Monday, March 06, 2017

DuBois column

A rogue agent, three trials, and hummingbird eggs, traveling tortoises and obese bumble bees

A rogue agent

You may recall the extravagant demands made by BLM last year for the Burning Man event in Nevada. They sought, "trailers, flush toilets, washers and dryers and vanity mirrors.” Also included was a 24-hour, full-service kitchen with a menu of "10-ounce steaks, 18-ounce pork ribs, poultry, ham, fish, vegetables, potatoes, bread, salad bar with five toppings and three dressings and desserts." And those desserts?  They had to include "assorted ice cream flavors, Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches, as well as cakes, cookies, pies, cobblers, puddings and pastries."

It turns out the agent-in-charge for this BLM operation was one Dan Love, who was also the agent-in-charge for the Cliven Bundy fiasco in Nevada.

In late January the Inspector General’s office (OIG) for the Department of Interior released a report on abuse of authority and ethical breaches by a federal employee, whom we now know was Dan Love. The OIG found the Supervisory Agent “violated Federal ethics rules when he used his influence with Burning Man officials to obtain three sold-out tickets and special passes for his father, girlfriend, and a family friend.” In addition, they found that he “directed on-duty BLM law enforcement employees to drive and escort his family during the event with BLM-procured, all-terrain and utility type vehicles.” The report also confirmed “the Supervisory Agent’s girlfriend stayed overnight with him in his BLM assigned trailer, contrary to restrictions in the operations plan for the event”, that he “violated Federal ethics regulations by having a subordinate employee make a hotel reservation for his guests”, and he misused his BLM official vehicle while hauling his girlfriend around the event.

Investigators said the agent called other employees and encouraged them not to cooperate. Investigators also said the agent used intimidation to discourage his co-workers from speaking with investigators, telling one: "You know, if you don't side with me, grenades are going to go off and you'll get hit."

Then, on February 14 of this year the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee requested the OIG expand their investigation into Mr. Love to include charges of destruction of federal records, witness tampering and obstruction of a Congressional investigation.

All this, and yet agent Love is reportedly to be the star witness for the feds in the Nevada standoff case.

Triple trials

We’ve got three trials going on right now:  The remaining defendants in the Malheur Wildlife Refuge takeover, the charges against Ammon Bundy’s attorney, and the first defendants in the Nevada standoff.

Of the remaining seven defendants in Malheur case, three have plead guilty to misdemeanor trespassing in exchange for other charges being dropped.  All three were sentenced to a one-year probation. At a pretrial hearing for the others, an interesting issue came up concerning warrants. It appears the arrest warrant for one defendant was dated a day after he was arrested. “We have a fundamental problem with the government’s reliance on the arrest warrant,” Judge Brown said. “It’s very curious to me that [FBI agents] all testified to an arrest warrant when there isn’t one,” stated Brown.

In the case of Ammon Bundy’s attorney, the judge has dropped one charge but has denied his request for a jury trial and ordered a bench trial instead.

Opening statements have been given in the trial of the initial defendants in the Nevada standoff case. The prosecutor painted a picture of outgunned and outmanned federal agents who had no choice but to release the cattle. The defense said the group did not venture to the cattle pens until after the Sheriff told them the feds were leaving. No conspiracy was involved they said. Prosecutors have asked the judge to narrow the focus of the trial to the day of the standoff, and to prohibit defense teams from referring to federal land policies. Defense lawyers argued that if the government hopes to prove conspiracy, the jury has to hear what the defendants believe and why they went to the Bundy ranch.

We should know the verdicts in time for next month’s column.

Wolves up, ranchers down

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has completed their annual survey for Mexican wolves, finding a minimum of 113 of the critters, as compared to 97 in 2015. Other findings were:
  • There are a total of 21 packs, with a minimum of 50 wolves in New Mexico and 63 wolves in Arizona.
  • The 2016 minimum population count includes 50 wild­born pups that survived through the end of the year compared to 23 pups surviving in 2015. 
  • Six wolf pups were cross-fostered in 2016. Three are known to be alive, one of which is radio collared.
The feds also reported there were 13 wolf mortalities last year, two of which occurred during the survey and 11 which are under investigation.

The numbers aren’t near so good for federal land ranchers.

The Coalition for Self-Government in the West has just released a new study titled Dusty Trails: The Erosion of Grazing in the American West. They took a look at the numbers for grazing administered by the Bureau of Land Management for the years 1949-2014.

During the 65-year period for the study, they found that AUMs authorized by the BLM declined from 14,572,272 to 7,160,432. The number of permittees suffered a similar decline, from 21,081 to 10,187.

They also have tables for individual states. For New Mexico, the number of authorized AUMs declined from 2,117,347 to 1,151,492, or 46 percent. The number of permittees has plunged from 4,030 to 1,399, a whopping decline of 65 percent.

I’m told the original figures were compiled by a career BLM employee, but the higher ups told him to not publish them. I wonder why?

Tortoise translocation

In 2013 Congress added 88,000 acres to the Marine Air Corp’s Air Ground Combat Center. Problem is, this area is supposedly prime habitat for the endangered desert tortoise. The solution: the military will move, by helicopter, around 1,200 of those tortoises to BLM land outside the boundaries of the combat center. And the really good news it will only cost $50 million to complete the project.

Fat Bees

It turns out the real Obesity Crisis is in bumblebees. Within a few decades the rusty-patched bumblebee has declined by 90 percent, and recently became the first such critter to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Pesticides? Climate Change? Habitat Destruction? Not so fast say some research entomologists. They’ve discovered a parasitic fungus in drone bees, which slides down the throat to the gut. There the fungus swells in the soft tissue between the bumblebee’s organs until the drone grows so plump it can’t bend its abdomen to mate with the queen, and the colony eventually dies out.

Hummingbird eggs

In the San Francisco bay area they have a $70 million bridge project underway. About two dozen trees were to be removed to widen the freeway. But, the nest and an egg of an Anna’s hummingbird was discovered in one of the trees. That species is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the tree can’t be removed until the nest is empty.

So here’s the situation created in our country by the DC Deep Thinkers. To further a project like the above, the government can condemn private property. They can take your home, your business, your property. But they can’t move a hummingbird egg.

Until next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner ( and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship and The DuBois Western Heritage Foundation

This column originally appeared in the March editions of New Mexico Stockman and the Livestock Market Digest.  

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