Forest Service Welcomes Hikers To Falling Trees, Flash Floods and Debris Flows

How much worse do conditions get? 

(Those are actually fantastic conditions! The worse the better.) 

And yet in the face of such natural horrors, the likes of which only Danny Hillman might venture risking limb and life to vanquish, they didn’t close the forest because it was a forest.

Which the Forest Service has done currently under the Stubbs diktat for purported “health and safety” reasons.

This yellow Forest Service sign was posted at Baron Ranch long before the current Los Padres National Forest closure.

It warns people, aside from possible deadly cataclysms, that the trail may be hazardous and not even useable. Holy mackerel, Batman!

Yet the big ugly sign welcomes walkers nonetheless or at least doesn’t tell them no.

Such a refreshing welcoming to a bold land is rather amusing when we consider the current timid closure.

laughingstock [ laf-ing-stok, lah-fing- ]

an object of ridicule; the butt of a joke or the like:
His ineptness as a public official made him the laughingstock of the whole town.

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?”

— Obi-Wan Kenobi

The leaders managing our local national public lands and County wildland preserves appear to act in arbitrary and contradictory ways.

The fallout from that confusion results in lost trust, which undermines the Forest Service and government institutions.

Any associated private civic outdoors organizations that work in tandem to manage these open spaces also expose themselves to similar harm.

And when trust wanes so does cooperation.

The people are not unconscious. They see what happens and respond accordingly, to each his own.

It may be that the damage now being done to the relationship, a social contract, between citizen and state is far greater and longer lasting than any harm that might come if the people were allowed to go into their forest, rather than being shut out. 

There are far more important, much deeper issues to recognize than merely what appears on the surface as an argument about playing in the forest, as I alluded to weeks ago: Hiking is Not A Crime: Let Forest Be Thy Medicine.

It may be that the short-term cost of rescuing me, the unlucky one or the loudmouthed idiot who gets himself hurt in the forest, is far less than the long term damage done to the integrity of the institutions and organizations currently responsible for the senseless blanket closure.

Los Padres National Forest makes up one third of Santa Barbara County and remains closed to entry to the general public.

The Forest Service has criminalized entry into thirty percent (30%) of the entire county. 

It’s knee-jerk, arbitrary and capricious. There was no design. This yellow sign above reflects these simple truths. And we all see it.

In reference to the sign’s mention of debris flows, it should be duly noted that around here in Santa Barbara County, after the Montecito Debris Flow (2018) killed 23 people, that phrase carries serious weight. It rocked the entire community and beyond like nothing had before. My wife knew victims who lost their lives.

Yet nevertheless, fortunately, the Forest Service did not bar access to the forest following the Alisal Fire (2021), as the sign shows.

Somebody just posted a warning to inform you what you were entering.

People made up their own minds whether or not they were interested and fit and able enough to proceed. 

That they even got a warning is more than I’d like to see. Yet another ugly sign yelling at me. There’s no need for it. Make people use their brains.

Make the people keep walking until they see with their eyeballs that they don’t care to walk any farther, and so decide to return. 

Whatever happens along their short way out in the forest is surely better for their physical and mental health than most anything in that loony bin city.

Remember, 1000 scientific studies and growing.

At trailheads leading into the condemned forest at the moment, for weeks now since January 13, walkers see signs saying the trail is closed because it’s unsafe and that they might ruin the trail, too.

The forest is a threat to you and you are a threat to the forest, authorities tell us.

The walkers of the public woods wonder, after they stop chuckling, what in heck could possibly be more unsafe than potential hazards like loose rocks, falling trees and limbs, flash floods and debris flows?

I’d pull my hair out if I had any. It’s utter madness.


Gaslighting is an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity. Over time, a gaslighter’s manipulations can grow more complex and potent, making it increasingly difficult for the victim to see the truth.

Psychology Today

People have been ripping the silly signs out of the ground and throwing them in the bushes. To be clear, not me, other people. They know the closure is nonsense.

I’ve seen people of the most ordinary sort out on the trails all during the closure, quite a number of them, of all ages, children to seniors. Members of the community. All sorts of good, decent folks out walking.

We all know the Stubbs diktat is nonsense.

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17 Responses to Forest Service Welcomes Hikers To Falling Trees, Flash Floods and Debris Flows

  1. sbrobert says:

    Thank you for your voice of sanity. I have been shocked by otherwise sane friends who think this closure is justified.

  2. goletahistory says:

    FYI Baron is currently closed as well.


  3. Doug Ingham says:

    My guess is it’s all about the budget. They get sued they pay. They get a fire, they get federal assistance. Ever notice that the only time roads get graded, restrooms get up graded etc is right after a fire….? It’s all about exposure to liability and compensation for damages.

    From: Douglas Ingham ________________________________

    • Kitty Benzar says:

      As someone who has been involved several times in lawsuits against the USFS, I have to respectfully differ. They get sued all the time – literally every day. They don’t have to go out and hire attorneys, they just activate the Department of Justice, which defends the suit using taxpayer funds, using a whole division of federal lawyers who do that type of case exclusively. Plus the process takes years to reach a resolution. And if they eventually lose the suit and have to pay, well the taxpayers pay that judgement too. The USFS’s appropriated funding doesn’t change one cent because of a lawsuit, whether they win or lose. So I doubt if fear of lawsuits has even crossed their minds.

  4. Greg says:

    There are so few voices arguing against this unwarranted closure. You, McCaslin. Meanwhile, all the other groups (LPFW, LPFA, Ventana Wilderness Alliance) are all just toeing the FS line.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      It does not surprise me in the least. It’s instructive to watch them cast common sense to the wind and submissively toe the line. Some people are too scared to speak out because they are too closely intertwined with authorities and don’t won’t to draw attention to themselves by stirring the pot and thus perhaps suffering consequences. These are some of the same folks who won’t miss a beat ever to use science to advance their agendas. But in the case of the forest closure, they say facts and reason don’t matter at all.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      I also happen to think for many of these folks the ends justifies the means. They aren’t concerned in the least about heady, abstract notions of the proper relationship between citizen and state and people’s rights. They don’t think it matters at all in the end. The ultimate goal is preservation and almost at any cost. And so they’re perfectly willing to go along with a senseless unreasonable expedient that suits their ends.

  5. Anonymous says:

    After all of your comments, have you spoken to someone who’s in charge?
    For example, the Forest Supervisor or any district rangers to voice yours and the publics concerns .
    I mean in person, maybe you can come to common ground to support your concerns and thoughts. I know the damage that can be done to trails after a wet period. I’ve probably constructed more water bars and trails after storms that you could imagine.
    Good luck, and let’s try and have some constructive conversations.


    • Jack Elliott says:

      I have not spoken to anybody. I don’t have any plans to. I’m quite sure the points I’ve made and arguments I have put forth here on this blog do not go unknown and unheard. To some extent, I am merely putting down for the record in the printed word what many folks are saying amongst themselves.

      “I know the damage that can be done to trails after a wet period.”

      That’s very true. And I agree we should stay off the trails for a period of time following heavy rainfall.

  6. Anonymous says:

    What I find irritating is listening to the ones who can get out there during the closure, preach why a blanket shutdown is necessary to keep the public out. Take away their access and watch how quickly they do an about face.

  7. I guran-fuckin-tee that the closure will be extended beyond the original deadline.

    For your protection, of course.

    • Jack Elliott says:

      To our health.
      Up is down. Hot is cold. Wet is dry.
      War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

      The exercise of raw brute power backed by the threat of violent coercive force is always easier than the sophistication and nuance requisite for true leadership.

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