It is like going up against the Sheriff of Nottingham, who has absolute authority and is answerable only to a far away, uninterested king.
In May the Bureau of Land Management relented and announced it had come to a year-long deal with ranchers on the Argenta allotment on Mount Lewis in the Battle Mountain District to allow grazing. The BLM reneged.
At the end of July the BLM told ranchers using Mount Lewis that “drought triggers” had been met and cattle must be removed in seven days.
“We must remove the cattle from our summer grazing country on the mountain, where there is ample feed and adequate water, to the flat, where there is very little of either,” rancher Pete Tomera told the Elko Daily Free Press.
Bob Schweigert of Intermountain Range Consultants in Winnemucca says ranchers had to sign new grazing agreements with the BLM in May and the BLM is violating terms of those agreements.
The BLM agreed to review key monitoring locations in coordination with permittees in early June, but the scheduled joint monitoring was canceled. Instead days later a rancher came across BLM employees conducting monitoring without any ranchers present. Another monitoring outing was scheduled on short notice while permittees were away from the area, and testing again was done without ranchers present.
“They lied to us again,” rancher Eddyann Filippini told the Elko newspaper. “(Battle Mountain BLM manager Doug) Furtado can’t be trusted and we don’t trust the data they collect from the range monitoring sites when they don’t allow us to accompany them.”
John Carpenter, chairman of the Committee for Sustainable Grazing, said temporary electric fences should be erected around the “postage stamp” riparian areas as provided by the BLM’s own Drought Management Environmental Analysis.
“These small riparian areas, as administered by the BLM, are preventing the livestock users from using their private land and water rights,” Carpenter said, but added that the BLM appears to be unwilling to follow those recommendations.
The ranchers say delays in getting cattle out on the range and what fencing they were required to do by BLM has cost them half a million dollars.
Reportedly some ranchers chose to defy the latest order to remove their cattle, contending the BLM breached the agreements made with ranchers.
A demonstration similar to one in May, dubbed the “Cowboy Express,” is scheduled in September — in which riders are to carry a petition to Washington, D.C., seeking the local BLM manager’s firing.
Of course, this prompted a writer with the Huffington Post to huff and puff about how scofflaw ranchers in May had bullied the poor BLM bureaucrats with peaceful horseback protest rides and petitions.
He compared this with the standoff at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville and made no mention of the fact the ranchers documented that grass on the allotment in May was nearly two-foot tall in places.
“Like Cliven Bundy and his supporters, these ranchers think they are above the law. They refuse to be held accountable for the condition of public lands after degradation by their livestock,” the clueless Huffington writer pontificates. “When the ‘Cowboy Express’ arrives in DC, those who sit in offices in Washington should know that it is not the arrival of heroic stewards of the western land. Instead, it is the descent upon the Capitol of an extremist group of rogue ranchers who refuse to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, while simultaneously demanding that the government continue its handouts in perpetuity.”
Handouts? Who does he think really maintains the land and the vegetation and the water access so his beloved sage grouse and wild horses can even exist? As for federal authority, that is debatable under the U.S. Constitution.
The controversy is now in front of an administrative law judge in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. On federal land the BLM basically writes the law, polices the law and adjudicates the law. No separation of powers there.
This is just another example of why the state’s lands should be controlled by those closest to it and not some bureaucrat in Washington. What happens on Mount Lewis has far-reaching implications for all of rural Nevada. — TM