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The Color Green: Sheriffs Challenge U.S. Forest Service Road Closings in Northern California

By Chuck Frank
Journalist, Musician, Builder & Landscaper
Forks, Washington

Sixteenth Annual National Conference on
Private Property Rights
October 20, 2012
The Century House, Latham, N.Y.


Introduced by Carol LaGrasse: We're entering our final group of speeches and I'd like to invite you to your seats. We have three more speakers. We're going to hear talks on a number of different areas to do with our nation. So please join us again with your attention. We'd like to start... We'd like to invite the next speaker to the podium.

Our most long-distance traveled speaker is about to come forward. I'd like to introduce you to Chuck Frank. He is a family man, a musician, a song writer and a builder. He's here with this wife and his daughter. He's also a landscaper and an irrigation specialist. And he wrote The House of Lords: America in the Balance. He's a native of California and he also resides at the present in the state of Washington. He has uncovered insights into people's lost rights and this is a subject he's been writing about: brazen attacks on private property owners and threats of fine and jail for non-compliance. How familiar this sounds to all of us! He began exposing an array of government injustices in the 1990's when he was writing for the local weekly newspaper in his area of northern California. Now he's writing for another weekly newspaper and continuing this focus on lost rights. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from Chico State University with an emphasis on Sociology.

His book reflects upon national and local concerns and he also covers social issues of importance. He has also been on many talk radio interviews. And summing up his present situation, he would like to say that he exposes corruption at many levels but offers new ideas to release people from their present bondage to government bureaucracies. This is the kind of positive message we do indeed need to hear. One of the areas of his involvement and observation is the federal government's well-known practice of the closing down of federal lands to enjoyment by recreationalists. And its policies have also caused forest fires. So, he would like to tell us about this and also tell us about what's going on in northern California to make it possible for the federal lands to be properly managed and to be enjoyed by the public. So let's welcome Chuck Frank.

Chuck Frank: Thank you very much, Carol, and everyone else. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you some encouraging news. I would say over ten years ago, I started writing with regard to some of the issues that concern us all. What I found out a few years back is, it was getting worse and worse and worse, and so what we have now is basically a country being run by the tsars of the vanishing republic. Something has to be done and we don't have four or five more years to stop it. There's an urgency. And somewhere along the line I really believe that we got the momentum to do something. The Tea Party, of course, they're probably not quite as radical as we are, but that doesn't mean that we can't go forward and be an instrument in some constructive changes to give us those inalienable rights that really belong to us. So I wanted to give you some words of encouragement here. But, first of all, I wanted to present one of the problems we're having in the West — in northern California.

Carol had asked me if I could touch upon a few things here. But before I get to the forest road closures that have been happening at light speed in northern California, I wanted to share with you an excerpt in the book that I wrote.

This relates to the overreach of the state of California, so you have a little comparison here to what is California doing compared to New York. Now suppose you got a letter like this in the mail because the registration on your automobile had expired and for some reason or another you were unable to get it running and it was the only car that you had to get to work. You got this notice from the state and it said here, "To prevent collection from the Franchise Tax Board, you must respond to this notice immediately. FTB" — that would be the Franchise Tax Board — "may garnish your wages, attach your bank account, attach real property you own or seize and sell your real property." Well, that might just be over a hundred dollar registration fee that you just, maybe, somehow missed? Or you just couldn't seem to get that old car running? Well, when you see this kind of encroachment by the government you must know that there are other tentacles going out. That's just the tip of the iceberg in California. They're going to take your house or your land because of a minor registration fee that somehow didn't get paid? This is more than intimidation. This is tyranny. When a little old lady that's eighty years old is threatened with jail because she built a mother-in-law unit without a permit, you know that there's something going on in California. What is it? They're on a power trip.

Well, I'm going to continue here to give you an idea of where we are headed when it comes to the forest lands in California, which there are millions of acres. One of the concerns now, is that there have been so many road closures, hundreds of miles of road closures in California, depending on which county you're in in northern California. So there will be no access. The gates go up. There's not going to be access for recreation, camping, hunting, fishing, getting firewood or maybe they're going to limit your hours now to get your firewood. Let's see: You've got to call at about five o'clock at night to find out the next day is a cutting day for fire wood. And many times it's not a cutting day. And if it is a cutting day, well, you've only got until one o'clock in the afternoon to find the firewood, cut it up, get it in your pick-up, and take it out by one o'clock. Well, obviously, it has nothing to do with the fact that your chain saw may start a fire. That's what they think, you know, but chain saws have spark arresters on them. You carry a fire extinguisher, you have a shovel. But it doesn't mean anything to these people. These people want to limit your access to the forest and they have ways to do it. They're controlling your life. They're controlling your property. They're controlling the use of your own personal property, plus the public property. By closing these roads, what has happened now is that there's an overgrowth. And so you just close them for not very long — a few years — not even the Cal Fire which goes in and fights fires can get in there to fight a fire. And that's the object.

