In the USA, a tract of land reserved under federal law for the purposes of conserving wildlife and other natural resources, and providing areas for public recreation.
There are 156 national forests (plus 19 national grasslands and 15 other designated areas) in the USA. Together, they cover some 773,000 sq km/300,000 sq mi, or around 8.4% of the country's total land area. They are found in 44 states, as well as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The idea of a national forest first came about when an area of woodland adjoining Yellowstone National Park was made a timber reserve in 1891; this now lies within the Shoshone National Forest. In 1907, national forests were officially created.
National forests are maintained and preserved by the Forest Service, an arm of the Department of Agriculture. Federal law lays down a number of permissible uses of these areas, including wood and paper production, livestock grazing, mining, recreation, and activities aimed at conserving natural beauty, wildlife habitats, and water resources. About one-sixth of national forest land also lies within designated ‘wilderness areas’, which may overlap with various other state and federal reserves. Canada, the world's leading exporter of forest products, does not have national forests as such. Its immense woodlands (which cover 49% of its land area, of which only 3% is reserved for other purposes) are managed chiefly by the Dominion government (in the Yukon and Northwest territories) or by the provinces (90% of forest lands in the provinces are provincial Crown Lands), under various policies and guidelines.