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Monday, 13 February 2017 08:34

Flake Seeks to Expand Exemption of Firefighters from Federal Hiring Freeze Featured

Elizabeth Berry

After securing exemption for Forest Service firefighters, Flake works to replicate success to boost BLM’s ability to combat wildfires

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, sent a letter to the Acting Interior Secretary to secure an exemption that will allow the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to hire firefighters during the current federal hiring freeze. After Flake successfully secured an exemption for Forest Service firefighters the other week, BLM personnel in Arizona requested his assistance to ensure their agency will also be authorized to hire firefighters for the upcoming wildfire season.

BLM, which is responsible for managing over 12 million acres of federal land in Arizona, relies on seasonal employees for wildfire-related activities.

View a signed copy of the letter here.

Text of the letter can be viewed below.


Background:

On Jan. 23, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum ordering a hiring freeze on all civilian employees across the executive branch. The memorandum included an exemption for military personnel, while also providing federal agencies and departments the authority to exempt certain positions that are necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities. Read the order here.

February 9, 2017

Mr. K. Jack Haugrud

Acting Secretary

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, N.W.

Washington, DC 20240

Dear Acting Secretary Haugrud,

I would like to ask for your prompt action to ensure the continued ability to fight wildfires after the implementation of a freeze on hiring of Federal civilian employees. As you know, catastrophic wildfires in Arizona pose a significant risk to the state’s reliable water supply, rural communities, the tourist economy, and wildlife. Any action that could have a negative impact on the ability to reduce fire risk and fight wildfire in Arizona is simply unacceptable.

The Presidential Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze promulgated on January 23, 2017 contains a clear exception to the freeze, declaring that the “head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” I understand the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona and other southwestern states is currently preparing to hire the seasonal employees that are crucial to their wildfire-relate activities. After I raised this issue to Department of Agriculture, the Department exempted several critical public safety related positions from the hiring freeze. I urge you to similarly either clarify that Department of the Interior seasonal employees are necessary for public safety or ask that you seek an exemption from the Director of the Office of Personnel Management for these seasonal employees.

I thank you in advance for your continued time and attention to these issues. As always, I ask that this matter be handled in strict accordance with all applicable agency rules, regulations, and ethical guidelines.

Sincerely,

JEFF FLAKE

United States Senator

Last modified on Monday, 13 February 2017 12:27
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