An Administrative History of Mount Rainier National Park
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Natural resource issues received short shrift during the contentious years of Mount Rainier National Park administration following World War II. With so much energy devoted to winter use, concessions, planning, and construction under Mission 66, park administrators had relatively little time left for natural resource protection. NPS scientists and natural resource specialists in the regional and Washington, D.C. offices were similarly stretched. Indeed, senior NPS scientists were placed under the Division of Interpretation and given relatively trivial assignments. The downplaying of natural resource protection in Mount Rainier National Park followed a trend throughout the national park system during the period 1945-1960, as resource management problems were accorded low priority until they became too large or politically sensitive to be left alone. [1]


The number one concern of forestry in Mount Rainier National Park continued to be forest fire control. It was a primary function of the Protection Division and unlike all other natural resource concerns, it received high priority from the park administration overall. The number two concern of forestry, control of tree diseases, was more problematic and involved consultation with experts from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Entomology. A third and relatively minor forestry concern of the park staff, but one that was potentially controversial, was salvage logging.

Forest Fire Control

The Park Service continued to follow an aggressive policy of fire suppression throughout the Mission 66 era. Under this policy, all unplanned fires in natural areas in Mount Rainier National Park were suppressed. Fire suppression took precedence over all other park activities except for the protection of human life. The objectives of forest fire control were to detect and suppress forest fires as quickly as possible and to confine them to as small an area as possible. [2] As a result, the park did not experience any catastrophic fires throughout this period; the largest fire in the park's history remained the Sunset Park fire of 1930. [3]

The chief park ranger headed the Protection Division and thus the fire control program. At the next level in the organization, the district rangers were responsible for fire suppression in their districts. During the fire season from June through September, each district ranger had the assistance of a number of seasonal rangers who could be assigned to fire patrol during times of high to extreme fire danger, and one or two fire control aids who were permanently assigned to lookout stations. It was the district ranger's responsibility to ensure that the seasonal rangers and fire control aids received adequate training and that the handful of fire tool caches in his district were ready for use. Training of seasonal employees normally consisted of a three-day "Orientation and Indoctrination School" held in June and an additional half-day of training devoted specifically to fire fighting. District rangers and selected seasonal rangers received special training in equipment operation. First aid training was offered to those interested. [4]

Mount Rainier National Park was divided into six ranger districts in the 1940s as it had been since the 1920s: White River, Ohanapecosh, Paradise, Nisqually, Carbon River, and Longmire. In 1950, the number of districts was reduced to five with Longmire and Paradise being combined. By 1969, the number was reduced to three, with Nisqually, Carbon River, and Longmire being combined to form the Western District. Lookout stations remained key to the system of forest fire detection through the end of the Mission 66 era. All were equipped with Osborne fire finders. Five lookouts were in use throughout the 1950s and 1960s at Gobblers Knob, Sunset Park, Tolmie Peak, Mount Fremont, and Shiner Peak. [5]

The park's communication system always had an important influence on the park's forest fire control program. After World War II, Superintendent Preston advocated further improvement of radio communications, including the replacement of various telephone connections by radio. When the severe winter of 1948-49 caused extensive damage to the park's telephone lines, it was found that the cost of fully equipping the park with radio would be less expensive than rehabilitating the radio-telephone system, to say nothing of the reduced maintenance costs and improved service that radio would bring. Consequently, the radio telephone network was maintained only in conjunction with local and long distance telephone systems outside the park, and many telephone lines in the park were removed. Use of radio in turn increased the efficiency of the forest fire control program. [6]

The park administration strengthened its program of forest fire suppression by educating the public, too. Bulletin boards at campgrounds and visitor centers displayed educational posters on fire prevention. Trailhead notices announced, "No Smoking While Traveling." Rangers manning the entrance stations informed visitors when there was high fire danger. Backcountry users who wished to build campfires in the backcountry had to obtain fire permits. [7]

In 1949, the NPS entered into a new cooperative fire control agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington State. The cooperative agreement essentially pooled the available manpower of the two agencies, with the stipulation that the costs of suppressing a given fire were born by the agency on whose land the fire had occurred. In the event of a single fire burning on both sides of a boundary, each agency was responsible for suppressing the fire in its own area, and costs of suppression were prorated against each agency according to the amount of acreage burned on each side. [8] The NPS also made a local cooperative agreement with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources covering fire suppression activities in a "common protective zone" that ran along the north and west boundaries of Mount Rainier National Park. [9]

Tree Disease

The NPS continued to take a close interest in forest infestations after World War II, particularly the white pine blister rust disease. It will be recalled that white pine blister rust control was one of the labor-intensive activities undertaken by the CCC during the 1930s, and consisted of systematically eradicating ribes bushes (the alternate host plant in the life cycle of the disease-causing organism) from around each stand of white pine. Fortunately, this task was already well-advanced when the CCC was terminated in 1942, so that the park administration was able to bring the job to completion with smaller crews after the war. In 1948, the whole park was placed on a maintenance basis—that is, areas were reworked from time to time but no new areas were added to the program. In 1956, experts judged that the blister rust had been successfully controlled and no more trees had been infected since 1948; therefore, even the maintenance program could be discontinued.

