Nevada Ranchers Trounce BLM
The Filippinis and the Paris ranches in Central Nevada won a major decision in what has been a lengthy dispute with the Battle Mountain District of the Bureau of Land Management.
It all began in 1994, when the BLM issued a full force and effect decision that reduced the ranchers´ grazing by 50%. The fight did not end until May 26, 1999. That initial decision was overturned by an Interior Board of Land Appeals Judge Heffernan in Salt Lake City on July 31, 1995. In that decision, the judge said the agency had skewed data and failed to follow proper procedure. The transcript of the hearing showed that the person doing the range evaluation was inexperienced. So inexperienced in fact, that it was proven she was lost and not even on the allotment that was to be affected by the decision. Lost, not following procedure and giving false evidence. Pretty strong language from a judge that should have brought the agency in line.
Despite the ruling, the BLM ignored the decision and proceeded to do business as usual. The agency said the judge was inexperienced and did not know what he was doing. They appealed, sending the case back through the system. It looked like the BLM was on a vicious vendetta against the ranchers. During a public meeting in Austin, BLM representative, Jerry Smith, shocked several people, who say he tossed off the lawsuit as trivial. They said that Smith said they (the audience) should not worry about the Filippinis, they had a lot of money and they would survive all right.
The case has cost the Filippinis a lot of money. Money that most ranchers are unable to pony up, if hit with the same situation, which is why the ranching industry is rapidly dying in the west. This case has many people asking if a federal agency should be appealing decisions made by its own courts. The unlimited federal funds can make a lengthy court battle unthinkable to the average stockman.
This time, however, the BLM found an adversary that would not give up. The ranching family dug in and saw the fight through to the end. Now they hope this latest decision will take them out of the courtroom and back into the life they love, running the ranch. The latest decision by Judges Bruce Harris and Judge John Kelly concurs with the decision by the original judge. Some of the excerpts from the conclusion read; “We reject all of these arguments by the BLM. The BLM did not offer a single rebuttal witness to establish the basis for its actions in this case. On appeal, the BLM has provided no basis for overturning that action. (Judge Heffernan´s).”
Will the BLM abide by this decision or just look for another way to get back at the ranchers? Hopefully, the agency will turn back the clock to the days when cooperation and consideration were strived for in almost every case. Days when disputes were worked out together and not in the courtrooms.