National Forests Of The United States: Significance In Biodiversity Conservation

Map of National Forests and Grasslands in the United States.
Map of National Forests and Grasslands in the United States.

What Are US National Forests?

In the United States, National Forests are areas of protected federal lands. Federal lands are owned by the US government and National Forests are managed by the US Forest Service, which is a division of the larger US Department of Agriculture. These woodland areas are largely set aside to protect forest land and sources of water, as well as provide much needed lumber. Today, the US has 154 National Forests, encompassing 294,275 square miles.

History Of The US National Forests

In 1891, Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act, which gave the president power to conserve and protect public forest lands. Yellowstone Park Timber and Land Reserve became the first National Forest on March 30, 1891. At this time, the US Department of the Interior was in charge of managing these public lands. In 1905, Congress enacted the Transfer Act, which transferred management responsibility to the US Department of Agriculture and created the Forest Service.

President Theodore Roosevelt is remembered for drastically increasing the number of National Forests by 1907. In response, Congress limited presidential powers in this regard. In 1908, the government reorganized the National Forest System. In 1911, Congress amended the Organic Act by adding additional reasons for National Forests, including: recreation, livestock grazing, wildlife protection, timber source, and watershed protection.

Where Are National Forests Located?

Today, the 154 US National Forests are located in 40 different states. The 10 without National Forests are: Rhode Island, North Dakota, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Kansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Connecticut, and Delaware. Alaska leads the country with the largest area of National Forests - 21.9 million acres. California comes in second place with 20.8 million acres and Idaho is third with 20.4 million acres. Additionally, Idaho holds the distinction of having the largest percentage of its total area covered by National Forests - 38.2%. This percentage is followed by Oregon with 24.7% and Colorado with 20.9%.

Types Of US National Forests

The US National Forest System manages 2 specific types of forests: east of the Great Plains and west of the Great Plains.

The forests in the eastern part of the country are largely considered second growth forests, which means they were previously logged and have since grown back. This is in contrast to old-growth forests, which have remained undisturbed for longer periods of time. The majority of forests in the eastern region were once privately-owned and used as major sources of timber during the colonial-era. The US government purchased these eastern forests in order to slow down logging and permit forest regrowth.

A large number of the forests located in the western part of the country are considered old-growth. These forests have been owned by the US government since the westward expansion, which has helped preserve them from the private timber industry.

Conflicts Over US National Forests

Because resource extraction is permitted in National Forests, conflicts over management issues often arise. This is unique to National Forests because resource extraction is not permitted on other federal lands. Conservationists and environmentalists often go up against logging and mining companies concerning protection and extraction of the natural resources located on these federal lands. The conflicts center around the need to conserve endangered plants and animals, the importance of maintaining old-growth forests, and the construction of access roads through these areas. US National Forests carry an IUCN VI distinction, or Managed Resource Protected Area.

