This chapter reviews the political dynamics of the late twentieth century that set the stage for many of our contemporary forest policy and governance debates. The final decades of the twentieth century ushered in a new set of policies, issues, and political activists that changed the nature of federal conservation. Many of the country’s foundational environmental policies were passed into law in the 1970s, affecting forest management and decision-making across ownership categories. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the U.S. Forest Service found itself at the center of the “timber wars,” focused on national forestlands in the Pacific Northwest. The resolution of these conflicts forced the agency to make an abrupt pivot toward ecosystem management and left lasting social and political divisions that were felt most strongly in traditionally timber-dependent rural communities.