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Logo of the U.S. Forest Service
Flag of the U.S. Forest Service
|Formed||February 1, 1905|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters|| Sidney R. Yates Building |
1400 Independence Ave SW
|Employees||c. 35,000 (FY16) |
4,488 Seasonal FY08
|Annual budget||$5.806 billion (FY08)|
|Parent agency||U.S. Department of Agriculture|
The United States Forest Service (USFS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that administers the nation's 154 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres (780,000 km2) of land. Major divisions of the agency include the Chief's Office, National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, Business Operations, and Research and Development. The agency manages about 25% of federal lands and is the only major national land management agency not part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which manages the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
The concept of national forests was born from Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation group, Boone and Crockett Club, due to concerns regarding Yellowstone National Park beginning as early as 1875.In 1876, Congress formed the office of Special Agent in the Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. Franklin B. Hough was appointed the head of the office. In 1881, the office was expanded into the newly formed Division of Forestry. The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized withdrawing land from the public domain as forest reserves managed by the Department of the Interior. In 1901, the Division of Forestry was renamed the Bureau of Forestry.
The Transfer Act of 1905 transferred the management of forest reserves from the General Land Office of the Interior Department to the Bureau of Forestry, henceforth known as the United States Forest Service. Gifford Pinchot was the first United States Chief Forester in the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.
A historical note to include is that the National Park Service was created in 1916 to manage Yellowstone and several other parks; in 1956, the Fish and Wildlife Service became the manager of lands reserved for wildlife. The Grazing Service and the General Land Office were combined to create the Bureau of Land Management in 1946. Also of note was that it was not until 1976 that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act became the national policy for retaining public land for federal ownership.
Significant federal legislation affecting the Forest Service includes the Weeks Act of 1911, the Multiple Use – Sustained Yield Act of 1960, P.L. 86-517; the Wilderness Act, P.L. 88-577; the National Forest Management Act, P.L. 94-588; the National Environmental Policy Act, P.L. 91-190; the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, P.L. 95-313; and the Forest and Rangelands Renewable Resources Planning Act, P.L. 95-307.
In February 2009, the Government Accountability Office evaluated whether the Forest Service should be moved from the Department of Agriculture to the Department of the Interior, which already includes the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, managing some 438 million acres (1,770,000 km2) of public land. The Government Accountability Office did not offer a recommendation. The Forest Service remains under the USDA.
As of 2019, FY 2020 Forest Service total budget authority is $5.14 billion, a decrease of $815 million from 2019. The budget includes $2.4 billion for Wildland Fire Management, a decrease of $530 million from the 2019 Annualized Continuing Resolution because the “fire fix” cap adjustment becomes available in FY 2020, while the FY 2019 Annualized Continuing Resolution includes $500 million above the base as bridge to the first year of the fire fix.
The Forest Service, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has 27,062 permanent, full-time employees as of Sept. 20, 2018, including 541 in the headquarters office and 26,521 in regional and field office.
The USDA Forest Service’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.Its motto is "Caring for the land and serving people."
As the lead federal agency in natural resource conservation, the Forest Service provides leadership in the protection, management, and use of the nation's forest, rangeland, and aquatic ecosystems. The agency's ecosystem approach to management integrates ecological, economic, and social factors to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment to meet current and future needs. Through implementation of land and resource management plans, the agency ensures sustainable ecosystems by restoring and maintaining species diversity and ecological productivity that helps provide recreation, water, timber, minerals, fish, wildlife, wilderness, and aesthetic values for current and future generations of people.
The everyday work of the Forest Service balances resource extraction, resource protection, and providing recreation. The work includes managing 193 million acres (780,000 km2) of national forest and grasslands, including 59 million acres (240,000 km2) of roadless areas; 14,077 recreation sites; 143,346 miles (230,693 km) of trails; 374,883 miles (603,316 km) of roads; and the harvesting of 1.5 billion trees per year. Further, the Forest Service fought fires on 2.996 million acres (12,120 km2) of land in 2007.
The Forest Service organization includes ranger districts, national forests, regions, research stations and research work units and the Northeastern Area Office for State and Private Forestry. Each level has responsibility for a variety of functions.
The Chief of the Forest Service is a career federal employee who oversees the agency. The Chief reports to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an appointee of the President confirmed by the Senate. The Chief's staff provides broad policy and direction for the agency, works with the Administration to develop a budget to submit to Congress, provides information to Congress on accomplishments, and monitors activities of the agency. There are five deputy chiefs for the following areas: National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, Research and Development, Business Operations, and Finance.
