August 22, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 34

USFS dismisses daycare operator's citation, fine

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski intervened on behalf a Wrangell daycare operator after a US Forest Service officer issued her a citation in July for picnicking with her daycare children at Middle Ridge in the Tongass National Forest.

US Forest Service Law enforcement officer Doug Ault fined Marilyn Mork $375 for operating a business on federal land without a permit.

Mork said former U.S. Senator Frank Murkowski caught wind of the situation, made a copy of the citation and sent it to his daughter, Senator Murkowski.

Murkowski happened to be meeting with Tom Tidwell, USFS Chief, at the time and, according to a press release, addressed the issue with Tidwell. The USFS later agreed to dismiss the citation.

Sen. Murkowski later brought the issue up at a Federal Overreach Summit in Anchorage.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress, or a U.S. Senator getting personally involved to ensure Alaskans are treated fairly,” said Murkowski during the summit. “This disregard for common sense by the U.S. Forest Service – by penalizing a woman taking a handful of kids out for a simple picnic – is the latest in a dismal tradition of top down policymaking in DC hitting Alaskans in the pocketbook and chipping away at our state’s unique culture.”

Mork said she isn’t the only one relieved by the decision.

“My kids really appreciate it,” Mork said. “They’re saying, ‘We can go on a picnic again!’”

Mork added she is thankful to the state and especially the Murkowskis for getting involved.

According to a previous Sentinel report, the citation from Ault was written under federal law 36 CFR 261.10(k), which states it is illegal for “Use or occupancy of National Forest System land or facilities without special-use authorization when such authorization is required.”

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