News Release

U.S. Forest Service Priest River Experimental Forest Celebrates 100 Years of Science

October 17, 2011 -

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell is hailing the 100 year anniversary of northern Idaho’s Priest River Experimental Forest as an important milestone for a national program that has allowed scientists to better understand the trends and threats to our nation’s wooded areas, thereby improving forest products while protecting natural resources. 

For over 100 years the U.S. Forest Service’s experimental forest system of over 80 forests, dotted across the United States from Maine to Hawaii, have been helping wildlife managers address and adapt to such issues as acid rain, climate change and a host of other issues. 

"Our experimental forests have served as the bellwether for identifying and devising strategies for the myriad and ever changing threats affecting our nation's wooded areas," Tidwell said. "Thanks to these forests, we are learning to adapt to everything from destructive insects, to longer and more severe fire seasons, to species diversity." 

Experimental forests managed by the U.S. Forest Service range in size from a few hundred acres to tens of thousands of acres and have varying topography including great conifers, tropical rain forests and even cactus forests in the Southwest. Contributions of experimental forests include:

  • Identifying the effects of acid rain.
  • Research of old-growth Douglas-fir forests – which initiated conservation planning in the Pacific Northwest.
  • The science of water and how it affects forest health.

With this vast diversity in mind, the Priest River Experimental Forest will celebrate its centennial A Century of Science with a focus not only on the success of Priest River but on the success of the entire experimental forest system. 

Priest River is a premier center of scientific studies for managing Rocky Mountain forests. It was established following the devastating wildfires of 1910 -- which burned nearly three million acres -- to conduct research on fire and forest health. Research focus areas that dominate the history of Priest River include forest genetics and disease, vegetation management and forest watersheds. One of Priest River’s more notable breakthroughs involved researchers developing a rust-resistant western white pine. 

In 1911, Priest River Experimental Forest was among the first experimental forests set aside as a forestry research center. The forest served as the headquarters for the Priest River Forest Experiment Station until 1930 when the forest was incorporated into the Northern Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 

The forest is currently administered by the Rocky Mountain Research Station from the Moscow, Idaho, Forestry Sciences Laboratory. Since the establishment of Priest River, numerous educators, U.S. Forest Service researchers and state and private forestry personnel have used the experimental forest to provided information on basic forestry principles for managing Rocky Mountain forests.