The National Forests of the Northern Region
Living Legacy—

Chapter 14
Social and Economic Influences

Management of forest resources by the Forest Service within the Northern Region has directly affected the lives and welfare of area residents. The geographic areas contiguous to the Northern Region have for the most part remained an economic hinterland. In Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, most economic activity is extractive and tied in some way to resource development or agriculture. This has accentuated the importance of the Forest Service to the States and localities associated with the region. Because resource management is a central function of the Forest Service, and because the impact of Forest Service spending and employment is greater in the absence of a manufacturing sector, Forest Service operations have come to play an especially significant role in the economic and social life of the region.

Early Use of Forest Resources

In 1897, 6 years after the passage of the Forest Reserve Act, President Grover Cleveland used its authority to establish the Bitterroot Reserve and the Lewis and Clark Reserve within what is now the Northern Region. At the same time, the Pettigrew Amendment authorized the Secretary of the Interior to make rules governing the use of national forest resources. Officials developed regulations that allowed ease of access to those resources and would thus be seen as helpful to local development. They were eager to foster cordial relations with communities that feared the agency might stifle economic growth. [1]

Under the early regulations, the Forest Service could sell public-domain timber, for example, but levels of allowable cuts would be established with the goal of supplementing harvests from private forests rather than competing with them. Officials would first advertise the sale at a minimum appraised value and then supervise the cuts of mature or dead timber by the successful bidder. Most of the timber sold at this time satisfied local demand. It represented a small contribution to the national total, but did boost local economies in the area by lowering construction costs as less lumber was freighted in from other areas. [2]

Before long, however, national demand would open wider markets for the sale of the region's timber. What had been primarily local use of forest resources became, after the turn of the century, increasingly national. Nationwide in the 19th century, timber production peaked in the Northeastern States, the Great Lakes States, and the Central States. The lumber industry then turned much of its attention to the South. This contributed to a rise in the use and thus the price of softwoods, western yellow pine, larch, and other species that did not thrive in the South but abounded in the Northern Region. James Hill helped by charging low freight rates on his Great Northern Railroad at this time because he wanted to encourage traffic for his otherwise empty eastbound trains. The export of timber to the outside thus accelerated dramatically and this in turn allowed local lumber-related businesses to expand. Nonetheless, forests of the Northern Region remained for decades less intensively used than those in many other parts of the country. [3]

In 1902, the Department of the Interior issued a manual on administrative policies in opening portions of the forest reserves for other purposes. Prospecting and mining would be open on most lands through a system of leasing. Other types of development, such as trails, roads, and irrigation works, could be undertaken with special use permits. Ranchers were given the opportunity to use lands for grazing cattle, sheep, and horses by obtaining "grazing permits" from the Forest Service. Small operators could run up to 10 head for free. The amount charged for large herds was based on a "reasonable fee" concept, with national guidelines determining the amount per head. Actual charges for many years remained well below market value. The Forest Service wanted to cultivate a good working relationship with stock owners because they inevitably played an essential role in the defense against fires throughout the entire area. [4]

Grazing permits could be obtained individually by cattlemen or through wool-growers' associations for sheepmen. Range on Forest Service lands quickly became highly sought after and subject to competition. Rather than allotting to the highest bidder, preference was given to established ranchers who owned property nearby and whose operation depended on access to Forest Service lands. Permits could last for up to 5 years and were not transferable, except in the case of the sale of stock under permit. Thereafter, the buyer would have to file independently, although if the sale was of both stock and ranch property, the permit could be renewed. The Forest Service even allowed some fencing and kept losses from predators down by hiring hunters to reduce their numbers. Ranch properties with close access to Forest Service lands quickly became more highly prized and more highly priced. [5]

As the region's population grew, more and more links were forged between national forest lands and the development of the surrounding communities. Many of the ties used to construct the railroads that connected the region with outside markets came from national forest timber. The same was true of most of the timber that reinforced the mines in the Butte area and throughout the region. The extraction of forest resources created jobs in the timber, mining, and livestock industries that became the economic backbone of many communities. The wages earned in those commodity production jobs had a multiplier effect, supporting employment in service sectors of the economy. Ranchers in many places came to rely on national forest timber for fence-posts, corral poles, and barn rafters, among other things. Wood gathered from Forest Service lands heated many homes in the region, while animals taken from the national forests through hunting, fishing, and trapping supplemented the diets and the incomes of many residents. [6]

The Impact of Recreation and Tourism

In the early years, recreation was not envisioned as becoming a significant function of the national forests. However, the Forest Service recognized that it nonetheless had a place. The production of a use book (Forest Service manual) in the early 1900's provided for permits for the recreational use of forest lands. Individuals could lease cabins or homesites, and commercial businesses could lease locations for tourist attractions such as hotels and resorts. [7]

It was not surprising that national forests within the Northern Region would serve as a magnet for tourists. The Western States had for many years been a popular attraction for those easterners able to afford the long and expensive journey. In certain places within the northern Rocky Mountains, the majestic beauty alone was enough to lure people. A few came to see specific locations of unusual splendor, like the Yellowstone Park area. But the West also represented the roots and the heritage of the American experience. It was a reminder of what America had been and what Americans had lived through. It came to symbolize the rugged adventure, the spirit of starting over, and the individualism of the past at a time when the industrial future looked increasingly collective and staid. Some of those intoxicated with the romance and imagery of the West, including famous national figures like Theodore Roosevelt, came to hunt the big game that no longer existed further east. [8]

Since many of the undeveloped landscapes and national attractions of the West were on national forests, it was perhaps inevitable that recreation would play an ever increasing role on those lands and bring more tourists and tourist dollars into the region.

