Forest Service boss in bull trout flap quits job
RENO, Nev. – A Forest Service supervisor in a dispute with property rights activists over a threatened fish in Nevada has resigned to protest the anti-federal movement.
Gloria Flora, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, announced Monday she is stepping down after Jan. 1 partly because of the ”hostility and distrust” toward federal employees.
”Fed-bashing is a sport here and I refuse to sit by quietly and let it happen as many others are doing,” Flora said in a statement released by the agency’s regional headquarters in Ogden, Utah.
”I hope that my departure will call attention to this situation and bring about constructive dialog,” she said.
Flora, who said she’ll consider reassignment to another Forest Service post, became supervisor in July 1998 of Humboldt-Toiyabe – the largest national forest in the Lower 48 states.
”While I regret losing Flora, I understand her reasons and respect her decision,” said Jack Blackwell, Flora’s boss and Forest Service regional director.
”The Forest Service is in the middle of controversy about natural resource issues everywhere in the country, but the acrimony and attitude toward the agency, its employees and other federal employees in Nevada are extremely troubling to me,” Blackwell said.
Flora has earned the reputation as someone who speaks out against commercial uses of public forests at the expense of fish and wildlife.
As supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, she locked horns with oil executives who wanted to drill on the Rocky Mountain front.
Most recently, she has angered some county, state and federal officials involved in a heated dispute over bull trout, where locals want to rebuild a remote road inside the national forest.
Forest Service scientists say the construction could kill off the last bull trout in Nevada.
A federal judge issued a restraining order against locals who planned to rebuild the road without federal and state government permission.
Rep. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho, chairman of the House Resources subcommittee on forests and forest health, and Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nev., have scheduled a congressional hearing on the controversy Saturday in Elko.
Flora upset Chenoweth-Hage a week ago when she said the Forest Service wouldn’t get a fair hearing in Elko because the Idaho Republican’s new husband, property rights activist Wayne Hage, is suing the agency over livestock grazing in Nevada.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., lamented Flora’s departure.
Matt Holford, chairman of Trout Unlimited Nevada Council, said his group would miss Flora.
”I think her perception of fed-bashing is very, very true. It happens up here all the time,” Holford said Monday from Elko.
Kristin McQueary, deputy district attorney for Elko County, said she hoped Flora’s replacement would do a better job of consulting locals about forest management.
”Fed-bashing isn’t a sport here. The people are absolutely frustrated by the way the federal government has refused to take the time to listen to them. Certainly it is our constitutional right to disagree with them,” McQueary said.