In 1885, the Governor of California approved an act that authorized the appointment of a three-man State Board of Forestry, the first such body in the nation. Because of a lack of clear statutory authority and minimal budgeting, the original Board was only able to act in an educational and advisory capacity. That original Board or Commission of Forestry was abolished in 1893.

In 1905, an “Act of March 18, 1905”, became law, creating a new Board of Forestry and the first State Forester. In 1927, the Division of Forestry was organized.

In 1947, the original Forest Practice Act was passed by the State Legislature. Although the responsibilities and powers of the Board under the old act were less than they are today, the 1947 Act laid important foundations of experience and procedure, which led to further development for the Board.

Throughout the period of the 1950s and 1960s, the Board of Forestry functioned under the mandate of the 1947 Act by formulating forest policy for the state.

At the time of passage of the Z'berg-Nejedly Forestry Practice Act of 1973, the Legislature reorganized the Board and concomitantly expanded its powers and responsibilities. For example, the 1973 statute changed the Board's function in relation to forest practice rules from a ratification role to an adoptive role. In addition, the present general public five (5), forest products industry three (3), and range-livestock industry one (1) membership ratio was enacted to increase the public input into Board matters.

When the Division of Forestry was elevated to departmental status in 1977, the organizational relationship between the Department and the Board was retained. This reorganization of the Department had no effect upon the Board's mandated duties and responsibilities.