Making every dollar count – Leveraging federal investments in land management to benefit local communities

In many parts of the forested western United States, rural communities—as compared to their urban counterparts-–have been disproportionately impacted by forest industry restructuring, federal land policy changes, and more recently the Great Recession (Abrams et al., 2015; Istrate, 2015). Timber harvest volumes have declined, and catastrophic wildfires and insect outbreaks are increasing the need to manage our forests while changing the types of businesses needed to do the work (Vaughan and Mackes, 2015). Public land managers rely on private sector forestry contractors to conduct needed fuels reduction, insect mitigation, and other restoration and maintenance activities. Unlike traditional forestry work, these activities are not tied to volatile commodity markets, and have become a focus of management on public lands. Many rural forest communities traditionally dependent upon commodities such as lumber and plywood are struggling to find new ways to maintain or build their communities and economies in the wake of mill closures and curtailments (Woodall et al., 2011).

As Lurie and Hibbard explain in their 2011 article on “The New Natural Resource Economy,” restoration and maintenance of our forest resources require firms, workers, material, and supplies while potentially providing biomass and other products with commercial uses. In addition, all of these activities are dependent upon projects which need to be planned, managed, and monitored. The combination of all required inputs and possible products have great potential to contribute to the economic vitality of nearby forest communities.


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