ABOUT THIS WEBSITE
of this website is to provide information and tools to help
advance commercial development of nontimber forest products
(NTFPs) on small forestlands in the United States. For the
purposes of this website, NTFPs are defined
as all wild, wild-simulated, and cultivated native forest
vegetation other than lumber and lumber industry
by-products (e.g., industrial turpentine, plywood, sawdust,
strand board). Read the FAQ and Glossary below and explore
this site for examples of nontimber forest product species
and products. If you have questions or materials you would
like to share, email
Most of the information and resources found on this website
are free, uncopyrighted, in the public domain, or we have
been granted permission to share them publically.
people should not be used for commercial purposes unless
persons in the image have given you written permission to
do so by. All
other materials may be used for commercial or
non-commercial purposes without permission, but we would be
grateful if you would reference this website.
Click here to read the complete
We understand that for some business applications
and other types of use citations may disrupt the look, so
we don't insist on acknowledgement.
When quoting or paraphrasing text from published
sources, even sources in the public domain, it is generally
legally (and ethically) required to site the source.
Chicago Manual of Style is one of hundreds of
recognized citation styles you can use.
This website was started in 1998 and has had many financial
contributors, developers, web masters and programmers
including the Institute for Culture and Ecology, USDA National Institute of
Food Agriculture, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research
Station, National Commission on
Science for Sustainable Forestry, the Turner Foundation, National
Fund for Environmental Cooperation, Anthrotech,
ArrowWood Associates, PilzWald, Gossamer Threads,
Mosslight, Organic Computing and many other people and
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and GLOSSARY
What are nontimber forest
The boreal, temperate, and subtropical forests of the
United States have both an extensive diversity and density
of nontimber forest products. Nontimber forest
products (NTFPs) broadly include all
non-industrial timber vegetation in forests and
agroforestry environments with, or potentially with,
Other terms synonymous with nontimber forest product
include special forest product, non-wood forest product, minor forest
product, alternative forest product and secondary forest product.
Other terms synonymous with harvesting include wildcrafting, gathering,
collecting and foraging.
Some commonly collected nontimber forest products (NTFPs)
in the U.S. are wild mushrooms, berries, ferns, tree
boughs, cones, moss, maple syrup, honey, and medicinal
products such as cascara bark and ginseng. NTFP is not a
biological or ecological category; it is a political and
economic category that serves to highlight forest resources
that are by-passed or overlooked in forest management as a
viable income source.
Are NTFPs valuable?
|When considered individually, most
NTFP species are not as valuable in terms of short-term
profits as products such as industrial timber, coal and
gas. However, when multiple species are managed for over
time, the value of NTFPs can begin to close that gap, if
not exceed it in some situations. Adding non-resource
extraction income opportunities that mesh well with NTFP
management, for example, biodiversity conservation
easements and ecotourism, and the value of managing for
NTFPs can be even greater.
Does NTFP harvesting have cultural or ecological
|Some species with commercial value
are culturally and ecologically sensitive, factors that can
affect commercial viability and sustainable harvesting.
For every species that is harvested commercially,
there are likely to be people who harvest for noncommercial
reasons such as family tradition or subsistence.
Commercial operations are likely to work best and
have the least risk of a negative cultural impact in areas
where there is no competition from noncommercial
These areas include private lands and parts of public lands
away from easily accessed common public areas.
Why are NTFPs an
important component to sustainable forestry?
Nontimber forest products can be used to supplement or
supplant timber cutting from forest ecosystems, depending
on local variables such as species abundance,
accessibility, labor availability, cultural factors and
forest management knowledge.
For example, even-aged timber management in
coniferous forests reduces the forest complexity and
diversity that helps mitigate against catastrophic fire,
disease, and erosion problems.
Active management for NTFPs can play an important
role in maintaining ecosystem complexity and biodiversity,
simultaneously allowing for a broader selection of
extractable products for commercial, recreational, and
At present the lack of investment (e.g., loans,
grants) and infrastructure (e.g., university courses,
extension programs) in the U.S. hampers the growth of
NTFP-based businesses and the large potential they have to
increase economic diversity and wealth for both rural
forest communities and urban production centers.
| How could these products help
me add value to my forestland?
