USA Thousands of seasonal jobs in the Northwest could be safe after all, following a clarification of President Donald Trumps 90-day hiring freeze of civilian federal workers.
Park rangers and firefighters hired each summer to serve the nations public lands appear to be exempt from the freeze, according to a memo issued Tuesday evening by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
Oregon lawmakers worried Trump’s order hampers wildfire hiring
A list of exemptions to the hiring freeze included seasonal employees and short-term temporary employees necessary to meet traditionally recurring seasonal workloads, the statement said.
A second exemption said the head of any agency can exempt any position deemed necessary to meet public safety responsibilities, including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property.
Officials at the U.S. Forest Service and interagency departments that hire wildland firefighters couldnt immediately comment on the clarification.
The two exemptions appear to apply to the thousands of people hired each summer in the Northwest by agencies such as the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.
Last week, Five Oregon lawmakers wrote a letter to the White House expressing concern that enough seasonal workers would be hired in time to fight forest fires.
Without staff in place to prepare for the wildfire season, which is starting earlier and earlier every year due to climate change and years of severe drought conditions across the country, our forests and communities are put in harm’s way, lawmakers said in a letter to the president. Seasonal hiring will be starting soon and uncertainty about how to proceed could have serious impacts on public safety.
The Forest Service hired about 11,000 seasonal employees in 2015 about 6,200 of whom were firefighting-related. Department of Interior hires “thousands” more for firefighting-related jobs, but an exact number wasn’t immediately available, National Interagency Fire Center said.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Forest Service and National Park Service previously announced plans to hire 1,250 people this summer for recreation, visitor services, and engineering.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for eight years. He is the author of the book Hiking Southern Oregon and can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.