The National Conservation Legacy and Education Center will showcase the history of the Forest Service.

Preparation for the construction of the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center is underway in Missoula, Montana. Once it is built, the Center will be a state-of-the-art showcase the public can visit to learn about the Forest Service, its people and its legacy.

What people are saying.

“On behalf of the citizens of Montana, I am pleased to support the construction of the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center in Missoula, to be managed by the National Museum of Forest Service History…The Center’s role as a meeting place for studying and interpreting the development of natural resource policies, practices, innovations, and exploration will complement Montana’s can-do spirit and leadership in addressing today’s important resource issues.”

– Brian Schweitzer, Former Governor, State of Montana

Our Architecture Plans.

At 30,000 square feet, the Center is designed to welcome more than 100,000 visitors a year. A lookout tower rises 46 feet above the lobby. The ground floor is dedicated to the visitor experience. The lower level is designed to support the Collections, Artifacts, Research and Education Programs with designated areas for researchers, school groups, group meetings, volunteers and staff.

Floor Plans

Green Building Design.

The entire structure is anticipated to achieve both LEED Gold certification and a Three Green Globes rating, through energy efficient design, use of recycled and low-emission materials, the reduction of construction waste, efficient plumbing systems and other state-of-the-art design practices. The glass exposures and windows will provide an openness and make use of natural light. The roof will reflect summer heat for efficient cooling. Habitat and open space will be protected and restored on the Center’s grounds.

On average, green buildings save 40% in water use, 30% in energy and greenhouse gas emissions and 50 to 70% in construction waste going to landfills.

What makes the Center a green building?

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is an internationally recognized green building certification system that reduces negative environmental impacts and increases cost savings through efficient energy and water use. The Center is anticipated to attain LEED Gold Certification.

Green Globes measures overall environmental performance and sustainability of commercial buildings, emphasizing seven design factors from energy use to materials. The Center is anticipated to meet the Three Globes level of certification. The Center will be the first Green Globes certified building in Montana and the first Green Globes certified museum in the nation.

Why Model Two Systems?

Both systems employ widely accepted standards for green design, but vary in their treatment of wood products. The LEED system only recognizes timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Green Globes recognizes timber certified through FSC as well as the American Tree Farm System (ATFS), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

In North America, more than 75% of certified forests are in compliance with standards other than FSC. Because the Center’s timberframe construction will rely on domestic sources of certified wood, we will honor the broad array of sustainable forestry systems.

Dual green building certification will also further the education goals of the NMFSH by demonstrating how these systems work, illustrating how forest products are incorporated into green design and educating the public and decision-makers on the process, costs and results. The building’s design will also showcase the efficiency of engineered materials created by the Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory.

What green elements are in the Center’s design?

  • Habitat protected and restored on the site
  • Open space maximized on the site
  • Water efficient landscaping
  • Water use reduced in the building
  • Recycled content of building materials
  • Use of regionally extracted, processed and manufactured materials
  • Use of low-emitting adhesives, paints, carpet systems, composite wood and agrifiber products
  • Controllable lighting and thermal systems, use of natural light where possible
  • Energy performance optimized
  • Construction waste diverted from disposal
  • Ground source heat pumps to provide heating and cooling
  • HVAC system that recovers heat from exhaust system
  • Roofing materials that reflect summer heat for efficient cooling

What people are saying.

“The best museums of history – through their artifacts and displays – are able to transport us to another time and place. They are designed to help us better understand the people and events that have shaped different aspects of our history and culture. The National Conservation Legacy and Education Center under the direction of the NMFSH has the potential to become one of those exemplary institutions.”

– James Deutsch, Program Curator, Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Smithsonian Institution

Our Exhibit Concepts.

Experience the feeling of jumping out of a US Forest Service fire fighting aircraft in a bungee harness. Climb through a high-tech fire shelter. Try your hand at harvesting trees through an interactive simulation. Make your own choices on how to manage public lands and find out how it will affect the community. Take your picture with Smokey Bear. Find out which forest products were used to build your own home or school.

The dynamic and interactive permanent exhibit gallery spans 7,200 square feet—nearly one-half of the entire ground floor. The Center’s exhibits will invite visitors to explore the social, economic, political, cultural and ecological history of the US Forest Service and the natural and cultural resources under its care.

Through the themes of wildlife, innovation, fire management, public policy, and the lasting contributions of the Forest Service to forest and grassland management, the Center and its programs will inspire, educate, and engage young and old in taking responsibility for the conservation of our forest and grassland resources.

