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Excerpt from the Quinault Forest History


As the nascent Quinault forestry program entered the 1920s, it had a completed timber cruise with maps and volume esti mates as well as a unit sale plan ready to implement. M.R. Smith Shingle Company entered into a few small contracts with allottees in the Moclips vicinity, and Polson Logging Company, parent company of Airplane Spruce and Lumber Company, still had their two miles of rail line constructed from Quinault Lake to Cook Creek, but little logging was un derway on the Quinault Reservation in 1920. The timber mar ket did not rebound after the end of World War I until 1923.

In 1921, the OIA allowed allottee Johnnie Johns to sell the timber on his allotment for a lump sum to the M.R. Smith Shingle Company in a humanitarian gesture that contra dicted the determination of the forestry branch to allow tim ber sales only from grouped allotments. Superintendent Wil liam Sams described the Johns' circumstances and noted that Johns' wife was ill, both were elderly, and they were destitute after suffering serious losses during the fishing season. Cutting Johns' timber left a hole in the middle of a previously designated larger unit, but the superintendent felt that retention of the land allowed the larger unit to maintain its integrity for rail access. He felt that the hardship circum stances of the Johns outweighed any potential losses for the larger timber unit sale. The Johns sale was the exception in management of allotment timber held in trust. The OIA granted few requests from allottees for permission to sell their timber in individual sales during the 1920s.

A severe windstorm struck the Olympic Peninsula in January 1921 threatening to disrupt plans for the first major timber sale on the Quinault Reservation. Forest examiners Nels Nicholson and Henry Steer surveyed the damage amid speculations that the windthrown timber would contribute to the glut on an already depressed market through supplying mills that normally relied on private timber resources. The examiners concluded that the storm hit in streaks, with ex tensive damage localized to just a few areas affecting less than five percent of the Reservation's timber. Hemlock was the hardest hit, followed by white fir, spruce and Douglas fir. Cedar did not seem to be affected much. They concluded that the damage was not sufficiently wide-spread to affect future timber sales. Nicholson and Steer worried more about the increased fire dangers posed by the downed wood and recommended that money be allocated quickly to clear trails and roads and to hire three additional fire guards for the summer season. Decaying timber from the 1921 storm affected unit sale conditions for the next 20 years as cruise estimates were repeatedly revised to reflect the damage.

Move Toward Large Unit Sales

The timber market of the northwest remained fairly steady until 1915, when the demand for war materials triggered a shift in the market. Spruce log prices for grade 1 lumber increased from $12.00 in 1915 to $33.75 in 1918 and then slumped after the war to $26.00 on January 1, 1920 as the aircraft industry slowed production. Cedar, the predominant species on the western portion of the Quinault Reservation, barely increased its log selling prices between 1915 and 1918 since the species was low on the shipping priority lists during the war, but the value tripled to $30.00 by 1920. With a resurgent cedar market and extensive supplies of cedar on the Quinault Reserva tion, the OIA decided to proceed with a timber sale for the Moclips Unit, south of the Quinault River.

This Unit had been cruised in 1915 and considered for sale in 1916 and again at the end of 1918. The Unit's proximity to Hoquiam, roads, railroads, and several lumber mills made it an obvious choice as the first large unit to be sold. J.M. Bedford, lumberman at large for the OIA, urged of fering of the Moclips Unit timber as a means of preserving the integrity of a relatively solid grouping of allotments, threatened by the continuing issuance of fee patents on allotted land. Additionally, the division of large units by issuance of fee patents could potentially lower bids on the unit.

Relying on the General Timber Sale Regulations of 1920, the Moclips Unit, which covered 3560 acres and consisted of an estimated 125 million board feet of timber, was advertised at minimum bid rates of $3.50 stumpage fees for cedar, $3.00 for spruce and fir, $2.00 for white pine, and $0.80 for hemlock, white fir, and other species. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs reserved the right to fix timber prices for all timber taken out after April 1, 1924, and to set subsequent prices for three year intervals.

Aloha Lumber Company, which owned shingle and saw mills within 6 miles of the unit's south border, successfully bid on the unit. For the next two years Aloha Lumber toiled along, con structing a railroad to the sale site. Heavy rains during the winter months, 25 to 30 inches a month, delayed the start of logging until the summer of 1922.

Additional Timber Sales

A series of sales followed the Moclips Unit sale within a few years. Forest examiner Nels Nichol son prepared the Anson Timber Unit for sale, in response to a request by Mr. P.L. Granstrom, a building contractor in Hoquiam, that he be allowed to purchase 10 million feet of cedar. Fears about the potential effects of this small timber sale on a larger sale under consideration led the OIA to disapprove the sale. The OIA was concerned that railroad right-of-way would have to be acquired through the smaller sale to reach the larger Unit. Timber purchasers did not favor the construction of costly rail lines through territory that would not generate stumpage values from timber cut in the right-of-ways.

H.B. Steer, Forest Examiner, recommended a sequence of timber unit sales to be conducted on the Quinault Reservation that would take advantage of growing competition among timbermen. Steer anticipated that stiff competition between these companies would drive up stumpage prices and increase returns for allottees provided that the units could be offered in a sequence attractive to the bidders. He also emphasized the need to offer sale units that contained large numbers of allotments in order to provide some income or support for nearly destitute individu als. Sale of units south of the Quinault River, which contained the majority of allotments, made the most sense according to Steer.

