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November 14, 2004 04:17PM
The Press Enterprise by Ben Goad

"San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor Gene Zimmerman has denied charges made in a federal lawsuit that he abused his authority by halting the construction of a 100-unit condominium development near Big Bear Lake.

Zimmerman also defended two U.S. Forest Service scientists, who are accused in the lawsuit of fabricating reports about the status of the area's bald eagle population and otherwise using their positions to derail the project.

Lawyers for the Marina Point Development on the lake's north shore accuse biologist Robin Eliason and her husband, botanist Scott Eliason, of influencing governmental decisions to further their personal agenda.

The Eliasons, who own a home in nearby Fawnskin, would stand to benefit financially if the project were halted, said the developers' lawyer, Wayne Rosenbaum. The laws of supply and demand dictate that the Eliasons' home would be more valuable with less available housing in the area, Rosenbaum said.

He alleges that the couple, with support from Zimmerman, raised undue concerns about the project's effect on bald eagle habitat, effectively stopping the project so the Forest Service could try to snatch up the property at a deflated price.

Zimmerman acknowledged coveting the land in question, but said he believes the Eliasons' concerns over the declining population of the threatened birds are genuine and well founded.

"I have the highest regard for both Robin and Scott Eliason. I find it really hard to believe they would do anything like that," Zimmerman said in a Tuesday phone interview. "I don't think anyone did anything wrong."

Rosenbaum said he has obtained several e-mails from the hard drive of Robin Eliason's Forest Service computer and other documents that show the couple, with Zimmerman's backing, tried to stop the development by any means necessary. .........................."

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U.S. Forest Service Public / Private Agenda

katrina island 1386November 14, 2004 04:17PM

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