History Overview

The Southwest and the Forest Service

Historical photo, Coconino National ForestSecretary of Agriculture James Wilson’s directive of February 1, 1905, held special significance for the people of Arizona and New Mexico. Wilson announced the transfer of the Forest Reserves to the Department of Agriculture as authorized by Congress (H. R. 8460) on that same day. Some 21 million acres of public lands, almost one-eighth of the surface area of Arizona and New Mexico, were now to be administered by a regional subdivision of the Forest Service. “All land,” Wilson said, “is to be devoted to its most productive use for the permanent good of the whole people. ... All the resources of the forest reserves are for use.” In 1908, Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot appointed Arthur C. Ringland the first District Forester of the newly organized Southwestern district, or district 3. These Forest Service “districts” became “regions” after 1930.

The Forest Service was charged to maintain the permanence of the resources of the National Forests, while providing for their use. The great concern of Congress, as reflected in the Organic Administration Act of 1897, was to continue the prosperity of the agricultural, lumbering, mining, and livestock interests directly dependent upon the water, wood, minerals, and forage of the public domain. Over the past three-quarters of a century the use of the renewable and nonrenewable resources of the Southwest had increased at a rapid rate. From: Timeless Heritage: A History of the Forest Service in the Southwest, 1998.

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