Four major timber sales on the Quinault Reservation were initiated shortly after the Moclips Unit sale. The Point Grenville Unit sale comprising 9,640 acres with an estimated stand of 305 million board feet of timber was awarded to M.R. Smith Lumber and Shingle Company. Smith began construction of a railroad into the site in the summer of 1922. The Cook Creek Unit, with 305 mil lion board feet of timber on 11,300 acres, was awarded to the Hobi Timber Company in July 1922. In November, the OIA awarded the Quinault Lake timber sale to the Ozette Railway Company, a subsidiary of Polson Logging Company. This Unit consisted of 14,120 acres, with an estimated stand of 388 million board feet of timber. The Quinault Lake sale engendered stiff competition among logging companies and resulted in the sale of timber at a higher than expected price to Ozette Railway Company. In December 1922, as Henry Steer was preparing to offer the Mounts Unit for sale, he noted that stumpage values received on the Quinault Lake Unit were inflated by the competition and would be higher than the OIA could expect to receive for the Mounts Unit sale. The Mounts Unit, which sold in 1923, consisted of 7,320 acres with an estimated timber stand of 156 million board feet.

The high percentage of hemlock on the Quinault Reservation proved a constant source of diffi culty for loggers as little market existed for this species. On the Point Grenville Unit, M.R. Smith Lumber & Shingle Company left the hemlock standing and paid stumpage fees for the standing trees rather than log the hemlock and have it rejected as too low-grade by buyers. Forestry valuation engineer Lee Muck objected to this practice as wasteful, declaring that the logging methods used had resulted in all trees being either intentionally logged or unintentionally pulled down in the yarding process. Muck stated that loggers typically consigned hemlock to the slash fires which followed the logging operation. This action resulted in economic waste that opened the forestry branch to criticism from the proponents of forest conservation. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs took a hard line on Smith's logging methods and told William Sams, superinten dent for the Taholah agency, that he should insist that Smith cut all merchantable timber, includ ing hemlock, as specified in the contract. Leaving the hemlock increased fire danger, increased the costs of scaling, increased costs of logging for Smith, and left the OIA open to criticism for allowing wasteful forestry practices.

Opposition from Tribal Members to Timber Sales

Opposition to the terms of the Moclips sale surfaced among allottees within a year. The contract called for the allottees to receive ten percent of the estimated value of the timber within 30 days of the initiation of the contract, and another fifteen percent within three years. The OIA deducted administrative costs comprising eight percent of the total value before the remaining stumpage fees were paid to allottees after the timber was cut and scaled. A group of allottees refused to sign further powers of attorney authorizing a proposed cut on the Point Grenville Unit on credit. They insisted that the purchasers pay for the timber in four equal payments beginning at the time the contract was signed and continuing for three years. In a petition to Sams, the allottees asked that no further timber sales be conducted on the Quinault Reservation without their con sent, which they did not intend to give until completion of the Moclips Unit sale, and subsequent determination made as to whether their interests had been adequately protected.

The Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles Burke, strongly opposed the allottees' request for total payment of stumpage fees within three years. He noted that start-up costs for acquisition of equipment and railroad construction equaled or exceeded stumpage fees on the prospective sale. Further, insistence on payment of stumpage fees up front would limit bidding competition as only large, well-funded interests would be able to meet the requirements of the contract. Burke offered a compromise between payment plans suggesting that contractors pay ten percent of the estimated fees within 30 days of signing the sale agreement, ten percent within three years, another ten percent within six years, and twenty percent within nine years, with the remaining 50 percent due at the completion of the cut.

When the Point Grenville Unit sale was awarded in the spring of 1922, several allottees refused to execute powers of attorney which would authorize the OIA to grant railroad construction and timber harvest rights on the trust allotments to successful bidders. Assistant commissioner E.B. Meritt authorized the implementation of a policy articulated in 1920 by the Department of the Inte rior to intervene in instances in which individuals refused their consent. The policy granted nec essary rights-of-way by authority of the Secretary of the Interior. Harry Hopkins, assistant secre tary of the Interior stated in 1920,

"No allottee will be permitted to interfere with or obstruct timber opera tions of successful bidder Moclips Unit. Application in proper form for necessary rights of way will be granted provided location is satisfac tory and adequate compensation arranged for Indian owners."

The Point Grenville sale proceeded without the allottees' consent.

The issuance of fee patents on allotted trust land on the Quinault Reservation continued to be a source of controversy between allottees and the OIA. Allottees eager to gain some financial re turn on their property requested that fee patents be granted so that they might make their own timber sale arrangements or sell their property. Selling timber through grouped allotment units proved to be time-consuming and yielded profits at a painfully slow rate. The OIA insisted that timber sold in grouped units would quadruple the price that allottees received for their patented land. That position, plus the awareness that checkered ownership patterns of private and trust land within a unit decreased its desirability to prospective loggers, prompted the denial of many requests for fee patents.

Strong opposition developed among tribal members and regional community interests in 1929 to four proposed unit sales in timbered land north of the Quinault River. Central to the concerns of this group was their belief that the sale should be postponed until the Interstate Commerce Com mission (ICC) ruled on a recent application by Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads for permission to construct a rail line from Aloha to Hoh. The presence of a common-carrier line was expected to open Quinault forests to timber interests from the Puget Sound and would poten tially increase competition for Reservation timber which could yield higher stumpage fees. On June 15, the Quinault and Quileute annual tribal councils voted to ask that the timber sale be de layed until the ICC completed their review of the common-carrier request. After charges of collu sion among the bidders surfaced, the Department of the Interior rejected all bids for these units in August 1929.