The Bureau of Land Management Has Blood on Its Hands – Will They Get Away with It?

The Bureau of Land Management has blood on its hands over the January 26 shooting death of an Arizonan rancher, LaVoy Finicum.  Finicum and others were protesting the Bureau of Land Management policies in general and specifically what they felt was the unfair sentencing of two local ranchers for arson on federal lands. The ranchers, Dwight Hammond, Jr., and his son, Steven Hammond, were originally given relative light sentences, but then were resentenced to additional prison time when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the previous sentences as “too lenient” at the request of the Obama administration’s Federal prosecutors. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken compared the brush removal to “eco-terrorism.” The ranchers claimed they lit the fires in 2001 and 2006 to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires, but were not believed by the jury.

The BLM is supposed to just manage public lands.  Instead they have behaved as if the lands belong to them, personally, and feel free to let those politically connected, like Senator Harry Reid’s son and others, do as they wished on federal lands while limiting use of federal lands by others. Traditionally ranchers, especially in Western States, have been allowed to graze livestock on these lands as long as they don’t over graze or otherwise abuse those lands. To please the environmental movement, however, the BLM has worked to limit this ability.

Starting under President Carter in the 1970’s the Bureau of Land Management has used The Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air and Water acts, and others to curtail access to public lands. During the Clinton Administration, the BLM took on public land grazing, mining, and logging rights, while creating the new Antiquities Act which gave the BLM further ability to control these lands.  The present Obama administration has used all these and piled on new EPA regulations to further impede ranchers and others from using public land.

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In 2014 the BLM moved against Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay for grazing fees leveled against him after the BLM decided to declare the desert tortoise an endangered species put at risk by his cattle. It was a dubious claim at best since cattle and tortoises have coexisted for thousands of years, but it was a very convenient one for the BLM. In that incident the BLM sent armed agents to round up Bundy cattle to pay for those fees. Armed protesters showed up to object to the excessive use of force and intimidation by the feds, including setting up an illegal First Amendment free zone. Ultimately the BLM backed down and decided to go back to court to settle the problem.

The protesters in Oregon who occupied the closed Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January weren’t a treat to anyone. Rioters in Baltimore were throwing chunks of concrete at police officers, but they weren’t shot. While FBI has released a video of the shooting which does seem to show Finicum fleeing from a traffic stop and trying to drive around a police roadblock there are still questions.  The video shows Finicum exiting the vehicle when it got stuck in the snow. At one point his hands were raised, but it also shows the rancher reaching to a jacket pocket, which gave the police an justification to open fire. The protesters with Finicum tell a vastly different version of the events. No one who wasn’t there can know for sure what happened, but everyone should realize that this shooting was a very bad idea.

Why would the government do this? The government should recall that the Boston Massacre was one of the things that led to the American Revolution. Kent State led to the change in Americans view of the Vietnam War. One hopes that this incident can potentially lead to the general public’s realization of how unfair and high-handed the federal government has become under the progressives currently in charge.

The government’s arbitrary decisions on who they will or will not prosecute are flat out unfair. When the EPA mistakenly released 3 million gallons of toxic waste water from an abandoned mine into the Animas River in Colorado, no one was fired, let alone sentenced to prison. Sanctuary cities don’t follow federal law, but still get federal money. Tea Party rallies breaking no laws and destroying no property were denounced, but Occupy Wall Street rallies, which did both, were praised as following the best American tradition of dissent. Wasn’t dissent what the Oregon protestors were doing? Now one man is dead, another wounded, and he and seven others are in jail. The BLM as well as the whole federal government has blood on its hands, but without media coverage they might very well get away with it.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Nicholas Wishek

Nicholas Wishek. Retired teacher. 40 years classroom experience. Served in California National Guard 6 years. BA in history, MA in education. Married 35 years. Two sons. Many columns published in OC Register 2009-2014.

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