Minerals We Use Every Day
Mined from our National Forests
This is also a traveling exhibit!
Learn more about hosting this exhibit in your area.
Why is there mining in national forests?
The impact of the Gold Rush, Silver Boom and rise of coal as a fuel source in the 19th century, is part of what led to the creation of the U.S. Forest Service and our national forest system at the dawn of the 20th century. Since it was established in 1905, the Forest Service has always worked to balance multiple uses for the resources found on national forest system lands. As the first Forest Service Chief, Gifford Pinchot, famously said, “Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals, for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.”
The Forest Service has always worked to balance multiple uses for the resources found on national forest system lands.
Today, Forest Service scientists work together with researchers from other public agencies, industry, universities and nonprofits to reduce the impacts of mining, restore and reclaim mined areas and conserve natural resources. The actions of all of its partners – public, nonprofit, and industry – benefit present and future generations.
Why is there silver in my boots?
Silver nanoparticles are used to coat the synthetic yarns of boots to reduce the growth of bacteria and fungi and keep them from smelling. That silver could have been mined from the Tongass National Forest or one of five other national forests where silver mines operate.
Your telescope rocks!
The crisp images recorded by a telephoto lens are made possible by fluorspar, a mineral that captures ultraviolet light. That is why fluorspar is used to make telescope lenses. Fluorspar makes it possible for us to see stars and planets clearly! It can be found on the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois.
Minerals Making Music
Minerals mined on national forests are all around us. You use them every day without thinking — even to make music. Click below to discover which minerals are used to make music.
Did you know?
Computers are made of 30 minerals including copper, gold, iron, nickel, silica, silver and zinc – each mined from more than 20 national forests.
Every year, 12.5 tons of new minerals are mined from the earth for each person in the United States.
From gravel and gold to sand and silver, more than 50 minerals are mined from national forest system lands for use in agriculture, construction, information technology, health care, transportation, and everyday objects.
Taking care of our natural resources is everyone’s responsibility. Here are some tweets from two champions of conservation: Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot.
Our 26th President of the United States and conservationist, who helped create five national parks, 18 national monuments and 150 national forests.
Read tweets from @teddyroosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt Whatever it is, handle it so that your children’s children will get the benefit of it. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt This nation’s great central task is leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt To skin and exhaust the land instead of using it to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining its prosperity for our children. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt Our duty to the whole bids us restrain from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt The movement for the conservation of all our natural resources is essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so. Theodore Roosevelt @teddyroosevelt There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.
Our first Chief of the United States Forest Service, conservationist, advocate for planned use and renewal of national resources, and an ally of Teddy Roosevelt.
Read tweets from @giffordpinchot
Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot The vast possibilities of our great future will become realities only if we make ourselves responsible for that future. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot The earth and its resources belong of right to its people. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot Conservation is utilization, preservation and renewal of natural resources for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot The outgrowth of conservation, the inevitable result, is national efficiency. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot Unless we practice conservation, those who come after us will have to pay the price for the progress and prosperity of our day. Gifford Pinchot @giffordpinchot World-wide practice of Conservation and the fair and continued access by all nations to the resources they need will lead to permanent peace.
Sparkle and Shine
Minerals make the world sparkle! Click below to learn more about the minerals from our national forests that dazzle us.
If you were born in April, the diamond is your birthstone. The word diamond is from the Ancient Greek word meaning “invincible.” The blue 45.52 carat Hope Diamond is the most famous diamond in the world. It is now at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. Click here to learn more about the Hope Diamond. Diamonds can be found on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Colorado.
If your birthday is in September, the sapphire is your birthstone. The word sapphire is from the Latin word meaning “precious stone.” Sapphires are mined on the Lewis & Clark National Forest in Montana.
If you were born in January, the garnet is your birthstone. The word garnet comes from the Latin word meaning pomegranate. Garnets were the most commonly used gemstone in the Late Antique Roman world. In ancient India, some people wore garnets to protect against lightning and to bring health and cheerfulness. Garnets are mined on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest in Idaho.
Sunstone or heliolite is named for the sun because of its sparkling orange-gold color. It is believed that sunstones were used for navigation in the Middle Ages. Sunstone is mined on the Malheur National Forest in Oregon.