National Forests Of The United States: Significance In Biodiversity Conservation

1AlleghenyPennsylvania 513,655 acres (2,078.7 km2)
2AngelesCalifornia 661,565 acres (2,677.3 km2)
3AngelinaTexas 154,140 acres (623.8 km2)
4Apache-SitgreavesArizona, New Mexico 2,626,306 acres (10,628.3 km2)
5ApalachicolaFlorida 576,119 acres (2,331.5 km2)
6ArapahoColorado 720,418 acres (2,915.4 km2)
7AshleyUtah, Wyoming 1,378,424 acres (5,578.3 km2)
8Beaverhead-DeerlodgeMontana 3,362,638 acres (13,608.1 km2)
9BienvilleMississippi 180,251 acres (729.4 km2)
10BighornWyoming 1,105,311 acres (4,473.0 km2)
11BitterrootMontana, Idaho 1,594,579 acres (6,453.0 km2)
12Black HillsSouth Dakota, Wyoming 1,250,866 acres (5,062.1 km2)
13BoiseIdaho 2,648,273 acres (10,717.2 km2)
14Bridger-TetonWyoming3,383,302 acres (13,691.7 km2)
15Caribou-TargheeIdaho, Wyoming 2,624,739 acres (10,621.9 km2)
16CarsonNew Mexico 1,390,885 acres (5,628.7 km2)
17Chattahoochee-OconeeGeorgia866,763 acres (3,507.7 km2)
18Chequamegon-NicoletWisconsin 1,523,704 acres (6,166.2 km2)
19CherokeeTennessee, North Carolina 656,394 acres (2,656.3 km2)
20ChippewaMinnesota671,952 acres (2,719.3 km2)
21ChugachAlaska 5,419,095 acres (21,930.3 km2)
22CibolaNew Mexico 1,616,435 acres (6,541.5 km2)
23ClearwaterIdaho 1,682,068 acres (6,807.1 km2)
24ClevelandCalifornia 425,580 acres (1,722.3 km2)
25CoconinoArizona 1,852,201 acres (7,495.6 km2)
26ColvilleWashington 954,668 acres (3,863.4 km2)
27ConecuhAlabama 83,983 acres (339.9 km2)
28CoronadoArizona, New Mexico1,718,945 acres (6,956.3 km2)
29CroatanNorth Carolina 161,325 acres (652.9 km2)
30CusterMontana, South Dakota1,189,465 acres (4,813.6 km2)
31Daniel BooneKentucky 564,168 acres (2,283.1 km2)
32Davy CrockettTexas 161,140 acres (652.1 km2)
33DeltaMississippi 62,109 acres (251.3 km2)
34DeschutesOregon 1,612,218 acres (6,524.4 km2)
35De SotoMississippi 532,100 acres (2,153.3 km2)
36DixieUtah 1,885,655 acres (7,631.0 km2)
37EldoradoCalifornia695,098 acres (2,813.0 km2)
38El YunquePuerto Rico 28,683 acres (116.1 km2)
39Finger LakesNew York 16,352 acres (66.2 km2)
40FishlakeUtah 1,452,969 acres (5,880.0 km2)
41FlatheadMontana 2,413,573 acres (9,767.4 km2)
42Francis MarionSouth Carolina 258,673 acres (1,046.8 km2)
43Fremont-WinemaOregon2,253,796 acres (9,120.8 km2)
44GallatinMontana1,849,701 acres (7,485.5 km2)
45George Washington & JeffersonVirginia, West Virginia, Kentucky 1,792,209 acres (7,252.8 km2)
46Gifford PinchotWashington 1,312,274 acres (5,310.6 km2)
47GilaNew Mexico 2,658,321 acres (10,757.8 km2)
48Grand MesaColorado 345,939 acres (1,400.0 km2)
49Green MountainVermont 408,419 acres (1,652.8 km2)
50GunnisonColorado1,666,514 acres (6,744.1 km2)
51HelenaMontana 982,385 acres (3,975.6 km2)
52HiawathaMichigan 898,475 acres (3,636.0 km2)
53Holly SpringsMississippi156,243 acres (632.3 km2)
54HomochittoMississippi 192,237 acres (778.0 km2)
55HoosierIndiana 203,627 acres (824.0 km2)
56Humboldt-ToiyabeNevada, California 6,290,945 acres (25,458.6 km2)
57Huron-ManisteeMichigan 975,130 acres (3,946.2 km2)
58Idaho Panhandle Coeur d'Alene, St. Joe, KaniksuIdaho, Montana, Washington 3,074,438 acres (12,441.8 km2)
59InyoCalifornia, Nevada 1,957,264 acres (7,920.8 km2)
60KaibabArizona 1,561,060 acres (6,317.4 km2)
61KisatchieLouisiana607,540 acres (2,458.6 km2)
62KlamathCalifornia, Oregon1,672,442 acres (6,768.1 km2)
63KootenaiMontana, Idaho 1,810,361 acres (7,326.3 km2)
64Lake Tahoe Basin Management UnitCalifornia, Nevada 152,008 acres (615.2 km2)
65Land Between The LakesKentucky, Tennessee 171,251 acres (693.0 km2)
