This Land Is No Longer Your Land

Source:  Bloomberg

The fight over preserving public land during the Trump era is taking a strange, angry twist in Montana’s Crazy Mountains. Both sides are armed.

In Park County, Mont., North Fork of Horse Creek Road with a “No Forest Service Access” sign.  Photographer: THOMAS PRIOR FOR BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK

by Monte Reel, Bloomberg

Brad Wilson is following a forest trail and scanning the dusky spaces between the fir trees for signs of movement. The black handle of a .44 Magnum juts prominently from his pack. If he stumbles on a startled bear at close range, the retired sheriff’s deputy wants to know the gun is within quick reach, in case something stronger than pepper spray is needed. Wilson isn’t the type who likes to take chances; he’s the type who plans ahead.

Before setting foot on this path, he unfolded a huge U.S. Forest Service map and reviewed the route, Trail 267. He put a finger at the trailhead, which was next to a ranger’s station, then traced its meandering path into the Crazy Mountains, a chain in south-central Montana that’s part of the northern Rockies. Like many of the trails and roads that lead into U.S. Forest Service land, Trail 267 twists in and out of private properties. These sorts of paths have been used as access points for decades, but “No Trespassing” signs are popping up on them with increasing frequency, along with visitors’ logs in which hikers, hunters, and Forest Service workers are instructed to sign their names, tacitly acknowledging that the trail is private and that permission for its use was granted at the private landowners’ discretion.

Wilson hates the signs and the logbooks, interpreting them as underhanded attempts by a handful of ranchers to dictate who gets to enter federal property adjacent to their own. Several of the owners operate commercial hunting businesses or rental cabins; by controlling the points of ingress to public wilderness, Wilson says, they could effectively turn tens of thousands of acres of federal land into extensions of their own ranches. That would allow them to charge thousands of dollars per day for exclusive access, while turning away anyone—hikers, anglers, bikers, hunters, locals like Wilson, or even forest rangers—who didn’t strike a deal.

Wilson, 63, is out on the trail to show me how the paths weave through private plots before reaching a destination he loves, and to show me why he loves it: The pebbled trout streams are crystalline, the elk run rampant, and painterly snowcaps break the big sky. The ranches along the way are pretty great, too, the kind of real estate that inspires—and, if acquired, perhaps even satisfies—the hunger a lot of people feel for scenic refuge. Many of the landholders are newcomers from out of state, though some old-timers remain—families that earned their deeds generations ago, the principal paid by ancestors who shivered through pitiless winters in tar-paper shacks. Wilson has been hiking and hunting the Crazies since he was a little kid, but only in the past year or so, he says, have the private ranchers seemed more like obstacles than neighbors. “They could shut down pretty much the whole interior of the Crazy Mountains, as far as I can see,” he says.    Read the rest of this article HERE.

Scandals Pile up for Interior Secretary Zinke

by Rebecca Worby as published on HCN.org

“This article does a very good job of chronicling the current and ever growing list of  ‘Dinkie’ Zinke’s indiscretions and questionable behavior but it falls short of describing his checkered and horse hating past.  We will bring information forward that provide verification that Dinkie does not only hold disdain in his heart for the American tax payer but also harbors a sick blood-lust for our equine companions be they domestic or wild.  He needs to be removed from his position before he forever damages the beauty of our public lands and the wild life that lives therein, he has got to go.” ~ R.T.


Ryan Zinke faces a range of accusations, and some investigations are underway.

In recent weeks, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has taken a lot of heat for his decisions. Conservation groups have lambasted him over the secretiveness of his department’s monuments review. The final review has yet to be made public, though a draft of the report leaked to the press in September. Conservationists have also critiqued his moves to undo years of collaborative planning for sage grouse protection.

