Jim Anderson
Sisters Watershed History Oral Interview
Transcribed June 7, 1998 by Lucy Greer Burton

The following information is not to be used for publication without approval.

1) How long have you lived in Sisters?

I have never lived in Sisters but have been in the area for a long time. Now I live between Bend and Sisters.

2) What was you first experience in the Sisters area?

In the 1950's I came up here and logged for a while and chased around as a coyote trapper up near Fly Butte.

3) What is your occupation?


4) What are your favorite places?

Three Creeks Lake Meadows, Cache Lake, Hand Lake

5) What are your favorite creeks or lakes around Sisters?

Three Creeks Lake is my favorite spot and Three Creeks Meadow is nice to visit any time of the year, rich with diversity of flora and fauna. Trout Creek Meadow is also a lovely place to see a variety of wetlands species. It is a challenge to try to understand all that you see there. That is something I enjoy doing no matter where I go. I find it very lovely up there.

6) Do you remember any floods in the area?

Oh yes, in 1964, I think it was, the Columbus Day Storm. I can remember very vividly, driving through Sisters when there was a tremendous storm coming through in November. I was coming over to visit with my parents in Bend. I was working for OMSI at the time, and we came up over the Santiam and the Santiam River was in flood and almost in the road. We managed to get to the top and as we came down this side, Pole Creek was flowing across the road just this side of Black Butte. We forded that ok, but boy when we got to Sisters Wychus (Squaw) Creek ...I can't remember real details. I believe I saw the creek when I got to the old Sisters drug store where I first put my wheels in the water. And from that point until I was way past the stands I was driving in water, until I was way past the scales, I was driving in water. Water was everywhere and it was ponding up everywhere. It was running pretty fast across the bridge, but not fast enough to sweep our Volkswagen van along.

7) Have you spent much time on Wychus (Squaw) creek?

Lower reaches of Wychus (Squaw) Creek, it's one of my favorite spots. I have been working with Eagles, Prairie Falcons, Red tails and also searching for Swainson's Hawks there on the grasslands where Wychus Creek meets the Deschutes out on the BLM land, one of my favorite spots as well.

8) What do you remember about those times?

Very muddy roads in the spring, almost impassable and in the fall. I trapped Hawks down there for banding purposes. One time there was a place where you could ford Wychus creek from the end of Buckhorn road and keep going and end up over in Grandview. That road is closed off now but there was a time when you could cross it. It was almost unoccupied at that time. The only people you could find in there were the sheep people who came through the back end of Deschutes and Jefferson County.

9) How have these creeks or lake changed?

One way they have changed dramatically is the numbers of visitors they have received. Another is the introduction of pestiferous plants, weeds that have been brought by livestock and on wheels of vehicles. Habitat has changed, Juniper trees seem to have gotten bigger. The Three Creeks Lake area is the same story when it comes to people, it was virtually unknown in the 50's. Now you go up there any day of the summer and there are mobs.

10) Do you see any problems or have any concerns for the future of our lakes, streams, and drinking water?

Yes I think I do. The quality of the water on the lakes from the standpoint of pollution from people usage is certainly one that we have got to consider. And the Forest Service has been considering that and I think they have been doing pretty well with the restrictions they have placed on it. Three Creeks Lake does not have any motors on it so that oil pollution probably won't be problem. But just like Scout Lake, we used to go there an awful lot swimming and finally it got to be so many people up there all peeing in the water I didn't think it was safe anymore. So I decided not to go up there any more to go swimming.

So you think it is just humans not being clean about their activities?

