BLM: Laura Ceperley, (202) 452-5029
For Immediate Release: January 15, 2004
USFS: Heidi Valetkevitch, (202) 205-1089

Federal Agencies Announce Guidelines for Stewardship Contracts and Agreements

Key Element of Healthy Forests Initiative will Improve Forest and Rangeland Health While Increasing Collaboration


WASHINGTON, D.C., January 15, 2004 -- The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service today announced guidelines to develop and implement stewardship contracts and agreements. Part of the President's Healthy Forests Initiative, stewardship contracting will improve the health of the land, ensure thriving landscapes and contribute to the development of dynamic economies by assisting land managers to enhance and restore forest and rangeland health while strengthening the role of communities and others who contribute to such efforts.

"Stewardship contracting allows federal land managers to achieve land management goals, including fuels reduction activities, for public lands at high risk to catastrophic wildfire while meeting local and rural community needs," said Mark Rey, USDA under secretary for natural resources and environment. "The severe fire seasons of the last few years have emphasized the need to reduce fire risk on federal lands and have underscored the need for a new way of doing business."

The guidelines reflect public comments received in response to interim guidelines released in June 2003.

Stewardship contracting, which Congress approved last year, will help the agencies achieve key land-management goals to:

  • improve, maintain, and restore forest and rangeland health;
  • restore and maintain water quality;
  • improve fish and wildlife habitat;
  • reestablish native plant species and increase their resilience to insects, disease and other natural disturbances; and
  • reduce hazardous fuels that pose risks to communities and ecosystem values through an open, collaborative process.

The contracts will allow private companies, communities and others to retain forest and rangeland products in exchange for the service of thinning trees and brush and removing dead wood. Long-term contracts foster a public/private partnership to restore forest and rangeland health by giving those who undertake the contract the ability to invest in equipment and infrastructure. This equipment and infrastructure are needed to productively use material generated from forest thinning, such as brush and other woody biomass, to make wood products or to produce biomass energy, all at a savings to taxpayers.

Directives, sent today to BLM and Forest Service offices to implement the guidelines, delineate:

  • project design goals and objectives;
  • office roles and responsibilities;
  • direction for use of value offset and excess receipts;
  • how to submit a project, report accomplishments and track finances;
  • how to engage in third-party monitoring, coordination, and collaboration.

"Stewardship contracting will demonstrate a 'new environmentalism' - land stewardship based on partnerships and common ground rather than litigation and confrontation," said Rebecca Watson, DOI assistant secretary. "It is part of a new culture of communication, cooperation, and consultation, in the service of conservation - a culture that Secretary Norton calls the 'Four C's.'"

A notice will be published in the Federal Register later this month. The BLM final guidelines are posted on agency web sites at Final guidelines for the USDA Forest Service will be posted later this month at

More information on stewardship contracts and agreements guidelines can be found at:


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