Oregon Guides and Guide Services
The US Forest Service and the OMA
Timeline of Actual Events
For the past 7 years the Oregon Mountaineering Association has been used by the US Forest Service as a means of mounting a vengeful attack on an individual. This page offers essentially complete disclosure of known events and actions to date and has links to more details as well as interesting correspondence, including a FOIA request and its denial. Another letter requesting a reply from an official at the national level is pending.
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Timeline of Actual Events
March 1999 – The Mt Hood National Forest sent a notice to the OMA that a special use permit was required to conduct our avalanche safety course once or twice per year. A member agreed to obtain the required permit in their name and under their own insurance on behalf of the OMA so that their classes could continue. An application was submitted and no problems were mentioned.
July 1999 – Mt Hood National Forest ranger Glenn KESSLER encountered an OMA class participant at the Tilly Jane road turn-off on the north side of Mt Hood and interrogated him. He found the rest of the group further up the road and had a discussion with them over commercial use permits and private vs. club trips. Nobody was ever contacted following this, even though a citation was issued.
August 1999 – After receiving OMA course information through local guide Doug IRONSIDE, KESSLER sought out another OMA course. He spent Saturday, by his own written account, spying on the group with a telescope from Cloud Cap Inn. On Sunday he hiked up the glacier to the group of about six members and began to aggressively interrogate one member until another asked if people had a right to remain silent. (Which they do, and this halted the interrogations.) KESSLER issued a citation on the spot. Two additional OMA classes were held following this, but the target of KESSLERS actions did not participate in any of the field sessions on Forest Service property and no leaders or members were approached or contacted over these classes.
October 1999 - The first two petty offense charges were set for the monthly CVB hearing in federal court in Portland.
December 1999 – Ranger KESSLER began operating his own private sector avalanche course program on Mt Hood under the name Mountainsavvy. He was still a Forest Service employee. Despite the fact that the citations had been dropped the OMA was told they would no longer receive any permits of any kind. (Other non-employee applicants have also been denied permits on the forest without any basis on objective criteria or qualifications.)
February 2000 - The first two petty offense charges were dismissed by the US Attorneys office rather than taking them before a full District Judge.
June 2000 – Two OMA members, while climbing the Sandy Glacier headwall on Mt Hood, were injured by falling rocks. Immediately upon release from the hospital one member was contacted by numerous media reporters who inquired about the history of “guiding without a permit” (for which guilt had never been established) as well as other entirely unrelated issues which had no relevancy to the accident. One reporter stated that he had been proactively called on the phone by an employee of the Mt Hood National Forest. We later established via our own anonymous sources that it was Mr Kessler who was contacting the press. Forest Service employees (in particular Glenn Kessler) were taking advantage of an injury accident to anonymously slander somebody who was in the hospital - for all they knew with serious or life-threatening injuries.
September 2000 - A letter was sent to a national level employee of the Forest Service in Washington inquiring about the ethics implications of several of the things which had occurred up to this point. No written response was ever received, but a few months later a full-scale investigation was initiated by Region 6. The disposition of the letter sent to Washington remains unknown at this time, but the amount of time between the letter and the start of the investigation is about the amount of time it would take to prepare an investigative plan and assign an agent.
April 2001 – A US Forest Service Special Agent infiltrated the OMA, a club of under 50 members which was conducting no more than half a dozen trips or classes per year. The agent did this by signing the membership form which disclaims any intent to use their association membership to entrap or otherwise investigate any individual. He signed this form using a false name. He then proceeded to enroll in an OMA avalanche class.
May 2001 – The following was received via e-mail – “I was just up on Mt Hood this last weekend instructing a mountaineering course for OSU. I thought you should have a heads up while you are climbing on Mt. Hood in the future. It seems that the Forest Service really has it out for you.” ... “Anyways, a member of the Forest Service skied up to our group as we were ascending under the Palmer lift and asked for the leader of the group. That being myself, he began to ask questions as to what we were doing up there and with whom I was affiliated. It seems that they are on the lookout for the OMA. What I understood the problem to be was that they think there have been guided climbs done on the mountain without a permit under the guise of the OMA. Anyways, just keep your head up and be careful out there. It really is too bad however the situation came to this.”
