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Detailed Information on the
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program Assessment

Program Code 10000460
Program Title Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program
Department Name Department of Agriculture
Agency/Bureau Name Department of Agriculture
Program Type(s) Direct Federal Program
Assessment Year 2006
Assessment Rating Adequate
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 80%
Strategic Planning 88%
Program Management 100%
Program Results/Accountability 47%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $42
FY2008 $85
FY2009 $0

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2006

Develop a National WHIP Plan to identify key priority species and habitats.

Action taken, but not completed A National WHIP Plan was developed and key strategies from the National WHIP Plan are being implemented. For example, NRCS is revising the allocation formula by placing more weight on declining, native, and important species and their associated habitats - key strategies outlined in the National WHIP Plan.
2006

Emphasize performance in WHIP national guidance and allocation process to ensure conservation practices are installed as planned on a timely basis, and priority species and habitats are targeted.

Action taken, but not completed The O&E review is being conducted in FY2008. The evaluation is reviewing the outputs of WHIP for both annual and long-term performance goals, including the efficiency goals. The evaluation, conducted collaboratively with other Federal agencies, will compare outputs of other Federal programs, such as USFWS' Partners for Wildlife Program, with WHIP's outputs.

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2006

Improve WHIP management by identifying national program priorities, standardizing the application selection and ranking process, and conducting an independent review of the allocation formula.

Completed The agency NRCS awarded a contract for an independent review of the allocation formula which was completed in 2007. The findings and recommendations have been evaluated and the formula has been updated, as appropriate.

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Long-term Output

Measure: Acres of improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identitied in the National WHIP Plan.


Explanation:Increase the number of WHIP acres actively managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan. The National WHIP Plan links habitat management activities with prioritized wildlife species. The NWP contains a compilation of States' species of concern, their associated habitat, and Federal recovery plans for Federal trust species as identified in the State WHIP Plans and State Wildlife Action Plans. State Wildlife Action Plans contain: designated "critical habitat" by the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that are essential to the conservation of a Federally-listed species; similarly designated habitat by the State wildlife agency for State-designated species; known locations of listed or candidate species that can be improved with specific practice; or particularly rare and unique habitats that could support at-risk wildlife species. Target is cumulative acres for FY 2006-2010. This measure directly supports the NRCS Strategic Plan Objective 3, Healthy Plant and Animal Communities.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 48,000
2005 48,620 55,778
2010 250,000
2012 100,000
Long-term Output

Measure: Acres of improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watershed as identified in the National WHIP Plan.


Explanation:Increase the amount of improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan. The National WHIP Plan links habitat management activities with prioritized wildlife species. The NWP contains a compilation of States' species of concern, their associated habitat, and Federal recovery plans for Federal trust species as identified in the State WHIP Plans and State Wildlife Action Plans. State Wildlife Action Plans contain: designated "critical habitat" by the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that are essential to the conservation of a Federally-listed species; similarly designated habitat by the State wildlife agency for State-designated species; known locations of listed or candidate species that can be improved with specific practice; or particularly rare and unique habitats that could support at-risk wildlife species. Target is cumulative acres for FY 2006-2010. This measure directly supports the NRCS Strategic Plan Objective 2.4.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 8,000
2005 8,242 11,360
2010 45,000
2012 18,000
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Percent of conservation practices applied within the first three years of the contract.


Explanation:To improve efficiency, increase the percent of conservation practices applied within the first three years of the contract by 1.5% each year through 2009. NRCS will adjust this target upward as efficiency increases.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 35.85%
2005 36.4% 31.4%
2006 36.9% 39.5%
2007 37.5% 39.5%
2008 38%
2009 38.6%
Annual Output

Measure: Acres of nonfederal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations.


Explanation:Acres of nonfederal land actively managed with qualifying conservation practices to protect and enhance habitat for species with declining populations. This measure directly supports the NRCS Strategic Plan Objective 3, Healthy Plant and Animal Communities.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 48,000
2005 212,611 197,392
2006 170,000 248,266
2007 200,000 154,061
2008 200,000
2009 270,000
Annual Efficiency

Measure: Acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 million of WHIP financial assistance.


Explanation:Lower the cost per acres treated; treated acres per $1 million. Increase by 1.5 percent each year. NRCS will adjust this target as efficiency changes.

Year Target Actual
2005 Baseline 81,216
2006 82,425 98,685
2007 83,675 39,730
2008 84,925
2009 86,200

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score
1.1

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: The purpose of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) is to assist landowners with the development of upland wildlife habitat, wetland wildlife habitat, habitat for threatened and endangered species, fish habitat, and other types of wildlife habitat determined to be a priority by the Secretary of Agriculture. The program achieves its purpose by providing technical and financial assistance to landowners and others who are interested in wildlife habitat development.

Evidence: Legislation: Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (answers 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.5, 3.2, 3.5, 4.3). Federal Register: 7 CFR Part 636 (answers 1.5, 3.5). Final Rule for 2002 and 1996 (answers 1.5, 3.5).

