List of legislation governing the United States Forest Service

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A number of federal statutes govern the United States Forest Service:

  1. Forest Service Organic Administration Act (Act of June 4, 1897) (16 U.S.C. §§ 473-478, 479-482 and 551, June 4, 1897, as amended 1905, 1911, 1925, 1962, 1964, 1968, and 1976). This act is the original organic act governing the administration of national forest lands. The act specified the purposes for which forest reserves might be established and provided for their protection and management. Today, this act is one of several Federal laws under which the Forest Service operates. While the Organic Administration Act remains significant, it must be read in conjunction with the later acts, which expand the purpose and uses of the national forests.
  2. Multiple Use - Sustained Yield Act of 1960 (Act of June 12, 1960) (P.L. 86-517; 16 U.S.C. §§ 528-531). This act declares that the purposes of the national forests include outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, and fish and wildlife. The act directs the Secretary of Agriculture to administer national forest renewable surface resources for multiple use and sustained yield. The act does not affect the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the States, the use or administration of the mineral resources of national forest lands, or the use or administration of Federal lands not within the national forests.
  3. National Forest Management Act of 1976 (Act of October 22, 1976) (P.L. 94-588; 16 U.S.C. §§ 1600-1614, August 17, 1974, as amended 1976, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1983, 1985, 1988 and 1990). This act reorganized, expanded, and otherwise amended the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, which called for the management of renewable resources on national forest lands. The National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to assess forest lands, develop a management program based on multiple-use, sustained-yield principles, and implement a resource management plan for each unit of the National Forest System. It is the primary statute governing the administration of national forests.
  4. Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 (Act of July 1, 1978) (P.L. 95-313; 16 U.S.C. §§ 2101-2111, July 1, 1978, as amended 1990, 1991, 1992, 1996 and 2008). This act, as amended, authorizes the State and private forestry activities of the Forest Service—including fire, forest management, forest health, wood utilization, urban and community forestry, forest land easements, and organizational management assistance—to State forestry agencies.
  5. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act of 1978 (Act of June 30, 1978) (P.L. 95-307, as amended by P.L. 100-521, Forest Ecosystems and Atmospheric Pollution Research Act of 1988, Section 3 (c), and as amended by P.L. 101-624, Food Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (Farm Bill), Title XII, Subtitle B; 16 U.S.C. §§ 1641-1648). The act provides an updated and expanded authority for research by the Forest Service, including allowing competitive grants, performing research studies, recycling wood fiber, conducting tests, and establishing a forestry student grant program for minority and female students.
  6. Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (Farm Bill) (P.L. 110-234) The Farm Bill is passed every several years and deals with both agriculture and all other affairs under the purview of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The most recent act, P.L. 110-234, contains new authorities for the Forest Service:
    • Title VIII: Forestry
      • Subtitle A: Amendment to the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978. Establishes national priorities for private forest conservation, a community forest and open space conservation program, and a Secretary level Forest Resources Coordinating Committee.
      • Subtitle B: Cultural and Heritage Cooperation Authority. Authorizes the reburial of Indian tribal human remains and cultural items found on national forest lands and temporary closure of national forest lands for cultural purposes.
      • Subtitle C. Amendments to Other Forestry Related Laws. Amends the Lacey Act to include the illegal taking of plants, establishes an Emergency Forest Restoration Program, and renews authority and funding for the Healthy Forest Reserve Program.
    • Title IX: Energy Establishes Forest Biomass for Energy and Community Wood Energy grant programs.
  7. Foreign Operation Appropriations Act of 1978 (Act of November 5, 1990) (P.L. 101-513, 104 Stat. 2070; 16 §§ U.S.C. 4501 note, 4501, 4502, 4503, 4503a to 4503d, 4504, 4505, 1641, 1643, 2101, 2109). Title VI of this act provides authority for international forestry activities of the Forest Service.
  8. National Environmental Policy Act (Act of January 1, 1970) (P.L. 91-190; 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347). This act requires Federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decisionmaking processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions. To meet this requirement, Federal agencies must analyze the environmental effects of proposed actions, such as through an environmental impact statement or other method, as specified in applicable rules. The act also established the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
  9. Endangered Species Act (Act of December 28, 1973) (16 USC 1531-36, 1538-40). This act governs the process of identifying threatened and endangered species, provides protections for such species, and governs Federal actions that could affect such species or their habitat.

