HCN appears to be quite concerned about the Forest Service's Timber Theft Task Force, especially since it has been disbanded (HCN, 4/3/95).
As you well know, there are corrupt people in all walks of life and disciplines, and the task force is no exception. Judging from my experience with the Forest Service in California, there are some excellent law enforcement officers and special agents who deserve the utmost respect. On the other hand, some of the most corrupt people I know of within the Forest Service are agents and law enforcement officers, some of whom were involved with the Timber Theft Task Force.
When you hear individual whining coming from former task force members, keep in mind that some of the agents have sordid pasts they will go to any length to keep covered up.
I do not agree with the Forest Service's new "stovepipe" law enforcement organization, by which agents bypass regional chiefs and report directly to law enforcement officers in Washington, D.C., instead. That's why I gave up my Forest Service gun.
With the new stovepipe structure, law enforcement has its own budget allocated from the Washington office. Now there are few, if any, ways for the rest of the Forest Service to check and balance law enforcement spending. I truly think this was the intent of the folks establishing the stovepipe structure in the first place.
I'd like to think the Timber Theft Task Force made a difference. I'm skeptical, however. Considering the amount of money spent (several million taxpayer dollars) and the time invested, it seems more should have been accomplished.
Mary Furney is a recreation supervisor for the Forest Service in California (Region 5) and a former law enforcement officer.