Commendations and Recommendations from the 2022 FIA National User Group Meeting 

September 8, 2022

SAF and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement (NCASI) recently convened the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) National User Group for its 2022 meeting, continuing an annual tradition that has lasted over twenty years. The FIA program of the USDA Forest Service provides the critical service of monitoring and developing trend information on the status of America’s forest resources. This information is made available to managers, policy makers, investors, and the public through a system of annual resource inventories that covers both public and private forest lands across the United States.  

Held virtually the week of May 23, a total of 156 attendees from across sectors attended the 2022 FIA National User Group meeting. The meeting had four key focus areas: (1) updates on FIA program components; (2) “What Was Heard at the Forest Carbon Focus Session?”; (3) The RPA Assessment; and (4) emerging priorities for the FIA program and its user community. Space was also provided for facilitators and USDA Forest Service leaders to reflect on the leading challenges, advancements, and future goals shared by both the agency and the user community.  

With the help of Rich Guldin of Guldin Forestry LLC, seven core commendations and seven core recommendations were distilled from the meeting. This list identifies critical accomplishments and areas for improvement identified throughout the week’s sessions, painting a picture of the work being done by the FIA user community across the country. 

FIA National User Group Commendations: 

  1. FIA program leaders are commended for developing new budget and accounting coding. This has enabled the user community to accurately and transparently track funds spent on the FIA program.
  2. Forest Service employees are commended who have served as detailers in FIA positions. This has been particularly challenging during the recent COVID era and while so many key positions remained vacant.
  3. The FIA Information Management team is commended for developing and releasing EVALIDator 2.0.
  4. The team led by Jim Westfall is commended for completing work on the new volume and biomass equations. Completing this project has taken 8-9 years and involved hundreds of people to collect and analyze data.
  5. FIA national leaders are commended for the rich content of the forest carbon special focus session held in March 2022. Special focus sessions are critical to assessing progress and to contributing to public policy discussions.
  6. The PNW-FIA program and the State of Alaska are commended for the progress reported on expanding inventory work in interior Alaska. The contributions of NASA to the work are also recognized as vital to the success achieved so far.
  7. The FIA regional program managers are commended for their initiative in identifying places where national consistency is lacking in data collection, compilation, analysis, and reporting. The user community encourages them to move that dialogue forward faster and broaden the dialogue by including users additional to regional representatives from state agencies.

FIA National User Group Recommendations:

  1. Workforce Capacity is a Critical Issue. A shortage of willing and qualified candidates has emerged over the past three years, hindering field data collection and timely accomplishment of core FIA objectives. 
  2. Develop a New FIA Strategic Plan. The current FIA strategic plan developed in 2014 is out-of-date and the user community wants to be involved from the beginning of the next strategic planning process.  
  3. Plan the Rollout of the New Volume Equations. The rollout of the updated volume estimation equations and other changes to the FIA database should be carefully planned to achieve widespread awareness across the entire FIA national user community. 
  4. Improved Long-Term Projection Models Are Needed. The research and development mission area should accelerate research on developing long-term projection or simulation models (50+ years) of the effects of climate change and management activities on stand-level and landscape-level forest conditions. 
  5. Better Below-Ground Carbon Data Are Essential. Presently, soil sampling is inconsistent across regional programs and is too sparse in spatial coverage.  
  6. Review How FIA is Implementing Federal Policies on Privacy of Survey Participants. The user community recognizes the continuing tension between FIA data users who want detailed geolocation information and protecting the privacy of private landowners who allow FIA field crews access to their property. 
  7. Report Progress on Implementing Recommendations from Previous Users Group Meetings. At the next national users group meeting, one presentation should review the progress made in implementing the recommendations made over the past five years. 

A program summary was published this month and can be downloaded or accessed through SAF’s Advocacy and Outreach webpage under the section titled “National User Group Meetings.” The program summary includes brief descriptions of oral presentations and links to videos, a synthesis of small-group dialogues with attendees elaborating on user-community needs, as well as a more detailed account of the recommendations listed above.  
Featured in the program summary and available to watch through YouTube are exciting presentations from speakers like Grant Domke of the USDA Forest Service and Tamara Greenstone Alefaio of the Micronesia Conservation Trust. Domke discusses the importance of expanded soil carbon research and new sampling methodologies, while Alefaio discusses the FIA-supported conservation efforts underway across Micronesia’s terrestrial ecosystems. Go check out the great work showcased by these researchers and share them with colleagues! 
We are grateful to the speakers and attendees for the important work they’re doing to shape and advance the sustainable monitoring and management of the nation’s forest resources. SAF and NCASI look forward to continuing their partnership in organizing and convening user group meetings focused on improving the FIA program.  

Download and share the program summary.