History & Culture

In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Ocala National Forest into existence as the third national forest east of the Mississippi (only the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota and El Yunque National Forest in Roosevelt's beloved Puerto Rico are older). The Ocala was created to protect the world's largest contiguous sand pine scrub. In the same year, Roosevelt established the Choctawhatchee National Forest in Florida, which was transfered to the Armed Services in 1940 and became Eglin Air Force Base.

President Herbert Hoover established the Osceola National Forest in 1931 to protect 229,185 acres of wetlands and pine flatwoods. Although often considered synonymous with Olustee Battlefield, the battlefield site dates back to 1865 and was established as the first Florida State Historic Site in 1912.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt etablished the Apalachicola National Forest, Florida’s youngest national forest, in 1932. It is the state's largest forest at 567,742 acres and protects one of the most unique ecosystems in the world.

The U.S. Congress placed the Florida National Scenic Trail under the management of the U.S. Forest Service in 1983 as part of an amendment to the National Trails System Act.

All of Florida's national forests have grown since they were established thanks to its land acquisition program that helps create landscape-scale wildlife corridors such as the connection of Osceola National Forest through the Pinhook Swamp to the Okeefenokee Swamp known as the O2O Corridor. Natural corridors like these allow larger wildlife such as black bears and panthers the space to roam and breed, and ensure species diversity across the region.


Turpentine and Timber

Pine sap dripping

Prior to the existence of the National Forests in the Southeast, local communities in the pine woods were dependent on the turpentine and timber industries from about 1890 to 1920.

The Civilian Conservation Corps

Sweetwater Cabin 1930s One of the "New Deal" programs of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps helped establish many of Florida's parks and built structures throughout the Ocala National Forest.