Tag Archives: BLM

BLM Replaces Mountain Landscape Photo With Coal Seam On Home Page

The 800-mile Trans-Alaska Pipeline runs alongside the Gulkana River.

April 6, 20177:06 PM ET

Kirk Siegler - Square 2016

Kirk Siegler


A quiet change to the website photo banner of a relatively obscure federal agency is causing a bit of an outsize stir on social media.

On the top of its home page, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages more than 200 million acres of public land under the U.S. Department of the Interior, swapped out a photo of a young boy and his companion backpacking across a mountain meadow in favor of one showing a massive coal seam at a mine in Wyoming.

Above:  A cached version of BLM.gov from March 25 shows the Bureau of Land Management’s home page previously featured a photo of a young boy and his companion overlooking a scenic landscape. Bureau of Land Management via Internet Archive/Screenshot by NPR

Above:  A screenshot of the Bureau of Land Management’s home page displays a photo of a “large coal seam at the Peabody North Antelope Rochelle Mine in Wyoming.” Bureau of Land Management/Screenshot by NPR

The agency’s mission is, after all, to manage federal land for multiple uses — which range from hiking trails along scenic vistas and in remote deserts to oil and gas fields and, yes, coal seams.

But on Twitter, environmentalists — along with some satirists — were quick to pounce on the symbolism. The Trump administration hasn’t exactly been shy about its plans to increase fossil fuel development on federal land.

The BLM is downplaying the latest Twittersphere uproar.

More than anything else, spokesman Jeff Krauss tells NPR, the change in home page photos is due to an IT redesign that will once again allow different photos to be rotated through that reflect the agency’s multiple-use mission. That used to be standard practice until recently, Krauss says.

Despite its low-profile status when compared with other DOI agencies like the National Park Service, the BLM has long been a favorite political target from both sides of the aisle. During the George W. Bush administration, for instance, conservation groups criticized — and sued — the agency for approving a rapid expansion of drilling on public lands. Later, under President Barack Obama, mining groups accused the agency of being too restrictive, and Western ranchers led by Cliven Bundy even led armed standoffs against the agency, protesting its authority to control Western lands.

For sure, the stakes are high when it comes to the BLM and the American public’s land, which might explain why a seemingly simple photo change ignited as much controversy as it did in this hyperpartisan political climate.

Things will probably quiet down Friday, when the agency plans to swap out the coal photo for one reflecting the BLM’s recreation programs.

Or will they?


Trump Just Made The Biggest Sale Of Drilling Rights On Federal Land In 4 Years

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made its largest lease sale in four years, marking the start of President Donald Trump’s plans to expand drilling on federal lands.

BLM sold drilling rights on 278 parcels of public land for $129.3 million. Bids ranged from $2 per acre to $16,500 per acre. The land sold was mostly located in Wyoming — about half of which is directly controlled by the federal government.

“In the first lease sale under the Trump administration, the BLM had its biggest sale in the past four years,” Utah Republican Rob Bishop, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Today’s successful sale in part is a recognition that the BLM under new leadership will prioritize fulfilling its statutory mandate of multiple-use land management and the holding of quarterly lease sales, and the industry is responding accordingly.”

Thursday’s lease sale is one of four BLM has planned for this year.

“This is an encouraging indication that we are headed in a new and better direction for the Bureau and Americans who benefit from greater access to these taxpayer-owned resources,” Bishop said.

Congress wants to rollback energy regulations for pubic lands. Lawmakers have already used the Congressional Review Act to repeal Obama-era regulations on coal mining and are looking to eliminate a regulation on flaring natural gas. Congress also wants to repeal a BLM rule, called “Planning 2.0,” which critics say seizes power from local officials and makes energy development more difficult.

Rolling back federal restrictions on public lands would create 2.7 million jobs and add $663 billion to the economy each year for the next 30 years, according to a 2016 study by Louisiana State University and the free-market Institute for Energy Research.

Opening these lands and waters could boost wages by $5.1 trillion, generating $3.9 trillion in new federal tax revenue over the next 37 years according to the research. Increased energy development could create 2.7 million new jobs.

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Finicum family, Bureau of Land Management still tangling a year after fatal standoff


Widow fights for grazing rights

A year after her husband Robert "LaVoy" Finicum was fatally shot by police after a standoff near Burns, Oregon, his widow Jeanette is continuing her fight against the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights for the family's cattle herds. (Associated Press)

A year after her husband Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was fatally shot by police after a standoff near Burns, Oregon, his widow Jeanette is continuing her fight against the Bureau of Land Management over grazing rights for the family’s cattle herds. … more >


By Valerie Richardson – The Washington Times – Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ten months after her husband was killed in a standoff with the federal government, Jeanette Finicum was driving her cattle to their winter range in Northern Arizona when she received a message from the Bureau of Land Management: Keep off.

