Document 32: Ashael Curtis Supports a Small Olympic National Park, 1938

Statement of Ashael Curtis and F. W. Mathias in To Establish the Olympic National Park in the State of Washington: Hearings before the Committee on the Public Lands, House of Representatives, Seventy-Fifth Congress, Third Session, on H.R. 10024, a Bill to Establish the Olympic National Park in the State of Washington (1938), p. 30-31.

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Washington wants a national park in the Olympic Mountains, but not at the terrible cost of the destruction of the economic life of the Olympic Peninsula. . . . They [Washingtonians] believe this can be accomplished and all the purposes of recreation served by including the beautiful central mountain area comprised of 450,000 acres [in other words, by limiting the park to the 450,000 acres in the central mountain area]. Within this area are vast forests containing 4,000,000,000,000 feet of commercial timber, including the finest trees grown on the Olympic Peninsula. Every species common to the region will be represented. This 4,000,000,000,000 feet does not include the vast and beautiful forests on the upper mountain slopes, of which no estimate has been made.

The head waters of all Olympic Mountain streams would be included within these proposed boundaries.

The Olympic National Park will always remain a wilderness area largely accessible by trail because the rugged character of the country prohibits the extensive road systems common in other parks. The appeal of such a park will be to those who find pleasure in the primitive wilderness and who will pay in toil and hardship to visit it; therefore no large number of visitors can be expected nor can there be any material revenues from it.

To double the size of the park, as the present Wallgren bill [a proposal introduced by Monrad Wallgren, a Congressman from Washington State] will do, will add nothing to its value for recreation but will lock up timber resources upon which 36,000 people can depend for a livelihood perpetually. The region west of the Olympics contain[s] principally pulp species [tree species, such as hemlock, used to make paper], and the heavy rainfall will produce a new crop every 35 years. . . .

Farms.—Within the proposed park are the homes and farms of many settlers, men and women who have spent a lifetime here in the forest. With strenuous toil, with fortitude and pluck, they have created homes and reared their families. Due to their efforts all the present developments have been made possible. . . . All this would be lost to them if [their lands were] included in a park. . . . [In actuality, there were less than a dozen working farms included within the boundaries proposed by the Wallgren bill. Most of the farms in this area had gone bankrupt during the Great Depression.]

Coast.—All of the ocean beach is the property of the State [of Washington], and the State has absolute jurisdiction over it and therefore it cannot become a private monopoly nor can the public be prohibited from its use. Inclusion in the proposed park can give the public no greater use of this area but will deprive the State of its jurisdiction and revenues from the clam beaches, the smelt fisheries, the trout fishing, and the salmon fisheries. . . .

Manganese mines.—Manganese is found in large deposits from Lake Crescent on the north, around to the eastern side of the [Olympic Mountain] range, south to Lake Quinault. Several thousand claims have been filed within this area. The provisions of the [Wallgren] bill, that prospecting be allowed for 5 years with the requirement that actual mining operations be commenced within 2 years, offers no inducement for development of these ore bodies. Operating mines cannot be financed and developed to a production stage in 2 years, nor should all the ore bodies be developed in such a brief period. Geologists who have studied this region have stated that the manganese of the Olympics is sufficient to supply the needs of the Nation for many generations. This manganese deposit should be developed gradually to meet the Nation's needs, rather than a forced development as would occur under the Wallgren bill. Manganese is essential in all modern alloys and is therefore necessary for all industries and vital to the Nation in case of war. Aside from the deposits in the Olympic Peninsula the manganese deposits in the United States are very limited, and [the manganese] now used is imported, principally from Russia.

Oil.—The United States Geological Survey reported to the Congress, "The Olympic Peninsula is the most promising part of Washington for oil prospecting."

A high-grade paraffin oil has been produced, and [natural] gas is indicated in two drilling operations representing an investment of a third of a million dollars.

Conclusion.—The answer is simple; establish a park on the boundaries proposed by the Washington State Planning Council [described in the first paragraph of this letter] and permit the use of the resources in the remainder of the area.

Without these resources the economic existence of the 110,000 people on the peninsula is destroyed nor can it be compensated for by the meager returns from the few tourists which experience has proven will visit the region during the 2 summer months.

Ashael Curtis
Washington State Planning Council

F. W. Mathias
Washington State Planning Council; [and]
Grays Harbor Planning Committee

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest