Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lawsuit seeks Bundy Ranch documents and attack stats on BLM staff. BLM stonewalls on Nevada standoff, post-incident precautions and lessons learned

Will Obama & AG Holder move strongly against right-wing terrorism?
LAS VEGAS — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is wrongfully withholding all documents about a recent standoff with a Nevada rancher as well as statistics on assaults against its employees, according to a federal lawsuit filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). BLM has taken no further action since it backed down from a recent armed confrontation between self-styled “militias” seeking to prevent seizure of Cliven Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing for 20 years on national lands at Gold Butte, Nevada.

Representing BLM rangers and other resource agency staff, PEER is seeking documents about what led up to and what followed the cattle seizure and subsequent standoff on the Bundy ranch, including –

  • Whether the U.S. Attorney declined to criminally prosecute Bundy, making seizure of his cattle the only avenue left to BLM for proceeding against Bundy--whose cattle had been illegally grazing on 160,000 BLM and National Park Service acres for more than a decade;
  • Any BLM advisories for handling similar incidents of armed resistance or livestock trespass; and
  • Steps taken to bolster the safety of BLM employees.  Media reports indicate that BLM staff have received death threats or have been targeted by armed militias.

In addition, BLM has refused to release its annual tabulation of threats and attacks against its employees. BLM has released this annual summary describing the nature and location of such incidents to PEER every year since 1996, when the organization started collecting a database of these assaults following the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Parts of the Sagebrush West are beginning to resemble Eastern Ukraine,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM’s secretiveness is stoking various right-wing conspiracy theories. “To tamp down the rumor mill fueling these high-profile incidents, the BLM should be communicating more with the public not less. This information is important not only to BLM staff but also to members of the public visiting these federal lands.”

During the 1990’s when similar “Sagebrush Rebellion” incidents flared, the reluctance of the U.S. Justice Department to criminally prosecute referrals from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service frustrated land managers who felt powerless. For example, Gloria Flora resigned as supervisor of Nevada’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest citing Justice’s timidity.

“Allowing these calculated obstructions and armed threats to go unpunished seems to invite only more dangerous confrontations by extremists,” said Daniel Patterson, Southwest PEER Director who formerly worked with BLM, pointing to other subsequent incidents such as an illegal off-road vehicle invasion into BLM public lands closed-to-ORVs at Recapture Canyon, Utah. “Not knowing the agency’s limits invites violent ideologues to miscalculate with potentially tragic results.”

- adapted from PEER.org

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