“Patriot” attack on public lands (and its users and employees)

Some members of Congress are trying to shine a spotlight on the threat to public land from armed militias.  They point out the direct threats, but also link them to the attempts to transfer federal lands to states:

“Anti-government extremists didn’t always direct their ire at public-lands agencies. That changed, in part, because a group of Western congressmen, state legislators and county sheriffs built their careers by advocating the transfer of millions of acres of federal land to states or counties, even though no state or county had ever owned the land in question or could afford to manage it now.”

They cite, in particular, a letter from 32 former employees of federal land management agencies (including three former Forest Service chiefs), which lists ten threats to public lands from anti-government extremism.


27 thoughts on ““Patriot” attack on public lands (and its users and employees)”

  1. Oh, sure, Raul Grijalve (D-Center for Biological Diversity) hits Writers on the Range. Like that’s not just a little deceptive? You know, perfect Celinda Lake style techniques of creating negative associations rather than discuss the merits — all to slag anyone considering changes in current Federal managment dysfunction as a gun-toting yob.
    As for the signatories —
    Jim Baca, the cattle free guy that even Babbitt had to sack out of his job as BLM director. Gloria Flora. Mike Dombeck, Jim Furnish, Gail Kimbell, Dale Bosworth — all big Forest Service mistakes. I have to wonder why Bill Wade wasn’t on this list.

  2. Dave, you do understand the meaning of irony, correct? I ask, because this sentence:

    “ … techniques of creating negative associations rather than discuss the merits — all to slag anyone considering changes in current Federal management dysfunction … “ coupled with this sentence:

    “As for the signatories — Jim Baca, the cattle free guy that even Babbitt had to sack out of his job as BLM director, Gloria Flora, Mike Dombeck, Jim Furnish, Gail Kimbell, Dale Bosworth — all big Forest Service mistakes.” evidence the fact that you do not.

    First, you whine about Celinda Lake techniques that don’t reach the merits. Then, you smear a bunch of people without reaching the merits. I’ll be waiting for the discussion on the merits Dave, but given your past performance, I won’t be holding my breath.

    • Don’t sprain yourself, Eric.
      Gloria herself indulged in amazingly arbitrary and capricious conduct when she put in that moratorium on the RMF on behalf of people who’d never been there and never would — precisely the kind of people who really don’t deserve final say on any kind of land management decision because they can’t be anything but ignorant. That’s prima facie arbitrary and capricious, yet she got away with it long enough to inflict her foolishness on Nevada. That didn’t go well.
      Dale? There’s many problems with him, but the prize was his criticism of Beschta before Congress as not-peer-reviewed, then turning around and appointing one of the Beschta co-authors to the Pacific Research Station in Hawaii. Couldn’t make that up if I tried.
      Then Furnish and Dombeck and yep, Bosworth were fully on board with suborning Congress and putting up the Roadless rule, 58 million acres of de-facto wilderness by the stroke of a pen. Could have been reverse if Bosworth had gone after it, but he did not and the reasons became clear only after he retired. There’s more, but you’d never get it.

  3. See Dave, there you go again. Arguing premises without support. Here, I’ll show you how a logical argument actually works:
    Premise — Gloria’s actions were not arbitrary and capricious.
    Support — Gene Sentz, a “local” from Choteau began a grassroots campaign challenging the LCNF’s lease of Mineral rights on the entire forest. Along comes Gloria — into what was already a tense situation because “locals” were pissed they could lose access to the RMF — and in response to the public outcry, she imposes a “temporary” moratorium. The moratorium was then backed by the bi-partisan efforts Max Baucus and Conrad Burns. After much legal wrangling and many public meetings, the Heritage Act was passed.
    Citation — https://www.hcn.org/articles/perseverance-pays-off-for-the-rocky-mountain-front

    See how easy that was? Premise, support, citation, conclusion; rather than “argle bargle, grump grump, insult, whine.”

    And as for the Roadless Rule:
    Premise — Congress was not “suborned.”
    Support — Does the President not have the power to direct agency rule making? Did Congress not authorize agency rule making power? Furthermore, if Congress had wanted to intervene they could have. They’re Congress. They make the laws. And if they didn’t like the rule making, they could have changed the law.
    Citation — the Constitution of the United States of America (you should read it someday, it’s fun stuff).

    So no Dave, it’s not me that “doesn’t get it;” but rather, your tenuous layman’s grasp of administrative and Constitutional law. But hey, why don’t you give my lesson a try below. Maybe you should start by trying to logically argue your Bosworth argle bargle, since that was the only aspersion you cast that I didn’t already completely kick the legs out from under.

