PBS Newshour: They reported sexual harassment. Then the U.S. Forest Service retaliation began

A must read from PBS NewsHour. Will U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke and President Donald Trump take these reports of sexual harassment and assault, bullying by U.S. Forest Service supervisors and crew members seriously?

Harassment of women in the Forest Service has been a problem for years. As far back as 1972, women have joined together to file class action complaints and lawsuits about gender discrimination and sexual harassment. More recently, in 2016, a congressional hearing was held to address the problem within the Forest Service’s California workforce, which had also been the focus of previous complaints. The PBS NewsHour investigated what’s happened since then, and found the problem goes much deeper.

In interviews with 34 current and former U.S. Forest Service women, spanning 13 states, the women described a workplace that remains hostile to female employees. They complained of a pattern of gender discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment and assault by crew members and supervisors. Three women said they were raped after-hours by co-workers or interagency firefighters while working for the Forest Service. Many women alleged retaliation after reporting these incidents….

Seven of the 34 women interviewed asked to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation. Fear was a common theme in the interviews. One woman said she went to the hospital multiple times for “her nerves” after reporting harassment. Another asked the NewsHour to destroy her interview transcript, because she became too afraid of the consequences. A third, a firefighter who resigned from her position in 2016 after she reported to police that she was raped on assignment in Montana, said: “We all live in this fear … So if I have to speak up I will. But it’s frustrating because there’s so many more out there who are not talking.”

Read the entire article here.

3 thoughts on “PBS Newshour: They reported sexual harassment. Then the U.S. Forest Service retaliation began”

  1. This is very sad, in and of itself, and also that it has gone on for 40 years.

    A couple of thoughts about this piece.. (1) it seems like all the harassment incidents in this piece were part of the Fire organization. I wonder what the overall percentage was? I wonder what the percentage is on other federal fire crews, BLM, Park, and so on and if there is a difference and is it due to policies or culture or ????

    2) Also, if the FS is on its way to becoming the Fire Service “Many women described the worst offenses in the agency’s wildland firefighting division, where the gender disparity is even greater: 6,633 fire employees are male, while just 890, or 13 percent, are female.” I noticed this WIWWFP (when I was working for pay)-and looking at national statistics, that many new hires were in California in fire, and while each hiring decision I made was scrutinized closely for diversity, somehow diversity did not seem to be an issue in terms of M/F in fire. Is this the effect of discrimination/harassment or are the low ratios the cause? You don’t hear much about botanists, for example, being attacked while working in the woods…
    One more thought .. about 1980 in Region 6 I attended a “Women in Timber” conference somewhere on the Hood River, and I remember one Regional Office fellow saying “women can never be sale administrators because contractors won’t respect them.” Timber somehow got over it in 40 years, probably helped by the perception that it wasn’t cool anymore in some folks’ eyes. Clearly the FS is capable of change and there is something hanging them up that has resisted Congress and various administrations..

    • Sharon, your quote about “women can never be sale administrators…” brought back a memory for me when I was in graduate school and assigned to be a teaching assistant for an upper level forestry class in the late 1970s – the professor had never had a female TA before, and all TAs were assigned by the Department Head. In my first meeting with the professor, he was clearly not pleased to have a female TA. He told me that he did not want a female TA because “none of the men in the class will believe anything you say”. I told him that that was their problem, not mine. I went on to TA his class, and the professor went on to become one of my best supporters/mentors.


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