05 April 2024

Forest Service Grants and Agreements: A Whole New World

I have been interning with the Grants and Agreements Unit or G&A (one of the many acronyms I have learned so far) for two months and I have only seen the tip of the iceberg. So far, I have learned there are many types of agreements, and each one has different authorities, policies, and procedures for execution. At the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF, add it to the list), most of the agreements created are for federal financial assistance programs awarded to cooperators such as local nonprofits, state partners, universities, among others.

These collaborations are documented through award letters that stipulate all the rules and policies federal employees and collaborators need to follow. The IITF G&A unit (see what I did there?) works behind the scenes to support programs (e.g. State, Private and Tribal Forestry or SPTF) by revising all documentation submitted by cooperators and making sure they are complying with federal regulations and standards. One of the main tasks of the unit is making sure the agency and cooperator are following federal authorities and achieving the program goals.

During these past two weeks I have participated in the State, Private and Tribal Forestry Grants and Agreements Spring Sessions. These sessions bring together Grants Management Specialists from all the Forest Service regions and it is lovely to see how they all support one another. Even from a distance they are willing to share their experiences so that everyone can learn from their work. Although I was not able to follow all the information and details that were shared during the sessions (It is a LOT of information), I really enjoyed being part of the conversation and hearing the participants exchange ideas during the discussion. It is evident the SPTF G&A group have formed a great community, and you can really feel everyone genuinely enjoys their job. I also appreciated that the group recognizes that some processes are difficult, and mistakes are bound to happen. I believe this is important to highlight since I feel I am part of a group that will not judge me for the mistakes I make during this journey.  At the end of the day, we all do the best job we can, and the important thing is to learn from the challenges that arise.

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