The program owed its success to a combination of factors. First, it was limited in extent to a few conspicuous stands of white pine along the White and Cowlitz rivers and in the Longmire area. Second, the Park Service was aided initially by the use of CCC labor, and subsequently by the use of a labor-saving herbicide, 2-4-5-T. Although the NPS was generally reluctant to approve the use of poisons, it followed the Forest Service's lead in adopting this one. The herbicide could be sprayed from a cannister worn on the back, and it proved quite effective against ribes. Park officials even used this chemical with effect on an exotic thistle which they found in the southwest corner of the park. [10] Third, the ultimate aim of blister rust control in the national park was not to sustain a crop of white pine (as it was in the national forests), but to accomplish a sort of holding action while the process of ecological succession followed its natural course. The white pine in the park mostly occurred in nearly pure stands in the wake of fire. These stands were in the process of replacement by shade-tolerant fir and hemlock. Eventually the forest composition would change regardless of the blister rust disease. As one expert explained, "The problem is to maintain the pine cover until the time when its death will not seriously affect scenic values." The objective of a sound program of disease control was "to prevent this change from occurring all at once and at an inopportune time." [11]

In the 1950s, the picture was complicated somewhat as the white pine came under assault from another forest pest, the mountain pine beetle. The NPS had been controlling the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus monticolae, in Mount Rainier National Park since 1930 by cutting, peeling, and burning infested trees. But in the 1950s this work was abandoned. Unlike blister rust, the mountain pine beetle infestation was indigenous to the region and usually struck white pine when it reached an age of about one hundred years. While blister rust control could be justified in the national park setting on the grounds that it was an exotic tree disease, at some point disease control crossed the line from preserving to disturbing natural conditions. The decisive factor in discontinuing the program of blister rust control in 1956, therefore, was the recognition that saving the white pine would require a heavy investment in beetle control as well as blister rust control, and that the work would perhaps cross that fuzzy line between what was natural and what was unnatural. [12]

Salvage Logging

Superintendent Macy oversaw a number of contracts for salvage logging in Mount Rainier National Park during the 1950s. These involved trees which were either wind thrown, diseased, hazardous, or in the way of new construction. Some trees were scaled and sold by the board foot; others were utilized in the park by the NPS or the concessioners. The quantity was not large, but the practice of selling national park timber was potentially controversial. At the same time that Macy was approving these operations, the National Parks Association (NPA), the Wilderness Society, and other conservation organizations were criticizing Macy's friend and colleague, Superintendent Fred Overly, for similar practices in Olympic National Park.

Conservationists objected to salvage logging on two grounds: (1) allowance of even small timber sales gave all park timber a market value and could lead to abuse; "The resources of the national parks should not be regarded as sources of potential revenues," according to a statement by the NPA; and (2) removal of dead or damaged trees constituted an intrusion upon the natural scene; "Every alteration of the natural landscape, however slight, by such activities as logging.., is a direct violation of a fundamental principle of national park management," in the NPA's words. [13] The debate was given full exposition, including a thoughtful response by Overly, in successive issues of National Parks Magazine during 1957.

Macy's small timber sales in Mount Rainier did not attract attention like Overly's did, but the same objections might have been raised with regard to them. On the grounds that park timber should not be given a market value, it might have been observed that one C.A. Miller of Tacoma conducted logging operations in the park in three successive years under two separate contracts—the first for clearing merchantable timber along a new section of powerline between Nisqually Entrance and Longmire, the second for removing hazardous trees along the Westside Road. Altogether, Miller removed more than 300,000 board feet of green Douglas fir, hemlock, and red cedar from the park between 1956 and 1958. Other merchantable timber was logged by construction companies under contract to clear the new road to Paradise, the Box Canyon picnic area, and the Ohanapecosh residential area. These operations, too, amounted to more than 300,000 board feet altogether. The timber salvage constituted several thousand dollars of revenue—either paid directly into the U.S. Treasury or deducted from the amount that the government owed to the construction contractor. [14]

Meanwhile, on the grounds that even salvage logging could potentially affect natural values adversely, conservationists might have objected that some of Macy's timber sales involved wind throws, trees toppled by avalanche, and in one instance, "351 snags and culls." It would be hard to defend the removal of such trees against the NPA's charge that fallen trees were a natural part of the forest, except to point out that the forest edge along a roadway was unnaturally vulnerable to windstorms, and further, that an unnatural number of decaying wind throws would weaken the forest edge even more. But this would still not explain the "351 snags and culls," which suggests a kind of salvage logging that was oddly reminiscent of the logging done in the park around 1910. [15]

Not all of the salvaged timber went to market. Park operations consumed a substantial portion of what was logged in the park. In one year, park trail crews utilized 86,143 board feet of fir, Alaska cedar, and western red cedar in repairs of bridges and shelter cabins and construction of railings at Box Canyon. All of this wood came from wind throws. The Park Service, the RNPC, and the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Company consumed as much as 68 cords of wood each year for heating fuel. [16] Campgrounds consumed even more. Although campers stopped short of cutting down trees, their gathering of downed branches and logs for firewood threatened to strip the forest floor around the campgrounds.

