Saturday, July 9, 2016

Durfee Hills Public Lands Trespass FOIA Filed

In summer 2014, the Wilks Brothers, in their pursuit of a land exchange, decided to illegally fence around some of our Federal BLM public lands without authorization and in a construction manner that obstructed our wildlife there, contrary to Federal BLM fencing regulations. Members of the hunting public began to notice GPS encroachments, as well as land and vegetation damage. I was flown in a number of times to document the various trespasses, providing the public with the videographic, photographic and GPS documentation online, including an interactive map

This documentation resulted in an official BLM Cadastral Survey, an investigation and helped to stop the Wilks Brothers proposed land exchange that would have given the Durfee Hills, our Federal Public Lands, home to one of Montana's best elk herds, to private individuals. 

I repeatedly requested status updates on the trespass investigation, only to be told it was still under investigation. No news or public statements from the BLM have provided the public with an update on the trespass investigation which involved unauthorized development of fencing, fencing encroachment, wildlife obstructing fencing, road and trail construction/realignment, surface disturbance (clearing, blading, digging, scalping, etc.), unauthorized personal property (such as vehicles, equipment, fencing debris, No Trespassing signs), removing of boundary markers, unauthorized destruction or disposition of mineral and vegetative materials, including timber.

Hearing rumors that the Lewistown BLM was saying there was no trespass by the Wilks on the BLM Durfee Hills, I decided to file a FOIA for the information. Several of the key Lewistown BLM employees involved in the whole Wilks/Durfee Hills debacle are no longer there - Central Montana District Manager, Stan Benes, Lewistown BLM Field Manager Geoff Beyersdorf, and BLM Monument Manager Mike Kania.

Below is the FOIA filed on July 2, 2016.


July 2, 2016
5001 Southgate Drive
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: 406-896-5157

MT BLM FOIA Officer,

Per the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting all documents, field investigation notes, photos, sketches, measurements, maps pertaining to the Wilks trespass/ multi trespass of the public's BLM land known as the Durfee Hills (legal descriptions of parcels below), as well as the current status of the trespass investigation. Please include documentation pertaining to the unauthorized development of fencing, fencing encroachment, wildlife obstructing fencing, road and trail construction/realignment, surface disturbance (clearing, blading, digging, scalping, etc.), unauthorized personal property (such as vehicles, equipment, fencing debris, No Trespassing signs), removing of boundary markers, unauthorized destruction or disposition of mineral and vegetative materials, including timber :
  • Copies of BLM Forms Initial Report of Unauthorized Use Form 9230-10 and Trespass Investigation Report 9230-24 filed as a result of complaints concerning the Wilks trespass, including interviews conducted in conjunction with the trespass investigation. Forms 1323-1 Reimbursable Project Logs Form.
  • BLM Law Enforcement citations.
  • Trespass documentation compiled by BLM Cadastral Survey team involving the fencing encroachment, survey markers (iron posts, brass markers, monument rock piles (collars) and blazed trees) moved by the Wilks tree/ground bulldozing. 
  • Documentation sent by Randy Newburg, which I requested before and did not receive in any of my FOIAs, as well as any other member of the public that submitted trespass documentation.
  • Trespass documentation found during the BLM investigation, including any court documents or other agency documents (MT State DNRC, FWP, etc.).
  • Administrative costs to investigate, survey and process these trespasses.
  • Notice of Trespass, Trespass Decision, and any Realty Trespass Resolution or Formal Administrative Resolution or other legal notices or charges.
  • I would also like copies of any trespass liabilities, fines, citations, recovery of funds efforts, rehabilitation/stabilization of damaged lands costs, any land rent liability charges levied, mineral or timber costs.
  • Documentation of meetings, communications and interviews between the BLM and the Wilks concerning these trespasses.
  • Any documents concerning cancellation or revocation of the Wilks Use Authorizations.
  • Rehabilitation/Stabilization Plan with the Wilks.
Also, I previously requested from Mike Kania, the Upper Missouri River Monument Manager, a copy of the road estimate for the east side road construction at the Bullwhacker. I never received it. Please include a copy of the road construction estimate.

The following BLM properties involved, known as the Durfee Hills - Geocode, with Legal Descriptions in parentheses.
08-2143-14-1-03-01-0000 (S14, T12 N, R22 E, S2NE4, SE4NW4, E2SE4)

08-2143-13-1-03-01-0000 (S13, T12 N, R22 E, SW4NE4, S2NW4, S2S2, NW4SW4, NW4SE4)

08-2143-23-1-01-01-0000 (S23, T12 N, R22 E, NE4, N2SE4, NE4SW4)

08-2143-24-1-02-01-0000 (S24, T12 N, R22 E, G LTS 2,3,4, W2E2, NW4, SE4SW4)

08-2144-19-3-01-01-0000 (S19, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 3 AND 4, E2SW4, W2SE4)

08-2143-25-1-01-01-0000 (S25, T12 N, R22 E, G LTS 1,2,3, W2NE4, NW4SE4, NE4NW4)

08-2144-30-1-02-01-0000 (S30, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 1,2,3,4, E2NW4, NE4SW4, N2SE4, S2NE4, NW4NE4)

08-2144-31-2-02-01-0000 (S31, T12 N, R23 E, G LTS 1,2,3, SE4NW4, E2SW4, SE4)

23-2034-06-1-01-02-0000 (S06, T11 N, R23 E, GOVT LT 2)

Disclosure of this information is necessary because of the repeated expressed public concerns, the land trade issues, the public forum discussions with documentation and the digital citizenship being exhibited. As evidenced by members of the public from other states, through the Hunt Talk forum or through the EMWH Newsletter, emails, website, blog, this is not just a Montana issue that is being watched, but is being looked at as applying to other public land/ private landowner relations, not exclusive to the Wilks.

