Feedback Opportunities for Great American Outdoors Act Choices Closed November 30, 2020

Unfortunately, I missed posting about these feedback dates.  There’s always next year… I’m not sure that there’s an email list you can get on to be notified of a comment period, but if anyone knows of such a mailing list,  that would be handy. The below is from the FS national website.

Proposed Deferred Maintenance Projects for Fiscal Year 2022

Deferred maintenance projects proposed for the GAOA funding in fiscal year 2022 are open for public feedback until November 30, 2020. To review the proposed projects in your region and provide feedback, please use the following links:

R1 Project List – Northern Region
R2 Project List – Rocky Mountain Region
R3 Project List – Southwestern Region
R4 Project List – Intermountain Region
R5 Project List – Pacific Southwest Region
R6 Project List – Pacific Northwest Region
R8 Project List – Southern Region
R9 Project List – Eastern Region
R10 Project List – Alaska Region

 

Deferred Maintenance

The Forest Service will use these funds to maximize the benefits experienced by millions of Americans who visit and use their national forests and rangelands. Projects funded by this act will focus on reducing deferred maintenance and other infrastructure projects and thereby improve the conditions and resiliency of our nation’s forests for present and future generations.

To make the final selection, the agency analyzed project proposals based on seven criteria:

  • Reduce deferred maintenance
  • Promote management of America’s forests
  • Improve visitor experience
  • Contribute to rural economic development
  • Improve visitor access
  • Ensure health and safety
  • Leverage partner contributions resources

All projects funded under the GAO Act will have completed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and other environmental compliance processes.  Notice of final project selections will be provided to the public once Congress completes a full year appropriation that will include all funded projects.

FY21 Deferred Maintenance GAOA Projects

FY21 Deferred Maintenance Projects Names

 

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Great American Outdoors Act secures $900 million in permanent funding each year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  LWCF programs are managed by the Departments of Agriculture and Interior.  The USDA Forest Service administers two LWCF programs – the State & Private Forestry (SPF) Forest Legacy Program and the National Forest System (NFS) Land Acquisition program – that together conserve critical and strategic lands across the Nation’s forests on both private and public ownerships.  Forest Service LWCF projects enhance recreational access to existing public lands, conserve working timberlands vital for local economies, and protect critical watersheds.

For the SPF Forest Legacy program, the agency selected projects through the following process and criteria:

  • The Forest Legacy Program works in partnership with State lead agencies.
  • Projects are selected through a two-part competitive process – state-level and then national.
  • The state level process ensures each project has local support and aligns with state priorities as identified in the State Forest Action Plans and Shared Stewardship agreements.
  • The national level process considers defined environmental and economic benefits, strategic contribution to other conservation initiatives on the landscape, and likelihood of conversion to non-forest uses.
  • Program funding is provided to states through grants to support program administration and project implementation.
  • All lands protected through this program are held and managed by the state through conservation easements or land purchases.

For the NFS Lands Acquisition program, the agency selected projects through the following process and criteria:

  • The National Forest System Lands Program works with our regional offices and partners to develop projects supporting the needs of local communities.
  • Projects are selected through a two-part competitive process – regional-level and then national.
  • The regional level process ensures each project has local support and aligns with National Forest System and partner priorities.
  • The national level process considers local needs for recreation access, urgency of the acquisition, the level of local support for the acquisition, and other criteria.

FY21 LWCF and Legacy GAOA Projects

FY21 LWCF and Legacy GAOA Projects Names

For more information about the SPF Forest Legacy program, visit:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/private-land/forest-legacy

For more information about the NFS Lands Acquisition program, visit: https://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/LWCF/

The Great American Outdoors Act Selection Process for the Forest Service (and Why They Were Late).

 

This is related from a conversation with an individual who was involved.   Any inaccuracies are due to my not taking good enough notes, and/ or my own lack of understanding of the complexities. Anyone knowledgeable is invited to correct this post.

The Story

A month before the GAOA was passed the Forest Service started pulling together a team and went through a regional/national selection process, with public input, to arrive at a finalized lists. TThe FS was finished in time to report to Congress.

OMB held them up during clearance, apparently because Interior wasn’t ready. Why was that? Possible causes 1) Interior was slow for whatever reason and USDA had to wait for the slower department for Interior not to look bad, 2) political people decided to mess with (or check on?) Interior’s choices, 3) wanted to check for coordination between Interior and USDA (is there already a process for this for LWCF?) or ????

Anyway, there are two pieces of GAOA funding: LWCF (land conservation) and DM (deferred maintenance).

