To the dedicated employees of the USDA Forest Service:
When congressional leaders and the President signed the three-week continuing resolution Friday to reopen the federal government after 35 difficult days, it also reopened my channel of direct communications with you. As each of you returns to your units to begin recovery and resumption of work, I wish I could personally be at every unit to shake your hand, thank you and tell you how much we value you; how very much we missed you.
I am deeply grateful for your resilience during this time. I know there were times when many of you edged close to a breaking point. This has certainly tested my mettle.
As we begin again and work together to re-open our doors to the citizens we serve, I will reflect on our shared, for some life-changing, experience.
These past five weeks have been like nothing we’ve experienced before. It has been a trying time for our personal and professional lives, our families, and our livelihood. Further, the shutdown and ensuing narrow focus on only a few aspects of our mission went against the core values of our agency. It will take some time to regroup in every facet of our lives and work.
To those of you who worked during the shutdown, I cannot thank you enough. We faced difficult choices each day to redefine and navigate the meaning of an orderly shutdown and limited continued operations. I am relieved to leave that experience behind and join with you to carry forward with our conservation mission—keeping an eye on what might transpire in three weeks.
As we resume operations, let’s anchor to our core values of Conservation, Safety, Service, Diversity and Interdependence. These values certainly showed up many times during the shutdown. They can continue to guide us now as we strive to regain normalcy and re-establish our service to communities. As we recover and rebuild our work plans, let us focus on three areas over the next few weeks and into the remainder of this year:
Resuming normal operations – Week 1
Every employee will receive a Resuming Operations Checklist and Guide. The Guide will provide instructions to employees for the technical aspects of getting their operations up and running, such as timesheet instructions and password resets. This guide also will be available on Inside the Forest Service and on the Resume, Recover, Reset intranet page, where other resources will be added and updated as we continue the resumption of normal operations. I will also host several all-employee calls during Week 1 of resumption. We will share the details as soon as we are able.
Supporting reference materials:
- Return To Work Checklist (https://www.fs.fed.us/documents/shutdown/FY19-Return-to-Work-Checklist-1-27-19--Final.pdf)
- Start-up Guide for Resumption of Services Following Shutdown (https://www.fs.fed.us/documents/shutdown/USDAForestServiceResumptionPlan20190127--final.pdf)
- Forest Service Resume, Recover, Reset: A Supervisor’s Guide for Post-Shutdown Engagement (https://www.fs.fed.us/documents/shutdown/ResumeRecoverReset_SupervisorGuide_Jan2019--final.pdf)
Recovery - Ongoing
I’ve heard heart-breaking stories: inability to put food on the table, mortgages and medical bills going unpaid, feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. This has weighed heavily on me. I am very grateful to those of you who were able to help your colleagues during this time. Many of our employees and communities stepped forward to assist us in this time of need. Thank you!
We are all different, and we will return to work with various experiences, challenges and concerns. Some issues will be resolved in a day; others may take weeks, months. I ask everyone to be mindful of these impacts as we move through the remainder of the year. We must create and maintain a safe environment for all employees to re-connect, thrive and reengage in the mission of the Forest Service.
Resetting programs of work – Weeks 2 and 3
I know some of you are ready to jump in and continue delivering the benefits and services the American people expect of us. However, we will need to reset our work now that we have lost one month of critical time. Re-familiarizing ourselves with the projects we were engaged in prior to the shutdown will help us begin working again. Please standby to participate in resetting priorities with your local unit.
Thank you all for your endurance over the past five weeks. If we take this one day, hour and minute at a time, I am confident we will work together and reset so we can soon continue our strong tradition of caring for the land and serving people.
Chief Vicki Christiansen