Last week, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE-IAM) sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, USFS Chief Randy Moore, and Undersecretary Homer Wilkes outlining recommendations to permanently fix the housing situation for Forest Service employees. NFFE-IAM gathered data on specific housing issues from its members working for the Forest Service, as well as solutions that employees recommended.
There are several changes that the Forest Service can implement immediately to improve living conditions in the short term that are identified in the letter, including expediting repairs for government housing, adding simple amenities and new furnishings, waiving rent payments for housing that is below living standards, establishing housing stipends, purchasing campers, and building new housing.
In the longer term, the letter suggests making permanent, adequate, and affordable government housing available for all Forest Service employees, including space for workers’ families. Further, the letter recommends standardizing housing requirements so that all housing has proper amenities, furniture, Wi-Fi, heating, and air conditioning, allowing for safety, privacy, and respect for workers.
“Fixing the housing problems in the Forest Service will require allocation of additional financial resources, however, this is necessary for the agency to attract and retain the workforce it needs to accomplish its critical mission,” continued President Erwin. “The current state of housing represents a certain degree of neglect via programmatic funding to maintain housing conditions and adjust for modern life, such as access to electronic communications, or in the interests of family responsibilities to prevent firefighters from choosing between a career or a family.”