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Public-Private Partnerships

Two Cincinnati Mill Creek youth lift a log while working on a trail.

Ground Work Cincinnati Mill Creek youth work alongside a Wayne National Forest recreation technician.

Since its inception, the Forest Service has maintained a commitment to working with a variety of organizations and interests while fulfilling our motto of ‘caring for the land and serving people.’ As such, the agency accomplishes much of its work through collaboration with a diversity of private, non-profit, and government partners—leveraging significant energy and support towards critical USFS mission activities. Strategic investments in partner-focused efforts allow the agency to accomplish more across broad landscapes and through broader constituencies.

Innovative public-private partnerships, in particular, are increasingly accomplishing goals in the agency’s high-priority focal areas: water, restoration, youth, recreation, and urban environments. These achievements support the USFS’s Public Private Partnership (P3) Strategy, established in 2011 to invite a diverse array of partners and beneficiaries to share in the care of our Nation’s forests and grasslands. The P3 Strategy identified a suite of national-scale public-private partnerships that have become the agency’s high-performance partnerships (HPPs). The HPPs are united by new and innovative features, such as:

  • Scaling proven smaller scale projects to much larger landscapes;
  • Enabling the circle of partners to include more diverse and broader number of partners;
  • Expanding a greater public appreciation of the ecosystem services and benefits that accrue to communities;
  • Developing new pathways for leveraging partner time, talent, and treasure at a nationally significant scale such as increasing the profile and capitalizing on the fundraising ability of our congressionally chartered foundations.

Recent quarterly reports on these HPPs are found here:

Below are summaries of the agency’s HPPs categorized by the high-priority focal areas of water, restoration, youth, recreation, and urban environments.

Water and Watershed Management

Healthy Forests and Restoration

Youth Engagement

Recreation and Volunteerism

Urban environments

Public-Private Partnerships in Water and Watershed Management

National Water Replenishment and Enhancement Initiative

A restored portion of Trail Creek in Colorado.

A restored portion of Trail Creek in Colorado.

In 2011, the USFS through its congressionally chartered non-profit foundations (the National Forest Foundation – NFF; and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation - NFWF) began working with the Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola) to restore watersheds and forested lands across the country. The organizations share mutual interest in watershed health: Coca-Cola is pursuing its sustainability and water replenishment goals, while the USFS and its foundations are ensuring an ample, clean drinking water supply and healthy fish/wildlife habitat. Funded projects rely on locally based partners, employees, and community volunteers to improve habitat and functions through the construction of sediment detention basins, rehabilitation of alluvial fans, and filling of deep gullies.



Rocky Mountain Watershed Protection Partnership

The USFS Rocky Mountain Region (R2) has been working with municipal water providers and corporations along the Front Range of Colorado to restore and foster the resiliency of forests within over 40,000 acres of critical watersheds on National Forest System and private lands. The goals are to mitigate the effects of the pine beetle epidemic, reduce the risk of severe impacts from wildfires, maintain water quality, and restore areas burned by past wildfires. Key partners involved in this initiative include: Denver Water, Aurora Water, Colorado Springs Utilities, Northern Water Conservancy, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Pueblo Board of Water Works, the NFF, Coalition for the Upper South Platte, Vail Resorts, Miller Coors, and the Coca-Cola Company (Coca-Cola). Numerous other corporate, philanthropic, and non-profit partners have also been involved over the life of this initiative.

Wasatch Legacy Project

The Wasatch Legacy Project (WLP) is a partnership with a vision of sustainable recreation and improved watershed management along the Wasatch Front outside of Salt Lake City. The WLP is framed by an over-arching Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which was signed in late 2013 by all members of the partnership and multiple Cost Share and Participating Agreements to execute projects in the watersheds above Salt Lake City. For the past three years, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest has contributed approximately $500,000 annually towards WLP projects. This contribution has been matched nearly 1:1 by partner contributions. The WLP includes partners with state and local municipalities, ski resorts, non-profit organizations, and outdoor retailers, including: Alta Ski Lifts, Brighton Ski Resort, Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, Friends of Alta, Salt Lake City Corporation, Salt Lake Climber’s Alliance, Salt Lake County, Save Our Canyons, Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort, Solitude Ski Resort, State of Utah, Department of Natural Resources, Town of Alta, and the Wasatch Front Regional Council. In 2013, the WLP joined forces with the NFF through its “Treasured Landscape Campaign”.

