Federal hiring freeze to impact WNC

The federal hiring freeze of all civilian employees, ordered by President Trump on Jan. 23, 2017, could negatively impact employment in Western North Carolina and the public services those agencies provide. According to the executive order, no vacant positions existing at noon Jan. 22 may be filled and no new positions may be created. The order does not include or apply to military personnel or positions with national security or public safety. The order also prohibits the hiring of contract workers who might be hired to circumvent the hiring freeze.

The Asheville area is home to some 3,300 federal employees and many federal agencies, including two of the most visited parks in the National Park Service, one of the most visited national forests in the United States, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, which tracks all climate and weather data for the country, and many others such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, which runs through Asheville on its 469-mile linear path, received 15.2 million visitors in 2016. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has a half-million acres across North Carolina and Tennessee, set a visitation record last year with 11.3 million visitors.

The Pisgah and Nantahala national forests in WNC comprise more than 1 million acres of land. The Pisgah National Forest is the second busiest in the country, with an estimated 6 million visitors a year.

Seasonal workers, hired for the busiest months from April to October, make up close to half the parks’ workforce. Their hiring might be delayed, which could lead to a delay in park and forest facility openings.

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