Emery Cowan of the Rural Voices for Conservation Coaliton (RVCC) posted this link to their tools, including a June 2022 report called Forest Service Project Planning to Implementation on another thread, so I’d like to highlight their work with a separate post. RVCC is one of my favorite NGOs. I always learn a lot from their webinars, plus “meet” interesting, dedicated, knowledgeable and enthusiastic people. They are one of my favorite sources of position papers on various topics. I don’t always agree with them, but their positions are always well thought out and well written, IMHO.
They are also looking for a Coalition Director, here’s the link. Which would be a great opportunity!
All this reminded me that I had planned on posting their Fighting Fire with Fire report when it first came out last fall. And was thinking today of the below section because of the discussion yesterday of the problem of hazardous fuel reduction metrics. What do you think of these ideas? (Or other ones in the paper?)
PERFORMANCE MEASURES AND BUDGETING
• Immediate action can be taken by elevating the existing “acres mitigated” KPI to a principal target on par with the two existing timber volume and acres treated targets. “Acres mitigated” is a better measure of the comprehensive action needed to reduce fire risk on one footprint acre than the current “acres treated” target. While any annual output target still suffers from the risk of prioritizing the easiest acres for treatment, use of the existing “acres mitigated” KPI would serve as a good bridge to more outcomes-based performance measures.
• Deprioritize the core performance measure of “timber volume sold.” This metric has long guided agency budget allocation and has been used as a benchmark of individual employee career success. While the agency tracks many KPIs, the timber volume target plays a disproportionate role in agency behavior. Addition of new KPIs is insufficient to motivate agency change without also relaxing the timber volume target. Furthermore, the timber volume target should not be conflated with a fire risk reduction outcome.
• Incentivize exceeding fuels reduction targets. So long as annual output targets remain in effect, performance measurement systems – and accompanying budget impacts – should incentivize overperformance, not penalize it. Currently, if a unit exceeds a fuels reduction target, they are expected to perform to the same advanced level in future budget years, essentially disincentivizing innovation and excellence. Performance above target could be rewarded with additional funding.
• The Forest Service should work with the Office of Management and Budget and key external partners to propose new outcomes-based targets that capture the complex, modern mission of the agency. While outcome measures are more difficult to achieve than simpler annual output targets, there are models for such practices already in existence (see on-the-ground example below).