Foresters are working with contractors on creative wildlife habitat planning initiatives.
Partners of the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont are eager to learn about the nuances of Stewardship Contracting. With more than forty individuals in attendance this August, Dave Wilson of the National Wild Turkey Federation laid out a framework for stewardship contracting with the Forest Service and the reasons everyone should be interested in this new federal land management technique.
Stewardship contracting is a tool the Green Mountain and their partners had never used before; this training marked the first step toward promoting closer working relationships with local communities in a broad range of activities that improve land conditions.
"Stewardship contracting blends the needs of the community with the needs of forest management and can be a win-win situation for both parties," said Wilson, a former Forest Supervisor, who explained the NWTF has a long-standing and strong partnership with the Forest Service because of their shared interest in providing indispensable wildlife habitat.
Private contractors, state employees, federal employees and wildlife biologists were introduced to the basics of trading forest products, or goods, for resource restoration and enhancement, or services.
"A traditional timber sale contract lasts for a period of 3 to 5 years, whereas stewardship contracts can last longer and provide more opportunities for follow-up and evaluation," said Rob Hoelscher, the Wildlife Bioligist for the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest.
Hoelscher also explained another advantage of stewardship contracting: the idea of awarding contracts based on the concept of "best value."
Traditional timber sale contracts are awarded to the highest bidder. Best value can provide different incentives that facilitate providing locally experienced individuals with an opportunity to competitively participate in the contract bidding process. For example, a town may have a number of skilled individuals who could provide a labor force, interpretation, education, and a local market for a particular product but have little in the way of financial resources to purchase the resource up front.
On the other hand, a larger timber company contractor may have the financial resources to put up the money but little in the way of those other opportunities. Stewardship Contracting also allows for larger timber company contractors to subcontract out the service work, such as wildlife habitat restoration, to local or smaller companies with such experience.
"In a stewardship (contract) situation, we will consider the benefits of the local market, education, and interpretation as well as the financial resources needed to complete the project," said Hoelscher.
"We have reached an important milestone as a forest," said Forest Supervisor Meg Mitchell, referring to the first stewardship contract now being offered on the Forest just after the training.
The Beattie Road Stewardship Contract will improve forest health by thinning overgrown areas and offering remaining trees more nutrients. The project will restore wildlife habitat by making areas more open and improve old apple orchard conditions for wildlife forage in this once abandoned farm.
Guided by the helpful hand of experienced neighboring forest employees and the regional office, the Green Mountain is currently soliciting offers on this project. The Forest staff hopes the contract will attract groups who may never have been involved with a government contract before but have a strong interest in the future health of the area and its connection to the health of their community.
For more information contact Kristi Ponozzo at 802-747-6760