© a Quinn Martin production
Lots of you have been asking what you can do to help. This year's resolution is to affect change on The Angeles and take back OUR forest. I will have an online petition circulating soon. Thanks everybody.

I originally wanted to blog about my adventures in the San Gabriel Mountains. I have some good stories, like the time I took a donkey to Ralph's Supermarket. But then the Station Fire started. I realized that there is much that needs to be brought to the attention of the mountain going public. Most folks are kept in the dark about how the Angeles National Forest operates. I will raise issues that are important to me, which are hopefully important to all citizens, but if you have any suggestions for discussion here, I am willing.

Here's the big agenda: Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron. I've made a few smart remarks and cryptic comments about her. But now, with the backing of some knowledgeable and trusted friends, it is time for a concerted effort to have her removed from her post. Stay tuned for details. And if you have any information you would like to contribute, anonymously or not, email me at gregsweet4@yahoo.com

I will get to some of the stories, sooner or later. Also, I want to make it clear that I no longer work at Adams' Pack Station, that these words are my own, and that the pack station is not the source of my information - they don't want trouble.

More Morale Busting

I have told you here how little Jody Noiron thinks of her staff. The low morale on The Angeles is just one reason I want her to disappear. Her bad reputation is well-known in all Forest and Firefighting circles. The following is a discussion thread from a wildfire forum...

More Morale busting from Line Officers

While here in DC working on behalf of our Nation's wildland firefighters I was disappointed to learn that an invitation from firefighters on the Angeles National Forest for me to speak at their Fire & Aviation Management meeting later this month in La Canada, has been nixed by Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron.

My intent in accepting this invitation was to keep folks apprised of what's going on in Washington. It was not my intent to "bash" management so I am a bit dumbfounded as to why the FWFSA continues to intimidate [worry] Ms. Noiron.

Given the fact that the Forest Service Chief has commissioned yet another morale study along with the fact that I will be meeting with the USDA's Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, Mr. Jay Jensen tomorrow I will be certain to inform him of this decision by the ANF Forest Supervisor as indicative of the morale-busting intimidation often felt by firefighters on many California National Forests...

Casey Judd
Business Manager
[Federal Wildland Fire Service Association]

Casey & the folks on the Angeles:

"I find it very interesting, albeit not at all surprising, that Jody Noiron would nix your meeting invite. What did you expect? A fair and supportive environment where everyone can feel free to contribute to making a more productive, more safe and often less wasteful work environment? From her? Are you serious?

This is in stride with other decisions made by her. It's not a secret (certainly not a well kept one by many Angeles employees) and it won't change until other obvious changes are made.

Hopefully there will be a way for you as a forest to meet with everyone regardless of the morale busting behavior of the forest supervisor. And I think it's appalling that you might have to sneak around and figure out an alternative that might pass muster, how degrading.

Anyone who is truly supportive of their staff, as well as its morale and safety, will support open discussion at all levels. One of the clear lessons we know (and hopefully have learned) from history is that this sort of short-term thinking creates rifts between management and those people (yes, we are people/humans and we should be treated with some degree of respect Ms. Noiron) that actually do the physical labor. To treat employees in such a manner by not allowing them to speak and listen freely invites even more of a lack of respect towards management and ultimately it tells us that someone has no clue as to what real needs are on a forest.

Good going in the morale busting race for this season Ms. Noiron! (You're probably in the lead)"

Just a plain old firefighter

The Angeles, Chiefs Sensing Group and having each other's backs:

"Thanks for the update on the "progressive" Forest leadership coming out of the Angeles.

In response to that, I'd like to invite Casey to speak at our upcoming annual Forest-wide Fire meeting. I'll be in touch with Casey about the details. We have some meticulous note-takers and will share important fire information discussed at this meeting with anyone interested, and in particular, with our brothers and sisters in Fire Management on the Angeles. I encourage fellow fire managers throughout the U.S. to extend the same invitation and make appropriate arrangements (maybe Casey doesn't want us filling up his travel itinerary -- sorry Casey) . Just finished some work on the M581 course that dealt with "leadership" and also recently sent two employees to a Regional Leadership course. It's amazing the disparity between what the agency presents as admirable leadership traits in its training courses and the agency's tolerance for the garbage that passes for leadership in its daily operations.

And yes, JMM, the roster of the Chief's sensing group speaks volumes. 206th headed to 216th faster than greased lightning... But there is something we can all do, and that's to have each others' backs. A Forest Sup in CA wants to muzzle an important voice in the fire world? Then the rest of us need to step up to the plate and turn up the volume -- and -- turn the tables on this unfortunate situation. Yeah Jodi, count the fingers, you're number 1.
[his way of giving Jody "the finger"]

Keep up the good work Casey and All."


