Bob Akka (akka) Sun 28 Aug 05 19:09
<scribbled by akka Tue 10 Feb 09 11:59>
Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Sun 28 Aug 05 19:23
Scott: I won't defend myself against what you've said about "A Natural Death," except to say that you'll notice that the lives of many of my characters as described in Nature Noir are circumscribed, as it were, by the canyon rim. Part of that was Houghton Mifflin's desire for a certain length of book; part of it is my own gut feeling about how best to tell the story; it's complicated enough even as so circumstribed. So you'll find little or nothing in the book about the ranger's wives or children; there's little about the things that made Mary Murphy the woman she was before she set foot in the North Fork, nor that which made her assailants, or lovers as the case may be, what they were. The exception might be Karen and Les Dellasandro, but this was necessary for the story, which is a forensic psychodrama. I do not think of myself as an anti-human sort of writer and if I've devalued the life of this woman it was not intentional. Everything I hear about Barbara Schoener indicates that she was a wonderful person and loved by her family. But that is not what "A Natural Death" is about. All pieces of writing are limited in their goals and accomplishments, and this one was only an attempt, in part, to experiment with a phenomenological viewpoint, one in which the reader has a flash of recognition--as I did when I finished uncovering the body--that a person at some level is an animal. And that in walking into a wild area one can unintentionally become part of an animal story. A story not told in emotions, intentions, philosophies, or thoughts, but in simple eating and survival. It was a shock, and one I wanted to convey to the reader. Like many nature writers I am suspicious of the ideas we have that set us apart from the animals and plants. In general, you won't find I emote much on the page. That's just my way as a writer. I'm not against feeling--in fact I am as a person quite passionate, I think. I just think that as a writer it's much more powerful and less intrusive for me to do an adequate job of describing what happened and leave the feelings up to the reader. And Bob Akka, now that I seem to be one response behind, on to your question in a moment. Jordan Fisher Smith
Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Sun 28 Aug 05 19:50
Bob: This from the epilogue of Nature Noir: "The writer John McPhee visited the Auburn Dam site in the course of his research for his book about geology, ASSEMBLING CALIFORNIA. While there, he learned about timber dam that had existed on the site as early as 1854. McPhee would remark dryly, '[at Auburn] environmentalists have discovered to their eternal chagrin, a dam site is a dam site forever, no matter what the state or nation may decide to do about it in any given era.' That statement remains true today. It's certainly true as long as the Bureau of Reclamation owns the dam site and the river it would flood. Also, as I've said in that same chapter, we've had two historical droughts of six years which were considered catastrophic: 1928-34 and 1986-92. But 0tree ring studies on ancient stumps found under Mono and Tenaya Laks show there was a 200-year drought around 900 AD and another of about 140 years' length a couple of hundred years later. In a state where we have entirely failed to even discuss controls on human population growth and building, you can see how that would go. Even now, desalinization plants are planned for the coast and water supplies aren't unlimited. Still, what you say is true. The local communities around the proposed Auburn Dam celebrated it as a financial boon. When I came to work there in 1986 Auburn was full of cars and pickups with bumper stickers saying "Build it, Dam it." Yet today, increasingly, locals take pride in the river and its canyons. That kind of pride will be essential if Placer County is ever to stop electing far right-wing representatives of the building and development industry without a trace of feeling for the natural world to Congress. Jordan Fisher Smith
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Sun 28 Aug 05 20:10
Do you know about the controversy in Idaho regarding breaching four dams to improve salmon returns? Do you have an opinion on it?
Bob Akka (akka) Sun 28 Aug 05 22:53
<scribbled by akka Tue 10 Feb 09 11:59>
With catlike tread (sumac) Mon 29 Aug 05 12:20
Nature Noir's a very interesting book, and I really liked the view you give of a ranger's job. It seems to me that one of the things we often love about wilderness is its self-sufficiency. It's not about us. What a relief. But we associate that self-sufficiency with toughness and resilience and as a result (I think), you often get disrespect and violence towards something that doesn't care what you do. So you get that strange phenomenon of people who hike for miles into a remote spot and then throw their fast food wrappers on the trail.
Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Mon 29 Aug 05 13:41
In response to the question about how I feel about removing four dams on the lower Snake River, I think it's a fine idea. But I doubt such proposals have the slightest chance in our current Congress and White House. Last time I checked, the Bush administration had no interest in the survival of salmon and was instead focusing on getting U.S. Fish and Wildlife to stop distinguishing return rates of wild and hatchery salmon. Once there were no more wild fish we would have no more obligation to protect them (and no more pesky lawsuits about them from environmentalists). Taxpayers for Common Sense has argued for the proposal to remove the dams based on the amount we now spend to mitigate the effects of the dams on the fish. But I think the White House feels it can cut those costs by doing away with the mandate to protect fish instead of the dams--this by chipping away at the Endangered Species Act (or, to use a bait fisherman's term, "gutting it" altogether) and other agency rules and mandates. On New Orleans: I do not know whether seeing New Orleans go under would sensitize people to an American River (or for that matter an Arctic National Wildlife Refuge about to be riddled with oil rigs), because the dominant paradigm is still the city versus raging nature. Since we invented agriculture and began herding domestic animals nine or ten thousand years ago, say environmental historians, we have lived in a narrative of overcoming and controlling nature--in meddling with genetics, in dealing with rivers and weather, and in managing animal populations--baby salmon make their journey down the Snake River in barges now, so they won't get eaten by the hydroelectric plants the river goes through. For a look at the over-a-century-old battle with the Mississippi River see the essay on the subject in John McPhee's wonderful book, THE CONTROL OF NATURE. When I was first a wilderness ranger, I used to fret a lot about litter like "catlike tread" talks about, found on the trail. But I have become less concerned with that now than I am with the survival of the trail itself, the soil it is made on, the trees around it, the mountains they grow on, and the very air above them. I will say this: there is in my experience less and less litter in the backcountry. I've just returned from a week in the Hoover and Yosemite wildernesses in which I saw almost none. Wilderness users have become much better campers than they used to be, much of this because of a very successful campaign by the Forest Service, National Park Service, and other land managment agencies to promote "the no trace ethic" and "minimum impact camping." Now if we could only get these ideas to catch on outside the wilderness ... Jordan Fisher Smith
Scott Davis (scottgeoffrey) Mon 29 Aug 05 16:09
Thank you, Jordan, for your previous response. I can see now how your style fits with and relates to your approach/intent. On another topic... I think your storytelling has a strong sense of pace and suspence (much like The Perfect Storm) and you do a great job of introducing the multitude of roles and dangers that rangers are subject to, which most of us never imagined. Rangering undoubtedly would have been considered by Sebastian Junger to be among the most dangerous occupations when beginning his project. Do you have any thoughts about or experience with other rangers in places like Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona -- where the highly dangerous trafficking of drugs and people across an international border in one of the most inhospitable landscapes in the U.S. presents yet another layer? Also... how National Geographic raised the awareness of danger in national parks when it identified it as being the most dangerous National Park in America a few years ago.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Mon 29 Aug 05 19:52
Jordan, a couple questions... One, many of us probably carry the idea of a ranger's career arc as beginning as an enthusiastic teen volunteering at a local park, then graduating with a biology or wildlife management degree, then going to work for the park service, eventually winding up at and retiring from one of the big-name parks -- Yosemite, Yellowstone. But my guess is that this notion of a typical career is likely quite wrong. So what would be a typical career arc for a ranger? It's intriguing that you, who show all the signs of being a rather exemplary ranger, ended up at Auburn. Two, since those days long ago when our high-school peer group walked the trails of Mt. Tam and the High Sierra for fun and freedom, what have you changed your mind about regarding humanity's interaction with wilderness?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Tue 30 Aug 05 05:09
I forget whether it was BLM or Forest Service, but I was recently told that Boise is one of the most desired spots and that people rarely move from there once they get it.
Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Tue 30 Aug 05 10:37
To respond to Scott's question, a ranger works on the land. That means a ranger's life is intimately tied to and affected by geography. Much of post-postmodern life defies geography; the inside of an office in Anchorage is much like the inside of an office in Atlanta. But a ranger working in Alaska will have a profoundly different life from a ranger in Georgia. I think I tried to write this into the "men of dust" passage in the beginning of the chapter "It Never Rains in California." If the ranger's land is, as Scott says, in a wild (roadless or partially roadless) patch of rugged land on the international border with Mexico, that ranger will deal with an entirely different situation, too. The park Scott mentions, Organ Pipe NM in Arizona, is the one where a 27-year old Ranger Kris Eggle, was shot by two criminals escaping from police across the border in Mexico. The Mexican border is dangerous in part because the Mexican economy and government is inextricably mixed up with drugs and drug money. By the Nineties the drug economy in Mexico was estimated by various sources at $30 billion dollars a year; enough to buy plenty of elections. Big Bend National Park and Amistad National Recreation Area in Texas are two other very scary places for a ranger to work on that border. In the last couple of years the INS reports that the fastest growing segment of illegal immigrants coming across border with Mexico are non-Mexicans. The implications for homeland security are obvious. This border--which Americans imagine to be a place you have to stop and present your credentials to cross--is entirely permeable in the backcountry, and parks are backcountry. That leaves a few lonely rangers on the front lines of drug interdiction (and here it's important to state that it doesn't matter how you a given ranger feels about drugs--if you are a uniformed law enforcement officer and you run into a blacked out SUV on a lonely road at night, they can shoot you before they ask about your political leanings), homeland security, and illegal immigration. To answer Steve Bjerklie's questions: first, about what a typical career for a ranger would be. There are a lot of other land management agencies other than the National Park Service and the careers of their rangers (and other employees) are as varied as their land holdings. California's state park system, for example, is the largest and most complex in the nation. It includes 277 parks and employs about 700 permanent rangers and lifeguards who are all state peace officers. The National Park Service has 388 parks and in 2003, employed 1659 full time law enforcement officers. Then there's the Forest Service. My original interviewer Molly (where'd she go?) works for the Forest Service, and life in the Forest Service is different than the national parks because the Forest Service does resource extraction (sells timber and issues permits for mining, oil exploration and production facilities, grazing rights, leases ski area lands, and so on). The same is true for the Bureau of Land Management. The Army Corps of Engineers employs rangers; they work on the Corps' reservoirs. There are county parks, water districts, and open space districts who employ rangers. And cities employ people they call rangers to patrol and provide other services (including nature teaching) in urban parks. I met one in Manhattan, rolling drunks at Union Square across the street from my publisher's publicity office. But let's restrict ourselves to a typical park ranger--that is a ranger in a national or major state park system. I think the typical career has more of an emphasis on promotion and moving around from job to job. I did move some, but although I could have promoted, I didn't. The more you promote, the more your job resembles a government bureaucrat in any department--true, when you walk outside at lunchtime or the end of the day there are trees, but you spend your life shuffling paper, budgets, and staring at a computer screen while talking on the phone. Instead, to get the challenge I wanted--to keep learning and growing--I tried to be a better field ranger, and later, wrote. To answer Steve's second question I have to say that I dropped out of high school and left home at 16 and , and at that tender age I had nothing like a well-articulated sense of the human relationship with nature. Just a strong feeling of biophilia, this very strong love of nature that may indeed have had a lot to do with my having grown up along the boundary of Muir Woods. Jordan Fisher Smith
errant thoughts of redheaded mischief (izzie) Tue 30 Aug 05 12:53
I'm here! I've been in the field and away from computers, sorry! I'm only here for a minute though to catchup, and will be back tonight.
errant thoughts of redheaded mischief (izzie) Tue 30 Aug 05 21:49
Jordan, I've had a question bugging me. I talk to Wilderness Rangers everyday, and other FS/BLM folks who encounter deadly wildlife, save human lives, save natural/cultural resources from imminient destruction every few days. I have my own stories and HolyShits, too, from my own work over the past few years, that hardly even my closest friends outside of the Ranger Station have heard. I've sometimes thought I should write about the lives I saved/assisted in saving, the wounded cougar I stumbled on, the raccoon giving birth, the stranded kayakers in the flood, the lost midget crew member 2 days later, what it feels like to hear a mighty oak fall, or a rockslide begin... but where to start? How do you put in down on paper in real words? Which stories do you tell/not tell? How do you make in relevant and interesting and meaningful to anyone else? I'm guess I'm just not a writer! So, how did you pick the stories you told? How did you decide which of what has to have been hundreds over 14 years would catch a reader's attention? Are the stories you tell us the ones most closely linked to the land? Most sensationalist? Most....what? How did you pick and choose?
Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Tue 30 Aug 05 22:37
Molly: What a wonderful question. First of all, I had seen other ranger books that were collections of anecdotes and wanted Nature Noir to be more than that. I wanted Nature Noir to tell a larger story, or actually, three larger stories. First of all, the more I learned about the American River, the more I saw that its history was so representative of what had happened to rivers all over the West, and I wanted to tell that typical story. Secondly I wanted to tell the story of rangers everywhere--what they carry in their hearts toward the land and its creatures and the people that wander onto it, why they put up with the sometimes bad pay and stress and danger, and still protect things we all value. I've told several interviewers that this book was my little love letter to rangering, a thing I did for 21 years and cared more about than I can begin to say. I wanted to show how a few rangers had done what rangers do even when all they had to do it in was a federal damsite where the whole landscape would, at some indeterminate time in the future, be underwater. Third, I wanted to tell the story of that landscape, a place whose death had been expected for decades, but which still lived and healed and became more beautiful before out eyes. I thought this would be a hopeful fable for environmentalists, who carry the weight of the world on their shoulders right now and need all the encouragement they can get. And I thought it would be good for the rangers. I thought this would be a healing story to tell. So I knew I needed the stories I told to serve the larger narrative arc of my book--and these major themes. Now I went back through piles and piles of old files. In the chapter "It Never Rains in California" I tell of this mound of dusty old cardboard boxes full of case files in one of our warehouses--crime and accident reports, citations, patrol logs, coroner's reports on deaths, criminal evidence, photographs, case notes. A lot of that stuff still existed around our offices. For example I found in my own file on the subject, the evidence photos of the illegal shack those miners who may or may not have raped that woman Mary Murphy had built up the North Fork in the Chapter "Occurrence at Yankee Jims Bridge." So I was able to describe it exactly as it was in the book. There were certain cases that I just knew, starting out, would be in the book. For example, the drowning of Early Ditsavong. For some time love for the land and waters in America--environmentalism if you will--has been in danger of being a white, upper middle class concern. I wanted immigrants to have a part in this book and I wanted those lady beetles in the book, because there were echoes of immigration in the gold rush and echoes of immigration in insect migration. I felt the book should speak to all Americans and, in particular, new Americans. And the killing of Barbara Schoener by a mountain lion. Because in some tragic way, it told of land recovering its strenth and the animals coming back. In other cases I had to think about which case to use. In "Rocks and Bones" I had decided to use a homicide, but which one? At that point in the book the job was to tell of the earthquake that slowed the dam effort to a standstill--in other words, the case in the foreground had to serve the larger narrative arc of the book. So I asked a friend, a homicide detective I had worked with for years, whether we had a case that involved geology. One case we both remembered was one where a man had killed his wife and dumped her body in the dam site. He had inadvertently gotten mud from the site where he dumped her in his car, and the case was made by a soil scientist who matched the soil in the car to the soil where the body was found in the canyon. But no, I wanted something that went deep--deep into the rocks. And then it struck me, of course: the case of Janet Kovacich (called Karen Dellasandro in the book). We had been looking for her body and had considered all the tunnels, old mineshafts, and the trenches dug by geologists in the dam site after this earthquake--it was perfect! So I wrote that one. And of course that case, like the others, was one that haunted me--one you never forget. To cite another example, the case I have in the beginning of the chapter "Finch Finds his Roots," was selected because it shows the rangers (me and O'Leary) protecting the resource--in this case catching some men who have stolen a number of black oak trees--the most highly-prized firewood tree in the Sierra. Later in the chapter there's a melee in the campground involving a gun. That one was selected because Finch--who's the star of that chapter--was the first on the scene, and because it demonstrated the other kind of enforcement, where rangers are protecting the safety and peace of mind of visitors, instead of the land itself. I think you can see what I mean. A book is a whole, and its parts must serve that whole or its just a collection of yarns without any real power. Jordan Fisher Smith
errant thoughts of redheaded mischief (izzie) Thu 1 Sep 05 15:36
I can totally see what you mean! It is interesting for me to try to get my brain around a doomed landscape that is healing but still slated for destruction. My work has been in previously doomed landscapes that are healing and moving towards greater protection, and for an agency that had been working towards better stewardship (until this current administration - but don't get me started). It's still a BOR site then? I'm working now on a BOR project that is driving me insane. Does that agency just Not Get It, or what? Did you know there is no true buffer zone to a Wilderness Area? That's what I learned at work today. I thought of you, and of the American River for most of my day, as BOR works to dam and rechannel our Animas River in my neck of the woods. anyway... We saw some cat scat, too, which totally made me think of Nature Noir, and makes me wonder what secrets and stories are out there in my Forest, just waiting for someone to tell them.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 1 Sep 05 16:12
Scuze me for interupting, but I know BLM, USPS and USFS but what's BOR?
