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ENVIRONMENTALIST NOT LINKED TO VANDALISM

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Forest Service investigators have found no evidence that an official of a Southern Utah environmental group was responsible for the vandalism of construction equipment in the mountains near Cedar City.

"Basically, we felt the lead was not productive," said Mark Van Every, spokesman for the Dixie National Forest.Brandon Fowler, vice president of the 250-member Friends of Dixie National Forest organization, complained last month of "harassment and intimidation" after Forest Service investigators and an Iron County deputy walked into his business office and began questioning co-workers about his possible involvement in the vandalism.

Fowler works in the planning and mapping office of the Overton Power District in Logandale, Nev. He owns a second home in Duck Creek Village, a small vacation community in the mountains east of Cedar City. This is where he got involved with the debate over management of the surrounding Dixie National Forest.

Van Every said the investigation was prompted by an anonymous telephone call from someone who worked with Fowler.

"They went down there and interviewed the people identified in the initial conversation. He had been overheard by someone discussing things that had happened." Van Every said. "It turns out these were things he was aware of - not directly involved with . . . The investigation is continuing, but there is no evidence that indicates he was responsible."

Law enforcement officers were investigating an incident in which a Forest Service dump truck and front-end loader were vandalized during the July 4 holiday. They were parked near Navajo Lake, about 25 miles east of Cedar City.

Fowler contends it was unprofessional of the Forest Service to disrupt his office and raise questions about possible criminal activities on the basis of a single, anonymous telephone call.

Van Every described the interviews as standard procedure.