February 22 was a seemingly normal, snowless day at Taos Ski Valley outside of Taos, New Mexico. That is, until the U.S. Forest Service showed up and started treating the place like the scene of a major crime in progress.
Instead of focusing on real problems in our national forests like poaching, four armed Forest Service agents wearing flak jackets took a drug dog around the resort parking lot and to cars along the side of the road to bust pot smokers (and people with cracked windshields).
They apparently didn't come up with much after their hours-long search; only a few tickets and warnings for minor possession of marijuana were issued. The rangers said they were doing it in response to a fight at the base area a few weeks before where they say recreational boozing and drug use was the main catalyst.
They also seem to have been pissed off by the lack of any actual crime being committed that they reached deep down into their book of laws to write cracked windshield tickets to people. To many in the fiercely independent and historically anti-establishment community of Taos, it was a slap in the face from the Forest Service. That includes former New Mexico governor and past presidential candidate Gary Johnson who said the agents were "jack booted thugs".
Roy Luck/Flickr Parking lots and cars on side roads just beyond the skill hill.
Forest Service Agent in Charge Robin Pogue said he had some major concerns with the actions of the agents and admitted that their actions probably looked pretty bad to the community. Pogue said he will be bringing in the patrol captain next week for a review.
"I apologize for the unintended message which may have been received by members of the public," he told the Taos News. "I do have concerns about the tone of the law enforcement activities up there."
But he nevertheless still stood by their actions. "The officers were up their doing their job," Poague said. "That said, we try to balance our mission with public perception. Sometime we don't get it right. That's why we have this after-action review."
But Johnson, a Taos resident, says any review findings they issue will be a load of crap. "The whole notion of an 'action review' is BS because they know what went down," Johnson told New Mexico Watchdog. "People here are 100 percent pissed off ... What are these guys doing wearing bullet-proof vests? Law enforcement on the forest service is separate from Ranger Rick. It's driven by I don't know who but let's find out who ... Do we need Homeland Security as another layer of so-called protection? Well, we're getting it. It's here. In the name of (preventing) terrorism and drug enforcement, they can do it. Where is the due process?"
Poague said there was no timeline on when the review of the sweep will be completed.