Land Of Many Abuses

by Don Morris, August 26, 2010

Skuntown/Willits — Mark Scaramella’s report on the County Supervisors August 3 meeting in Covelo was right on target — a reality-based, bullshit detecting analysis in a few concise paragraphs.

The Mendocino National Forest has been “occupied” from the get-go by the locals: logging, livestock grazing, poaching, joyriding, and, more recently, pot growing.

Since the current big-time occupation by outsiders — allegedly Mexican drug cartels — the good old boys feel threatened and dispossessed.

Maybe it's part of the reconquesta grandé movement. The name, “Mendocino,” doesn't exactly have Anglo-Saxon roots.

It's understandable why the cartels have targetd the Mendocino which has always been the “forgotten forest” — the least visited of all the California National Forests (other than, perhaps, the Modoc). It's off the beaten path, has very few paved roads, and doesn't have any groovy whizbang “tourist attractions.” That's why it's so special for those who appreciate subtle beauty.

The Mendocino is an underappreciated gem with the most diverse vegetation of any other California National Forest, and several ecologically significant wilderness areas including the spectacular Yolla Bolly Middle Eel wilderness.

Those of us who love the Mendocino have been at war with the Forest Service for decades because it has always viewed the forest as a sacrifice area for “multiple use” extraction.

Louisiana Pacific virtually owned the forest for many years and rapidly liquidated its timber at bargain base­ment prices.

I was involved, along with a few others, in trench warfare against the Forest Service, filing appeals and lawsuits, ground-truthing criminal logging plans, and developing alternative management plans. The late Ron Guenther, bucking the Sierra Club hierarchy, faithfully supported our cause. He was instrumental in getting the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund to appeal — under threat of lawsuit — an atrocious Forest Service logging plan that severely impacted the wild and scenic Middle Fork Eel River corridor. Many of the proposed logging units were laid out on active landslides. In that case the Forest Service withdrew the plan, but most of our efforts were eventually defeated because the Forest Service is a tax-supported criminal enterprise that just doesn't give a damn about the environment or the “public.”

The current Forests Service modus operandi is to wipe out the few remaining patches of mature and old-growth trees under the guise of “ecological restoration.” No matter what project is planned by the agency it always involves the “removal” of large trees. They call it “rejuvenation.” I call it “sniper logging.” Mop up time on the Mendocino.

I still remember the hideous salvage logging that fol­lowed the huge Mendenhall fire complex many years ago. Numerous large, mature, and old-growth trees were cleverly marked for salvage even though they weren't “dead or dying.”

Louisiana-Pacific was the only bidder on the largest sales — in a competitive timber market — and liquidated huge volumes of valuable timber paying virtually noth­ing for the privilege. In fact, the Forest Service lost a substantial amount of money on the deal.

I filed two fraud, waste and abuse complaints with the United States Office of Inspector General on these sales and when the Forest Service Special Agents sent to interview me flashed their badges, one of them asked, “Are you a card carrying member of any environmental group?” They were investigating me, since I was, in fact, a non-card-carrying affiliate of the Earth First! move­ment at the time.

After a “brief” investigation, the Agency agreed that there was probably criminal activity but they denied the complaint because there was no “smoking gun.” I was supposed to supply the key evidence even though I had no access to the inner sanctum of Forest Service timber operations.

But, as a result of the complaint, the two top timber beasts on the Mendocino were “reassigned,” replaced by virtual clones of themselves. Net gain: zero.

The environmental damage caused by liquidation log­ging, rampant livestock grazing, and off-road vehicles stampedes combined is small stuff compared to the environmental atrocities caused by large-scale pot grow­ers. It's a nightmare!

Local counties, as Mark noted, have no jurisdiction on the Mendocino National Forest — it’s federal land. To say that Mendocino County can declare an emer­gency on federal land is pure bullshit.

The Mendocino National Forest supervisor admitted to the County Board of Supervisors that he had lost con­trol of his land base — a violation of federal law. He should either resign or declare an emergency himself routing it up through the chain of command — Regional Forester, Chief of the US Forest Service, Secretary of Agriculture, Commander in Chief. Will Smiley Obama declare an emergency on the Mendocino? Har, har, har de har har.

The drug cartels present a greater threat to national security than the Taliban but, hey, the Taliban threatens the oil lines so we’ve gotta pour our blood and treasure down the rat hole of Afghanistan.

In my opinion, shared by a few others, the Mendo­cino National Forest should be closed to the public and permanently occupied by the military: long-range recon­naissance patrols, search and destroy missions, and sweeps by Army Rangers, special forces, and a few Navy Seal teams snorkeling up the Middle Fork Eel nab­bing water thieves. Once the growers are captured or driven out and the forest secured, the cleanup and envi­ronmental restoration can begin which will take many years.

An interim doable approach would be for Governor Strong’n’bigger to declare a state emergency and mobi­lize the Highway Patrol to set up strategic checkpoints to interdict the extensive truck convoys delivering grow stuff from wholesale suppliers in Willits and the Sacra­mento Valley.

Since the Middle For Eel River watershed is the area most heavily impacted by the large-scale pot grows, the initial checkpoints should be set up at four key locations: Forest Highway 7 at the Blands Cove/Ham Pass road intersection, Eel River Station where Forest Road M-1 crosses the Black Butte River bridge, Forest Highway 7 at Mendocino Pass, and the intersection of Forest Road M-2 and M-21 at Sheep Ridge.

Of course, all this is pie in the sky. The easiest out for the Forest Service is to declare victory and sign a nonag­gression pact with the drug cartels, granting them safe passage and protection to grow pot in specified zones that have already been trashed by pot grows, log­ging, grazing, and ORV stampedes. The cartels will have to obtain special use permits and the fees can be used by the Forest Service for “ecological restoration” in other areas, liberating large decadent trees to be converted to useful consumer products.

Then the forest can be renamed: Mendopia National forest — land of many abuses.

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