There are essentially four agencies in the federal government that manage U.S. public lands: the National Park Service (created in 1916), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS; created in 1905), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM; created in 1946), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (created in 1940). Ethan Carr looks at the role of architecture in the national park system in Wilderness by Design: Landscape Architecture and the National Park Service. In a newer volume, Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma, he examines the outcomes of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the park service. Nature does not always remain unhampered in a national park, as William Lowry explains in Repairing Paradise: The Restoration of Nature in America’s National Parks.
Forests first came under the umbrella of the federal government in the late nineteenth century, but the service was not formally named until 1905. At that time, Gifford Pinchot was appointed the chief forester. Harold Steen discusses this history in the centennial edition of The U.S. Forest Service: A History. Another centennial volume on the Forest Service is by Samuel Hays, The American People and the National Forests: The First Century of the U.S. Forest Service. Forests are not the only things the USFS manages, as grasslands also fall under its direction. William Rowley discusses this topic in U.S. Forest Service Grazing and Rangelands: A History. Many of the more profitable forests are located in the Pacific Northwest; they are described in Gerald Williams’s The U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest: A History.
James Skillen describes the history of the BLM in The Nation’s Largest Landlord: The Bureau of Land Management in the American West. No Place Distant: Roads and Motorized Recreation on America’s Public Lands, by David Havlick, is another interesting work on the idea of public lands.