National Forest Foundation

What are the differences between National Parks and National Forests?

National Forests

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At first glance, our nation’s National Parks and National Forests may appear to be just about the same thing, with both as public lands. Under closer comparison though, each has their own unique history and priorities.

Important Dates

National Forests

1891 - Forest Reserve Act, allowed the President to establish forest reserves. Shoshone National Forest set aside, originally part of the Yellowstone Timberland Reserve.

1905 - Transfer of forests from Department of Interior to Department of Agriculture. U.S. Forest Service created.

National Parks

1872 - Yellowstone National Park established as first National Park.

1916 - National Park Service created.

Management

National Forests - Department of Agriculture
National Parks- Department of Interior


Mission and Purpose

Perhaps the greatest difference between the two is the multiple use mandate for National Forests. While National Parks are highly vested in preservation, barely altering the existing state, National Forests are managed for many purposes—timber, recreation, grazing, wildlife, fish and more.

National Forests - The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

As said by Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, National Forest land is managed, “to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.”

National Parks - The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.

Size

U.S. Forest Service - 193 million acres: 155 National Forests, 20 National Grasslands, 1 National Tallgrass Prairie

National Park System - 84 million acres (55 million in Alaska): 397 areas including National Parks (58), monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails and the White House.

For more information visit:

http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/index.htm

http://www.fs.fed.us/aboutus/meetfs.shtml

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