Dec-18-2017
Bureau of Land Management
HISTORY SUMMARY OF BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT LAW ENFORCEMENT

 

 

   Describing the situation in the forest lands of the east prior to the founding of our country, the "History of Public Land Law Development" stated: "Trespass was common, enforcement officers few, prosecutors found judges and juries unfriendly and public opinion hostile, a situation that was to be reproduced many times in the future." This situation truly has been a pattern on public lands for over two centuries. The Government response to the situation has varied and continued to bounce back and forth through the years. But, history shows that there have been many very aggressive efforts to "bring the law" to the public lands. The following is a brief summary of some of these efforts.

    The history of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement function has its roots in the great forests of the northern Midwest. In 1831 Congress passed the first timber trespass act making timber the first natural resource protected by law. However, it was soon found that a mere law did not prevent the further depredation of timber from the public domain. It seems that some persons thought that there was nothing wrong with illegally taking timber that belonged to the Government without paying for it. The Federal Government was obviously an absentee landowner and most things on Federal land appeared to be free for the taking. In 1832, the US Department of the Treasury employed "Timber Agents" to go forth and investigate timber depredations with authority to seize Government timber and seek prosecution and collection.

   The Department of Treasury continued with this responsibility until the creation of the Department of the Interior in 1849. The "timber agents" were then transferred to this new department. The activities of these agents became known to the Secretary through complaint letters. One such letter read: "the timber agent openly declares he will settle with no man on any other condition but to strip them of their all and says he will not leave a man there worth ten cents when he gets through with them." Another letter read, "when the agent came to seize my lumber, I told him that I had lived under 3 king's reigns and a part of a queen's reign and I never did see property seized and taken away from poor people as they did from us, and when I asked if there were a higher authority to which I could appeal, the agent answered that there was no one higher than he except God Almighty."

   Unfortunately many of those timber operators were politically well connected. Through increased pressure on their Congressional delegations, the Secretary of the Interior found running a law enforcement program came with it's own set of sensitivities. The Secretary soon abolished the timber agency and dismissed the agents. He reassigned the responsibility for suppressing timber trespass to the General Land Office. The duties fell to the receivers and clerks in local land offices. The trespass duties obviously took a back seat to the normal business and affairs of the land office. A few clerks who diligently pursued trespass matters may have found themselves being accused of unlawful searches and seizures.

   After twenty years it became obvious that the clerks and receivers at the local land offices had been unsuccessful in suppressing timber depredations on the public domain. In 1877, the Secretary established a staff of "special clerks" to investigate timber trespass, gather evidence and seek prosecution. It is unknown whether these clerks were titled "special" because of their special duties or whether any special authority had been conferred. During the beginning of the homestead era, it didn't take long to find out that some people found ways to cheat and get around the rules. There was much to be gained and not much standing in the way of fraudulent land entries. To counter this problem, Congress enacted legislation in 1881 to provide "special agents" for the General Land Office (GLO) to investigate and seek prosecution in land fraud cases. This was perhaps one of the earliest times that the title "special agent" was used. It was to become a title that was to be used for employees involved in the investigative function. By 1883, each special agent was issued a letter outlining their instructions, responsibilities, and duties. Among those duties was: "To give information or enter complaints in criminal actions." Because of that duty, these special agents were certainly "criminal investigators."

 

   After much debate over whether the Federal government had the authority to control fencing on the public domain, the Congress enacted the Unlawful Enclosures Act in 1885 to settle the issue. This law established criminal and civil authorities and made it clear that any fencing or enclosing be authorized by the Federal government and unauthorized enclosures could be seized and destroyed by the government as well as prosecute the offenders. This created additional workload for the special agents.

   The workload of fraudulent entry, unlawful enclosures and timber depredations became very heavy in this period. The Commissioner of the GLO of the time, A. J. Sparks began a campaign of actions to combat these crimes. Because there were so many fraudulent entries being made, Commissioner Sparks established a procedure where all entry men had to give sworn testimony and "proofs" before the special agents prior to patent and that if the special agent believed for any reason that the entry was fraudulent they could hold up the patent process. To better organize the work and deal with these issues, the GLO issued two Circular Instructions: one in 1883 was Instructions to Special Timber Agents and the other in 1885 was Instructions to Special Agents. The first provided instructions and procedures related to investigating timber depredations and trespass. The latter provided instructions and procedures related to investigating fraudulent entries and unlawful enclosures. One particular land fraud case involved the indictment of a Senator, a Congressman and the Commissioner of the GLO. It originated as a GLO case with assistance from Secret Service. In reaction, Congress then prohibited the use of special agents from other departments by the Department of Justice. This forced the Department of Justice to form a cadre of their own special agents. This cadre became the beginning of what is now known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

  
   Despite their diligent efforts, the special agents of the GLO were not entirely successful in preventing acts of fraud against the government under the homestead laws. If the primary purpose of the homestead laws was to put the land into the hands of private citizen farmers, it was, in fact, a substantial failure. Of the 500 million acres of land dispersed under the homestead laws by 1904, only 80 million went directly to individual citizen farmers. The rest went to agents of fraud, timber companies, rail roads, and speculators. The small force of special agents was never sufficient to stop these illegal acts.

   Up to this time, most of the law enforcement activities of the Department of the Interior related to revenue (timber trespass) and fairness (land fraud). In 1891, Congress passed the Forest Reserve Act and suddenly law enforcement became a issue of "conservation". The Act authorized the President to set aside public domain into forest reserves. However, the Congress did not appropriate any additional funding to provide for protection of the reserves. Therefore, the first reasonable action taken by the GLO was to issue regulations that virtually prohibited all uses of the forest reserves. The theory was that if they could not provide the necessary employees to regulate the uses of the forest reserves than it was better to prohibit all uses. The penalties stated that "violators of the regulations would be prosecuted for trespass and held financially responsible for any waste and damage, whether done intentionally or caused by neglect." In 1897, Congress authorized criminal penalties for forest reserve regulations. However, in the summer of 1897 there were only six "special forest agents and supervisors" assigned in the forest reserves. Theodore Roosevelt cowrote an essay shortly after the Act was passed and said: “The forest reservations are absolutely unprotected.  Although set aside by presidential proclamation, they are without government and without guards.  Timber thieves may still strip the mountain-sides of the growing trees and poachers may still kill the game without fear of punishment.”

 

  Historian Douglas Brinkley in his book The Wilderness Warrior, Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America wrote: “Despite the enormous victory, Roosevelt wasn’t satisfied.  There were still no laws to properly police these public lands; and he was worried that market hunter, loggers, and miners would not be deterred by “no trespassing” signs if ignoring them had no consequences – no jail time and no heavy fines.”


   1897 also saw the first test of the Unlawful Enclosures Act in Camfield v. United States. GLO pursued an unlawful enclosure case where a fence was built on private lands in "checkerboard" area enclosing numerous public land sections. This became the first significant test of the Property Clause. The Court found: "The general government doubtless has a power over its own property analogous to the police power of the several States." It also found that the government had the , "...power to regulate conduct on non-federal property that interfere with a specifically designated purpose for the use of federal property."

 

   Pursuant to the Forest Management Act of 1897, the GLO began to organize for the protection of the forest reserves. GLO begins the first use of the forest reserve "ranger" title by a government entity. This title came from old English tradition. The title meant: "A sworn officer of the Forest, whose office chiefly consisted in three points: to walk daily through his charge to see, hear and inquire as well of trespasses as trespassers in his bailiwick; to drive the beasts of the forest, both venery and chase out of the deforested into the forested lands; and to present all trespassers of the forest at the next courts holden for the forest." The GLO created the round "Forest Reserve Ranger" badge. The first "forest reserve rangers" were appointed in the summer of 1898. These forest reserve rangers served on forest reserves under GLO administration for the next 8 years. The forest reserve rangers also worked in the "public park" reservations (later called National Parks) as well.

 

  The forest reserve rangers were entering upon their duties in places where the local citizenry would be openly hostile to their purposes. As Douglas Brinkley puts it: “The arrival of a federal land officer from the Interior Department caused many westerners to reach for their guns.”  But never-the-less, more forest reserve rangers were being hired and sent out to form a “chain of patrol” around the reserves looking for fires, poachers, and outlaws.  Brinkley goes on the say that President Roosevelt recognized in 1901 that the key to making forest science work depended on the district rangers whom locals would respect as federal law enforcement officers.  Roosevelt thought it nearly worthless to appoint out-of-state Ivy Leaguers as rangers.


