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The C.A.S.H. Courier Newsletter

Selected Articles from our Summer 2011 Issue

Environmental “Justice” In The U.S. Forest Service - The Abuse Of Women Property Owners And Wildlife

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 Virginia.

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..

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