USDA FOREST SERVICE : Strategic Planning and Resource Assessment

Management's Discussion and Analysis

Our Focus on New Priorities

While many of the programs and activities mentioned in this report will be carried over to FY 2004 as priorities, several new areas of focus are on the horizon.

The Forest Service Strategic Plan for 2004-2008 sets goals and objectives for the agency that will be in effect from 2004 through 2008. Each of the goals (highlighted below) discussed in the update include performance measures that will be tracked to measure the annual results. Baselines, when available, provide a benchmark to evaluate Forest Service performance.

In 2004, the Forest Service will continue to actively address four threats:

  • Fires and fuels.
  • Invasive species.
  • Loss of open space.
  • Unmanaged recreation .

Agency priorities from 2004 through 2008 will be viewed in light of the following goals and their expected outcomes.

Goal 1—Reduce the risk from catastrophic wildland fire

Restore the health of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to increase resilience to the effects of wildland fire.

Goal 1 is recognized for priority attention by Forest Service leadership, partially because catastrophic fires compromise human safety and life and often result in significant private property loss, have huge economic impacts, damage forests and habitat, and compromise the health of the ecosystem.

FY 2003 was the third consecutive year that the Forest Service transferred funds from discretionary accounts to pay for the costs of wildland fire suppression. In FY 2002, the Forest Service transferred $919 million from nonwildland fire management accounts to cover the costs of fire suppression and, in FY 2003, $695 million was transferred from nonwildland fire accounts. These transfers resulted in cumulative multiple impacts including the cancellation or postponement of numerous projects on NFS lands; cooperative projects with States, communities, and other partners; and research activities. In many cases the projects and research postponed or cancelled were designed to reduce the risk of wildland fires to communities and the environment.

The agency is committed to working with the Administration and Congress to implement a longterm solution to pay for the costs of fire suppression. Such a solution must encompass appropriate incentives to reduce the cost of fire suppression and also to avoid the disruptive process of making transfers from other accounts. In addition, the agency will continue its focus on reducing the root causes of costly and catastrophic wildfires by emphasizing the treatment of hazardous fuels and restoration of watersheds.

Goal 2—Reduce the impacts from invasive species

Restore the health of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to be resilient to the effects of invasive insects, pathogens, plants, and pests.

Goal 2 is recognized for priority attention by Forest Service leadership, in part, because invasive species, many of which have no natural predators, are spreading at an alarming rate and are having catastrophic impacts on economies, native species survival, and habitat.

Economically, invasive species cost the United States about $137 billion per year in total economic damages and associated control costs. Scientists estimate that invasives contribute to the decline of up to half of all endangered species. Invasives are the single greatest cause of loss of biodiversity in the United States.

Goal 3—Provide outdoor recreation opportunities

Provide high-quality outdoor recreational opportunities in forests and grasslands, while sustaining

natural resources to meet the Nation’s recreation demands.

This goal is recognized for priority attention by Forest Service leadership, partially because of the overuse of the land, especially by OHVs. A near doubling of OHV use from 1982 to 2001 has resulted in damage to wetlands and wetland species, severe soil erosion, spread of invasive weeds, and increased susceptibility to fire in times of drought. In addition, this heavy use is destroying values that recreational opportunities should provide.

Goal 4—Help meet energy resource needs

Contribute to meet the Nation’s need for energy.

This goal is recognized for priority attention by Forest Service leadership because the Nation’s forests and grasslands play a significant role in meeting the need for the production and transmission of energy.

Goal 5—Improve watershed condition

Increase the number of forest and grassland watersheds in fully functional hydrologic condition.

This goal is recognized for priority attention by Forest Service leadership because a significant number of municipalities and Forest Service facilities currently depend on NFS watersheds for their public water supplies. Sustaining functional watershed conditions over time maintains the productive capacity of the Nation’s land and water.

Goal 6—Conduct Mission-related work in addition to that which supports the Agency’s goals

Conduct research and other mission-related work to fulfill statutory stewardship and assistance requirements.

