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Evaluation of the Forest Disturbances Science and Applications Sub-program

Table of Contents

Acronyms and Abbreviations

Executive Summary

Introduction

This report presents the findings, conclusions, and recommendations of the evaluation of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) Forest Disturbances Science and Applications (Forest Disturbances) sub-program. The sub-program is administered by NRCan’s Canadian Forest Service (CFS). This evaluation covers the period from 2010-11 to 2014-15 and NRCan expenditures of approximately $99 million.

The evaluation was conducted using a theory-based approach and multiple lines of evidence. Theory-based evaluations identify, and then examine, the results you would expect to see at various steps as the program works to successfully achieve expected outcomes (i.e., a results chain). To this end, a logic model and results chain were developed for this evaluation and used as the framework to assess and report on the contribution of the sub-program to observed results.

The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the relevance and performance (i.e., effectiveness, efficiency and economy) of the Forest Disturbances sub-program, as required by the Treasury Board of Canada’s Policy on Evaluation (2009), which was in force at the time this evaluation started.Footnote 1To assess these issues, the evaluation used a mix of both qualitative and quantitative methods. These methods included: a review of relevant documents; a review of literature from forest stakeholder groups and research organizations; a survey of sub-program end-users and collaborators (n=224, response rate of approximately 24%); case studies of eight priority activity areas, which included 70 stakeholder interviews, document and literature reviews; interviews with 10 external collaborators and users and six internal managers and staff; and a bibliometric analysis.

Sub-program Overview

The objective of the Forest Disturbances sub-program is to minimize the negative economic, environmental, and public safety impacts of forest disturbances caused by native and invasive alien pests, wildfire, and climate change. To do this, the sub-program conducts research and analysis, provides advice to stakeholders, and facilitates national and international collaboration among forest sector stakeholders. Research and analysis is carried out at five CFS research centres located across the countryFootnote 2 and at headquarters in the National Capital Region. This research and analysis is often conducted in collaboration with provincial, academic, and industry partners.

Activities carried out by the sub-program fall under four specific, but inter-related, large-scale national project areas. These project areas are: (1) Integrated (Native) Pest Management (IPM); (2) Forest Invasive Alien Species (FIAS); (3) Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCIA); and (4) Provision of science-based information and technology in support of the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy (FIRE).

Evaluation Findings: Relevance

The evaluation identified an ongoing need for scientific knowledge and tools to help forest sector stakeholders assess and respond to forest disturbances as well as for collaboration among stakeholders in order to leverage resources and expertise across jurisdictions and other organizations to address forest disturbances issues from a national perspective. Although the management of forests generally falls under provincial/territorial jurisdiction as owners of the majority of the resource, the evaluation confirmed that, given its mandate, NRCan has a legitimate role to play in conducting research, providing advice, and collaborating and facilitating cooperation amongst all stakeholders. It also confirmed that the sub-program aligns with NRCan’s strategic outcomes and Government of Canada priorities.

Evaluation Findings: Performance (Effectiveness)

The evaluation confirmed that the Forest Disturbances sub-program is making progress towards achieving its intended immediate-level outcomes: (1) forest sector players are using CFS outputs to monitor, detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances; and (2) forest sector players work collaboratively nationally and internationally to address emerging disturbances issues related to Canada’s forest resources. Collaboration with stakeholders was a key factor facilitating the achievement of these outcomes. Other factors impacting the achievement of these outcomes are: the ability of stakeholders (particularly CFS and provincial/territorial governments) to participate in key forums; level of awareness of potential issues or solutions among stakeholders and key user groups; and capacity of stakeholders to use CFS-produced outputs.

The evaluation also identified some evidence that the sub-program is making progress towards its intended intermediate outcome: forest disturbances are managed more effectively in Canada through improved (and coordinated as appropriate) policies, practices and regulations. Specifically, there is evidence that CFS products and advice have influenced the development of stakeholder policies and practices intended to improve their ability to manage forest disturbances more effectively, however it was not possible to fully assess the extent to which these have, in turn, improved the effective management of forest disturbances. The evaluation was unable to assess the impact of the sub-program relative to its ultimate outcome: threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource and associated costs due to forest disturbances are mitigated across Canada. Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest the sub-program can reasonably be expected to contribute to this ultimate outcome over the longer-term.

Evaluation Findings: Performance (Efficiency and Economy)

The evaluation identified that the sub-program employs practices that facilitate the efficient and economic production of outputs and achievement of, or contribution to, intended outcomes. A key strength is its high level of collaboration with other organizations, which reduces duplication of effort, and facilitates the sharing of financial and intellectual resources as well as the dissemination and uptake of outputs.

Moreover, the sub-program identifies stakeholder needs through discussions at conferences and other fora, as well as directly by CFS researchers through their research and networking activities. However, the evaluation found that the primary way in which these needs are identified is through ad hoc, often informal, client requests. This introduces the risk that the sub-program will focus its priorities primarily on addressing client-specific requests (which are generally funded, or co-funded, by the client) rather than also prioritizing long-term, more strategic research of national interest in the area of forest disturbances. Nevertheless, the evaluation revealed that the sub-program was effective at reaching and engaging relevant stakeholders when identifying stakeholder needs.

While the sub-program was generally found to be responding effectively to the needs of stakeholders, some potential opportunities to better meet stakeholder needs were identified, including: improving alignment between CFS priorities and the specific needs of different regions; increasing CFS resources or research and/or conducting research in specific areas (such as FIRE); enhancing collaboration among stakeholders in key areas (particularly pests and climate change); and improving or updating key datasets and decision support tools. Although the evaluation revealed that the sub-program seems to be partnering with the right groups, it identified a potential opportunity, particularly in the area of pests, for CFS to revisit whether it is partnering with the most appropriate groups to ensure the most effective, efficient and economic production of outputs and contribution to intended outcomes.

The evaluation confirmed the sub-program is producing numerous, high-quality outputs; however, it found that the sub-program does not have a strategy in place for consistently and systematically monitoring and reporting on performance. As a result, it is difficult for the sub-program to determine the extent to which planned outputs are produced, monitor and report on progress toward intended outcomes, and correct course as necessary to improve program delivery.

Conclusions

The Forest Disturbances sub-program is responding to an ongoing need for scientific knowledge, tools, and advice that is required to help stakeholders assess and respond to the risks associated with forest disturbances related to pests, fire, and climate change. It also responds to an identified need for collaboration among forest sector stakeholders in order to leverage resources and expertise, and share information. The evaluation found the sub-program is playing a legitimate and appropriate role related to these needs. It also confirmed that the sub-program aligns with NRCan strategic outcomes and Government of Canada priorities.

In terms of effectiveness, the evaluation demonstrated that the sub-program is making progress towards achieving its intended immediate outcomes. It also showed progress towards the intended intermediate outcome. Although the intended ultimate outcome could not be assessed at the time of the evaluation, a review of the results chain confirms that the sub-program is reasonably expected to contribute to this outcome.

There is also evidence that the sub-program employs practices that facilitate the efficient and economic production of outputs and achievement of intended outcomes. A key strength is the high level collaboration, which reduces duplication of effort, and facilitates the leveraging of financial and in-kind resources from external stakeholders. It also has processes in place to identify the needs of stakeholders; however, the primary method for identifying stakeholder needs is based on ad hoc, client-specific requests.

The evaluation identified some potential areas for improvement to help the sub-program better identify and meet the needs of stakeholders. These include: ensuring all appropriate target audiences are identified and engaged; improving alignment between CFS priorities and the specific needs of different regions; increasing CFS resources or research in specific areas (e.g., FIRE); enhancing collaboration among stakeholders (particularly in the area of pests and climate change); and improving or updating key datasets and decision support tools. Stakeholders also raised concerns about not knowing how the sub-program made decisions when setting research priorities, and the capacity of the sub-program in terms of succession planning and being able to recruit the necessary expertise to address gaps resulting from attrition. In addition, the evaluation identified a need for a strategy to systematically monitor and report on performance. Because no such strategy exists, it is difficult for the sub-program to determine the extent to which it is producing planned outputs, the extent to which progress is being made towards its intended outcomes, and to identify when course correction might be needed and take action as necessary to do so.

