Douglas County is model of Forest Service cooperation | RecordCourier.com
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Douglas County is model of Forest Service cooperation

by Christy Chalmers

While U.S. Forest Service workers have been harassed and intimidated in some parts of Nevada, Douglas County was not one of those areas.

The comments are made in a 25-page report that was released recently by the Forest Service. The report was commissioned after Gloria Flora left her job as a supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, citing concerns about the safety of her workers amid tensions over a remote road in Elko County.

Some Elko County residents disagreed with a Forest Service decision not to rebuild the road based on concerns that it could harm a threatened fish. The residents threatened to rebuild the road themselves and have drawn support from others who think the Forest Service wields too much power over what should be local decisions.

Flora said Forest Service workers were verbally abused, refused service at restaurants and hotels and intimidated. A fact-finding report that was commissioned in December found that while such incidents had occurred in northern and central Nevada, many of the more than 125 current and former workers interviewed said they are comfortable with the working atmosphere through much of the state.

Douglas County was specifically mentioned for the conservation days that have been held on the Carson River, during which volunteers plant willows, pick up trash and release fish. Also mentioned was the effort to preserve Douglas County’s open space, which has involved coalitions of residents, county leaders and Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management representatives.

Neighboring Carson City was also mentioned for its open space preservation efforts and a good relationship with the Forest Service. Even so, some of the Carson District workers said they are still concerned by the 1995 bombing of a district ranger’s house and the subsequent bombing of the district office. No arrests have been made, but the report suggests investigators should work harder to solve the case.

One of the report’s recommendations is to raise the Forest Service’s profile, through publicity about projects as well as personal appearances with boards and groups that are addressing issues relating to Forest Service programs.

Carson District Ranger Gary Schiff recently gave the first of what may become a series of informal monthly briefings to the Douglas County Commission, and the commissioners responded with enthusiastic praise.

Those comments reflect recent experience with Schiff and his district, which is part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe.Douglas leaders have complained bitterly about their experience with the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, at one point accusing representatives of secretly killing a plan to open an estate on the lake’s east shore to the public. The Lake Tahoe unit is not a part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe, and Douglas leaders said recently they think Schiff and his staff are much easier to work with.

Other recommendations in the Forest Service report include informing employees of procedures for reporting threats, discrimination and harassment, improving the agency’s structure and developing better public and working relationships. The report also suggests better communication on national and regional issues that affect Nevada’s communities.