Objective, Strategy and Activity

1. What the TRACS Performance Matrix and how are objectives set up in TRACS? 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Conservation Investment utilizes a hierarchy of terms to categorize all the types of work done in its various grant programs. The terms are listed on the “Performance Matrix” which was developed to standardize reporting by the TRACS Working Group and approved by the Joint Task Force (JTF).

TRACS provides grant applicants/recipients with a list of “standard objectives” that streamline performance reporting, increase transparency, and demonstrate national accomplishments of the financial assistance programs administered by the Office of Conservation Investment. TRACS formatted objectives consist of four components: Approach, Strategy, Objective, and Activity. Refer to the FAQs page: Performance Matrix Key Terms and Concepts.

2. Should I use the Performance Matrix every time to create my grant objectives?

Yes, the Office of Conservation Investment has adopted the use of Standard Objectives that must be used for all grant-funded activities. If your application uses alternative or incomplete objectives, you will be unable to enter those objectives in TRACS or complete your performance reports. Use the TRACS Performance Matrix and related tools to develop TRACS-ready objectives. View the Matrix Toolbox on the TRACS Resources and Job Aids page

3. How do we select the strategies, objectives, and activities to include in TRACS?

The strategies, objectives, and activities included in the grant proposal and project statement(s) in TRACS should show that the grant is substantial in character and design and meet the requirements of the funding program(s) laid out in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), and grant award terms and conditions. TRACS is the tracking and performance reporting tool for grants managed by the Office of Conservation Investment, and the objectives captured allow us to communicate program accomplishments by rolling-up data to report on the partnerships and performance at local, state, regional, and national scales. Therefore, the scale and number of activities reported should reflect accomplishments at the program level. 

4. Can a project have multiple objectives? Can objectives include multiple activities?

Yes, each project statement can have as many objectives as needed to achieve the goals of the grant. An objective may include multiple activities, if applicable. 

5. How should the objective title be formatted?

The objective title may be formatted however you choose, however the best practice recommendation is to enter the objective title as “Action verb + unit of measure + target date.”, e.g. “Stock 10 million fish by Dec. 31, 2025.” Use the Performance Matrix to find the suggested standardized objective title format for your selected strategy. The objective title should help to distinguish between objectives on the ‘list of objectives’ and in the performance report.

6. How do you translate a narrative qualitative objective into a TRACS-ready objective format?

Narrative (qualitative) objectives do not include a measurable output (i.e. unit of measure) but instead may use outcomes, percentages or other qualitative measures.  While narrative objectives may still have utility for internal agency use, they are not supported for entry in TRACS.  By implementing a standardized reporting structure and metrics, TRACS helps us communicate program accomplishments by rolling-up data to report on the partnerships performance at local, state, regional, and national scales.  In many instances, the additional narrative information from the objective may fit well under another field, in particular "approach" or "expected results and benefits".  Additional detail on progress towards outcomes can still be reported and included in the narrative of the performance report to show the intrinsic value of the project and/or program. Use the TRACS Performance Matrix to find standardized objective(s) that meet project goals and grant requirements.

Can I enter a qualitative objective into TRACS without a unit of measure? Is the unit of measure entered at the objective or activity tag 1 or 2 level?

All objectives in TRACS are designed to be “quantitative” and require a unit of measure for each Activity.

The unit of measure is entered at the Activity Tag 1 level. Select all Tag 2s that apply for the objective noting that Tag 2s do not have a unit of measure at that level. 

For example:

  • Objective: Operate and maintain facilities
    • Tag 1 (type of facilities): Shooting Ranges
        • Unit of Measure: # of facilities (at tag 1 level, ex. 4 shooting range facilities)
        • Tag 2 (components/amenities at those facilities): archery ranges, rifle ranges, program support buildings, restrooms, parking lots, etc.

    8. Is an approach required at the project level, objective level, or activity level? What goes into the approach?

    A separate approach is required for each objective in TRACS and encompasses all activities in that objective. The approach is a narrative that describes in detail the specific conservation actions or efforts necessary to accomplish the objective. The approach answers the question “how” the objective will be accomplished by describing the actual work that will be done. This information must demonstrate that the agency will use sound design, appropriate procedures, and accepted fish and wildlife conservation, management, or research principles.

    9. Should all grants have an objective for Coordination and Administration? What is the unit of measure for this objective?

    No, the Coordination and Administration Strategy in TRACS is only for Coordination and Administration Grants and / or Projects. While activities undertaken in the other strategies are likely to include administration and coordination tasks, they do not need to be reported in TRACS as they are implied in those other activities.