Based on the findings and conclusions of the evaluation, the following recommendations are made to the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Canadian Forest Service (CFS):

Recommendation 1: CFS should develop and implement a client engagement and communication strategy that identifies or confirms target audiences for all project areas and for key products/outputs (e.g., for pests activities/solutions). This engagement and communication strategy should include formal processes for identifying stakeholder needs, and communicating how CFS research priorities are being set and decisions are being made in all project areas, as well as an approach to communicating emerging trends and disseminating products about which target audiences are not yet aware.

Recommendation 2: CFS should develop and implement specific research strategies that address both client-driven research requirements to meet stakeholder needs and the need for national-level, more strategic research in each of the project areas. These strategies should include the target audiences (as identified in the client engagement and communication strategy, see recommendation 1). Where applicable, they should also include plans for ensuring key datasets/systems or decision support tools are maintained and as up-to-date as possible (e.g., decision support tools in the area of FIRE).

Recommendation 3: CFS should develop a human resources strategy to ensure there is sufficient capacity to address both client-driven research requirements and national-level, more strategic research. It should also include succession planning to identify strategies to recruit the necessary expertise to address capacity gaps due to attrition.

Recommendation 4: CFS should develop and implement a systematic performance monitoring and reporting framework or strategy to enable ongoing monitoring and reporting related to: the production of outputs; progress towards outcome achievement; and leveraging of financial and in-kind resources. It should include a strategy for ongoing monitoring that would facilitate the ability to correct course, if necessary, to ensure the effective, efficient and economic delivery of the program.

A management response to all four recommendations is presented in Section 5.3.

Acknowledgments

The Evaluation Team would like to thank those individuals who contributed to the Evaluation of the Forest Disturbances Science and Applications sub-program, particularly members of the Evaluation Advisory Committee from the Canadian Forest Service as well as other contributors who provided insights and comments crucial to this evaluation.

The evaluation project was managed by Nicholas Kowbel, and after his departure from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) by Mary Kay Lamarche, with evaluation support from Odilia Maessen of the Strategic Evaluation Division. Mark Pearson, Head of Evaluation at NRCan, and his predecessor Glenn Hargrove, and William Blois, Director, Strategic Evaluation, and his predecessor Gavin Lemieux, provided Senior Management oversight. Phoenix Strategic Perspectives Inc. and KPMG LLP provided evaluation services for this project.

1.0 Introduction and Background

1.1 Introduction

This report presents the findings, conclusions and recommendations of the evaluation of Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan’s) Forest Disturbances Science and Applications (Forest Disturbances) sub-program. The sub-program is administered by NRCan’s Canadian Forest Service (CFS). This evaluation covers the period from 2010-11 to 2014-15 and NRCan expenditures of approximately $99 million. 

The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the relevance and performance (i.e., effectiveness, efficiency and economy) of the Forest Disturbances sub-program, as required by the Treasury Board of Canada’s Policy on Evaluation (2009), which was in force at the time this evaluation started.Footnote 3

1.2 Background

Canada’s forests are important to the Canadian economy, with forest-related industries contributing about $22.1 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product, creating 201,645 direct jobs, and accounting for nearly 7% of all Canadian exports, or $28.5 billion worth of forest products in 2015.Footnote 4 Forests also play critical ecological and hydrological roles to support life.

Annually, a much greater area of forest in Canada is affected by natural forest disturbances such as pests and wildfire than by human-controlled interventions of harvesting and deforestation. In 2014 for example, 20.3 million hectares of forest in Canada were damaged by insectsFootnote 5 (roughly four times the area of Nova ScotiaFootnote 6 and 4.6 million hectares burned in forest firesFootnote 7. In comparison, harvesting (0.72 million hectares) and deforestation (0.03 million hectares) affected much smaller areas of forest that same year. While forest disturbances are a natural part of the forest cycle and serve important ecological functions, they can, and do, pose threats to public health and safety, as well as the forest resource. They also often result in significant costs associated with damages, and protecting people and timber through the management of forest disturbances.Footnote 8

1.3 Sub-Program Description

The objective of the Forest Disturbances sub-program is to minimize the negative economic, environmental, and public safety impacts of forest disturbances caused by native and invasive alien pests, wildfire, and climate change.Footnote 9 To achieve its objective, the sub-program:

  • Conducts research and analysis to generate knowledge and tools to help the forest sector assess risks, forecast impacts, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies related to native and invasive alien forest pests, wildfire and climate change;
  • Provides advice to stakeholders on how to combat and contain threats to Canada’s forest resources related to these disturbances; and
  • Facilitates national and international collaboration among forest sector stakeholders to address forest disturbance issues.

Intended outputs from these activities include knowledge (e.g., studies, publications, analysis, fact sheets), tools (e.g., insect traps, models, maps, protocols, frameworks, guidebooks, control agents), advice/policy input, and collaborative agreements such as joint work plans and national strategies for managing risks associated with forest pests, wildfire and climate change. 

Research and analysis are carried out at five CFS research centres located across the countryFootnote 10 and at headquarters in the National Capital Region, often in collaboration with provincial, academic and industry partners. Activities carried out by the Forest Disturbances sub-program fall under the following four specific, but interrelated, large-scale national project areas:Footnote 11

  1. Integrated (Native) Pest Management (IPM): CFS’s national and intergovernmental approach to the management of native and naturalized forest pests provides science, technology and related policy advice to federal/provincial/territorial government departments and private sector organizations (e.g., industry, woodlot owners) addressing issues related to high-priority pests (e.g., spruce budworm (SBW), mountain pine beetle (MPB), root rot).
  2. Forest Invasive Alien Species (FIAS): Provides science, technology and related policy advice to federal/provincial/territorial government departments and private sector organizations addressing alien forest pests. This project area develops strategies for detection, control and mitigation for newly established and emerging invasive alien species; coordinates research and provides advice to federal/provincial/territorial government departments on key pests where a critical response is required. The project area also works closely with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which has regulatory authority over invasive species, to develop surveillance and detection tools to prevent entry, or restrict movement, of alien insects and diseases.  
  3. Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation (CCIA): Provides knowledge and tools to members of Canada’s forest sector to enable them to make informed decisions about how they can best adapt to climate change. This project area brings together biophysical and social sciences, links them to policy, and emphasizes knowledge exchange, particularly through the early engagement of end-users in research initiatives.
  4. Provision of science-based information and technology in support of the Canadian Wildland Fire Strategy (FIRE): Provides science-based information and technology to support decisions and policies of federal/provincial/territorial jurisdictions concerning wildland fires. This includes advice as well as an enhanced Canadian Forest Fire Danger Rating System (CFFDRS)Footnote 12 and updates to the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (CWFIS)Footnote 13.

Key collaborators and users of the knowledge and tools generated by the sub-program include: provincial/territorial government departments and agencies, federal government departments and agencies (e.g., CFIA, Public Safety Canada (PSC), Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Parks Canada (PC) and Global Affairs Canada (GAC)); forest industry associations and companies; and academic and research institutions.

1.4 Sub-program Expected Outcomes

Sub-program activities and outputs are expected to result in the following outcomes:

  • Immediate Outcomes:
    • Forest sector players are using CFS outputs to monitor and detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances.
    • Forest sector players work collaboratively, nationally and internationally, to address emerging disturbance issues related to Canada’s forest resources.
  • Intermediate Outcome:
    • Forest disturbances are managed more effectively in Canada through improved (and coordinated, as appropriate) policies, practices and regulations.
  • Ultimate Outcome:
    • Threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource and associated costs due to forest disturbances are mitigated across Canada.

1.5 Sub-program Resources

As noted above, total actual NRCan expenditures for the Forest Disturbances sub-program from 2010-11 to 2014-15 were approximately $99 million. Figure 1 illustrates the distribution of these expenditures across the four project areas.

Figure 1: Percentage of Expenditures across Project Areas from 2010-11 to 2014-15

Figure 1 : Percentage of Expenditures across Project Areas from 2010-11 to 2014-15
Percentage of Expenditures across Project Areas from 2010-11 to 2014-15

Text version

Figure 1
Percentage of Expenditures across Project Areas from 2010-11 to 2014-15

Project Area

Percentage

IPM

34.3 %

FIAS

29 %

CCIA

23.6 %

FIRE

13.1 %

Notes:
Total IPM expenditures: approximately $34 million
Total FIAS expenditures: approximately $28 million
Total CCIA expenditures: approximately $23 million
Total FIRE expenditures: approximately $13 million

As illustrated in Figure 2, the majority of expenditures for the sub-program are from A-base funding. That being said, all project areas used C-based funding with the majority being used in the area of CCIA ($3.45 million) and the least in the area of FIRE (only $4000). IPM expended $63,000 in C-base and the FIAS area expended $43,000.

