WASHINGTON D.C. – The USDA Forest Service has recently implemented a permanent authority that will give line officers a new tool for accomplishing our work. The Forest Service Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services Program provides the opportunity for experienced personnel, age 55 and older, to assist with technical aspects of conservation-related programs executed on or directly impacting National Forest System land. The ACES program was authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill and allows the Forest to use the services of 55+ individuals with a process that is simple, efficient, and promptly executed. These individuals do not have to be federal retirees; rather anybody 55+ who is qualified to do the work.
The agency’s objective in implementing the ACES program is to expand the agency’s capacity to complete conservation work, using it as an additional method of securing paid assistance of experienced people for temporarily filling permanent positions, mentoring less experienced agency employees and to complete short term or “surge” priority work. The Forest Service administers the ACES Program through Master Agreements with two non-profit partners, National Older Worker Career Center and Senior Service America, Inc.
The Forest Service decided to pilot ACES in 2017, based largely off the ACES program that was already being utilized by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. The pilot was focused solely in Forest Management and had an initial investment of $1M provided by the Washington Office to jump-start program utilization.
Based on the success of the pilot program, the program was expanded in early 2018, with the signing of a new five-year master agreement that allows the expansion of ACES to all eligible program areas. This expansion enables broader program utilization, providing additional means to expand Agency capacity in critical program areas. To date, 30 supplemental project agreements have been executed by the WO, Job Corps, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Forest Products Lab, and units across the nation. ACES enrollees are geographically spread across 17 states and over 25 National Forests and Grasslands. Approximately $2M under the national implementation effort has been obligated to ACES agreements for 61 program enrollees. ACES enrollees work to support a variety of Forest Service programs, including Forest Management, Engineering, Geology, Lands, Recreation and other Natural Resource programs.
The ACES Program – A useful and effective way to expand your workforce management toolbox.
For more information on the ACES Program, please visit https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/aces-program or contact the National ACES Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.