Sure, all the trash up at Three Creek Lakes is sometimes pretty formidable. Another thing that enters into the picture is the irresponsibility of people that have machines that will go places they shouldn't be going that are capable of going there. I am particularly annoyed by the four-wheel drive and RV people who act irresponsibly tearing up Three Creeks Meadows, tearing up the springs. A favorite place of ours now where you don't run into a lot of people and you have a good experience is up at Prairie Farm. That is a site that we have on our butterfly count that Sue does every year. It is particularly disappointing to go there to those springs and find where people have driven their four wheel drives through them and have really trashed a lot of good habitat up there just for the mere sake of throwing mud around and showing how macho their machines are. How can the Forest Service manage something like that? How can they be everywhere at once? It is impossible. The education and enforcement process has to be done by the four-wheel drive groups and their own organizations, just as the snowmobilers and others who have policed their own activities. It is just these irresponsible mavericks that can do a lot of damage in 10 minutes. It will take hundreds of years to recover. That is the scary part, really scary to me. We have the technology to cause a lot of trouble that will take a long time to repair.

11) What do you hope will happen with this area's streams, lakes and drinking water? Are there other things that you would add to what you have just suggested?

There will be a battle. If we go through a dry period as we did in 1979 & 80 we are going to have a great struggle with the irrigation people over what we will do with our waters. Crane Prairie Reservoir and Wickiup are not within this area of course, but I can remember the battles, the very bitter battles, that took place over the water at Crane Prairie in 1980 and over maintaining that fishery. There are several large hay farms pulling irrigation water from the same aquifir that supplies water to the communities near where I live. That is what I see down the trail, because there are so many more people in our area, because of so many diverse interests and so many people bent on recreation. Boy if we ever had a shortage of water I wouldn't want to be around when the arguments started.

But what do you hope would happen? What would be the ideal?

Everybody share and share alike. That would be ideal.

Are you aware of this finding that there is unlimited water under the ground in the aquifer?

I don't buy that word “unlimited.” Larry Chitwood, th eUSFS Geologist, says that if it stopped snowing and raining tomorrow we've got enough water out of that deep reservoir to last us 40 years. They thought the same thing at Fort Rock Valley when they first went for water down there and put in all those irrigation systems and turned that desert green. But five years ago they put a moratorium on digging any more wells because that aquifer was not recharging anymore, not coming back to where it was. I can see it, when we had that little drought here in 1995-96 there were wells out in my area that were going dry. It 's that greater amount of usage on these aquifers that is pretty spooky. Sisters has this great flow of water going under us, going 90 miles an hour. And it is all coming out of the Cascades. Sisters will probably never have a problem with the wells around here as long as they continue to pull it from them with some consideration. I hope people will understand, study, and understand what available resources we have and manage those resources in a way so that they will not ever be in endangered. The same with wildlife. I think this sort of approach, that you are doing right now is really a move in the right direction, is to accumulate data, accumulate historical data. That is the thing that so many young people overlook, is what happened in the past. Boy, to understand what took place in the past is a good way to start thinking about how to manage things for the future.

What about using deep wells for irrigation instead of removing irrigation water out of the streams. Maybe we can take it out deeper. Is that a solution?

No, because it costs a lot of money to pump water.

Right now the Deschutes River System is really working, it is the most beautiful irrigation ditch in the world. That's what it is, by law, that's what it is. At the moment because there is such a surplus of water everyone is getting along. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is happy, I think, with the amount of water they are getting for their fish. The amount of water that is allowed to run down the river in the wintertime while they are catching it in the reservoir seems to be working. I think that is working as best as it can at the moment.

But pulling water out of the ground. You know that is another dangerous approach. That is the Arizona and Klamath area philosophy. We'll suck it out of the ground because it is so available. But freeways have fallen into the ground in Arizona where they released the hydrostatic pressure and Mesa and Phoenix have bought up cotton farms all around them to keep the cotton farmers from using the water to irrigate their fields. Water is a finite resource. Wells have already gone in the Klamath and Tule Lake basins. There is a quantity, if you exceed that quantity you are in hot water (no, without hot water). What we have going under us seems like it will go on forever, but like old growth, it doesn’t go on forever.


12) Do you fish, hunt or watch wildlife?

All of the above. I used to deer and elk hunt quite a bit, but frankly I have cooled off on that I. I am not a sport hunter. If I go hunting or fishing it is to eat.

13) What changes have you seen?

