Selective Harvesting Attempted in the 1930s

In the fall of 1934 after reviewing several research studies, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester C.J. Buck directed the national forests in Oregon and Washington to begin timber harvesting by selective logging in the wetter Douglas-fir region, rather than by clearcutting. It was mostly an "academic" directive since there was very little harvesting during the Great Depression on the national forests, or on private lands. Former Forest Service Chiefs Gifford Pinchot and Henry S. Graves made a series of site visits to the national forests in the summer of 1937. They were very impressed with the selective harvesting practices that they saw in the Pacific Northwest Region, especially the Hines and West-Fir sales in Oregon. The Regional Office newsletter Six Twenty-Six (Sept 1937) noted about the visit that "they were particularly and very favorably impressed by the silvicultural methods as developed on the Hines sale cuttings and by the tree-selection being developed in the fir region." Pinchot, who had his 72nd birthday on the auto trip, wrote a letter to the Regional Forester after the trip was over.

Yet the decision did not make everyone happy, as there was a fundamental disagreement among Forest Service and academic researchers over the clearcutting issue. Two University of Washington forestry professors, Burt P. Kirkland and Axel J.F. Brandstrom, argued that "selective timber management" was economically advantageous as loggers did not have to take away every tree, regardless of value, and that selective logging did not lay the landscape bare. Forest Service researchers Leo Isaac and Thornton T. Munger, however, argued that selective logging was a short-term economic gimmick used during the Depression that would, in the long run, deplete the forests as only the prime trees would be taken from the forest stands (otherwise known as "high-grading"), leaving less desirable species on site. Also, they argued that selective logging practices actually damaged the trees that remained on the site and that clearcutting was much better.

The selective logging method was used in the Pacific Northwest Region until the early 1940s. Regional Forester C.J. Buck left Portland in 1939 after a disagreement with President Roosevelt over the creation of Olympic National Park some two years before. C.J. Buck was "given" a directed transfer (forced reassignment) to the Washington Office of the Forest Service at the insistence of the President through the Secretary of Agriculture.