Gloria Flora's high profile resignation from the U.S. Forest Service in November of 1999 has been grist for the mill of those who fall on both sides of the debate over the appropriate management of public lands in the west. This is the story of Flora's decision to exit with voice, of the events that led to the showdown in a remote town in rural Nevada, and of why Flora is a moral exemplar.
In 1998, Gloria Flora was appointed Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada, the largest national forest in the lower forty-eight states. In less than two years, Flora would resign in a highly public protest. This resignation was accompanied by Flora's use of Hirschman's (1970) exit option to shine a spotlight on both the plight of Forest Service employees charged with administering the nation's land management policies, and on the vulnerability and deterioration of the land itself. And, pace Hirschman, she gave voice to these same issues in public fora across the country. This is the story of her decision or her moral episode (Hart, 1992) and why Gloria Flora is a moral exemplar.
THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL CONTEXT
It is not coincidental that Nevada calls itself the Sagebrush State. The Sagebrush Rebellion originated in Nevada's 1979 legislative session as a result of pressure from old westerners to assert state claims to some 50 million acres of federal lands.
Approximately 85 percent of all Nevada land is owned by the federal government (Morin and Herzik, 2000). Rural Nevada ranchers and others claim that the federal government (which some refer to as the occupying government) does not have a legitimate right to decide matters of cattle grazing, road building, mining, or mineral and oil exploration in the west. The outcome was the passage by the Nevada State Legislature of the Sagebrush Bill, authored in large part by Wayne Hage. He would become part of Flora's story some 20 years hence.
This Bill was a reaction to the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976, which declared that the classification of any lands in dispute would remain public. This was essentially a reversal of federal land policy of previous decades that sought to dispose of public lands. The Act gave the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) authority over these lands, and resulted in controversial grazing fees and the requirement that mining claims be recorded with the BLM rather than at the county courthouse. It is noted that the FLPMA followed on the heels of the environmental legislation of the 1960s and early 1970s (for example, the Multiple Use/Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Water Quality Act of 1965, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973). Many Nevadans (and other westerners) were increasingly feeling the pinch of what they believed to be restrictive legislative policies. Confrontation was virtually inevitable (Cawley, 1993, p. 81). The movement quickly gained momentum and scope from the initial protest of ranchers on public land to timber and energy groups, and subsequently to off-road vehicle users. The rallying cry became a common cause against the federal government and its representatives. The Sagebrush Rebellion was in full cry.
Wise Use and County Supremacy Movements
In the late 1980s the cause of the Sagebrush rebels was joined by advocates of wise use. The wise use movement organized to prevent government regulation on public lands, in contrast to the earlier Sagebrush focus on protecting property rights. The philosophical leader of this movement was Ron Arnold, executive vice-president of the Center for Defense of Free Enterprise, a group which claimed to be 'representatives of a new balance, of a middle way between extreme environmentalism and extreme industrialism'(Cawley, 1993, p. 166). The refrain of the wise users is notable for its strong anti-government rhetoric, as exemplified in these words: 'It is time to take the government off the public lands, get it out of the business of regulating private land use, and free the people to pursue their happiness unhindered by the dead hand of Washington's extreme environmentalists' (Echeverria and Eby, 1995, p. 45).
The Wise Use Agenda of 1988 includes the opening of all public lands to mining, oil drilling, logging and commercial development (including wilderness areas and national parks), clearcutting all remaining old-growth forests, opening all public lands to unrestricted off-road vehicle access, and the privatization of public rangelands. Compared to the Sagebrush Rebellion, this movement includes a broader coalition of ideological and economic interests that stand to profit from deregulation of industry and the weakening of environmental regulations than did its precursor (Echeverria and Eby, 1995, p. 82).
The story of Gloria Flora would not be complete without reference to the county supremacy movement. Counties are at the forefront of growing local versus federal conflict. This movement and its employment of wise use or county supremacy ordinances aims to make federal decisions regarding land use subject to county approval. While county supremacy ordinances take several forms, they share an assertion of the county's legitimate claims to sovereignty and a general distrust of federal land management practices. An important feature of the movement and central to our story is the involvement of elected county officials with their focus on the county as the unit of government that protects local interests (Witt and Alm, 1997).