The Park Service did not have funds with which to provide free campfire wood in the campgrounds. In 1955, the park administration installed a number of Presto-Log vending machines in the campgrounds and at the lodge and service station in Longmire in an effort to reduce down wood consumption. District Ranger Robert W. Rogers provided some interesting comments on the public's initial response to this novel measure:

The picnickers and campers soon got into the swing of things and those who preferred not to use Presto-Logs, or couldn't afford to, began bringing in brush from around the campground. Then they started using their cars, driving up and down the road returning with their trunks full of wood. This could be seen practically any weekend during the latter part of the summer. The people seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of rustling their own wood. Even when the immediate campground is cleaned there will be no shortage of "free" wood in the Ohanapecosh area as long as they use their cars as they did this year. All this isn't helping the sale of Presto-Logs though. [17]

The experiment with Presto Logs failed. For many years no solution was offered other than to close campground loops on a rotating basis before the forest floor in each loop was picked completely clean. Beginning in 1976, the Park Service issued a permit to a private vender who brought campfire wood into the park for sale. [18]


At the beginning of the postwar era the goal of Park Service fishery policy remained about the same as it had always been: to provide sport fishing opportunities to the public. The protective or non-consumptive philosophy on which NPS wildlife policy was built did not extend to fish. The only difference between sport fisheries in national parks and sport fisheries on other public lands was the emphasis on "quality fishing rather than quantity." [19] As Superintendent Preston expressed it,

There is no greater sport than taking half a dozen pan-sized trout in an afternoon from a fast-running mountain stream. I might add that the pleasure is enhanced if that stream happens to run through a virgin forest, in contrast to a stream meandering through a section of cut-over land. In a national park, besides the pleasure of fishing, one gets the thrill of a day outdoors in conditions not altered by man. [20]

Mount Rainier National Park's fishing regulations were drawn for the amateur rather than the serious sport fisherman; they emphasized access over conservation. The park did not require a fishing license, nor did it impose strict limits on a day's catch. The only concession to serious sports fishermen was the closure of the Ohanapecosh River, after 1945, to everything but fly fishing. More in keeping with the spirit of national park fishery policy was Preston's suggestion to close one of the other creeks in the park to all fishing except by boys and girls twelve years old and under. [21]

Park Service officials had long recognized that NPS fishery policy was at variance with wildlife policy, which prohibited all taking of wildlife in national parks. The Park Service's first formal policy statement on fisheries, issued in 1936, aimed to limit the effects of sport fishing and stocking programs on natural fish populations. The new policy prohibited stocking of lakes and streams by other federal and state agencies without NPS authorization. It also protected waters that did not already contain non-native fish. By that time, however, so many park waters were already stocked with non-native and hatchery fish that the policy actually allowed for a generous amount of stocking to continue. [22]

The next important development in NPS fishery policy came in 1953, with Director Wirth's announcement that stocking of exotic fish would be discontinued wherever there was potential for restoring native fish populations. This policy, too, included a large caveat. "In waters where exotic species of fish are established and valuable for angling, planting of the exotic species may be continued temporarily with the approval of the Director, National Park Service... .When exotic species have become so firmly established that their replacement is impractical the fishery will be managed in a way similar to that for the native species of other areas." [23] The policy allowed for local deviation depending on social and natural conditions. At the urging of Superintendent Macy, Wirth soon made an exception for Mount Rainier National Park.

The park staff at Mount Rainier wholeheartedly supported the continued stocking of mountain lakes and streams where exotic species of fish were already established. Twenty-five of Mount Rainier National Park's fifty-one named lakes, originally barren of fish as far as anyone knew, had already been stocked. Macy argued that fishing pressure would soon result in the extirpation of fish populations from all park waters, including the native cutthroat trout from the park's streams, if stocking were discontinued. His main point, however, was that to implement the new policy would be impolitic. Local sport fishermen would protest the decision at a time when the Park Service was already dealing with controversies involving the boundaries of Olympic National Park and winter use at Mount Rainier. "Why give park opponents another string to their bow, additional ammunition for their sniping at park policies?" Macy wrote. Due to the tradition of sport fishing at Mount Rainier and the extent to which the fishery was already altered, stocking of park waters was permitted to continue through 1972.

The stocking program was accomplished on a very low budget with assistance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). It is not well-documented. Describing the program's accomplishments in 1951, apparently a representative year, Macy stated that the FWS and NPS personnel cooperated in stocking twenty lakes and thirteen streams with rainbow and cutthroat trout. The following year, 161,916 Montana black-spotted cutthroat trout fry were planted in park waters. The eggs were taken at Yellowstone Lake and hatched in the Washington State Game Commission's hatchery near Puyallup. Another source for fingerlings was the federal fish hatchery at Quilcene, Washington. [24]

