USFS LEO's

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2k1typeSH

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Nothing else that I remember.
Do you have any other pertinent information on USFS LEOs? Such as: How many are typically assigned to each forest? What kind of hours and shift patterns do they work? What kind of calls do they handle?

I am interested in what they do but I have not been able to find much information on them. They seem to be a small and elite group. From reading your other posts I know that you were a forest protection officer and must have worked closely with them.
 

SCPD

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Do you have any other pertinent information on USFS LEOs? Such as: How many are typically assigned to each forest? What kind of hours and shift patterns do they work? What kind of calls do they handle?

I am interested in what they do but I have not been able to find much information on them. They seem to be a small and elite group. From reading your other posts I know that you were a forest protection officer and must have worked closely with them.
Typically there is at least one LEO per ranger district. A forest has one patrol captain. There is one special agent for every 1-5 forests. When I was working special agents had a unit designator of "D" or "David." I think it may still be that way as the Inyo NF where I retired now has a "Charles" unit and unless he attended more extensive training he is still an LEO. The Inyo used to have a special agent with a "David" designator until the position was cut. The forest was then put under the special agent on the San Bernardino NF. Some NF's, such as the Angeles, have more than one LEO per district.

Typical workload consists of recreation cases such as illegal camping (outside developed campgrounds where prohibited), disturbances, fires outside provided grilles, operating generators during restricted hours, fee payment violations, maintaining an unsanitary camp, littering, dumping toilet waste (from RV into toilet facilities or out on the ground, into streams) off highway vehicles (driving in closed areas, equipment violations, green sticker not displayed, helmets, juvenile drivers), illegal outfitting and guiding and providing commercial services without a permit. Firewood gathering violations consist of not tagging wood when transporting it, cutting standing trees, cutting in closed areas, cutting without a permit, obtaining wood under a personal use firewood permit and selling the wood commercially, operating a chainsaw during restriction days, spark arrestor violations, etc. Fire violations consist of having a fire outside developed campgrounds where prohibited, having a campfire during fire restrictions, arson, not having a shovel and bucket when building a fire (this regulation is used in other parts of the country, not California), not clearing an area around a fire, not having a fire permit (California only), failure to put a campfire out when not attended and . . .

I'll be back when I can, I have some chores to attend to.
 

SCPD

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Ok, the last two days have been quite busy with family and such.

In the area of recreation law enforcement I did not mention regulations specific to wilderness management. Permits are required to stay overnight in wilderness areas in most California locations. All of the wilderness areas in the Sierra have this requirement. In the Mt. Whitney travel corridor, day use is limited to 50 people per day. Party size in terms of people and horses exist. There are many regulations specific to individual wilderness areas such as the distance one must camp from water, food storage in bear proof containers, areas closed to overnight occupancy and areas closed to horses. Most of these regulations are enforced by wilderness rangers that are forest protection officers (FPOs), but when very belligerent, uncooperative and non-compliant people are involved an LEO becomes involved.

Another area is stay limits. These have to do with how long people can camp or otherwise occupy national forest land. Some attempt to build and improve structures to do so, typically starting with uncovered porches for trailers, permanent fire pits and chimneys to leaving a travel trailer year long and all the way up to building cabins. The latter usually occurs more on the larger and more remote National Forests in the west outside of California where remote, out of the way enclaves where this type of activity is difficult to detect or is infrequently patrolled. A lot can happen in a period of weeks beyond the stay limit, which varies depending on the amount of use a National Forest may have. Some (most?) have 28 day stay limits for the entire forest for a year (7 and 14 days in anyone campground and 16 days outside campgrounds where legal) or a shorter period along with requirements to move a certain distance away from the last occupancy.

Some people use the 1872 Mining Act to justify all sorts of occupancy improvements and assert that they are mining and need to occupy the land on a permanent basis or for periods longer than the stay limit. A large portion of these situations are merely false justification of the occupancy. Geologists can quickly determine if the so called mining and prospecting is legitimate and approved operating plans are required to disturb soil and vegetation, place facilities and occupy the land longer than stay limits. There is a lot of abuse of the 1872 act and law enforcement is frequently involved due to the type of "characters" in involved. Strict and consistent recreational stay limit enforcement is needed to avert occupancy issues.

Illegal road building, most often involving mining, occurs. Again an approved plan of operations is required before building roads to access mines by vehicle. People attempt to build roads for other reasons as well. Some are very surprising to say the least. People sometimes try to build trails as well, most of them in designated wilderness areas, but in non-wilderness inventoried and protected roadless areas and smaller roadless areas as well.

