USDA FOREST SERVICE : Strategic Planning and Resource Assessment

FY 2003 Performance Report

How Forest Service Programs Accomplish the Mission

National Forest System

The NFS Deputy Area provides stewardship and management of more than 192 million acres of Federal lands through the following 10 program areas.

Land Management Planning is the framework used to conform to laws and regulations governing the management of national forests and grasslands. The planning process is focused on the concept of sustainability under planning regulations that require national forests to conduct assessments that include ecological, social, and economic issues on a broad geographic scale.

Inventory and Monitoring supports forest plan revisions and amendments; watershed assessments; ecoregional and subregional broad-scale assessments; corporate system implementation schedules; and other forest, regional, and national priorities. Forest plan monitoring and evaluation is receiving greater emphasis on several fronts, including the new planning rule, revisions and consolidation of directives, installation and implementation of corporate databases, data migration, and implementation of GIS data dictionary standards.

Recreation, Heritage, and Wilderness components include administration and management of partnerships, tourism, interpretive services, and recreational special uses.

By maintaining the diversity, viability, and productivity of plant and animal communities, Wildlife and Fisheries Habitat Management improves current and future opportunities for consumptive, recreational, commercial, subsistence, and other beneficial uses of fish and wildlife resources. Partnerships have become crucial to implementing this program, numbering on average 2,000 per year, and leveraging more than $25 million annually.

Grazing Management administers allotments according to forest plan standards and guidelines for the maintenance, enhancement, or restoration of watersheds where livestock grazing takes place.

To improve and restore watershed conditions, Forest Products uses timber sales and contracts to reduce accumulated fuels. These contracts not only provide forest products, but also offer employment opportunities to local communities. The implementation of the National Fire Plan (NFP) and the President’s Healthy Forest Initiative has given Forest Products added emphasis and recognition for its role in accomplishing these initiatives.

The 2002 Forest Service reorganization combined the agency’s forest lands and rangelands vegetation management programs with the soil, air, and watershed improvement programs to create the Vegetation and Watershed Management Program. This organizational change not only increases the efficiencies in program development and budgeting, but also improves the effectiveness of the management of noxious weeds, reforestation, and timber stand improvement treatments.

By fostering the development of mineral resources within a framework of sustainable forest management, watershed health, and public safety, Minerals and Geology Management develops energy resources in national forests and grasslands; inspects, monitors, and ensures proper bonding and reclamation of active operations; reclaims abandoned mine sites; protects geologic and paleontologic resources; and is constructing a national energy and minerals database system.

To provide for the public’s future use and access to national forests and grasslands, Landownership Management protects NFS lands and resources through marked and legally defensible land boundaries, secure title and ownership, land adjustment, and land acquisition.

Finally, Capital Improvement and Maintenance improves, maintains, and operates the Forest Service’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure—the facilities, roads, and trails—necessary for recreation, research, fire protection, administration, and other uses on national forests and grasslands. A backlog of maintenance has led to a deterioration of Forest Service’s assets in recent years. To alleviate this backlog, increased emphasis has been placed on collocation of facilities where appropriate, the disposal of deteriorated or otherwise unneeded facilities, and a master planning process.

To minimize the conflict typical of access and travel management across ownerships, the 2003 Access and Travel Management Report recommended that the agency consider it an integral part of the land and resource management planning process.

State and Private Forestry

The S&PF Deputy Area has responsibility for a broad scope of programs within the S&PF and Wildland Fire Management appropriations, as well as Tribal Relations, Sustainable Forest Management, and Conservation Education activities. S&PF is the Federal leader in providing technical and financial assistance to landowners and resource managers to sustain the Nation’s forests and to protect communities and the environment from wildland fires.

In 2003, S&PF programs brought cost-effective forest stewardship through nonregulatory partnerships to a diversity of landowners, including small woodlot, tribal, State, or Federal landowners. Because S&PF coordinated efforts among management, protection, conservation education, and resource use, these programs facilitate sound forest stewardship on a landscape scale; yet enable individual forest landowners, communities, and cities to pursue more local objectives.

Wildland Fire Management faces the challenge of managing wildland fire within its natural place on the Nation’s landscape, while reducing the risk of catastrophic loss to the Nation’s rural communities and watersheds. To do this effectively, wildland fire managers identified priority work and specific field-level projects in 2003 to mitigate future fire behavior. For example, the Forest Service, State foresters, and local fire departments worked with community property owners in the wildland-urban interface to prevent fires or, in the event of a wildland fire, increase the likelihood that people’s homes would survive.