Of course, these are my own excerpts. These are part of many conversations in March of this year. But you will not find a positive thing about Jody anywhere on the thread or the entire site, however there was a little backpedaling by the man that started the discussion, the kind a guy does when he has spoken his mind then gets chewed out: "To All: It certainly wasn't my intent to create a firestorm of an issue regarding my post about not be able to speak at the ANF [Angeles National Forest]. There might have been some miscommunication but also a lack of clear understanding of what the FWFSA is and what we do." The whole web page is at: http://www.wildlandfire.com/arc/2010c_mar.htm

I find this statement particularly intriguing: "...the fact that the Forest Service Chief has commissioned yet another morale study..." What's taking them so long to figure it out?

Say Goodnight George

I finally made it back to LA (and internet access) a couple days ago, and when I returned I found out that The Angeles National Forest had lost one of its most dedicated caretakers: George Geer. He passed away unexpectedly.

George was a forestry major in junior college, and had worked for the City of San Gabriel Parks and Recreation Department before joining the Forest Service at age 22. He was initially stationed at Chilao and was put to work fighting a five-acre fire on his first day on the job. George worked on The Angeles for over 35 years and was a familiar figure to anyone who has spent time in the forest. Much of his time was spent as a Fuels Reduction Officer. He made sure campers had safe fires and inspected the camps and cabins for compliance with fire clearance regulations. But George always went beyond the call of duty. I used to see him in the turnouts of the Chantry Flat road picking up cigarette butts and painting over graffiti, whereas the man who now holds his position never gets out of his truck, let alone hike to the campgrounds and cabins. George was the last of the old garde.

I first met George before I knew anything about the San Gabriel Mountains. I wanted to explore the trails near my Altadena home so I went up the street and camped at Millard Campground for a few days. Early one morning, before I got out of my sleeping bag, a man banged on my tent and told me to get out. I didn't know what to make of that so I ignored him. He banged again and said he needed to talk to me. Cautiously I got out of my tent and was confronted with the man I came to know as George Geer. He pointed at my fire ring and asked "What is that?" It seemed obvious to me that it was a fire ring, but not wanting to sound like a smart-ass I just said "What do you mean?" Before going to bed I had put a log in the ring that was slightly too big and he was fussing over the six-inch piece that had fallen out overnight. It was a little singed and cold and there was nothing around but dirt. It could not have caused a forest fire, but it was poor fire etiquette and George was mad (or so it seemed). He told me to clean it up so I picked up the chunk of wood and put it in the fire ring; job done. But George had different ideas. He came back from his truck with a rake and shovel and made me clean not only around the fire ring, but my whole campsite. Frankly, I was glad to have the tools to clean up the area, but I let him have his moment of "punishing" me. He was really just trying to educate me.

The following is a story in George's own words from the book The Angeles Was Our Home: Recollections of Life on the Angeles National Forest by Norma Rowly...

Mustard Off The Hot Dog

In the early '80s I was having trouble with my new boss regarding my taking my black lab companion of four years, Freedom, on patrol. It was "suggested" that she should no longer accompany me.

I started on my early morning patrol to the mesa above Angeles Crest Station to see what the late-night friends of the forest had left behind. Freedom was enjoying her daily fight with the bushes that got too close to the truck. This was a daily ritual for her. Since an attack the bushes made on her nose while she was sleeping on Juanita Romero's lap with her head out the window years earlier, she had never forgotten.

When we reached the mesa, two parked cars and four or five teenagers were next to a safe, but illegal, bar-b-que. The rest of the mesa was strewn with beer cans and other debris from the night before.

As I approached the kids, I told Freedom, who was standing tall and erect in the hose basket she had adopted as hers, "Alert!" I had seen this somewhere on TV, and since a few people had asked me if she were trained, I used the ploy on questionable contacts.

The young visitors were eating their freshly cooked hamburgers and hot dogs. Still more were heating up on the grill. They passed the attitude test and apologized for their misdeeds. I told them they could choose between a citation or help put something back into their forest by cleaning the mesa. I took their ID's and began writing up warning notices.

As I finished my write-up, I looked around for Freedom. She was nowhere to be found. I quickly called her name and within seconds she came from behind the cars.She looked at me somewhat sheepishly with her tongue out and was trying to lick the mustard that was all over her muzzle.

I was dead! I walked around the kids' cars and my worst fears were realized. The food - every bit of it, even the food on the grill - was gone. I knew that would be the end of Freedom's days on patrol. What was I going to tell the boys, and my boss?

As the kids came back I told them what had happened and offered to pay for the food. Luckily, they all laughed and thought it was justice for what they had done.

George was stern, but always tried to be fair.

