This authorization allows the Forest Service to treat a greater amount of the National Forests by improving efficiency through the use of “bundled” contracts and the treatment of vegetation at a landscape scale. We are finding that successful stewardship projects are the direct result of good community collaboration. The agency's stewardship contracting successes are being shared with internal and external stakeholders on several websites, and at presentations and training sessions around the country.
In FY 2003, 50 contracts and agreements were awarded to treat 14,119 acres, and in FY 2004, 64 stewardship contracts and agreements were awarded to treat 41,834 acres. We anticipate the use of this tool will increase with the release, in June and October 2004, of four integrated resource contracts specifically designed for stewardship contracting, and with the authorization of the Tribal Forest Protection Act in July 2004. As a result of the four workshops held with the Tribes on stewardship contracting and the Tribal Forest Protection Act we are receiving proposals to treat agency lands adjacent to Tribal lands under the Tribal Forest Protection Act.
In order to gauge our effectiveness in the use of this tool, the agency sent out a questionnaire to all nine regions of the Forest Service and conducted interviews with seventy-four internal and external stakeholders in September 2004. A number of issues surfaced, including the need for training and guidance on the use of the four integrated resource contracts.
The contracting officer on the Eldorado National Forest offered the following insight and lessons learned on some of the efficiencies of stewardship contracting:
- Using an integrated resource contract saves preparation time by preparing only one integrated resource contract versus preparing a both a timber and service contract. The first integrated resource contract took longer to complete, but now they are just as fast to complete as a standard contract.
- Integrated resource contracts are more efficient and cost effective for the national forest to use, as they require fewer appropriated funds since they are exchanging goods for services.
- Foresters are seeing bid prices more favorable to the government because contractors are realizing that completing the service and timber work at the same time is more efficient, enabling them to complete contracts more quickly.
- Competition for stewardship contracts is increasing as contractors become more familiar with bidding on integrated resource contracts.
Focus on Collaboration
Collaboration is an integral part of stewardship contracting. The agency is committed to teaching by example with lessons learned about collaboration and community involvement. The Forest Service will continue to add resources and lessons learned to this website. The Forest Service has used an independent third party to monitor and evaluate the agency's successes and failures in stewardship contracting since 2000. The feedback from the third party is assisting the agency in refining policy and handbook direction for stewardship contracting and how the agency interacts with and engages local communities.
GAO (General Accounting Office) Survey
In FY 2004, the GAO completed a survey of stewardship contracting. The GAO recommended that the Forest Service and BLM provide additional guidance on community involvement. In response to GAO's recommendations, the Forest Service will provide guidance on the basic principles and practices of collaboration in the Renewable Resources Handbook (FSH 2409.19, Chapter 60). The Forest Service has hired a contractor to prepare collaboration training materials and teach five classes throughout the country on effective collaboration under stewardship contracting. Forest Service managers and key community members will be invited to participate in the training so that they may share tools and experiences in collaboration back in their communities.