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How We Operate

What is the Forest Service?

The Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 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, summed up the mission of the Forest Service— “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”

National forests are America’s Great Outdoors. They encompass 193 million acres (78 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.

When and why was the Forest Service established?

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.

Who are the people of the Forest Service?

The Forest Service has a workforce of approximately 30,000 employees that reflects the full range of diversity of the American people. This includes cultural and disciplinary diversity, as well as diversity in skills and abilities. In the summer, the numbers increase to meet additional needs for services by the recreating public. If you are a high school or college student, senior citizen or interested volunteer, there are op­portunities for you in the Forest Service.

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