Taylor Rose, “The ‘Opening of the Clackamas’” (Western Historical Quarterly)

February 23, 2022

Taylor Rose, “The ‘Opening of the Clackamas’: Log Trucks, Access Roads, and Multiple-Use Infrastructure in Oregon’s National Forests,” Western Historical Quarterly.

Driving mountain roads is a fundamental part of the modern experience in Oregon’s national forests. Building, maintaining, and overseeing forest access roads has been at the core of U.S. Forest Service land management policy since World War II. Beginning in 1942, demand for wartime lumber and the newly industrial scale of logging, particularly after the advent of log trucking, together precipitated a period of rapid infrastructure development in the previously remote resource hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest. Although initially a boon for public relations, timber productivity, and management itself, the roads quickly became fiscal and regulatory burdens for the federal agency. This article examines the story of public-lands logging and recreation—typically told as a narrative of environmental politics—through the lens of automobility. Mass road development, I argue, gradually produced a popular expectation—shared across political divisions and enduring more strongly than ever in the 2020s—that national forests were and forever should be places of easy automotive access. However, this expectation belies what it has taken to develop and maintain that access: namely, logging revenue. By following the political-economic, cultural, and environmental history of one notoriously busy road in northwest Oregon, the Clackamas River Road, historians may better understand the context in which multiple-use infrastructure took shape, as well as the difficult budgetary position in which USFS officials find themselves today, three decades after the spotted owl controversy all but ended a half century of national-forest log trucking.
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