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Mule packing stock

Kristina Gillispie loads a pack onto a mule in 2016 as Ian Bardwell, chief packer with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Ranger District, gives advice at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness on North Fork Dupuyer Creek. 

The U.S. Forest Service has received permission to hire seasonal workers despite a federal hiring freeze that left many summer job hunters in limbo.

Forest Service Region 1 spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown said the exemption may apply to between 700 and 800 non-fire positions covering 85 different duties. Advertising for the positions should begin on Thursday, Feb. 16, on the website.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 22 stating “no vacant positions … may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.”

“The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities,” the order continued. “In addition, the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”

The announcement came days before a national hiring fair was due to open for wildland firefighting jobs. The Forest Service typically hires about 11,000 seasonal workers annually, of whom more than 6,200 are firefighters. On Feb. 6, federal officials announced firefighters would be exempted from the freeze for public safety reasons.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.