Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Watchdog Demands Probe of U.S. Forest Service’s Trail of Tears Desecration

A Washington, DC-based oversight group is demanding a federal probe into how a nearly a mile long section of the Trail of Tears was ripped up during an unauthorized construction project at the sacred site. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture’s Secretary and Inspector General, calling for an investigation into the US Forest Service, which oversaw the damage to the historic trail. “This is one the most blatant official desecrations of a sacred site in modern American history,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch in a statement Monday. “Jaw-dropping incompetence mixed with abject dereliction of duty coated in an impenetrable mantle of bureaucratic self-preservation spawned this debacle,” he added. Documents recently obtained by the group revealed that a Forest Service official approved a nearly $30,000 contracting job in 2014 to modify landscape along the Trail of Tears in order to alleviate erosion in nearby areas. Heavy equipment was brought into to dig three deep trenches across the trail, along with a series of 35 artificial embankments. The construction was performed, according to PEER, “without conducting the required historic or cultural resource reviews.” The group added that the land modifications also “illegally altered the course of a stream and was done in violation of federal law requiring environmental review for any such project.” The extent of the damage to the trail wasn’t fully realized until roughly a year later, when US Forest Service officials invited Cherokee Tribe representatives to the location to develop an “interpretive plan” for a portion of the trail. PEER reported that the group was “astounded and perplexed by the work that was done.” Months later, the US Forest Service issued an apology to affected tribes. “Many of you have told me about the great harm this has done to the tribes, emotionally and spiritually,” said Regional Forester Tony Tooke. “On behalf of the US Forest Service, I sincerely apologize to each and every member of your respective tribes and to each of you individually for this incident.”...more

Have you ever seen an apology like that issued to a rancher or ranching group, or a timber or energy company?  Me neither.

This happened almost two years ago.  Has any action been taken against the responsible federal employee(s)?  Fat chance.

PEER noted, however, that the agency did not launch a full internal investigation into the matter, nor did it hold anyone accountable for the illegal operations that damaged the Trail of Tears. In fact, the watchdog reported that shortly after the project, the district ranger who oversaw it was swiftly promoted, and then retired the following year. “This sorry episode shows a Forest Service leadership allergic to any notion of accountability,” PEER’s Jeff Ruch said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The USFS has been erasing our history for over 30 years at least.
Eliminating place names on signs and maps, just numbers now.
Other historical sites removed from the landscape, left to rot, or burn away in one of the many fires. Even places where men fought, died, and were awarded the Medal of Honor, their graves unmarked and lost to time. Many private property in-holdings absorbed by the USFS. If it happened after 1492 it's erased, pre-anglo is the phrase.