   In 1902, the GLO issued the Forest Reserve Manual for the Information and Use of Forest Officers. The manual provided for five types of forest officers: inspectors of forest reserves; superintendents; supervisors; head rangers; and ordinary rangers. The first duty identified for forest officers is "Protective duty, guarding against fire and trespass, fighting fires and stopping trespass, as well as assisting the State authorities in the protection of game." The mission of these early rangers was simply to protect the forest reserves from fire and misuse. Carrying firearms was also an accepted part of their duty due to the nature of the assignment. The rudimentary houses these employees lived in became known as "ranger stations". It is important to note that these first "rangers" in Government service worked for the GLO. At that time a forest reserve or "public park" reservation implied only a reservation of public domain and not a transfer of jurisdiction to another Federal agency.

 

  In 1904, the GLO was still in charge of the forest reserves.  In that year, according to  Douglas Brinkley, President Roosevelt appointed famous author Stewart Edward White as a special inspector for the California forest reserves.  Roosevelt called him his “golden trout watcher.”  White’s job was to stop illegal tree destruction and clear-cutting.  Roosevelt also asked him to write a hunter-naturalist’s book about big game in California.


   By 1905, authorizing special agents to investigate illegal uses of the public domain lands became common practice. The GLO formed a division of investigations and issued a manual defining the special agent's duties in the following categories: homestead entries, desert land entries, unlawful enclosures, timber trespass, affidavits and statements, and legal procedures. The special agents were appointed directly by the Commissioner of the GLO. They were provided official identification as special agents issued by the Commissioner. The division of investigations was centralized in Washington, D.C. and the special agents in the field reported to that office through their respective special agents-in-charge. The special agents had authority to determine the value of the resources taken, develop the amount of trespass damages, and collect those damages. They operated independent from the local land office. However, after taking action on a trespass, they often provided the trespasser with information on how to obtain the proper permits at the local land office. Some of these special agents covered several states. Their normal pattern was to alternate two weeks on the road and two weeks in the office.

   1905 also saw the establishment of the US Forest Service and the subsequent transfer of responsibility for the forest reserves to that agency. Many of the GLO forest reserve rangers transferred to the new Forest Service. Some stayed with the Department of the Interior to continue their work in the "public park" reservations. Acting Secretary of the Interior informed them by correspondence that they were no longer to use the title "forest ranger" but were rather to use the title "park ranger."

 

  The Antiquities Act was signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 8, 1906.  This law provided authority to the President to create national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.  Roosevelt created the first such national monument at Devils Tower, Wyoming on September 24, 1906.  Understanding that the National Park Service did not yet exist, the responsibility to protect such monuments fell to the GLO.  The Commissioner of the GLO, Fred Dennett, immediately sent a special agent from Laramie, Wyoming up to Devil’s Tower to begin halting commercial vandalism and homesteading on the new national monument.  The GLO soon established the practice of appointing “custodians” to the new monuments that would be created in the next decade.


   In 1916, the National Park Service was established to administer and protect the handful of "public park" reservations that would then be known as National Parks. The GLO would no longer employ rangers.

   Also in 1916, a GLO case, Utah Power & Light Company v. United States was decided. This case involved regulating commercial electrical production. The court found that the government had the "...Power to control the occupancy and use (of public lands) to protect them from trespass and injury and to prescribe the conditions ... even though this may involve in some measure of what is commonly known as the police power."

   After the transfer of the forest reserves and national parks into other agencies. The GLO returned to conducting "special agent" activities for the purposes of revenue collection and compliance with land entry requirements. In 1933, the special agents of the GLO were reorganized as the Department of the Interior, Division of Investigations. The Taylor Grazing Act of 1934 changed the emphasis of enforcement issues on the public domain. It called for the establishment of regulations, that later became known as the "range code", and provided criminal and civil penalties for violations. It also established the Division of Grazing that was to oversee the administration of grazing use on the public domain. However, the GLO retained it's revenue collection responsibilities and the Department of the Interior, Division of Investigations was responsible for investigating violations of the permit requirements. This organization could hardly be viewed as a formula for success.

   The Division of Grazing soon employed a new type of employee known as a "Grazier." Much like the "forest rangers" these "Graziers" went forth to establish a system of regulatory enforcement and fee collection where it had not previously existed. They were not given any formal law enforcement authority, however "enforcement" of the "range code" became a major part of their duties. Their "enforcement" posture revolved around the solicitation of cooperation of local ranchers. These ranchers, through local advisory boards, helped to write the actual regulations that would be applicable. In 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 7944 allowing Division of Grazing employees to accept appointments as deputy fire wardens and deputy fish and game wardens under the laws of the states in which they serve.

       The "range code" was not honored and obeyed by all. A sheep operator, named Joe Odiago was convinced that the Taylor Grazing Act was illegal and continued to graze his livestock without authorization. The district grazier with assistance from the Division of Investigation filed a complaint with the U.S. Attorney. An arrest warrant was obtained by the U.S. Marshall which stated, "Deliver the body of one Joe Odiago to the U.S. Magistrate". A trial ensued with the usual delays. Not knowing the appropriate legal procedures, the District Grazier sent correspondence to the District Court Judge inquiring when judgement could be expected. The judge chastised the grazier for such improper inquiry and stated "any further interference on your part in this matter will be viewed as contempt of court." Odiago learned a lesson, but so did the grazier in term of authorities and training in law enforcement.

   In 1942, the Interior Department's Division of Investigations was transferred back to the GLO. The investigative function became the branch of field examiners. The title special agent was changed to field examiner. However, many of the incumbent special agents continued to use the special agent title even after joining the new BLM.

   When the BLM was formed from the GLO and the Grazing Service in 1946, the branch of field examiners was not part of the new organization. However, field examiners continued their duties in the field utilizing GLO forms and procedures. It is not certain if the investigative or enforcement function eventually ceased to be necessary. It may be that the Grazing Service philosophy of "home rule on the range" resulted in a down play of the need for enforcement type employees. It may also be that the new BLM was becoming an agency of specialists (i.e.: range conservationists, foresters, realty specialists) and each of these employees became responsible for use supervision and trespass within their specialties. The BLM was entering upon a custodial era where the emphasis was on conservation of the public land resources.

   During the custodial era, the Bureau did have some responsibilities for the protection of resources. The Taylor Grazing Act, The Antiquities Act, The Unlawful Enclosures Act, and various Title 18 crimes provided both criminal penalties and protection for certain public land resources. Authority to conduct law enforcement activities was not granted to the Bureau through any of these acts. Also, the Bureau was not staffed with specialists who focused on providing the public lands with a regular presence. However, these specialists, through field visits were able to determine that certain use patterns were resulting in major impacts to the public lands. In 1950, the BLM issued its first trespass handbook. This handbook identified procedures for BLM employees to investigate and handle violations of the public land laws. The handbook provided the following basic definition of trespass as:

 

 

 

   Trespass means violation of law or interference with the rights of others, exceeding the bounds of what is lawful, right, or just. Trespass upon the public lands includes all forms of unauthorized use as well as damaging or destructive acts, pilferage, and theft. Taking or using resources or values without authority or right constitutes trespass and results in depriving law abiding persons of the resources or values. Trespass on the public lands concerns not only the Government but also all law abiding citizens, because of the probable adverse effects upon their rightful use of public resources.

   The handbook identified the following types of trespass: timber, fire, grazing, occupancy, minerals, property, and miscellaneous (agriculture, enclosures, rights-of-way, dumping, antiquities, water, and wildlife). Each trespass type included a chapter on the procedures for handling particular cases. There were several paragraphs mentioning use of criminal actions. Wildlife trespass was meant to address implementation of Executive Order 7944 and included the following policy statement, "Wildlife is one of the resources of the public lands and Bureau management of these resources is one of the direct responsibilities of its officers."

   The special agents of the GLO had instructions and authority to work directly with U.S. Attorneys in filing complaints and seeking enforcement actions. This included both criminal and civil actions. The new BLM through issuance of the 1950 trespass handbook changed that radically. In the early BLM the need for any enforcement actions had to be forwarded through the regional manager to the BLM Director who was to refer the case as needed to the Department of the Interior Solicitor's Office. This convoluted policy created a situation in which very few enforcement actions would be made. It seems that the new BLM was a decentralized agency with a centralized enforcement policy.

   For many years, the BLM was somewhat successful in achieving compliance with many early land management related statutes. This was primarily done through use of certain administrative and civil remedies that were made available through the various statutes. This worked well for managing compliance with the traditional users of the public lands. Mining users were not subject to a high degree of regulation at the time so intense compliance activities were not required. Grazing and timber users already had a contractual relationship with the BLM and compliance could be managed through penalties and cost collection techniques available through such relationships.