Timber management law enforcement involves individuals stealing trees large enough to produce lumber, cutting large numbers of small trees to sell as Christmas trees, cutting burls off trees for woodworking projects, often commercially.

Stealing all types of vegetative material occurs as well. Some types of plants can bring in large amounts of money and illegal harvesters are threatening the very existence of many species. Ginseng root in the eastern U.S. is one such plant. Taking large quantities of pine cones, leaves and pine needles for both personal and commercial use is an issue for a number of different reasons. Stealing large quantities of river rock and other types of rocks for personal and commercial use is another issue. Taking topsoil is another illegal activity.

Persons illegally using National Forest land to graze horses, goats, sheep, llamas and cattle is another issue. Building watering facilities for this activity is often involved. The illegal diversion of water is another activity that has some rather serious consequences is another area of law enforcement.

Protection of archaeological and historic sites and objects is another area of law enforcement. Pot hunting and arrowhead gathering fit into this issue. Some people start tearing historical structures down to use the lumber of exterior and interior for wall paneling.

Normally violations of the terms of special use permits are handled administratively, however the nature of the violations (timing, repeated and potential/actual damages) and the people involved, including the permittee and those working for the permittee, may result in criminal action. Special use permits include among a few hundred others: roads, electronic sites, resorts, lodging, restaurants, gas stations, signs, scientific research work and facilities, fences, military training, outfitting and guiding, gas stations, RV rental, campgrounds, schools, churches, large gatherings of people, car rallies, foot races, horse endurance events; power, water, gas, phone and sewer lines; sewer treatment plants, dams, recreation residences (summer homes), airports, landing strips, pastures and agricultural fields (farming). There are many uses where suitable private land is not available for providing various visitor services and community services. Many communities are within the boundaries of National Forests and don't have land for things such as sewer plants, water treatment facilities, water sources and the like. Some people will intentionally ignore the requirement of a permit and some permittees take issue with agency decisions to not authorize a use. Insurance policies may not be obtained or insufficient policies may be provided as required. In my experience resort, lodging, restaurants, RV rentals, outfitting/guiding and military training had the most flagrant violations that required criminal prosecution.

Criminal law actions can also be taken with timber sale purchasers and grazing permittees. Timber sale operators may cut trees outside their sale area, cut unmarked trees or fail to bring logs into scaling facilities (used to calculate wood volume), build roads not in the permit, build illegal water crossings, ignore labor law requirements, etc. Grazing permittees may place more animals on their allotments than authorized, graze types of animals not authorized by their permit (e.g. horses or cows instead of sheep), graze areas scheduled for rest that year, graze more days than permitted, place salting stations in unauthorized locations and build facilities such as fences, water gathering/distribution, corrals, and roads. Fees may not be paid by the required date. Other work such as fence and road maintenance, required by the permit, may not be completed.

Sometimes the attitude, repeat violations, degree of damage and other behavior presented by a timber, grazing or special use permittee will result in criminal, rather than administrative action alone. Sometimes measures such as rounding up all the animals up off a grazing allotment and impounding them is necessary. Lumber mills or hauling operations may be shut down to identify the source of all the logs and/or their volume may occur. Equipment can be seized and impounded. In almost all cases resource employees with or without FPO authorization are involved and LEO presence is needed to make sure the employees are able to carry out their duties or the peace needs to be maintained.

Marijuana plantations and drug production facilities such as meth labs are a danger to visitors and to the land itself. This activity always involves potential and/or actual threats to officer safety. A fisheries biologist on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest was fired on by drug suspects about 20-25 years ago using high powered rifles with armor piercing ammunition and she barely made it out with her life. She laid down on the floor boards and managed to use the radio before the rooftop antenna was shot off. The suspects did not attempt to move up to the vehicle to kill her. She transferred to the Inyo soon after the incident where she related the incident to me.

A lot of what I've mentioned can be handled by forest protection officers depending on the experience and capabilities of those officers. I had a large law enforcement component in my job as the frontcountry recreation supervisor on the Mammoth Ranger District. The Mammoth Ranger District has the most developed recreation site use for any one ranger district in the Forest Service and was slightly above the #2 National Forest in this type of use as the Inyo usually had more than twice the #2 National Forest with Mammoth having a little bit more than half of the Inyo's use. The Mammoth RD also has what, at one time, was one of the only two locations on federal public land where a shuttle bus was required to access a large area of public land. This requirement caused a huge number of negative public contacts, almost all of which were handled by non FPO seasonal employees in entrance stations. Those that could not be handled by them filtered up to the entrance station supervisor and often to me. The district also has an area of geothermal activity in and adjacent to a large creek where swimming used to occur. Some areas were sufficiently hazardous that entering them was prohibited. In addition I often became involved in wilderness violations while hiking/backpacking on my days off or to contact violators when they arrived at trailheads. I would either write the citation or written warning for the violation, or detain the violator at the trailhead and wait for the wilderness ranger to arrive.

