The land-cover patterns we see in the United States today are the product of a long legacy of government-sponsored initiatives and local-level land-use practices by a diverse array of private landowners. Federal and state governments have been important actors in encouraging conservation and reforestation, particularly in the 20th century. Through the development and implementation of conservation programs, and the purchase of extensive agricultural areas that were abandoned from the 1930s to 1950s, the amount of forested land in the United States has increased in the last century. Collectively, these large-scale projects have had important implications for land resources, some with very long-lasting effects. Global economic conditions are factors in the development of these past policy initiatives and also impact land-use decision-making of individual private landowners. An understanding of the complex pattern of land cover in the U.S. requires a historical perspective that encompasses the dynamics associated with both short- and long-term processes at multiple spatial scales of analysis.