Opinion: Wild Horses, Deception and the Despicable Feds

OpEd by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

This past week proved to be a very dark day in Dodge

It's all Spades for the BLM

It’s all Spades for the BLM

Almost a half a decade ago myself, my wife Terry and a team of competent, animal law attorneys huddled in conference calls and discussed multiple ways and means in an effort to halt the BLM from attempting to zero out the Adobe Town wild horse herd of Wyoming. Money was spent, research was done, plaintiffs were identified and one wild horse advocate and photographer was given hope that the herd which she loved might be saved, and then the potential promise was yanked out from under her, just as it was done this past week when history repeated itself much to the chagrin and pain felt by photographer Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

I have always felt guilty about the impotence experienced when attempting to save the Adobe Town herd; of being handcuffed and helpless in failing to be of any assistance. And I have talked openly about letting Carol down, I was hoping that it would be different, this time, but sadly it was not.

We struggle to keep our heads held high as we plod forward in the fight to keep our wild ones free. Often times it is difficult to do while the enemy breaks the law, rewrites history and caters to those who truly abuse and destroy our fragile public lands. But move forward we must.

Some falter at times like this, when it appears that we and the horses have lost and truly, there are many equine families that are about to loose it all over this latest court debacle…but that does not mean that we raise our arms in despair, give in to the moment and admit defeat and doom, far from it. It’s events like this that energize me, give me strength, conviction and focus because in the best form of the English language it is quite fair to say that what just happened sincerely and totally “Pisses Me OFF!

The BLM fails to realize that each time they twist the law and flagrantly flip off the very public which feeds them that they unwittingly pound another nail into their own wretched coffin. The corrupt managers and supervisors of the BLM might feel that they are above the law and are not required to answer for their crimes against this nation and nature but with each dastardly deed they draw themselves deeper into the dark web of deception from which they have lost their ability to escape. And as they sink further and deeper into the abyss there is a quiet army that is working in the background severing their ties, tearing down their means of escape and shoveling in the dirt atop the grave of the deceivers…the day of reckoning is drawing near with deliberate determination.

The BLM has not won, instead they have lost even more of their sparse credibility and have soiled themselves further with their collusion and lies while we grow wiser, tighter and even more resolved to put an end to the abomination known as the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro extermination department.

On the surface it appears that the horses have lost and in individual herds and families there will be great suffering. But the Horse Nation, as a whole, stands resolute in being the canary in the cave that draws the focus of what is wrong out into the open so that those who are pure in heart have a definitive and obvious target onto which they can focus…we know where the problem lies and we might even know how to stop it.

Another herd passes from the land, but not it’s spirit; we will not let the heart of the horses and burros be wrested from our precious, public lands. That will never happen. Embrace the pain, learn from the action and plan for the future, as it is ours.

We will never quit.

Keep the faith.

Ex-BLM Officials Indicted in Elaborate Fraud Scheme

From Illegally Rounding up Wild Horses in Wyoming to obvious corruption within their ranks the BLM just can’t shake the image being a “Criminal Agency”

"I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!"

“I LOVE Horses and Burros, and I am here to help!!!”

as published in the Billings Gazette

Two former high-level federal Bureau of Land Management officials who worked in Virginia, including a deputy state director from Montana, have denied criminal charges accusing them of defrauding the government in an employment scheme.

A federal indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Great Falls accuses Larry Ray Denny, 66, of Box Elder, and John Grimson Lyon, 60, of Clifton, Va., of devising a scheme in which Denny continued to receive his $112,224 annual salary and benefits as a BLM deputy state director even though he left and never returned to his job.

Rather, Denny relocated to Montana where he contracted with the Chippewa Cree Tribe for drilling and consulting work.

Prosecutors also allege Denny claimed sick leave and regular pay while gone from his BLM job but that bank records showed he visited various golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and around Montana.

Denny, who was deputy state director for natural resources for the BLM’s Eastern States Office in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to four counts during a Sept. 4 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong in Great Falls.

Denny’s attorney, Penny Strong of Billings, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Lyon, who was the BLM state director for the Eastern States in Springfield, Va., pleaded not guilty to three counts during an Aug. 19 arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Holter. The indictment was filed in July and unsealed with Lyon’s appearance.

Lyon is represented by Evangelo Arvanetes, an assistant federal defender in Great Falls. Arvanetes could not be reached for comment. Holter ordered Lyon to pay $300 a month for attorney fees.

Laura Weiss, a spokeswoman and prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, could not be reached for comment.