Careers in the Great Outdoors
Careers in STEM fields provide some of the best paying jobs and have the greatest potential for growth in the coming decades. Where will you go with a career in conservation?
Are you an animal lover?
You could be a Wildlife Biologist. Qualifications: Knowledge of wildlife, including habitat, food sources, migration patterns, summer and winter ranges, sensitivity to human activities. Areas of Specialty: Mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, genetics and more. What you do: Your main responsibility is wildlife habitat – managing, protecting, rehabilitating, and enhancing it. Working on a team with recreation, range, minerals, rare plants, engineering, and timber management specialists to plan national forest management is an exciting and important part of the position. The duties of individual wildlife biologists are varied and can include such projects as building waterfowl nesting islands, cutting willow for moose browse, prescribed burning for deer and turkey, and more. Wildlife biologists working for federal agencies like the Forest Service often work in partnership with non-profit agencies, like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and Bat Conservation International. What you need to know: Most wildlife biologists have a bachelor’s degree with a major in biological science or natural resource management, with an emphasis in biology or ecology. You could work here: US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station Meet a Wildlife Biologist: Teryl Grubb, Flagstaff, AZ Watch this video: Jessica Marquis, Wildlife Biologist, Shasta-Trinity National Forest https://youtu.be/dRmlckPWtQs
Do you like to mix it up?
You could be a Chemist. Qualifications: Knowledge of the chemical makeup of soil, water and air, the interactions and reactions when these come in contact with each other like, what occurs when minerals are oxidized and come in contact with water, and what occurs when various chemicals come in contact with vegetation death, stunted growth, mutation. What you do: More than half of all chemists work in research and development. Other research chemists work on more practical or domestic problems. For instance, they may work to develop a fabric that will not burn, soil, or wrinkle easily. They must often perform many laboratory tests before they are able to create the desired product. What you need to know: A lot of employers look for a bachelor’s degree in chemistry for entry level positions. Many chemistry jobs require a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in a branch of chemistry. Some employers have their own special training programs for graduates with degrees in chemistry. You could work here: Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, WI Meet a Chemist: Charles Rhoades, Research Biogeochemist, Fort Collins Forestry Sciences Lab Vicki Finkenstadt, Agricultural Chemist, USDA Ean Warren, Environmental Chemist, USGS
Do you want to save the planet?
You could be a Research Ecologist. Qualifications: Knowledge of the interrelationships among all the elements of a given ecosystem – the flora, fauna, soil, water, air, climate and geology. Understanding of how disturbances in the system may affect individual elements or sub-elements and the interrelationships among species of flora and fauna, both onsite and offsite. Areas of Specialty: Ecologists generally specialize in areas such as marine biology, botany, soil science, microbiology, zoology, or toxicology. They conduct research into mining; dam construction; management of wildlife, fish, and forestry resources; expansion of biological control policies to fight weeds and pest insects; and the effects of pollutants released into the atmosphere on wildlife and vegetation. What you do: In the field, Ecologists conduct research to collect soil, plant, water, or animal samples. They protect ecosystems and native wildlife, and examine animals over a long period of time and to observe population numbers, diet, behavior, and habitat use. In the lab, ecologists analyze data, prepare written reports, monitor animal population, and supervise technicians. Expert ecologists provide advice to local, state, and national governments on environmental management. What you need to know: Ecologists usually have a bachelor’s degree with knowledge in organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, computer science, mathematics, physics, statistics, and calculus. Depending on the area of specialization, an ecologist may study economics, climatology, mathematical modeling, geology, oceanography, meteorology, or science sociology. You could work here: Rocky Mountain Research Station, Ft. Collins, CO Meet a Research Ecologist: Dean Pearson, PhD Watch this video: Andrew, a crewmember working in the Youth Ecology Corps https://youtu.be/PPA4LiPu6SY
Do you like to rock?
