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DO YOU HAVE A U.S. FOREST IN YOUR DISTRICT?

Dear Colleague:

National Forests are America's Great Outdoors, and provide opportunities for recreation in open spaces and natural environments. They encompass 191 million acres of land, an area equivalent to the state of Texas. National Forests create jobs for many Americans, are the number one provider of outdoor recreation, and hold 50% of our country's timber reserves. In order to maintain the National Forests it takes the efforts of both U.S. Forest Service and fire fighters.

I urge you to join me in sending the attached letter of support asking for a waiver of the maximum entry age requirement for primary fire-fighters in the U.S. Forest Service. Due to the maximum entry age for hiring primary and secondary firefighters, the Forest Service will not be able to hire some of our most experienced firefighters. The Forest Service would greatly benefit from the ability to hire a ready pool of proven, experienced firefighters, and would offer a heightened level of safety for fire suppression. These firefighters, whether they are temporary employees, multi-resource permanent seasonals, or permanent full time employees, will be invaluable to fight forest fires like they have in their current capacities and to train new fire fighters.

Please contact my staff member, Chris Hartmann, at 5-4735 if you would like to sign this letter or need additional information.

Sincerely,

BART STUPAK
Member of Congress

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Dear Secretary Veneman:

We are writing to respectfully request that the maximum entry age requirement for primary fire-fighters be waived for qualified employees in the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). At this time, Forest Service employees over 35 years of age may not be considered for primary firefighter positions, even though if there is a forest fire tomorrow temporary employees, multi-resource permanent seasonal, or permanent full time employees will be called up to fight forest fire and they may be over 35 years of age.

Last summer's fires have provided the impetus to expand our fire fighting force. Although this is a great opportunity for many young fire fighters to apply for primary fire fighter positions, unfortunately, we are about to push out a significant group of our older temporary firefighters who would have gladly applied for primary fire fighter positions. Now they are considered by the USFS to be too old.

For years, fire fighting organizations warned of a shortage of experienced firefighters. Last summer, fire personnel were brought in from Canada, Australia and New Zealand because of the shortage. Last summer, the USFS Chief sent out a letter encouraging Forest Service retirees to help with the suppression efforts. A goal in this request was to seek out the kind of fire fighting experience that is only achieved after many years of learning fire behavior, supervising crews, and building miles of fireline by our temporary employees, multi-resource permanent seasonals, or permanent full time employees.

The current hiring initiative will bring on much-needed help, but we cannot afford to lose some of our best firefighters because of the maximum entry age limit for primary firefighters. Granting a waiver for experienced Forest Service firefighters in this hiring initiative would recognize their value; allow them to compete for jobs they've been doing for many years; enable Management to best utilize their knowledge, skills and abilities; and allow the Forest Service to better care for the land and deliver the highest quality services to the American people.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.