The Weeks Act, which went into effect on March 1, 1911, has been identified as one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in American history.
In the early 1900s the public began to embrace a more proactive attitude toward conserving public lands. Just the year before, in 1910, Gifford Pinchot started the Forest Service. Before the Weeks Act, lands set aside for conservation were all located in the West and were created from large blocks of land in the public domain. Millions of acres of bare, eroded lands dotted the Eastern states from cut-over and farmed-out lands. In the West, the epic wildfires of 1910 fueled support for the Act.