More than anything else, the automobile accelerated the process. The distance to national forests was in effect "shortened," and the trip suddenly became feasible for many more people. In addition, many people were eager to escape the congestion of an increasingly urbanized America. The result by the 1920's was a surge in everything from family camping to the use of summer homes and vacationing in resorts and hotels on sites leased from the Forest Service. [9]

The automobile also changed the composition of the groups who used Forest Service lands for recreational purposes and altered their activities as well. More and more middle-class Americans could afford Western vacations that previously had been a luxury for only a wealthy elite. Many of the changes could be seen vividly in the evolution of dude ranching, which was the most important recreational use of Forest Service lands in the Rocky, Mountain West until the World War II period. [10]

Dude Ranching

A few dude ranches dated from as far back as the time just before the creation of forest reserves. The Eaton brothers established the famous Custer Trail Ranch in the Dakota Territory in 1879. One of the founding fathers of the industry, Dick Randall, was forced to find a new way of life when, like many of his fellow cow-punchers, his ranching career was ended suddenly by the severe winter of 1886-87. The railroad had recently been finished to Livingston, Montana, and on up the Yellowstone Valley, so Randall and his partner, June Buzzell, bought about 80 horses from Native Americans and began guiding big-game hunters in the area around the town of Gardiner. After about 1912, when the operation had amassed a larger clientele and enough land for a ranch, Randall expanded into a wider variety of dude ranch activities. [11]

The Van Cleeve family of Montana, also key figures in the early years of the industry, came into the region in 1870 and ranched for a time north of Sweet Grass Creek in the Melville country near Big Timber, Montana. They later fell in love with and bought a beautiful ranch at the head of Big Timber Creek canyon in the Crazy Mountains. Over the next few years, many friends and visitors came from all over the country to experience ranch life in the rugged West. The family eventually decided to charge fees and turn the operation into a dude ranch. Most people who came at first stayed for a considerable length of time, a reflection of their affluence and the difficulty of travel into the region for most. However, the introduction of the automobile meant that more people, including many on short vacations from average jobs, could make the trip and stay for less time. [12]

The automobile was not solely responsible for the boom in the region's dude-ranching industry. Auto clubs helped tremendously by promoting dude ranches in advertising campaigns that encouraged motoring and vacationing. By 1930, the Conoco Travel Bureau was including dude ranches in its promotional material, and 4 years later it began directing motor parties to ranches as part of its vacation planning packages. Railroads also started advertising dude ranches heavily. Certainly the aggressive efforts of the newly formed Dude Ranchers Association, under Larry Larom, must be given credit as well. The result was a golden age for the industry in the 1920's, one that was hurt only moderately by the otherwise devastating Great Depression of the 1930's. In Montana alone, where the industry was the largest, dude ranches generated annually at least $1 million in revenue. [13]

From the beginning, good relations with the Forest Service were an important consideration for dude ranchers, as the agency administered many of the lands they used. The Forest Service, in the view of the industry, generally looked more favorably upon dude ranchers because the dude rancher usually cooperated in preserving the wilderness that attracted guests in the first place. The result for the most part has been a positive and productive working relationship. [14]

The Advent of Winter Recreation

As cars continued to extend people's mobility, winter recreation began to experience a boom in the Northern Region. By the 1930's, skiing was becoming popular and drawing many tourists, primarily from within the region at first, but eventually from other areas as well. The Forest Service responded by improving access facilities on many of its lands and allowing commercial development on appropriate sites. The Anaconda Ski Club, for example, used a Forest Service special permit to create the Silver Lake ski facility on the Deer Lodge National Forest, 14 miles west of Anaconda, Montana. Likewise, Lookout Pass was established near the Montana-Idaho line, 19 miles east of Wallace, Idaho, on the Coeur d'Alene National Forest. The Gibbons Pass ski area was set up on the border between the Bitterroot and Salmon National Forests, about 50 miles north of Salmon, Idaho. [15]

