Dwight and Steven Hammonds are back on the ranch, after a long and lengthy battle over grazing rights and property management. But even after a pardon and release from prison, the journey back to reinstating their grazing permits has just begun.
Ethan Lane, executive director of the Public Lands Council talked with host Chip Flory about the saga on AgriTalk during the 2019 Cattle Industry and NCBA Tradeshow.
The Hammonds were back-burning on private property, a normal ranching method to lower wildfire risk and control timber encroachment, when some federal lands caught on fire.
“That’s an important part of this,” Lane said. “It was a normal farming and ranching practice.”
The Justice Department filed an appeal Wednesday of its devastating defeat against Cliven Bundy in the Nevada standoff, disputing the federal judge’s decision last year to throw out the case based on prosecutorial wrongdoing.
The 88-page motion, filed with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, challenged Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s blistering finding of “flagrant” misconduct, which prompted her to declare a mistrial in December 2017 and dismiss the charges a month later.
Republicans and Democrats disagree on a lot of issues, but protecting deserts in Southern California doesn’t seem to be one of them.
Legislation was introduced this month in both chambers of Congress, by members of both major parties, with the goal of protecting 716,000 acres of regional desert, adding a swath nearly as big as Rhode Island to regional land that’s already under protection. New protected zones would include off-highway vehicle recreation areas and wilderness, and an expansion of several National Parks.
The identical bills, sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, in the House of Representatives and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, in the Senate, are the result of years of work with the off-roading community, conservationists and local governments. For different reasons, all of those interests want to see the protections in place.
LAS VEGAS – A year after a judge dismissed charges against rancher Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and another man, an appeal is coming.
Federal prosecutors announcing this week they are challenging a decision by a U.S. District Court judge to declare a mistrial and dismiss the case against the four men related to the armed standoff near Bunkerville, Nevada back in 2014.
The vast valley surrounding the Virgin River sprawls for miles in every direction. Recent rains have left the range lush with vegetation.
The Mountain States Legal Foundation claims two former Interior secretaries among its alumni, and conservative activists are pushing to add a third individual to that group: former foundation President William Perry Pendley.
Pendley, who had helmed the conservative law firm since 1989, left his post late last year without fanfare.
“BTW, no longer with @MSLF but NEVER retired; busy as ever!” Pendley posted to his Twitter account on Dec. 9, referring to the foundation.
But a few days later, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced his resignation from the Trump administration, and Pendley’s name became among those floated to replace the former Montana lawmaker.
Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they plan to appeal their demoralizing defeat in the Nevada standoff trial, which saw a federal judge rebuke prosecutors for “flagrant misconduct” and dismiss all charges against rancher Cliven Bundy and two of his sons.
Elizabeth O. White, assistant U.S. attorney for Nevada, assured the court that the appeal would be filed by Feb. 6 after asking for a 14-day extension, saying the “review process is complete and the Solicitor General has authorized the government’s appeal.”
“Undersigned counsel further advises that the draft brief is nearly complete, editing of the completed portions has begun, and she has begun the laborious process of preparing the excerpts of record and updating the record citations in brief to the excerpts of record,” Ms. White said in the motion.
The Justice Department already had requested and received two extensions, but it was unclear until Wednesday whether prosecutors would go forward with the appeal.
Bundy attorney Larry Klayman condemned the decision to file the appeal, which would go before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. He accused the government of “circling the wagons” to protect prosecutors, including former Acting U.S. Attorney for Nevada Steven Myhre.
OJ Appellate Chief and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth White revealed Francisco’s apparent indecision on Wednesday in a request to delay opening briefs in the case, which centers on a 2014 armed standoff between the Bundys and their supporters and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Despite the government’s diligent efforts, the Solicitor General’s review of the matter is not yet complete,” White wrote, pointing to the “massive” record in the case. “His Office, and the Solicitor General himself, are carefully reviewing the issues, the record, and the draft government brief.”
RENO, Nev. (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has built a new corral for wild horses in Northern California, which could allow it to bypass federal restrictions and sell the animals for slaughter.
The agency acknowledged in court filings in a potentially precedent-setting legal battle that it built the pen for mustangs gathered in the fall on national forest land along the California-Nevada border because of restrictions on such sales at other federal holding facilities.
The agency denies claims by horse advocates it has made up its mind to sell the more than 250 horses for slaughter. But it also says it may have no choice because of the high cost of housing the animals and continued ecological impacts it claims overpopulated herds are having on federal rangeland.
