The federal government had recognized the scenic and recreational aspects of the general area as early as 1898, when it established the San Francisco Mountains Forest Preserve, which was enlarged in 1902.
In 1905 the U.S. Forest Service appointed William Wallace as the first ranger in the Sedona area, and two years later changed the name of the preserve to the San Francisco Mountains National Forest. This forest, including lands in the Sedona area, was transferred to the Coconino National Forest in 1908.
The Sedona Ranger Station house on Brewer Road was built in 1917 for District Ranger Jesse Bushnell. In the 1920s, the station was occupied only during the winter months. The ranger's duties included fighting fires, managing lumber cutting, and riding herd on ranchers who leased the forest land for grazing cattle. In later years, as tourism and recreation played a greater role, the ranger was posted full-time to look after campers, hikers and fishermen.
In addition to forest management, the Forest Service had another impact on Sedona history. As homesteading declined after 1940, land exchanges became the only way to open new land for development. The first exchange was in 1940, when Dr. V. M. Slipher gained title to an 80-acre tract that is now the Sky Mountain subdivision.
Between 1945 and 1960, the U.S. Forest Service exchanged 16 parcels into private hands in the Sedona area. USFS officials felt they were simply meeting the needs for more homes and commercial development here. As development grew, Sedonans began to lobby for preservation of forestland to protect the area's scenic and natural values.