their counsel and truly listen. We must start crusading for quality land management as we never have before. I want leadership from everyone in the organization in this region to accomplish our objectives. In case of a conflict between quality and quantity, the decision will be made in favor of quality land management. [23]

On March 25, 1971, Joel L. Frykman, a Forest Service retiree serving as an independent consultant, presented a written review of the Bolle report to a private company. Frykman made the following comment in his evaluation:

One naturally expects that a report prepared by a group of scholars will be thoroughly objective and free from apparent bias. This report, though, clearly reveals that its writers had strong personal feelings about the problem they were investigating; one cannot help suspecting that these strong personal feelings influenced the manner of the investigation and the stated conclusions; this leads the reader to suspect the validity of the report. [24]

To be sure, the validity of the report was being tested at "higher" levels than Region 1.

Congressional Hearings

Senator Frank Church of Idaho convened public hearings by the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, of which he was Chairman, on April 5, 1971. These hearings were held to investigate clearcutting practices on national timberlands. Testimony before the packed committee room featured witnesses from the public and industry, and the Bitterroot controversy was prominent in their statements. [25]

Arnold Bolle, Dean of the School of Forestry at the University of Montana and chairman of the Bolle committee, told the subcommittee that the Forest Service "had overweighted commodity values and underweighted amenity values" in its planning. The agencies, he said, "have developed a philosophy of intensive forest management based upon assumptions that are best characterized as unrealistic. For example, appropriations largely have been tied to income from timber." He said that he had no argument with clearcutting as a tool in forest management, but clearcutting cannot be rationally applied in much of the forested land of the northern Rocky Mountains. "We mean to move forward," he said, "working within the forestry profession, to do our part in creating these new management approaches to forestry and its problems." Bolle suggested that the Bitterroot was not economically suited to logging and that efforts to maintain sustained yields had led to clearcuts and terracing. He said that his committee's conclusions could be applied to similar public lands, but not to national parks, primitive areas, wildlife refuges, and wilderness areas. [26]

Lanerd A. Williams, conservation editor of Field and Stream and a Northwest representative of the Sierra Club as well as a Forest Service retiree, stated that the Forest Service "had gone very badly haywire (mismanaged) timber on the St. Joe, Clearwater, Kanikso [sic], Pend Oreille, Cabinet, Coeur d'Alene, Lolo, Bitterroot [and] Kootenai". [27]

Dale Burk of the Missoulian offered both oral and written testimony. He said that he had spent many hours in the past 3 years investigating forestry practices in western Montana and that he could say "without fear of forest could hold up under the scrutiny given the Bitterroot." Burk went on to call for the immediate removal of the Chief of the Forest Service and his entire staff. [28]

Joel Frykman, who reviewed the Bolle report as an independent consultant, explained that the Bolle committee opposed the "dominant use" philosophy that gives preeminence to the greatest need. He added that dominant use was a common and accepted management practice for wilderness, recreation areas, national parks, and many other resources and activities. He then posed the question that if dominant-use land management was so bad for timber, why was it not equally bad for other resources and activities? [29]

Karl S. Landstrom, former Director of the Bureau of Land Management, took exception to several points in the Bolle report. He argued that multiple-use management "does exist as the governing principle on the Bitterroot National Forest as it does universally in the Forest Service, the Bolle Committee report to the contrary notwithstanding." [30]

The Journal of Forestry subsequently summarized the first few days of the hearings on clearcutting by noting that slightly more than two-thirds of the witnesses were overtly critical of the practice of clearcutting and indicted the Forest Service for practicing it, and that Federal representatives did not testify at the hearings. [31]

A few weeks after the initial hearings, on April 23, 1971, Orville L. Daniels, Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest, sent Regional Forester Rahm an accelerated program package for the forest for the years 1972 through approved package, Final Environmental Statement, Management Direction for the Bitterroot National Forest, was issued. The statement contained comments on 15 of the findings of the Bolle report and included responses to a mailing of 8,000 copies of the Forest Service task force appraisal of the Bitterroot. The 100 or so responses doubted an objective view by task force members, doubted the need for terracing, and urged better communications with the public. [32]

