Grazing is ‘indispensable’ to America. Or, it’s a ‘cancer,’ westerners tell Congress

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.”

Continue reading

In his first wide-ranging interview, Dwight Hammond Jr, shares his thoughts

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.

Continue reading

How the federal government won a 40-year battle with a Nevada ranching family

Recently the Wall Street Journal carried a front-page feature by Jim Carlton highlighting my family, the Hages. It attempted to cover the plight of western ranchers and our 40-year David-and-Goliath struggle to prevent the federal government from taking our ranch without just compensation through government threats, intimidation, prosecution, and abuse of discretion.

Pine Creek Ranch is now in foreclosure. We have won enormous landmark victories for western ranchers in multiple bench trials, including a $14 million judgment against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and – in a separate court – a ruling that the government had engaged in a conspiracy beginning in the 1970s to take our vested water rights and grazing preferences. However, on appeal, the federal courts twisted themselves into a legal pretzel to rule in favor of the government, finally taking our ranch judicially.

Continue reading

BLM plans law enforcement shakeup

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.

Continue reading

Lawsuit wants protections for Nevada’s Amargosa River, 7 others

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.

Continue reading

New film documents “conspiracy” of massive government takeover of Western lands in quest to own ALL natural resources

(Natural News) A new film featuring scores of interviews with ranchers and longtime residents of Western states documents what many have long viewed as the federal government’s insatiable appetite for land and resources.

In the first of two trailers introducing the documentary, which is titled, “Land Grab: The Conspiracy to Own All of the Natural Resources in the Western U.S.,” James White of Northwest Liberty News said the film is a product of interviews he conducted with landowners and ranchers throughout the West who have dealt with a federal land management bureaucracy that has become increasingly hostile over the past few decades.

The worst abuses and mismanagement of land and resources, however, has occurred in recent years, with ranchers and landowners citing many instances of problematic interactions with the U.S. Department of the Interior and its various agencies.

“When we first came to Nevada, the [U.S.] Forest Service was very cooperative, they wanted us to survive, they wanted us to make the grade,” said Elko, Nevada resident Kent Howard, who is now deceased. “As time went on, the Forest Service turned completely around, and by the time we got out of the cattle business, the Forest Service was doing everything they possibly could to make it hard for you.”

Continue reading

County Officials Propose Legislation To Expand Tortoise Habitat For Northern Corridor Route

ST. GEORGE – Congressional legislation proposed by Washington County officials that would expand protected desert tortoise habitat in exchange for a route for the highly sought-after northern corridor through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve was the subject of an open house at the Dixie Center St. George Wednesday night.

Called the “Desert Tortoise Habitat Conservation Plan Expansion Act,” the proposed bill would add nearly 7,000 acres to the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve in the area west of Bloomington and south of Santa Clara in exchange for a right-of-way for the northern corridor that state and county road planners say the region needs for future transportation needs.

“We’ve already talked to all of our (congressional) delegation about this bill,” Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson said. “We’ve talked to Congressman (Chris) Stewart who is prepared to introduce the legislation. So we’ve given it to them, and that’s the status of (the bill) right now.”

While the bill could be officially introduced in the near-future, Iverson said, county officials organized an open house to educate and get input from the public on the proposed bill. While the actual language of the draft bill was not available for review, a handout with highlights of the bill was provided at the open house.

Among those points is renewing the Habitat Conservation Plan for another 25 years. The original plan expired two years ago with local, state and federal officials working together to resolve issues that have delayed the HCP’s renewal.

Thus far the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed the HCP to continue functioning while negotiations for renewal continue.

Continue reading

Zinke creates ‘Made in America’ committee for outdoor recreation

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the members of the “Made in America” Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, which was established Nov. 8 to serve as an advisory board on public-private partnerships across all public lands, with the goal of expanding access to and improving infrastructure and waterways.

The committee “is made up of the private sector’s best and brightest to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges ,” Zinke said Monday in a press release. “ Dating back to the early days of the National Park Service, American businesses have been helping improve the public’s public land experience by doing everything from building iconic lodges like the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar to the historic “red jammers” in Glacier National Park.

“This committee will help build on that legacy and provide valuable insight into addressing the maintenance backlog on our public lands. The committee’s collective experience as entrepreneurs and business leaders provide unique insight that is often lost in the Federal government. As we rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, we can continue the exponential growth of the American recreation sector, which supports millions of American jobs and bares a significant impact on our economy.”