Same thing as before, people. We have got to be in the people management business. I was hired to go down to Ramsey Canyon in Arizona for the Nature Conservancy. My job was to handle people and at the same time manage the hummingbird resources because suddenly they had this deluge of people on the preserve that were destroying it. They were loving it to death. That is pretty much what is happening here. People are loving it to death. I do not know what the answer is. It is going to taking some one with a whole lot more brains than I’ve got to figure that out how to limit the numbers of people that can go hunting and fishing and watching wildlife. That is a marvelous job for someone in the future. Very near future.

14) Are there any fish, wildlife or plants you used to see that have decreased or are gone now?

Dolly Varden on the Deschutes vanished. A beautiful salmon river that was cut off by the dams. You could see them at the bridge down at Camp Sherman. I never caught them but always enjoyed looking at them, they were such a beautiful fish. The fisheries have changed over the years as the introduced fish were brought in. I don't know, I am not that kind of a sports minded person. But, I used to fish Big Lava Lake all the time for example for Rainbow and Eastern Brook and the crowds got so big that it was difficult to find a place to get into the water. I quit going there. But that was one of my favorite places to go. Opening season, I always went there. When I went off to Portland I got away from it and when I came back from Portland in 1970 it was so crowded I quit going there.

15) Are there any fish, wildlife or plants that have increased?

There is a great influx of weeds into the countryside some of it because of the punishment the ground has taken from overgrazing by sheep, horses, and cattle, and of course transported in by motor vehicles and livestock. And we have no control set up over them at this moment. In Deschutes County they are just now getting concerned about knapweed and have an effective weed board going. But the eastern part of the county and many other places are just filled with a lot more that knapweed. But there is a lot more to be concerned about. It is a disaster when it comes to weeds and we have to get control over it.

The other disaster we are having is starlings. I have seen them increase to the point where they are now competing with native species. The other day I saw one nesting at Crane Prairie Reservoir. Starlings are really a problem. They have destroyed the population Lewis' Woodpecker on the Deschutes River. We are going to have to do something about them. It will be a real bad problem in five years.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is the return of the Bald Eagles. When I first came here in the 50's you were hard pressed to find a Bald Eagle. They were just not here. There were empty nests all over the forest; at Big Lava Lake, Crane Prairie, Suttle Lake. You just couldn’t find a Bald Eagle. Now they are everywhere. And it is marvelous. The recovery plan Rank Isaacs put together shows how two things can work in harmony, habitat reconstruction or protection and law enforcement. The efforts on the part of the Forest Service to protect the habitat of the Bald Eagle to enhance its populations have been splendid. Even though I had to convince the Sisters District that the nest out there on the irrigation pond was on their land. At first they just wouldn’t believe me! That was confusing. Now we have that straightened up and protecting Bald Eagle habitat has been one of the big factors, but you know law enforcement has been another one. The responsibility of the law enforcement people, particularly the state police. They have gone out of their way to work with non-game long beforeANYONE ever told them to. That was just their bent. I can remember way back in the 50's when law enforcement officers were catching people who were doing illegal things with non-game animals, particularly shooting hawks and eagles. Back in the 50's one of my very favorite people, a hero of mine was Avon Mayfield. Every time I found someone who had killed a hawk I would go to Avon and tell him about it, and he would say, "Wait until I get my uniform on." He never said no, he never said call someone else. And that is the kind of people I find all through the law enforcement when it comes to wildlife. They are just splendid and the work hard to catch people who shoot eagles and who are shooting protected species, non-game. So that made a big impact as well on the come back of the Bald Eagle in my opinion.

Is there any other species that has come back?

Oh yes, the Redtails. Redtail Hawks have just mushroomed. They ar enjoying the same protection and new areas of habitat that have opened up for them, such as clear cuts. The cuts that have been put in have become magnificent foraging habitat for Redtails. They have a great big area to hunt in, marvelous forest on the edge to nest in, and they have a marvelous diversity of animals to pick from, gopher populations have just exploded in the clear cuts as well as many different kinds of rodents. The discovery of the Flammulated Owls in the Fort Rock District, I don’t know what it is like up here in the Sisters District, but the Flammulated Owl probably thought it had died and gone to heaven down there because they have these enormous clear cuts that produce flightless locust and moths. And they have all these dead trees that have been marked as wildlife trees and the woodpeckers have knocked holes in them. So the Flammulated Owl which is a moth eater has got a whole great unlimited food supply and it has this marvelous place to nest.

What species are threatened that have declined?

Of course, the Spotted Owl. And if we had Great Greys in this area they would be hard pressed to make a living. Great Grey Owls demand a habitat that drives fire people up the walls because it is all fuel to burn and with out that jack straw, dead stuff in the understory the little owls when they leave the nest, they fall on the ground and they do all kinds of dumb things and they don’t have something to climb on they get gobbled up by ground predators so they would have a hard time. And of course the spotted owl is continually plagued by management projects that I suppose have to be done but I am not …What do you mean by that? Well, manipulation projects on the forest, for example the dead and dying stuff up on the highway up along the Santiam and in the Metolius watershed. Complete removal of all these dead trees and that sort of thing because of earlier logging practices and the denial of fire. That’s the tough part. Now we realize the mistakes we made. In the meantime we have been either eliminating by killing the Spotted Owls or we have been chasing them out into an area where they can’t reproduce. When I did the preliminary work on Spotted Owls up here on the Sisters District we found them wondering through corridors but not reproducing. They were able to make a living in the corridors that were left behind by old growth harvest, but they couldn’t reproduce in them, it wasn’t enough so we continually monitor what is going on with species that are as sensitive as that. And they are very sensitive, they are tough to work with.

What would you like to see happen? Problems or concerns?

17) What do you hope will happen with this area's fish and wildlife?

I would like to see a more holistic, more ecological approach to forest management. The Forest Service has given that a great deal of lip service and in some areas they have had the freedom to do it. But you know it is so difficult for that agency to survive when congress is breathing down their neck to cut, cut, cut a quota and the environmental community is breathing down their necks to stop. And it’s tough to find the happy balance in there. According to, and I understand the laws in, the State of Oregon it is the federal government who watches over habitat and it is the state government who manages wildlife. Obviously the two have to work together pretty closely, but they don’t so that’s a real problem. In the old days government and state biologist would get together for breakfast and chitchat and have some communication as to what projects were going where and why. But that sort of corporation has sort of slipped by the wayside and now there’s a lot of competition instead of cooperation, which is pretty sad.

Could we go outside those organizations, small groups or individuals adopt a small portion of the forest or any land to protect or to advocate protection for?

I don’t think it would work, because there would be people who would want to harvest that particular land that you have been watching over all these years. There are people who say use it or loose. So they are not going to sit tight and let that happen. It would be pretty tough. I can see that as a marvelous philosophy, I would be in favor of that, but I just don’t se that as a reality.


What do you think of the land trust activity, where people form land trusts and start buying it up?

Right, that’s the Nature Conservancy that’s why the Nature Conservancy has been so successful. You know that is a big solution. The real solution is to let evolution take its course in government agencies and the old use it or loose it crowd will be retiring and ones coming behind them will be the ones with the Aldo Leopold philosophy of use it carefully. And I am not against using it. I like to live in wooden houses and I burn wood in my fires so I'd be a hypocrite if I said we couldn’t do anything with the forest. But what we do has to be done with an ecological approach, not just to grown trees and not just to cut trees. That is my big quarrel with the Sisters District over poisoning gophers. Poisoning gophers has only one objective in mind. Get trees to grow, period! That was a shock to me, I had a very good friend in Sisters who I admired greatly. He’s one of the men who I would call on if one of my family were in trouble. Our friendship was put in serious jeopardy over the gopher-poisoning project because I refused to accept the single-minded objective of growing trees and causing so much damage to the ecosystem to do so. Poison is a horrifying weapon, it affects so many non-target species. No matter how careful you are with poison grain, there is still going to be other animals who will get it. No matter how careful you are about the application of such things there are still going to be animals that will eat these poisoned animals and you will end up with secondary killings. So to me it is a philosophical thing. I think if we take a philosophical approach as to what a forest is, a forest can be a place where you can have a balanced ecosystem.