Another story I have about George involves fire clearance. The owners of cabins #116 & #117 in Winter Creek had hired me to do the fire clearance around their cabins. I was weed-whacking around #117 when George came down the trail. He had been cleaning Hoegee's Campground. He had his usual list of criticisms and suggestions on how to do the clearance better. I told him I would take care of the details and he went on his way, but not before reminding me to trim the Vinca around the outhouse.

The next day, as I was picking up manure from the front of the barn at Adams' Pack Station, George showed up and leaned on the corral fence and looked at me. I said hello, but he just stared at me - angrily. I asked him "What's wrong?" and he said "You told me you would clean around that outhouse." I told him that I did and he said "No you didn't. I was just there." It turns out George had actually hiked back in that morning to examine my work; a three mile round trip just to check on me. So he marched me back in, one and a half miles with a weed-whacker, to finish the job. When we got to the cabins I realized that we were each thinking of a different outhouse. Without getting into the details, I had only cleaned the area belonging to the people that paid me, and I left alone the neighboring cabin - the cabin that claims, and in fact has the keys for, the outhouse in question. Of course, since I was already there on a special trip with a weed-whacker, and since I didn't have the nerve to argue with George, I cleaned around the outhouse while George watched. Looking back I realize he was mad because he always did what needed to be done whether he was technically getting paid for it or not.

A lot of cabin owners didn't like George because he made them work harder than they wanted to, or pay for others to work more than they wanted. But they didn't realize that he was just wanted what was best for the cabins. He (unlike Jody Noiron & Marty Dumpis) loved the cabins, and camps like Sturtevant's, and did everything he could to protect them from wildfire. Somewhere between the lackadaisical attitude of the cabin owners and George's extreme standards the cabins were reasonably well protected.

George often got reprimanded by his superiors, like the time he took it upon himself to hire "jail crews" to clean up Chantry Flat. They cut all the tall grass, pruned dead limbs and cleared Poison Oak. He only did these things because it was what the forest needed, and because he cared about the experience of the public. If someone told him "no" and he knew better, he would find a way to get it done anyway. The results were always good and I don't think he ever got into serious trouble. Nobody could argue with George's knowledge, productivity, and devotion to his job.

A couple three years ago George turned 55 years of age and they took him out of the field; this is supposedly Forest Service policy. Shortly after this I did a major clean-up and fire clearance around the pack station. I cut down California Bay trees, cleared a dumpster-full of Poison Oak, and raked the duff down to dirt. When owner Deb Burgess saw what I had done she was a little shocked; it had to be done, but it was a shocking difference. I jokingly (and affectionately) named it the George Geer Memorial Desert.

Admittedly, George was a hot-head and blurred the bounds of propriety, but he loved the Angeles National Forest as much as anyone ever has and his motives were always to protect and serve. The Angeles needs more people like him. The current management rarely come out off their offices and don't like to get out of their trucks. I challenge you to find a tan on any one of those people. George was a true patrolman. The story above about the hot dogs refers to the mesa above the station where the Station Fire started. I guarantee you if George Geer were on patrol when a crazy man was seen pushing a shopping cart up & down the Angeles Crest Highway that fire never would have happened.

I don't know for sure how George died, other than "natural causes", and I have heard that it was a heart attack, but I can't help but think that maybe the worst thing for him was to put him behind a desk. Patrolling the mountains, visiting friends and educating the public were his passions. I have heard stories of men who lose their will to live when their life's work is finished. I don't know this to be the case, I hadn't seen George in quite a while to know if he was happy, but it does make me wonder.


As soon as I posted this I got word from Deb at Adams' Pack Station, who went to the memorial service, and she told me that George committed suicide in his car. In her words: "We all believe in our hearts that George found himself lost when he was forced to resign."

Blog Update - March 2nd, 2010

I just spent two weeks at a family home in Three Rivers, California, with no internet access and no cell phone reception. When I got back I found out that a friend of mine is upset with me (which is something I was worried about), and a few others, too. The introduction to this blog has said for months "...with the backing of some knowledgeable and trusted friends, it is time for a concerted effort to have [Forest Supervisor Jody Noiron] removed from her post." This is one of those friends. He knows as well as anybody what a mess Jody has made of the Angeles National Forest and how awful she is to her employees. He knows that Jody has put fear in the hearts of those she "manages" and he knows that she needs to be removed. But now he's chickened-out also. There's a reason I've brought up The Wizard of Oz here a couple of times.

This goes back to the fact that I asked the authorities to investigate the legality of the new reservoir at Mount Baldy (Baldy Notch), and when they started asking questions Jody suspended an employee because she suspected this employee of ratting her out. I did not hear the suspicions about the reservoir from this employee, I don't even know who it is.

