Utah’s National Forests
Shortly after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, the pioneers constructed sawmills in the nearby canyons. Several Utah businessmen prospered from these and other types of lumber operations up to and until Utah logging reached its peak in 1880. Unfortunately, this unregulated logging together with overgrazing by livestock left many of Utah’s mountain slopes denuded. Consequently, between 1880 and 1884, Utah became a net importer of lumber. By 1890, range and forest deterioration had become critical.
In the long run, grazing on Utah’s forests proved even more damaging than did logging. The federal government initially did little to effectively regulate the use of grazing on forest land in the West until influential private organizations and citizens provided the needed support. The results were the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 and the Organic Act of 1897, which authorized the president to set aside forest reservations for the protection of timber and watersheds. Responsibility for administering these reserves rested with the General Land Office.
In 1905 Congress transferred responsibility for the reserves, renamed national forests, to the newly created Forest Service. Decentralization under the Forest Service led to the creation of six administrative districts in 1908. Utah fell under the Intermountain District (later renamed Region), with its headquarters at Ogden, Utah.
Under the Organic Act, national forests could be designated for the protection of timber or watersheds. Although the first national forest in Utah–the Uinta–was extremely large, covering parts of what are now three national forests, most of the early national forests were quite small. After 1905, however, the Forest Service consolidated various forests into larger units, a movement that accelerated after World War II. Today Utah includes six national forests, all located in mountainous or plateau regions. These include, from north to south: Wasatch; Ashley; Uinta; Manti-LaSal; Fishlake; and Dixie National Forest.
From the designation of the reserves until the 1950s, grazing rather than timber production was the major commercial activity for which they were used. Unfortunately, excessively large numbers of cattle and sheep overgrazed the forests and caused erosion and rock-mud floods into the nearby valleys. Experiments at the Davis County Experimental watershed developed means for rehabilitating the watersheds and, after 1950, these measures plus aggressive reductions in numbers of livestock permitted and the length of grazing seasons facilitated the rehabilitation of the land.
After World War I, as lifestyles changed and people had more leisure time, recreational activities increased. The impact of the Depression also contributed in the decline of timber sales and grazing permits. At the same time, funds and personnel of the Civilian Conservation Corps helped to substantially improve recreation areas in addition to advancing erosion control, roads, trails, timber stands, and administrative facilities in the national forests.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the National Forest Service faced considerable difficulty as it began to implement multiple-use management. This meant considering a variety of activities in relation to one another including recreation, grazing, timber management, watersheds, wildlife protection and management, and mineral extraction.
Legislation and court rulings during the 1970s radically reduced the Forest Service’s discretion in making resource management decisions. Under the federal acts of 1974 and 1976, planning required extensive public discussion. At the same time, periodic budgetary reductions and resulting staff shortages made proper management extremely difficult.
By the 1980s the Forest Service faced additional challenges. The creation of new wilderness areas placed an additional emphasis on recreation and watershed management. Pressure from timber and grazing interests to increase cutting permits and facilitate ranching operations epitomized pressure from commodity interests. Often the public with which the service had to deal could not agree on the mix of activities to be followed on the various forests. In the years to come we can expect that the one constant will be increased pressure from many sources in their demands on our national forests.
Utah’s National Forests
- Located in Eastern Utah
- 1,402,656 Acres
The crown jewel of the Ashley National Forest is Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. The 91-mile lake created by Flaming Gorge Dam provides vivid blue contrast to the surrounding red rock cliffs dotted with green pines and aspen. All of this is part of Ashley National Forest. Ashely National Forest is famous for trophy trout fishing. Ashley National Forest’s recreation possibilities are limited only by the imagination. Comfortable accommodations make Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area a vacation paradise. The Ashley National Forest also provides outstanding backpacking in the pristine High Uintas Wilderness, and camping in either improved sites or backcountry areas throughout the forest.
355 N. Vernal Avenue
Vernal UT 84078
Dixie National Forest
- Located in Southeastern Utah
- 1,900,000 Acres
The Dixie National Forest, the largest in the state, stretches for 170 miles across southern Utah. The Dixie National Foest straddles the divide between the Great Basin and the Colorado River. Red Canyon, one of the most spectacular colored cliff canyons in southern Utah is located in the heart of Dixie National Forest. Visitors to Dixie National Forest can experience its brilliant red spires and cliffs by car or by hiking one of the nature trails in the canyon. In this unique environment at Dixie National Forest, weather sculpted formations of Wasatch limestone are contrasted by giant ponderosa pines. Red Canyon is only one example of the Dixie’s outstanding scenic features. In a day’s drive, visitors to Dixie National Forest may also choose to enjoy a hike in Pine Valley, see scenic Navajo Lake, fish at Panguitch Lake, tour the east fork of the Sevier River or travel the scenic Boulder/Grover Road on Boulder Mountain. These areas all have camping facilities. Pine Valley, Ashdown Gorge, and Box-Death Hollow Wildernesses offer backpacking adventures. Come visit beautiful Dixie National Forest.Main Office