Amid all this, several events have come to light that raise questions about Zinke’s ethical practices. The now-revoked Whitefish Energy contract for grid repair in Puerto Rico — though the tiny firm hails from his hometown, Zinke denies any involvement — is only the latest example. Some of his rumored transgressions have quickly dissipated; for example, he reportedly laughed off claims that he threatened Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan before a health care vote. He tweeted a photo of himself and Murkowski sharing beers a few days later. But some of the controversies — including allegations that Zinke has mixed professional and personal business, dodged campaign finance laws and generally demonstrated dubious ethics — have led watchdog groups to call for investigations. Here are the Zinke scandals we’re watching…(CONTNUED)

Click the link to read more about Dinkie Zinke and his exploits:

http://www.hcn.org/articles/scandals-pile-up-for-interior-secretary-zinke

Wild Horse and Burro Hater Zinke continues to add lobbyists and DC insiders to Interior

Source: Western Values Project.org

Ahead of potential confirmation votes, check out profiles of Interior nominees at https://departmentofinfluence.org/

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is expected to vote on the nominations of Joseph Balash and Ryan Nelson to the Interior Department. Ahead of the vote, Western Values Project has taken a look at how the revolving door continues to spin between special interests, their lobbyists, and Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department.

Both nominees have been well documented on Western Values Project’s website for their lengthy histories of favoring big donors and special interests.

“Secretary Zinke is continuing to fill his cabinet with special interests and Washington insiders. While Interior continues to stack the deck with staff from the oil and gas industry, they seem set on ignoring the outdoor industry that our communities rely on. That explains why sportsmen, hunters and anglers are turning against the Secretary,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “Balash and Nelson are merely the latest examples of Zinke’s refusal to keep his promise to preserve public lands and uphold his Montana values. With these nominations, it’s abundantly clear that Secretary Zinke does not value the outdoor heritage and public lands that communities in the West rely on.”

Joseph Balash

Joseph Balash, nominated to be assistant secretary of the Interior, land and minerals management, has a long history of favoring special interests over people in his home state of Alaska. In 2013, Balash was cited as one of the “key players on Gov. Sean Parnell’s bill to lower oil taxes.” In 2014, Balash used his time as the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to claim nearly 20,000 acres of the National Arctic and Wildlife Refuge to be offered for oil and gas leasing. He then approved lowered royalty rates on several leases operated by oil company Caelus Energy.

Ryan Nelson
Ryan Nelson, nominated to be solicitor of the Interior, has a background in using power to silence critics. During the George W. Bush administration, Nelson used his time as deputy attorney general for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division to argue against environmental groups and activists. Nelson has since spent his time in the private sector acting as general counsel to the health care product company Melaleuca, Inc. and its CEO Frank VanderSloot. Both Melaleuca and VanderSloot have used lawsuits and other bullying tactics to attack journalists and other critics.

http://westernvaluesproject.org/zinke-continues-to-add-lobbyists-and-dc-insiders-to-interior/

“Fake News” and Lies Fuel Debate to Violate Federal Law and Kill Wild Horses and Burros

‘In my most Outraged Opinion!’ by R.T. Fitch

“Is it just me…?”

Secretary Zinke and BLM Plan for Wild Horses and Burros

For years we U.S. Taxpayers, who have decried the excessive removal of protected wild horses and burros from their rightful range, have been deluged with bogus numbers, bad science and just plain bull crap by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their deep pocketed bed-fellows. Today, we are seeing it reach new heights and becoming even more toxic for the wild horses and burros; it has to stop

It’s bad enough that we have a long time horse slaughter advocate, Ryan Zinke, appointed as Secretary of the Department of Interior, (Remember back in 2009 when Montana Rep. Zinke promoted “Red” Ed Butcher’s bill to legalize horse slaughter plants in Montana? Now he has the reins of the DoI and already is attempting to send wild horses and burros in holding and on the range into mass graves.) But now we have Horse Eaters of the past crawling out from underneath their moldy rocks in an effort to taste the blood of our iconic symbols of the west.

In a recent ‘news’ article, long time Horse Hater and former member of the BLM’s rigged Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, Callie Hendrickson has reared her horse killer head and assumed the thorny throne of chief disseminator of rumor, innuendo and trumped up numbers.

“The bottom line is we have pushing 100,000 excess horses and we have to do something,” she said.

What the hell? 100,000 excess horses, where did you dig up that number? Have you actually been sitting out on the range with your iPad and taking notes or is that, obviously, a number that was just pulled out of your backside as a matter of convenience?

