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thereon, together with such suggestions and recommendations as this department may desire to make.
The bill proposes to add approximately 1,100,000 acres of public lands in central Idaho to two existing National Forests, the lands thereafter to be subject to all laws affecting national forests. This area has been examined by forest officers and the following facts are compiled from their reports:
The center of a compact tract of mountainous public lands, mostly unsurveyed, known as the Thunder Mountain region, lies 100 miles northeast of Boise-south of Salmon River and west of the Middle Fork of Salmon River. The area is surrounded by the following national forests: On the north and west, the Idaho; on the west and south, the Payette; on the east, the Challis and the Salmon. It has never been improved or protected under the national forest laws and regulations. When the surrounding national forests were created, it is understood that prominent residents of Idaho strongly objected to its inclusion on account of the fact that a notable mining boom was then in progress at Dewey and Roosevelt and it was feared that the application of Government control would restrict mining operations in such a way that desirable mineral development in the region would be prevented. In 1902 this section was the scene of great activity and thousands of miners and prospectors were living in the northeastern part. The boom collapsed several years ago and the population of the entire area of more than 1.100,000 acres does not now exceed 100 people.
The Thunder Mountain region is a high, rough mountain region dissected by deep canyons. The extremes of elevation run from 3,000 to 9,400 feet. Of the entire area 90 per cent consists of rocky peaks, ridges and slopes and approximately 85 per cent sustains a forest cover of mature timber or reproduction, the remaining 15 per cent being barren rock.
The approximate total area is 1,116,500 acres, of which only about 16,500 acres have been alienated, leaving a net area of 1,100,000 acres of public land.
The region is distinctly rough and mountainous with a large majority of slopes in excess of 45 per cent and many of 90 per cent or more. The precipitation varies with the elevation from 15 to 25 inches annually. Above 5,500 feet altitude killing frosts occur throughout the growing season. Approximately 400 acres are under cultivation at the present time. Not to exceed 5,000 acres, or less than one-half of 1 per cent, have soil or topography suitable for agriculture. Practically the only opportunities for agriculture exist on the benches and bars along the Middle and South Forks of Salmon River where alluvial soils are found at comparatively low altitudes.
At present there are no settlements. The log buildings of the first settlement, known as Thunder Mountain and located on Monumental Creek just below the mouth of the West Fork, are still standing for the most part but have not been occupied for years. The post office at Yellow Pine consists of a miner's cabin with no settlers or miners nearer than 3 miles. The post office at Edwardsburg was conducted by an unsuccessful miner who finally turned his attention to ranching. During boom days Edwardsburg was locally surveyed for a townsite but no action was ever taken. The town of Roosevelt was established in 1901 and soon became quite a settlement. Many of the buildings were of sawed timber and substantial in character. It was located on Monumental Creek just above the mouth of Mule Creek. In 1907, however, a landslide down Mule Creek dammed the waters of Monumental Creek and the town is now covered by a lake. The more substantial buildings were caught by the water and are now floating about the lake.
The area is entirely surrounded by national forests, and for this reason, as well as on account of the topography, it is an integral part of the Payette and the Idaho Forests and is necessary to their satisfactory administration and protection from fire. The three areas are so interlocked that an intelligent and comprehensive plan for the administration, protection, and improvement of the Idaho and Payette Forests demands also the the extension of road, trail, and telephone systems through a large part of the Thunder Mountain region.
Conservative estimators state that the region contains fully 3,000,000,000 feet b. m. of such commercial timber as yellow pine, Douglas fir, Englemann spruce, and lodgepole pine. The best of the commercial timber lies in the northwestern portion; and, while at the present time it is quite inaccessible, it is, nevertheless, a forest property of high value. The extensive areas which have been swept clean by repeated forest fires are reproducing well in lodgepole and red fir. Lumbering is an unknown industry in the region. No commercial mill has ever been run. One man has a small mill on Big Creek, where he saws lumber for his own use, and small mills were at one time operated at the Century mine on Monumental Creek and at Eagle mines on Big Creek.
It is estimated that a total area of approximately 300,000 acres of timber, having a value of at least $1,000,000, has been destroyed by fires. Protection is necessary both for the timber and the watershed. As the result of the destruction of timber alon: Marble Creek, the high-water period is now at least a month earlier than in earlier days when the watershed was timbered. The fires are reported to have been set at the time of the mining boom, probably in order to clear mountain sides. At present they result largely from lightning and from careless methods of unregulated sheep grazers. Since there is no organization for combating such fires, they constitute à great menace to the valuable timber of the national forests on the west, which are extremely difficult to protect from their most remote and unprotected side.
A large and important watershed is involved, as the Thunder Mountain region supplies at least 1,000 second-feet of water to the Columbia River at low water period. Reservoir sites are numerous. It is roughly estimated that more than 100,000 horsepower could be generated from the waters arising in the area.
The region includes no natural wonders, large lakes or features of special scenic interest. Deer and trout are plentiful and there are said to be a few sheep and goats.
The mineral resources have been exploited for 25 years and the assessment work is still being performed on a large number of claims, but the hundreds of claims which were located during the boom of 1901 have since been abandoned. Some high grade ore has been found and the general belief is that the region contains an abundance of low-grade ore, the exploitation of which awaits large scale operations and good facilities for transportation which do not exist at the present time. The Dewey Mines west of Thunder Mountain are still worked spasmodically. Several miners make a precarious living but most of them depend upon earnings from other sources to secure their supplies. Quite recently there has been development of the cinnabar properties on Fern and Cinnabar Creek and antimony properties near Yellow Pine Basin. One mining company, it was stated, was producing one tank per day of cinnabar worth $105. The antimony mines are also producing a limited amount of metal. In July, 1918, the State Mine Inspector called particular attention to the deposits of these metals in a special bulletin. In his report for 1912 he deplored the inaccessible condition of the country and states that proper transportation facilities would result in "a most valuable asset to the State in the creation of new business, as the resources of this section of the State are of such a definite nature in both timber and mineral as to warrant the prospect of building up a labor market worth $10,000,000 a year.