I am the founder of Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat (Putting the "Public" Back in "Public Trust"), as well as the primary researcher. These public land issues are of great concern to the hunting conservation community. I plan, as I have already done with other documents available to the public, should they add clarity to the subject at hand, to make them available to the public, such as on the EMWH websitethe Wilks Fencing pagethe interactive map concerning the Durfee Hills documentation , disseminating the documentation pages through the Hunt Talk forum, EMWH Newsletter and blog.

Already, my posting of BLM manuals, such as the fencing standards and trespass manual have helped to create more awareness of how the BLM regulates these matters. By following your procedures and requesting the cadastral survey and investigation, we are encouraging  the BLM to be good trustees of our public lands and participating in the process. As it states in the Realty Trespass Handbook, "Realty trespass prevention requires a public that is knowledgeable of the public lands and resources and conditions for authorized use of the public lands...Public awareness and support is essential to successful trespass prevention...Detection may also involve report by the public, data of other agencies, and inventory or survey to identify or confirm suspected trespass."

This information has not been previously made public. When I requested some of this information previously, I was told that the trespass was still under investigation by Stan Benes. Rumors have circulated for a bit that the Lewistown BLM is stating there was no trespass, hence this FOIA request.

Electronic PDF copies, sent to this email address, would be preferred or compiled on a CD, mailed to my mailing address below. I will print any documents I want in hard copies. If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me of these costs. However, I would like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public's understanding of BLM and trespass of Public Lands matters. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.

Since EMWH is a public trust advocacy organization (supported minorly by contributions from concerned public, primarily by my own dollars), freely making public documents available to the public, I am requesting the fee waiver. I have already gone to lengths to collect documentation to provide to the BLM to show just cause for a cadastral survey and investigation, paying for the trips to the area in question (over $250.00 just for gas, and $500 for a helicopter) and my expenses out of my own pocket, as well as public hunters that were pilots bearing the plane fuel cost to fly me in for documentation. Additionally I have invested numerous hours of my time and web development and printing to make this information available to the public at my own cost. The public has borne more costs than we should have at this point to bring this to BLM's attention and receive compliance with your regulations. As our taxpayer dollars have already paid for the reports, emails, communications, logs, etc., I do not see that I should be required to pay, yet again, to help support our BLM public land management for the public.

Thank you,
Kathryn QannaYahu
513 1/2 W. Curtiss St.
Bozeman, MT  59715

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Hammonds, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, & the Bundy Hijacking Agenda

"When mythic histories supplant the complexities of the past, the results can be lethal. Equitable futures for Western public lands won't be achieved when ideologues swagger in, brandishing guns and taking over federal buildings."

Like Andrew McKean's New Years Wish, I would like to Stop the Silly Talk of Selling Public Land, that includes transferring the Public's land to the states, which in all likelihood would result in privatization. This multi pronged attack against our lands/resources is currently encapsulated in the recent WTF debacle taking place in Oregon and why conservationists, whether hunting or non, should care.

Since the ever sucking majority of mainstream media refuses to do their homework, simply repeating the same crappy information or has a vested interest in painting criminals as "patriots", being the information/data maven that I am, I decided to layout a number of sources to refute these irresponsible lies circulating, especially since we have Montana legislators eager and willing to lie or intentionally bury their head in the sands to achieve their special interest objectives against our public lands, such as MT Sen. Jennifer Fielder's recent obtuse blog post - Ranching is not terrorism -- Obama should pardon ranchers and end protest peacefully, "It's no wonder the feds heavy handed treatment of the Hammond Ranching Family has stirred an uprising.The federal government was way out of bounds in charging the Hammond Family with terrorism as a result of the prescribed burns they started on their own ranch to save the range. President Obama should pardon the ranchers and put an end to the Oregon protest peacefully."

This begs the question, who the hell ever stated that ranching was terrorism? This is the kind of lying special interest fearmongering that seeks to polarize people into "us vs. them" camps, where truth and facts are normally absent from the conversation, to drive their special interests.

Let's break this down into some bite sized pieces. There are three main issues here - 1. The Hammonds repeated illegal poaching and arson violations against our public lands, our wildlife and our federal public trust employees that work on our behalf to manage our public resources; 2. the ever present lie that this federal public land belongs to the state to be privatized and 3. the narcissistic, extremist, terroristic Bundy hijacking of the Hammond jailing for their own religious and subsidized benefit.
The lie: the Hammonds are being unjustly targeted by the feds trying to steal their land as some sort of "federal overreach taking". The Truth: the Hammonds have repeatedly violated laws, lease agreements, threatened federal employees, poached our public wildlife, interfered with the public accessing their public lands, and set fire to our public lands.

Ranchers arrested at wildlife refuge - "Back in 1994, High Country News covered the arrest of the Hammonds: "According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, Dwight Hammond had repeatedly violated a special permit that allowed him to move his cows across the refuge only at specific times. In June, refuge manager Forrest Cameron notified Hammond that his right to graze cattle and grow hay on the lush waterfowl haven south of Burns was revoked. The feds also said they planned to build a fence along the refuge boundary to keep Hammond's cows out of an irrigation canal.

The events of Aug. 3 are outlined in the sworn affidavit of special agent Earl M. Kisler, who assisted in the Hammonds' arrest. On the day the fence was to be built, the crew and refuge officials arrived to find Hammond had parked his Caterpillar scraper squarely on the boundary line and disabled it, removing the battery and draining fuel lines. When a tow truck arrived to move it, Dwight Hammond showed up, leaped to the controls of the scraper and hit a lever that lowered the bucket, narrowly missing another special agent. Meanwhile, said Kisler, Steve Hammond shouted obscenities at federal officials. Neither Hammond resisted arrest."