Let me first say that Forest Service employees are not the only ones that know the details of the reservoir, so do the owners and employees of the ski resort. Secondly, I will remind you just how small the forest community is. News and rumors travel fast. I could have heard tales of the reservoir from lots of people. For instance, I have met quite a few Forest Service volunteers over the years and it could have been from one of them; it wasn't, but it could have been. Maybe I overheard something when I went to Baldy Village and stopped in for a burger. I went on a field trip to Baldy Notch where the class stopped for lunch, served by loud-talking restaurant employees, just a hundred yards from the reservoir. I'm not telling where I heard something that made me report the reservoir, but there are many possibilities.

That being said, there are several points I need to make. The first is that if Jody Noiron had nothing to hide, she would not have gotten so upset. In fact, we have learned here that she allowed construction of the reservoir without doing a NEPA study or an Environmental Impact Report. The second (more important to this topic) is that Jody's reaction demonstrates just how unprofessional she is, and how she will throw anyone under the bus to keep herself out of trouble. Third, the reason I posted news of this suspended employee is to protect the employee from Jody. When I made my report to the Center for Biological Diversity, I had no idea that Jody would take it out on an innocent employee. It would otherwise be easy for Jody to make up a reason to terminate the employee, but now, with public attention on the matter, she is less likely to conjure up some bogus infraction.

I didn't just defend the suspended employee here, I reported the incident to the FSEEE (Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics). My thinking was that I don't know if all Forest Service employees know about this avenue for grievances, and it would be more eyes on Jody. I am now going to upset more people and paste in part of the return email: "I'll see what else I can do proactively on the employee issue. Marty Dumpis asked me outright when I submitted the FOIA where I had heard about the Mt. Baldy issue and I tried to make it as clear as possible that it was not a Forest Service employee, and I will have no problem re-iterating this as it is simply the truth, which you also point out in your blog. Since this employee did not come to us as a whistle-blower, then it makes me wonder what the FS will claim was an illegal or disciplinary worthy action. There must be something else that the FS is trying to use, not that such a claim would be valid, we have had cases of retaliation where the management was searching for anything they could possibly find to punish an employee for an otherwise legal act." Jody is fully capable of pulling such an under-handed move.

So back to my friend. He doesn't read my blog because he doesn't do computers, but the content does get to him. In fact, most of it I have run by him before posting it. A few weeks ago he called and asked me to remove references to the suspended employee, that he heard that the employee was worried that Jody would read it and fire the employee. I told him that Jody already read that post a long time ago, and I explained to him how I know (thanks, Google). If that is the only fear, it wouldn't do any good to take it down. I argued that it is better for the employee to keep light on the subject, and reminded him that that is why he encouraged me to post it in the first place. Besides, I would lose any credibility I might have if I start taking a virtual black marker to my blog. He said "Please just take it off." Without actually lying, I made sound like I would, to get off the phone with him, but I had no intention of removing the truth, and now that he is upset with me, I am even more sure that it should stay. Jody needs to know that we are all watching her. The employee is still at work, and I'm not so sure that they would be if I hadn't intervened.

I guess what really annoys me is that my friend (and others) has demonstrated that he is all talk. You see, the reason I am writing this blog, or rather, the reason that others are not writing it is because I don't have much to sue for. I explained to my friends that as long as we tell the truth, there is nothing to sue over, and that since we know Jody Noiron has a lot to hide, she wouldn't dare air her laundry in court. I guess that should have been an indication that I am the only one that has the fortitude to stand up to Jody.

Actually, that is not true. There is another person in the know that has stood up to Jody: Sally Feser. Sally is the wife of former Angeles National Forest Fire Chief Don Feser. Don is the one that quit because of Jody. Sally has posted comments here on this blog that say exactly what she feels. It really made Jody mad and she was ready to stick it to Sally. Jody has the Forest Service Law Enforcement monitoring this blog because in one comment Sally said "That witch should be burned at the stake!" Clearly it's just a figure of speech, but I guess we are to believe that the big, bad Jody, who likes to pick on her innocent employees, is in fear for her safety. Of course, we know that's not true, it's just another example of how childish and vindictive she is. She would actually have Sally arrested, or me, for some trumped up charge; just like what she's doing to the suspended employee. Well, I'm not afraid. I haven't made any threats, only a promise to do my best to get Jody out of The Angeles.

In a future post I will describe how her second-in-command, someone who I used to think would be good for this forest, seemed to try to start an altercation with me. It didn't work, if that's what he was up to. I am not a violent guy.

Quoting the FSEEE employee again, from one of my email correspondences, "Hopefully I will be able to untangle what is going on. You are right, this forest seems to be quite a mess."

Inaccessible? (part 2)

The Station Fire review said that the fire could not be fought in the first days because the terrain is "inaccessible", and that air support would have done no good. I have shown here that it is not inaccessible, and I have posted video of crews hiking a comparable ridgeline in subsequent days. There is an outside review of the fire pending which, I am sure, will take into consideration the two LA County firefighters who died in the Station Fire.

