OF THE 'GROUP USE' RULES [36 CFR *251,261]

Since the close of formal public comment period on August 4 '93, we have been uncertain when the final "Group Use" rules would be published in the Federal Register...

This event is significant as the springboard for implementing the proposed regulations: The "revised" language becomes LAW 30 days after publication.**

So far the Forest Service has set 5 different "firm" dates, and has delayed each time in the face of new scrutiny and critique...

<<>> ...BUT THIS LOOKS LIKE IT. <<>>

There are new indications that the EndGame is in play:

* A Federal Register item in November raised a stir...
(Vol. 59, No. 218, November 14, 1994, pgs. 57020-57028)

...Some folks feared that the 'Group Use' rules had been snuck in behind our backs, but not so. The proposed regulation was simply profiled as part of a "Unified Agenda" of actions underway in the Forest Service. Still, this was a clear statement of the Agency's intent to proceed with this rulemaking, regardless of its fundamental breaches of the Constitution and administrative law.

As I wrote to Senator Craig (Ag SubCommittee Chair) in a 12/30 faxletter:
"As such, there is cause for alarm anyway:
The language is a rehash of the logic of the original proposal, reflecting nothing of the substantive critiques that have been put forth, still failing to consider non-regulatory alternatives demonstrated in their own administrative record, still fixed on bureaucratic purposes and ignoring Constitutional costs.

And, they DO plan to go ahead on it."

* Concerns are heightened by a recent USFS report:
"Reinvention of the Forest Service: The Changes Begin".
-- USDA Forest Service (6 December 1994).

"Reinvention" is the GoodGuv buzzword now in vogue, and 'Town Hall' forums were held around the country last Spring to garner public inputs on Forest Service policies. Our Folks showed up these events in Minnesota, Vermont, and DC to present objections to the proposed 'Group Use' regulations that would abridge expressive freedoms, and the 'Law Enforcement' scheme to create draconian police powers in the National Forests. Further written positions were subsequently presented into the "Reinvention" record.

The December report evades these issues entirely: There is no mention of Citizen access and Constitutional freedoms on public land, nor any sign of "Changes..." in policy. And for all the talk of Openness and the "organizational culture" of the Agency, the roles and actions of the Law Enforcement & Investigation personnel are not discussed -- as if such matters are above public scrutiny.

* The ACLU opposed the 'Group Use' proposal in the formal comment record, staking its position on several narrow points of Constitutional law. Since that time we have informed them on the broader implications of both rulemakings, and urged that they take a stronger stand on several critical issues -- especially, the sovereignty of Consensus under the First Amendment, and why no permit can be signed.

We met with ACLU staff in December, urging that their National Legislative Office lobby Congress and the Administration, to stop these rules and change USFS policies. Based these dialogues they made inquiries to the Forest Service on the status of the 'Group Use' rulemaking. They reported new information from Ron Myers ('Recreation, Cultural Resources, & Wilderness Management' Staff) and Ellen Hornstein (USDA Office of General Counsel) that the revised regulations...
>> "...will be out by the end of March. The rules have been substantially changed in light of the comments. ...[They] have already been rewritten and are going through clearances now."

As for the new response we have called for, the ACLU will stick by its current position on the Group Use amendments, and is "...not going to take any action until the [rules] are out." Then they will determine if there are still First Amendment violations, and what action to take. Go figure...

There is no new info on when the new 'Law Enforcement' proposal will come out, or what it will say. When Chief Thomas stopped the initial process last Spring, Forest Service apparatchiks talked about dumping the mounds of letters that came in, since there would be a new comment period anyway.

But with over 70,000 public comments on the police powers they sought, that formal record should not be simply disregarded: We have requested a copy of the original Comment Log to make sure this does not happen, and to find out who cares about Fourth Amendment rights.

No response yet from the Forest Service. Go figure...


As Citizens and Humans we face a time of critical choice -- Whether Constitutional freedoms & protections will be preserved on Public Land, or sacrificed. The next few months are clearly to be decisive in the outcome.

nd the outcome here is pivotal to much bigger questions in America's future... This is threatening, but also AN OPENING:

Once such restrictions are enshrined in the Federal Code, the grim march of precedent would trample laws everywhere. These "minor" regulations are a critical path in the siege on freedoms; that's why they have been pushed so hard, for so long.

But it also means that greater evils can be prevented by standing this narrow ground, this Thermopylae in defense of the Constitution and the Land.

Let's face it -- politically and legally, these issues ARE narrow... not widely known, specific in effects. They are tough to spread around, but they are also CLEAR: Either Free Assembly remains a Constitutional right, or permission must be granted by the government and IT IS NOT FREE. Simple.

Time to hold their feet to the fire... a window of opportunity.

PO Box 27217
Washington, DC 20038
202-462-0757, 202-265-5389 (Fax)
(prop1@ uujobs.com)

PO Box 6625
Chicago, IL 60680

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