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Fire Chronicle #16  Laura McCarthy, Forest Trust
 Feb 18, 2003 09:08 PST 
FIRE CHRONICLE: Stories of the National Fire Plan
Number 16
February 18, 2003

NATIONAL FIRE PLAN PROVIDES ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
FOR RURAL RESIDENTS

The National Fire Plan gave the Departments of Interior and Agriculture
specific direction to provide employment to people in rural communities
(Title IV of the 2001 Interior Appropriation Bill P.L. 106-291). A new
study by the University of Oregon’s Ecosystem Workforce Program assessed
progress toward this goal by studying business and employment effects of
the fire plan in Oregon and Washington. The study identifies
socioeconomic effects of the National Fire Plan, including a measurable
increase in rural employment opportunities.

The study drew the following conclusions from looking at National Fire
Plan contracting and hiring for fiscal year 2001 in Oregon and
Washington:

- Contractors who received National Fire Plan funds from the U.S. Forest
Service were based in locations closer to the work site than contractors
performing similar work funded by other programs. This finding suggests
that the Forest Service made use of special National Fire Plan
authorities to consider local economic benefit when awarding contracts,
although the contractors in isolated rural communities still captured
only a small percentage of the federal procurement dollars.

- The Forest Service often hired local residents to carry out fire
suppression functions of the National Fire Plan. Between one half and
two thirds of Forest Service hires for fire plan funded work probably
did not have to relocate for their positions, which usually paid wages
above the median wage for poor rural communities.

The study focused on the effectiveness of agency contracting and hiring
in achieving the socioeconomic goals of the National Fire Plan. The
study is significant for its findings and the methodology for tracking
the socioeconomic effects of the National Fire Plan. The Departments of
Interior and Agriculture have not as yet conducted this type of
monitoring of congressional goals for the National Fire Plan.

Findings about Contracting

The authors compared contacts awarded under the National Fire Plan to
contracts awarded for ecosystem management services such as thinning,
road rehabilitation, restoration, wildlife habitat improvements, and
noxious weed treatment. The study authors assumed that if Title IV were
effective in encouraging the agencies to award jobs to rural
communities, then firms that were awarded fire plan contracts would be
located closer to project sites than firms contracted using other funds.
In fact, data for the Forest Service in the two-state study area showed
that, all else being equal, contractors who were awarded fire plan
contracts were headquartered 58 miles closer to the national forest than
contractors who performed other ecosystem management contracts. The
study also found that contracts requiring heavy equipment were generally
awarded to businesses closer to the work site than contracts requiring
labor-intensive work such as hand thinning and brush piling. The data
for the Bureau of Land Management was less conclusive than for the
Forest Service, but still suggested that Title IV had some effect.

Findings about Hiring

The Forest Service hired 878 employees and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service hired 86 employees in Oregon and Washington in 2001 using
National Fire Plan fire suppression funds. The study compared the wages
paid in these fire jobs to the median hourly wage in Oregon, and found
that the hourly rate of compensation was usually higher than the average
median wage for poor rural communities. However, most of the jobs were
temporary, seasonal appointments that do not provide year-round income.
About one-quarter of the new hires in the Forest Service were for
permanent positions and 13% were promotions, which suggests that the
fire plan provided opportunities for advancement for the existing agency
workforce. Most of the people hired for the new positions were already
living in Oregon or Washington. Over 50% of those hired to work in the
Eastern Cascades, and 33% of those hired in the Blue Mountains, already
lived within 50 air miles of their new work site.

For More Information

The study, whose full title is “The Business and Employment Effects of
the National Fire Plan in Oregon and Washington in 2001,” was carried
out by the Ecosystem Workforce Program at the University of Oregon.
Funding for the study was provided by the Forest Service and the Ford
Foundation. The full report can be downloaded from the web site
http://ewp.uoregon.edu. The authors are Cassandra Moseley, Director of
Research and Policy at the Ecosystem Workforce Project, and Nancy Toth
and Abe Cambier.

FIRE CHRONICLE is edited by the Forest Trust and written by Laura Falk
McCarthy, Forest Protection Program Director. The Forest Trust welcomes
your comments, stories, and observations about how the National Fire
Plan is being implemented (just send a reply message and it will go to
the list moderator). To subscribe to FIRE CHRONICLE go to
http://www.topica.com/lists/firechronicles/ or send an email message to
lau-@theforesttrust.org.

PAST ISSUES OF FIRE CHRONICLE can be downloaded from
http://www.theforesttrust/forest_protection.html#fire
1. 2002 Fire Plan Appropriations will Benefit from 2001 Experience
2. Wildland-Urban Interface Definition a Barrier to Accountability
3. Stewardship Blocks: Innovative Tool Brings Fire Plan Benefits into
Community
4. Youth Training Needed for Fire Plan to Benefit Local Workforce
5. Grants Get National Fire Plan Money into Communities
6. Collaborative Forest Restoration Program Creates New Solution to
Gridlock
7. Permits Regulate Prescribed Burning On Private Land
8. Accountability Remains a Key Issue for National Fire Plan
9. National Partnership Advances Landscape-Scale Forest Restoration
10. Poor Communities Most Threatened By Wildfire
11. A New Model To Fire-Proof Forest Homes
12. Consensus Over Fuel Reduction Treatment Dissolves
13. Wildland Urban Interface Definition Needed For Effective Policy
14. Funding Gaps Prevent Completion Of Hazardous Fuel Reduction
15. Agencies Propose to Streamline Environmental Review for Hazardous
Fuel Reduction Treatments

COMMUNITY STEWARDSHIP COMMUNICATOR is an electronic bulletin that
provides information about the national Community Stewardship
Collaborative’s effort to find solutions to issues related to
large-scale watershed projects on the national forests and the National
Fire Plan. The bulletin is prepared by the Pinchot Institute for
Conservation and is available by contacting nra-@pinchot.org
	
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