Yes 20%
1.2

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: WHIP addresses the loss or degradation of wildlife habitat on private lands. Agricultural production on crop, pasture, and grazing lands has negatively impacted wildlife habitat, and habitat loss due to agriculture is the primary factor impacting wildlife populations over the past 200 years in North America. For example, of all North American birds, those occupying the grasslands throughout the Great Plains are experiencing the steepest, most consistent and widespread declines - approximately 83 percent of these species exhibited decreasing population trends from 1966 through 1993. To better focus WHIP's resources and achieve increases in wildlife populations for priority species, in FY 2005 NRCS adopted the following national priorities to focus WHIP resources: (1) promote the restoration of declining or important native wildlife habitats; (2) protect, restore, develop or enhance wildlife habitat of at-risk species (candidate species, and State and Federally listed threatened and endangered species); (3) reduce the impacts of invasive species on wildlife habitats; and (4) protect, restore, develop or enhance declining or important aquatic wildlife species' habitats.

Evidence: NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). Fiscal Year 1998-FY 2005 Explanatory Notes for WHIP. National Priority Decision Memorandum signed by the NRCS Chief September 2005 (answers 2.1, 3.7, 4.1).

YES 20%
1.3

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any other Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: WHIP overlaps with other Federal, state, and private wildlife habitat restoration and creation programs. WHIP targets similar beneficiaries, such as private landowners of agricultural land, as these other wildlife habitat programs. Though WHIP has a broader authorization to benefit all types of wildlife species - instead of only targeting Federal trust species as in the case of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's programs - the program managers have adopted national priorities that focus WHIP dollars at benefiting Federal trust species. While targeting limited WHIP dollars at conservation priorities is beneficial, it does not in this instance remove the programmatic overlap.

Evidence: WHIP Program Enrollment Summary (2004 and 2005) (answers 1.4, 1.5, 2.5, 3.2). NRCS Performance Results System: National Summary of WHIP (October 1 through September 30, FY 2005) (answer 1.5). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). 640 FW 1 Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

NO 0%
1.4

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: The program is free from major design flaws that would prevent it from meeting its objectives, and there is no strong evidence that another approach or mechanism would be more efficient or effective to achieve its goals.

Evidence: WHIP enrollment summary 2004 and 2005 (go to 1.3). Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). Description of Program Contracts System (ProTracts). Salmon Initiative funding of six States in 2004 and 2005.

YES 20%
1.5

Is the program design effectively targeted so that resources will address the program's purpose directly and will reach intended beneficiaries?

Explanation: WHIP is designed to ensure that its resources are used to directly meet the program's purpose. Specifically, WHIP has a number processes to identify habitat conservation priorities, allocate funding, and evaluate and rank project applications. At the national level, NRCS has adopted four conservation priorities for WHIP to better focus the program's resources. Each year, NRCS allocates WHIP dollars to state offices based on these national conservation priorities, as well as the objectively-identified wildlife habitat needs in each state. Also, NRCS identifies specific habitat conservation priorities and allocates WHIP dollars to benefit particular species. For example, in 2005 NRCS identified the Greater Sage Grouse (a declining specie in eleven western states) as a national WHIP priority and set aside funds to target this individual specie. The WHIP assistance has helped to enhance habitat for the sage grouse. At the state level, NRCS identifies wildlife habitat conservation priorities with its state, local, and private conservation partners. The state and county NRCS offices rank WHIP project applications based on the national and state habitat priorities.

Evidence: WHIP program enrollment summary  2004 & 2005 (go to 1.3). Performance Results System: National Summary of WHIP (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, FY 2005) (go to 1.3). Federal Register: 7 CFR Part 636, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, Final Rule (go to 1.1). NRCS policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). Targeted funding for Greater Sage Grouse in eight Northwest States in FY 2005 (California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming): $936, 032 financial assistance funds. In FY 2006 Nevada, Utah and Washington, were added to the States above to receive a total of $2 million financial assistance Greater sage grouse targeted WHIP funding for ten States.

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 80%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score
2.1

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: WHIP has adopted two long-term performance measures: 1. Acres of improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan; 2. Acres of improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan. WHIP contributes to the NRCS' Strategic Plan's Mission Goal 3: Healthy Plant and Animal Communities and USDA Strategic Objective 6.4 "Protect and Enhance Wildlife Habitat to Benefit Desired, At-Risk, and Declining Species. Targets and goals are included in the NRCS Strategic Plan. In establishing WHIP priorities, NRCS will develop a National WHIP Plan (NWP) to complement the goals and objectives articulated in the NRCS Strategic Plan. The purpose of the NWP is to link habitat management activities with prioritized wildlife species. The NWP contains a compilation of States' species of concern, their associated habitat, and Federal recovery plans for Federal trust species as identified in the State WHIP Plans and State Wildlife Action Plans. State Wildlife Action Plans contain: designated "critical habitat" by the Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) that are essential to the conservation of a Federally-listed species; similarly designated habitat by the State wildlife agency for State-designated species; known locations of listed or candidate species that can be improved with specific practice; or particularly rare and unique habitats that could support at-risk wildlife species. To support the Agency Strategic Plan, in FY 2006, WHIP has the following national priorities: (1) Promote the restoration of declining or important native wildlife habitats; (2) Protect, restore, develop or enhance wildlife habitat of at-risk species (candidate species, and State and Federally listed threatened and endangered species); (3) Reduce the impacts of invasive species on wildlife habitats; and (4) Protect, restore, develop or enhance declining or important aquatic wildlife species' habitats.