This is a clip, from the Forest Service's own documentary, about how air support, "smokejumpers" in particular, can actually SAVE the lives of firefighters. It also demonstrates the enthusiasm that wildland firefighters have for their job...

The First Principle of Conservation is Development

Keep this in mind for future posts...

The Fight for Conservation
Chapter IV - The principles of Conservation
by Gifford Pinchot (founder of the Forest Service)

The principles which the word Conservation has come to embody are not
many, and they are exceedingly simple. I have had occasion to say a good
many times that no other great movement, has ever achieved such progress
in so short a time, or made itself felt in so many directions with such
vigor and effectiveness, as the movement for the conservation of natural

Forestry made good its position in the United States before the
conservation movement was born. As a forester I am glad to believe that
conservation began with forestry, and that the principles which govern
the Forest Service in particular and forestry in general are also the
ideas that control conservation.

The first idea of real foresight in connection with natural resources
arose in connection with the forest. From it sprang the movement which
gathered impetus until it culminated in the great Convention of
Governors at Washington in May, 1908. Then came the second official
meeting of the National Conservation movement, December, 1908, in
Washington. Afterward came the various gatherings of citizens in
convention, come together to express their judgment on what ought to be
done, and to contribute, as only such meetings can, to the formation of
effective public opinion.

The movement so begun and so prosecuted has gathered immense swing and
impetus. In 1907 few knew what Conservation meant. Now it has become a
household word. While at first Conservation was supposed to apply only
to forests, we see now that its sweep extends even beyond the natural

The principles which govern the conservation movement, like all great
and effective things, are simple and easily understood. Yet it is often
hard to make the simple, easy, and direct facts about a movement of this
kind known to the people generally.

The first great fact about conservation is that it stands for
development. There has been a fundamental misconception that
conservation means nothing but the husbanding of resources for future
generations. There could be no more serious mistake. Conservation does
mean provision for the future, but it means also and first of all the
recognition of the right of the present generation to the fullest
necessary use of all the resources with which this country is so
abundantly blessed. Conservation demands the welfare of this generation
first, and afterward the welfare of the generations to follow.

The first principle of conservation is development, the use of the
natural resources now existing on this continent for the benefit of the
people who live here now. There may be just as much waste in neglecting
the development and use of certain natural resources as there is in
their destruction. We have a limited supply of coal, and only a limited
supply. Whether it is to last for a hundred or a hundred and fifty or a
thousand years, the coal is limited in amount, unless through geological
changes which we shall not live to see, there will never be any more of
it than there is now. But coal is in a sense the vital essence of our
civilization. If it can be preserved, if the life of the mines can be
extended, if by preventing waste there can be more coal left in this
country after we of this generation have made every needed use of this
source of power, then we shall have deserved well of our descendants.

Conservation stands emphatically for the development and use of
water-power now, without delay. It stands for the immediate construction
of navigable waterways under a broad and comprehensive plan as
assistants to the railroads. More coal and more iron are required to
move a ton of freight by rail than by water, three to one. In every case
and in every direction the conservation movement has development for its
first principle, and at the very beginning of its work. The development
of our natural resources and the fullest use of them for the present
generation is the first duty of this generation. So much for

In the second place conservation stands for the prevention of waste.
There has come gradually in this country an understanding that waste is
not a good thing and that the attack on waste is an industrial
necessity. I recall very well indeed how, in the early days of forest
fires, they were considered simply and solely as acts of God, against
which any opposition was hopeless and any attempt to control them not
merely hopeless but childish. It was assumed that they came in the
natural order of things, as inevitably as the seasons or the rising and
setting of the sun. To-day we understand that forest fires are wholly
within the control of men. So we are coming in like manner to understand
that the prevention of waste in all other directions is a simple matter
of good business. The first duty of the human race is to control the
earth it lives upon.

We are in a position more and more completely to say how far the waste
and destruction of natural resources are to be allowed to go on and
where they are to stop. It is curious that the effort to stop waste,
like the effort to stop forest fires, has often been considered as a
matter controlled wholly by economic law. I think there could be no
greater mistake. Forest fires were allowed to burn long after the people
had means to stop them. The idea that men were helpless in the face of
them held long after the time had passed when the means of control were
fully within our reach. It was the old story that "as a man thinketh, so
is he"; we came to see that we could stop forest fires, and we found
that the means had long been at hand. When at length we came to see that
the control of logging in certain directions was profitable, we found it
had long been possible. In all these matters of waste of natural
resources, the education of the people to understand that they can stop
the leakage comes before the actual stopping and after the means of
stopping it have long been ready at our hands.