Nobody, and I mean nobody has an accurate account of how many horses are on the range and the BLM has no interest in counting. Wild Horse advocates who spend time on the range estimate anywhere from between 27,000 to 36,000 wild horss are still on the range and most of the whittled down herds are no longer genetically viable due to the BLM’s unlawful practice of ripping herds apart in direct violation of federal law. So what makes you so special, Callie, and who made you the SME on a subject that you know nothing about.

Oh yeah, and what the crap does “excess horses” mean? What is the definition and where is the data to support such BS? (being rude to bulls, here) This is just the sort of misinformation that the BLM and Zinke are laying on Congress and the Senate in an effort to have the wild horses an burros killed.

Zinke is asking Congress to remove the limits on destroying healthy, unadopted equines or selling them for slaughtering and processing for commercial products; gotta love it and this is all going on in plain view and little is being done to counter it. Where is the outrage?

Hendrickson said public lands will support 27,000 of the animals, but there are 72,000 out there not counting this year’s new foals, as well as another 47,000 in holding facilities, which costs taxpayers $50 million a year for feed and care. Every year, another 15,000 wild horses are being born, she said.

More BS as the numbers change and continue to climb every time you read an article in mainstream news. Where are the documented sources and where is the data? The only number that is close to correct is the number of horses that have been stripped from their rightful range where costs were ZERO, ZIP, NADDA and now are held in herds of broken families waiting for their lives to end. Easy fix; put them back on their rightful range, where you took them from and now allow welfare cattle to graze, and put the cows back on the cattle ranches. Cost = ZERO! Cows on ranches, wild horses on wild horse ranges…simple; make sense?

The horses and burros are coming up to a cross roads as we have never had, at any one point in time, such a concentrated effort to kill all of the horses in holding and murder the remaining horses and burros on the range. That reality is with us, right now.

We must stop this, we need to put this debate behind us and educate our legislators on the fact that the BLM and Zinke are feeding them nothing but Fake News, misinformation and pure unequivocal lies.

The threat is real, the fix is in our hands…please click (HERE) for more information on how to help and make a difference, we can make it happen. We HAVE to make it happen.

Yellowstone and Montana are Killing the Last Wild Buffalo

read more at the Buffalo Field Campaign

“Yellowstone National Park — shamefully complicit in Montana’s livestock industry’s war against wild buffalo…”

photo – Buffalo Field Campaign

More than 1,200 of America’s last wild buffalo have been killed this winter, and it isn’t over yet. Hunting along Yellowstone’s boundaries has taken the lives of more than 400 buffalo. Hunters are still in the field making kills. It’s a terrible time of year to hunt. The buffalo — like other wild grazers — have used up all of their fat stores, and are showing ribs and bony hips, waiting for the re-greening of the Earth so they can again replenish their huge bodies. This is also the time of year when the long, harsh winter takes her toll, too. There will be many buffalo who will not survive into spring, but the government is not accounting for these deaths in their mad rush to reduce this most significant and vulnerable population. Further, hunters are still killing adult female buffalo who will begin having their calves in about six weeks. All too often, BFC patrols make heartbreaking discoveries of finding fully-formed baby buffalo in their mother’s gut piles.

Additionally, Yellowstone National Park — shamefully complicit in Montana’s livestock industry’s war against wild buffalo — has captured close to 800 buffalo, all of whom have been or will be sent to slaughter. The trap is emptying quickly, though Yellowstone continues to attempt to capture. Recently, some buffalo have resisted these attempts, while others have not been so lucky. On Monday in Gardiner, BFC patrols documented as five Yellowstone wranglers on horseback tried to trap fifty-five buffalo; all but one got away, running to the hills for their lives. The unfortunate mama buffalo who was trapped caught the attention of another family group of twenty-two. Coming dangerously close to the trap, they sealed their own fate as the wranglers, hungry to capture, took advantage of the situation. Hundreds of wild buffalo are gone forever. BFC’s Mike Mease and Stephany Seay attended the second media tour of Yellowstone’s trap last Thursday, where we again witnessed Yellowstone park rangers, wranglers, and biologists doing the service of the Montana Department of Livestock as they loaded wild buffalo onto stock trailers headed for the slaughterhouse, then proceeded to move more through the trap. It has become business as usual for these buffalo abusers, just another day in the park. They tell us that they don’t like doing this, that they want slaughter to end, but their actions say something else. Yellowstone National Park is not without significant power, but they have shown they are without courage. They can stand up to Montana and refuse to participate. But they don’t. Their cold routine of capturing, testing, sorting, and shipping the country’s national mammal to a horrific death — as they don the image of this sacred being on their uniforms and rake in millions from the people who come to adore them — has become just another day at work. They attempt to put the task of change on the public, shirking responsibility for their part in these crimes. While it is true that a current Montana law – MCA 81-2-120 — is the driver behind the cumulative mismanagement plans and practices, Yellowstone should not have the luxury of of passing the buck. The world’s most well-known national park has astounding influence that they choose not to use. Instead, they kill America’s last wild buffalo. By the end of March, this should all be over.