When the Senate subcommittee hearings reconvened in May and June, Government witnesses, including Forest Service Chief Edward P. Cliff, were heard. Cliff announced that on the Bitterroot Forest, as a result of the studies, discourses, and many hours of planning, "clearcutting will generally not be done where alternative methods are feasible," and that where clearcutting is not feasible, all cutting would be withdrawn if environmental considerations required it. He added that the size and nature of clearcuts would be modified to account for "esthetics and other resource values"; that slopes of more than 30 percent grade would not be terraced; and that where areas cannot be satisfactorily regenerated because of restrictions, they would not be harvested. Finally, roads were to be confined to "the least mileage needed," and multiple-use planning would be accelerated and intensified. [33]

Regional Forester Neal Rahm now elected to retire after 40 years of distinguished service. Rahm had joined the Forest Service in 1937 after graduating from the University of California, serving as ranger, forest supervisor, and Associate Deputy Chief of the Forest Service before being transferred to the Northern Region as Regional Forester in 1963. Rahm was eminently aware of both the role of foresters as conservators of the nation's forested lands and of their role as members of the community in which they worked. He had been a dedicated forester and a civic leader and, as Chief Cliff said, "would be missed." [34]

Rahm was replaced by a member of a younger generation of foresters, Steve Yurich, who began his forestry career on the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming as a seasonal employee in 1951 and 1952. On May 14, Yurich forwarded the Bitterroot "balanced program" to Chief Cliff with a note indicating that a definite and visible change in approach to management-use planning, protection of the environment when considering timber sales, greater public involvement, and balanced uses of forest resources—including timber. [35]

Repercussions of the Bitterroot Controversy

Despite efforts to resolve the controversy by the Forest Service, the region, and the Bitterroot, the gap of misunderstanding only seemed to widen. In June 1971, Chief Cliff issued a Servicewide memorandum that observed, "We now stand at a position where our ability to carry out our program is endangered, our integrity doubted, and our credibility seriously in question." He admonished all personnel to "Tell It Like It Is—Now!"

In August 1971, the Forest Service laundered a program called "Inform and Involve." This program sought to 1) establish multiple-use management as the most beneficial and efficient management concept 2) encourage greater public involvement and cooperation, 3) include improved management of privately owned forests and woodlands, 4) verify the need for increased research, 5) verify the Forest Service role in leadership in forest management planning, and 6) obtain recognition that wood is a renewable [not nonrenewable] natural resource. [36]

Almost concurrently, the College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Colorado State University issued a report for the Council on Environmental Quality, discussing clearcutting in the forest of the Rocky Mountains. Robert E. Eils, Dean of the College and the report's major author, advised more intensive and careful clearcutting in strips or patches and stressed better communications between the Forest Service and the public it serves. [37]

A General Integrating Inspection (GII) in Region 1 and 4, including the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, during the period June 21 through August 31, 1971, brought inspectors into 12 of the national forests of Region 1. The inspectors reviewed on-the-ground activities; overflow the forest examined State and private forest management activities in Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota; and conducted discussions with representatives of the Bureau of Land Management and Native American lands. Among the voluminous reports and supporting documentation use in the inspections, John R. Milodragovich submitted a 20-page resume of timber management activities in the region since the last GII. Milodragovich indicated that in recent years, the region had received the most criticism in its history. The sharpest criticism, he said was directed at timber harvest and the practice of constructing roads to get the timber out. The report highlighted the development of multiple-use planned on an ecological framework and made it clear that the question of merging local and national needs and local and national options had become a major problem in the region. [38]

