BILLINGS, Mont. — A year of upheaval at the U.S. Interior Department has seen dozens of senior staff members reassigned and key leadership positions left unfilled, rules considered burdensome to industry shelved, and a sweeping reorganization proposed for its 70,000 employees.
The evolving status quo at the agency responsible for more than 780,000 square miles (2 million square kilometers) of public lands, mostly in the American West, has led to praise from energy and mining companies and Republicans, who welcomed the departure from perceived heavy-handed regulation under President Barack Obama.
But the changes have drawn increasingly sharp criticism from conservationists, Democrats, and some agency employees. Under President Donald Trump, the critics say, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has curbed outside input into how the land is used and elevated corporate interests above the duty to safeguard treasured sites.
The differing views illustrate longstanding tensions over the role of America’s public lands — an amalgam of pristine wilderness, recreational playgrounds, and abundant energy reserves.
There are two sides to every story.
Four years ago the Bureau of Land Management locked the gate to Little Ash Springs north of Alamo for what was described as a couple of weeks due to a crumbling wall on a manmade pool. It remains closed.
Recently, the Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke told the Las Vegas newspaper, “This is exactly why the federal government needs to clean up our act. I’m not in the business of locking the public out.”
He added, “We need to work with local communities and be better neighbors …”
Speaking of neighbors, Joe and Andrea Barker own the 13-acre tract adjacent to and downstream from the 1-acre BLM-controlled Little Ash Springs. Their property is known as Big Ash Springs and has 50 springs feeding 94-degree water into meandering shallow rivulets that are home to two endangered species — the White River springfish and the Pahranagat roundtail chub found only in the Ash Springs system.
Federal prosecutors next week will seek a nearly 31/2-year sentence for Oregon refuge occupier Ryan Payne, the longest prison term yet for a defendant convicted in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
They described Payne as a central figure who helped orchestrate the armed occupation of the federal wildlife sanctuary, described by Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Barrow as “one of the most extensive criminal activities in Oregon history.”
Payne repeatedly tried to persuade Harney County ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond not to surrender in January 2016 to complete five-year prison sentences for setting fire to public land. He also pressured Sheriff Dave Ward to intervene to prevent the Hammonds’ return to prison, prosecutors say.
The government submitted to the court a 91-page exhibit of recordings from weekly board meetings of the militia network Payne co-founded, Operation Mutual Defense, held in October, November and December 2015, the months preceding the refuge seizure. The board spoke of potential missions, including targeting radical Islam, intervening in the resettling of refugees in Montana and elsewhere, and attempting to free a federal prisoner by staging a “dynamic entry” into a prison by shielding militiamen within protesters.
The 71-year-old rancher has become the focus of a legal effort by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane, which is asking a federal judge to sanction Riley for “trespass, encroachment, damages” and make him pay the legal costs incurred by forcing Riley to abide by the rules on ground purchased by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers some 53 years ago.
“The government just has too many employees and too much money,” said Riley’s nephew, Chad Lindgren, who works Riley’s River Ranch. “They are not going to back down. They are not going to give in unless we make them give in.”
And, he noted, the yearslong dispute is being funded by taxpayers: “We are basically paying those people to be a pain in our ass.”
“Illegal migrants, human traffickers, and drug smugglers, whether crossing by foot or using vehicles cause substantial damage to the natural and cultural resources found on federal lands. Tremendous amounts of human waste and garbage are left on borderlands every year. Medical supplies, diapers, clothing, and even broken-down cars are all left behind.”
On February 9, the House Committee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on existing regulatory impediments to securing the southern border. One of the topics addressed is the checkerboard of ‘sensitive’ wildland designations in states along the border with Mexico. The Border Patrol and other law enforcement agencies are unable to gain ‘operational control’ of large regions of the border due to such designations and their accompanying prohibitions on access.
I have never met John in person, I have talked with him over the phone and seen all the good he has done for all the P3. I like him as a person from what he has shown me. He has never done me any wrong. I called him about this issue. He stands firm that he did not give permission for this to be filmed or shared with others. That it was all his deal. He seamed very earnest in this declaration, a declaration that I now believe is composed of lies and retribution for what he thinks are wrongs against another friend. I am saying believe because I do not have the hard evidence in my own hands but it will come out soon enough. John has done many good works, and I praise him for every good thing that he has done on behalf of my friends, the Finicum family, and other patriotic prisoners, but that does not excuse the bad behavior that he is exhibiting now.
