A solution may be in sight for a controversy that erupted after local photographer Bob Hosea announced on Facebook that the U.S. Forest Service would no longer allow him and Tom Horelick to mount a flag at the Northwest Peak, near Yaak.
After a Wednesday meeting, Hosea said a solution was on the horizon.
Hosea and Horelick met with Kirsten Kaiser, the district ranger at Three Rivers Ranger District in Troy, and Cheryl Probert, interim Kootenai National Forest supervisor.
Hosea said they went over ways that the previous display of the flag had not met with United States Department of Agriculture regulations for displaying flags when left unattended.
“They were pretty open minded and offered possible solutions. We came up with a few ideas that they will need to check on to make sure that we will be following the regulations with them,” he said.
They are waiting to hear back from the Forest Service, Hosea said. “It was a good meeting with them though.”
On June 7, Kaiser said that displaying the flag fell under regulations for display of monuments.
Normally, under Forest Service regulations regarding use and occupancy of federal lands, no monuments are permitted, she said.
“However, we now know the level of interest in permitting the flag at the lookout on northwest peaks, and we’re working with the proponents to ensure our flag protocols can be followed,” she said.
In a June 6 Facebook post, Hosea said that he had been contacted by Kaiser and told that the flying of the flag at the lookout on the peak would no longer be allowed.
“Over the past few years I’ve talked with hundreds of people, both in person and on-line, about the flag flying on Northwest Peak. I can honestly say that 99% of the people that I’ve talked to about it are in favor of it being there,” Hosea posted to the TheBobFactor.com Facebook page.
Hosea said the lighting could be better for the flag, which remains up at night, but that there are solar-powered LED lights for lighting it. They also use a heavy duty flagpole and “a high quality, heavily stitched, flag.”
Hosea and Horelick have placed the flag every summer “for many years now,” he posted. They remove it every fall.
In 2018, Horelick and Hosea were told they needed a permit, Hosea posted.
In a phone call June 7, Kaiser said that a permit for placing a monument on federal land was not a new requirement in 2018, but that the requirement simply had not been enforced in previous years.
In his June 6 post, Hosea stated that Kaiser told him of negative comments about the flag placement.
“One of the negative comments was someone telling her that they had found remnants of the flag up there last year. And that bothered them. But last year we had massive wildfires in the area, and this area was totally closed to everyone,” he posted.
Hosea included the now-iconic picture of a fire crew standing in front of the lookout wrapped in fire-resistant material.
“We were not able to go up and take the flag down when the fires started. But, it was taken down for us by the fire crew shown here in this picture a few weeks after I put it up,” he posted.
Shortly after the post was made, Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck joined the many other commenters who were supportive of the flag being on the peak.
Peck stated that he had reached out to Probert, who would be reaching out to Kaiser and getting back to Peck.