Read this brief history of the U.S. Forest Service. Take time to think of an occasion when you may have experienced the joys of the forest or woodland in your local area or country. How did the experience make you feel?
The founding of the National Forest System and the Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has its roots in the last quarter of the 19th century. The national forests (at first called forest reserves) began with the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, which allowed the president to establish forest reserves from timber covered public domain land. Several early leaders and visionaries, along with willing presidents (especially Theodore Roosevelt), scientific and conservation organizations, and newly trained forestry professionals, led the successful effort in retaining millions of acres of federal forest land for future generations.
The pride and professionalism continue in the Forest Service today. The United States currently has a system of 155 national forests, 20 national grasslands, and 222 research and experimental forests, as well as other special areas, covering more than 192 million acres of public land.
The Forest Service has evolved into a 30,000 employee agency that manages the national forests for a number of multiple uses, including recreation, timber, wilderness, minerals, water, grazing, fish, and wildlife. The history of the agency is long and remarkable. During the last century, the Forest Service has initiated many, innovative products and procedures, and led the country and the world in scientific forestry matters. How the Forest Service got to where it is today is a fascinating story of people, places, politics, laws, and controversies.