I have talked to others involved and I get a very different story and things done to appease John. All but taking the video down, because at this point in time consent or implied consent was given, again I was not there so I cannot say for fact.
To set this record straight, Wendy Kay did ask John if she could video it for Redoubt News (see below). John said okay, so it was not just an observation, it was consent. John imposed no conditions on the videoing for Redoubt, which made the Redoubt video the property of Redoubt News, a patriotic and very well presented news source.
News is not news if it can’t be gotten out. There is always an endeavor to get news out to as wide an audience as possible, So, GMN (Guerilla Media Network) agreed to live stream the video, which seems to be the source of the problem.
So, let’s look at the video that was, by consent, the property of Redoubt. John’s tactic was to claim a copyright violation; however, it is absent any proof. So, if we boil that down, John is claiming that he has rights over the property of another person. Normally, that would be theft, and perhaps fraud.
Head ’em up, move ’em out.
There has been a lot of talk since the Trump administration has taken over about where to locate the national headquarters of some of the nation’s federal land agencies. One land agency, the Bureau of Land Management, controls 11 percent of the nation’s lands, but 99 percent of that land is in the West.
Fully 85 percent of the land in Nevada is controlled by those federal land agencies, the highest percentage of any state, with 66 percent of the state lying under the purview of the BLM, while the rest of the public land is controlled by agencies such as the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Reclamation.
“Woody initially hired Special Agent Dan Love sometime in 2005. Even though Love was an inexperienced field agent Woody hand-picked and assigned Love as the lead case agent on the joint undercover investigation (code-named Cerberus Action) conducted by the Bureau of Land Management and the FBI.”
William C. Woody is a long-time employee of the Department of Interior (DOI) and during President Obama’s first term was Director of Law Enforcement for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Woody headed up that division during the execution of Operation Cerberus Action, the 2009 federal sting that led to the deaths of 4 men in the Four Corners region. Two years following the deadly debacle, Woody was moved to the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, where he also served as head of law enforcement. But interestingly, during the much-touted ‘reorganization’ of the Interior Department and its agencies, in April of 2017, Woody was reassigned to again take over law enforcement operations at the BLM.
OPINION – On the second anniversary of LaVoy Finicum’s death, I had the privilege of spending some time with his widow, Jeanette Finicum.
We spoke about our favorite memories of LaVoy and discussed the wrongful death lawsuit that Jeanette has filed against those who may bear direct or indirect responsibility in his killing. I was struck by a number of realizations as we visited.
The entire Finicum family has been on the receiving end of a monstrous injustice
First, and most importantly, the driving forces behind this lawsuit are justice and accountability for the various agencies and individuals who played a role in LaVoy Finicum’s death. The entire Finicum family has been on the receiving end of a monstrous injustice.
Rather than railing about vengeance or calling for blood, the Finicum family has consistently taken the high road over the past two years.
A string of exercises in federal overreach all but destroyed westerners’ trust in the BLM. But Dan Love, the BLM SAC behind Operation Cerberus, the Bundy Ranch raid, and whose name is connected with numerous other crimes and debacles, became the face of government at its worst.
The #GoogleDanLove social media hashtag was not invented by Twitter or Facebook, it was created by Americans familiar with the extreme and sometimes lethal actions of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who felt compelled to make the truth known about the agency’s abusive and dangerous Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Dan Love. A string of exercises in federal overreach, such as the prosecution of the Dwight and Steven Hammond on terrorism charges; Operation Cerberus, which lead to the deaths of several men in the Four Corners region; the burning of ranches and cattle in Oregon, the failed Bundy Ranch raid, and the confrontation outside of John Day, Oregon that ended in the murder of Arizona rancher, LaVoy Finicum, all but destroyed westerners’ trust in the BLM. But Dan Love, the BLM SAC behind Operation Cerberus, the Bundy Ranch raid, and whose name is connected with numerous other crimes and debacles, became the face of government at its worst. And now, when you Google Dan Love, you will see his career at the BLM–which ended only last year after public outcry and stinging embarrassment to the agency–summarized in a list of scandals and wanton acts of degeneracy.