      • Congratulations Brian! You just won the “fallacy of insufficient evidence” award for today.

        Because “Brian Hawthorne” is so reliable and unbiased, it must logically follow that HCN is unreliable because everyone knows that “Brain Hawthorne” is a more reliable and unbiased source than HCN.

        Until you provide evidence refuting the support to my premise, your argument is moot.

          • Who’s attacking people? I simply pointed out that Brian sought to fallaciously undermine a logical argument. I apologize if you feel victimized by techniques of logical argumentation. But I won’t stop pointing out the flaws. One of the reasons the arguments on this blog so often just go around in circles is because people just point fingers and ascribe blame rather than reason to logical conclusions. Brian blamed the support for one of my premises by impugning bias without supporting his own argument. Thus, I pointed that out. What’s the problem Bob?

  4. Well, for one thing, HCN’s Washington office is funded by Hans Wyss, the Swiss multibillionaire (thanks to his American business endeavours) — Hans is also a primary funder and founder of the Conservation Lands Foundation which in turn is a political schema set up to fund Astroturf operations in promotion of National Monument designations. Pretty sophisticated stuff, I must admit, but when you’re cutting million dollar checks and hiring PR professionals left and right — well, don’t expect High Country News to bite the hand that keeps them fed.
    CLF is almost exclusively millionaire-funded, hardly what one would call “the public.” It’s pure politics, cloaked in philanthropy, but don’t ever expect to read that in the Salt Lake Tribune, Rocky Barker’s column, and definitely not in Eric’s upcoming PhD dissertation on the fiscal structure of the Western environmental movement.

    • Great Dave, so you make the same mistake as Brian after I just clearly pointed out him that without providing evidence to the contrary your argument is hollow. Make an argument that doesn’t rely on victimhood. Find some facts, like HCN did, and make your case. Without facts supporting your premises that (1) Gloria acted arbitrarily, and (2) Congress was “suborned,” all you have is a smear campaign. Is that the best you can do?

      More to the point of the OP, make a factually supported argument that the former public land managers are wrong in being worried about politicians who support domestic terrorists. All you claim in response to Dave’s original post is that the “real” reason the domestic terrorism is happening is because the legally justified actions of the land managers were somehow, somewhere, in some crazy world an abuse of power. I logically countered that argument. You’re responding with rhetoric. But you see, a well reasoned argument will always defeat a rhetorical argument, especially when the person making the reasoned argument is trained to recognize the rhetoric.

    • And upon further reflection Dave, I’d like to add an additional thought in regard to why crying “bias” is such a poor argument.

      Our country was founded on the basis pluralism, and our courts are based on an adversarial system. This is not by accident. The founding fathers assumed that people were biased, but saw that as a strength not a weakness. The reasoning is that when two biased viewpoints come into conflict, the marketplace of ideas is enriched through the process argumentation. That through argument and adversity we are more likely (and more efficiently) to get to the bottom of the issue at the root of the conflict.

      Thus, to rest one’s argument on the basis that the other side is biased is to simply state the obvious. The key to enriching the marketplace of ideas in this system of governance we call the USA is to propound “ideas” and “facts” that convince people that the bias held by one side of the argument is more persuasive.

      Don’t blame me, I didn’t invent the system. I just learned to play by it’s rules.

  5. Dave, there are several other signatories that, in my experience, I couldn’t say were “green-friendly.” I think it was probably a pretty balanced list, and their main motivation was protecting federal lands from a legitimate threat.

    While I don’t know the history (that I quoted above), I agree with the conclusion:
    “But it’s high time we acknowledged that our nation’s own homegrown terrorists also threaten public safety. Tolerating them or, even worse, encouraging them as part of a campaign to hand our public lands over to the private sector, is a dangerous and short-sighted strategy.”
    Those who advocate for divesting federal lands have to recognize that they are contributing to a dangerous situation. They should therefore be putting some of their energy into discouraging the violence associated with their policies. (Why is this reminding me of the way Trumpism tacitly encourages violence?)

    • Jon, you wrote:
      ” Those who advocate for divesting federal lands have to recognize that they are contributing to a dangerous situation. ”
      Respectfully, I do not understand this assertion. Please explain if you have the time and inclination.
      Also, I understand that you were quoting the letter, but I have read almost all of Utah’s materials/studies/reports/legislation and believe it is not accurate to state that the purpose, at least in Utah, is to “hand our public lands over to the private sector.” I wanted to make that point because I think it is important to make the distinction between what some individuals may desire and what individual States are proposing.
      Finally, I can’t resist pointing out what I see as a marked contrast in the attitudes and opinions on the issue of “hand(ing) our public lands over to the private sector” with how most stakeholders, especially the conservation community, view the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act.

      • Since you’ve asked, Brian, my logic was simply that once you know that X causes Y, and Y is a bad thing, you should be judged by how you are contributing to X. Even if you can’t prove cause and effect, a reasonable person would think about modifying their behavior.

        Regarding state vs private ownership, the argument usually goes that states can’t afford to manage private lands (a point made in this article), and that they will eventually have to divest themselves (of at least some of it to pay for managing the rest of it). Or that they are more likely to be tempted by an offer to purchase than the feds would be.

        Regarding SNPLMA (allows the Bureau of Land Management to sell public land within a specific boundary around Las Vegas, Nevada), I don’t know how the conservation community views it. It does involve a sale of land (presumably at market rates), and there are specified allowable uses of the funds that include conservation purposes. I assume there would be public participation in these decisions? I can see that a particular situation of lack of private land for development might justify this approach (and this is maybe an extreme example; there are many cases of towns acquiring parcels of adjacent federal land). I don’t see much similarity to the idea that states are entitled to all federal lands just because.

        • Jon, I still don’t understand how proposing State management of public lands leads to dangerous situations. But I do appreciate the time and effort you spent trying to explain.

          Also, again to clarify Utah’s proposal, they aren’t proposing State control over all federally managed lands. NPS, Wilderness and other lands would remain under federal agency management.

          Finally, I am heartened that you can understand the need some communities feel for the privatization of some adjacent public land. This is a huge issue to many rural communities.

          Thanks again for responding.

  6. For Dave Skinner: file under the category “Jim Furnish was actually there…”
    The Forest Service (Dombeck et al) responded to a directive from the President to protect roadless lands, which, by 1999, had been subject to decades-long debate and litigation. The issue, including your point, has been exhaustively argued in the courts, which fully supported the agency regulation.

    I can take being insulted, but I’d prefer if the insult had merit. This blog could be so much better if contributors adhered to the simple “comment considerations” posted at the top right of the page.

    • “I can take being insulted, but I’d prefer if the insult had merit. This blog could be so much better if contributors adhered to the simple “comment considerations” posted at the top right of the page.”

      Here here Jim! While admittedly, I can get a little snarky sometimes, as you may have noticed I’ve been on a mission on here of late to call out the casting of aspersions without credible supporting evidence. So yeah, I wholeheartedly agree, it’s a problem.

      • Yep, a Presidential directive that basically overrode ex bazillion forest plans, bypassed Congressional opposition to new wilderness, et cetera. Never mind the systematic kabuki dance trying to get around the original intent of the Wilderness Act as a one-and-done kind of thing. RARE 1, then RARE 2 and when THAT wasn’t enough, the roadless initiative, 1600 incomprehensible pages of unilateral rulemaking against the objections of the vast majority of affected communities.
        Never mind that lots of these “protected” areas will in fact burn in the near future, and the burns will not be the “good” kind.
        I was cool with wilderness but then the constant add ons, then the willingness to ignore history and create wilderness by “unroading” and the RS 2477 funny business (hey, FLPMA was pretty clear, even for Lee Metcalf) — pardon me if I’m a little unhappy with decades of bad faith.

  7. First things first: the Bundy clowns were allowed to run their circus far too long. Cliven’s cattle should’ve been off our land long before the 2014 stand-off. Cliven and his kin should’ve been behind bars long before they ‘occupied’ Malheur NWR. The power should’ve been cut to Malheur and roads blocked immediately after the ‘occupation’ (normally frigid temperatures were below average at the time).

    Now, some perspective: for all their bluster, when was the last time one of these so-called ‘patriots’ actually killed anyone? I ran a quick search and could not find any recent examples (please enlighten me if your Google-fu or Bing-fu skills exceed mine). To my knowledge, in 2016 USFS/BLM employees have been killed by trees, bears, and vehicle accidents, but not militias. An NPS ranger was killed near Mt. Rainier in 2012, but it had nothing to with land management (shooter was a drunken jackass fleeing a New Years party gone bad). A Forest Service employee was killed in Afghanistan in 2007, but again the killer’s motivations had nothing to do with US public lands management. Contrasted with recent attacks in Orlando and Dallas, the Bundys’ winter love-in at Malheur seems quite benign.

    Credible threats to federal employees need to be taken seriously, and handled seriously. But political posturing and finger-pointing won’t solve anything. We need less Raul Grijalva/Jason Chaffetz, and more Frank Church.