The Region Matures

By about the World War II period, the Northern Region had matured into a more sophisticated and diversified social and economic configuration, although still underdeveloped by national standards. It consisted primarily of small, traditional communities tied closely to basic, extractive industries or, in a few areas, to tourism. Ranching and farming dominated the economies and lifestyles of some areas, while logging and mining largely defined the nature of others. Urban areas, small by standards of industrialized sections of the country, developed in a few locations, but they, too, were influenced by land use patterns in the area. Life in cities like Helena and Butte, Montana, and Coeur d'Alene, Wallace, and Kellogg, Idaho, revolved largely around mining-related activities, while timber-related industries dictated most economic and social arrangements in Thompson Falls, Missoula, Bonner, Libby, Polson, and Kalispell, Montana; in St. Maries and Sandpoint, Idaho; and in Newport and Cusick, Washington. [16]

Employment During the War and in the Postwar Era

World War II led to an increase in the demand for many war-related resources. The Nation especially needed certain minerals, as well as a great deal of timber for housing, barracks, and other structures. As a result, mining activity for minerals important to the war effort increased on national forest land. Coal miners from the East were brought to the Butte copper mines to maintain full production. The Anaconda and Great Falls smelters operated at record levels. In addition to copper, manganese, a strategic war mineral, was mined in the Butte area. The Anaconda Copper Company established the Mousat Mine on the Custer National Forest and extracted 133,000 tons of chrome ore during the war years. [17]

The total annual timber harvests allowed under management plans in national forests also rose. Many of the region's national forests had been underutilized previously, so an ample supply was available. Lumber production therefore increased but was still limited by the lack of roads and by the difficulty of cutting on many of the steep slopes common to the area. [18]

The region's timber industry expanded even further in the years immediately after the war. Improved road access and harvesting techniques made cutting on steep slopes more feasible. Demand remained strong in the postwar economic boom. Development by the Rural Electric Association picked up, requiring a tremendous number of power poles. New materials such as container board, plywood, and plastics replaced some wood in the housing industry and thus kept total national timber harvest levels from climbing, but the Northern Region's share of the harvest increased. Spruce and lodgepole pine trees abounded in the area, but previously had been considered commercially unattractive and priced accordingly. However, new uses for these trees in the postwar housing industry meant higher prices. [19] More timber was subsequently harvested within the region, and most of that increase came from national forests. In the past, privately owned lands had been cut at a much faster rate, even more so in northern Idaho than in Montana. [20]

If the timber harvest had not grown, the region would have experienced a significant economic depression after World War II. Employment in agriculture and mining actually declined because improvements in methods and equipment required fewer workers in those areas. Comparable technological developments in the timber industry actually kept employment figures low relative to the increase in production. (The chainsaw alone revolutionized the harvest of timber.) Nonetheless, the increase in the volume of timber harvested not only stimulated direct employment, but also became the foundation for a wood-products industry that propelled manufacturing into the leading position among sectors of the economies in some portions of the region, such as the mountainous western counties of Montana. [21]

Indeed, after about 1950, chips and residues from existing wood industries were used to make a wide variety of products. The Hoerner Waldorf Corporation, newly formed through the merger of two pulp mills, became a leading industry in the area. The list of manufactured items reflected the dramatic changes in the postwar housing and construction industries. Pulp, paper, finished and rough lumber, and plywood were most popular, both other examples included laminated beams, modular panels, molding, window frames and sashes, door frames, end-glued products, prefabricated houses, particle board, posts, and poles. [22]

New Services and Recreation Industries

Virtually all other important growth sectors in the region's economy after about 1960 were service related. Tourism stands as the most dramatic example. Recreational use of national forest lands grew steadily in the postwar period, as described in Chapter 10. Rising standards of living, a product of the national economic boom, made it easier for people to afford vacations in the West as well as the automobiles to get them there. The development of lightweight back-packing and camping equipment and the increasing popularity of self-contained recreational vehicles eliminated many of the less desirable aspects of outdoor activities and thus encouraged more vacationers to enjoy the attractions that national forests had to offer. [23]

The Forest Service responded to this growth through further development of tourist facilities. Roads gave people access to more locations for picnicking and camping, boating, kayaking, and fishing. Trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling expanded the range of available activities. Outdoor recreation in national forests became a major component in the lifestyles of many residents living in surrounding areas. [24] More and more tourists also came from outside the region, naturally stimulating the area's wholesale and retail trade sectors and providing a significant infusion of dollars into local communities. The importance of tourism would be seen most vividly in Idaho, where the tourist industry eventually surpassed timber in the number of dollars generated. [25]

In many ways passage of the Wilderness Preservation Act of 1964 characterized the rising popularity of rugged outdoors recreation. Similarly, the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act sought to both preserve and facilitate the use of these areas for recreation. Both reflected the emergence of a new consciousness, a new outlook toward the Earth and humanity's place on it. The "ecosystem" came to rival the "economic system" in the consciousness of Americans. Ecology became the catchphrase to describe the new view of life on Earth being connected through a vast interlocking chain, with all parts mutually interdependent. This fostered a greater concern about the health of the environment and about policies regarding the use of natural resources. The result was a heightened awareness and appreciation of nature and the outdoors. [26] Everything from sightseeing to camping and hiking surged in popularity. Winter forms of recreation also grew as more people joined in activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. These new attitudes and lifestyles would eventually alter the way many national forest lands were used and thus help determine the further evolution of social and economic institutions in most of the region's communities.

