18 thoughts on “Is the USFS “top-heavy”?”

  1. We recently did an analysis of trends in Forest Service employment duty station in R5 and R6, going back to 1973. We looked at overall trends in employment and the proportion of folks working in cities with Regional and supervisor’s offices vs. places with district offices. We made a sort of infographic, which can be found on page 8-9 on this report: http://ewp.uoregon.edu/sites/ewp.uoregon.edu/files/2014_DFZ_Maps.pdf

    We tried to look at occupation data, we found it didn’t tell us much meaningful.

  2. The Alaska Region RO has shrunk from three floors of the Juneau Federal Building to just one over the last 10 years. There’s been a lot of cuts at the top, too.

  3. I think the Minerals and Engineering organization streamlined themselves as part of the last effort I remember …was it “Tranformation”..??? Those who are curious could review the documents from that effort.

    IMHO, what happens is that there is work in RO’s and WO’s (e.g., appeals and litigation, doing regional budgets and so on) that must be done, but if folks are working there they can be seen as “overhead” (usually with “unnecessary” modifying it). Even more complicated is the issue with specialists at districts, forests and in RO’s, where more expensive folks often have more experience, training and knowledge.

    Anyway, having been in an RO and the WO for several of these efforts, I can tell you that each person in the FS probably has their own definitions and ideas for reduction. Consolidating ROs is frequently brought up, but Congressionals tend to dislike that one.

  4. Every timber-producing Ranger District in Region 5 used to have several permanent forestry technicians on their marking crew. There used to be Engineering Techs when I first joined, too. As I have said before, I think that the Forest Service will soon outsource the work of Timber Sale Preparation. It is simply easier to pay a lot of money to do that than to change rules, laws and policies (as well as reducing the bloated overhead and “preserving” high-end career ladders).

    I tend to place the low-end employees at or below the GS-7 levels. Fire has a lot of these positions but there are VERY few Forestry Techs in permanent timber positions, here in Region 5. There are multiple barriers to expanding those numbers.

  5. I read a BLM annual report back when I worked there, probably 2006-7 or so. It had an interesting breakdown of BLM employees by grade. If memory serves me the greatest number of employees were 11s (no surprise as most Field Office specialists top out at 11) but I don’t recall the 12-15 numbers. I’ll poke around a bit to see if I can find that or something updated.

    I haven’t seen it for FS but I’m sure we have it somewhere.

    • Figure 9 in “Re-Inventing the United States Forest Service: Evolution From Custodial Management, to Production Forestry, to Ecosystem Management,” by Doug MacCleary. offers some USFS employment stats for 1990, 2000, and 2004. See “Figure 9. Forest Service employees by administrative level.” Here are the numbers for 2004:

      District level: 43%
      Supervisors Office: 30%
      Regional Office: 10%
      Wash. Office and Other: 10%
      Research Stations: 6%

      The full text is here.

      • Of course, if temporary employees are included, or not, those figures will change dramatically. We all know that temps do not count as “real” employees and shouldn’t be counted that way. Yes, it is unfortunate that the Forest Service embraces “Federal McForestry”, where inexperienced people, hired right off the street, are used to wield paintguns and make longterm decisions in our National Forests. Most temps don’t stay long enough to become good at the tasks. I see no end in sight for this practice.

  6. Just for the “fun” of it, I went to USAJobs and searched for timber jobs. Apparently, there seems to be a nationwide moratorium on hiring Forestry Technicians in timber management, as there are zero results for timber jobs. Another possibility is that timber folks were given a new job series, other than 0462. Or, maybe they have decided that they have all the people they need to manage America’s Forest Service lands, already in place. Of course, there are always people who “wash out” on crews but, it appears that the Forest Service won’t need to fill those holes.

    Does anyone have any ideas why there are no timber jobs open?

    • Larry, I couldn’t believe that there would be zero forestry trechnician jobs. so I did my own search and found — very few. A search for the GS-0462 series with “timber” as a key word resulted in 11 job listings, 2 of which were primarily fire positions.

      A search for “Forest Service” and GS-0460 resulted in 5 forester jobs.

      A search of all USAJobs listings for “Forester” turned up 6 listings when “US Citizens” was checked and 17 when “Federal Employees” was checked (meaning only current employees may apply).

      • I also used multiple filters with GS levels, first trying the GS-5 to GS-7 jobs, here in California. I also tried one with GS-4 to GS-6. In the past, they had kind of an “open roster”, where you could apply at any time and jobs were filled on demand. Of course, you had to “re-up” your interest at regular intervals. Maybe they are “in between” announcements. I just did one more search with GS-2 to GS-4, nationwide, and got zero results. I used timber as a keyword and used fire as an excluded word. Maybe it is more evidence that the Forest Service intends to outsource their temporary timber folks, too. It is a lot easier to inspect contractor work than to manage a temporary workforce, under current OPM rules, laws and policies.

        Of course, there are tons of forestry tech fire positions, as they also have their own “revolving door” of new hires and upgrades to replace folks either retiring or moving into better fire jobs elsewhere.

      • I got one like that too once, about a year later. The letter said my application was being rejected because of “specific” concerns that they couldn’t divulge, even though I had been a top-three finalist. Talking to a FS colleague, I learned that the (unofficial) specific concern was that I was a veteran, which would have put me ahead of the inside candidate they wanted to hire (and did). They hadn’t expected to have a qualified vet in the pool, but they took care of it pretty efficiently 🙂

        • That’s interesting… many years ago, I was told I had to hire a vet for a computer job because he “came up on the cert” but had not computer background. I was told we needed to train him, but because this person was to be the computer person for the unit there was no one to train him (catch-22). I can’t remember what our strategy was but we didn’t hire that person and probably did without (leeched off another organization).

          I have spent many hours in training about hiring and I think the systems are now such that what you described now can’t happen (the list comes from a centralized place where locals can’t mess with it). But my memory could be wrong or things could have changed. Would appreciate hearing from any current employees what the current situation is.

  7. We are having to deal with new FS sale administrators on some thinning sales. We have to deal with new ones every year. They come from all over, that is anywhere but western Oregon. This years crop have attitudes that just magnify their ignorance. It’s hard to believe that it its cheaper to run the FS this way, having to pay for their temp housing and all. I know it isn’t better.

    • Yep, I know what you mean. I was that guy, at one time. I was schooled by loggers almost as much as the many Timber Sale Administrators I’ve worked for as a Harvest Inspector. I was always paired up with those folks who wanted to be certified as one. I trained a bunch of HI’s, and they all try to exert their “power” over the logger, while exceeding their authority. Example: The new HI didn’t want the fallers on the helicopter ground to fell them sidehill. She claimed that would keep the logs from rolling downhill. Not in the contract and beyond her authority to demand it. As I got better in dealing with contractors, difficult, or not, I developed my own style for getting good work out of my loggers. Many of the loggers who are still around often know the contract provisions better than the Sale Administrator. When people get bored of their old Forest Service job, they think dealing with logging contractors might be fun. Or interesting. Or cool. When a logging side has worked together for so long, their work begins to look like choreography. Each person does his job efficiently, without making a mess. That increases the speed of the work, without all the time-consuming cleanup stuff. Noob Sale Administrators will be over their heads, trying to keep up with such efficiency. They will have to resort to “spot checking”, instead of full inspections, for multiple performance standards. I always told my loggers that I would inspect everything, right there, at the pre-work meeting.

    • While on a salvage sale in the 90’s in Idaho east of Boise (all fir) one of our helicopter pilots made a smart ass remark about hitting a small pine tree by mistake. We are talking a 12 inch dbh tree and this (I’m sure temp) shut us down. This dick thought it was going to hurt us and was all puffed up. Little did he know we had a private job just over the hill and we just moved over the hill, did the private job and then went back to the USFS sale.

      I think he arewas a temp, most SAs that I worked with were very professional and great to work with, it’s sad that common sense is gone from that agency and they now exist just to fight the fires that the lack of forest management results in.

      Sadly, there are no common sense people like Bud Moore and Aldo Leopold left.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading