The Lubrecht Report a Mid-Way Assessment of the 10-Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge
THE LUBRECHT REPORT
A MID-WAY ASSESSMENT OF THE 10-YEAR WILDERNESS STEWARDSHIP CHALLENGE
Summary and Associated Appendices
Wilderness Advisory Group Members
(Steve Boutcher, Ryan Brown, Laura Burns, Tom Carlson, David Cole,
Kevin Hood, Ruth Monahan, Diane Taliaferro, Wendi Urie)
Version Date: April 16TH, 2010
TABLE OF CONTENTSSUMMARY
I. Introduction ………. Page 3
II. Looking Back – The First Five Years ………. Page 4
III. Looking Ahead – The Next Five Years ………. Page 6
Appendix A – Current Status Graphs ………. Page 9
Appendix B – Wildernesses by Progress Classes ………. Page 16
Appendix C – What Has and Hasn’t Worked ………. Page 28
Appendix D – Recommended Actions ………. Page 37
Appendix E – Tips for Success ……….Page 59
The 10-Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge (10YWSC) was approved by Chief Dale Bosworth and the National Leadership Team in the fall of 2003 with the stated goal of having all 406 wildernesses in existence at that time managed to a “minimum stewardship level” by 2014, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The “minimum stewardship level” is reached when a wilderness scores 60-points or higher of a total possible 100-points on ten elements, such as fire planning, recreation site inventory and baseline workforce. In the first year of the 10YWSC, only 44 wildernesses, or 10.8% of the total, were managed to this level.
The Wilderness Advisory Group (WAG) is comprised primarily of wilderness management representatives from each Region and is charged with routinely providing input to the Chief on matters relating to wilderness stewardship from a field-going perspective. The charter for the 2010/2011 edition of the WAG tasked the group with “making specific recommendations and developing products that will increase the likelihood that all wildernesses are “managed to a minimum stewardship level” by the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014.”
During the 2010 WAG meeting at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest outside of Missoula Montana, the WAG recognized a unique opportunity presented by the half way point of the Challenge to take a look back over the past five years to assess what has and has not worked, as well as to develop a series of recommendations to improve the likelihood of meeting Chief Bosworth’s commitment to meeting the Challenge—a commitment that has been reconfirmed by subsequent Chiefs Gail Kimball and Tom Tidwell. The collection of thoughts and ideas resulting from this meeting has been compiled into the “Lubrecht Report”, WAG’s attempt at meeting its responsibility to assist national and local efforts to meet the Chief’s 10YWSC.
After five years, national accomplishment has improved from 44 wildernesses “managed to a minimum stewardship level” in FY 2005 (or 10.8% of all wildernesses) to 122 wildernesses managed to this level in FY 2009 (30.0% of all wildernesses).
While progress has been made across all regions and elements, the rate of progress has not been uniform, and overall it is clear that the current rate of progress will not get us near 100% of wildernesses meeting standard by 2014. Instead, it is projected that only 200 - or slightly less than half - of all wildernesses will reach this level by 2014, falling far short of the goal. To meet the Challenge by the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, we will have to dramatically increase our scores – more than tripling the current rate of improvement.
Please refer to Appendix A for more graphs depicting various aspects of accomplishment on the Challenge. Appendix B lists the individual wildernesses by “progress classes”, based on data from the FY 2009 reporting season.
What follows is an assessment of the first five years and a look ahead at the next five. Few would argue that the wilderness program has not benefitted from the 10 Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge. However, it is equally clear that a different approach is needed of we are to dramatically improve accomplishment and realize the commitment made by Chief Bosworth five years ago.
LOOKING BACK – THE FIRST FIVE YEARS
An examination of the past five years of implementing the Chief’s Ten Year Wilderness Stewardship Challenge illuminates both the successes and shortcomings of this effort. This section describes both of these aspects to set the stage for a discussion of future actions that can be taken to accelerate progress on the Challenge. A more detailed description can be found in Appendix C.
Efforts to meet the Challenge have transformed wilderness managers, leaders, and the agency as a whole, increasing the organization and comprehensiveness of wilderness stewardship. The existence of strong wilderness programs has been the key to success in meeting the Challenge. Indeed, those Forests with established wilderness programs have been particularly successful in making progress.
Progress has been made within Regions through the use of various strategies, including the setting of specific and definable timelines for completion of goals, focusing efforts on specific Elements of the Challenge, focusing resources on lagging wilderness areas, dedicating staff to wilderness stewardship (through the use of detailers, trainers, strike teams, and resource specialists), and increasing cooperation between wilderness programs on different administrative units. One key to improved stewardship is successful integration—collaboration between wilderness personnel and specialists from other resource program areas, as well as interdisciplinary funding.
Bold actions taken by leadership to support and promote the Challenge have resulted in marked increases in scores on the Challenge. Positive results have also been observed in situations where leadership has been held accountable for their progress on the Challenge.
