Horse News

Utah Sen. Lee targeting powers of BLM, Forest Service

as published on Deseret

“We need to get back to managing federal lands as opposed to terrorizing the communities that surround them,” 

Protesters ride on a trail in Recapture Canyon in San Juan County on Saturday, May 10, 2014. The ride was organized by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman in protest of what he says is the agonizingly slow decision-making process of the Bureau of Land Management. Sen. Mike Lee is preparing legislation that would abolish or limit the powers of the law enforcement arm of the BLM.

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants to rein in the law enforcement authority of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service and is crafting legislation he says will either restrict or abolish their authority.

Lee said Monday he aims to hem in powers he says were never envisioned under the Federal Land Management Policy Act of 1976.

“Our federal land management agencies have drifted far from their intended purposes,” he said. “The BLM has expanded its operations far from public lands.”

Lee, chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, convened a hearing earlier this month on the issue, querying top agency officials about the role their law enforcement plays on federal lands, and if that could be fulfilled by local sheriff deputies.

“It is incumbent on this subcommittee to ask whether combining resource management and criminal law enforcement has resulted in a profound disservice to both,” Lee said.

The senator added federal land agencies exercise police powers on private land — something the founders “exclusively” reserved to the states.

“We need to get back to managing federal lands as opposed to terrorizing the communities that surround them,” he said Monday.

Lee and others are optimistic the Trump administration is supportive of the West’s concerns, with massive restructuring underway in the BLM and a possible relocation of its headquarters to states that include Utah and Colorado.

State Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, in an update to his colleagues on the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee last week, described a whistleblower’s memo from a lead investigator who assessed how federal officers handled the 2014 armed standoff against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

“I routinely observed, and the investigation revealed a widespread pattern of misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff at the BLM’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security.”

Larry Wooten wrote that misconduct by now-fired Special Agent in Charge Dan Love and other supervisors caused “considerable disruption in our workplace, was discriminatory, harassing and showed clear prejudice against the defendants, their supporters and Mormons.”

Wooten’s memo went on to describe how he heard repeatedly that Love had a “Kill Book,” as a trophy and “in essence bragged about getting three individuals in Utah to commit suicide (see Operation Cereberus Action out of Blanding, Utah and the death of Dr. (James) Redd).”

Lee points to the 2009 Blanding raid involving Redd — who killed himself — as an example of BLM law enforcement gone amok, with multiple pre-dawn raids served at gunpoint.

“What happened in Blanding is a symptom of the underlying problem,” he said.

The so-called “Kill Book,” he added, is “abhorrent. This is the kind of thing that could have or would have been addressed more quickly with a state or local law enforcement agency.”

Lee said local law enforcement can carry out the same functions of BLM and the Forest Service and are more accountable to local residents.

“I don’t think it is an easy conclusion that these (federal lands law enforcement) agencies are worth having,” he said.

Local conservation organizations have complained about the lack of federal law enforcement resources to protect vital and irreplaceable cultural resources in remote regions of the state.

“Abolishing or restricting federal law enforcement officers is a thinly veiled step toward seizing public lands for the state,” said Mathew Gross, a spokesman for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

“That’s what the Utah delegation wants, but it’s not what the American people want. The first responders who patrol and protect our federal lands have been set up to fail with understaffing and a lack of funding. They should be receiving more support, not less, from Congress.”

10 replies »

  1. Things are getting worse by the day. Our country is being destroyed from within . I can’t remember who cautioned against this but now it is happening.


  2. Where does this Sen. stand on the horses, and other wild species, seems to me the animals have every right to co-exist with humans and not be slaughtered by those greedy ranchers??


  3. Interesting! I think the whole group is corrupt! They are public lands that belong to all of us. By giving authority to locals I feel it creates total ownership for the locals to do what ever they want. And that could mean the destruction of thousands of Wild Horses and Burros. In my estimation ALL of them need to go! And a total restructuring with NO one group having total control!


  4. There is no doubt that the BLM believes and acts like it is ABOVE the law and needs a complete “house-cleaning” from top to bottom but where is law enforcement when it comes to enforcing the law?
    Let us not forget this (written 4 years ago) twenty year old violation that has never been paid:
    $200 Per Day Per Head of Cattle since 1998. On November 3, 1998, United States District Judge (USDJ) Johnnie B. Rawlinson “permanently enjoined (Bundy) from grazing his livestock within the Bunkerville Allotment (‘The Allotment’), and shall remove his livestock from this allotment on or before November 30, 1998… (and) ordered that Plaintiff shall be entitled to trespass damages from Bundy in the amount of $200.00 per day per head for any livestock belonging to Bundy remaining on the Bunkerville Allotment after November 30, 1998.
    900 cattle times $200 per day = $180,000 per day times 365 days = $65,700,000 per year times 25 years = $1,642,500,000 that Bundy owes you and me plus interest and fines and court costs. I want him to pay … NOW.


  5. For starters…
    BLM “Gendarmes” Ignore Ninth Circuit Press Ruling and Arrest Photographer
    June 12, 2012
    By Steven Long
    Horseback Magazine

    HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Federal law enforcement ran afoul of a federal court ruling Sunday in an incident involving agents of the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when they detained two observers, including a videographer filming a wild horse “gather” and helicopter stampede. An advocate who works to protect the North American Mustang breed in the wild was also held for several hours.
    BLM has said the two will be charged with a crime.