She was told she could not pasture her cows on the grazing allotment she inherited upon the death of her husband, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, even though she had turned in her application and written a check for fees and fines before making the 50-mile trek.

“We were in the middle of the cattle drive [in October] when we got word that they were not accepting my check,” said Ms. Finicum. “I had to stop because my attorneys didn’t want me to be out of compliance, and I had to find somewhere else to put my cows.”

She was stunned. “Here I am, in the middle of the desert with 150 cows, going, ‘Where am I going to go?’” she said.

Ms. Finicum, 56, was able to move her cattle to her sister-in-law’s pasture, but she still has a problem on her hands. She fears the directive may be more than a bureaucratic snafu, that federal officials want to wrest her grazing rights in order to discourage other ranchers from challenging land-management policies, as her husband did.

“I believe it’s because of his stand and because of what happened in Oregon,” Ms. Finicum said, referring to the armed takeover of a federal wildlife reserve. “They want to make an example out of him. They want to make sure people don’t do this again by taking my ranch away from me. It’s like, ‘Here’s what will happen to you if you don’t behave.’”

LaVoy Finicum was killed Jan. 26, 2016, at an FBI roadblock as he and other protesters drove to John Day, Oregon, to meet with a local sheriff.

A readily recognizable figure in his white cowboy hat and glasses, he had served as a spokesman for the several dozen armed occupiers who took over a vacant federal building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in a protest against federal lands policy.

A county sheriff’s investigation ruled the shooting justified, noting that Finicum, 54, had a pistol in his jacket when he jumped out of his vehicle after veering off the road. A video taken from a plane shows he may have been reaching for his weapon, but his supporters say he was trying to surrender.

Ms. Finicum has since immersed herself in running the ranch from their home in tiny Cane Beds, Arizona, about five miles from the Utah border. Even so, she may be the most recognizable figure in the public lands movement not named Bundy, thanks to the international coverage of her husband’s death.

She made a rare public speech at a rally in March at the Utah state Capitol, where she told a crowd of several hundred that her husband of 23 years had been “assassinated.” Her next appearance comes Saturday in John Day, where she plans to host an event called “the meeting that never happened” to mark the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death.

Topics on the agenda include the wrongful-death lawsuit expected to be filed by the Finicum family, as well as the Portland jury’s not-guilty verdict in October against seven occupiers, including leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy, on federal conspiracy charges stemming from the 41-day occupation.

‘They never said a word’

J. Morgan Philpot, one of the Bundy attorneys, is aiding Ms. Finicum in her fight to keep her winter range, known as the Tuckup Allotment, a pasture used by ranchers for more than 100 years that her husband purchased the rights to from the previous owner in 2009.

Mr. Philpot said she should inherit the allotment rights under Arizona and federal law, “but for some reason the BLM has made a choice to obfuscate and avoid rather than working with Jeanette to ensure that her permit remains in effect.”

A BLM official declined to offer specifics on the case. Last month Arizona spokeswoman Amber Cargile told the Tri-State Livestock News that the agency “recognizes that Ms. Finicum is a personal representative of her late husband’s estate.”

“The BLM has been working with Mrs. Finicum and her legal counsel on issues related to both the fees associated with her husband’s estate as well as the future of the permit,” said Ms. Cargile. “Due to the ongoing nature of these discussions, we’re not at liberty to provide additional details at this time.”

She also said the agency had been in contact with Finicum attorneys “in an attempt to resolve fines associated with a nearly yearlong grazing trespass on the Tuckup Allotment.”

Ms. Finicum said she paid an “outrageous” trespass fine last year of more than $20,000, incurred after her husband moved cows onto the range four weeks early in August to take advantage of the grass before it died. Such transgressions are not unusual, she said, but the BLM’s reaction was.

“There were other years he went on early, and they never said a word,” Ms. Finicum said. “It was OK to go a couple weeks early. They’re making a stink to get me off, period, and to make an example to the rest of the ranchers here in the West that, ‘If you put up a fight, you’ll be out of business.’”

A few months before heading to Oregon, Finicum had announced that he would start sending his grazing fees to the county instead of the federal government, the same tactic used by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in his longstanding legal battle with the BLM.

Despite that, Ms. Finicum said her husband died before he could follow through, meaning his account with the BLM was still paid in full.

She said local rangers have been helpful, but decisions on the matter are apparently being made above their pay grade.

“It would have been settled within a short period of time had it been under the control of our range cons (conservationists) here,” she said.