Creative approaches in using limited resources to meet the Challenge have included focused funding efforts to meet the Challenge, the use of volunteers to implement Elements of the Challenge, and the professional development of skills needed to implement the Challenge utilizing existing training opportunities.
The Challenge has provided motivation to develop and use strategies such as the ones discussed above, which are crucial to building the foundation for successful wilderness stewardship programs. Although these strategies should be common practice, they are more the exception than the rule. Consequently, trials abound in implementing the Challenge. Particularly given the current budget situation and absence of consistent and focused leadership, frustration and a lack of corporate energy have caused eddies in the forward momentum required to meet this task.
Many barriers have been identified by WAG as limiting factors in meeting the Challenge. These barriers are not ubiquitous; they apply in some places and situations but not in others. The full gamut of obstacles is examined here in an effort to lay the groundwork for the identification of innovative strategies to go beyond simply increasing budget allocations for wilderness stewardship. It is our hope that the resulting strategies may be used by managers at all levels to make decisions in support of meeting the Challenge. We fully appreciate that decisions are not made in a sterile room, but rather in a complex and political environment in which the interest of wilderness must be balanced against fiscal and social pressures. This report is not intended to be an avenue to voice complaints; rather it is intended to portray an honest assessment of the challenges we face in meeting the 10YWSC to be used in the generation of effective solutions.
Barriers to Success
Lack of Functional Integration. Progress on many elements of the Challenge cannot be made unless all functions within the Forest Service recognize that wilderness stewardship is their responsibility too and contribute appropriately. Budget allocations in NFRW alone are not adequate to cover the cost of implementing the Challenge, and budget advice for non-recreation resources does not include wilderness as a component.
Inadequate Line Officer Leadership and Commitment. Leadership plays a crucial role at all levels of the organization regarding the prominence and importance associated with the wilderness program and the implementation of the Challenge. Progress on the Challenge has been stymied where there is a lack of visible and tangible support from leadership and little emphasis or priority given to wilderness and the Challenge.
- Boots on the Ground: A lack of paid, wilderness-focused personnel is one of the largest barriers to meeting the Challenge by 2014. This is an issue at all levels in the organization, from National and Regional staff to seasonal wilderness rangers. Wilderness management is an increasingly collateral duty for managers and fewer field-going wilderness employees and seasonal workers are being funded to address elements of the Challenge.
- Funding: Agency support for wilderness is not sufficient to meet the Challenge. The level of funding, and constraints in how funds are directed to wilderness, have resulted in implications reaching far and wide. Other priorities out-compete wilderness in budget allocation and work prioritization. Leaders are not held accountable for progress on the Challenge, lowering priority for wilderness funding compared to programs with hard targets.
- Training: Many existing training opportunities (including resources offered by the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center) are underutilized because staff, including line officers, wilderness managers, non-recreation resource specialists and seasonal employees, are over-committed and often the lack of funds for travel.
- Partnerships and Volunteers: Partnership opportunities are underutilized in many areas due to lack of FS staff capacity at the District and Forest levels to develop and guide the necessary work. While the contributions of partners and volunteers are widely appreciated, the sense that the Forest Service is abdicating its stewardship role by wholly replacing wilderness crews with partners/volunteers demoralizes employees and erodes enthusiasm to meet the Challenge non-Forest Service staff.
Inadequate Policy. Nation-wide changes associated with revisions to the Forest Planning Rule have made it difficult for planners to effectively write guidelines for wilderness. Different regions have policies relating to wilderness stewardship which can heavily influence the ability for managers to implement the 10YWSC. For some elements of the Challenge, a lack of policy results in unclear direction.
Limitations in the Structure of the Challenge: In many wilderness areas, the “low hanging fruit” has been picked and the remaining tasks in the 10YWSC are more complex and time consuming and require a higher level of expertise and field implementation. Some wilderness personnel are concerned that success on the Challenge may be interpreted as evidence that the wilderness program can do more with less, resulting in a permanent reduction in funding leading to a decline in wilderness character. The ten year span of the Challenge has made it difficult for many managers to sustain enthusiasm for the duration of the initiative.
LOOKING AHEAD – THE NEXT FIVE YEARS
The barriers we face in meeting the Chief’s 10YWSC are considerable. At the half-way point of the Challenge, with only one third of our wilderness areas meeting minimum stewardship levels, it is apparent that we will not meet the Challenge by the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act without significantly changing our approach. However, with focused effort and some increased commitment to wilderness stewardship, barriers can be overcome and the Challenge can be met. Toward this end, we have scoured success stories and identified a number of actions we believe could be employed to meet the Challenge by 2014.
Each of these action items are described in detail in Appendix D. Many actions listed here are interconnected; these relationships are noted in the keys to implementation listed for each action item in Appendix D. Action items are targeted at the following three levels of the organization: the Chief’s Office, National Wilderness Leadership, and Regional leadership.
