Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ten years: A forest reserve, the GLO, and E Bender's report

And once there was a forest reserve, what then? There were already miners, such as John Hance, who, like W. W. Bass, were also gurus for visitors, and the railroad, the Santa Fe, to the south. Stockmen, homesteaders, loggers were all in evidence. The Havasupai, Navajo, and Hopi farmed, hunted, visited, traded; traveling through, with some settled down. For all, what would the Grand CaƱon Forest Reserve mean in their daily lives in and around the Canyon?

That was the at-the-site question. In Washington and in other places, the framing question had to do with applying the national park idea, as Powell and Harrison had wished in the first place. Was the Reserve a temporary designation, and if not, then what were appropriate boundaries and activities? For instance, why had 17 miles of the northern proposed park been left out of the GCFR? It was, much of it, real forest.

Little seems to be recorded for the Cleveland administration that followed Harrison, although there must have been debate over what the forest reserves were to be. Certainly, the locals were ready to follow the usual pattern. In the mid-1890's, minerals led 140 Coconino County residents, including Ashurst, Heaton, and Bass, to protest the Reserve. September 1897, the stockmen got the U.S. District Attorney to tell GLO that sheep grazing was not harmful; there is too little water, although the stockmen have worked to develop more since the desert range has to be used to make other ranges fully available in summer and winter.

The National Academy of Sciences had set up a Forest Committee. It reported in May 1897, and included a call that the walls of the Canyon and the immediately adjacent area be set apart and governed as a national park. I wonder, did they really visit?

Action began with an Act of June 4 1897 appropriating funds for surveying the reserves, an essential base in the American legal-political system that needs exact, explicit, verifiable lines (nothing so temporary as those drawn in sand) to divide mine from yours. Not so incidentally, this appropriations measure called for protection against fire and selling timber, while allowing settlement, providing water, and not hindering mining or agriculture. Those who thought the forest reserves were for use were reinforced.

In October 1897 Edward Bender was sent by GLO to visit the Canyon, talk with local people, and make a report. The January 31 1898 result has gorgeous language and beautiful handwriting, and although he only spent a day or two at the Canyon, he talked to many people. It is a precious snapshot. Here is the beginning:

Bender travelled by stagecoach from Flagstaff to Grandview, returning by another route so that he saw both sides of the San Francisco Peaks.

He suggests boundaries starting 18 miles north of where the 6th standard parallel (i.e., between townships 27N & 28N) intersects the Hualapai boundary, then north 50 miles, east 60 miles, then south and west back to the start. This rectangle would include Cataract Canyon. He mentions that extending boundaries would bring in the Kanab Plateau on the west, the Paria on the north, and  Moran and other points to the southeast, but that would probably be too much  of an area which is likely to remain "undisturbed". To our eyes, this is an odd boundary, shifting the park west to take in Cataract while leaving out the eastern mainstem. One reason for this shift is his observation that the Canyon has laid bare "many enormous lodes of gold, silver, lead, copper, and asbestos" which are being developed on an extensive scale. "The Canyon should certainly be made a national park, with as much of the environments as would cover points of natural interest as well as the Pine Forests, under such conditions as will permit of the fullest development of its great mineral resource." Caught up, he says it should become one of the richest mineral producing sections of the continent, since the Canyon cuts through a mountain rich with mineral. Almost 300 mines located, mostly near Cataract. The only land that needs to be excluded is for mineworks.

A great climate, unsurpassed for resorts. Due to the scarcity of water, the effect of grazing, carried on for 20 years, has never been injurious. Among his interviewees, he mentions a mayor and a judge as stockmen. Ten thousand sheep; two thousand cattle, in winter. A prosecuting attorney describes the grass as luxurious; USGS man approves of grazing. He also found several who criticized sheep grazing, and concludes that officials like grazing, while disinterested parties make adverse comment. He concludes that grazing within the reserve should be suspended for several years, to allow grass to come back. He calls for police protection, mostly due to Indians who kill large numbers of deer just for pelts. The Navajo particularly should be rigidly excluded since they are reckless with fire and slaughter game.  He talks with many of those at Canyon, describing local disputes over who was here first and unlawful enclosures. Hance's enclosure is used by stage company. Others are for miners' purposes. Bright Angel trail built in 1890-1; Grandview in 1891-2; Red Canyon in 1893. Bass is building a trail. All of these are private roads under U.S. laws.  His conclusion is that all is legal, but government should sometime take over trails. He notes presence of Riordan Lumber Co. and says timber should be made available for mines. He ends by saying he agrees with the scientists' committee that this should be a National Park.

The questions of a survey, the Reserve boundaries, and a national park were now entangled. There is a reference to a March 1898 report by Gifford Pinchot, Special Forest Agent, to the Secretary reiterating the recommendation of the national Forest Commission to convert part of the GCFR into a national park. So the GLO Commissioner in May 1898 recommended a GCNP, and in reply, the Secretary of the Interior asked for advice on legislation on the reserve and a national park, including an addition of a six-mile strip on the west. USGS suggested going north to the Utah line, to get northern forest, but we need a "definite" report on the area to be sure. Bender had relied on Dutton for his information about the Canyon's north side.  However, the survey was postponed by Interior in November 1898 because the USGS said the climate was too severe.

