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U.S. Forest Service
Caring for the land and serving people

United States Department of Agriculture

Laws, Regulations, and Policies

Forest Service Rangelands Manager.Laws, regulations, and policies direct Forest Service rangeland management. Policies are the Forest Services rules defining rangelands management. The policies are documented in agency manuals and handbooks. The links on this page refer to other Forest Service, government or educational web sites with the information or to pages on this Rangelands web.


The authority to protect, manage, and administer the National Forest System, and other lands under Forest Service administration for range management purposes, is found in the following acts:

  • Organic Administration Act of 1897 - authorizes the President to modify or revoke any instrument creating a National Forest; states that no National Forest may be established except to improve and protect the forest within its boundaries, for the purpose of securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States.  Authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate rules and regulations to regulate the use and occupancy of the National Forests.
  • The Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act of 1937 - directs the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a program of land conservation and utilization to correct maladjustments in land use and thus assist such things as control of soil erosion, reforestation, preservation of natural resources and protection of fish and wildlife.
  • Sustained Yield Forest Management Act of 1944 - is an agreement between Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior, or with other Federal agencies having jurisdiction over forest land. Each of the said Secretaries is further authorized in his discretion to enter into cooperative agreements with the other Secretary, or with any Federal agency having jurisdiction over federally owned or administered forest land, or with any State or local agency having jurisdiction over publicly owned or administered forest land.
  • Organic Act of 1944 - provides establishment and protection of water rights. There are authorized to be appropriated for expenditure by the Forest Service such sums as may be necessary for the investigation and establishment of water rights, including the purchase thereof or of lands or interests in lands or rights-of-way for use and protection of water rights necessary or beneficial in connection with the administration and public use of the national forests.
  • Wild Horse Protection Act of 1959 - prohibited the use of a motor vehicle to hunt, for the purpose of capturing or killing, any wild horse, mare, colt, or burro running at large on the public lands. Also prohibits the pollution of watering holes on public lands for the purposes of trapping, killing, wounding, or maiming any of these animals.
  • Granger-Thye Act of 1950 - authorized range improvements from appropriated funds and allowed the Forest Service to authorize grazing advisory boards and to issue grazing permits for periods not exceeding ten years.
  • The Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960 - establishes the policy and purpose of the National Forests to provide for multiple-use and sustained yield of products and services.
  • Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 - which authorizes long-range planning by the United States Forest Service to ensure the future supply of forest resources while maintaining a quality environment. It requires that a renewable resource assessment and a Forest Service plan be prepared every ten and five years, respectively, to plan and prepare for the future of natural resources.
  • The Wilderness Act of 1964 - established the National Wilderness Preservation System.
  • The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 - secures protection of archaeological resources and sites on public and Indian lands.
  • National Environmental Policy Act of January 1, 1970 - directs all federal agencies to consider and report the potential environmental impacts of proposed federal actions, and established the Council on Environmental Quality.
  • National Forest Management Act of October 22, 1976 - The National Forest Management Act reorganized, expanded and otherwise amended the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, which called for the management of renewable resources on National Forest lands. The National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to assess forest lands, develop a management program based on multiple-use, sustained-yield principles, and implement a resource management plan for each unit of the National Forest System. It is the primary statute governing the administration of National Forests.
  • Wild Horses and Burros Act of 1971 - protects wild free-roaming horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and states they are to be considered in the area where presently found an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.
  • The Clean Water Act of 1972 - sets the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants to waters of the United States.
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973 - protects animal and plant species currently in danger of extinction (endangered) and those that may become endangered in the foreseeable future (threatened). It provides for the conservation of ecosystems upon which threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants depend, both through Federal action and by encouraging the establishment of state programs.
  • Forest and Range Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 - establishes public land policy and guidelines for the management, protection, development, and enhancement of the public lands.
  • Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 - requires that public lands be managed in a manner that will protect the quality of scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values; that, where appropriate, will preserve and protect certain public lands in their natural condition; that will provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and human occupancy and use. Also states that the United States shall receive fair market value of the use of the public lands and their resources unless otherwise provided for by law.
  • Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 - establishes and reaffirms the national policy and commitment to inventory and identify current public rangeland conditions and trends; manage, maintain and improve the condition of public rangelands so that they become as productive as feasible for all rangeland values in accordance with management objectives and the land use planning process; charge a fee for public grazing use which is equitable; continue the policy of protecting wild free-roaming horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death, while at the same time facilitating the removal and disposal of excess wild free-roaming horses and burros which pose a threat to themselves and their habitat and to other rangeland values.
  • The Rescission Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-19) - required each National Forest to establish and adhere to a schedule for completing NEPA analysis and decisions on all grazing allotments within a 15 year period.
  • NEPA, NFMA, and Appeals - a Forest Service site with information about The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), The National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA), and agency management planning and appeals.


Regulations governing range management on the National Forests are found throughout the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36 Parks, Forests, and Public Property Parts 200 to 299. The range management section of this regulation is located in 36 CFR 222. In addition, policy relating to range resources and coordination of range activities of the USDA agencies and other executive agencies, organizations, and individuals is included in the following.

  • Secretary's Administrative Order of August 1963, Administration of Lands Under Title III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act; Establishment of National Grasslands.
  • Departmental Regulation, Number 9500-5 - dated December 15, 1983; Subject: Policy on Range.
  • Executive Order 12548 - Grazing fees, 1986 - provide for establishment of appropriate fees for the grazing of domestic livestock on public rangelands.