Tester introduces bill to keep firefighters, land managers on the job

Senator’s bill allows seasonal land workforce to fill vacant positions

(U.S. Senate) – Before wildfire season flares up, Senator Jon Tester wants to make sure that experienced firefighters are on the front lines and can advance in their careers.

Tester today introduced the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act to allow temporary seasonal wildland firefighters to compete for vacant permanent positions in the federal workforce. Firefighters and other seasonal land management employees are currently cut off from many career advancement opportunities available to permanent seasonal employees. The bill removes barriers in the current hiring system that lead to higher training costs and a less safe workforce.

“When wildfires strike, Montanans want the best, most experienced men and women on the ground protecting our communities,” Tester said. “This bill will ensure that important agencies have the best possible workforce while also giving folks the chance to make a stable living for themselves and their families.”

Tester’s bill affects employees who work for the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. To be eligible, employees must accrue four seasons of work with good performance.

The bill is supported by many groups, including the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the American Federation of Government Employees, the National Association of Government Employees, the Association of National Park Rangers and the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE).

“Too many, including thousands of wildland firefighters, have been stuck for too long in dead end jobs not because of a lack of merit on their parts, but because of flawed regulations that do not recognize their years of service,” said Mark Davis, Vice-President of the NFFE and past President of the NFFE Forest Service Council. “This common-sense reform honors and credits their service by giving them the same shot at career advancement that other federal employees have. We cannot thank Senator Tester enough for his tireless work on this good-government reform.”

“As the threat from wildfires continues to grow in both number and intensity, we must do all we can to ensure our wildland fire fighters are experienced and highly-qualified,” said Harold A. Schaitberger, General President of IAFF. ” The Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act would help improve our nation’s wildland fire fighting capabilities, and I applaud Senator Tester’s efforts to enact this common-sense reform.”

Tester’s bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), is available online HERE.