The usual method was to plant the fish fry in one spot in lakes and at multiple points along streams. Prior to the Mission 66 era, most fish fry were transported to park waters by truck but nearly as much stocking was accomplished by pack horse and backpacking methods. During the Mission 66 era, many of the park's backcountry lakes were stocked from the air. From 1954 through 1959, the park administration arranged through the FWS for assistance from the Washington Department of Game in making aerial fish plants. Beginning in 1960, the NPS took over this program itself, contracting with a private individual to fly the aircraft. (The technique was to prepackage the fingerlings in five-gallon plastic bags, from which they could be poured, one bag full at a time, down a plywood chute mounted over a camera port in the bottom of the plane.) Rainbow and cutthroat fingerlings were planted from the air in Mystic, Chenuis, Green, Green Park, Bench, Marsh, Snow, and Three Lakes in 1960, and in Adelaide, Eleanor, George, Hidden, James, Marjorie, Oliver, and Palisades Lakes in 1961. A five-year stocking program for 1957-1961 was followed by a new five-year fishery management or stocking program for 1962-1966. [25] Finally, a ten-year stocking program for 1966 to 1975 was developed by the wildlife biologist at Mount Rainier and approved by the director, but the program was abandoned after 1971. [26]

Fishery research lagged behind the stocking program. Indeed, the first field survey of the park fishery, conducted by Assistant Park Naturalist Merlin K. Potts in the summer of 1947, was tied to the stocking program rather than the need to understand natural conditions. Potts's objective was to assess environmental conditions in the lakes and streams that were already stocked with trout, to determine how the conditions affected fish life in those waters, and to devise an effective restocking program. The goal of fish management was to "maintain a sufficient fish population to permit reasonably good recreational fishing." [27]

NPS Biologist Lowell Sumner surveyed the fish and wildlife resources of Mount Rainier National Park in the summer of 1949. Even though most of Sumner's report was concerned with preservation of habitat, his discussion of fish related almost entirely to the quality of fishing. In fact, Sumner's instructions were to limit his aquatic survey to fishing waters. Sumner's study of the fishery was preliminary and he concluded by recommending that the NPS either secure research assistance from the FWS or hire an aquatic biologist of its own. "We still don't know enough about the park waters to place fish stocking on a sound practical basis," he wrote. "Until we get this knowledge, the entire program will continue to operate by guess and by gosh." [28]

Lake George, Mount Rainier National Park's second largest lake, was a case in point. For several years anglers had found the fishing at Lake George to be very poor; the lake had been overrun by bullheads (catfish), which presumably had been brought in as live bait by some fisherman and then released. Park staff recommended using derris root to poison the bullheads, then restocking the lake with trout. This procedure was commonly employed in national parks to eliminate exotic fishes and "restore natural conditions." Regional Director Herbert Maier supported the plan, and Director Drury approved it. [29] But FWS and NPS personnel subsequently found that the lake was too large and deep for the poisoning to succeed; instead, they planted 9,280 rainbow fingerlings of extra large size in the hope that the rainbow fingerlings would escape the bullheads and in turn grow and prey on the bullheads. [30]

The NPS and the FWS cooperated on a fishery management study for Mount Rainier National Park in 1958. NPS Biologist O.L. Wallis and FWS Biologist William M. Morton made a joint study of Mount Rainier's fishery in July and submitted three reports. They suggested that the park fishery had been so altered by humankind—both by the stocking of fish and by the damming of rivers outside the boundaries of the park—that it would be difficult or impossible to restore natural conditions. They concluded that the significance of Mount Rainier's fishery was mainly recreational, and that few if any of Mount Rainier's lakes were large enough to sustain populations of trout without continual restocking. But Wallis and Morton emphasized that good recreational fishing was fairly incidental to the purposes of the park. This was essentially the same thing Sumner had concluded ten years earlier. [31] Biological investigation of the park's fishery remained at this basic level through the end of the Mission 66 era. It was not until 1966-1967 that a research team from the University of Washington undertook the park's first limnological study at Mowich Lake.


Wildlife management concerns in Mount Rainier National Park tended to cluster around the various large species of mammals found in the park: black bear, cougar, deer, elk, mountain goat. These were the animals that park visitors most wanted to see, and some problems arose directly out of the interactions between park visitors and wildlife. Other wildlife management issues related to protection of habitat inside the park and loss of winter range outside the park.

Bear Management

Although bears were never associated with Mount Rainier the way they were with Yellowstone or Glacier, bear encounters were once a common enough event in the park so as to constitute a popular attraction. In the 1920s and 1930s, the park administration regularly fed the bears garbage at a designated bear pit so that park visitors could be assured a close view of this interesting animal. [32] Bears learned to forage for garbage and beg for handouts in other areas, too; they begged for food along park roads, raided the garbage cans in park campgrounds, and frequented CCC camps.

By the mid-1930s, some NPS officials were conceding that park bear populations such as the one in Mount Rainier had been mismanaged and that these problems were partly of their own making. Superintendent Tomlinson described the necessary measures for "renaturalizing the bear population." These included the development of bear-proof garbage cans, use of food caches in campgrounds, and posting of "strongly-worded signs" to warn visitors that feeding bears was no longer tolerated. [33] In 1938, the NPS promulgated a system-wide regulation against "feeding, touching, teasing, or molesting of bears." [34] This was the beginning of a new approach toward bear management. Now the main goal of bear management was not to put the animals on display, but to restore a healthy distance between bears and people. For the most part, management strategies during the next two decades focused on keeping bears in the backcountry, where people were still very scarce.

