Our nation’s cultural and natural history is intimately tied to the land. If you listen carefully and look around, the stories of ancient times, and times not so distant, will begin to reveal themselves. The Forest Service has recorded more than 380,000 cultural resources on national forests and grasslands for the American people to learn from and enjoy.
The Forest Service has a long history of preservation and discovery through management of cultural resources across 193 million acres of national forests. These historical remains and ruins of past cultural groups and include ancient Indian villages and rock art, travel routes and markers, military forts, and abandoned mines and mills. Together, they are part of the nation’s historic and cultural atlas.
In addition to managing them for public use, enjoyment and education, the Forest Service protects cultural resources from vandalism, theft, fire, and other threats.
The National Historic Preservation Act requires us to identify, investigate, and protect cultural resources on the lands we manage. The Forest Service follows a host of historic preservation laws, and well as our own policies, to ensure that future generations can appreciate and enjoy our nation’s rich heritage.
Of the all the recorded cultural resources on the lands we manage, 1,200 sites are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and 23 are National Historic Landmarks.
Know before you go: Many of the cultural resources on national forests are open to visitation. However, some areas are not open for exploration because of cultural significance or sensitivities. Check it out on the unit’s webpage before you visit to be sure.
No matter where you go, you can help be a “steward of the past” and treat all remains of past cultures with respect and tread lightly. Remember to take only photos, leave artifacts where you find them, and never touch rock art—it is extremely fragile.
You can help preserve the past by volunteering your time and talents to a wide-range of cultural resource projects.