Edwin Nilson – ACES-NRCS Enrollee – Appeals Review Specialist

Here at NEW Solutions we take great pride in our ACES Enrollees, and we love to get feedback from Monitors about their Enrollees.  We know how much all the enrollees are appreciated, but when words are used like “We are very fortunate to have ______ as an ACES Enrollee” and “___ is an example of how an ACES enrollee can provide experience and knowledge-based leadership to mentor and train NRCS employees” we are even more proud! Those are words everyone at NEW Solutions celebrates hearing!

Now we would like to introduce to you such an individual; one that those sentences have been said about, and statements like those continue to be given to us by several different sources.  His name is Edwin Nilson – ACES-NRCS Enrollee Extraordinaire.

Ed works for several states – Alaska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Washington, Missouri, New Mexico, Montana and Idaho to name a few.  Ed has mentioned that his goal is to help each, and every state of the U.S. and it appears he is on his way to do so!  Ed lives in Montana, and travels to the different states to teach and mentor, and everyone has shown appreciation for his knowledge and experience in his field.

Mr. Lee Copeland from the Kansas NRCS office gave us this information about Ed that shows what a great ACES Enrollee that Ed continues to be: “We are very fortunate to have Ed Nilson as an ACES Employee in Kansas.  Ed provides exceptional assistance and expertise to Kansas NRCS in supporting the agency’s position in appeals.  Ed provides timely support with the highest degree of professionalism.  Ed is an example of how an ACES employee can provide experience and knowledge-based leadership to mentor and train NRCS employees.  Ed’s assistance is highly valued and appreciated.”

We have asked Ed to furnish us with some interview questions, and he has graciously provided us with a gamut of experiences.

1.  Before joining the ACES Program, what did you do?  I worked for NRCS at National Headquarters as the National Appeals and Equitable Relief Coordinator.

How did that experience help prepare you for the duties assigned to you in the ACES Program now?  Because I was responsible for leading and directing the appeals/mediation/equitable relief programs nationwide, I was fortunate to work with all of the states I currently serve as an ACES Contractor.

You can mention your educational/certification background/years of experience in the public/private sector that helped you get the experience you demonstrate in the ACES Program or mention a former mentor or great boss that helped you advance your skills, something along these lines. My educational background with degrees in natural resource management and law were great educational backgrounds for my work in the ACES Program. Also, Tom Christensen, NRCS Associate Chief for Operations, was a helpful mentor and advocate in arranging my first ACES position at National Headquarters.

2.  How did you learn about the ACES Program? I learned about the ACES Program at NRCS National Headquarters prior to my retirement in 2016.

3.  Describe the types of things you do at NRCS on a routine day.  If you use acronyms, please explain what they mean. One of the benefits of the ACES Program is the diversity of my work responsibilities. On a typical day, I may edit adverse decisions for NRCS conservation programs, work on a technical determination for a converted wetland, draft a brief with Findings of Fact for USDA’s National Appeals Division, provide recommendations in a teleconference on how to handle a mediation case, and/or prepare an appeals training program for NRCS employees that I will later facilitate.

4.  If applicable, tell us about a “special circumstance” or occasion you had to “rise to” in order to get the job done.  Something out-of-the-ordinary, if possible, that demonstrated your value to NRCS.  NRCS New Mexico had a case that went to U.S. District Court. Because NRCS had been successful in the appeals process with the National Appeals Division (NAD), NRCS was clearly “in the driver’s seat” as the case went to court. One day recently, I assisted New Mexico on a teleconference with National Headquarters (NHQ). NHQ recommended settlement of this litigation case prior to the U.S. District Court judge issuing an order. I strongly recommended that NRCS not settle the case because I believed NRCS would be upheld in the adverse decision to collect $160,000 back to the U.S. Treasury and taxpayers because the participant did not meet adjusted gross income requirements. As NHQ agreed to further consider settlement possibilities, later that same day I received a copy of the court order from an Assistant U.S. Attorney that completely upheld NRCS and ordered payment of $160,000 to the Federal Government.

5.  What do you enjoy most about the ACES Program?  I greatly enjoy working with many of my highly skilled former NRCS colleagues, serving our customers as a public servant, and working with the great NEW Solutions team that has been so supportive of my work in the ACES Program. Most of all, I appreciate the opportunity to hopefully “make a positive difference” for NRCS and our customers and partners.

 What keeps your interest in the work? As I attempt to always “make the right decision for the right reasons”, I have great interest in my work every day.

6.  What, if anything, is most challenging about your duties/position? I’m greatly challenged by the ongoing changes occurring in the Federal Government, such as interpreting changes set forth in the new farm bill. Each new case presents new challenges and new opportunities.

7.  If you like, briefly mention some favorite hobbies, past times or outside interests you enjoy when not working at work (grandchildren; volunteering; keeping up with the Best Sellers list; travel; groups/good causes you help support, etc. As a former U.S. Forest Service employee, I enjoy volunteering on wilderness projects in the nearby Beartooth Wilderness, assisting with providing meals to the community, and helping those less fortunate. Skiing, gardening, and cutting firewood for next winter keep me going too!  

Ed is a wonderful example of our ACES-NRCS Enrollees, and as time goes on we know that there will be more to add to his story at a later date!  Thank you, Ed, for being such a wonderful example of what the ACES-NRCS Program is all about!!