Forest Service

Moving land permits online

Background

Easing access to public lands

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service issues permits to the public to conduct outfitting trips, large scale events, and cut down their very own Christmas tree on National Forest land.

The Forest Service wanted to make their permits and applications available online to create a more predictable application process that was not limited to regular business hours.

Approach

Breaking the work into modules

Before helping Forest Service hire private vendors to build a permit tool, 18F conducted a series of workshops with the Forest Service to investigate the business process behind permit applications. With that information, we built a small prototype of the type of online permit tool that could address their issues. We tested the prototype with both the public and Forest Service employee users and used that research to draft an RFP using 18F Acquisition’s Agile Blanket Purchase Agreement (BPA).

Instead of putting the entire permit application tool into one RFP, the team started by asking only for an API to connect to a legacy system within the Forest Service. By breaking the work into pieces (called modules) the Forest Service was able to get functionality quickly while reducing risk on each module.

Working with the Forest Service and the vendor, we built the first API module in four months. We provided technical and design guidance to the vendor, and strategies for the Forest Service to serve as empowered product owners.

With the API module in hand and working well, we then helped the Forest Service draft, award, and manage two additional RFPs to build a public-facing application and a module to support Christmas Tree permits. We also integrated the application with login.gov so users could securely log in to the system.

Breaking the system into modules and using 18F’s Agile BPA allowed the Forest Service to see results quickly, reduce risk on each module, and deliver a service that meets the needs of users. The 18F acquisition team used each module to help the Forest Service learn new software development and contract management techniques that will help them continue to be a better buyer of technology.

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