North American Forests

United States Forest Lost 2 M Hectares in the last 25 Years

In the United States, most forests have historically been affected by humans to some degree, though in recent years improved forestry practices have helped regulate or moderate large scale or severe impacts. However, the United States Forest Service estimates a net loss of about 2 million hectares (4,942,000 acres) between 1997 and 2020; this estimate includes conversion of forest land to other uses, including urban and suburban development, as well as afforestation and natural reversion of abandoned crop and pasture land to forest. However, in many areas of the United States, the area of forest is stable or increasing, particularly in many northern states. The opposite problem from flooding has plagued national forests, with loggers complaining that a lack of thinning and proper forest management has resulted in large forest fires.

The United States has154 national forests,

covering 188,336,179 acres (762,169 km2; 294,275 sq mi).

National forests are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The first national forest was established as the Yellowstone Park Timber and Land Reserve on March 30, 1891, then in the Department of the Interior. In 1897, the Organic Act provided purposes for which forest reserves could be established, including to reserve a supply of timber, protect the forest from development, and secure water supplies. With the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, the president of the United States is given the power to set aside forest reserves in the public domain. With the Transfer Act of 1905, forest reserves became part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the newly created U.S. Forest Service.

By 1907, President Theodore Roosevelt had more than doubled the forest-reserve acreage, and Congress responded by limiting the president's ability to proclaim new reserves. The National Forest System underwent a major reorganization in 1908, and in 1911 Congress authorized new additions to the system under the authority of the Weeks Act. The management goals provided by the Organic Act were expanded upon by the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 to include "outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes" as well as for the establishment of wilderness areas.

As of September 30, 2014, the Forest Service manages a total of 192,922,127 acres (780,728.15 km2), 188,336,179 acres (762,169.48 km) of which are national forests. The additional land areas include 20 national grasslands, 59 purchase units, 19 research and experimental areas, five land utilization projects and 37 other areas. The National Forest System has an extensive and complicated history of reorganization, so while there are currently 154 named national forests, many of these are managed together as either a single forest or separate forests.

There is at least one national forest in all but ten states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Rhode Island (although Kansas and North Dakota have national grasslands). In addition, Puerto Rico contains El Yunque National Forest, the only tropical U.S. rainforest. Alaska has the most national forest land, with 21.9 million acres (8.9 million ha), followed by California (20.8 million acres, 8.4 million ha) and Idaho (20.4 million acres, 8.3 million ha). Idaho also has the greatest percent of its land in national forests, with 38.2 percent, followed by Oregon (24.7 percent) and Colorado (20.9 percent). On maps, national forests in the west generally show the true extent of their area, but those in the east often only show purchase districts, within which usually only a minority of the land is owned by the Forest Service.



Angelina National Forest

Apache–Sitgreaves National Forests

Apalachicola National Forest

Arapaho National Forest

Ashley National Forest

Beaverhead–Deerlodge National Forest

Bienville National Forest

Bighorn National Forest

Bitterroot National Forest

Black Hills National Forest

Boise National Forest

Bridger–Teton National Forest

Caribou–Targhee National Forest

Carson National Forest

Chattahoochee–Oconee National Forest

Chequamegon–Nicolet National Forest

Cherokee National Forest

Chippewa National Forest

Chugach National Forest

Cibola National Forest

Clearwater National Forest

Cleveland National Forest

Coconino National Forest

Colville National Forest

Conecuh National Forest

Coronado National Forest

Croatan National Forest

Custer National Forest

Daniel Boone National Forest

Davy Crockett National Forest

Delta National Forest

Deschutes National Forest

De Soto National Forest

Dixie National Forest

Deschutes National Forest

Eldorado National Forest

El Yunque National Forest

Finger Lakes National Forest

Fishlake National Forest

Flathead National Forest

Francis Marion National Forest

Fremont–Winema National Forest

Gallatin National Forest

George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Falls Creek Falls, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA.

Gifford Pinchot National Forest includes over 1.3 million acres of forest lands, wildlife habitat, watersheds & mountains, including Mt. Adams and the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Gila National Forest

Grand Mesa National Forest

Green Mountain National Forest

Gunnison National Forest

Deschutes National Forest

Helena National Forest

Hiawatha National Forest

Holly Springs National Forest

Homochitto National Forest

Deschutes National Forest

Hoosier National Forest

Humboldt–Toiyabe National Forest

Huron–Manistee National Forests

Idaho Panhandle National Forests

Inyo National Forest

Inyo National Forest

Water: In drought-prone California, the quantity, quality, and timely provision of our water is dependent on the health of our national forests. The forests supply, filter, and regulate water from upper watersheds and meadows, providing clean water throughout the year to communities, homes, and wildland habitats. Water also helps support jobs and industries that are water-dependent.

• About 1.4 million acre-feet of water per year come from the Inyo National Forest

• Or over 464 billion gallons per year

• Over 700,000 Olympic-size swimming pools

• Enough drinking water for California’s population for more than 39 years2, or

• Enough water for over 3.5 million households for a year3 How much is 464 billion gallons worth?

