In wake of the armed protesters occupying a federal building to take a stand against the Bureau of Land Management's abuse of farmers and ranchers, here are seven things you need to know about the agency.
1. The BLM owns a vast majority of the land in the western part of the country.
My suspicion is that many people from the megalopolis don't get how much land the government owns out West pic.twitter.com/jEKj0LjwEG— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) January 3, 2016
According to a Congressional Research Service report, in 2010 the federal government owned 47.7 percent of the land in California, 42.3 percent in Arizona, 61.3 percent in Alaska, 61.7 percent in Idaho, 81.1 percent in Nevada, 53 percent in Oregon and 66.5 percent in Utah. The BLM owns over 80 percent of all federal government land.
2. The BLM has seized land from owners.
Truth Revolt reports of a farmer named Ken Aderholt who was told by BLM that they had a right to 600 acres–half–of his land because they viewed Aderholt's deed as "worthless."
"It is a land grab," Aderholt told KAUZ. "As far as I am concerned, this is private property."
3. The BLM has also seized cattle and assets from owners.
In 2002, the BLM seized cattle from former Shoshone chief Raymond Yowell over a land dispute and then garnished money from his monthly Social Security checks.
4. The BLM has illegally sold horses for slaughter.
The Interior Department's Office of Inspector General determined that the BLM sold horses to a Colorado rancher who slaughtered them, and the BLM continued to sell horses to the rancher after they had received reports about the rancher's actions. The rancher, identified as Tom Davis, had connections with former Interior Department secretary Ken Salazar.
Fox News reports that the BLM had rounded up horses in Wyoming that were turned over to state officials that then sold them to a Canadian slaughterhouse. The BLM's job is to protect wild horses and their grazing land.
5. The BLM has irresponsibly–and perhaps illegally–closed off public roads.
The BLM had planned to close off almost 2,000 miles in public roads in Colorado, but then revised it to 600 miles in response to public backlash. The roads are, as Watchdog's Marjorie Haun writes, "used by off-roaders, hunters, farmers, ranchers and, during wildfire season, firefighting crews." The Mesa County Board of Commissioners wrote a letter to BLM warning that the agency's move would have a negative effect on the county's economy. The BLM's move would also be in violation of state and federal law, and the agency has not provided any justification for their move. The BLM is also being sued by almost two dozen counties in Utah for closing routes used by residents for generations.
6. The BLM has imposed ridiculous fines against citizens.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that two women decided to go hiking, only to find out 20 minutes in from a BLM officer that the area was closed. For this heinous crime, the two women were fined $275 each.
7. The BLM has a massive backlog of oil and gas drilling permits.
3,500 to be exact, and the approval process takes around 7.5 months, resulting in oil and gas businesses being unable to move forward while the economy suffers.
Image (AP): "Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks off after speaking with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights told reporters on Monday that two local ranchers who face long prison sentences for setting fire to land have been treated unfairly."