At the fall 1971 conference of forest supervisors and division chiefs, a program emphasis statement was adopted as a sequel to the "balanced program" directive issued earlier by Regional Forester Neal Rahm. The program emphasis statement, according to the new Regional Forester, Steve Yurich, would guide planning and programming for the next 2 or 3 years. Yurich confirmed that "road construction, timber harvest, and similar developmental activities" were to be withheld from roadless areas "until multiple-use plans, including public involvement, are developed to guide activities." The region would emphasize efforts to regain professional credibility with the public, to raise standards, and to restore trust and confidence among people and units within the region. [39]

Research and Modern Management

In January 1972, the region released a document prepared in response to members of the Montana congressional delegation. A Proposed Forest Service Land and Environmental Management Program for Montana reviewed research programs being conducted by the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station and explained the significance of that work to the welfare of Montana. It summarized the laboratory facility needs at Missoula and Bozeman and projected the region's activities through the 1970's. The report sought to justify the need for expanded research, which would provide better management of the national forest resources in Montana, and advised an "accelerated joint research-development-action program." [40] As Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station Scientists Charles A. (Mike) Hardy stated, the Northern Region management programs were built on the interaction between research and administration. [41]

Hardy pointed to the splendid research work accomplished by the staff of the Northern Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station after its organization in September 1911. Dedicated scientists such as Dr. Julius A. Larsen, who joined the Forest Service in 1910 and began his work at the Priest River, Idaho, experimental forest in 1913, kept annual reports and studies on evaporation, temperature, wind movement, humidity, and soil quality and prepared a half-century analysis of climate and forest types. Larsen conducted growth and yield studies on White Pine stands and contributed significantly to analyses of fire dangers, blowups, and fire control techniques. As an example of his dedication, in the early 1920's Larsen took 6 months of leave without pay to tour forest experiment station in Norway, Denmark, Germany, and England. [42]

Research such as that conducted by people like Larsen, George M. Jemison, Charles A. Wellner, I.V. Anderson, and Mike Hardy, among others, has greatly enhanced the efficiency of Forest Service management practices and has contributed immeasurably to improving the welfare of the Northern and Rocky Mountain Regions. More so now than at any time in the organization's history, modern, multiple-use forest management requires a close association between the research and operations branches of the Forest Service.

New Trends in Forest Management

Because of the apparent "national" rather than "regional" character of the Bitterroot controversy, there was evidence that Washington had begun to preempt the traditional management planning role of the region, at both the agency and the congressional level. The regionally issued Management Direction for the Northern Region (March 1972) was in reality a personalized version of the Chief's "Framework for the Future" program. The report stressed the regional management situation, basic assumptions, and coordinated management direction. [43]

Almost concurrently (but unrelated), the Subcommittee on Public Lands of the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs released a 13-page report on clearcutting on Federal timberlands, which strongly suggested four policy guidelines for timber management on Federal lands. Only two of the guidelines were related to clearcutting. These stated that clearcutting should not be used on Federal land areas where soil and watershed conditions were fragile, where aesthetic values outweighed other considerations, or where it was doubtful that the cut area could be restocked within 5 years, or in cases where the decision to clearcut was made wholly on the test of promoting the greatest dollar returns. The Subcommittee further specified situations that should prevail if clearcutting were used (including a multi disciplinary review of the potential environmental, biological, aesthetic, engineering, and economic impacts on the sale area) and advised clearcutting only in patches or strips "shaped and blended as much as possible with the natural terrain." [44]

That the Bitterroot controversy had become a Federal as opposed to simply a regional affair was further confirmed in the final GII report, which was relayed to the regional foresters and the director of the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station in April 1972 by Acting Chief John McGuire. The GII report, which applied to more than one region, contained more than 50 recommendations, most of which required action at the Chiefs level rather than at the regional or forest level. It identified timber harvesting and mineral extraction as major critical issues:

