Forest Service Sets a PR!


Today the annual “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” report issued. The Forest Service, which perennially ranks near the bottom, out-did itself this year with an “index score” of 49, lowest in a decade (and perhaps ever).

Leading the charge was the agency’s “leadership” (sic) who scored an all-time low with “senior” leaders ranking 286th out of 300 agencies.

My guess . . . firefighters, who now make up about half of FS employees, were particularly brutal in their assessment, especially of senior leadership.

10 thoughts on “Forest Service Sets a PR!”

  1. Plus, all the firefighters in other Agencies have it so much better. I’m also sure that the remaining timber folks are as frustrated as ever, now, too. It is one thing to plan new cutting-edge projects, and it is a whole ‘nother thing to implement them!

  2. The FS has very smart people of all stripes who could do more to identify the issues. If they’re something that can be worked on.. then work on ’em. If they’re ways of carrying out desirable policy goals that seem disorganized, disrespectful or there are better ways in the views of employees, then that conversation should be had.

    At one time, a couple of years ago, I thought that a Morale Task Force had been developed.. is that true? Did they issue a report?

    If I were there, I would try to contract with a public administration school to help facilitate a process to identify the key issues. Have an external group get survey info in a manner that provides privacy.

    • Sharon – I’m sure you filled out the same surveys I have over the last several years. I’m sure the Forest Service knows what the problems are. But it can’t fix them because it takes leadership to fix them, and failure of leadership (as cited above) is the problem.

      I can excuse some of this because I think they do have one of the more challenging missions among government agencies (multiple-use), which promotes internal friction. They need to find and reward managers that can handle this situation, including being more open and honest in their decision-making.

      • I know I said it somewhere on this blog, but can’t find it right now.

        I think “failure of leadership” is too easy.. we did further analysis in R-2 (several years ago, now)

        1) some people are still grumpy about centralized services
        2) many people have issues with supervision and management quality (training and mentoring supervisors could help with this
        3) many people have issues with ideas that are from the Department (e.g., how some diversity hiring is done). A high level FS official said to me recently that he wished he could put the source (Department direction) on memos so folks could see what they really have control over.

        Like I said, it seems simple to a) get a team across the agency, all levels to b) develop a survey and conduct interviews, c) provide recommendations and post the report publicly.

        Does anyone know if this has been done? ‘Cause if it hasn’t, I really don’t know if it’s “lack of FS leadership” or being told “don’t go there” by the Dept.

        This might actually be a good thing for retirees to take up. Or maybe a letter jointly signed by NAFSR and AFSEE đŸ˜‰

        Oh whoops.. I kind of said this last year..

        • Thanks Sharon. I’m the last person to just “tow the company line”, and I agree with your take in the sense that I’m curious as to whether there is more to the story than is reflected in this survey…

  3. A well-deserved rating. Loved Handlebar’s comment. The “Cultural Transformation” thing epitomizes how far F.S. leadership is detached from reality. Talk about rearranging deck chairs– or fiddling Turkey in the Straw — while the Agency goes down in flames!

  4. A very sad legacy indeed. I started with the Forest Service just after the major paradigm change. Originally decision making was focused at the Ranger Districts and FS personnel where generally held in high esteem in most communities. During my 17 year career I saw the trend of more and more centralized decision making at the ROs/WO. The real and perceived shift was more access and representation for national interest groups and Congress than to local constituents. Stewardship gradually gave way to politics and agency preservation. At the same time America became more urbanized and the red-blue divide grew to alienate more of the rural (true red-blooded) Americans. Simply, the agency has lost a majority constituency.

    A friend of mine helped coined the FS motto: Caring for the land and serving the people. If that were really true, the current ranking would be much different.

  5. Does anyone have access to the questions that are used in survey? Or even more importantly, does anyone have access to how the survey results are ranked? This survey has been cited a lot, and seems to be creating its own “weather pattern” within the agency, and with each passing year, this pattern seems to be growing. I’m curious to learn more. Thanks to anyone who has access to the survey and can post information here.


Leave a Comment