Category Archives: Op-Ed

Evolving toward shared stewardship

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

As an organization that has a value around interdependence, it is important for us to create experiences for peer-learning and building collective understanding around key concepts we want to move out on.

Recently, our Pacific Northwest regional leadership team had the amazing opportunity to learn side-by-side in an interactive forum with our district rangers, research and Washington Office colleagues, state partners, and some tribal representatives to explore what Shared Stewardship means, where it came from, and how it will apply to our work all the way down to the district level.

We have heard interest from other regions and stations so we hope we can soon expand our knowledge in this arena beyond even our own regional borders.

One of the things we explored was how Shared Stewardship may be a new term for many, but it is certainly not a new concept. The evolution toward Shared Stewardship represents the convergence of several factors over the last decades—new authorities and policies that govern our work, new and expanded science that informs it, and our own internal exploration and discovery of Who We Are and how we need to show up in community.

Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Values-based. Purpose-driven, Relationship-focused. This image shows highlights in the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present.
Shared Stewardship Gallery Walk: Milestones in the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s journey to a Shared Stewardship approach to public lands, from 2000 to present. Click image to open a larger version in a separate window. – Graphic by USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region.

We explored how our Shared Stewardship approach will build on the strength of our existing partnerships and collaborative groups in the region that have matured over this same time period. And we were clear that we will need to embrace new ways of doing business and different ways of being.

Together we heard from our state partners directly and learned how they are uniquely positioned to convene stakeholders across communities to evaluate the needs and agree on cross-jurisdictional planning areas.  We started to lay out the vision for our Oregon and Washington Shared Stewardship agreements that will be signed with the states this spring and we discussed how to share decision space with governors’ offices and state agencies to set broad priorities together based on the holistic needs and values of our communities, state forest action plans and other tools.  We also worked in small groups to workshop projects ideas at the state scale to not only meet our essential timber volume and fuels acres treated goals, but also integrate them with the our other priorities that our states, tribes and communities are telling us are important, like recreation, access, and infrastructure.  

Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency's Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.
Forest Service employees and state partners workshop project ideas in small groups during the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Given the strong history of collaboration in our region and the strength of our existing Good Neighbor Authority agreements, we also spent some time exploring how Shared Stewardship is different and here’s what I would offer on that account:

  • Shared Stewardship with the States will elevate planning and decision-making from the national forest level to the state-level when appropriate. Together Forest Service and the states will use scenario planning tools to assess opportunities, risks and alternatives for managing the risk, and set priorities for investments that will bring the most bang for the buck.
  • It will use new and existing science to do the right work in the right places at the right scale.  Instead of random acts of restoration, we will share decisions and place treatments where they can produce desired outcomes at a meaningful scale.
  • It will take full advantage of our capacity for shared stewardship across shared landscapes using all of our tools and authorities for active management. We will work with the states and other partners, including local communities, to choose the most appropriate tools tailored to local conditions.

As we embrace Shared Stewardship, we are also being intentional in creating a safe, supportive and resilient work environment because it is a determining factor in our ability to invite others into shared stewardship work with us—and as the Chief says, that’s what Shared Stewardship is—an invitation.

Once the agreements are signed this spring, the region is exploring how to develop more forums and workshops alongside our state partners and with our on-the-ground workforce to start sharing the priorities and planning projects across boundaries, at scale that lead to real progress.  So…stay tuned for more!

Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Panelists discuss natural resources research during the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s recent Shared Stewardship meeting with regional leadership and partners. USDA Forest Service photo by Chris Bentley.

Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), visit: www.fs.usda.gov/r6. (Originally published April 10, 2019, at: https://www.fs.fed.us/blogs/leaders-perspective-shared-stewardship).

Op-Ed: Thank you, communities, partners and volunteers, for all your support during government shutdown

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

The five-week government shutdown was a trying time for Forest Service employees and their families. Our partners, volunteers, permittees, and contractors were also impacted, as well as many businesses and communities closely tied to national forests and the work we do.

On behalf of the Forest Service employees across the Pacific Northwest, I want to thank everyone who stepped up to help and support our employees and the national forests during this challenging time.

