National Forest Legal News Blog


Forest Service Press Release on Weeks Act Anniversary

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on March 3, 2011 at 7:33 PM

The Forest Service published this press release recognizing the 100th Anniversary of the Weeks Act. The Weeks Act is responsible for creation of the National Forests in the Eastern United States.  It was passed by the US Congress on 1 March 1911 in the United States. The law, introduced by Congressman John W. Weeks, authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to "Examine, locate and recommend for purchase ... such lands within the watersheds of navigable streams as ... may be necessary to the regulation of flow of navigable streams...." The Act further allowed for lands so acquired to be preserved and maintained as national forests. Prior to this time, on 1 February 1905, control over the forest reserves had been transferred from the General Land Office of the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. Responsibility for these lands was given to Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot. With these lands he gained the power to issue permits for water power development on National Forests. The Weeks Act appropriated $9 million to purchase 6 million acres (24,000 km2) of land in the eastern United States.

The Act also provided for cooperation in fire control between federal and state authorities. The fire season of 1910 greatly influenced this legislation because it raised havoc across the western United States, especially in the state of Idaho where fires killed 85 people (72 of them firefighters), burned more than 3 million acres (12,000 km2) and destroyed an estimated 8,000,000,000 board feet (19,000,000 m3) of timber and put the US Forest Service 1.1 million dollars in debt.

The Weeks Act was originally intended for purchase of eastern lands, but later western lands were acquired under the Weeks Act. It was substantially expanded and modified by the Clarke-McNary Act in 1924.

Major national forest that were formed under the weeks act are, White Mountains National Forest,Green Mountain National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, George Washington National Forest, and Ottawa National Forest.

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