Forest Service orders removal of poles flying American flag

Audrey Hudson
THE WASHINGTON TIMES

 

Published 7/22/2002

     The Forest Service has told California vacationers to remove poles flying the U.S. flag from property the service has leased to them.
     The order has angered one lawmaker, who has written the government, demanding that it "rescind this silly order."
     David Knickerbocker, an Army veteran and retired police officer, has been ordered to remove his flagpole, which has flown the American flag for more than two decades outside his summer cabin in the Eldorado National Forest.
     "I feel it is at times like these our country needs to be showing our unity and patriotism, not promoting ill-thought decisions, which prohibit flagpoles on United States soil," Mr. Knickerbocker said in a letter to Rep. Richard W. Pombo, California Republican.
     The "no-flagpole order" came from Debbie Gaynor, recreation forester, who said in a letter to Mr. Knickerbocker that "flagpoles are not authorized for recreation residences and must be removed" for him to continue leasing the land.
     "My flagpole has been up for more than 23 years, and like many in our cabin tract I am a patriotic American who has a flagpole," Mr. Knickerbocker said.
     The Forest Service directive "outraged" Mr. Pombo, who wants Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth to overturn the decision.
     "At a time when wildfires are burning up much of the West, and Americans throughout the country face terrorist threats, it would seem to me that USDA Forest Service employees would have better things to do than to tell our citizens not to use flagpoles," Mr. Pombo said in a letter to Mr. Bosworth.
     "Are flagpoles more dangerous than forest fires? I urge you to rescind this silly order to remove flagpoles that fly our American flag and urge our field offices to return to more important matters," Mr. Pombo said.
     Adding a postscript, Mr. Pombo asked whether Mr. Knickerbocker would "be arrested for saying the Pledge of Allegiance on federal land," referring to the California court decision, later stayed, that declared that the words "under God" made public-school recitation of the Pledge unconstitutional.
     A Forest Service spokesman said Mr. Bosworth was out of town Friday and was unable to comment.
     The National Interagency Fire Center that day reported that more than 49,000 fires have scorched 3.5 million acres of land this summer. In California, more than 4,000 fires have burned 142,000 acres.
     Fire restrictions were placed on the Eldorado National Forest on July 12 through the end of the fire season, meaning that no campfires or charcoal barbecues are permitted outside designated campgrounds.
     The forest is located in the central Sierra Nevada, about an hour's drive from Sacramento.
     The recreational use of Forest Service land began in the early 20th century, when -acre to -acre lots were offered to the public upon which they could build small cabins. Permits are regularly issued, and cabin owners are charged an annual fee.
     In addition to general cleanup and clearing fire fuels from the area, Mr. Knickerbocker was ordered to take down a clothesline tied to a tree and to paint his aluminum door a dark color to better match the cabin.
     Mr. Knickerbocker also was informed that his hot tub had not been approved by the agency.
     "Saunas, spas and hot tubs may be approved if incorporated into the main structure or deck, are not visible by neighbors or from public vantage points, and do not cause negative environmental impacts," according to the regional directives for recreation residences that Miss Gaynor cited in her letter.


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