District attorney likens Forest Service snub to civil rights effort
RENO, Nev. (AP) – The district attorney who urged Elko businesses to refuse goods and services to the Forest Service likened the proposed boycott to the efforts of Rosa Parks and Caesar Chavez.
But a state assemblyman who opposes the federal agency in a dispute over a national forest road said Friday that he was shocked by the suggested boycott and the Elko County Commission’s lack of action.
”If you are a public official and you hear something like this, you need to nip it in the bud and bring it out immediately so you can take the appropriate action,” said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service’s new supervisor for Nevada says that though disappointed by the proposed boycott, he doesn’t think it will harm federal mediation between the agency and the county over the South Canyon Road and a threatened fish in the Jarbidge River.
”It is my hope that we can put the past behind us,” said Bob Vaught, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
In a December 1998 letter just made public, Elko County District Attorney Gary Woodbury said the county could gain political leverage with the Forest Service if it placed ads in newspapers and on radio stations urging a boycott of the agency.
”By this I mean encouraging businesses to deny basic services that the Forest Service depends on. … Don’t sell goods or services to them until they come to their senses,” Woodbury wrote.
Woodbury said nothing came of the suggestion.
”As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing illegal about an economic boycott,” Woodbury told the Elko Daily Free Press this week.
U.S. history is full of examples of people boycotting to force social change, Woodbury said.
He cited Rosa Parks’ refusal to sit in the back of the bus reserved for blacks during the Civil Rights conflicts of the 1960s and the subsequent boycott of the transportation system.
Woodbury also cited Caesar Chavez’s fight for farm workers and the subsequent boycotts of California growers.
”And have you ever seen the sign in restaurants that says ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’?” Woodbury told the newspaper Thursday. ”Would you not agree that the restaurant is denying service because of a social policy? Is that not denying service over a social policy and is that wrong?”
Woodbury did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on Friday.
Carpenter said he discussed the letter with Woodbury briefly this week ”and he just sort of shrugged it off.”
”I’m shocked and sorry it happened,” said Carpenter, who also criticized the commission for failing long ago to make the matter public.
Commissioner Tony Lesperance, who was chairman at the time, said he received the letter in December 1998 but destroyed it because of its implications after sharing it with other commissioners.
Commission Chairwoman Roberta Skelton and Commissioner Mike Nannini said they don’t recall the letter, and Commissioner Brad Roberts said he found it when he took office late last year.
Carpenter said he thinks the letter was made public now to undermine the mediation process led by Kristin McQueary, the deputy district attorney who is meeting with the Forest Service and Justice Department.
The dispute revolves around the Forest Service’s refusal to rebuild the washed out South Canyon Road near Jarbidge on the grounds it would increase siltation in the Jarbidge River and jeopardize survival of the threatened bull trout.
The county maintains the Forest Service has no jurisdiction over the road because it was built before the national forest was established in the early 1900s.
Vaught thinks the mediation process can succeed.
”It is important to note that the letter was written in December 1998 when the relationship between Elko County and the Forest Service was severely strained,” he said.
”Elko County commissioners have expressed to me a desire to work cooperatively with the Forest Service and I believe our relationship is improving in a significant way.”