Grand Teton
Historic Resource Study
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. . . we believe the entire Jacksons Hole should be set aside as a recreation area . . . .

—1925 Petition, signed by 97 Jackson Hole landowners.

The two reasons which have moved me to consider this project are: 1st, The marvelous scenic beauty of the Teton Mountains and the Lakes at their feet, which are seen at their best from the Jackson Hole Valley; and 2nd, The fact that this valley is the natural and necessary feeding place for the game which inhabits Yellowstone Park and the surrounding region.

—John D. Rockefeller Jr., A Contribution to the Heritage of Every American: The Conservation Activities of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1957

Establishment of the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole became necessary as homesteaders took up the prime land in the valley. which had previously been winter range for elk. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

When John Holland and John Carnes settled in Jackson Hole in 1884, they followed a tradition ingrained in the American character by 300 years of history. The worth of natural resources correlated directly to their utility to people. Americans exploited resources wantonly with little regard for future needs or their intrinsic value. Ironically. abundant natural resources reinforced these values and patterns of use. Americans deceived themselves into believing these resources inexhaustible. The continent's natural wealth underpinned America's astounding industrialization and growth in the late nineteenth century, generating the "myth of super abundance," a widely shared view in the Gilded Age. [1]

Disturbing examples countered this fallacy. Commercial loggers had deforested many areas in the upper Midwest, leaving bared lands and damaged watersheds. The decimation of the North American bison, more commonly known as the buffalo, provided another startling example. Once numbering more than 60,000,000 fewer than 1,000 bison were known to exist in the United States and Canada following the great slaughters of the 1870s and 1880s. No sooner had the bison been almost exterminated than ranchers introduced cattle on the vacated lands, turning their livestock loose to graze on the open range. This resulted in serious depletion of the grasslands. [2]

Perceptive individuals were appalled by these events and pushed for reform. The conservation movement was born in the late nineteenth century, galvanized by the wasteful use of resources. This movement coincided with the rising importance of science and technology in American society and was, in fact, "a scientific movement," led by people educated in hydrology, forestry, and geology. Conservation's "essence was rational planning to promote efficient development and use of all natural resources." Rather than prevent the development and use of natural resources, conservationists believed that scientific practices applied to resource exploitation would open new opportunities. The utilitarian conservationists' viewpoint influenced federal policy in the late nineteenth century and achieved dominance during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt. [3]

Utilitarian conservation emerged from the movement to develop water reserves in the West by building dams and irrigation systems. This culminated in the Carey Act of 1894, a failed attempt to promote water development through private and public partnership. The Reclamation Act of 1902 created a federal bureau and provided authority for federal financing of water projects. Concerned over the depletion of forest watersheds and forests through intensive lumbering, Congress passed an amendment known as the Forest Reserve Act in 1891, which gave the president the authority to withdraw forest lands from the public domain. These laws shaped the history of the West in a profound way. The Reclamation Service launched four projects in 1903; by 1910, 24 projects were in progress. Through the Forest Reserve Act alone, 13,000,000 acres of land were set aside by President Benjamin Harrison. [4]

Another faction of the conservation movement favored withholding lands from commercial use, or at least limiting such use; this group became known as preservationists. Their spokesman in the late nineteenth century was John Muir who, through books and articles, publicized the need and validity of setting aside preserves for recreational and aesthetic purposes. After 1900, preservationists and utilitarians clashed dramatically over the proposal to build a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. The dam's purpose was to store water for domestic use in San Francisco. The fight elevated conservation issues to a national level, and although the dam was built, Americans for the first time entertained serious doubts about the benefits of development as opposed to preservation of wildlands. [5]

The emergence of the conservation movement coincided with frontier settlement in the 1890s. In general, western citizens opposed conservation practices, because they usually involved prohibiting or restricting activities on public lands. Americans had been used to a federal policy devoted to handing over the public domain to the private sector; westerners viewed with suspicion and hostility policies reserving lands. Yet conservation has a long history in the Jackson Hole region, preceding settlement by 12 years. In 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park, a 2,000,000-acre preserve "reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale . . . and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people . . ." This law represented a radical departure from previous land laws passed by Congress. [6]

The first homesteaders had been in Jackson Hole a mere seven years when Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act of 1891. Even though the law failed to define the function of the new reserves and provide for their protection, it did withdraw selected lands from settlement or other transfer to private ownership. Consequently. some scholars consider the 1891 law among the most significant pieces of conservation legislation in American history. President Harrison, exercising his new authority, issued a proclamation that established the Yellowstone Timber Reserve. Comprised of more than 1,000,000 acres of forest land situated around Yellowstone National Park, the southern part of the reserve included a portion of Jackson Hole. [7]

Congress passed the Forest Management Act of 1897 to administer the forest reserves. The law empowered the Secretary of the Interior "to regulate the occupancy and use" of the forests. General Land Office employees administered the reserves initially. They were experts in public land law, not forest or range management. Nevertheless, the division launched management activities later followed by the Forest Service such as fire suppression and prevention, timber sales, grazing permits, tree planting, and even timber management plans. [8]

