Horse News

Feel Good Sunday: Monkey Business by the BLM in Elko

SOURCE:  Elko Daily Free Press

“It seems wild horse advocates aren’t the only American taxpayers having problems with BLM employees overstepping their authority.  This story is being posted for a few laughs, since this is supposedly the Bureau of Land Management, and a BLM ranger didn’t seem to have GPS or a good map.  This story also includes a couple of interesting/questionable phone calls.  This should be a reminder to all of you to be sure to have GPS and good road maps with you while enjoying public lands.  If BLM’s Internal Investigation of this matter is completed during our lifetime we will try to follow up.”  – Debbie Coffey

Resident complains to county about BLM law enforcement    By Dylan Woolf Harris

BLM Ranger using latest technology, two left thumbs.

BLM Ranger using latest Federal technology, two left thumbs.

ELKO — A Bureau of Land Management law enforcement officer, accused of erroneously ticketing a local for cutting wood, isn’t allowed to tell his side until the agency completes an internal investigation.

Resident Brad Nelson said he and two friends were cited by Ranger Brad Sones near Spruce Mountain for cutting wood in a wilderness study area. They each received a ticket for about $275. Nelson addressed the county commission Wednesday, which has discussed BLM law enforcement issues before.

But BLM representatives felt blindsided by the complaint.

BLM Elko District Manager Jill Silvey said she called Commissioner Grant Gerber prior to the meeting to prepare for it.  She said she was told it would be a follow-up to a discussion that occurred in January, in which the commission talked about the inconvenience of driving to Reno to fight a ticket issued by a federal employee.

“I came prepared to discuss that. I did not come prepared to discuss anything else,” she said.

Gerber said he told Silvey some dissatisfied residents might be in attendance but he wasn’t authorized to say who at that time.

Nelson came prepared with evidence, including the GPS coordinates where he received the ticket and two recorded phone messages left on his friend’s voice mail from Sones.

In one message, a voice identified as Sones said the court date had been changed.

Nelson said he thought it odd the officer who issued the ticket would be responsible to call about a change of date, and he decided to double check with the court.  According to Nelson, the court date hadn’t been changed.

As the trial date approached, Nelson and his friends received another phone message from Sones, which he also shared for the commission.  In it, Sones said the case was dismissed and Nelson could toss out the citation.

Nelson called the court again to find out that the trial hadn’t been canceled, he said, although he added that two or three days later, he received a letter confirming the charges were dismissed.

Even though the charge was resolved, Nelson said he felt compelled to tell the commission because he viewed the incident as a slippery slope toward an abuse of authority.

“If it happens once, it’s going to happen again,” Nelson said.  “The more power you give somebody, the more they’re going to push.”

Nelson described the BLM law enforcement agent as stiff and humorless — and whose hand never left a holstered gun.

Sones wrote each man a ticket for chopping wood in a wilderness study area.  Nelson was confident he and his friends weren’t in a WSA and later checked a map.  By his estimation, he was at least six miles away from the study area.

“As he wrote us our tickets he pretty much told us that ‘There’d be no point in fighting this.  You’re fighting the federal government.  You will not win,’” Nelson said.

Sones was in attendance, as were a number of other BLM employees.  The Commission asked Sones to approach the board, but he was quickly intercepted by Daniel Love, BLM special agent-in-charge for Utah and Nevada.

Love said he wasn’t aware of Nelson’s complaint and said the agency wanted to review the issue internally before Sones engaged with the county commission.  Later, Silvey also told the commission she wasn’t going to allow Sones to address the complaint at that time.

Love said once the internal investigation was completed, he would bring it back to the board if members wanted him to.

“I don’t know if a county commission meeting is the appropriate venue to go back and forth,” Love said.  “… I just don’t want to get in the habit that we find ourselves in the county commission meeting where we’re not having that internal process first, to review them and study them.”

Commissioner Glen Guttry agreed, saying the commission wasn’t a court.

Commissioner Demar Dahl disagreed that Sones should remain silent.

“Obviously we’re not a court, but we do have the responsibility to protect the interest of the citizens of Elko County,” he said.  “… If they were abused by you or your agency or whatever, then I think it’s perfectly legitimate that they should come here to express that concern.  And, I think it’s also perfectly legitimate that we should hear from the one who issued the citation and find out if what we heard first from the citizen is the truth.  If that can be refuted, this is the opportunity to do that.”

Sones did end up at the lectern, however, to address a resident who later questioned how he was supposed to know where wood cutting was permitted, generally.  The commissioners pounced on the opportunity to ask Sones about the citation he wrote.

Before BLM officers tapped Sones on the back, he did say that he wrote the citation, but declined to comment on whether he left voice messages on anyone’s phone.

Love said residents can call or email the BLM state chief ranger to file complaints.  He encouraged residents to contact Silvey with complaints, as well.

Commissioners were leery of reporting allegations of misconduct about the BLM to the BLM, although Kristin McQueary, legal counsel for the county and chief civil deputy D.A., said the county sheriff’s office has the same policy.

“They can’t fix problems that they don’t know about,” she said.

The commission also found itself in the hot seat.

Lori Gilbert, local TV and radio news director, called out Gerber for not disclosing that he had prepared to be legal counsel for Nelson. Gerber, who hadn’t mentioned his connection to Nelson up to that point, said he received a call and offered to look at their complaint for free.  Gerber decided the three men had a case and agreed to represent them in court.

Gilbert asked Gerber if he was acting as a private attorney or public office holder when he agreed to represent Nelson and when he brought the agenda item to the commission.

Gerber said he didn’t have a conflict of interest.  McQueary, who often scolds commissioners who don’t disclose conflicts of interest prior to meetings, said nothing.

