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U.S. Forest Service

Make land permits available online

Screen shot of the Christmas tree permit website

Project details

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service issues permits to the public for activities such as outfitting trips, large-scale events, and Christmas tree harvests.

The Forest Service wanted to make their permits and applications available online to simplify the application process and make it available outside of traditional business hours.


  • We conducted workshops with the Forest Service to investigate the business process behind permit applications.
  • We then built a permit prototype application. We tested the prototype with the public and Forest Service staff to understand user needs.
  • We developed an agile acquisitions strategy to hire a vendor and enable our partner to get functionality quickly while reducing risk.
    • We used the prototype research results to draft a request for proposal (RFP) using 18F’s Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement.
    • Instead of putting the entire permit application into one RFP, we started by procuring a team to build an API to connect to a legacy system within the Forest Service.
  • The Forest Service and vendor team built the initial API module in four months. 18F provided technical and design guidance to the vendor and coaching to the product owner. After the system received its authority to operate, we deployed the Christmas tree module as a pilot project to make sure the product met user needs.
  • We then helped the Forest Service draft, award and manage additional RFPs to build a public-facing application. The application included modules to support Christmas tree permits and Special Use permits.


  • Applying agile principles to software development and contracting allowed the Forest Service to see results quickly, reduce risk, and meet user needs.
  • The 18F team helped the Forest Service learn new techniques that will help them continue to be a better buyer of technology.
  • Buying Christmas tree permits online with Open Forest

    After a two year partnership with the Forest Service, we're excited to announce the launch of Open Forest where you can buy a permit to cut down your own Christmas tree in a National Forest.
  • A day in the life of an 18F product owner

    The Technology Transformation Services (TTS) has been working with the Forest Service in an effort to move their permitting process online. We’ve previously written about how doing this work in the open can benefit other agencies with permit systems. In this post, we’ll focus on why it’s important to have a product owner, what that looks like from the Forest Service’s perspective, and why a product owner is critical to successful projects.
  • Forest Service: Six months in, checking our assumptions

    The Technology Transformation Services has been working with the Forest Service in an effort to move their permitting process online. In this post, we’ll focus on how taking a step back to check your assumptions can reduce the risk that your project will go off course.