In addition to the principles of development and preservation of our
resources there is a third principle. It is this: The natural resources
must be developed and preserved for the benefit of the many, and not
merely for the profit of a few. We are coming to understand in this
country that public action for public benefit has a very much wider
field to cover and a much larger part to play than was the case when
there were resources enough for every one, and before certain
constitutional provisions had given so tremendously strong a position to
vested rights and property in general.

A few years ago President Hadley, of Yale, wrote an article which has
not attracted the attention it should. The point of it was that by
reason of the XIVth amendment to the Constitution, property rights in
the United States occupy a stronger position than in any other country
in the civilized world. It becomes then a matter of multiplied
importance, since property rights once granted are so strongly
entrenched, to see that they shall be so granted that the people shall
get their fair share of the benefit which comes from the development of
the resources which belong to us all. The time to do that is now. By so
doing we shall avoid the difficulties and conflicts which will surely
arise if we allow vested rights to accrue outside the possibility of
governmental and popular control.

The conservation idea covers a wider range than the field of natural
resources alone. Conservation means the greatest good to the greatest
number for the longest time. One of its great contributions is just
this, that it has added to the worn and well-known phrase, "the greatest
good to the greatest number," the additional words "for the longest
time," thus recognizing that this nation of ours must be made to endure
as the best possible home for all its people.

Conservation advocates the use of foresight, prudence, thrift, and
intelligence in dealing with public matters, for the same reasons and in
the same way that we each use foresight, prudence, thrift, and
intelligence in dealing with our own private affairs. It proclaims the
right and duty of the people to act for the benefit of the people.
Conservation demands the application of common-sense to the common
problems for the common good.

The principles of conservation thus described--development,
preservation, the common good--have a general application which is
growing rapidly wider. The development of resources and the prevention
of waste and loss, the protection of the public interests, by foresight,
prudence, and the ordinary business and home-making virtues, all these
apply to other things as well as to the natural resources. There is, in
fact, no interest of the people to which the principles of conservation
do not apply.

The conservation point of view is valuable in the education of our
people as well as in forestry; it applies to the body politic as well as
to the earth and its minerals. A municipal franchise is as properly
within its sphere as a franchise for water-power. The same point of view
governs in both. It applies as much to the subject of good roads as to
waterways, and the training of our people in citizenship is as germane
to it as the productiveness of the earth. The application of
common-sense to any problem for the Nation's good will lead directly to
national efficiency wherever applied. In other words, and that is the
burden of the message, we are coming to see the logical and inevitable
outcome that these principles, which arose in forestry and have their
bloom in the conservation of natural resources, will have their fruit in
the increase and promotion of national efficiency along other lines of
national life.

The outgrowth of conservation, the inevitable result, is national
efficiency. In the great commercial struggle between nations which is
eventually to determine the welfare of all, national efficiency will be
the deciding factor. So from every point of view conservation is a good
thing for the American people.

The National Forest Service, one of the chief agencies of the
conservation movement, is trying to be useful to the people of this
nation. The Service recognizes, and recognizes it more and more strongly
all the time, that whatever it has done or is doing has just one object,
and that object is the welfare of the plain American citizen. Unless the
Forest Service has served the people, and is able to contribute to their
welfare it has failed in its work and should be abolished. But just so
far as by coöperation, by intelligence, by attention to the work laid
upon it, it contributes to the welfare of our citizens, it is a good
thing and should be allowed to go on with its work.

The Natural Forests are in the West. Headquarters of the Service have
been established throughout the Western country, because its work cannot
be done effectively and properly without the closest contact and the
most hearty coöperation with the Western people. It is the duty of the
Forest Service to see to it that the timber, water-powers, mines, and
every other resource of the forests is used for the benefit of the
people who live in the neighborhood or who may have a share in the
welfare of each locality. It is equally its duty to coöperate with all
our people in every section of our land to conserve a fundamental
resource, without which this Nation cannot prosper.

Something's Fishy In The Baldy Reservoir

Back in November I reported word that the ski resort at Mt. Baldy had built a reservoir for snow making operations without any environmental studies being done (Reservoir Dogs, 11/21/09: http://sgmountains.blogspot.com/2009/11/reservoir-dogs.html). I am not necessarily holding the resort responsible, because they did this with the permission of the Forest Service, or more fairly, with the permission of the management on the Angeles National Forest - aka Jody Noiron. I also told you about an employee that Jody suspended because she thought this person had spread the word of misconduct, but I will deal with that in my next post.

There is an organization within the Forest Service that makes sure the forest managers across the country uphold their responsibilities. This is the FSEEE - Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics. They were made aware of my report by the Center for Biological Diversity with whom I originally filed a complaint. The FSEEE took the bull by the horns and filed for "FOIA's", that is, documents made public under the Freedom of Information Act. This is the update email that I received on December 18th, 2009 (and I have reasons for holding it back a little)...

