The Bureaucratic Run-Around: A Typical Tale?

February 10, 2015

Inside Insight

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

bureaucratic run- around

GO AHEAD, APPLY FOR THIS PERMIT

Evan has been a hunter all his life. He’s now 73, and a case of acute asthma keeps him from walking more than 20 or 30 yards without becoming so winded as to be incapacitated.

“I’ve had asthma since I was three,” he tells me. “It’s gotten much worse over the last few years, though. Can’t hardly walk out to the garage and back without having to sit down.”

Until recently, Evan hunted at various places within the Francis Marion National Forest. If you hunt on publicly owned lands, though, you have to walk – a lot. All-Terrain Vehicles, or ATVs, aren’t permitted.

That rules Evan out. “If I walk very far into the woods,” he says, “I won’t have the wind to get out.”

A few months ago, though, some friends – as well as a South Carolina game warden – told him he could apply for a permit to use an ATV on lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources. Sure enough: the Mobility Impaired Vehicle Permit “allows permanently physically disabled persons enhanced access to selected portions of DNR Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).” With one of these permits, you can operate a “vehicle” – typically an ATV – on “established, well defined roads” within “selected portions” of DNR-managed lands.

So he applied. First he sent the application – including a Certification of Disability filled out by his doctor – to the DNR regional office (Region 4) specified on the application form.

Weeks went by, but no response.

“So when I didn’t hear back from them, I called the regional office. They said they don’t issue those permits and that I’d have to send it to Columbia. Well the application specifically says to send it to the regional office. And they could have called or written to tell me this rather than just doing nothing about it. But no big deal.”

He sent it to Columbia, but still Evan got no response.

After a few weeks he called and spoke to a “very polite” woman in the DNR office in Columbia, and she put him in touch with the coordinator of the regional office.

“So I sent the materials to that guy.”

Did he hear back? “I sure did,” he says. He shows me a letter.

“Your application for a Mobility Impaired Vehicle Permit has been received by my office,” the letter says. “The properties you have requested to visit are owned by the South Carolina Forestry Commission (Wee Tee WMA) and the U.S. Forestry Service (Wambaw WMA and Waterhorn WMA). SCDNR does not issue special permits on properties not owned by SCDNR” (emphasis added).

As Evan points out, that’s not what the application says. The permit allows – again quoting the DNR website – “disabled persons enhanced access to selected portions of DNR Wildlife Management Areas” – that is, areas managed but not owned by DNR

The letter goes on to suggest that Evan contact another state agency – the Forestry Commission – or federal authorities at the U.S. Forestry Service.

Has he inquired about a permit to one of those agencies?

“Nah. I just said, ‘Screw it.’ I don’t have the heart to go through the process with another bureaucracy. And I’m certainly not going to try and deal with the feds over it. I’ve had to deal with the feds before,” he laughs, “and that’ll make you suicidal.”

He goes on: “It wouldn’t make me so mad if it were a private company giving me the run-around. I could just get disgusted and never do business with them again. But this is a bunch of state bureaucrats whose salary I’m paying. Kinda ticks me off.”

Have you been given the run-around by a state agency? Tell us your stories by commenting below or sending an email to news@thenerve.org.