Through these activities the Forest Service has lost credibility in varying degrees with some segments of the general public. Criticisms of Forest Service land management decisions have been increasing in frequency and intensity for the past several years. The unwillingness of people outside the Forest Service to accept land management decisions carte blanche can be expected to continue into the future. During this inspection it became apparent that an analogous situation is developing internally. Forest Service employees, especially younger professionals, are unwilling to accept hierarchical decisions carte blanche. External credibility will not be fully regained without developing internal mutual confidence. [45]

Public Participation in Management Decisions

Thus, for the Forest Service, the world was changing, not only on the outside, but on the inside as well. Increasingly, management decisions would become a product of outside participatory public hearings and recommendations and inside collegial negotiations and review. Increasingly, decisions would be reviewed, if not made, at "higher" levels. What once were the decisions of the ranger were now those of the forest supervisor and staff; those formerly made by the forest supervisor became the concern of the region; and the problems and decisions of the region became those of the Chief. Although these trends were already under way, and undoubtedly would have continued even without it, the Bitterroot controversy and the wilderness and environmental movements in general became something of a catalyst in hastening the change.

In specific reference to the Bitterroot, the GII report observed, "Although timber harvesting on the Bitterroot National Forest is no worse than some on other National Forests, there are a number of indications that the Bitterroot will continue to be a national focal point for Forest Service critics. The social forces which combined to make the initial controversy a national issue have not weakened." [46]

That the Bitterroot had become of national concern did not preclude local input; rather, it strengthened the evaluations of non-Forest Service interests. One study, for example, prepared by a team chaired by Dr. Robert E. Dils, included professors and researchers from Oregon State University, Utah State University, Montana State University, and the University of Washington, as well as the director of the Montana Department of Fish and Game. This study noted that timber processing has "low energy requirements for conversion to usable products." Insistence upon a "pure" forest environment would require trade-offs for products requiring nonrenewable natural resources and the expenditure of substantially higher levels of energy for their conversion to usable products. [47] Thus, the reduction in the output of national forest resources generated by environmental or aesthetic considerations held often unseen but rather predictable environmental consequences elsewhere.

A special report on wood products in Montana, prepared by Maxine C. Johnson for the State Department of Planning and Economic Development in 1972, examined three possible scenarios in the Montana (and national forest) timber industry. The first assumed the 1972-75 cut equaled the amount of timber sold. The second assumed the 1972-75 cut remained at the level of the previous 5 years and the third assumed a moratorium on clearcutting for the next 3 years. Predictably, the conclusions reached were that over the long term, some jobs would be lost under the first and second conditions and that fewer jobs would be lost with a moratorium on clearcutting. [48]

In 1973, proposed new programmed allowable cuts in three of the forests in Region 1, which included significant reductions, were under public review. In addition, all of the national forests in the Rare timber RAM method, which would result in lower allowables. A privately funded study by Carl Newport, The Availability of Timber Resources from the National Forests and Other Federal Lands (1973), examined production capacities in the national forests of Region 1 and elsewhere. In recalculating allowable cuts, Newport concluded that increases rather than reductions in allowable cuts were justified. For example, on the Flathead National Forest, instead of a reduction from the then-current annual harvest of 181.6 million board feet to the projected 159.8 million board feet, Newport estimated the annual allowable cut at 190 million board feet. [49] The initial response to the Bitterroot controversy clearly had been the imposition of new, more conservative timber production programs on the national forests. These programs would themselves begin to have new consequences for the regional economy and for the national environment. Multiple-use forest management had become a very complicated business indeed.

