The Indian Forest Service (IFS) is one of the three All India Services, the other two being the Indian Administrative Service & the Indian Police Service. IFS was created in 1966 under the All India Services Act 1951. However, this was only a revival of a well organized Indian Forest Service which existed during the British Raj from 1865 to 1935.
The beginning of formal training of IFS officers dates back to 1867 when five candidates were selected to undergo training in France & Germany. This continued up to 1885 except for a short break on account of war between France and Russia. From 1885 to 1905, the training of IFS Probationers was organised at Cooper's Hill, London where 173 Officers were trained. The training of IFS Probationers between 1895 and 1927, was held in Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh. In 1920, the Government of India took the historic decision that the IFS Probationers may be trained at one centre and consequent to the establishment of Forest Research Institute at Dehradun, the training started in India in 1926. It continued up to 1932, when due to lack of demand for officers, it had to be discontinued.
The Government of India Act of 1935, which transferred forestry to Provisional list, resulted in abolition of the IFS training. With the retirement of IFS officers, the demand for trained foresters cropped up and thus Indian Forest College was born in 1938. The Superior Forest Service officers, recruited from different states, were trained in IFC thus retaining the all India character of the service. The main mandate of the service was scientific management of the forests to exploit it on a sustained basis for primarily timber products. It was during this time that large tracts of the forest were brought under state control through the process of reservation under the Indian Forest Act,1927.
The management of the forest went into the hands of the provincial government in 1935 and even today the Forest Departments are managing the forest of the country under the respective State governments. Since the subject of forestry was shifted to the concurrent list in the year 1977, the central government plays an important role, particularly at the policy level in the management of the forest.
The main thrust of managing forests for production of timber products as in the British period continued even after the reconstitution of IFS in 1966.The recommendations of National Commission on Agriculture in 1976 was a landmark shift in forest management. It was for the first time that people's perception was taken care of in addressing biomass needs and extension activities through social forestry were introduced. The concept of sustained yield was addressed in tandem with biomass needs of the people living in and around forest areas. Equal thrust was given to habitat management in protected area and conserving the biodiversity of the land. Today there are over 2700 IFS officers serving in the country. Besides serving the 31 Forest Departments in the States and Union Territories managing the country's natural resources, a good number of them work in various Ministries and institutions both in the State and Central Government.
Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), a body under the Government of India, recruits the IFS Officers by conducting a competitive examination open to graduates with science background. After qualifying the written examination, the candidates have to undergo an interview, a walking test (25 km for men & 14 km for women in four hours in Delhi Zoological Park) and a standard medical fitness test. The current trend in educational background of selected officers reflects high qualifications including Postgraduate in Sciences, Engineering, Agriculture and Forestry. A fairly large number of officers are Post Graduate in various subjects.