66LassenCalifornia 1,066,027 acres (4,314.1 km2)
67Lewis and ClarkMontana 1,871,490 acres (7,573.7 km2)
68LincolnNew Mexico 1,095,470 acres (4,433.2 km2)
69LoloMontana 2,237,961 acres (9,056.7 km2)
70Los PadresCalifornia 1,772,237 acres (7,172.0 km2)
71MalheurOregon 1,480,818 acres (5,992.7 km2)
72Manti-La SalUtah, Colorado 1,269,984 acres (5,139.4 km2)
73Mark TwainMissouri1,504,881 acres (6,090.0 km2)
74Medicine Bow – RouttColorado, Wyoming 2,210,327 acres (8,944.9 km2)
75MendocinoCalifornia915,532 acres (3,705.0 km2)
76ModocCalifornia 1,680,405 acres (6,800.4 km2)
77MonongahelaWest Virginia 920,583 acres (3,725.5 km2)
78Mount Baker-SnoqualmieWashington 2,562,955 acres (10,371.9 km2)
79Mount HoodOregon 1,069,427 acres (4,327.8 km2)
80NantahalaNorth Carolina532,300 acres (2,154.1 km2)
81NebraskaNebraska 140,813 acres (569.8 km2)
82Nez PerceIdaho 2,223,586 acres (8,998.5 km2)
83OcalaFlorida 384,693 acres (1,556.8 km2)
84OchocoOregon 854,817 acres (3,459.3 km2)
85Okanogan-WenatcheeWashington 1,501,826 acres (6,077.7 km2)
86OlympicWashington631,808 acres (2,556.8 km2)
87OsceolaFlorida 160,192 acres (648.3 km2)
88OttawaMichigan990,961 acres (4,010.3 km2)
89OuachitaArkansas, Oklahoma 1,785,468 acres (7,225.5 km2)
90Ozark-St. FrancisArkansas 1,153,374 acres (4,667.5 km2)
91PayetteIdaho 2,326,779 acres (9,416.1 km2)
92PikeColorado 1,096,146 acres (4,435.9 km2)
93PisgahNorth Carolina 509,283 acres (2,061.0 km2)
94PlumasCalifornia 1,189,554 acres (4,814.0 km2)
95PrescottArizona 1,257,005 acres (5,086.9 km2)
96Rio GrandeColorado 1,837,661 acres (7,436.8 km2)
97Rogue River-SiskiyouOregon, California 1,718,893 acres (6,956.1 km2)
98RooseveltColorado 814,090 acres (3,294.5 km2)
99SabineTexas 161,088 acres (651.9 km2)
100Salmon-ChallisIdaho 4,226,973 acres (17,106.0 km2)
101Sam HoustonTexas 163,264 acres (660.7 km2)
102Samuel R. McKelvieNebraska115,847 acres (468.8 km2)
103San BernardinoCalifornia678,980 acres (2,747.7 km2)
104San IsabelColorado 1,108,639 acres (4,486.5 km2)
105San JuanColorado 1,864,595 acres (7,545.7 km2)
106Santa FeNew Mexico 1,544,748 acres (6,251.4 km2)
107SawtoothIdaho, Utah 1,802,133 acres (7,293.0 km2)
108SequoiaCalifornia 1,139,240 acres (4,610.3 km2)
109Shasta-TrinityCalifornia2,229,286 acres (9,021.6 km2)
110ShawneeIllinois 273,482 acres (1,106.7 km2)
111ShoshoneWyoming 2,439,093 acres (9,870.7 km2)
112SierraCalifornia 1,311,231 acres (5,306.4 km2)
113SiuslawOregon 630,291 acres (2,550.7 km2)
114Six RiversCalifornia 977,090 acres (3,954.1 km2)
115StanislausCalifornia 899,427 acres (3,639.9 km2)
116SumterSouth Carolina 372,778 acres (1,508.6 km2)
117SuperiorMinnesota 2,092,767 acres (8,469.1 km2)
118TahoeCalifornia 872,981 acres (3,532.8 km2)
119TalladegaAlabama 393,006 acres (1,590.4 km2)
120TombigbeeMississippi 67,468 acres (273.0 km2)
121TongassAlaska 16,748,360 acres (67,778.2 km2)
122TontoArizona 2,866,663 acres (11,601.0 km2)
123TuskegeeAlabama 11,349 acres (45.9 km2)
124Uinta-Wasatch-CacheUtah, Wyoming, Idaho2,492,404 acres (10,086.4 km2)
125UmatillaOregon, Washington 1,405,898 acres (5,689.5 km2)
126UmpquaOregon 986,120 acres (3,990.7 km2)
127UncompahgreColorado 951,767 acres (3,851.7 km2)
128UwharrieNorth Carolina 51,218 acres (207.3 km2)
129Wallowa-WhitmanOregon, Idaho 2,261,480 acres (9,151.9 km2)
130WayneOhio 243,180 acres (984.1 km2)
131White MountainNew Hampshire, Maine761,687 acres (3,082.4 km2)
132White RiverColorado 2,287,495 acres (9,257.2 km2)
133WillametteOregon 1,681,674 acres (6,805.5 km2)
134William B. BankheadAlabama 181,988 acres (736.5 km2)

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