Your National Forests
National forests are America's great outdoors. They encompass 191 million acres (77.3 million hectares) of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. National forests provide opportunities for recreation in open spaces and natural environments. With more and more people living in urban areas, national forests are becoming more important and valuable to Americans. People enjoy a wide variety of activities on national forests, including backpacking in remote, unroaded wilderness areas, mastering an all-terrain vehicle over a challenging trail, enjoying the views along a scenic byway, or fishing in a great trout stream, to mention just a few.
Congress established the Forest Service in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the nation's benefit. Over the years, the public has expanded the list of what they want from national forests and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service is a Federal agency that manages public lands in national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service -- "to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."
The job of Forest Service managers is to help people share and enjoy the forest, while conserving the environment for generations yet to come. Some activities are compatible. Some are not. You, as a concerned citizen, play a key role. By expressing your views to Forest Service managers, you will help them balance all of these uses and make decisions in the best interest of the forest and the public.
The Forest Service motto, "Caring for the Land and Serving People," captures the spirit of its mission, which they accomplish through five main activities:
- Protection and management of natural resources on National Forest System lands.
- Research on all aspects of forestry, rangeland management, and forest resource utilization.
- Community assistance and cooperation with state and local governments, forest industries, and private landowners to help protect and manage non-Federal forest and associated range and watershed lands to improve conditions in rural areas.
- Achieving and supporting an effective workforce that reflects the full range of diversity of the American people.
- International assistance in formulating policy and coordinating U.S. support for the protection and sound management of the world's forest resources.