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Book Cover
A Brief History Of The National Park Service




National Park Idea

Early Growth

NPS Created






Plans and Design





Historic Conservation

Land Planning

State Cooperation


Work Camps

Recreation Study




Antiquities Act

Organic Act

Historic Sites Act

Recreational-Area Programs Act




The Act establishing the National Park Service makes specific provision for the control of attacks of forest insects and disease and otherwise conserving the scenery of the natural or historic objects in the parks and monuments. The protection of the park forests from destruction or serious damage resulting from fire, insects and disease, and from abuse through human use and occupancy has, therefore, been a primary function of the Service from its very inception.

The protection activities are handled by the ranger force, which constitutes the basic protective organization of the parks and monuments. The importance of these responsibilities and the multiplicity of the technical problems involved created a need for a central office to assist and cooperate with the park and monument in the planning and administration of forest protection activities. The desirability of intensive study and scientific preparation of detailed forest protection plans was emphasized by a number of devastating forest fires within national parks during the exceptionally severe and disastrous fire season of 1926.

Accordingly, the Forestry Division was created in 1927 under Chief Naturalist Ansel F. Hall, a graduate in forestry. To his duties in the development and administration of the educational service of the national parks and monuments was added the additional work of forest protection planning and administration, and his title was expanded to include that of Chief Forester. Headquarters for both the educational and forestry work were at the University of California, Berkeley, California. In July 1928 the position of Fire Control Expert was established in the Forestry Division at Berkeley to assist the Chief Forester in handling forestry and fire protection problems. John D. Coffman, a forester who had had many years of experience in forest protection and administration, was appointed to that position.

In March 1933 the Fire Control Expert was called to Washington to assist the Director in the organization and administration of the Emergency Conservation Work program for the National Park Service, which so expanded and accelerated the conservation work of the Service that a Branch of Forestry, headed by Mr. Coffman as Chief Forester, was established in November 1933 with headquarters in Washington, D. C.

With the regionalization of the Service in August 1937 a Regional Forester was appointed in each of the four regions to serve as technical adviser to the Regional Director in forestry matters and to head the forestry and fire protection work within the region. Each region also has one or more assistants to the Regional Forester to assist in the technical forestry work.

The functions of the Branch of Forestry are:

1. Correlation of forestry and fire protection activities throughout the Service.

2. Technical advice and cooperation to superintendents, custodians, and other officers of the Service in matters pertaining to forestry and fire protection problems.

3. Technical supervision of work dealing with forest problems, including: protection of park forests from fire, injurious insects and tree diseases, and from preventable damage resulting from use; preparation and correlation of forest protection and fire prevention plans, estimates, allotments, reports, and statistics, including the fire atlas; preparation of annual budget for forest protection and fire prevention, training of fire protection personnel, standardization, selection, use, and care of fire equipment; inspection of hazards affecting forest protection, fire hazard reduction, assistance in preparation of cases for fire law enforcement, fire reviews, type mapping, forest nurseries, forest planting, special tree preservation and repair, any timber cutting found necessary in national parks and monuments, forest products and utilization as a corollary of timber cutting authorized for any purpose, and forest and fire protection studies and research.

4. Contacts and cooperation with other bureaus and agencies in matters pertaining to fire protection, insect and tree disease control, forest pathology and ecology, and other forestry and fire prevention interests.

The objectives of the Branch are:

To maintain, in cooperation with all other branches of the Service, the forests of the national parks and monuments in their natural state so far as that is possible and consistent with their use and safety.

To maintain the forest ecological balance, in coordination with the management of the wildlife aspects by the Branch of Research and Information.

To safeguard park visitors, forests, buildings, and property of every character against destruction or injury by fire.

To make the park fire protection organizations the best trained and equipped and most efficient forest fire protection organizations in the Nation, because of the high scenic and recreational values at stake.

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Last Modified: Mon, Jun 16 2003 10:00:00 pm PDT

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