"I just received my FOIA request from the Angeles NF regarding the Mt. Baldy reservoir. I'll be looking over it in the next couple of days to try and piece together what went on there. From skimming the documents, it looks like the ski area initially prepared some type of analysis for expansion in the early 80's but could not afford it in the end and so the second reservoir was not built though some land was cleared of brush. Then it looks like in the mid 2000's, they had the money, proceeded with the scoping for the beginning of a NEPA environmental assessment, did a biological assessment, and then something happened and the forest decided to issue a decision memo with the project as a categorical exclusion (specifically Category 3: approval, modification, or continuation of minor special uses of National Forest System lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land). This decision came with some mandates attached regarding reservoir size, the building season, and measures that had to be taken to mitigate or minimize effects to species like big horn sheep. All of that was approved under Marty Dumpis. Then, in fall of 2008, after Marty left his district ranger position, the new district ranger issued an order to the ski resort to cease project construction immediately citing them for violation of several of the decision memo protective measures. There are no documents after this, which is interesting since the reservoir has been constructed and filled, indicating that the forest service did not officially give the go ahead to complete the project. It also looks like the completed reservoir is 3 million gallons larger than was permitted by the decision memo (the completed reservoir has a capacity of 9 million gallons versus the 6 million approved). An interesting question would be whether or not the reservoir is filled to the 9 million capacity or the approved 6 million. The current district ranger (who seems quite concerned with the state of affairs) indicated to me that she visited the reservoir and drew a physical line representing the 6 million mark for which the resort is not allowed to pass. Another thing that I need to look into are issues of water rights. In the initial scoping documents, it looks like the ski resort had obtained water rights from the municipal water board to divert water from underneath the nearby falls and then pump it to the reservoirs. However, that action was dropped from the final decision memo because it was determined to require an environmental analysis. The ski resort also wanted to survey possible wells, and it is unclear whether or not that action got the go ahead or if they would have the water rights.

So this is an update of what I have gleaned from skimming through the documents. Something doesn't add up for me, particularly how they justified skipping from the NEPA process to the categorical exclusion. My colleagues are out for the holidays, but I will be interested in getting their opinions as well."

NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. This was enacted as a response to the growing environmentalist population that began to question the practices of entities like the Forest Service that were profitable but disregarded the health of ecosystems. Essentially, as stated in the Forest Service's own documentary, The Greatest Good, it "opened up the decision-making process to The People." When the management of the Angeles National Forest avoids NEPA by taking the easy way, signing a "categorical exclusion", they keep us Citizen Owners out of the loop, and they do not consult with all the scientists that would otherwise need to give the go-ahead. I sometimes get bored and frustrated with the preservationist minutia,  but to address a project by just saying "eh, don't worry about it" is irresponsible and dishonest, at least.

Forest Service Plan Cuts Discounts for Seniors, Disabled

"The Forest Service is not showing good faith by changing the terms of the passes after the fact." Article in the Modesto Bee...


New Podcasts From USFS Region 5 (That's Us)

I haven't listened yet...

"In this episode of Forest Focus, Ann Dunsky, Steve Dunsky and John Heil of Pacific Southwest Region Public Affairs interview various people involved in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Regional Forester Randy Moore, ARRA Program Manager Milt Wingert, Forest Service Civil Engineer Barrett McMurtry, Job Corps Carpentry Instructor Shaun Cushman, Civil Engineering Technician Herman Wendell and others offer a variety of perspectives."


You Made Your Bed, Now Get Out Of It!

This is the entry I have avoided, but it has to be published. It is the elephant in the living room. I promised to tell you why the Angeles National Forest Supervisor, Jody Noiron, is so obstinate. It is something that is known to all of her long-time employees, and it has created a toxic atmosphere that they have lived with for far to long.

You see, Jody was never cut-out for a career in management. This is her Forest Service time line according to the website of a group that had her as a guest

"Jody Noiron began her Forest Service career in 1983 as an Engineer on the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia. In addition to a number of special assignments to Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Milwaukee, she served as Technical Services Team Leader on the Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from 1989 to 1994. Noiron arrived in California in 1994, where she assumed the position of Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Plumas National Forest. In 1998 she spent 9 months in San Francisco as the Region 5 (California) Deputy Regional Forester for Resources, a responsibility that encompassed oversight of the natural resource programs for all the national forests in California. She arrived on the Angeles National Forest in 2000, bringing with her a wealth of experience garnered from across the nation. Currently, she is the Supervisor for the ANF."

And then they add this amusing bit...

