History of Recreation on the National Forests – Resources

Ranger Joe Tekel gives directions to a family at Smokehole Recreation Area, Monongahela National Forest, July 1966.

A listing of online resources documenting the history of U.S. Forest Service recreation policy (listed by publication date).

  • Department of the Interior, General Land Office. Forest Reserve Manual for the Information and Use of Forest Officers. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.
  • Pinchot, Gifford. Use of the Forests. Washington: US Dept. of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1907.
    Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, explains the purpose and use of the new national forests.
  • "Assistant forester E.A. Sherman's views on forest recreation" (1916)

    Tourists at Lolo Hot Springs, Lolo National Forest, Montana 1920.

  • Sherman, E.A. "The Forest Service and the Preservation of Natural Beauty." Landscape Architecture, vol. 6 (April 1916): 115-119. [PDF]
  • Sherman, E.A. "Use of the National Forests of the West for Public Recreation." Proceedings of the Society of the American Foresters, XI, 3 (July 1916): 293-296. [PDF]
  • McKibbin, Clifford Worden. "Developing National Forest Recreational Resources with a Preliminary Resort and Forest Plan for a Specific Area in the Santa Catalina Mountains Arizona." Masters thesis, Michigan Agricultural College (1916). [PDF]
    This is an example of an early recreation plan written at a point in time when the Forest Service realized it must develop recreation facilities to better compete with National Park development. McKibbin was a Forest Service employee 1910-1916 and spent much of his career in southern Arizona. (Thesis provided to the Forest History Society by the McKibben family.)
  • Waugh, Frank A. Recreation Uses on the National Forests. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1918.
    Waugh was a landscape engineer and hired as a collaborator with the Forest Service. His report was based on 5 months of field observations and field visits to all forest districts, arguing that recreation is a legitimate use of national forests and should be planned for.
  • Manning, Warren H. "Governmental Recreational Responsibilities as Determined by a Plan." Landscape Architecture (1926). [PDF]
    Address given to the 2nd National Conference on Outdoor Recreation.
  • Marshall, Robert. "The Forest for Recreation." A Plan for American Forestry. Letter from the Secretary of Agriculture transmitting in response to S. Res. 175 (72d Congress) the report of the Forest Service of the Agricultural Department on the forest problem of the United States. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1933. [PDF]
    The overall report is known as the "Copeland Report."
  • "Forests vs. Parks." Discussion of the struggle between the Forest Service and the National Park Service for control of national recreation lands.
  • Meinecke, E. P. "Recreation Planning: A Discussion." Journal of Forestry, vol 35 (1937): 1120-1128. [PDF]
  • U.S. Forest Service. National-Forest Vacations. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1940. Forest Service pamphlet with text and photos highlighting activities and locations.
  • Lord, Russell, ed. Forest Outings (by Thirty Foresters). Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1940.
    Written to provide a full picture of the purpose of the national forests with discussion of various issues as well as descriptions of specific places and activities.
  • U.S. Forest Service. Operation Outdoors. (Part 1. National Forest Recreation). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1957.
    Publication explaining new 5-year program to upgrade Forest Service recreation facilities. [PDF]
  • Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1960. Public Law 86–517; Approved June 12, 1960. [PDF]
  • Carhart, Arthur H. "Historical Development of Outdoor Recreation." Outdoor Recreation Literature: A Survey (Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Council Study Report), 1962: 100-129.
  • U.S. Department of the Interior. Special Report to the Nation: The Race for Inner Space. Washington, DC: US Department of Interior, National Park Service, 1964. [PDF]
  • U.S. Forest Service. Outdoor Recreation in the National Forests. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1965.
  • Cermak, Robert W. "Plans Must Be Big and Broad." Manuscript, Forest Service History Collection, Forest History Society, [1972]. [PDF]
    Later published as "In the Beginning: The First National Forest Recreation Plan" in Parks & Recreation, IX (November 1974): 20-33.
    Recounts the experience of Arthur H. Carhart, first trained landscape architect in the Forest Service, and the recreation planning processes he established in the 1920s. Cermak was Forest Supervisor, George Washington National Forest, Harrisonburg, VA.
  • U.S. Forest Service. National Forest Vacations. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1979.
  • Camp, Harry W. An Historical Sketch of Recreation Research in the USDA Forest Service. Berkeley, CA: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station, 1983. [PDF]
    Author was active in early development of recreation research.
  • Dunlop, George S. National Forest Recreation: 1987. Forest Service History Collection files, Forest History Society, 1988. [PDF]
    Forest Service internal report on current status and budgetary needs by Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment.
  • U.S. Forest Service. The National Forests, America’s Great Outdoors: National Recreation Strategy. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1988. [PDF]
    Publication directed to forest managers issuing a challenge to meet growing demands while budgets tighten.
  • Tweed, William C. A History of Outdoor Recreation Development in National Forests 1891-1942. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1989. [PDF]
  • U.S. Forest Service. Access America’s Great Outdoors: Forests are for Everyone. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 1993. [PDF]
    Describes program to create design guidelines for accessible outdoor recreation opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Collins, Sally, and Hutch Brown. "The Growing Challenge of Managing Outdoor Recreation." US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 2007.
    Forest Service Discussion Paper with overview of the history of recreation in the national forest and discussion on management issues.
  • Cordell, H. Ken. "The Latest Trends in Nature-Based Outdoor Recreation." Forest History Today (Spring 2008): 4-10. [PDF]
  • U.S. Forest Service. "National Visitor Use Monitoring Results" (USDA Forest Service, National Summary Report: Data collected FY 2005 to FY 2009). Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, 2010. [PDF]

For more historic photos of forest recreation, search the Forest History Society Image Database. Also browse sample images in the Outdoor Recreation in National Forests set on the Forest History Society Flickr pages.

For more information as well as for assistance in retrieving documents found in the Collections Database, contact Jamie Lewis at james.lewis@foresthistory.org or (919) 682-9319.

Compiled by: Nancy C. Nye, special projects, Forest History Society.