11 surprising things you never knew about US forests

Education Images / ContributorShoshone National Forest is one of many national forests in Yellowstone National Park.
  • Later divided into several forests, Yellowstone was the first national forest in the US.
  • Kansas and North Dakota are home to national grasslands.
  • The only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System is El Yunque in Puerto Rico.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

It can be easy to take greenery for granted, but trees provide a range of benefits, from improving air quality to lowering air temperature. In the US, the National Forest System helps protect nearly 200 million acres of public forests and grasslands.

Here are 11 things you never knew about US forests.


Yellowstone was the first national forest and the first national park in the US.

Kirn Vintage Stock / ContributorYellowstone became a national forest in 1891.

In 1872, Yellowstone was established as the first national park in the US. Then, in 1891, it was designated the nation’s first national forest by President Benjamin Harrison.

Under Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency, however, Yellowstone’s land was divided into a handful of forests. These areas are known today as the Custer, Bridger-Teton, Shoshone, and Caribou-Targhee National Forests.

As of today, the park is home to 27 national forests.


One of the newest national forests, Finger Lakes, was established in 1985.

U.S. Forest Service – Green Mountain & Finger Lakes National Forests/FacebookFinger Lakes National Forest is located in New York state.

Situated in upstate New York, Finger Lakes National Forest was established in 1985 from land that the US Forest Service acquired in the 1950s. It functions as an administrative unit of Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest.

FLNF is the sole national forest in New York. Numerous animal species live there, from bobcats to grassland birds. The broader Finger Lakes region is also renowned for its wineries.


The Forest Service manages nearly 200 million acres of land across the US.

Wolfgang Kaehler / ContributorThe Coconino National Forest is one of many national forests managed by the Forest Service.

From Alaska to Wyoming and beyond, the Forest Service manages 193 million acres of land. Not to mention the 500 million acres of state, private, and tribal forests on which the Service fosters sustainable management.


There are 154 national forests in the US and Puerto Rico.

VW Pics / ContributorGifford Pinchot is a national forest located in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.

In total, there are 154 national forests in the US. They’re spread across 40 states and Puerto Rico.


Kansas and North Dakota are home to national grasslands but no national forests.

USDA Forest ServiceThe Dakota Prairie Grasslands stretch more than a million acres.

There aren’t any national forests in Kansas and North Dakota, but these states do contain national grasslands.

Kansas’ Cimarron National Grassland was established in 1960. Spanning more than 108,000 acres, it’s the largest area of public land in the Sunflower State. Additionally, in North Dakota, you’ll find the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, which go for more than 1,259,000 acres. Visitors can hike or fish, or observe the wealth of wildlife that calls the Dakota Prairie home.


El Yunque in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the National Forest System.

Wolfgang Kaehler / ContributorEl Yunque National Forest has had many names in its long history.

The National Forest System contains a tropical rainforest, and it’s located in Puerto Rico. Called El Yunque, it was initially established as a Crown Reserve of Spain by King Alfonso XII in 1876, back when the island was a Spanish colony.

When the United States gained control of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, President Roosevelt would go on to rename the forest the “Luquillo Forest Reserve,” a moniker derived from the island’s Luquillo Mountains.

Once the US Forest Service was created in 1905, the reserve was expanded to include additional acreage. With more land came an updated name – the Carribean National Forest. In 2007, it was given its current name (Spanish for “anvil”) to better encapsulate Puerto Rican history and heritage, it was called the “Caribbean National Forest.


The largest US national forest is Tongass in Alaska.

Wolfgang Kaehler / ContributorThe Tongass National Forest covers most of Southeast Alaska.

Alaska’s Chugach National Forest, which contains the Kenai Peninsula, may get more attention, but the Frontier State boasts a second national forest, Tongass, which happens to be the largest in the entire system.

Tongass stretches nearly 17 million acres and encompasses Alaska’s capital, Juneau. The landscape of this massive forest, which is inhabited by grizzly bears, bald eagles, and other creatures, ranges from rugged mountains to lush valleys.


One of the smallest forests is Tuskegee in Alabama.

ZamiaV/TripAdvisorTuskegee National Forest is situated in Macon County, Alabama.

Tuskegee, one of four national forests in Alabama, is one of the smallest in the US. It comprises just over 11,000 acres of land.

Before President Dwight D. Eisenhower designated it a national forest in 1959, the area was one of the most eroded in Alabama, with 80% of its trees cut over.


There are more than 7 million acres of wetlands in the US National Forest System.

Tim Graham / ContributorFlorida is home to many wetlands monitored by the National Wetlands Inventory.

In addition to forests and grasslands, the National Forest System also features 7.2 million acres of wetlands. These aquatic ecosystems are cataloged by the National Wetlands Inventory, an initiative launched by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to bolster preservation efforts.


National forests provide 66 million people in the US their municipal water supply.

ROBYN BECK / StaffNational forests supply water to Los Angeles, California.

Around 66 million people in 33 states rely on water from rivers and aquifer systems that are located near Forest Service lands. Even in large cities like Los Angeles, California, and Atlanta, Georgia, the majority of the water supply is sourced from national forests.


The state with the most national forests is California.

Marji Lang / ContributorSequoia National Forest is located in Kernville, California.

There are 18 national forests in California. Some of these include the Angeles National Forest, which is nestled in the San Gabriel Mountains, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Area, and the Sequoia National Forest. Sequoia is famous for its eponymous trees, whose trunks can reach a height of 250 feet.

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