Willard R. Fallis, who began his Forest Service career with temporary employment in 1940 and retired in 1979, having spent most of his career on the forests of Region 1, concurred that during his career land management decisions became considerably more complex and controversial. [50]

The spirited events of the Bitterroot controversy had helped precipitate a different kind of management on the Bitterroot and other forests of the Northern Region. Forestry, if it had not been so before, increasingly became a "people" business rather than a timber business. Robert Morgan, for example, who became supervisor of the Bitterroot in 1974, became something of an expert in reconciling both conflicting interest groups. As a responsible arbitrator standing between his agency, the Forest Service, and the public, Morgan, as supervisor of the Helena National Forest (1961-74), played a determining role in resolving the heated controversy over roadbuilding into the Lincoln Back Country, an area of 75,000 undeveloped forest acres in the northern half of the Lincoln Ranger District on the Helena National Forest. Rumors in 1960 that the Forest Service planned to build roads and harvest timber in this "Poor Man's Wilderness" area adjoining the Scapegoat Mountains, beyond which lay the Bob Marshall Wilderness, thoroughly alarmed local citizens in Lincoln, Missoula, and elsewhere. Morgan and a succession of Lincoln District rangers, such as Neil O. Peterson (one of the most horse- and mule-oriented rangers in the region) and Jerry Stern (who recalled the Lincoln Ranger District as one of his most challenging assignments), resisted pressure from the Regional Office to implement the long-range plan for road construction and harvests in the backcountry. The controversy ended in 1972, when the Lincoln-Scapegoat Wilderness became the first de facto wilderness to enter the National Wilderness Preservation System. [51]

Morgan's tenure as supervisor on the Bitterroot, from 1974 until his death in late 1988, was spent working with people. As Arnold Bolle commented, "He listened to people and tried to work out agreements and solutions with them. Hew had a deep concern for the forest and its proper management and getting people to work together on it." He became adept at resolving conflicts between commodity groups and conservation groups who objected to terracing and clearcutting practices on the Bitterroot. He had, as Regional Forester John Mumma said, "a special way of being able to sit down and visit with folks and bring a sense of consensus on what should happen." And one of his employees commented, "You didn't work for Bob Morgan, you worked with him." Because of his good works, Morgan received the Environmental Awareness and Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Center on Environment, a Superior Service Award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and a Special Achievement Award from the Forest Service. He was also honored by election as a Fellow of the Society of American Foresters. [52] Most importantly, perhaps, Morgan helped convert the ill feeling generated by the Bitterroot controversy into a spirit of cooperation and goodwill. It was a great achievement—indicative of the aspirations of the new style multiple-use management, not only in the region, but throughout the Forest Service.

As Neal Rahm believed (in 1969), the Forest Service had entered an era "within which many 'publics' compete vigorously for the social and economic values of National Forest resources." Current public opinion and Forest Service professional analysis of long-range public interest, he said, "often may be in opposition." Each public group, he observed, is itself a changing, dynamic composite. "Thus, the decisionmaking process is complex today and can only become more complex as time advances." [53]

Reference Notes

1. Dennis M. Roth, The Wilderness Movement and the National Forests (College Station, TX: The Intaglio Press, 1988), pp. 4-6; Robert D. Baker, Robert S. Maxwell, Victor H. Treat, and Henry C. Dethloff, Timeless Heritage: A History of the Forest Service in the Southwest (Washington, D.C.: USDA Forest Service, FS-409, August 1988), pp. 46-47.

2. David A. Clary, Timber and the Forest Service (Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas Press, 1986). pp. 157, and n. 38, p. 234.

3. USDA Forest Service, "Guidelines to Timber Phase of the Forest Service 10-Year Program," [1956], pp. 1-34, and see Table 2, in Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-67A0136.

4. U.S. Congress, House Subcommittee on Forests of the Committee on Agriculture, Long-Range Program for National Forests, 86th Cong., 1st Sess., 1959, p. 159 (and see pp. 1-07).

5. Neal M. Rahm, Regional Forester, Memorandum to Forest Supervisors, Division Chiefs, and Director, EDC, "Planning (FY 1967) Program of Work," Missoula, MT. April 15, 1966, pp. 1-69, in Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 8.

8. Roth, The Wilderness Movement and the National Forests, pp. 3-13.

9. Dr. Ray Karr. Missoula, MT, to Henry C. Dethloff, March 1, 1989, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives, Missoula, MT.

