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It Happened In CROOK COUNTY, Oregon - Home Of The Prineville Bureau Of Land Management
02 Oct 2009
This involves modifying and tampering with public records, corruption, deceit and unfair treatment of the general public regarding the Bureau Of Land Management’s planning process and handling of public comments for the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement and other matters. It would serve the public interest best if the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement was rendered not worthy of further consideration and set aside in the same way as its nasty sister, the Western Oregon Plan Revisions
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Barack Obama:
We are writing to ask for your assistance with a serious problem that involves modifying and tampering with public records, corruption, deceit and unfair treatment of the general public regarding the Bureau Of Land Management’s planning process and handling of public comments for the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement and other matters. The Western Oregon Plan Revisions should be fresh in your mind and the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan is a sister to the WOPR, except it will govern public lands in Central and Eastern Oregon instead of Western Oregon. The JDBRMP & EIS has followed in the footsteps of its sister plan from the onset and it is just as problematic, unreasonable, misleading and wrong. It would serve the public interest best if the JDBRMP & EIS were discarded in the same fashion as the Western Oregon Plan Revisions.
First, it is important that you understand that public records were tampered with and modified. Prior to that other questionable and misleading actions took place throughout the planning process for the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement.
Next, it is important that you know that all efforts, work, input and analysis provided by wildlife biologist Monte Kuk and possible associates for the John Day Basin RMP & EIS is likely inaccurate, biased, insincere, flawed and modified to benefit only the private sector and not the general public. We believe if a truthful process had been followed and the flawed analysis, science and other data was researched, corrected, reworked and all misleading information removed that it could greatly influence and change the outcome of the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record Of Decision.
I am a public spokesman and I only speak with the public in mind. When someone alters my concerns to the BLM they are cheating the public out of their voice of democracy. When my public comments are tampered with and changed so that they do not make sense that is an insult to me personally. When 500 individual public comments are put into the BLM’s custody in good faith and then cast out and not included that is a direct insult to society. When the BLM allows corruption to guide the JDBRMP & EIS then it is your duty to intervene on behalf of the general public.
Our organization has a very large number of supporters and for over 50 years we have sought to protect public lands everywhere including Rudio Mountain and we strive to protect the interests of the public land user with great efforts. Throughout the years we have participated in many management plans. Our organization and supporters have worked hard and we have participated in the JDBRMP & EIS from the beginning as we have a deep and passionate affection for the public lands that are situated within that area. This resource management plan is very important to all of us and during comment periods for the JDBRMP & EIS together we submitted more than 850 individual comments.
The John Day Basin RMP & EIS began and is being completed using deceitful, biased and misleading information. We have asked the BLM several times for information to help settle the corrupt methods being used in preparation of the JDBRMP & EIS. We have requested information through the Freedom Of Information Act for more than 5 months in an attempt to get answers to shed some light on the guilty party. Prineville District BLM will not let our questions be answered until the team leader has completed the FEIS. Area manager, Christina Welch, told us that the only person on her staff that can or will answer any of our questions is Monte Kuk. I am the victim of a crime and I wonder why the only person that can answer my questions is one of the main suspects? We have every legal right to perform our own investigation into this matter and we are certainly not getting any help from the BLM.
We are extremely concerned about the ethics of Monte Kuk, he is the wildlife biologist on the planning team. Early in the process we brought concerns to the attention of the Prineville area manager, Christina Welch, and nothing happened. A few months later we were troubled to discover that the wildlife biologist had been promoted to team leader. We also discovered that at least half of the workforce that started the plan had left months ago and are no longer on the team or working on the project. We are concerned that this important project is moving forward with very few employees involved to offer information or make critical decisions. We told the BLM that we are very concerned that such a small amount of BLM employees are moving forward with such an important land use plan. We prepared a letter dated December 1, 2008 (attached hereto as Exhibit A) and sent it to the BLM by certified mail outlining our serious concerns regarding the fact that a questionable member of the planning team had been appointed team leader. We clearly explained that it was very harmful to the general public to have a biased and questionable person on the team and that Monte Kuk was personally associated with people that have always had a deep passion to privatize, restrict and close public lands to the general public and we explained that his friends and associates had much to gain if the John Day Basin RMP/EIS restricted or closed roads, trails and open areas of public land to the general public. Monte Kuk has a link with private landowners for hunting privileges and private landowners in that area have been trying to privatize and keep the people off of public lands for decades These same landowners have asked the BLM to provide buffer zones that keep the people away from their private land boundaries. One of the most effective ways to accomplish that is to restrict travel or close existing roads, trails and open spaces.