Even with little active management, some NTFP industries,
such as floral greens and medicinals,, have a long history
in the U.S. economy, and thousands of new NTFP businesses
have emerged in recent decades, though a large percentage
struggle lack of investment mentioned above. These
businesses contribute billions of dollars to the U.S.
economy each year. By managing your forestland so that NTFP
diversity is allowed to flourish, you can potentially
increase the long-term value of your forests, while
simultaneously playing an important role in biodiversity
conservation and sustainable forest management.
What resources are available to help me develop NTFPs on my
This website has many
publications, images, and other information that can help
you manage your NTFP resource, for example, by designing
processing, reaching markets, and writing business plans to
raise capital. It is also a good portal to other websites
and resources such as forestry extension programs. An
important source of information about NTFP markets,
production, regulations and other aspects of commercial
production is other businesses. Look for their products on
store shelves and websites and check NTFP databases in the
section of this site to get their contact information so
you can call, e-mail, or write to them. Some businesses may
not want to help a potential competitor but many will,
especially if there is a chance the connection could
develop into a mutually beneficial economic relationship.
| Why is biodiversity
Biodiversity is the basis
of life on earth. NTFP development can help make
it economically practical for non-industrial landowners to
manage for greater biodiversity on their lands by providing
direct revenue from raw and value-added nontimber forest
products and compatible income generators such as payments
for ecosystem services, ecotourism, and more.
| Is commercial harvesting
a detriment to NTFPs?
Many wild species populations
respond favorably to some disturbance of the ground,
cutting of branches, or thinning of populations. Some
species are likely adapted to anthropogenic (i.e., caused
or created by humans) activity, especially species such as
ginseng and camas that have been intensively harvested for
thousands of years in their native habitats. Landowners
interested in restoring historical anthropogenic ecosystems
rich with harvestable NTFPs will find books like "Keeping
it Living" by Deur and Turner, "People and Plants in
Ancient Eastern North America," and "People and Plants in
Ancient Western North America" by Paul Minnis invaluable
Any negative impact from harvesting is trivial when
compared to NTFP species loss and habitat destruction from
major environmental disturbances such as mountain-top
removal, road construction, herbicide spraying, and the
conversion of forests for development. Commercial
harvesters are commonly portrayed in the media, by
government managers, and others as resource thieves using
unsustainable practices, despite the lack of credible
research studies to verify such accusations. There is
always a bad apple in every basket but it is counter-
productive to sustainable management to perpetuate claims
based on thin data. In reality, most commercial harvesters
have an economic incentive to steward the resource. When
you talk with them you find that most are concerned about
ecological health, that they experiment (through trial and
error and direct observation) to increase productivity and
protect habitat, that they educate each other on best
practices, and that they are willing participants in
collaborating with scientists and managers on NTFP
research. If you are interested in peer-reviewed,
scientific literature that supports these claims
see this webpage. The American Herbal Products
Association has a thoughtful section (Good
Collection Practice) on wild harvesting in its
publication, Good Agricultural and Collection Practice
Where can I get advice from a live person?
Forestry and Agricultural Extension.
Your local university and state extension offices can
be helpful for locating information and other for other
assistance with commercial NTFP development. The U.S.
extension system is a nationwide, non-credit
educational network. Each U.S. state and territory has
a state office at its land-grant university and a
network of local or regional offices. These offices are
staffed by one or more people to provide practical,
research-based information to agricultural producers,
small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in
rural areas and communities of all sizes. The “eXtension”
program is an effort to provide a portal for extension
materials and helping you locate extension agents in
your area (Ask
Resource Conservation and Development.
Over 40 years ago, Congress established a unique
program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that
empowered rural people to help themselves. The USDA
focus was to assist local people by providing tools and
technical support to stabilize and grow their own
communities while protecting and developing natural
resources. Some local RC&Ds have staff with knowledge
about commercial NTFPs or know of local individuals
USDA Rural Development.
The mission of
USDA Rural Development is to increase economic
opportunity and improve the quality of life for all
rural Americans through direct or guaranteed loans,
grants, technical assistance, research and educational
materials. This program maintains a network of offices
through the U.S. that you can approach for advice on
many matters of importance for NTFP development,
including funding, marketing and more.