New People

The type of people who migrated into the region and their reasons for doing so changed considerably about 1960. Most earlier residents had been attracted primarily by the economic value of resources on national forest lands. They came in search of jobs in extractive industries. At this time, however, an increasing number of people came into the region for reasons that had more to do with escaping conditions elsewhere. The rebellious generation of Americans that reached early adulthood in the 1960's viewed forest and wilderness areas as places of refuge from a culture and lifestyle that they found themselves at odds with. Many chose to leave their familiar urban surroundings to avoid the corruptions of modern technocratic life. [27]

Many of these "New Pioneers" or "New Homesteaders," as they came to be called, moved into portions of the region near the outdoor attractions of the national forests. They tried to create new communities and new lives more attuned to nature and natural cycles. They placed a high value on self-sufficiency as a way of avoiding the social and economic entanglements they left behind. Most of them were more urban, more liberal in politics and lifestyle, and younger than the region's "old timers." The beauty, grandeur, and isolation of the national forests were more important to them than the commodity value of available natural resources. Certain areas attracted more New Pioneer types than others and thus were more deeply influenced by this influx of newcomers. In Idaho, many settled in communities like St. Maries, Sandpoint, Bonner's Ferry, and Priest River. They typically lived a back-to-nature existence with low environmental impact, usually on 5- or 10-acre plots of land. Most subsisted on a combination of small farming, cattle raising, and part-time work. In fact, the Forest Service frequently hired many of them for seasonal work or to plant trees under contract. [28]

By the 1970's, a somewhat different type of urban refugee joined the New Pioneers in migrating into the region. More affluent and more materialistic, many of these well-educated and successful professionals sought to escape the congestion and the limitations of city life. They were attracted to the beauty and open spaces of the land, but also wanted to enjoy an outdoor recreational lifestyle that many of them could afford, or that others were willing to make great sacrifice for, Some, like artists and writers, earned a living in a way that allowed them to work in their homes. Others commuted on a seasonal basis, usually involved in something like construction or tourism during the warm months of the year and then either working elsewhere during the winter or subsisting on odd jobs until spring. Many of these people soon left because of a lack of well-paying jobs or a desire for warmer and easier environments. However, overall population increased in the postwar era, particularly in the decade between 1970 and 1980, when South Dakota grew by 3.7 percent, North Dakota by 5.7 percent, Montana by 13 percent, and Idaho by 32.4 percent. [29]

Changing Lifestyle

New attitudes and lifestyles also affected existing types of recreation on national forest lands. Dude ranching, for example, had continued to grow after World War II, especially outside of Montana. It never regained its pre-war position as the leading industry in attracting tourists, but adjusted by drawing the younger generation of wilderness preservationists. New industry centering on outfitters and guides brought the visitors into the wilderness and backcountry areas of the region. Backpacking was added to the list of activities, and recreation with low environmental impact, such as hiking and sightseeing, became more popular components in scheduling. [30]

Many dude ranches moved into outfitting, another activity that boomed with the new environmental consciousness. There had always been a loose connection between the two. Montana dude rancher Dick Randall got his start in the late 1880's by guiding big-game hunters. [31] In Idaho, much of the push behind tourism as it surpassed timber in importance to the State's economy can be explained by expansion in outfitting and guiding. [32] On the Clearwater National Forest alone, the tourist industry grew at a steady rate of 6 percent per year after 1970. By the 1980's, it accounted for an annual business of $36 million, which supported 647 related jobs. It could boast of 30 licensed general outfitters and 3 that provided river services. [33]

The Grasslands—Resettlement and Regeneration

Another important postwar development was the expansion of Forest Service responsibility to include the national grasslands in the Dakotas. Most of those lands had at one time been individual homesteads. However, the experiment to farm this semi-arid area failed, resulting in many broken farmers and many devastated acres. In the 1930's, the Resettlement Administration began to buy many of these submarginal lands to reclaim them for productivity as range for livestock. Grazing associations were organized and land utilization projects set up. The important Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act furthered the effort after 1937 by turning the submarginal lands over to the Soil Conservation Service, which subsequently reclaimed many thousands of additional acres. Finally, in 1954, the lands and the administration of the grazing associations were transferred to the Forest Service. [34]

The reclaimed rangeland within what was now called the Little Missouri National Grassland, the Cheyenne National Grassland, and the Cedar River/Grand River National Grassland quickly became a significant part of the local livestock-based economies. Hundreds of ranchers depended on access to the lands. With proper management ensuring continued production of forage, range productivity rose. The average gross income for the 125 ranches using the national grasslands within the Cheyenne Valley Grazing Association rose from $716 in 1935 to $15,000 in 1971. [35]