You could be Geologist. Qualifications: An interest in earth science, geology, and minerals. Familiarity with the various soil types and their geologic origin, the characteristics of each with respect to erodibility, compaction, organic constituents, pH levels and their effects on productivity of plant establishment and growth, microbial content and how all of these can be protected, enhanced or mitigated as a result of soil disturbing activities. What you do: Oversee mined land reclamation, evaluate and manage lease applications and mining proposals, apply GIS and related skills and technology to geologic and mineral data, review oil-gas exploration and field development projects, assess and interpret geologic conditions that affect projects such as bridges, roads, dams, and buildings. Often, geologists work in teams with other scientists to improve land, like streambank restoration, ski slope stabilization or restoring salmon spawning grounds in rocky riverbeds. What you need to know: Most geologists have a bachelor’s degree in geology, including coursework in mathematics, physics, chemistry, biological science, structural, chemical, civil, mining or petroleum engineering, computer science, planetary geology, comparative paleontology, geophysics, meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, physical geography, marine geology, and cartography. You could work here: Tongass National Forest, Southeast Alaska Meet some of the GeoCorps America Interns: GeoCorps America is a program of the Geological Society of America, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. The program offers paid short-term geoscience positions in some of the most beautiful natural areas in the world. Learn more about GeoCorps. Watch a video: Why one woman became a geologist. https://youtu.be/ZZ6KGPlRDco
Do you like extreme sports?
You could be an Outdoor Recreation Planner. Qualifications: Top-notch physical condition for work in the field, including long hikes over rugged terrain, often in adverse weather. ATV, boating, white water rafting, and wilderness trekking experience a plus. Travel by fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter may also be required. An appreciation of the great outdoors and an eagerness to share this with others. A strong sense of responsibility that recognizes the challenges and dangers of outdoor sporting activities. Experience as a group leader or counselor in public and private recreation programs for adults or children such as summer camps, local playgrounds, YWCA and YMCA clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, urban community centers, or resort recreational activities. What you do: Provide programming in outdoor experiences, such as hiking, climbing, rafting, boating, and winter sports. Work with attorneys, biologists, and engineers to ensure activities meet the laws and requirements of local, state, and federal agencies. What you need to know: Bachelor’s degree, preferably in recreation, education administration, physical education, social work, psychology or closely related field. You could work here: Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest Meet an Outdoor Recreation Planner: Carter J. Betz, Athens, GA Watch a video: Phyllis Swanson, an Assistant Recreation Officer on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest https://youtu.be/wVNafWbkabI
Can you build anything?
You could be an engineer. Qualifications: Must answer the challenges posed by a huge variety of conditions, climates, and terrain. Ability to work with the most modern equipment and techniques: satellite geodetic control systems, integrated computer systems with automated design analysis programs, and precision scientific equipment for research. Desire to work in scenic places which are set aside for their natural resources and their natural beauty. Areas of Specialty: civil, materials, sanitary, structural, environmental, mechanical, and mining engineering. What you do: Forest Service engineers answer the challenges posed by a huge variety of conditions, climates, and terrain, working in all types of environments. Engineers design, construct, and maintain thousands of miles of roads and trails, and encounter nearly every type of geographical, geological, and environmental engineering challenge. You must work in concert with resource managers, geologists, soil scientists, foresters, wildlife and recreation specialists, landscape architects, and others to find solutions to engineering challenges. What you need to know: Becoming an engineer requires a lot of study, generally from a 4-year college or university with coursework that includes differential and integral calculus. You could work here: National Forests in Florida Meet a Civil Engineer: Toni Addison, Forest Service Engineer and former Student Intern Watch this video: Toni Addison, Forest Service Engineer and former Student Intern https://youtu.be/ISloKUd29Tc
Are you willing to risk your life?
