Forest Service Information Center

Great American Rail-Trail

Nature & Environmental Management

Visit the animatronic Smokey Bear to learn, straight from the source, how YOU can prevent forest fires.

Photo by: Joe Maruca

The big draw to this little museum is an animatronic Smokey Bear who, when approached, reminds you that “Only you can prevent forest fires.” The Forest Service Information Center offers much more than this (admittedly fun) novelty. Visitors can view historical artifacts from the U.S. Forest Service’s 100-years-plus history. The federal government has overseen forests in some capacity since 1876, when Congress appointed a Special Agent to survey and report on the condition of American forests. [1] The Forest Service was founded in 1905 to oversee 21 million acres of wooded reserves that President Grover Cleveland initially set aside in 1897; they ended up under the lax supervision of the U.S. General Land Office. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Forest Service to protect the reserves from loggers, miners and homesteaders and charged head forester Gifford Pinchot with two tasks: kicking profiteers off the land and preventing forest fires. [2] The information center also features exhibits that explain the present-day work of the Forest Service to maintain and preserve the country’s natural resources for the benefit of the American people.


  • [1] “Our History,” U.S. Forest Service, accessed January 30, 2020,; Gerald W. Williams, “The USDA Forest Service: The First Century,” USDA Forest Service Office of Communication, revised April 2005, 5.
  • [2] Timothy Egan, The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009), 33–34, 50–52.

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The Great American Rail-Trail promises an all-new American experience. Through 12 states and the District of Columbia, the trail will directly serve nearly 50 million people within 50 miles of the route. Across the nation—and the world—only the limits of imagination will limit its use.

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