Editorial: Forget PILT checks, transfer federal lands

There is considerable consternation in rural counties across the West over the Trump administration planning to cut the size of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) checks this year. The current budget blueprint calls for cuts but doesn’t specify how much.

Because the federal government does not pay property taxes, since 1977 Congress has seen fit to dole out to counties — calculated based on population and number of acres of federal public land — PILT checks to help pay for everything from schools, to police, fire, social services, etc. Since 85 percent of Nevada is owned by various federal land agencies, that is a lot of property tax to forgo.

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Siege Has Ended, but Battle Over Public Lands Rages On

BURNS, Ore. — A year ago, this corner of rural Oregon became center stage in the drawn-out drama over public lands when armed militia leaders seized a national wildlife refuge, arguing that the government had too much control of land in the West.

Now that President Trump is in office, people here and in other parts of the 11 states where 47 percent of the landmass is publicly owned are watching to see what he will do on everything related to public lands, from coal mining and cattle grazing to national monuments and parks. In Burns, some ranchers and others are feeling emboldened, hopeful that regulatory rollbacks by the federal government will return lands to private use and shore up a long-struggling economy.

But the change in administration has also spawned a countermovement of conservatives and corporate executives who are speaking up alongside environmentalists in defense of public lands and now worry about losing access to hunting grounds and customers who prize national parks and wildlife.

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New acting deputy director eased tensions with Nev. ranchers

John Ruhs, who as director of the Bureau of Land Management’s Nevada state office drew widespread praise for helping defuse tensions between the agency and ranchers following the Cliven Bundy standoff three years ago, has been appointed BLM’s acting deputy director of operations.

Ruhs will replace Jerry Perez, who at the end of next month will return to California to resume his duties as state director, Mike Nedd, BLM’s acting director, said in an email sent yesterday to members of the agency’s executive leadership team.

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Malheur refuge reopens headquarters, with new ‘security measures’ in place

By Jamie Hale | The Oregonian/OregonLive | March 31, 2017 at 7:00 AM Once occupied and long closed to the public, the headquarters at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is finally back open – but with some new security measures in […]

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Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant testifies in Bundy trial

A Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant who responded to the 2014 protests in Bunkerville testified Monday that he was “jealous” of one of Cliven Bundy’s supporters because the man carried a radio that broadcast police scanner activity better than a state-issued device.

“Our radios weren’t that clear. I was kind of jealous because his was better than ours,” Sgt. Shannon Selena told jurors Monday.

He was referring to Gregory Burleson, one of six men in the first group of a three-part federal trial against Bundy and 16 others accused of conspiring to block federal agents from rounding up the rancher’s cows. The jury seated for the first trial has heard hours of testimony about law enforcement’s assessment of the general threat level during the April 2014 standoff, but Monday marked the first time a government witness singled out a defendant for his role in the protests.

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DML Takes Stand At Bundy Trial: “I feared being shot.”

Las Vegas, Nevada — Dennis Michael Lynch, known better as ‘DML’, took the stand today as a witness in the first of three trials set to take place in relation to the standoff between the Bundy family, their supporters, and the federal government.

Lynch was kept on the witness stand all day on Wednesday. He answered numerous questions from the U.S. attorney after the jury was shown a long list of the video clips DML captured during the event that took place in Bunkerville, NV on April, 12, 2014.

DML, who at the time was a regular guest on The Kelly File (Fox News Channel), was filming the events in Nevada for an upcoming segment to air on Megyn Kelly’s show.

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Documentarian Dennis Michael Lynch testifies during Bunkerville standoff trial

A media cameraman who tried, unsuccessfully, to mediate the Bunkerville standoff gave hours of testimony Wednesday while federal prosecutors played shaky, handheld footage that provided a more dynamic view of the protests than anything previously disclosed on dashcam recordings.

The government called Dennis Michael Lynch as a witness after they fought ferociously earlier in the week to keep the footage he captured out of court.

Defense attorneys Monday had tried to use some of the videos to rebut a federal agent’s testimony, and prosecutors’ decision to call Lynch reflected a strategic attempt to control the narrative as they continue to present their case against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy.

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Refuge manager, fish biologist tell jurors how they felt scared, violated during occupation

The manager of the Malheur National Wildife Refuge and its former fish biologist returned to the witness stand Tuesday morning in the government’s rebuttal to testify about the fears they felt just before and during the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge manager Chad Karges, who was aware Ammon Bundy and followers were in the Burns area in late November and December 2015, said he placed loaded guns at every door of his home “just because of the threats I had seen” involving Bundy and his standoff with federal agents in Bunkerville, Nevada in 2014.

