Why aren’t forest plan goals accomplished?

Terry Seyden offered this on another thread, but I’d like to hear some other opinions, or better yet, facts.

“The principal reasons most forests are not anywhere near meeting their forest plan timber and wildlife habitat goals, in my opinion, lie in the fact that congress funds targets at levels well below what the plans call for.”

If someone can explain “why” – how the process of getting from forest plan timber numbers to annual targets actually works, please share!  And how is that process different for wildlife habitat goals?

5 Comments

  1. I spent 2 1/2 years assigned to the legislative affairs staff in the Washington office. Let me first state that I do not support the process that is driven by assigned target rather than a system that measures success based on quality of management and forest conditions. Congress spends little if any time on targets. Targets are presented by the Agency in their budget requests. They are reviewed by the Administration at the Department level and adjusted based on Administration priorities. As an example, in the Regan Administration that supposedly followed a policy of fiscal conservatism, the Department decided to emphasizing resource areas that produced monetary returns to the Treasury and de-emphasizing resource ares that did not. They felt this supported the Administrations policy. After Department review the budget requests are sent to the Office of Management and Budget for final review prior to submission to the Congress. Adjustments may be made at OMB based on the need to stay within budget constraints for the total Presidential Budget Goals. Congressional hearings are then held which usually deal with monetary limitations rather than targets. Occasionally a congressman my interject the need for increased resource needs to met a local community’s request. Once the budget is signed, the Agency distributes the targets and dollars to the individual Regions and Forests. One problem with this process is that the monetary requirements at the National and Regional levels often leaves inadequate funds to accomplish the work load at the District level. My book “Trees of Life-Our Forests in Peril” provides more information.

    • Brian – what “monetary requirements” are you referring to? The only “requirements” I see are employee salaries. So, we should do away with Regional Offices and let the National Office have direct influence on field units?

  2. One aspect that Brian did not mention is the influence exerted by OMB by certain “gate-keeper” personalities. If you don’t satisfy them, you won’t get satisfaction yourself. It’s the hidden secret of DC – there are MANY influencers of policy other than the names and faces you see in the media.

  3. Thanks, Brian, for that outline of the process. I guess I’d like to think of ‘targets’ in a sense that could include both outputs from the forests and outcomes on the landscape.

    I’d like to know more about the beginning and the end of this story. In particular, why the term ‘forest plan’ didn’t show up in this description.

    “Targets are presented by the Agency in their budget requests.” How are forest plan numbers (like objectives maybe?) used in coming up with the agency’s proposed targets (both the output vs outcome question, and the ‘how much’ question)? In the 1982 planning regulations, there was a requirement that, “Subsequent administrative activities affecting such lands, including budget proposals, shall be based on the plan.” So until the new planning rule in 2012, how was that done? There was also once a tie-in to the Resources Planning Act program, which has since been replaced by the Government and Performance Results Act, both of which intended that plans be implemented, so why was similar language left out of the new planning rule?

    “Once the budget is signed, the Agency distributes the targets and dollars to the individual Regions and Forests.” How does this process take forest plans into account to ensure as much fidelity to implementing them as possible?

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