Evidence: WHIP has the following two long term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the WHIP: 1. Improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds, acres; 2. Improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds, acres. NRCS Strategic Plan 2005-2010. National Priority Decision Memorandum signed by the NRCS Chief September 2005 (go to 1.2). Conservation Programs Manual (CPM), Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program which can be found at: http://policy.nrcs.usda.gov/scripts/lpsiis.dll/M/M_440_517.htm.

YES 12%
2.2

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: For the long term performance measures listed in question 2.1 above, in support of the NRCS Strategic Plan and National Priorities, the following specific quantified targets have been set. These targets are ambitious in that they are achievable and yet they promote continued improvement in efficiencies in WHIP. The target for improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds is 250,000 acres by 2010. The target for improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds is 45,000 acres by 2010.

Evidence: The target for improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds is 250,000 acres by 2010. The target for improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds is 45,000 acres by 2010. Baselines for the Targets: 1. Baseline is 40,500 acres in 2004 and 55,778 acres in 2005 for habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds. 2. Baseline is a combination of two years: 4,855 acres in 2004 and 11,360 acres in 2005 for habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds.

YES 12%
2.3

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that can demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term goals?

Explanation: WHIP has one natural resource-oriented, annual performance measure: Acres of non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations. Developed based on WHIP authorizing legislation, this annual measure supports WHIP two long-term performance measures (see 2.1) and the Agency's Fish and Wildlife Habitat Objective, located in Goal 3 Healthy Plant and Animal Communities of the NRCS Strategic Plan: By 2010, an additional 9 million acres of essential habitat will be improved and managed to benefit at-risk and declining species. WHIP has also established two annual efficiency measures: 1. Percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract. 2. Acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance. These efficiency measures are designed to track improvements in program delivery and encourage more acres per federal dollar invested in WHIP projects. Through automated processes, a revised allocation formula, and performance incentive bonus awards to top-producing states, NRCS is achieving efficiencies in program delivery and awarding more funds to States that provide more acres per financial assistance dollar invested. See performance measure component of database.

Evidence: Non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations (acres). Percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract. Baseline includes two 3-year cycles (2002-2004 and 2003-2005) with an average of 35.85 percent implementation. Target of 1.5% increase per year through 2009 is expected and this target will be adjusted upward as efficiency increases. Acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance. Baseline of 81,216 acres in fiscal year 2005 with a target of 1.5 percent increase in acres per year through 2009 is expected and this target will be adjusted with efficiency changes.

YES 12%
2.4

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets for its annual measures?

Explanation: WHIP's annual performance measures, including its annual efficiency measures, have baselines and ambitious annual targets. Targets for the natural resource-oriented annual performance measures are established at the NRCS state level. The target setting process involves dialogue and negotiation between State Conservationists, the National Program Manager, and NRCS Leadership. The target is established based on analyses of State and local natural resource conditions, past State performance, and staffing levels. All targets are based on goals established in the NRCS Strategic Plan and Agency Business Plans. Employee performance is measured based on the employee's ability to meet their share of these annual targets. In 2005, the target for WHIP was 212,611 acres of non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations. NRCS protected and enhanced 197,392 acres of habitat for species with declining populations, a 93 percent completion. Target acres to be completed for 2006 is 170,000 acres due to an 8.5 percent drop in appropriations and scheduled conservation practice implementation. Targets for the efficiency measures are set at the NRCS national level. WHIP anticipates that it will increase the percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract by 1.5 percent per year. Increase the number of acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance by 1.5 percent per year. See performance measure component of database.

Evidence: Non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations (acres). Target for 2005 was 212,611 acres and completed 197,392 acres, a 93 percent completion. Target acres to be completed for 2006 is 170,000 acres due to an 8.5 percent drop in appropriations and scheduled conservation practice implementation. WHIP anticipates that it will increase the percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract by 1.5 percent per year. Increase the number of acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance by 1.5 percent per year.

