A few years ago a locked U.S. Forest Service “green gate” was an unpleasant surprise, an unusual occurrence prompting a phone call to the local ranger station. But today it’s becoming ubiquitous throughout our national forests. Why? It’s because forest service management practices have gone unchallenged except by enviro groups who make money off us taxpayers by frequently and successfully suing our government agencies. It really has very little to do with protecting the environment anymore; it’s all about the money. Agency direction is steered via lawsuit and the judges that support them.
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For generations rural residents have utilized these roads into and around our national forests and have enjoyed the freedoms that our public lands offered. Among the longtime rural residents, more and more urban people and their families are recognizing the improved quality of life in and near our national forests and adjacent rural lands and are moving in. They are coming for the jogging, for the views, exercise, serenity and seasonal cues, wildflowers, biking and a songbird’s clutch, photography, prospecting and mining as such, logging, hunting, fishing and firearms training, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, skiing and recreating.
It really is our heritage, part of our culture we call American. We are connected to these places physically or spiritually and memories don’t cut it. Today we are being sold: “The gates are closed for road repairs and/or forest studies.” We have gotten used to these green gates being locked to winter traffic, but having them locked during summer weather is not just inconvenient, it constitutes a taking of our freedom. To delay our freedoms is to deny them. We need these roads open; it is public land after all and we pay taxes to keep them available. The forest service was charged with managing our public land, not just being keeper of the keys. If we continue to be locked out then the forest service is not really managing forests anymore … they are managing us. Judge Karlton and the Board of Supervisors need a confrontation with the forest service, not coffee cake.
How is a “hydrologic connectivity” study being used to justify closing that many roads for an indefinite period? Has anyone challenged the “science” behind the pettifogging? Why can’t the forest service use “site sampling” techniques for studying connectivity at a few representative locations? There is no reasonable need to close the majority of roads to complete a study. Hydrologic connectivity is not “disconnected” at road surfaces crossing a creek or meadow. Connectivity is gravity and soil porosity dependent, mostly connecting below the surface and visible only during water runoff events. And by definition, yellow-legged frogs actually have legs. They can traverse an occasional dry spot.
These closures are really more about newly proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rule making, soon to declare an additional two million acres of the Sierra Nevada range closed for the recovery of the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, the mountain yellow-legged frog and the Yosemite toad. And this is just the first of over 700 “imperiled” species soon to be addressed. Still think Agenda 21 is just a wacko conspiracy?
Once the forest service makes it through this season with locked gates, what’s to keep it from extending the tyranny via the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? It’s time to act El Dorado County BOS! Where are the maps? If we are going to remain locked out of our public lands, then they really aren’t public anymore are they? And if they’re no longer public what are they? Will it all become more unusable wilderness area soon? Why are we paying taxes to maintain them if it’s now just for the animals? We need to wake up America while we can still do something; we must if we value access to our public lands.
In response to the Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit to list over 700 species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted this proposed rule making in the Federal Register on April 24. The comment period is open until June 24. You know what to do. The contact person is Jan Knight, acting field supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way Room W–2605, Sacramento, CA 95825; reached by telephone at 916–414–6600; or by facsimile at 916–414–6712.
Rod Kerr is retired with 30 years of service at the California Department of Food Agriculture and with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.