OMB gave the FS a smaller share of LWCF than originally planned, so more could go to Interior. The Forest Service gets 15% of infrastructure $, so it appears that can’t be changed due to Administration preferences.

Here’s a list from the FS website of the 2021 infrastructure projects.

Here’s the list of 2021 LWC Projects

Note that there are no $ attached, that’s what’s being held up at OMB, but USDA is apparently putting pressure on them to get the figures out. These could be released at any time.

Here are the processes for LWC projects:

For the SPF Forest Legacy program, the agency selected projects through the following process and criteria:

  • The Forest Legacy Program works in partnership with State lead agencies.
  • Projects are selected through a two-part competitive process – state-level and then national.
  • The state level process ensures each project has local support and aligns with state priorities as identified in the State Forest Action Plans and Shared Stewardship agreements.
  • The national level process considers defined environmental and economic benefits, strategic contribution to other conservation initiatives on the landscape, and likelihood of conversion to non-forest uses.
  • Program funding is provided to states through grants to support program administration and project implementation.
  • All lands protected through this program are held and managed by the state through conservation easements or land purchases.

For the NFS Lands Acquisition program, the agency selected projects through the following process and criteria:

  • The National Forest System Lands Program works with our regional offices and partners to develop projects supporting the needs of local communities.

  • Projects are selected through a two-part competitive process – regional-level and then national.

  • The regional level process ensures each project has local support and aligns with National Forest System and partner priorities.

  • The national level process considers local needs for recreation access, urgency of the acquisition, the level of local support for the acquisition, and other criteria.

It’s interesting that there has been a kerfuffle in the usual places about a soon-to-be-short-lived Secretarial Order by Bernhardt for a required buy-off by counties and states, meanwhile as we see above determining local and state support is just a standard part of the FS process.  

  • Philosophical question: is there always more drama in Interior due to a) a higher proportion of political appointees, b) force of habit by outsiders (not career employees), c) more scrutiny by environmental journalists d) more interest by environmental organizations  or ?  Seemingly if something is needlessly partisanized, it could also be unpartisanized.

If I were on the Interior transition team (unlikely, as I’m not a lawyer) I’d start a public comment process, and meet with the Western Govs, on suggestion for how best to dial back the drama.

Does It Even Matter If Agencies Are Late?

This money should go out as part of an Appropriations bill says Congress, OMB says (hopes) that it can go out any old time (like before a change in Administrations, I expect).  Experts on the topic might  know whether a Continuing Resolution for less than a year would be “good enough” to let the $ out, or whether it needs to be an actual Appropriations bill.

The new Administration may generate a new list. Would such a list be more or less “political” for DOI and not for the FS? Will the new Administration give the FS its original share of the LWCF? Time will tell.

Regardless of the details, looking at the lists and the dollars, GAOA is IMHO a Very Good Thing.

 

Does Anyone Know?: Is the Forest Service Late with List of GAOA Projects and Why?

The Center for Western Priorities  had this in its news this morning…

“Under Interior Secretary Bernhardt, the department has attempted to reject the Land and Water Conservation Fund whenever possible. Before receiving permanent funding through the Great American Outdoors Act, the Trump administration attempted to effectively zero out the program in its yearly budget. After using the bill to greenwash the administration’s environmental record, the Interior Department and the Forest Service missed a key deadline earlier this month to nominate projects for funding through the program. “

I think it’s hard to argue that GAOA is a bad thing (but possible, because the wrong kind of people worked to get it through Congress (Rs), and it relies on money from the wrong kind of activities (fossil fuels)). Still it’s hard for me to imagine, after asking the Regions where they want to spend the bucks, that missing a deadline had anything to do with … not wanting the money?  for partisan reasons?

And groups like the Center  seem mostly focused on “bad things Interior does when R’s are in charge,” and the FS tends not to be as prominent.  Certainly Jim Hubbard is not David Bernhardt in terms of vitriol attraction possibilities.

Still, does anyone know…was the Forest Service also late? And if so, why?

This is the CWP…

Quote of the day
This administration can’t resist the urge to break the law, and this order is a perfect example of why they can’t be trusted to protect our environment. They have no interest in conservation; even with clear direction and guidance from Congress they are doing their best to sabotage the Land and Water Conservation Fund. They’re just trying to smash and grab whatever they can on their way out the door when they should focus on working with the Biden transition team.”
—Chairman Raúl Grijalva, The Hill

If the FS is late, I would not tend to assume, with Mr. Grijalva, that the reason would be “sabotage of the LWCF.”  But I could be wrong…