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30-Year Off-Gridder Loses Thousands As US Forest Service Boots Him From Backwoods Cabin

Image source: PhotographylifeDOTcom

Image source: PhotographylifeDOTcom

Aspen, Colorado, resident Gary Plumb has owned the same backwoods cabin for 30 years but is being told by the US Forest Service (USFS) that he must clear it out by June 1.

Plumb’s problems began in 1985 when he purchased a mining claim on Aspen Mountain near the famous ski area and celebrity mecca from a man named Jim Blanning. The Forest Service contends that Banning had no legal right to sell the claim.

“There is no other place I can go,” Plumb, 73, wrote to The Aspen Daily News.

Plumb has no other home and he hasn’t been able to locate affordable housing in the Aspen area, where housing prices are notoriously high. The 30-year Aspen resident had lived in the cabin for years until recently when he went to Florida to receive free treatment for a health problem. He now is ready to move back.

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“I went [to the cabin] early last summer to inform the people who have been watching my property [that] I will be moving back to my cabin permanently and to see what repairs are needed to be done before I move back in,” he wrote.

Plumb said he’s “desperate to get back to the Roaring Fork Valley, and has even looked at affordable housing in Carbondale (Colorado), but so far nothing has worked out.”

Could Stay For $16,000 Annual Fee

The Forest Service says it has tried to work with Plumb.

“He was notified in 1994 that he was trespassing on federal land,” Rich Doak, a lands and recreation staff officer for the USFS, told The Aspen Daily News. “We’ve been working with him [for two decades]. We’ll be working with him this spring to get the issue resolved. We could fine him for trespassing, but that’s not our goal. This is a long-standing issue that needs to be cleaned up.”

Plumb contends that he has a legal title to the property from the county for which he paid $10,000 to Blanning.

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Doak said the USFS offered Plumb the right to stay in the cabin if he paid a $15,000 bond for an isolated cabin permit and an annual fee, which Plumb said would have been $16,000 each year. Paying for something that cost so much wasn’t why he “bought the cabin in the first place,” he told the newspaper.

Plumb was the victim of a scam engineered by Blanning. The paper reported that Blanning set up a series of dummy corporations to get control of abandoned mining claims like the one he sold to Plumb. In 1996 Blanning was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 16 years in prison because of the scheme. He served six years.

Plumb’s last attempt to stay in the cabin, a living estate claim, was accepted by local Forest Service officials but rejected by the Washington office. It would have allowed him to stay there until he died, at which point the cabin would be removed.

“I’d like to have a special use permit, at least until I die,” Plumb told the paper. “But I want one without all the other stipulations.”

Do you believe the USFS should allow Plumb to stay on the land? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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