"Jody’s vision for the Angeles National Forest is:
  • To provide watershed protection, open space for learning, and enhanced quality of life for the Los Angeles Basin.
  • To serve as a model of excellence for resource management and customer service.
  • To promote a safe, healthy work environment for the Angeles workforce, and a safe, healthy recreation environment for Forest users."
Obviously, these promo's are written to sound more exciting than they are. What it really says is that she trudged along for 11 years in hourly positions and gaining a responsibility here and there. Nothing wrong with that. What I find curious is the promotion to Deputy Forest Supervisor, Plumas National Forest, without ever serving as a District Ranger, but maybe there is a reasonable explanation for that. What I really want to talk about is the mere 9-month term in Vallejo as Region 5 Deputy Regional Forester.

Keep in mind that Jody was already working in Northern California for for several years before the promotion to R5, and that many forest employees make trips to the regional office for meetings, training seminars etc - they get to know one another. Maybe somebody took a liking to her and moved her up to the regional office, which brings us to Jody's exponential growth to Forest Supervisor of one of the busiest forests in the nation and caretaker of a property the size of Rhode Island.

On September 9th, 2009, while the Station Fire was still smoldering, I sent a letter to CA Senator Diane Feinstien, Congressmen David Drier, Adam Schiff & Buck McKeon, and LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich. I'll let it speak for itself...

"After the largest fire in the history of the Angeles National Forest, I am asking you to take more of a leadership role in assessing the management of this forest. During the last 9 plus years, this forest has had a Forest Supervisor, if the facts be known, that should not have held this position. When the previous Supervisor retired, as is customary, he provided a list of qualified replacements to the Regional Forester to fill his vacancy. Jody Noiron's name was not on that list. What was not known at the time is that Jody and the Regional Forester were engaged in a romantic affair. This affair eventually cost the Regional Forester his marriage and later his job.

During Jody Noiron's reign, the Angeles National Forest has developed an extremely hostile work environment. The result is that several key seasoned employees have left or have been replaced. The rumors of mismanagement on the Station Fire are rampant. Currently there are two retired Angeles Supervisors in the area, along with several high level retired firefighters. I would recommend that you appoint some of these retirees to investigate any misconduct on the forest.

It is with heavy heart that I write this letter, however, the rich history of The Angeles and the public trust does not deserve the current management."

You see, Jody Noiron did not legitimately earn her position as Forest Supervisor. And the last ten years have proven that she is not qualified for the job.

The Forest Service is actually a relatively small organization, and when Jody came to work on The Angeles, the employees quickly found out how she got the job. She has been trying to prove herself ever since. But without the abilities, she was never able to garner respect. Also, she came into the office with a defensive and combative attitude, determined to steamroll anyone that got in her way. For ten years now the employees of The Angeles have been afraid to speak their mind, give an opinion, have a dialog, express a grievance, and they generally walk around on eggshells for fear of losing their job. Jody has not been up to the task and refuses to admit any incompetency to others or to herself.

As I've said before, her defensiveness, false pride, and stubbornness are why she initially refused help with the Station Fire, and why she has tried to cover up her mistakes. Now you know the root of the problem. I think it is important that we all know what is going on in The Angeles so that we can correct the problem. I don't publish the news of Jody's affair and suspect promotion for gratuitous effect. Jody Noiron, and how she handles her job, affects the lives of millions of people, and we should be aware of her employment circumstances; in the same way we are concerned about Congressional lobbyists having affairs with legislators.

What I want to know now is how, in the face of so many debacles that reverberate all the way to Washington D.C., she has managed to keep her position? We know what she is capable of, so somewhat jokingly, but with a serious skepticism, I wonder of whom she has compromising photos.

Please feel free to open a civilized discussion here in the "comments" section...

Crisis? What Crisis?

Here's a quick entry before "the big one"...

Tom Tidwell, the current Chief of the USDA Forest Service (the guy from Washington D.C.), was in the LA area over the holidays. He was heard to say that he didn't understand all the fuss over the Station Fire, and he is very upset by all the negative press.

After all, it's not like The Angeles has any valuable timber or grazing land, right? Apparently he is not aware of how important the recreation and open space is to the well-being of millions of nearby city dwellers, not to mention the consequential poor air-quality, flood hazards, loss of wildlife habitat etc.

Let him know what you think:

US Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C.
(800) 832-1355

Turkey Vulture in Big Santa Anita Canyon

This bird was enjoying a hot air vent coming up canyon from the valley below. I think he/she also had a meal over the side of the road because it seemed a bit protective of the area. It was probably not protecting a nest - there was no suitable site and there were 5 or 6 birds circling before I parked the car. In the distance you can see Santiago and Modjeska Peaks in the Cleveland National Forest.

Santiago & Modjeska Peaks at the same time (easier to see than in video)...