YES 12%
2.5

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: Partners support the overall goals of the program and regularly report to NRCS on their performance. In order to more effectively and efficiently deliver WHIP projects, NRCS enters into formal agreements with a number of state, local, and private organizations. In turn, these public and private partners contribute both financial and technical assistance to deliver wildlife habitat projects. Since FY 1998, WHIP state and local partners have contributed over $29 million in addition to federal and private landowners' cost-share contributions. WHIP also uses non-federal contractors, or Technical Service Providers (TSPs), to assist with improving habitat and achieving the program's annual and long-term goals. Both the partners and TSPs regularly report on the amount, type, and location of work they perform. These reports feed into NRCS's program accountability system. In addition, to reinforce improved performance on WHIP's goals, NRCS had adopted a new funding allocation system for FY 2006. The new allocation process includes a factor that accounts for the amount of financial and technical assistance that WHIP partners contribute towards achieving the program's goals. The greater the contributions, the more WHIP funding a state NRCS office will receive.

Evidence: Program enrollment summary (2004, 2005) (go to 1.3). NRCS policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). Individual contract (answers 3.2). Contribution Agreement with the Nature Conservancy-Skylands Program Office (answers 3.2). Cooperative Agreement with Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (answers 3.2). Allocation formula definitions (go to 2.7). Incentive Awards definitions (go to 2.7).

YES 12%
2.6

Are independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: No, NRCS has not performed WHIP program evaluations that meet the PART guidance criteria for quality and scope. Accordingly, the program must receive a "no" for this question. However, the agency does conduct periodic program management reviews, such as those conducted by NRCS Oversight and Evaluation (O&E) teams. NRCS completed an O&E team review of WHIP in FY 2003 as directed by OMB following the PART of WHIP in FY 2002. A nationwide survey was completed including thirteen States, 37 service centers, and 113 sites. States were selected to represent both regional and ecological diversity, as well as funding allocations. WHIP plans were evaluated for compliance with program policy and intent. Direct observation of 334 Wildlife Habitat Development Plans and 1,404 practices were made at the 37 service centers. As a consequence of the program review, a Management Action Plan (MAP) was developed and scheduled to be fully implemented by the end of fiscal year 2006. In addition to these review activities, an internal O&E Program Evaluation of WHIP is scheduled to begin during the 4th quarter FY 2006.

Evidence: O & E Review - January 2003 (answers 3.7, 4.5). Management Action Plan - September 2005 (answers 3.7). National Bulletin No.300-5-13, August 26, 2005 (answers 3.4). FY 2006 O&E Review and Program Evaluation Schedule.

NO 0%
2.7

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: WHIP has program budgeting that defines the relationship between its financial resources and performance measures. WHIP's annual budget presentation makes clear the impact of funding, policy, or legislative changes on its expected performance. In addition, NRCS can account for and report all direct and indirect costs needed to successfully implement the program. Budget requests for WHIP are explicitly tied to annual and long-term goals and accomplishments. Furthermore, the annual budget submission to Congress includes annual performance measures and funding targets to indicate the estimated level of performance at the requested level. Annual resource needs and agency accomplishments are clearly articulated in the budget in the Summary of Budget and Performance section.

Evidence: Allocation formula definitions (answers 2.5, 3.2, 3.7). FY 2006 and FY 2007 allocation worksheet. Performance Incentive Factor definitions (answers 2.5, 3.7). Performance Incentive worksheets. FY 2006 and FY 2007 Explanatory Notes, NRCS, President's Budget Indirect costs are accounted for in the full cost of program table for Strategic Objective 6.4 (Protect and Enhance Wildlife Habitat to Benefit Desired, At-Risk and Declining Species).

YES 12%
2.8

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: NRCS has processes in place to regularly review WHIP's design and implement changes if they are needed. NRCS has updated the NRCS Strategic Plan to 2005-2010. NRCS has adopted WHIP National Priorities in support of the Strategic Plan. NRCS has adopted long-term and annual performance goals for WHIP in support of the Strategic Plan and National Priorities as well as establishing efficiency measures to increase the percent of conservation practices applied on schedule and increase nonfederal cooperative cost-share investment. A new natural resource based, transparent allocation formula has been implemented in support of the national priorities and including a new transparent performance incentives element.

Evidence: NRCS Strategic Plan 2005-2010 (go to 2.1). National Priority Decision Memorandum signed by the Chief September 2005 (go to 1.2). Efficiency measures (go to 3.4). Allocation formula definitions (go to 2.7). Performance Incentives Program definitions (go to 2.7).