Figure 2: Distribution of Expenditures by Funding Type (A-base, C-base), 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Figure 2 : Distribution of Expenditures by Funding Type (A-base, C-base), 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)
Distribution of Expenditures by Funding Type (A-base, C-base), 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Text version

Figure 2 : Distribution of Expenditures by Funding Type (A-base, C-base), 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Year

A-base Funding

C-base Funding

2010-11

$15,943

$0

2011-12

$18,037

$912

2012-13

$20,673

$954

2013-14

$20,750

$808

2014-15

$19,988

$886

Overall

$95,391

$3,560

Figure 3 illustrates the distribution of expenditures for the sub-program by the different expenditure types, showing that the majority of expenditures were allocated to salaries.

Figure 3: Distribution of Expenditures by Expenditure Type, 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Figure 3 : Distribution of Expenditures by Expenditure Type, 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)
Distribution of Expenditures by Expenditure Type, 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Text version

Figure 3 : Distribution of Expenditures by Expenditure Type, 2010-11 to 2014-15 ($000)

Year

Total O&M

Total Salaries

Total EBP

Total G&C

2010-11

$2,238

$11,220

$2,243

$242

2011-12

$2,181

$13,755

$2,751

$262

2012-13

$2,303

$15,821

$3,161

$342

2013-14

$2,217

$15,914

$3,119

$308

2014-15

$1,960

$15,640

$3,086

$188

Total

$10,899

$72,350

$14,360

$1,342

2.0 Evaluation Design

2.1 Evaluation Approach

The evaluation was conducted using a theory-based approach and multiple lines of evidence. Theory-based evaluations identify, and then examine, the results you would expect to see at various steps as the program works to successfully achieve expected outcomes (i.e., a results chain). To this end, a logic model and results chain were developed for this evaluation. The results chain (presented in Appendix 1) was used as the framework for the evaluation to assess and report on the contribution of the sub-program to observed results.     

2.2 Evaluation Questions

The evaluation addresses the following seven questions:

Relevance

  1. Is there an ongoing need for the Forest Disturbances sub-program?
  2. Is the Forest Disturbances sub-program consistent with government priorities and NRCan strategic outcomes?
  3. Is there a legitimate and appropriate role for the federal government in forest disturbances science and technology? Is NRCan’s role appropriate in the context of the role of others?

Performance (effectiveness)

  1. To what extent have the activities of the Forest Disturbances sub-program contributed to the achievement of the intended outcomes?  
  2. What internal and external factors have facilitated or hindered the achievement of the intended outcomes?
  3. Have there been any unintended outcomes (positive or negative) or corollary benefits?

Performance (efficiency and economy)

  1. Is the sub-program the most economic and efficient means of making progress towards the intended outcomes of the program?

The findings for each evaluation question are presented in Sections 3 and 4. For each question, a rating and summary of the supporting evidence are provided in Table 1.

Table 1: Definition of Rating Statements
Statement Definition
Demonstrated Intended outcomes or goals were achieved or met.
Partially Demonstrated Considerable progress was made to meet intended goals, and achievement is expected based on current plan.
Partially Demonstrated – Action Required Some progress has been made to meet the intended outcomes or goals. Management attention is needed to fully achieve the desired objective or result.
Not Demonstrated Limited or no progress has been made to meet the intended outcomes or goals as stated, or the outcome is no longer applicable (due to changes in the external environment).

2.3 Evaluation Methods

The evaluation used a mix of both qualitative and quantitative methods, including:

  • A review of relevant documents to inform evaluation questions related to relevance and performance (i.e., effectiveness, efficiency and economy). This included a review of: sub-program and project area documents such as strategic and business plans, annual reports and publications, meeting and committee minutes, HR plans, needs assessments, performance reports, etc.; departmental documents, such as Departmental Performance Reports, Reports on Plans and Priorities; as well as Government of Canada documents such as Federal Budgets, and Speeches from the Throne.
  • A review of literature from forest stakeholder groups and research organizations (e.g., Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM); other government departments (OGDs)/organizations (e.g., CFIA; National Round Table on the Environment and Economy). This literature review informed evaluation questions related to relevance and efficiency and economy.
  • A survey of sub-program end-users and collaborators to assess the relevance and performance (i.e., effectiveness, efficiency and economy) of the sub-program. Respondents included representatives from: federal, provincial/territorial, and municipal government departments and agencies; industry; academia and research organizations; other national governments; and other NRCan users and collaborators external to the Forest Disturbances sub-program. Responses were received from 224 respondents, representing a response rate of approximately 24%.
  • Case studies of eight priority activity areas representing work carried out over the evaluation period in all project areas.Footnote 14 These included 70 stakeholder interviews (almost two-thirds of them external) and a review of relevant sub-program documents and related literature. These case studies were used, in particular, to identify impacts of program outputs and confirm theories of implementation and change (i.e., the results chain).
  • Stakeholder interviews with 10 external collaborators and users (e.g., other federal government departments, provincial government departments and agencies, and academia) and six internal managers and staff to inform evaluation questions related to relevance and performance (i.e., effectiveness, efficiency and economy).
  • A bibliometric analysis was used to assess the impact of CFS scientific research in the area of forest disturbances. It included the assessment of the importance and reach of peer-reviewed publications related to forest disturbances based on: counts and trends, share of Canadian and world papers; citation analysis; and collaboration analysis (based on authorship).

2.4 Evaluation Limitations and Mitigation Strategies

Table 2 identifies limitations that should be considered when reviewing the evaluation results and the mitigation strategies used to address them.

Table 2: Evaluation Limitations and Mitigation Strategies
Limitation and Potential Impact Mitigation Strategy
The sub-program does not systematically collect and report performance data. As such, there was limited performance information on which to draw to inform the evaluation’s assessment of the sub-program’s progress toward intended outcomes. This challenge was addressed through the design of the evaluation methodology by conducting a survey and eight case studies to determine the extent to which the sub-program contributed to expected outcomes. Results from these two lines of evidence were triangulated with other lines of evidence (e.g., document review, stakeholder interviews, bibliometric analysis) in order to determine progress towards achieving expected results.
Financial information was not captured by the sub-program in a way that would facilitate a direct assessment of efficiency and economy (i.e., cost per output, international comparison, etc.) The evaluation assessed indirect measures of efficiency and economy, including different aspects of program design and delivery to identify characteristics indicative of an efficient and economic means of delivering activities, producing outputs, and contributing to intended outcomes, as well as to identify potential areas for improvement.

3.0 Evaluation Findings: Relevance

3.1 Ongoing Need for the Program – Demonstrated

Summary of Findings:

The evaluation identified an ongoing need for scientific knowledge and tools to help forest sector stakeholders assess and respond to forest disturbances, as well as for collaboration among stakeholders to leverage resources and expertise across jurisdictions and other organizations to address forest disturbances issues from a national perspective.

A review of documents and literature reveal an ongoing need for scientific knowledge, tools and advice to help stakeholders assess and respond to risks associated with forest disturbances related to pests, fire, and climate change. For example:

  • Forest fires are expected to increase in number, get hotter and be more difficult to control in the future;Footnote 15
  • Climate change has created conditions that have allowed the spread of some forest pathogensFootnote 16 and pests (such as MPB and SBW)Footnote 17 into areas they could not occupy previously, and may also be making Canadian forests more vulnerable to new invasive pest speciesFootnote 18.

Experts predict that climate change in the 21st century will increase the frequency and severity of forest disturbances in many parts of Canada. As such, there is a need to increase understanding among forest sector stakeholders of these impacts and potential costs of climate change on forests and forest disturbances, as well as how best to adapt and manage those risks.Footnote 19

In addition, the evaluation identified an ongoing need for collaboration among stakeholders to leverage resources, expertise and information. This collaboration is required to facilitate the development of the knowledge and tools needed to understand and manage risks related to forest disturbances, and address forest disturbances from a national perspective. Case studies and some external and internal interviewees explain that this need for knowledge and tools continues because forest disturbances are complex and dynamic, with the behaviour of these disturbances and associated risks also shifting as a result of a changing climate. However, the case studies and some interviewees identify that no single organization or stakeholder group (e.g., federal/provincial/territorial government departments and agencies, industry, academia) has the capacity on its own to generate all the knowledge and tools needed to manage these risks, thus requiring collaboration among stakeholders. Also, because pests and fires can move across jurisdictional boundaries and jurisdictions may have different levels of risk tolerance associated with a type of forest disturbance, collaboration facilitates a common understanding of risks and cooperation to manage them across jurisdictions.

