Richard Spotts worked for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for 15 years as Planning and Environmental Coordinator. Prior to his retirement in 2017, Richard had other professional jobs including environmental attorney, registered lobbyist, watershed project director, and county zoning administrator. He lives in Saint George, Utah where he is an active volunteer on public lands and environmental issues.
An Open Letter to Interior Secretary Haaland: Cliven Bundy’s Chronic Trespass Grazing Must End and How to Do It
Dear Secretary Haaland and other DOI officials:
Cliven Bundy’s more than a quarter century of blatant and destructive trespass livestock grazing on federal lands must come to an end. Enough is enough. Since about 1995, this illegal grazing has continued up to the present in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Gold Butte National Monument, the National Park Service’s (NPS) Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) designated critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoises in southern Nevada. This prolonged grazing and the associated ongoing construction of unauthorized “range improvements” violates the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, National Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act, and many other laws and associated regulations. It also violates at least two previous federal court orders.
Although it took several years, the federal government solved a similar chronic trespass grazing situation in Arizona when it got Mr. Klump put in jail for contempt and placed a lien on his property. But the Department of the Interior (DOI) agencies and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have failed to try these proven solutions with Mr. Bundy. This failure contributed to the dangerous Bunkerville standoff that nearly caused a gun battle with militia members. This successful standoff by the militia then emboldened them to conduct the Malheur Refuge occupation and later the January 6th insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. Another potentially dangerous standoff may now be brewing in southern Oregon over Klamath river water.
When will the DOI and DOJ demonstrate to Mr. Bundy and his militia supporters that there is tangible accountability for their lawless actions and threats of violence? Will the Biden administration ineptly keep kicking this can down the road, as was done during the eight Obama administration years?
Before I retired, I worked for BLM from 2002 to 2017, and I nearly lost my BLM job trying to get BLM to do its job. Among many other things, I filed a whistleblower complaint on the Bundy situation. It was poorly handled and I was never allowed to see the final investigation report or the DOI response. If my complaint had been properly handled, it might have defused the situation before the Bunkerville standoff. I’ve learned that the sloth, cowardice, and incompetence of DOI and DOJ officials have enabled this situation to persist. Indeed, these federal officials share culpability with Mr. Bundy and his militia followers because they have been incapable or unwilling to do their basic jobs over many years. This pattern of appeasement must stop. Please contact me for detailed information on what has failed in the past and what is likely to work going forward. I am 69 and, if it is not asking too much, I would like to see this situation resolved before I die of old age.
Thank you very much for your consideration.
Sincerely, Richard Spotts
Saint George Utah