Forest and watershed restoration are important activities on public lands across the U.S. Many federal agencies rely on contractors to accomplish the work. Despite the role that restoration contractors serve, research about them is limited. In a 2013 exploratory assessment, we surveyed 671 vendors who performed restoration work for federal land management agencies between 2001 and 2012 to ask them about their business' characteristics and their perspectives on the restoration industry. Most businesses were family owned (76%), 54% of the vendors worked within commuting distance at least 75% of the time, and 87% reported that their business' amount of work fluctuated seasonally. The most common business structures were corporations (51%), sole proprietorship (22%), and LLCs (20%). The primary type of restoration work that respondents' businesses engaged in were equipment-intensive (30%), labor-intensive (30%), or technically-intensive work (27%). Labor costs consumed an average of 41% of annual expenses followed by equipment (23%), overhead (17%), and materials (14%). Sixty-two percent of respondents reported that at least 50% of their contract work was with government agencies and 44% reported that at least 50% of their revenue was from restoration work. The most common factors rated as very or extremely limiting to work opportunities were regional competition (40%) and demand for work (39%). We report statistically significant differences across geographic regions and respondents' primary type of work (i.e., labor-intensive, equipment-intensive, or technical). The time period in which the work was performed by respondents included various stages of the Great Recession, which likely affected the restoration work climate and the survey responses.