Federal bureaucrats ignored state and local input on land use plans

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You have the right to remain silent.

No, you have the obligation to remain silent, because if you don’t you’ll be slapped with the very thing you’ve worked against for four years at the cost of millions of dollars and countless man-hours — listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) — and then be sent to bed without your supper.

Talk about being treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild.

This essentially is what the U.S. Attorney for Nevada has said in reply to a federal lawsuit that seeks an injunction to stop draconian land use restrictions, which almost entirely ignore state and local input, despite repeated promises of cooperation, coordination and adherence to strict scientific standards.

U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden’s reply to the suit filed by Attorney General Adam Laxalt could be paraphrased thusly: Shut up, sit down, move to the back of the bus, or we’ll list the damn bird anyway.

“Finally, the government’s interest and the public interest weigh strongly against an
injunction,” states Bogden’s reply. “Numerous stakeholders, including state and local governments, participated in a four-year process to create a landscape-level framework for protecting Sage-Grouse and avoiding the need to list the species under the ESA. That process was based on the best available science and on extensive good faith negotiations with interested parties. An injunction would diminish the protections for Sage-Grouse, undermine the collaborative effort that went into the Plan Amendments, and could have implications for FWS’ (Fish and Wildlife Service) recent decision not to list the species. Accordingly, the motion for a preliminary injunction should be denied.”

The part about participation is true — sort of like the condemned man participating in the firing squad — but the claims of best available science, good faith negotiations and collaborative effort are entirely bogus.

Bogden repeatedly tells the court the injunction should be denied because the claims are not “ripe.” Though the plans have been drafted and appeals have been denied, the plans have not yet been fully implemented.

Translation: No one may sue the federal bureaucracy until it has actually carried out its threat to put you out of business, making it impossible to afford to hire a stable of attorneys to fight the bottomless taxpayer well of cash for the next two or three generations.

Witness the saga of the Hage family ranchers who have been fighting in federal court since 1991 over water and grazing rights for their ranch near Tonopah. A judge awarded them $4 million but a federal appellate court in 2012 remanded the case to a lower court, saying it was not “ripe,” because the family had failed to “exhaust administrative remedies.”

With utter disregard for economic realities, Bogden also argues that the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate “imminent irreparable injury,” providing merely speculation.

It is merely speculation that Elko County anticipates an annual loss of approximately $31 million of agricultural productivity.

It is merely speculation that the Ninety-Six Ranch owners say “restrictions threaten the survival of the ranching operation and devalue the ranch’s land and resources because, a reduction in or cancellation of its grazing permits will threaten the viability of its business and significantly reduce the saleable value of the Ranch.”

It is merely speculation that the “termination of Paragon’s (Paragon Precious Metals) rights under the General Mining Law to explore its only project creates such substantial, imminent, and irreparable harm that it will likely destroy Paragon’s business.”

It is merely speculation that for Quantum Minerals the “sudden termination of Quantum’s rights under the General Mining Law to explore its only project will destroy Quantum’s business.”

It is merely speculation that changes in land use plans will jeopardize Western Exploration’s $32 million investment.

Nothing to be concerned about. When those things happen the federal land agency bureaucrats will still have their jobs and pensions, and that’s not speculation.

The claim the federal government has been collaborative in reaching its decisions is a joke. Laxalt’s lawsuit uses a variant of the word “ignore” 22 times.

Before Laxalt filed suit, appeals by Gov. Brian Sandoval to both the head of the state BLM and the national BLM were summarily snubbed with cursory explanation.

A hearing on the request for an injunction is scheduled for Nov. 12 in Reno in front of U.S. District Judge Miranda Du.

This whole case is illustrative of the real problem with having 85 percent of Nevada land under the tight-fisted control of power-drunk Washington bureaucrats.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He also blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.

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