You could be a Wildland Fire Fighter, Researcher, Planner or a Smokejumper. Qualifications: The tasks firefighters perform are extremely demanding; you must be in top physical shape. Training is intense and physically demanding. The work can be dangerous and during fire season the days are long. What you do: Wildland Fire Fighters work in teams of engine crews (designed for initial and extended attacks of wildland fires on local forest units), Hotshots and Handcrews of up to 20 people, Helicopter Crews (flight crews, helitack, or rappellers that response quickly and aggressively to wildland fires in remote areas) and Smokejumpers – the elite firefighters who parachute into remote areas for fast, aggressive initial attack on remote lightning strikes or wildland fires. When not fighting fire away from their home base, firefighting crews often work on fire management tasks that can include thinning, brush disposal, or prescribed burning. During fire season, crews may travel to other states and regions to help suppress large fires. Fire management planners and researchers study and develop strategies to reduce the severity of wildfire by managing forest vegetation and reducing fuel reductions before wildland fire happens. They often carry out managed fires ahead of time to reduce the potential for a massive fire later. What you need to know: There are very few qualifications for getting hired. However, once you get the job, firefighters must pass required classes and attend leadership training. You’re given as much training as you can handle and show you can absorb. You are evaluated on your performance on actual fires. You could work here: Missoula Smokejumper Base North Cascades Smokejumper Base Watch wildland firefighters on the scene: https://youtu.be/bQytFZuIBiw
Are your boots made for walking?
You could be a Forester. Qualifications: An interest in challenging work that takes place in many environments, from glaciers to laboratories, tropical rain forests to grasslands, and offices to mountainsides. Knowledge of natural resources including water, soil, air range, fish, wildlife, wood, minerals, recreation and wilderness. What you do: Foresters develop, implement, and administer plans that include wilderness protection, timberland improvement, forest habitat analyses and enhancement, timber sales, tree nursery operations, recreation, prescribed fire management and wildfire suppression. Foresters work in both the public sector and private industry, helping landowners determine the best management practices for their land. What you need to know: Most foresters have a 4 year degree in forestry or a related field. Coursework generally includes biological, physical, and mathematical sciences or engineering. You could work here: National Forests of Mississippi Meet a Forester : Christina Harper, a new forester on the Bienville National Forest in Mississippi Watch a video: Mitchell Wilkinson, a District Ranger on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest https://youtu.be/lGwG2xuIDMs
Are you willing to get wet?
You could be a Hydrologist. Qualifications: interest in water quality, stream flows, sensitive stream channels, aquatic ecosystem restoration, municipal watershed protection, water rights and water resource management. What you do: Many hydrologists assist in water conservation and in protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems. The work they do is very important for environmental preservation; for instance, they may project water shortages, analyze the quality of potential water sources, or monitor the inflow and outflow of reservoirs. Some hydrologists forecast and help to prepare a region for conditions such as flooding, snowmelt, drought, and the formation and melting of river ice. Many hydrologists work hand in hand with Fisheries Biologists. What you need to know: Hydrologists usually have a bachelor’s degree in physical or natural science, or engineering, including courses in hydrology, the physical sciences, geophysics, chemistry, engineering science, soils, mathematics, aquatic biology, atmospheric science, meteorology, geology, geomorphology, oceanography, or the management of conservation of water resources. You could work here: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest Meet a Hydrologist: Suzanne Fouty, District Hydrologist for the Whitman Ranger District. Watch a video: Rebecca Bourdon, a remediation hydrologist — or hydrogeologist https://youtu.be/DQtoV2alGao
Find your voice in government
Who has a voice in the decision to mine on National Forests and Grasslands? What are their goals? How do they represent the public interest? How do they conserve and restore natural areas? How does their work support mining the minerals that are used to make the objects and tools we use every day? Links to the following public agencies and organizations reveal their roles and responsibilities to ensure safety, support mining operations and protect, restore and reclaim air, soil, water, plants and wildlife impacted by mining. The mining industry works with these agencies, organizations, citizen groups and elected representatives to protect the environment and health of people and the planet.
US Dept of Ag Forest Service
- To make sure that any mining practices on public lands follow all laws and regulations based on acts of Congress, Executive Orders of the President, international treaties and federal court decisions.
- To use the National Forests in multiple ways—including mining—so that the nation has the access to minerals that support economic growth, energy, health and defense.
- To ensure mining operations do not create permanent damage to the environment. The Forest Service works with other agencies and industry to identify the best practices and uses of technology, and uses the latest scientific knowledge to prevent unnecessary disturbances and return land and water to its most productive state.
- To research the consequences of mining at a specific location and determine whether to approve or deny a request. They often discuss this decision with the BLM.
How they represent you:
- Congress authorizes the Forest Service to manage mining on National Forest and Grasslands to benefit the public.
