Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests
1755 Cleveland Hwy.
Gainesville, GA 30501
Land was first purchased for the Chattahoochee National Forest in 1911 when the government bought approximatly 30,000 acres from the lumber company that had deforested the land. But it was really the conservation movement that of the early 1890's that founded the idea. To understand how it happened we first must explore the political history of the whole national forest program.
The earliest federal effort to preserve public lands was mainly designed to protect western lands. The Forest Reserve Act beter know as the General Land Law Revision Act, passed on March 3, 1891. The first reserve was established in the same month by President Benjamin Harrison. When his term ended in 1893, Republican Harrison had placed more than 13 million public acres into the "forest reserve" category, including today's Yellowstone Park.
Things began to quickly change, in 1903 when Teddy Roosevelt became President. The U. S Forest Service was created in 1905. The forest reserves were handed over to the Department of Agriculture from the General Land Office. The goal of the Forest Service quickly changed from informational to managerial, with a priority on restoration.
The Weeks Act passed Congress, in 1911. This act allowed the purchase of land east of the Mississippi. The Forest Service didn't waste any time and bought land right away in the state of Georgia. They purchased it from Andrew and Nat Gennett the current saw mill owners, paying $7.00 an acre for land that most of the timber had been cut. The land was in Gilmer, Fannin and Lumpkin Counties.
Rangers Arthur Woodyand , Roscoe Nicholson counseled the Forest Serviceon which land might be the best to aquire. On June 14, 1920 the land was incorporated into the Cherokee National Forest, covering Georgia, North Carolina and southeastern Tennessee.. By 1925 Woody began to re-introduce native species to the forest ,these included captured deer and animals purchased from a traveling circus. The replenishment of the forest became a major campaign platform of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, over the next 16 years
At the 1932 Democratic National Convention Roosevelt proposed what would be the Civilian Conservation Corps . Over the next nine years this organization would have a major impact on the Chattahoochee National Forest, planting millions of trees on Georgia land devastated by mining and lumber companies. Among the still standing CCC buildings: Blood Mountain Shelter, buildings at Lake Winfield Scott, Enota Lodge.
On July 9, 1936 the Forest Service was reorganized to follow state boundaries and what was originally incorporated into the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests was reorganized and the Chattahoochee National Forest was proclaimed as a separate National Forest to be headquartered in Gainesville, Georgia.
For the rest of the decade work continued on the restoration projects, with the most devastated areas getting the first attention. This included reforestation of watersheds and damming of rivers to prevent flooding downstream.
Although the country's attention turned to war during the first half of the 1940's, active management of the resources in the Chattahoochee National Forest not only helped to win the war but also fueled Georgia's economy, which had suffered since the mid-1920's. The one-crop economy of the South was replaced by expanding the number of products thanks in part to the millions of board feet of lumber now harvested from the once barren forest land. Also produced, specifically from the Chattahoochee National Forest, were paper, turpentine, waxes and polishes, and fragrance.
After the war the efforts of the Forest Service began to pay dividends as virtually every lumber company abandoned their "cut and leave" practices that had stripped most of north Georgia and began to manage land. By 1990, through effective public and private management the total amount of forested land exceeded the amount of forested land in 1860. Other benefits were quickly realized as the forests of North Georgia came of age.
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