Forest County is home to almost 350,000 acres of National Forest land known as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. In 1998 the two National Forests in Wisconsin, the Chequamegon and the Nicolet, were combined in name for administrative purposes.
The Nicolet side was established by presidential proclamation in 1933. The Forest is named after Jean Nicolet, a French explorer who came to the Great Lakes region in the 1600s. During the 17th century, growing numbers of Europeans and Native Americans made the Northwoods their home. Following close behind the fur traders, were the lumbermen, who established a timber industry. As the old growth pinery dwindled, the coming of the railroad brought new opportunities to the logging industry by opening up the hardwood and hemlock forests. Lumbering reached its peak here in the 1920s.
By 1930, most of the land had been cut over, burned and abandoned. Much of the cut over land was sold to immigrants for farms and homesteads. However, the soils of the Northwoods proved better suited for growing trees. Many farms were abandoned and the forest fires were uncontrolled across the land. In 1928, the federal government under the authority of the Weeks Law of 1911, bought thousands of acres of abandoned and tax delinquent land. The area was called the Oneida Purchase Unit and it was a forerunner of the Nicolet National Forest. As the great depression rolled across the United States, thousands of young, unemployed men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
The CCC was active in forestry work and established many camps in the newly formed Nicolet National Forest. Corpsmen planted thousands of acres of jack pine and red pine, built fire lanes and constructed recreational facilities across the Nicolet National Forest.
Today, the new forest provides a multitude of natural resources including fish and wildlife, hardwood and conifer forests, lakes and streams, and numerous recreational areas.
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Photos credited to Margaret McCarthy