The grand lobby will welcome visitors and you’ll find information on area attractions and a gift shop featuring books, posters and much more.

The Traveling and Themed Temporary Exhibit area will provide space to co-host exhibitions with the US Forest Service, partners and cooperators that explore our past, present and future.

The theater will use multi-media imagery and dioramas to appeal to a variety of our senses. The theater will also provide a forum for a variety of presentations and film premieres.

Interpretive Themes

The first step in the process of designing exhibits for the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center is the definition of the Center’s Interpretive Themes. Exhibit designers will develop exhibit ideas to communicate the central messages of these themes. Themes will be used to develop story lines for the exhibits, traveling exhibits, virtual museum, brochures and more. In summer 2011 the Board outlined the following objective and themes for the Center.

The main interpretive objective of the Center is to: communicate the history of forest and grassland conservation in the United States through the telling of the story of the U.S. Forest Service and its partners and cooperators. We will do this using ten central themes:

1. Evolution of the Forest Service

Congress created the Forest Service in response to the growing concern at the turn of the last Century that the sustainability of our nation’s natural resources was at risk unless conservation practices were adopted, and the agency’s evolution in response to changing public needs and values.

2. America’s Forests and Grasslands

The Forest Service manages resources that are rich, diverse, beautiful, and vast in scope and scale across the nation, and are vital to the well being of all our people.

3. Striving for the Greatest Good

There are many different demands placed on National Forest System lands and resources and the Forest Service strives to reconcile these sometimes conflicting interests for the greatest good of all—today and for the future.

4. Changing the Course of History

The Forest Service’s conservation efforts helped the nation succeed in war, overcome economic setbacks, and restore health to important ecosystems.

5. The Forest Service Family

The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Forest Service provide conservation leadership for America by managing and preserving the nation’s forests and grasslands, often under challenging and dangerous conditions.

6. How We Manage Forests

The Forest Service uses a wide range of processes, equipment, specialized skills and science in managing the National Forests.

7. Wildland Fire

Fire is a natural force in America’s ecosystems. The Forest Service has always taken a leading role in increasing our understanding of fire, protecting lives and property, and managing fires to meet resource objectives.

8. Two-Way Communications

The Forest Service has worked to communicate information on resource conservation to the public. The opinions and evolving values of the public have and will continue to influence Forest Service policy.

9. Research and Technology

The Forest Service has one of the most comprehensive research, development and technology organizations in the world, and the results of that work and extensive partnerships have shaped conservation policy and provided countless benefits to the nation and the world.

10. Partnerships

From the beginning, the Forest Service has cooperated with and been assisted by many different State (State Foresters, Fish & Game, etc.) and Federal agencies (Fish & Wildlife Service, Federal Highway Administration, BLM, etc.), organizations, universities, and other partners in fulfilling its diverse responsibilities. State Foresters provide a critical link with private forest land owners.

Our Missoula campus.

While the building is still under construction, there are already many things to see at the NMFSH’s Missoula campus.

Bungalow Ranger Station Cabin

The first building constructed here was the Bungalow Ranger Station Cabin which was moved from Clearwater National Forest in Idaho. Today it is a temporary place for exhibits. When our building is complete it will be refurnished to pay tribute to the role families have played in the development of the Forest Service and management of these lands.

Fire Lookout

The newest structure –near completion–is the Fire Lookout – based on 1930’s era plans. It was originally constructed as a display for the Smithsonian’s Folk Life Festival in celebration of the US Forest Service Centennial in 2005, and we are proud to have it here on the Center’s grounds. It is an iconic symbol of individual heroism in wildfire management, and a reminder that the extreme forces of nature and the behavior of mankind can — in an instant — dramatically change the landscape.

Memorial Grove & Champion Trees

The grove of Champion Trees planted on the grounds share the DNA of the nation’s greatest trees—groves like these are planted at selected sites throughout the nation to protect them from loss to fire, insects, drought and the acts of man.

The Memorial Grove trees have been planted to honor the contributions of individuals nominated through the Memorial program.

The Center’s Site Plan includes construction of trails and a tree lined Parade Concourse—creating a landscaped and paved area for programs and processions. Visitors will also be able to take in the view of the field where Smokejumpers practice or watch the air traffic at Missoula’s International Airport.

