What’s Up With?: Forest Service Budget Modernization

So far, I’ve heard about the Forest Service Budget Modernization Effort from a few people and a discussion with cooperators put on by Sustainable Northwest today.
If I recall correctly from the SN discussion:

It’s in response to Congress’s (continuing) displeasure at the FS lack of transparency in the budget.
R-6 is doing it differently than other regions.
In R-6 they’re going to run fixed costs out of the RO.

I’ve asked contacts for something already written about this, but have received nothing so far. There’s a description around page 138 of the 2021 budget justification, but I’m wondering how it’s playing out and if is a description out there somewhere at a generic level for fellow FS aficionados.

15 thoughts on “What’s Up With?: Forest Service Budget Modernization”

  1. I’m not in R6 but happened to listen in on an RLT call about BM a couple of weeks ago as they were discussing how to implement it (two months before we have to implement it). On that call, a Forest Supe I know and trust with a reputation for being positive and optimistic about us doing anyway was super dejected about it, and the rest were really hammering the RO on lack of leadership on how we’re going to do it. That was all I needed to know.

    Particularly exciting is that all our new positions have to go through an RO committee to get approved to fill. I’m sure that won’t be the most awfulest thing ever.

    • Thanks AR! BM seems like a most unfortunate acronym. I’ve always appreciated the positive and upbeat leaders because sometimes the best anyone can do is to keep rolling.

  2. They’re trying to get us to change to using BM as the acronym. Originally it was BAM (Budget Accountability & Modernization) and I guess that was too much fun to say. Or we decided to do away the accountability part. Or both.

  3. On the USFS fy2021 budget justification: it seems that the new budget format doesn’t report out allocations by region. Does anyone know where I could get the regional-level information (sp. Region 5) that has been part of past budget justifications? Thanks!

    • In addition, I’ve put together a timeline of Hazardous Fuels expenditures for Region 5 via the FS budget justifications. The long term average is around ~$50 million/year. There are two outlier years that I can’t find proper explanation for, FY2008 ($190 million) and FY2009 ($170 million). Does anyone have a sense of what explains these outlier years? Was it the HFI?

      • That’s interesting, Henry. Did all the Regions get a big chunk more, or just R-5?
        I remember R-5 getting a big chunk of funds for bark beetles in Southern Cal at one time, but I thought that was from Congress (not the Prez budget) and not sure it was Hazardous Fuels $.

        • Hi Sharon!

          At quick glance, it looks like only R-5 saw the boost in Haz Fuel FY08 & 09.

          I’m thinking at least part of the temporary increase must be explained by additional Haz Fuels funding in the Prez budget via the Healthy Forests Initiative in FY2008. But those justifications are hard to interpret sometimes!

  4. Update: one potential explanation I heard for the FY08&09 bump in Haz Fuels money is the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), which put ~$1billion into USFS, a vast sum of which was used for hazardous fuels reduction and the like.

    • I found this for 2009 /https://www.fs.fed.us/arra/arra-releasedfsprojects-2009-6-3pm.pdf. That was a lot of ARRA fire bucks for Cal.

  5. Yes, the bump is known as the “ARRA bump” for those of us working on the ground. There are a number of reports that demonstrate that that influx of funding, if well directed (always in the eye of the beholder), did A LOT of good restoration on the ground. As a result, many of us have been advocating for the inclusion of an ARRA 2.0 in any post-COVID economic recovery and stimulus package.

  6. After piecing together information and anecdotes from several folks (including Region 5), I’ve arrived at a satisfactory explanation about the spikes in USFS R5 haz fuels funding in FY08-09.

    The FY2008 spike was from emergency supplemental funding via a series of federal appropriations bills (one of which, PL 110-116, directed $ to SoCal due to major wildfires in 2007). The FY2009 spike may be explained partly by “leftover” emergency supplemental funding & millions of ARRA dollars for hazardous fuel reduction on federal and non-federal lands.

    Several folks helped steer me towards the answer—thanks all for offering your insight!


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