Eastern Oregon Ranchers Convicted of Arson Resentenced to Five Years in Prison
"A jury sitting in Pendleton, Oregon found the Hammonds guilty of the arsons after a two-week trial in June 2012. The trial involved allegations that the Hammonds, owners of Hammond Ranches, Inc., ignited a series of fires on lands managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), on which the Hammonds had grazing rights leased to them for their cattle operation.

The jury convicted both of the Hammonds of using fire to destroy federal property for a 2001 arson known as the Hardie-Hammond Fire, located in the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. Witnesses at trial, including a relative of the Hammonds, testified the arson occurred shortly after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered several deer on BLM property. Jurors were told that Steven Hammond handed out "Strike Anywhere" matches with instructions that they be lit and dropped on the ground because they were going to "light up the whole country on fire." One witness testified that he barely escaped the eight to ten foot high flames caused by the arson. The fire consumed 139 acres of public land and destroyed all evidence of the game violations. After committing the arson, Steven Hammond called the BLM office in Burns, Oregon and claimed the fire was started on Hammond property to burn off invasive species and had inadvertently burned onto public lands. Dwight and Steven Hammond told one of their relatives to keep his mouth shut and that nobody needed to know about the fire.

The jury also convicted Steven Hammond of using fire to destroy federal property regarding a 2006 arson known as the Krumbo Butte Fire located in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Steen Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Area. An August lightning storm started numerous fires and a burn ban was in effect while BLM firefighters fought those fires. Despite the ban, without permission or notification to BLM, Steven Hammond started several "back fires" in an attempt save the ranch's winter feed. The fires burned onto public land and were seen by BLM firefighters camped nearby. The firefighters took steps to ensure their safety and reported the arsons.

By law, arson on federal land carries a five-year mandatory minimum sentence. When the Hammonds were originally sentenced, they argued that the five-year mandatory minimum terms were unconstitutional and the trial court agreed and imposed sentences well below what the law required based upon the jury's verdicts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, upheld the federal law, reasoning that "given the seriousness of arson, a five-year sentence is not grossly disproportionate to the offense." The court vacated the original, unlawful sentences and ordered that the Hammonds be resentenced "in compliance with the law." In March 2015, the Supreme Court rejected the Hammonds' petitions for certiorari. Today, Chief Judge Aiken imposed five year prison terms on each of the Hammonds, with credit for time they already served.

Department of Justice Summary of Facts
"At trial, jurors heard from a hunting guide, a hunter and the hunter's father, who saw the Hammonds illegally slaughter a herd of deer on public land. At least seven deer were shot with others limping or running from the scene. Less than two hours later, the hunting guide and the hunter and his father, were forced to abandon their campsite because a fire was burning in the area where the deer were shot. The hunting guide's testimony and photographs established fires were burning hours before Steven Hammond called the BLM and said he was going to do a burn of invasive species in the area."

Warning from the Birding Community to the Terrorists in Oregon: We're Watching You
"Just a friendly warning from the birding and wildlife photography community to the Oregon terrorists. We are watching your every move, and we have been watching you for a long time. And yes absolutely you are domestic terrorists of the worst kind, and the truth about your decades of constant poaching of protected wildlife around Malheur and other wildlife refuges, national parks, national forests and BLM lands has been well-documented. For years those of us who are wildlife photographers, birdwatchers and carers of wildlife, have been documenting the activities of you poachers and criminals around many of our nation's wildlife refuges. With our powerful cameras, and ability to move unseen in the wilderness, we have found and documented your illegal hunts, your illegal traps and all sorts of illicit activities, and are constantly feeding that information to law enforcement, and we have finally got many of you poachers on the run and into jails. And I for one am a westerner sick to death of you welfare queens and cheats living off of BLM land, illegally gutting our wilderness and our wildlife. Malheur, Hart Mountain, Klamath Marsh, Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite etc etc, they all belong to us, we the American people, and no small group of armed thugs is going to destroy the great wildlife and national park system that our great Republican President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir put in place over a century ago. Wildlife photographers and wildlife/bird watchers now number some 40 million people in the USA, and feed many rural western economies with our tourism dollars, and we will not stand for your sedition."
Our Public Lands, not the State's or Private
The lie: the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge land was state or private land. The Truth: this land has always been federal, with private ranchers later WILLINGLY selling their ranches to the refuge, expanding it.

Supreme Court already ruled that feds rightly own occupied refuge
"Occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge question whether the federal government has unequivocal legal rights to own and manage that land, without regard to the wishes of local property owners and ranchers.
Improbably, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on exactly that question, specifically regarding the lands of the original Malheur national refuge -- twice.
Those rulings by the nation's highest court, in 1902 and in 1935, found that the federal government has an incontrovertible claim to the refuge's wetlands and lakebeds, dating back to the 1840s, when Oregon was still a territory.
'Before Oregon was admitted to statehood, the United States is shown to have acquired title which it has never in terms conveyed away,' Justice Harlan Stone wrote in 1935...

In fact, the nation's highest court ruled seven years before Roosevelt's declaration, and again 27 years after it, that the federal government had never sold or transferred any of the 82,000 acres to French or anyone else. It was, and remains, federal land."