The Transition from the Old West to the New West
The cliché, 'change is inevitable' may be lost on many western rural communities which cling to the traditional way of life of the old west and are fearful of an unknown future. Gloria Flora captures the essence of the issue: 'My grandfather made a living selling ice from a horse drawn-wagon. If I were in the family business today, I'd be selling stainless steel-clad Frigidaires with ice-makers on-line. Same business, updated product and delivery. Survival requires change' (Flora, 2000a). The massive changes that are being thrust upon the western landscape, its people and 'traditional use' communities are resulting in future shock. Alvin Toffler defines future shock as the extreme stress and shattering disorientation a person (or community) experience when change comes about too quickly. Externally imposed changes threaten the comfortable regularity of traditional life. According to Flora, 'some embrace change and adapt; others head to the bunkers, blindly fighting for an unsustainable status quo' (2000b).
Control of public lands represents the flash-point of the inevitability of change. For most of us the old rural west conjures up images of rugged individualism, the frontier, wide open spaces, ranches, cowboys, and multiple use of resources through logging, mining and grazing. The old west ideology holds that nature exists to be used by and for man, that productive lands and water should be privately owned, and that concerns about depletion of energy and other mineral resources are greatly exaggerated (Maughan and Nilson, 1993). The new mostly urban west is characterized by the collective mentality of 'green,' Sierra Club, environmentalism, sustainability, spirituality, and the common good. The Forest Service and the BLM would clearly identify with the new west and the modern environmental legal and statutory base which undergird this newer view. The Forest Service Roadless Initiative is the most recent manifestation of the new west view.
The issue of control of roads and road building activities on public lands features prominently in Gloria Flora's story. The Forest Service Roadless Initiative, a directive from President Clinton, bans new road construction on 43 million acres of federal land with the aim of designating 40-60 million acres of federally owned land as roadless. The essence of the new west is captured in a speech by President Clinton: 'the national forests are more than a source of timber, they are places of renewal of the human spirit and our natural environment's environmental protection and economic growth can, and must, go hand in hand' (Clinton, October 13, 1999). When all of these movements are taken together, they set the stage for an escalation of the clash of cultures between old west traditionalists and new west values.
GLORIA FLORA AND THE MONTANA CONTROVERSY
The Socialization of Gloria Flora
'There's always room for a good one on top.' These words, spoken to Gloria Flora by her mother when Gloria was quite young, became an inspirational mantra during her formative years. Born on September 24, 1955 in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, Gloria Flora had a traditional upbringing as the youngest of three children. Her mother and father both graduated from high school. Her father became a self-employed laborer, and her mother a homemaker. She recounts how her parents, especially her mother, were very supportive of their children, urging them to always do the best they could.
Flora earned a BS in Landscape Architecture in 1977 from Pennsylvania State University, and continued her higher education at Montana State University in 1983 (Forest Habitat Types), and Clemson University in 1984 (Advanced Outdoor Recreation Management). Flora's formal academic credentials have been supplemented over the years with extensive training in leadership, negotiations, communications, watershed management, wildlife and fisheries, fire dynamics, lands adjustments, and partnerships.
Her professional experience with the U.S. Forest Service began immediately upon graduation in 1977 when, at the age of 21, she started her career as a Landscape Architect trainee (GS 5) on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California. She went on to become the Forest Landscape Architect (GS 11) in the Kootenai National Forest in Idaho. From her biographical sketch it is clear that Flora's career within the Forest Service has been on a fast track. At the age of 30, she was promoted to Selway District Ranger (GS 12) in 1986 on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho -- one of only 35 female district rangers on the nation's 617 forest districts and younger than most of her employees.
Four years later, in 1990, she was appointed Ecology Resources Group Leader of Bridger-Teton National Forest in Jackson, Wyoming (GM 13). She detailed for four months with the BLM as Acting District Manager of the Salt Lake District (GM 14) in 1994. The following year, in 1995, she was promoted to Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor (GS 14) in Great Falls, Montana. Three years later, in July of 1998, she was appointed as Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Supervisor in Reno, Nevada (GS 15). The scope and level of her responsibility and authority increased with each promotion. For example, during her three-year tenure as Supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest, she oversaw a 1.9 million acre Forest. Her promotion to Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest in 1998 entrusted her with the largest National Forest in the continental United States 6.3 million acres, 300+ employees, $21 million budget the jewel in the crown of the Forest Service. Some people were asserting that Flora had the potential to become the first female Chief of the Forest Service. By all accounts, she was a rising star with a stellar record.
