. .

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

Oregon / Washington

The BLM Wants You

When the BLM recruits America's Veterans to protect their public lands, the stars' the limit.

story by & with
photo by Corporal Michael Petersheim, U.S. Marine Corps


After three overseas tours - to include two in the Middle East - Air Force veteran Jeff Clark was happy to finally return home to civilian life. With a Meritorious Service Medal in his pocket and the pride of honorable service behind him, Jeff realized he needed one more thing.

A job.

It's 2012 - a time when finding employment can be a challenge for anyone - and military veterans currently make up about 15 percent of the BLM in Oregon and Washington. This figure is approximately twice as large as the average for the American workforce as a whole. In the past year alone, another 83 veterans have joined BLM offices in the Pacific Northwest, making the move from serving their country overseas to serving the public lands in their own communities.

Seven Score & Seven Years Ago

This practice of reaching out to America’s veterans has a long tradition going back to the Civil War. Recognizing our military members’ supreme sacrifice, Congress has enacted a number of laws since 1865 that acknowledge the economic challenge experienced by citizens willing to take time out of their civilian lives to serve in uniform. By hiring from this pool of military veterans, Federal agencies often restore these veterans back to a favorably competitive position of employment while acknowledging our national obligation to them - especially to those who were disabled in the line of duty.

In addition, public lands provide not only an opportunity for employment but also a wide variety of recreational activities as well as a restorative solitude for veterans to rebuild their physical and emotional well-being while connecting with the homeland they fought to protect. For many veterans, these lands have a true healing effect.

Bringing the Stars Home

Recently, the BLM has forged new partnerships with programs that reach out to veterans. The BLM works with the Wounded Warrior Project to help reestablish wounded veterans reentering American society. And the Feds Hire Vets initiative continues the BLM’s own commitment to providing veterans the opportunity to begin their next career working on the public lands.

The BLM Wants You
photo by U.S. Marine Corps

Another outreach unique to the BLM is the BLM’s veteran fire crews. In Lakeview and Medford, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington, the BLM has formed three veteran crews with the capability to fight wildfires this summer. A total of 36 veterans will be hired - and most of the veterans will have little to no wildfire experience. The BLM is prepared to train the veterans to ensure they have safe yet meaningful work experiences - experiences that may grow into future employment opportunities with fire management agencies across the nation.

Before the start of this year’s fire season, each veteran fire crew will receive the necessary firefighter training to gain national recognition as viable firefighters. Then they’ll work in hot zones, facing and eradicating real danger. Only this time, the potential menace is closer to home. The crews will face real-world forest fires that may potentially attack their local towns. Crews will also assist with prescribed fire burning to clear dead, dry scrub brush before it has a chance to catch fire. And when called, they’ll have the opportunity to travel and fight fires across the western United States.

These veterans will put to use the skills like leadership, risk management, and communication. You know, the skills they learned in the military. Win-win.

Shooting for the Moon

Jeff Clark, our Air Force veteran with three tours under his belt, did eventually find a job. "Honestly?" It was tough enough transitioning back to civilian life and moving my family and getting used to being back home, let alone applying for jobs." But, as regular readers of Northwest Passage will recognize by his byline, Jeff brought his vast public affairs background from the military to the BLM.

“Even though I was qualified and had years of experience and all that, I know my veteran’s status and military background were a big factor in my being hired," says Clark. "And after serving in the Air Force for so long, I appreciate that the BLM and my country were looking out for me, too."


Veterans interested in joining a fire crew in Klamath Falls or Medford, OR, or Spokane, WA, are invited to email BLM_OR_Firefighterhire@blm.gov.