Sequoia District Ranger Wrongfully Terminates Stewards Volunteers
Updated 4/1/21


 

On 3/17/20 Sequoia Kern River District Ranger Al Watson wrongfully terminated Stewards of the Sequoia volunteer trail maintenance agreement of 16 years

For more thab a year now Stewards have tried everything we can to urge the Forest Service to reinstate Stewards successful trail volunteer program all to no avail.

 
Stewards of the Sequoia have always been respectful, professional and helped to meet the Forest Service Mission performing an incredible 4000 miles of trail maintenance since 2004.
District Ranger Watson's has repeatedly refused to provie any evidence to back up his allegations. Stewards have done nothing wrong. We just do a lot of volunteer work.perhaps more trail work than any other volunteer group and perhaps more trail work than the Forest Service has done over the same period of time. We are sorry to see the District Ranger is acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner and making libelous claims against Stewards of the Sequoia which are disrespectful and unprofessional. It is criminal that Stewards should have to fight just to be allowed to volunteer.

Congressman McCarthy submitted a letter to the Forest Chief on 4/2/20 asking that she ensure "Stewards of the Sequoia's First Amendment rights are not violated, and that the decision to restore the Stewards’ volunteer service agreement is based on this group’s performance of its duties under this agreement, not on policy disagreements or website postings that are unrelated to the volunteer service agreement". Instead Forest Officials have taken further discriminatory action against Stewards and refuse to provide any evidence to back up their claim that Stewards of the Sequoia have been disrespectful, unprofessional or do not help to meet the Forest Service Mission.

The Forest Service has repeatedly stated they lack the resources to maintain Sequoia trails. There has been a huge increase in the public use of Sequoia National Forest lands during COVID. There is absolutely no justification for turning away successful productive volunteers like Stewards of the Sequoia. The termination does not cite any issue with any of Stewards volunteer work. Now more than ever the Forest Service needs to allow Stewards volunteers to help maintain trails and reduce environmental impacts. We just want to help on the trails as we have done for 15 years.
 
Stewards continue to reach out to Forest Chief Vicki Christiansen in the hope of getting Stewards of the Sequoia volunteers back on the ground in Sequoia National Forest.
  • Due to continued Forest Service discriminatory and libelous actions against Stewards of the Sequoia Due we have been compelled to file this formal complaint on 9/8/20 with the USDA for 12 acts of discrimination by Forest Service staff. The USDA is currently invetigating the Forest Service.
  • Congressman McCarthy submitted this strongly worded letter to Forest Service Chief Christianson urging the Forest Service to restore Stewards of the Sequoias volunteer agreement based on our past performance working with the Forest Service.
  • You can read our letter to Supervisor Benson asking to be reinstated HERE, as well as Ranger Watson's termination letter HERE
Stewards continue to wish to be allowed to continue our incredibly successful volunteer Trail Appreciation Program to help the Forest Service meet theit mission of maintaining our public lands.
 
The primary purpose of Stewards of the Sequoia is to be advocates
 
The Bureau of Land Management continues to welcome Stewards to continue our signficant volunteer work on BLM lands in the Lake Isabella area.
 

Are Stewards Still A Valid Organization?

Some people may feel Stewards are no longer a valid organization just because Ranger Watson will not let us volunteer on Sequoia National Forest Lands. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The primary purpose of Stewards is advocating to keep your public lands open to all forms of recreation including keeping trails open to motorized use. Stewards have been doing an excellent job of this.

Since 2004, we gave prevented trail closures and even opened new trails. Stewards volunteer work was just icing on the cake. Our advocacy work is what has continued to keep trails open such as stopping the closure of 160 miles of Sequoia trails, stopping the designation of new inappropriate Wilderness Areas which would have diminished our few remaining multiple use lands, stopping the closure of access around Lake Isabella, stopping the closure of the camping areas and more.

With the upcoming Piute Travel Plan and Sequoia Forest Plan Revision, this will be an incredibly important time to continue advocating to keep Piute motorized trails open. With our long history of Sequoia advocacy, Stewards are positioned very well to advocate for your trails and other forms of recreation

Having been heavily engaged in Sequoia trail planning since 2005 Stewards are the only organization with the knowledge and experience to help keep Sequoia trails open. Stewards have also shown the required passion and dedication needed to advocate for your trails. However we need continued funding to do this. Many people have not donated this year most likely because they misunderstand that not being allowed to volunteer on National Forest Lands is not the defining purpose of Stewards. If you have not donated this year please donate now to keep Stewards advocating for your trails. Don't let your trails expire.