   Criminal activity on the public lands gained notoriety in one example. In 1969, at a small mining claim occupancy on public lands, a group of people were arrested by three National Park Rangers and a California Highway Patrolman. They were wanted for vandalism to heavy equipment on the adjacent Death Valley National Monument and for possession of several stolen vehicles. When they were finally booked at the county jail the leader was identified as Charles Manson, and arrest warrants were produced for several gruesome murders in Los Angeles.

   Many impacts and problems were becoming acute in the California Desert. To analyze and address these impacts, the California State Office in conjunction with the National Park Service, conducted a study in 1968. The outcome of this study was a document entitled "The California Desert." This document recommended that the BLM, "Recruit and train qualified individuals as uniformed rangers so that public services and surveillance are available on a seven day basis."

   In 1971, BLM California initiated a law enforcement study, analyzing the enforcement issues that were becoming apparent on the public lands. A major recommendation of this study was to implement and operate a California Desert ranger force. The BLM began recruiting and selecting these "Desert Rangers" in 1972. Without agency authorization to designate law enforcement employees, the emphasis remained on information and education as the only means to gain compliance on Federal laws and regulations.

   Twenty seven "Desert Rangers" were on staff by 1974. In June of that year a training session was held in Riverside that included both resource management subjects and basic peace officer training provided by the Riverside County Sheriffs Office.
 

   The BLM had another need for a modern law enforcement program emerge with the enactment of the Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act. This law was among the first that provided prohibited acts, criminal penalties, and authority to designate law enforcement officers in the BLM. When the BLM encountered its first resistance to compliance with this law, the assistance of the FBI was requested. The FBI recommended that the BLM create a law enforcement force of its own. That situation resulted in the staffing of the first BLM special agents in 1974. The BLM had to get creative in delegating law enforcement authority to these special agents. The authority to make arrests, carry firearms, and conduct law enforcement activities was granted pursuant to the Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act and the Sikes Act. Unfortunately, these authorities could not be used to conduct law enforcement on all public land areas because of the narrow focus of those particular statutes.

   Back in the California, nothing much had changed and laws and regulations were continuing to be ignored due to lack of enforcement capabilities. Acts of vandalism, destruction, and theft were common. Many resources were being lost and destroyed. Many recreation users had little knowledge of the BLM or its responsibilities on the public lands. Their use was unstructured and to a large extent unregulated. Societal values had also changed to the extent that compliance could not always be gained merely by informing the public of the regulations and resource values. Still others were openly challenging the BLM's authority to manage and regulate use of the public lands. Lack of agency presence on the public lands created an atmosphere of benign neglect where theft and vandalism could occur without any fear of apprehension. It was obvious that some legislative change would be necessary if the BLM was to meet it's responsibilities in the California Desert. Many of the stories of illegal and destructive activities in the California Desert made it to the hallways of Congress as a potential "Organic Act" for the BLM was being considered. One such story was about the Barstow to Las Vegas motorcycle race.  Not only did the story find its way to the hallways of Congress, but so did a famous photo of its mass start.
 

 

  The tradition of the Barstow to Las Vegas motorcycle race started in about 1967.  It always started out with a mass start in which the racers lined up side by side on a start line that stretched for several miles.  At first the race was allowed by the BLM because there were no environmental required that had to be followed.  Two things would all of that: (1) the enactment of  the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969; and (2) President Nixon issuing Executive Order 11644 on off-road vehicles.  NEPA required that each federal action be evaluated as to whether there are potential environmental impacts and use that as a basis to decide if the action should be allowed. Executive Order 11644 instructed the BLM that off-road use can only be allowed if it can be done without causing adverse effects to the environment.  These two things in addtional to the enactment of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in 1976 would change everything for BLM.   

   In anticipation of pending Organic Act legislation, a ranger workshop was held in San Diego in July 1976. State Director Ed Hastey made the following comments in directing the ranger function towards the advent of Federal law enforcement authority: (1) the ranger staff will continue to be composed, basically, of professionals in resource management who are trained to perform ranger functions, (2) I intend to appoint fully trained Law Enforcement Rangers, (3) Rangers may aid in resource management associated with their professional background, and (4) becoming a Law Enforcement Ranger will be voluntary.

   The long awaited Organic Act (FLPMA) was passed in October of 1976. Many of the aforementioned documents as well as testimony went into illustrate to Congress the need for this necessary legislation. The Act gave the Secretary authority to: (1) establish regulations; (2) criminal penalties for violations; (3) authority to designate personnel for law enforcement authority; (4) that persons (special agents and law enforcement rangers) so designated are authorized to make arrests, carry firearms, serve warrants, and conduct searches and seizures; (5) authority to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements for law enforcement; and (6) the establishment of a desert ranger force for the California Desert Conservation Area. The act further stated that the purpose of the Desert Ranger force was "enforcing Federal laws and regulations relating to the public lands and resources".

   This authority opened the door to the establishment of a Bureauwide law enforcement program. However, the potential presence of BLM law enforcement officers on the public lands was an area of great sensitivity. Many traditional users of the public lands saw this as the potential creation of a "Federal police force" and a violation of the general authority ceded to the States for application of "police powers." In order to account for these sensitivities, the Congress choose to provide the BLM with the ability to cooperate with State and local agencies in the enforcement of State and local laws and regulations on the public lands. When the BLM law enforcement program began, this was a very important factor. The BLM law enforcement program was not to be totally isolated from the State and local law enforcement community. It was to be a program that would take into account the needs and concerns of State and local law enforcement agencies. The first BLM law enforcement officers in a given geographic area had to go forth and establish appropriate working relationships with State and local law enforcement agencies. Quite often this was done through reimbursable law enforcement agreements that enhanced the local agency's ability to provide law enforcement services on the public land. This was especially important in those early years, because the BLM basically had only one or two law enforcement officers in any State.

   The 1976 BLM case Kleppe v. United States was the first test of the Wild Free-roaming Horse and Burro Act. The case involved the State of New Mexico removing wild horses from public lands under the authority of a state law regarding stray animals. The Court found that the government, "...Possessed full legislative/police power over activity occurring on federal property," and, "Any conduct taking place on United States land may be subject to Congressional authority regardless of its relationship to that land."

   In May of 1977, California BLM issued a Manual Supplement providing policy and procedures for the direction of the California Rangers. By this time, those "Desert Rangers" not desiring to undertake law enforcement duties had moved into traditional resource specialist positions. What remained was a cadre of thirteen, staffed mainly in the Bakersfield and Riverside Districts, as well as one position each in the State Office, Ukiah and Folsom. During 1977, these rangers attended the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, as well as a Natural Resource Law Enforcement course at the California Department of Forestry Academy in Ione.
 

   In reaction to requests for law enforcement authority, in March 1978, Secretary Cecil Andrus approved deployment of 17 Law Enforcement Rangers in the California Desert Conservation Area. He further stated that prior to establishing additional Law Enforcement Rangers outside the CDCA, BLM must consult with state or local authorities regarding provision of law enforcement services under terms of a Cooperative Agreement or contract. The BLM in turn issued a memo providing interim Law Enforcement Ranger program guidance implementing these decisions. On April 7, 1978, the first thirteen BLM Rangers were sworn in for law enforcement authority in Riverside, California.

 

Right from the start, the BLM law enforcement would be placed into the front lines on a “war for the resources” that would be fought through several significant battles.  These battles would eventually bring great disfavor upon the BLM law enforcement program and sully its reputation.  The first battle tht was fought was over the Barstow to Las Vegas motorcycle race.  The last legal race had been held in 1974.  After the race the BLM studied the impact and determined that 7,500 acres of wildlife habitat was being destroyed during the race. So the permit was denied by the BLM for the next three years.  But some of the races continued to conduct the event without a BLM permit by keeping their identities unknown.  The primary person doing this went by the name “Phantom Duck of the Desert.”  A few months before the race in 1978, the BLM discovered the identities of the racers.  The BLM filed in the U.S. District Court to obtain an injunction against these people conducting a race in 1978.  The injunction was issued, but the race occurred anyway.  Then the BLM entered into protracted court proceedings seeking a contempt of court finding.  Instead, the court orchested a settlement agreement in which the defendants promised to not let the race happen again.  So the Civil Court provided absolutely no back up to the BLM and if another race occurred the BLM would be standing on their own.  So the BLM made plans to use their new law enforcement ranger force with back-up from the Sheriff’s Office to stop the race.  The situation became rather politically charged and soon the sheriff office sort of backed out.  Then the race proponents said they were going to race anyway and if the rangers tried to stop them they were going to “shoot them in the kneecap.”  The BLM decided to back off somewhat and told the rangers only to monitor the “protest ride.”  Some of the “protestors” were observed in the field and at some public meetings wearing firearms, but they never brandished or pointed them at anyone. It seemed to be more of an act of intimidation. This posture would continue for the next three years.  Then the BLM made an amendment to their California Desert Plan that would permit a Barstow to Las Vegas race under certain restrictive conditions.  So the race would be legal for the next 7 years.  In 1989, due to its soon to be threatened status, emergency protection under the Endangered Species Act was provided to the desert tortoise.   With that protection in place, the race would not be allowed in 1990.  Once again, a “protest ride” was being promoted.  This time the BLM put together a team of law enforcement rangers that had the full back-up of the sheriff’s office, including helicopter support.  The race was not allowed to occur and 10 arrests were made.  It took over a decade, but the rangers won the first battle in the “war for the resources.”  But they were rapidly becoming the “bad guys” in the eyes of off-road users everywhere.  

 

 
   The Law Enforcement Ranger staff eventually increased to the limit of 17 in 1979 and would remain firmly static at that number for six years. Beginning in April 1982, requests from the field for expansion of the Law Enforcement Ranger program with individual justifications began filtering into the Washington Office. Initial requests came from California, Las Vegas, Yuma and Utah. After much debate and consideration, a Bureau request was made to Secretary William Clark to re-delegate authority to the Bureau Director to expand the Law Enforcement Ranger program. In May of 1984, the Secretary approved this request. In October of 1984, the California Desert staffed their 18th and 19th rangers and in August of 1985, the first BLM Law Enforcement Ranger positions outside the CDCA were staffed in Moab, Utah.

   The next few years saw gentle expansion of the program to Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, and Nevada. The greatest growth occurred in 1988 with the doubling of the CDCA Ranger Staff to forty two positions, an addition of twenty. This was brought about by a special Congressional appropriation to bolster the protection effort in the desert. That year also saw the addition of positions in Northern California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.
 

  In April 1995, Kenneth Medenbach was squatting (occupancy trespass) on public land near La Pine, Oregon.  In May the BLM issued a notice of trespass and told him to cease his trespass, dismantle his makeshift cabin and remove his possessions from the public land.  In answering this notice, Medenbach had declared his ownership of one square mile of public land saying that: “I feel the Lord’s telling me to possess the land, and I can legally do it, because the U.S. Constitution says the government does not own the land.”  The BLM initiated administrative trespass procedures against Medenbach and with the assistance of BLM law enforcement in Oregon, he was evicted from the public lands and his possessions were impounded and disposed of according to those procedures.  The story of this incident is provided here, because in 2016, Medenbach would be among those who illegally occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

 

  In the 1990s, the “war for the resources” was mostly being waged in the political front.  There were proposals in the House of Representatives to completely eliminate BLMs law enforcement budget.  A Congressman and a Senator led a media campaign that disparaged the rangers and suggested that their authority to carry firearms be repealed.  Much of this was done through false rhetoric about incidents that never occurred.  Not trusting the information provided by BLM in regards to its law enforcement program, the Congressman requested numerous reports from the GAO and the U.S. Marshal Service for information about BLM and other land management agency law enforcement programs.  This decade of attacks sort of finished with a Congressional hearing.  In the hearing a Congressman gave testimony of how the BLM rangers had harassed a family in New Mexico and had pointed guns at them.  But the BLM had the truth of that matter in their possession, but not being able to testify to that in the hearing they took their case to the Washington Post.  What they had were evidence photos of the family breaking into another person’s car at the BLM recreation site.  They also had transcripts from Federal Grand Jury proceedings which resulted in the “family” being charge with perjury.  This so embarrassed the members of Congress that called for the hearing that a transcript for the hearing was never published.  But despite the truth, the damage of false testimony and rhetoric had been made.  The BLM law enforcement program had been unduly accused of impropriety.  

 

 

  The Barstow to Las Vegas motorcycle race would not be the last battle in the “war for resources” that BLM law enforcement officers would be subject to.  But this time they would take the heat for another agency and the Department of the Interior in general.  In the summer of 2001 a drought was occurring in Southern Oregon.  So it would become a battle over use of water.  There was a set of head gates on a canal in Klamath Falls, Oregon that diverted water from the Klamath River drainage to be used for irrigation on local farms.  The drought, tribal fishery rights, wildlife refuges, ecosystem degradation, and the Endangered Species Act all collided to create this battle. Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton ordered the gates on the canal to be closed to provide more downstream flow into the Klamath River to enhance habitat for the endangered suckerfish and threatened coho salmon.  Fishing for salmon in the Klamath River was part of the fishing treaty rights for a Native American reservation downstream.  But after the gates had been closed, protesting farmers continued to open them again.  The gates are administered by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR).  The BOR attempted to fix the gates in a way that would prevent them from being tampered with, but to no avail.  The BOR does not have a law enforcement program of their own, so Department of the Interior officials ordered the BLM to put together a team of rangers and send them to Klamath Falls to guard the gates. The BLM team was in place for most of August 2001.  They daily put up with the brunt of hostility from the protesting farmers.  Once again they were forced to take on the “bad guy” role on behalf of the fishery resources and tribal rights.

 


  A situation began in 2001 that 14 years later would have a major influence in the “war for resources.”  Dwight and Steven Hammond of Burns, Oregon started a fire that ultimately burned 139 acres of BLM public lands.  In 2006, Steven Hammond started another fire that burned more BLM public lands and actually endangered some BLM firefighters working on a fire that started from a lightening strike.  A BLM special agent from Portland conducted the investigation of these incidents and referred them to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution.  In the investigation, it was determined that the 2001 fire was set to cover up evidence of a herd of deer that the Hammonds had slaughtered on public land. In 2012, the Hammonds were convicted of these crimes in a jury trial.  The crimes carried a Congressional-mandated minimum sentence of five years imprisonment.  However, the judge imposed lesser sentences on the Hammonds which they served.  But the U.S. Attorney’s Office had filed a appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court concerning the minimum sentencing.  In October 2015, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the appeal that the Hammonds were subject to the 5 year term.  This required that the Hammonds to either be arrested or surrender to serve the remainder of their terms.  When the time came for them to surrender in December 2015, Ammon Bundy and his followers came to Burns with the idea that they were going to prevent this from happening.  But the Hammonds refused the assistance of Bundy and his followers and quietly went to the Federal prison in San Pedro, California and surrendered.  This is when Bundy and his followers decided to illegally occupy the Malheur National Wildife Refuge and make demands for the Hammond’s release and that the public lands all be turned over to the local residents.  The finish of this story is found in the Fish and Wildlife Service narrative on this website, since it was their property that was illegally occupied.  However, Bundy and his followers seem to have had their primary grievance with the lawful activity of BLM law enforcement that resulted in the imprisonment of the Hammonds. 

 

  On June 10, 2009, almost 100 special agents of the FBI and the BLM served search warrants at up to eight homes in Blanding, Utah.  They made several arrests and seized hundreds of illegally taken and possessed artifacts. Similar scenes played out across the Four Corners that morning as officers took an additional 21 men and women into custody. Later that day, the incumbent Interior Secretary and Deputy U.S. Attorney General, Ken Salazar and David W. Ogden, announced the arrests as part of “the nation’s largest investigation of archaeological and cultural artifact thefts.”  A total of 24 persons would be indicted for violating the Archaeological  Resource Protection Act and other federal statutes. Secretary Ken Salazar announced the charges at a Salt Lake City news conference and said in a telephone interview that many of the stolen items, valued at $335,000, came from sacred burial sites. "The message that we're sending is, we're not going to tolerate this kind of activity," he said. The charges were the result of a two-year undercover investigation into excavators and buyers of the artifacts in Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Federal authorities developed an antiquities dealer as a source who wore a hidden microphone to record several illicit transactions, according to court records. The Smithsonian Magazine called it the “Greatest haul of Native American artifacts, ever.”

 

  The biggest battle in the “war on resources” would occur as a result of a long term grazing trespass.  In 1993, the BLM notified Cliven Bundy that he would be required to reduce the number of cattle grazing on the public lands to protect the habitat of the desert tortoise, which had been listed as "threatened" and the public lands in the area had been designated as critical habitat.  Bundy then declined to renew his permit for his cattle grazing on public lands in the Bunkerville allotment.  Following their administrative procedures for trespass actions, on January 24, 1994, the BLM delivered a Proposed Decision Order to Remove and Demand for Payment to Bundy.  It was personally delivered and placed on the dashboard of Bundy’s truck while he was in the vehicle.  He quickly discarded the notice out the truck window. On February 17, 1994, the BLM issued a final decision canceling Bundy’s grazing permit.  In the next few years, the BLM made several attempts to have Bundy renew the permit and come into compliance.  But Bundy continued to declare that he no longer recognized the BLM’s authority to regulate his grazing.  Bundy’s language and rhetoric were similar to that used in the “sovereign citizen” movement.  The sovereign citizen movement is considered by the FBI as the nation’s top domestic terrorism threat.

