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Native Americans set a huge forest fire in about 1800.
In about the year 1800, oral tradition holds that Native Americans set a huge forest fire that consumed as much as 250,000 acres in the area between Mount Rainier, Mount Saint Helens, and present-day Centralia.
File 5497: Full Text >
California Gold Rush spurs economic development of the Northwest in 1849.
In 1849, the California Gold Rush results in a flood of immigrants to the West Coast whose demand for lumber triggers economic development in the Pacific Northwest. Lumber from the Columbia River and from Puget Sound is more plentiful and more easily transported by sea to San Francisco than from the Sierra Nevada. As California grows, so will the timber industry and the economy of the Northwest.
File 5257: Full Text >
John Dolbeer invents the donkey engine and revolutionizes logging in August 1881.
In 1881, John Dolbeer (1827-1902) of Crescent City, California, invents the donkey engine and revolutionizes logging. A single-cylinder steam engine is connected to a horizontal capstan and they are mounted together on several log skids. By wrapping cables around the capstan, the engine can pull huge loads that would otherwise require animal power. The skid road and the ox team are rendered obsolete and the era of ground-lead logging begins. The donkey engine will appear at the Blanchard Lumber Company's operation on Bellingham Bay in 1887.
File 5331: Full Text >
Congress establishes the first federal forest reserves on March 3, 1891.
On March 3, 1891, Congress establishes the first forest reserves, which will become a system of National Forests. The law preserves water resources until forested lands can be opened for settlement and exploitation, but is part of a growing conservation movement to preserve natural resources for future generations.
File 5322: Full Text >
Yacolt Burn, largest forest fire in recorded Washington history to that point, rages from September 11 to September 13, 1902.
From September 11 to 13, 1902, the Yacolt Burn, the largest forest fire in recorded Washington history to that point (and for more than a century thereafter), destroys 238,920 acres -- more than 370 square miles -- and kills 38 people in Clark, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties. The fire is fanned by unusual dry winds from the east and travels 36 miles in 36 hours. There is no organized effort to stop the conflagration which consumes $30 million in timber -- more than $600 million in 2001 dollars. As many as 80 other fires around the state that summer consume more than 400,000 acres of timber. The Yacolt Burn is finally extinguished by rain.
File 5196: Full Text >
Timber companies organize Washington Forest Fire Association on April 6, 1908.
On April 6, 1908, 22 timber companies organize the Washington Forest Fire Association, which fields the first organized fire patrol system in the state. Members assess themselves about one-half cent per acre to pay for a force of men to detect and battle fires on members' land. Over the next 50 years, the Association will collaborate with state, and later federal, fire suppression programs and will embark on a campaign to change the logging practices that cause most forest fires.
File 5286: Full Text >
Forest fires in Idaho and Montana burn three million acres of timber and kill 85 people on August 20 and 21, 1910.
On August 20 and 21, 1910, forest fires in northern Idaho and western Montana burn more than three million acres of timber and kill 85 people. In terms of acreage, it is the largest fire in recorded United States history. The tragedy will result in the U.S. Forest Service adopting a nationwide policy of aggressive forest fire suppression and prevention.
File 5488: Full Text >
The "Great Blowdown" strikes the Washington coast on January 29, 1921.
On January 29, 1921, a hurricane-force windstorm with gusts of more than 100 miles per hour strikes the Washington coast. Mill stacks are toppled along with power and telephone lines. Water surges over riverbanks and ships and barges break moorings. So much timber is destroyed -- billions of board feet -- that the storm is called "The Great Blowdown" (Van Syckle, 194). One man dies, in Aberdeen.
File 5249: Full Text >
Weyerhaeuser dedicates the nation's first tree farm near Montesano on June 21, 1941.
On June 21, 1941, the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company dedicates the nation's first tree farm near Montesano in Grays Harbor County. The 130,000-acre tract is named after local logger Charles H. Clemons and had already been harvested and burned over. By the end of the twentieth century, there will be more than 70,000 tree farms in the U.S. comprising more than 93 million acres of land.
File 5256: Full Text >
Forest Practice Act requires reforestation of logged lands on January 1, 1946.
On January 1, 1946, the Forest Practice Act requires Washington loggers to plant trees to replace the logs that they have harvested. The State Division of Forestry is empowered to enforce the provisions and a nine-member board will adopt rules to protect soils, water, fish, wildlife, and public capital improvements from the impacts of logging. Some timber interests oppose the statute and appeal its constitutionality to the United States Supreme Court. The Court upholds the law.