YES 12%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 88%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score
3.1

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: NRCS regularly collects performance data through its Integrated Accountability System (IAS) that enables the agency to report program progress to evaluate state office progress, monitor program performance, and allocate/re-allocate resources. The system is a set of data collection tools, processes and related applications that provide information on a routine basis to support the agency's strategic and performance planning, budget formulation and accountability activities. The components of the accountability system include: - A Performance Results System (PRS) that provides web-based performance accomplishment data by program that is updated daily; - A Total Cost Accounting System (TCAS) that records time and attendance information by program, activity, and location, via the web; - Foundation Financial Information System (FFIS) that tracks obligations and disbursements of funds within States, and; - A web-based software program called Program Contracting System (ProTracts) that manages WHIP conservation program applications and cost-share agreements. With ProTracts State and National Program Managers are able to keep track of funds allocated, obligated, and disbursed. In the field, NRCS uses ProTracts to confirm an applicant's eligibility for the program. Each system has business rules, performance measure definitions and specific automated queries to check for erroneous data entries. Results are analyzed each quarter for credibility and progress toward meeting goals. The web-based systems are designed to capture partner input data and allow some flexibilities at the state and local level. Examples of reports and business definitions are provided as evidence. Annually, State Conservationists are required to attest to the data quality of their performance information by submitting an annual attestation letter. During a recent program management review, NRCS evaluated state offices' use of WHIP funds to pay for technical assistance. The resulting Management Action Plan recommendations will eliminate overcharges for WHIP project delivery and encourage field offices to utilize WHIP funds more efficiently.

Evidence: WHIP Performance Results System (PRS) summary of conservation practices application (2005). PRS partnership contribution for FY 2005. Tables with allocation and obligation of funds for FY 2005. ProTracts report for backlog of applications not funded for FY 2005. O & E Review, January 2003 (go to 2.6). Management Action Plan, September 2005 (go to 2.6). Description of Program Contracts System (ProTracts) (go to 1.4).

YES 14%
3.2

Are Federal managers and program partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, and other government partners) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: NRCS employees have performance reporting requirements in their Individual Performance Plans. All performance standards are tied into strategic plan goals through business plans which provide a roadmap to successful completion of performance goals. Target goals are identified in Individual Performance Plans. NRCS State Conservationists in States are responsible and accountable for overall program implementation and results, including identifying, monitoring and analyzing performance indicators and financial integrity as indicated in the sample Performance Standard in the evidence provided. District Conservationists in the field have performance standards they are required to meet such as Business Plan items are to be completed at the 95 percent level, all products and services meet NRCS standards and specifications as reviewed during spot checks, and meet PRS goals, as illustrated by the sample performance plan and Business Plan included in the Evidence section. WHIP National Program Leader Performance Standard includes providing analysis and recommendations for shifting of funds according to information from ProTracts and PRS and personal knowledge as indicated in the sample included in the Evidence section. The State offices conduct quality assurance reviews in accordance with guidance provided in the National Conservation Program Manual (CPM) including Part 517 and Part 512. Responsibilities for all levels of NRCS are spelled out in CPM Part 517 and Part 512. The contract document and appendix provides schedule and requirements individuals and NRCS must follow in implementation of their contracts as indicated in sample plan provided. Payment is certified by NRCS and participant and verified through ProTracts using NRCS-1245 form. Cooperative agreements spell-out responsibilities of NRCS and partners, such as the formulation and implementation of plans, monitoring during installation, quality control, and timeline as indicated in sample agreements provided. The Integrated Accountability System (IAS) allows program managers to evaluate performance, adjust program priorities, and allocate/re-allocate resources. Obligation of allocated funds and financial reimbursements in implementation of conservation practices are tracked by use of ProTracts. PRS is utilized to monitor completion of States' annual performance goals. In addition NRCS performs internal audits of cooperative agreements and contributions agreements with partners. Program managers at headquarters and State offices monitor deliverable agreements and take action on deficiencies.

Evidence: WHIP funding allocation process explanatory sheet (go to 2.7). WHIP Program Enrollment summary (2004, 2005) (go to 1.3). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 512, Conservation Program Contracting (answers 4.3). Annual performance goals and results report from PRS 2005. Performance standards for national, State, and field levels of NRCS. Sample NRCS FY 2006 Business Plan. Contract with an individual (go to 2.5). Sample NRCS-1245 form. Cooperative Agreement (go to 2.5). Cooperative Agreement with TSP. Contribution Agreement (go to 2.5).

YES 14%
3.3

Are funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner, spent for the intended purpose and accurately reported?

Explanation: WHIP funds are obligated in a timely manner and consistent with the annual program plan. The vast majority (98 percent) of funds are obligated each year; there are few unobligated dollars at the end of the fiscal year. NRCS allocates WHIP funds each fiscal year shortly after the program apportionment is received. They are allocated to state offices to achieve NRCS strategic plan goals. WHIP funds are regularly tracked through the Total Cost Accounting System (TCAS) and the Foundation Financial Information System (FFIS) by allowance holders and program managers. WHIP operates under a continuous signup process where the agency accepts applications throughout the year. This open signup concept allows the agency to accept good projects as they are offered rather than making applicants wait until a signup period is held. Existing internal controls appear to be adequate and are working. During the 2004 Agency risk assessment of WHIP, a statistical sampling was taken consisting of 192 transactions totaling $436,347 from 46 States. The supporting documentation for 99.83 percent of the transactions indicated payment amounts were correct and made to the proper person.

