Document 48: Preservationists Criticize Salvage Logging, 1956

"Joint Committee Report #1 on Salvage Logging in Olympic National Park," 1956, folder 2/51, Philip Zalesky Papers, accession 3773,
Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries.

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            Olympic National Park, located in the northwest corner of the State of Washington and covering an area of 898,292 acres, is primarily a wilderness park. It is surrounded, however, by communities almost entirely dependent upon a logging economy. This has resulted and will continue to result in strong local pressures to remove merchantable timber from within the park. This threat should require special effort on the part of the National Park Service to resist such pressure. We have found instead that the superintendent of Olympic National Park has yielded to this pressure in establishing a very extensive program of "salvage" logging which has increased greatly since its inception in 1951.

            In order to see first hand the areas which we had been told were being affected by the SLONP program, three members of the joint committee—Mrs. John A. Dyer, Philip Zalesky, and Patrick Goldsworthy—as well as several others, took [a] field trip September 15 and 16, 1956 [to the following areas]: . . .

            Olympic Hot Springs. . . .Approximately 4 or 5 acres . . . of the valley wall immediately adjacent to and south of the resort and parking area was completely logged off in 1955. The concessionaire had had cabins damaged a number of times already from fallen trees. The slope was clear cut to eliminate this hazard to the swimming pool and cabins as well as an area where there may be a future expansion of resort facilities. Only 25% of the trees which were cleared, however, could have damaged the present installations. The cleared area can't be used for expanding the resort because the ground has a 45° to 70° slope. This completely denuded slope has now started to be badly eroded and is a very ugly scar that is easily viewed by thousands of visitors due to its accessibility by car. In addition, all the Douglas Fir trees along the canyon bottom immediately north of the resort were removed. . . .

            Bogachiel River. . . . Along a road extending for approximately three-quarters of a mile inside the park boundary . . . we observed numerous trucks hauling peeler-blocks almost exclusively. [Peeler-blocks are logs used for peeling into thin layers for the manufacture of plywood; they are high-value logs.] This road ended where it went over the river bank and onto the gravel bar in the river bed. The trucks then traveled the remaining approximately three-quarters of a mile to the salvage logging site along gravel bars, crossing a temporary log bridge over the river, which is very low at this time of year. At intervals 6-foot to 10-foot diameter logs had been cut from drift trees [which had fallen into the river and] which had been lying on the gravel bars.

            Mr. Overly [the superintendent of Olympic National Park] has previously indicated that if these logs were not salvaged while they were within the park, they would drift outside the park and be picked up by someone else, and the money from their sale would not go to the National Park Service. Since we feel it is not the function of the National Park Service to enter into the timber business and the salvage of such drift trees outside the park still contributes to the economy of the community, there should be no river-bar salvage logging within the National Park. Consideration should also be given to the fact that if no trees were allowed reach the ocean, the unique quality of the log-strewn beaches of Oregon and Washington would become a thing of the past. . . .

            Hoh River. . . . We were unable to visit this area which is directly across from the Jackson Ranger Station. It has been reported to us by several independent sources that fallen logs were removed from the valley floor within one of the most exceptional stands of Douglas Fir within the park. We understand that there are numerous cat [caterpillar tractor] roads through the area whose forest floor was damaged due to this operation. Removal of these logs has resulted in depriving the area of many of the naturally rotting tree trunks on which the seedlings of the future rain forest must, in the normal course of events, get their start. . . .

            It should be noted that the onshore logging areas on the Bogachiel, Hoh and Quinault Rivers are in each case on the opposite side of the river from the trail and screened from public view. During the summer tourist season it is very difficult for the public to cross these rivers and impossible to look past the protective screen of trees. Where the public has seen some logging evidence they have usually believed this to be private land. It should be noted that the Douglas Fir peeler-blocks which are "worth their weight in gold" are invariably the trees which are removed.

            During the week end of September 29 and 30, 1956, Mrs. John A. Dyer, Patrick Goldsworthy, John Osseward, and Philip Zalesky conducted Lawrence Merriam, Regional Director, Fourth Region, National Park Service, San Francisco; and Floyd Dickinson, Forester, Olympic National Park, to the areas visited by our Joint Committee September 15 and 16. During this second field trip the following additional points were brought out about "salvage" logging areas. (All passages in quotes are the ideas and answers of National Park Service officials.) . . .

            Olympic Hot Springs. . . . No further observations were made at this point other than "the erosion occurring on the clear-cut valley had resulted in an argument between the logging company and the National Park Service," and the latter "not being satisfied with the condition in which the slope was left." . . .

            Bogachiel River. . . . The river had risen three to four feet since our last visit, automatically terminating the operations of the "salvage" logging which could have "continued according to contract until the end of September." When we suggested the log jam might be removed by dynamiting and letting the logs drift away naturally, we were told that "local people outside the park had exerted a lot of pressure to log the jam rather than let it go waste." "The eight or ten spruces which were cut along the river bank were removed because their roots were partially undermined and these trees would go anyway [they would eventually fall into the river], so they may as well be taken now." "These so-called snags, one 100 feet back from the south bank and the other two at the mouth of the Mosquito Creek by the trail, were removed for no other reason than they might as well be taken out while the logging operation was in there." These so-called snags were trees which were green [green trees are still living; salvage logging was only supposed to remove dead trees] and were just as much a part of the natural scene as the water in the river. . . .


            1. The joint committee is aware of the necessity to fell individual danger trees and clean up extensive blow downs along roads and areas of large visitor concentration . . . [because of the need for] fire hazard reduction. . . .

            2. The committee observed that great emphasis and priority was attached to the economic and utility values associated with the so-called salvage operations. This is more in keeping with the judgment exercised by the U.S. Forest Service than that in a national park. Many examples can be cited where river-bar logging and the logging of isolated downed trees were motivated solely by economic considerations. . . .

            3. Irreparable damage has already been done to forest floors by cats and other heavy equipment dragging heavy logs to roads and river banks.

            4. It was the unanimous opinion of the committee that the logging engineering back-ground of the Superintendent [of Olympic National Park] seemed to prevail in questions of discretion and judgment.

            5. The Superintendent in a discussion of the Act of 1916 [which established the National Park Service] said, "We recognize the desirability of maintaining wilderness conditions to a certain extent, but we must continually effect compromise between the ideal and the practical."
Our quarrel with this concept is "How practical should one become in a national park?" It is our considered judgment that the [superintendent's] discretionary power has been prejudiced and abused. We feel that the law clearly defines the purpose of national parks and by what means this purpose should be accomplished. We feel, too, that the discretionary right to out and sell timber from the national parks in general should be . . . exercised with understanding [and] restraint. If this is not done and salvage logging is pursued at the present rate, the accumulated effect over the years will result in wide-spread modification of the natural wilderness scene and processes. Olympic National Park is one of the few remaining unspoiled wilderness areas set aside by law from man's economic urges and man's insatiable aim to develop and change every part of his environment.

            6. We are sure, after having watched this salvage program for the past five years, that dangerous precedents have subordinated park concepts and purposes, which will inevitably lead to increasing local pressures and compromising policies.

            7. . . . [We] view with increasing alarm the continuance of the Park Service in the logging business.

            8. A real need is recognized for a better defined, and perhaps more restrictive, policy pertaining to the delegated power to out and sell park timber by the Park Service. The presently constituted system is too comprehensive in Olympic Park and does not provide for proper supervision of the contracting loggers. The present system confuses the public and lowers the park service morale.

            We pass these observations and comments on to others to consider. This is a preliminary report. There is a great deal more data to be evaluated, and our study will go on from this point. We feel that other groups should visit these [salvage] operations and see for themselves what is happening. . . .

            We appreciate our Park Service and sympathize with them in their seeking solutions to the many problems confronting them. [However,] we are firm in our belief that the problem under consideration must be faced and removed regardless of the ruffled feelings in the matter. . . .

Mrs. John A. Dyer

Patrick D. Goldsworthy

Mrs. Neil Haig

John Osseward

Philip Zalesky

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest