Umatilla National Forest & FFLA Give 80 ft. Tall Gift
Dec 23, 2014
Jill Bassett, Assistant Forest Archaeologist with the Umatilla National Forest (UNF), reports significant progress made in 2014 toward rehabilitating the damaged Big Butte Lookout Tower. Constructed in 1956 near Anatone in the far southeast corner of Washington, the National Register of Historic Places eligible tower was badly damaged by a 2013 snowstorm leaving the lookout cab precariously unstable at 82 feet above the ground surface on Big Butte. Recognizing not only the safety hazard but also the importance of rescuing one of a dwindling number of intact historic forest fire lookouts, UNF staff took emergency steps to lower the cab to ground level and then carefully deconstruct, store, and protect, undamaged elements of the structure. Following consultation with the SHPO in early 2014, the UNF has embarked on a long-term effort to repair the cab and eventually reconstruct the lookout to its former glory. This summer UNF staff in the Pomeroy Ranger District cobbled together a little bit of funds, in-kind services, and volunteer labor to preserve the cab. Besides Forest Service crews, the Forest Fire Lookout Association (FFLA) supplied funds and workers to help out. Eleven volunteers worked from July 27 -30 on-site following original lookout plans and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation to repair or replace in-kind damaged elements, re-hung shutters to protect windows, and scraped and painted the cab its original white color. Jill reports: "Every volunteer had something to contribute or share. Another aspect of the project is that it brought attention of the plight of Big Butte Lookout (and other lookout towers on National Forests), to the public eye." Well deserved publicity included articles in the Lewiston Tribute and Walla Walla Union Bulletin. Of course, much remains to be done. From this point the UNF will be preparing a preservation plan to set an appropriate course for the structure to be reconstructed and the cab placed back on top. Sincere thanks for this 2014 preservation gift go to Jill and her colleagues at Umatilla National Forest plus the FFLA members who donated and worked on this project.