The Denver Post had an intriguing story about a BLM whistleblower:
Melissa Shawcroft, who has been a BLM rangeland management specialist since 1992, is facing a two-week unpaid suspension after her supervisor disciplined her over discourteous emails and a failure to follow rules. Shawcroft is arguing that the discipline is retaliation for her insistence that the Bureau take action to stop area ranchers from trespassing by allowing their livestock to graze on BLM property without permits.
The illegal grazing has gone unchecked for years on the nearly 250,000 acres she manages and her pleas for enforcement, which must be authorized by her supervisors, have gone unheeded, she said. Shawcroft has documented damage to the land and riverbanks and has heard repeated complaints from ranchers who pay to use BLM land.
The way the above sentence is written it sounds as if illegal grazing has gone on on all 250K acres. This seems unlikely.
“I’m sick and tired of them telling me it’s my job to solve the problem when I don’t have the authority to do it,” Shawcroft told The Denver Post. “I jabbed at them and they fired back.”
The Bureau has the power to impound livestock or levy fines, but managers are timid because they fear another armed standoff similar to the ones led by the Bundy family in Oregon and Nevada, Shawcroft said. In 2014 in Nevada, Cliven Bundy, his family and an armed militia organized a standoff with federal agents who had come to round up the rancher’s cows that were illegally grazing on federal land.
“They come right out and tell me we don’t want another Bundy situation,” Shawcroft said.
Steven Hall, the BLM’s Rocky Mountain communications director, said the agency does not comment on personnel issues, but the agency takes unauthorized grazing seriously and is adopting measures to better enforce the rules, he said.
Under federal law, livestock may graze on Bureau of Land Management property when a rancher holds a permit authorizing the land use. Permits are passed down through families and rarely become available for purchase.
The permits determine how many cattle, sheep or horses a rancher can place on federal land and which months the animals are allowed to feed on it. Those rules protect the land from overgrazing and give grass, brush and water time to recover throughout the year.
Shawcroft manages rangeland along the Rio Grande River where property on the east side is private and cows and horses are crossing the river to the federally-owned Rio Grande Natural Area on the west side, she said.
If it’s true that BLM managers said that.. is Bundyism (fear of armed conflict) a real thing, or an excuse? Reminds me a bit of the FS claiming escaped prescribed burns were due to climate change. Bundys are a thing. Climate change is a thing. But both things can also be used as excuses for not doing better. When we read these things, we need to think about which is which.
Interestingly, the ones who are most irritated are .. other ranchers.. who apparently are not going All Bundy on the law-breakers.
Area ranchers who pay for the permits are complaining that law-breakers are ruining the land for their livestock. It’s such a problem that “chronic livestock trespass” was on the June agenda for the BLM’s Rocky Mountain Resource Advisory Council meeting.
At that meeting, Dario Archuleta, the acting field manager for the BLM’s San Luis Valley field office, said there is a “fine-tuned administrative process they believe will be vastly more effective than the criminal approach,” according to minutes from the meeting.
Archuleta told the meeting’s attendees that the process for impounding livestock is lengthy and complicated and that courts have been lenient on violators.
The BLM has assigned up to 14 employees to address unauthorized grazing through site visits that require a minimum five-hour time commitment, including travel, Hall told The Denver Post.
The agency also has implemented a new GIS tracking tool to collect data such as identifying livestock and the improved documentation has resulted this year in trespass notices being issued, Hall said.
Shawcroft is represented in her complaint by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit that works with public employees who want to point out government wrongdoing.
The Bureau of Land Management named Shawcroft its range management specialist of the year in 2012 and she’s only had one other disciplinary action taken in her 31-year career, Jeff Ruch, PEER’s Pacific director said.
“She doesn’t mince words and apparently some of her male supervisors took offense,” Ruch said. “The idea that you’re being hit with a heavy sanction when you use words like ‘gumption’ in an email strikes me as an overreaction.”
Now, having been involved in a variety of different personnel difficulties, I am sympathetic to everyone involved, and especially the HR and Labor Relations who I’m sure are trying to sort things out. I wonder what the maleness of (some) supervisors has to do with it. Perhaps this is intended to imply that male employees can get away with more acerbic statements? Curious.
Here’s what PEER says:
On July 28, 2023, Melissa was served with a proposed 14-day suspension without pay for a series of four emails dating back to December 2022 in which she expressed consternation at BLM’s hands-off posture on grazing trespass. In one email, she questioned the agency’s lack of “gumption” and in another whether the agency would “live up to the task of taking care of our resources.” For those emails, she is charged with “discourteous” behavior.
IF this is all it is.. I would say I have read many snarkier emails in the FS about FS activities. On the other hand, when it comes to personnel issues, there are at least two sides to every story.