Washington, DC — Kathleen Clarke, the Director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, encouraged ranchers to sue her agency after her own efforts to overturn grazing permits issued to an environmental organization were stymied by her superiors in the Department of Interior, according to the sworn testimony of the Public Lands Chairman of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). PEER is asking for an ethics review to determine whether Clarke let her personal views conflict with her duties as BLM Director.
The award of BLM grazing permits within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah to the Canyonlands Grazing Corporation (CGC) has been controversial in ranching circles because the corporation is affiliated with the Grand Canyon Trust, which has bought permits from willing seller ranchers and worked to retire grazing from highly sensitive allotments. Fearing the spread of such grazing retirements, the Utah Cattlemen’s Association led a political effort to block the CGC permits. After the permits were issued, the ranchers filed an appeal challenging the arrangement.
The federal appeal (LeFevre et al vs. BLM) was financed, in large part, by the State of Utah and included testimony from Richard Nicholas, former Public Lands Chairman of the Utah Cattlemen’s Association. Nicholas testified that in direct, personal conversations with him, Clarke –
- Encouraged the ranchers to sue BLM, telling him, “Go get them.” Clarke called Nicholas at home to make sure the Cattlemen’s Association had filed its protests in a timely manner so as to ensure its “standing” to sue BLM;
- Complained that she “was rolled” by superiors in the Interior Department on the matter, citing Assistant Secretary Lynn Scarlett, for one, as being “too attached to the deal:” and
- Declared that she “was against grazing elimination anytime” regardless of the condition of the land.
“As Director of BLM, Kathleen Clarke is supposed to evenhandedly administer the law, not stack the deck for the special interest group she personally favors,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “This testimony reveals the real Kathleen Clarke as someone willing to set aside her allegiance to the people of the United States to cater to public lands grazers.”
Today, PEER filed a complaint with the Interior Office of Inspector General to determine whether Clarke broke conflict of interest policies. Federal employees are forbidden from serving as an agent in a case or controversy against the interests of the U.S. government. The Inspector General recently cleared Clarke after a nearly three-year investigation into whether she improperly involved herself in a scandal-ridden attempt to exchange BLM lands in the San Raphael Swell with the State of Utah at a loss to taxpayers in excess of $100 million.