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Submission Guidelines

The Forest Service Office of Communication compiles input by field units and Washington Office staffs. This site is updated on a daily basis, so please ensure submissions are timely, of interest to everyone across the Forest Service, and follow the inverted pyramid. Dated information and submissions that have primarily local interest will not be accepted. Field units should submit items through their region, station or area Public Affairs Office, which approve and prioritize submissions. Send items to IFS Stories inbox. Include supporting photos. 

We reserve the right not to publish your submission.

Publication Standards

  • Submissions should be timely; article should be no more than two weeks old from submission date

  • Think ahead: Submit information before events happen

  • Remember the five “Ws” of journalism: who, what, when, where, why (or how):

    • Why is your entry significant?

    • Why will it be of interest to other employees?

    • How does it support Forest Service goals? How does it align with the Strategic Plan?

  • Think macro rather than micro; make sure your submission takes a broad view of activities

  • Connect it to the Forest Service Strategic Plan and mission

    • See sample submissions below

  • Use plain language

  • Submission length:

    • Remember that people don’t read long-form on the web.

    • Tell your story

    • Put the important information first

    • Submit stories that are 300 words minimum

  • Don’t use acronyms on first reference (unless AP approved, like U.S., NASA etc.)

  • Include a visual element when possible (photo, graphic, video)

  • Link back to the appropriate FS webpage when appropriate. Give the audience more information. 

Strategic Submission Example

The first example below is a basic update that reports what occurred.

Example 1:


Members of Region 7’s bike team biked to work during the last month, thus saving over 3,000 miles of commuting time and all environmental issues associated with it. Needless to say this was a great move for the environment and for everyone’s pockets as well. Good job team!

Things to avoid in your writing submissions:

  • Being too localized and generic with the information provided

  • Capitalizing the entire header

  • Not tying in the topic discussed with a corresponding Strategic Goal

  • Not properly identifying the area or personnel involved in the story

The second example explains is the same submission, but rewritten strategically to focus on why the occurrence is significant for the agency and how it supports our strategic goals. Additionally, the second example includes a graphic element (photo, graphic or video), which makes it a more compelling submission and increases the chances of message delivery to our Forest Service employees, retirees and other stakeholders.

Example 2:

Strategic Goal: Apply knowledge globally

Technical exchange with Ukraine on fire management in Chernobyl Exclusion Zone

International Programs coordinated a technical exchange between U.S. and Ukrainian fire experts on fighting fires in one of the most contaminated places on earth — the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Forest Service fire experts Nikia Hernandez, Kootenai National Forest, and Benji Hegg, Lolo National Forest, along with other U.S. firefighting leaders, worked with interagency Ukrainian firefighting teams on coordinating fire response, integrating new tools and resources into trainings and onsite coordination, and updating regulatory efforts. The U.S. team also gained valuable insight into firefighting safety in contaminated areas. This project directly supports our agency’s strategic goal of applying what we know as an agency at a global scale. 

Closeup of a person's hands placing a tag on a Monarch butterfly wing.
Monarch tagging to determine migration patterns. Curlew National Grassland, Caribou-Targhee National Forest. (Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service)

Photo Caption:

Monarch tagging to determine migration patterns. Curlew National Grassland, Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Photo Credit: USDA Forest Service.

Things to include in your writing submissions:

  • Identify in a clear and concise manner individuals and locations as well as establish a through narrative of the events

  • Establishing a direct tie to a corresponding Strategic Goal

  • Whenever possible, provide supplemental photos that illustrate some of the highlights of the events being discussed in the narrative

  • Clearly establish the who, what, when, where, why (or how) of the piece

Photo Standards

The Forest Service, Office of Communication, Creative Media Section requires the following for national-level photo submission and archival. These requirements allow for standard-quality resolution, user-friendly storage, easy searchability and context for all Forest Service imagery while providing credit to the photographer, date image was taken, where it was taken and a description of the action in the image. For more extensive information, visit our SharePoint site.

Image Quality: Minimum resolution must be 300 dpi (dots per inch) at 10 inches or 2100 pixels of widest length or width. If using your phone camera, set image resolution to highest level. Image should be roughly 4 MBs (megabytes).

Filename: One-to-five-word description, a dash, national forest name (if not in a forest use the state name), a dash, and number sequence (used to differentiate between photos of the same shoot/assignment and can start with any number).

Examples: BiologistTraining-Coronado-2, CapitolXmasTree-WashingtonDC-56, RipplebrookCampgroundAfterRiversideFire-MountBakerSnoqualmie-345

Caption: Provide information that describes the image and answers the who, what, when, where and why.

Permission: If person is identifiable, you must get their full name. If you photograph a person under 18, you must have parent fill out minor photo release form. In all photos, check for proper safety gear, use and wear, appropriateness, and Forest Service policy.

Byline: If photographer is a Forest Service employee write the byline as (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo). If image is purchased, licensed, or permission given by a non-Forest Service photographer, write byline as (Courtesy photo by John C. Smith) or (Courtesy photo by Gonzalez) or (USDA photo by Lance Cheung)

Example: Image with resolution, caption, filename, and byline

A photo of Ryan Blackstar looks for hotspots during the Beaver Creek fire after a prescribed burn operation.

Video Standards

The Forest Service, Office of Communication, Creative Media Section, requires the following criteria for national-level video publishing approval with use of Forest Service insignia. These requirements allow for high-quality video resolution, user-friendly storage, 508 compliance, and legal music usage.

Requirements Checklist

Video Quality: 

  • At a minimum, export HD 780p or higher quality video recorded at a minimum 192 bit audio.

  • It is recommended that videos should be less than 3-5 minutes long.

USDA Compliance:

  • Must use the USDA and Forest Service insignias and non-discrimination statement. The USDA insignia must be larger or the same size as the Forest Service insignia. If side by side, USDA insignia should be at the left of Forest Service insignia; if stacked, USDA should be above the Forest Service.

508 Compliance:

  • Provide a timed closed-caption file such as a .srt. The timed closed-caption provides a transcript with video times. Or provide a transcript .txt file with script of video.

  • Videos must be closed captioned for hearing impaired.


  • All music rights must be cleared prior to distribution.

  • Provide source of music on the Video Submission form.


  • Video producers are responsible for clearing all rights to all footage. No copyrighted material may be used without written permission. Forest Service will own the rights to the footage unless alternative agreement/contract has been granted.
  • Forest Service employees do not require release forms.

  • Minor’s parents must sign video minor release forms.

  • People being interviewed or used as talent must sign a release form.


  • One to five-word description of video, a dash, national forest (if not in a national forest, provide the state), a dash, abbreviated month and year, a dash, and number sequence.

Submissions and upload instructions

Email your Video Submission form with release forms and transcript or caption to Once received, a link will be sent to you to upload your video to the Vimeo account,

Above standards are in accordance with FSM 1600 - Information Services, Chapter 1640 - Audiovisual Information