Please continue to keep pressure on Montana and Yellowstone. Do not ease up. Be relentless and don’t accept their excuses. Laws, decisions, and management plans can be changed.
* Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk 307-344-2002
* Montana Governor Steve Bullock 406-444-3111

And contact your members of Congress to tell them that this must end once and for all. Congress holds the purse strings and can end the funding…(CONTINUED)

http://buffalofieldcampaign.org/bfc-news/yellowstone-and-montana-are-killing-the-last-wild-buffalo

Yellowstone & Montana Can Stop the Bison Slaughter Today

Source: The Buffalo Field Campaign

“Most people who reach these decision-makers are meeting with frustration; being told lies in condescending tones by the governor’s office that Yellowstone is responsible for the slaughter while Yellowstone officials say that it’s all Montana’s fault and there is nothing they can do to stop it.”

This winter’s Yellowstone buffalo death toll has breached one thousand, and continues to climb. Counting the few hundred still trapped inside Yellowstone’s Stephens Creek capture facility and the continued hunting pressures just outside the park, the government agencies will likely surpass their goal of killing 1,300 ecologically extinct wild, migratory buffalo. This does not even include the significant number of buffalo deaths due natural causes from the severe winter. Hundreds of thousands of people are seeing and sharing BFC’s stories and images of Yellowstone’s shameful crimes against wild buffalo. These actions are being conducted with your tax dollars on behalf of Montana’s livestock industry.

This morning BFC will be attending a second “media tour” inside the trap. The atrocious actions we’re witnessing and documenting continue despite thousands, if not tens of thousands, of calls, emails, and letters to Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Most people who reach these decision-makers are meeting with frustration; being told lies in condescending tones by the governor’s office that Yellowstone is responsible for the slaughter while Yellowstone officials say that it’s all Montana’s fault and there is nothing they can do to stop it. As the number of slaughtered buffalo climbs due to their actions, these same decision-makers toss up their hands in mock helplessness. However, they are both responsible and they can both take immediate and necessary actions today to end this senseless war against wild buffalo. These decision-makers work collaboratively within the Interagency Bison Management Plan to devise and carry out agreed upon management schemes, and their deceptive, pass-the-buck strategy of shirking of responsibility is pushing the country’s last continuously wild buffalo herds towards the brink of extinction.

Please continue to make these calls! If you are outside of the U.S., send letters and emails. Be relentless and don’t accept their excuses.
Phone calls are the most effective because they cannot be ignored.

  • Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk, #307-344-2002
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock #406-444-3111

Here are some important points to consider – No agency’s hands are tied!

  • The Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) is an *adaptive* plan that allows for change, and part of its goal is to “maintain a wild, free-ranging population of bison.” Capture-for-slaughter is not set in stone. Each agency consents (agrees) to any management strategy set forth in the IBMP, meaning that Yellowstone could object to capture-for-slaughter. Any agency, at any time, can pull out of the IBMP.
  • The Interagency Bison Management Plan has expired, and a new plan is now being considered. Yellowstone and Montana need to endorse a plan that respects wild bison like wild elk in Montana.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock can issue an executive order to stop Yellowstone’s slaughter. He has done so in the past, as recently as this winter, and can do it again at any time.
  • Montana Governor Steve Bullock can take action to repeal state law MCA 81-2-120 to remove the authority of the Montana Department of Livestock over wild bison when they migrate into Montana.
  • Montana’s livestock industry is a vocal minority. Nearly 75% of Montanans have repeatedly expressed that they want wild, migratory buffalo to be restored in their native Montana.
  • Wild bison are not overpopulated. In fact, they are ecologically extinct throughout their native range. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature have classified the American buffalo as “threatened with near extinction” while the state of Montana recognizes wild, migratory bison as “vulnerable to global extinction.”
  • Wild bison have never transmitted the cattle bacteria brucellosis back to cattle. Only under human-manipulated conditions have any such transmissions occurred. Elk, who are free to roam as they please, have been implicated numerous times in brucellosis transmissions to livestock in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