Western Watershed Enhancement Project

By filtering rain and snowmelt and regulating runoff and soil erosion, healthy forests provide a supply of water for critical environmental functions and drinking water for millions of people. Managing water resources for drinking water supplies, agricultural production, flood control, hydroelectric power generation and holistic ecosystem benefits requires national cooperation in water conservation activities. The increasing magnitude of environmental and economic stressors affecting water supplies necessitates a collaborative, common and integrated approach to identifying opportunities to work together as partners in the stewardship of key water resources across the national landscape. In support of the Western Watershed Enhancement Project, the US Departments of Agriculture and Interior have established a MOU, signed on July 19, 2013, to accomplish common goals and interests in water supply, quality, conservation, and watershed function. Through this MOU the USFS and the BOR have begun a new chapter of Federal cooperation, beginning with six pilot projects in the Northern, Rocky Mountain, Southwestern, Intermountain, Pacific Southwest, and Pacific Northwest USFS Regions. These pilots are designed to improve watershed functions and reduce the risk of uncharacteristically severe wildfire across jurisdictional boundaries.

Public-Private Partnerships in Forest and Grassland Restoration

A firefighter walks near a prescribed burn.

A person wearing a hardhat stands in front of timber stacked up high.

Lomakatsi Restoration Project work for fuel hazard reduction and density thinning on the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Umpqua National Forests.

America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative

The longleaf pine ecosystem once covered approximately 90 million acres in the Southern United States—but, by the early 1990s, 97 percent of this ecosystem had been lost. Diverse public and private partners began working in earnest in the 1980s and are continuing today to restore longleaf pine forests back to the southern landscape. In 2007, the leadership of the USFS, Department of Defense, and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) harnessed a growing, multi-state interest in longleaf restoration. Alongside a Regional Working Group, these partners developed a Range-wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine . The America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative (ALRI) is facilitated and managed collaboratively through the 33-member Regional Longleaf Partnership Council, a Federal Coordinating Committee, numerous state and local implementation teams, and several technical teams.

For more information please click here.

California Ecological Restoration with Power and Water Utilities

Half of all surface water in California originates from national forest watersheds, with downstream consumers realizing an estimated value of nearly $10 billion every year. This partnership brings beneficiaries of these watersheds together to overcome resource challenges, including: (1) finding support for ecological restoration and reduce wildfire threat in critical headwaters and near key utility transmission lines; and (2) maintaining and expanding the biomass infrastructure needed to increase the pace and scale of restoration activities in California’s forests. The overarching aim is to increase restoration work from 250,000 acres/year to 500,000 acres/year over the next 15-20 years. Partners in this initiative include: the USFS, the State of California, Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority (SAWPA),Transmission Agency of Northern California, Sierra Nevada Conservancy (SNC), the Nature Conservancy (TNC), Environmental Defense Fund, Sustainable Conservation, the NFF, the NFWF, Coca-Cola, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison, the BOR, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District.

Carbon Sequestration and Reforestation on National Forests

This initiative is designed to support reforestation projects on National Forest lands, while also helping organizations achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions through biological carbon sequestration. These actions are incentivized through the voluntary marketplace with an innovative program of the NFF—the Carbon Capital Fund . Since 2008, the NFF has facilitated eight carbon sequestration projects that cover 5,239 acres of national forest lands, involve planting 1,329,500 seedlings, and are anticipated to offset more than 700,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. These projects directly improve wildlife habitat and water quality, while mitigating the effects of climate change. Select projects supported by the Carbon Capital Fund are registered on the American Carbon Registry (ACR). Nearly $5 million in partner contributions have been raised to fund this initiative to date. Corporate partners to the NFF on this effort include the Walt Disney Company, the Southcoast Air Quality Management District in California, El Paso Corporation, and Chevrolet.

NFF’s Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences Campaign

The NFF launched its Treasured Landscapes Campaign in 2008 to address two critical challenges: millions of forested acres in need of restoration and millions of people unaware of how National Forests enrich their lives. Five and a half years later, more than 1.7 million acres are now targeted for restoration and community engagement activities through work on fourteen keystone Treasured Landscapes sites. A large portion of the Campaign is centered upon keystone sites that are carefully selected based upon conservation needs and ecological values. Currently, there are 19 grants open with approximately $1.7 million of work being actively accomplished on nine sites.

Western Utilities Partnership

Wildfire has impacted electric transmission lines and corridors at both the local community level and national scale through direct wildfire damage to established lines and surrounding National Forest System lands. Some of these fires have included considerable loss of and impact on natural resources critical to human and biological populations. The USFS and Western Utilities Group are working together in this new partnership to increase vegetation management efforts adjacent to transmission right-of-ways to protect public resources and utility infrastructure. Through cooperative efforts and investments, these two organizations are developing means to reduce the shared threats and expenses of severe wildfire, while mitigating resource, service, and land-access losses.

Public-Private Partnerships in Youth Engagement

21st Century Conservation Service Corps

American Youth Works 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crew engaged in trail work.

American Youth Works 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crew engage in trail work on a forested slope.