In more recent years, a few additional types of resource development on the national grasslands have supplemented local economies and hold the prospect of having much greater impact. There has been an increase in oil and gas drilling since the early 1950's, when it was learned that the Williston oil field underlies the Little Missouri National Grassland. Interest in the extensive coal deposits beneath some of the lands also has risen with the rebound in that industry that resulted from the energy crisis of the early 1970's. [36]

Human Resource Development: Special Programs

In the contemporary era, the impact of the Forest Service upon the region broadened as Congress expanded the role and function of the agency. Beginning in the 1960's, the Forest Service joined in waging the war on poverty, one of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" initiatives in response to rising national concern over poverty, racial injustice, and the lack of equal opportunity. A number of programs were set up under the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) to battle the causes of these social and economic problems. [37]

One such program, the Job Corps, consisted of residential centers that provided counseling and job training for unskilled young people between the ages of 16 and 22. Congress gave the Forest Service a mandate and the funding to establish centers in communities near its jurisdiction and to use the Job Corps on projects on and around national forest lands. Most of the young people who began to arrive in the Northern Region in 1965 were from urban areas in the Midwest and the East, and many were ethnic or racial minorities. The sudden addition of people from vastly different racial and social backgrounds into communities within the region sometimes strained the tolerance of local residents. However, it also occasionally broadened points of view and enhanced awareness and understanding of social problems. [38]

One representative Job Corps center was created near Cottonwood, Idaho, in 1965. Part of the program there stressed basic academic achievement, as many young people in the Job Corps were unable to read, write, or reckon well. Receiving one's General Equivalency Degree came to be seen as "graduation" from the academic portion of the program. Another goal was for the youth to gain useful work experience. The 4,136 trainees who passed through the Cottonwood center during its operation learned a number of vocational skills, as well as how to operate heavy construction equipment. The projects varied widely, but included working on roads, installing culverts, planting trees, building range fences, constructing buildings, and making camgrounds. The Job Corps also contributed directly to community health and welfare. For example, the Cottonwood center helped paint a church, constructed a community clinic, and restored several historic sites. [39]

By the mid-1970's, political and economic support for the Great Society effort was fading. Some of the programs were eliminated, some were cut back, and some were reshaped. The Cottonwood center lost its funding at the end of the fiscal year 1974, about the same time that most other OEO programs were being dismantled. The Government did not do away with all Great Society undertakings at this time, but instead sought to decentralize the war on poverty by turning programs over to the States, with Federal financial contributions in the form of block grants. The bureaucracy changed and some programs were altered, but new agencies took on many OEO functions. [40]

The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) of 1973, for example, authorized several job training programs. The Forest Service served as a host agency for three types of programs funded under CETA: the Adult Work Experience, Public Service Employment, and Public Service Projects. The Forest Service also sponsored other programs funded directly by Congress. The Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) employed youths aged 15 to 18 in conservation work for 8 weeks during the summer. Within the region, participation grew from 78 participants in 1972 to over 700 youths in 1978. The Young Adult Conservation Corps (YACC) was enacted in October 1977 as an emergency program under CETA to combat high levels of unemployment. Out-of-work young people between the ages of 16 and 23 could participate in the YACC program. Resident employees (that is, those who lived on the YACC encampment) were brought into the region from other areas and lived in Forest Service facilities. Non-resident participants came from the vicinity and lived at home while working. Yet another example, the Senior Community Service Program (SCSEP), provided part-time work for people over 55 with incomes below the poverty line. Before the decade was over, the Forest Service was employing 51 SCSEP participants in northern Idaho and 9 in western Montana. [41]

By the mid-1980's, funding for CETA programs, the YACC, and the YCC had been eliminated. National attitudes had changed, and competition for increasingly scarce Federal dollars had intensified. But the role of the Forest Service in human resource development remained intact. For example, the Forest Service served as the host organization for programs funded by other agencies, including the Tribal Work Experience, Handicapped Employment, and Youth Accountability Referral Programs. These continued to provide many people in the region with useful work experiences. Moreover, they contributed to important Forest Service functions like construction of recreation facilities, general facility maintenance, fire control, and fish and wildlife management. In addition, in 1982, the Forest Service became a host agency for the newly created Community Work Experience Program (CWEP), which required that recipients of State welfare aid work up to 24 hours each week. [42]

The Forest Service's mandate for human resource development included still another aspect. Beginning with the Great Society programs, Federal policy emphasized removal of the social and racial barriers that contribute to social injustice and inequality. The Forest Service established long-range goals for achieving equitable representation of minorities and women throughout its work force. Resource management policies also were adjusted to reflect the new social goals. For example, by treaty, Native American tribes retained certain rights, such as hunting and fishing or access to sites of religious importance, over some national forest lands adjoining their reservations. The National Forest Management Act of 1976 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 confirmed and expanded Federal recognition and enforcement of those rights. The Forest Service responded accordingly by making the necessary changes in policies regarding long-term planning, resource extraction, and site development. [43]

