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Agriculture chief apologizes for flag flap

Agriculture chief says flagpoles are allowed in national forests.
Agriculture chief says flagpoles are allowed in national forests.  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman has called an order to remove poles flying the U.S. flag from recreational forestland a "misunderstanding."

Veneman responded Monday to a complaint from U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-California, who was angered after a constituent was told to remove a flagpole from his summer cabin property in California's Eldorado National Forest.

The order stemmed from a question over permits.

"I think what happened here was a need to insert more sensitivity into our inspection and permitting process," Veneman wrote in a letter to Pombo. "We apologize for the misunderstanding."

Pombo wrote to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth on Friday asking him to overturn the flagpole order after David Knickerbocker, who rents property on U.S. forestland, received a letter from the Forest Service telling him to remove the pole. Knickerbocker then complained to Pombo.

Veneman said the flying of the American flag in national forests is not discouraged, pointing out that the flag flies at all ranger district and forest supervisor offices in national forests. She said Knickerbocker's permit to use his land "will be modified to allow the flagpole to remain at his recreation residence site."

She said the Forest Service would work with other residents on recreation lands to "accommodate improvements" to recreation sites.

As a goodwill gesture, Veneman said, the Agriculture Department was sending Knickerbocker an American flag that has flown over its Washington offices.




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