Letter from the Chief

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Chief letter 04/02/24

It’s been my intention since becoming Chief to rebuild 50% of our non-fire workforce capacity after the 38% drop we experienced in the last 15 years. Our collective efforts have gotten us there – we have hired over 4,000 non-fire employees in the last two years. The hiring actions we undertook were necessary to rebuild the agency to core functionality – and to deliver on the increased expectations that the historic investment of BIL and IRA funds brought to the agency. These capacity increases have led to significant progress in achieving the objectives of major initiatives like the Wildfire Crisis Strategy; the Tribal Action Plan; the Climate Action Plan and the Equity Action Plan, as well as record levels of contracts, grants and agreements executed with a wide array of partners. We have renewed our commitment to equity in our work, working with tribes and underrepresented communities to enact meaningful projects in the communities we serve. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made and grateful to all of you for the incredible work you’ve done to get us here.

Now that we have our FY 2024 final appropriations, we need to make some adjustments in our operating procedures to live within the budget we’ve been given. I want to reiterate that Congress and the American people value the critical work the Forest Service does. We demonstrate our value each and every day. Congress also had to make some difficult decisions this year and those decisions impact the Forest Service. Overall, the agency’s appropriations are down some from last year. Outside of our wildland fire programs, this takes many of our programs back to FY 2022 levels. In addition, while I’m pleased that Congress provided cost of living adjustments for all federal employees at a 5.2% level, they did not provide the agency with funding to pay for those costs outside of wildland fire. As such, we must find ways to absorb the increases within our constrained budget. I also want to clearly acknowledge that our employees face critical challenges in increased costs in housing, utilities, food and other necessities.

While we continue to have supplemental funds like BIL, IRA and GAOA, we need to set ourselves up for the future where those funds will be waning or no longer available. We’ve always known we needed to plan for that eventuality, but the combination of a lower budget and unfunded cost of living adjustments means we are there sooner than we thought. We need to take concrete steps on hiring now to live within this new budget reality.

I want to clearly lay out the steps for a strategic hiring assessment here.

    • We will temporarily stop processing non-fire permanent full-time hiring/staffing related actions as of now so we can get a clear understanding of exactly what is in the system including the number of new Forest Service employees we expect to onboard in the coming months. We will not withdraw any final offers that have already been made and will continue with onboarding activities associated with those offers.
    • We will strategically assess current hiring actions and those planned by all Units for the remainder of the fiscal year.
    • We will identify the hiring actions that can be filled by current Forest Service employees to ensure we are providing supervision and leadership for our employees as well as development and promotion opportunities.
    • When the assessment is complete, we will collectively prioritize which positions will be allowed to move forward where there is a high likelihood that an external candidate might be selected (e.g. a new Forest Service employee) and which positions will be filled when they become vacant for the remainder of the year.
    • We remain committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility in our hiring. When our agency reflects the communities we serve, we are more equitable, effective and successful. Whether we are growing, stabilizing or decreasing in staffing, it is important that our hiring processes and outcomes foster a workforce that represents the diversity of our country.
    • Fire hire will continue as most events are nearly complete for this fire year.
    • Non-fire temporary and permanent seasonal hiring will continue as most of these activities are nearly complete for the upcoming season.
    • Temporary promotions and details may continue but we ask that NLC members be prudent in their usage since the intent of the assessment is to have stability in the system.
    • Other personnel actions such as (but not limited to) lateral reassignments; conversions of employees on Pathways, VRA and Schedule A appointments; career ladder promotions; within grade increases; and awards are not impacted by this strategic assessment of hiring and will continue.

I want to be clear that this is not a hiring freeze but a strategic assessment of hiring. To effectively do that strategic evaluation requires that we have some time where the system is stable. I expect these actions to be complete in no later than 30 days. We will resume

Randy Moore autograph




Letter from the Chief 04/02/2024


It’s been my intention since becoming Chief to rebuild 50% of our non-fire workforce capacity after the 38% drop we experienced in the last 15 years. Our collective efforts have gotten us there – we have hired over 4,000 non-fire employees in the last two years.

