“Crown Jewel Wilderness:” An interview with historian Lauren Danner


The North Cascades National Park turns 50 years old this year. It’s a popular place to camp and hike now, but a new book about the park’s history says it got off to a rocky start.

Lauren Danner is author of Crown Jewel Wilderness. She told KUOW’s Kim Malcolm the establishment of the North Cascades almost didn’t happen at all — the Forest Service almost prevented the Park Service from studying that area. It all boiled down to an argument between the Forest Service and the Park Service over who was better equipped to manage the North Cascades.

Interview Highlights

What was the conflict essentially between these two groups?

The conflict essentially has to do with the founding philosophies of the two agencies. The Forest Service was founded to manage the nation’s national forest in the long-term public interest. And they did that by managing for multiple uses: timber production, watershed protection, livestock raising, game habitat and recreation. But the focus was on use — sustainable, renewable use. The Park Service, in contrast, was charged with preserving monumental, scenic landscapes and providing access to those landscapes. So every time a national park was created it was carved from Forest Service land, and the Forest Service saw that as wasted land.

So, a battle for control? There wasn’t enough to go around to make everybody happy?

Absolutely. The Forest Service saw the North Cascades as containing a large amount of merchantable timber that could be logged, and the Park Service saw the North Cascades as containing magnificent alpine scenery that needed to be protected.

What was the pivotal moment in the battle over this park? Read More from ““Crown Jewel Wilderness:” An interview with historian Lauren Danner”