- The Forest Service manages National Forest System lands responsibly so that our descendants inherit public lands to steward for their use and pass on to the next generation.
- To produce minerals that the public needs or wants.
- To provide for the health and safety of mining employees, the public and local communities.
- To compete in a global marketplace and return an investment to shareholders.
- To meet or exceed regulatory requirements promoting effectiveness and efficiency in mining operations.
How they represent you:
- The mining industry satisfies public demand for mineral use.
- The mining industry supports economic growth.
- Shareholders of mining companies represent individuals and groups of investors that rely on profits to fund long-term investments in capital construction to funding higher education and individual retirement plans.
Click here to learn more about the nation’s mining industry. Click here to learn more about the uses of 40 commonly found minerals. Click here to learn more about the mining industries and the environment.
Bureau of Land Managment
- Administer oil and gas leases and mineral claims based on acts of Congress, Executive Orders of the President, international treaties and federal court decisions.
- Manage sand, gravel, dirt and rock that is available to local and state government agencies for construction whenever environmentally responsible.
- Work with the Forest Service to decide if mining should be allowed when a request is made. Does the person asking to mine have a valid claim? Would it be good for the economy and the environment?
How they represent you: BLM manages mining claims and operations for economic and environmental benefits. Click here to learn more about BLM and energy development. Click here to learn more about BLM and the Mineral Survey Program. Click here to learn more about BLM and Abandoned Mine Lands.
Environmental Protection Agency
- To administer and enforce regulations that protect the environment and preserve clean water, clean air, and healthy soil based on acts of Congress, Executive Orders of the President, international treaties and federal court decisions.
- Make sure everyone, even other organizations such as the Forest Service, follows the EPA’s regulations.
- Review plans for large mining projects and enforce Congressional authorizations and court decisions.
How they represent you:
- They ensure that you breathe clean air and drink clean water and that we leave the country in good condition for future generations.
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
- Congressional authorization to administer rules and regulations for open-pit coal mining.
- Protect private landowners and minimize environmental damage to private lands by returning the land to its most productive state after mining operations are closed.
- Balance the nation’s need for coal with the protection of the environment.
How they represent you: When private landowners are asked if a company can mine on their land, OSM makes sure landowners are being treated fairly. Click here to learn more about OSM.
State Conservation and Economic Development Agencies
- Administer and enforce state laws related to mining.
- To protect and sustain the environment on private and state lands.
- To address the impacts of mining on federal lands that affect state and private lands.
How they represent you:
- Like federal agencies, State Agency employees seek to balance the support for economic growth with conservation of natural resources to promote human health and well-being based on authorities from their state constitution, law-makers and the executive orders of governors .
- Advocate for or against mining practices and locations related to concerns associated with human health, wildlife habitat and natural resources.
How they represent their membership:
- Citizen groups represent segments of the public with beliefs similar to their own and collaborate with other players to advance natural resource protection and the restoration of impacted natural resources.
How much do you know about mining operations?If you become informed and involved, the other players will listen and include you in decision-making. Your interest can help guide the conversation about mining in your community. Each public agency follows public meeting practices, public requests for information and strives for accountability and transparency. Likewise, public citizens have the opportunity to play a part in conservation on our public lands. What will your role be?
Special Thanks to our
The Museum wishes to thank our membership and capital campaign partners for their support of this traveling and online exhibition. Membership contributions support the continued planning and development of The Ranger’s Pack: Stories from the Collection of Conservation History, an interpretive program of the Museum. The goal of the Ranger’s Pack program is to share with the public the conservation legacy of the U. S. Forest Service, its partners and cooperators.
Capital Campaign Partners
The Board of Directors wishes to thank these organizations for their investment in the Museum’s educational programs.
BNSF Railway Foundation
Charles Engelhard Foundation
Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation
The Forest History Society
Lambda Bioremediation Systems
Kiewit Power Engineers
National Mining Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Stan and Judy Dempsey Fund
Stillwater Mining Company
USDA Forest Service
Exhibition Staff and Advisors
Interpretive and Education Team
Research & Development Team
Design and Illustration Team
Liz Madison Consulting, Interpretive Concept Plan
Tiffany Moreland, Illustrator
Christine Murphy, Box Nine Design