Consistent with the Hart schema (1992), Flora's story embodies conscious moral work and a number of confrontations or moral episodes in which she risked career and livelihood in order to do the right thing as she saw it (Stivers, 1992, p. 168). One such confrontation that gained national recognition, which included both a moral episode and the exercise of her voice, occurred during her tenure as the Lewis and Clark National Forest Supervisor in Montana. Her decision to ban gas leasing on the Rocky Mountain Front was both controversial and courageous. It similarly defined her leadership style and environmental ethic, and strengthened the conviction of her values of stewardship.
The Rocky Mountain Front
Some of the largest tracts of unprotected wilderness in the Continental United States lie in northwest Montana, along the rugged windswept eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. This area, known as the Rocky Mountain Front, was at the center of an intensifying dispute over drilling for oil and gas. Petroleum companies were and still are eager to use drilling leases they had purchased from the federal government during the Reagan Administration. However, the Clinton Administration and environmental activists believe that the Front represents a fragile ecosystem that is deserving of permanent wilderness designation. As a stopgap, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt placed a temporary moratorium on all oil and gas activity in the Badger-Two Medicine, a 116,000-acre section of the National Forest on the Front, and part of a federally designated grizzly bear recovery zone. The Blackfeet Nation joined the fray to protect their sacred lands of the Badger-Two Medicine. This moratorium was subsequently superceded by a suspension of existing drilling leases.
On June 30, 1997, Flora testified before the Congressional Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources as part of an Oversight Hearing on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service Oil and Gas Regulations Regarding Access and Permitting Issues. Flora had been Supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest for some two years, and was no stranger to making -- and justifying -- difficult decisions. In her testimony she stated that the history of oil and gas leasing on the Front is complex and heated. Her agency had received almost 1,500 comments from the public, eighty percent of which favored less development than called for in the preferred alternative.
In the face of significant industry and political pressure, Flora announced her imposition of a ban on oil and gas leasing on September 23, 1997, three months following her congressional testimony. Her decision placed the Front off-limits to future oil and gas leasing for the next 20 years, and settled a bitter, two-decade long fight between energy interests and environmentalists (Kenworthy, 1997). Flora would later draw from her reservoir of strengths gained from her upbringing, her academic and professional experiences, and the Rocky Mountain Front episode in order to prepare for her next assignment -- and showdown -- in Jarbidge.
THE JARBIDGE REVOLT
To help us get inside this episode, referred to colloquially as the Son of Sage, it is revealing to read the words on the back of Flora's business card: 'There are two things that interest me, the relationship of people to their landscape and of people to each other' (Aldo Leopold). Flora states that 'how we treat each other is often reflected in how we treat the land' (Flora, 2000a). Jarbidge reveals the mistreatment and abuse of both people and land.
The ostensible issue was the wild and native Dolly Varden or bull trout, found only in Idaho, Oregon and Nevada. In the watersheds in these states the beautiful Dolly Varden is either officially listed as threatened or is regarded as requiring 'monitoring.' Squeezed into a narrow and steep canyon of the Jarbidge River near the town of Jarbidge, Nevada (population 14) is an old (1911) gravel road leading only to a wilderness trail head. Elko County claims to own this road, although it is located within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. The last 1½ miles of the road washed out. After considerable deliberation, the Forest Service made a preliminary decision to protect the gravel riverbed for Dolly Varden spawning and not rebuild the road. The agency asked the county to work with them to locate the trail head at the site of the washout.
This request brings us to the real issue. The Elko County Commissioners used the road washout issue as a platform for a display of their radical form of county supremacy and states rights. In the tradition of the Sagebrush Rebellion, they sent a bulldozer up the canyon to rebuild the road. In the abortive effort, only 50 feet of rough road was built. The riparian vegetation was removed and the river was channelized creating 900 feet of slow moving warm water which was very harmful to the Dolly Varden. The State of Nevada ordered the county to stop. Months later, when a Nevada state assemblyman, John Carpenter, organized a volunteer group to rebuild the road, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order for fear a confrontation between officials of the Forest Service and the volunteers would become violent. Having served in the west her entire career, Flora represented a seasoned veteran of the Sagebrush Rebellion. Skirmishes such as the Jarbidge road washout were nothing new to her. But what happened next was simply too much.
