Wednesday, October 14, 2015

BLM manager’s spouse behind cancellation of 5th grader’s patriotic concert

Following the abrupt decision last month by officials in Utah’s Iron County School District (ICSD) to cancel a patriotic musical performance by 5th grade students at the upcoming Western Freedom Festival (WFF) because of alleged parental complaints, Watchdog Arena has discovered that the decision resulted from a single complaint from one parent—a former National Park Service administrator of ten years—whose wife is the Bureau of Land Management’s regional manager of the district where ICSD is located. Documents obtained by Watchdog Arena through an open records request made Oct. 2 to the ICSD show that a southern Utah environmentalist Chris Zinda, who is married to the state BLM’s Color Country District Manager Heather Whitman, is the lone voice who submitted “negative feedback” that led to the cancellation of the children’s performance of “Hope of America.” An ICSD official was able to confirm to Watchdog Arena that no other parents logged complaints about the WFF, and that the concerns of Stephen Allen arose from the email Zinda sent to him. A scanned document provided by ICSD also shows the only phone call to the district regarding the district’s involved with the WFF was from Zinda.  The American Lands Council, a 501(c)(4) non-profit of individuals, counties, businesses, and organizations that was founded by county commissioners in 2012 and headed by state Rep. Kenneth Ivory (R-Salt Lake County), has been a leader in the effort to transfer the authority of public lands from federal agencies like the BLM to state and local control. The ALC and the “public lands transfer” measures its supports, undermine federal agents and the environmentalist movement. Following the Salt Lake Tribune’s initial report about the WFF controversy, Zinda wrote a letter to the editor castigating the newspaper for not taking a harder line against organizers of the event. Zinda has a history of denouncing efforts by local governments which try to address economic issues through resource development in their areas...more

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