Spatially Explicit Assessment of the USDA Forest Service as a Representative Bureaucracy

Dexter H. Locke, Sonya S. Sachdeva, Lynne M. Westphal, Laura S. Kenefic, Michael J. Dockry, Cherie Le Blanc Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Diverse workforce representation helps organizations achieve their goals and is important for government agencies that seek to gain public trust. Prior research has examined patterns of representation in the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) and found an overall lack of representation despite advances at leadership levels. Federal agencies are required to report total workforce demographics; however, representation relative to local communities is rarely known. Using data from the US Census Bureau, we examined demographic profiles of populations within a 1-hour drive time around Forest Service workplaces relative to workforce demographics at each workplace. The Forest Service had a greater proportion of white employees than the US population as a whole, and racial/ethnicity diversity was lower than surrounding communities at 99.7% of Forest Service workplaces. Region-level summaries reinforce this pattern, suggesting the Forest Service is not a representative bureaucracy in any region or at any geographic scale. Given the Forest Service's size, role in natural resources management, and geographic distribution of its workforce, disparities between demographic composition of the agency's workforce and surrounding communities are striking. These results set a standard for spatially explicit assessments of workforce diversity as it relates to representative bureaucracy in geographically dispersed organizations like the Forest Service. Study Implications: Prior research showed that the USDA Forest Service had proportionally fewer Black/African American (~3 times fewer) and Asian (~2 times fewer) employees than the US civilian labor force as a whole. However, aggregate agency-level statistics and national comparisons may conceal local and regional level variation. To understand how the racial and ethnic diversity at each workplace compared with its surrounding geographic area's local population, 690 workplaces were examined. Results were consistent across multiple drive times and levels of aggregation; the Forest Service's workforce is less diverse than surrounding communities, which may potentially affect its ability to serve its many stakeholders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-451
Number of pages9
JournalForest Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of American Foresters.


  • GIS
  • census
  • diversity
  • drive time
  • inclusion
  • natural resources careers
  • public trust


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