We are grateful and touched by this outpouring of support. Citizens and businesses offered assistance to help employees make ends meet and care for their families.

State and local agencies chipped in to help protect and maintain recreation sites.

Dedicated volunteers came out in droves and partners carried on our shared conservation work.

Times like this underscore the importance of shared stewardship. Our shared commitment to public lands – and each other – drives everything we do.

Today, we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.

The opportunities and challenges we face transcend boundaries and impact people beyond the jurisdiction of any single agency or organization.

That’s why we are committed to working across boundaries in shared stewardship with states, partners, and local communities to support each other and accomplish shared objectives.

We’re glad to be back at work doing what we love – caring for the land and serving people.

We are currently assessing the shutdown’s impacts and determining how best to adjust to ensure we continue to deliver the services the public expects.

We will engage our partners and local communities in these conversations as we adapt and move forward together.

Service is one of our bedrock values.

We are heartened and humbled to know that when the need arises, our communities, partners, and the public we serve are here for us, too.

We thank you wholeheartedly for your support and look forward to continuing our work together in shared stewardship.


Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester
 


Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), visit: www.fs.usda.gov/r6.

Open letter to Blue Mountains communities: First round of objection-resolution meetings a positive step

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

On Dec. 14, 2018, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa released the following “open letter” to the communities affected by the proposed Blue Mountains revised forest plan (Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests), including those who submitted formal objections or participated in objections resolutions meetings as part of the ongoing plan revision process.

See also:

https://yournorthwestforests.org/2018/11/21/forest-service-looking-to-listen-and-work-towards-resolution-in-blues-meetings/ 

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chris_french_baker_city

Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System, USDA Forest Service, listens to a participant in Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision objections resolution meeting at High School in Baker City, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Travis Mason-Bushman.

Dear Objectors, Interested Persons, and Blue Mountains Community Members,

I recently had the privilege of meeting many of you during the first round of objection-resolution meetings for the Blue Mountains Revised Forest Plans.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated.

Over 300 Objectors, Interested Persons, and public observers attended meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa, Baker City, and La Grande, Oregon.

I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope you will agree that this first round of resolution meetings was a positive step.

The meetings were led by objection reviewing officers based in Washington, D.C., with support and coordination from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office as well as the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

The goal for these initial meetings was to bring clarity and mutual understanding to the Blue Mountain Forest Plan objection issues.

The dialogue helped Forest Service leadership and staff to better understand your values, concerns, and views.

Spending time in Eastern Oregon improved much more than our understanding of the issues identified in the objections, though.

Through our initial discussions we also gained a deeper appreciation of local residents’ special relationships with the land.

We had it affirmed that, for many of those who live in and around the Blue Mountains, these national forests are not just places to visit and recreate – the forests are a vital part of your community life, identity, heritage, and livelihoods.

The Forest Service is striving to honor these special relationships in the Blue Mountain Forest Plan’s resolution process.

In doing so, we will better respect the views of many different community members – including our Tribal neighbors, the States of Oregon and Washington, County and other local government representatives, user groups, environmental groups, industry, and business – all of whom seek assurances that the Forest Service will protect their priority resources.

During the initial meetings the Forest Service heard a lot about a wide range of topics, including access; aquatic and riparian conservation; elk security and bighorn sheep; fire and fuels; fish, wildlife, and plants; livestock grazing; local government cooperation and coordination; public participation; social and economic issues; timber and vegetation; and wilderness, backcountry, and other special areas.

Digging into these topics in person gave the Forest Service the opportunity to explore issues that were not as prominent in the written objection letters.  From the dialogue, some issues appear to be close to resolution while others will require further discussion, so there will be more steps to take in this process.

The Forest Service knows that many topics are interrelated, and we will work to pull together the related topics for discussion in future meetings, so all of us can better see the connections and consider the trade-offs of potential resolutions.

The Forest Service also understands that not all Objectors and Interested Persons were able to attend the first round of meetings or have their voices represented by others.

So, as we navigate these next steps, the Forest Service will work ensure we are as inclusive as possible in future objections-resolutions meetings.

