Chad Kooistra, Emily Sinkular, Courtney Schultz, August 2021
RESEARCH BRIEF #38
Landscape scale collaborative restoration processes can increase project complexity and efficiency.
Collaborative programs have the potential to leverage significant funding to meet shared objectives.
In this research article, authors present background and updated information on the US Forest Service’s (USFS) Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP). The article provides updates on associated laws and USFS policies, findings from a systematic review of new CFLRP proposals considered for funding in the US federal fiscal year (FY) 2020, and context related to broad trends USFS restoration policy.
The intent of the CFLRP is to support collaborative, science-based forest restoration, reduce fire management costs and risk of uncharacteristic wildfire through the reestablishment of appropriate fire regimes, and to support local economies and forest industry. The CFLRP involves the long-term prioritization, implementation of forest restoration and wildfire mitigation activities, and monitoring of large landscapes. Important and innovative attributes of this program include multiyear funding commitments and required collaboration with nonfederal partners. Particularly unique about this program is that National Forests are required to work in a structured manner with established collaborative groups which include diverse interests and resources, and that the collaborative groups are not managed by the USFS.
Established through Title IV of the Omnibus Public Lands Act of 2009, the CFLRP authorized the US Secretary of Agriculture to request up to $40 million annually for FYs 2010-2019. Supporting legislation require that CFLRP funds may only be used for up to 50% of restoration and monitoring costs, with the rest to come from local, regional, or National Forests’ budgets, partner funding or in-kind contributions, and stewardship contracts and agreements. Projects are encouraged to leverage resources to better align restoration goals on USFS lands with adjacent non-USFS lands to support local economic and industry development.
Funds were competitively awarded for up to 2 new projects per year, per USFS region, following requests for proposals in FYs 2010 and 2020. Proposed projects could request up to $4 million annually for up to 10 years, and were required to include a landscape of at least 50,000 acres. As of 2019, 23 CFLRP projects have been funded across the continental US. Five- and -10 year reports provide accomplishment information for these funded projects and highlight support for the program (see the five-year report HERE, and the 10-year report HERE) including, nearly $2 billion in local labor income, $470 million leveraged through partner funding and in-kind contributions, and an average of 5400 jobs supported annually.
A growing body of research conducted on some of the CFLRP projects has shown associated restoration projects to be more complex (number of unique activities/number of objectives accomplished) and more efficiently planned (ratio of treated acres to number of planning days) than non-CFLRP projects. Research on perceived successes of the program suggests that CFLRP projects are planned at larger scales, foster increased trust among partners, and result in decreased litigation and conflict, while increasing capacity to accomplish restoration work.
Following reauthorization for FYs 2019-2023 with the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, another CFLRP application process was initiated by the USFS for up to 10 years of funding in FY 2020, and existing CFLRP projects funded in 2010 were eligible to apply for extensions of up to 10 years. In all, USFS Regional Offices reviewed 40 proposals and advanced 22 for further consideration. Of these, the CFLRP Advisory Committee recommended funding one project in FY 2020, extending funding for two existing CFLRP projects, and funding of ten other CFLRP projects in FY 2021 depending on available funds.
Considering the 22 proposals which advanced, a total of $664 million was requested over a ten-year period, with proposals ranging from $5.8 to $43.5 million. The required partner matching contributions (funds and in-kind) exceeded $425 million, ranging from $3.3 to $52.6 million per proposed project, and project landscapes ranged from 97,109 to 13 million acres (11 of which spanned multiple National Forests).
Findings from the systematic review of the FY 2020 CFLRP proposals indicate a significant demand and opportunity for such projects, which is consistent with recent USFS emphasis on landscape-scale, collaborative forest restoration. However, funding uncertainties, the pending expiration of the program in 2023, and changes in the USFS budget structure, will affect the ability of the newly funded projects to plan for the future. Recurring across all of the proposed new projects and extensions, were challenges and opportunities related to forest industry capacity to support project goals, especially regarding industry’s need for reliable supplies of material, and increased support for infrastructure for utilization of diverse types of forest products. Additionally, the review highlights the importance of continuing to monitor and evaluate 1) demand for CFLRP, 2) the social, economic, and ecological outcomes of CFLRP projects and processes/relationships involved in planning and implementing projects, and 3) different approaches to implementing CFLRP projects and integrating them with other funding sources, mechanisms and authorities, and other planning processes across agencies and jurisdictions.