USFS Staffing Shortage

From Politico today:

‘Pretty brutal’: Hiring woes plague Biden effort to contain wildfires

The Forest Service has long struggled with staffing shortages, but the challenges have intensified amid a hyper-competitive labor market and cost-of-living concerns.

The U.S. Forest Service has had chronic staffing shortages for over a decade. But amid rising wages and a fierce competition for labor across the U.S. economy, the agency faces a particularly bleak hiring picture, even as it looks to add an untold number of forest management staff (the Forest Service has declined to estimate just how many people it needs to hire) — to fight wildfires in what could be another tough season, carry out an aggressive new land management plan and continue regular forest management and surveys.

In an email obtained by POLITICO, Forest Service officials are already warning employees in California that there have been 50 percent fewer applications submitted for GS3 through GS9 firefighting positions this year compared to last. And regional Forest Service officials from across the Western fire regions reported struggling with low staffing on a Feb. 15 call with Fire and Aviation Management, the minutes of which were obtained by POLITICO. “Hiring frenzy – lack of candidates, unable to staff 7 days in many places. Continued decline of folks to do the work,” the minutes read, describing comments made by Regional Fire Director Alex Robertson.

 

13 thoughts on “USFS Staffing Shortage”

  1. In my opinion, revamping or replacing the USAJOBS web site could help the USFS hire more folks. The site is byzantine and applying is way too cumbersome and the process takes far too long.

    Reply
    • You’re on to something, with the addition that far more than the USAjobs site as the culprit for the byzantine and cumbersome process (let’s see, ASC in general, taking forever to get computer access with a lincpass, obtuse HR qualifications processes, tech and “professional” series differentiations and the implications that has for career progression)

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      • It is the Forest Service Forestry Technicians, especially in the west, who seem to be fed up with how they have been treated. Now that firefighters have more choices of where to work, many in California have abandoned the Forest Service, and are happy to be judged on their job experience, instead of their ‘diversity’. Same for timber and recreation Temps. I sincerely think that the rank and file of the Forest Service should also accept some of the blame, due to their silence while the Temps have suffered. Personally, I make as much money per hour (waxing skis) as I did while doing technical and complicated Forestry work.

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  2. I’m not sure that this article adequately distinguishes between FS jobs and seasonal FS firefighting jobs. Big difference.

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  3. Awwww, gee! Who could have foreseen that the Forest Service would lack the expertise to accomplish their basic goals?!?

    It’s going to get worse before it starts getting better. However, there are opportunities for Temporary Employees, who finally get a chance to (really) be part of the team, instead of a ‘disposable’ worker.

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  4. This issue doesn’t affect just fire positions – it’s across all program areas. I believe there are many reasons for it, but the lack of affordable housing at a lot of duty stations along with no relocation benefits, low pay, low morale from the previous secretary’s decision on telework, and low agency funding has created a situation where we can’t compete to fill positions. Compounding this are the massive amounts of funding from the infrastructure bill, disaster relief, and state programs that will end up being targeted at the wrong place and wrong time. The agency doesn’t have the people to implement the work, nor do we as a nation have the environmental laws and forest plans in place to actually affect change at the pace needed. The problems will take years to fix and likely involve structural changes to the way the agency is organized.

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  5. Pretty simple to see why there is a hiring problem in the FS, not enough cultural change in the agency in the last century, while American society has gone through tremendous change in this century. Who wants to spend all that time in lousy working conditions (dirt, long hours, often hazardous, low pay) when you can often work from home, or at least be at home every night doing something easier for a hell of a lot better working conditions, pay and benefits? Don’t even get me started on the subject of housing, FS used to have lots of bunkhouses, govt residences, etc but someone that didn’t give a shit in the WO decided to sell most of them to save money. The information age (internet) has basically opened nearly everyones eyes, and most people will just not put up with that last century stuff anymore. There are a lot more than Foresters in the FS now days, but the FS has failed miserably to see this and make the neccessary changes.

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    • Also from the Politico article: “As previously reported, some state agencies like California Fire pay new firefighters $50,000 a year. They are not facing applicant shortages.”

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    • Tom.. I think the issue was that people didn’t want to live in them, in areas with housing they wanted to buy homes and have those investments. What has happened is that people are snapping up homes in beautiful places and raising the prices so that local and entry-level folks can’t get in. And salaries have not kept up. Also short-term rentals have changed rental markets.

      BUT the FS could develop RV parks for employees for field season with free rent and other options. And as we’ve found, you don’t have to be onsite to do many jobs. Folks at the FS will figure this out.

      I’d even go back to work if I could drive around the forest and inspect things and/or talk to people.

      Reply

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