3.2 Alignment with Government Priorities and NRCan Strategic Outcomes – Demonstrated

Summary of Findings:

The Forest Disturbances sub-program aligns with NRCan’s Strategic Outcome, Canadians have information to manage their lands and natural resources, and are protected from related risks. The sub-program also aligns with several federal government priorities related to climate change, native and alien forest pests, and responsible development of forest resources.

Forest Disturbances Science and Application is a sub-program in NRCan’s 2014-15 Program Alignment Architecture (PAA). It aligns with program 3.1, Protection of Canadians and natural resources. This program supports strategic outcome 3, Canadians have information to manage their lands and natural resources and are protected from related risks.Footnote 20 To support this strategic outcome, the following related expected results were identified for the program and sub-program:

  • Governments, communities and the private sector manage risks or opportunities to natural resources, infrastructure and human health (for program 3.1, Protection for Canadians and Natural Resources); and
  • Governments, agencies and industry are provided with scientific knowledge on forest disturbances to assess risks, and develop mitigation and adaptation strategies (specific to sub-program 3.1.3, Forest Disturbances Science and Application).Footnote 21

The sub-program contributes to these expected results by providing science-based knowledge, tools, and advice on forest disturbances to governments, agencies and industry that they can then use to inform policies and practices to help manage risks associated with forest disturbances.

The Forest Disturbances sub-program also aligns with several federal government priorities related to climate change, alien and native forest pests, and responsible development of forest resources outlined in federal strategies, Budgets, and Speeches from the Throne. For example:

  • In 2011, the sub-program received five years of funding as part of the Forest Change: Enhanced Competitiveness in a Changing Climate initiative under the federal government’s interdepartmental Adaptation Program of the Clean Air Agenda;
  • Climate change is identified as a priority in the 2015 mandate letter to the Minister of Natural ResourcesFootnote 22 and in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) for Canada 2016-2019Footnote 23;
  • Prevention and management of native and alien forest pests are identified as priorities in both the 2013-2016 and 2016-2019 FSDSsFootnote 24 as well as various federal Budgets and Speeches from the Throne; and
  • Canada’s international reporting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)Footnote 25 is supported by the sub-program through its development and maintenance of models for tracking changes resulting from forest disturbances.

In addition, the work of the sub-program aligns with priorities identified by the CCFMFootnote 26 in various strategic documents.Footnote 27 For example, by facilitating collaboration among forest sector stakeholders to address forest disturbances issues, the sub-program aligns with the vision identified in CCFM’s National Forest Strategy: “Canada is committed to collaborating on science and technology issues and sharing expertise and resources to advance global forest development”.

3.3 Legitimacy and Appropriateness of Federal Role – Demonstrated

Summary of Findings:

The management of forests generally falls under provincial/territorial jurisdiction as owners of the majority of the resource in their respective jurisdictions. Nevertheless, NRCan has a legislative mandate to conduct research, provide advice, collaborate and facilitate cooperation amongst all stakeholders, including provinces/territories, the Government of Canada, governments of other countries, and international organizations for the protection, management and use of the forest resources of Canada.

Furthermore, as a federal government department, NRCan is well positioned to conduct national-level research and facilitate national and international cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders to address forest disturbances issues.

The federal government owns and manages only two percent (2%) of forests in Canada, with the majority (90%) being owned and managed by provinces and territories; another two percent (2%) are owned by Indigenous peoples and six percent (6%) are owned privately.Footnote 28 Nevertheless, given its mandate under the Department of Natural Resources ActFootnote 29 and the Forestry ActFootnote 30, it is legitimate for NRCan to conduct research, provide advice and facilitate cooperation and collaboration among all stakeholders in order to help them manage forest disturbances.

In addition, since 2007, the Emergency Preparedness ActFootnote 31 requires each federal minister to: (1) identify the risks that are within, or related to, his/her area of responsibility; and (2) develop, maintain, test, implement and exercise emergency management plans related to the identified risksFootnote 32 Within this context, the NRCan Minister is required to:

  • Provide scientific, technical and/or policy leadership for potential or actual events, including wildfires; and
  • Produce and disseminate (via the CFS) a national level Wildfire Emergency Management Plan (EMP)Footnote 33 to address prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of the potential hazards.Footnote 34

Results of case studies and some interviews also revealed that the role of CFS in conducting research, providing advice and facilitating collaboration is considered critical by stakeholders even though there are some other organizations (e.g., federal and provincial/territorial departments and agencies, individuals in universities and research organizations) also conducting research on various aspects of forest disturbances. Case studies and some interviewees also identified that CFS is a trusted, unbiased source of credible science that is relied upon by stakeholders.

Furthermore, the results of several case studies and some interviewees reveal that CFS is the only organization with the capacity and relevant mandate to conduct longer-term research to address forest disturbances in the national interest, rather than focused only on a specific jurisdiction or forest disturbance. For instance, OGDs, and provincial/territorial government departments and agencies responsible for the management of forest disturbances were identified as having limited research capacity or time, to coordinate or conduct nationally-focused scientific work for the benefit of all jurisdictions, nor is it in the mandates of these organizations to do so. As such, the CFS, as part of a federal government department, has the ability to bring federal/provincial/territorial government departments and agencies together to collaborate on these efforts.

4.0 Evaluation Findings: Performance

4.1 Effectiveness – Partially Demonstrated

Summary of Findings:

The evaluation confirmed that the Forest Disturbances Science and Applications sub-program is making progress towards achieving its intended outcomes, particularly at the immediate outcome level: forest sector players are using CFS outputs to monitor, detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances; and forest sector players work collaboratively nationally and internationally to address emerging disturbances issues related to Canada’s forest resources.

The evaluation also identified some evidence that the sub-program is making progress towards its intended intermediate outcome: forest disturbances are managed more effectively in Canada through improved (and coordinated as appropriate) policies, practices and regulations. However, it was not possible to quantify the extent to which these policies, practices and regulations have improved the effective management of forest disturbances. Similarly, the evaluation was unable to determine the impact of the sub-program relative to its intended ultimate outcome: threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource and associated costs due to forest disturbances are mitigated across Canada. Nevertheless, the evaluation did reveal some evidence that suggests the sub-program can be reasonably expected to contribute to this ultimate outcome over the longer-term.

Collaboration with stakeholders is an important practice facilitating the sub-program’s progress towards achieving its intended outcomes. The evaluation identified other, sometimes related, factors that may also impact its ability to achieve its intended outcomes, including: ability of stakeholders to participate in key forums; level of awareness of potential issues or solutions among stakeholders and key user groups; and capacity of stakeholders to use CFS-produced outputs.

No unintended impacts were identified.

4.1.1. Immediate Outcome 1: Forest sector players are using CFS outputs to monitor, detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances –  Demonstrated

CFS outputs are being used by a variety of stakeholders. Specifically, bibliometric analysis shows that between 2006 and 2014, NRCan-authored papers related to forest disturbances were among the most cited papers of all those produced in Canada in the field of forest disturbances.Footnote 35 Although bibliometric analysis does not indicate why papers were cited or how else papers might have been used, average relative citations is considered an early indicator of the observed scientific impact of the research conducted by the organization.Footnote 36

Beyond citations, the survey shows that CFS resources are being used and have been helpful to survey respondents from all forest disturbances project areas to: (1) understand a current problem, issue or need (79%); (2) anticipate an emerging problem or issue (68%); and (3) provide actionable options (61%) related to forest disturbances. In addition, 72% of survey respondents indicated that CFS resources have been valuable to them to carry out their work, and report using CFS resources to:

  • Assess (68%), monitor and detect (55%), and respond to (56%) risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances related to pests, fire and climate change;
  • Conduct research and development related to forest disturbances (44%);
  • Provide advice on forest health-related issues (33%); and
  • Develop agreements and strategies to coordinate national or international efforts to manage forest disturbances associated with forest pests, fire and climate change (23%).