The Precursors to Resignation
The congressional hearing in Nevada organized by Representatives Helen Chenoweth-Hage, R-Idaho and Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada, was the final insult to the psychological (moral) injuries already inflicted upon Flora and her employees. Chenoweth-Hage and Gibbons announced congressional hearings on the Jarbidge matter and other matters, to be held in Elko in late November of 1999. As Chair of the House Resources Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health, Chenoweth-Hage intended to use her subpoena authority to force Forest Service officials to answer questions (Sonner, 1999a). For his part, Representative Gibbons made it known that he was prepared to use the appropriations process to withhold funding from the Forest Service (Dorsey, 1999). Chenoweth-Hage (as well as Senators Frank Murkowski, R- Alaska and Larry Craig, R- Idaho) enjoined the threat to severely cut the agency's budget (Knickerbocker, 1998).
The list of those who were to testify included employees of the Forest Service and the BLM and supposed experts, almost all of whom were critics of federal government ownership and control of western land. But even that was not unusual; such hearings are often a kind of public grandstanding for political purposes. This list of witnesses, however, included the personal attorney of Wayne Hage, Representative Chenoweth-Hage's husband who has a ten-year history of defying the federal government on his extensive land holdings in Nevada. Recall that Hage is the philosophical leader of the Sagebrush Rebellion (and author of Storm Over Rangelands. Private Rights in Federal Lands, 1994). He is currently suing the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest for $26 million over grazing and water rights on Forest Service lands.
The blatant conflict of interest was simply too much for many observers. It is interesting to note that Representative Gibbons dismissed any charges of conflict of interest in the following cavalier way: 'That's nonsense. [Chenoweth-Hage is] coming to Nevada at my request to gather facts. There's absolutely no conflict of interest in that at all. That statement I find almost to be laughable. There's no logic behind it' (Sonner, 1999a). In addition, the hearings were to be followed by a fund-raiser for Chenoweth-Hage and Gibbons!
It was clear that federal government employees were to serve as the public punching bags for Representatives Chenoweth-Hage and Gibbons prior to their fund-raiser. In the words of a Missoulian Editorial, the purpose of the hearing was 'to skewer federal employees' (1999). The political intrigue and blatant abuses of power and privilege sharpened the skewer. Flora decided that she would have none of it. In a letter to her employees dated November 8, 1999 and in advance of the congressional 'hearing,' she resigned as the Forest Supervisor for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest:
When a member of the United States Congress joins force with them, using the power of the office to stage a public inquisition of federal employees followed by a political fund-raiser, I must protest...Enough is enough...I refuse to continue to participate in this charade of normalcy (Open Letter to Employees of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, November 8, 1999).
On December 27, 1999, Jack Blackwell, Intermountain Regional Forester, appointed Robert Vaught to replace Gloria Flora as Forest Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. If one reads between the lines of the following excerpt of Blackwell's introductory speech, the implication is a lack of support for Flora and her decision:
Vaught's selection comes at a time when Forest Service relationships within the state of Nevada are strained...We heard loud and clear about the importance of selecting a new forest supervisor who understands the people, issues and culture of Nevada. I think Bob Vaught truly fits the bill...He also has a great reputation of successfully working with people. We're very pleased with the selection. Viewed from this perspective, these words can also be seen as minimizing or trivializing Flora's 22 years of professional experience with the Forest Service throughout the intermountain west, and undermine her credibility. Blackwell squandered a highly visible opportunity to voice his public support for Flora and acknowledge the full significance of her resignation, choosing instead to placate and appease local interests. Such an approach only serves to embolden her adversaries, who are likely to become Vaught's nemesis in turn (Flora, 2000a).
Nevada is ground zero for the Sagebrush Rebellion. It is not always clear whether the Sagebrush Rebels' goal is the privatization of federal lands or the overthrow of the federal government itself. As the Jarbidge episode demonstrates, there is an angry and hateful tone to their rhetoric. Some of this goes with the territory in the rural west. Running a national forest is not for the faint of heart. Employees for the Forest Service, BLM and other federal agencies endure suspicion, antagonistic attitudes, intimidation, harassment, threats and even acts of violence. In the case of Jarbidge, however, the violence and emotional rage reached a particularly high level.