Over the coming weeks the reviewing officers will be studying the notes and reflecting on what we heard in the first round of resolution meetings and we will be helping the Washington Office in scheduling the next round of objections-resolutions meetings. We will be in touch again to announce the next steps.

Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to making more progress together in the near future.

Kind regards,
Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester 



Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the Blue Mountains Forest Plan planning process and scheduled objections resolution meetings, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd584707&width=full

Secretary Purdue thanks Congress for fire funding fix

Wildland fireghter trains water from a hose on blazing tree stump as sparks fly

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue in an undated USDA photo

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue. USDA photo.

WASHINGTON D.C — March 23, 2018 —  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue expressed his appreciation for the work of Congress in approving a bipartisan fix for the way the USDA Forest Service is funded for fighting wildfires today.

Secretary Perdue had advocated for the change since taking office in April 2017.

Congress included the solution in the FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Package, which has been signed into law by President Donald J. Trump.

“Improving the way we fund wildfire suppression will help us better manage our forests. If we ensure that we have adequate resources for forest management, we can mitigate the frequency of wildfires and severity of future fire seasons,” Perdue said

DZD9m6qWsAAFSsjInterim USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen thanked Secretary Purdue for his efforts in meeting with Congress to support the bipartisan effort.

“This solution will allow us to focus on getting work done on the ground more consistently to improve overall forest health and keep wildfires from threatening lives, homes, and communities,” she said.

Press release: https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/03/23/secretary-perdue-applauds-fire-funding-fix-omnibus?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign=

R6 Forester: Soaring fire costs limit funds for other work

Leadership Corner: Jim Peña; Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region

By Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester  – 

Firefighters burn grass and brush along a dirt road to block oncoming fire

Firefighters conduct burnout operations to establish a fire line while fighting the 2017 Chetco Bar fire on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (via InciWeb)

The 2017 wildfire season was unprecedented in terms of dollars spent, acres burned, and the increased duration of wildfires. Even now, months later, we’re still feeling the impacts from these fires, especially financially.

As wildfires grow more severe – and costly – the USDA Forest Service is struggling to adequately fund projects that are important to our communities because of soaring firefighting costs.

Each year, firefighting costs consume more and more of the USDA Forest Service’s budget. In 1995, firefighting costs accounted for 15% of the USDA Forest Service budget. In 2017, it was 57%. At the rate things are going, firefighting will consume 67% of our budget by 2021. This means less money for other priority USDA Forest Service programs and services, including recreation, visitor services, and much-needed fire prevention work that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires in the first place.

The USDA Forest Service is the only federal agency that is required to fund its entire emergency management program through its regular appropriations. This includes wildfires that are truly natural disasters—lightning starts rapidly driven by wind that burn faster and more intensely than firefighters can control.

Two chinook helicopters fly over a field with water buckets dangling below each aircraft.

Chinook Helicopters from the Oregon Army National Guard use hanging buckets to collect water for aerial drops in support of fire fighting efforts on the Chetco Bar Fire in Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest September 13, 2017. U.S. Government Photo (via Inciweb)

In the Pacific Northwest, this funding model means that projects designed to actually decrease the severity of wildfire are being delayed, deferred maintenance is growing for recreation sites and critical infrastructure, and roads damaged from fire or storms are going un-repaired.

This means that trash goes un-emptied, toilets uncleaned, and we are forced to make hard decisions on whether we can safely keep roads and recreation sites open. These funding challenges directly impact our ability to provide excellent and safe visitor experiences.

The USDA Forest Service is dedicated to fostering the productive and sustainable use of your national forests and grasslands. If you can’t use and enjoy your public lands to the fullest, that’s a problem.

While the USDA Forest Service is working more closely with partners and volunteers to leverage resources and accomplish more than we could by ourselves, our current fiscal path is simply unsustainable.

The USDA Forest Service deeply appreciates the ongoing work of Congress to pass new legislation to reform the way wildfire suppression is funded. A commonsense approach would let us get back to the work we care about most – meeting the many different needs of the communities we serve, for the benefit of generations to come.


Source Information: Jim Peña is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region. He supervises operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Washington State and Oregon.