The BLM fraud case is the latest in a series of indictments that have come from investigations by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Inspector General into fraud and corruption on Rocky Boy’s Reservation.

The investigations already have led to convictions of former state Rep. Tony Belcourt and several contractors who provided kickbacks on federal contracts.

The indictment charges Denny and Lyon with wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property. Denny also faces a count of federal false statements regarding outside income.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Weldon said in the indictment that under the scheme, Denny left his BLM post “with the knowledge and approval” of Lyon, his supervisor, to relocate to Montana to pursue other business interests as a consultant with the Chippewa Cree Tribe and “for all intents and purposes” abandoned his federal job “without relinquishing payment” as an employee.

Lyon is accused of perpetuating Denny’s fraudulent wage claims by approving and submitting false information to the BLM.

The scheme began in about June or July 2012, the indictment said, when Denny told Lyon he needed to return to Montana to “overcome health-related issues.” Denny left BLM’s Springfield office in July 2012 and never returned.

But from July 2012 until March 23, 2013, Denny was paid for 550 hours of regular work, 461 hours of sick leave, 389 hours of annual leave and 72 hours for federal holidays, the indictment said. During that time, bank account activity showed Denny went to golf courses and traveled to Las Vegas, Arizona and in and around Montana.

In a 2012 job appraisal, Lyon rated Denny’s performance as “exceptional,” which led to Denny getting a $3,262 cash award in November 2012, the indictment said.

When BLM employees asked about Denny’s status for business reasons, Lyon refused to provide any information, claiming federal laws about releasing health information prohibited him from disclosing such information, the indictment said.

Meanwhile, in January 2012, the Chippewa Cree Tribe, located on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation in north central Montana, contracted with Denny Technical Services for drilling-related services, including exploration, energy use projects, research on mineral lease agreements, development of drilling programs and communication with relevant agencies.

Denny negotiated the contract with the tribe, while his daughter, Misty Ann Denny, also known as Misty Brooks, executed the agreement, the indictment said.

For a year beginning in March 2012, Denny received about $67,243 from the tribe in addition to his BLM salary and benefits, the indictment said. Of the amount from the tribe, Denny received about $49,000 during 2012 and did not report it on a federal confidential financial disclosure report, the indictment said.

The indictment also includes forfeiture allegations seeking a money judgment of $112,302 and other property that may be traced to the alleged crimes.

If convicted, Denny and Lyon face a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the wire fraud charge.

Both men were released pending trial. The case will be heard by U.S. District Judge Brian Morris of Great Falls.

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Billings Gazette

Greedy welfare ranchers dictating public land use…Wyoming wild horse roundups to begin

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PLAINTIFF Carol Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation writes:  BLM is being “very vague even about when they will allow public observation, saying it depends upon weather, if it is on private land or not, and told us they will inform us the night before public observation is available – basically making it as hard to get there and be there as possible.”

WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO ATTEND THE ROUNDUPS.

Appellate Court Denies Emergency Motion and Allows Unprecedented Wyoming Wild Horse Roundups On Public Lands At the Request of Private Landowners

Denver, CO (September 10, 2014) – Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit denied an emergency motion to block the Bureau of Land Management”s (BLM) wild horse roundup in the Wyoming Checkerboard. The motion was filed by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.

The one-sentence decision by the Tenth Circuit does not address any of BLM’s admitted violations of the Wild Horse Act and clears the way for the roundup of more than 800 wild horses from public and private lands in the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas. The helicopter capture operation is scheduled to begin this week after being twice delayed by the lawsuit filed by the wild horse preservation groups and advocates on August 1, 2014.

Read the rest here.

Oldies But Goodies on Wild Horse & Burro Radio

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WE’LL BE BACK ON AIR NEXT WEDNESDAY NIGHT,

UNTIL THEN, PLEASE ENJOY ONE OF OUR ARCHIVED SHOWS LISTED BELOW.

 This radio show is co-hosted by Debbie Coffey, Vice-President & Director of Wild Horse Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation.

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To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585

LISTEN TO ARCHIVED RADIO SHOWS: Continue reading

BLM Stoops To Low Bargain Basement Fees for Public Lands

I thought it was bad enough when the BLM was charging $2 an acre for oil and gas leases, but now I see (from the Elko Daily news article below) that the BLM is leasing public lands for bargain basement fees of $1.50 an acre.  And for NONCOMPETITIVE geothermal leases, it’s only $1 an acre for 10 years!  What will the BLM do next?  Just tell these bidders to set out their lawn chairs and take whatever public lands they want?  (Oh wait, they just about do that now, since the bidders tell the BLM what parcels they want them to nominate.)