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15 thoughts on “Letter from the Chief”

  1. I have to chuckle at the suggestion that Region 5 has, or ever had, a let burn policy. I worked in California for many years, and I doubt if any other region was faster to pull the plug on prescribed fires or natural fires burning in the backcountry, especially if they were trying to justify obtaining severity funding because it “might be the worst fire season in history” because of too much precipitation (so, flashy fuels), or too little precipitation (so, forests are tinderboxes). Billions have been spent suppressing state and federal wildfires over the years, in spite of much evidence that supports the recent posting on this website that “hit hard and fast: not always best.” Really, the accusation that a wildfire was a “let burn” arises from armchair quarterbacks deciding that the people on the fire didn’t fight it as “aggressively” as they “should have”, regardless of the fuels, weather, terrain, resource availability, and other factors that affected tactics at the time.

  2. Typical Washington speak. Completely avoids the disastrous course he has set with managed fire. Bureaucrat.

  3. Chief Moore continues to avoid the most obvious issue; the implementation of an Aggressive Initial Fire Attack Rule….to “First, Put Out The Fire”. Each fire ignition is first evaluated on the basis of a Good Fire, or Bad Fire. Millions of acres of Region 5 prime timber and watersheds have been destroyed by this “Let Burn Policy”. The recent pronouncement of hiring more fire-fighters and increasing pay is drivel, if Chief Moore, or his successor is unwilling to change their Fire Management Plan.

    1. Mr. Dennison, I 100% agree with your post but unfortunately it is unlikely that you are going to change the thinking of the majority of folks that continue to access this site. Most folks, including Mr. Bassler who writes for this site advocate for managing the National Forests primarily by prescribed fire rather than aggressive initial attack coupled with sustainable forest management, mechanical fuel reduction, and in some cases managed fire suppression and prescribed burning. In my nearly 30 years as an ATGS, I have seen way too many “controlled burns” and “monitored wildfires” turn into multi-million dollar fires.

      1. Mr. Leidholm, Hunter’s not paid for his views on forest management, he’s paid for his fire experience and journalism skills. You are welcome to contribute news stories here anytime you want, and if it’s of good quality I’ll publish it and maybe even pay you. Go ahead and put your typing where your mouth is.

        Maybe you and Mr. Dennison can explain for the rest of us what this “Let Burn Policy” is, because I’ve never been able to find it.

        1. Kelly, In my previous post I stated that Mr. Bassler writes articles for this site and which you have confirmed. I also stated that his articles demonstrate that he supports Forest Service plans to increase prescribed burning as part of their forest management plan. I have no idea what Mr. Bassler’s fire experience is, what the extent of his forest management knowledge is but my unqualified judgment is that his journalism skills are fine. I don’t have any personal grievances with Mr. Bassler at all, I just disagree with his position regarding USFS forest management plans to greatly expand the use of prescribed burning in that plan. Especially in that currently the Forest Service has not shown expertise in implementing that policy looking at New Mexico and unfortunately in Oregon. Regarding a “let burn policy”, I do not know of its existence but as an ATGS I have worked on several prescribed burns that have escaped that were on the fringe of prescription and wildfires that decisions were made to monitor the fire for accomplishment acres and then blew out into major, costly project fires.

          As a career forester and wildfire firefighter I have read articles on this site for many years and though retired, still have an interest on both forest management and fire suppression, particularly aerial suppression. It’s obvious I’m in the minority regarding my opposition to prescribed burning in our National Forests at the scale being talked about and instead support investments in a thriving firefighter complement as well as a robust response with aerial suppression resources everywhere in the US where lives and property can be threatened. I come here to read and understand and occasionally state my opinion even though it is overwhelmingly in the minority. I do thank you for that opportunity.

        1. Agreed, the RXFire people are not my enemy. I understand there are good reasons to burn for habitat, silvicultural treatment, and yes, even fuel reduction. It seems that the folks down south in Region 8 do a fine job. It’s part of the tool box much like loggers are one of the foresters tool in their tool box.

          Regarding opposition to logging, there has been opposition to logging for decades, some justified and much of it due to lack of knowledge of the benefits or simply because it can be temporarily be an eyesore until new regeneration establishes itself.
          That is why it is imperative that agencies adopt policies that support sustainable and environmentally safe policies and foresters adhere to and enforce regulations that fully utilize the forest product and protect the environment.

  4. The FS got itself into this disaster by Budget Modernization (BM). Budget used to flexible enough for field units to adjust needs for salary vs. operating funds, but now….. just BM. The Chief says they’ll be strategic in hiring – if so, it’ll be the first strategic action in decades.

    1. y’know what, I started cleaning that mess up, and when I got about halfway through I just GAVE UP ON IT, wondering why I was even wasting my time! Unbelievable. I did fix a couple of the most glaring errors. 🙄


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