letter from Rep. Edwards

23 Nov 1993 00:40:24


Congress of the United States
House of Representatives

November 1, 1993

The Honorable Mike Espy
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Secretary Espy:

I am writing to share with you my concerns about a proposed
rule, currently under consideration by the Forest Service, that
has serious First Amendment implications. The rule, which would
amend the permit requirements for the use of the National Forest
System, was proposed in the May 6, 1993 Federal Register.

The proposed rule is the latest in a series of actions by
the Forest Service that have threatened to infringe on the First
Amendment. A rule on these matters was first promulgated in
1984. It drew a distinction between "group events for the public
Forests, setting different permit standards for events involving
the expression of views. In 1986, a federal district court found
that the rule was unconstitutional under the First Amendment
because it singled out expressive conduct for differential

In 1988, the Forest Service amended the rule, but did so
without complying with the Administrative Procedures Act.
Consequently, another Federal District Court found the revised
rule invalid.

The Forest Service is now trying a third time, and I am
concerned that the latest proposal still fails to meet First
Amendment standards. Indeed, the proposed rule still singles out
expressive activity. The proposed rule creates a special
category of activity, called "non-commercial distribution of
printed material," which is defined to include soliciting
signatures in conjunction with the distribution of printed
material. The proposed rule subjects such activity to different
treatment in the permit process.

The Honorable Mike Espy
November 1, 1993
Page Two
This distinction would produce some strange results. For
example, under the proposed rule a single person soliciting
signatures on a petition in a National Forest and passing out
leaflets would have to obtain a special use permit, while a
camping group consisting of 24 people, cars and horses would not
have to obtain a special use permit.

I am concerned that such distinctions do not rationally
further a significant government interest and that a proposed
regulations are not narrowly tailored. Therefore, i urge you to
carefully review this matter. It may be that the Forest Service,
rather than continuing to pursue an effort now nearly ten years
old that draws distinctions based on expressive conduct, should
take a broader look at the question of use of the National

With kindest regards.


Don Edwards
Subcommittee on Civil and
Constitutional Rights


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