The Forest Service Research and Development deputy area includes five research stations, the Forest Products Laboratory, and the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, in Puerto Rico. Station directors, like regional foresters, report to the Chief. Research stations include Northern, Pacific Northwest, Pacific Southwest, Rocky Mountain, and Southern. There are 92 research work units located at 67 sites throughout the United States. there are 80 Experimental Forests and Ranges that have been established progressively since 1908; many sites are more than 50 years old. The system provides places for long-term science and management studies in major vegetation types of the 195 million acres (790,000 km2) of public land administered by the Forest Service. Individual sites range from 47 to 22,500 ha in size.
Operations of Experimental Forests and Ranges are directed by local research teams for the individual sites, by Research Stations for the regions in which they are located, and at the level of the Forest Service.
Major themes in research at the Experimental Forests and Ranges includes: develop of systems for managing and restoring forests, range lands, and watersheds; investigate the workings of forest and stream ecosystems; characterize plant and animal communities; observe and interpret long-term environmental change and many other themes.
There are nine regions in the Forest Service; numbered 1 through 10 (Region 7 was eliminated in 1965 when the current Eastern Region was created from the former Eastern and North Central regions.). Each encompasses a broad geographic area and is headed by a regional forester who reports directly to the Chief. The regional forester has broad responsibility for coordinating activities among the various forests within the region, for providing overall leadership for regional natural resource and social programs, and for coordinated regional land use planning.
The Forest Service oversees 155 national forests, 20 grasslands, and one tall-grass prairie. Each administrative unit typically comprises several ranger districts, under the overall direction of a forest supervisor. Within the supervisor's office, the staff coordinates activities among districts, allocates the budget, and provides technical support to each district. Forest supervisors are line officers and report to regional foresters.
The Forest Service has over 600 ranger districts. Each district has a staff of 10 to 100 people under the direction of a district ranger, a line officer who reports to a forest supervisor. The districts vary in size from 50,000 acres (200 km2) to more than 1 million acres (4,000 km2). Most on-the-ground activities occur on ranger districts, including trail construction and maintenance, operation of campgrounds, oversight of a wide variety of special use permitted activities, and management of vegetation and wildlife habitat.
U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement & Investigations (LEI), headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a federal law enforcement agency of the U.S. government. It is responsible for enforcement of federal laws and regulations governing national forest lands and resources. All Law Enforcement Officers and Special Agents Receive their training through Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC).
Operations are divided into two major functional areas:
Uniformed Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) enforce federal laws and regulations governing national forest lands and resources. LEOs also enforce some or all state laws on National Forest Lands. As part of that mission, LEOs carry firearms, defensive equipment, make arrests, execute search warrants, complete reports, and testify in court. They establish a regular and recurring presence on a vast amount of public lands, roads, and recreation sites. The primary focus of their jobs is the protection of natural resources, protection of Forest Service employees and the protection of visitors. To cover the vast and varied terrain under their jurisdiction, they use Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors, special service SUVs, horses, K-9 units, helicopters, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and boats.
Special Agents are criminal investigators who plan and conduct investigations concerning possible violations of criminal and administrative provisions of the Forest Service and other statutes under the United States Code. Special agents are normally plainclothes officers who carry concealed firearms, and other defensive equipment, make arrests, carry out complex criminal investigations, present cases for prosecution to U.S. Attorneys, and prepare investigative reports. All field agents are required to travel a great deal and usually maintain a case load of ten to fifteen ongoing criminal investigations at one time. Criminal investigators occasionally conduct internal and civil claim investigations.
The 193 million acres (780,000 km2) of public land that are managed as national forests and grasslands are collectively known as the National Forest System. These lands are located in 44 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands and comprise about 9% of the total land area in the United States. The lands are organized into 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The mission of the National Forest System is to protect and manage the forest lands so they best demonstrate the sustainable multiple-use management concept, using an ecological approach, to meet the diverse needs of people.
The goal of the State and Private Forestry program is to assist with financial and technical assistance to private landowners, state agencies, tribes, and community resource managers. It provides assistance by helping sustain the United States' urban and rural forests and their associated communities from wildland fires, insects, disease, and invasive organisms.Approximately 537 staff are employed in the program and is administered through National Forest System regions and the Northeastern Area of the United States.
