WASHINGTON, D.C. – Each year, the USDA Forest Service International Programs Office, International Visitor Program team hosts over 800 visiting researchers, scientists and students throughout the Forest Service and its sister agency, the Agricultural Research Service. Our goal is to increase exposure and dialogue around natural resource and multiple-use management practices within the United States and in other countries. The spring season usually signals the start of new growth and engagements, where the team works to connect Forest Service hosts and international visitors and kicks off short-term and long-term projects and activities.
This spring, however, is quite different and our team faces many unique challenges. We are as busy as ever, working with our current international visitors who are still in the US, across various Forest Service units. With the switch to telework and social distancing, our visitors and hosts have been relying on us to figure out ways for everyone to stay connected and engaged. To fulfill this need, our team started weekly Meet and Greet virtual social events each Friday to give hosts, visitors and us the opportunity to connect and check-in on each other.
Like many of us across the Forest Service, we have had to cancel programs, including our International Forestry Fellows Program. Being unable to honor our commitment to new and returning Forest Service hosts and the intended new cohort of interns, brings great disappointment and stress to everyone. However, during challenging times, I am reminded of how resilient we all really are. The Forest Service and its partners have shown great strength and creativity, keeping the energy and positivity alive.
Personally, I am in awe of how each person on the team and all our colleagues and partners continue to stay connected and utilize creative ways to keep the program thriving and engaging, while meeting all regulatory requirements. During a time when we are all facing stress, disappointment, burnout and have many work and personal obligations, I feel a heightened responsibility to meet the promise of “Caring for the Land and Serving People.”
For now, we are not able to directly care for the land, but serving people is still our number one priority. I am proud to be part of a community that provides opportunities, promotes skill development, capacity building, and transformative cultural exchange for both our international visitors and US Forest Service Hosts.
As a team, we remain committed to helping Forest Service units and international visitors and we thank each of you for your continued support and engagement.