Priority Actions for the Chief. The Chief of the Forest Service could improve progress on the Challenge by identifying a change in funding strategy to allow wilderness areas to meet the Challenge and making regional foresters accountable with this goal in mind. These actions are interdependent and should be viewed as a package; the success of each action depends heavily upon the implementation of the others.
Require each Regional Forester to develop, and submit to the Chief, a Regional strategy to meet the 10YWSC (page 37)
Organize and fund strike teams (page 39)
Establish internal grant funds (page 41)
Provide funds to support NFF grant program (page 43)
Conduct assistance reviews for the Regions (page 44)
Develop desktop video to the field from the Chief (page 46)
Innovative Strategies for National Wilderness Leadership. These actions could be employed at the national level, and are expected to have great impact on efforts to meet the Challenge.
Increase communication between WWSR Director and the field (page 48)
Designate National 10YWSC Lead (page 50)
Conduct national leveling calls (page 52)
Conduct national calls to support individual elements of the 10YWSC (page 53)
Improve educational resources for implementing the 10YWSC (page 54)
Strategies for Regional Leadership. A wide range of actions can be employed at the Regional level to support the efforts of wilderness managers in meeting the 10YWSC depending on regional conditions, funding and preferences. While the full list is presented in Appendix D (page 56) a sampling includes:
- Charter Regional Wilderness Council to facilitate the integration of other program areas into meeting the Challenge
- Charter integrated regional teams around specific elements (Strike Teams) or to assist units in most need
- Develop integrated region-wide funding strategies around specific elements
- Hold funding aside to allow competition from individual forests to make progress on the Challenge
- Create and fill a Regional 10YWSC Coordinator
- Incorporate meeting 10YWSC in region-wide Business Plans, emphasis areas, and program direction
- Hold region-wide “leveling” calls for consistency in scoring
- Develop regional forum for sharing successes/Regional support group
- Include more specific budget advice related to the Challenge from the Regions and Forests
- Look at other opportunities for funding for the Challenge such as Stimulus
- Include progress on the Challenge in annual line officer performance reviews
In order to overcome the significant barriers we face, a paradigm shift must occur within our agency to provide the support required to achieve the goals of the 10YWSC through the sincere stewardship of our wilderness resource. In order to accomplish this, wilderness must be viewed as a resource in itself, a worthy recipient of integrated knowledge and management support.
Our successes on the 10YWSC have been a result of imaginative and innovative solutions implemented by dedicated and passionate employees. Efforts to meet the Challenge have served to increase the commitment and resources available to support wilderness, reinvigorate wilderness programs, raise awareness of wilderness stewardship needs, integrate different resource areas, improve coordination between administrative units, strengthen relationships with partners, and improve planning and monitoring efforts. If the agency is truly committed to the goals of the Challenge and improving the condition of our treasured resource of Wilderness, now is the time for us to overcome the barriers we have faced so far and embrace successfully meeting the Challenge.
APPENDIX A – CURRENT STATUS GRAPHS
Progress toward meeting the Challenge is graphically displayed in the following series of graphs:
Figure 1 - Percent of wildernesses meeting standard nationally by year
Figure 1 displays the percent of wildernesses meeting standard across the country by fiscal year. Accomplishment ranges from 44 wildernesses to standard in FY 2005 (10.8%) to 122 wildernesses to standard in FY 2009 (30.0%).
Figure 2 - Average score nationally by year
Figure 2 displays the average score across all wildernesses nationally by fiscal year. Scores improved from 34.7 in FY 2005 to 50.7 in FY 2009. Reports from the Regions indicate this current rate of improvement in average scores is not sustainable. The “low hanging fruit” have been grabbed, and a continued increase in average scores will require a higher level of funding to implement the field-based implementation of many of the elements.
Figure 3 - Average score nationally by element by year
Figure 3 displays the average score by element for fiscal years FY 2005 – 2009. The element numbers relate to the ten elements of the Challenge (E1-Fire Planning, E2-Non-native, Invasive Plants, E3-Air Quality, E4-Wilderness Education Plans, E5-Opportunities for Solitude, E6-Recreation Site Inventory, E7-Outfitters & Guides, E8-Adequate Plan Standards, E9-Information Management, E10-Baseline Workforce). Average scores are highest for Elements 1 and 7, and lowest for Elements 3 and 10.
While most data display a steady and continuous improvement, Element 10 shows a decline from FY 2005-2007, and then a sudden increase in FY 2008 and 2009. This increase in scores is attributable to a change in counting instructions in FY 2008—not a change in staffing. Starting in FY 2008, it was permissible to count Forest Service staff funded by non-recreation fund codes (other than NFRW) and volunteers.
Figure 4 - Percent of wildernesses meeting standard by region (FY 2009 data)
Figure 4 displays the percent of wildernesses meeting minimum standard by Forest Service Region, using FY 2009 data. The data range from a low of 1.7% (R6) to a high of 84.6% (R1). Nationally, 30.0% of wildernesses were determined to be managed to the minimum standard.
The relatively low scores in several of the regions will present the greatest challenge to reaching 100% accomplishment by 2014.