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Beastmaster
07-30-2004, 09:22 PM
Judge tosses Forest Service fine of off-roader

Scott Sonner
Associated Press
Jul. 30, 2004 02:30 PM


RENO, Nev. - A federal judge on Friday threw out a $150 fine the Forest Service levied against the leader of an off-road vehicle club in a dispute over protection of the threatened bull trout in northeast Nevada.

In a rare hearing of a petty offense in federal court, U.S. Magistrate Robert McQuaid Jr. said prosecutors failed to prove John Eickhof caused damage to the banks of a Jarbidge River channel.

"There is an admission that Mr. Eickhof was there and that he drove off the road. He doesn't say he caused the damage," McQuaid said. "I think there has to be more to tie this defendant to the damage."

Critics of federal protection of the fish in the Jarbidge River hailed the dismissal of the Eickhof citation as a major victory in an ongoing feud with U.S. land managers over access to the South Canyon Road along the river in Elko County near the Idaho line.

But Forest Service Supervisor Bob Vaught insisted the area near the river where Eickhof admitted driving off the road remains off limits and that additional citations will be issued to any off-roaders who damage fish habitat or other forest resources.

Eickhof said he spent significantly more money than the citation would have cost because it was important to take a stand for public access to the national forests.

"It sounds really insignificant. But the more I thought about it, I thought, I can't let them do this because it's not fair," said Eickhof of Wendell, Idaho, head of the Vintage Dodge Power Wagon Club.

"I never believed I did anything wrong," he told The Associated Press.

"I'm amazed it went this far. But I think it was worth it because I want my kids to be able to go out on forest lands and drive their trucks and drive their cars," he said.

Forest Service officials said Eickhof drove his 1952 Dodge 4-by-4 through the river channel at five crossings in June 2003, smashed vegetation, piled rocks to cross over logs and caused significant soil erosion. He was cited for driving off a road "in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs" national forest land.

Grant Gerber, an Elko lawyer for Eickhof, said the ruling is a "huge victory" for citizen activists and a major setback for Forest Service efforts to keep people off the last quarter-mile of the road leading to a federal wilderness area.

"This was an attempt by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Forest Service to intimidate people from using the road along the Jarbidge River," said Gerber, an organizer of a citizen's group - the Shovel Brigade - that has worked for years over the objections of the Forest Service to reopen sections of the road that washed out in a 1995 flood.

"If the Forest Service had won this case, any fisherman, camper, miner, rancher or hunter - anyone that drove around a washed out area - would have been subject to fines."

Gerber said the agency targeted Eickhof because he lived 500 miles away and "they assumed he would just send in his $150."

State Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, and O.Q. "Chris" Johnson, another Shovel Brigade organizer, attended the hearing in Eickhof's support.

"They are trying to cite John Eickhof for taking a detour, which is a way of life in Nevada," Johnson said. "We need to nip this in the bud right here."

Forest Service agents tracked down Eickhof because he left his business card at a nearby campground with the slogan, "We Keep the Roads Open."

Eickhof admitted he drove off the road, but prosecutors failed to pinpoint the location, said Marc Picker, another defense lawyer.

"Whether it is a heinous offense or a minor misdemeanor, the standard is the same - beyond a reasonable doubt. The government doesn't come close to clearing that hurdle," he said.

JamesT
07-31-2004, 07:37 AM
Good for him....

I am a bit confussed my the accounts though:

"Forest Service officials said Eickhof drove his 1952 Dodge 4-by-4 through the river channel at five crossings in June 2003, smashed vegetation, piled rocks to cross over logs and caused significant soil erosion. He was cited for driving off a road "in a manner which damages or unreasonably disturbs" national forest land."

"Eickhof admitted he drove off the road, but prosecutors failed to pinpoint the location, said Marc Picker, another defense lawyer."

If they didn't know where he went, how can they say he did all the stuff they claim he did?

Maybe this is why it got thrown out.