OFFICE OF SEN. JON TESTER

Before wildfire season flares up, Sen. Jon Tester wants to make sure experienced firefighters are on the front lines and can advance their careers.

Tester on June 17 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 U.S. Forest Service; Bureau of Land Management; National Park Service; Fish and Wildlife Service; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Indian Affairs. To be eligible, employees must accrue four seasons of work with good performance.

“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, which among other groups supports Tester’s bill.

“This common-sense reform honors and credits their service by giving them the same shot at career advancement that other federal employees have” Davis added.

The International Association of Fire Fighters also believes in the newly introduced bill.

“As the threat from wildfires continues to grow in both number and intensity, we must do all we can to ensure our wildland firefighters 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 firefighting capabilities.”