We suspect that the entire JDBRMP & EIS has been spiced from the start with personal and political interference with regards to science, wildlife habitat, road density, which roads to close or designate as open, deer and elk winter/summer range, and other critical areas in so that the Record Of Decision will be adverse to the people and will not benefit the public land user at all. In fact it will assist and benefit only private business interests and private landowners that operate cattle ranches in part on our public lands with public land grazing leases within the plan area and it will also benefit large adjoining fee hunting businesses that operate in part on our public lands and rake in huge dollars by selling private hunts on our public lands for free-roaming elk, deer, bear, cougar, antelope and other wildlife that are enjoyed by all people and live on our public lands.
The plan will benefit outfitter/guides, adjoining timber land owners and other private business practices that have a huge and growing desire to privatize large areas of public land for personal gain and that want to create buffer zones on our public lands to keep the general public away from private land boundaries so the public will not interfere with fee hunting operations by moving big dollar elk, deer, antelope, bear, cougar and other wildlife out of the area or interfere with any other activity the private landowner does not want the general public to witness or find, such as bands of wild mustangs that have been brutally shot, killed and left to rot, just to save forage for cattle. The reasons are dark, disturbing and plentiful.
Monte Kuk’s efforts for the John Day Basin RMP are set forth to close most existing roads, trails and open spaces for a variety of reasons. Only select few BLM DESIGNATED roads and trails will be left open. This will cripple and interfere with the ability of the public land user to have simple and convenient access to most of our public areas. In our letter of December 1, 2008 (Exhibit A), we pointed out that Monte Kuk was in a position to bring about personal gain for himself and his associates by using the JDBRMP & EIS as a tool to effectively restrict or close areas of public land or restrict travel in ways that would cripple or prohibit most people from being able to utilize certain public areas because of the rugged terrain or secluded location far from any open road or trail. Of course, Monte Kuk’s objective during this plan is to close or restrict travel on all of the roads and trails within the planning area for many reasons while using the protection of streams, wildlife and habitat as influence. Furthermore, all roads, trails and other areas set to be closed for motorized and other purposes to the general public will unfairly be left open for all purposes only to BLM officials, and by permit to private landowners, their friends, associates, grazing permittees, ranch help, fee hunting clients, and all other types of so called (authorized agents). This is unfair and discriminating against the general public. If this is allowed to happen the private sector will hit the jackpot and their wildest dreams will become reality at great cost to the general public. A helpful associate in the right position can make their wishes come true.
We can document unreliable and suspicious actions from Monte Kuk as early as 2001. During a Federal District Court Opinion & Order (CV 02-75-HA) regarding the Timber Basin area of Rudio Mountain, Monte Kuk’s deceitful actions ended in a bald eagle nest being destroyed. During this time two people from our organization were discredited by Monte Kuk and they were named 52 times in a 5 page deceiving memorandum prepared by Monte Kuk for the BLM’s records regarding bald eagle nests in the vicinity of Timber Basin. One of Monte Kuk’s associates was the successful bidder for a logging operation and the bald eagle nest was within the sale area. Even though Monte had excellent directions he was unable to locate the nest. Monte made up a 5 page memorandum in order to use our officials as an excuse and to cover himself for his faulty and failed search. Of course it was beneficial to the successful bidder if the nest could not be found. For the record, we were in that area a few months later and found that the nest tree and the bald eagle nest had been cut down and taken for lumber.
One of several serious and deceptive actions that happened during the planning process was when the BLM intentionally erased several major public access roads off the maps. In early November of 2008 we contacted Congressional Representatives because Prineville BLM had created a series of counterfeit and misleading maps and the BLM was using them for the JDBRMP & EIS. After public review of those maps we found that most of the major roads that we were driving over everyday had been erased off the maps that were being used to design the JDBRMP & EIS. The roads that were erased were historical, major public access roads that were being used everyday by the general public. Most of the roads were built in the 1930’s and 1940’s with timber dollars from logging operations and they all lead to huge parcels of desirable public land. This was a severe blow as the roads that were erased from the maps would have become nonexistent when the plan was completed and they would have been stolen from us forever. Furthermore, many of the roads that were left on the erroneous maps were designated to be closed, however, the road closures would not have looked as massive using the counterfeit maps. The really suspicious part is that all of the roads that were erased are the very same roads that adjoining private landowners have been attempting to close for years and these roads travel to thousands of acres of public lands that are in great demand but off limits to the general public as they are presently privatized by adjoining landowners that are conducting various business operations on valuable public land that is sought after by the general public. Adjoining landowners and their business partners have been allowed by the BLM to unlawfully block and gate main public access roads creating a situation that has allowed those landowners and their business partners to intentionally and unlawfully landlock and privatize thousands of acres of delightful and outstanding public lands for many years and in doing that they have harmed the people by discriminating and depriving the general public, as rightful owners of those public lands, from enjoying the pleasures that are found within those lands.
