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The Forest Atlas of the National Forests of the United States was originally published in 1913. The forest distribution information was compiled from a vast number of published records, partly from numerous unprinted reports, notes, and the knowledge of individuals whose observations were still unrecorded. George B. Sudworth, along with his assistants in the Section of Forest Distribution, W. H. Lamb, Georgia E. Wharton, and Mary C. Gannett, compiled on separate cards many thousands of locality records for individual species, based upon published botanical lists, unpublished notes, and herbarium specimens. For each species these localities were plotted by number on a large cloth-backed contour map of North America.
The maps were meant to be updated periodically as more information became available. Later maps were then incorporated into the original loose-leaf volume. These maps were recorded by the Section of Forest Distribution of the U.S. Forest Service and then sent to the Regional Foresters. The Regional Foresters would update the information and send it back to Forest Distribution once a year. At which time the maps would be re-done and sent back out to the Regional Foresters in a reiterative process.
Most of these maps are hand colored but a few of the later maps were mechanically reproduced. The Pinus spp. were later published in a separate volume, Forest Atlas. Geographic distribution of North American trees. pt. 1—Pines by George B. Sudworth.This contained 36 species of Pinus. More volumes were to follow but were never published. Some smaller maps of conifers, poplars, tree willows, and walnuts of the Rocky Mountain region were published in later bulletins by Sudworth.
In 1938, Munns' Distribution of Important Forest Trees of the United States was published, consisting of 170 maps, one for each important native tree species. These maps were based largely upon Sudworth's data and more recent data compiled from various publications by William W. Mitchell and others. All the maps in the current set predate this publication and were produced between 1913 and 1928. These provide an interesting historical perspective on the knowledge of tree distribution in the early years of the U.S. Forest Service.