The National Forest System was created to protect our forests from destruction by grazing, mining and unregulated cutting, which were already deemed a problem in the late 1800’s. In 1882, the U.S. President, Chester A. Arthur, stated: “The conditions of the forests and the wasteful manner in which their destruction is taking place give cause for serious apprehension.”
The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized the Presidents of the United States to set aside forest reserves from the lands in the Public Domain. The Act was passed under Benjamin Harrison’s administration (1889-1893). He responded by putting 13 million acres of land into National Forests. The succeeding presidents, Grover Cleveland (1893-1897) put in 25 million acres and William McKinley (1897-1901) put in 7 million acres. However, the champion of the forest preservation was Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909).
Under Roosevelt’s pen the forest reserves went from approximately 43,000,000 acres to about 194,000,000 acres, an increase of over 400%. This is a greater area than France, Belgium, and The Netherlands combined. See Roosevelt Legacy.
Over 100 years ago, four U.S. Presidents knew that trees of the forest sustained health and well-being for humans and wildlife. However, we of the “scientific age” aren’t able to figure it out. Only 10% of old-growth remains in our National Forests.