Laura Gerhardt edited this page Aug 27, 2018 · 13 revisions

United States Forest Service Online Permitting

FS ePermits Badge


This repo contains documentation describing the United States Forest Service (USFS) Open Forest project. It is intended to be a place where project participants can keep track of the overall project goals, the decision framework, progress to date and learnings as we work. It is also intended to be a project 'homepage' where members can access important and up-to-date project information that exists somewhere else.

The Product

United States Forest Service Online Demonstration Youtube Link


As the first two-way interaction-focused Forest Service online application, Open Forest will strengthen the connection between the public and the National Forests. The application will broaden and increase the public’s responsible access to public lands through online availability; a predictable, responsive and friendly experience; and reduced administrative burden. These enhancements will drive increased customer satisfaction and quality of public engagement.

The Forest Service will use agile development methods and modular procurements to develop the application, ensuring an adaptive process that responds to emergent user needs and changing requirements.

The Problem We're Solving

Existing administrative systems restrict, rather than facilitate, responsible use of the forest, and reduce the time spent on stewardship-oriented business and engaging Forest users. These processes and systems result in sub-optimal customer satisfaction, less business, and less of a connection between people and their environment. We aim to help build an agency culture that welcomes the public consistently (across units, despite being decentralized), focuses on customer service that connects people to the land (over trying to protect the land from them), and is open to change.

Our Hypothesis

From a product perspective, we believe that by digitizing the permitting processes for the public, we will allow Forest Service staff to focus on their primary job, and help correct the current overemphasis on restriction rather than facilitation. And, we believe that this will lead to better customer satisfaction and more permits being issued.

In terms of process, we want to move to a modular approach to procurement, emphasizing user centered design, agile product development, and modern devOps practices. This approach will allow us to make incremental improvements, ensure value is being delivered every step of the way, more easily adapt to changing requirements, and ensure long-term success by building a flexible and maintainable product.


Project goals:

  • Demonstrate effectiveness of and build capacity for modular contracting within the Forest Service
  • Build product ownership within the FS
  • Build capacity to manage modern digital service projects with internal or contracted resources

Product goals:

  • Provide the public with more flexible and online options for obtaining permits to use their public lands
  • Provide faster, more usable service to the public
  • Eliminate doubt and uncertainty during the permitting process
  • Standardize aspects of the permitting program across forests, resulting in an experience that is perceived as more fair
  • Reduce the workload for employees involved in the permitting process, so they can spend their time better serving the public, the land, and the agency
  • Drive related business process improvements

Key Stakeholders and User Groups

Broadly speaking, the key stakeholder groups are:

  • USFS leadership / USFS CIO/ USFS CFO / USFS Natural Resource Manager operations
  • USDA stakeholders
  • Outfitter and Guides community (e.g

Note: Congress has expressed interest in increased recreational activities on public land

Specific user groups are identified on a per-module basis:

Key user groups / Special uses / Outside the Forest Service: School groups and higher education organizations; Outfitters and guides; Non-profits; Other interested parties

Key user groups / Special uses / Inside the Forest Service: Special use administrators; Decision makers involved in approving permits

Key user groups / Christmas trees: Front office staff: front liners, collection officers; Back office staff: program coordinators, resource specialists, timber management; Vendors: Ace Hardware, local chambers of commerce, etc.; General Public: families who celebrate Christmas, groups (church groups, etc), outdoor enthusiasts

Project Risks

Risks Mitigation
Lack of standard business practices across forests Using a pilot model to onboard forests in small cohorts
The depth of the vendor pool available that understands agile delivery and can do modular procurement might be limited Use of Agile BPA; developing new ways to quickly assess agile delivery knowledge of potential vendors
Lack of cloud hosting options within USDA Using
Existing user group management systems do not fully meet system needs for administrative authorization and user role policies Building our own lightweight interim authorization system, with expectation that a more sustainable option will emerge, in conjunction with USDA ICAM eAuth integration for Forest Service staff.
Limited number of FS staff dedicated to the project
Lack of an ATO means we are not yet in production and are not able to iterate based on feedback from active users Sprintly usability testing on in-development module
Modular approach means previously developed modules are not actively maintained Rotating between modules - i.e. Special Use, then Christmas trees, then back to Special Use, then back to Christmas trees
There are parallel permitting projects happening in other areas of NRM and BLM (this is both a risk and an opportunity) Setting up demos and conversations with project teams
Without updates to the POSS, the transfer of funds to individual forests will have to be manual and would therefore create risk of inaccurate or non-timely reimbursement Work with USFS CFO's office to make necessary updates

Project code repositories, sites, RFQs, and RFIs

We welcome you to explore, make suggestions, and contribute to our code.

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