The Office of Tribal Relations was established as a result of recommendations to the Chief and the staff in the Report of the National Tribal Relations Program Implementation Team (August 2003).

In FY 2003, FSM 1563, American Indian and Alaskan Native Relations, and FSH 1509-13, American Indian and Alaskan Native Relations were added to the Forest Service Manual and Handbook, respectively. Also, a yearlong effort to develop agency policy for sacred sites was undertaken. Approximately $250,000 worth of project grants were funded from the Office of Tribal Relations throughout the Forest Service regions.

The Forest Service continued its leadership role in the Sustainable Resource Management Roundtables, which included–Sustainable Forests, initiated in 1998; Sustainable Rangelands; Sustainable Minerals; and Sustainable Water Resources.

For the Roundtable on Sustainable Forests and for the Montreal Process Working Group on Criteria and Indicators, the Forest Service produced the first National Report on Sustainable Forests—2003. Continuing in its role as co-chair of the Sustainable Forests Roundtable, the agency offered the opportunity for dialogue about the forest criteria and indicators discussed in this national report to diverse audiences at workshops and meetings.

For the Rangelands and Minerals Roundtables, the Forest Service led the development of First Approximation Reports, demonstrating its ability to report on criteria and indicators for those resources.

Forest Service S&PF provides leadership for the Conservation Education program through national program staff, created in 1999.

In FY 2003, over 1 million students, teachers, forest visitors, and others participated in educational programs delivered by the Forest Service. Nearly 30 million Americans participated in teacher-delivered education programs that were assisted by the Forest Service or by partners using agency materials and resources.

A special edition on wildland fire in the Natural Inquirer—the Forest Service science journal for junior high students—was distributed to almost 250,000 students and teachers by the Forest Service and key education partners, including USDA’s Agriculture in the Classroom, the Bureau of Land Management, and the American Forest Foundation’s Project Learning Tree.

Budget and Finance

Since the agency’s reorganization in 2002, the programs in the Budget and Finance (B&F) Deputy Area have significantly improved the financial and performance credibility of the Forest Service. The agency received its first unqualified opinion for the FY 2002 financial statement, as reported in the Report of the Forest Service FY 2002. This unqualified opinion reflects the intense commitment to long-term finance and performance accountability by agency leadership, the financial management staff, and all employees.

In 2003, a newly chartered Budget and Financial Management Team developed three options to create an agencywide budget and financial management organization, defining roles and responsibilities for all levels in the organization. This information will be used in the upcoming Business Process Reengineering effort. A road map to the reengineering effort was submitted to USDA, addressing the profound changes needed to ensure sustainable improvements to the financial management organizational structure and financial systems.

The establishment of the B&F Deputy Area has resulted in major improvements in incident financial management procedures, including:

  • Enhancement of incident management software, increasing the speed and accuracy of obligation reporting.
  • Establishment of centralized incident payment centers, reducing the need for the number of disbursing officers from four to one. The first National Emergency Firefighter Payment Center was opened in Ogden, UT, in March 2003.
  • Establishment of four centralized payment centers for emergency equipment rental agreements. The mandatory use of the centers improves the accuracy of all documented incident obligations and ensures efficiency as obligations are entered into a department-wide accounting system, the Foundation Financial Information System, within 3 days of the beginning of an incident.
  • Development of two procedure guides and a matrix to provide technical assistance to the staff responsible for incident fire obligations, accruals, and payments.

The B&F Deputy Area had other successes as well. In the past year, the Forest Service consolidated cost pools for all units into one national pool to reduce transactions, thereby reducing costs. As a result, the number of Foundation Financial Information System transactions was reduced from 150 million to less than 13 million in the first year.

The agency also reduced or eliminated the requirement to establish job codes for each work activity. Minimizing the number of job codes necessary for payroll and other expenditures reduces system impacts by decreasing the sheer volume of transactions.

Finally, the implementation of WorkPlan provided the field level with a project work tool that enables field project managers to plan, manage, and report accomplishments for projects, while also providing a source of internal financial management information.


Research and Development

The R&D Deputy Area contributes to the mission of the Forest Service by developing and implementing the best and most effective scientific, developmental, and technical information through the following programs:

  • Vegetation Management and Protection.
  • Wildlife, Fish, Watershed, and Atmospheric Sciences.
  • Resource Valuation and Use.
  • Forest Resources Inventory and Monitoring.
  • Forest Inventory and Analysis.