There was a Forest Supervisor in mid-1898, WP Hermann, and in Oct 1898, he sent a report to the GLO Commissioner supporting Bender's findings in much the same charming manner. (In April, as a special agent, he had done the same.) He offered 19 points, culminating in his agreement with the scientists' recommendation for a Park. He suggested, however, that the military should take over for a time. He praises the beauty and scope of the scenic wonder above the timber value, finding that nature intended the forest as a park for the Canyon. He gets rhapsodic about the deer, antelope, badgers, squirrels, etc. He is optimistic about the possibility of keeping winter and summer thunderstorm water in the many draws. Grazing is limited to a few months. He has found prehistoric remains. He labels the minerals as for the benefit of man. Already coach loads of tourists come; the railroad is 73 miles away, with smooth country in between. In 1899, he called the miner + tourist hosts, Hance and Berry, the only bona fide settlers; they favored a survey. He had no comment about the Havasupai and Navajo who were continuing their occupation and use.

In Spring 1899, Hermann pushed for the survey, since his "authority is at random for want of lines to place my rangers on". But when prodded in May, the Secretary repeated to GLO that it was to await the USGS official survey before making recommendation. Secretary told USGS to get it done, but USGS then fussed that it could not survey until there was expert examination of the entire Reserve, so not this year. In June, GLO replied and pushed for a survey at the earliest practicable date, since merging of GCFR into a national park has been delayed awaiting survey. Another year, and in May 1900, GLO had prepared a draft bill that would have authorized a GCNP by proclamation. Worthy of mention were the scientific values, the scenic beauties, the natural wonders and curiosities.(This, of course, was before the Antiquities Act gave Presidents power to proclaim Monuments for protection, and is perhaps the germ of the idea, though it is usually said that the Antiquities Act was stretched beyond credibility by the Grand Canyon National Monument.) GLO kept nagging USGS in 1900 for information to assist in making changes in GCFR boundaries. Especially important was forest information to the north, and whether railroad grant land would injure forest or other interests. It is unfortunate that the USGS letter files were destroyed in a fire. The USGS was not in opposition; Director Walcott understood the purpose of the Forest Reserve was to eventually make it a park. He offered a map of the timber as the basis for extending the Forest Reserve to the state line.

R. Rathbun, the Smithsonian's Acting Secretary, suggested a park of 20 miles long and 5-10 miles wide in December 1899. I.B. Hanna, Forest Superintendent, located in Santa Fe, offered his opinion in October 1900 that a small Park would be better since the area, particularly on the north, is so inaccessible. He wanted to place the northern boundary on the south rim, then going south to Red Butte. His 20X15-mile area would have been for both logging and visitation, since it contained the best of both. A year later, he visited and saw many tourists, but few inhabitants due to lack of water. He called for the north side to be set aside as a game preserve, saying the game could not get away once placed there. His August 1901 report may be the first such proposal.

Officials were not alone. BF Bush of Michigan called for a Park, sending in three letters to GLO in 1899. His preference was to go north to the Utah line, and to include timber and Canyon. This Park could be open all year, whereas Yellowstone, which he said he helped open, is a summer-only Park.

The need for some action comes across from the scattered, exaggerated, reports. Activity at the Bright Angel trail, under Ralph Cameron, was heavy, with logging and construction for tourists. A cave was being exploited by a young German. GLO called such activities illegal. A Utah man reported 110,000 sheep and 4000 cattle on the north side, and was scornful of Arizonans' interest in protecting timber or game.  He talked of fires, a steam sawmill, deer decreasing due to depredation by whites and Navajo. Utahans would appreciate the benefits of a forest ranger, and he had someone in mind. On the other hand, W.W.Bass attacked the park, since it would shut up the most promising mineral district in Arizona. He had opened up good farmland in Cataract with several families there.

The question of the northern boundary remained unsettled. Forest Supervisor Hanna, in his 1900 report, supplied a little color. His horses had got away, and he had to walk back to Lees Ferry to get more. He thought the area was a desert, and after three years of drought, the land that thousands had grazed was now a waste, and should not be included. The timber, though, was as good as any in area. Fire had kept it clean of underbrush and downed wood. The only sawmill had closed; prospectors were unsuccessful. Fredonia residents favor a reserve covering all the timber.

In 1902, new forest supervisor Pratt praised the fine belt of timber, but thought the boundary was too far north. In 1903, he again lamented the lack of resolution on the survey as a cause of local upset. In Sept 1904, McCue and Olmsted prepared a report on the proposed northern addition, identifying a billion board feet of pine and spruce. There was heavy winter and summer grazing. They spoke of BFSaunders, the Salt Lake City man who controlled the grazing. Interestingly, the report called for more sheep. They noted the claims for copper near Jacobs Lake. The residents want the addition. And Pratt spoke up for the extension, to get springs.
In early1905, the Forest Service was created in the Department of Agriculture, and surely hopes began to rise that the days of inability to act and over-centralization in Washington were over.

Altogether, for whatever combination of reasons, the decade after the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve was created was a time of talk, excuses for inaction, frustration, and private individual initiatives. Now, Theodore Roosevelt was President, and his colleague, Gifford Pinchot, was Chief of the new, to-be-professional, Forest Service with control over what were now to be termed National Forests.

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