    The unit of measure for this objective is the number of projects administered under the grant program(s). A project means one or more related undertakings in a project-by-project grant that are necessary to full fill a need or needs, as defined by a State agency, consistent with the purposes of the appropriate Act (https://www.fws.gov/policy-library/520fw1).

    10. How do we report on day-to-day administrative and general operational/personnel management activities, such as hiring and training staff, general supplies and equipment purchases, etc.

    Day-to-day administrative and general operational/personnel management activities are typically not reported in TRACS since these are assumed as necessary activities needed to implement a grant/project. These details may be included in the approach for specific grant objectives.

    11. What are the best practice recommendations for objectives under the strategy of "Training/Education"?

    For the strategy of Training/Education, the best practice recommendation is to create two objectives, one to track the number of events and one to track the number of students. These metrics are important for tracking training and education for the program.

    12. What activities are reported under the Species Stocking strategy?

    If a state agency received eggs or fry from a Federal National Fish Hatchery and used Sport Fish funds to hatch, rear, and/or stock from a state hatchery then these fish should be reported under the Stocking Strategy in TRACS.

    13. What is intended to be captured in the activity tag "fire lines"? Fire breaks to keep fire out/prevent fire or breaks used for prescribed fire?

    Fire lines are those maintained for the purpose of fire prevention to protect property, life, and sensitive areas (i.e. critical habitats).  All other fire management activities such as controlled burns should be entered in Acres under the strategy of "Direct Management of Habitat and Species".

    14. How are Sport Fish Restoration funded Fish Kill Investigations reported in TRACS?

    Some State Game and Fish departments assist their Environmental Quality/Protection divisions or other agencies with fish kill investigations, investigate disease outbreaks, and/or other environmental issues that cause fish kills in public waters. There are three different strategy options that states may use to report these activities in TRACS.

    1)  Research, Survey, Data Collection and Analysis - Conduct X fish kill investigations

    2)  Direct Habitat and Species Management - Directly manage X incidents (Activity tag 1 - fish and wildlife disease management)

    3)  Technical Assistance - provide technical assistance to 1 organization

    15. Where do I capture docks constructed with grant funding?

    Recipients would enter information about the facility in the Facilities module. For those recreational boating facilities that include docks, the recipient would be required to enter values for the # of linear feet AND # of slips available at the dock. For the “help bubble icons”, the recipient would see the following explanations for the metrics.

    Linear feet (not including slips) – Enter the linear feet of dock available for vessels to tie up (this measure should not include slips). Some docks may offer dockage on both sides. In this case, enter the linear feet available for vessels on both sides of the dock. If a dock only offers slips, then enter “0” for linear feet.

    # of slips – For those docks that offer individual/multiple slips (a slip is the space available for one vessel), enter the number of slips available for recreational vessels. If no slips are present at the dock, then enter “0”.

    Some docks will offer dockage in the form of both linear feet and slips. In these cases, the reported metrics should be unique to either linear feet or # of slips. Do not duplicate measurements for both metrics. For example, in the figure below, the prime recipient would enter 100 linear feet of dock AND 10 slips.

    Graphic showing a dock with linear feet measured across the top and number of slips.

    16. What if my activity is not specifically listed? For example, Clean Vessel Act (CVA) programs often have outreach and education that includes marina outreach days, advertising, direct outreach, etc. 

    The Performance Matrix includes all kinds of activities that should encompass all types of grant-funded work. We recommend that you use the search (CTRL+F) to look for keywords in the Performance Matrix that might fit. For example, the activities mentioned may fit under the strategy of “Outreach/Communication” rather than “Training and Education”. There are 3 objective options under this strategy: ‘Inform/communicate with individuals’, ‘Participate in or sponsor events’, and ‘Produce products’. Consult with your Regional Office staff for additional guidance.

    17. Why is a lease under the strategy for "Incentives"? How can an incentive be used to accomplish the activities of securing access?

    For TRACS reporting purposes, a lease payment can be considered an incentive if it is used as a tool to encourage private landowners to participate in a program to help a state accomplish the grant goals and objectives. Moreover, economic incentives to private landowners can also be used for the conservation of species and habitats.  Short term leases are used as the means to provide or secure for species/habitat conservation or access to private land for hunting, fishing, and other recreation.  A lease is a contract by which one party conveys land, property, or services to another for a specified time, usually in return for a periodic payment. The NM Open Gates Program is an example on how leases are being used for this purpose (http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/open-gate-program/)

    18. How do we report on R3 objectives and activities in TRACS? 

    On the “Create Objective” page, a checkbox is available to select if the objective "pertains to R3 (recruitment, retention, and reactivation)". Note that this box is checked during the initial entry of the project statement objectives (not during performance reporting). 

