February 13, 2017

Wyden Presses Interior Department over Firefighting Hiring Concerns

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden today asked the Interior Department for a swift response to growing concerns in Oregon and nationwide about the impact of the unilateral White House action imposing a 90-day federal employee hiring freeze on rural communities’ need to have enough seasonal workers to fight forest fires.

“I joined my Oregon colleagues in a recent letter outlining our concerns about the federal hiring freeze and potential negative effects on wildland firefighting for the 2017 season,” Wyden wrote Acting Interior Secretary Kevin Haugrud, noting that federal officials have provided multiple and somewhat conflicting responses to verbal inquiries.

“I have heard informally from United States Forest Service staff that hiring has resumed. But the Bureau of Land Management has been given no such assurance, which negatively impacts its ability to fight wildland fires,” Wyden wrote. “The White House has yet to send an official response to our letter.”  

Wyden noted in his letter today that failure to have a robust and well-trained permanent and seasonal wildfire team endangers public lands and communities throughout the rural West – including O&C forests in Western Oregon, and protecting both ranchers’ livelihoods in southeastern Oregon and the sage grouse.

The letter sent to the White House more than two weeks ago from Wyden and Oregon colleagues Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici followed calls from concerned Oregon communities asking how the hiring freeze applies to permanent, temporary, and seasonal workers hired by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or any other land management agency to fight wildfires or fulfill other duties necessary to prevent wildfires.

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