Don't Mess with the Bull Moose News flash: Our public lands already belong to the people. And we have a he-man Republican rancher to thank for it.
"During his presidency, Roosevelt created the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 1908, turning unclaimed government property into one of more than 50 'bird reservations.' ...
And he accomplished all this, remember, as a serious cattleman and Republican. The story of tensions between federal land managers and disgruntled western ranchers is nothing new; it's been going on for centuries. To hear some folks tell it, the story pits a rapacious and inept Washington, D.C., bureaucracy against the common-sense wisdom of locals who have been working on (and living off) western lands for generations, and whose cultures and livelihoods are inextricably tied to its copious bounty and responsible stewardship.
In that telling, the story becomes a kind of populist romance, brimming with many beloved tropes that Americans have absorbed over the two and a half centuries we've been analyzing and celebrating our own exceptionalism. The rugged individualist standing up to the corrupt, effete machine. The soulful underdog, reluctantly but resolutely taking on the soulless establishment. The frontier spirit versus the dreaded 'Washington mind-set.'
But it's also so ridiculously reductive as to constitute a lie. And were he alive today, Teddy Roosevelt would be the first to call anti-government ranchers out on that lie. If he needed examples to illustrate and personalize his points, he could easily pull them from his own life experience. In his 1910 memoir, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, he wrote grippingly and horrifyingly of how a combination of harsh weather, wildfires, and massive overgrazing rendered the ranchlands of the Dakota Badlands-including his own 5,000 acres-utterly worthless for raising cattle."

In Oregon, Myth Mixes With Anger
"This version of history bears little resemblance to the actual past. Before the federal agencies came to eastern Oregon, large ranching operations from California had monopolized hundreds of thousands of acres of rangeland. Irrigation developers controlled water, cattle barons controlled the grass, and settlers were essentially locked out. Tensions were high.
During the 1890s, a populist, anti-monopolist rhetoric emerged among settlers and news editors. The local newspaper deplored the fact that the great Western ranges were passing into 'the hands of a few big cattle or sheep companies,' and predicted that soon 'an aristocracy of range lords and cattle kings would rule our mountains and plains.' In 1897, Peter French, the cattle baron who controlled the largest ranching empire in America, along the Blitzen River, was murdered by an angry homesteader. Arson, violence and grinding poverty flourished."
Terroristic Bundy HijackingThe lie: The Bundys and other militia members occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge are peacefully protesting and are patriots. The Truth: The Bundys militia used weapons (definition of terrorism - the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims) to subvert legal justice actions in Nevada against our BLM Federal employees. As a result of that action not being challenged, this militia group has felt empowered, spawning the Recapture Canyon armed ATV trespass on our federal public lands and now this armed and threatened capture of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. These are the actions of domestic terrorists, not heros, not patriots.
 The Bundy Militia's Particular Brand Of Mormonism
"Ammon Bundy uses much of the same language as his father, mixing Mormon religious symbolism with a disgust of the federal government. Speaking to Harney County residents last December, Ammon Bundy explained why he became involved in the Dwight and Steven Hammond case that sparked this takeover of federal property. 'I got this urge that I needed write something,' Bundy said. 'I asked the good Lord...I need some help. And he gave me that help. The Lord is not pleased what has happened with the Hammonds.' "

The Bundy's citing their Mormon faith as the basis of their actions, has prompted a statement from the Mormon Church : "While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles," the statement read. "This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can - and should - be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land."

Former BLM chief: Bundy's pursuing an agenda on public land
"People like Cliven Bundy and sons are using the ruse of public land grazing as an excuse for pursuing an agenda, which is anti-federal government, and has very little to do with grazing on public lands... One thing that offends me is the fact that they continue to say they are supporting ranchers that have permits. My experience is that over 90 percent of ranchers I've worked with in the past are good stewards that fully comply and have cooperative relationship with land managers...

I think the delay in bringing them [Cliven Bundy] to justice has empowered other extremists to pursue radical tactics and I think that's what we're seeing in Oregon. If someone doesn't think there will be any repercussions for breaking the law, they will continue to act. There have to be repercussions... I believe there will be. There are better mechanisms for pursing disagreements than picking up arms and occupying federal facilities and threatening people's lives."

Why the Hell Is an Armed Militia Occupying a Federal Building in Oregon?
" 'But these people don't own the land,' one commenter wrote on Sunday. 'It's a federal wildlife preserve and it has been since 1908. Why are ranchers from Nevada claiming a federal wildlife preserve in Oregon belongs to them? There is no world in which that even makes sense.' ...

'These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers,' said Harney County Sheriff David M. Ward in a statement Sunday. 'When in reality these men had alternative motives, to attempt to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States.'...

What you have at the end of the day is a bunch of very angry men, many of them belonging to a resurgent militia movement that dates back to President Obama's inauguration.
'Soon after the election, we saw the formation of dozens of militia groups throughout the country,' Daryl Johnson, a former analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, recently told Vox. 'They were down under 80 groups, we see them balloon up to about 150 groups by the end of 2008, and by 2010, we had over 300 militia groups operating in the US.' "

Oath Keepers even disputes this Bundy Hijacking, "Oath Keepers, Mike Vanderboegh (of the Three Percenters), and other groups are condemning this action by Ammon and his cohorts. Why? Because it serves no purpose that benefits the Liberty Movement. On the contrary, it harms the Movement. Ammon's group has become the aggressors, and, by doing so, loses the moral high ground."

 Oregon Standoff: Lessons From The Freeman Case, Montana Public Radio interview with John Connor, Montana's assistant attorney general at the time of Freeman standoff in 1996.