In addition, all case studies found CFS outputs developed in the context of the key activity areas examined are being used, although the use of Rotstop-C® and the climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation framework and guidebook has been limited to date. Some specific examples of use are as follows:

  • CFIA uses CFS advice and tools to inform their practices, such as the emerald ash borer (EAB) protocol, which includes recently developed pheromones and improved traps for early detection of adult insects.
  • Provinces and municipalities in Ontario and Quebec use CFS tools, such as the branch sampling method and the biological insecticide TreeAzin™, to manage the EAB.
  • A number of user groups involved in public safety and security use CWFIS data/information to support decision making. For example, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) relies on CWFIS data for both strategic and operational planning for wildland fire resource management in Canada and internationally, and PSC relies on CWFIS data to develop national risk assessments and contingency plans.
  • The University of British Columbia uses CWFIS data and CFS expertise to inform air quality modeling systems, such as the collaborative Bluesky projectFootnote 37.
  • Provincial/territorial government departments and agencies use pest risk analyses to brief their executives on the risks associated with a pest, validate their pest management decisions, and support requests for operational funding to implement management decisions.
  • Nova Scotia based its policy decision to stop monitoring for the brown spruce longhorn beetle (BSLB) on the BSLB risk analysis conclusion that the threat of BSLB to Nova Scotia forests is of low to medium risk. CFIA used the same risk analysis during its consultations with stakeholders to support their proposed regulation change regarding the BSLB in Nova Scotia.

However, the evaluation found instances of low take up of solutions or tools because stakeholders were not sufficiently aware. For example, Rotstop-C® sales and use were low due to a lack of awareness of both annosum root disease and the availability of Rotstop-C® to control it. Similarly, the EAB case study found that the key user group, municipalities, was not explicitly being targeted by CFS. As a result, knowledge transfer to land owners and municipal levels to address this pest was sometimes poor.Footnote 38

The evaluation identified the following factors that impact the ability of the program to achieve this intended outcome:

  • The ability of CFS and provincial/territorial government stakeholders to attend, or be a member of, key forums such as the CCFM, CIFFC, Forest Pest Management Forum, Wildland Fire Conference, the Adaptation Platform, SERG-International (SERG-I), and other advisory boards or committees. Some internal and external stakeholders perceived that CFS and provincial/territorial stakeholders were less able to participate in these forums than in the past. Decreased participation in these forums could limit the reach of the sub-program, which could impact its ability to identify the needs of stakeholders, collaborate with key stakeholders on common issues or tools, and disseminate information on potential forest disturbance issues or solutions.
  • The capacity of stakeholders to use the outputs produced by the sub-program. For instance, the climate change case study found limited use of the framework and guidebook developed by CFS due to a lack of capacity among target groups and the need for more effort moving forward to train practitioners to use complex products such as this. In the Rotstop case study, available time and resources were also identified as potential barriers given the need to retrofit equipment with a sprayer to enable the allocation of Rotstop-C®, and also be a licensed pesticide technicianFootnote 39 in order to buy and use the product.

4.1.2 Immediate Outcome 2: Forest sector players work collaboratively nationally and internationally to address emerging disturbance issues related to Canada’s forest resources - Demonstrated

All lines of evidence from this evaluation show that national and international collaboration to address forest disturbances issues is occurring among forest sector stakeholders. Examples of collaboration identified in case studies, documents and literatureFootnote 40 and interviews show that stakeholders collaborate to share data/information and best practices, coordinate research efforts, conduct joint research, and, to a lesser extent, develop joint strategies and agreements to address forest disturbances issues. Some specific examples of collaborations are as follows:

  • A wide range of participants from academia (Université Laval), federal and provincial governments (two CFS Forestry Centres and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests), and other national and international industry organizations (Bioforest Inc. Canada and Verdera Inc. of Finland) collaborated to support the development and registration of Rotstop-C® for the control of Heterobasidion irregular (root rot) in Canada.Footnote 41
  • CCFM working/technical committees whose members include representatives from provincial/ territorial jurisdictions collaborate with other stakeholders (e.g., OGDs, academia, industry, research groups, and Indigenous community groups) to develop and test products.Footnote 42
  • The SBW Early Intervention Strategy (EIS), a collaborative research project involving 12 partnersFootnote 43 across all levels of government, industry, and academia. In particular, it involves CFS researchers from several CFS forestry centres, the province of New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources (NB DNR), industry stakeholders in New Brunswick and several universities.
  • CIFFC and the Wildland Fire Canada ConferenceFootnote 44 provide forums through which CFS collaborates with provinces/territories and academia to enhance the CWFIS technical infrastructure and to obtain the data needed to support its predictive and analytical models and applications, as well as to collaborate on research projects (e.g., to develop models and products for inclusion in the CWFIS or to develop other products that use CWFIS data and codes, such as the BlueSky smoke forecasting system).

Case studies indicate that collaborations are mainly established through: (1) central venues such as stakeholder organizations and their working groups, national and international committees, and forums where forest stakeholders (including CFS) actively participate (e.g., CCFM, CIFFC, SERG-I, Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, Climate change Adaptation PlatformFootnote 45, the Wildland Fire Canada Conference, and the Forest Pest Management Forum); and (2) formal agreements (e.g., between NRCan-CFS and CFIA/other organizations; between CFS and other researchers; and between non-CFS stakeholders).

The evaluation found mixed evidence on CFS partnering activities. Bibliometric findings, show that NRCan is a highly integrated actor in the network of Canadian organizations working in the field of forest disturbances, and also collaborates extensively on forest disturbances-related science between the CFS research centers.Footnote 46 Similarly, most case studies found that the right partners were involved in the various case study activities to optimize the achievement of resultsFootnote 47. Furthermore, survey results indicated that stakeholders consider CFS to be a valuable partner in research collaborations to address emerging issues related to forest disturbances in Canada (87%).

Overall, 73% of respondents also identified that CFS plays an important leadership role in facilitating national and international collaborations to address forest disturbances issues. However, relative to other project areas, fewer respondents from the FIRE area noted that CFS is playing an important leadership role (63% in FIRE compared to between 79% and 89% in the other project areas). While only a few respondents provided comments to explain why they felt CFS does not provide strong leadership in facilitating national and international collaboration, the majority of the comments from respondents in the FIRE area acknowledged the high quality of CFS researchers but felt that the CFS FIRE program no longer does sufficient wildland fire research to play a leadership role in related collaborations.

4.1.3 Intermediate Outcome: Forest disturbances are managed more effectively in Canada through improved [and coordinated where appropriate] policies, practices, and regulations – Partially Demonstrated

Although the evaluation did not find any documented evidence demonstrating there has been a net improvement in the effectiveness of managing forest disturbances in Canada from 2010-11 to 2014-15, it did reveal that CFS products and advice have influenced the development of stakeholder policies and practices intended to improve their ability to manage forest disturbances more effectively. For example, survey respondents noted that using CFS products and advice is improving their ability to:

  • Develop policies, programs, and practices related to assessing risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities associated with forest pests, fire, and climate change (57%);
  • Develop policies, programs, regulations, and practices to identify and/or respond to threats from forest pests, fire, and climate change (55%); and
  • Develop regulations or standards associated with managing forest pests, fire, and climate change (22%).

Survey results further suggest that the majority (83%) of those who have developed policies, regulations, and practices to identify and respond to threats using CFS products and advice, have also implemented these policies, regulations, and practices to some extent.

Moreover, the majority (80%) of stakeholder survey respondents believe that the management of forest disturbances in their region has improved to some degree, with 81% of these respondents attributing this improvement, at least in part, to the knowledge, tools, advice, or collaboration from CFS. One exception to this was identified through the National Forest Pest Strategy Risk Analysis (NFPS RA) case study, which found that the perception of the extent to which the management of forest pests has improved varies considerably across the country. This variance appears to be related to contextual factors such as the diversity of ecosystems, number of pests, the size/importance of the forest sector to the economy, and the scope and complexity of interactions between forest disturbances (e.g., pests influencing fire potential, fire influencing pest potential, and climate change influencing all forest disturbances).