A chairman of a county Public Land Use Advisory Committee in Elko, Nevada wrote a lengthy comparison of the Forest Service to the Vichy government in Nazi-occupied France. Along with accusations against specific employees, he included thinly veiled threats against collaborators. Flora states: 'To evoke the image of fascism and compare it to contemporary public land management in America is at best delusional and at worst, a disgrace to the memories of those who suffered unimaginable terror at the hands of the Nazi regime...Exaggeration and incendiary language do nothing to elucidate issues'(Flora, 2000a).
Jarbidge also exposes the growing tendency for some politicians to openly condone and exploit distrust, even going so far as to threaten armed insurrection. Flora reminds us that all elected officials, as well as Forest Service employees, sign an oath of office to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the United States. She does not take her oath of office lightly. 'Those who wish to selectively support the laws, that is, only the ones that please them personally should recognize that they are violating their oath of office and doing a disservice to the public' (Flora, 2000a).
These are the same politicians who inflame passions, rather than work to solve problems. A letter written on December 30, 1998 by Gary Woodbury, the District Attorney in Elko County, urged an economic boycott against Forest Service employees. He stated, 'Don't sell goods or services to them until they come to their senses' (Associated Press, 2000). As a further example, Tony Lesperance, an Elko County Commissioner, said: 'Ultimately the issue is who owns the county, the federal government or the people. We will rebuild the road, come hell or high water...We are not afraid to defy...the Forest Service or anybody else' (Vogel, 1999). In September of 1999, Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, spearheaded the citizen movement against the closure of the South Canyon Road and encouraged their rebellion. Thousands of shovels were sent to Elko to arm the rebels in their war against the federal government. In January 2000, a 28-foot shovel was erected in front of the Elko County Courthouse, a symbol of the Shovel Brigade rebels.
For his part, the Governor of Nevada, Kenny Guinn, fueled the fire by publicly supporting the protests against the Forest Service: 'Sometimes the only way to get their attention is to stand up for our rights' (Sonner, 2000). These and other elected officials have come to characterize the federal government as engaging in a war on the west. Changing a policy regarding drilling or endangered species protection is not warfare, and public servants are not enemies. Flora advocates a different approach civil discourse. 'One of the least effective ways of seeking resolution is to vilify the federal employees who are stewards of this land we all share. What sense does it make to shoot the messengers?' (Flora, 2000a).
For a small minority in Elko, Nevada, fed-bashing is a favorite past-time. The public is largely silent, watching as if this were a spectator sport. Flora described an 'open season' on federal employees in Nevada, and fed-bashing as a 'state-sanctioned sport.' In Elko this is politically-correct behavior. To Flora fed-bashing is the dark side of the lack of civility and is synonymous with racism. 'You pick a class of people, you decide they are the source of your problems and you proceed to systematically make them unwelcome in your community? In response to my expressed concerns about the treatment of my employees and their families in Nevada, a member of Congress casually quipped, 'You're federal employees, what do you expect?" (Flora, 2000a).
In a telephone interview, Flora recounted the story of a woman who publicly voiced her objection to the shovel monument. This woman is married to a prominent local doctor but doesn't share his last name. In response to her criticism, Assemblyman John Carpenter telephoned the woman at 7 a.m. at her home the following morning and said, 'we know who your husband is.' He then broadcast the name of her husband on the radio -- the purpose being to publicly castigate a member of the community as a 'collaborator.' Such hostile tactics serve to mute further dissension. Public voices are intimidated and silenced.
In her Open Letter to Employees upon her resignation, Flora refers to a lack of voice in the Forest Service. 'All people have a right to speak? However, I learned that in Nevada, as a federal employee, you have no right to speak, no right to do your job and certainly no right to be treated with respect.' As Supervisor, Flora was the frequent target of verbal abuse. 'When I speak against the diatribes and half-truths of the Sagebrush Rebellion, I am labeled a liar and personally vilified in an attempt to silence me.' The attacks on Flora were sometimes personal. Her husband, Marc, responded to an editorial in the Elko Daily Free Press that was the latest in numerous personal attacks against Flora.
Fully aware that the Elko Daily Free Press was owned by an ultra-conservative group, Marc wrote a very heartfelt letter to the editor, asking that the editor stop the personal attacks against Gloria because they are false and they are fomenting violence. The editor replied that he was not at the point of advocating violence yet, but it will happen! He had no intention of stopping the personal attacks, and called Flora a duplicitous liar. In a series of exchanges between Marc Flora and the editor, the editor concluded, 'well obviously your wife couldn't take it and you are both dirt bags.' The fact that Flora was a woman provided further fuel for the personal criticisms. For example, responding to her resignation, the Chairman of the Elko County Republican Party is quoted as saying that she 'had some kind of a breakdown and decided she'd rather quit than testify (Foster, 2000).
