Forestry at Iowa State University dates as far back as 1874 when it offered the first forestry course to be formally taught in the United States. This was followed by the establishment of the first department in the College of Agriculture in 1877, named the Department of Horticulture and Forestry. The full forestry curriculum wasn't approved until almost thirty years later in 1904, but was quickly followed by the establishment of the Forestry Club, the Forestry Camp, extension, and professional research.
1930 saw Margaret Stoughton Abell graduate as the first woman to earn a bachelor's degree in forestry from Iowa State College. Margaret went on to become the first woman Research Forester with the US Forest Service.
In 1935, the Society of American Foresters (SAF), a scientific and education organization representing the forestry profession in the United States, began offering the accreditation of postsecondary degree-granting programs in forestry. Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental, peer-review process that assures that educational standards set by the profession are being met by the higher education institutions, with graduation from an accredited program signifying adequate preparation for entry into the profession. Forestry at Iowa State College was one of the original programs accredited in 1935 and has continuously maintained its SAF Accreditation since then.
In 1946, Forestry separated from Horticulture, becoming the Department of Forestry. However, in 2002, it merged with the Department of Animal Ecology, to become the Department of Natural Resource Ecology and Management.