NICOLET NATIONAL FOREST
Since 1993, these two national forests have been managed as one, with headquarters offices in both Park Falls and Rhinelander. Each national forest has retained its individual identity. As one example, visitors driving across the state, from east to west on US Highway 70, will first see portal signs near Florence welcoming them to the Nicolet National Forest, then signs welcoming them to the Chequamegon National Forest, west of Minocqua.
National forests are divided into administrative units called ranger districts. The Chequamegon side of the forest comprises three districts. As with the forests themselves, several ranger districts were combined. The Glidden and Hayward ranger districts combined into the Great Divide Ranger District with district headquarters offices located at Glidden and at Hayward. The Medford and Park Falls ranger districts have also been combined into a single district, with headquarters offices at Park Falls and Medford.
The Nicolet side of the forest comprises two ranger districts. The Eagle River and Florence ranger districts have been combined into a single unit - the Eagle River-Florence Ranger District, with ranger stations located in each of those towns. The Lakewood and Laona ranger districts have also been combined into a single unit, called the Lakewood-Laona Ranger District. District headquarters offices are located in both Lakewood and Laona at the old ranger office sites.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest also hosts the Blackwell Job Corps Center, located near the town of Blackwell. Job Corps is a public-private partnership, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, whose mission is to provide comprehensive residential education and job training program for at-risk youth, ages 16 through 24. Blackwell is administered by the Job Corps field office in Lakewood, CO.
Both the Chequamegon and the Nicolet National Forests were established by presidential proclamations in 1933, but that was not the beginning. The land, its wildlife, and its people were already here. The cultures, the traditions, and lifeways of the past have created Wisconsin's national forests as we know them today. Archeologists have traced the cultural history to the time 10,000 years ago when the area was inhabited by the original people. The era of the Paleo-Indians was followed by the Archaic Indians, and finally, the Woodland Tradition Indians.
In the 1600s, Europeans--missionaries and fur traders--arrived in what is now Wisconsin. The Nicolet is named after Jean Nicolet, a French explorer who came to the Great Lakes Region in the 1600s to promote fur trading with the American Indians. The name Chequamegon is derived from an Ojibway word meaning "place of shallow water," and refers to Lake Superior's Chequamegon Bay. During the 17th century growing numbers of Europeans and Indians made the Northwoods their home.
Following close behind the fur traders were the lumbermen who established the timber industry. Early loggers used rivers to move pine logs to the sawmills. When the old-growth pinery dwindled, lumbermen used railroads to move the heavier hardwood logs to mills. Lumbering reached its peak on the forest in the 1920s.
When the timber ran out, much of the cut over land was sold to immigrants for farms and homesteads. The soils of the Northwoods proved better suited for growing trees, however, and many of the farms were abandoned. During that time it was not uncommon for fires to burn uncontrolled across the land.
In 1928, the Federal Government, under the authority of the Weeks Law of 1911, began buying abandoned and tax delinquent land in the Northwoods with the idea of establishing a national forest. Purchase Units were approved and in 1929, a Forest Service office was established in Park Falls to oversee land acquisitions.
In March 1933, shortly before he left office, President Herbert Hoover issued a proclamation establishing the Nicolet National Forest. The headquarters was located in Park Falls. A second office was opened in Rhinelander to handle land acquisition in the eastern part of the state. The Chequamegon was established as a separate national forest in November 1933, by President Franklin Roosevelt, from the Nicolet's westernmost lands. At that time, Park Falls became the headquarters for the Chequamegon and Rhinelander the headquarters for the Nicolet.
When the Great Depression rolled across the United States, thousands of young, unemployed men joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. CCC camps were established in the newly formed national forests. During the 10 years the Civilian Conservation Corps was active, Corpsmen planted thousands of acres of jack pine and red pine, built fire lanes, and constructed recreational facilities across the national forests. Much of their work is still evident.