After the 2003 publication of USDA’s “ National Range and Pasture Handbook,” R&D provided guidance for more ecologically based tools for management of public and private grazing lands. In collaboration with other USDA agencies and with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, ecological site descriptions for portions of the Southwestern United States were revised to be consistent with new theories. These southwestern ecological site descriptions will now be the model for revisions on the remainder of the Nation’s grazing lands.

Also in 2003, to mitigate the adverse effects of greenhouse emissions on the Nation’s pasture lands, researchers examined the net effects of species diversity within the plant community on long-term carbon sequestration in soils. Results from these studies showed that perennial grasslands in western Oregon function much like buffer strips and are highly effective in preventing nutrient movement into ground and surface waters.

Business Operations

The Business Operations Deputy Area builds a network of underlying support for the mission of the USDA Forest Service, ensuring cost effective, timely, and quality business processes. Although these business processes are often out of view to the public, without them the Forest Service would be unable to deliver the natural resource values that the American people expect.

The 2003 focus for Business Operations included:

  • Supporting the Forest Service’s efforts to improve and maintain financial accountability and integrity, as demonstrated through an unqualified audit opinion.
  • Providing business operational support as the Forest Service implements the National Fire Plan.
  • Continuing the electronic Government (e-Gov) and competitive sourcing initiatives.
  • Providing for the diversity, fairness, and equal opportunity needed for the agency’s employment and program delivery.
  • Assisting the agency in being an employer of a diverse workforce, with the appropriate skill mix and with a high rate of retention.
  • Providing for the safety, health, and homeland security considerations in the day-to-day lives of the people of the Forest Service.

Programs, Legislation, and Communication

The Programs, Legislation, and Communication (PL&C) Deputy Area creates the vision needed in the Forest Service to accomplish its mission through four existing programs and one new program. PL&C oversees Strategic Planning and Resource Assessment (SPRA), Legislative Affairs (LA), Policy Analysis (PA), the Office of Communication (OC), and a new National Partnerships Coordinator position.

As required by the Government’s Performance and Results Act, staff completed the 2003 Update to the USDA Forest Service 2000 Strategic Plan, continuing the linkage to the criteria for sustainable forest and rangeland management. Also, responsibility for the Forest Service Performance and Accountability Report—Fiscal Year 2003 was reassigned to SPRA, forging the critical connections identified in GPRA among the agency’s strategic planning, annual performance planning, and annual performance reporting functions. Finally, after an assessment of Forest Service legacy data systems, a prototype of a performance accountability system was designed to better integrate agency budget planning with performance accountability.

The Legislative Affairs Staff coordinated the agency’s activities pertaining to the Administration’s FY 2004 legislative proposals, analysis of introduced legislation, and development of Administration positions. In 2003, the staff addressed issues related to the Healthy Forests Initiative, NFP, wilderness proposals, stewardship contracting authority, partnership authorities, recreation fee demonstration program, administrative site conveyance authority, and numerous public lands transaction proposals. Legislative Affairs also informed Congress of program activities such as the President’s Management Agenda Senior Community Service Employment Program and the livestock grazing program.

For Forest Service initiatives, such as The Process Predicament and The Four Threats, staff developed and cleared testimony through the agency, Department, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB); prepared background materials and witnesses; scoped activities with committee staff; and developed responses to questions for the record.

The OC Staff was integrally involved in every program within the agency to educate and inform its various publics. The staff prepared the White House and Department for field visits in support of the President’s Healthy Forests Initiative and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, including developing a wide range of complementary products for national distribution. Additionally, OC has been involved in strategic communication planning to support the agency’s work on the President’s Management Agenda, most notably competitive sourcing. The OC Staff has been the impetus behind the Chief’s Four Threats, developing information and supporting communication products.

Other examples of communication strategies include the Planning Regulation, Recreation Fee Demonstration Project, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebration, Working Capital Fund, Stewardship Contracting, NFP, and Sierra Nevada Framework. OC published the bi-weekly FS Today and the agency’s Weekly Report, used by USDA for its weekly report to the White House.

In addition to the hundreds of agency publications designed and published by the Executive Services Team, 2003 marked the publication of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Forest Service and a Forest Service historical planner highlighting key facts about the agency. The agency’s national information center, managed by OC, hosted 32,000 visitors in 2003.