Park officials took four broad courses of action. First, they sought to manage food storage and garbage in such ways as to discourage bears from coming into developed areas to forage. Food storage lockers and garbage containers were made bear-proof, and garbage was collected at the end of each day so that the cans would not be a target for night raids. Superintendent Preston considered frequent garbage collection the most important part of the whole program of bear management; certainly it took up the largest amount of staff time of any bear management activity. [35]

Second, NPS officials sought to educate the public about the problem in order to change visitor behavior toward bears. In 1951, the NPS announced that it would step up enforcement of the no feeding rule; violators would no longer receive a warning but would face a stiff fine for the first offense. [36] In 1953, the NPS began distributing bear warning notices as visitors entered the park; these leaflets emphasized that "bears are wild animals." [37] Park naturalists were enlisted in the campaign to change visitor behavior. The NPS director commented that naturalists could be "a potent force in the public relations program. The bear problem should be a regular feature of interpretation in the areas affected." [38]

Third, park officials tried various kinds of "aversive conditioning," which might change bear behavior by making the bear's foray into a developed area a bad experience. Superintendent Preston reported that the park had experimented with some bear repellants but without success. [39] The park administration had more success with electric wire fences. Electric fences were placed around campgrounds and cabin developments and around the Paradise Inn, where Superintendent Macy reported that "bears were breaking into the kitchen and storerooms nightly until an electric fence was set up." [40] Macy described the park's success with electric fences in 1951:

We believe one reason it is effective against bear is because of the good ground contact made by the bear's big, flat feet, as compared to the relatively smaller hooves of hoofed animals. Damp ground naturally makes a better ground than dry. It has been recommended that grounded wire netting be laid over very dry or rocky soil in front of the fence to provide a better ground, but we have not found this necessary. Another possible explanation of its effectiveness against bears is the bear's habit of sniffing the wire before trying to go through it. The resultant shock to the bear's sensitive nose seems to be quite effective. [41]

Another tactic was to chase marauding bears out of campgrounds with a fearsome display of ranger vehicle aggression, using headlights, horn, siren, and whatever else came to hand, in the hope that the bear would not want to encounter another ranger vehicle again.

The fourth and final method for separating bears and people was to trap and relocate the ursine repeat offenders. Problem bears were lured into wheel-mounted bear traps, towed to remote locations, and then released. One favored drop-off site was Klapatche Point on the Westside Road where, with any luck, the bear became the problem of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Unfortunately, relocating problem bears was time-consuming, expensive, and hazardous, and did not always succeed in deterring the bear from returning to the original area or seeking out food in another developed area. Normally, problem bears were destroyed after two unsuccessful attempts at relocation. [42]

The popular image of bears as cute, clowning, oafish animals proved very difficult to overcome. Park visitors fed bears out of their hand and generally acted as though they did not believe that bears were dangerous animals. As a matter of fact, no park visitors actually reported an injury from a bear encounter in Mount Rainier National Park before 1961. But this was deceiving; bears bore the burden for this remarkable safety record as park officials resorted to destroying occasional "nuisance bears." [43] Whether the process of "renaturalizing" the bears resulted in an overall winnowing of bear numbers in Mount Rainier National Park cannot be said. Recent estimates of the black bear population place it at 100 compared to an estimated 175-200 in 1930. [44]

Cougars and other Predators

The first reliable attempt to census the wildlife in Mount Rainier National Park placed the number of cougars at from 5 to 8 in 1930. Bobcats were thought to number from 10 to 30, coyotes from 75 to 140. There were an estimated 4 wolverines, and no wolves. [45] It was in the following year, 1931, that Director Albright firmly established the policy of protecting all wildlife in national parks, including predators. Annual inventories of the park's large animals by the ranger staff after that date suggested that the number of predators did not fluctuate markedly but remained lower than what they had been in the nineteenth century. [46]

Outside the NPS, however, old attitudes toward predators persisted. In 1947, the House of Representatives in the Washington State Legislature passed House Joint Memorial No.2, which petitioned the federal government to respond to an alleged overabundance of predators in Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks. According to the memorial, predators were breeding at a rapid rate in the national parks, where they enjoyed protection from hunters under federal regulation. Numbers of these predators were spilling out of the parks into adjacent areas, where they were destroying livestock and killing off big game and game birds. The memorial proposed that the federal government either control the predator populations with professional hunters, or else bring down their numbers by opening portions of the two national parks to sport hunting. [47]

At the request of President Truman and the Secretary of the Interior, Regional Director Tomlinson refuted the allegations in the House Joint Memorial item by item. His letter to the director stated in part:

The statement that the predatory animals in the national parks of Washington kill many large game animals, as well as grouse and partridge, appears to be based on theory rather than on actual observations. We feel that such theories have been outmoded by the practical investigations of biologists in the parks and elsewhere. For example, the facts show that in recent years the elk of Olympic National Park have died in considerable numbers primarily from the activities of hunters when the animals crossed the park boundaries, and from local food shortages during certain severe winters, but only infrequently from predators. The principal predator on elk under natural conditions was the wolf, which has been exterminated. The cougar is not present in sufficient numbers to exert an appreciable effect upon elk.