  8. I don’t think enough people understand that the whole divestment of public lands is simply moot due to the Constitutions of the western states. For example, the following language is copied and pasted directly from Article XXI, Section 19 of Idaho’s Constitution:

    Section 19. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM GUARANTEED — DISCLAIMER OF TITLE TO INDIAN LANDS. It is ordained by the state of Idaho that … THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF IDAHO DO AGREE AND DECLARE THAT WE FOREVER DISCLAIM ALL RIGHT AND TITLE TO THE UNAPPROPRIATED PUBLIC LANDS LYING WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES THEREOF, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indians or Indian tribes; and until the title thereto shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be subject to the disposition of the United States, and said Indian lands shall remain under the absolute jurisdiction and control of the congress of the United States; that the lands belonging to citizens of the United States, residing without the said state of Idaho, shall never be taxed at a higher rate than the lands belonging to the residents thereof. That no taxes shall be imposed by the state on the lands or property therein belonging to, or which may hereafter be purchased by, the United States, or reserved for its use. And the debts and liabilities of this territory shall be assumed and paid by the state of Idaho. THAT THIS ORDINANCE SHALL BE IRREVOCABLE, WITHOUT THE CONSENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF IDAHO.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but this indicates to me (and I’m sure the SCOTUS) that Idaho abdicated control over federal lands as a condition of statehood. Thus, Jon’s statement above that “once you know that X causes Y, and Y is a bad thing, you should be judged by how you are contributing to X” indicates either: (1) certain legislators have not read their own Constitution, or (2) if they have they are “X” acting in bad faith for political gain, which has effect “Y;” which contributes to the belief among their constituents that the State actually has the power to divest federal control, and provides a rationale for lashing out against the Federal Government when they believe rights that they do not possess are being infringed. As such, yes, these legislators should be judged (and harshly) for advocating positions that have no basis in law, and thus creating unrest among their citizenry.

    • The argument, at least as I understood it, follows a specific performance contract lawsuit.

      One party kept their end of the agreement (the states abandonded claims to the once terrority now State) — the other party didn’t (among other things, the disposal of formally territorial lands).

      So the recourse is to sue for specific performance of the contract.

      The State control side has written a couple of books on their rationale. It’s pretty heavy reading for a Motorhead like me. I’ve barely slogged through it all.

      Anyhow… I suppose we’ll find out one way or another!!

      • No, I don’t think we will find out one way or another. For example, this article cites Idaho Attorney General’s (a rather conservative fellow I might add) response to the whole idea:


        It’s a political stunt. That’s all it is. No objective lawyer buys it, and the ones that pretend to only do so because they are being paid by the politicians that want to continue benefiting from the optics of being “States rights” advocates. Any lawsuit brought by a State (who I might add are the only ones who have standing to bring suit) will never make it past the district court level. Furthermore, the law is so cut and dried that any lawyer who does represent a State in the matter should be sanctioned under FRCP Rule 11 because it would be impossible to argue in good faith. Really, it’s all a huge waste of taxpayer money.

        • Interesting… Thank you for this Eric.

          I will say that all of this, the article and what you have written, reads to me eeriely similar to what many people were saying about Utahs RS2477 roads documentation/litigation effort way back in the 1990’s.

          Hey… If you are right about this then the people who oppose the State transfer idea have no worries.

          • Well, they certainly have no recourse in the courts as far as my study of the issue is concerned. But as Dave just indicated, if in some weird world a Western state managed to convince both it’s own citizenry, and got the rest of Congress to go along, I suppose theoretically it is politically possible.

            As for the RS2477, that actually is a real thing. I worked on an active case when I was interning at the USDA Office of General Counsel for R1 in Missoula. Gallatin County (Bozeman) Montana was suing the USFS claiming title to an old road. The law is still on the books, it’s just really really hard to show: 1) that the State established the road rather than the Feds, and 2) that there was continuous use of the road. Their suit failed because they couldn’t establish that the “road” was actually a road for public purposes waaaaaay back when, prior to USFS designation. Not to mention the fact that the “road” bordered a stream and the Montana DEQ intervened on behalf of the USFS because ORV’s were accessing it illegally and tearing the shit out of it, thereby impairing water quality. I don’t think that helped their case much …

  9. Irrevocable without the consent of the two parties, basically Congress and the state of Idaho. So, if the two legislative entities did agree, then title could be transferred. And given the dysfunction of DC driven federal lands policy, aided and abetted by the court system — a little less federal control of the economic land base would be a good thing for the people most affected by policies thereon. But of course, we’ve got BLM 2.0 taking steps to avoid that pesky coordination — we’ve got watersheds to rule.

    • In other words, elections matter. I can hear the Trumpies now, saying “I didn’t know I was voting to give up my rights to my favorite hunting spot or my freedom to hunt on public lands.”


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