March 7, 1908
President Theodore Roosevelt signed a proclamation creating the Ozark National Forest. During this period of extensive forest cutting, Roosevelt had established the Arkansas National Forest in 1907 (renamed the Ouachita National Forest in 1926), recognizing that the forests needed to be protected. Many of the efforts of early forest rangers centered not on the issue of preventing the cutting of trees but on fire suppression because of the common practice among pioneers of using fire to clear and cultivate land. Although Roosevelt’s actions appear farsighted to present-day environmentalists, other voices had already begun to be raised in the name of conservation in Arkansas. Their concerns sound familiar: lost species and less natural diversity, silting rivers, and economic hardships caused by over-hunting.