An example of mission-related work that supports the Forest Service’s goals is the effort to reduce the loss of open space. Large tracts of undeveloped land are critical to the health of the Nation’s wildlife, forests, and water supply. A reduction in the number of acres in large tracts of land can result in less forest and range products and outdoor recreation opportunities. To learn more about this problem, the Forest Service has conducted regional assessments, such as the Southern Forest Assessment, Northern Forest Lands Study, and the New York/New Jersey Highlands Study. These studies show the condition of the land given the current situation.

The Forest Service employs a variety of programs and processes to determine the effect loss of open space has on the natural environment, as well as the effect it may have on humans. Through its Cooperative Forestry Program and National Forest Landownership Adjustment plans, the Forest Service is working to consolidate large tracts of land and to reduce potential user conflicts associated with loss of open space.

Another priority area under Goal 6 is Civil Rights. In FY 2004, Forest Service leadership will remain fully committed to all aspects of the agency’s Civil Rights program and to the quality of work-life for all of its employees. Special focus continues to be placed on EEO Complaint Processing and Improved Workforce Diversity.

For EEO Complaint Processing, the Forest Service will:

  • Establish a mechanism to track ADR attempts in the formal EEO complaints process.
  • Ensure that the timeliness of traditional counseling process (up to 90 days) is within regulatory requirements 95 percent of the time.
  • Ensure that the timeliness of the ADR and Early Intervention Program process (within the informal EEO process, which is 90 days) is within regulatory requirements 90 percent of the time.
  • Ensure that the timeliness of informal EEO counseling reports is met within 90 to 95 percent of the time (within 10 days of Department request).
  • Make sure the per capita rate for formal complaints is maintained at 0.29 percent of the workforce.
  • Ensure the timeliness of formal complaints by establishing baseline measures for timely processing of formal complaints at every stage over which the Forest Service has cognizance to comply with regulatory requirements. Examples of such stages include investigation, investigation review, election, and processing of records to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Collaborate among Forest Service Civil Rights, ADR and Early Intervention Program, and Human
  • Resources Management to develop data elements and processing tools that measure ADR usage throughout the complaint process, using a centralized complaints database.
  • Train and transfer complaints resolution and investigation coordination to Forest Service Civil Rights directors in the regions, stations, and areas.
  • Provide oversight for and implement class settlement agreements. Focus on improving the database and decreasing reprisal complaints.
  • Properly manage any delegation from USDA concerning complaints acceptance, investigation, and coordination.

The Forest Service plans to work with USDA to help meet agency goals. For example, in the area of EEO Complaint Processing the agency has the following three priorities: (1) work with transitioning delegations in an efficient and effective manner, considering more than just the investigation process; (2) measure timeliness of USDA processing to increase efficiency and effectiveness; and (3) increase resources to expedite final agency decisions.

The Forest Service has set the following goals for FY 2004 regarding Improved Workforce Diversity:

  • Work toward 50 percent of the statistical comparisons reflecting positive trends in the diversity representation of the Forest Service. Statistical comparisons include professional, administrative, technical, gender, ethnicity, and targeted disability, student trainees, high grade levels (GS 13-15,
  • Senior Executive Service), and forest supervisors, deputy forest supervisors, and district rangers.
  • Develop and distribute top leadership diversity presentations, quarterly diversity leadership reports and proposed scorecard-type measurements for leadership in diversity.
  • Implement EEOC MD-715. (Management Directive regarding Model Agency Title 7 Rehabilitation Act Programs.)
  • Conduct trend analysis and/or studies in special emphasis program areas.

In the area of Improved Workforce Diversity, the agency will work with USDA to issue the following six priorities:

  • Timely advice on MD-715, especially regarding affirmative employment.
  • Clear, measurable goals on disability and/or targeted disability hiring (in concert with MD-715).
  • Guidance on the No Fear Act and what is expected of agencies.
  • Clear guidance and expectations on USDA 1890 liaisons and conduct a meeting with current liaisons.
  • Guidance on expectations and compliance reviews of Title VI.
  • A schedule of reports in advance that are expected annually.