The federal government is preparing to appeal the dismissal of charges against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his sons, and supporters for the 2014 armed standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents
Carson City – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the Bently Land Acquisition Project of nearly 15,000 acres of environmentally important lands owned by Bently Family Limited Partnership. The roughly 50 disparate parcels are in-holding lands in the BLM managed Pine Nut Mountains of Douglas, Carson, and Lyon Counties. The properties are located within a central 20-mile section of the Pine Nut Mountains, which run north-south for some 40 miles. To learn more about this pending land transfer, we spoke with Victoria Wilkins, acting field manager for the Sierra Front Field Office of the BLM in Carson City …
RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced that Jon Raby, a veteran BLM land manager and leader, has been named State Director in Nevada.
Raby will report to the BLM Nevada State Office in Reno in early January 2019.
Raby, who is currently serving as the Acting Montana/Dakotas State Director will lead the management of 48 million acres of public land in Nevada and 59 million acres of Federal mineral resources.
But while Bundy’s battle with BLM over grazing fees appears to be dormant, his fight with federal prosecutors may not be over.
Although Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro barred federal prosecutors from seeking a new trial against Bundy and his sons, the government filed a “protective notice of appeal” in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this summer.
Federal prosecutors are required to file their opening brief in that case by Jan. 2, with a response from Bundy and his sons by Feb. 1.
Three years before the impoundment of Cliven Bundy’s cattle turned into an armed confrontation between anti-government groups and federal agents, the FBI made an assessment that the Nevada rancher personally was unlikely to be violent in the event of conflict. The agency suggested a novel solution to Bundy’s 20 years of unpaid bills, one designed to put the dispute to rest: drop the fines he owed altogether.
The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, based in Quantico, Va., determined in 2011 that the rancher was unlikely to comply with federal court orders to move his 900 animals off federal land, where they had been illegally grazing, because “he only has enough land to handle less than 100 head of cattle.” Though the Bureau of Land Management was concerned that allowing Bundy to avoid paying federal grazing fees and fines could lead to violence, the FBI thought otherwise.
“BLM may wish to consider waiving the existing fines, as a gesture of willingness to participate in discussions geared toward negotiations,” the FBI wrote in the classified analysis, obtained by The Washington Post. The unit concluded that any alternatives the government could offer Bundy might reduce the rancher’s stress and “in turn, reduce the risk of a violent act.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is asking a judge in Nevada to dismiss Cliven Bundy’s latest lawsuit seeking state control of federal land, arguing his claims lack merit and have been rejected numerous times already.
The center on Thursday filed a request to dismiss Bundy’s lawsuit and a motion to intervene in the case in Clark County District Court in Las Vegas. The center is a nonprofit environmental organization that cites protecting endangered species and their habitats as its mission.
Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little told a congressional committee Thursday that livestock grazing on Western public lands provides a host of benefits to American taxpayers.
Chief among those, he said, is the rapid initial attack ranchers make on burgeoning wildfires, which helps keep them to a manageable size.
“That saves you (the federal government) an enormous amount of money,” Little told the House Natural Resource Committee’s federal lands subcommittee, which held a 90-minute hearing on “the essential role of livestock grazing on federal lands and its importance to rural America.”
The usual suspects are at it again, filing a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanding the court halt a plan by the Bureau of Land Management to remove all the feral horses in a 40-mile radius around Caliente.
The American Wild Horse Campaign, Western Watershed Project, The Cloud Foundation and a Beatty outdoor enthusiast are suing the BLM, saying it failed to adequately document and support its roundup decision, though what would ever be adequate for them is difficult to say.
Some of the same plaintiffs brought a similar lawsuit in 2011 over a planned removal of wild horses from Jakes Wash west of Ely, but the suit was mooted when the BLM backed down rather fight the matter.
In 2009 there were only 270 wild horses in the 900,000-acre Caliente area, but a year ago there were more than 1,700, a number the BLM deems unsustainable.
BURNS — Three-and-a-half hours after pardoned Oregon rancher Dwight Hammond Jr. arrived home, he gathered with his wife and sons around his dining room’s large circular table and got back to business.
They hooked him into a live feed of an auction in Nevada where Hammond Ranch Inc.’s 155 calves were on the block.
Hammond could have called in to participate in the annual sale but he held back, not wanting to jerk the reins from his daughter-in-law and others who have run the family’s cattle ranch while he and his son Steven served arson sentences in federal prison.
“We’ve had to trust them. No use to question their judgment now,” the 76-year-old said later, sitting in his living room, back in his trademark Wrangler jeans, brown cowboy boots and a blue button-down shirt that matched his eyes.
Ammon Bundy has called to the jurors of the Bunkerville Trial to view the hidden evidence in the case.
