Innovations Underway

A picture of a front loader machine stacking logs on top of each other. Forest Products Modernization involves spreading innovations and ideas that are working well around the country and sharing what we are learning. We want to foster implementation of innovative approaches to forest products delivery across the country; sharing an innovative practice, technique, or new technology used on one district or forest with other units so they can consider implementing these innovations too. By identifying actions that make restoration harvest work easier and sharing these innovative ways of getting our work done more widely, we expect to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration and improve our ability to apply these actions more consistently and effectively across the agency.

Several of these innovations are highlighted below.

New innovations will be added here as they become available. Please help us share these ideas and if you have suggestions for other innovations we should consider and share, please send them to our FPM inbox

 

Innovation of the Month: Implementing Large-scale NEPA for Accelerated Restoration on the Four Forest Restoration Initiative

Overview

In Region 3, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative has undertaken landscape-scale National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) projects that are paving the way for implementing multiple timber removal projects under one decision. The first analysis, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative Environmental Impact Statement (4FRI EIS), signed in April of 2015, covered just under 1 million acres on the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests (see map) and cleared up to 430,261 acres for mechanical harvest.

To date, ten sales have been awarded under the 4FRI EIS (four Integrated Resource Service Contracts; five stewardship agreements and one timber sale) totaling 24,743 acres and 9.4 million board feet (MMBF) of forest products. An additional 51 projects totaling 107,003 acres and 431,227 MBF of forest products have been identified in the 4FRI 5-year plan through 2024 that will come from the 4FRI EIS. The EIS also cleared other restoration work, including 586,110 acres of prescribed fire, decommissioning of 960 miles of road, restoration of 74 springs and 39 miles of stream channels.

Ingredients for Success

Doing landscape scale planning can be challenging, however there are several keys for success. First, internal support to do landscape-scale NEPA is needed from the forest up through the Regional Office.

A map showing the locations of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative NEPA projects
A map showing the locations of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative NEPA projects

Second, because 4FRI is a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project (CFLRP), the buy-in and participation of stakeholders is key. 4FRI stakeholders were included in the crafting of decisions, provided language for portions of the document and participated in the objection resolution process, although all decision-making authority remains with the Forest Service.

Third, it is important to include local implementers in the planning process. Because the 4FRI planning team is separate from the Districts that are implementing the projects, getting buy-in and ownership up front again is key to subsequent implementation.

Finally, transparency and utilizing the Forest Service website to post draft and final documents related to the planning process removed the potential for violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by making all planning data available to all public, and not just our stakeholders.

Lessons Learned

Because this was the largest site-specific NEPA decision at the time, each acre has a specific treatment assigned by timber stand (site). This was done using inputted data on approximately 66 percent of the project area, so during implementation, the specific treatment proposed has not always fit the actual on-the-ground conditions.

The 4FRI planning team created an implementation process for the EIS and visited each District involved in implementing the project to review the EIS and display where they can access data that can be used in projects. This is key to ensuring local units’ understanding of a NEPA project they did not complete

Next Steps

The 4FRI planning team is implementing a second landscape-scale NEPA project, the Rim Country Draft EIS that will cover three National Forests and 1.24 million acres and may clear up to 900,000 acres of Forest Service land for mechanical harvest. Applying lessons from the first EIS, this project is utilizing condition-based management rather than a specific treatment type per stand.

Tracking implementation in condition based NEPA will be necessary in order to ensure implementation is within the bounds of the NEPA decision. The Forest Service and 4FRI Stakeholders are working on potential solutions to this challenge in the Draft EIS stage of the Rim Country project.

For More Information, Contact

 

Innovations Library

https://www.fs.usda.gov/science-technology/forest-products-modernization/innovations