One of our most cherished assets in the United States is our public lands: they provide a wide variety of goods and services that have intrinsic value and also benefit human society. These include timber, edible plants, game and fish, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and other benefits, such as fresh water delivery, filtering, and cycling. To help us understand these lands and how best to manage them to be healthy, resilient ecosystems, the U.S. Forest Service created a network of experimental forests and ranges whose origin dates back to the early 20th century.
Experimental forests and ranges offer scientists both within and outside the Forest Service unique opportunities to conduct long-term studies of the multiple features of our varied lands; they also serve as demonstration and training sites for cooperators, stakeholders, and future generations of scientists. The experimental forest network spreads across United States and Puerto Rico (it is not solely contained to the Rocky Mountain Research Station's footprint), and the ecosystems represented range from cold, high-elevation alpine to arid, low-lying grasslands, and from boreal forests to tropical forests. They also range in size, from a little over a 100 acres to over 55,000 acres. Often, they encompass an entire watershed—all the land that drains water to the same waterway or place—thus enabling landscape-scale studies. Experimental forests and ranges—authorized by Congress and designated by the Chiefs of the Forest Service—have grown in number over the last 100 years. Fourteen experimental forests are administered by the Rocky Mountain Research Station; another 63 Experimental Forests and Ranges are administered by other research units in the Forest Service.
As part of the Forest Service’s Mission, science findings are shared with various stakeholders: State agencies, local communities, private landowners, and interested people can apply this knowledge on lands outside of the experimental forests and ranges.
The experimental forests and ranges administered by the Rocky Mountain Research Station include:
Did you know…
Long-term records on many of experimental forests and ranges date back to the 1930s, when 29 of the 77 began as areas conserved for long-term research. The oldest research records date back to 1911 (Priest River Experimental Forest in Idaho) and 1912 (Great Basin Experimental Range in Utah).