By Elizabeth O’Nan
The motto of the US Forest Service is “Caring for the Land and Serving
People.” NOT EXACTLY!
There is a growing sense of injustice experienced by
those in contact with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) ranging from attacks on
private inholding (property surrounded by USFS lands) owners, takings of
private property by use of surveys done by and for the USFS, and destroying
forests and public health with air pollution from “prescribed burns”.
As an example of in-holder attacks, Elizabeth and Daisy
O’Nan, with BREDL Chapter’s McDowell Environmental Health Authority, were
caught up in 14 years of USFS-encouraged terrorist acts by hunters. These
included acts of repeated stalking, trespassing, threats, bear dogs that
devastated their exotic poultry flocks, attacks on their horse and turning
him loose repeatedly, leaving dead dogs by their gate, peeping in bedroom
windows, stuffing their gate lock with men’s underwear, shooting holes in
signs, and using guns to intimidate and threaten them, to recount only a few
of their many abuses. They had damages of over $10,000, not to mention their
loss of peace and privacy and suffering from the stress of having beloved
pets killed repeatedly in front of them by starving bear dogs.
On Dec. 11, 2009, Elizabeth and Daisy O’Nan could
tolerate no more and prosecuted 5 confessed bear hunters that would not
leave their property when asked to do so. The court offered mediation.
During the heated and hostile discussion the O’Nan’s private (not for public
use) deeded easement, Sugar Cove Road, was pointed out in an effort to
prevent further trespassing. The hunters said they had friends in the USFS
to whom they would appeal. While USFS memos obtained by Freedom of
Information requests revealed that the USFS knew the FS had no right of way,
easement or authority over this private deeded easement, they continued to
misrepresent this as a USFS government road on the Federal Motor Vehicle
Usage Map. As the O’Nans and the mediator had told the bear hunters not to
trespass over this road to access the USFS road segments 1188 and 1188A
beyond, the USFS deliberately misinformed the hunters about the private road
and exacerbated the hostilities against the O’Nans.
A short time after Elizabeth and Daisy returned home from
this stressful mediation they went for a walk just before dark and were
intercepted near their home by a hunter with a large gun. Fearing reprisals
from the angry bear hunters they were frightened. When they attempted to
explain to the hunter that he was trespassing he insisted he would not
leave. Elizabeth explained they had just been to mediation and said she
would call the sheriff. At that point the hunter opened his vest and said he
was a USFS officer conducting a “sting” and was there to issue her a ticket
for Hunter Harassment.
After five months and multiple changes to the ticket,
Elizabeth was mailed a ticket for 36CFR 261.12d, blocking or interfering
with a USFS road, a federal petty misdemeanor criminal charge. Elizabeth
attempted to argue pro se in federal court that she was disabled and could
not have blocked or interfered with this very large armed hunter’s use of
the road. Also, that the ticket was issued in retribution for her having
prosecuted their friends the bear hunters and that she had attempted to use
the county court to redress her injuries. Further that she was only speaking
to the officer posing as a hunter, thus exercising her right to free speech.
Both redressing grievances in court and free speech are First Amendment
rights. Magistrate Judge Dennis Howell found Elizabeth guilty and fined her
nearly $4,000, which included restitution charges for a partial survey to
determine if the Officer was on her private property or USFS land.
Elizabeth appealed this decision which seemed so
outrageous given the years of abuse and the warrant-less sting done in
retribution for prosecuting USFS’s personal friends, the bear hunters. Had
the USFS been responding to complaints of interfering with a USFS road the
bear hunters would have complained when they were stopped by the sheriff
over a month before the mediation. Their complaint was instead against the
legal mediation that occurred only hours before the “sting” and that
prevented them from trespassing over Sugar Cove Road. Elizabeth’s appeal of
case number 1:10-cr-00044-MR was denied on Feb. 28th, 2011 by District
Judge, Martin Reidinger. She stands convicted of a federal crime and is now
appealing pro se to the 4th Circuit Federal Appeals Court in Richmond
The O’Nan property is an undivided 1897 NC land grant
that was originally warranted for 150 acres on the waters of Lick Log and
Walnut Cove creeks. After the complete USFS survey they were told they only
had 89 acres and that Walnut Cove Creek was no longer on their property.
Further, the road very near their home was no longer theirs but now belonged
to the USFS. Their new property line was only feet from their home’s
foundation. If the USFS surveyed again the bear hunters likely would be
allowed to walk through their living room.
Several other private property owners in the Western NC
area with land bordering USFS have also had their land taken by USFS survey.
This seems to be a common practice as does USFS harassment and attacks on
inholding property owners.
Elizabeth and Daisy now feel they live surrounded by an
unjust police state run by the USFS. Their trust in the USFS has been
destroyed by arrogant marauding bear hunters whose favorite sport is
intimidating and harassing disabled women living alone..