Federal hiring freeze hits Western land agencies

It’s not clear what will happen with seasonal hires such as wildland firefighters.

 

Editor's note: On Jan. 31, the Office of Management and Budget on the federal hiring freeze. The memo only outright exempted the U.S. Postal Service, military and CIA, but made more allowances for seasonal hires. Without mentioning specific agencies, the memo says seasonal and temporary employees may be hired to “meet traditionally occurring seasonal workloads,” but requires agencies needing those workers to notify OMB ahead of time, before hiring.

President Donald Trump announced a freeze on all federal hiring on Monday, eliminating any vacant positions and prohibiting the creation of new positions as of noon on Jan. 22. will affect all federal agencies except the military, and includes land management employees. It follows on the heels of another announcement that U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts will be frozen

Trump's memorandum seeks to cut back the number of federal employees by an unspecified amount. In 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics and found federal employee numbers to be the lowest in 54 years.

5058017426_cc09f7e972_o-jpg
The Derby fire in Montana, a wildfire in 2006.
NOAA

The memorandum did not make allowances for seasonal hires, a necessity for agencies like the National Park Service and Forest Service, which hire thousands of short-term rangers and other employees nationwide during the summer months. In , Melissa Baumann, council president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said she did not know how this would impact the hiring of wildland firefighters. According to Baumann, the Forest Service hired 11,000 seasonal workers in 2015, many of them to fight the Western wildfires that break out between June and September. According to , the National Park Service is going ahead with identifying potential new seasonal hires in hopes that a waiver will be granted for some workers. A representative for the Forest Service said, “The U.S. Forest Service is waiting for further clarification and direction from the Office of Personnel Management related to the hiring freeze. We cannot speculate on the impact of the hiring freeze.”

Have you experienced interference or intimidation? Tell us.

The freeze comes at a time when the National Park Service, the Forest Service, National Wildlife Refuge System and Bureau of Land Management are seeing an increase in public use of the millions of acres they manage, and are struggling to keep up.

“(National parks) cannot continue to be hampered by low staffing, and that’s exactly what will happen with this hiring freeze,” says Theresa Pierno, president and CEO of National Parks Conservation Association, . “Park rangers are already forced to do more with less because they don’t have enough staff to handle record-breaking crowds.”

The memorandum made allowances when hiring for “national security,” but it is unclear what that would mean, and if needs like hiring firefighters for the massive wildfires that are sure to hit the West would count. It included that contracting outside the government would not be allowed.

The hiring freeze is also antithetical to Trump’s campaign goals of increasing American jobs and energy production on public lands – something that would require more staff, not less. from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility showed that staffers at the Bureau of Land Management, where oil and gas exploration primarily occurs, already can't keep up with current permitting responsibilities.

The hiring freeze comes as part of Trump’s campaign promise to cut down on federal oversight. On Monday, press secretary Sean Spicer framed it as a responsibility to American taxpayers, saying “to see money get wasted in Washington on a job that is duplicative, is insulting to the hard work that they do to pay their taxes.” The vast majority of the affected positions would not be in Washington D.C. A 1982 that reviewed four across-the-board federal hiring freezes under the Carter and Reagan administrations, found they are not effective at reducing the size and cost of the federal work force. Instead they “provided an illusion of control on federal employment and spending,” but end up setting agencies back, as they do not account for agency-specific needs and workload. For example, the report found the 1980 freeze under Reagan hampered the ability of the Interior Department to effectively monitor the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, as two important positions went unfilled. The report also suggested finding specific parts of government agencies to cut back, rather than a widespread freeze. It also found the Office of Management and Budget did not actually quantify how much money, if any, was saved by the freezes.

It’s unknown exactly how long the freeze will last, or what direct repercussions it will have. According to the memorandum, the Office of Management and Budget will come up with a long-term plan within 90 days to continue reducing the number of federal workers.

Anna V. Smith is an editorial fellow at NewTowncarShare News. She tweets

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • in Southwest Colorado. $60K plus costs.
  • with six+ years of experience, broad knowledge of home and facilities maintenance. 207-805-4157, https://spark.adobe.com/page/8R7Ag/
  • Seeking full-time experienced farmer on 52-acre organic farm Union, OR. [email protected]
  • Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Government Affairs Manager that is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to support...
  • Metal roofing & siding, thru-fastened & seam profiles. Stronger, more attractive and longer lasting than any other panel on the market. 970-275-4070.
  • The Central Colorado Conservancy, a nationally accredited and state certified land trust, is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to guide the Conservancy into...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time, Lake Tahoe West Senior Project Lead. Position is responsible for working with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to...
  • Forever Our Rivers Foundation seeks a driven and creative individual to lead this national movement for river health. Deadline 6/14/19.
  • We are looking for an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry, specifically focused on fighting fossil fuel expansion...
  • 7/12-7/14/19 in Taos, NM. With over 21 workshops and keynote speaker, poet Arthur Sze.
  • Badlands Conservation Alliance is seeking an Executive Director. For job description visit https://www.badlandsconservationalliance.org/hiring.
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Clean off, cool off & drink. Multiple spray patterns. Better than you imagine. Try it.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...