And it seems like only yesterday that the BLM Elko District was crying about the DROUGHT.

Let’s take a look at this equation:

We’re running out of water because there’s a severe drought + BLM leases public lands for pennies to “uses” that use LOTS of water + blame everything on the wild horses & burros and get rid of them = BLM “management” of public lands is ______ (you fill in the blank, but please don’t use swear words on the blog).

Anyhow, if you look at the BLM’s PUBLIC LAND STATISTICS for 2013, you’ll get a look at the bigger picture.

Besides the fact that the title of the article below refers to public lands as “BLM Land,” the links in the article don’t work, but you can go HERE to look at the Elko District oil & gas leases and HERE to look at the geothermal leases.

SOURCE:  elkodaily.com

BLM to Auction BLM Land in Elko for Oil Exploration

RENO — More than 64,000 acres of public land in the Elko District are up for bid in a competitive oil and gas lease sale 9 a.m. today at the Bureau of Land Management state office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno.

The BLM will include 44 parcels for lease. Registration and assignment of bidding numbers begin at 8 a.m.

The BLM offers quarterly oil and gas sales. The last Elko District sale on March 12, 2013, generated more than $1.2 million with the sale of 31 parcels covering more than 38,000 acres.

A second oil and gas sale will take place after, for 29 parcels in the Winnemucca and Carson City districts.

Parcels are nominated by industry representatives in advance of a sale.  The BLM reviews each parcel for any resource conflicts, which can result in stipulations placed on the parcel, deferral or partial deferral.

A complete summary of the parcels to be offered, GIS shapefiles and other documents related to the oil and gas sales are available online at http://on.doi.gov/1oXmCgT.

Oil and gas leases are for 10-year periods with annual rentals of $1.50 per acre for the first five years and $2 per acre after that until production begins.

Once a lease is producing, a royalty of 12.5 percent is charged.  Half of the bid and rental receipts go to the state.

Geothermal Lease

The BLM will have a competitive geothermal lease sale Wednesday at the BLM state office.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the sale begins at 9.  The sale includes two parcels in Nevada totaling more than 3,400 acres.  One parcel is located on the Winnemucca District, the second is located in the Carson City District.

There will also be five parcels located in Oregon.

Geothermal leases are for a 10-year period.  Annual rental for a competitive lease is $2 per acre for the first year, and $3 per acre until year 10.

Annual rental for a noncompetitive lease is $1 per acre for up to 10 years.

Additional environmental analysis would need to be conducted to receive permits to drill or build a facility to develop the energy from the geothermal source.

A complete summary of the parcels to be offered, GIS shapefiles and other documents related to the geothermal lease sale are available at http://on.doi.gov/1qCHSsY.

BLM to send wild burros to Guatemala to become beasts of burden?

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Copyright 2014    All Rights Reserved.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is planning to send America’s supposedly “protected” wild burros to Guatemala, where the once free-roaming wild burros may well become beasts of burden for poor rural Guatemalans with, most likely, little spare income for farriers or veterinary care (if there were any even available).  Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

BLM plans to ship the burros about 2, 000 miles.  The food for burros will certainly differ between the USA and Guatemala.   The BLM recently had about 80 wild mare’s die, supposedly from stress, shipping the mares from one location to another WITHIN KANSAS.

Will the burros be shipped by ground, through regions with drug gangs?  There are many human rights violations in Guatemala, so why would American burros be safe in this environment?

The BLM’s “From the Public” page, states this:

Question: Is the BLM looking into a wild burro-related partnership that would benefit small-scale farmers in Guatemala?

Answer: Yes, the BLM, which is dealing with limits on its off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros, is exploring the feasibility of a wild burro-related partnership with the Defense Services Cooperation Agency and Heifer International (http://www.heifer.org).  

To begin with, there isn’t a “Defense SERVICES Cooperation Agency” listed anywhere on the internet, but there IS a DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

Anyhow, putting this (seemingly) error aside, the BLM goes on to state:

The prospective partnership would provide gentled, sale-eligible wild burros under BLM management to assist communities and farmers in Guatemala, where burros are prized working animals and expensive for families in poverty to buy.  If the partnership were to move forward, the gentled burros would help carry water, crops, and other supplies.

I wonder if the BLM realizes that a terrible problem for equine already exists in Guatemala, and humane organizations are trying desperately to help?