    Checking this box will designate this objective as R3, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can pull together national reports of R3 activities funded across states, regions, and/or nationwide. 

    19. How do we determine if the objective pertains to R3?

    R3 refers to "Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation" efforts to recruit new hunters, target shooters, anglers, and recreational boaters, retain participants, and reactivate those whose participation lapsed. R3 is a national movement in the conservation community that is focused on increasing participation in hunting, target shooting, archery, trapping, angling, recreational boating, and other outdoor recreation activities. Shifts in American culture have contributed to a decline in participation rates of several outdoor pastimes.

    "Participation in hunting and recreational shooting has been generally declining since the 1980s. Hunting license sales produce valuable funding each year for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, while hunter expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. Development and use of partnerships and strategic models must continue to be utilized to halt and reverse the declining trend in hunting participation.

    If the downward participation trend continues, it will result in a diminished capacity to conserve species cherished by hunters and all outdoor enthusiasts. The threat is real. But from the crucible of crisis opportunity emerges to ensure that wildlife conservation remains fueled by hunters and shooting sports enthusiasts." (Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports)

    The Office of Conservation Investment does not have a national standard for which grant-funded objectives and activities pertain to R3. Each region, state and/or insular area can determine which objectives and activities pertain to R3 based on their agency or regional definitions.

    Some states or insular areas may have approved R3 plans, which users should reference to determine if their grant funded objectives are associated with R3. Some states or insular areas may also have R3 coordinators or specialists who may be consulted.

    Below are some links with R3 resources and information:

    20. For the objective "Research, Survey, Data Collection, and Analysis", why is the metric "investigations"?

    When the TRACS Performance Matrix of standardized objectives was being developed, the TRACS Working Group spent thousands of hours deliberating on the strategies, objectives and activities to standardize national performance reporting. For this strategy, they settled on the objective to count the number of "investigations" since it is a common term in usage within Federal Aid grants. Originally, at the dawn of the Wildlife Restoration Program, investigations were one of the few eligible projects.

    Here is how it was referred to in a 1940 report (page 3): "Investigations and surveys: These will solve pressing wildlife management problems that involve unknown factors in management, in feeding habits, and in the relationships of the various species to each other and to livestock production and farming operations, and that are concerned with the innumerable things entering into a wildlife-management program. While almost any form of investigation of biological problems might have a general bearing upon management practices, the studies undertaken in accordance with this law must be limited strictly to those of an applied nature." (1940 Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Report).

    21. For the strategy of "Research, Survey, Data Collection, and Analysis", how do we count number of investigations (ex. By sample, survey, or rolled up)? 

    When trying to determine what constitutes an investigation (such as a survey or research study), the recommended approach is to consider the overall purpose of the investigation, e.g., 1 purpose = 1 investigation

    An investigation is intended to capture the high-level purpose/outcome, not the individual data collection locations or times leading to the overall purpose.  For example, an investigation should not be counted by each specific survey outing/sample/observation/data collection point/count. Instead consider counting the number of investigations for each high-level singular or unique purpose/intent/outcome, such as the intent to develop a management plan or survey report for a community or for particular species, habitat, or other purpose. Also consider the scale (such as a specific entity/location, region, or statewide). 

    Consider these examples: 

    • A state fish and wildlife agency individually manages fish populations in 10 different lakes.  To collect population data, the agency collects 5 abundance samples monthly from each lake. Since the agency manages each lake's fishery separately, the number of investigations would be 10. The 5 outings taken monthly to collect population data in each lake are considered samples.
    • Conversely, if the state fish and wildlife agency were managing fish on a regional scale and there are 10 different lakes in the region, then perhaps the number of investigations would be 1.  Since all the data collected from each lake ultimately goes into 1 overall survey report/management plan of fisheries at a regional scale and not at each individual lake. 

    TRACS allows for "standardized flexibility" as the answer depends on the project and your specific experimental design. There is no national consistency in regards to what one state considers an investigation, however the Office of Conservation Investment recommends that each state or region be as consistent as possible in their definition of this metric. Please reach out to your Regional Office and/or the Training Team for guidance.

    22. How do we set up pass thru grants in TRACS and their objectives? For example, our state ha a grant with a tribe as a sub-recipient doing wildlife survey work - do we use coordination/admin as the objective or do we enter the more specific grant objectives the sub-recipient will be doing, such as 'Research, survey, data collection and analysis'?  

    The State as the prime is really the entity performing the work with assistance from a sub-recipient, so use the more specific TRACS objective that is associated with the scope of work (in this case do not use the coordination/administration objective, but instead use the research objective).