Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lame Duck Congress

We all argue how stupid they are, or most before the recent one where a lot of good and some bad bills passed Congress and signed by the President. That's not what I want to present here, but a lame duck session in 1891. In those years the Congress didn't begin their two-year session of Congress until later in the spring so the lame duck session lasted through the winter and into the spring.

Ok, but what does that have to do with events in Mt. Rainier NP. Well, the forests of the east have already been devasted with timber cutting and lack of reforestation. Everyone relied on there being more forest west and letting nature reforest any eastern forests. And by the 1980's and more so in the 1890's many worried the beauty and treasures of the western lands would be gobbled up for forest and commerical development.

So, in researching the 1890's for the work to get Mt. Rainier into a forest reserve and later a national park, I found his explanation of how the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 go passed over the opposition. According to the National Park Service history, there was this explanation.

"Meanwhile, a threatened shortage of natural resources only enhanced the prestige of the park idea's competing philosophy, utilitarian conservation. The Census Report of 1890 added a special note of immediacy to such fears by calling attention to dwindling supplies of timber and arable lands on the public domain. Congress responded in May 1891 with passage of the Forest Reserve Act, which slipped past opponents from the West in the confusion surrounding the close of the lame-duck session. But although the legislation was largely unpublicized, it was far-reaching. Under the act Congress gave the president unilateral authority to proclaim appropriate areas of the public domain forest reservations. President Benjamin Harrison acted promptly by designating 13,000,000 acres of the mountain West in this category by 1893. Subsequent additions by presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley swelled the system to approximately 46,000,000 acres. Here the figure stood in September 1901, when Theodore Roosevelt entered the White House in the wake of McKinley's assassination."

It was President Harrison who created Mt. Rainier NP, first as a forest reserve (1893), just before leaving office, and second President McKinley as a national park (1899). In researching the early pre-NP and immediate post-NP history I found that politics in the US and Congress hasn't changed. Politicians have been and are the same, whatever flavor you want to call them.

So, in light of the fact that millions of acres of western forest lands were preserved and quite a few national parks and wilderness areas subsequently created from this act, I'm not so much against them if they're productive, and a little sneaky for good of and for America and the American people, which we enjoy today.

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