Also in 2003, PL&C:

  • Established a National Partnerships Coordinator position and developed products to improve agency’s responsiveness to current and future partners.
  • Focused on the impacts of USDA policies to the Hispanic population by supporting the newly developed Hispanic Leadership Institute—a partnership with Texas A&M at College Station and the University of Texas at San Antonio—which admitted 15 graduate students.
  • Coordinated Forest Service input to USDA’s Annual Performance Plan and USDA’s Performance and Accountability Report, as well as contributed to Department-wide budget and performance integration.
  • Signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to develop a knowledge management working group that will address the capturing and sharing of retiring employees’ expert knowledge.

National Fire Plan

The NFP completed the third year of providing significant benefits toward reducing the impacts of catastrophic wildland fire to communities and the environment.

To accomplish this outcome in 2003, hazardous fuels were reduced on more than 1.4 million acres, of which more than 1 million were in the wildland-urban interface areas. Firefighting resources supported 10,480 firefighters, 995 engines, 97 helicopters, 397 prevention specialists, 95 dozers, 70 tractor plows, 8 boats, 65 hotshot crews, and 277 smokejumpers.

The availability of NFP funding has enabled the Forest Service to increase the level of State and local fire prevention and protection capability through grants and cooperative agreements, respectively. State, volunteer, and rural fire assistance grants have enabled the Forest Service to train and equip thousands of volunteer and rural firefighters, serving rural areas of the country and assisting Federal resources with wildland fire management activities.

State Fire Assistance grants exceeding $64 million in FY 2003 funded 6,800 mitigation and education campaigns, plans, and risk assessments, and 4,500 hazard mitigation projects. In addition, grants funded training for 32,300 rural and volunteer fire fighters.

Funding for Volunteer Fire Assistance was $14.3 million in FY 2003. This funding assisted 6,139 volunteer fire departments and communities to organize, train, and equip firefighters. In addition, these grants funded training for 20,900 firefighters.

One of the most recognizable results of the NFP is the increase in collaboration between all levels of the Forest Service; the U.S. Department of the Interior agencies; and partners in fire management at Federal, State, and local levels. Many grassroots organizations have come together, working to reduce the risk of wildland fire to their communities.

Also, as part of a diligent effort to reach out to the many Hispanic-owned small businesses, contractors, and individuals living in rural areas who depend on public lands for their livelihood, the entire NFP Website has now been translated into Spanish. Spanish speaking individuals and business owners are now able to easily find NFP information on such topics as employment leads, contracting opportunities, available grants, and State and local fire programs. This Spanish translation effort is a first for Forest Service Web sites and can be visited at www.fireplan.gov.

The Wildland Fire Leadership Council

Consisting of senior-level U.S. Departments of Agriculture and the Interior officials representing all five wildland firefighting agency heads, the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) was established to eliminate existing interagency and/or interdepartmental differences in the effective and efficient delivery of a national wildland fire protection program. This group has been instrumental in bringing together all the Federal wildland firefighting organizations for the common purpose of implementing the Federal Wildland Fire Policy and the 10-Year Comprehensive Plan. The WFLC laid the groundwork in 2002 for success in 2003 by:

  • Adopting a standardized fire management plan template that ensures consistency in project planning by all Federal wildland fire management agencies.
  • Developing a common database for reporting 10-Year Plan accomplishments—the common performance measures that align with GPRA and the OMB’s FY 2003 performance measures and standardize fire cost accounting protocols to improve accountability.
  • Developing action plans and monitoring mechanisms for each task in the 10-Year Implementation Plan, inviting greater stakeholder involvement.
  • Executing a memorandum of understanding among States and Federal agencies for standardized priority setting for hazardous fuels projects.

10-Year Comprehensive Strategy

The Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of the Interior, and 17 western governors signed the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy and its complementary 10-Year Implementation Plan in 2002. The 10-Year Implementation Plan represents a commitment to collaborate with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce the impacts of catastrophic wildland fire to communities and the environment. This plan establishes five tasks for monitoring and evaluation that include quarterly WFLC meetings, reports to Congress, monitoring plans, site-specific monitoring, and evaluation of performance measures.

In addition, progress of the NFP is monitored and recognized through reports to Congress, the http://www.fireplan.gov Web site, site-specific monitoring tours, and evaluation of selected performance measures. The NFP staff monitors these action items to ensure ongoing progress and completion.

