FAQ - General

The questions people ask the most can be found here listed by category, or links are provided to more detailed information.

  1. What is the difference between the Forest Service, National Parks, and State Parks?
  • The Forest Service is part of the US Department of Agriculture and manages the national forests and grasslands, forestry research and cooperation with forest managers on State and Private Lands. The Forest Service is dedicated to multiple-use management 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. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, 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."
  • The National Park Service is part of the US Department of Interior and focuses on preservation. They preserve, unimpaired, the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation.
  • State Parks are similar to National Parks but are managed on state level and can have fewer restrictions.
  1. 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 forest and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forest for additional multiple uses and benefits 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.
  • National forests are America's Great Outdoors. They encompass 191 million acres 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 forest are becoming more important and valuable to Americans. People enjoy a wide variety of activities on national forest, 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 a great trout stream, to mention just a few.
  1. How are the Forest Service offices organized? There are four levels of national forest offices:
  • National Level: This is commonly called the Washington Office. The person who oversees the entire forest service is called the chief. The chief is a federal employee who reports to the Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment in the US Department of Agriculture. The Chief's staff provides a broad policy and direction for the agency, works with the President's Administration to develop a budget to submit to Congress, provides information to Congress on accomplishments and monitors activities of the agency.
  • Regional Level: There are 9 regions, numbered 1-10 (Region 7 was eliminated some years ago). The regions are broad geographic areas usually including several states. The person in charge is called the regional forester. Forest supervisors of the national forests within a region report to the regional forester. The regional office staff coordinated activities between national forest, monitors activities on national forest to ensure quality operations, provides guidance for forest plans, and allocates budgets to the forests.
  • National Forest: There are 155 national forest and 20 grasslands. Each forest is composed of several ranger districts. The person in charge of a national forest is called the forest supervisor. The district rangers from the districts within the forest work for the forest supervisor. The headquarters of the national forest is called the supervisor's office. This level coordinates activities between districts, allocates the budget, and provides technical support to each district.
  • Ranger District: The district ranger and their staff may be your first point of contact with the forest service. There are more than 600 ranger districts . Each district has a staff of 10 to 100 people. The districts vary in size form 50,000 acres to more than 1 million acres. Many on-the-ground activities occur on the ranger districts, including trail construction and maintenance, operation of campgrounds, and management of vegetation and wildlife habitat.