Nevertheless, 76% of survey respondents believe that without the scientific knowledge, tools, advice, and collaboration provided by the sub-program, there would be less effective management of forest disturbances. The importance of the knowledge, tools, and advice produced by the sub-program to improve stakeholder ability to more effectively manage forest disturbances was also substantiated by many interviewees and case studies.

Several internal and external interviewees noted that because of an increased awareness among stakeholders of the beneficial role of fire in forest ecology, some fire management agencies have shifted their focus from fire suppression to fire management. As such, fire management decisions are based on risk to communities and infrastructure. Internal and external interviewees believe this approach will improve fire management because it optimizes resource utilization and limits the financial impacts of fighting fires.

Similarly, early results and decision support systems based on science developed as part of the SBW EIS Pilot have influenced policies and practices related to monitoring and sampling of SBW and mitigation operations. Although industry and provincial stakeholders will not know for a couple of years if the EIS has been effective at preventing a full-blown outbreak of SBW, the SBW case study reveals a number of important policy-related lessons on dealing with public misinformation about spraying (a major barrier to effective management of SBW), sampling for SBW, optimal larval stages for controlling SBW, and treatment. In particular, industry (i.e., Irving) has changed operational practices by incorporating visual assessments of SBW defoliation into the standard work practices of its forest practitioners in order to improve the quality of monitoring data available to inform the EIS strategy.Footnote 48

Other case studies provided additional examples of stakeholders using CFS outputs to develop practices and policies and make science-based decisions related to the management of pests, including the use of CFS-produced science and advice for improved survey and early detection of invasive alien forest insects. These examples include the following:

  • A research paper co-authored by a CFS scientist was the impetus for Saskatchewan to initiate an MOU with Alberta to provide $1.25 million/year to Alberta to mitigate the spread of MPB into Saskatchewan.Footnote 49
  • CFS-produced science and advice for improved survey and early detection of invasive alien forest insects informed policies and practices, such as: CFIA practices and protocols for the Asian longhorn beetle (ALHB), BSLB, sudden oak death, EAB, and Asian gypsy moth; the United States Department of Agriculture ALHB and sirex woodwasp risk models; and the Ontario, Ottawa, and Oshawa EAB management plans that incorporate the CFS-developed biocide TreeAzinTM to treat infected ash trees.Footnote 50
  • The Government of Manitoba’s Forestry Branch changed their sylvicultural practices based, in part, on CFS’ climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation guidebook.Footnote 51
  • The British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources started to change its policies on Seed Zones and movement regulations based on biological production, informed in large part by CCFM work on the Guidebook and Framework.Footnote 52 Footnote 53

Notwithstanding these examples, survey evidence suggests that the sub-program may have less influence in the areas of FIRE and climate change (i.e., CCIA) than in the area of pests (i.e., IPM, FIAS, and IPM and FIAS). For instance, 93% of respondent in the areas of FIAS-only and IPM-only, and 91% of respondents in the area of IPM and FIAS, reported that CFS knowledge, tools, and advice are at least somewhat important to perceived improvements in the management of forest disturbances; whereas 79% and 75% of respondents in the area of FIRE and CCIA, respectively, reported this to be the case.

The survey specifically asked respondents to identify the extent to which CFS outputs have improved their abilities in a variety of areas (using a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 means a great deal, and 1 means not at all). Table 3 identifies the percentage of respondents from each project area that indicated CFS products at least somewhat improved their ability in these areas (i.e., scores of 4 or 5 on the 5-point scale). As this illustrates, respondents in the areas of climate change or FIRE consistently have the lowest proportion of respondents indicating that CFS products and advice have improved their ability to manage forest disturbances.

Table 3: Percentage of Respondents Reporting CFS Products Improved Their Abilities in Key Areas, by Project Area
Key Area Project Area
IPM FIAS IPM AND FIAS CCIA FIRE
Monitor and detect risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances 69% 80% 75% 43% 48%
Assess risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances 73% 75% 75% 74% 60%
Respond to risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances 62% 75% 70% 44% 52%
Develop policies, programs, regulations, and practices to identify and/or respond to threats stemming from forest disturbances 58% 87% 69% 45% 51%

Although the survey was not able to identify why fewer respondents from some project areas indicated CFS products have improved their ability in these key areas (monitoring, assessing, and responding to risks; developing polices, programs, regulations, and practices), interview feedback offers some possible reasons to explain the relatively modest influence in the areas of CCIA and FIRE, where the percentage of survey respondents was sometimes lower (as per Table 3 above). In particular, interviewees reported that budget constraints have hindered CFS’ ability to conduct long-term research to inform fire management operational needs. For CCIA on the other hand, respondents explained that climate change research and technology development is complex and the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures at the jurisdictional/local level and associated costs are not well understood.

4.1.4 Ultimate Outcome: Threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource, and associated costs due to forest disturbances are mitigated across Canada – Not Demonstrated

Based on the evidence available at the time of the evaluation, it was not possible, within the scope of the current evaluation, to assess the effectiveness of measures taken to mitigate against threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource, and costs associated with forest disturbances. However, there is some evidence of contribution towards this impact. For example, survey respondents who perceive that the management of forest disturbances in their region has improved to some degree, believe that this improvement has reduced threats to forest resources (76%), public safety (67%), property (63%), and infrastructure (59%). Survey respondents also saw CFS’s contribution, through the provision of scientific knowledge, tools, advice, or collaboration, as at least somewhat important to reducing the threats and associated costs in these same areas; specifically, forest resources (79%), public safety (68%), property (62%), and infrastructure (56%).

4.2 Efficiency and Economy – Partially Demonstrated Action Required

Summary of Findings:

The evaluation found that although the sub-program identifies stakeholder needs through discussions and conferences and other fora, these needs are more often identified through mostly informal, ad hoc, one-off requests for support from stakeholders. There are also instances in which the research and networking being conducted by CFS researchers may also identify gaps or opportunities about which stakeholders may not yet be aware. Still, the evaluation found the sub-program was effective at reaching and engaging relevant stakeholders when identifying stakeholder needs.

Although the sub-program was generally considered to be responding to the needs of stakeholders, some potential opportunities to better meet their needs or fill some gaps not currently being addressed were identified. These include improving alignment between CFS priorities and the specific needs of different regions, increasing CFS resources or research and/or conducting research in specific areas (e.g., FIRE), enhancing collaboration among stakeholders in key areas (particularly pests and climate change), and improving or updating key datasets and decision support tools.

To ensure effectiveness, efficiency and economy, the sub-program needs to balance the potential tension between responding to specific client requests with the need for its researchers to also be able to support long-term, more strategic research that sometimes raises awareness of impending problems and may generate direct requests from other organizations or jurisdictions. At the time of the evaluation there was some confusion related to how the sub-program made decisions related to research priorities. There was also concern raised by stakeholders about the capacity of the sub-program for succession planning and the ability to recruit the necessary expertise to address attrition.

In addition, the evaluation confirmed the sub-program is producing numerous, high-quality outputs; however, there is no strategy in place for consistently and systematically monitoring and reporting on performance. This makes it difficult for the sub-program to determine the extent to which planned outputs are produced, monitor and report on progress toward intended outcomes, and correct course as necessary to improve program delivery.

A key strength of the sub-program is its high level of collaboration with other organizations. This reduces duplication of effort, facilitates the sharing of financial and intellectual resources, and facilitates the dissemination and uptake of outputs. Through these collaborations, the sub-program has been found to be leveraging both financial and in-kind resources. While the evaluation found the sub-program to, for the most part, be partnering with the right groups, it also identified a potential opportunity for CFS to revisit whether it is partnering with the most appropriate groups to ensure the most effective, efficient and economic production of outputs and contribution to intended outcomes.

Identifying and Responding to Stakeholder Needs

In some cases, the sub-program identifies the needs of stakeholders through discussions at conferences or other foraFootnote 54, or through consultations conducted by CFS senior management for strategic planning purposesFootnote 55. However, the evaluation found that the primary way in which stakeholder needs are identified involves ad hoc, mostly informalFootnote 56, one-off requests for support from stakeholders to solve a specific problem, or interpret CFS fire information/data for wildfire emergency planning or response. In some cases, these requests are formalized through memberships or agreements where funding/ resources are shared between CFS and the partner (e.g., with CFIAFootnote 57, CIFFC, Western Partnership for Wildland Fire Science, etc.).