Flora had resigned, but her allegations of harassment and discrimination against her staff prompted Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck and Regional Forester Jack Blackwell to investigate the situation. A team of five investigators was sent to the area to interview employees, citizens, public officials and a tribal representative about their perceptions of the 'working environment for employees and the quality of external relationships'(Fact Finding Report, February 4, 2000). In their 22-page report, the team concluded, in part, that there were 'no incidents worthy of attention from the Justice Department' (Morrison, 2000). This finding essentially misses the point. Much of the harassment was of non-prosecutorial character such is the nature of harassment, intimidation, and ostracism.
However, the internal investigation was not the only inquiry. The Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a non-profit group which serves as an advocate for federal employees facing harassment, completed its own investigation and made their findings public. PEER was openly critical of Nevada's U.S. Attorney, Kathryn Landreth, for her unwillingness to prosecute criminal complaints brought forth by the Forest Service, including criminal acts other than the harassment of individuals. Landreth's office has declined to prosecute dozens of cases referred to it by the Forest Service since 1990 at least 21 felonies and 52 misdemeanors involving more than 100 people (Sonner, 1999b). PEER's statistics show that from 1992 to 1998, only eight prosecutions were brought of 18 cases that were referred for prosecution. The record of the Landreth's office ranks in the bottom quarter (36th out of 47th) among U.S. attorneys with measurable referrals in terms of willingness to act on complaints lodged by the Forest Service.
According to PEER's National Field Director, 'the record of the U.S. attorney in Nevada suggests that environmental crimes committed on the Humboldt-Toiyabe will go unpunished' (PEER, 2000). Moreover, the Director of Law Enforcement and Investigations for the U.S. Forest Service estimates his agency's employees and property are attacked 350 times a year. 'Forest Service offices have been the targets of several recent bombings and arsons. None of them have been solved by authorities' (PEER, 1997). Taken together, Flora's charges, rather than being the 'hysterical exaggerations' that Representative Chenoweth-Hage suggests, appear to understate the problem.
In a telephone interview, Flora called the Forest Service Investigative Report 'sad.' She said that the investigative team was a fine group of people who did the best they could. But it was a neutral, bureaucratic report. She characterized the report as 'Dickensonian.' Moreover, people lied to the investigators. At a public hearing on the roadless initiative, Elko County officials addressed the crowd in true Sagebrush Rebellion language, a far cry from the collaboration and cooperation they professed to support to the investigators just that same morning.
Flora recounted a four month collaborative effort to resolve the Jarbidge situation. During the final meeting, two Elko County Commissioners and State Assemblyman Carpenter had taken a conciliatory tone with the group, reaching consensus on the scientific evidence that to rebuild the South Canyon Road would harm bull trout. Less than 24 hours later when speaking to the press the Commissioners backtracked, stating that they had in fact rejected the evidence. Those who were witness to this reversal, including Senator Harry Reid's Chief of Staff, were silent. The internal investigative report effectively muted Flora's message, and the collective allegations were white-washed.
Where Things Stand
The South Canyon Road has not been rebuilt. The issue of ownership over the road remains unresolved. Elko County claims ownership under Nevada Revised Statute 2477 which refers to the 1866 Mining Act which holds that a right of way for roads across public lands not previously reserved is hereby granted. The Forest Service disputes this claim. In March of 2000, in an effort to settle the dispute, a Federal District Court Judge ordered all parties into mediation. In June, at the conclusion of the mediation, a proposed settlement was placed before the County Commissioners, who have since refused to accede. The Deputy District Attorney has advised the Commissioners that there is no practical difference between the Mediation Right of Way, and the RS 2477 Right of Way.
The County has sought outside legal opinion, and the issue remains in limbo. In July, Nevada's U.S. Attorney Kathryn Landreth notified the Court that the Forest Service and the Fish & Wildlife Service do not intend to permit the County to sit indefinitely on this proposed settlement. Accordingly, in early September, a motion to lift the court order stay was filed. At the end of September, the District Judge issued an order saying he too is not going to allow this to remain in limbo. He has given the parties until November 22 of 2000 to either agree to a settlement or proceed with litigation.
