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Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
Contact Information:
Leigh Lindstrom, Communications Coordinator, Pinchot Institute for Conservation:
202.797.6582; LLindstrom@pinchot.org
Brian Kittler,Project Director, Pinchot Institute for Conservation:

Community Involvement in Stewardship Contracting Yields

Jobs, Resilient Forests, and Good Government in Rural America

Pinchot Institute releases FY 2010 programmatic monitoring report on the successes, benefits, and challenges associated with involving communities in federal forest and grassland stewardship projects.

February 10, WASHINGTON D.C. — There is broad support for stewardship contracting—a type of land management contracting intended to provide ecological, social, and economic benefits for projects undertaken on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.  In fact, nine out of 10 people say that they would participate in another stewardship contracting project because of the economic and ecological outcomes achieved and the trust that is built.  

The use of stewardship contracting has increased quite dramatically.  In fact, in just the last year the Forest Service has increased the number of contracts by 65 percent and increased the number of acres awarded under stewardship contracts by 73 percent.  Growth for the BLM has also been significant.  In 2010, BLM set a target of 41 contracts, yet awarded 76 contracts, while doubling the acres under stewardship contracts to 31,000 more than the previous year.  Since 2003 the BLM has increased the average size of their stewardship contracts from 100 acres to 2000 acres.  

Strategic stewardship projects operating across entire landscapes are yielding twin economic and ecological benefits.  In Arizona, a ten-year contract has resulted in 226 direct forest industry jobs being created and/or maintained, 93 indirect jobs being created or maintained, and 20 local businesses—including the renewable biomass energy sector—making investments that add value to the byproducts of forest restoration.  A multi-stakeholder monitoring board recently concluded that this economic activity has yielded a $40 million dollar return on a $30 million federal investment (measured in terms of investments, expenditures, and tax revenue), all while reducing the cost of thinning forests, reducing wildfire risk, and improving wildfire habitat on federal public land.  Similarly, a new ten-year stewardship project in Colorado has already reduced the cost of vegetation management in some places, while creating 52 jobs in a new industry geared towards increasing the value of small-diameter timber removed from forests.  The goal of this approach is to reduce the cost of restoring the health and resiliency of public forests.  

In less than three years, the authorization for the Forest Service and BLM to use stewardship contracts and agreements will run out, be extended, or be made permanent.  In the meantime, programs like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, Forest Service budget proposals, and several recent legislative proposals from Congress are all calling for the increased use of stewardship contracting as a primary means of managing federal public forests.  

Over the last decade, the Pinchot Institute has monitored the growth and development of stewardship contracting, specifically the role that communities play in these projects.  Findings from the 2010 programmatic monitoring effort include:

Stewardship contracting has increased the agencies’ ability to pool and leverage partner resources, including significant amounts of new funding.  Nearly 50 percent of survey participants report that partners bring new funds into stewardship projects. Stewardship agreements with outside partners, particularly with wildlife conservation NGOs, are very popular and have been successful in raising new funds, engaging the public, and building trust.  

Stewardship contracts provide increased administrative and fiscal efficiencies through the use of best-value contracting, the exchange of goods-for-services, designation by description and prescription, and the retention of receipts.

More work is getting accomplished on the ground in an integrated and collaborative manner (e.g., hazardous fuel reduction, habitat improvement, noxious weed control or eradication, road improvements and/or obliteration, and stream restoration). 

While stewardship contracting provides some of the best examples of collaborative natural resource management anywhere, especially in select locations; there are some indications that stewardship contracting projects are becoming less collaborative overall.  

In places exhibiting less collaboration, community outreach and engagement is often minimal.  Overall, there appears to be insufficient training resources, technical assistance, and financial resources for the agencies and their non-agency partners to effectively engage communities in stewardship projects.    

The growth of stewardship contracting has paralleled the development of several "stewardship groups" across the country.  In many instances, these groups have diverse memberships that came together out of a common interest in using stewardship contracting authorities to achieve various objectives, such as aquatic habitat improvements and restoration of forest ecosystem health and resilience. 


About the Pinchot Institute for Conservation

The Pinchot Institute for Conservation (http://www.pinchot.org) is to advance conservation and sustainable natural resource management by developing innovative, practical, and broadly-supported solutions to conservation challenges and opportunities. The Pinchot Institute accomplishes this through nonpartisan research, education and technical assistance on key issues influencing the future of conservation and sustainable natural resource development.

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