I believed that the law needs to be enforced to protect the land and other visitors. I didn't let violations occur without some type of action. Citations are actually called "Notice of Violation" in the federal government with the NPS, BLM, USFWS and USFS using the same form with a different letter prefix of the case number for each agency. There is also a two part written warning form that is used in the Forest Service. The top copy is for handing a violator a written warning. The underlying copy records the warning or can be used alone to record verbal warnings or to record an incident where the violator is unknown. All of the above factors led to me having the highest number of citations, warnings and incident reports for any one officer, including the LEOs on the Inyo for five or more years of my ten years on the Inyo. That count precipitates magistrate court appearances that usually took up most of a day each month in addition to time spent to prepare for them. My individual cases were more minor than the average cases of the LEOs so my count was not equal to their workload. Of course my law enforcement workload was in addition to a high stress, high demand, sufficiently complex position to make the law enforcement workload stressful. The geothermal area and shuttle bus issues were two among the three most difficult on the forest, with the Mt. Whitney travel corridor being the third. The Mammoth Ranger District has a year long field season and I supervised the Forest Service Nordic trail system and administered two cross country ski area special use permits, complete with conflicts between snowmobile/motorized uses with cross country ski/non motorized uses, mixed up with dogs endangering cross country skiers on groomed trails, and walkers and snowshoe users damaging groomed surfaces at the cross country ski resorts. I was also a personnel misconduct investigator, a claims investigator and had 5 positions on my incident command qualification card. I could be called at any hour of the day, any day of the year to accomplish my duties. Personal injury and property damage claims resulted in giving depositions, investigation and court appearances, one of which was a two week long trial before a federal district court judge in Reno. I wrote replies to several "congressional inquiries," letters from members of Congress, most on behalf of letters from constituent's letters and sometimes resulting from those made of an agency from the Congress or administration then filtered down internally to the field level. These had tight time frames and specific protocol It was like having a tiger by the tail and I didn't manage to handle it all or come out unscathed all the time.

Most law enforcement officers have similar workloads as far as time demands and some individual tasks. Court appearances, investigations, report writing, budget requests and administration, periodic qualification refreshers and tests, continued training and obtaining new qualifications in specialties (such as archaeology site protection or mining law enforcement) needed due to the demands of a particular work location are part of the workload. Add to that special details for work on other forests (large investigations, working undercover, providing intense officer presence, guarding people and facilities threatened by various groups); special events such as the Rainbow Family gathering, Burning Man, large events at National Parks (ribbon cuttings and the like); and mucky-muck, politicos visits including being part of presidential security details; assisting state and local agencies with large events and special occasions such as 4th of July and New Year's eve; and finally mutual aid requests. The latter has included epic events such as the L.A. riots in 1992 that a number of Forest Service LEOs, along with NPS Protection Rangers, BLM Rangers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge (now Wildlife) Officers responded to. The LEO's I worked with carried their heavy armor and riot gear in their SUV's all the time.

That covers everything I can remember off hand. There is more that I probably don't recall now and speaking directly to a LEO will no doubt produce even more.
 

ssmith39

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Another USFS Question

Hey Smokey,

In regards to the Angeles/Cleveland/S. Bernardino forests, what is a typical workday for a Wilderness Ranger?

Once again, thanks for your posts.
 

SCPD

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I can't speak to what a typical day is for a wilderness ranger on those three national forests specifically. The wilderness areas on those forests are small in comparison to the average one in California and certainly of those in the west. I have wilderness management experience varying from some very seldom used units in New Mexico to a heavily used unit that bordered Yosemite. I then worked closely with the wilderness supervisor on my last ranger district that included the most heavily used wilderness in the system as counted by overnight visitors per acre per year. This contrasts with southern California wilderness areas where day use can be a larger factor, more similar to wilderness areas in the east. Interestingly though, the only national forest with a day hiking use limit or trailhead quota is the Inyo National Forest in the Whitney travel corridor.