In my mind, one of the most important articles is that put out by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility)
Federal Inaction for 19 Months on Bundy Spawns More Militia Confrontations
Washington, DC -This week's armed seize of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in "Oregon by self-styled 'militia' stems from the lack of a coherent response to earlier confrontations with anti-government extremists, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), pointing to a threat assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  The failure by the federal government to take any action following the April 2014 armed stand-off with renegade rancher Cliven Bundy was seen by his supporters as a victory and encouraged his sons and other followers to stage similar clashes.

'Rather than abating conflict, the federal hands-off approach has backfired and enables the Bundy clan to franchise a "Militia McDonalds," ' stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the current 'call to arms' to spread resistance against 'federal tyranny.' 'In Nevada, federal authorities have ceded a 200-square mile militarized zone on national park and range lands as a staging ground for further operations to challenge the legitimacy of public ownership.'...

'This armed takeover should be treated as a terrorist act designed to spread fear in the community,' added Ruch, pointing to the Secretary of Interior closing all nearby federal offices due to concern about employee safety; even local public schools are closed.  'Demanding public attention at the point of a gun is not the exercise of First Amendment rights but the actions of deluded wackos.' "

My concluding thoughts...  
if we, as conservationists, dont stand up for our public lands/waters, our fish/wildlife and access, how can we blame our public trust employees if they back down in the face of armed threats and special interest political pressure determined to chip away at our ownership? Now is the time to rise up as good owners, make our voices heard, exert our will to support our employees in managing our interests, for responsible management and for their security and protection. If we turn a blind eye, ignore the repeated offenses, capitulate to the terrorists, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Carter Niemeyer recently shared in an email, "The takeover of public lands by the states is a REAL danger. Politicians are engineering ways to make it happen. Misinformation is always a key factor, along with apathy on our part, thinking it could never happen." Please make yourself aware of what is really going on and what is at stake, for future generations.

To co opt a favored quote, " 'Conservation' never dies a natural death. It dies because we dont know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds, it dies of weariness, of withering, of tarnishings."

Care! Fight for our conservation values, they dont take care of themselves!

Please email  U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, requesting an investigation of these extremist militia actions - Title 18 of United States Code § 2384 defines "Seditious conspiracy" as conspiring "to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof..." These Bundy traitors have directly opposed the force of the federal government with arms, delayed the execution of the law by illegally interfering with the judicial process, and occupied and possessed property of the U.S. federal government.

Statistically, people generally contact officials to complain, so also email U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, encouraging the BLM, USFWS, NPS boldness in managing our public lands and resources for the Public Trust, following through on regulations, thereby promoting the safety of her employees, our Public Trust employees. The Nevada BLM and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge being current cases in point.

Kathryn QannaYahu

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Ducks, Politics, and Money by Don Thomas

The following is an article, written by conservation hunter/angler and author, Don Thomas, that he shared with me last night. Don was fired for basically writing about a public access issue here in Montana, that offended the billionaire involved. The billionaire pulled strings at a conservation organization, whose magazine Don wrote for and got him fired. Not only is this an injustice, but this is a threat to conservation and is not isolated to just this organization or this writer, there have been others here in Montana that have been affected by political string pulling. This story, and its implications for conservation, needed to be shared.

Ducks, Politics, and Money by Don Thomas

As many of you know, I have been a regular contributor to Ducks Unlimited magazine for nearly twenty years, serving as their Field Editor and writing the back page column in every issue. Not any more.

In October, 2015 I wrote a piece for Outside Bozeman magazine, A Rift Runs Through It, about the long Montana legal battle to secure and maintain public access to the Ruby River in accordance with the state's stream access law. (I will make a copy of that text available to anyone on request.) To summarize a complex issue for those unfamiliar with the case, wealthy Atlanta businessman James Cox Kennedy engaged in extensive litigation to prevent such access, only to be denied repeatedly in court due to the efforts of the Montana Public Land and Water Access Association. While the article was not complimentary to Kennedy, no one has challenged the accuracy of the reporting.

James Cox Kennedy is a major financial contributor to Ducks Unlimited. On November 10, a Ducks Unlimited functionary informed me that my position with the magazine was terminated because of Cox's displeasure with the article.

Several points deserve emphasis. The Ruby River article had nothing whatsoever to do with ducks or Ducks Unlimited (DU hereafter). The article did strongly support the rights of hunters and other outdoor recreationists to enjoy land and water to which they are entitled to access, and DU is a hunters' organization. By terminating me for no reason related to my work for the magazine and the organization, DU has essentially taken the position that wealthy donors matter more than the outdoor recreationists they purport to represent.

As an outdoorsman and conservationist who supports the North American Model and the Public Trust Doctrine, I find DU's action reprehensible. As a journalist, I find it chilling. Wildlife advocates today face ever increasing pressures to abandon these principles in favor of the commercialization of our public resources, largely from wealthy individuals like James Cox Kennedy. If every journalist reporting on these issues faces this kind of vindictive retribution, the future of wildlife and wildlife habitat-not to mention the hunters and anglers of ordinary means who form the backbone of groups like DU-is bleak indeed.

This issue is not about me or my professional relationship with Ducks Unlimited magazine. It is about integrity and the future of wildlife in America. If you share my concerns-especially if you are a DU member-I encourage you to contact the organization ( attn: Dale Hall), express your opinion, and take whatever further action you might consider appropriate.