Our Neighbors

The NMFSH is proud to join its Missoula neighbors including the Missoula International Airport, the Smokejumper Visitor Center, USFS Fire Sciences Laboratory, and Museum of Mountain Flying. Please be sure to visit them when you make plans to explore the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center.

Our Capital Campaign.

The National Conservation Legacy and Education Center is more than a building—it represents what we can do to pass on the heritage and stewardship of our national forests and grasslands.


If we only had a nickel for each of the 245 million annual visitors to the National Forests and Grasslands, we could invite them to explore a century of multiple-use conservation linking the nation’s past to its present and future.

Each nickel would be invested in the Museum’s capital campaign designed to support a national interpretative and education program that is financially sustained by admissions, membership, program fees and special events. Now that’s a smart investment!

We would invest each nickel in the challenge campaign to:

BUILD the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center.

LAUNCH the National Traveling Exhibit Program.

PILOT the Virtual Storytelling Galleries.

INCREASE public access to the Museum’s remarkable collections.

The Museum has taken action to prepare the site for construction, develop the architectural plans and envision the Center’s exhibits, theater presentations and programs. Now it’s time to open the doors.

It will take a total investment of over $14.5 million to build the Center. With the support of the Forest Service, individuals, foundations and companies, the NMFSH has already attracted nearly $4 million – 27% of the goal.

Now we are geared up to raise $10.7 million. About half of these contributions will fund construction of the National Conservation Legacy and Education Center and half will fund the exhibits and theater presentation.

To date, for every dollar individuals contributed to the Museum’s Capital Campaign, we succeeded in attracting $2 in public and corporate support. With new matching grant opportunities, for every dollar individuals contribute to the Capital Campaign the Museum has the opportunity to attract $3 in public support, $2 in foundation grants and $1 in corporate contributions. That’s $6 for every $1 you contribute.

The Board of Directors increased the capital campaign goal 14% in February, 2013, from $12.7 million to $14.5 million.  The goal was increased because of building and road construction cost inflation since the original 2009 construction estimates.  The cost to design interpretive museum exhibits was also increased after review of the 2007 cost estimates and the museum’s experience with the traveling exhibit design costs in 2012.


Our Funding Partners.

Aero Tech, Inc.
Air Tractor
Estate of Richard B. Anderson
Aspen Skiing Company Family Fund
Beaudette Consulting Engineers, Inc.
Bell Helicopter
Ben Meadows Company
Bibb Engineers Architects & Constructors
Big Sky Mobile Catering
Bitterroot Trails, LLC
Boone and Crockett Club
Buck Knives
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation
CBP Port of Roosville
Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation

Devon Energy Corporation
DJ&A, P.C. Consulting Engineers
Eastern Forest Service Retiree Association
Emerald Chapter SAF
The Charles Engelhard Foundation
Firewise 2000, Inc.
Forest History Society
Forest Service Reunion 2009 & 2012
Forest Stewardship Concepts
Forestry Suppliers, Inc.
Friends of Smokey Bear Balloon
Great Northern Midstream
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort
Kiewit Power Engineers

Lambda Bioremediation Systems
Liz Madison Consulting
Los Compadres Retirees Group
Martin J. Lauridson Jr. Trust
Minuteman Aviation Inc.
Mt. Hood Meadows, Oreg., Ltd
National Ski Areas Association
National Smokejumper Association
National Wild Turkey Federation
Northern Rocky Mountain Retirees Association
N.P.I., Inc.
The Ohrstrom Family
George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation
Oregon Society of American Foresters

OZ Architects
Pacific Northwest Forest Service Association “OldSmokeys”
Pacific Southwest FSX Club
The Pack Shack, Inc
Perkins Coie Charitable Foundation
Rainier Seeds, Inc.
Raley’s Forestry & Wildfire Management
Robwen, Inc.
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Rocky Mountain Forest Service Reunion Association
Royal Gold, Inc.
Safe Fire Program, Inc.
Sentinal Orchards

Sierra Pacific Airlines, Inc.
Ski Apache
Snowbird Corporation
Snowbird Renaissance Center
Southern Forest Service Retirees Association
Stillwater Mining Company
Max & Betty Swanson Foundation
Union Pacific Foundation
US Forest Service
Waterous Company
Western Heritage Company
Whitefish Mountain Resort
Wildfire Environmental, USA, Inc.
Wildfire Group

Get involved in the history of the U.S. Forest Service!