Why does this matter? The miles of trail in the larger wilderness areas is greater (not always), but are more remote none the less. The patrol areas are larger in the larger areas (not always as well). The larger areas may have more sensitive environments that don't hold up as well to use as those in smaller areas (not always); think meadows, lakes, streams, rivers, wildlife habitat for sensitive, threatened or endangered species. Use levels may vary as well, with some large areas getting a low amount of use in some of the more difficult terrain and longer distances from trailheads. The distance from cities also makes a difference. Each wilderness varies for other uses such as pack station use (horseback, full horseback service trips and variations), seasonal outfitting and guiding, hunting, fishing, non-commercial horse use, rafting, kyaking,canoeing and winter use such as cross country skiing and snowshoeing. In the case of Mt. Whitney there is such a demand for climbing the highest peak in the lower 48 states that it is a huge management workload for the entire forest, included with managing the oldest trees in the world, Mono Lake, the heaviest overnight wilderness use in the wilderness system, the use of the Mammoth Ranger District, the administration of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area special use permit and the highest developed recreation site use in the entire National Forest System.

I will try to describe the duties of a ranger in the wilderness areas of the Sierra. The basic job of the wilderness ranger is dealing with people and how they use the wilderness. They are there as educators, teaching and motivating people to use principles in the "Leave No Trace" program. They then enforce the requirements of that program, such as the distance people camp from water, the methods and locations used for washing dishes, selection of campsites, whether campfires are allowed, if camping is allowed at all in certain locations, use of bear proof food containers (required in many locations, more each year). Enforcement of the wilderness permit requirement and making sure daily trailhead quotas are not exceeded is a large workload. Helping people with blisters, insect stings, people who don't know where they are or how to get where they want to get, equipment failures, with travel suggestions (are there good campsites at Dinglehorse Lake without mosquitoes?); and locating groups or individuals for ATC's (attempts to contact - usually deaths in families), overdue parties, assisting with searching and rescues and injuries.

Breaking up illegally placed campfire rings, hauling out trash left by the lowest vermin on the planet - litterers, cleaning out fire rings (some people can't be bothered to perform this so they build another ring), cleaning up graffiti in areas next to cities (these people don't even qualify to be vermin), putting out campfires, responding to wildland fires, performing wildland fire detection/reconnaissance and short term and light to medium trail maintenance. The latter includes cleaning out water bars (cross trail drainage structures); light repair of the stone, log or dirt dip water bar structure, bridges, rock step stone water crossings, trail signs; brushing a trail out (clipping back brush, trees), cutting downfall logs (most activity in the spring, however it happens any day of the year), and tread maintenance (removing rocks and roots from, replacing washed out material, and maintaining causeways.

Some rangers have cabins and others semi-permanent camps to move into/establish in the spring, maintain, keep clean and finally shut down for winter. Some have horses and possibly mules, some spend their entire tour (usually a ten day on - four off) with a horse in the backcountry complete with pastures with fences that need repair.

Some, actually most or close to all, wilderness areas have large areas blind to radio communications. Sometimes seasonal repeaters or extenders have to be hiked in and set up. Resource management inventory, measurement and observation can be part of a wilderness ranger's workload. This may consist of taking pictures only and sometimes specific methodology is used requiring training. The goal of this work can be to track campsite and trail impacts, water quality and grazing (remember the horses?)

Now back to law enforcement, there are violations of U.S. Code (covered by congressional law) that prohibits mechanized equipment (bicycles, motorcycles, snowmobiles, etc.), landing of aircraft (except where air strips previously existed prior to wilderness designation and have been approved for continued "grandfathered use"), establishing residency and building improvements and mining to monitor for and to take action on, usually with additional staff or LEO involvement. Illegal outfitting and guiding, movie production and pot growing are also violations that may occur.

I may have left out a few things, but that should cover the gist.

Due to attention span and needing to move on to other things means the above has not been proofread.
 

SCPD

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A few other items I've thought of are now given. The southern California National Forests depend on volunteers more than more isolated locations where a sufficient pool of the willing doesn't exist. There might not be any paid wilderness rangers on many ranger districts. Monitoring low flying aircraft and ensuring that the military is not conducting training/exercises as this is also prohibited. The last would be assisting taking various mucky-mucks on trips through wilderness areas such as agency upper management, congressional staff (rarely members of congress), state government personnel and local government personnel. These are not boondoggles, usually congressional, state and local personnel need to see how wilderness is managed, take a look at constituent concerns and the like. I've assisted with these trips and have gotten to know some very good people and we've received some support in the form of legislation and funding as a result. Also, meeting the people everyone else likes to vilify changes your perspective. Much of the opinion of the average U.S. citizen of the government is based on misinformation, rumor, sound bite TV news and stereotyping.
 
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