Document Name: Natural Resource Management (7 of 23)
Date: 09/01/94
Owner: National Performance Review
Title: Standards for Our Customers: Natural Resource Management (7 of 23)

Author: Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review

Date: September, 1994


CUSTOMER GROUP: Natural Resource Management


The Snake River flows through a broad lava plain in a sinuous canyon,

200 feet deep. The surrounding lands have expansive panoramas typical

of the basin and range province of southeastern Idaho. The landscape

at the American Falls Reservoir is dominated by water and sky, and

most views extend for miles in all directions. The bottomlands at the

northeast end of the reservoir are covered with a rich mosaic of

wetland grasses, shrubs, and trees, where masses of waterfowl and

shorebirds can be seen at certain times of the year.

But the demands of man and his machines are eroding this idyllic

tableau. Areas of disturbance are visible at several locations around

the reservoir. Uncontrolled access by off-road recreational vehicles

has caused random and pervasive scarring of the ground cover. Some

upland areas have been disturbed, and invasive weeds have replaced

native vegetation.

About half of the reservoir shoreline is within the Fort Hall Indian

Reservation of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. The area contains

traditional tribal cultural sites and other archaeological and

historic sites, some dating back as far as 10,000 years. These sites

are also being damaged by off-road vehicles.

The Interior Department's Bureau of Reclamation, which built American

Falls Dam in 1927, recognized the need to develop a resource

management plan for American Falls that protected the environ-ment

from further damage but took into account the interests of the

disparate groups of people who use the land. Bureau officials called

together a focus group of representatives from farms, irrigation

districts, environmental groups, state and local governments,

Shoshone-Bannock tribes, state universities, and private

organizations. In September 1994, this group will present its plan

for using the dam in a responsible manner.

Resolving conflicts, reconciling compet-ing interests, and making the

most of finite resources -- these are the guiding words of the new

Bureau of Reclamation, an organization that is reinventing itself in

the face of rapid change. The American Falls example illustrates the

bureau's shift from the role of dam-builder to that of resource


Reclamation has a big job to do; it is the largest wholesale supplier

of water in the 17 western states, delivering 10 trillion gallons of

water annually for agricultural, municipal, industrial, and domestic

uses. Reclamation is the nation's sixth largest electric utility with

52 power plants in operation. In addition, its multi-purpose projects

control floods, promote recreational use, and protect fish and


After consulting with front-line employees and customers, the bureau

has developed a set of guiding principles that reflect its new

mission. These principles, in turn, will lead to a published set of

customer service standards in fiscal year 1995.

Stewardship of Natural Resources


Besides the Bureau of Reclamation, other departments and agencies

have major roles in managing and conserving the nation's lands and

natural resources. Key agencies are the Forest Service in the

Department of Agriculture; the Bureau of Land Manage-ment, the

National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Minerals

Manage-ment Service, all in the Department of the Interior; and the

Army Corps of Engineers.


Highlights from Customer Service Standards:

Bureau of Reclamation

Reclamation has not yet completed a set of customer service

standards. However, it has developed a set of guiding principles that

will lead to published standards in fiscal year 1995. The Bureau of

Reclamation's principles of customer service are as follows:

--- We will always treat our customers with courtesy and respect.

--- We will promptly answer our customers' questions with accurate,

objective information.

--- We will resolve our customers' needs through single-point contact

whenever possible -- our customers will not receive the runaround.

--- We will provide educational information to our customers about

the resources we manage, their use, and the laws and regulations

governing their use.

--- We will use language that our customers can easily understand.

--- We will ask for and consider our customers' ideas about agency

plans, programs, and services.

--- We will promptly respond to our customers' suggestions, concerns,

and complaints.


Stewardship means managing the nation's resources to benefit the

common good. In this context, agencies' definition of their customers

certainly includes the people who visit and use the national forests,

public lands, and water recreation areas (see section on "Travelers,

Tourists, and Outdoor Enthusiasts"). Relevant customer service

standards include clean facilities and courteous service. But the

agencies also recognize that they must define customers in broader

terms, to include all Americans as the customer-owners of the

resources. The American people want more of a say in what gets done

with public lands and bodies of water. The issues are complex when

all the customers' views are put on the table.

The Forest Service faces the issues head-on. The agency's basic

promise is to keep the national forests and grasslands healthy,

diverse, and productive for all Americans. This year, the Forest

Service has held town hall meetings across the United States and

conducted focus groups, local forest planning meetings, and panel

discussions. It even created customer group networks of all

interested parties and conducted a national public opinion poll. The

agency is committed to letting all its customers help build a better

Forest Service for the future.

The Bureau of Land Management controls 270 million acres -- about an

eighth of all the land in the United States. It also looks after

another 570 million acres of federal mineral resources. Most of the

land administered by the Bureau of Land Management is located in the

western United States and are dominated by extensive grasslands, high

mountains, and deserts. The agency's concern for the environment is

apparent in its mission statement: "It is the mission of the Bureau

of Land Management to sustain the health of the public lands for

present and future generations. In carrying out our mission, our aim

is to serve you."


Highlights from Customer Service Standards:

Bureau of Land Management

BLM's complete set of standards for all its business areas is in

Appendix B. Among other things, the agency promises always to:

--- Give you an answer within five work days if you write or call for

a permit.

--- Give you an answer within 30 minutes if you stop by for

information or for permission to camp or use the trails and other


--- Tell you if we can't give you an answer right away and tell you

who will respond to your request and when.


The bureau is finding out what its customers want, setting standards

of service delivery that meet customer needs, and establishing

benchmarks equal to the best in business. It is using a variety of

techniques to gauge customer desires: questionnaires, focus groups,

comment cards, complaint systems, and suggestions from front-line

employees. The bureau's principles of public service include

accuracy, courtesy, promptness, and choice.

Reinvention Closes a Gap


Last year, the Bonneville Power Adminis-tration, the largest power

distributor in the Northwest, looked at the future and found a

problem. The combination of new competitors in the wholesale power

market, along with Bonneville's growing costs, revealed a half-

billion dollar gap between projected revenues and expenses.

Bonneville is determined not to raise rates; if it does, utility

companies may stop buying electricity from Bonneville, and its other

main customers, aluminum smelters (with their 10,000 jobs), may go

out of business.

Bonneville joined forces with its customers and is well on the way to

success. Together they have developed and are implementing a business

plan that gives customers new choices, like buying cheaper but less

dependable power; encourages conservation by charging more for

increased usage; and streamlines the Bonneville organization by

nearly 800 jobs.


Your Standards

These agencies and offices are publishing customer service standards

for natural resource management. The standards appear in the "Natural

Resource Management" section of Appendix B.

Department of Agriculture

Forest Service

Department of Defense

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Department of Energy

Energy Resources

Department of the Interior

Bureau of Indian Affairs

Bureau of Land Management

Bureau of Reclamation

Minerals Management Service

National Park Service

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