U.S. Forest Service faces civil right claims in Colorado, N.M. Read more: U.S. Forest Service faces civil right claims in Colorado, New Mexico

Here’s the link and below is an excerpt. For those tracking what papers (local, regional, national) publish what articles, this is from the Denver Post.

The Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association has sent a letter to Vilsack and a White House senior policy adviser in response to a federal review that shows the U.S. Forest Service in New Mexico and Colorado was not complying with several civil rights requirements, including policies aimed at helping people who speak limited English.

The review also found the agency was inconsistent in implementing policies and procedures, namely when it came to the termination or suspension of grazing permits.

“The issue of access to grazing permits is of vital importance to the minority Hispanic and Native American ranchers in Colorado and New Mexico and has long been a source of conflict with the (Forest Service) over complaints of discriminatory practices,” the ranchers told Vilsack in their letter dated Jan. 6.

The Forest Service did not directly address the lack of civil rights compliance or the ranchers’ claims of discrimination.

The USDA’s Office of Compliance, Policy, Training and Cultural Transformation conducted a review last spring, interviewing about 100 agency managers and employees and more than 135 permit holders.

The report states that civil rights training has fallen by the wayside for many employees and the training that does take place is largely ineffective. Also, the agency’s anti-discrimination statement was consistently omitted from key documents, including grazing permit applications, and there was no evidence that brochures or websites were offered in any other language than English.

Forest Service representatives are supposed to meet with ranchers to discuss annual operating plans. However, the report found that employees prepared the instructions and told the ranchers to “take it or leave it” with little or no discussion.

According to the report, ranchers told the reviewers that Forest Service staff uses “Gestapo” intimidation tactics, such as constant threats, suspension of permits, retaliation and discrimination.

Agency officials in Washington, D.C., said the compliance reviews are done each year.

“The Forest Service takes the recommendations in the programmatic review seriously and views this report as an opportunity to better serve its constituents,” spokesman Larry Chambers said.

The report, which was issued in June as an internal document and obtained by the ranchers six months after filing a public records request, stated that the Forest Service must develop a detailed corrective action plan within 60 days. It is unclear if that has been done.

The question in my mind is whether these are truly discriminatory or it is about Regulators and Regulated Not Getting Along. Like People Not Getting Along at Work, sometimes it’s really hard to tell if the root cause is discrimination or others of the many forces that cause difficulties among different people.

3 Comments

  1. The very first Use Book from Gifford Pinchot required that a “ranger” in Arizona or New Mexico must have the ability to speak some Spanish, in order to do the Forest’s business. It also noted that all signage must be also printed in Spanish in order to better do the USFS and Forest’s business with the local citizens in those territories and states.

    I live in a town in Oregon that is half Hispanic. The Mexican people who moved here came after WWII as US Citizens from Brownsville, McAllen, and the lower Rio Grande area of Texas, it being an internal migration to Oregon by people who were looking for work and conditions that were not as biased and mean spirited as their long time experience in Texas. Most had relatives living in Mexico in that border area. Gifford Pinchot had the understanding and humility to “do the right thing” as was evident by his life. He had African Americans working in his Washington DC offices from the beginning, and those folks were in the Chief’s Office until Pres. Woodrow Wilson re-segregated the civil service April 11, 1913, by administrative edict. “Progressive Segregation.”

    Perhaps the USFS does have “some ‘splaining to do.” (Forgive me, Ricki). The Spanish language precedent is more than 100 years old for at least New Mexico and Arizona. I cannot see how any Region can not be required to use signage for local forest users, e.g., Cambodian for areas of commercial mushroom picking in Regions 5 and 6.

  2. I am all for learning Spanish, I speak it myself but how many ranching people in the SW really cannot use English? I have spent enough time there myself and never found any hispanics who could not also use English.

    That said, it is just simple decency that asks the FS to attempt to use Spanish

    A simple effort is much appreciated, since after all, my understanding is that Spanish speaking people have been in the SW longer than the English speaking people with the oldest euroamerican settlement the West in the San Luis valley,

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