Continue reading

Government Announces New ‘Flexible’ Grazing Permits For Oregon Ranchers

Trump administration officials are calling it ‘outcome-based grazing,’ and are offering the option to 11 ranches and livestock companies as a demonstration. Critics are saying it weakens accountability standards for ranchers grazing on public lands.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two Oregon ranches will be among 11 in the country to be offered a new kind of process for livestock grazing on public lands, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Friday.

Known as outcome-based grazing authorizations (OBGAs), the new process offers an “unprecedented level of flexibility in the management of livestock,” according to the BLM.

Roaring Springs Ranch near Burns, Oregon and Fitzgerald Ranch near Lakeview, Oregon will be two of the 11 ‘demonstration projects.’ The other test cases are spread throughout the western United States—including Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, Idaho and Colorado.

Continue reading

Editorial Thomas Mitchell : Trump administration settles suit over habitat rules

The Trump administration has settled a lawsuit filed by Nevada and 19 other states over Obama administration rules that sweepingly redefined what constituted critical habitat for endangered species and has agreed to rewrite those rules.

The suit, filed in November 2016 against various federal land agencies, accused the federal bureaucrats of essentially rewriting the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) to give themselves potential veto power over any use whatsoever on every square foot of rural land, public or private, in the country.

Though the ESA gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority to protect “critical habitat” occupied by endangered or threatened species, the rewritten rules redefined “critical habitat” to include land currently unoccupied by those species but just might someday, in some way, somehow — as a result of global warming or a meteor strike, perhaps — later become “critical habitat.”

Those rules gave federal agents the power to block or alter any activity — grazing, farming, buildings, mining, recreation, roads, fences, pipelines, ditches, power lines, irrigation, oil and gas exploration — that might somehow adversely affect a potential habitat for certain protected rodents, minnows, bugs, birds, reptiles, beasts and weeds.

Continue reading

Bipartisan bill introduced in Congress aims to fix national parks

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — The Trump administration is supporting bipartisan legislation that would take as much as $18 billion in revenue from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a fund specifically for national park restoration.

The bill follows the blueprint laid out in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and President Donald Trump’s budget proposal, the public lands infrastructure fund, according to a statement Wednesday from the Interior Department.

The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Angus King, I-Maine, and in the House of Representatives by Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

This bill fulfills one of the priorities laid out in Trump’s legislative framework for rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Continue reading

Son of controversial Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy announces run for governor

Ryan Bundy, the son of controversial Mesquite-area rancher Cliven Bundy, plans to run for governor in 2018.

Bundy told The Nevada Independent in an interview on Thursday that he plans to file to run for governor as an independent on March 14, and will run on the same state sovereignty principles that made him and his family household names during a 2014 armed standoff with the federal government over unpaid grazing fees.

“The state of Nevada needs someone who will stand up for statehood, and recognize that Nevada is a sovereign state, not just a province of the U.S.,” he said.

Bundy, who was acquitted and released from an Oregon court in November following charges that stemmed from the takeover of the federally owned Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, said he didn’t believe any of the current candidates for governor would enforce Nevada’s “constitutional” right to all land and resources within the state.

Continue reading

State to U.S. : You Can’t Transfer Federal Lands, Unless We Say So

New Section 27338 of the Government Code forbids the recordation of a deed or instrument of transfer that does not comply with Section 8560.  And it orders the “federal agency wishing to convey federal public lands” to ensure that the instrument complies with the new California law.  (Of course, the federal government wouldn’t be seeking the recordation; the transferee would.)  All this would be risible grist for a legal comedian’s mill, but the very real penalties, and the costs of having to mount the legal challenge against the State, are daunting.  All persons who have land deals pending with the Federal Government are at risk, at the very least, of skittish federal lawyers wondering what their liability could be, for merely carrying out their obligations under federal law, which is to say the supreme law.

Continue reading

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Southern Nevada District Office will be holding a Designated Leasing Area Siting Forum March 13, 2018

Southern Nevada District Office
FOR RELEASE: February 26, 2018
CONTACT: John Asselin (702) 515-5046; jasselin@blm.gov

BLM holds Designated Leasing Area Siting Forum March 13

LAS VEGAS – The Bureau of Land Management will hold a Designated Leasing Area Siting Forum for the Southern Nevada District on March 13 in the ballroom at the Santa Fe Station in Las Vegas.

Continue reading

Turmoil shakes up agency in charge of vast U.S. lands

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.

Continue reading

Prosecutors to seek nearly 3 1/2-year sentence for refuge occupier Ryan Payne

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.

Continue reading