When the Forest Reserve Act was passed in 1891 the goal was to set aside timber covered land from private logging interests. In the post-depression boom and car-crazy years of the 1950’s American demand for accessible wild lands increased dramatically. For the last fifty years the United States Forest Service has expanded to cover more than 192 million acres of land and employs more than 30,000 people. The Forest Service, in conjunction with the state parks and other public land organizations has spent the last 30 years making much needed improvements to camping areas and hiking trails first constructed in the post-war era and revived in the economic boom of the 1980’s and 1990’s. These improvements were hard fought from state and federal governments that had little to no investment in the preservation of the American wilderness or the outdoor way of life.
In some respects though, we have missed the boat. The facilities, interpretive services and signage that is present throughout at least the western United States is better than ever before, but parks are being closed and staff cut due to to budget constraints, lack of visitors or low traffic to formerly booming areas. The rise of the sedentary lifestyle, the obesity epidemic, and our technology addiction must surely have something to do with this. Ironic, since outdoor recreation is a good solution to many of these ills, especially in times of economic recovery. Using our parks and reserved lands is the best way to ensure the continuation of their funding. Get out there. (Original post June 22, 2015)