Flora's insights into this standoff are revealing. She is convinced that the County is not in this for mediation, they're in it for victory, success in throwing the federal government out of Elko County. She refers to the minutes of the Commissioner's meetings which illuminate their goal: '[we have] got to win, have to win the revolution?we must overthrow the tyranny of the national government.' Given such intransigence, it appears unlikely there will be any peaceful and lasting resolution, despite the efforts of Flora and her successor.
The New Man in Charge
Flora's successor began his appointment as Supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe
National Forest in February of 2000. In order to gain a sense of his relationship with his employees and with the Jarbidge cast of characters -- some 10 months into his appointment -- we interviewed a long-time manager in the Forest Service stationed on the Humboldt-Toiyabe (and who prefers to remain anonymous). This person's insights into his leadership style provide a stark contrast to those of his predecessor. This employee recounted that his selection was initially accepted within the agency as he was held in high regard during his tenure as District Ranger in Austin, Nevada in the 1980s. He brought to the job considerable goodwill, both with Nevadans and with the Humboldt-
This goodwill with his staff quickly evaporated. This is what we were told: 'Since that time, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who holds him in high regard. His motivations have changed. What motivates him today are relationships dictated by politics. Because politics tends to be a transitory function, it's not something that gives the Forest Service a rooting in what we feel is important. Forest Service employees are all motivated by a belief that we are making the hard choices for the right reasons, namely, good stewardship of the land. Gloria Flora exemplified this, as did her predecessor. Gloria was able to make the hard decisions. We were willing to take the knocks because of the belief that we were doing the good job. This has now been undermined' (telephone interview, October 14, 2000).
The Flora Legacy
We asked our contact about Flora's legacy. These are some of the things that were said: 'One of the things that I think Gloria left us in Nevada was feeling good about ourselves. It's been a rough haul for the Forest Service in Nevada. Gloria came in at a time when the previous Forest Supervisor had retired under a cloud. Gloria came in and helped us feel good about ourselves. She recognized people for what they could contribute to the Forest Service. She recognized how each individual was a part of the whole and, regardless of rank and position, was equally valuable. This leadership style is part of her legacy here.'
The commentary continued: 'That 'feel good' sentiment changed when Gloria left. Some people were hurt. Some women took it personally they felt abandoned to some extent, and concerned that her resignation was a sign of weakness. They don't feel that way now. The initial hurt was just a reaction to the decision. Now they see it as an act of courage to give up a promising career, to possibly become the first female Chief of the agency. She was a role model for a number of women who were just enamoured and wowed by her leadership style that it's OK to be a strong woman, that it's not an oxymoron. Gloria brought intelligence and courage to her position. She is well read and is able to process and utilize information. The bottom line is that she spoke truthfully and wouldn't sugarcoat things, but she did so in a manner that is respectful of people.' As an aside, our interview ended as follows: 'Jarbidge is like a soap opera. When we need to smile, we refer to Jarbidge, the Musical!'
How has Flora fared? What wounds did Jarbidge inflict, and have they healed? Does she feel differently now about her moral stance than she did immediately upon resigning? We asked her these and other questions, and here are some of the things she said. We also refer to her September of 2000 speech, 'Letting Spirit Inspire Action' (Flora, 2000b).
First, this was a high-profile resignation to underscore the significance of issues associated with the open and sanctioned mistreatment of federal civil servants. She simply could no longer stand by and not speak out for all of the employees under her supervision. By leaving, she gave voice to these important issues.
Second, there are only a few things that draw attention to such issues -- bombings, killings (one thinks of Oklahoma City) or high-profile resignations. She could not openly criticize elected officials and still supervise the forest. So she chose to be openly critical.
Third, the price was high. Her decision may have effectively terminated her career in the Forest Service. She was two-and-a-half years away from being vested in Civil Service retirement.
Fourth, she is healing well. She views all trauma as growth opportunities. She does not consider herself a victim. She has no regrets.
Fifth, she feels very fortunate that she was in the right place at the right time to make a positive difference at the Rocky Mountain Front and Humboldt-Toiyabe.
Sixth, honesty, integrity and ethical behavior are the qualities necessary to ensure right action. Compromise in determining specific action, but don't compromise values. To protect resource integrity, kick butt but kick it compassionately.
