Forest Service says ‘no’ to American flag

Published September 1, 2002

As if attacks on the Pledge of Allegiance weren’t enough, the federal government in July turned its attention to the American flag.

Debbie Gaynor, a recreation forester for the U.S. Forest Service, ordered Army veteran and retired police officer David Knickerbocker to take down an American flag he was flying at his cabin in the Eldorado National Forest.

“Flagpoles are not authorized for recreation residences and must be removed,” stated Gaynor in a letter to Knickerbocker.

“I feel it is times like these our country needs to be showing our unity and patriotism, not promoting ill-thought decisions which prohibit flagpoles on United States soil,” said Knickerbocker. “My flagpole has been up for more than 23 years, and like many in our cabin tract I am a patriotic American who has a flagpole.”

The federal government has leased land in the Eldorado National Forest to private individuals for nearly a century. Recreationists were given the right to build cabins on quarter-acre to half-acre lots for an annual fee. Knickerbocker had never before been ordered to take down his American flag.

Representative Richard Pombo (R-California) protested the Forest Service’s ban against flying the American flag in his state.

“At a time when wildfires are burning up much of the West, and Americans throughout the country face terrorist threats, it would seem to me that USDA Forest Service employees would have better things to do than to tell our citizens not to use flagpoles,” said Pombo in a letter to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth.

In a postscript to the letter, Pombo asked whether Knickerbocker would “be arrested for saying the Pledge of Allegiance on federal land.”

Apparently, Pombo’s letter and press coverage regarding the incident swayed the Forest Service to retract Gaynor’s order. On July 25 the Forest Service announced Knickerbocker could keep his American flag after all.