The purpose of this early U.S. Forestry Division map of the Rocky Mountain Area forests is to map the forests and early irrigation channels in the multi-state region including Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Part of Nevada as of 1885. The map shows the forests in bright green and a small veined network of canals off of major rivers are printed in red. Townships are shown on the map as well as the range grid. Mountains and plateaus are labeled and shown graphically but not including elevations.
The Native American tribes are shown on the 1885 map located in designated Indian Reservations that are identified throughout the map. One of the largest land areas with Native American tribes relocated to a reservation is in the northern section of this map, identifying the Gros Ventre, Piegan, Blood, Black Feet and River Crow. Although there is a large swath of forest, shown in green on this map that runs roughly north/south overlapping the Atlantic and Pacific divides, none of the Native American tribes identified on the map are on lands with any forest. In fact, the map text has a subtext and the map's purpose of mapping forests and waterways have a graphic parallel meaning and purpose, namely that the Native Americans were relocated from their fruitful territories to barren lands with almost no water.
This 1885 map accompanies an early study by the Department of Agriculture to document the extent of forests in the Rocky Mountain Region. The study is published as Department of Agriculture Forestry Division Bulletin No. 2., Report on the Forest Conditions of the Rocky Mountains, and Other Papers; With a Map showing the Location of Forest Areas on the Rocky Mountain Range., Second Edition, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1889. There are subsequent 19th century editions of the map. The mapping of forest regions in the Rocky Mountain Area on this 1885 map provides today a useful benchmark against which to evaluate the nature and extent of remaining forests in the Rocky Mountain region. In a time of record forest fires, the 1885map is a further benchmark of forest growth, deforestation by human activity and now climate change and fires. Another useful comparison between conditions shown on this map and current conditions pertains to water diversion and current water use, largely engineered with dams. The red irrigation ditches sown on this 1885 map illustrate the relatively small scale of water diversion from the rivers of the Rocky Mountain region for agriculture and cattle ranches.
This 1885 map is a scarce, early edition of the mapping of forests and irrigation in the American West. It tells several stories.