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Professionals, not cowboys

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Dear HCN,


After reading Ed Marston's Comb Wash "A Stark Victory in Utah" editorial in the January issue of HCN, I am very disappointed.


I am a long-time BLM employee but am not personally involved in Comb Wash. However, I know enough about the issue and BLM to know that your editorial is full of assumptions.


Let me point out just a few of the "misunderstandings."


You try to perpetuate the myth that BLM has a cowboy culture. That is a tragic disservice to our many professionals who try very hard to implement our many laws and policies, and who really have a strong and proper land and resource ethic.


To call the Moab BLM office "not only a bad cowboy, but a felon" seems to reach beyond even your editorial licence.


Environmental interests did not "bring BLM to trial." Hearings were held, with the intent to see if proper decisions were made in light of administrative procedure. The administrative law judge, Mr. Rampton, said the decisions were wrong and instructed BLM Moab to do differently. His decision may or may not have broader implications for BLM; time will tell.


Your characterization of the emotional state of Moab BLM employees is not accurate. Knowing many of those employees personally, I am inclined to say that their frustrations center primarily on the fact that they find themselves swept away in constant paperwork caused by endless appeals and inquiries from many sources, including environmental activists.


Walk a mile in their moccasins before you pretend to be knowledgeable enough to mock them. One can only wonder how well you, Joe Feller, Scott Groene, or John Rampton could do.





Deane H. Zeller


Salt Lake City, Utah








Environmental interests did not "bring BLM to trial". Hearings were held, like hundreds of administrative hearings have been held before on other public land issues. There was no intent to find innocence or guilt, except perhaps on your part or the part of other special interests. The intent was to see if the proper decisions were made in light of administrative procedure. The administrative law judge, Mr. Rampton, said the decisions were wrong and instructed BLM Moab to do differently. His decision may or may not have broader implications for BLM; time will tell.





Your characterization of the emotional state of Moab BLM employees is not accurate. Pointing at the local managers as the cause of this "collective whistleblowing", as you call it, is convenient but irresponsible reporting. If you wanted to be fair and accurate in explaining their situation you could have mentioned the impact on their morale of ongoing attacks by critics, the complexity of their jobs, and working for a BLM Director that listened only to a few local environmental representatives. Knowing many of those employees personally, I am inclined to say that their frustrations center primarily around the fact that they find themselves swept away in constant paperwork caused by endless appeals and inquiries from many sources, including environmental activists. They are really frustrated because they find less time to do the things that are most important to them: that is, properly manage the public's lands and resources. I believe what they really want is management at all levels to do something about their frustrations.





While it is easy to criticize and discredit BLM managers like Gene Nodine, Roger Zortman, Ed Scherick and BLM employees in general, and to imply that they are less than good public servants, and felons, you could take perhaps a more difficult road and express thanks that people of this stature and competence are willing to endure the stress of trying to manage your public lands. Walk a mile in their moccasins, Mr. Marston, before you pretend to be knowledgeable enough to mock them. One can only wonder how well you, Joe Feller, Scott Groene, or John Rampton could do?





In your closing line you admonished BLM to "obey the law and tell


the truth" Excellent advice, sir, for all of us.


Deane H. Zeller


Salt Lake City, Utah


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