As far as Mount Rainier is concerned, so much of the total area is alpine land of comparatively low biological productiveness that neither game nor predators have sufficient natural habitat to exist in large numbers. [48]

Tomlinson's statement put Mount Rainier's handful of cougars and other predators out of immediate danger of extermination.

The allegation that predatory animals were increasing in Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks was so groundless and the demand for predator control was so contrary to park values that the memorial had no immediate effect other than to elicit a strongly-worded response from the Park Service and, one year later, a biological investigation of Mount Rainier National Park by NPS Biologist Lowell Sumner. However, insofar as the memorial registered local displeasure with NPS wildlife policy, it had wider repercussions. It influenced the decision to delay implementing the new NPS fishery policy in Mount Rainier National Park (see above), and it probably squelched further consideration of a southward extension of the park boundary to protect winter range for deer.

The Tatoosh Addition, as noted in Chapter XII, was first proposed in Fauna of the National Parks, by Wright, Dixon, and Thompson, in 1932. The authors suggested that Mount Rainier National Park could be made more of a whole biological unit, with both winter and summer range, by extending the south boundary "to include the Cowlitz River valley as far as Lewis; then swinging northwest to include Bear Prairie, by following the crest of Skate Mountain and the crest of the Sawtooth Range; then north to the Nisqually entrance." [49] The proposal was shelved in the mid-1930s because of concern that it would jeopardize the Park Service's fight for expanded boundaries for Olympic National Park. In July 1947, NPS Biologist Lowell Sumner revived the Tatoosh Addition proposal. His plan was to bring the southern boundary of the park down to the "V" formed by Skate Creek Road and the Cowlitz River. The addition would give greater protection to deer and elk. Superintendent Preston argued that the national forest already afforded adequate protection and that the addition would be strongly opposed. In November 1947, Director Drury stated that further study or consideration of the proposed Tatoosh Addition "should be deferred indefinitely." [50] It would seem that the memorial by the Washington State House of Representatives, passed earlier that year, weighed in Drury's decision.


Drury's decision to quash the Tatoosh Addition proposal committed the NPS to a cooperative management approach toward Mount Rainier's black-tailed deer population, which ranged out of the park in winter. This was not altogether a bad thing. During the 1930s, the NPS had found that ungulate populations in several parks were growing too large, overshooting the carrying capacity of the range, as a result of the reduction in the numbers of natural predators. One means of controlling the population was to encourage sport hunting of excess animals when they ranged out of the park. Thus, the NPS could work with state game departments to achieve a desired herd reduction without having to take the unpopular step of killing excess animals in the parks. At the time that Drury rejected the Tatoosh Addition to Mount Rainier National Park he was wrestling with this very problem in Rocky Mountain National Park, where park managers were attempting to lure excess deer and elk out of the park with salt chains so that they could be eliminated by the more palatable means of a late-winter, either-sex hunt in the adjacent national forest. [51]

Unlike Rocky Mountain, Mount Rainier did not yet have a problem of overgrazing. In 1949, NPS Biologist Lowell Sumner found the range to be in "excellent condition." [52] But NPS officials did express concern from time to time about the health of the deer population around Longmire. The animals had become so tame that they fed around employee residences and out of garbage cans and even begged from park visitors. In the spring of 1947, park officials reported an outbreak of a foot disease in this local deer population. The outbreak raised questions about what steps, if any, the NPS should take to control the spread of the disease. It was felt that the concentration of deer around Longmire was not natural but, on the other hand, NPS policy "should be to let the animals carry on their struggle for existence unaided, unless the survival of the species is threatened." [53] Out of this paradoxical situation came a commitment to discourage all feeding of wild animals in the park—deer as well as bears.

Initially, park staff sought to curtail feeding of deer by handing out an educational leaflet to all visitors at the entrance station. The next step was to discourage the deer from begging. Sumner suggested that park personnel, disguised as tourists, answer the panhandling deer by spraying them in the face with a dilute solution of ammonia and tabasco sauce. If the deer did not learn from this, they would then be removed. [54] In 1951, national park regulations were amended to prohibit feeding of all wild animals. [55]


The 1940s and 1950s marked a hiatus in NPS concern about the elk population. Although the elk were still considered exotic—since they had been imported from Yellowstone and were different from the native Roosevelt elk—NPS biologists apparently chose to downplay this problem now. Perhaps they assumed that it was too late to eliminate the exotic elk, or that the imported elk had already hybridized with native elk. Perhaps they simply decided that there were more pressing concerns. In any case, the elk had not yet begun to overgraze the alpine meadows; that concern still lay in the future.