If you understand that the environmentalists have put so much pressure and so many lawsuits, and whatever, on the Forest Service that the Forest Service buys this whole idea of a natural park: Let it burn. So wildland areas in northern California or Oregon or say Utah, Arizona, those wildland areas are subject to "let it burn" policies. We're not talking about national parks, we're talking about wildland areas with millions of acres. And so what you have then with roads with no access, and they also go in there with backhoes and they fill them in. What you have is basically an inability to go fight fires.

I'm going to give you a little snapshot here before I get into the encouraging stuff. Now, what happened was, there is a county in northern California called Plumas County. So I got the information from the sheriff of that county. I spoke to him more than once on the telephone and he gave me the update on the latest fire that was created because of "let it burn" policies. He said it was a twenty-acre fire in a wildland area that they could have put out with an air tanker in a heartbeat. You could just put the fire out. No, no, no, no, they decided to let it burn because this is the policy. And so ninety thousand acres burned for two months. And, of course, we're feeling the smoke downstream from all this. We're having to breathe it for two months. But that's not all. That's just the "let it burn" policy. And that's just a little bitty fire. Because in 2008, there were ten million acres burned in the West. And a lot of it was because of the "let it burn" policies. Eight people went down in a helicopter in Trinity County and died because they were fighting the "let it burn" policy—after it got out of control, we'd better fight this thing, you know.

So, what has happened? In the last few years twelve counties in California have stepped up to the plate, and the sheriffs are part of the movement. They're saying to the federal government and their policies, "You know what? You guys just don't have the authority here. We are the authority and we're going to take it upon ourselves to do something about it." So let me give you a little snapshot here of what some of the sheriffs have said. They gave me this information first hand. I've been compiling it now for weeks. And so let me give you an idea.

One of the responses came from the sheriff of Nevada County. His name is Keith Royal. He gave me his take on the present situation when it comes to the problem with the Forest Service. And he said this, that their present plan which is called the "travel management plan," he said that their efforts with this plan disregards individual state's rights and the authority of the sheriff's office. He's the president of the California State Sheriffs' Association, and this organization opposes any effort to infringe on the authority of the elected sheriff. So now the sheriffs are stepping up to the plate. There are about twelve counties in northern California now that are happily starting to stand up against the monster. Okay?

Let me go on here. We're losing hundreds of miles of forest roads because they're closed. We're losing the access at light speed. Federal regulations skirt the Constitution. The supposed authority of the federal government is lorded over numerous states in the West. This bureaucratic machine is alive and well and is headed up by whom? The tsars. The tsars of the vanishing republic. But we do have a solution here. I was going to give you another little clip here from Sheriff Greg Hagwood of Plumas County who gave me the information when it came to his take on my question, "What is your strategy here?" I said, "If push comes to shove and the federal government is unworkable—the Forest Service is unworkable— what are you going to do?" He told me what they were going to do, which he also said to the state legislature when I was in Sacramento. He spoke at the state legislative building in Sacramento. He said this, "When the federal government comes to us and says we need to enforce these road closures." And you know what his reply was? He said, "You know what? We're not going to enforce them." Take that a step further. If you take some of these sheriff's authority and some of these other issues that concern us today, see where we can go? Now, that's encouraging.

Let me go on here. The National Constitutional Sheriffs' Association has begun to educate the sheriffs of the western states by giving them the information that they need as far as reapplying their rightful authority. This—we call it the NCSA—is basically an organization out of Oregon, out of Roseburg, Oregon. And their main\ thrust here is, of course, educating the sheriffs and also giving them the courage to go forth with their authority when it comes to facing the federal government. What happened was this. On October 8th, they had a convention in Reno. All these sheriffs from all these states came around. They were very encouraged and basically they are now climbing aboard this whole idea of stepping up to their own authority, saying, "You know, we are going to protect the people."