The widening role of the Forest Service in human resource development was indicative of the overall direction in the relationship between the agency and the surrounding communities in the contemporary era. Clearly the Forest Service's attachments to the region and influence in shaping the region's social and economic contours has deepened over time. The direct impact of jobs created by Forest Service spending has become an increasingly important foundation in many local economies because employment in the agency has risen while it has fallen in basic industries like agriculture and mining. Government employment has come to represent a larger percentage of available jobs, and the Forest Service is the single biggest Government employer in many areas. In fact, the social and cultural atmosphere in some communities is obviously colored by Forest Service employees who, as professionals with more education and broader experience, often become community leaders. [44]

Regional Industries Related to the Forest Service

Employment in the timber industry grew through the 1970's, in spite of the fact that the percentage of the region's timber harvest taken from national forest lands continued to fall, recently dropping below 50 percent. The recession of the early 1980's, however, led to more efficient mill equipment and a recent decline in employment in the lumber industry. By the end of the 1980's, for example, the lumber mill in New Bonner, Montana, had reduced employment from 160 to 67 while maintaining previous levels of production. Nonetheless, the timber harvest still employs thousands. In Idaho, each million board feet cut puts 0.29 persons to work. Just as important, the wages spent in the area generate a variety of jobs in nonbasic industries for woodworkers, truckers, mill operators, wood processors, wholesalers, equipment suppliers, and retailers. More specifically, three jobs in nonbasic industries are created for every five people directly employed in the timber harvests. [45]

Mining on national forest lands declined somewhat in the post war years, but has picked up more recently. It remains important to the economies of a few areas, particularly northern Idaho, and in the 1980's experienced a resurgence in Montana. Livestock production on national forest land is still a cornerstone in many parts of the region. The areas surrounding the national grass lands in the Dakotas are the most dependent upon and make the most use of Forest Service forage. Forest Service land is somewhat less important to the ranchers of western Montana and Idaho, but grazing permits remain an important part of Forest Service activity on the eastside forests. [46]

The magnitude of direct impact of the Forest Service upon communities within the region can be easily seen in a few recent economic statistics. All factors considered, for example, in the mid-1980's the Clearwater National Forest in Montana contributed between 10 and 14 percent of all employment in the vicinity and accounted for $56 million in annual personal income, representing about 10 percent of the total for the area. [47] The comparable figure for the Lewis and Clark National Forest was closer to 2 percent, with Forest Service activities generating well over $12 million in personal income and 946 private-sector jobs. [48] In the communities around the Kaniksu, Coeur d'Alene, and St. Joe National Forests in northern Idaho, the Forest Service accounted for 4,900 jobs and $103 million in personal income, or an amazing 20 percent of all local economic activity. [49]

USDA Forest Service operations directly support the maintenance of fundamental local government services in communities in the region. Because Federal lands cannot be included in the tax base for local and State government, Congress has mandated that 25 percent of all income derived from the leasing of resources on Forest Service lands be turned over to the States and counties on the basis of the number of Federal acres within a particular jurisdiction. These monies are referred to as in-lieu-of taxes payments and are usually earmarked by State law for specific purposes. [50]

In Idaho, 30 percent of this income goes to schools and 70 percent for roads, while in Montana the breakdown is one-third for schools and two-thirds for roads. The total number of dollars varies greatly, according to fluctuations in yearly harvests and extraction of minerals. However, in some counties it still represents a significant portion of total revenue, especially for roads. [51]

The Forest Service Family

One area in which the Forest Service has direct "social and economic" impact can be seen in the lives of those who spent most of their careers on the forests of the Northern Region. Retirees generally speak warmly of their work and associations within the Forest Service community. Thomas P. Farbo, for example spent over 27 years in the region, retiring in 1981. His career, he said, "was a beautiful experience and the environment we grew up in was in the greatest part of the country to have a family." He described the Forest Service as an extended family that possessed a great esprit de corps. [52]

Walter Peterson remembers that one of his favorite pastimes in late summer evenings "was to go out and bugle the elk, who would vigorously respond and sometimes even come to the call." [53] Donald V. Williams, who retired in 1978, spent 32 years in a forestry career that began during World War II at the age of 17. [54] Everett M. "Sonny" Stiger, who retired in 1984, although a "latecomer" to Region 1, spent much of his time in the wilderness and on wilderness fire management projects. He recalled one "loner" trip into the Scapegoat:

Without seeing another human for several days, I was in the process of photographing some fire-related vegetation, when I sensed someone or something nearby. I turned to greet whom I thought was a wayfaring stranger, only to find myself face-to-face with a young grizzly. He was as scared of me as I of him, and we both quit the country rapidly without small talk. [55]

Walter R. Hahn, who began seasonal work with the Forest Service in 1931, considering the wide variety of jobs he did over the years for the Forest Service, thought working with his pack string was the one he enjoyed the most. He said that mules were very intelligent animals; however, his opinion of "too many bosses" was much less enthusiastic. [56] Raymond West, who in 1988 had been retired from his work as a Forest Service biologist for 30 years, continued his interest in wildlife management during his retirement through the Isaac Walton League. [57]

F.K. Stewart completed 46 years and 10 months of service in Region 1. He began his Forest Service career in 1915 and retired in 1963. Writing at the age of 92 (in February 1988), he said:

During that period I watched the region grow from a quite primitive, protection, nursemaid type of agency to a well-organized agency where the utilization of resources and land use was well managed. [58]

The most common response to the inquiry as to what former employees liked most about their careers was that the personnel in Region 1 were "one big family" and treated each other as such. [59] Many think that that, too, has changed.

