Agriculture Secretary Apologizes for Flagpole Order

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman apologized Monday for what she called a "misunderstanding" in the U.S. Forest Service ordering a vacationer to remove from his summer cabin a flagpole that had been flying the American flag.

Veneman said that "as a gesture of good will," the Agriculture Department would send an American flag that flew over the agency's offices in Washington to Army veteran and former police officer David Knickerbocker of Linden, Calif.

Knickerbocker was ordered to remove the flagpole outside his summer cabin in California's Eldorado National Forest. He complained to Rep. Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., who demanded the Forest Service rescind the order. 

"We apologize for the misunderstanding," Veneman wrote Pombo. "Please be assured that Mr. Knickerbocker's permit will be modified to allow the flagpole to remain at his recreation residence site." 

A forester made "an honest mistake" in thinking the flagpole had to be removed rather than amend the permit for what is considered a construction improvement, said Mark Rey, the Agriculture Department undersecretary who oversees the Forest Service. 

"Certainly, the flying of the American flag in our national forests is not discouraged," Veneman said in a letter to Pombo. "Rather, I think what happened here was a need to insert more sensitivity into our inspection and permitting process."