“Where conflicting interests must be reconciled, the

question shall always be answered from the standpoint of

the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.”


Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the mission of the Forest Service: “To provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run.” Today, the White Mountain National Forest manages these public lands with the goal to provide healthy ecosystems, clean water and air, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, and a sustainable yield of high-quality forest products. This goal ties back to the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, which set into law that all of these uses and benefits of National Forest lands would be treated equally.

The White Mountain National Forest comprises nearly 800,000 acres of land in northern New Hampshire and western Maine. Prior to the establishment of the National Forest in 1918, uncontrolled logging practices had resulted in a damaged landscape susceptible to fires and flooding.  Today, the reforested mountains and hillsides supply forest products and provide magnificent recreational opportunities while maintaining healthy watersheds and ecosystems.


The White Mountain National Forest was established to protect the headwaters of five river systems (the Connecticut, Androscoggin, Merrimack, Saco, and Presumpscot rivers). These watersheds provide drinking water, hydro power, recreation, and wildlife habitat. Management on the National Forest is planned at the watershed level, and seeks to improve and maintain water quality and aquatic habitat.

Forest-Based Economics

Forestry on the White Mountain National Forest provides wood products, such as high-quality saw logs for furniture, pulp products for paper and wood energy, and Christmas trees and maple syrup. Forestry and ecosystem restoration efforts on the forest contribute to the state’s forestry and logging economy. High-value species such as maple and yellow birch are exported around the world by New England-based industries that provide important manufacturing sector jobs.

Sustainable forestry practices ensure diverse forest age classes and species across the landscape. This diversity provides rich wildlife habitat, maintains quality forest products, and improves forest health by increasing the forests’ resistance to disease, insect outbreaks, and other stressors. Of the nearly 800,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest, approximately 35 percent is considered suitable for timber operations, and on average each year, less than one percent of the suitable area is harvested.

Annually, the White Mountain National Forest sells an average of 13 million board feet of wood that goes into the economies of New Hampshire, Maine, and the surrounding area. This results in an average of three million dollars of economic benefits annually. A timber harvest can be a cost-effective way to maintain future economic values of the forest and promote diverse and healthy habitat.


Two experimental forests are located within the White Mountain National Forest: Hubbard Brook and Bartlett Experimental Forest. These areas provide an opportunity for continuous long-term research in cooperation with the Northern Forest Research Station. There are also nine Research Natural Areas in the White Mountain National Forest. Research Natural Areas are not actively managed, allowing natural processes to continue as a baseline for research and monitoring.


The White Mountain National Forest has long been loved for its outstanding range of recreation opportunities. Approximately six million visitors a year come to recreate on the National Forest. The incentive for many are the easily accessible day-use sites and scenic areas with amenities such as restrooms at areas like Lower Falls Scenic Area on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway. Recreation pass fee revenue helps to operate, maintain, and improve facilities and recreation programs. Ninety-five percent of the revenue collected at recreation fee sites remains on the National Forest and is used for trash pickup, septic pumping, painting, and cleaning. Fees are also used to address the backlog of deferred maintenance, conduct patrols, and maintain high-use trails, shelters, and campsites; it also funds assistance to visitors with information and education services such as Leave No Trace and Hike Safe. Visitors who purchase a recreation pass are investing in the public land they come here to enjoy. 


Thinking about volunteering? Volunteers are critical to accomplishing its mission. The U.S. Forest Service is looking for people of all backgrounds and abilities to serve as stewards of the land, water, and cultural resources of the lands it manages. Caring for the land through hands-on site work, providing visitors with education and recreation opportunities, and improving forest health through surveys and monitoring projects are some of the opportunities that it need your help in accomplishing. Learn more at www.volunteer.gov.



The U.S. Forest Service collaborates with the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to manage wildlife on the White Mountain National Forest. These wildlife agencies are responsible for setting and regulating hunting seasons and enforcing game laws in their respective states. The Forest Service, mainly through timber harvest and controlled burning, maintains—and works to improve—habitat conditions that benefit wildlife populations on the forest.

Permanent wildlife openings and historic orchards are maintained on the forest as another way to provide consistent habitat for species that depend on forest openings. Open habitat, while once common in the state, has dwindled; the populations of plants and animals that require this habitat for critical stages in the life cycle have decreased as a result. Pollinators such as bees and butterflies frequent the herbaceous growth in permanent wildlife openings. Wildlife openings mimic natural disturbances like ice storms or windstorms that leave forest openings in their wake. As the vegetation in an opening grows over time, it provides a variety of habitat types and food opportunities sustaining biological diversity and supporting species that prefer those habitats.


Join in as the White Mountain National Forest celebrates 100 years in 2018!

Walk into the past with a visit to the Russell Colbath house on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway just 20 minutes west of Conway.

Walk into the past with a visit to the Russell Colbath house on the Kancamagus Scenic Byway just 20 minutes west of Conway.

Sample some gingerbread cooked on an open hearth while you learn about what it was like to live on the land during the infancy of the White Mountain National Forest.

The Museum of the White Mountains at Plymouth State University will have an exhibit on the White Mountain National Forest Centennial opening May 16th and running through September. To find out about more events celebrating the centennial go to www.fs.usda.gov/whitemountain or check it out on Facebook.




Catch this article in the Spring 2018 printed edition of Mt Washington Valley Vibe available at any of these locations around the region.


Anna Johnston

National Forest wildlife technician

A Valley local for 20 years, Anna currently works in the White Mountain National Forest and previously as a National Forest wildlife technician, ski patroller and as a Mount Washington weather observer. She loves to explore new places and old favorites with her family.