Now what they use is this. There's a good catchphrase here that's important so you can understand how they skirt around the federal government's mandates and the whole idea of trying to stop these takings. (In a sense these are like takings: You can't go there. You can't go on this public land.) And so they use this clause, "the health, the safety, and the welfare." So they turn this thing around on the federal government and they said, "You know what? We have to have access to these roads for the health, safety, and welfare of the people. If we have to go in there, if we have to fight a fire we have to go in there. If we have to have an emergency—search and rescue—whatever it is, we have to have these roads open." So they turn the same phrase around on the federal government. And it's working. So what's happened now is, because of this recent conference that was in Reno, there's about four counties now in northern California that are saying, "You know what? We're going to propose a resolution."

The Apache County in Arizona: They were first ones to really climb aboard a resolution. Now I have some of these. Come and see me after and I have some handouts here on these resolutions that the Apache supervisors have come out with, because now northern California is saying, "Yes. We've got to start adopting these resolutions." So basically these are sovereign resolutions that the counties are coming up with. Think about this in terms of your own county. Okay? They may apply to some other agenda that concerns you but this is for the forest road closures. Now this is what Apache County did. "Declaring the exclusive authority of Apache County, Arizona, over certain roads, rights-of-way, and routes of travel within the boundaries of Apache County..." And on and on. So, "Whereas, the inherent authority to control and protect free travel on the network of roads and rights-of-way within the boundaries of Apache County is held by Apache County to protect the health, safety and welfare and the commercial opportunities of the people within Apache County." And then there's more to this. And I don't want to go into the whole detail but here's another one. "Now, therefore, hereby it be resolved that the Board of Supervisors of Apache County hereby asserts its inherent right to control and manage the roads." OK. Federal government is like, "Hey, we weren't prepared for this one." Holy, man, ha, wasn't that too bad. OK.

"And be it further resolved..." you know, "that placing or maintaining any physical obstruction, gate, or impediment to the free use of the said public road, routes," da, da, da. "Is a..." and they go on to, you know, hey. This is the way it's going to be, you know, like, it's too bad. And so basically they're saying any physical obstruction, hey, let's get rid of it. We need the access. One of the reasons being is because of the terrible fire that went through Arizona. This was the catalyst that caused Apache County to jump in and just say, "You know, we're done. We are done with the federal management's stupid travel management plan."

So there's something here that some of the sheriffs of northern California are coming aboard and, of course, I think they got the idea from the Apaches. It says here that they want the free use, now. Remember, this resolution was signed by the five supervisors, and they're saying, "Hey. This is it." Placing any unauthorized obstruction or gate that impedes "the free use of the road, route of travel, or right-of-way is hereby designated a class 2 misdemeanor and punishable..." and so on. And they go on and on and on. So, in other words, they're going to arrest a federal official if he wants to try to put a gate there. Or if you're going to try to prevent someone from breaking a lock, huh, you're just going to have to go to jail. Well, there are two counties in California that really got encouraged by that because all of a sudden the sheriff has authority that he didn't even know he had. So let me go on to a two other little tidbits here for you.

The fire that sparked this resolution was called the Wallow Fire [named for the Bear Wallow Wilderness area where the fire originated] in Apache County. But now there's another fire going that's a good fire. And it is twelve counties in northern California that stepped up to the plate and said, "You know what? We're done with this." And, basically, some of these sheriffs that I talked to in northern California said, "Yup, this is what we're going to do. We're going to cut the locks if we have to and we're going to open these gates." Hey, is that good news, or what? Hello! In case you didn't know, right now we're living by a little town called Rough and Ready. Yeah. And back in the 1800's they even seceded from the union.

Now let me get a little looser here. I wanted to give you a little example of what one of the sheriffs told me. This was sheriff John D'Agostini of El Dorado County, which goes all the way to Lake Tahoe. He is fed up, up to here, with all the road closures. They closed forty roads and didn't tell anybody. Right. This is both town and county roads. They're supposed to tell people what they're doing. No, they don't tell anybody. And he told me this: He sternly stated to me that if the Forest Service doesn't reopen those roads it will be necessary for him to cut the locks to regain public and county government access. Once again, his strategy is to use his position, with the blessings of the county supervisors, to take back the land that was taken.

Links to Apache County, Arizona, Resolutions:

Notes:
1. Information in brackets is added for clarity.

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