© 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.

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."