The research and development (R&D) arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service works to improve the health and use of the United States' forests and grasslands. Research has been part of the Forest Service mission since the agency's inception in 1905. Today, Forest Service researchers work in a range of biological, physical, and social science fields to promote sustainable management of United States' diverse forests and rangelands. Research employs about 550 scientists and several hundred technical and support staff, located at 67 sites throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico. Discovery and technology development and transfer is carried out through seven research stations.
Research focuses on informing policy and land management decisions and includes addressing invasive insects, degraded river ecosystems, or sustainable ways to harvest forest products. The researchers work independently and with a range of partners, including other agencies, academia, nonprofit groups, and industry. The information and technology produced through basic and applied science programs is available to the public for its benefit and use.
In addition to the Research Stations, the USFS R&D branch also leads several National Centers such as the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation.
The Forest Service plays a key role in formulating policy and coordinating U.S. support for the protection and sound management of the world's forest resources. It works closely with other agencies such as USAID, the State Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as with nonprofit development organizations, wildlife organizations, universities, and international assistance organizations. The Forest Service's international work serves to link people and communities striving to protect and manage forests throughout the world. The program also promotes sustainable land management overseas and brings important technologies and innovations back to the United States. The program focuses on conserving key natural resource in cooperation with countries across the world.
Although a large volume of timber is logged every year, not all National Forests are entirely forested. There are tidewater glaciers in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska and ski areas such as Alta, Utah in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. In addition, the Forest Service is responsible for managing National Grasslands in the midwest. Furthermore, areas designated as wilderness by acts of Congress, prohibit logging, mining, road and building construction and land leases for purposes of farming and or livestock grazing.
Since 1978, several Presidents have directed the USFS to administer National Monuments inside of preexisting National Forests.
The Forest Service also manages Grey Towers National Historic Site in Milford, Pennsylvania, the home and estate of its first Chief, Gifford Pinchot.
In August 1944, to reduce the number of forest fires, the Forest Service and the Wartime Advertising Council began distributing fire education posters featuring a black bear. The poster campaign was a success; the black bear would later be named Smokey Bear, and would, for decades, be the "spokesbear" for the Forest Service. Smokey Bear has appeared in innumerable TV commercials; his popular catch phrase, "Only YOU can prevent forest fires"—later changed to wildfires—is one of the most widely recognized slogans in the United States. According to the Advertising Council, Smokey Bear is the most recognized icons in advertising history and has appeared almost everywhere via Public Service Announcements in print, radio, television. Smokey Bear, an icon protected by law, is jointly owned by the Forest Service, the Ad Council and the National Association of State Foresters.
In September 2000, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior developed a plan to respond to the fires of 2000, to reduce the impacts of these wildland fires on rural communities, and to ensure sufficient firefighting resources in the future. The report is entitled "Managing the Impacts of Wildfire on Communities and the Environment: A Report to the President In Response to the Wildfires of 2000"—The National Fire Plan for short. The National Fire Plan continues to be an integral part of the Forest Service today. The following are important operational features of the National Fire Plan:
In August 2014, Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, announced that the agency will have to put $400 to $500 million in wildfire prevention projects on hold because funding for firefighting is running low as the fiscal year ends. The decision is meant to preserve resources for fighting active fires burning in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Politicians of both parties have indicated that they believe the current funding structure is broken, but they have not agreed on steps to fix the funding allocation.
During the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia, the US Forest Services sent a contingent of firefighters. They worked alongside firefighters from other American fire departments.
Although part of the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service receives its budget through the Subcommittee on Appropriations—Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
|Appropriations Title (in thousands of dollars)||FY 2011||FY 2012||FY 2013||FY 2014||FY 2015||FY 2016||FY 2017|
|State and Private Forestry||277,596||252,926||239,696||229,980||232,653||237,023||236,573|
|National Forest System||1,542,248||1,554,137||1,455,341||1,496,330||1,494,330||1,509,364||1,506,496|
|Wildland Fire Management||2,168,042||1,974,467||1,868,795||2,162,302||2,333,298||2,386,329||2,381,795|
|Capital Improvement and Maintenance||472,644||394,089||358,510||350,000||360,374||364,164||363,472|
|Subtotal, discretionary appropriations *||5,096,746||4,845,876||4,936,514||5,496,611||5,073,246||5,680,346||5,669,553|
|Subtotal, permanent appropriations||627,234||581,595||507,631||566,231||293,316||517,889||348,252|
|Total Forest Service||$5,858,615||$5,584,586||$5,749,146||$6,264,941||$5,547,812||$6,331,984||$6,168,886|
|* Discretionary Appropriations includes Regular Appropriations plus Supplemental and Emergency Appropriations.|
The Forest Service achieved widespread awareness during the 1960s, as it became the setting for the long running classic TV show Lassie , with storylines focusing on Lassie's adventures with various forest rangers.