Nature is never going to achieve balance, it’s always trying to, and it is this harmonious swinging of animals and plants that makes a forest so filled with vitality. When you complete eliminate one segment, it throws the whole thing into a spin. Just like they did on the Santiam, they went out there in the ‘50s and they cut all the big trees , left these big open spots and didn’t bother to plant anything in it’s place. Well White Fir loved that, they thought that was the greatest place in the world to get their feet. So the White Fir bloom came on. No fires came through to kill off the White Fir and for years the White Fir just kept growing. Then what happened? Here came a whole horde of insects that loved White Fir and they got into it. Then came all the caterpillars dropping on all the picnic tables and everybody screaming and yelling about it. So the Forest Service was going to solve the problem by spraying it. And that was absolutely ludicrous. We have to have respect for the land and that was something that Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management, told us a long time ago. But the problem with the forest service is they’re controlled by congress and congress says cut more trees. So that means that any holistic approach, any ecological approach any thought about wildlife is out the window and it is just cut more trees or you don’t get any money. It is really dumb and look what we’ve got behind us as we weed out those guys and gals in there who believe that the only way to do business is to do what congress tells us what to do. We’ve got to get people in congress that will relax and tell private industry get off our back. How can we do that when private industry supports them to get elected. It is a very involved nightmare through the whole system. But in the long run that is the only thing we can do. We have got to look as a forest from an ecological point of view. That’s what we have to do.


18) Tell us about a favorite person or character from Sisters past or present?

In Sisters it is difficult because I never got up into that part of the country that much. Most of the time I was in the Fort Rock District. I didn’t know that many people up here. I logged with Bob Couche, and Malin Couche, long time ago. And I can’t get to talking about people up here.

I would like to talk about one person who made the difference and people who make the difference. One person can make the difference.

1) I would like to talk about Leo Bishop. Leo Bishop was a scaler for Brooks Scanlon. I met Leo Bishop up on Green Ridge when they were logging up there and I was selling power saws in 1951. And Leo and I kinda got along because his outlook on nature was the same as mine. He loved logging, he loved being out in the forest, and he was probably one of the most respectful men I’ve ever known. George Marshall was another one. George and Leo Bishop were two people who were different. They logged caused they loved to cut trees and they loved to be out in the forest but they would never have violated the idea of taking it all. Leo could never live with a clear-cut concept. One day I was in my saw shop in Bend and Leo came in and he said “I want to tell you about an experience I had today.” And I was always ready to listen to Leo and still am today. He is still alive, a neat guy (He died very soon after the interview.) He said, “I was down at Davis Mountain ( this is when they were through logging up here in the Northern end and they were down in the Southern end of the Deschutes Forest) and he said “I was up cruising a strip,” (and they do that before the loggers move in) and he was looking to see what the timber was like for the company to see what the loggers were going to get paid. He was pretty much of a genius at that sort of thing. And he said “I came to an eagle’s nest tree up on the side of Davis Mountain and I told the fallers about it. He had already chosen the two fellows who were going to work in that strip. He told them about this nest and he said, “I said to the faller , ‘don’t fall the tree. And the faller said “is it marked to be cut?” Leo said, “Yes, but don’t fall it.” And the faller said, “If it is marked to be cut, I am going to cut it.” And Leo said, “if you do I won’t scale it and I might miss about 10 or 12 of your other trees out there.” And they got into this big argument about it and finally he mitigated the whole thing, this guy finally cooled down and he said listen,” if you leave that tree where it is, there is another tree about a hundred yards from there about the same size, go ahead and cut that one, but leave the eagle tree where it is. Well, after hemming and hawing, the faller agreed to that. So Leo went back up and he scaled all the trees and he said he got to the eagle tree and it was still standing, and he went over and looked and sure enough that faller had taken the tree he had suggested he take, so everybody was happy. He left that unit and it was forgotten. I forgot about it. But you know when Frank Issac started working on Bald Eagles back in the ‘70s and started doing an inventory of all the Bald Eagle nests in the state he got to Davis Mountain and that eagle nest was still in that tree and that nest was still producing eagles. You talk about people, that’s how people, one person can make a big difference. That nest is still standing there and it will probably be standing there when I’m not standing up anymore, I’m in the ground. (Unfortunately, the nest was destroyed in the Davis Mountain Fire.) And I’ll die with a good feeling about that, and of course I’ll always have the greatest respect for Leo Bishop. Those are the ones that make the difference. And if we had more people with that kind of attitude about utilizing the forest, grasslands, desert etc. we’d have a lot happier place to live and things wouldn’t be taking such a beating.