Alone on the range

Under federal rules, Mr. Philpot said a spouse has two years to complete the transfer of grazing rights, and that the rights can be extended for another two years if probate drags on. During that time Ms. Finicum should be able to graze cattle on the Tuckup Allotment.

He worries that Ms. Finicum may be up against not only lingering ill will against her husband but also the political winds. Environmental groups such as the Western Watersheds Project have led the fight against grazing on public lands, a stance that enjoyed support during the Obama administration.

The BLM manages 245 million acres of public lands, with 155 million for livestock grazing. Ranching on public lands has declined from 18.2 million animal-unit months [AUM] in 1954 to 8.6 million in 2015, a 53 percent drop, according to the agency.

“If you have a policy that is opposed to grazing, and you have rights that go back 100 years, and you want to disrupt those, how do you do it? How do you get somebody off a piece of land when they have a right to be there?” said Mr. Philpot, a former Utah state legislator.

“In this case, I think what they’re doing is they’re making it so difficult for Jeanette that her permit cannot be renewed,” he said. “And then they’re going to say, ‘You don’t have rights anymore here.’ And she’ll say, ‘Why not?’ And they’ll say, ‘Because you didn’t renew your permit,’ and she’ll say, ‘But you wouldn’t let me.’”

Months after she was forced to reroute her cattle, Ms. Finicum feels as frustrated as she did that day in the desert, surrounded by her cows with no place to go.

“What is a person like me supposed to do? This is what I had to wrestle with in the desert when I was halfway to my allotment with my cows,” she said. “Am I to go there to use the grass that I paid for that’s rightfully mine and use that water that’s rightfully mine, or do I try to fight them in court? Do I try to negotiate with them? Do I try to continue to reason with them?”

One thing she refuses to do is give up her life as a rancher.

“This is my property. This is my family’s property,” said Ms. Finicum. “We are not criminals, and we should be allowed to operate our business as we have done so in the past.”




New bill calls for sale of 3 million acres of BLM land across 10 states

Report: BLM agent in ethics probe threatened retaliation: ‘Grenades will go off’

US interior secretary, officials warn of ‘impacts’ from Bundy brothers’ acquittal

Inmates Ammon Bundy (L) and his brother Ryan Bundy © MCSO/



The US interior secretary is urging vigilance, following the Bundy brothers being found not guilty of crimes relating to a six-week armed Oregon standoff. A Bureau of Land Management chief echoed the message, warning of “potential impacts of the verdict.”

“As we digest the jury’s verdict, our foremost priority continues to be the safety, security and well-being of people who comprise the federal family and those visiting America’s public lands,” US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell wrote in a statement addressed to all department employees. “In the coming days and weeks, I encourage you to take care of yourselves and your fellow employees. The armed occupation in Oregon was and continues to be a reminder that employees in all offices should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to your supervisor and, where appropriate, law enforcement officials.”

Ammon Bundy (L), and his brother Ryan Bundy are shown in an office at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, U.S. January 6, 2016. © Jim Urquhart 

Bundy brothers, 5 other Malheur wildlife refuge occupiers not guilty of conspiracy, firearm charges

Jewell recalled “damage and destruction” she witnessed during her visit to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in March, after the occupation ended.

“It was disheartening to walk room to room and survey the damage and destruction caused by occupiers to the natural, cultural and tribal resources,” she said, adding that it was “painful” to hear security concerns voiced by employees.

Praising the collaboration between agencies, Jewell stressed that such “relationships will endure long after the jury’s verdict.”

Not guilty verdicts for Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with another five members of the refuge occupiers, have also raised concerns at the US Bureau of Land Management.

BLM Director Neil Kornze also released a statement for his agency’s “10,000 strong family,” warning of possible consequences.

“While we must remain respectful of the jury’s decision, we must also be clear-eyed about the potential impacts of yesterday’s verdict,” Kornze said.

According to the Colorado-based Center for Western Priorities, such concerns are not groundless, as government employees are facing regular threats from militants who “remain committed to using public lands and government employees to express their anti-government sentiments.”

“The militant occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is but one of many instances of militia groups threatening the safety of public land managers,” the center said in a news release, stressing that the trial was “a setback” in efforts to “to stem the tide of militant extremism on public lands.”

According to the BLM, there were 26 incidents related to the so-called “sovereign citizen” activity on public lands across seven US states between 2012 and 2015. The bureau said it also reported its employees receiving multiple death threats from anonymous callers during the 2014 Bundy ranch standoff, according to the center.

READ MORE: Trial for Bundy brothers starts in Oregon

Jurors found Ammon and Ryan Bundy not guilty of illegal gun possession and conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs. However, they will remain in custody pending their February 6 trial in Nevada on criminal charges, which stem from the 2014 armed standoff with federal agents in Bunkerville, Nevada.