Excel as a High-Performing Agency

New Direct Hire Authority for resource assistants now available

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Resource Assistants from across the country pose for a photo outside the conference center during the first annual Resource Assistants Conference hosted in Chevy Chase, Maryland. USDA Forest Service Photo by Keyana Ellis-Reynolds.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – To excel as a high performing agency and sustain our nation’s forest and grasslands, the USDA Forest Service must recruit quality talent into federal land management positions with diverse perspectives and experiences. Since 2016, our agency engaged over 500 highly qualified resource assistants on work in almost every program and business areas. Of the 300 who have completed an RA experience to date, 20% have been permanently hired in the Forest Service and many others have moved on to careers in conservation, natural and cultural resources, and environmental equity in other land management and federal agencies as well as positions in the non-governmental sector. These outcomes exemplify our values of conservation, interdependence, diversity and service.

The new Direct Hire Authority for resource assistants, as provided by Title 16 United States Code, Section 1725b, and the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, Public Law 103-82, Section 206 for resource assistants under the Public Lands Corps Act is an opportunity to build on this work. The Direct Hire Authority allows the agency to respond effectively and timely to position vacancies by considering resource assistants who have already gained experience with the agency, have demonstrated solid performance, have completed higher education requirements, and who have a strong interest and commitment to careers in natural and cultural resources.

As the Forest Service seeks to manage workforce development priorities and successfully build a contemporary staff that is skilled and representative of our nation’s shifting demographics, we must be deliberate and utilize all available options to reach talented individuals. 

The Direct Hire Authority for Resource Assistants Hiring Policy defines the procedures to hire resource assistants who have completed all program requirements into competitive service permanent, term or temporary General Schedule positions. Former resources assistants will continue to be eligible for noncompetitive hiring status for a period of no more than two years after completion of all program requirements. 

Through Shared Stewardship, we are leveraging agency capacity to improve forest and grassland conditions. The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps Act Public Lands Corps Authority and resource assistants program partnerships are examples in the FY 2020 Program direction of how we are sharing stewardship of public lands with stakeholders. Be advised of upcoming implementation changes to the Resource Assistants Direct Hire Authority Program. These changes will increase efficiencies, streamline the grants and agreements process, improve administrative management, oversight and tracking, and increase understanding among all stakeholders. We appreciate all partners and staff members who have contributed to the success of the RAP.

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Former Resource Assistant, Michela Williams, works on a natural resource project in the Chattahoochee National Forest during her term of service. Michela is now permanently hired Forest Service employee. USDA Forest Service photo.
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Sandra Jimenez, resource assistant for the USDA Forest Service, works on research projects in the field. USDA Forest Service photo.