2) Fred Painter was the peace officer here in Sisters and he added to his income by trapping in the ‘50s up until he died. His favorite area was up near Crawford Rim and he trapped for martin. There were several trappers in this country that were up here trapping for martin. Fred was the one who trapped the first wolverine and I think it was shortly after that another one was shot. Fisher (an ultra large weasel which preys on porcupines) were brought into this country to control porcupines. That’s another philosophical thing, you know, porcupines in the forest. You know when I first came here in the 50’s there were signs everywhere, “please kill porcupines”. And that was a real bad deal because everybody drove around the countryside with their guns to kill porcupines but the poachers, every time they got caught with guns in their cars, said they were killing porcupines, and it was the state police who finally got those signs taken down and that particular form of sportin’ games in the forest came to an end. So the Fisher fed on the porcupines for a while and then they vanished, I don’t know what happened, if they just died off or wandered to other places to make a living, but I don’t think there is any Fisher left on the Deschutes Forest now.

3) Gary Hayden was the wildlife office in this country for years and years. He had a great deal to do with stopping the useless slaughter of wildlife. I remember Gary telling me about a man that he saw up in the forest, maybe at Three Creeks Lake, I can’t remember exactly where, that was shooting golden mantled ground squirrels. They are a protected species. He was shooting them and then cut the tail off and left the tail sitting on a log next to him as markers for all the animals he killed. And I think Gary charged him so much per tail when he arrested him. It was a dumb thing to do, but that’s the way people respond to our wildlife. It is something that they can use any way they want to. They just feel free to take it like it is theirs. Lot of people feel that way about our roads and everything else, that they can go out and do what every they want to, that they have that right. And to a degree we all have that right, but when it comes to destruction that’s not a right we have. I’ve talked to people who sight in their rifles by killing “varmits, ground squirrels, marmots”. I can’t go with that, it is not my philosophy.

19) How have the town and the people living here changed?

I can't answer that except that it has changed for the better, people are more interested today in non-game wildlife management..

20) Do you see any problems or have any concerns for the future of our community?

They have solved a big problem by voting in the sewer. Voting in of the sewer was one of the wisest things they could have done. Sewage ponds are great for wildlife watch.


22) What are your favorite forest areas?

My favorite forest area for butterflies is Prairie Farm and Green Ridge. The road 12 that goes up there, past the springs and ends up at Prairie Farm is just a great spot. A great tour to take is to come down the face of Green Ridge and back down to Camp Sherman, that is a marvelous area, and then to walk the road along the Metolius that goes up the east side. We do that whenever we do our butterfly counts and we always end up having a marvelous time with everything up in there, every kind of animal you can think of, even bear, that’s a very fine spot.

23) Have you worked in forests in the area?

Yes, I cut right of way for Brooks Scanlon roads. We cut right of way for most of the roads that went up through from Scout Lake to Cache Lake and up in that area, and hauled those logs out. Nothing recently. In the mid 70's I marked thousands of wildlife trees and blasted the tops out of 500 trees, creating snags
I have done spotted owl inventory work on the Sisters District. We did some work on inventorying accipitors, particularly Goshawks. But as far as forest work is concerned the only thing I did was get in the hair of the poisoners.

24) How have the forests changed?

I think I addressed that talking about the logging that took place on the Santiam and the Metolius Water shed.

25) Do you remember any forest fires?

No I cannot.

26) Do you see any problems or have any concerns for the forests?

I think I addressed that.

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