Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood was the keynote speaker at the Almanor Tea Party meeting May 4 at the Chester Memorial Hall.
During this presentation he took his message beyond access to the forests to the balance of power between the people and the federal government.
“The framers of our Constitution, when considered in the context of their time in history, crafted one of the most phenomenal living documents every produced anywhere at any time,” he said. “That our Constitution is as relevant today as the day it was signed is a testament to the foresight the framers were blessed with and those framers, I assure you, are looking upon us this very night and collectively are saying, ‘We told you so.’”
He issued a message of caution about those that quietly tip the balance of power. To emphasize his message he offered two quotes, one from James Madison and the second from Thomas Jefferson.
“I believe there are more instances of abridgement of freedom of the people by the gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations,” Madison said.
He said Thomas Jefferson cautioned, “A government big enough to give you everything is as well big enough to take everything away.”
Continuing, Hagwood said, “Our republic was formed very deliberately and afforded the federal government with very limited and specifically enumerated responsibilities and powers creating a relationship between the stated and the federal government.
“But, like any relationship, balance can be lost. One partner can, over time, assume, take or be given a disproportional role.”
He said, in his opinion, this can happen out of convenience, a loss of focus or even complacency.
“When this happens you find the tipping point. My sense is we are at or very near that tipping point. We never should have allowed ourselves to be in this position but here we are,” Hagwood said.
He again spoke about the intent of the framers and role of the federal government and said, “The government, as our partner in the relationship, is going to have to listen and make some changes so balance is returned.”
He advocated for citizens and local and state governments to be more involved in what he terms “self determination” rather than “central government determination.”
“This must happen and it must begin to happen now. If the situation with the U.S. Forest Service serves as a catalyst for the movement back to balance, so much the better. The sooner we recognize our responsibilities as a county and state the sooner we can fix the problem,” Hagwood said.
He suggested a plan of action to correct what he calls a “completely lopsided relationship.”
“First we meet together and become educated on the issue. Secondly we take our voice beyond these four walls — we talk to our neighbors, we take it to our county officials, our state officials and then our federal officials.”
He said other outreach efforts would include writing letters, travel to other counties to attend meetings and the development of alliances with those other counties.
He also encouraged the meeting attendees to review and sign the letters provided by the Almanor Tea Party.
He especially encouraged everyone to remember that local Forest Service employees are not the problem.
“I know many Forest Service employees. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family members and they are not responsible for the rule change or the Travel Management Plan,” Hagwood said.
He said he had met with a Forest Service engineer May 3 who had “expressed a growing fear for their own personal safety due to the controversy over these issues.”
“This is unacceptable,” Hagwood said. “A measured, reasoned civil and intelligent presentation of our position must be the order of the day.”
He said it was important that local efforts not be distinguished as unruly, uncivil or lacking legitimacy due to poor behavior.
This is what I tell my staff, he said: “Be reasonable, be honest, be polite and professional; any representation to the contrary will erase your credibility and make the work to be done just that much more difficult.”
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