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American Veterinary Medical Association volunteers in Guatemala have often encountered severe saddle sores in horses.

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World Horse Welfare observes “Working hard to transport crops through dense forests, these horses often have high physical demands placed upon them.”

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And “During our research it became clear that the horses of Zaragoza worked long days with cracked, misshapen hooves and poorly-fitted shoes, which were often too small and causing pain. Many had wounds caused by ill-fitting harnesses and were in very poor bodily condition. It was frequently clear that the owners did care for their horses, but lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to look after them properly.  This, coupled with the fact that skilled, locally-available farriers and affordable saddlers did not exist, meant that horses working in the Zaragoza area were enduring a life of unnecessary suffering.”

The Brooke Organization states “Reaching working horses, donkeys and mules and their owners and users in much of Guatemala is hard because of the mountainous terrain which can create access problems and the distances between communities can be large.”

So HOW in the world does the BLM, or its partners, plan to closely monitor the care of the American wild burros, and HOW OFTEN will they monitor them?

Animal Aware  states “Animals are generally not well treated in Guatemala. They are usually regarded as something which serves a purpose – as food, or as a source of work, such as carrying loads, or guarding the house. A domestic animal is often not so much seen as a pet, but as a status symbol. Guatemala is a poor country, and conditions are tough and life difficult for many people. Poverty combined with a non-benevolent attitude towards animals makes for a largely unhealthy situation, for domestic animals, and for animals in general.”

Wild Horse Freedom Federation does not think this BLM plan is in the best interests of American wild burros and calls for an immediate halt to this plan.  There is no possible way for our burros to be adequately monitored in Guatemala.

Gunnison prison caught with “hands in the cookie jar.” Now over 1,100 wild horses to be shipped out by Oct. 6th

by Debbie Coffey, V.P. & Dir. of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Copyright 2014 ~ All Rights Reserved.

While BLM spokesman Tom Gorey seemingly frets that it will “complicate national efforts to make sure there is enough off-range holding capacity for wild horses and burros that are removed off public ranges,” he failed to mention that the final report of the Department of Interior Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of Utah Correctional Industries (UCI), in which about $2 million dollars in costs submitted (and paid with taxpayer’s money) was questioned as being seemingly illegal, was issued Sept. 27, 2013.  That’s almost a year ago.

In this report, the OIG pointed out that “we found that UCI’s accounting systems do not fully comply with the standards set forth in 43 C.F.R. § 12.60 for financial reporting, budget control, and allowable costs.”

Why did it take the BLM about 6 years to figure out something was wrong with the accounting at Gunnison prison?  And why didn’t the BLM fire this contractor (rescind the contract) last year

Basically, it was uncovered that this BLM contractor overcharged the government by about $2 million dollars.  Why is the news twisted to make it seem like Utah Correctional Industries just decided not to renew their contract with the BLM because they weren’t making enough profit?

Has the BLM even bothered to review the facility reports and mortality reports from Gunnison?  Or was the BLM only focusing on the money?  More mismanagement by the Bureau of Land Management.

And now, after 80 deaths (and perhaps more by now?) of wild mares being shipped to a feedlot in Scott City, Kansas, another 1,500 wild horses need to be shipped out of Gunnison by October 6th.  Well, the BLM has had a year to find new places for these horses.

Does anyone recall this OIG report being brought up at the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting?  I also don’t see anything about Gunnsion Prison on the “Quick Facts” page of BLM’s Wild Horse & Burro Program website yet, either.  So much for being “quick.”

The entire BLM Wild Horse & Burro Program is wildly out of control. Here are a few excerpts from the report:

“We questioned costs that we re not allowable under terms of the agreement and applicable provisions of the C.F.R. In addition, we identified costs as unsupported when sufficient documentation related to the costs was not available for review.  Of  the $5,338,880 reported by UCI, we questioned $1,076,464 and classified $928,089 as unsupported.”

“A UCI official told us that the amount reported was based on the total amount funded by BLM and that UCI did not bill BLM based on recorded costs.  UCI was unable to provide any documentation to support the composition of the expenditures it reported. “

“Section III.A.6 of the cooperative agreement states: “[T]he recipient agrees to provide facilities that conform to BLM guidelines and specifications at no cost to the BLM.”  Based on this language and the provision that UCI would fund a share of the program costs itself, we questioned the $125,588 of recorded building and grounds costs.”

You can read the entire Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General Financial Assistance Audit for Cooperative Agreement No. JSA071001/L08AC13913 Between the Utah Correctional Industries and the Bureau of Land Management HERE.