The case studies further identified that the research and networking being conducted by CFS researchers may identify potential gaps or opportunities about which stakeholders may or may not be aware or concerned. For example, the Rotstop case study showed that the potential for a biological control to combat the pathogen that causes root rot in Canada was identified by a CFS researcher and led to CFS conducting efficacy trials, developing the insecticide and registering it for use in Canada.

For the most part, target audiences responded through the survey that the CFS is effective at ensuring target audiences are reached and engaged in discussions to identify forest sector stakeholder needs, with only five percent (5%) of survey respondents indicating they had not been successful at communicating their needs to CFS. Eighty-five percent (85%) of respondents indicated they had been at least somewhat successful in communicating their needs to CFS.

Although most case studies concluded that the identification of stakeholder needs was effective, the need for more work in this regard was identified for two areas: (1) CWFIS, where not all target audiences had been identified; and (2) EAB, where municipalities (a key end-user group) and academia (a key research collaborator group), expressed the desire to be more involved in identifying needs and gaps in this area of research for the forest sector.

Similarly, case study evidence suggests that CFS project activities, products and advice meet the needs of target audiences, with two exceptions: (1) Rotstop, where the case study identified a need for additional research by CFS on application criteria (e.g., temperature thresholds); and (2) the NFPS RA case study, which identified a need for better knowledge of, and cost-benefit data on, the socio-economic and ecological impacts of pests and management response options to improve the pest risk analyses themselvesFootnote 58.

Nevertheless, 97% of survey respondents identified that CFS products and advice had either partially met (49%), fully met (42%), or exceeded (6%) their needs. Although the needs of stakeholders were often at least partially met across all project areasFootnote 59, the proportion of survey respondents who considered their needs to be fully met or exceeded varied across project areas as follows: 71% in the area of FIAS; 52% in IPM and FIAS; 51% in CCIA; 47% in IPM; and 43% in FIRE.

When asked in the survey how CFS could better meet their needs, the following areas for improvement were identified:

  • Improved alignment between CFS priorities and specific needs of regional or provincial/ territorial agencies and industry (22% of survey respondents). This suggestion was expressed by provincial/territorial respondents in each project area, except FIAS-only.
  • Conduct of research by CFS in specific areas (20%), particularly in the area of FIRE (e.g., updating/enhancing fire decision support tools such as the CFFDRS, including addressing missing fuel types for the Canadian forest fire behavior prediction (FBP) system), as well as the CCIA and IPM and FIAS project areas (e.g., basic biology and management for pests other than MPB and SBW).
  • Enhanced collaboration among stakeholders (16%), particularly in the areas of IPM and FIAS, and CCIA.
  • Improved access to datasets/outputs and improved data management (16%) across all project areas (e.g., improved access to datasets related to IPM and FIRE, modernize data infrastructure in the area of FIRE, better informing users of updated methods in the area of FIAS, better integration of knowledge and data across different forest disturbance areas).
  • Increased CFS resources or research (11%), primarily from respondents in the area of FIRE. While a few comments from the survey suggest CFS fire researchers are first class, several comments identify a perception that CFS does not have the resources required to conduct the research necessary to maintain, update and support fire decision support tools that are relied upon by provinces/territories and OGDs to sustain an effective FIRE research program.
  • Updated data and decision support tools (6%), particularly in the area of FIRE (e.g., invigorating the CFFDRS and updating its sub-systems).

Project and Resource Decision-Making

Despite the sub-program’s reported ability to identify and respond to the needs of stakeholders, the evaluation revealed a potential tension between to the need to align CFS projects to respond to short-term, specific client-funded requests, and the need to support long-term, more strategic research in the national interest that may be unsolicited and attract no external funding. Although responding to specific client-funded requests provides access to research funds the sub-program would not otherwise have and ensures direct relevance to the needs of users, it risks relinquishing control of the research agenda and losing sight of the need for nationally-focused research related to forest disturbances that serve the overall public good due to the limited number of available CFS resources and researchers available to do the work. Focusing primarily on specific client-funded requests could limit the nationally-focused research being conducted by the sub-program even though this nationally-focused research sometimes raises awareness of impending problems and generates direct requests from organizations or jurisdictions so that they might prepare to address or mitigate against them.

Some internal and external stakeholders are not aware of how decisions are made regarding CFS research project priorities or activities, possibly leading to confusion and frustration, and the perception of a misalignment between CFS priorities and needs among some stakeholders. Although sub-program management is aware of this potential tension, noting that they actively try to find an appropriate balance, a couple of case studies and some survey feedback highlighted that some internal and external stakeholders are concerned that CFS may be focusing too much on short-term responsive research, particularly in the areas of FIRE and pests.

Specific to human resources, the evaluation identified that the sub-program could improve its capacity for succession planning and the ability of the sub-program to recruit the necessary expertise to address attrition (e.g., retirements) in all project areas. This might also assist the sub-program in ensuring it has the capacity to keep pace with user needs and demands, particularly related to different systems and models. For example, rapid growth in its user-base and increased external dependencies on its services (e.g., by CIFFC, PSC, smoke forecasting system models) have made it difficult for CWFIS to keep pace with user needs and demands, and to be able to define its objectives and scope in the process.

Performance Measurement

Although the evaluation found that the sub-program is producing numerous, high-quality outputs, case studies revealed that the production of outputs was not always being systematically monitored by the sub-program. Research plans, strategies, and planned deliverables were available in several instances; however, the monitoring and reporting of research progress or deliverables was inconsistent.

This is consistent with findings from a 2013 NRCan internal audit of the management of NRCan laboratories that included detailed analysis of two CFS centres – the Pacific Forestry Centre and the Northern Forestry Centre. This audit determined that there was “…no evidence of a consistent approach or evidence of a comprehensive PM [performance measurement] framework for laboratory activities.”Footnote 60

The absence of a strategy for systematically monitoring and reporting on program performance makes it difficult to determine the extent to which planned outputs are being produced and progress is being made towards intended outcomes. This also limits the ability of the sub-program to course correct as necessary to improve program delivery.

Collaboration with Stakeholders

The evaluation revealed a high level of collaboration between CFS and other organizations, which the case studies show limits duplication of effort, and facilitates the sharing of financial and intellectual resources as well as the dissemination and uptake of outputs.

In addition, the analysis of sub-program financial data demonstrates that the sub-program is leveraging financial and in-kind resources through its collaborations with stakeholders. The case studies for instance, provided evidence that the sub-program is leveraging both financial and in-kind resources through the CCFM, Healthy Forest Partnership Early Intervention pilot project (i.e., the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) SBW EIS initiative), and SERG-International (a partnership in forest pest management research).

The evaluation found the CCFM, CWFIS, and Healthy Forest Partnership to be particularly appropriate vehicles to carry out shared priority activities. For example, the case studies illustrated the CCFM working/technical group was the best forum through which to develop the pest risk analyses and climate change vulnerability assessment. Participation in this working/technical group enabled CFS to centrally coordinate the necessary resources and expertise across jurisdictions, and leverage resources to develop common tools so that different provinces/jurisdictions could also benefit from these without having to start from scratch.  

Most case studies conducted for this evaluation found that the CFS is partnering with the right groups to carry out their work and maximize their capacity to deliver key outputs and contribute to the intended outcomes of the sub-program. However, the survey found that only 55% of respondents agree that CFS is partnering with the right groups to provide the needed scientific knowledge, tools and advice on forest disturbances. The proportion of survey respondents that agree that CFS is partnering with the right groups varies considerably across project areas. In particular, respondents from the IPM-only project area were least likely to agree with this (only 37%), and respondents from the FIAS-only project area were most likely to agree (72%).  In each of the other project areas, slightly more than half of respondents agreed this was the case (IPM and FIAS (56%); CCIA (56%); and FIRE (55%)). While it is not clear whether these results suggest CFS is partnering with some of the wrong groups or not partnering with all of the right groups, they could indicate that there is an opportunity for the CFS to identify the most appropriate groups with whom they should partner to most effectively, efficiently and economically produce its outputs and make progress towards achieving its intended outcomes.