 

  Due to Bundy’s lack of compliance with the BLM’s administrative procedures, the BLM proceeded in filing a civil complaint in the U.S. District Court in the case United States v. Bundy.  The case would involve court orders, injunctions, and notices.  Bundy represented himself in the case (another trait of the sovereign citizens movement) and offered as his defense the erroneous belief that the land in question belongs to the State of Nevada.  On November 3, 1998, District Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson “permanently enjoined Bundy from grazing his livestock within the Bunkerville Allotment and ordered him to remove his livestock on or before November 30, 1998. But Bundy continued to graze his livestock on public lands in defiance of this order. Rawlinson said that the BLM had shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.

 

  The sentence and orders of the 1998 United States v. Bundy case were restated by District Court Judge Larry R. Hicks on September 17, 1999.  Hicks concluded that: (1) the land on which Bundy was grazing his livestock was indeed owned by the federal government; (2) that Bundy had not been paying to use it; (3) that Bundy was trespassing, (4) that the government had the right to enforce the injunctions against trespass; and (5) Bundy had repeated violated court orders.

 

  When the BLM was making plans to carry out the cattle impoundment as authorized by the Court, they requested assistance from Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie.  However, Gillespie requested that the BLM get a new court order because in his opinion the 1998 order had become “stale.”  In response to the Sheriff’s request, the BLM once again filed with the District Court seeking a renewed enforcement authority for the 1998 ruling with the addition of seeking an order prohibiting trespass grazing in the Gold Butte area on lands administered both by the BLM and the National Park Service.   The ruling enjoining trespass grazing on the additional lands was issued by the Court on July 9, 2013.  Then the Court issued a new order that renewed the orders from the 1998 case on October 8, 2013. The Court orders further declared that, in keeping with the law, the United States was authorized to seize and remove the cattle from the land in the event that Bundy refused to do so.

 

  By 2014, Bundy had accumulated more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees and court ordered fines. A preliminary survey revealed that the BLM would have to impound almost 1,000 head of trespass cattle scattered over hundreds of thousands of acres of arid and difficult terrain.  Given these circumstances, the BLM estimated that it would take a month or more to complete the impoundment.  On March 14, 2014, the BLM formally notified Bundy that impoundment operations would take place.  On March 15, Bundy responded by stating that he “was ready to do battle” with the BLM and “do whatever it takes” to protect his property. On March 17, a BLM special agent notified Ryan Bundy that he was available to answer any questions he had about the impoundment.  Ryan Bundy became angry and threatened to interfere, stating that he and his family would “do whatever it takes” and he would “have several hundred” with him to prevent the BLM from removing the trespass cattle. 

 

  On March 27 ,2014, the BLM published a closure of public lands in the area for the “capture, impound, and removal of trespass cattle.”  So in late March, Bundy sent letters entitled "Range War Emergency Notice and Demand for Protection" to county, state, and federal officials. In media interviews, Bundy used the language of the sovereign citizen movement as a rallying call, beckoning support from members of the Oath Keepers, the White Mountain Militia, and the Praetorian Guard.

 

  On March 28, Clive Bundy and Ryan Bundy and others, blocked a convoy of vehicles carrying horses and equipment intended for use in the impoundment operation.

 

  On April 2, Ryan Bundy and others traveled to Utah to the location of the auctioneer that BLM had contracted with to sell the trespass cattle for the purpose of threatening force, violence, and economic lass against the auctioneer to intimidate him from providing services to the BLM.  Ryan Bundy would repeat this action towards the auctioneer again on April 9.

 

  On April 5, BLM officials, wranglers, and contractors began a roundup of the trespass cattle. A team of BLM law enforcement rangers were there to ensure the safety and welfare of the public, contractors, and government employees. (The rangers were not there to force Bundy to pay his $1 million debt) To do this, they would have to do their best to keep the public from entering an area of about 802,571 acres.  The best way to do this was to establish entry control on the primary access road leading into the area.  But Clive Bundy and his followers flooded the internet with false and deceitful images and statements to the effect that the law enforcement officers were abusing Bundy and stealing his cattle. Bundy and his followers pleaded for others to travel to Nevada to “stop the abuse” and to “make a show of force” against the officers.  Soon armed people and private militia members from across the United States joined peaceful protestors against the trespass-cattle roundup in what has become known to them as the Battle of Bunkerville. As Christopher Ketcham put it in his Harper’s Magazine article The Great Republican Land Heist, “From across the country the militia had come to “make war” on the BLM.”

 

  On April 6, Ryan Bundy and Dave Bundy interfered with impoundment operations by positioning themselves to block a BLM convoy and refusing the leave the area when asked to do so. Failing to leave after repeated requests, Dave Bundy was arrested by the BLM law enforcement officers.  He was booked into the Henderson, Nevada jail where he was held overnight. He was released the following morning after receiving a citation for his offenses.  This would constitute the first arrest made in the Bundy standoff.

 


  On April 7, Ryan Payne used the internet and other facilities in interstate commerce to recruit others to travel to the Bundy Ranch for the unlawful purpose of interfering with impoundment operations.  He falsely reported that the ranch was surrounded by BLM snipers, that the Bundy family was isolated, and that the BLM wanted Bundy dead.

 


  On April 8, Peter Santilli, had Cliven Bundy on the phone so that they could make a broadcast for the purpose of inciting others to travel to the Bundy Ranch for unlawful purposes.  In that broadcast, Bundy said that “they have my house surrounded ... the federal government is stealing my property ... the BLM are armed with assault rifles and they have snipers.”

 


  On April 9, Peter Santilli and Ammon Bundy intercepted and blocked a convoy of BLM vehicles.  They collided an ATV into a truck in the convoy in an attempt to stall the truck.  They then attempted to forcibly gain entrance to the truck and attempted to throw a rock at law enforcement officers trying to protect the convoy and the civilian passengers inside. One of the Bundy family members was pushed to the ground by one of the law enforcement officers. The protestors then began to angrily confront the rangers and during the melee a police dog was kicked and some officers were assaulted. 

 

  On the morning of April 12, Clive Bundy organized his followers and gave them the order to get the cattle, so a group of followers, many of them brandishing or raising their assault rifles, advanced on the area of the cattle gather. Bundy and his co-conspirators had counseled, incited, and led the followers to use, carry, brandish, and aim firearms, including assault rifles, for the purpose of assaulting federal law enforcement officers.  Many had signs which called the rangers “government thugs.”  That same day, Bundy “ordered” Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie to confront the federal agents, disarm them and deliver their arms to Bundy within an hour of his demand.  He later expressed his disappointment that Gillespie did not comply.
 

  Later that morning, Ammon Bundy led 200 followers on an assault against the impoundment site from below. The hostile mob was advancing on the officers. Ammon Bundy demanded that the officers leave and abandon the cattle.

 

  Meanwhile, another group of followers were organizing to perpetrate the shut down of the interstate highway. They gathered their firearms and assault rifles and loaded themselves into cars and trucks and moved as a unit down the interstate towards the impoundment site.  They began jamming the roads and slowing the traffic on the northbound lanes of Interstate 15.  In this manner they were making it difficult for state and local law enforcement vehicles to respond and approach the impoundment site. A handful of local law enforcement officers were able to respond and they attempted to form a human line in the interstate highway median to block the followers for entering the main entrance to the impoundment site.  But many of the followers were carrying and brandishing assault rifles and the local officers abandoned this task.  It was at this point that Bundy’s perpetrators placed gunmen in sniper positions behind concrete barriers on the interstate bridges with assault weapons pointed directly at the law enforcement officers.

