On This Day In History: July 18

A plea for the preservation of scenic woodlands surrounding Skagway, Alaska printed in the July 18, 1901 issue of The Daily Alaskan.  It would not be for another six years until that plea was answered by the creation of the Tongass National Forest in September 1907 through a presidential proclamation by Theodore Roosevelt.


 

DailyAlaskan_19010718_SkagwayForestPreservation


“Three years ago the Skagway and Dyea canyons were wooded with stately trees.  The mountain sides were clothed in a mantle of attractive evergreens.  Today the bottoms of the Skagway river have been cleared for the townsite and its extension, and the beauty of the scenery is marred by vast expanses of charred tree trunks.  Much of the primeval attraction of the country is gone forever.  Each succeeding summer marks the recurrence of devastating forest fires.  In most cases they are caused by negligence that is little short of criminal.  There is no closely adjacent timber to Skagway left to protect.  If some concerted action is not taken to preserve the woodlands at the head of Lynn canal it will be but a very few years before the shores of the scenic waters are but blackened and ungainly wastes.

No country on the face of the globe contains a nook more scenically beautiful than West creek, the lower tributary of the Dyea river.  The beetling crags, the walled valley, the pinnacles of the mountains, the glistening glaciers hanging to their precipitous inclines, combined with the sweeping, placid curves of the shaded stream, that in places breaks into a roaring torrent of rapids and waterfalls.  And all this beauty was enhanced with moss carpeted evergreen groves.  This summer must be recorded the defacement of the loveliest feature in this scenic paradise for the green forests in its radius are now but charred and unattractive expanses.  Those who do not care for natural beauties of the country may reasonably remain passive over the destruction of the forests, though people who have cast their lot here must certainly be alive not only to the destruction of valuable timber but to the commercial value of strikingly beautiful scenery.

It will not be many years before people of leasure and means will tarry in Alaska for their summer outings.  The Gun Club, Camera Club, the Chamber of Commerce and all other organizations, called into being for the furtherance of vested interests, or the enjoyment of the beauty and sport afforded by flood, field, mountain and fell, should combine to devise some means whereby Goths and Vandals may be restrained from destroying that which nature has taken centuries to produce.”

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