History & Culture

Forest Service headquarters sign.The Grand Mesa National Forest was created by President Benjamin Harrison on December 24, 1892. It was originally called the Battlement Mesa Forest Reserve and was the third such reserve to be created in the nation. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Gunnison National Forest, originally called the Cochetopa Forest Reserve, on June 13, 1905 and the Uncompahgre Forest Reserve on June 14, 1905.

The early years of the Forest Service were characterized by public animosity and misunderstanding of the purpose of the National Forest system. Those who made a living or a profit from lumbering, mining or grazing livestock on land which became National Forest confronted new rangers with anger, suspicion and accusations. They resented the active role the government was taking in the protection of forest lands, especially those who had enjoyed unfettered use of land and timber for many years.

William R. Kreutzer, the first Forest Ranger in the United States (appointed in 1898) spent much of his 41 year career on these Forests. He worked on the Battlement Mesa Forest Reserve from 1901 to 1905 and then served as the Forest Supervisor on the Gunnison National Forest from 1905 to 1920.

With the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in 1933, the Forest Service entered a kind of Golden Age. The CCC was one of the programs created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in an attempt to counter the effects of the Great Depression. It put thousands of young men to work performing a myriad of useful tasks on National Forests and other federal lands. These projects ran the gamut from road construction and construction of ranger stations, campgrounds and other recreational developments, to conservation efforts such as flood control, fence building and soil erosion prevention projects.

CCC camps sprang up almost overnight on national forest lands across the nation and many were located on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests. The CCC constructed buildings at the Long Cone Guard Station and at Silesca, Ward Lake, Mesa Lakes and Collbran Ranger Stations, to name a few. They also built most of the Lands End Road on the west end of the Grand Mesa, and numerous trails and campgrounds on the three forests. Many of these improvements are still in use!

The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests are administered as a single unit from the Forest Supervisor's Office in Delta, Colorado. This was not always so. The Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre were not joined until 1954 as a single administrative unit; the Gunnison was added in 1973. The three forests have a combined net area of 2, 951,799 acres. It is the largest National Forest administrative unit in the Rocky Mountain Region.