 

  By 11:50 AM, a mob of over 400 followers converged on the impoundment site, supported by their snipers on the interstate bridges.  A combined force of about 270 followers –  some armed, some unarmed and some on horseback – began closing on the BLM rangers at the gate to the impoundment site. Using loud speakers, the BLM rangers told the crowd that they were in a closed area, in violation of a court order, and ordered them to disperse.  They also ordered the gunmen to leave.  But to no avail.  During a one hour tense standoff, the BLM rangers had to announce that they were prepared to use tear gas to disperse the crowd.  They were outnumbered by more than 4 to one.  The officers were unwilling to risk harm to children and other unarmed bystanders and wished to avoid a firefight.  The BLM Special Agent-in-Charge (SAC) decided to give into the Bundy’s demands and release the cattle in order to prevent death or injury.  The law enforcement officers feared for their lives and believed they were going to be shot and killed.  It was a very hopeless situation.  The SAC negotiated with Ryan Bundy who demanded that the BLM officers pack up their equipment and leave the impoundment site within two hours. 

 

  On the morning of April 13, BLM Director Neil Kornze said that: “Based upon information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”  BLM spokesman Craig Leff said the agency would try to resolve the matter “administratively and judicially.”

 

  Then Clive Bundy demanded that the county sheriff disarm the National Park Service at Lake Mead and the BLM Red Rock park and all other parks where the federal government claims they have jurisdiction over.  He requested that the arms be delivered to him within one hour.  He further demanded that county bulldozers or loaders be used to “tear down the entrance places where they ticket us and where they injure us and make us citizens pay their fees.”

 

  A great deal of mis-information and rhetoric began to fly.  Some of the media were believing the propaganda being put out by Bundy’s perpetrators. For example, the Utah Lieutenant Governor had reported that there were 200 federal agents at the standoff.  However, the Clark County Sheriff’s office reported that there were actually only 24 BLM Rangers and Clark County deputies there. The ciminal indictment against Bundy and his co-conspirators indicates that there were "approximately 50 officers" present. As it turns out there were four types of law enforcement officers at the incident.  There was a team of BLM rangers, a few BLM special agents, a group of U.S. Park Police Officers, and some Clark County Sheriff Deputies.

 

  One piece of mis-information was that what the BLM was doing constituted an overreach. It could be said that accusing the BLM of overreach is just plain nonsense.  There is perhaps no federal government agency that is more patient, tolerant and permissive than the BLM.  First of all, the BLM was lawfully present and carrying out its lawful responsibilities. Second, the BLM has been authorized to impound trespass cattle since the Taylor Grazing Act was enacted in 1934 and have probably done this hundreds of times in the past 70 years.  Then in this case, the BLM spent 20 years working through the administrative process and the civil court process in an attempt to convince Clive Bundy that his thinking and logic on the subject was erroneous.  Even one of the District Court Judges found that “the BLM had shown commendable restraint.” The BLM had gone out of their way to give Clive Bundy his due process rights.

 

  If the BLM really wanted to overreach, they always had the option of seeking criminal prosecution of Bundy.  This is authorized by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) for any knowing and willful violation of regulations.  The moment that Bundy choose to continue to graze his cattle in trespass after he received a notice of trespass in 1994 he became a knowing and willful trespasser (criminal trespasser).  That being said, Bundy could have either been arrested by the BLM or upon filing of a criminal complaint could have been compelled by summons to appear before a criminal proceeding.  Because it would be a criminal offense, he would be subject to a penalty of imprisonment and/or criminal fine.  If he did not pay the criminal fines (as he did with the civil assessments) he would undoubtedly have to serve some time in jail with the addition of some federal probation time.  Considering the fact that he intended to consistently refuse to comply, this may have been the correct alternative all along.  However, the BLM has seldom if ever used criminal proceedings against a public land rancher (they are just too tolerant and permissive). 

 

  Another item of mis-information was that the BLM had a SWAT team and was conducting a  “Para-military raid.” Lately, there has been a great deal of sensitivity towards police actions that have a “military appearance.”  The military appearance is somewhat due to officers wearing uniforms that don’t necessarily conform to traditional law enforcement styles.  Then when this is combined with the wearing of tactical vests (another law enforcement equipment trend) and the deployment of long rifles, then appearances can mean everything.  It is thought by some that the military appearance may provoke additional hostility and violence.  There were four types of law enforcement officers at the Bundy standoff.  The BLM rangers were dressed in a standard tan-colored uniform with identifying patches, badges, and name tags.  Their uniform pants (cargo pants) did present an appearance of military style clothing and they were the same color as their tan uniform shirts.  It should be noted that in previous versions of the BLM ranger uniform, the pants were brown colored with the tan shirt and the two color combination presented a more police appearance, a opposed to SWAT uniforms which are generally all the same color.  Further, the BLM rangers were all wearing baseball style caps rather that the classic ranger hat.  This may be why several media sources referred to them as the “BLM officers” rather than the “BLM rangers.”  In some visuals of the scene, the BLM rangers were also seen wearing external tactical vests and deploying long rifles which made for a military appearance.  The BLM special agents on the scene were dressed in civilian clothing, wearing tactical vests and deploying long rifles.  In one visual, the person who may have been the leader of BLM officers was seen dressed this way and wearing his baseball cap backwards in a style that might be mistaken for a “sniper.”  Then there was a another team of officers that had green “battle fatigue” style uniforms with no markings and they were wearing military style helmets.  A reporter later identified these officers as being U.S. Park Police.  In stark contrast to the BLM and National Park Service officers, the Clark County Sheriff deputies were dressed in their standard law enforcement uniforms that you would see on the streets of Las Vegas.  In fact, some reports indicate that Sheriff Doug Gillespie specifically forbade them from wearing protective gear because of fear that it would be seen as provocative.  So, while the BLM does not have a SWAT team, there may have been officers present that appeared to look more like a SWAT team than just BLM rangers.

 

  The BLM has been accused of “going it alone” without the full support of the Sheriff’s Office. While it would have been great for the Sheriff to have been more supportive, when it comes right down to it, the cattle impoundment was BLM’s responsibility alone.  The FLPMA instructs the BLM that “the use, occupancy, or development of any portion of the public lands contrary to any regulation of the Secretary or other responsible authority, or contrary to any order issued pursuant to any such regulation, is unlawful and prohibited.”  That means that BLM’s primary objective in this case was not necessarily getting Bundy’s $1 million debt paid.  Rather the primary objective was to put a stop to the trespass.  It was BLM regulations that Bundy was violating and it was BLM that had the authority to impound the trespass cattle.  The Sheriff only had responsibility to keep the peace and apprehend those violating state and local laws. The Sheriff did his best to do this and served somewhat as a negotiator. However, his deputies did not arrest any of the perpetrators who were pointing loaded firearms at the BLM rangers. The Sheriff could have been a great help by defusing the situation by declaring the protestors to be in an “unlawful assembly” (pointing loaded firearms at others is certainly “unlawful”)  and dispersing them, but for whatever reason he did not have his deputies do this. Further, the number of deputies that had responded to the scene were far too few to make a difference in this case. Ultimately, it just forced the BLM to abdicate its responsibilities.

 

  While the FLPMA authorizes BLM to conduct its law enforcement activities independently, it also instructs the BLM that when assistance in law enforcement is necessary then they are to place “maximum feasible reliance” on local law enforcement.  But whenever the politics of the local sheriff’s constituencies are in direct opposition to the responsibilities of the BLM, then maximum feasible reliance becomes a fallacy.  In the Bundy standoff, there was little assistance and support of the Sheriff to complete the cattle impoundment effort. But regardless of how much support that the Sheriff could have provided and/or BLM’s choices of tactics, it is doubtful that this situation would have ended in any other way.  Bundy’s recalcitrant beliefs would turn any effort to end his trespass into a somewhat impossible situation.

 

  The real results is that once again the BLM rangers end up being branded as “bad guys” in doing their jobs by “walking the thin brown line” in defense of the lowly desert tortoise.  Then with Bundy’s ever increasing herd of trespass cattle in the area, there has undoubtedly been a tremendous increase in the tortoise fatality rate.  Author Christopher Ketcham wrote of the results: “Bundy’s victory in April -- which is to say BLM’s abject defeat – proved to be an inspiration for like-minded Americans”

 

  Two years later in January 2016, several of the perpetrators involved in this Nevada standoff would be involved in the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.  Several of them were arrested and charged in the Oregon case. Then on February 11, 2016, Cliven Bundy was traveling to Oregon to visit his sons who had been jailed after their arrest for involvement in the illegal occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Upon arriving at the Portland, Oregon airport, Cliven Bundy was arrested by the FBI. The criminal charges against Cliven Bundy are related to the 2014 Bundy standoff.  A 32-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas accuses Bundy of leading more than 200 self-styled militia supporters into the April 2014 confrontation that had snipers with loaded weapons pointed at the BLM rangers who were attempting to assist in the round up of Bundy’s trespassing cattle.  The criminal compliant said, among other things, "Bundy and his confederates recruited, organized and led hundreds of others in using armed force against law enforcement officers in order to achieve their criminal objectives." The specific charges in the compliant are: (1) Conspiracy to Commit An Offense Against the United States; (2) Assault on a Federal Law Enforcement Officer; (3) Use and Carry of a Firearm In Relation to a Crime of Violence; (4) Obstruction of the Administration of Justice; (5) Interference with Commerce by Extortion; and (6) Aiding and Abetting.  The complaint has indications that an FBI special agent had been assigned to investigate the events that occurred in and near Bunkerville, Nevada, during April 2014 in connection with a cattle impoundment conducted by federal law enforcement officers.  The complaint affirmed that Clive Bundy had trespassed his cattle on federal public lands for over 20 years, refusing to obtain the legally-required permits or pay the required fees. 