The following are additional laws with significant influence on the mission of the Forest Service:

  1. Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (Act of August 17, 1974) (P.L. 93-348, 88 Stat. 476, as amended; 16 U.S.C §§ 1600(note), 1600-1614). This act requires preparation of a strategic plan for all Forest Service activities every 5 years based on an assessment of renewable natural resources on all land ownerships every 10 years.
  2. Clean Water Act (Federal Water Pollution Control Act) (Act of June 30, 1948) (P.L. 80-845; 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387, October 18, 1972, as amended 1973-1983, 1987, 1988, 1990-1992, 1994, 1995, and 1996). This act is a comprehensive statute aimed at restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.
  3. Clean Air Act (Act of July 14, 1955) (P.L. 84-159; 42 U.S.C. §§ 7401-7602). This act was the first Federal legislation involving air pollution. This act provided funds for Federal research in air pollution. Major amendments were made to this act by P.L. 88-206 and P.L. 95-95 to help control air pollution and increase the authority and responsibility of the Federal Government to help provide clean air.
  4. Wilderness Act (Act of September 3, 1964) (P.L. 88-577, 78 Stat. 890 as amended; 16 U.S.C §§ 1131 (note), 1131-1136). This act established the National Wilderness Preservation System and designated the initial components of that system. These lands are to be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people and for the preservation of their wilderness character.
  5. Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (Act of September 3, 1964) (P.L. 88-578, 78 Stat. 897 as amended; 16 U.S.C. §§ 460l-4 through 6a, 460l-7 through 460l-10, 460l-10a-d, 460l-11). This act provides money to Federal, State, and local governments to purchase land, water, and wetlands. Land is bought from landowners at fair-market value, unless donated.
  6. Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (Act of October 2, 1968) (P.L. 90-542, 82 Stat. 906, as amended; 16 U.S.C. §§ 1271(note), 1271-1287). This act established a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System to include rivers possessing “outstandingly remarkable” values to be preserved in free-flowing condition. The act designated the initial components of this system and prescribed how future additions to the system would be evaluated.
  7. Federal Advisory Committee Act (Act of October 6, 1972) (P.L. 92-463; 5 U.S.C. §§ Appendix 2). The act governs the behavior of approximately 1,000 Federal advisory committees. In particular, the act restricts the formation of such committees to only those that are deemed essential and limits their powers to provision of advice to officers and agencies in the executive branch of the Federal Government. The act requires that administrative procedures and hearings be public knowledge.
  8. Federal Land Policy and Management Act, (Act of October 21, 1976) (43 USC 1701-2, 1711-23, 1732-37, 1740-42, 1744, 1746-48, 1751-53, 1761-71, 1781-82). This statute provides the basic policies for Federal land management and governs actions such as acquisitions, sales, exchanges, withdrawals, and rights of way.
  9. Forest Reserve Act of 1891 (Act of March 3, 1891) (Section 24 of the General Land Law Revision Act of 1891, also known as the Creative Act; 26 Stat. 1103; 16 U.S.C. §§ 471, repealed 1976 by P.L. 94-579, FLPMA). This act gave the President authority to establish forest reserves from public domain lands. The forest reserves, then comprising 63 million acres (250,000 km2), formed the foundation of the National Forest System. In February 1905, Congress transferred the Forest Reserves from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. In July 1905, the Bureau of Forestry was renamed the Forest Service.
  10. Transfer Act of 1905 (Act of February 1, 1905) (P.L. 58-33, Ch. 288, 33 Stat. 628; 16 §§ U.S.C. 472, 554). This act transferred administration of the forest reserves from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture.
  11. Weeks Law (Act of March 1, 1911) (P.L. 61-435, CH. 186, 36 Stat. 961, as amended; 16 U.S.C. §§ 480, 500, 515, 516, 517, 517a, 518, 519, 521, 552, 563). This act authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to examine, locate, and purchase forested, cutover, or denuded lands within the watersheds of navigable streams necessary to regulate the flow of navigable streams or for timber production.
  12. Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, Section 601, Division C, of P.L. 110-343 (Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008). The legislation provides financial assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests in Federal lands. Funds are used for schools and roads, as well as to create employment opportunities, to maintain current infrastructure, and to improve the health of watersheds and ecosystems. More than $2.1 billion will be distributed to eligible States and counties over a 4-year period (FY 2008-2011).