Excel as a High-Performing Agency

Building on our values through Special Emphasis Programs

Photo: head shot of woman in Forest Service uniform. Behind her are the American and Forest Service flags.
Leslie Weldon, Senior Executive for Work Environment & Performance Office

WASHINGTON, DC – The Special Emphasis Programs are an essential part of the USDA Forest Service values of service, interdependence, conservation, diversity and safety. The programs are established to focus special attention on specific groups as a result of a particular law, regulation or executive order, and have proven to be critically important to help employees live our Code and Commitments in treating everyone with respect, empowering one another, and investing in relationships – especially employees who come from different backgrounds or bring different experiences. Building on our values, the SEP promote diversity and inclusion both internally—in terms of our own workforce—and externally—in terms of the communities we serve.

These programs highlight our belief in interdependence; they are designed to build bridges and uplift voices in our workplace and our communities. Our SEP programs foster our value of conservation and support our mission of sustaining the nation's forests and grasslands. Internally, the goal is eliminating disparities and barriers to cultivate, empower, hire, develop and retain a diverse and culturally inclusive workforce, now and into the future. Externally, we conduct outreach targeting minorities, women, veterans and individuals with disabilities. At the same time, we continue expanding access to the outdoors for underserved and minority communities as well as individuals from urban areas. 

Special Emphasis Program Managers are among the Forest Service leaders providing guidance, oversight and training to managers and employees and outreach to customers. It is impressive to know that we have nearly 600 collateral duty SEPMs across the nation focused on this important work. If you are wondering who exactly serves in this capacity check out the contact list here [Internal Link].

In honor of Women’s History Month, Kelsey Bean, a collateral duty SEPM for the Black Hills National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Region created a Women's History Month Story Map highlighting women in the Forest Service. This is an extraordinary example of SEPM work being done in the field. The national SEPMs, Jerry McGaughran, Pedro Nieto and Dani Ramirez-Montoya invite you to visit the Special Emphasis Program [Internal Link] page on the Outreach and Diversity SharePoint [Internal Link] site to learn more about the program. Visit often to learn about new resources and upcoming events.

Together we embrace these programs that strive to foster a work environment which recognizes and respects individuals for their unique perspectives and experiences. Together we are building a culture where all employees are included and provided an opportunity to contribute their full potential.