Seventh, she offers up the following benediction: Let us make peace with the life force, befriend our fellow creatures and speak for the voiceless wilderness. In the spiral of time, when the eyes of the future gaze into ours, pray we see no tears because we failed to act.
From the time she was hired on with the Forest Service 23 years ago, Gloria Flora has been at the forefront of changes in the west. As a reformist, she heralded the rise of a new generation of conservation-minded Forest Service managers. She saw her influence grow as the Forest Service adopted 'ecosystem management' as its mantra (Foster, 2000). Flora is the epitome of an exemplary public administrator, displaying extraordinary character and leadership in the service of the government a form of moral patriotism. Her courage earned Flora the Wilderness Society's Public Land Manager of the Year Award in recognition of taking 'significant risks' to promote environmental conservation.
These risks culminated in her decision to resign. Reflecting upon Hirschman's (1970) thesis, Flora's voice was not being heard, and when the safety of her subordinates was compromised, exit was her only option. In order to better understand Flora's reasoning, we asked her about her motivation, values, and about issues of character and moral work, as well as the lessons from her story.
Flora was motivated to act as she did out of a sense of responsibility. Although her decision to exit with voice had negative effects on herself and her family, she believes her actions were for the greatest positive benefit for the greatest number of people. She was able to make this and earlier hard decisions by drawing on her values integrity and honesty from her parents, and ethical behavior and personal responsibility from her experience. Her values include a profound respect for the land. She also learned from people who behave poorly they are great teachers in how not to act. She is very concerned with growing evidence of unsustainable consumption and the destruction of natural resources. She feels strongly that if you live by your values, every choice you make and every life you touch should be a demonstration of those values. She describes her moral work as respect for the earth and respect for other people -- a high moral charge. Flora believes one should follow their highest sense of ethical behavior and choice and live congruently with those values. Social and environmental conditions are uplifted when people share their gifts and talents for the common good.
For the practice and study of public administration, the story of Gloria Flora is a moral example of why it is sometimes necessary to exercise the options to exit and speak out. It is a lesson that career survival is sometimes a failure to do what is right. It is a lesson that personal integrity will always trump career, money, or power.
It could be argued that public administration leaders such as Gloria Flora should always be neutral and objective. The evidence indicates that great public management leaders are seldom neutral. Would we want a school superintendent who is neutral about education? No. Would we want the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be neutral about national defense? No. We expect our leaders to be passionately engaged in the work of their agencies and dedicated to its purposes. Flora represents a deep dedication to environmental issues and is not neutral about them. Her philosophy is captured by the words of Aldo Leopold:
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect. There is no other way for land to survive the impact of mechanized man, nor for us to reap from it the esthetic harvest it is capable, under science, of contributing to culture. That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics (as cited in Wilkinson, 1998).
But, by all evidence available to use, she is objective in the day-to-day work of the agencies for which she has been responsible.
What is Flora doing now? She is currently on leave without pay from the Forest Service and continues to be very active in her professional pursuits. She lives with her husband Marc in Helena, Montana. She speaks frequently on the sustainability of natural resources on public lands, and conducts research into the development of techniques for incorporating sustainability criteria into public land management. Flora is far from unemployable. She has left the door open with the Forest Service and may be considering other possibilities as well. She feels fully reconciled with what happened, has no regrets, and is ready for the next assignment. 'The best thing about this issue is that it is history for me'(personal communication, October 22, 2000).
About the Authors:
H. George Frederickson is the Edwin O. Stene Distinguished Professor of Public Administration at the University of Kansas. He is President Emeritus of Eastern Washington University, a past president of the American Society for Public Administration, a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration, and has received the Waldo, Gaus, and Distinguished Research Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory.
Meredith A. Newman is an Associate Professor of Public Affairs at Washington State University Vancouver. Her articles on public management appear in a number of scholarly journals, including Public Administration Review, and American Review of Public Administration. Newman is a past National Council Representative of the American Society for Public Administration, and the recipient of the 1998 Distinguished Research Award for best research on women in public administration, awarded by ASPA.
The research assistance of Kelly Benson, Andrea Breyton, Sharon Brown, William Ezell, and Alyson Galloway is gratefully acknowledged.
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This story came to light on a National Public Radio Morning Edition piece on Flora's resignation and Elko County by Howard Berkes on March 28, 2000. Flora is referring to Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' which begins with the line: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times?'.