Meanwhile, President Grover Cleveland created 13 new forests, among them the Teton Forest Reserve in 1897. The new 829,410-acre forest included the northern section of Jackson Hole. In 1898 or 1899, Charles "Pap" Deloney, the valley's pioneer merchant, was appointed the first supervisor of the forest. Forest Superintendent A. D. Chamberlin gave Deloney classic instructions: "As I have no rangers in that portion of the reserve there is nothing for you to do as far as I am concerned but go up there and take it." The reserve received an appropriation in 1898 and Deloney set to work. In 1900 the Forty-Mile Fire burned in the Hoback area through the summer. For the first time, the Forestry Division hired crews to suppress a wildfire in the Jackson Hole area. A heavy snowfall finally extinguished the fire in the fall, although a telegram to Washington reported "through our heroic efforts the fire has been put out." Deloney resigned in 1902, turning the duties over to W. Armor Thompson, a local settler. [9]

Events demonstrated that forest personnel needed to become more professional and active in the field. Artist and Cody rancher A. A. Anderson grew increasingly alarmed over the squandering of resources such as overgrazing, poaching, and forest fires, some allegedly started by sheep grazers. Anderson traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby for an expanded Yellowstone reserve, along with sufficient funding to manage it. President Roosevelt agreed and issued an order creating the Yellowstone Forest Reserve in 1902. Anderson was appointed special forest superintendent of the gigantic reserve, which encompassed 8,329,000 acres. He divided it into four divisions, the Shoshone, Absaroka, Wind River, and Teton. Robert E. Miller was appointed supervisor of the Teton Division. In 1905, Congress transferred all forest reserves from the Interior Department to the Department of Agriculture and changed the name of the Bureau of Forestry to the Forest Service. Three years later in 1908, President Roosevelt issued another executive order carving seven national forests out of the Yellowstone reserve. This order established the forests in the region as they generally exist today. Comprising nearly 2,000,000 acres, the new Teton National Forest included most of the mountains and forests around Jackson Hole. [10]

Anderson created an organization to manage the Yellowstone reserve. Division heads such as Miller reported directly to Anderson and, in turn, rangers reported to the division supervisors. Recruiting a staff posed a significant problem. The first rangers were hired primarily for their skills as wranglers, packers, and outdoorsmen rather than professional skills in range management or forestry. Desired technical skills included land surveying and timber measurement. In a real sense, forest rangers or "government men" represented a new breed of frontiersman—the resource manager. These individuals brought the theories of conservation into practice in the field. Forest Service employee C. N. Woods recalled administering a Civil Service exam in 1908, probably in Jackson Hole:

There were no definite educational requirements. Some passed the examination who had never completed the eighth grade in school. If one could read and write and knew a little arithmetic, and if he could ride and pack a horse, run a compass line, and do the simplest surveying, he stood a good chance of passing the examination. Practical experience was the principal requirement. A knowledge of woods work and of the handling of livestock on the ranges, helped.

Professional foresters were scarce in the early years. For example, in 1905, American universities had produced only 115 foresters, most of whom joined the Forest Service. [11]

Special Forest Supervisor Anderson launched several major projects. First, he initiated a boundary survey. Ten men, using 35 saddle and pack animals, performed the survey in three months, no mean feat considering the rugged terrain and size of the 13,000-square mile reserve. Second, he continued to direct the establishment of a permit system for grazing and timbering. W. C. Deloney had issued the first grazing permits in 1901, arousing the ire of local settlers accustomed to free run of the range. It is unclear if there was a fee. By 1906, when complete records were kept for the first time, the Forest Service charged ten cents per head for cattle up to 100 head and 20 cents per head for numbers in excess of 100. Horses cost 20 cents. The first recorded timber permits were issued in 1904. Ben Sheffield purchased 1,920 poles, 30 cords of wood, and 32,400 board measures of saw timber at a cost of $49.50 on June 7. A week later, Ed Blair purchased 100,000 board measure of timber for his mill near Wilson. In addition, the Forest Service sold native hay to Louis Joy and Ben Sheffield. [12]

The new permit systems met resistance, especially from ranchers. When the Forest Service mailed out instructions for permits in 1901, they "aroused quite a protest from settlers." After a season, however, Jackson Hole ranchers accepted the system and even seemed to support it, for they circulated a petition in the fall of 1901 urging an expansion of the existing reserve. [13]

Peterson in doorway of cabin
Game warden Charlie Peterson in the doorway of a "tusker's" cabin, ca. 1920. Poaching patrol was a daily routine for rangers in the early twentieth century. Elks Club members used elk teeth for ceremonial jewelry, which made poaching a profitable enterprise. Jackson Hole Historical Society and Museum