Bob Akka (akka) Thu 1 Sep 05 16:40
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Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Thu 1 Sep 05 22:52
Dear Redheaded Mischief: Yup, the canyons of the North and Middle Fork of the American are still a United States Bureau of Reclamation project. In my estimation it might be too simplistic to say that the Bureau of Reclamation doesn't get it. It's more accurate to say that they are pursuing their mission as laid out in the Reclamation Act, which was to find and develop water storage and convey that water to irrigation farmers--and more recently, to cities. While the Park Service is staffed by people with botany, zoology, archeology, history, and similar backgrounds whose mission is to save things forever and provide for public use of them, the Bureau's staffed by engineers who build dams and canals. This is an agency which never had a mission like the Park Service's. In a similar sense, it isn't that the Forest Service doesn't get it, because it sells timber to timber companies. Like it or not, use of timber was in the Forest Service's original mission--and that represents the famous rift between the utilitarian forester Gifford Pinchot and the preservationist John Muir at the time the Forest Reserves were set up around the turn of the Twentieth Century. The question for the Forest Service is: when, where, how, and how much to cut? For the Bureau, it's similar: when is enough enough? Might the Bureau become a leader in water conservation solutions to extend supply from its existing dams? Might the Bureau's huge engineering expertise be used to provide solutions for retiring some dams that have become redundant, like the Engelbright Reservoir on the Yuba River in Northern California (which although it's not a Bureau dam, will take careful thought in order to be breached successfully)? Can the Bureau continue to provide better fish survival solutions for existing dams? I loved your comment about stories waiting to be told in your forest. Of course the world has always had more good stories than really good story tellers. The raw material of writing is always there. But boy, does it take work to get the story told right. I guess one of my hopes for Nature Noir was that, in a way, it would tell the stories of other places. There is an architypal element to a well-told story, an ancient pattern. If you identify the pattern in the story it can illuminates the pattern for the reader in their own place, in their own life. Or so I hoped. Jordan Fisher Smith
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 2 Sep 05 17:22
I don't have a copy of your book, though I must say that this conversation has me wanting to read one! I was struck by your thoughts about the flood of New Orleans on Monday as a warning to other cities, which it better be. Lots of analogies will be drawn. Nature hit our southern coast with the force of a nuclear bomb, and there's a distinct possiblity that the response from our War on Terror president could include a new War on Nature. (Stop restricting oil drilling in AK or off of CA, build a lot of nukes, get rid of the petty red tape about habitat and wetlands that could get in the way of major and profitable redevelopment of NOLA over time, etc...) Perhaps this observation doesn't belong here, but hey, you're a crime writer after all. I have been wondering about wilderness areas known to be strongholds or "outlaws." The lower (southwestern) portion of the Trinity Alps is or was full of old cabins rebuilt as hideouts and reinhabitted after the wilderness designation. Tales of armed squatters bring up a lot of questions for hikers and wildlife fanciers. Are there other areas with this kind of ongoing dynamic?
Jef Poskanzer (jef) Fri 2 Sep 05 18:26
>with the force of a nuclear bomb More like ten thousand nuclear bombs, actually.
Bob Akka (akka) Fri 2 Sep 05 19:26
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Bob Akka (akka) Fri 2 Sep 05 19:28
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Gail Williams (gail) Sat 3 Sep 05 11:17
Why does the vision of a flood shift opinion in favor of a damn? I'd think the opposite!