10. USDA Forest Service, Bitterroot National Forest, Magruder Corridor Resource Inventory (undated, published in 1970), p. 1.

11. Dr. Ray Karr, to Henry C. Dethloff, March 1, 1989.

12. Jack Shepherd, The Forest Killers: The Destruction of the American Wilderness (New York: Wyebright and Talley, 1965), pp. 130, 132.

13. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Joint Northern Region Intermountain Station Task Force, Management Practices on the Bitterroot National Forest: A Task Force Appraisal, May 1969-April 1970, (Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Region 1, 1970), pp. 1-7.

14. See Missoula, Montana, Missoulian, October 1969, and Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Hearings on "Clear Cutting" Practices on National Timberlands, 92nd Cong., 1st Sess., Washington, DC, 1971, Part I, pp. 149, 174-185, 302-308.

15. "Reforestation on Dozer Terraces, Bitterroot National Forest, West Fork District," Missoula, MT. Region 1. Division of Timber Management, September 1971, photographic album. See also the collection of photographs at the Bitterroot National Forest headquarters, Hamilton, MT.

16. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Joint Northern Region Intermountain Station Task Force, Management Practices on the Bitterroot National Forest, pp. 1-100; "Ranger-Staff Meeting, May 18, 1970," n.p., n.d., pp. 1-19, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

17. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Quality in Timber Management: A Current Evaluation, July 1970 (Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Region 1, September 22, 1970), pp. 7, 1-218.

18. Arnold W. Bolle et al., "A Select Committee of the University of Montana Presents Its Report on the Bitterroot National Forest," Missoula, MT. 1970, pp. 1-33. history files, Region 1, Missoula, MT.

19. David A. Clary, Timber and the Forest Service (Lawrence, KS:, University Press of Kansas, 1986), p. 187.

20. Memorandum to Forest Supervisor. Bitterroot National Forest, "Bitterroot Management Direction," Missoula, MT, February 22, 1971, pp. 1-11, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA. 095-76A0908.

21. Richard E. Shannon, "Remarks for the Inland Empire Section of the Society of American Foresters," Spokane, WA, March 5, 1971, pp. 1-23, in historical files, Bitterroot National Forest, Hamilton, MT.

22. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service, Environmental Policy Division, Congress and the Nation's Environment: Environmental and Natural Resource Affairs of the 92nd Congress, 92nd Cong., Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, January 20, 1973. Section I: Natural Resources, pp. 349, and see pp. 344-411.

23. Neal M. Rahm, Regional Forester, to Forest Supervisors and Division Chiefs, "Program Direction, Fiscal Year 1972," Missoula, MT. March 11, 1971, pp. 1-54, in Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

24. Joel L. Frykman, Consulting Forester, "Review of a Report by A Select Committee of the University of Montana on the Bitterroot National Forest," Ogden, UT, for the Intermountain Company, Missoula, MT, March 25, 1971, pp. 1-29. Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA. 095-76A0908.

25. Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Subcommittee on Public Lands, Hearings on 'Clear Cutting' Practices on National Timberlands, 92nd Cong., 1st Sess., Washington, D.C., 1971, Part I, p. 149.

26. Ibid., pp. 174-185.

27. Ibid., pp. 302-308.

28. Ibid., pp. 671, 675.

29. Ibid., p. 680.

30. Ibid., p. 697.

31. Fred C. Brooks, "Senate Hears Clearcutting Concerns," Journal of Forestry 69 (1971):299-302.

32. Memorandum from Orville Daniels, Forest Supervisor, to Regional Forester, "Balanced Program. F.Y. 1972-1976," Hamilton, MT. April 23, 1971. pp. 1-4, appendices; USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Final Environment Statement, Management Direction for the Bitterroot National Forest (Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Region 1. May 5, 1971). pp. 1-34, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

