Utah

Utah

Overview

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue joined Utah Governor Gary Herbert in May 2019 to sign the Utah Agreement for Shared Stewardship (Agreement) between the State of Utah (State) and the USDA Forest Service Region 4 (Forest Service).

At the core of the Agreement are six jointly developed commitments by the State and the Forest Service. These mutual commitments adapt the Forest Service’s “Toward Shared Stewardship Across Landscapes: An Outcome-Based Investment Strategy” (Strategy) to Utah’s unique conditions and will guide collective actions. Together, the State and the Forest Service are committed to:

  1. Existing partnerships, programs, and initiatives that have been successful in Utah;
  2. Working together to identify and map shared priorities for protecting at-risk communities and watersheds across all lands;
  3. Making joint decisions and sharing resources for immediate and ongoing work in priority areas;
  4. Engaging local communities in dialogue and learning about active management and desired landscape-scale outcomes, including capacity building and economic development opportunities;
  5. Shared planning efforts, including the integration of Utah’s Forest Action Plan (FAP) and the Forest Service’s Five-Year Vegetation Management Plans; and
  6. Co-managing wildfire risks and supporting each other in decisions that they have made together.

The content on this webpage was drafted and finalized in March 2020​. Return to WFLC shared stewardship landing page

Development

Before crafting the Agreement, State and Forest Service leadership sought to align on several overarching priorities that would embody shared stewardship in Utah. They agreed that protecting at-risk communities and watersheds across all lands from unwanted fire were the two core land management needs their agencies would focus efforts on. Those two priorities were later embedded in the Agreement’s second joint commitment.

Once leaders coalesced around priorities, staff teams within the State and the Forest Service commenced conversations and standing meetings focused on creating real, actionable commitments their agencies could mutually support. The agencies deliberately crafted their commitments in an agreement format instead of a Memorandum of Understanding or similar document. For them, an agreement conveyed their dedication to carrying out the six mutual commitments.

Implementation

After signing the Agreement, the State and the Forest Service explored opportunities to spur their shared stewardship commitments into action. They developed an Action Plan comprising five elements:

  1. Accelerate planning;
  2. Increase the pace of implementation;
  3. Focus on economic development;
  4. Provide more training; and
  5. Convene stakeholders and leverage their interests.

Both agencies are investing financial resources to implement activities connected to the Agreement. In fiscal year 2019, the Utah state legislature invested $2 million for work under the Agreement and the Forest Service matched those dollars. The State’s existing Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) was utilized to implement shared stewardship projects on the ground. The State and the Forest Service have committed to an initial 4-year investment strategy, subject to state and federal appropriations, that invests $6.5 million in state funding and $14 million in Forest Service funding.

Data 

The State and the Forest Service undertook a joint mapping project to identify shared priority landscapes that meet the Agreement’s #2 commitment to protect at-risk communities and watersheds across all lands.

Three criteria were utilized in the mapping project to identify priority landscapes:

  1. Drinking water importance;
  2. Strategic protection areas (i.e. values at risk); and
  3. Hazardous fuels.

The joint project, and the resulting prioritized landscapes, will inform the State’s update of the Utah FAP. Further, the State foresees the new data layers identified from the project being integrated into their Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (UWRAP).

Partnerships, Programs, and Initiatives

When discussions about a shared stewardship agreement first commenced, it was commented that the agencies and their partners in Utah already had a long successful history of cooperation. Shared stewardship was viewed as a way to elevate those existing partnerships, strengthen coordination across jurisdictional boundaries, and advance landscape-scale efforts.

The Agreement captures the past and ongoing programs and initiatives that have been successful in Utah including the Catastrophic Wildfire Reduction Strategy (CatFire), the Utah WRI, UWRAP, Forest Stewardship, Landscape-scale Restoration, and the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. Leaders agree these programs and initiatives created the foundation for shared stewardship in Utah and have helped the agencies mobilize quickly. It is also why the Agreement’s #1 joint commitment is the agencies' continued support to their existing framework of partners, programs, and initiatives.

Element #5 of Utah’s Action Plan is to convene stakeholders and leverage their interests. To achieve this, the State and the Forest Service will bring together stakeholders and partners to develop informed plans for forest management projects that meet Utah’s shared stewardship goals. The agencies are also exploring new methods and opportunities to enhance their cooperation with partners. The State and the Forest Service have jointly participated in training to build convening skills that will be used to facilitate crucial dialogue surrounding shared stewardship implementation.

Tips for WFLC Members

State and Forest Service leaders have played an instrumental role in shared stewardship activities in Utah. In the beginning leaders sought alignment in their agencies' approach and worked to develop a mutually supported vision of how they wanted to implement the Strategy. Leaders maintained unified messaging to their staffs’ and external partners, and together prioritized shared stewardship as an avenue to complete additional work on the ground.

Relationships, established trust, and having a safe space between agencies and partners are critical to the success of shared stewardship. Throughout conversations when building the Agreement and subsequent actions responding to it, the State and the Forest Service relied on their strong, trusting partnership.

The agencies operationalized their new shared stewardship work by hiring and / or identifying staff members with dedicated responsibilities. The State hired a Shared Stewardship Coordinator and the Forest Service identified the Utah State Liaison as a core shared stewardship team member. For Utah, having assigned state and federal staff members quickly progressed the Agreement and implementation activities forward. Dedicated staff are also developing operational norms and organizational direction for the State and the Forest Service to continue in their shared stewardship discussions and actions.

The agencies have hired third party facilitators to assist with certain shared stewardship activities. Specifically, facilitators are helping the State and the Forest Service convene stakeholders and identify performance measures for shared stewardship in Utah.

Additional tips for WFLC members to consider that Utah benefited from include:

  • Be flexible and allow for ideas, conversations, developing norms, etc. to occur organically;
  • Consider establishing small dedicated shared stewardship teams with advisory role capacity within state forestry agencies and Forest Service regions;
  • Maintain a shared stewardship project tracking log;
  • Issue weekly updates on shared stewardship activities;
  • Establish standing leadership calls; and
  • Look beyond the signing of a shared stewardship agreement to solidify the concept as a cultural norm. The signing of an agreement should not be the end goal, it is the work and actions that follow.

Learn More

To learn more about shared stewardship in Utah, please contact the State and Forest Service contacts listed below:

Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, Fire, and State Lands
Laura Ault
Utah Shared Stewardship Coordinator
1594 W. North Temple, Suite 3520
Salt Lake City, UT 84116
801-550-7754
lauraault@utah.gov
www.ffsl.utah.gov

USDA Forest Service Region 4
Tyler Ashcroft
Shared Stewardship Coordinator
324 24th Street
Ogden, UT 84401
801-625-5354
tyler.ashcroft@usda.gov
www.fs.usda.gov/r4