Chair Grijalva Cheers New Biden Administration Actions to Support Federal Wildland Firefighters

Washington D.C. – Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today issued the following statement on the Biden administration’s announcement of several new actions to support wildland firefighters, including taking additional steps to increase firefighter pay, creating new mental health and wellness services, and streamlining the federal hiring process for firefighters. These new initiatives—supported in part by $600 million in dedicated funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—will help address longstanding recruitment and retention issues for the wildland firefighting workforce at both the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service.

“Our wildland firefighters are quite literally on the frontlines of climate change,” Chair Grijalva said. “Just this week, in responding to the Contreras Fire in Arizona, we’ve seen the importance of these professionals who are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our public lands, nearby communities, and in this case, the scientific facilities at Kitt’s Peak National Observatory. Stronger and longer-lasting wildfires are only making their jobs riskier and more difficult with each passing year, yet the support we give them for their service has been flatlined.

“I’m proud to see the Biden administration taking necessary action to support our federal wildland firefighters with the resources they need and compensation they deserve. As the climate crisis accelerates wildfire risk across the West, it is clear we need to recruit, retain, and importantly, fairly compensate federal wildland firefighters for the inherently dangerous work they do.”

As wildfire becomes more of a year-round risk, the federal land management agencies have struggled to maintain wildland firefighter staffing levels at critical times in the year. Challenges recruiting and retaining federal wildland firefighters have been reported across numerous geographic regions despite ongoing efforts by the Biden administration and Congress to increase competitive wages and benefits ahead of summer season, when wildfire activity often peaks nationally.

In April of last year, the National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee held a wildfire oversight hearing and heard testimony from retired federal wildland firefighters about the challenges facing the workforce. In October of last year, National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Subcommittee Chair Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) and Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) introduced and held a legislative hearing on H.R. 5631, the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act, which would make several reforms to the current federal wildland firefighter pay system designed to put federal compensation more in line with those at the state and local levels.

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