Cattlemen supported the new grazing restrictions because, in their view, the system would keep sheep out of the reserve. Local ranchers resented the intrusion of "tramp sheep" in their area, because they believed sheep destroyed the range, and sheep ranchers often ranged their sheep far from their home ranch. When Anderson received reports of 60,000 sheep from Utah trespassing on the reserve, he assembled 65 rangers on Horse Creek near Jackson Lake, all "armed and well mounted," to drive them off the forest. Because 40 armed sheep herders guarded the herds, violence was a real possibility. Anderson's company confronted them and served sheep owners with injunctions prohibiting them from trailing or grazing sheep on forest lands. This confrontation ended peacefully, while Anderson succeeded in enforcing the authority of the Forest Service. Violence erupted in the Green River Valley when cattle ranchers slaughtered 800 sheep and burned a herder's camp. Smaller ranchers opposed grazing permits originally because they feared that large cattlemen would squeeze them out. Their fears failed to materialize, for of 56 permits issued in 1906, only four exceeded 300 head, while the overwhelming majority of permittees owned fewer than 100 head of cattle. [14]

The new bureau joined forces with state game wardens and local lawmen to drive tuskers and poachers out of Jackson Hole. Elk and beaver were particular targets of poachers. Tuskers killed elk for their eyeteeth, which were used for jewelry. In particular, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks mounted eyeteeth on watch fobs as an unofficial badge. Appalled at the slaughter, the Elks Club became a potent force in protecting the animal, and stopped using elk teeth as a badge. Prices ranged from $10 to $25 per pair, but contemporary accounts record prices as high as $100. These prices tempted a number of people to become tuskers. "Poacher" patrol became a routine duty of the forest ranger. It proved hazardous duty. Once, an unknown sniper took a shot at ranger Al Austin. On another occasion, south of Yellowstone National Park, Anderson blundered into three tuskers he had previously ordered out of the reserve. Putting on a "bold front," he gave them a week to pack their camp and move out. He expected to be shot as he left, but nothing happened. "I was playing in luck," he recalled. In September 1907, Rudolph Rosencrans spent 12 days traveling and serving as a witness against tuskers Binkley and Purdy at their trial at Fort Yellowstone. [15]

park dedication
It was a long and often bitter struggle to create the Grand Teton National Park we know today. Shown here is the 1929 dedication of the original Grand Teton National Park. Horace Albright, director of the National Park Service, is speaking to the crowd. Grand Teton National Park

The Forest Service made improvements that benefited the residents of Jackson Hole and defused resentment. For example, by 1909 the Forest Service had built telephone lines that connected isolated areas of the valley with Jackson and Victor, Idaho. Rangers also improved transportation links in the valley, cutting trails in the forest and building bridges. In 1904, C. N. Woods, John Alsop, and Rudolph Rosencrans built a bridge on the Buffalo Fork near its confluence with the Snake. In 1908, Rosencrans repaired the same bridge during the winter. [16]

Settlers in Jackson Hole also accepted the Forest Service because local residents filled the ranks of the organization. Bobby Miller, first the division supervisor, and then supervisor of the Teton National Forest from 1908 to 1918, was among the first homesteaders in the valley and a lifelong resident. In a real sense, the Forest Service, though a federal bureaucracy, was part of the community. Even "government men" from outside the country assimilated quickly.

Supervisor Miller directed local policy and operations during the important formative years. A. C. McCain took over as supervisor in 1918 and served until 1936. McCain directed the Teton National Forest through a tumultuous period that included the controversy over the creation of a Grand Teton National Park, the Great Depression, and the implementation of New Deal programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933.

To administer the reserve, employees constructed ranger stations, patrol cabins, and fire lookouts. The first cabin was built in the fall of 1899 on the shores of Jenny Lake. The cabin existed as late as 1922, but was removed sometime after that date. By 1908, forest ranger Al Austin had built the Stewart Ranger Station at Beaver Creek. After the creation of Grand Teton National Park in 1929, the building was used alternately as the park headquarters and a residence. The Park Service built major additions in 1938. The building is used as office space today and is the oldest known Forest Service building in the park. The Arizona Guard Station was another early Forest Service building located on Arizona Creek near Jackson Lake. Built in 1919 according to park records, the rustic cabin was relocated to the Lizard Creek Campground in the 1960s where it is used as a camp-tender's station today. [17]

Fire suppression was a significant job of the Forest Service. To help fulfill this responsibility, the Forest Service built fire lookouts on high locations and staffed them during the fire season (usually June through September). In the 1930s, the Forest Service built fire lookouts at six locations, among them Blacktail Butte and Signal Mountain. In 1940, they built a 79-foot steel lookout tower on the knoll west of Spaulding Bay, along with a small quarters at its base. The Blacktail Butte Lookout was a simple frame building with windows on three sides. The Signal Mountain Lookout was an attractive building made with stone walls and sliding easement sash on all four sides. Both lookouts had a pyramid-shaped roof covered with wood shingles. All three had been removed by the mid-1960s. [18] Two complexes associated with early Forest Service administration remain extant in the Teton National Forest; one is the Rosencrans' Blackrock Ranger Station, and the other is the Huckleberry Mountain Lookout tower. Both are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. [19]

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2004