    The filmmaker was sent to the hospital after being overcome by desert heat while he was confined in a law enforcement vehicle. Both were eventually released. The man’s equipment was damaged when it was thrown to the ground.

    Both were manhandled by the agents.

    The incident comes in the wake of an enormous First Amendment free speech and free access victory in California’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Leigh vs. Bureau of Salazar, which found the press and public could not be prevented from observing BLM wild horse round-ups. It is not the first time the agency and its law enforcement arm has ignored court orders.
    The Arizona roundup is being managed by longtime BLM helicopter contractor, Cattoor Livestock Roundups of Nephi, Utah. Critics say the firm stampedes horses into a trap and that many have been injured or killed over the years in the process.

    Kathleen Hayden, the advocate, and Carl Mrozek, a New York videographer were held and then released. The cameraman was taken to the hospital and his equipment seized. The tape he was making was not returned to him.
    Despite her treatment, Hayden still has hopes for better handling in the future.

    “I was not there as an advocate but to accompany a friend on the trip. The incident was about my civil rights to occupy a posted open public park. I believed the Federal officer had a duty to read me the law by which he had jurisdiction to make me leave. He refused to do this,” she said in a statement to Horseback Online Wednesday morning. “Please do not mistake this incident involving a few agency bullies to condemn all BLM . I know some fine people who happen to work for gov. agencies that also love wild horses and burros.”

    The incident occurred at the BLM Cibola-Trigo Herd Management Area bordering the Colorado River. Both were threatened, and both face charges, according to the agency’s Chief Washington Spokesman, Tom Gorey.

    “On June 10, 2012, two public observers were contacted by BLM Law Enforcement Rangers outside the designated viewing area. One of the individuals (MROZEK-MALE) had been previously asked on numerous occasions to leave the viewing area based on his failure to comply with instructions from law enforcement officers.”


  6. Heavy Cop Presence at Twin Peaks Keeps Contractor Hiding Place Off Limits
    Posted on August 27, 2010
    by Steven Long – Editor/Publisher of Horseback Magazine

    Armed Law Enforcement Out Number 4 Credentialed Reporters at Wild Horse Stampede

    The chief of the BLM’s security detail at Twin Peaks has refused an on the record interview with Horseback regarding the reason for such a heavy police presence being paid for by the American taxpayers when there has never been an apparent threat.


    • And I heard from more than one person who was there that the public were harassed even about when they could use the toilet facilities!


  7. BLM Arrests Two Citizens During Contested Arizona Wild Burro Stampede
    By Sonu Wasu of Tucson News Now

    “A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,”

    TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) – Two people were arrested during a burro roundup taking place in the Cibola Trigo herd management area, 20 miles outside of Yuma.

    An independent journalist and a woman in her 70’s who was observing the event were taken into custody by BLM officials.

    “On June 10, 2012, two public observers were contacted by BLM Law Enforcement Rangers outside the designated viewing area. One of the individuals (MROZEK-MALE) had been previously asked on numerous occasions to leave the viewing area based on his failure to comply with instructions from law enforcement officers. The other individual (HAYDEN-FEMALE), who was in a restricted area, was asked repeatedly to move to the designated viewing area, for her safety and the safety of those involved in the gather operations, and she refused to comply.

    Carl Mrozek spoke to Tucson News Now about the arrest. Mrozek was there to film a documentary about burros. It started out as in interest in the animal, but the interest grew as he observed roundups taking place throughout the country, and noticed the numbers of burros out in the wild rapidly declining.

    A video Mrozek shot in 2009 in the California desert raised a public outcry. The video showed a contracted BLM pilot chasing a burro in the desert, causing it to collapse.

    Mrozek said on Sunday, he along with several observers had set up in an area designated for the public, by the BLM.

    Mrozek said their view was obstructed by a line of trucks. He noticed an older woman step around the line to get a closer look at the action, when BLM officials approached her and took her into custody.
    He started filming the arrest. That’s when Mrozek said two BLM officials approached him and asked him to speak to them.
    Mrozek said they suddenly jumped on him and started putting hand cuffs on him.
    “A couple of them seized my arms, it seemed like they wanted to break my arms,” said Mrozek.

    “I felt like the burro. I had no rights. I was under the control of the posse of men with machines and guns. I felt like one of the burros,” said Mrozek.

    He said the officials then put him in the back of a pick-up truck, he was crouched in a back seat with his hands still cuffed behind his back.

    Mrozek said he sat there for a long time. He says it was over an hour, when he started to feel hot and faint.
    “I started feeling light headed and fainted. At one point when I woke up I had trouble breathing. My circulation was bad. It was 103 degrees outside, we were parked in the sun for over an hour. It was unpleasant, very unpleasant.

    Mrozek said he had to be taken to the hospital, where he was given fluids and treated for heat exhaustion.

    Mrozek said BLM officials returned his camera to him, but he noticed his microchip and all of the footage he had shot that day was missing. The footage included video of the roundup from Sunday, along with video of the arrest and confrontation with BLM officials.

    Mrozek said he felt like his First Amendment Rights had been violated, and he planned to seek legal counsel.


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