Consulting Center Client

USDA Forest Service Research and Development

MBA Consulting Center Project / Fall 2011

Student Team

Manfei Lau (team lead), Roger Hom, Wignaesh Sivan

Field Study Advisor

Mark Lubell, Director, Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, UC Davis

The Company

The Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, manages 193 million acres of forests and grasslands across the nation. The Forest Service Research and Development (FSRD) has been part of the Forest Service’s mission since the agency’s inception in 1905. The researchers work independently and with a range of partners, including other agencies, academia, nonprofit groups and industry to provide land managers the scientifically defensible information necessary to make credible land management decisions.

The system of Experimental Forests and Ranges (EFR) provides a wealth of records and knowledge about how forest and rangelands function, and environmental change in natural and managed forest and rangeland ecosystems across the U.S. The present system of 80 EFRs has been established progressively since 1908; many sites are more than 50 years old. The system provides places for long-term science and management studies of public land administered by the Forest Service or some state or private land. This network includes more than 500,000 acres of land and individual sites range from 50–50,000 acres in size.

The Project

The FSRD is developing a comprehensive strategic business plan for the 80 EFRs across the nation. The EFRs are managed by five research stations, along with the International Institute of Tropical Forestry, based on geographical locations. The five research stations are Northern Research Station, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Rocky Mountain Research Station and Southern Research Station. Each manages between two and 23 EFRs.  

The strategic business plan is designed to establish a more coordinated structure throughout the EFR system to promote research efficiency possible and better enable the network of sites to do coordinated projects. Specifically, the client requested the GSM consulting team to provide recommendations (a) to improve the current structure to better manage the EFRs and (b) strategies to develop and cultivate collaborative partnerships for the EFRs.

To accomplish these goals, the team analyzed data provided by the client, interviewed various Forest Service employees, obtained advice from GSM professors and visited the Sagehen EFR near Truckee, Calif.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The team concluded that the Forest Service Research and Development could have better managed the EFRs, and made the following recommendations:

  • Revise cost structure at the research stations to account for revenue and expenditures related to the individual EFRs.
  • Establish an EFR-wide business development position to help train and educate site managers on strategies for running an effective and successful EFR.
  • Establish a data management team to categorize data from previous years and employ standards for data collection moving forward.
  • Establish an Outreach Development Team and cultivate additional partnerships.
  • Pursue partnerships at both the research station and EFR levels. 
  • Track each EFR’s partners and how much outside funding each EFR receives.