 

  On February 17, 2016, a Federal Grand Jury Indictment was released that charges not only Cliven Bundy, but also his co-conspirators, namely, Ryan Bundy, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Payne, and Peter Santilli.  They were accused of planning, organizing, and leading the assault on the BLM law enforcement officers in order to extort the officers into abandoning approximately 400 head of cattle that were in their lawful care and custody.  The specific charges were: (1) Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States; (2) Conspiracy to Impede and Injure a Federal Officer; (3) Assault on a Federal Officer; (4) Threatening a Federal Law Enforcement Officer; (5) Use and Carry of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence; (6) Obstruction of the Due Administration of Justice; (7) Interference with Interstate Commerce by Extortion; (8) Interstate Travel in Aid of Extortion; and (8) Aiding and Abetting.  The indictment further added that if the defendants are convicted of any of these felonies, in addition to the penalties prescribed for those offenses, they will be required to forfeit all their firearms used in the offenses and a forfeiture of a money judgement in the amount of $3,000,000. The forfeiture also includes any and all cattle on the Bunkerville Allotment and Lake Mead National Recreation Area.

 


  The Federal Grand Jury had concluded that: “The scope, nature, and objects of the conspiratorial agreement were to threaten force and violence and use force and violence to: (1) impede, obstruct, and interfere with BLM’s impoundment; (2) obtain Bundy’s impounded cattle; (3) intimidate and prevent law enforcement officers from taking action against the conspirators; and (4) threaten, intimidate, and prevent by force, the BLM from exercising regulatory and law enforcement authority over federal public lands.   

 

  A superseding indictment was unsealed on March 2, 2016.  An additional 14 arrests were made as follows: Melvin D. Bundy, David H. Bundy, Brian D. Cavalier, Blaine Cooper, Gerald A. Delemus, Eric J. Parker, O. Scott Drexler, Richard R. Lovelein, Steven A. Stewart, Todd C. Engel, Gregory P. Burleson, Joseph D. O’Shaughnessy, Micah L. McGuire, and Jason D. Woods.  These defendants were charged with the same nine counts as the original defendants.  Parker, Drexler, Stewart, Lovelien, Engel, Burleson, McGuire, and Woods were all identified in the indictment as “gunmen” in the 2014 confrontation.  Finally, those who had committed assault with a deadly weapon against the BLM rangers were finally being brought to justice after the State and local law enforcement agencies failed to do this.

 


  In announcing the superseding indictment and the additional arrests, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said:

 “Today’s actions make clear that we will not tolerate the use of threats or force against federal agents who are doing their jobs.  We will continue to protect public land on behalf of the American people, uphold federal law, and ensure that those who employ violence to express their grievances with the government will be apprehended and held accountable for their crimes.”

 

  The Executive Order 11644 on off-road vehicles instructs the BLM that they cannot allow off-road vehicle use in places where such use is causing adverse effects to cultural or historical resources.  Further, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act instructs the BLM to protect archaeological sites and their resources. Recapture Canyon in San Juan County, Utah is a place that contains several such sites that represent a rich archaeological record of Ancestral Puebloands, who had lived in the canyon 1,000 years ago. In 2007, the BLM had closed Recapture Canyon to all motorized vehicles in order to prevent damage to the sites.  On May 10, 2014, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman orgnaized a protest aimed at opening the trail to all-terrain vehicles.  Among those who gathered for the protest were Clive Bundy’s sons Ammon Bundy and Ryan Bundy, both armed and hostile.  The protest also attracted several other militia members who had been at the Bundy standoff in Nevada.  They joined at least 250 people gathered in the town square at Blanding, Utah to prepare for the protest ride at Recapture Canyon.  The protest involved riding ATVs up the closed canyon in violation of the BLM restrictions.  Author Christopher Ketcham was among those present at the event. When Ketcham asked one of the deputies why he and his fellow deputy had not done anything to stop the violation, he said it wasn’t their job, it was the BLM’s.  I asked whether he-d seen BLM officers. “Not one,” he said, “Complete no-show.”  It could be daid that these deputies were now aiding and abetting the violation of BLM regulations.  But unbeknownst to the deputies and the others participating in the protest ride, the BLM did have some undercover agents present at the event to gather evidence by taking photos of the riders and conducting investigative surveillance.

 

  Four persons were charged in U.S. District Court for misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and operating motorized vehicles in an area closed to such use.  A jury trial was held in April 2015.  Defendants Phil Lyman and Monte Wells were convicted of these charges.  The two other defendants were acquitted.  Lyman was sentenced to ten days in jail, fined $1,000 and three years of probation.  Wells was sentenced to three days in jail, fined $500 and three years of probation. They were also ordered to pay $96,000.00 in restitution to the BLM for the damage that their illegal protest ride had caused.  They were expected to pay $500 per month towards their restitution debt. 

 

  To say that the BLM public lands attract “sovereign citizens” like a magnet may be an understatement.  A person who subscribed to these beliefs showed up camping on public lands in Nevada County, California in June 2014.  His name was Brent Cole. He had been posting favorably on Facebook about the Bundy standoff and was obviously a Bundy supporter.  In some previous encounters with local law enforcement, he had filed notices and documents that resembled those use in sovereign citizen practices.  On June 14, a BLM ranger stopped Cole after he observed him driving his vehicle down a brushed-in trail near the South Yuba River campground.  He told Cole that he could not drive on that trail and allowed him to leave without issuing him a citation. After Cole left, the ranger traveled up the trail and discovered an illegal campsite.  The ranger found two motorcycles parked their and researched them to determine ownership.  He determined that one was reported stolen and the other had expired tags.  The ranger requested the assistance of a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer so that the vehicles could be impounded.  After the CHP officer arrived, Cole emerged from the brush surrounding the campsite and said he was there to get his things.  The BLM ranger asked Cole if he was armed and Cole said that he was.  The BLM ranger removed his handcuffs and Cole said he would not allow the ranger to place handcuffs on him.  Cole drew a revolver, pointed it at the ranger and fired several times.  The ranger was hit in the left shoulder.  Then both the ranger and the CHP officer returned fire.  Cole then pointed his gun on the CHP officer and fired several times.  The CHP officer was hit in the right leg.  After expending all his ammunition and being shot multiple times, Cole surrendered to the officers. The two officers handcuffed Cole, called for assistance, and rendered medical aid.

 

   A federal grand jury in Sacramento returned a three-count indictment against Cole.  He was charged with: (1) assault on a federal officer with a deadly weapon which inflicted bodily injury; (2)  assault on a person assisting a federal officer with a deadly weapon which inflicted bodily injury; and (3) discharge of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.  The U.S. Attorney said, “Violence directed at law enforcement officials who are lawfully performing their duties is unacceptable.”  In August 2015, calling Cole a dangerous man who has accepted no responsibility for his attack on the officers, U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. sentenced him to 29 years and seven months imprisonment. In this incident, an actual shoot-out had occurred involving a sovereign citizen assailant.  Yet, when compared to the Bundy standoff there was very little media coverage of this and most coverage was in regional sources. Was the shooting of a BLM ranger and an assisting officer so unimportant that it didn’t warrant the same coverage granted to some perpetrators of violence at the Bundy standoff?  

 

 The 2009 artifact raids, the Bundy standoff, the Recapture Canyon incident, and the BLM’s decision to not renew some reimbursable law enforcement agreements in Utah, had tremendously increased hostile rhetoric from state and local officials in Utah.  They were able to request and orchestrate a Congressional hearing in July 2014 to enable county officials to tell the U.S. House that BLM law enforcement officers are uncooperative and refuse to coordinate.  The officials expressed their concerns about “heavy-handed” actions.  In the hearing, Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said the “bullying, intimidation and lack of integrity” by BLM law enforcers has led to a difficult relationship and further said that “some equate BLM’s law enforcement operations to the Gestapo of the World War II era.”  Pollock argued that BLM’s denial to continue reimbursable agreements with the counties was an act of “retribution” for Utah’s actions to assert control over public lands.  BLM officials were not invited to testify at this hearing and a BLM spokesman said that there were “many vague and inaccurate claims” being made.  Reportedly, Rep. Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican wished to use the hearing to pitch his legislation that would defund what he says are paramilitary units within the federal agencies.