Don Thomas

Lewistown, MT

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Elk Sellers by John Gibson


Montana’s big game herds have become big business.  Several properties now advertise a hunt for bull elk at $15,000. It might include a trespass fee or a guided hunt but the elk is the product. Without the elk other two components are only worth a few hundred dollars. They are selling elk.
Look around and see existing examples of managers making tens of thousands of dollars each season selling bull elk.  
Granted, there are others who want to control elk for political influence or their own style of management. Whatever the reason, these are public elk and covered by the public trust.    
We pay the Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to manage elk in our state. But if you read the web site of profiteers, such as the Musselshell or Arnaud  Outfitters you will find there is little or no mention  of the Montana FW&P. One could easily conclude that these landowners manage their own wildlife. The problem is, that conclusion is not far from the truth.
This is not the way a majority of Montana residents want their wildlife managed. We expect the department to manage the public wildlife resource under the Public Trust Doctrine, and within the scope of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. These tenets are based on a foundation of equal opportunity and the democracy of the hunt.
Public bull elk for sale for $15,000 is completely inconsistent with these principles. It makes little difference if the sale is bundled with a trespass fee or a guided hunt.
If this system is allowed to continue, my children and grandchildren, like most other Montanans, will never have an opportunity to enjoy much of the state’s wildlife that belongs to them.
No one is advocating erosion of private property rights. But public wildlife is not private property.  We expect the department to use the allocation process early to level the playing field and bring big game management more in line with the public trust. This can be done by conducting a drawing for all trophy animals on properties that are clearly selling or otherwise controlling bull elk.
 With the permits in place, only hunters successfully drawing a permit can hunt these animals. Likewise, the property owner can only deal with permit holders to charge for access. Also, only ten percent of the permits will be allocated to nonresidents.
 If harvest of both male and female animals is inadequate under this system, the Dept. should issue fewer permits for trophy animals in subsequent years until the surplus elk are gone. If the harvest remains too high, all trophy permits should eventually be terminated.
The courage and commitment of the Dept. of Fish and Game is about to be tested severely now that most of the habitat occupied by the second largest elk herd in Montana is under one ownership. Will these thousands of elk be controlled by the landowner or the people of Montana who are the beneficiaries of the public trust?
John Gibson
3028 Ave E
Billings MT PH  406 656 0384

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules Comments by Ray Gross

Ray Gross is a conservation hunter & angler, an FWP Citizen Advisory Council member for our Region 3 and a George Grant Chapter of Trout Unlimited (southwest Montana) board member from Dillon, Montana with firsthand experience concerning the Beaverhead & Big Hole River Recreation Rules. Below are his bullet points for comments and concerns. Please take a few moments to send in public scoping comments SUPPORTING the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules - with additional concerns. We need to protect our public lands and waters from privatization and exploitation.

Montana FWP - "The Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules were first adopted in 1999 to address public concerns about crowding. The rules include restrictions on float outfitting and non-resident float fishing on certain days of the week for specified sections of the rivers. The rules also limit the number of watercraft that may be launched per day at official access sites."

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host two public scoping meetings in October to take comments and questions about the Beaverhead and Big Hole River Recreation Rules. The meetings will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on the dates and at the locations which follow:
  • Dillon: Wednesday, Oct. 21 at the University of Montana-Western Block Hall #311
  • Butte: Thursday, Oct. 22 at the Butte Ranger District, 1820 Meadowlark Drive
The Scoping process will develop a tentative proposal, which will go to the FWP Commissioners probably in December, with FWP's recommendations. Pending commissioner tentative approval, it would then be opened up for the formal comment period with a vote by the FWP Commission expected in Jan. or Feb.

Scoping Comments on the Rules may be emailed to or sent to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Cheryl Morris, 1400 S. 19th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718

I support the Beaverhead and Big Hole River rules. The rules are working, but I have concerns.

  • Some outfitters are outright selling client days. They are selling client days for on the Beaverhead and on the Big Hole. The rules are that client days can only be transferred if an outfitter sold his business. There was to be no vested interest created with the river rules.
  • A few outfitters have even sold their client days, applied for and received additional days as a one boat outfitter.
  • An outfitter on the Beaverhead that gets more clients than he has allowed number of boats on the river, or client days, calls other outfitters and uses their client days. They call this subleasing or acting as a booking agent.
  • The Tash to Selway stretch of the Beaverhead River was closed to float outfitting to provide a stretch of river for the public to not have the conflict and competition with commercial outfitting. Some outfitters are leasing or paying rod fees to walk their clients to this stretch of the river. This is a statement by those outfitters that they have no consideration for the public. The Big Hole has one stretch of river closed to float outfitting every day of the week. There are not enough stretches on the Beaverhead to do this.
  • Float fishing is permitted from the dam on the Beaverhead to Buffalo Bridge. This stretch is mostly wade fishing and has public access on both sides of the river. Floating through this section causes conflicts and is an intrusion to wading anglers. Floaters could put in at Buffalo Bridge and walk upstream to wade fish if they want. Additional parking would need to be provided at Buffalo Bridge. This is Bureau of Reclamation land.
  • Outfitter client days are only counted during "the shoulder seasons", June and July on the Big Hole and July and August on the Beaverhead. The outfitters were originally allocated days based on the total number of days they had during their highest year. When the rules were passed, in 1999, the internet was not used as extensively. At present, with the internet and the smart phone, clients are recruited by email, web pages, social media, text messages and on and on. Now there are exponentially greater numbers of clients recruited. The outfitting season starts in early May and lasts through October, not considering the cast and blast trips. Commercial, outfitted use, on all Montana’s rivers will continue to grow. How much capacity do our rivers have? How much longer will exponential grow of commercial fishing outfitting, on all Montana Rivers, go unchecked and unregulated? All this needs to be reevaluated. 

Ray Gross

Dillon, Montana

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Ranching For Wildlife by Vito Quatraro

Sportsmen are constantly complaining about “Privatization and Commercialization” of our wildlife resources.  “Ranching for Wildlife” is another common phrase used to denote the takeover of our wildlife resources by private sources.