[Note that the OMA has never in its history done an official climb on Mt Hood, nor has anything attributable to the OMA been arranged privately without notice being given to all members if not the general public as well. The statements made in this case by the Forest Service are false, unsupported, and slanderous. The fact that they are running around the mountain looking for trips which have never taken place is laughable. It's no wonder they never seem to have enough law enforcement.]
October 2001 – The special agent who was infiltrating the OMA joined the group on a climb of Three Fingered Jack. His footing and climbing were a bit precarious but fortunately he survived unscathed. It's a good thing we use waivers.
September 2002 – At a conference KESSLER was seen speaking with numerous people in whispered voices while glancing around to see who might be watching. A participant later inquired about the ongoing problems over allegedly guiding without a permit. We remained unaware of the Forest Service infiltration of the OMA, of the subpoenaing of bank records, and of the existence of a current investigation file. This question was shrugged of as referring to the 1999 charges which had been dropped. . It appears that the investigation file which was delivered in May of 2003, with a Privacy Act notice on the front of it, was being discussed with a variety of people by KESSLER even while those investigated had not been made aware of it existence.
Oct 2002 – The president of the OSU mountain club indicated that there was a vocal (but small) group who felt uncomfortable with the OMA. This group seems to be centered around those active with the campus Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC). Reasons cited included ongoing Forest Service problems. One of the ORC managers worked for KESSLER and guides on Mt Rainier where KESSLER is now employed as a climbing ranger. It appears once again that the investigation file, with the Privacy Act notice on the front of it, had been discussed with a variety of people by KESSLER and his employees.
April 2003 – A Forest Service special agent tracked down the OMA member who is the target of all of this and hand delivered two citations for offenses identical to those dropped in 1999. These were for the avalanche class and climb which their agent had attended. The tickets had no entries for the court date or fine. The agent indicated that it would be possible to discuss a settlement and that a court date could be set later a mutually convenient time. The individual discussed his schedule with her, including the fact that he expected to be out of the country in early June. She verbally confirmed that the July monthly hearing would be tentatively assumed and made a note of some kind. It was indicated that before any settlement discussions or court proceedings we wanted to see their documentation per judicial discovery requirements. This was delivered a few days later in the form of a 100 page investigative report filled with errors ranging from factual to grammatical.
May 2003 – The leader who had been contacted received a notice for a mandatory CVB hearing appearance at the Federal Court in Portland on June 6. This notice was received less than two weeks before the court date. (Legally there is a requirement for 30 days notice.) The individual had told US Forest Service Special Agent Tiffany Chou that they had expected to be away at this time and had understood her to have confirmed, in good faith, a tentative appearance for July. Fortunately the members plans had changed.
Summer 2003 - A meeting to discuss potential settlement out of court was held between the subject of the investigation, Special Agent Tiffany Chou, and an Assistant US Attorney. The Forest Service requested payment of the special use permit fees they would have collected if they had just permitted the OMA classes and reimbursement of the Special Agents fees for membership as well as for the class and climb!.
It was indicated at the time that this might be acceptable. Meanwhile further legal advice was sought. Weeks later the Assistant US Attorney made contact to discuss the fees itemized by the Forest Service, which now included everything down to gas money and money order fees spent by their agent. It was agreed that this was not in accordance with what had been discussed in the meeting and the attorney was to take the matter back to the Forest Service for reconsideration. Nothing more has been heard since that time. But the Forest Service is no doubt continuing their surveillance and investigation, at great public expense.
February 2004 - KESSLER was implicated in the writing of a fraudulent check to the Avalanche Center. As a result of this we were also tipped off that DOUG IRONSIDE had a history of stealing checks from another climber and passing them off at a local climbing shop. We obtained the police report to confirm this.
The OMA has not offered any additional classes or climbs, and if any are offered in the future they will not be on lands owned and controlled by the Forest Service. We
would like to think that this removes us from what is most certainly a personal battle, although it seems that they have been unable in the past to find any other channels through which to justify their actions and because of this they will no doubt be watching out for anything we might be doing on their lands.
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