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April 21, 1936: President Roosevelt Establishes Jefferson National Forest

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Brian M. Powell

On April 21, 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Jefferson National Forest, located primarily in southwest Virginia and southeast West Virginia. It covers more than 18,000 acres in Monroe County, is part of the New River Valley and New Castle Ranger Districts, and is accessible from State Routes 15, 17, and 20. Oak-pine forests cover the forest lands, which range in elevation from 2,000 to 3,600 feet.

The main reason for creating the national forest was to prevent fires—a common occurrence due to the over-foresting of trees. Over the last 80 years, the Jefferson National Forest has thrived and incorporates many resources, including wood, water, wildlife, recreation, and livestock forage. In 2010, all caves and abandoned mines in the forest were closed to control the spread of white-nose disease among bats.

Jefferson is one of our state’s three national forests, along with the George Washington National Forest and Monogahela National Forest. Most of our country’s 155 national forests are found in the West. Only 12 percent of national forest land, including the Jefferson and Washington, is located east of the Mississippi. 


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