While the successes of the NFP have made great strides in fire management in the past 3 years, many challenges remain ahead.

Civil Rights Program

The Forest Service is committed to developing a diverse workforce through promoting the trust and mutual respect needed for employees to explore innovative and effective ways to better manage the national forests and grasslands.

The Civil Rights program provides for diversity, equal opportunity, and fairness in employment and program delivery. The 2003 focus for this program has been to:

  • Improve the management and processing of complaints.
  • Improve compliance and equitable access.
  • Identify and remove systemic barriers to diversity.
  • Enhance capacity building and recruitment.
  • Improve collaboration among Civil Rights, Human Resources Management, and the Early Intervention Program (EIP).

This focused approach is not only returning short term results, but also has potential for aggressively addressing systemic civil rights issues in the longer term. Gradually, Civil Rights is achieving strategic goals in addressing employment complaints processing as a result of the stronger emphasis on accountability.

For example, the Forest Service has increased the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in an attempt to reach resolution early, and often. Forest Service Leadership has committed to dispute resolution (except in extreme and/or rare circumstances) by issuing anew ADR policy and defining roles and responsibilities for Civil Rights, Human Resource Management, and EIP. This new policy has led to a 50-percent reduction in complaints, compared to those in 2002.

Two other 2003-issued Prevention of Sexual Harassment policies, developed specifically for fire incidents, demonstrate the Forest Service’s commitment to a “zero tolerance” by:

  • Prohibiting sexual harassment by any manager, supervisor, employee, or contractor.
  • Ensuring a work environment free from discrimination in the form of sexual harassment.
  • Identifying 10 behaviors that will not be tolerated in the fire-related activities or in the office.

The Chief has promoted Forest Service Leadership accountability, emphasizing that all leaders must “playa personal role in increasing the overall diversity of the organization.”

With an estimated 212 million people visiting the national forests and grasslands in 2003, the Forest Service has only 3 percent of USDA Program Complaints pending in the Department. The agency attributes this low percentage to the focus on accountability, preventive training, guidance, closely monitored processing, and collaboration between Civil Rights and NFS, particularly related to disability complaints. Agency guidance and direction for managing program results and integrating diverse community perspectives in decisionmaking processes can be found in the USDA Forest Service Strategic Public Outreach Plan, available at http://fsweb.wo.fs.fed.us/cr.

NFS invested more than $69 million on more than 868 recreational facilities, making accessibility improvements to outdoor developed recreation areas and ensuring access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as for those with impaired vision. Also, the Forest Service began honoring the Interagency Golden Passports at more than 1,150 national forest recreation sites—a dramatic increase from only 17 sites in 2002. These passports include Golden Age passports for citizens 62 years in age and older and the Golden Access passports for citizens who are blind or permanently disabled. These new benefits are significant for those who qualify and may increase their participation in outdoor recreation activities at national forest recreation fee sites.

The Forest Service continues to improve program participation data collection and survey systems to determine the demographically diverse user groups of the national forests and their related satisfaction. By using this data, the Forest Service has begun to analyze trends, interpret management implications, and take action to increase access and service delivery to underserved communities.

Finally, the Forest Service continues to be a major contributor to USDA procurement accomplishments with small disadvantaged businesses, both 8(a) and non-8(a) firms; women-owned businesses; and HUB zones. In these areas, the Forest Service more than doubled its 2002 accomplishments, and nearly doubled USDA and Forest Service targets.

In 2003, Civil Rights also accomplished the following:

  • Completed and disseminated several affirmative employment initiatives, including the Agency Affirmative Employment Program (AEP), People with Disabilities, and Disabled Veterans.
  • Integrated the AEP under representation index information into the Agency Work Force Management Plan and short- and long-term outreach and recruitment goals.
  • Advised leadership on key workforce management decisions and strategies to achieve a skilled diverse workforce at quarterly meetings of the Chief’s Workforce Advisory Group and adopted several measurement tools for capacity building and recruitment.
  • Established the Forest Service Leadership Success Program and prepared a 2-year strategic plan to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunity to build diverse leadership in line with workforce planning and affirmative employment program strategies.

Law Enforcement and Investigations

The Law Enforcement and Investigations (LEI) Program contributes to the Forest Service’s mission by protecting natural resources and other property under the agency’s jurisdiction and providing a safe environment for employees and the public on NFS lands. LEI staff cooperate with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to achieve enforcement activities, investigative activities, and drug enforcement.

