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