The Moquah Barrens Research Natural Area (RNA) was established by the Chequamegon National Forest and the Lakes States Forest Experiment Station in 1935 with a research objective well-suited to the needs of the Forest Service and the scientific understanding of ecosystem function prevalent at the time of establishment. The original research plan was never implemented, which led to a joint Forest-Station decision in 1956 to disestablish the RNA. However, that decision was never implemented. A series of management decisions made after 1956 led to the loss of the pine barrens ecosystem originally encompassed by the RNA. This loss is not irretrievable and the work necessary to recover the original ecosystem is possible under existing RNA management guidelines. The experience of the Moquah Barrens RNA can be used by the Forest Service to improve overall management of the entire system of research natural areas. Two main areas of opportunity are identified: 1) implement an improved approach to managing official records associated with RNAs; and 2) adopt a management framework suitable for long-term ecological projects.