After Christmas 2015, Karges told his kids and grandkids not to venture into Burns.

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Tempers flare, nerves fray in trial against Bundy supporters

A downtown Las Vegas courtroom provided scenes as wild as a Western movie Monday when federal prosecutors and defense attorneys battled over nearly every piece of evidence presented in the trial against six of rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters.

Defense attorneys tried to block a government witness from testifying. A prosecutor invoked an evidence rule that led even the judge to flip open a legal handbook. A juror made a wisecrack that caused one lawyer to raise concerns of potential bias.

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Defense calls last witnesses in second refuge takeover trial

Bruce “B.J.” Soper, a founding member of the Pacific Patriots Network, testified Monday that he heard Ammon Bundy propose taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a hard stand during a brief meeting in a Burns home on Dec. 29, 2015.

But in contrast to refuge occupier Blaine Cooper’s testimony for the government, Soper said no logistics were discussed. He said Jason Patrick, Jon Ritzheimer, Ryan Payne and others were present but they never talked about how Bundy planned to accomplish the takeover. There was no discussion about refuge employees and no final decision was made during the 10- to 15-minute meeting, Soper said.

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Bunkerville standoff video captures agent conversations

Prosecutors trying the case against six of rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters played hours of video footage this week that gave the public a peek into the minds of federal law enforcement officers as the 2014 confrontation with armed protesters unfolded in Bunkerville.

When Bureau of Land Management Agent Mark Brunk testified early in the week, prosecutors played dash cam footage that recorded him uttering an expletive, followed by, “You come find me and you’re gonna have hell to pay.”

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Court rules Hage family must pay $587K for grazing cattle on federal land in Nevada

CARSON CITY — A U.S. District Court judge has ordered a Nevada ranching family engaged in a long-running dispute with federal agencies to pay $587,000 for grazing cattle on BLM and Forest Service lands without permission.

The order dated Feb. 27 from Gloria Navarro, chief judge of the Las Vegas District Court, also requires the son of the late Wayne Hage to remove any livestock from federal lands within 30 days. Within 45 days the Hage has to file a statement of compliance with the order or face contempt of court.

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Timber Companies Sue Over Cascade-Siskiyou Monument Expansion

Two lumber companies filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the legality of President Barack Obama’s expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument during his last days in office.

Murphy Co. and a related company, Murphy Timber Investments LLC, filed the complaint in federal court in Medford against President Donald Trump, acting U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kevin Haugard, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management. The new administration could choose not to defend the lawsuit.

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Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find Aggressive actions anger activists, UC study finds

This article from August 2014, not long after the 2014 Bundy Ranch Standoff in Nevada, details a UC Berkeley Study that puts a great deal of responsibility for the escalated, violent results of Protests, at the feet of Law Enforcement and their presentation into the event.

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Letter names BLM agent in charge of Bundy case as target of federal ethics probe

Bureau of Land Management agent Dan Love, a central figure in the government’s case against rancher Cliven Bundy, has been identified as the target of a federal ethics probe in a letter two congressional lawmakers sent to the Office of the Inspector General.

The Feb. 14 letter, sent by U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, accuses Love of scrubbing emails, influencing witnesses and deleting hundreds of documents the day before a congressional investigative committee issued a records request. Chaffetz and Farenthold sit on the U.S. House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform.

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Here’s what Ryan Bundy told a BLM agent before the Bunkerville standoff in 2014

The trial against six men accused of conspiring with rancher Cliven Bundy to block federal agents from carrying out a court order to impound his cattle is underway in federal court in Las Vegas, and prosecutors on Tuesday played recorded phone conversations between a Bureau of Land Management agent and one of Bundy’s sons.

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BLM council to meet about public lands, tour Red Cliffs

ST. GEORGE – The Bureau of Land Management-Utah’s Resource Advisory Council will hold meetings in St. George Thursday and Friday, including a field tour of the Red Cliffs National Conservation area.
On Feb. 23, the council will meet from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at the BLM-Utah St. George Field Office/Arizona Strip District Office, 345 E. Riverside Drive. A one-hour public comment period will take place from 3-4 p.m. during this session.

On Feb. 24, the council will meet at the field office from 8-10 a.m. and then proceed to the optional field tour of Red Cliffs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. the public is invited to attend the field tour; the BLM asks those interested RSVP to Lisa Bryant at telephone 435-260-7003.

Agenda topics for the meetings include an introduction of new BLM managers, an update on the Planning 2.0 Rule (a 2016 initiative to increase public involvement and incorporate the most current data and technology into the BLM’s land use planning) and updates on current resource management planning efforts and projects including the greater sage-grouse.

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