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Inventory of the Department of Forestry Records
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Agency History
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections at the California State Archives

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Department of Forestry Records
    Dates: 1968-2004
    Collection Number: See series descriptions
    Creator: State Board of Forestry; Department of Natural Resources - Division of Forestry; Department of Forestry
    Collection Size: 113 cubic feet
    Repository: California State Archives
    Sacramento, California
    Abstract: The records of the California Department of Forestry (CDF) span over a century, with the majority of the material concentrated in the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. The records reflect the activities of the Department of Forestry, and include information regarding fire protection, forest convservation, the State Labor Camp and Civilian Conservation Camp Programs, World War II-related activities and programs, and affirmative action practices of the 1970s and 1980s.
    Physical Location: California State Archives
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection: English

    Administrative Information


    Some items related to personnel matters have been restricted, per Government Code 6254 (C). These items have been noted throughout the finding aid.

    Publication Rights

    For permission to reproduce or publish, please consult California State Archives staff. Permission for reproduction or publication is given on behalf of the California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility for possible infringement that may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives' collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Department of Forestry Records, [ID number]:[folder number], California State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State, Sacramento, California.

    Acquisition Information

    The California State Archives acquired the Department of Forestry records according to state law.

    Agency History

    To understand the history of the forestry program in California, one must turn to the establishment of the first State Board of Forestry in 1885 ( Statutes 1885, chapter 11). This first Board, comprised of three members, was entrusted to collect and disseminate data on silviculture and enforce state and national forestry laws.
    Less than a decade later, the legislature in 1893 repealed the 1885 act that created the Board of Forestry ( Statutes 1893, chapter 187). In 1905 the Forest Protection Act ( Statutes 1905, chapter 264), instituted a new Board of Forestry, consisting of the Governor, Secretary of State, and the State Forester whose position was created in the same law. Fire protection duties were entrusted to volunteer fire wardens and select counties.
    Not until 1919, however, was a more efficient fire protection system inaugurated. With U.S. involvement in World War I, came a more intense awareness of fire prevention and control needs. Losses of grain, farm equipment, and wood could not be risked. California counties consequently developed local fire control districts. In addition, two bills affected the state forestry program. One bill signed into law, Statutes 1919, chapter 176, reorganized forestry operations and provided for districts, rangers, and equipment; and empowered the State Forester to formulate fire protection agreements with federal and local governments and private parties.
    Soon after, another law provided for a different Board of Forestry ( Statutes 1919, chapter 544). The governor now appointed representatives from different professional sectors such as timber and livestock, to serve on the board with the State Forester.
    During the governorship of C.C. Young, a Department of Natural Resources was established ( Statutes 1927, chapter 128). Within the newly established Department of Natural Resources, the legislature created a Division of Forestry ( Statutes 1927, chapter 764). The State Forester became the Chief of the Division. The State Board of Forestry henceforth operated as the policy-making body for guidance of the division with the State Forester also serving as secretary to the Board.
    The Great Depression had its effect on CDF and resulted in the establishment of State Labor Camps that CDF operated from 1931-1933. Unemployed men were given the opportunity to construct fire breaks, roads, trails and telephone lines, in return for much needed money. The Civilian Conservation Corps continued similar projects like those of the labor camps through 1942.
    World War II saw CDF become involved in national programs of fire prevention and education. CDF lookouts were used by the Aircraft Warning Service of the U.S. Army and the Fire Fly Project, aimed to stop Japanese incendiary balloons, involved CDF.
    In 1945 the legislature passed the Forest Practice Act, ( Statutes 1945, chapter 85) to promote production of forest lands. Each district established by this act was regulated by a committee that adopted rules for the district. On several occasions legislation has altered the FPA to conform to modern forest practice needs.
    CDF operations in the post-World War II era expanded rapidly. More forest lands were acquired for the state forest system, air tanker usage increased, the conservation camp program accelerated, and watershed management and range improvement programs began to function.
    In 1961 the Department of Conservation replaced the Department of Natural Resources ( Statutes 1961, chapter 2037). The mission of the California Department (formerly Division) of Forestry (CDF) is the protection and responsibility for over 38 million acres of state, private, and intermingled federal lands having statewide interest with regards to timber production, rangelands, recreation uses, and watershed values. The Department directly provides fire protection for approximately 29 million acres of these lands. In addition, 6 million acres of local-responsibility lands are protected under contract by reimbursement of costs for 26 counties. Administrative functions as of 1968 included the office of State Forester fire control; management services; engineering and conservation camps; training; fire prevention; and forest, range, and watershed management.
    The 1970s were continued years of expansion for CDF. Effective in 1977, the Division of Forestry became the Department of Forestry ( Statutes 1976, chapter 1300). Also in the 1970s, CDF began to utilize women for fire fighting purposes and rearranged their program to compensate for programs cuts caused by Proposition 13, the tax reform initiative.

    Scope and Content

    The records of the California Department of Forestry (CDF) span over a century, with the majority of the material concentrated in the period from the 1930s to the 1970s. The records reflect and coincide with various historic and social issues in California and United States history. Some of the records represented that were influenced by such issues include the State Labor Camp and Civilian Conservation Camp Program, World War II-related activities and programs, and affirmative action practices of the 1970s and 1980s. The papers of C. Raymond Clar give a good overview of CDF's history and form the basis for two books on CDF development and operation.
    The most complete series within the collection, the Fire Control series, is the best represented because fire control has been CDF's main objective during its early years and has since been enhanced by other programs. Other major subgroups include Administration, District III and V records, Agreements, Forest Management, Public Relations, Range Improvement, and Watershed Management. Series which contain "general" for the series title contain administrative records involving the operation of specific programs.
    The most apparent trend existing throughout the collection is the theme of cooperation. Since its inception, CDF has always worked jointly towards the goal of fire prevention and control with local, state, and federal agencies as well as private groups. More recent programs were aimed at assisting farmers and foresters in forest, range, and watershed management. Times of crisis such as World War II, fires, floods, and other disasters encouraged these groups to work even closer together.
    Several major individuals are represented in the collection. Included are the working papers of Merritt B. Pratt, State Forester from 1921-1944; Raymond Clar, Assistant Executive Office to the Board of Forestry from 1953-1969; Cecil Metcalf, Deputy State Forester of District IV from 1943-1962; John Hastings, Chief of District V until its demise in 1985; and Frank E. Thompson, District Forester for the Central Coast District from the late 1920s until 1933.
    The records of M. B. Pratt cover the transition period when forest management was wholly a function of the State Board of Forestry. These records are described in two sections: Part I, the records of M. B. Pratt, ca. 1921-1944, but which includes records relating to the State Labor Camp Program and other miscellaneous records dating prior to 1944 which cannot be properly identified as a part of records described in Part II; Part II, records arranged according to Circular Letter No. 122-5, dated February 19, 1971. The majority of records described in Part II will cover the period ca. 1944-1985. In some instances series will date back as far as 1920 in order to insure the continuity and integrity of the specific series. This is particularly true of early records relating to fire control.
    The collection consists mainly of correspondence, memoranda, publications and pamphlets, newspaper clippings, reports, photographs, tape recordings, and several movies.
    In general, records that have a F subnumber lower than F3849:1690 reflect the work of the Division of Forestry, while those higher than F3849:1690, or identified as R288, are in most instances related to the Department of Forestry. Many series descriptions however describe both the Division and Department in order to retain the continuity of the records.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    California. Dept. of Forestry
    California. State Board of Forestry
    California. Division of Forestry
    Fire prevention
    Forest conservation

    Related Collections at the California State Archives

    Board of Forestry Records
    Board of Forestry and Fire Protection Records