Department of Forestry Records Guide

Agency History - 1907-1960

The need to manage the seemingly inexhaustible forests of Oregon was recognized in 1907 when a temporary advisory board was established (Oregon Laws, Chapter 131). The Board of Forestry was a centralization of authority in response to a 1905 law (Oregon Laws, Chapter 227) that allowed local fire rangers to patrol counties and enforce the newly created fire protection laws. The Board had little power and was mainly intended to provide advice and direction to the Legislative Assembly on matters of Forestry in Oregon.

In 1911, the Legislative Assembly enacted a law creating a new seven member Board of Forestry, a State Forester, and a Deputy Forester for the appointment of fire wardens. The responsibilities of the State Forester included the improvement and protection of state forest lands, prevention of forest fires, enforcing forest laws and prosecuting violators, encouraging reforestation, and publishing forestry information. Chapter 278 of the 1911 General Laws of Oregon also succeeded in consolidating the county fire wardens under the central authority of the State Forester (they had previously answered to the county courts).

The federal Weeks Law of 1911 gave Oregon increased financial assistance for watershed and forest protection. By 1913, the state was also contributing to forestry efforts through the passage of the Forest Patrol Act, which funded firefighting activities. The Forest Patrol Act was financed through the assessment of landowners for the protection of their lands. In 1925, the Forest Patrol Act was amended to create protection districts that were patrolled by a local association and overseen by the Department of Forestry.

1925 also saw the Clarke-McNary Law supercede the Weeks Law. This federal funding law allowed the Department of Forestry to expand their operations and contract work to non-state employees. The State Forest Nursery at Elkton (later to become the Phipps Forest Nursery after former State Forester Dwight Phipps) was funded in large part by money provided by the Clarke-McNary Law.

1929 brought about an unprecedented show of the Department of Forestry's authority. It set aside 70,000 acres in Douglas and Coos Counties to be preserved as the first State Forest in Oregon. Elliot State Forest was named in honor of the first State Forester, F.A. Elliot. In the same year, the Legislative Assembly passed the Oregon Reforestation Tax Law that required the Department of Forestry to classify lands for reforestation. Owners of land classified for reforestation were exempted from advalorem property taxes, and instead paid an annual forest fee and surtax on harvested forest products. This practice was facilitated in 1937 with the creation of County Classification Committees to designate lands for reforestation.

The Board of Forest Conservation was created in 1935 to ease the incorporation of Oregon forestlands into the system of national forests administered by the United States Forest Service. The Board was given the final say on the transfer of lands to federal control. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) work camps were created at this time as part of the nationwide New Deal program. By 1936, the State Forester supervised over 4,300 men working in these forestry camps. The Works Projects Administration also began construction of the Department of Forestry's Salem headquarters in 1936; the building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. However, by 1942 enlistment and funding difficulties coupled with the beginning of World War II to cause the dissolution of the CCC.

The 1937 Legislative Assembly authorized the creation of County Forest Land Classification Committees. These committees were given the responsibility of classifying all county forestlands into three categories: timber, timber and grazing, or agricultural. The State Forester was given authority to classify lands in the event that county committees were not formed or did not reach a consensus. An experimental field laboratory was also established in 1937. The 1,000 acre Hamlet State Experimental Forest in Clatsop County was formed to study silviculture, rodent control, planting costs, thinning, utilization of and returns from forest crops, and fire protection/control.

Until 1939, the Board of Forestry and the Highway Commission shared the administrative responsibilities for Oregon state parks. The reorganization of the Highway Commission in 1939 gave complete jurisdiction of the parks to the Commission. To compensate for this removal of duties, the Legislative Assembly added administration of the Forest Development Fund to the Department of Forestry.

In 1940 the Keep Oregon Green Association was established to promote fire safety and forest fire prevention. The Association was established independently from the Department of Forestry, but served as a publicity agency and received much of their operating budget from the department. 1941 brought passage of the Oregon Forest Conservation Act that required loggers to reforest harvested lands. The act also gave the State Forester additional authority to conserve forest resources. Meanwhile, research projects related to the need to rehabilitate the areas damaged by the Tillamook Burn forest fires led to the establishment of a forestlands research program in Salem in 1941.

World War II brought a change in responsibilities to the Department of Forestry. Forty-six Aircraft Warning Service observation posts were manned by department personnel from 1942 to 1943. The Forest Defense Council was also established to serve adjunct to the Oregon Defense Council and advise on matters concerning incendiary forest fires. World War II also caused the Department of Forestry with a manpower problem due to the dissolution of the Civilian Conservation Corps and the military wartime requirements for individuals who might have been otherwise employed by the department.

In 1951, the Department of Forestry began to utilize convict labor in forest work camps. A coalition including the State Forester, State Penitentiary Superintendent, and the State Director of Parole and Probation oversaw the administration of this program. The Forest Protection and Conservation Committee was created in 1953. The Committee's duties included the supervision and coordination of state agencies engaged in forest management; supervision of the Forest Products Research Laboratory; and the supervision of research concerning the rehabilitation, protection, and management of forestlands.

The Common School Forestlands Act in 1957, brought all indemnity lands, school lands, and escheated lands under a common administration. Authority of the Common School Forestlands (including Elliot State Forest) was held jointly between the Board of Forestry and the United States Forest Service, although the managerial duties were assumed by the Department of Forestry. All revenue from the sale of forest products from these lands was to be deposited into the Common School Fund.

The Klamath Tribal Reservation terminated in 1959. Public Law 587, passed by the United States Congress, ended the government's involvement in the tribal reservation. This action allowed the tribal members to liquidate their lands. While a number of Klamath members chose to keep their right of property, many members sold to private timber companies. The state Board of Forestry assumed responsibility for the protection of these forest lands, setting up a new protection unit consisting of over 600,000 acres in what had been the reservation. Land not purchased by private concerns became national forest property.

Delta On to historical narrative, 1961-present

State Archives • 800 Summer St. NE • Salem, OR 97310

Phone: 503-373-0701 • Fax: 503-378-4118 • reference.archives@state.or.us