What does “Ranching for Wildlife” often look like?  What comes to my mind is allocating tags/vouchers to landowners that can be sold to the highest bidder and special seasons outside the general hunting season for that species.

Fast forward to Montana and the current proposals being considered by the FWP Commission and Dept of FWP.  First, shoulder seasons for elk, outside the traditional 11 week archery/rifle seasons, that could include the taking of bull elk.  Second, an Amendment to the current ARM rules to allow the Dept. to use lists provided by landowners to designate up to 100% of the hunters allowed to hunt on their lands during game damage hunts and management seasons.

At the FWP public meeting on the game damage rule changes, under questioning, Alan Charles admitted that there is no rule or law that would prohibit a landowner from charging a fee to hunters wishing to participate in game damage hunts, shoulder seasons or management hunts on their land.

Let’s add up what is being proposed.  Special seasons which could include bull elk; landowners could get to choose who hunts on their land; and there is nothing to stop the landowner for charging a fee to hunt on their private land during these special seasons/management hunts.  Seems to meet the criteria for “RANCHING FOR WILDLIFE”!!

It was apparent last night at the FWP game damage public comment meeting that they were not interested in hearing what we had to say.  There were only 5 people from Regions 2, 3 & 4 at the hearing which was skyped into each of those Regional headquarters.  The gal with Alan Charles had the gall to put a 2 minute maximum for comments from the audience, which only confirms these meetings are held to meet the process requirements not to consider our comments.  This is consistent with what Paul Sihler told a group in Butte on an issue, that though they asked for public comments, they were not taken into consideration by the FWP in making their decision.  The game damage amendments are not even being heard by the FWP Commission but will only be decided by FWP in Helena. 

It should be noted that at last night’s meeting, not a single sportsmen organization was represented or made comments.  Hopefully, they are weighing in via written comments.  The lack of advertisement of the meeting and extremely poor attendance should be of concern to the sportsmen of Montana.

As a side note, last November, Director Hagener established an interim policy changing ARM rule 12.9.804A pertaining to how hunters are selected for game damage and management hunts.  This may have been in violation of the above code.  In that Memorandum, it allows up to 25% of the hunters to be selected by the landowner.  Personally, I think allowing the landowner to choose 25% of the hunters is a good idea, provided no bull elk hunting is allowed.

The sportsmen of Montana are being duped by the FWP leadership in Helena.  Contrary to what some sportsmen have been saying, this is not being brought forth by legislators, landowners, outfitters or MOGA!  All of these proposals are moving forward with the approval and at the direction of FWP Director Hagener and his leadership team in Helena!!  It is time that sportsmen stand up to the Dept and hold them accountable.  Science based wildlife management has taken a back seat to increasing revenues, “social tolerance” and personal agendas.

The applicable statutes/ARM rules for the game damage rules are:
          87-1-225; 12.9.803; 12.9.804; 12.9.804A; 12.9.805; 12.9.1101

I see lots of emails that say our wildlife problems/issues are being caused by FWP, landowners, ranchers, legislators and MOGA.  These are labels that lump all individuals within these groups as the problem.  This is grossly unfair to some very good people within each group. 

There are some excellent folks who work for FWP but due to the current “culture of fear”, which I heard mentioned at the game damage meeting in Bozeman, are unable to speak up.  There are landowners and ranchers that are good stewards of the land/wildlife who participate in working on solutions to the problems that exist today.  The same can be said of legislators.  While some like to target MOGA, they never differentiate between private land outfitters and public land outfitters.  There is a huge difference between the two.  Anyone who has spent time with a public land outfitter knows the work, effort and hunting experience they provide for their clients.  Every group mentioned has some good people that truly care about our wildlife resources and are willing to work toward solutions that create a win-win scenario for all parties involved.

By lumping people together, we are also insulting some of the very people that could be our best allies as we move forward.  Every profession or group has their good, bad and ugly members.  The trick is to align with the good while at the same time calling out the bad/ugly.

There is a basic rule for good negotiating: “attack the issues but not the individuals”, but I believe that there is at least one valid exception to that rule.  When the issue is the people, then they must be held accountable.

FWP, Landowners, Ranchers, Legislators and MOGA are merely categories, not individual people.  I believe that we should be using names to identify those individuals within the above categories that are responsible for creating the problems we are facing today.  A good example is the Wilks brothers, who we have no problem calling out by name, over their attempts to control hunting in the Durfee hills, dictate hunting policy, etc and we have no problem calling out some legislators by name.  Why are we not doing this with FWP???  By not using names, the offending individuals can hide within the groups label without having to be held accountable for their actions.  No one likes to be publicly attacked, but when all else has failed and they are the decision makers, what other option is left??  It is not meant to be an attack on them as people, but as an attack on their decision making and/or motives.


EMWH note: personally, I am not in favor of landowners choosing hunters for a list. With a game damage program in such disarray, lack of oversight and compliance, as the audit showed, including matters of the Hunt Roster, FWP has  decided again to alter the roster process to conform to their noncompliant actions by adding, " or lists of names supplied by landowners" in a number of places and striking from ARM 12.9.1101, "If sufficient numbers of hunters cannot be identified through use of the game damage hunt roster,". This is a clear indication that they favor the landowner supplied lists, instead of utilizing the democratic hunt roster.

FWP's Game Damage Hearing Process

After spending much time on the FWP's proposed amendment to Game Damage, and the interconnecting subject of their Elk Shoulder Seasons subject, we witnessed the public hearings on the 11th and 12th of August. The meetings were set up with Helena as the homebase. There was a legislative services employee and FWP's Alan Charles, Landowner Sportsmen Coordinator. 

