Putting the Power of Experience to Work!: ACES and BAER Opportunities

Glenda Goodwyne – retired Forester and certified Silviculturist. She worked for the USDA Forest Service for 36 years and now participates in ACES as a silviculture mentor for Pathways and Recent Graduates in Region 6. USDA Forest Service photo.


One of the challenges that the Forest Service faces is the loss of experience and talent due to retirements. Many retirees would like to work and contribute in their area of expertise, but just didn’t want to work full-time and possibly have all the responsibilities and annoyances of full time employment. The ACES program allows hiring of those 55+ and is not limited to FS retirees. Please forward this link folks you know who might be interested.

Putting the Power of Experience to Work!

In 2018, the Forest Service received authority, by way of the 2018 Farm Bill, that gives line officers a new tool for accomplishing work. The Forest Service Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) Program provides the opportunity for experienced personnel, age 55 and older, to assist with conservation-related programs executed on or directly impacting
National Forest System land. ACES allows the Forest Service 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 capacity to complete conservation work, by filling employment gaps, mentoring and training less experienced agency employees and to complete “short term” surge 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 ACES program was piloted 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, 80 supplemental project agreements have been executed by the WO, Job Corps, Research Stations, Forest Products Lab, and Regional, Forest and District units across the nation. ACES enrollees are geographically spread across 17 states and over 25 National Forests and Grasslands. Approximately $9M under the national implementation effort has been obligated to ACES agreements for nearly 200 program enrollees.
ACES enrollees work to support a variety of Forest Service programs, including Forest Management, Engineering, Geology, Lands, Hydrology, Archeology, Recreation, Special Uses, Range Conservation, Research Science, Forest Planning, and Fire management. Currently in Region 6 there are 30 enrollees across most forests, research stations and the Regional Office. The jobs include timber sale administrators, land surveyors, lands and realty, research scientist, fire program specialist, engineers and engineering technicians, frontline workers, environmental coordinators and silviculture.

Are you interested in exploring these jobs? Or do you know others who would be great fits? To find more information on the ACES Program, please visit https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/aces-program. Or contact Becki Lockett Heath who is working for NOWCC as a Program Consultant, for the Forest Service ACES Program at bheath@nowcc.org (NOTE TO READERS- I’ve corrected the email).

NAFSR sent this out about specifically BAER help:

With the current unprecedented fire season creating the needs for additional capacity in post-fire emergency assessments and implementation, there is a need for interested qualified individuals to assist.
The BAER program calls upon retirees frequently through the Administratively Determined (AD) Play Plan for Emergency Workers in accordance with the Interagency Incident Business Management Handbook (PMS902).
Here’s a link to the document that explains the basic steps to the AD process.
Though local units must sponsor retirees through AD sign-up, we are asking folks who have the appropriate skill sets in soils, hydrology, engineering, and interagency/public affairs that are not already in the system to reach out to the National BAER Program Lead, Cara Farr (cara.farr@usda.gov) with their background and experience, so that she can facilitate identifying the best approach to getting them into the system.
With COVID concerns this season, many assessments are being completed using virtual tools and technologies opening up alternative pathways for involvement.
Any retirees that would be willing to assist in person or virtual would be welcome and encouraged to reach out to the National BAER Program Lead to determine next steps.

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