Foreign workers hired with federal stimulus money for USFS contracts

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Contractors in Oregon who were awarded contracts for work in national forests hired foreign workers even though one of the goals of the federal stimulus funds was to decrease unemployment in the United States.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Oregonian:

In the Oregon case, contracts in the amount of $7 million were approved to clear and clean federal forests in central Oregon at a time when local unemployment was nearly 15 percent. Local officials said there where thousands of experienced workers were idle who could fill the need. When the contracts were announced in 2009, Oregon had the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.1 percent.

Even so, the contractors told federal regulators they could not find enough local workers for the jobs.

The federal investigation looked at 14 contracts to clear federal forests in central Oregon. The contracts were controlled by four Oregon companies: Medford Cutting Edge Forestry, Summitt Forestry, Ponderosa Reforestations, and G.E. Forestry. All hired foreign workers, according to the report, though they didn’t all handle hiring in the same way.

While legal, the hiring practices appear to violate the spirit and purpose of the $840 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the stimulus, which was designed to create jobs that would jumpstart the country out of recession.

The article does not say that any contract fire crews used foreign workers.

Members of the Oregon House of Representatives are scheduled to vote on House Bill 3315, which would require the Oregon Employment Department to report on any company performing “forest maintenance” work on federal lands that use foreign workers on temporary work visas instead of domestic workers.


Thanks go out to Kelly.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Foreign workers hired with federal stimulus money for USFS contracts”

  1. This is not new news. These four companies have been under-cutting other legitimate companies, with the use of off-shore labor for years. The USFS does not care as long as they (the USFS) gets the cheapest price per acre. These companies treat their workers horribly- charging their employees for motel rent, clothing, transportation, and equipment rental fees. These companies should not have been awarded any contracts- this funding stream was created to get America going again, not to make these companies’ owners even richer. Most of the employees’ money doesn’t get spent in the U.S.; it gets sent home, South.

  2. The inability of Forestry Companies to find capable and willing US workers for reforestation and TSI activities has been a recurring problem since I administered those types of contracts for the USFS in western Oregon in the early 1970s: it’s cold/hot, dirty and tough physical work (kinda like firefighting), but goes on endlessly in ever-changing locations in rain, snow and blistering heat. Anyone out there had any luck finding good, hard-working teen-aged kids to change irrigation pipe lately? Same problem farmers face, either irrigating or harvesting crops like strawberries, tomatoes or Flathead Cherries here in Montana. I have no answers, just an awareness of the problem!


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