Evidence: Obligation reports for fiscal years 2004 and 2005. ProTracts report sample for 2005. O & E Review January 2004 (go to 2.6). Management Action Plan, September 2005 (go to 2.6). Erroneous Payment risk assessment documents (go to 3.6).

YES 14%
3.4

Does the program have procedures (e.g. competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, appropriate incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: NRCS has regular procedures in place to achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness, and the agency has developed two efficiency measures: 1. Percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract. 2. Acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance. Targets for the efficiency measures are set at the national level. WHIP anticipates that it will increase the percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract by 1.5 percent per year. Increase the number of acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 M WHIP financial assistance by 1.5 percent per year. NRCS is striving to accomplish increased efficiency by focusing of WHIP on new national conservation priorities, improved project selection, Information Technology (IT) improvements, performance awards, and increased oversight and accountability of WHIP technical assistance funds. Furthermore, NRCS will increase program efficiency by implementing a new application evaluation and ranking tool in FY 2007. This system will enable NRCS to achieve policy consistency while providing flexibility to state offices to address national, state, and local habitat priorities. Cost efficiency will be a selection criterion for all offered projects and a client-friendly explanation of how an applicant scored will be produced.

Evidence: Efficiency measures for WHIP. National Bulletin: 300-5-13, August 26, 2005, To provide national guidance on the piloting and implementation of the Programs Ranking Tool for Fiscal Year 2006 and 2007 (go to 2.6). Performance Incentive definitions (go to 2.7). Performance Incentives worksheet (go to 2.7).

YES 14%
3.5

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: WHIP works in partnership with state and local wildlife habitat programs. State and local units of governments are eligible to participate in the WHIP program. On one level their applications are evaluated and ranked along with all other applicants. On another level NRCS has contribution or cooperative agreements with units of government. The NRCS State Technical Committees include representatives of local, state, and federal agencies (e.g., State Game and Fish) that provide advice to ensure the WHIP complements and coordinates with the priorities of their respective agency wildlife goals. WHIP agreements have been written with state resource agencies that have jurisdiction over waterways. Funds provided with the agreements are used to cost-share conservation practice installation for prioritized habitat with landowners. With agreements state agencies have provided environmental studies for dam removals and WHIP has provided funding and/or expertise to cost-share for the dam removal or installation of fish ladders. In the case of other federal agencies WHIP pays for a portion of a contract and the other Federal agencies will pay the rest, with the policy that overall Federal payment will not exceed 75 percent of the total cost to install a conservation practice. For example, an agreement in regard to Eel Grass restoration NRCS in Rhode Island had partnerships with NOAA, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental-Fish and Wildlife, and an independent entity. NRCS provided funds for cost of planting while partner contribution consisted mostly of in-kind services in regard to actual planting and monitoring of eel beds in the Narragansett Bay. The project that serves to complement priority work of all agencies and groups involved in the partnership.

Evidence: NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). Federal Register: 7 CFR Part 636 (go to 1.1). Final Rule for 2002 and 1996 (go to 1.1). Agreement from Rhode Island (go to 1.4).

YES 14%
3.6

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: WHIP uses the ProTracts web-based software to certify completion of conservation practices according to NRCS minimum standards and specifications, and to approve payment and prevent erroneous payment. WHIP payments are issued through the National Finance Center. The Federal Financial Management Improvement Act established a statutory requirement for agency heads to assess on an annual basis, whether their financial management systems comply with Federal financial management system requirements, applicable Federal accounting standards, and the Standard General Ledger at the transaction level. The agency Chief Financial Officer certified that the NRCS financial management system is in compliance. The risk assessment plan including a Statistical Sampling for the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 was completed for fiscal year 2004 consisting of 192 transactions from 46 States totaling $436,347. The Corrective Action Plan for 2004 indicates WHIP achieved a 99.83 percent efficiency rating. Of the 192 transactions, two were considered improper. NRCS developed a corrective action to improve the overall control environment and improper payments.

Evidence: Erroneous Payment Risk Assessment Plan completed for fiscal year 2004, by Statistical Sampling (answers 3.7). WHIP 2004 Corrective Action Plan indicating results of the statistical sampling. Consolidated Farm Security & Rural Investment Programs Corrective Action Plan. Statistical plan for WHIP in FY 2005.