82 N. 100 E.
PO Box 0580
Cedar City, 84721
Fishlake National Forest
- Located in Central & Southwestern Utah
- 1,454,382 Acres
The Fishlake National Forest is a paradise known for its beautiful aspen forests, Scenic Byways, trails for motorized and non-motorized use, elk hunting, and mackinaw and rainbow trout fishing. Recreational opportunities in the Fishlake National Forest include scenic drives, mountain biking, snowmobiling, ATV use, hiking and camping. The mountains and plateaus of the Fishlake National Forest proved exceptional areas for All-Terrain Vehicle travel. The Paiute ATV Trail winds through 200 miles of the Fishlake National Forest’s most scenic terrain, over three mountain ranges, and through desert canyons. This trail in Fishlake National Forest is unique because it’s set aside for all-terrain-vehicles and cyclists only. The Fish Lake – Johnson Valley area boasts spectacular mountain lake fishing in 3,000 acres of lakes and reservoirs, along with campgrounds, picnic areas, boating, and lakeside resort properties
115 E. 900 N.
Richfield, UT 84701
Manti La-Sal National Forest
- Located in Central, Eastern & Southeastern Utah
- 1,400,000 Acres
The Manti – La Sal National Forest consists of three mountain blocks located in central, eastern, and southeastern Utah. The La Sal Abajo Mountain Ranges in the Manti – La Sal National Forest provide excellent opportunities for cross country skiing, hiking and mountain climbing. They also serve as scenic backdrops to state and national parks in the desert lands of southeastern Utah. Visitors can explore the Dark Canyon Wilderness or enjoy the cooler temperatures and breezes in the mountains at the Manti – La Sal National Forest. The Manti Division of the Manti – La Sal National Forest, in central Utah, is characterized by narrow canyons and broad rolling ridges covered with aspen and spruce.
Excellent fishing is available throughout the Manti – La Sal National Forest. A paved road across the northern Manti division of the Manti – La Sal National Forest is locally known as the Huntington Canyon Road, a Scenic Byway. It winds over the Wasatch Plateau at 5,000 to 10,000 feet. There are several high elevation lakes, and developed areas for fishing and camping in the Manti – La Sal National Forest. Acres of aspen forest mingled with vertical cliffs and escarpments make this a stunning drive.
599 W. Price River Drive
Price UT 84501
Sawtooth National Forest
- Located in Northern Utah
- 2,104,161 Acres
The Raft River Mountains of the Sawtooth National Forest are situated in northwestern Utah, a two-hour drive from Ogden City. The Sawtooth National Forest area may be Utah’s best kept secret, with trail systems reaching 9,500 feet in elevation, peaceful streams, excellent hunting, and lakes in mountainous settings. Views of the Great Salt Lake as well as the Snake River Plain, and Idaho mountain ranges are splendid from the observations points in Sawtooth National Forest. The Sawtooth National Forest offers visitors developed campsites and the isolation of timbered canyons, mingled with wildflower-filled meadows.
District Ranger’s Office
Uinta National Forest
- Located in Northern & Central Utah
- 949,848 Acres
The Uinta National Forest offers an inspiring view, and the promise of mountain recreation to the residents of cities below. American Fork Canyon and Provo Canyon located in the Uinta National Forest have an autumn mix of aspen and pine. Between the two canyons lies the 10,750 acre Timpanogos Wilderness. One paved drive full of rugged mountain beauty and many stunning overlooks of surrounding valleys can be found in the Uinta National Forest. In autumn, the brilliant display of colors found on this drive in Uinta National Forest is hard to match anywhere in the nation.
This loop in the Uinta National Forest begins at Payson City and ends near the city of Nephi, and features numerous campgrounds and recreation areas. Also located on this route is the Devil’s Kitchen Geologic Interest Sight, which on a smaller scale, reminds many visitors of Bryce Canyon National Park. The Nebo Loop features a number of improved trail heads providing access into the spectacular Mount Nebo Wilderness, popular for day hikes, backpacking and horseback riding. In another part of the Uinta National Forest, Strawberry Reservoir is a top trout fishing destination.
88 W. 100 N.
PO Box 1428
Provo UT 84603
Wasatch-Cache National Forest
- Located in Northern Utah
- 1,200,000 Acres
The Wasatch-Cache National Forest encompasses Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Scenic highways provide easy access to most of the attractions in Wasatch-Cache National Forest. One popular drive in Wasatch-Cache is the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway (state hwy 150; fee area) which travels from Kamas to Evanston, Wyoming. Along the way, campgrounds and picnic areas provide a scenic environment for lunch breaks or camping in Wasatch-Cache National Forest. Clear, blue mountain lakes and rivers accessible from the Mirror Lake Scenic Byway promise excellent fishing. Well-marked trails with trail heads adjacent to the highway invite visitors to take short hikes or overnight excursions into the majestic High Uintas Wilderness located in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The ski and summer resorts located in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest along the Wasatch Front near Salt Lake City and Ogden provide world-renowned downhill skiing..
8236 Federal Building
125 S. State Street Rm 8103
Salt Lake City, UT 84318