Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest History

North Bend Ranger Paul Pieper, 1938.
Photo Credit: US Forest Service

The will of the people determines the direction of the Forest Service.

The history of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest claims a colorful past of more than a century of controversy, shifting philosophies, policies or boundaries. Washington state citizens were outraged in 1897 when President Cleveland turned the eight million acres of forest into reserves, keeping them from cutting timber, mining, farming and grazing. Although later legislative action allowed for these activities, it shows how much public sentiment about land use has changed.

In 1905 the forest reserves became part of the newly formed United States Forest Service. In the early years rangers watched over the forest, with their first duty to protect it from fire. Recruits withstood a three-day ordeal to apply for a Forest Service job in the 1900s, having to successfully complete such tasks as: “felling a tree 10 or more inches in diameter with an axe so that it drives a stake into the ground when it falls; tell the boss man what ingredients and how much of each to use in preparing a batch of biscuits; and, pack a horse with all the equipment and personal effects for five days while being timed,” according to a ranger’s letter in the forest’s archives.

In 1908 the Washington reserve was divided into two sections. From Canada south to the Skagit River, the Washington National Forest was established; and from the Skagit River to the Green River the Snoqualmie National Forest. In 1924 the Washington National Forest was renamed the Mt. Baker National Forest. Throughout the years Congress shifted boundaries while forests shifted districts, and in 1973 the Mt. Baker and Snoqualmie National Forests merged.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest timeline