Home Outdoors US Forest Service Tree Marking—Why is there paint on the trees?

Tree Marking—Why is there paint on the trees?

Apache-Sitgreaves Forest
Photo by FS employee Jena Trejo of seasonal employee M Branson Gardner.

Springerville, AZ, August 11, 2017- Have you ever noticed the rings of colored paint on certain forest trees and wondered what was going on?


The Forest Service is responsible to assure the value of any products used or removed commercially are accounted for.  Forest supervisors, district rangers, and timber contracting officers are all responsible to assure that trees and other forest products sold or disposed of by any removal contract are measured, valued, and accounted for, prior to removal from National Forest lands, per guidelines in the Forest Service (FS) Handbook.


Tree marking was put into place to provide a mechanism for measurement, convey to the timber purchaser which trees are to be removed or remain, and help prevent and detect timber theft more easily. It provides a means to utilize and improve timber product accountability and reduce losses. If a tree is cut and has not been marked it is easier to identify. The FS promotes and develops employee skills, perceptions, attitudes and behavior that enhances and maintains a high level of forest product accountability.  Employees also work with timber industry employees to develop a good working relationship that ensures the right trees and other materials are removed to meet forest landscape goals.


Tree markers may only use tree marking paint that contains registered tracers when they designate trees on timber sales. This includes trees marked for removal, leave trees, measurement, tallying, scaling, and for area designation where these activities are to take place. This national paint marking scheme must be followed for all sale areas and would need approval from the Regional Office in Albuquerque, to use any unauthorized color.


The painted boundary or perimeter is the official boundary of the sale contract. Boundary trees are marked with two orange bands wrapping three-quarters of the way around the tree. One band is painted at eye level and the upper one is painted six inches above.


Boundaries can be left unmarked if there is a natural or constructed conspicuous feature that is easily identified and would not be mistaken when trees are cut. Signs may also be used to identify project areas, fuel wood areas, and sale area boundaries.