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A National Forest 100 Years in the Making

Since 1923, the US Forest Service has been restoring and caring for the Allegheny National Forest, creating the perfect venue for your year-round adventures. With outstanding opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, riding ATVs, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, hunting, boating, fishing, camping, relaxation, wildlife watching, backpacking, outdoor learning, immersing yourself in history, enjoying scenic vistas, rejuvenating your spirit, or simply taking a drive through the woods, there is something for everyone in Pennsylvania’s only national forest.

Just one hundred years ago, the 514,183 acres that became Allegheny National Forest were by and large a desolate, wildfire-ravaged landscape. Timber harvesting, the oil boom, and the subsequent railroad logging era had stripped the mountains of their trees, leaving not much more than a brush patch and streams choked with mud. Gifford Pinchot, the Father of American Forestry, and other conservation pioneers had the vision to restore our Nations’ forests for the benefit of future generations.

The Weeks Act of 1911 empowered the nascent US Forest Service to protect watersheds and produce timber through the purchase of forested, cutover, or denuded lands. The headwaters of the Allegheny River were chosen to become a national forest and the first parcel of land totaling 32,000 acres was approved for purchase in 1922, setting the stage for President Calvin Coolidge to establish the Allegheny National Forest on September 24, 1923. There was much work to be done, especially if the Forest was to realize the potential identified by L.L. Bishop, the first Forest Supervisor.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) program brought the ingenuity and muscle to get the work of forest restoration moving forward. The CCC enlisted single men between the ages of 18 to 25 to work on improving America’s public lands, forests, and parks. The second CCC camp in the Nation was established in the Allegheny National Forest. The Forest went on to host 16 camps from 1933 – 1942.

The CCC boys’ legacy of recreation areas, buildings, roads, trails, erosion control, and reforestation work is evident throughout the forest and are among the twenty points of interest related to their enduring work that await your discovery.

That is indeed what came to pass, as each year hundreds of thousands of people pursue their happiness through the outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities available to them in the now-reforested, northwestern corner of Pennsylvania.

Over decades, forest service scientists investigated methods to overcome ecological problems and worked with foresters to implement plans that have resulted in the resilient second-growth forest that has reclaimed the once scarred mountainsides. Forest Supervisor Bishop’s words in 1925 were prophetic, “With the further extension of the highway systems and the completion of the Allegheny purchase program, thousands will annually seek the region for pleasant and wholesome out-of-door recreation.”

The 100th Anniversary is the perfect time to immerse yourself in the diverse history and revel in the conservation success story that is Allegheny National Forest. To learn more about our history, our outdoor recreation opportunities, and special centennial events that you may wish to attend, please visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/ANFCentennial.

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