Gilbert, who chastised the board a few months ago for writing vague agenda items, said on Wednesday that commissioners left out pertinent information from being included on the agenda again.

Gerber said he believed the agenda item didn’t violate the open meeting law and suggested Gilbert file a formal complaint if she disagreed.

“Obviously you had information and you withheld it from the agenda, Commissioner Gerber,” she said.

The agenda item did not mention Nelson or specific complaints against the BLM officer.

In full, the agenda item states:

“Discussion and consideration of issues related to law enforcement activities by BLM Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) in Elko County. Discussion may include concern regarding BLM enforcement of Nevada State Law that would require a ticketed person to go to Federal Court in Reno or Las Vegas instead of a local Court.”

Silvey said the BLM has been in talks with the sheriff’s office to reach an agreement where a BLM officer would be deputized to partially enforce state law to save a cited resident a trip to federal court.

Commissioner Charlie Myers and Dahl both stated they would not support deputizing a BLM officer.

Sheriff Jim Pitts said he was not aware of any citation issues.  Pitts encouraged residents to contact his office with law enforcement complaints in Elko County, including those related to federal agents.

11 replies »

  1. Whaaaaa? Funny in a Catch-22 kind of way. It would have been funnier if the BLM was left holding the bag however, even if it wasn’t empty. That Special Agent Love (oh, there’s a good one) could AND DID prevent testimony by Sones until an internal investigation occurs which will NEVER be completed, reminds me of the EA process used to fake-rationalize the roundup of horses and burros. Today would feel better and this would be funnier if it didn’t.

    Eastern NV is not a feifdom. Federal land is not a kingdom. We are not serfs. We are paying with our taxes for good stewardship of the land and its four-footed and winged inhabitants, who are indeed noble.

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    • Sorry, Rob, I thought it was funny that a BLM ranger didn’t know where the boundaries were on the land.
      I think the BLM is left holding the bag because this is now very public. We all know BLM Internal “Investigations” take forever. I’m still waiting to see how the BLM tries to cover up/spin the Spur Livestock selling of wild horses with sale authority brands and BLM freezemarks to kill buyer Joe Simon. R.T. presented government documents to the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board in Oklahoma many months ago, and we’re still waiting.

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      • Oh yeah, for sure Deb it is funny. But in a strange, ironic, ass backwards, sad, Catch-22 kind of way. I used to work for the USFS and volunteered for the BLM. There is the right way, the wrong way, the Army way, and the government way.
        And there is the average intelligence, world view, life experience, morals, and ethics of any one individual, including a government employee who won’t take his hand off his holster who happens to be a BLM Ranger. My disappoint is that the wild ones get caught in the middle. Them and their predators would get along fine without any humans involved at all. You could say, it is funny how much we have to learn. But it is also so real.

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  2. Hand never left weapon. Hmmmm horses get shot all over the states but the only people seen holding the smoking guns r these clowns. Hmmmmmm conne tion?????????? Self govering agencies make all issues internalize and disappear. What carefully as the rabbit went in the hat…….dont wait……it wont be back…….ever.

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  3. “As he wrote us our tickets he pretty much told us that ‘There’d be no point in fighting this. You’re fighting the federal government. You will not win,’” Nelson said.”

    And that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

    This is a small-scale version of what we’ve witnessed for the past few years – a culture of fearless disregard for regular humans and their inconsequential little laws and policies. I’m mean, whose gonna bust the BLM?

    Former Director Bob Abbey spearheaded a campaign to harrass a whistleblower right out of his job regarding shenanigans surrounding the Anaconda Mine Superfund Cleanup. Mr. Abbey’s punishment? Being appointed director.

    The massive fraud discovered a few years ago involving illegal sale of wild horses – by BLM agents and associates – to slaughter plants was so convoluted and corrupted, the case was eventually dropped as ‘unprosecutable’; to this day the BLM gets to proudly state on their web site, “… the BLM does not and has not sold or sent horses or burros to slaughter.” (coughcough)

    An investigation into the lack of humane handling by BLM and it’s contractors, conducted either ‘in-house’ or by an investigative team, hand-picked, every one of them associated with the USDA in some fashion – which is kinda like asking your best friend for 35 years to help you hide a body.

    This is just the stuff wild equine advocates know about. BLM is a BIG company.

    However, I think Deb more than nails it: Wouldn’t you think, working with the Bureau of LAND Management, even a Federal LEO might possibly NEED to know the borders, boundaries, outlines and locations of the land he’s hired to ‘protect’?

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  4. http://prophoto7journal.wordpress.com/
    FACT OR FICTION: BLM versus AMERICA

    This article is about two government agencies who lie to the general public to obtain their yearly budgets. It is about information often misrepresented by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). Truthfully, it is about integrity, personal choices, and ethics in accord with government agencies and how they destroy values and ethics daily.

    The example shown is nothing more or less than what is ongoing, continuously, with these agencies. One instance like many others through the years, due to complacency within our government investigative and legal communities, essentially the checks-n-balance system within our government, no longer hold our government accountable what so ever, not doing their jobs.

    This must change, and change it will. . .

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  5. “… responsibility to protect the interest of the citizens of Elko County,”
    And may I add that this is much bigger than Elko County … this is at the federal level … inept and corrupt actions by BLM against ALL citizens of the United States. It’s one thing to make a mistake (BLM employee not knowing where he is) but far worse that he took illegal actions to cover it up by lying that the case had been changed and dropped when it had not. Corruption? You betcha!

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    • I agree. Competent, ethical people doing the job the public expects them to do do not use these tactics. And good leaders would make it quite clear to the employees in their agency what will and will not be tolerated.

      Like

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