In a land use management presentation, Karen Budd-Falen, Secretary Zinke’s leading rumored candidate for Bureau of the Land Management (BLM) Director, was greeted by more protesters than supporters. The controversial land seizure lawyer again sided with anti-public land scofflaw Cliven Bundy’s movement, saying they make “good arguments.” During her presentation, she was introduced and lauded by several land seizure advocates, including the CEO of the American Lands Council (ALC).
“If you look like a duck, swim like a duck, quack like a duck, and surround yourself with ducks, then you are probably a duck. Despite Karen Budd-Falen’s thinly veiled attempt to claim this isn’t about seizing federal lands, everything about her controversial career has been about undermining protections for public lands,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project. “It’s troubling to see the growing influence of land seizure advocates at Interior.”
Invited to present by Montana State Representative Theresa Manzella, Budd-Falen was introduced by State Senator Jennifer Fielder and former State Representative Kerry White, all of whom are ardent anti-public land zealots. Fielder’s position is well known; however, Rep. Manzella has tried to downplay her support for transferring ownership of public lands despite her website saying that, “I strongly support the state of Montana in taking ownership of our public lands” and referred readers to the ALC website. White has repeatedly praised ALC and advocated for the transfer of public lands to states.
Budd-Falen’s presentation was met by a strong showing of public land advocates who, according to the Bitterroot Star, outnumbered her supporters by a two to one margin. Only one of the invited county commissioners attended the presentation, yet reviewing the county’s natural resource land policy was on the commission’s November 27th agenda. It is unclear if any of Budd-Falen’s recommendations were adopted.
Budd-Falen recently succeeded in getting a land use management plan passed in Oregon’s Crook County with the help of Crook County Natural Resources Political Action Committee and the Central Oregon Patriots. The plans were originally drafted by these anti-public land organizations, who also paid for Budd-Falen’s travel and other expenses. Central Oregon Patriots members voiced support for the goals of the armed occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
In her response to questioning, Budd-Falen confirmed sports groups and public land advocates’ worst fears that she has indeed been interviewed for the BLM position by Secretary Zinke and would continue to advocate for the transfer of public lands to private ownership and local governments if confirmed to the post. Budd-Falen seemed to imply that she was already the BLM Director.
The BLM manages some 258 million acres of public land.
**Full Audio Available Upon Request**
Key statements and background:
Budd-Falen said people who have a controversial opinion that grazing leases are a property right make “good arguments.”
“Now I know that there are scholars that argue that your grazing use on your grazing allotment is private property… I’ve heard the arguments. The courts have never said one way or the other. There is no court case out there that says grazing permits are private property. I’ve heard people make the arguments. I think that you’re making good arguments, but I can’t tell you that the court is going to say yes or no because nobody’s ever asked the question to the court. So I’m not going to opine one way or the other because that’s not my job. Since I have the mic, I can say what I want to say.” [Audio Clip 2, Karen Budd-Falen in Hamilton, 11/18/17 (00:45:57]
When asked a follow-up question, Budd-Falen responded as if she already had been nominated and confirmed as the BLM Director twice.
“As director of the BLM, I don’t have that authority.” [Audio Clip 2, Karen Budd-Falen in Hamilton, 11/18/17 (01:11:58)]
“I’m going to follow the statutes. This isn’t a personal opinion. You’re asking me for an opinion on something that federal statutes don’t allow me to have an opinion on… there’s a federal Hatch Act that says federal employees can’t lobby… I can’t go to Congress and say, ‘change the statute.’ I don’t have that authority within my purview… I think what you’re trying to do is trick me into something so you can have a big Cliven Bundy headline.” [Audio Clip 2, Karen Budd-Falen in Hamilton, 11/18/17 (01:42:50)]
Karen Budd-Falen says she will advocate for increased local involvement in public land management if she is confirmed as BLM director.
Karen Budd-Falen said, “If I am confirmed, I am going to advocate for local government involvement like I’ve been talking about here. If local governments try to come in and say, ‘we want you to violate the federal law,’ I’m going to tell the local governments they can’t get there from here. But I think we need to consider the local needs as we’re doing federal land policy and management decisions. We need to make decisions that are closer to the ground…” [Audio Clip 2, Karen Budd-Falen in Hamilton, 11/18/17 (001:27:11)]
Karen Budd-Falen compares her legal work to “tilting at windmills.”
“I do agree that litigation is incredibly painful and expensive. It is David and Goliath. I kind of think it’s really fun, but I like tilting at windmills.” [Audio Clip 2, Karen Budd-Falen in Hamilton, 11/18/17 (01:33:05)]