Forest rangers alter warning to hikers

DENVER — U.S. Forest Service officials apologized again Tuesday for what they called “regrettable references” about Latinos during a news conference last month.

“We sincerely apologize to the Hispanic community and anyone else we may have offended.” Rick Cables, a forester with the Rocky Mountain Region of the Forest Service, said in a statement. “That was not our intent.”

This was the second time the Forest Service apologized for an Aug. 26 incident during which Gil Quintana, special agent in charge of law enforcement in the Rocky Mountain Region, briefed reporters, the public and drug enforcement officers about pot-growing operations in the Pike National Forest.

Forest rangers have said that the growing operations could be a safety hazard for hikers who may stumble upon armed farmers in the woods.

Quintana used PowerPoint slides to discuss warning signs of drug-related activity. The slides said hikers should be aware of food wrappers on the trail, including “tortilla packaging, beer cans, Spam, tuna, Tecate beer cans, etc.” — and campers playing Spanish music, among other signs.

The presentation also noted the warning signs “may or may not represent criminal activities, but are indicators.”

Latino leaders quickly condemned the remarks, calling them discriminatory and saying they could put Latino campers in danger. The Forest Service apologized and retracted the warnings soon thereafter.

Read the full story on The Denver Post Web site.