Organic Act of 1897

The Organic Act of 1897 provided the main statutory basis for the management of forest reserves in the United States, hence the commonly used term "organic act". The legislation's formal title is the Sundry Civil Appropriations Act of 1897, which was signed into law on June 4, 1897 by President William McKinley.

This law was the first step toward legislation concerning the management, protection, and care of the nation's forest reserves. Its many features include:

  1. It specified the purpose for establishing reserves as well as the administration and protection.
  2. It granted the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior the authority in rule-making and regulations of reserves.
  3. It allowed the General Land Office (GLO) to hire employees for the necessary administrative tasks and opened the reserves for public use.
  4. It specifically stated the criteria for new forest reserve designations, which were timber production, watershed protection and forest protection.
  5. It gave the United States Geological Survey (USGS) the responsibility for mapping the reserves.

This last item gave two separate branches of the Department of Interior responsibility-The GLO for the sale, claims and administration of the reserves and the USGS for the drawing of boundaries and land maps.

According to the Organic Act, the intention of the forest reservations was "to improve and protect the forest within the reservation,... securing favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of citizens of the United States."

This law is one of two of the most important legislative events in US Forest Service history (the other being the Transfer Act of 1905). The nation now had forest reserves and the means to protect and manage them. The basic elements of federal forestry were now established.

Read more about Organic Act Of 1897:  Interior Department Changes, Izaak Walton League Lawsuit

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Organic Act Of 1897 - Izaak Walton League Lawsuit
... in the Monongahela National Forest as being contrary to the Organic Act of 1897 which stated that only "dead, physically mature and large growth trees "individually marked for cutting" could be sold ...

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