U.S. National Forest High Points
Public Land in New Reorganized Forest Units
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National Forests and National Grasslands are publically-owned lands in the United States managed by the U.S. Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 300,000 square miles of Forest Service land is managed for logging, grazing, habitat protection, and outdoor recreation. Sometimes confused with National Parks, National Forests are quite different—Forests are bigger, generally less popular, don’t charge entry fees, and allow managed resource extraction in addition to tourist activities.
There are about 155 named National Forests and 20 National Grasslands. However, this list of National Forest high points is based on a new reorganized list of 109 USFS-managed entities. It also only considers publicly-owned USFS land and no private or public inholdings.
Over the past couple decades the Forest Service has been streamlining and consolidating their operations, and the actual management of their lands is now done by 111 new “combined forests”. Essentially, the USFS saw no distinctions between National Forests and National Grasslands, and no reason to honor traditional National Forest boundaries, so they re-organized their holdings as they saw fit to best manage their land.
Some traditional National Forests survived the re-org intact (for example, the Gifford-Pinchot NF, the White Mountain NF), but others were combined, sometimes into entities with bureaucratic names (for example, “National Forests in Texas”, “Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit”). Most of the former National Grasslands were merged into these new combined National Forests. The old National Forest names may still appear on signs and maps, but organizationally they don’t really exist anymore.
The high point list shown here uses 109 of these new National Forest entities. The only 2 excluded are a new USFS unit entirely composed of former National Grasslands (the Dakota Prairie Grasslands) and the relatively new Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, both of which never had any traditional National Forest land in them.
One advantage of using this new, smaller list of National Forest high points is that many uninspiring peaks in lowlands areas are no longer on the list. For example, the new “National Forests in Mississippi” entity used to be six forests (Holly Springs, Bienville, DeSoto, Delta, Tombigee, Homochitto). In this case, the USFS desire for organizational efficiency aligns nicely with the interests of peakbaggers who prefer “real” mountains.
National Forests tend to have extremely convoluted boundaries. Many of them have a “proclaimed boundary” that may be somewhat regular, but only portions of the land within the proclaimed boundary are actually owned by the USFS. Much of this private land is on the edges of National Forests, but there are also many private inholdings surrounded by public land. There are also cases where an important mountain summit (Mount Washington, NH and Mount Mitchell, NC, for example) are within inholdings that are State Parks and not USFS land. The government is engaged in a long-term effort to purchase inholdings from willing sellers, but this is a very slow process.
This list only shows highpoints located on public Forest Service land. Higher land located on private property within the proclaimed boundary is ignored. Please e-mail the webmaster if you see any errors where a high point on private land is listed.
Thanks to Roy Schweiker and David Olson, who did much original research on a preliminary list (see link below).
Links Preliminary National Forest High Points
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