F.U.F.S. 080311

Fringe Frustration, Opinion, and Consternation (ffoc)

At the Tuesday (2 August 2011) Sierra County Board of Supervisor’s meeting frustrated supervisors and county staff joined local folks in a bitch-fest at Genice Froelich, the District Ranger for the Yuba District.  Chair Lee Adams said that the Forest Service treats local people like they were managing a deer herd.  Tim Beals speaking less as the Director of Public Works than a county resident for over 30 years said it was clear the Forest Service had no stake in the county because they don’t have an office here.


A member of Sierra Access Coalition

Part of the Tahoe National Forest, the Yuba River Ranger District, which controls much of Sierra County forest land, is headquartered in Comptonville.  It is under the direction of Tom Quinn, the Forest Supervisor.  Mr. Quinn takes his orders from someone besides our Board of Supervisors.  He inherited and administers the Forest Travel Management Plan, a document which drives some otherwise reasonable local people to vandalism and talk of revolution.  The plan, following directions from someone who doesn’t know or care about our area, curtails all kinds of legitimate use of public lands.  Partly to minimize environmental impact, and partly to get a tighter administrative control over who does what in the forest, the F.S. has restricted many traditional uses.


The F.S. is susceptible to lawsuit from “environmental groups” if they don’t interpret the environmental laws completely, observing all the forms and formalities, but the end product is a public land denied to the public.


The Forest Service considers their public lands to be “federal lands” owned by the government, or at least held in trust for “the people” including the 99.9999% who don’t live here, but may want to use it some day.


The Forest Service is also trying to cheat the public, even those who don’t live here, from their heritage of old mine cabins and properties.  Readers are again encouraged to examine the documents in the Peachay mine, found HERE


The legislature and the governor robbed people of the opportunity to suction dredge, and the Forest Service is making it hard for prospectors and miners.  With gold at $1600 an ounce, almost no gold is coming out of Sierra County.

The Board heard from local people who wanted to keep shooting, as they long have, at the informal range at Lower Brush Creek Mine.  The Forest Service is cleaning up arsenic from the water, which eventually becomes water for Goodyear's Bar.  They have experienced vandalism at the site.  The road is closed to ordinary citizens and there is a lock on the gate at the mine. 

The Forest Service doesn't want people going there, Froelich said, and they can't think of anywhere in all the acres the Forest Services uses for people to shoot.  Not one canyon, not one meadow they own is suitable for shooting.  There will be continued efforts by local people who brought a petition with over 100 names on it to find a place.  In truth, why shouldn't they shoot any place they like on their open public land?


Finally, at Tuesday’s meeting the Board heard from the Sierra County Fire Safe and Watershed Council in the form of Executive Director Cindy Noble.  In the interest of honest journalism, this editor is a member of the Board of the SCFSWC, but do not consider my opinion here or anywhere to represent that of the entire Board.  Speaking for myself I’m frustrated that what I consider to be our most critical project, the roadside clearing along Highway 49 up the canyon, is bogged down because the Forest Service won’t shift their attention to the project. 


Yuba River District Ranger Froelich insisted that the project didn’t have a map or sufficient information.  “How wide is it going to be?”  The question is meaningless; it’s going to be as wide as the terrain demands.  How big would the trees be?  It would be whatever trees overgrow the road and threaten to rain burning branches on fire-fighters, rescue workers and fleeing residents and tourists.  Froelich complained, “we need a map”.  It’s highway 49, stop at a freaking gas station and buy one.


Local opinion holds that the project, coordinated with the County and especially the Downieville Cal Trans station, meets the definition for a “categorical exclusion” meaning Ranger Froelich wouldn’t have to dedicate precious staff time to make the canyon safer for the hundreds of residents, thousands of tourists, and occasional Forest Service grunts who use Highway 49.


After the Fire Safe Council, the County and Cal Trans have worked together to obtain funding and permits, which are good only until December 31, 2011, should District Ranger Froelich finally join the effort and prioritize the project to protect County residents.  Would she if we were a managed deer herd at risk?


Mr. Adams’s point is clear: the interaction between the Forest Service and the County is nearly always strained.  There is a map, which the Yuba River District contributed to, showing the hazard area, and the Wildland-Urban Interface.  The Fire Safe Council employs a forester who has drawn project maps and descriptions, which are available to the Forest Service.  Maybe that will enable the Forest Service to give permission for trees to be removed; trees which, some think, should have been their responsibility to care for so local people don’t have to do it.


The problem is an urbanized Forest Service, where city people make decisions about country people.  Tim Beals is right, if the Yuba River District headquarters were in the canyon, they might take the threat a little more personally.  They might take the welfare of the community in general more seriously.  If Forest Service kids went to Downieville Schools the schools might have a little more help. 


In the meantime, who are these people, who come from somewhere else, and take their orders from someone else, and protect the forest for someone else, but not us?  Genice Froelich and even Tom Quinn might be perfectly nice people somewhere, but here they’re just another problem we have, something else that makes life in an already set upon rural area even harder.  The Sierra County Board of Supervisors was right to send Ranger Froelich from the room pulling her jeans from her behind, we’re fed up with the freakin’ Forest Service. 


In the interest of fairness, I know and like a lot of FS workers, and consider them to be professional people just trying to do a job.  They field crappy questions from the Prospect and keep their good humor.  Most of them try to make the best of what they have to do under direction.  Still, it’s the job they chose, and at the very least these great people could live among the forest they oversee, and among us, the communities who suffer their management. 

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