• Estimated wholesale market value: over $134 million4

• To Los Angeles households: over $15.3 billion5

Kaibab National Forest

Kisatchie National Forest

Klamath National Forest

Kootenai National Forest

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit

Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area

Lassen National Forest

Lewis and Clark National Forest

Lincoln National Forest

Lolo National Forest

Los Padres National Forest

Malheur National Forest

Manti–La Sal National Forest

Mark Twain National Forest

Medicine Bow–Routt National Forest

Mendocino National Forest

Modoc National Forest

Monongahela National Forest

Mount Baker–Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Hood National Forest

Nantahala National Forest

Nebraska National Forest

Nez Perce National Forest

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest ls the second largest nationally protected forest in the U.S. State of Florida. It covers 607 square miles (1,570 km2) of Central Florida. It is located three miles (5 km) east of Ocala and 16 miles (26 km) southeast of Gainesville. The Ocala National Forest, established in 1908, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost national forest in the continental U.S. The word Ocala is thought to be a derivative of a Timucuan term meaning "fair land" or "big hammock". The Ocala National Forest is in the southeastern conifer forests and the Florida sand pine scrub ecoregions. Dry, sandy areas support Florida longleaf pine sandhills and Florida peninsula inland scrub. Longleaf pine sandhills are woodlands dominated by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). Inland scrub consists of sand pines (Pinus clausa) growing amid shrublands of evergreen oaks.

Ochoco National Forest

Okanogan National Forest

Olympic National Forest

Osceola National Forest

Ottawa National Forest

Ouachita National Forest

Ozark – St. Francis National Forest

Payette National Forest

Pike National Forest

Pisgah National Forest

Plumas National Forest

Prescott National Forest

Rio Grande National Forest

Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest

Roosevelt National Forest

Sabine National Forest

Salmon–Challis National Forest

Salmon–Challis National Forest is located in east central sections of the U.S. state of Idaho. At 4,235,940 acres (6,618.66 sq mi, or 17,142.24 km2) it is one of the largest national forests in the lower 48 states and also has most of the land area of the Frank Church–River of No Return Wilderness, which is the largest wilderness area south of Alaska.

Borah Peak, the tallest mountain in Idaho, is also found here. The Wild and Scenic Salmon River weaves through the rugged terrain of the Sawtooth Mountains and Sawtooth National Recreation Area, while it flows for over 75 miles (121 km) through the forest. The Big Lost River has its headwaters within the national forest.

Challis National Forest, the more southerly of its two parts, lies primarily in Custer County, but also has major areas in Lemhi and Butte counties, as well as smaller areas in Clark and Blaine counties. It has a total area of 2,463,471 acres (3,849.17 sq mi, or 9,969.31 km). There are local ranger district offices located in Challis, Clayton, and Mackay.

Salmon National Forest, which lies to the north, is primarily located in Lemhi County, with spillover into Valley and Idaho counties. It has a total area of 1,772,469 acres (2,769.48 sq mi, or 7,172.93 km).

Sam Houston National Forest

Samuel R. McKelvie National Forest

San Bernardino National Forest

San Isabel National Forest

San Juan National Forest

Santa Fe National Forest

Sawtooth National Forest

Sequoia National Forest

Sequoia National Forest is located in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. The U.S. National Forest is named for the majestic Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees which populate 38 distinct groves within the boundaries of the forest.

The Giant Sequoia National Monument is located in the national forest. Other notable features include glacier-carved landscapes and impressive granite monoliths. The Needles are a series of granite spires atop a narrow ridge above the Kern River.

The Sequoia National Forest covers 1,193,315 acres (1,864.555 sq mi; 4,829.17 km2), and ranges in elevation from 1,000 feet (300 m) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada to over 12,000 feet (3,700 m). Its giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) groves are part of its 196,000 acres (790 km2) of old growth forests. Other tree species include:

  • Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi)

  • Red fir (Abies magnifica)

  • Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii)

  • Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)

  • White fir (Abies concolor)

  • Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta)

Shasta–Trinity National Forests

Shawnee National Forest

Shoshone National Forest

Sierra National Forest

Siuslaw National Forest

Six Rivers National Forest

Stanislaus National Forest

Sumter National Forest

Superior National Forest

Tahoe National Forest

Talladega National Forest

Tombigbee National Forest

Tongass National Forest

A bald eagle in Tongass National Forest, Alaska. MAURO TOCCACELI/ALAMY

The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska is the largest U.S. National Forest at 16.7 million acres (26,100 sq mi; 6,800,000 ha; 68,000 km). Most of its area is temperate rain forest and is remote enough to be home to many species of endangered and rare flora and fauna. The Tongass, which is managed by the United States Forest Service, encompasses islands of the Alexander Archipelago, fjords and glaciers, and peaks of the Coast Mountains. An international border with Canada (British Columbia) runs along the crest of the Boundary Ranges of the Coast Mountains.At 16.5 million acres, Tongass National Forest is more than half as big as the entire state of North Carolina. And while the forest is best known for its wide expanses of Sitka spruce, western hemlock and cedar, it is also geologically and climatically diverse enough to accommodate majestic glaciers and icefields. The trees themselves are remarkable for their size and longevity –some up to 800 years old.

USDA Forest Service

Tongass National Forest map

Fog rises from forest near Ford's Terror, a narrow fjord in the Tongass. WOLFGANG KAEHLER / LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

A forest view in the Tongass, the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. WOLFGANG KAEHLER / LIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES

Over one-third of Tongass National Forest is designated as federal wilderness, containing habitat for a variety of wildlife including brown and black bears, mountain goats, black-tailed deer, wolverines, river otters, harbor seals and bald eagles.

Sadly, Tongass National Forest is one of America's most exploited forests, with decades of forestry clearcut scars to prove it. Currently, some of its wildest stretches of forest--called "inventoried roadless areas"--are under threat, which could lead to similar dangers for wild forests across the county.

Tonto National Forest

Tuskegee National Forest

Wasatch–Cache National Forest

Umatilla National Forest

Umpqua National Forest

Uncompahgre National Forest

Uwharrie National Forest

Wallowa–Whitman National Forest

Wayne National Forest

White Mountain National Forest

White River National Forest

Willamette National Forest

William B. Bankhead National Forest