The Olympic National Forest surrounds the Olympic National Park:

"If it were more ordinary country, less lovely and less hard, maybe the love and the outrage would not be so keen.  But there is a quality about the forested mountains of the Olympic Peninsula that very northwestern corner of the continental United States, that gets a grip on the mind and heart."

"The wildest ocean coastline left in the Lower Forty-eight is on this peninsula. So are the wettest valleys.... the mix produces some of the most varied ecology and the biggest trees in the world." (16)

Of course the very biggest trees are probably gone, cut generations ago, logged when the stupendous nature of the forest was so commonplace as to make it unremarkable. The present world’s record Douglas fir in total volume is 221 feet with its top broken off.

But the tallest conifer ever found in the United States was a nineteenth century fir measuring 385 feet before it was cut down. There is an historic photo of a fallen giant in Canada claimed to have exceeded 400 feet, the current record holding western red cedar is 21 feet in diameter there is an 1899 newspaper photo of a cedar near Snoqualmie Falls, in what is now virtually a suburb of Seattle, that was forty feet in diameter." (16 & 17)

"Rivers gush out of the heart of these mountains in radial fashion, like the spokes of a wheel, and in several places glaciers push blue-green snouts of ice down toward the shadowy valleys."

"The transformation of the landscape, most of it accomplished in less than fifty years, is remarkable."

Others see not just a changed landscape but a disappearing ecosystem. It is not just that the big trees are gone, but that they are being replaced with human designed forest that is smaller, simpler, more uniform, and absent many species. They perceive erosion and sterility." (23)

"The story of the struggle over America’s final forest is in part the story of how science gave legitimacy to new points of view." (24)

Wealth and beauty.…twin desires of the human heart, and of the struggle to constantly remake our troubled relationships to the ancient earth." (25)

"Similarly disheartening is the failure of our society to look at the forests as a whole."

"As salmon joined owls on the threatened species list in 1991 and the consequences of the Endangered Species Act became ever more apparent, scientists and congressmen in the Pacific Northwest lose our myopia and look at the final forest as a single great piece." (288)

"We have downsized our vegetation, and are living in a pygmy world.’ I wrote after that trip. I was sobered by the contrast between these foreign woods and what still survives in America’s final great forest: one of the last in which the design of something greater than ourselves can clearly be seen." (290)


Salmon and rivers


bookWilliam Dietrich, The Final Forest, (NYC: Simon & Schuster, 1992).


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Last Updated on 4/4/2001. April 7, 2014.

By Joseph Siry

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