Short-staffed Forest Service leans on contractors

By Marc Heller | 04/10/2024 01:31 PM EDT

Some environmental groups say the outside groups handling forest management are more prone to cutting big trees than saving them.

Old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Old-growth Douglas fir trees stand along the Salmon River Trail in Mount Hood National Forest outside Zigzag, Oregon. Rick Bowmer/AP

The federal government will rely on one of its biggest timber customers — and one that opposes the Biden administration’s moves to conserve old-growth forests — to help manage the 193 million-acre forest system for the next two decades.

That’s one of the wrinkles in the Forest Service’s efforts to catch up on a backlog of projects in untended national forests.

Flush with money from the Inflation Reduction Act and bipartisan infrastructure law, the Forest Service is boosting use of contractors such as the National Wild Turkey Federation to help make forests healthier and more resilient against climate change, wildfires, insect infestations and other ravages of nature.


In some cases, the organizations partnering with the Forest Service don’t see eye to eye with the Biden administration on forest policies, or they advocate for approaches such as an increased use of prescribed fire that remain contentious in Congress.