Alabama's national forests date back to the early 1900's and contain over 664,000 acres of public land. The National Forests in Alabama began with the Alabama Purchase Unit, established by the National Forest Commission in Fiscal Year 1914. The area was proclaimed the Alabama National Forest by President Woodrow Wilson on January 15, 1918.
The first forest was located in Franklin, Lawrence and Winston Counties. Land acquisition files show that much of the ridge tops had been cut-over and approximately 40-percent of the land had been cut-over, cultivated and vacated farmland. The virgin timber must have been located in the deep gorges and on public domain land.
Bankhead National Forest
On June 19, 1936, by proclamation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Alabama National Forest was renamed the Black Warrior National Forest. About six years later on June 17, 1942, the name was changed, by an Act of Congress, to the William B. Bankhead National Forest.
Conecuh National Forest
The National Reservation Commission established the Conecuh Purchase Unit in Escambia and Covington Counties January 21, 1935. On July 17, 1936, the Conecuh National Forest was created by presidential proclamation. The Conecuh National Forest initially contained 54,177 acres of cut-over and burned-over lands.
Talladega National Forest
The National Forest commission created the Oakmulgee Purchase Unit, located south of Centreville, January 21, 1935. The area was first settled in the early 1800's. At that time, stands of timber were cleared for agricultural purposes and to build homes. What is now known as the Oakmulgee Ranger District was about 60 percent cut-over land.
On July 17, 1936, President Roosevelt, by proclamation, created the Talladega National Forest out of the Talladega and Oakmulgee Purchase Units. The Talladega National Forest, at one time, consisted of four ranger districts: Oakmulgee or the Cahaba Working Circle, Tuscaloosa or the Pondville Working Circle, Shoal Creek and Talladega. The Talladega Unit was divided into two districts October 1, 1945, with the northern district, Shoal Creek Ranger District, headquartered in Heflin and the Talladega Ranger District . Thirty percent of the Shoal Creek/Talladega land was cut-over, cultivated and vacated farmland.
Tuskegee National Forest
The Tuskegee Land Utilization Project which was also known as the Tuskegee Planned Land Use Demonstration, was located about two and one-half miles northeast of Tuskegee in Macon County. The original project area consisted of approximately 10,358 acres of land and was purchased by the federal government during a three-year period of 1935 to 1938. The purchase of this land was authorized by the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, also known as the Submarginal Land Program.
This program's objectives were to acquire eroded, worn-out farmland, resettle the occupants and develop the newly purchased land for other uses such as forestry, wildlife and recreation. Many other changes and actions occurred prior to the area being proclaimed a national forest.
On November 27, 1959, the area was proclaimed the Tuskegee National Forest by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Prior to federal government acquisition, the area that is now the Tuskegee National Forest was one of the most abused, eroded wastelands in Alabama. The land was 80 percent cut-over.