The Hood River Glacier, Hood River, OR., October 18, 1895, page 2
PROTECT OUR WATER SUPPLY
HOOD RIVER, Or., October 10, 1895 - Editor GLACIER: During
the last few months much has been said and commented upon by the press of
the Northwest in regard to the Cascade forest reserve. This reserve was set
aside as a national park by act of congress three years ago, for the protection
and preservation of the timber and water supplies. It embraces a vast area,
extending from the Columbia river nearly to the California line, varying
in width ten to sixty miles. Among the sheepmen of Eastern Oregon much
dissatisfaction has been expressed in consequence of the sheep being excluded
from its bounds, thus shutting out from summer pasturage thousands of the
head of sheep and cattle, and the claim is made by some that if they cannot
range in these mountains, they will have to retire from the business. The
laws enacted were very strict in regard to pasturing stock or cutting timber
within its limits, and for two seasons prior to this year the sheepmen obeyed
the law and no sheep were herded around Mount Hood. This season, however,
the report was circulated, and even published, that the clause excluding
sheep had been repealed and they were at liberty to drive where they would.
As a result, not less than 20,000 sheep were summered on the headwaters of
the streams which find their sources around Mount Hood.
What is going to be the result of this to the Hood River Valley if something is not done? The time is coming when every drop of water possible to obtain here will be brought into use, and before it is everlastingly to late is the time to make provision for the future supplies.
It is a well-known fact that to denude the foothills of their timber and undergrowth protected by that growth will certainly disappear as the result, and if the sheep are pastured at the water sources such a condition is sure to come about. Grass and herbage eaten down and trampled and cut by thousands of hoofs in a short time are totally destroyed. The undergrowth, stripped of its leaves and constantly browsed down, in time loses its vitality and dies. Pasturing, however, is not the only complaint in the sheep question. A herder finding a section of dense thickets and fallen timber through which he can not herd, wantonly fires it to destroy the obstruction, and that the young growth which will follow in the spring may afford excellent pasture of young sprouts. The fire thus started burns for weeks over perhaps thousands of acres, denuding the land of that which can never be replaced. They do not hesitate to herd their sheep up to the very door of the settler's home, destroy the pasture on which his few head of stock depend and pollute his water supply. Sheepmen alone are not responsible for this devastation, however. Campers ignorantly and carelessly leave their camp fires smoldering, which, fanned by the breezes, soon spread indefinitely; settlers recklessly set fires during the dry months, which soon get beyond their control, doing irreparable damage.
This work of destruction has been going on for years, until now, standing on the highest peaks, one can see thousands of acres of seared and whitened trunks to tell the sad tale of ignorant, wanton.
The benefits of the forests to this valley cannot be overestimated. The governments of foreign countries long since realized the necessity of the forest protection, and stringent laws were enacted and enforced, and it is time for us to waken up to the same fact. The setting apart of the Cascade forest reserve was a worthy step in the right direction, but laws, however strict, are useless without some action being taken to enforce them. It is the duty of the proper officials to act upon this question, definitely define its boundaries and appoint a commissioner and wardens to guard the reserve against the deprivations of those who would infringe upon the law.
One sheepman is reported as having said it would require all the soldiers in the United States to keep the sheep out of this reserve; but let twenty-five wardens be put on duty there, with full authority to act, and no soldiers will be required.
The idle rot contained in a late issue of an Eastern Oregon journal, headed "Dudeism vs. Stock Interests," is not worthy of second thought. To say that this reserve was "set apart as a hunting reserve for a lot of Portland dudes" is nonsensical and unjust in the extreme. Portland has her water supply to protect, both against the devastation of the Bull Run region by fire and the pollution of her water by sheep, and it is to her interest to see that such protection is granted, as well as to every other community which its water supply from within these boundaries, and if the sheepmen wish to make a political question of this, as they say, they will find that the so-called "Portland dudes" are not the only ones interested.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer