FS vs. BLM Workload..One Worker’s Point of View

As I’ve been reviewing the EADM workshop summaries, I’ve noticed that one commonality of most of the regional workshops is what you might call “team management”. Things like people leaving, balls being dropped, lengthy efforts that change direction with new additions to the team, even retirements, pose a problem to getting projects accomplished. Yesterday a comment came in on the BLM comparison to FS topic from “Circus Employee”. Here’s a link to her/his comment. Looking even deeper, I wonder if some of these team and management problems are from too high and too many targets, or from activities that draw FS employees away from their work somehow. Both agencies must deal with the hassles endemic to federal land management bureaucracy. It might be helpful to get a team of folks who’ve worked in both agencies to give some recommendations as part of the EADM effort (how can NEPA teams be managed better?). Also perhaps some position classification reviews and workflow analyses comparing the agencies. Perhaps fund some public administration schools to take a look? Perhaps problems with the management of EADM are reflective of overall difficulties in management.

These workload comparisons probably depend, to some extent, on the particulars of location (if a unit doesn’t have timber, or minerals, or has a big recreation program), but but it might be possible and worth it to compare workloads and work processes with similar conditions-perhaps neighboring units. Anyway, here’s one person’s point of view..

“I just switched from the BLM to the Forest Circus, Department of Aggravation. I took a lateral position, GS-0486-11, and I assure you 100% that my job with the FS circus is like doing 5 jobs with the BLM. While working for the BLM I was “a” wildlife biologist (terrestrial). With the FS as a wildlife biologist I also do the duties for a fish biologist, botanist, and a weeds specialist, and in addition, I am also a supervisor, which I did not supervise anyone with BLM. My supervisor, a GS-12 at BLM, supervised ALL the technicians and specialists and did not do NEPA. My current job duties with the FS would be equivalent to a GS-12 with the BLM, at a minimum.

I have to write many more BA/BEs and NEPA for all four of those resources for the FS. While working in an interagency (BLM/FS) office, I learned it is a well known fact that the BLM is much better, with reasonable workloads per person. I just didn’t realize how much of a difference it is. My boss at the BLM came from the FS, and she loves the BLM much more than the FS. She’s a GS-12 and I currently have more duties than she does!

Everything in the FS is way more complicated; budgeting, timekeeping, FACTS, WIT, NRM, the O drive troubles, and now Pinyon, on and on! Literally, I can’t be efficient at any one thing because I have to shift gears daily and re-learn it all because it’s so complicated.

Comparing the two agencies by acres is not a good formula, at all. I managed 10 times more acres for BLM than I do with FS, and my job with BLM was way easier to do quality work and to keep up.

Another thing, BLM HR is far better structured than FS HR!
Bottom line, the BLM treats their employees better because they can, they are funded better, and probably hire better supervisors too because of that. Good people don’t want to stay with the FS when they know things are better elsewhere, like the BLM or BOR where they pay better for the duties performed.

3 thoughts on “FS vs. BLM Workload..One Worker’s Point of View”

  1. This has been widely noted in Oregon for at least 10-15 years. Many FS folks have transferred to the BLM to find that the same work in the BLM is at a higher grade level and a much more reasonable workload. I started my career with BLM – I had a wonderful training plan that had me spend time in all of the areas that the BLM works in – lands, minerals, cadastral surveying, wildlife, grazing, rights-of-way, timber, hydrology, cultural resources, etc.. The FS tends to pigeonhole folks in one area and not provide much of an orientation or training to all of the things that the FS does.

    • Training may have changed but when I started in 1959 I had a training booklet where all phases of FS work were included in my training. I still remember being with the FS engineer and learning why a cmp is placed under the road bed with a slight hump. There were similar examples with land exchanges and ROWs. When I was a GS-11 I knew how to do almost everything dealing with natural resources in the FS. Great training back then.

  2. I was a new forester with the FS in 1968. I had a well rounded training syllabus for the first year. I rotated through all the resource fields and was to job shadow the GS-12 District Ranger. He was a great mentor. I served 12 years, half of it as a GS-11 District Planner (timber).

    Sadly the FS paradigm changed almost overnight in the middle 1970’s. All of the previous comments about workload, falling morale, internal and external dissent came to pass. With 18 years to go to retirement, I resigned. I am not at all surprised with the current issues the FS faces. It was an unfair very retaliatory agency by 1980. The seeds of destruction were planted then.

    I grew up on a ranger station, worked for the BLM in timber each summer through forestry school. It interests me to see the workload comparison between BLM and FS now.


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