Willamette National Forest

Willamette National Forest is a national forest that is located in the state of Oregon in the United States. It can be found in the central section of the Cascade Range and holds 1,678,031 acres, of which over 380,000 acres comprise eight designated wilderness areas. This forest first began its life as the Cascade Forest Reserve, which was established by President Grover Cleveland as a reaction to public protests to protect the Cascade Mountains in 1893. At this time, the reserve extended from near the border of California to the Columbia River.

Before the Sundry Civil Appropriations Act was passed in 1897, the reserve was managed as a preserve, but once the law was established funds were provided to help manage the area and meet certain goals. These included protecting the forests from fires and other threats and developing mineral resources. Also known as the Organic Act, the bill focused on creating forest boundaries and management teams. The land from this reserve was divided into four national forests in 1908, including Cascade National Forest. Later, lands from Oregon National Forest and Cascade National Forest were merged to establish Santiam National Forest, which was combined with Cascade National Forest in 1933 to create Willamette National Forest.

The federal government used Willamette National Forest to bolster the economy and employment during both the Great Depression and World War II by using sustained yield forestry and the Civilian Conservation Corps. Between 1945 and 1970 the forest experienced an upsurge in forestry and forest conservation, with increases in recreation, campsite construction, and dam construction and decreases in grazing and mining claims. Environmentalism became popular during this time, although timber was still a major economic resource for the area.

Willamette National Forest holds a variety of elevations between 1,500 feet above sea level and 10,500 feet above sea level. It holds a number of large peaks including the second largest peak within Oregon, known as Mount Jefferson and Diamond Peak. The area receives between 80 and 150 inches of rain each year and snowfall occurs between October and April, both of which provide the forest’s rivers, lakes, and streams with ample moisture. A large portion of the forest is comprised of Douglas-fir trees and about 594,800 acres hold Old Growth forests. Other tree species within this forest include conifer species like Western redcedar, western white pine, Ponderosa pine, and mountain hemlock. The forest is home to over 300 species of animal including the Northern bald eagle, the northern spotted owl, the wolverine, and Chinook salmon, as well as many other threatened species.

Image Caption: Breitenbush River in western Oregon, north of Detroit along Oregon State Highway 224 (taken Nov. 13, 2004). Credit: Matthew Trump/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)