For years, Jon Marvel of the Idaho Watershed Project has demanded that the Bureau of Land Management remove livestock from nearly all the state's public lands (HCN, 8/2/99: Jon Marvel vs. the Marlboro Man). His relationship with agency staffers has sometimes been tense, but in early October, things got worse.
State director Martha Hahn sent a memo to all Idaho BLM employees directing them to "turn and leave or hang up" if approached or called by Marvel. Marvel has become a physical threat to BLM staffers, she wrote.
"Jon Marvel has dysfunctioned in such a way as to be intimidating and verbally abusive for a number of years," says Cheryle Zwang, chief of external affairs for the Idaho BLM. She says the final straw came several months ago, when Marvel screamed obscenities at Idaho Falls District Ranger Jim May and poked him in the stomach during a prescribed-burn tour in Cassia County.
"We appreciate the things he has to say," says Zwang. "It's just the way he says them."
Marvel calls the BLM's account of the incident "completely untrue." He says the agency failed to talk to numerous non-BLM eyewitnesses. Marvel says he believes the agency means to punish him for his aggressive activism, and he adds that this "prevention of public participation" is unconstitutional.
While Zwang doesn't see the BLM talking to Marvel in the near future, Marvel says he has been negotiating with the agency. A reversal of Hahn's order, he says, is on the way.