A wildlife survey in 1949 enumerated several small bands of elk in the southern, southwestern, and southeastern sections of the park as well as in adjacent areas of the national forest. [56] During the 1950s, park officials assumed that the elk population remained small. In 1962, however, an aerial count by USFS Biologist John Larson indicated the presence of 466 elk along the Cascade Crest, two-thirds of them in the park's Shiner Peak area. Although this raised the possibility that an exotic species was affecting the ecology of the park's subalpine meadows, the park lacked resources to track the elk population further. Some preliminary field research was done by establishing some exclosures with which to document the effect of elk grazing. More intensive research on the elk would get underway in the mid-1970s. [57]

Mountain Goats

Mountain goats were a significant wildlife resource in Mount Rainier National Park. Besides being an extremely interesting animal, the mountain goat possessed certain other advantages over other large mammals in the park. Unlike the deer and elk, the mountain goats in the park did not range out of the park; and unlike the black bear, their habitat and diet did not bring them into conflict with park visitors. Once the threat from poachers was overcome in the early years of the national park, it was relatively easy to keep humans and mountain goats safely apart.

Superintendent Preston took one protective measure for the mountain goats. After World War II, he insisted that the RNPC cease grazing its horses on Stevens Ridge during the summer months. A small band of mountain goats was frequently observed on Stevens Ridge, and Preston did not want them frightened out of the area nor having to compete with horses for food. Furthermore, he did not want to run any risk of the domestic stock transmitting a disease to the mountain goats. Cases had been reported from elsewhere of diseases passing from domestic horses, cattle, and sheep to deer, elk, bison, and mountain sheep. The previous year one of the horses at Sunrise had reportedly suffered from distemper and had passed the disease to some other horses which the NPS brought up from Packwood. Consequently, horses were no longer allowed to range on Stevens Ridge. [58]

In 1964, Roger Morrow, a graduate student at the University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, conducted a field survey and ecological study of mountain goats in the park under the direction of Dr. Murray L. Johnson. The project was undertaken on a shoestring budget and was discontinued after one season. Lowell Sumner commented that the resulting report "illustrates the gamble this Service takes when it decides to support a new research project with limited funds and with limited facilities for professional appraisal of the project and the research team." [59] The mountain goat study occurred at a time when Congress was beginning to budget more money for scientific research in the national parks and the NPS science program was still adjusting to the change.


Mount Rainier's high meadows were famous for their beautiful, snow-fed lakes and streams, fabulous floral displays, and tapering groves of alpine firs. The effort to protect the fragile beauty of the meadows was as old as the national park itself. At first, however, most of that effort focused on the prevention of so-called vandalism. Vandalism implied malicious intent or extreme negligence: cutting down trees, picking flowers, allowing campfires to escape, and so on. What was more destructive of the meadows than vandalism, park officials gradually discovered, was the cumulative impact of thousands of human feet.

A milestone in this growing awareness was Park Naturalist Howard R. Stagner's study of the park's grazing resources in 1944. Stagner developed a classification system for the park's alpine meadows based on each one's topographical and hydrological conditions and vegetative composition. His report, titled "Some Ecological Factors Relating to Possible Cattle Grazing in Mount Rainier National Park," provided an ecological framework for predicting how much use the meadows could sustain. Stagner concluded that appearances were deceiving: the meadows that were well-drained and covered by a dense mat of grasses and flowers were actually the most vulnerable; the plant cover was weakly rooted in loose volcanic ash, which was subject to wind erosion when exposed. [60] This was the first indication that the luxuriant meadows on Mount Rainier might be more fragile than alpine meadows at equivalent elevations in the Cascades.

Effects of Pack Stock

Before human feet came to be seen as a threat to Mount Rainier's meadows, Stagner's study pointed to the threat posed by pack stock. After World War II, park officials grew concerned about the effects of large horse parties on the vegetation. The Mountaineers and the Mazamas organized trips around Mount Rainier in 1946 and 1947 using pack strings of twenty to forty head, and the Sierra Club proposed a trip around the Wonderland Trail for 1948 using 100 head of pack stock. Unless the park administration took some kind of protective measures, large horse parties such as these would soon denude popular backcountry campsites. As Superintendent Preston described the problem:

Though grain is carried for feed, horses graze to some extent when picketed or hobbled or otherwise restrained. Grasses growing in the soft, loosely bound volcanic ash soils of upland meadows in Mount Rainier are not at all firmly rooted. The typical bunch grasses easily become dislodged and are slow to recover when trampled by grazing stock. Considerable damage results. [61]

Preston proposed that the horse parties be required to camp in designated sites that were screened from view, and that stock be fed mainly on grain. Regional Director Tomlinson urged somewhat more stringent rules that would require large horse parties to carry their own hay and grain. Horses would be tied to rails while in camp. [62]

Horse party on the Wonderland Trail at Klapatche Park, August 1955
Horse party on the Wonderland Trail at Klapatche Park, August 1955. Park officials recognized in the 1950s that the impact of horse parties on the meadows and trails was far out of proportion to the amount of horse use in the park. (Louis G. Kirk photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

The Park Service tightened control over the concessioner's grazing of saddle stock at this time, too. Prior to World War II, the RNPC had made a practice of grazing its horses on Stevens Ridge during midweek when business was at a low ebb. After World War II, the NPS phased out the RNPC's grazing privileges. Beginning in 1948, about 30 head of stock were kept in a bam and corral on Bam Flat, below Paradise, and another six or eight head were kept in a bam at Sunrise. The concessioner supplied all the feed during the summer and took the stock out of the park during the winter. [63]

