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Exercises in discretion

Vincent Ruark was sitting at home with his two dogs in northern Oregon recently, not doing much of anything, when two Klickitat County officers knocked on his door. Aerial surveillance had spotted marijuana plants growing in his yard, they informed him, and they wanted permission to conduct a search. Taken by surprise and flustered, Ruark said he told them to have a look, reports the Dalles Chronicle. One of the men then ran toward the backyard garden yelling, “What are these? What are these?” Ruark yelled back in kind: “Tomatoes! Tomatoes!” And that’s just what they were — 19 healthy tomato plants that Ruark was growing to make tomato juice and tomato paste. Disappointed, the officers quickly left. Ruark says he would have appreciated their zeal more if they’d discovered who stole the tires off a neighbor’s car a week earlier. The Honda Civic had been parked in the neighbor’s driveway.

“Mobile strip shows, naked motorcycling and women flashing their breasts.” In Southern California, the Bureau of Land Management has had it with those three things, says the Press-Enterprise, which covers Riverside and San Bernardino counties. All nudity is now banned in any part of the desert managed by the agency, including the Imperial Sand Dunes area, also known as Glamis, where some 190,000 people gather on Thanksgiving weekends. As many as 100 federal rangers and county deputies police the area during those crowded times, because the revelry includes considerably more than nudity: “chasing burning tires down hills after dark, putting explosive aerosol paint cans in campfires, and popping wheelies in pits of burning gasoline.”

Perhaps it’s a trend, these recent attempts by officials to crack down on nudity in the wild. At the Diamond Fork Springs in Utah’s Spanish Fork Canyon, a Forest Service sign signals ambivalence over the issue, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, “simply warning that discretion should be exercised should the wardrobes come off.” Last fall, Utah County rejected that interpretation; when its deputies came upon eight people soaking without clothes, the officers cited them all for lewdness — even though six worked for the Forest Service as firefighters. Aware of the sign’s ambiguity, the Forest Service “immediately” removed its sign about nude bathing, said Lorraine Januzelli, spokesperson for the Wasatch-Cache district, and this July, the county dropped its case against the skinny dippers. “We decided it was not a very good case to take to trial,” said a deputy DA. But from now on, you’d better cover yourself while soaking in these backcountry hot springs.

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