Members of the Region 1 Retirees History Committee who reviewed this manuscript believed that the authors restricted the concept of the "Forest Service family." They pointed out that the Forest Service family held many of the "same goals, problems, family ties, aspirations, successes, and failures as those people in the communities in which they worked and lived." This identification was particularly true in the smaller communities, less so in the larger towns and cities. The major point, one retiree commented, was the "common feeling of unity and mutual support," and the desire to "make the 'outfit' a good organization to work for." It was "not the pleasure of being in the woods, hearing an elk bugle," but the "sheer pleasure of working with a group of people, all with the common goal of doing a job managing the resources for the greatest good of all the people. This was Region One!" [60]

The Forest Service was made up of men and women of strength, character, and purpose. They were not out for glory, only to do the job as best they could "under trying circumstances many times" and without fanfare. They were bound together by a common cause, and their dedication and devotion to this cause was unswerving. When R.E. McArdle was Chief, he emphasized the Forest Service family and worked at keeping the family theme going. [61]

They also acknowledge that "some of the fine esprit de corps may be slipping" and attribute it in part to the diversity of disciplines required to manage an ever increasingly complex resource. Change is characteristic of both the environment and institutions. So, too, the mission and the methods of the Forest Service in the region have changed over time.

Over the years, the Forest Service in Region 1 has responded to an ever-growing number of people with an increasingly wider variety of needs and interests. It has become acutely aware of the need to balance the development of many different resources while preserving the integrity of the environment. Assessments and analyses in studies and documents such as regional situation overviews, forest plans, environmental impact statements, regional plans, and the planning area analyses for western Montana, northern Idaho, and the particular subdivisions of the Northern Region are used as the basis for specific goals and policies of the Forest Service. This has proven to be very important, because the national forests within this region perhaps have a more direct and more positive impact upon the lives of a larger portion of the population than in other parts of the United States.

Reference Notes

1. Harold K. Steen, The U.S. Forest Service (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976), pp. 36, 79.

2. Ibid., p. 90.

3. Gareth C. Moon, "Forest and Stream," in Merrill G. Burlingame and K. Ross Toole, eds., A History of Montana, Vol. 11 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., Inc., 1957), pp. 6-7.

4. Steen, The U.S. Forest Service, pp. 58, 163-165; Will C. Barnes, Western Grazing Grounds and Forest Ranges: A History of the Live-stock Industry as Conducted on the Open Ranges of the Arid West with Particular Reference to the Use Now Being Made of the Ranges in the National Forests (Chicago: The Breeder's Gazette, 1913), p. 211.

5. Steen, The U.S. Forest Service, p. 59; Barnes, Western Grazing Grounds and Forest Ranges, pp. 212-213, 218-220, 224.

6. What the National Forests Mean to Montana, pp. 18-27.

7. Steen, The U.S. Forest Service, p. 113.

8. Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950), pp. 34, 54-66, 119-124.

9. Steen, The U.S. Forest Service, p. 156.

10. Lawrence R. Borne, Dude Ranching: A Complete History (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983), pp. 61-62.

11. Ibid., pp. 7, 27-28; Joel H. Bernstein, Families That Take in Friends: An Informal History of Dude Ranching (Stevensville, MT: Stoneydale Press, 1982), pp. 21-24.

12. Bernstein, Families That Take in Friends, pp. 35-42.

13. Borne, Dude Ranching, pp. 59, 169-170; Bernstein, Families That Take in Friends, pp. 46-53.

14. Borne, Dude Ranching, pp. 170, 198; Bernstein, Families That Take in Friends, pp. 116-123. Note: the Region 1 Retirees History Review Committee advised that dude ranching was not terribly important in the early days, and that the Forest Service never looked "more favorably" on one industry over another (Bob Milodragovich to Henry C. Dethloff, September 15, 1989, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives).

15. Winter Sports in the National Forest Areas of Montana, Northern Idaho, Eastern Washington, USDA Forest Service, Region 1 (1940-41), pp. i, 2, 4.

16. USDA Forest Service, Region 1, Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan Environmental Impact Statement, Vol. I (n.d.). pp. 3-45; USDA Forest Service, Region 1, Environmental Impact Statement for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (August 1987), pp. 111-4-20; USDA Forest Service, Region 1, Area Analysis of National Forests in Western Montana (March, 1978), p. 37.

17. Wilson F. Clark, A General History of Custer National Forest (USDA Forest Service, Northern Region: March 1982), P. 18.

