Forest Service Organic Administration Act Law and Legal Definition

The Forest Service Organic Administration Act is a U.S, federal law enacted in 1987. It is the original organic act governing the administration of national forest lands. The provisions of the Act are found under 16 U.S.C. §§ 473 through 478, §§ 479 through 482 and § 551. The Act has been amended a number of times, since its enactment.

Now, this Act is one of several federal laws under which the U.S. Forest Service operates. The Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960 (MUSYA) and the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA) are the primary laws governing the operation. While the Organic Act remains significant, it must be read in conjunction with the later acts, which expand the purpose and uses of the national forests.

The Act provides that national forest must be established only to improve and protect the forest, or to secure favorable conditions of water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber. The Act is not intended to authorize the inclusion within national forests of lands that are more valuable for mineral or agricultural purposes.

Pursuant to the Act, the Secretary of Agriculture can issue regulations permitting settlers, miners, residents and prospectors the free use of timber and stone in national forests for domestic purposes. The Act permits access to national forests for all lawful purposes, including prospecting and locating and developing mineral resources. Settlers are permitted to use land within national forests for schools and churches. Waters within national forest boundaries may be used for domestic, mining, milling or irrigation purposes, as governed by state or federal law. States have civil and criminal jurisdiction over persons within national forests, except for violations of federal law.

Additionally, the Secretary of Agriculture is responsible to protect national forests from fire and depredations. The Secretary can make regulations and establish services necessary to regulate the occupancy and use of national forests and preserve them from destruction. Persons violating the Act or regulations adopted under the Act are subject to fines or imprisonment.