Making Tracks with the Forest Service

The NWTF’s significant contributions to forest and habitat health are far-reaching and diverse, but being listed as one of the top federal timber buyers isn’t one most would think of.

A recently released report by the USDA Forest Service put the NWTF as No. 4, nationally, in 2019, among all purchasers of federal, commercial timber by volume.

How does that even happen? The NWTF isn’t a paper company, nor is it a wood-products company. Why does the NWTF buy timber?


Maintaining the more than 150 national forests and grasslands that make up the nearly 200 million acres in the National Forest System is no small task. In fact, it’s nearly impossible for the government to accomplish it without help from organizations like the NWTF.

The NWTF and the Forest Service have a long and fruitful history and maintain the longest-running partnership between the federal agency and a nongovernmental organization.

“In 1986, the NWTF and Forest Service signed the historic Making Tracks Partnership Agreement,” said Kelle Reynolds, the Forest Service’s national Making Tracks liaison. “Since that time, the NWTF has been very engaged in helping manage habitat on National Forest System lands across the country.”

Stewardship Agreements

Stewardship agreements are a way for the Forest Service to meet the high number of goals that are part of their annual action plans. This isn’t possible without the help of partners sharing the workload. The NWTF has been sharing this workload for more than 30 years.

“The NWTF is the national leader and expert implementer of stewardship agreements with over 120 agreements accomplished with the Forest Service to date,” said Reynolds.

There are 34 stewardship agreements on-going across all Forest Service regions.

Buying Timber

Timber thinning and removal of diseased or insect-damaged trees are some of the many tools the partners use to improve habitat, reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire and enhance recreational opportunities on national forests.

Through stewardship contracts, the NWTF agrees to pre-purchase the timber from the Forest Service, then the NWTF holds small, localized timber sales in conjunction with the forest work. Profits from those sales go directly back on the ground to improve forest health and wildlife habitat that benefits numerous species.

These stewardship projects occur year-round on national forests throughout the country. That’s how the NWTF has become the fourth-largest buyer of federal, commercial timber, and one of the biggest partners in forest health and wildlife habitat improvement on Forest Service lands across America.

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