The days have ended when the forest may be viewed only as trees and trees viewed only as timber. The soil and the water, the grasses and the shrubs, the fish and the wildlife, and the beauty of the forest must become integral parts of the resource manager's thinking and actions.
-Senator Hubert Humphrey, 1976
The National Forest Management Act (NFMA) of 1976 was designed to counter damage to natural ecosystems on public lands. The act put in place a system for forest management following several debates over the legality of clear-cutting forests. In an effort to protect national forests from excessive and destructive logging, Congress instructed the U.S. Forest Service to develop regulations that limit the size of clearcuts, protect streams from logging, restrict the annual rate of cutting, and ensure prompt reforestation.
The National Forest Management Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to evaluate forest lands, develop a management program based on multiple-use, sustained-yield principles, and implement a resource management plan for each unit of the National Forest System. The act is the primary regulation governing the administration of national forests.
It was the NFMA's provisions for protecting such individual threatened species as the spotted owl, that provided the necessary legal support to reduce logging of ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest.