Newspaper column: Widely criticized BLM security agent gets promoted

No bureaucratic bungling shall go unrewarded.

Be it at the State Department, Veterans Affairs, Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department, Immigration or the Bureau of Land Management.

The man who was in charge of security for the BLM during the botched Bundy ranch cattle roundup two years ago — which resulted in the agency spending $1 million to round up a couple hundred head of cattle, only to release them when confronted by armed supporters of the rancher — has been promoted to a newly created position.

Dan Love, who was in charge of BLM security forces in Nevada and Utah, will now serve as the BLM’s agent in charge of security, protection and intelligence nationwide.

Dan Love

The intelligence part of the job reportedly includes gathering information on emerging threats, such as from websites and online social media.

Why a land management agency should have what amounts to its own law enforcement division is a question to begin with. Even the Nevada Test Site uses private security firms. Aren’t actual law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and U.S. marshals, as well as local police and sheriff agencies, sufficient to protect these public servants?

As for intelligence? Why does a federal land agency need a spy?

Gov. Brian Sandoval chastised the BLM at the time of the Bundy ranch invasion for creating an “atmosphere of intimidation.”

“Due to the roundup by the BLM, my office has received numerous complaints of BLM misconduct, road closures and other disturbances,” Sandoval said in a statement at the time. “I have recently met with state legislators, county officials and concerned citizens to listen to their concerns. I have expressed those concerns directly to the BLM.”

He said most disturbing to him was the BLM’s establishment of a “First Amendment Area,” where any protests were supposed to be contained, calling that a trampling of Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution.

“No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans,” he said. “The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”

Though he said rancher Cliven Bundy must be held accountable for defying federal court orders and grazing cattle on federal land without proper permits, then-Sheriff Doug Gillespie was critical of the tactics and behavior of the BLM security forces for creating a situation that threatened to turn into a bloodbath.

Speaking at an editorial board of the Las Vegas morning newspaper a couple of months after the roundup, Gillespie said he had a tense meeting with some of Bundy’s sons a few weeks before the agents moved in with armed vehicles, heavy weapons, snipers and attack dogs. He feared emotions would boil over.

“I came back from that saying, ‘This is not the time to do this,’” he told the editors. “They (the BLM) said, ‘We do this all the time. We know what we’re doing. We hear what you’re saying, but we’re moving forward.’”

He noted that a video of one of Bundy’s sons being Tasered went viral on the Internet, prompting self-styled patriots and militia to pour into the ranch, an outcome for which the BLM was unprepared.

Gillespie added, “You’ll have a hard time convincing me that one person’s drop of blood is worth any one of those cows,” adding that the BLM had no place to take the cattle it had gathered anyway.

Two years later, Bundy, four of his sons and 14 others are being held without bail on federal charges growing out of the standoff.

Love’s handling of the Bundy situation is hardly the first criticism leveled at his methods.

In an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune in October 2014, rural Utah sheriffs described Love as Public Enemy No. 1.

“Elected law enforcement officers from Nephi to Blanding call him an arrogant and dishonest bully who has little regard for local authority and dodges accountability, derailing a collaborative approach to police work on the state’s federal lands,” the article declares.

According to the Reno newspaper, Love also has a penchant for demanding pampering for himself and his agents. Before the 2015 Burning Man festival in Black Rock, Love told festival organizers his staff would require a separate compound with amenities such as flushing toilets, washers and dryers, and 24-hour access to ice cream.

The cost was estimated to be $1 million. The BLM backed off after being widely ridiculed.

That’s how to mount the ladder of success in a bureaucracy.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Sheriff now confirms BLM had no place to take Bundy’s confiscated cattle

A source told us back in April that the real reason the BLM backed down and released Cliven Bundy’s confiscated cattle wasn’t to avoid a shootout with armed Bundy supporters but was because the BLM had no place to take the cattle.

Sheriff Doug Gillespie has now confirmed this.

In a recent editorial board with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Gillespie said, although officials told him they had a place to move the cattle, he later discovered that wasn’t true.

“There was no place to take them to,” Gillespie told the newspaper.

The BLM said at the time: “Based on 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.”

I wondered at the time why, after eight days of rounding up “trespass cattle” from the Gold Butte ranch, all the captured cows were still in corrals on site. It made no sense to be hauling hay to them, when they could be trucked to feedlots equipped to handle them.

Bundy cattle released April 12. (R-J photo by Jason Bean)

A source with a source told me a network of Western cattle ranchers and those who provide them services collectively got on the phone and their computers with each other and decided to boycott the BLM roundup. No feedlot would take the cattle for auction. No trucker was available to haul the cows.

“Hey, do you want to know the REAL reason why the BLM backed off a week or so ago?”  my source’s source asked him. “You’ll never read about this in the news media.”

At least not for several months.

The BLM was stuck with cattle that would start dying without food.  Not good optics since all the assembled local media and national media and social media would capture the starvation.

How much cooperation BLM will get from the sheriff in the future?

Gillespie told the R-J that the BLM officials lied to him, ignored his advice and dismissed his warnings.

“I think if anybody would look at how they (BLM) handled the protesting with the use of Tasers and police dogs, anyone who had been in policing would question those tactics,” he told the Las Vegas Sun. “And I believe that led to the heightened interest and escalating the situation.”

BLM spokeswoman Celia Boddington told The Associated Press that the agency planned and conducted the roundup in “full coordination” with Gillespie and his officers.

“It is unfortunate that the sheriff is now attempting to rewrite the details of what occurred, including his claims that the BLM did not share accurate information,” she was quoted as saying. “The sheriff encouraged the operation and promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we enforced two recent federal court orders. …

“Sadly, he backed out of his commitment shortly before the operation — and after months of joint planning — leaving the BLM and the National Park Service to handle the crowd control that the sheriff previously committed to handling.”

 

 

Bundy should file property destruction felony charge againt BLM officials

If you were to park your car on federal public land and a federal agent came along and destroyed it with a sledgehammer, you would be able to file a felony criminal charge with the local sheriff against that agent or whoever instructed him to carry out the criminal act of damaging private property.

So Cliven Bundy should call up Sheriff Doug Gillespie or one of his Bunkerville area deputies, show him his destroyed water tank and demand an arrest warrant be issued. The 12,000-gallon water tank, torn apart by federal vandals, was undeniably Bundy’s private property as a part of his water rights, granted by the state of Nevada. The fact it lies within federally controlled land makes no difference.

He could throw in a charge over the cows and calves killed in the roundup and the two bulls shot to death, but the water tank destruction was a blatant criminal act without provocation or justification.

According to a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal opinion in the case against Ruby Valley rancher Cliff Gardner, the sheriff has every right to enforce Nevada criminal laws on federally controlled land:

“Indeed, a state may enforce its criminal and civil laws on federal land ‘so long as those laws do not conflict with federal law.’ … The state of Nevada, then, is not being unconstitutionally deprived of the ability to govern the land within its borders. The state may exercise its civil and criminal jurisdiction over federal lands within its borders as long as it exercises its power in a manner that does not conflict with federal law.”

I doubt there is a federal law giving BLM agents the right to destroy private property with impunity.

Dead cow and destroyed water tank.

Newspaper fails math

The Las Vegas newspaper reports today that Sheriff Doug Gillespie believes he has the five County Commission votes needed to approve a 0.15 percent sales tax increase.

No, the increase from 8.1 cents to 8.25 cents on the dollar is an increase of 1.85 percent. It is a 0.15 percentage-point increase, but not a 0.15 percent increase.