Insider’s Look: Wyoming Checkerboard Wild Horse Case

By Carol Walker ~ Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation

img_0006On Monday I was in Denver at the Byron White Courthouse for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in two cases for wild horses. I am a plaintiff in both these cases, and had waited an especially long time for this day, as our lawsuit was originally filed in District Court in Wyoming in September, 2014.

The old courthouse is beautiful, full of character and I enjoy looking around while waiting for our first Oral Argument. The judges were: Judge Scott M. Matheson Jr., Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe and Senior Judge Monroe G. McKay.

Our attorneys were Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks LLP attorneys Bill Eubanks, Kathy Meyer and Nick Lawton.

Each side was only allowed 15 minutes, which could go a bit longer depending upon questions from the judges. Bill Eubanks argued for our side in both appeals. I was very impressed by his presentation and answers to questions, which were very thorough and methodical in laying out the important points. One issue that came up is that the BLM is wanting the Checkerboard case dismissed on grounds of mootness. Yet it is far from moot – on Friday the Decision Record was published by the BLM for the Checkerboard II Roundup, in which the BLM is again treating public lands as if they are private:  https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/59563/81678/95899/3c.DR_Checkerboard_Removal_2016.pdf

These are the two appeals:

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl Appellants v. Jewell, et al.

In the Checkerboard area in Wyoming, with alternating private and public lands on over 2 million acres we are fighting to keep our wild horse son our public lands, and to keep the BLM and private landowners treating public lands as if they are private. The consequences of this decision will have an impact on how our wild horses are treated in every Herd Management Area that includes private lands – not just other Checkerboard Areas like in Utah and Nevada.

WY State of Wyoming, Appellant v. United States Department of the Interior DOI, et al.; Intervenors American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl

In this appeal, the state of Wyoming sued the BLM to force them to remove wild horses from 7 herd management areas that were estimated to have more wild horses than the Appropriate Management Level. Here we a fighting to keep management of wild horses in Federal hands, where it belongs, rather than turning the management of our wild horses over to states who would as soon remove them all.

It was fascinating to me to listen to the back and forth between the attorneys and the judges. It was hard for me to tell how our side was doing, but I am hoping for the best. I was proud to be there representing our wild horses. We should hear the decision for both appeals in the next several weeks.

Related Posts:

Upcoming Checkerboard II Roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-federal-court-rules-blm-violated-law-in-checkerboard-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-stop-the-blms-illegal-plans-for-the-checkerboard-roundup-ii-comment-by-friday-april-22

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/please-comment-on-the-blms-upcoming-checkerboard-ii-wild-horse-wipeout-plan

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-grants-wild-horse-advocates-right-to-intervene-in-state-of-wyoming-anti-mustang-lawsuit

Wyoming v. BLM and Intervention

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horse-advocates-blast-governor-mead-for-suit-against-feds-over-wild-horses

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-wyomings-governor-seeks-complete-annihilation-of-his-states-wild-horses

Checkerboard Roundup and Lawsuit

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-grants-emergency-inunction-to-delay-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup-delayed-as-advocates-appeal-to-tenth-circuit

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-court-denies-emergency-motion-allows-wyoming-wild-horse-roundup-that-turns-public-lands-over-to-private-livestock-interests

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/news/wild-horses-federal-court-rules-blm-violated-law-in-checkerboard-roundup

http://www.wildhoofbeats.com/blog/wild-horses-fighting-to-save-wyomings-wild-horses-is-personal

Scandal at the BLM

waterflow

(photo: Cadizinc.com)

SOURCE:  weeklystandard.com

Scandal at the BLM

Inside information, investors, and a pipeline plugged by politics.

by Jim Swift

Strange things are afoot at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency housed within the Department of the Interior tasked with managing the nation’s vast swaths of publicly held land.

The main character in this mystery is a not a person, but a proposed pipeline intended to bring water from remote aquifers in the Mojave desert to drought-stricken southern California. Named the Cadiz project, it’s a privately owned venture that has been in regulatory limbo for over a decade—the work of the buzzsaw that is Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has pulled out all the stops to kill it. (You can read my earlier story on that here.)

Feinstein has used her clout on the Appropriations Committee to successfully insert a policy rider into law each and every year to specifically delay or deny the ability of the Cadiz project to move forward, running roughshod over her state’s House delegation (including Democrats), many of whom want the project to go forward.

The debate is over whether or not a proposed water pipeline within the right-of-way of a railroad that crosses over public lands “furthers a railroad purpose” and whether it has to get BLM approval. In the past, BLM pre-approval was not needed. Because of Feinstein’s urging, BLM withdrew a longstanding regulatory opinion and replaced it with one that “requires a fact specific case-by-case inquiry” for right-of-way use on BLM lands.

Despite this setback, Cadiz pushed forward and sought determination from BLM under the revised regulatory opinion.

And here’s where it gets fishy.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, a BLM employee routinely shared inside information about the Cadiz project’s future prospects with an investor at Whetstone Capital, a Kansas City firm that often short-sells publicly traded entities as part of its investment portfolio. That investor, Thomas McGannon, runs Whetstone’s investment research efforts. He exchanged a number of emails and phone calls with Erik Pignata, a realty specialist for BLM in California.

McGannon had a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) pending with BLM, but repeatedly and persistently fished for more information from Pignata while it was being processed. Pignata is not a FOIA officer.

It appears, per WSJ’s reporting, that McGannon’s fishing expidition was successful:

“Does the green line go through BLM lands?” Mr. McGannon asked in a Sept. 9, 2014 email, referring to a map of the Cadiz project. “I was mostly just curious if an alternate route along the green line would require BLM approval.” Mr. Pignata responded later that day that the alternative route “almost certainly” does.

On Feb. 19, 2015, Mr. McGannon inquired if there has been “any movement on the project discussions since we last spoke?” Mr. Pignata replied: “No, we are formulating our evaluation with DOI legal staff.” The emails suggest the two chatted repeatedly over the phone.

On June 4 Mr. McGannon emailed “great to catch up” along with a link to a blog post “Strong Sell On Project Failure, Insider Enrichment, And Bankruptcy, Price Target $0” that eviscerated Cadiz. On September 23 Mr. McGannon asked if there was “any news likely this week?” Mr. Pignata replied: “I have a briefing w/ the almost-highest people in my agency tomorrow . . . No pressure or anything.” Mr. McGannon cheered him on: “You got it man!”

A week later, Mr. McGannon inquired into when an adverse ruling would be finalized: “Wont [sic] it be great when I don’t bother you anymore.” Mr. Pignata replied: “I have a feeling Cadiz, Inc. isn’t going anywhere . . . so you’ll get to keep bugging me.” Several of Mr. Pignata’s emails suggest an animus toward the Cadiz project.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE HERE.