1998 Report of the Forest Service
In 1881, the Division of Forestry was established by Congress in response to growing public concern over the future of America's forests. In 1901, the Division was upgraded to a Bureau within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 1905, the Bureau of Forestry was given management responsibility for the National Forest System (NFS), which now encompasses 191.8 million acres of forest, grass, and shrub lands. These lands are distributed among 46 States, commonwealths, and territories, as shown in Table 1 of the Statistical Appendix.
The Forest Service provides leadership in the protection, management, and use of the Nation's forest, grassland, and aquatic ecosystems. The agency's approach to natural resource management integrates ecological, economic, and social factors to maintain and enhance the quality of the environment to meet current and future needs of Americans. Through implementation of land and resource management plans, the agency ensures sustainable ecosystems and provides recreation, water, timber, minerals, fish, wildlife, wilderness, and aesthetic values on NFS lands for current and future generations.
Through technical and financial assistance, the Forest Service assists States, tribes, and private landowners in promoting good stewardship, rural economic development, and the improvement of the natural environment of cities and communities. The agency conducts research and development, providing the scientific information and technology that support the development of values, products, and services to maintain and enhance ecosystem health at home and abroad.
Mission and Organization
The agency's mission is to ensure, for present and future generations, the long-term health, diversity, and productivity of the land. The phrase "Caring for the Land and Serving People" captures the essence of this mission. To accomplish this, the Forest Service employed about 40,000 people in 1998.
The Chief of the Forest Service reports to the Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA. Primary program responsibilities are divided among six Deputy Chiefs who report to the Chief, including: Research and Development (R&D), State and Private Forestry (S&PF), the National Forest System (NFS), Programs and Legislation (P&L), the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO), and Operations (OPS).
The National Forest System is managed for a wide variety of purposes and values. Activities include resource protection, restoration, and use. Management policies provide direction for land use intensities that range from wilderness preservation to intensive wood production and developed recreation.
The largest forest research organization in the world, R&D covers four broad areas: Vegetation Management and Protection; Wildlife, Fish, Watershed, and Atmospheric Sciences; Resource Valuation and Use; and Forest Resources Inventory and Monitoring. Each day, field foresters, land managers, farmers, ranchers, urban foresters, public interest groups, and many others apply the know-how developed by Forest Service scientists and partners in academia and industry. Long-term scientific research provides many of the tools used to monitor ongoing management practices and identifies new techniques.
The Forest Service is also responsible for maintaining and improving, through collaborative stewardship, the health and productivity of the Nation's urban and rural forests. This is accomplished through the S&PF programs which provide technical and cost-sharing assistance to help assure sound stewardship and use of the vast State and private forest lands. Utilizing nonregulatory approaches, S&PF also helps States, local, and tribal governments and small nonindustrial private forest landowners manage forest resources to meet economic, social, and environmental goals. Funds are leveraged through cost-sharing arrangements to provide increased on-the-ground project funding.
The Forest Service is also engaged in international collaborative activities to promote sustainable forest management domestically and throughout the world by increasing the sharing of knowledge and technology.
Three Deputy areas (Operations, Programs and Legislation, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer) provide support services essential to accomplishing the agency's mission. The primary contribution of these Deputy areas is to ensure organizational effectiveness by providing legislative, financial management, and human resource support for the Washington Office and the field.
The Government Performance and Results Act
The strategic and performance plans prepared under the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA or Results Act) use a common set of goals, outcomes, and objectives that reflect the agency's mission and priorities. Both the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans were developed from the 1995 Draft Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) Program. The following goals form the basis for these plans:
· Ensure Sustainable Ecosystems
· Provide Multiple Benefits for People Within the Capability of Ecosystems
· Ensure Organizational Effectiveness
These goals provide the basis for developing the program objectives and performance measures for the Annual Performance Plans. Within the agency's business model, the annual performance plan is intended to be the basic management tool for directing resources and budgets to specific programs and activities that move towards the longer-term goals or outcomes.
Although agency goals have not changed since the strategic plan was approved (September 30, 1997), the organizational structure of the objectives in all versions of the Fiscal Year (FY) 1999 and FY 2000 Performance Plans has been modified to reflect the latest agency thinking on how best to portray its mission. These modifications, while minor in scope, do constitute an interim adjustment to the strategic plan and previous versions of agency performance plans. Current efforts to identify, develop, and refine outcome-based land health performance measures will result in further evolution of the structure and content of the agency's revised strategic plan (due by September 30, 2000) and subsequent performance plans.
FY 1999 will be the first year the agency is required to submit an annual performance report under the Results Act. FY 1998 is considered a transition year and an opportunity to work towards a more comprehensive product for FY 1999.