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National Forest System

National Forest System, federally owned reserves, c.191 million acres (77.4 million hectares), administered by the Forest Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The system is made up of 155 national forests and 19 national grasslands in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The majority of reserves are found in the Western states, with Alaska, Idaho, and California having the most extensive holdings. In the East, large national forests are in the Green, White, Allegheny, and Blue Ridge mts. The national grasslands are found on the Great Plains. By law the reserves must be used for timber production, watershed land, wildlife preservation, livestock grazing, mining, and recreation. In 1891, Congress authorized the president to set aside forest reserves; Yellowstone Park Timber Reserve (now Shoshone National Forest) in Wyoming was the first (1891) to be established. The forest reserves were administered by the General Land Office of the Dept. of the Interior until 1905, when they were transferred to the Forest Service by President Teddy Roosevelt. They were designated national forests in 1907. In the late 20th cent., there was increasing pressure from environmental protection groups to change the main emphasis of forest management from the promotion of logging and road-building to the protection of timber reserves. Conflict between environmentalists and business interests over the issue has been heated. Moving to conserve some forest resources, in 1999 the government declared a moratorium on logging and roadbuilding in the undeveloped back country of the national forests. See forest.

See R. S. Gilmour, Policy Making for the National Forests (1971); G. A. Bradley, ed., Land Use and Forest Resources in a Changing Environment (1984); publications of the Forest Service, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the American Tree Association, Washington, D.C.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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