5.0 Conclusions and Recommendations

5.1 Conclusions

The Forest Disturbances Science and Applications sub-program responds to an ongoing need for scientific knowledge, tools, and advice. This knowledge, tools, and advice is needed to help stakeholders assess and respond to the risks associated with forest disturbances related to pests, fire, and climate change. The sub-program also responds to an identified need for collaboration among forest sector stakeholders in order to leverage resources, expertise and information. The evaluation found a legitimate and appropriate role for NRCan, through this sub-program, to respond to these needs. It also confirmed that the sub-program aligns with NRCan strategic outcomes and Government of Canada priorities.

In terms of effectiveness, the evaluation demonstrated that the sub-program is making progress towards achieving its intended immediate outcomes. It also showed progress towards the intended intermediate outcome; however the extent to which the sub-program is contributing to it could not be fully assessed. Although the intended ultimate outcome could not be assessed at the time of the evaluation, a review of the results chain confirms that the sub-program is reasonably expected to contribute to this outcome.

There was also evidence that the sub-program employs practices that facilitate the efficient and economic production of outputs and achievement of, or contribution to, intended outcomes. In particular, there is a high level of collaboration, creation of common tools across jurisdictions, and leveraging of financial and in-kind resources from external stakeholders. The sub-program also has processes it uses to identify the needs of stakeholders and is generally thought to be responding to these needs. Nevertheless, the evaluation identified a couple of opportunities for improvement in this regard, including: ensuring all appropriate target audiences are identified and engaged in the various project areas; improving alignment between CFS priorities and the specific needs of different regions; increasing CFS resources or research in specific areas (e.g., FIRE); enhancing collaboration among stakeholders (particularly in the areas of pests and climate change); and improving or updating key datasets and decision support tools.

However, the primary way in which stakeholder needs are identified is based on ad hoc, client-specific requests. This introduces a risk that the sub-program will focus its priorities primarily on addressing client-specific requests, which are generally funded (or co-funded) by the client, rather than also prioritizing long-term, more strategic research because it does not have the resources to always do both. Related to this, stakeholders were sometimes confused as to how the sub-program made decisions when setting research priorities. Stakeholders also raised concerns about the capacity for the sub-program in terms of succession planning and the ability to recruit the necessary expertise to address gaps resulting from attrition.

Although the evaluation confirmed the sub-program is producing numerous, high-quality outputs, it identified that there is no strategy in place to systematically monitor and report on performance. As a result, the sub-program lacks a strategy that would assist them in determining the extent to which planned outputs are produced and progress is being made towards achieving its intended outcomes. It also limits the sub-program’s ability to identify when course correction might be needed and take action as necessary to do so.

5.2 Recommendations

Recommendation 1: CFS should develop and implement a client engagement and communication strategy that identifies or confirms target audiences for all project areas and for key products/outputs (e.g., for pests activities/solutions). This engagement and communication strategy should include formal processes for identifying stakeholder needs, and communicating how CFS research priorities are being set and decisions are being made in all project areas, as well as an approach to communicating emerging trends and disseminating products about which target audiences are not yet aware.

Recommendation 2: CFS should develop and implement specific research strategies that address both client-driven research requirements to meet stakeholder needs and the need for national-level, more strategic research in each of the project areas. These strategies should include the target audiences (as identified in the client engagement and communication strategy, see recommendation 1). Where applicable, they should also include plans for ensuring key datasets/systems or decision support tools are maintained and as up-to-date as possible (e.g., decision support tools in the area of FIRE).

Recommendation 3: CFS should develop a human resources strategy to ensure there is sufficient capacity to address both client-driven research requirements and national-level, more strategic research. It should also include succession planning to identify strategies to recruit the necessary expertise to address capacity gaps due to attrition.

Recommendation 4: CFS should develop and implement a systematic performance monitoring and reporting framework or strategy to enable ongoing monitoring and reporting related to: the production of outputs; progress towards outcome achievement; and leveraging of financial and in-kind resources. It should include a strategy for ongoing monitoring that would facilitate the ability to correct course, if necessary, to ensure the effective, efficient and economic delivery of the program.

5.3 Management Responses and Action Plans

 

 

 

Appendix 1:  Results Chain for the Forest Disturbances Science and Applications Sub-program

Logic Model Outcomes

Results Expectations

Assumptions, Causal Linkages and Factors

Immediate outcomes

Forest sector players are using CFS outputs to monitor and detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances

CFS determines a need among forest sector players (Clients are asking CFS for science-based tools to assess and respond to  forest disturbances; there is a lack of knowledge, tools, methods, strategies, best practices, and policies to monitor and detect, assess and respond to forest disturbances) 

  • The sub-program has effective mechanisms in place to identify the right target audiences and their respective needs
  • The right target audiences are reached and are willing to engage in CFS needs assessment/research agenda
  • Stakeholder needs are identified

 

Research priorities aligned with needs are set and projects selected

  • The needs, and the problems they address, are sufficiently understood by the sub-program to result in investment in the appropriate science to produce the appropriate outputs
  • The sub-program has effective governance and research project selection processes in place to set an effective research agenda
  • Identified research priorities are aligned with NRCan strategic objectives, federal government priorities and role of CFS

 

CFS conducts research and analysis, develops and manages national databases and risk mapping, and provides policy advice

 

  • The sub-program is sufficiently resourced (both financial and human resource expertise) to conduct the research necessary to produce the products that meet the needs of its target audience
  • The sub-program has effective management and accountability mechanisms in place to ensure effective conduct of research activities across research centres/ project areas
  • The sub-program is partnering with the right groups (and not with wrong groups) and leveraging resources from them to optimize the achievement of results

 

CFS Produces the outputs (knowledge, tools, methods, strategies, best practices, input to policy and policy advice) 

  • Research leads to the production  of planned outputs
  • Sub-program is adequately resourced to provide outputs as planned

 

Target audiences use the CFS research products and advice

  • The sub-program is disseminating outputs adequately
  • The scientific information and analysis produced by the sub-program is considered authoritative on the subject matter and scientifically sound
  • Target audiences are aware of and understand how to use the products
  • Products meet the needs of the target audiences/are satisfactory
  • Sub-program has effective feedback mechanisms to know they are meeting the needs of their stakeholders/ working on the ‘right’ things
  • Stakeholders are willing and able to use the products
  • Stakeholders are using CFS outputs to monitor and detect, assess, and respond to the risks, vulnerabilities and opportunities stemming from forest disturbances

Forest sector players work collaboratively nationally and internationally to address emerging disturbance issues related to Canada’s forest resources.

Forest sector players  communicate/meet to share information/ tools/best practices,  coordinate investments in S&T on forest disturbances, and to coordinate response strategies

  • Shared understanding among stakeholders of needs and approach to finding solutions and able and willing to collaborate
  • CFS has appropriate representation at forums where collaboration occurs
  • Stakeholders are collaborating

 

Creation of joint work plans, national strategies, international agreements, collaborative agreements, reports from stakeholder groups about disturbance conditions, sharing data, information, ideas

  • Stakeholders able and willing to address emerging forest  disturbances issues collaboratively
  • Stakeholders use CFS outputs and policy advice to develop joint agreements/initiatives to manage forest disturbances

Intermediate outcomes

Forest disturbances are managed more effectively in Canada though improved [and coordinated] policies, practices and regulations

Forest sector players develop and implement policies, practices and regulations based on CFS produced science and advice

 

  • Policies, practices and regulations based on CFS produced science and advice get developed and implemented
  • Stakeholders able and willing to implement policies, practices and regulations

 

Policies, practices and regulations are coordinated among jurisdictions and industry to maximize effectiveness and efficiency

  • Stakeholders able and willing to coordinate efforts to manage forest disturbances
  • Appropriate forums exist for coordination to occur
  • Policies, practices and regulations are coordinated

Ultimate outcome

Threats to public safety, infrastructure, property, the forest resource and associated costs due to forest disturbances are mitigated across Canada

Threats of forest disturbances are identified early and responded to in a way that minimizes their negative impacts and costs

  • Policies, practices and regulations to identify and respond to threats are implemented
  • The implemented  policies, practices and regulations are effective

Damage to homes and infrastructure has been minimized, risks to people reduced, loss of forest supply to industry reduced, access to international markets maintained (or at least not stopped because of risk of transferring pests). Costs of controlling and mitigating forest disturbances minimized due to coordinated and science-based approach.

  • Actions implemented to identify and respond to threats reduces the impact of forest disturbances
  • The necessary supporting factors are in place to allow for effective management of forest disturbances (e.g., environmental, political, economic  contexts)

 


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