Introduces Bipartisan Amendment to Farm Bill to Hire Experienced Workers, Help Younger Employees Learn
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Farm Bill to allow the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to hire older, more experienced workers under short-term contracts to provide technical assistance for forest health and conservation operations around the country.
The amendment, cosponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), authorizes the Agriculture Conservation Experienced Services (ACES) Program to help address the issue of “brain-drain” as experienced Forest Service workers retire and provides opportunities for newer, less experienced civil servants to learn from more experienced workers. A similar program was authorized for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in 2008.
“Colorado’s forests are an iconic piece of our state’s beautiful landscape, and their health depends – in large part – on wise management from the U.S. Forest Service,” Bennet said. “This amendment would help preserve the knowledge of our Forest Service workers and would allow for a smooth transition from one generation of forest health experts and firefighters to the next. As wildfire season arrives in Colorado and throughout the West, we need experienced and knowledgeable workers to help protect this precious land.”
The ACES Program was first authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill as a partnership between the National Older Worker Career Center and the Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) that places experienced workers into positions supporting conservation and environmental protection efforts. ACES enrollees are generally temporary, part-time workers that supply technical assistance to the NRCS.
The Bennet-Enzi amendment would allow the Forest Service to also participate in the ACES Program using existing funds available for conservation-related programs. The flexible program will allow USFS officials to bring in experienced workers, as needed, depending on the workload of the agency. It will also promote succession planning and the transfer of knowledge between different generations of workers.
Bennet has worked tirelessly to support policies that will help improve forest health and prevent and fight wildfires. The Farm Bill, currently on the Senate floor, contains two forest health bills he introduced earlier this year. Bennet has also called for the modernization of our air tanker fleet and supported a bill allowing the Forest Service to purchase up to seven more tankers. Following last year’s wildfires, Bennet led efforts to secure Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) resources to help Colorado communities recover from the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.