The nearest railway points are McCall and Cascade. The former is about 75 miles distant from the area by wagon road and the latter about 40 miles. There is an automobile stage from McCall to Warren, and powerful machines can get as far as the South Fork. At the time of the boom and for several years later there was a fairly comprehensive road system connecting the different points of interest to mining men. · At present this system is deteriorated, grades destroyed, and bridges rotted out, until it is practically impossible to travel the country by other means than a saddle horse. Stretches of the old roads remain, but in order to put the transportation facilities of the country on a proper modern basis heavy expenditures would be necessary in reducing grades, restoring bridges, and fixing the remaining stretches of the old miners' roads. The examiner estimates that approximately $400,000 would be needed to open up the country well to modern travel. Furthermore, for suitable protection from fire, trails would have to be restored, and about 75 miles of telephone would have to be built at an early date. The estimated cost of the trails would be $50,000 and of the telephones about $13,000. While these figures seem large, it must be remembered that at one time there was a system of roads and trails which was fairly adequate and that the suggested improvements represent, in part, the depreciation which has occurred through lack of care of the public facilities which then existed. The longer the region goes without attention to improvements the greater will be the eventual expenditure necessary to open it up to human use and occupation.
Sheep to the number of nearly 300,000 head have grazed on the area without restriction or regulation during the past year with the result that the watershed is being seriously affected. A fair estimate of the carrying capacity of the entire country has been placed from 75,000 to 100,000 head of sheep. The highest estimate was placed by a sheepman at 150,000 head. As the slopes are steep, overgrazing invariably results in serious erosion.
Officers of the Payette National Forest issued more than 75 crossing permits to sheepmen who desired to enter the Thunder Mountain region in 1918. The country is of such a character that close supervision is absolutely necessary to avoid disastrous overgrazing. The number of sheep going into the country is increasing each year, and already the south end of the area is not much better than a dust bed.
The increasing number of sheep grazed each year has alarmed the settlers and the miners, and they realize that their surest protection is through regulation of grazing. They are also very favorably disposed toward the possibilities for better transportation and communication which might result if the area were protected like the national forests.
In 1909, a petition was presented asking for the transfer of approximately 161,000 acres of this area to the Idaho National Forest. Legislation to accomplish this, however, was not enacted. In 1917, the fourteenth session of the State Legislature of Idaho, by a vote of 64 to 1 in the House, and 34 to 1 in the Senate, passed a joint memorial addressed to Congress praying for the establishment of a national forest upon the entire area for reasons set forth in the memorial. During the fifteenth session of the Idaho Legislature a similar memorial was adopted by unanimous vote.
The lands within this region are exactly the type which the law contemplates should be included in national forests. With the exception of a very small percentage of agricultural lands, practically all of which already has been claimed by settlements which would not be adversely affected by this measure, this area is essentially nationalforest land. At the present time the timber, watershed values, range, and transportation facilities are being ruined by the lack of protection and proper
management, This condition is gradually growing worse as time goes on. Under proper national forest management, these areas could be utilized by stockmen to the limit of the range capacity and overgrazing would be prevented. No doubt this would result in increasing the number of live stock which the range, in its improvished condition, can now properly support. Mining operations can be pursued as fully and freely under national forest management as upon the public domain. Any unoccupied tracts of land chiefly valuable for agriculture could be applied for by prospective settlers, and listed for homestead entry under the act of June 11, 1906 (34 Stat., 233). At the same time settlers upon unsurveyed lands could secure, without expense, the advantage of early surveys, enabling them to submit final proof and secure patent to their homesteads. Protection from fire, and the construction of suitable roads and trails to help develop these natural resources would develop this land into a real national asset where it is now a menace to the surrounding timber on adjoining national forests. For these reasons this department approves the passage of the bill. Very truly, yours,
D. F. Houston, Secretary.
ADDITION OF CERTAIN LANDS TO WEISER NATIONAL
AUGUST 8, 1919.-Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the state of
the Union and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Smith of Idaho, from the Committee on the Public Lands, sub
mitted the following
[To accompany H. R. 1430.]
The Committee on the Public Lands, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 1430) entitled “A bill to authorize the addition of certain lands to the Weiser National Forest, Idaho," having had the same under consideration, report the bill back with an amendment and recommend that the bill, as amended, do pass.
Page 1, line 5, after the word “may,” insert a comma and the following words, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior."
The foregoing bill provides for authorizing the addition of certain lands to the Weiser National Forest in Idaho. These lands are rugged in character, are chiefly valuable for the production of timber or for the protection of the headwaters of streams that rise in the region, and it is believed that they can be better administered if the parts found suitable for forest reserve purposes shall be included within the forest reserve.
For the convenience of the House, there are added hereto the reports of the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture, addressed to the chairman of the committee.
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, June 23, 1919. MY DEAR MR. SINnott: I am in receipt of your request for report on H. R. 1430 proposing to authorize inclusion in the Weiser National Forest, Idaho, of any lands found by the Secretary of Agriculture to be chiefly valuable for the production of timber or protection of stream flow within the area therein described by proclamation of the President.