US National Forests

In 1891, the Forest Reserve Act allowed the president to designate public land reserves. Fourteen years later, the Transfer Act placed these reserves, which were renamed national forests, under the auspices of the Department of Agriculture.

The U.S. Forest Service was created within the department in 1905 specifically to regulate and manage these lands. Similar to national parks, land preservation is one of the primary functions of national forests.

However, unlike national parks, these forests and grasslands are open to commercial activities like logging and livestock grazing, as well as recreational activities like camping, hunting, and fishing.

Currently, about 193 million acres of land are designated national forests, located in 42 states. The first Chief of the Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot, once stated that National Forest land is managed “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”