The iconic collie's association with the Forest Service led to Lassie receiving numerous awards and citations from the U.S. Senate and the Department of Agriculture, and was partly responsible for a bill regarding soil and water pollution that was signed into law in early 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson, which was dubbed by some as "The Lassie Program".
In the 2019 family comedy movie Playing With Fire , John Cena plays a U.S. Forest Service firefighter who (along with his crew) watches over a group of rambunctious children while searching for their parents after rescuing them from a fire in the wilderness during a family vacation.
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The history of the Forest Service has been fraught with controversy, as various interests and national values have grappled with the appropriate management of the many resources within the forests.These values and resources include grazing, timber, mining, recreation, wildlife habitat, and wilderness. Because of continuing development elsewhere, the large size of National Forests have made them de-facto wildlife reserves for a number of rare and common species. In recent decades, the importance of mature forest for the spotted owl and a number of other species led to great changes in timber harvest levels.
In the 1990s, the agency was involved in scandal when it illegally provided surplus military aircraft to private contractors for use as airtankers (see U.S. Forest Service airtanker scandal).
The policy on road building within the National Forests is another controversial issue: In 1999, President Clinton ordered a temporary moratorium on new road construction in the National Forests to "assess their ecological, economic, and social values and to evaluate long-term options for their management."The Bush administration replaced this five and half years later, with a system where each state could petition the Forest Service to open forests in their territory to road building.
Some years the agency actually loses money on its timber sales.
A 2017 draft report describing the legal basis which provides federal land managers a scope of decision making authority exceeding that of state fish and game departments has proven unexpectedly controversial.
In 2018 the Forest Service was reprimanded by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Service had issued permits for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to build through parts of the George Washington and Monongahela National Forests and a right of way across the Appalachian Trail - in violation of both the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
National Forest is a classification of protected and managed federal lands in the United States. National Forests are largely forest and woodland areas owned collectively by the American people through the federal government, and managed by the United States Forest Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture.
The United States Department of the Interior (DI) is a federal executive department of the U.S. government. It is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States. About 75% of federal public land is managed by the department, with most of the remainder managed by the United States Department of Agriculture's United States Forest Service.
National Wildlife RefugeSystem is a designation for certain protected areas of the United States managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the system of public lands and waters set aside to conserve America's fish, wildlife, and plants. Since President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida's Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge as the first wildlife refuge in 1903, the system has grown to over 568 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts encompassing more than 150,000,000 acres (607,028 km2).
In all modern states, a portion of land is held by central or local governments. This is called public land, state land, or Crown land. The system of tenure of public land, and the terminology used, varies between countries. The following examples illustrate some of the range.
The protected areas of the United States are managed by an array of different federal, state, tribal and local level authorities and receive widely varying levels of protection. Some areas are managed as wilderness, while others are operated with acceptable commercial exploitation. As of 2015, the 25,800 protected areas covered 1,294,476 km2 (499,800 sq mi), or 14 percent of the land area of the United States. This is also one-tenth of the protected land area of the world. The U.S. also had a total of 787 National Marine Protected Areas, covering an additional 1,271,408 km2 (490,893 sq mi), or 12 percent of the total marine area of the United States.
Rangelands are grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts that are grazed by domestic livestock or wild animals. Types of rangelands include tallgrass and shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands and shrublands, woodlands, savannas, chaparrals, steppes, and tundras. Rangelands do not include forests lacking grazable understory vegetation, barren desert, farmland, or land covered by solid rock, concrete and/or glaciers.
