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Stewardship Contracting: A Powerful Tool

Pinchot focus areas:

Climate & Energy
The Role of Communities in Stewardship Contracting: Report to the BLM
The Role of Communities in Stewardship Contracting: Report to the USDA Forest Service
2009 Analysis: The Role of Communities in Stewardship Contracting on Federal Lands
The Obama Administration’s FY 2011 budget proposal for the USDA Forest Service brings a new focus to the use of stewardship contracts and agreements as a preferred land management option for the National Forest System. The budget includes a new $694 million Integrated Resource Restoration line item that is intended to focus agency resources on forest ecosystem restoration. A land management option that focuses on working with local communities to provide opportunities for rural economic development and ecosystem uplift, stewardship contracting, allows the USDA Forest Service and the USDOI Bureau of Land Management to focus their resources on ecosystem management.
Survey results indicate that respondents both within and external to the USFS felt there is either wide support or at least some level of support for stewardship projects.

Under the President’s budget “timber removal will occur predominately within the context of larger restoration objectives, most usually through the use of stewardship contracts or agreements,” and “stewardship contracts and agreements will be the primary means of managing natural resources and includes a focus on new and emerging markets for wood removed in restoration activities (including use of woody biomass for energy), in addition to more traditional markets…Most often, restoration projects designed to meet science-informed restoration requirements will use stewardship contracts to conduct restoration activities such as mechanical removal of vegetation, decommissioning roads, or plantings along streams – activities that support forest-based industries and lead to jobs.”

Survey participants both within and external to the USFS would almost without exception participate in another stewardship contracting project.
Since 2005, the Pinchot Institute for Conservation has facilitated an objective programmatic-level review for the USFS and BLM that assesses the role that local communities and other stakeholders play in stewardship contracting. The report identifies a number of barriers and opportunities that either inhibit or encourage the use of stewardship contracts and agreements. The FY 2009 programmatic monitoring and evaluation effort found that:
  • Many stewardship contracts are designed around utilizing the goods-for-services provisions of stewardship contracting, and do not take advantage of the full suite of stewardship authorities.
  • While stewardship contracting is maturing and it has strong support from both communities of place (i.e. forest-based communities) and communities of interest (i.e. regional and national environmental groups and natural resource-based industries), many stewardship contracts exhibit increasingly passive and formulaic forms of collaboration and community engagement.
  • Stewardship agreements are growing in popularity and offer increased efficiencies and opportunities to engage communities and other stakeholders.
USFS survey participants were asked to rate, on a five-point scale, the importance of various benefits that accrued to communities as a result of stewardship contracts. The benefits of using stewardship contracts were of greatest important to survey participants were both specific outcomes, such as improvements in forest health and watershed conditions, and increased collaboration among stakeholders.

2009 Report Documents:
For more information or to download Stewardship Contracting reports from previous years, click here.

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