The French Pete Creek trail is in an old-growth forest valley in the Three Sisters Wilderness. French Pete Creek flows beside the... more » trail. The forest is made of gargantuan Douglas firs and 1000-year-old cedars.
The passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 created new wilderness areas and controversy over the management for the new areas. This also marked the establishment and growth of an activist environmental movement. The movement is best known for the controversy surrounding the area's addition to the wilderness area.
In 1957, the Secretary of Agriculture lifted French Pete from protection. Debate on whether to once again protect the 19,200 acres of French Pete from logging started in the mid-1960's, but legislation for it was not introduced until 1974. The controversy continued until 1978, when the area was included into the Three Sisters Wilderness.
It was in 1968 that logging plans in the French Pete area were announced. Most people were opposed to these plans, and the Save French Pete Committee was founded. It appealed the logging proposal in court, but the appeal was rejected, and instead the logging "would be delayed to allow more time for public discussion."
After that came a period of intense debate and political pressure. The U.S. Forest Service had a tradition of encouraging logging in Oregon's unprotected forests. It planned to log at least 3 million board feet of timber if the area was not protected, so that the logging industry "is to survive the mounting demands from preservationists to stop logging scenic areas." There was also concern that banning logging would pose the risk of a large wildfire, because many of the area's trees were diseased or had been killed by beetles. As Springfield, Oregon, forester Dave Burwell said, "It will be a very short time until the happenstance of lightning once again starts a fire that will wipe out the countryside."
In 1972, U.S. Senator Wayne Morse (D-OR) hiked into the area with environmental activists and encouraged the Republican who defeated him in the past election, Mark Hatfield, to do the same. After his hike, Morse expressed confidence that the area would be protected, whereas Hatfield still supported opening the area to some logging. However, Hatfield later changed his mind and began to generally support wilderness designation in the United States. less «