Education Theme - About the Forest Service

Meet the Forest Service

What is the Forest Service?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service 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 Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

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.

National Forests and Grasslands are America's great outdoors.

They encompass 193 million acres (aprox. 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. A wide variety of activities are available: backpacking in remote wilderness areas, mastering an all-terrain vehicle over a challenging trail, enjoying the views along a scenic byway, fishing in a great trout stream.

What does the Forest Service do?

The job of Forest Service managers is to help people share and enjoy the forest, while conserving the environment for generations yet to come. Some activities are compatible. Some are not. You, as a concerned citizen, play a key role. By expressing your views to Forest Service managers, you will help them balance all of these uses and make decisions in the best interest of the forest and the public.

The Forest Service motto, "Caring for the Land and Serving People," captures the spirit of our mission, which we accomplish through five main activities:

  • Protection and management of natural resources on National Forest System lands.
  • Research on all aspects of forestry, rangeland management, and forest resource utilization.
  • Community assistance and cooperation with State and local governments, forest industries, and private landowners to help protect and manage non-Federal forest and associated range and watershed lands to improve conditions in rural areas.
  • Achieving and supporting an effective workforce that reflects the full range of diversity of the American people.
  • International assistance in formulating policy and coordinating U.S. support for the protection and sound management of the world's forest resources.

Go to our Forest Service website to learn more about the U.S. Forest Service!

Educator Resources About the Forest Service

Junior Forest Ranger
The Junior Forest Ranger (JFR) program is an exciting way for young people to explore their national forests and grasslands.  The JFR program uses Forest Service science and practices to encourage children 7 through 13 to enjoy and appreciate nature. JFR motivates children to explore the natural and cultural world, and embrace their responsibility to it. Go to the Junior Forest Ranger website for additional program information, downloading the JFR activity guide, and access to the JFR Clubhouse.

National Information on Conservation Education Database (NICE)
The National Information for Conservation Education (NICE) Database is the primary way in which the Forest Service tracks and monitors programs and activities in conservation education across the nation. This online, searchable database of education programs is a terrific clearinghouse for finding programs and resources that connect children with nature. Program reports include goals and objectives, partners, and contact information. Search the database by area, type or topic.

If Trees Could Talk: A Curriculum in Environmental History
If Trees Could Talk is a 10-module, middle school curriculum that gives teachers the opportunity to download from the Forest History Society's Web site social studies activities that are based upon archival materials. The centerpiece of each module is a compilation of primary resources--documents, maps, newspaper articles, oral histories or photographs--from which students are asked to gather, examine, and analyze information, and synthesize insights. The curriculum is presently being tested by teachers around the United States and has already generated much popular support.

Forest Service Natural Inquirer Science Education Journal
The Natural Inquirer is a middle-school science education journal that brings Forest Service research to life. There are numerous editions of Natural Inquirer, with many articles related to climate change research. The newest edition, “The World’s Forests,” is an excellent resource to help understand global forestry issues. Natural Inquirers can be downloaded from the Web site, or limited copies of printed journals can be ordered from the program. On the Web site, search for climate change articles.