Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility says that President Trump’s decision to impose a federal hiring freeze will impede increasing energy production from federal lands, and hit hard on land management agencies.
And that, said PEER, in a written statement on Jan. 25, undercuts key promises made by Trump’s nominees and his plan to “Make America Great Again.”
Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” revolves around tapping “the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands,” PEER said. Yet the federal Bureau of Land Management, which is central to this expansion, cannot now keep pace with its current permit responsibilities, according to the majority of BLM staff and managers who responded to a PEER survey.
PEER quoted Trump’s comments that “our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority.” Yet, PEER said, according to its survey, 94 percent of national wildlife refuge managers said they presently do not have enough staff to meet the core conservation mission of these nature preserves.
The freeze order also makes no exception for seasonal or term hires on which land management agencies such as the National Park service depend. Nor is it clear that hiring of seasonal firefighters qualify for its undefined “public safety” exception, PEER contends.
The freeze would remain in effect through late March and could extend even further if a plan for “long-term” reduction of the federal workforce is not implemented.
PEER’s survey went out to every national wildlife refuge manager in the country, and to BLM managers, range, fire and scientific staff in nine Western states.
Nearly 9 or every 10 refuge managers registered that their refuges already had staffing levels so low that their refuges fell below “core requirements” by more than 25 percent, PEER said.