YES 14%
3.7

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: NRCS has processes in place to for identifying and correcting program management deficiencies and taking timely corrective actions, such as the agency's internal Oversight and Evaluation (O&E) teams. Since 2002, WHIP has undertaken a number of steps to address its management deficiencies. These steps include: adopting recommendations issued by internal and external oversight teams, creating new allocation and performance incentive formulas, and instituting new software to track program activities and evaluate and rank applications. There have been three reviews related to WHIP implementation since 2002. In January 2004, an NRCS O&E team conducted a review on WHIP. Following this review, NRCS drafted a Management Action Plan (MAP) to implement O&E s recommendations to be completed by October 2006. Examples of Action items in the MAP related to management are: (1a) National Office and State Conservationists are to review state WHIP plan and ranking to ensure focus on wildlife as the primary resource concern; and (3a2) implement a WHIP application evaluation and ranking tool. Based on a 2005 report from the Wildlife Society, NRCS has addressed two of the recommendations articulated in this report. The quality review process required in 440 CPM Part 517 Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program policy will include documenting improvement of the habitat quality, and ensure that habitat practices installed are of high quality. A survey to comply with the Improper Payments Act of 2002 found that the improper payment efficiency rating for WHIP was 99.83 percent of all payments issued in 2004. To more efficiently implement WHIP at the field level, NRCS developed contracting software called ProTracts. Major features include application tracking, distribution of allocation funds, contract payment approval, and participant eligibility. WHIP implemented ProTracts for all new contracts and payments for WHIP beginning in 2004. ProTracts incorporates automated edits that have effectively prevented many of the improper payment errors identified in the statistical sample for programs and payments that were not made through ProTracts. NRCS's Financial Management Division has engaged Senior Agency and Program Managers in every step of the process, and is committed to continue its efforts to educate NRCS's employees of the entire improper payment issue in response to this survey. A new evaluation and ranking tool is being piloted during fiscal year 2006 to achieve consistency with policy while providing full flexibility to States to address National, State, and local priorities, and cost efficiency is to be evaluated in all rankings.

Evidence: Oversight and Evaluation Report, January 2004 (go to 2.6). Management Action Plan, September 2005 (go to 2.6). Allocation formula definitions (go to 2.7). Performance Incentives definitions (go to 2.7). Erroneous Payment Risk Assessment (go to 3.6). Fish and Wildlife Benefits of Farm Bill Conservation Programs (see pocket of binder).

YES 14%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 100%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score
4.1

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term performance goals?

Explanation: WHIP made the following progress toward achieving its long-term outcomes: 1. Acres of improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan. Baseline is an average of two years, 40,500 reported in 2004 and 55,778 acres reported in 2005, for an average of 48,000 acres as a baseline. 2. Acres of improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds as identified in the National WHIP Plan. Baseline is an average of two years, 4,855 acres in 2004 and 11,360 acres in 2005 for an average of 8,000 acres as a baseline. WHIP performance in FY 2005 was adequate with targets met, although the differences regarding Aquatic species were so great that both years were combined to create an average baseline for future comparison. This illustrates that if progress far exceeds target, target will be adjusted to continue to challenge the NRCS state offices and strive toward increased efficiency in use of program funds. NRCS has issued a new NRCS Strategic Plan 2005-2010. WHIP national priorities, long-term and annual performance measures, will allow NRCS to achieve several long-term objectives articulated in the Agency Strategic Plan. With these items, new in FY 2005 we have started a new progress cycle and accomplishments toward achieving the long term performance goals. See question 2.1 for list of National Priorities.

Evidence: Improved habitat for prioritized wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds, acres: Baseline is an average of two years, 40,500 reported in 2004 and 55,778 acres reported in 2005, for an average of 48,000 acres as a new baseline. Improved habitat for prioritized aquatic wildlife species within broad geographic watersheds, acres: baseline is an average of two years: 4,855 acres in 2004 and 11,360 acres in 2005 for an average of 8,000 acres as a new baseline. National priority decision memorandum signed by the NRCS Chief in September 2005 (Go to 1.2). PRS Summary Conservation Practices (FY2004, FY2005). PRS Wildlife Applied (FY2004). ProTracts generated T&E Plans approved (FY2004). PRS Performance by Quarter (FY2005) (Answers 4.2). ProTracts generated report on At-Risk Species (FY2005). Table with projected Long Term Performance Measure acreages 2005-2010..

YES 20%
4.2

Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: For FY 2005 WHIP made the following progress in achieving the annual performance goal: Acres of non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations: Goal for 2005 was 212,611 acres. Progress was 197,933 acres or a 93 percent accomplishment. Goal for 2006 is 170,000 acres, due to an 8.5 percent drop in appropriations. The annual goal was lowered, but still promotes continued improvement in efficiency in WHIP by urging NRCS state programs to implement scheduled conservation practices as planned.

Evidence: Non-federal land managed for the protection and enhancement of habitat for species with declining populations: Goal for 2005 was 212,611 acres. Progress was 197,933 acres or a 93 percent accomplishment. Goal for 2006 is 170,000 acres..

LARGE EXTENT 13%
4.3

Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program goals each year?

