Letter from PCU 3/24/95

PO Box 27217 - Washington, DC 20038

PO Box 6625 - Chicago, IL 60680

24 March 1995
PCU // Freedom of Assembly Project

USDA Forest Service
Reinvention Team - Rm.910-RPE
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, DC 20090-6090

ATTN: Mr. Lyle Laverty
RE: USFS Dis-Invention, Senate Appeal

Mr. Laverty, Reinvention Staff:

We have raised strong objections to USFS authorities infringing on First & Fourth Amendment rights -- in particular the formally proposed 'Group Use' and 'Law Enforcement' rules -- and de facto policies of harassment and intimidation toward free assembly in the National Forests. These issues were brought to regional 'Town Hall' forums last Spring, and written commentaries were presented into the formal record. [Two letters attached, FYI: 5/24/94, 8/12/94]

We are alarmed that the "Reinvention" process has apparently failed to address the serious Constitutional issues at stake, or any remedies. Your 12/6/94 report ("Reinvention of the Forest Service: The Changes Begin") evades them entirely.

For all your 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, accountable only to high bureaucrats. The only mention of the Law Enforcement & Investigation bureau appears in the 'Organization chart for the reinvented FS' (Fig.3, Pg.18): It is connected only to the Chief & Associate Chief at the Washington Office; regional and district Rangers would have nothing to say about these activities, despite being most affected in their relationship with the Public. This is especially outrageous in the wake of the 'Law Enforcement' rulemaking debacle in May '94, when the Chief had to withdraw that proposal in the face of huge public and Congressional opposition to such extreme powers.

Surely a "Reinvented" Forest Service would take heed of a blunder like this... unless it was no mistake. Now with Mr. Beazley's failure to provide a copy of the public comment Log based on Freedom of Information requests, the Agency apparently wants to bury the public record on this rulemaking, and ignore its policy implications.

We have parallel concerns over the persistence of the 'Group Use' rulemaking since May '93. With strong arguments against its ecological and constitutional grounds -- and two Federal Court findings against similar regulations since 1986 -- somehow USFS lawyers remain oblivious and undaunted. After a long series of delays in the face of public protests and Congressional queries, the revised rules are now in clearance review for final publication very soon this Spring. No cosmetic fixes in the language can occlude the basic flaw: Citizens do not need permission from the government to exercise Constitutional Rights; to say otherwise follows a dangerous Orwellian logic.

Seemingly such concerns would be germaine in a "Reinvention" sincere to its purposes of public service... unless it is really just a public relations ploy. Claims of good intentions are meaningless if the real intent is a final government authority to deny Public access & stewardship on Public Land.

Enclosed is our 2/14 letter to Senator Craig, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation, and Rural Revitalization. It lays down key challenges to Forest Service policy and calls for redress in Congress, framed by this overarching question:

Is it the continuing policy of the Forest Service
to promulgate unconstitutional rules?

The so-called "Reinvention of the Forest Service" must face this question at its heart. The good answer is to stop these rulemakings, open a public forum and join in a new dialoque and consensus on Constitutional Rights in the National Forests -- as rightly demanded by free citizens.

Response Requested... in Respect,

The PCU Volunteers /S.C.Addison, Planner

cc: Jack Ward Thomas, Chief

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