The one thing — the most important thing — that is never considered by decision-makers is the buffalo’s perspective. This failure enables the human managers responsible for the slaughter to make the decisions they make and carry out the abuses that they do. Wild buffalo have walked the earth for tens of thousands of years. The planet chose them, through millions of years of evolution, to be the creators and caretakers of the grasslands and prairies. The buffalo are our elders, our relatives on this earth. They are not some presence who has suddenly appeared and become a “problem” that humans must manage to death. They do not make mistakes. Humans do. Buffalo were chosen for the job that they do: walking the earth, gently eating the grass, tilling the soil, carrying the seeds, fertilizing the earth, creating habitats for other species, awakening water underground in the aquifers to help bring the rains, and to offer their abundant bodies as food and nourishment for not just humans, but for other predators and scavengers alike–for the land herself. They possess ancient wisdom that has been carried through their memories and blood lines since buffalo time began. They adopt orphans. They mourn the dead. They carry their young in their wombs for nine months. They teach the young. They care for the elderly. They play. They become frightened. They find comfort. They tend to each other. They teach us to be family. They want to live. Once upon a time we listened to them. We have forgotten to listen. The people who cause the buffalo so much suffering have become deaf and blind to their teachings. They have to, or they could not do what they do. But the buffalo are still here, still sharing their wisdom, still offering themselves. But the buffalo have that kind of patience, if they can survive this human culture, they will be there waiting for us to catch up.

WILD IS THE WAY ~ ROAM FREE!

http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/bfc-news/yellowstone-montana-can-stop-the-slaughter-today

‘Stop the Yellowstone Massacre’: Group Puts Up Billboards Urging End to Bison Slaughter

as published on the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

“The most recent update from Yellowstone National Park said that 179 bison had been sent to slaughter….”

photo by Rachel Leathe

photo by Rachel Leathe

Drivers heading south from Four Corners on Highway 191 will now zip past a billboard with a gory scene and a simple message: dead bison, lying in a pool of blood underneath block letters asking people to call Montana’s governor and tell him to “Stop the Yellowstone Massacre.”

The billboard is one of two that the Alliance for the Wild Rockies bought, the other being in Helena. Steve Kelly, a board member for Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the artist who painted the picture, said they hope people will see the signs and pressure Montana Gov. Steve Bullock into blocking the annual shipping of Yellowstone bison to slaughter for the year.

“It’s a horrendous thing,” Kelly said. “He’s the one who has the power to stop it.”

The signs went up this week, arriving after hundreds of bison have already been sent to slaughterhouses and while another few hundred wait their turn. Alliance for the Wild Rockies is one of several environmental groups that oppose shipping bison to slaughter, a practice government officials consider necessary to meet population reduction goals each year.

“The National Park Service needs to address bison overpopulation in Yellowstone National Park,” said Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel in an emailed statement.

The culling of Yellowstone’s bison herd happens because of a 17-year-old management plan rooted in fears of the disease brucellosis. Brucellosis can cause animals to abort their calves, and the livestock industry worries that if bison are allowed to roam farther outside of the park that the disease might be spread to cattle herds, though no case of bison transmitting the disease to cattle has been documented in the wild.…(CONTINUED)

http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/environment/stop-the-yellowstone-massacre-group-puts-up-billboards-urging-end/article_1015b71c-c816-542f-835f-b7b4c933c5bb.html

Don’t Slaughter Montana’s Bison

article by George Wuerthner

“As most of our seasoned readers are aware, the main thrust of SFTHH is to bring to the forefront the plight of our American equines be they domestic or wild.  But while being tuned into the misconduct of out of control government agencies we cannot help but be aware of the cruelty rained down upon other wild species such as the Bison, Wolves, Bears, Cougar and even Coyotes.  What is happening to yet another 4 legged treasure, the Bison, is unexcusable and a often witnessed example of government thinking with their pocketbook and not listening to the wishes of the citizens.  Today George Wuerthner shares more information and ammunition in the fight to save the bison.  We applaud his expertise and will move forward as suggested.  Keep the faith, my friends.” ~ R.T.


