Partnering with the Forest Service: Lessons Learned by Sheila Jacobson


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Community-Based Watershed Management, March 2012, Juneau Alaska. Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition

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  • Intro
  • This decision tree provides basic guidance for choosing partnership instruments. In the Partnership Guide, the maze of authorities and instruments is readily explained in regard to what is necessary to formalize agreements with partners. FS specialists and partners can decide which scenario best fits their project to better prepare them for discussions with a Grants and Agreements specialist. In the case of Prince of Wales Island restoration efforts, during 2005, a Collection Agreement was completed with TNC under the Cooperative Funds Act of 1914 to transfer funds to the FS to help cover instream contract costs. During 2008 and 2009, TNC came to the table with private foundation funds, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funds and National Forest Foundation Funds. Because the NFF funds were not allowed to be used directly by the Forest Service, TNC contracted out the instream work those years. The instrument used was a Challenge Cost Share agreement and an Annual Operating Plan. In 2008, TNC provided $240,000 toward contracting to complete Upper Harris and Little Ben Creek instream restoration. In 2009, the Forest Service provided $94,000 to TNC and TNC provided $188,200 toward lower Harris River mainstem restoration efforts.
  • It is important to acknowledge where challenges remain, and to build efforts to overcome barriers and facilitate innovation in meeting mutual mission needs.The FS and many of our partners are faced with an increasing need to adapt to change and pressure – relying on innovation and partnerships to accomplish work.Inefficiencies such as our business processes and database systems impact not only the FS staff but also partners’ willingness to develop and maintain relationships with us.Establishing and maintaining partner relationships can be a challenge, partially because trust-building requires long—term relationships. Organizational downsizing, limited staffing capacity at the local level and within the G&A office has reduced the capability to the point where there is no longer the capacity to adequately support increased partnerships. Plus agreements take time to negotiate. Constraints such as funding availability, capacity, and business requirements impact our ability to successfully establish and leverage relationships and results.Laws and ethical guidance surrounding partnerships can be complicated and limiting, particularly as we explore relationships with for-profit entities and issues of endorsement.
  • Don’t fight the system – there are authorities we must work within and sometimes we are our worst enemy. Acknowledge the constraints we have to work within but at the same time, try to be as creative as possible. Know project details early and try to keep on top of “what’s next” Include key specialists such as G&A and contracting in the upfront planning, timeline setting, and fact finding of project development. We need to do a better job of making them a partner and actively engaged in our restoration type projects, which will provide a better understanding and clearer, more reasonable initial expectations and timelines, more buy-in to the work and eventual project success. Communicate! Early and often – with specialists, partners, other agencies, stakeholders, etc. During Harris implementation, we had to backpeddle a bit with the state and commercial fishing stakeholders to better explain our project goals and methods. We were terrible about public awareness along the way. That was our weakness and one that our partners helped with tremendously.Within all entities, there are “go-to” resources, search them out. Those “go-to” resources may be experts in finding resources, technical expertise, monitoring, etc. In the case of the Harris and other Prince of Wales Island restoration efforts, we had a great resource from Oregon with expertise in helicopter wood delivery and placement contracting. He has been a great resource for us. Our ex-Engineering Geologist “restoration” designer and contract prep guru Bob Gubernick has moved on but we continue to keep him on retainer to help with various Tongass project aspects to a small degree. We also have a psedu-contracting entity within the FS called TEAMS and we use their services to help with restoration efforts. Brian Bair, a fisheries biologist out of WA is one such specialist. They also have a suite of Engineering specialists to help with survey and design aspects.Have reasonable timeline expectations. You won’t be able to rush permits, nor contracting. Consider these realities early and plan for realistic timeframes for turnaround.Again, we have been drawing on folks from all over the place to help us on various project aspects. We also need to build and sustain capacity within the Tongass and within partner organizations and in watershed groups. Be honest – if something is not working or your contract timelines are not going to happen the way you expected them to, let them know and figure out how to deal with shortcomings early. Finally, realize that the larger watershed scale projects are relatively complex, multi-year projects from planning to implementation and beyond. They often involve multiple partners, grants, the state of AK, and local communities. All need to plan on getting started laying out expectations in the first year and give themselves adequate time to plan, permit and process all that is necessary prior to on-the-ground implementation.
  • A few resources for you to consider utilizing when considering partnershipping. I can provide you with links and even hard copies of these materials if you are interested.
  • The substantial accomplishments of the Harris River project demonstrate the integrated nature of this effort and could not have happened without the long-term commitment from a broad spectrum of public, private, and NGO partners and the overwhelming support of the communities of Prince of Wales Island. Upon completion, the Craig Ranger District had: Restored eleven miles of productive salmonid mainstem and tributarystream and enhanced access to an additional nine miles of stream and eight acres of ponds for coho salmon and steelhead trout through manipulation of natural passages,Stored or decommissioned eight miles of road to improve hydrologic connectivity and road fill stabilization to reduce sediment delivery to streams,Thinned 350 acres of riparian habitat to restore stream riparian functions and accelerate the long-term recovery of in-stream habitat and stream processes, Thinned 150 acres of upland young growth to re-establish understory vegetation and multi-storied forest structure for wildlife,Placed more than 2300 logs in the Harris River and its key tributaries to improve fish habitat, including some old-growth trees with intact root-wads,And constructed a parking lot, two trailheads, and trail system from old logging roads for interpretive use and to provide fishing access along the Harris River and GandláayHáanaa (formerly Fubar) Creek.  Effectiveness monitoring displays the success of the in-stream projects through increases in fish production and improved physical habitat conditions. Based on screw trap results from Fubar Creek Phase I project monitoring, coho salmon smoltoutmigrant numbers increased 147% and steelhead 185% from 2007 to 2009. Based on habitat capability estimates, the Harris River restoration effort will also provide a significant increase in coho salmon escapement. More importantly, the Harris River restoration provides for long-term stability in all fish stocks.  Socioeconomic benefits of this work include an active and functional partnership between the project governmental agencies, NGOs, and the local communities resulting in greater involvement in watershed stewardship by local organizations in conjunction with economic well-being. Stability and increased sustained yield of fish from the Harris River system provides a more reliable subsistence resource, which has community and cultural benefits unique to rural Alaska. On a purely economic basis, the growth of the fisheries resource has been variously estimated to bring hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in benefits to southeast Alaska through increased commercial and sports fishing, increased tourism opportunities associated with the trails and infrastructure improvements associated with the project, and other direct and indirect economic multipliers.
  • Partnering with the Forest Service: Lessons Learned by Sheila Jacobson