But park officials recognized that grazing was not the only damage that horses caused to the meadows. It became apparent that horses and their riders were largely responsible for the wide trails, parallel trails, and gullied trails that marred the alpine meadows above Paradise Inn. Perhaps the park administration would have acted more aggressively to curtail the use of horses had it not been for the fact that park personnel used the concessioner's horses themselves to resupply patrol cabins and lookouts and carry out fish plants. Many NPS officials felt an affinity for horses and viewed their presence in the backcountry as part of the American wilderness tradition. Horse rentals persisted to the end of this era even though the proportion of park visitors who participated in that activity steadily declined. One dismayed park ranger complained to his superior in 1965,

It seems paradoxical that such a marginal, lacking-of-demand operation should be allowed to exist, considering the great damage it does. The pleasure obtained by the very few who enjoy these horse rides is grossly disproportionate to the damage done to the beauty that might otherwise be enjoyed by the great numbers of non-horse riding park visitors. [64]

Horses, or more accurately, people on horseback, threatened to scar the landscape merely by walking through it. Increasingly, park officials had to question whether the horseriding activity should be encouraged somewhere else instead, and if not, how the activity could be modified to minimize its impact on the landscape. By 1960, park officials had begun to ask the same questions about people on foot.

Effects of Foot Traffic

In 1959, the NPS contracted with C. Frank Brockman, former park naturalist at Mount Rainier and now a professor of forestry at the University of Washington, to make an ecological study of subalpine meadows at Paradise. This was followed by similar studies of Tipsoo Lake and Yakima Park in 1960. The purpose of the studies was to assess the longterm effects of foot traffic on these landscapes. Brockman's report offered evidence that, given the chance, areas denuded by trampling would revegetate. Superintendent Macy commented, "This is very important because some of us believed the situation at Paradise was hopeless." [65] Brockman followed up these studies with further investigation at Paradise meadows and Mowich Lake. [66]

Social trails at Tipsoo Lake, September 23, 1963
Social trails at Tipsoo Lake, September 23, 1963. In the early 1960s. the park administration began to address the problem of keeping visitors on designated trails only. (Ruben O. Hart photo courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park.)

Two actions came from these ecological investigations. First, the park secured an allotment of $83,300 in 1961 for bituminous surfacing of selected trails in the heavily used Paradise-Reflection Lakes area. The theory was that people would be less likely to stray off a paved trail than an unpaved one. This effort to modify visitor behavior was augmented by the placement of signs and small exhibits to educate visitors about the fragility of the meadows. Second, the park requested funds for the obliteration of so-called "social trails." These were unplanned trails that had been worn into the meadow by trampling. Social trails would be obliterated by a combination of exclosures built to keep people off the trail so that vegetation could recover, and actual reseeding. [67]

Ironically, Mission 66 plans for a new campground in Paradise were being implemented at the same time that these prescient steps were being taken to rehabilitate the meadows. Mission 66 planners might have known better; they recognized the need to move overnight camping to lower elevations but apparently lacked the courage of their convictions. The Paradise campground, completed in 1963, was surely the grossest example of inappropriate development under Mission 66 in Mount Rainier National Park. No sooner had the new Paradise campground opened than Superintendent Rutter recommended that it would eventually have to be turned into a picnic area because "these meadows are unable to take the extensive use that camping areas receive." [68] That no natural resource specialist was on hand to point out the folly of this development was illustrative of how natural resource protection became marginalized during the Mission 66 era. It contrasted with the way CCC projects were handled in the 1930s, when each project received the consideration of a landscape architect and a wildlife biologist before it was approved.


Mirroring natural resource protection in the national park system as a whole, Mount Rainier National Park's natural resource program focused on individual problems as they arose: blister rust and mountain pine beetle infestations, black bear depredations, meadow deterioration. With the single exception of the Park Service's aggressive forest fire suppression policy, these were years of minimal attention to natural resource issues in Mount Rainier National Park. Spending priorities lay elsewhere—in the redevelopment of the park's infrastructure and the sensible accommodation of growing numbers of park visitors. There was virtually no attempt at environmental monitoring or baseline studies until the late 1950s.

The marginalization of natural resource protection in the national parks satisfied a broad sector of the American public who wanted good roads, campgrounds, and visitor centers and therefore supported the Mission 66 development program, but who did not understand the complexity of the Park Service's mandate to preserve natural conditions. The low priority given to natural resource protection did not satisfy conservation groups, however, who increasingly viewed all development (even by an agency such as the NPS) as fundamentally at cross-purposes with environmental health. Conservationists expressed a growing impatience with the NPS in the 1950s, which only contributed to making these years contentious ones for the Mount Rainier National Park administration.

By the end of the 1950s, parks were beginning to receive some funds for scientific research. Brockman's studies of plant succession in subalpine meadows and Wallis's study of fishery resources in Mount Rainier National Park were two early indications of this. But the increases in funds were slow to take effect. In the early 1960s, a series of reports written by scientists both inside and outside the NPS brought public attention to the need for more biological research in the national parks. The most famous of these was the Leopold Report of 1963. Together, the reports pointed the way toward a more vigorous kind of natural resource management commencing in the late 1960s. That new policy is the subject of Chapter XX.

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Last Updated: 24-Jul-2000