33. Subcommittee on Public Lands, Hearings on Clear Cutting, Pt. 3, pp. 909, 1073-1104.

34. News release, Region 1, #874: 03271 (n.d.).

35. Steve Yurich, Regional Forester, Memorandum to Chief, "Balanced Program, F.Y. 1972-1976," Missoula, MT, May 14, 1971, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

36. Edward P. Cliff, Chief Forester, to Regional Foresters, Directors, and Area Directors, "Credibility in Forest Service Objectives, Planning, and Performance — 'Tell It Like It Is — Now'," Washington. D.C., June 16, 1971, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908; Ray Karr, Chief, Division of Information and Education, to Chief, Division of Operations, "Program Direction, Fiscal Year 1972," Missoula, MT, August 3, 1971, pp. 1-12, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA. 095-76A0908.

37. Robert E. Dils, "Clearcutting in the Forests of the Rocky Mountains," n.p., July 1971, pp. 1-47, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

38. Memorandum to Division of Timber Management Staff, Report for 1971 GII Briefing Session, June 21, 1971, "Timber Program and Other Demands on Forested Land," Missoula, MT, USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, June 25, 1971, pp. 1-20, tables, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

39. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Northern Region Program Emphasis (Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, December 1971), pp. 1-16. with cover letter to forest and division chiefs, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

40. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region and Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, "A Proposed Forest Service Land and Environmental Management Program for Montana," Missoula, MT and Ogden, UT: 1972, pp. 1-16. Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

41. Memorandum and materials from Charles A. (Mike) Hardy to Henry C. Dethloff, July 27, 1988; Northern Region News (February 24, 1976), pp. 1-2; Julius Ansgar Larsen (biographical statement); Personal files and papers of C.A. Hardy. Missoula, MT; Robert D. Baker and Henry C. Dethloff, interview with Charles A. Hardy, Missoula, MT. July 27, 1988.

42. Ibid.

43. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Management Direction for the Northern Region (Missoula, MT: USDA Forest Service, March 1972), pp. 1-27.

44. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service, Environmental Policy Division, Congress and the Nation's Environment, Environmental and Natural Resources Affairs of the 92nd Congress, 92nd. Cong., Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, committee Print, January 20, 1973, Section I— Natural Resources, Chapter 7, "Forestry," pp. 344-411, and see p. 393.

45. USDA Forest Service, "Report of General Integrating Inspection: A Future Framework for R-1, R-4, Intermountain Station, June-August, 1971," Washington, D.C., April 1972, pp. 6-7, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

46. Ibid., p. 7.

47. R.E. Dils et al., "A Study of Forest Management Practices on the Flathead National Forest, Montana," n.p., 1972, for Kalispell Chamber of Commerce, pp. 1-70, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

48. Maxine C. Johnson, "Wood Products in Montana: A Special Report on the Industry's Impact on Montana's Income and Employment," University of Montana, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, Montana Business Quarterly (Spring 1972), pp. 1-41.

49. Carl A. Newport, "The Availability of Timber Resources from the National Forests and Other Federal Lands," n.p. [1973], pp. 1-29, appendices, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, 095-76A0908.

50. Willard R. (Bill) Fallis, Frenchtown, MT. to Henry C. Dethloff, January 12, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

51. Roth, The Wilderness Movement and the National Forests, pp. 29-36; "Bob Morgan — 44 years a Forester," Northern Region News, 11 (November 7, 1988): 2; Neil O. Peterson to Henry C. Dethloff, October 28, 1988. and Jerry Stern to Henry C. Dethloff, June 1, 1988, in Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

52. "Bob Morgan — 44 Years a Forester," p. 2.

53. Talk presented by Regional Forester Neal M. Rahm at the meeting of the Northern Rocky Mountain Section of the Society of American Foresters in Kalispell, MT. July 14, 1969, Federal Records Center, Seattle, WA, Box 75A109.

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Last Updated: 10-Sep-2008