 

  It appears that BLM’s decision to not renew some of the reimbursable agreements was one of the primary issues that precipitated a great deal of the conflict.  Examining this requires some background on the issue.  The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) authorizes the BLM to enter into cooperative agreements with the regulatory and law enforcement officials of any state.  This cooperation “... may include reimbursement ... for expenditures incurred ... which assist in the administration and regulation of the use and occupancy of the public lands.”  This means that the BLM can pay a county sheriff to provide law enforcement services on the public lands.  But, such “reimbursement” payments can only be made: (1) after an expenditure has been incurred; (2) the expenditure was made for rendering a service that assists the BLM and (3) it was for the purpose of regulating the uses on the public lands.  Under no circumstances are such reimbursements to be made for law enforcement services provided to private lands. These are all absolute legal requirements. Unfortunately, these agreements are often mis-understood by local sheriffs.  In fact, they often refer to them as “contracts” rather than agreements.  Further, they desire that the funding and payments be consistent and the total amount of the agreement be granted to them at the beginning of each year before any services are rendered.  But to administer such agreement in that way is just plain unlawful.  This author once gave a “power point” presentation at a meeting of the Western State’s Sheriff’s Association outlining the legal requirements for such agreements.  However, the sheriffs present there continue to insist that they prefer to have the agreements function like “grants.”

 

  In 1996. The Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument was declared in Southern Utah.  It included public lands in Kane and Garfield Counties. Local managers are given authority to negotiate agreements with local governments and soon drafted law enforcement agreements with the local sheriffs.  There intent was to use these agreements in a way that might buy favor with the counties who were adamantly opposed to the national monument.  During the negotiation process the sheriffs imposed their desire to have the agreements function like annual grants with very few conditions on how the funding was to be spent.  The original agreements with these counties were approved to function in the manner desired by the county officials and the sheriff.  So if the agreements being used in 2014 have not been modified to meet the legal requirements, then they remain unlawful and would not be able to stand up to audit.  If this was the reason that the BLM decided to not renew the agreements, then they had every right to make that decision. Further, if the BLM decided to not renew the agreement because they lacked the necessary funding for the agreements, (perhaps due to budget sequestration cuts) then that also was within their authority.

 

 The bottom line is that some of the state and local authorities have been openly hostile to the BLM carrying out their lawful responsibilities.  In 1996, the Counties of San Juan, Garfield, and Kane decided that they were going to run bulldozers over some roads and trails through some wilderness study areas and within the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in violation of BLM regulations. The illegal bulldozing took place.  In San Juan County the local BLM manager attempted to stop the county with a cease-and-desist order, but to no avail.  The only person arrested that day by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department was a member of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance who was there to protest the bulldozing.  So in this incident, the county officials had actually aided and abetted the violation of BLM regulations and actually arrested a member of the public who was lawfully present on the public.  The arrest actually was a violation of a BLM regulation that prohibited interference with the lawful use of a user.  In September 2003, a Kane County commissioner and the Kane County sheriff illegally removed 31 BLM signs. Again, county officials were aiding and abetting the violation of BLM regulations.  Then in the 2014 Recapture Canyon incident, a San Juan County commissioner rode an ATV in an area closed to such use while some sheriff deputies observed all the protestors also riding their ATV in the closed area and did nothing about it.  Then the State of Utah and some of the counties have passed resolutions in which they do not recognize the law enforcement authority of the BLM.  By the way, this is the same authority (FLPMA) that allows the BLM to enter into reimbursable law enforcement agreements.  Not only do all of the above actions not “assist the BLM in the regulation of uses on public lands” but they actively opposed the BLM in their efforts to regulate uses of the public lands.  So exactly how is it these same county officials have the nerve to complain about the BLM choosing to decide not to renew their reimbursable law enforcement agreements? And then they accuse the BLM of not being cooperative and not coordinating with them. Based upon the activities of these county officials, if any of these agreements still exist they are totally unlawful and dysfunctional.  

 

  Another person that committed a crime related to the Bundy Standoff would be charged.  However, he wasn’t even there.  His name was Will Michael and he resided in Pennsylvania.  He had watched a video of a BLM Ranger removing a Bundy sister from blocking a BLM vehicle at the Bundy standoff.  He somehow determined the name and the phone number of the BLM ranger involved.  He then commenced to send threatening phone messages to that ranger. One of his messages was, “We’re going to find you, we’re going to kill you.”  A federal indictment was returned in Portland, Oregon.  The case was later transferred to Philadelphia. While in custody in April 2015, Michael pleaded guilty to one count of threatening a federal law enforcement officer and to interstate communication threats.  In July 2015, Michael was sentenced to 1 day imprisonment, 3 years probation, a $200 special assessment, 50 hours of community service, and had to write an apology to the BLM ranger.

 

  The first defendant to be convicted and sentenced for his involvement in the 2014 Bundy Standoff was Gerald Delemus. On May 31, 2017, Delemus was sentenced to seven years in Federal prison. In handing down the sentence, Judge Gloria Navarrow called him a "bully vigilante."

 

  Gregory Burleson was among those who was on the interstate bridge at the 2014 Bundy Standoff pointing a loaded assault rifle at the BLM law enforcement officers. He was convicted in April 2017 of eight counts including assault on federal officers, obstruction of justice and extortion. On July 26, 2017, he was sentenced to 68 years imprisonment for his crimes. 

 

  On August 23, 2017, Steven Stewart and Ricky Lovelien were found not guilty on all the charges against them in their involvement in the 2014 Bundy Standoff. A mis-trial was declared in most charges against Scott Drexler and Eric Parker.  The following day, Acting U.S. Attorney Steven Myhre stated, "Raising a firearm against a federal law enforcement officer, or any law enforcement officer, is a crime, that is why we brought Parker to trial and . . . intend to try him a third time."

 

 

  Lately all discussions about what the BLM does or not do seem to devolve into discussions about law enforcement.  The sensationalism of BLM opponents taking stands and actively resisting BLM regulations and restrictions seem to overshadow any comprehensive discussions about BLM’s responsibilities and how they should be implemented.  On several recent occasions, this active resistance has taken the form of actions aimed at using force, threat, and intimidation to keep the BLM from doing its job.  The success or failure of BLM’s resource management tasks are very dependent upon voluntarily compliance with the regulations and restrictions that are mandated by laws and conditions on the ground.  One could say that voluntary compliance is the “house of cards” upon which BLM’s management of the public lands depends upon.  When certain persons refuse to comply with BLM regulations and permit requirements, the house of cards begins to crumble.  The BLM doesn’t have nor needs to have an aggressive law enforcement force.  It just needs to provide enough enforcement to keep the house of cards standing.  Sometimes this can be done with the effective support of state and local law enforcement agencies.  But more often than not, support from state and local agencies may be precluded by local politics.  When that occurs, the BLM needs to stand on its own and enforce the laws and regulations related to the public lands and resources “without fear or favor.”  

 

   Some things have changed on the public lands and some have not. Trespass is still common. In fact with the increases in value of public land commodities, trespass has become more lucrative. Enforcement officers are not as many as they should be. However, there is still a force of special agents chasing down those who would take things from the public lands without paying. The BLM is no longer a total absentee landowner. They have law enforcement rangers who still "present trespassers at the next courts holden." Prosecutors still find judges and juries unfriendly to public land type crimes. This is due to the tremendous workload that many U.S. Attorney's offices are under, and BLM cases just don't seem to stack up to drugs, tax evasion and violent crime. Public opinion remains occasionally hostile in certain areas as additional public land restrictions and requirements are put into place in locations that are viewed as limiting freedom on such lands. However, most members of the public appear to be in favor of protection of resources and the environment. Lastly, the statement, "a situation that was to be reproduced many times in the future" perhaps will remain prophetic.


   There have been those that think that the BLM law enforcement program is a recent development. But considering this long history, there is nothing new about it at all. The “war on resources” has perhaps not yet come to a conclusion and there may be more battles in the future.

Today, there are 200 Law Enforcement Rangers and 75 Special Agents within the Bureau of Land Management.


   This summary is extracted from my book, Seldom was Heard an Encouraging Word, A History of Bureau of Land Management Law Enforcement, see this book for more comprehensive information.