In a unanimous ruling by The Supreme Court this week, it was determined that challenges to the “Waters of the United States” or WOTUS Rule must be filed in federal district courts. This is significant in that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to limit their victims chance for appeal or redress.
It was reported that the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court not to take the case, and argued that the Sixth Circuit should be allowed to consider it.
The written opinion, delivered by Justice Sotomayor, states that challenges must be filed in federal district courts.
Lifelong Southern Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, recently cleared of federal charges and freed from jail after nearly two years, has turned his sights on state and county government.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Clark County District Court, Bundy claimed that former President Barack Obama’s late 2016 establishment of the Gold Butte National Monument, which occurred while the rancher was in federal custody, was “as illegal as it is unlawful” and would preclude him from continuing to function on his land “and destroy the petitioner’s livelihood.”
Bureau of Land Management officials in Las Vegas postponed discussion of the monument at its meetings this month until the Trump administration decides on possible changes to the Obama-era land designation.
“Recognizing that the land is not owned by the United States of America, (Bundy) has avoided erroneously giving money to an entity which does not actually own the land and has been careful not to give money erroneously to a stranger to the land,” according to the rancher’s lawsuit. “Thus, there is an actual, significant legal controversy of great consequence not only to petitioner in terms of as to whom has ownership and jurisdiction of the land but to People of Nevada and Clark county, the rightful owners of Nevada land.”
Today, Attorney Morgan Philpot, representing Jeanette Finicum, widow of Lavoy Finicum Shot and Killed at blind curve roadblock by Oregon State Police and FBI agents on January 26th, 2016, filed the attached Civil Demand for a Jury Trial in Oregon Federal District Court.
Lavoy was driving his truck with passengers Ryan Bundy, Shawna Cox, Victoria Sharp and Ryan Payne, to a meeting with Sherrif Glenn Palmer in John Day. The murder and arrests marked the beginning of the end to the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Harney County Oregon.
Federal Judge, Gloria Navarro’s dismissal of the Bundy Ranch trial last December was attributed in large part to explosive revelations of misconduct, and ethical and legal violations in a letter written by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agent Larry ‘Clint’ Wooten, to Deputy Attorney General Andrew D. Goldsmith, the National Criminal Discovery Coordinator. The descriptions of unprofessionalism, sexism, and conspiratorial motives in the letter were so shocking that they tanked the federal prosecution’s case. The 18-page letter also contains damning accounts of unconscionable behavior and acts perpetrated by BLM Special Agent in Charge (SAC), Dan Love, which have been largely overlooked by media.
“Cliven Bundy was accused of conspiracy against the government,” reported the Western Livestock Journal in a January 8 article on the Bundy ruling. “Instead,” it noted, “the Bundy trial showed it was the government that was conspiring against him.” That charge does not exaggerate in the least the gravity of the government’s wrongdoing in the case.
During her ruling of a mistrial on December 20, Judge Navarro spent nearly 45 minutes reading from the bench, details of the federal misconduct, that she found to be so outrageous and flagrant. A central component of that misconduct concerned the government’s willful withholding of thousands of pages of evidence that supported the Bundys’ defense, and to which the defendants were legally entitled.
This week perhaps the biggest victory in the history of government prosecution and legal criminal defense was realized in a federal court in Las Vegas, Nevada. There, after Cliven Bundy and his sons, Ryan and Ammon, had been wrongfully charged by Obama deep state Justice Department prosecutors for conspiring to threaten federal law enforcement at gun point when Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents, with the support of Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents, stormed the Bundy Ranch at Bunkerville, threatened the lives of the Bundys, violently assaulted family members when they would not relinquish their cattle and then, for “good measure,” killed tens of male cattle (aka bulls) used to procreate the herd and buried them in a secret mass grave, the federal judge who presided of the trial dismissed the government’s indictment with prejudice based on flagrant and outrageous prosecutorial misconduct.