Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Understanding Good Neighbor Authority

The Cohesive Strategy promotes the use of all the tools in the toolbox to make progress toward resilient landscapes. The Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) is one such tool. The GNA is intended to expand limited federal capacity to implement and plan forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration projects by facilitating partnerships with state agencies. The authority allows a state to perform authorized restoration services on federal land. Additionally, the authority allows a state agency to administer timber sales on federal land, and for a federal agency to use the value of wood products to purchase restoration services, including planning, from state agencies.

Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) recently released their review of the current status of GNA use in six western states to clarify how it's being used and to inform other states and National Forests about approaches that me be appropriate for their local conditions. The report also shares current policy and guidance on GNA and highlights early efforts in the six states.  

  • Federal and state agency staff embraced a vision of cross boundary cooperation, and viewed GNA as one ofmany pathways to develop interagency relationships.
  • Successful use of GNA required strong partnerships between state and federal agencies.
  • Project activities varied, but most projects were focused on vegetation management.
  • States learned from each other, decreasing the time required to start using the new authority.
  • Most states entered into projects with completed NEPA analysis.
  • Most states required up-front funding to start projects using GNA.
  • Some states anticipated the possibility of “self-sustaining” programs that use the value of timber to pay for future sale administration, contract planning, and restoration work. State and federal partners also developed agree- ment structures that can accommodate ongoing programs of work beyond a single project.
  • The role of collaboration with non-agency partners is not mandated by statute and remains uncertain. All states reported informing collaboratives of GNA projects to some extent.
  • Interviewees, including federal employees, reported some resistance to utilizing the new authority among federalagency staff.

  • It remains to be seen if GNA projects are additive to baseline accomplishments and outputs, with some interviewees stating that GNA will help federal agencies meet rising timber volume and restoration targets.
  • Use of GNA in each state context is still evolving and may necessarily look different across various states and ecosystems.
  • State agency staff capacity cannot increase immediately. State agencies seem to need certainty in the availability of work in order to hire new staff to accomplish GNA projects.
  • The role of forest collaboratives in GNA projects will be determined on a voluntary basis by individual states, as there is no requirement to collaborate in the statute. None of the states we examined have formalized a process for collaborative engagement.
  • Although interim federal directives state that use of program income must be determined up front in the agreement, in practice, state and federal agencies refined how they use program income over time and how partners provided input on these decisions.
  • Agreements can last ten years at most, which poses a problem for the long term use of program income and the development of sustained state involvement.
  • GNA is still a relatively new tool and will continue to evolve as different states find creative ways to make use of it in local contexts.

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