National forests belong to everyone

October 15, 2012 01:40 pm
The same 5-year-old boy, whose name I do not know, that got me and my two great-grandchildren, now ages 12 and 13, tossed into the “Access For All Jail Wagon” during the Mining Jubilee parade in July got us thrown into it again at the Baker County Fair/Labor Day parade in Halfway Sept. 3. The first time he was apprehended on suspicion of picking mushrooms without a Forest Service permit. This time he was caught red-handed on the wrong side of a Forest Service road berm on a motorized tricycle.

This is a joke, friends. But the road closures that face us are not. The Jail Wagon represents the freedom we stand to lose with more road closures. There were seven children in the Jail Wagon with me; mine were the oldest. It is the future of these little people we must fight for. They deserve to inherit the freedom I have had to drive around the forest any time I want to, just enjoying everything I see.

They should not be forced to apply for a permit to drive a specific road, a specified measured distance, in a particular type or model of vehicle, on one particular day for a specific increasing fee, at the convenience of the Forest Service, possibly guided by a Forest Service employee, or locked out altogether because the road has been obliterated to restore it to a condition of a thousand years ago.

When I first began working for the Forest Service in 1956, Ranger Harold Dahl on the Union District told me and other employees at Lily White, “Our national forests belong to everyone. Our primary purpose is to manage timber and protect the rights of other forest users.”

If this were only true today.

Our children deserve an opportunity to get a job in the woods, work in the timber industry where they can bring in wages to buy a home, a car, a boat or any number of “toys.”

They deserve more school funding, possibly a return to the five-day school week. They deserve more funding for music classes and funding for school athletics, football, volleyball, baseball. They deserve safe roads and a myriad of other things that are not available now because our local economy has been too nearly destroyed. This forest is part of our infrastructure. Its loss is our destruction.

The present uprising over road closures have led some people to believe that no roads have ever been closed. This is absolutely not true.

I have many friends that have been complaining that road closures made in the past have already closed them out of reach of favorite huckleberry patches and in many cases has stopped people from hunting elk altogether because they no longer have any access to save the meat after it’s killed.

Mining operations have been targeted for the worst abuse.

This is a case of losing so many roads we have had enough of it.


Carmelita Holland is a Richland resident.