The National Wilderness Preservation System (NWPS) of the United States protects federally managed wilderness areas designated for preservation in their natural condition. Activity on formally designated wilderness areas is coordinated by the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness areas are managed by four federal land management agencies: the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. The term "wilderness" is defined as "an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and "an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions." As of 2019, there are 803 designated wilderness areas, totaling 111,368,221 acres (45,069,120 ha), or about 4.5% of the area of the United States.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is the agency of the U.S. state of Minnesota charged with conserving and managing the state's natural resources. The agency maintains areas such as state parks, state forests, recreational trails, and recreation areas as well as managing minerals, wildlife, and forestry throughout the state. The agency is divided into six divisions - Ecological & Water Resources, Enforcement, Fish & Wildlife, Forestry, Lands & Minerals, and Parks & Trails.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection is the State of California's agency responsible for fire protection in State Responsibility Areas of California totaling 31 million acres, as well as the administration of the state's private and public forests. In addition, the department provides varied emergency services in 36 of the state's 58 counties via contracts with local governments.
The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho is the physical facility which is the home to the National Interagency Coordination Center (NICC), and the National Multi-Agency Coordination group.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) is an agency of the state of Wisconsin charged with conserving and managing Wisconsin's natural resources. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has the authority to set policy for the WDNR. The WDNR is led by the Secretary, who is appointed by the Governor of Wisconsin. The WDNR develops regulations and guidance in accordance with laws passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. It administers wildlife, fish, forests, endangered resources, air, water, waste, and other issues related to natural resources. The central office of the WDNR is located in downtown Madison, near the state capitol.
In the state of New Jersey, the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry is an administrative division of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. In its most visible role, the Division is directly responsible for the management and operation of New Jersey's public park system which includes 42 state parks, 11 state forests, 3 recreation areas, and more than 50 historic sites and districts. However, its duties also include protecting state and private lands from wildfire, managing forests, educating the public about environmental stewardship and natural resources, as well as growing trees to maintain and restore forests in rural and urban areas, and to preserve the diversity of the trees within the forests.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is a government agency in the state of Maryland charged with maintaining natural resources including state parks, public lands, state forests, state waterways, wildlife and recreation areas. Its headquarters are in Annapolis.
According to the California Protected Areas Database (CPAD), in the state of California, United States, there are over 14,000 inventoried protected areas administered by public agencies and non-profits. In addition, there are private conservation areas and other easements. They include almost one-third of California's scenic coastline, including coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. The California State Parks system alone has 270 units and covers 1.3 million acres (5,300 km2), with over 280 miles (450 km) of coastline, 625 miles (1,006 km) of lake and river frontage, nearly 18,000 campsites, and 3,000 miles (5,000 km) of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails.
The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) was established in 1914 to prevent and suppress forest fires and reforest bare lands. Since its inception, the agency has grown and evolved to encompass other protection and management duties:
Starting in 1876, and undergoing a series of name changes, the U.S. Forest Service grew to protect and utilize millions of acres of forest on public land. Gifford Pinchot, an early advocate of scientific forestry, along with President Theodore Roosevelt and conservation organizations, led the effort to manage forest for the public good.
Wildfire suppression in the United States has had a long and varied history. For most of the 20th century, any form of wildland fire, whether it was naturally caused or otherwise, was quickly suppressed for fear of uncontrollable and destructive conflagrations such as the Peshtigo Fire in 1871 and the Great Fire of 1910. In the 1960s, policies governing wildfire suppression changed due to ecological studies that recognized fire as a natural process necessary for new growth. Today, policies advocating complete fire suppression have been exchanged for those who encourage wildland fire use, or the allowing of fire to act as a tool, such as the case with controlled burns.
The Fire Safe California Grants Clearinghouse was created by the members of the California Fire Alliance in order to facilitate the process of applying for Federal grants to do wildfire prevention projects on private lands in California. This process is also referred to as "one-stop shopping."
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) is an agency within the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Founded in 1906 with a focus on wildland fire suppression and fire protection, the Forest Fire Service is the largest firefighting department within the state of New Jersey in the United States with 85 full-time professional firefighting personnel, and approximately 2,000 trained part-time on-call wildland firefighters throughout the state. Its mission is to protect "life and property, as well as the state's natural resources, from wildfire".
Wildfires are a common problem for Americans especially for those who live in California and southern areas near. Policies have been implemented starting in 1908 with the Forest Fire Emergency Fund Act. Since then numerous policies have been in place such as the "10AM Policy". FEMA and NFPA created policies to help with damages to buildings and houses. The U.S. Army and U.S. Forest Service also take part in preserving timber. Wildfires were seen to be a major problem. Smokey the Bear was introduced to the public to spread awareness to adolescence. Wildfires have been a problem for years and the most notable fires recently were the 2016 California Wildfires.
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