At Wild Horse Education (WHE) we work in cooperation with multiple individuals, agencies and organizations. WildLands Defense (WLD) is an organization devoted to habitat preservation in the Western US. As WHE is often on the ground we provide documentation and information to other organizations that focus on “ground up” management.
Katie Fite of WLD has been a colleague for many years and was active in assisting WHE in First Amendment grievances during the Owyhee roundup of 2010. WHE has assisted WLD with information concerning Fite’s ongoing struggle to fairly participate in process concerning livestock grazing in an allotment she has monitored for nearly two decades, among other shared interests.
Fite was active in legal actions in 2014 that were upheld by the courts. Her ability to participate was closed out by a settlement agreement in 2015.
Equal and fair participation is vital to the process of equitable land management. Not only does each use impact the daily reality of the landscape, each use impacts the reality of the political landscape.
Chaos Hits NV Rangeland on the Heels Of Intimidation, Activists Make a Stand
(Battle Mountain, NV) Today a legal Appeal was filed by environmental activists in the ongoing saga of intimidation, secrecy and rangeland degradation of the Argenta grazing allotments in Nevada. The Appeal asks that the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) set aside a settlement agreement reached between ranchers and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and that a full analysis of a multitude of grievances be addressed in an open public process. To date the settlement agreement, that overrides an earlier court ruling upholding the closing of grazing allotments, has operated without allowing participation from public interests.
Members of WildLands Defense (WLD) and Wild Horse Education (WHE) site multiple instances of agency failure to protect degraded habitat, while operating in apparent secrecy under intense political and physical intimidation by the livestock industry.
The Argenta dispute over grazing restrictions due to drought, and long standing issues of degraded habitat, was met with intense opposition from the livestock interests. A horseback trek that crossed the country to get district manager Doug Furtado fired, grazing in trespass, threats to close access to public land and a protest camp were followed by the BLM opening grazing allotments and closing the process to public participation. The protest camp has expanded, even as the agency gives ground.
Katie Fite of WLD has been monitoring these allotments for nearly two decades and was active in legal actions in 2014 to protect the allotments from further degradation. “I have devoted my life to protecting our wild landscapes. My last visit to Argenta showed that BLM has allowed chaos, utter chaos. My requests for information are stalled and my attempts to engage denied. I am dismayed and outraged.”
“On the surface this appears to be a grazing dispute,” said Fite, “but it goes much deeper. This dispute is connected with multiple actions. Those actions are all aimed at removing any government oversight. Public land managed for multiple interests is not part of the agenda.”
Christopher Ketcham, freelance journalist for Harper’s and National Geographic, has been trying to report on the conflict over the use of public lands, with a particular interest in the way the livestock community appears to override the public interest. He has not received a forthcoming response from public agencies. “As a journalist reporting for national magazines,” says Ketcham, “I want to know exactly what is happening on public lands, how they are being used, abused, or degraded, and how the law is being applied to abusers of those lands, which belong to all Americans in common.”
“If the objective of BLM is to reduce conflict,” said Laura Leigh of WHE, “cutting opposing voices from the process and capitulating under threat will have the exact opposite effect over time. Any parent knows that if you indulge a temper tantrum they just get bigger. We are continuing to indulge the spoiled child playing this political game. Those that patiently attempt to engage process are left out. BLM leadership needs to think hard about what they teach. The pendulum will swing and other voices in process will have learned a dangerous lesson.”
“At worst BLM has all but deputized the ranchers and the regulators just take their orders from the regulated. At best they’ve become so afraid of a Bundy-style standoff that they’re willing to abdicate all duty and have committed to look the other way at any and all violations of law. Either way, it’s the public’s land and wildlife that is taking the brunt of BLM’s unwillingness to enforce the law.” said Brian Ertz of WLD, “BLM’s sudden hostility to public oversight and involvement on Argenta and Fish Creek is not a good sign.”
The National Riparian Services Team (NRST) is continuing to engage the settlement agreement between livestock permittees and the BLM. To date it appears that they are approving additional fencing and have made no restrictions to use. At this time the additional financial cost of the “mediation” team is unknown.
The state of Nevada is in the fourth year of drought.
Videos taken by Katie Fite of WildLands Defense. Katie has devoted her life to environmental protection and has documented these allotments for nearly two decades.
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