“Welfare Ranchers go after yet another native wild species…”

bison-slaughterThe Louvre Museum in France houses some of the most famous art works in the world, including paintings by such famous artists as Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

What would you think if you heard the famous Louvre Museum began to throw out and burn in the streets these priceless masterpieces saying they needed to make room for the remaining art work?

How do you think the art world would respond if they suggested that a way to save the art was for the museum to build another wing to house the paintings or even give the paintings to other museums who would gladly accept them?

But instead of following such sensible advice, the French government prohibited expansion of the museum or even the transport of the world’s heritage to other museums and argued the only solution they would considered was to burn paintings? I’m certain it would be an international scandal.

But this is exactly what the Montana government is doing by the senseless slaughter of our national mammal —Yellowstone’s genetically unique and wild bison. These bison are a global heritage that the state of Montana is treating as if they are expendable and valueless asset.

Even the paintings by art masters are not as priceless as the genetically pure Yellowstone bison that are a consequence of a long line of evolution, yet Montana is treating these magnificent beasts as if they were vermin.

Worse, the justification for this butchery is flawed. One excuse is that the livestock industry is threatened by brucellosis, a disease that can cause abortions in livestock. The other major reason given for rounding up bison and slaughtering them is some assert there are too many animals for the park.

Both are questionable assertions, but even if they were valid arguments, there are viable solutions that do not require the destruction of these animals.

Fact: there is no documented transmission of brucellosis from wild bison to livestock. The only examples of wildlife transmission to cattle is the result of elk, not bison.

Fact: Yellowstone’s bison are genetically unique. Most bison herds in the United States have cattle genes mixed into their genome, but Yellowstone’s bison are one of the few genetically pure populations.

Fact: There is an abundance of public land on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and other state and federal lands outside of Yellowstone National Park where bison could winter or even live year-round.

Fact: There are other large blocks of public land within the historic range of bison that could support herds such as Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming’s Red Desert, and the Vermillion Basin of Colorado.

Fact: There are numerous Indian tribes that wish to start or augment their own bison herds if only Montana would allow them to be transported.

Fact: Montana’s livestock industry will not lose its brucellosis free status simply because one or two herds are infected.

Fact: There are brucellosis vaccines that are available free of charge to ranchers that can reduce the chances of infection.

Fact: The only way that cattle can become infected with brucellosis is if they consume or lick an aborted bison fetus. This must occur before the bacteria dies or the fetus is consumed by scavengers like ravens, coyotes, and magpies.

Fact: Even if in theory bison cows could abort and transmit the disease to livestock, bison bulls and calves cannot transmit the disease, yet they make up a high percentage of the animals being slaughtered.

Fact: There is simply no scientific or even legitimate rationale for the continued slaughter of this priceless wildlife legacy. The real reason our collective patrimony is being destroyed due to the intransigence of the livestock industry.

Please call or write Governor Bullock and Montana’s Congressional delegation and ask them to work for a solution that treats Yellowstone’s wild bison as the priceless and precious global inheritance they represent.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist who has published 38 books. He divides his time between Bend, Oregon, and Livingston, Montana.

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

Montana horse breeder begins sentence for animal cruelty

Source: The Missoulian

“…five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized…”

James Leachman

James Leachman

BILLINGS – A Billings horse breeder has begun a 120-day animal-cruelty conviction sentence after the Montana Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says 72-year-old James Leachman turned himself in at the county’s detention center Friday.

Leachman operated a horse breeding business before the U.S. Farm Services Administration foreclosed on the property in 2010. Leachman still kept more than 400 horses on the property after it was sold.

Investigators discovered five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized.

The Billings Gazette reports Leachman was sentenced to five years in jail with all but 120 days suspended.

Leachman has asked a judge to allow him to serve his sentence at his home for health and other reasons.