File 5287: Full Text >
Forest fire burns 33,000 acres and 32 buildings in Forks on September 20, 1951.
On September 20, 1951, a forest fire burns 33,000 acres and 32 buildings in Forks, on the Olympic Peninsula, as well as several lumber mills in the area. More than 1,000 residents evacuate as 500 firefighters manage to keep the flames from the rest of town.
File 5493: Full Text >
Washington legislature creates the Department of Natural Resources in 1957.
In 1957, the Washington legislature creates the Department of Natural Resources to consolidate the work of several agencies responsible for state and privately owned forests and forest practices.
File 5293: Full Text >
Columbus Day windstorm ravages Puget Sound region on October 12, 1962.
On October 12, 1962, Columbus Day, a windstorm ravages the Puget Sound region in what the National Weather service later designates as Washington's worst weather disaster of the twentieth century. More than 50 people are killed between Vancouver B.C. and San Francisco, nine in Washington.
File 5325: Full Text >
Five fires in the Wenatchee National Forest burn 122,000 acres beginning August 23, 1970.
On August 23, 1970, lightning ignites fires in the Wenatchee National Forest that consume 122,000 acres. The fires, called the Entiat Burn, will burn for 15 days before they are contained and rain begins to put them out.
File 5498: Full Text >
New forest practices rules take effect on July 1, 1976.
On July 1, 1976, new forest practices rules that regulate logging and its impacts on the environment take effect. This is the first major change in the regulation of logging in 30 years. The regulations have been developed by the 11-member Forest Practices Board pursuant to legislation passed in 1973 and implemented after public hearings. The rules will evolve with scientific research, public interest, and with other regulations such as the Endangered Species Act.
File 5303: Full Text >
U.S. Forest Service protects the northern spotted owl by limiting timber sales on August 7, 1986.
On August 7, 1986, the U.S. Forest Service acts to protect the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina
) from decline and extinction by limiting timber sales in mature portions of National Forests, which the animals need to live. The immediate impact is outcry from the forest products industry and from environmentalists. The industry complains that the measure goes too far and will cost thousands of jobs, and environmentalists claim that not enough is being done to protect the species. This is one in a long series of governmental actions and court decisions that will result in a reduction of more than 75 percent of the timber harvested annually from public lands.
File 5319: Full Text >
Timber Fish Wildlife Agreement offers new way to manage state forests on August 22, 1986.
On August 22, 1986, the Timber Fish Wildlife Agreement offers a new way to manage state forests by allowing all the stake holders -- tribes, loggers, environmentalists, government agencies -- to develop logging practices together. The agreement avoids the sometimes acrimonious process in which competing interests present sometimes conflicting evidence to the Forest Practices Board which then has to make a decision. Under the new process, the parties develop methods for harvesting timber that still protect the environment.
File 5299: Full Text >
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists northern spotted owl as threatened on June 23, 1990.
On June 23, 1990, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina
) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This results in old-growth timber being blocked from logging, regardless of its ownership. Prior issues involving the spotted owl centered on habitat in National Forests.
File 5320: Full Text >
U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer blocks timber sales to protect the northern spotted owl on May 23, 1991.
On May 23, 1991, U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer (1929-2002) blocks timber sales in National Forests to protect the northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalis caurina
). Dwyer rules in favor of the National Audubon Society and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund which challenged the U.S. Forest Service's 1986 Forest Management Plan as inadequate to protect the bird. Dwyer will order the Forest Service to halt more than 75 percent of its planned timber sales -- 2 billion board feet -- until the agency develops a final plan to protect the threatened species.
File 5321: Full Text >
Spokane wildland fires kill two and destroy 114 homes beginning October 16, 1991.
On Wednesday, October 16, 1991, wildland fires kill two people and destroy 114 homes. The fires will burn for six days before they are contained. The 92 fires will be called the Spokane Firestorm and the tragedy will result in the state legislature passing a law to speed the mobilization of firefighting resources and to reimburse agencies who become overextended in fire disasters. That same weekend, a grassfire in Oakland, California, spreads and eventually destroys 2,900 structures and kills 25 persons.
File 5490: Full Text >
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