Bob Akka (akka) Sat 3 Sep 05 13:07
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Jordan Fisher Smith (jordan-f-smith) Sat 3 Sep 05 15:02
IN RESPONSE TO THE COMMENTS ABOUT NEW ORLEANS AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE FLOOD ISSUES RAISED BY NATURE NOIR: I found all of your comments insightful and interesting. In my estimation the real conversation about New Orleans--and it's one that seems entirely absent from the media coverage I've seen--is about the increases in storm severity that most climatologists have predicted for a decade and a half in response to global climate change. For those that haven't been exposed to the this idea, let me explain as best I can. At the risk of oversimplification, weather and ocean currents, whether you're talking about them on a global scale or a synoptic scale, are driven by the heat input of the sun, the differences in the ammount of that input from one region of the world to another, and the rotation of the planet (which causes the cyclonic shape of high and low air cells, and therefor, storms. Since the energy in storms is heat, warm storms have far greater capacity for violence than cold ones. Warm air holds more moisture and the wind generated by a storm is fundamentally driven by heat energy. That heat can be stored in a storm as the heat of evaporation--the heat it takes to turn water from an ocean to a cloud. Anyway, the fact that storm energy is heat energy is why storms born in the tropical lattitudes, such as hurricanes, have greater violence. Increase the heat input and, say climatologists, you increase the energy in a storm and its violence. So what most climatologists have said for years is in store for us is greater storm damage. Now, since a warming planet results in the melting of polar and glacial ice and the expansion of the water in the oceans, rising sea levels driven by more severe winds can be expected to cause far more devastation to low-lying coastal areas because of higher storm waves. The worst places for effects like this are cities that have been sinking toward sea level--cities like New Orleans and Venice, Italy. Bob Atta's right. Sacramento can be expected to be effected by this phenomenon too--but in a slightly different way. The problem in Sacramento--and I describe this problem in chapter 2, "It Never Rains in California" is that the surface elevation of the Sacramento River where it passes through the city is only a couple of feet above that of San Francisco Bay. And the river flows another 60 miles from the city to get to the Bay. And the Sacramento Delta is the only natural outlet to the Central Valley. So by the time it gets to the Bay, the river has to carry the entire drainage of the four-hundred-mile long bathtub of the Valley. That's over half the state's annual precipitation. But because the river isn't falling much in that sixty miles, it isn't in a big hurry to go anywhere. And when we get one of those warm, high-energy subtropical storms like the one I describe in that chapter, suddenly the Central Valley turns into a lake, or tries to. Old paradigm thinking is to battle the river with dams and levees. But unless we do something about global climate change, in the long run, Sacramento's flood future doesn't look good. Because basically, as the river surface reaches closer to sea level--and that could take a while, but it's now underway--Sacramento is toast. Or, like the Dutch, the Central Valley will live behind dikes, pumping half the rainfall in California uphill into the Bay. As far as a war on nature is concerned, I think the Bush adminstration has been conducting that war for some time; not out of aggression toward her, but from a lack of understanding of what nature is. The corporations that call the shots in the White House right now--and the President can be thought of here as a figurehead or a CEO, not a true political leader--think of nature in terms of a storehouse of raw materials to make money on. And an anthropocentric (human-centered) fundamentalist protestantism provides a God who answers prayers for personal wealth and does not impose moral strictures against the complete utilization of nature to create that wealth. Such religions have always been present; the Catholicism of the sixteenth century worked hand in glove with the conquest of Central and South America by the Spanish; and in the ante-bellum Confederacy slave owners attended a largely approving and complacent church on Sundays. ON OUTLAW CABINS AND OUTLAWS IN WILDERNESS AREAS One worry I have about Nature Noir is that people might feel it had become more dangerous in the outdoors. I certainly stand by my position that it is increasingly dangerous out there for rangers, but I haven't seen any statistic showing that it's more dangerous for citizens. And I don't think it is. To the extent that squatters, people who make methamphetamine, and some of the more misanthropic occupants of public land mining claims (now there's a contradiction in terms--why allow people to claim public land to live on as miners?) are sometimes not the friendliest group of people to run into, they still represent a threat primarily to the rangers who must seek them out. Most of those people don't want you to go back and call the sheriff or the ranger, nor do they want to do away with you and have a hundred search and rescue people looking over their place for you, so they avoid trouble with members of the public. It's the ranger who has to set foot in their little world and break the bad news to them. Among other things, the Trinity country and the northern Coast Ranges of California in general have been just another area where the failure of the War on Drugs has been played out. The latest thing I hear from my friends who are still in the ranger business is that the Mexican drug cartels, seeing the problem with transporting marijuana across a border, have set up growing operations on our side. The people who care for and guard the plots are often illegals, and they have guns. They have a reputation for being more willing to use them, since their fingerprints aren't in our systems and they are legal non-entities. I think the basic situation for the average person's safety in the wilderness really hasn't changed, though. It's just a tough time to be a ranger. Jordan Fisher Smith
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