Leadership intentions for USDA Forest Service's five national priorities

WASHINGTON, DC — As part of our vision to make the USDA and USDA Forest Service the most efficient, most effective and most customer-focused department in the federal government, USDA established seven strategic goals for fiscal years 2018–2022.

  1. Ensure USDA programs are delivered efficiently, effectively and with integrity and a focus on customer service.
  2. Maximize the ability of American agricultural producers to prosper by feeding and clothing the world.
  3. Promote American agricultural products and exports.
  4. Facilitate rural prosperity and economic development.
  5. Strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.
  6. Foster productive and sustainable use of our National Forest System lands.
  7. Provide all Americans access to a safe, nutritious and secure food supply.

The Forest Service’s five national priorities align with both Secretary Perdue’s seven strategic goals for USDA for the next five years and the Forest Service’s Strategic Plan: FY 2015-2020. Collectively, the priorities will guide essential work that the Forest Service must perform to respond to the needs and challenges faced by the nation’s forests and grasslands and to demands from citizens.

The Forest Service’s five national priorities do three things: They give urgency and focus to critical needs; they help foster the work environment the agency wants for employees; and they set expectations for the manner in which employees accomplish their work with citizens, partners, volunteers and each other. For each priority, the Chief has developed a leadership intention to further clarify why it is important and to share the goals driving all five priorities.

Priorities and Leadership Intentions

  1. Uplifting and empowering our employees through a respectful, safe working environment.

As Chief, I have enormous respect and admiration for the work every employee does. I am committed to ensuring that our work environment is safe, rewarding, respectful, free of harassment and resilient — that every one of you works in an environment where you are recognized and valued for your contributions. I want every employee to be empowered to continuously improve our work.

BIG WHY — The agency functions best when all employees are listened to and empowered and freely contribute ideas and creativity to make improvements and gain efficiencies. The foundation of a high-performing organization is a safe, rewarding and resilient workplace.

Leader’s Intent

To set an expectation of shared accountability for a safe, rewarding, resilient and harassment-free work environment.

To bring urgency and focus to lifting burdens from employees to unlock potential and enable them to do their best work.

To foster an inclusive environment that values constructive dialogue and collaborative problem solving by all employees.

  1. Being good neighbors and providing excellent customer service.

We will work with efficiency and integrity with a focus on the people we serve. I envision a broad, diverse coalition for conservation, working across boundaries and using all authorities available to us. We have a backlog of special use permits, range allotment work and deferred maintenance and other needs to address. To increase customer service, we must understand customer requirements, expand our use of best practices, apply innovative tools and address barriers that get in the way of doing good work. Each and every visitor, forest or grassland user, contractor, partner, cooperator, permittee, volunteer and citizen deserves our very best service.

BIG WHY — Everyone wants to feel listened to and understood. We all share that value. The idea of being good neighbors and providing excellent customer service recognizes this, calls on us to reflect on how we interact with people and asks whether we are redeeming that value in every engagement.

Leader’s Intent

To bring urgency and focus to ensuring that all employees have the skills and support to excel at building relationships, serving the public and responsively navigating conflict and controversy.

To foster and encourage a broad perspective on customer service and reward innovative approaches that help employees get to solutions that better serve the public. 

To set expectations to approach every interaction with a willingness to listen to, understand and value the viewpoint of communities we serve.

  1. Promoting shared stewardship by increasing partnerships and volunteerism.

We can’t do this alone and only on National Forest System lands. It takes others to help us make a difference on the whole landscape. We will work with all citizens — from rural and urban communities to tribal nations — as we pursue the work in front of us. Strengthening and expanding partner and volunteer programs around shared values are critical for a sustainable future. The delivery of our mission — to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations — takes a broad range of partnerships, including our unique and congressionally designated relationships with states and tribes.

BIG WHY — Our motto of caring for the land and serving people has not changed, but the way we deliver it needs to evolve. We are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. We share landscapes and we must share resources. When we share stewardship, we can leverage our collective resources to accomplish better results and outcomes that benefit us all.

Leader’s Intent

To bring urgency and focus to reducing or eliminating the limitations and barriers that keep us from being more effective at using and expanding partnerships.

To foster a shift in organization and skills based on the recognition that leveraging partnerships is THE way to increase our collective capacity to get work done for better results and outcomes.   

To set expectations to strategically see opportunities, identify partnerships and build relationships that have the potential to influence larger outcomes, thinking big to make a major positive impact on the land.

  1. Improving the condition of forests and grasslands.

About 80 million acres of the National Forest System are at risk from insects, diseases and wildfire. About one-third of these lands are at very high risk, endangering adjacent state, private and tribal lands. Drinking water, homes, communities, wildlife habitat, historic places, sacred sites, recreation opportunities and scenic vistas are among the many resources at risk. Having sustainable, healthy, resilient forests and grasslands in the future depends on our ability to increase work on the ground and get better results and outcomes. We will use all management tools and authorities available to us to improve the condition of our forests and rangelands. Improving environmental analysis and decision-making processes under the National Environmental Policy Act will help us increase our capacity and ability to improve the condition of forests and rangelands. This work will also restore ecosystem function, deliver dependable energy, and provide jobs and economic benefits for rural communities.

BIG WHY — The nation’s forests, including the lands we manage, are in trouble. Current land management approaches are losing ground, not sustainable and putting resources at risk. We need to reset and fundamentally change how we work and whom work with.

Leader’s Intent

To bring urgency and focus to working at larger scales and increasing active management by fostering innovation and the capability to improve our processes.

To maintain our commitment to using sound science and good data and to working collaboratively.

To continue to improve our system of wildland fire management to more reliably protect responders and the public, sustain communities and conserve the land. 

  1. Enhancing recreation opportunities, improving access and sustaining infrastructure.

Most Americans experience the national forests and grasslands through recreation activities. Although these lands offer some of the most valued outdoor recreation settings in this country, the landscapes and visitor experiences are increasingly at risk. Deteriorating recreation facilities and roads, eroding trails and increasing user conflicts pose numerous challenges and threaten to diminish the quality of the visitor experience. Currently, we can maintain to standard only about half of our roads, trails, facilities and other infrastructure components. Access to the National Forest System is becoming more limited. We will take steps to address these challenges and create enhanced, more sustainable recreation opportunities, access and infrastructure to better meet the needs of all people.

BIG WHY — America’s national forests and grasslands are a national treasure — but over $5 billion in deferred maintenance for roads, trails and facilities has led to significant health and safety liabilities. Moreover, we have a backlog of over 6,600 special use permits in need of processing, which diminishes access to the National Forest System. We can’t expect increased budgets to solve our infrastructure needs. We need creativity, bold thinking and partners to help us change our agency culture to better deliver benefits and services to people and support to local economies.

Leader’s Intent

To bring urgency and focus to rightsizing infrastructure while providing better access and customer service.

To foster consistent use and accelerate development of technology that streamlines our work and is responsive to customer needs.

To set expectations to strengthen existing and develop new partnerships that deliver landscape-scale recreation results.