Explanation: Explanation: NRCS has adopted two efficiency measures to demonstrate cost effectiveness. They are 1. Percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract. Extent of practice completion within a 3-year period compared to all practices scheduled in contracts. Completion of practices within the first 3 years contributes to efficiency in both technical and financial assistance. Practice payments issued per dollar obligation in a contract. And 2. Acres of wildlife habitat improved per $1 million WHIP financial assistance. This will result in lowering the cost per acre treated; wildlife habitat acres compared to cost of $1 Million. Though NRCS does not yet have actual data for these two new efficiency measures, the agency has demonstrated improved WHIP efficiency through other management improvements and measures. Therefore, the program warrants a "Small Extent" answer to this question. NRCS application evaluation and ranking process calculates cost-efficiencies in conservation practices to be installed in a contract plan for permanent wildlife habitat and the application evaluation and ranking tool presently being piloted will improve on this process when it is fully implemented in October 2007. After contract approval, policy requires contract review at least annually to ensure implementation is timely according to agreed-to contracts. By funding the applications that are most likely to be implemented on a timely basis, and monitoring the timeliness and correctness of conservation practice installation, NRCS is reducing the federal administrative workload associated with contract implementation. NRCS has worked to lower the technical assistance (TA) funds needed to implement WHIP contracts as calculated in cost-of-programs models to be more efficient in the application of the WHIP program. In FY 2004 the TA was 24 percent of total program funds, in FY 2005 TA was 23 percent, and in FY 2006 TA is 22 percent, respectively.

Evidence: Efficiency measure accomplishment: Increase the percent of conservation practices applied on schedule. Baseline of 18.4% in 2004. Target of 1.5% increase per year through 2009. Accomplishment for 2005 was 28.9 percent. NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 512, Conservation Program Contracting (go to 3.2). Maine and Rhode Island State WHIP Plans.

SMALL EXTENT 7%
4.4

Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., with similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: WHIP did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate how the program compares with other similar wildlife habitat conservation programs. The PART guidance requires programs to consider program evaluations and data that are collected in a systematic fashion that allow a comparison of programs with similar purpose and goals. These comparisons must include an assessment of the most significant aspects of the program's performance.

Evidence: PART guidance recommends that evidence can include comparative performance data for common performance measures, as well as evaluations and documentation comparing similar programs.

NO 0%
4.5

Do independent evaluations of sufficient scope and quality indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: Based on the evidence provided, the program has demonstrated its effectiveness through independent evaluations to a small extent. While the evidence does not meet the standards in Question 2.6 for scope, quality, and independence, taken together they do indicate that the program is effective. WHIP provided two reviews of the program that provide a limited evidence of WHIP's effectiveness. The first is an assessment of WHIP's fish and wildlife benefits produced by USDA employees and published by The Wildlife Society in 2005. The article reports that "although WHIP does address problems believed to limit wildlife and their habitats, with few exceptions a direct cause-and-effect relationship between WHIP projects and improvements in wildlife populations has not been documented in the peer-reviewed literature." The article does state, however, that, "a considerable amount of anecdotal information is available from states and others that demonstrates the value of WHIP projects for fish and wildlife." The article cites a number of WHIP projects that have documented benefits to wildlife populations, such as fish and eel populations in restored streams and bat populations in abandoned mines. In conclusion, the authors find that WHIP is lacking quantitative studies that document fish and wildlife responses to WHIP projects, but that benefits to wildlife have been implied through anecdotal evidence and informal feedback from program participants and partners. The second review, produced by a researcher from the University of Missouri in 1999, focuses on WHIP's design and implementation at the state level. The author concluded that the state NRCS offices had effectively designed their WHIP project delivery plans and estimated that WHIP will provide positive benefits to wildlife species. This review, however, did not assess WHIP's efficacy on wildlife populations. Evidence: Efficiency measure accomplishment: 1. Percent of conservation practices applied within the first 3 years of the contract. Baseline includes two 3-year cycles (2002-2004 and 2003-2005) with an average of 35.85% implementation. A target of 1.5 percent increase per year through 2009 is expected and this target will be adjusted upward as efficiency increases. 2. Acres of wildlife habitat improved per 1 $M WHIP financial assistance. Baseline includes Fiscal Year 2005 to achieve a base of 81,216 acres treated with a target of 1.5 percent increase in acres per year through 2009 is expected and this target will be adjusted with efficiency changes. NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 517: Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (go to 1.1). NRCS Policy: Conservation Programs Manual, Title 440, Part 512, Conservation Program Contracting (go to 3.2). Maine and Rhode Island State WHIP Plans. A third review, "Agricultural Conservation - Sustaining Farms and Wildlife. A Policy Initiative of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Farm Bill Whitepaper," stated, "WHIP can target specific fish and wildlife resource needs that other larger and better-known Farm Bill conservation programs may not be able to address. WHIP is popular with landowners and land managers that have not been the traditional beneficiaries of other Farm Bill Commodity or conservation programs."

Evidence: Haufler, J.B., editor. 2005. Fish and wildlife benefits of Farm Bill conservation programs: 2000-2005 update. The Wildlife Society Technical Review 05-2. Burke, Vicnet J, author. February 26, 1999. Assessing the establishment and potential impacts of the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri. Sustaining Farms and Wildlife. A Policy Initiative of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Farm Bill Whitepaper.

SMALL EXTENT 7%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 47%


Last updated: 09062008.2006SPR