18. Maxine C. Johnson, Montana Economic Study: Research Report, Part 2: The Industries of Montana, Bureau of Business and Economic Research (Missoula: University of Montana, 1970), pp. 3—47-48; Robert Miller, The South Dakota Economy at Mid-Century, 1900-1950: An Economic Survey of the Economy of South Dakota Over a Fifty Year Period, Business Research Bureau (Vermilion: University of South Dakota, 1952), p. 12.

19. Montana Economic Study, pp. 3—47-48.

20. USDA Forest Service, Region 1, A Forest Economy for the Nation as Related to the Northern Rocky Mountain Territory (December 1940), pp. 3, 12-13; copy in Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

21. Maxine C. Johnson, "Wood Products in Montana: A Special Report on the Industry's Impact on Montana's Income and Employment," Montana Business Quarterly 10 (Spring 1972):15, 19-20, 26-28, 32.

22. Ibid., p. 24.

23. USDA Forest Service, Region 1, Area Analysis for National Forests in Northern Idaho: Idaho Panhandle Forests and Clearwater, Nez Perce, and Bitterroot Forests (March 1978), pp. 114-115.

24. Ibid., pp. 102-103, 111-114; Area Analysis of National Forests in Western Montana, p. 74.

25. United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Denver Service Centers, Greater Yellowstone Cooperative Regional Transportation Study: Regional Assessment, Socioeconomic Report (June 1978), pp. 3-4; Idaho: An Illustrated History (Boise: Idaho State Historical Society, 1976), p. 242.

26. Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973), pp. 195-227.

27. Ibid., pp. 237-262.

28. Environmental Impact Statement for the Idaho Panhandle, pp. III-5-6.

29. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Custer National Forest Final Environmental Impact Statement (October 1986), p. 112; USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Flathead National Forest Plan: Social and Economic Assessment (August 1981), pp. 51, 56-57.

30. Borne, Dude Ranching, p. 207.

31. Bernstein, Families That Take in Friends, p. 23.

32. Idaho: An Illustrated History, p. 242.

33. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region, Environmental Impact Statement of the Clearwater National Forest, Vol. I (September 1987), p. III-5.

34. A General History of Custer National Forest, pp. 56, 67.

35. Ibid., p. 94.

36. Custer National Forest Final Environmental Impact Statement, p. xi.

37. James T. Patterson, America in the Twentieth Century: Part Two, A History Since 1939 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1976), p. 433.

38. Ibid., OEO and USDA Forest Service, Cottonwood Civilian Conservation Center: History (1974), pp. 1-2; and see notebook and clippings assembled by Paul T. McNutt, former Director of the Cedar Flats and Cottonwood Job Corps, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

39. Cottonwood. History, pp. 2, 5, 17.

40. Melvyn Dubofsky and Athan Theoharis, Imperial Democracy: The United States Since 1945 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983), p. 191.

41. Area Analysis for National Forests in Northern Idaho, pp. 214-217.

42. Environmental Impact Statement for the Idaho Panhandle, pp. III-71-72.

43. Environmental Impact Statement of the Clearwater National Forest, pp. III-6, III-35; Custer National Forest Final Environmental Impact Statement, p. 115.

44. Johnson, "Wood Products in Montana," pp. 14-15; Flathead National Forest Plan, p. 47.

45. Area Analysis of National Forests in Western Montana, p. 121; Area Analysis for National Forests in Northern Idaho, pp. 88, 91.

46. Environmental Impact Statement of the Clearwater National Forest, p. III-69; Area Analysis for National Forests in Northern Idaho, pp. 77, 205.

47. Environmental Impact Statement of the Clearwater National Forest, pp. 98-99.

48. Lewis and Clark National Forest Plan, pp. 2-98.

49. Environmental Impact Statement for the Idaho Panhandle, p. II-105.

50. Wilson F. Clark, Payments to Counties and States (Custer National Forest: April 1988), pp. 2-3.

51. Environmental Impact Statement for the Idaho Panhandle, p. 11-106; Flathead National Forest Plan, p. 49.

52. Thomas P. Farbo to Henry C. Dethloff, March 27, 1989, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

53. Walter S. Peterson to Dethloff, March 9, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

54. Donald V. Williams to Dethloff, February 17, 1989, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

55. Everett M. "Sonny" Stiger to Dethloff, January 6, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

56. Walter R. Hahn to Dethloff, October 28, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives. Raymond West, who in 1988 had been retired from his work as a Forest Service biologist for 30 years, continued his interest in wildlife management during his retirement through the Isaac Walton League.

57. Raymond M. West to Dethloff, September 22, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

58. F.K. Stewart to Dethloff, February 6, 1988, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

59. Virginia Hoeger to Dethloff, January 4, 1987, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

60. Robert Milodragovich, Region 1 Retirees History Review Committee, to Henry C. Dethloff, September 15, 1989, Intaglio Collection, University of Montana Archives.

61. Ibid.

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Last Updated: 10-Sep-2008