In 2010, President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) Initiative to develop a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda. Recommendations within AGO included “to catalyze the establishment of a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) to engage young Americans in public lands and water restoration.” The 21CSC is a national effort to put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing the nation’s natural resources. As part of the 21CSC, public and private partners work together to support young adults and veterans on projects that contribute to the restoration of forest lands while providing career development to participants. Partnerships are designed to: 1) Develop a generation of skilled workers, educated and active citizens, future leaders, and stewards of natural and cultural resources, communities, and the nation; and 2) Provide service, training, education, and employment opportunities for thousands of young Americans and veterans, including low income, disadvantaged youth and other youth with limited access to outdoor work opportunities. Currently, 124 non-profit organizations have stepped forward in announcing alignment with the 21CSC framework and are ready to engage and assist in developing new skills and career pathways for Americans, including youth, under-served and veteran populations.

For more information please click here.

Youth Engagement in Conservation Initiative

The Youth Engagement in Conservation Initiative has expanded the existing relationship between the USFS and the NFWF. In 2012, the USFS and Bureau of Land Management joined forces to contribute funding to support this partnership with NFWF to engage youth in the care and management of public lands. The Youth Engagement in Conservation Initiative implemented two granting programs to support innovative, partnership-based youth engagement projects. The first, America’s Great Outdoors (AGO): Developing the Next Generation of Conservationists , targets projects that build partnerships to provide youth employment in conservation opportunities. This effort is ongoing. The second effort, AGO: Connecting Youth with Nature project , was led by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) through a sub-grant relationship with NFWF, and targeted grants to organizations that got youth out on public lands, and integrated conservation education, outdoor recreation and stewardship.

Public-Private Partnerships in Recreation and Volunteerism

Recreation Restoration, Adaptation, and Ski Area Campaign

An American Youth Works 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crew hiking along a sun-lit trail.

American Youth Works 21st Century Conservation Service Corps crew hikes along a sun-lit trail in a meadow in Salida, CO.

Since 2006, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) has collaborated with major ski areas throughout the country in various campaigns including the Ski Conservation Fund, NFF Summit Fund and Colorado Statewide Ski Conservation Fund. The Ski Conservation Fund helps support projects focused on improvements in recreational infrastructure, wildlife habitat, watershed health, and community forestry. The NFF Summit Fund will provide an opportunity for Summit County visitors to stay, play, and give back to the National Forest they enjoy. The NFF Statewide Ski Conservation Fund builds on the success of the White River National Forest Ski Conservation Fund to expand the model to over a dozen other ski resorts located on Colorado’s National Forest. In 2014, this Campaign will continue expanding the Ski Conservation Fund to more ski areas and lodges with a focus on the NFF’s Treasured Landscapes campaign sites.

For more information please click here.


Public-Private Partnerships with Urban Communities

Baltimore Restoration Partnership

Two workers prepare a pre-treatment box for installation on a city sidewalk. A close-up of someone holding two handfuls of Ponderosa pine bark pellets.

For over 15 years, the USFS has been working with the city of Baltimore, Maryland, and a host of partners to bring science and practice together in improving the city’s natural environment and the well-being of its residents. The Baltimore Restoration Partnership is a new commitment between the USFS and the city of Baltimore, to foster partnered attention on the sustainability and social-ecological restoration of its inner city neighborhoods. The Partnership will bring together a number of existing USFS projects and initiatives in Baltimore, including the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, the Baltimore Wood Project, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership’s Baltimore’s pilot project, and a new wildlife habitat initiative with the National Wildlife Federation.




Workers with Parks and People Foundation prepare a pre-treatment box for installation. The water will flow from this box into two, side-by-side treatment boxes filled with bark pellets, all covered under decking. Ponderosa pine bark pellets are used for this first bark filter application; the Forest Products Lab is currently testing the efficacy of eastern tree species.

Urban Waters Federal Partnership

Urban waters are being revitalized, local partnerships are better supported, forest resources are being restored, and community engagement is being fostered in urban watersheds across the United States through a unique union of fourteen federal agencies. Led by cooperating agencies and coordinated by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and White House Domestic Policy Council, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership closely aligns with and advances the work of various White House place-based efforts (e.g., the Partnership for Sustainable Communities and the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative) to revitalize communities, create jobs and improve the quality of life in cities and towns across the Nation. In total there are 18 Urban Waters Federal Partnership sites. Staff from across the USFS support work at all 18 of the pilot locations. Executive staff also supports the partnership on national coordination efforts. USFS Research and Development staff serves as lead in five of the sites: Seattle, Denver, Northwest Indiana, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. USFS commits staff time, provides leadership and contributes some funding support toward pilot activities.

For more information click here.