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Forests Initiative and Healthy Forests Restoration Act
Interim Field Guide
Under the authority of the Wyden Amendment, managers of Federal lands may spend funds to conduct treatments on adjacent non-Federal lands to treat private lands where treatments are designed to improve the viability of, and otherwise benefit, fish, wildlife, and other biotic resources. Some USDA Forest Service appropriations are available for managers to assist their non-Federal neighbors with hazardous-fuel treatments if projects proposed on USDA Forest Service lands pose a threat to the neighbors. Federal resource managers may also spend National Fire Plan funds on non-Federal land projects under certain circumstances. Direction for the use of Federal funds is subject to annual change in appropriations law.
Federal financial assistance for hazardous-fuel-reduction projects on non-Federal lands may be available through cooperative assistance programs such as State Fire Assistance, a USDA Forest Service program administered through the State Foresters, and Community Assistance, a wildland-urban interface DOI BLM program.
Grants and agreements specialists will provide advice regarding the most appropriate authority and legal instrument for implementing such projects or transferring funds and will help ensure that all applicable requirements are met. In addition, resource managers must work closely with their agency NEPA, ESA, and National Historic Preservation Act coordinators to ensure that the appropriate procedures and consultation requirements of these acts are met, specifically those regarding the use of Federal funds on non-Federal lands.
Commonly called Payments to States, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (P.L. 106-393) can provide resources for collaboration and community planning, as well as funds for fuel-reduction and ecosystem-restoration projects.
The act is intended to stabilize payments that help counties support roads and schools, provide projects that enhance forest ecosystem health, provide employment, and improve cooperative relationships among Federal land-management agencies and those who use and care about Federal lands.
In Title II of the Secure Rural Schools Act, counties have the option to set aside funds to be used for ecological restoration projects on Federal lands. The communities are represented by a resource advisory committee that recommends projects and funding levels to the local Federal land-management agency. Counties can set aside funds under Title III of the act for other activities, including community forestry projects on non-Federal land and community fire planning and education.
More information on Payments to States can be found at: http://wwwnotes.fs.fed.us:81/r4/payments_to_states.nsf.
The HFRA contains provisions requiring that the USDA Forest Service and DOI BLM monitor the results of a representative sample of authorized hazardous-fuel-reduction projects and submit a report every 5 years that includes an evaluation of the progress toward project goals and recommendations for project modifications.
Fire sciences research funded by the National Fire Plan is assessing monitoring schedules and protocols to meet the requirements of the HFRA, as well as those of the National Fire Plan. Recommendations for implementation will be made to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council.
Section 102(g)(5) of the HFRA instructs the USDA Forest Service and DOI BLM to establish a collaborative multiparty monitoring, evaluation, and accountability process when significant interest is expressed in such an approach. The process will be used to assess the positive or negative ecological and social effects of authorized fuel-reduction projects, as well as those undertaken under Section 404 (applied silvicultural assessments) of the HFRA.
Diverse stakeholders, including interested citizens and Tribes, should be included in the monitoring and evaluation process. The requirement for multiparty monitoring is not directly connected to the requirements for monitoring a representative sample of projects, but shall be used where “significant interest is expressed,” in the judgment of the field unit involved. The USDA Forest Service and DOI BLM both have experience with multiparty monitoring, which can be an effective way to build trust and collaborate with local communities and diverse stakeholders, including interested citizens and Tribes. Multiparty monitoring will be subject to available funding and the ability of stakeholders to contribute funds or in-kind services.
An excellent publication on protocols and guidelines for multiparty monitoring of community-based forest restoration projects is available at the Collaborative Forest Restoration Program Web site: http://www.fs.fed.us/r3/spf/cfrp/monitoring/.
Additional information on multiparty monitoring is available online at: http://www.fs.fed.us/forestmanagement/index.shtml (click on the Stewardship Contracting Success Stories link there) and http://www.pinchot.org/community.html.
Section 102(g)(8) of the HFRA requires the USDA Forest Service and DOI BLM to develop a process for monitoring the need to maintain treated areas over time. For example, areas requiring treatment to move from Condition Classes 2 or 3 to Condition Class 1 also will require periodic treatments. Proposed actions and alternative descriptions should include an estimated maintenance treatment schedule and cost. As field units accomplish their projects, they will need to plan for future maintenance and monitor completed projects to ensure that the proposed maintenance treatment schedule is accurate. Maintenance treatments are to be scheduled into the annual program of work. Field units should consider the maintenance workload when assessing their ability to implement fuel treatments (figures 23 and 24).
Accomplishments for all projects using HFRA authority must be tracked and reported by fire regime and condition class. The National Fire Plan Operations and Reporting System (NFPORS) is the interdepartmental system for reporting National Fire Plan accomplishments, including those involving hazardous-fuel reduction. The interdepartmental functionality of NFPORS is critical because the HFRA applies to both the DOI BLM and the USDA Forest Service. Data consistency between agencies is important.
The NFPORS database has been updated for reporting HFRA accomplishments. Field units will need to report fire regime and condition class determinations before and after treatments for all projects using the HFRA and HFI authorities, as well as for those funded by the National Fire Plan. Field units reporting accomplishments using the HFRA and HFI authorities will follow their agency’s NFPORS reporting schedules and data-quality standards.
Section 102(g)(7) of the HFRA requires tracking the acres burned and the degree of severity for large wildland fires (as defined by the Secretary). Details on the reporting requirements for this section are under discussion.
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