Transition from free range on forest lands to permitted use
Prior to the establishment of the U.S. Forest Service, most livestock operators utilized the forest land as free range. This often led to conflicts between range users, particularly between sheep and cattle operators. A conflict that became known as the Sheep and Cattle Wars developed in Central Oregon. This conflict, as well as unregulated use of public land, led to the establishment of the Forest Service in 1905. Forests were created in Central Oregon and initially, the Blue Mountain Forest Reserve and then the Deschutes National Forest included the Ochoco Mountains and the forested areas up to the summit of the Cascade Mountains.
Among the first duties for newly appointed forest rangers was to meet with stock raisers who had been grazing their stock in the Ochoco Mountains and inform them that public lands would now be administered through the Forest Service. The Deschutes Forest Supervisor, A.S. Ireland, called for a meeting in Mitchell, in May 1906, to discuss the administration of the grazing. The first-year operations continued much as they had prior to the Forest Service management. Rangers were scarce and covered large areas, so administration was difficult.
It was understood that conflicts between sheep and cattle operators would cease and that grazing from outside operators would also be controlled. The first summer of permit allotments for livestock grazing went somewhat smoothly, but a few ranchers dared to use the range without a permit. This led to trespass cases and some discontent. The Forest Service designated allotments for grazing. Allotments had to be trimmed down to a manageable size.
The big year for the transition was in 1907.This required the Forest Service to establish and survey allotments. Allotment lines were marked. It was attempted to divide the range according to how it was previously used by permittees. Once allotments were established and permits issued, it was a matter of administering the allotments. The primary job of early rangers was allotment administration.
The number of sheep were limited on sheep allotments, and sheep counting corrals were placed at main access points to the forest range. Sheep men were used to running mostly unlimited numbers of sheep, and it was a significant change to a restricted number of sheep. There was certainly some disgruntlement in the early administration, but it soon became an accepted way of doing business. The allotment of grazing to permittees continues to the present.
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