First, Alan Charles gave a brief overview of why they felt the need for the rule changes. Then there was a question period where each of the satellite offices could ask a number of questions, with Alan Charles answering the questions posed. Finally, they gave each person only 2 minutes to make a public comment. You were also told that you could submit additional comments in writing. 

On the 11th the Helena location had 3 sportsmen attend: Gayle Joslin (retired FWP and Helena Hunters and Anglers spokesperson), Jim Posewitz (retired FWP and HHAA) and Rod Bullis. Joslin and Bullis spoke against the amendment. Joslin's comments on behalf of Helena Hunters and Anglers, as well as her perspective as a former FWP wildlife biologist, who worked with the game damage program are linked below. The Billings meeting had 5 hunters attend and comment, generally opposing the amendment: Ron Moody, John Gibson, Tom Madden and Bob Allen, all commenting for themselves, also JW Westman for Laurel Rod & Gun Club. The satellite hearings in Kalispell, Glasgow and Miles City did not have any commenters.

On August 12th, the Missoula satellite saw Tim Aldrich begin his comment voicing concern, only to be cut off because of the 2 minute limit. In Bozeman we had Vito Quatraro, Rob Gregoire, myself (Kathryn QannaYahu, hearing comment below) and Dr. Bill Mealer, opposed to the bulk, if not all of the amendment. This morning saw Vito writing about his concerns over this process - Ranching For Wildlife.

Many of us did not know about this proposed rule change until a couple weeks ago. At the hearing last night, I filled out a paper I have never seen at an FWP meeting before - an  FWP Interested Persons List form. You can check off the subjects of interest to you, when they make these formal rule changes, you are then notified. So I called our local FWP office and got a copy sent to me and put it online for download. Please take the take to fill one out and mail it in. This way we wont be caught short on future situations.

Also, public comment deadline for this Game Dmage Proposed Amendment is August 21st. Please send comments to  or in writing to: Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Wildlife Division, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT  59620-0701.

More concerning, was my call to Legislative Services yesterday morning to find out the process. So we have made our comments, now what? Here is what happens next - First, FWP will review the comments received and decide whether to pursue the amendment, modify it or go forward as planned, this is slated to be a couple of weeks. If they go forward as planned, they can totally ignore all testimony at the hearings and any comments submitted in writing, if they choose, filing a final adoption notice with the Montana Secretary of State, who then publishes it. That's it! No other way to stop this, short of litigation against FWP. Except, we may have one possible avenue, the EQC. The Environmental Quality Council is over the FWP during the interim legislature. They have a meeting coming up on Sept. 9th & 10th, the agenda is not fixed and published yet. I'm looking into this now and have spoken with a handful of other hunters that know members.

Game Damage Public Hearing Helena Hunters & Anglers 8/11/2015
Game Damage Comment - Gayle Joslin, retired FWP  8/11/2015 (small quote below)
Game Damage 2nd Comment Helena Hunters & Anglers 8/12/2015

I was employed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for 30 years as a wildlife biologist, the last 20 of that for the Helena Area. I dealt with numerous game damage complaints and implemented several game damage hunts, provided stackyards, kill permits, and aversive conditioning devices. I kept excellent records that came in very handy. All of the landowners that received assistance through me provided public hunting opportunities. There were several other folks that requested assistance but did not meet the criteria, and so did not receive materials or hunts, but we would discuss ways to deal with their circumstances.
I point this out because during all the game damage hunts, I never had trouble recruiting hunters, through the process that we had in place at the time.
I am quite concerned with the notion that landowners would be allowed to develop their own exclusive list of hunters, and thus the real possibility that the general public may be excluded from game damage hunts or management seasons. As the proposed regulations are now phrased, this is a real possibility. Montana’s wildlife is stewarded as a Public Trust on behalf of the state’s citizens by FWP. Exclusive use of landowner-generated hunter lists would be a breach of that responsibility.

Kathryn QannaYahu Hearing Comment on ARM amendment proposal for Game Damage August 12, 2015 

I oppose this proposed amendment. I feel it is simply a response to legitimize the illegal and unregulated actions FWP has been committing, per the May 2015, Legislative Services performance audit on FWP's Game Damage Program.

The following are quotes from the 56 page audit:

"Overall, we found 82 percent of game damage complaint files had missing or incomplete complaint forms or landowner eligibility worksheets. Audit work found documentation was problematic in every region we visited."

"Several landowners received game damage assistance though documentation indicated they were not eligible... having limited or no public hunting access…,"

"there needs to be more supervisory oversight and responsibility over regional game damage program activities... the department could not always provide documentation showing the department director or the local commissioner approved game damage hunts and management seasons prior to implementation. "

"For most hunts and seasons the department allowed landowners to select between 25 to 50 percent of the hunters, with the remainder selected from the game damage hunt roster... one example allowed a landowner to select all of the hunters."

Concerning the striking of "season" replaced by "hunt" - seasons requires the public commission process, the votes of the whole commission, submission of written and oral public comments; management "hunts" only requires the regional supervisor and commissioner to sign off on it, no public process. This ambiguous proposal to alter the hunt roster by adding, “date to be specified", “or lists of names supplied by landowners" is a threat to the public trust.

With a game damage program in such disarray, lack of oversight and compliance, this amendment proposal is a step towards privatization, continued abuses involving preferential treatment, rather than focusing on compliance to existing game damage laws.Thank you. 

For futher information, please see - Game Damage Isn't Broken, It's Not Properly Being Used by FWP 

Kathryn QannaYahu, Enhancing Montana's Wildlife & Habitat