It has been well documented that the prosecution team, led by Steven Myhre, kept vital information from the jurors, as well as Judge Navarro.
Navarro, in December 2017, declared a mistrial in the case against Cliven Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne. She specifically cited several instances of “Brady violations” from the prosecution, evidence that was not turned over to the defense which could have benefited their case.
An example of the hidden information is the knowledge of government snipers overlooking the Bundy house during the days and weeks leading up to the Bunkerville standoff in 2014.
Senator Lee is spearheading efforts in Congress to abolish increasingly militaristic and trigger-happy federal law enforcement offices. The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Office of Law Enforcement Services (OLES) is particularly odious, and many believe, has blood on its hands. From the tragic and absurd waste of life and resources Operation Cerberus Action in Utah to the Bundy Ranch raid, to shooting last week of an unarmed couple off-roading in California, BLM law enforcement is beginning to look like a frightening combination of Stasi and the Keystone Kops. That’s not mere hyperbole. Because federal OLES agents enjoy the protections of civil service status, not to mention large, insular bureaucracies to shield them from accountability, there is a seething culture within these organizations of corruption and lawlessness.
Larry Wooten wrote that misconduct by now-fired Special Agent in Charge Dan Love and other supervisors caused “considerable disruption in our workplace, was discriminatory, harassing and showed clear prejudice against the defendants, their supporters and Mormons.”
Wooten’s memo went on to describe how he heard repeatedly that Love had a “Kill Book,” as a trophy and “in essence bragged about getting three individuals in Utah to commit suicide (see Operation Cerberus Action out of Blanding, Utah and the death of Dr. (James) Redd).”
Lee points to the 2009 Blanding raid involving Redd — who killed himself — as an example of BLM law enforcement gone amok, with multiple pre-dawn raids served at gunpoint.
“What happened in Blanding is a symptom of the underlying problem,” he said.
The so-called “Kill Book,” he added, is “abhorrent. This is the kind of thing that could have or would have been addressed more quickly with a state or local law enforcement agency.”
Lee said local law enforcement can carry out the same functions of BLM and the Forest Service and are more accountable to local residents.
At a glance: Unlike the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service is not directed by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1972 to maintain a population of burros.
Death Valley National Park’s 2002 General Management Plan, which went through extensive public review, calls for removing all burros from the park to protect water quality, riparian ecosystems, native plants, and native animals.
Burro populations have increased greatly in recent years. The last burro roundup in Death Valley National Park was in 2005.
Source: Death Valley National Park
The Bureau of Land Management revealed today it is contemplating an overhaul of its law enforcement program — from the location of its headquarters to whether rangers should wear visible flak jackets.
Deputy Director Brian Steed discussed the pending modifications in testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining.
“We’re quite active right now in reviewing all policies regarding our law enforcement,” Steed told Utah Sen. Mike Lee (R). An outspoken critic of BLM law enforcement, Lee has endorsed dissolving the agency’s police force and instead relying on local officers or FBI agents.
Steed provided few details about the potential reorganization — which comes as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is contemplating a broader overhaul of the entire department, as well as a potential relocation of BLM headquarters to a Western state.
Steed testified that BLM officials are evaluating whether the agency’s law enforcement “should be restructured to better fit organizational needs.”
“We absolutely are trying to increase our accountability to the American people by having the right personnel at the helms. We’re absolutely trying to change policy to make sure that we’re as accountable and responsive and as good at our job as possible,” Steed said at the hearing.
He noted that BLM has directed its officers to focus on “casework with direct ties to public lands,” including cross-border smuggling activities and the theft of mineral materials and historical objects.
After a stormy year, the long tenure of Steven Myhre as the No. 2 prosecutor in the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office has ended under secrecy.
Within the past month, Myhre left his job as first assistant to Interim U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson and took on new duties in the office as a senior litigation counsel, several former federal prosecutors who have spoken with office members told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
His new position comes with no supervisory responsibilities, but allows him to mentor and train younger attorneys, according to a Justice Department manual.
Last May, Myhre, who spent about 15 years as first assistant in the office, was ordered to undergo anti-sex discrimination training as a result of a federal case filed by a female prosecutor during the tenure of former U.S. Attorney Greg Brower in 2008 and 2009.
Environmentalists have filed suit against federal regulators over protections for eight rivers in California, including one that originates in Nevada, the Amargosa River.
Congress designated portions of the Amargosa and seven other rivers as wild and scenic in 2009, but the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management never completed comprehensive management plans for them as required by law, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The Tucson, Arizona-based group sued the two agencies in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles late last month, arguing that the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act required the development of management plans for the rivers within three years of their designation.