Western Governors have supported Stewardship End Result Contracting since it was introduced on a pilot basis in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Recently, USDA issued the Final Rule for Stewardship Contracting Projects on a permanent basis, as enacted in reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill.
Stewardship Contracting allows land managers to leverage public-private partnerships with flexible, cost-effective methods that promote forest health. Stewardship Contracting, for example, allows forest products to be exchanged for services rendered to restore forest function and health, or improve wildlife habitat.
In Colorado, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests need restoration and thinning to reduce fire risk to communities and increase resiliency to insect and disease outbreaks. In response, a 10-year stewardship contract was implemented in 2009 to annually treat and restore up to 10,000 acres in the Arapahoe-Roosevelt and Pike-San Isabel National Forests. The contract is one of many successes of the Front Range Roundtable, a coalition developing a long-term roadmap to reduce the risks of wildfire.
In Idaho, the Mill Creek-Council Mountain Landscape Restoration Project was completed in 2012 in the Payette National Forest with considerable involvement by the Payette Forest Coalition. Five stewardship sales were awarded, including four to local sawmill Evergreen Forest.
The project enabled the sawmill to add a second shift and create 35 full-time jobs. Highlights of the successful execution of the project include improved health and vigor of forested vegetation by thinning the understory vegetation on commercial treatment acres and restoring hydrologic function on approximately 16 miles of un-needed roads. Ultimately, the project provided 34,000 CCF of saw timber and 20,000 tons of biomass.
Western Governors have long supported instituting Stewardship Contracting on a permanent basis, including in the 2013 resolution, Wildland Fire Management and Resilient Landscapes, and a letter that same year to leadership of the House Committee on Agriculture to reauthorize the Farm Bill.