Named for Thomas Sumter, famed partisan of the American Revolution, Sumter National Forest encompasses over 350,000 acres in the Piedmont and mountains of South Carolina. The forest is divided into three ranger districts spread across eleven counties: Andrew Pickens (Oconee County); Enoree (Chester, Fairfield, Laurens, Newberry, and Union Counties); and Long Cane (Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, McCormick, and Saluda Counties). Both Sumter National Forest and the lowcountry’s Francis Marion National Forest are administered from a central supervisor’s office in Columbia.
With the country’s vital wood supply dwindling, Congress created the U.S. Forest Service in 1905 to manage the federal forest reserves (renamed as “national forests” in 1907) and provide quality timber to meet the long-term needs of the American people. Under the authority of the Weeks Law of 1911 and subsequent bolstering legislation, the Forest Service expanded the national forest system through the early decades of the twentieth century by purchasing millions of wornout, cut-over acres in the eastern United States. One historian referred to these as the “lands nobody wanted,” and when it came to abused, abandoned agricultural lands, by the 1930s northwestern South Carolina had an abundance. By executive order, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the purchase of millions more acres for the eastern national forests, and in July 1936 he signed a proclamation establishing Sumter National Forest, much of it on infertile red hills eroded and exhausted from decades of intensive cotton cultivation. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was employed to terrace hillsides and plant trees. By the onset of World War II, the CCC had accomplished much of the spadework needed to bring the forest back into productivity. Reflecting a Forest Service–wide shift in policy, in the 1960s Sumter moved from managing the forest solely for timber to multiple uses including outdoor recreation and wilderness.
Clark, Thomas D. The Greening of the South: The Recovery of Land and Forest. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.
Hayes, Jack Irby. South Carolina and the New Deal. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2001.
Steen, Harold K. The U.S. Forest Service: A History. Rev. ed. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004.