The LEI Program is establishing a Homeland Security Coordinator to facilitate efforts to collect and disseminate information and intelligence and to help prevent, enforce laws against, and investigate terrorist acts. LEI is developing an internal response plan to include response capability, continuity of operations, and an internal-external contact matrix. LEI staff continue to provide facility security assessments, primarily for highly vulnerable research labs.

Working collaboratively with external entities allows LEI to better accomplish its mission. Those who cooperated include:

  • Office of National Drug Control Policy to enforce the President’s National Drug Control Strategy.
  • FBI, in coordinating anti-terrorist activity, particularly ecoterrorist activity.
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  • U.S. Department of the Interior agencies for support in field operations.

A memorandum of understanding was drafted with the National Sheriffs’ Association to begin jointly developing crime prevention materials for forest visitors. This effort will allow our customers to better understand the rules and regulations affecting NFS lands and hopefully decrease minor criminal activity.

International Programs

In 2003, the Forest Service International Programs Staff and the town of Cordova, AK, coordinated in planning for the Annual Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival. Planned activities included environmental education activities, such as the live interactive Webcast linking more than 500,000 students along the shorebirds’ flyway of Canada, United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica. Festival activities for all ages included field trips, birding presentations, guest speakers, children’s workshops, and a parade.

Over the past few years, the Forest Service, including the Pacific Northwest Research Station, the Alaska Region, and the International Programs Staff, has joined with Ducks Unlimited (in Canada, the United States, and Mexico) on the Copper River International Migratory Bird Initiative. From the Copper River Delta in Alaska to Mexico, these cooperators are working with local communities along the flyway to help restore habitats of shorebirds to ensure their survival.

In spring 2003, war in Iraq left thousands of people in need of emergency relief. The United States sent a Disaster Assistance Response Team to Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan, Cyprus, and Qatar to assess relief needs and coordinate a response. A disaster response specialist from International Programs joined the effort to assess the situation in northern Iraq. The specialist headed a U.S. Government civilian unit responsible for providing information and programmatic recommendations for disaster activities to the core Disaster Assistance Response Team based in Kuwait City. The local team coordinated with representatives from other nongovernmental and international organizations, the United Nations, and Coalition Civil Affairs forces in northern Iraq to ensure that humanitarian needs were being met.

The Forest Service’s expertise in emergency response is being tapped worldwide through the International Programs Staff’s Disaster Assistance Support Program, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Program.

In 2003, the United States and Madagascar have worked on developing a vision for the island nation of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa. Madagascar has some of the most spectacular and unique biodiversity in the world, with 80 percent of the nation’s flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world.

In May, a Forest Service team met with counterparts at the Madagascar Ministry of Water and Forests, a forest zoning team, a local nongovernmental organization, and the Director of the Andohahela National Park to assess the needs of the ministry and what further expertise the Forest Service might provide. Later in 2003, the International Programs Staff planned to:

  • Organize a team to visit Madagascar to address these technical and management needs.
  • Advise their Malagasy counterparts on the development of a transparent permitting system, which would approve and distribute permits for wood harvest in Madagascar.
  • Facilitate discussions on managing information and forest policy.

In May 2003, a Forest Service International Programs Staff member joined the U.S. delegation at the 34 th Session of the International Tropical Timber Council in Panama City. Governmental delegates and observers from around the world gathered for the council meeting to deliberate on several issues, including future actions by the International Tropical Timber Organization, and to further develop and promote phased approaches to certification. During the past year, three workshops were held in each of the tropical timber-producing regions to discuss the potential role of phased approaches to certification.

The workshops produced several recommendations, which were presented to the council. As a result, the council decided to develop procedures on how phased approaches to certification might be implemented, and to analyze the costs and benefits of certification in select producer member countries. The decision also authorized an international workshop on phased approaches to certification so that the results of the work can be disseminated and discussed.

At the session, the council also discussed nontariff barriers in relation to product standards and requirements. This discussion resulted in a decision to undertake a study to identify and assess possible impacts on tropical timber-producing countries in meeting existing and evolving product standards, quality or grading requirements, building codes, and technical regulations. The study would also identify where capacity-building gaps exist and ways to address them.

Delegates also negotiated a decision that provides support for five developing country participants from the civil society and the trade advisory groups to attend the renegotiation of the International Tropical Timber Agreement in 2004. The decision also authorized the preparation of an overall background paper on internationally traded and potentially tradable environmental services to inform the renegotiation discussion.