    1. 1. - Wading in Deep – Lessons Learned from Partnering with the Forest ServiceSheila Jacobson Fisheries Biologist USDA Forest Service Tongass National Forest Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    2. 2. Objectives• Provide insight on the steps and some of the tools used to guide you through various stages of a Partnership using Harris River Restoration partnership as an example• Acknowledge obstacles and Lessons Learned• Identify a few “go-to” resources for more information Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    3. 3. Steps to an Effective Partnership 1. Assess Capacity and Needs 2.Build Relationships 3.Develop Your Project Idea 4. Find Funds 5. Implement the Project 6. Monitor Progress 7.Evaluate Success and Acknowledge On- going Challenges 8.Document Lessons Learned 9. Share successes Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    4. 4. Develop your Project Idea• Flesh out project details early – Objectives/Expectations – Surveys – Designs/Methods – Cost Estimates• Know the order in which you desire to implement the suite of projects• Determine timeframes for• completion Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    5. 5. Find FundsGrant Applications: Working Together– Share writing and application submission tasks for mutual benefit– Share resources to implement the project and include in your application Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    6. 6. When Applying for Grants….– Know what the grant is targeting– Understand partner/agency interests and values– Learn from past records what was successful– Know exactly how the funds will be used and who will be responsible for administering– Know the full cost of the project– Know the timeline and performance period Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    7. 7. When interests align you may choose to work together in many ways…
    8. 8. Stewardship Authority• Stewardship contracting projects with private or public entities by contract or agreement• Perform services to achieve land management goals for the NF’s or public lands that meet local and rural community needs. Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    9. 9. Wyden Authority• Allows expenditure of Forest Service funds off national forest system lands• Projects must benefit the fish, wildlife, and other resources on National Forest lands within an affected watershed• May be used to improve collaborative efforts• Can partner with any entity or individual Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    10. 10. Implement and Monitor• Stick to the Agreement or Modify as Needed – Know your responsibilities – Know deliverables and due dates Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    11. 11. On-Going Challenges• Increasing need to adapt to economic changes and pressures• Inefficient business processes and complex database systems encumber local level efforts• Continued engagement and support of new and long term partners requires time and effort• Complications and constraints impact our ability to successfully establish and leverage relationships and results• Laws and ethical guidance can be complicated and limiting Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    12. 12. Lessons Learned• Don’t fight the Federal system, work within it• Know project details early• Include G&A and Contracting in upfront planning, timeline setting, and “fact finding”• Communicate!• Find the most knowledgeable resources and use them• Incorporate reasonable timeframes• Build and sustain capacity• Be honest with your partners!• Realize larger watershed scale projects are complex Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    13. 13. Celebrate Successes• Acknowledge partners and highlight their hard work!• Share stories in newsletters, news and magazine articles Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    14. 14. Resources• Partnership Guide – Designed for Forest Service employees and partners – Answers common questions about the agencys policies and procedures – Helps anticipate potential hurdles – Provides overview of commonly used agreements and a flowchart to guide users to the appropriate agreement• Partnership Resource Center website: – Contains a wealth of online resources for building vibrant partnerships and effective collaboration on and off the National Forest. Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012
    15. 15. Questions? Community-Based Watershed Management Forum Juneau, Mar 9. 2012