Innovation — How the Forest Service is Getting More Work Done

A Forest Service entomologist searches for pine bark beetles burrowed in dead Ponderosa pine trees in the Sequoia National Forest, near Posey, CA. (Courtesy photo by USDA Forest Service)

More than 6,000 special use permits on national forests are waiting to be completed. These special uses include outfitters and guides, recreation events, and concession permits, to name just a few. This staggering number impacts more than 7,000 businesses and 120,000 jobs. And with more challenges on the horizon, the USDA Forest Service must improve its review processes to be more efficient and effective with existing manpower and resources.

We’re tapping into the skill and talent of our employees to design innovative new ways to care for the land and continue to meet the needs of the American people.

Environmental analysis and decision making (EADM) is the how the Forest Service gets work done on the ground. For the past year, the Forest Service employees and partners have worked to reduce the costs and time needed for EADM. We’re gathering and sharing ideas and stories about how to more efficiently deliver high quality, science-based environmental analysis.

Severe drought and unhealthy forest conditions, along with unseasonably warm winters, have led to extensive pine tree mortality in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. (Courtesy photo by USDA)

One such innovative idea is happening in the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service. The goal of the ground-breaking effort is to complete 10 separate projects for quickly treating insect and disease infestations within 20 weeks on 20,000 acres of national forests. The ability of a forest to provide goods, such as marketable timber, and services, such as safe recreation opportunities, depends on having healthy, hardy, productive trees. And, when an abundance of trees die across a wide region, the area is much more susceptible to wildfire, high winds, and flooding – potential disasters that we all want to avoid.

Forest road winds through tree mortality in the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region. (Courtesy photo by USDA Forest Service)

Strong local leadership and a solid history of collaboration, transparent communication strategies, and agreement around a restoration vision have contributed to success in the region. Leveraging the ability, as provided in the 2014 Healthy Forest Restoration Act, to quickly treat insect and disease infestations, Forest Service employees will identify and treat areas under 3,000 acres in the Wildland Urban Interface. Projects will be developed and implemented through a collaborative process and decisions will be made using the best available science.

As the Forest Service continues to exercise wise stewardship of your national forests and grasslands, we will continue to look for more innovative ways to work efficiently and effectively to provide quality customer service.