We contacted the BLM many times to explain the importance of existing roads and trails being put back on the maps and being left open. Existing roads and trails should be appreciated as beneficial tools of the land, as lifelines in emergencies and as passages that guide us to majestic places. One of the greatest treasures of our public lands are the roads and trails as they are by far the most beneficial of all things to the public land user. Existing roads and trails are the veins that freely carry people to the heart of treasured places within our great public lands. Furthermore, any emergency or police action requires response in a timely manner. Emergency personnel, officers of the law, fire fighters, BLM employees, a recreationist, or any person could be trapped by wildfire, weather conditions or a dangerous situation if existing roads and trails are closed. Any road or trail that is closed, blocked or taken out cannot be reopened in time for emergency use in a life or death situation. Unnecessary closures of existing roads and trails have the potential to bring great harm to anyone or anything in a life or death situation. A closed road could hobble or prevent emergency responders from getting to a wildfire or finding an injured person. For the safety and well being of people, emergency personnel, wildlife, forests, the public at large and our great public lands, it is of great importance that you direct the BLM to leave all Existing Roads and Trails Open. We ask that you stand with us and support the general public on this issue. Please direct the BLM to leave them open.
For more than a year and a half as the RMP kept moving forward, we sent numerous requests to the BLM pointing out the map errors and requesting that they put the roads back on and correct the maps. They ignored all of our requests and forced us to write to Congressional Representatives for help. Thankfully our Congressional Representatives sent a letter to BLM requesting that they look into the problem and only for that reason and at such an overdue time did the BLM instruct Monte Kuk to put most of the erased roads back onto the maps. However, the hundreds of people participating in the planning process were never notified that incomplete and inaccurate maps were published in all of the plan books and CD’s that were distributed by the BLM and that counterfeit maps were being displayed and used at all of the public meetings that were held throughout the planning process. People on the mailing list were never notified in writing about any of this and they were not notified when the maps were corrected so they could have the opportunity to review accurate maps before the public comment period expired. It was the BLM’s responsibility to notify all people on the mailing list about the errors and corrections. That is why the BLM maintains a mailing list is it not? The BLM did post errata maps on their website a few short days before the comment period expired, however, a huge percent of the people participating in this planning process have not or ever will visit that website. Some of those people do not have internet access or do not use a computer. We clearly explained that to area manager, Christina Welch and Monte Kuk, they both told us they would not notify the people by mail. With verbal communication and in the planning documents put together by the BLM they clearly instructed the public to ask to be placed on the mailing list in order to be updated about the RMP & EIS. Most of the people participating in the JDBRMP & EIS process requested that the BLM put their name and address on the mailing list so they would be notified of any errors, corrections, changes or updates that take place. The counterfeit map issue was very serious and during that time we requested in writing that the BLM extend the public comment period and send written notification to all of the people on the mailing list informing them about the inaccurate maps and notifying them that a corrected version was available for review. However, the BLM blatantly refused to do their duty. This was and still is a very questionable and very serious misleading action set forth by the BLM during the planning process and it was blatantly swept under the carpet while the RMP moved forward. The BLM did not care that the public was being victimized.
The next suspicious and unethical move concerned the way the BLM treated and handled public comments during the RMP. Approximately 500 individual public comments, each signed by people with contact information and submitted in good faith for the Draft John Day Basin RMP & EIS public comment period were provided to State Director Ed Shepard by Certified Mail and all of those public declarations were signed for and taken into custody at the Portland BLM State Office on January 13, 2009. None of those 500 public documents were acknowledged, they were not date stamped upon receipt, they were not given letter log numbers, they were not scanned in as electronic copies, they were not filed, they were not counted as a public comment and they were not scanned onto a CD that was made available for people that requested a copy of all public comments that were submitted for the Draft John Day Basin public comment period.
Instead the entire lot of 500 lawful public comments were isolated, discriminated against and put in the closet by the BLM
most likely because they did not say what the BLM and others wanted to hear.
The people that signed and submitted those declarations did so in good faith. People were outraged and they wanted their comments to be included, considered and counted. As a result we had several conversations with BLM officials, including Christina Welch and Monte Kuk, about the seriousness of the issue and we asked them several times to acknowledge, number and treat the 500 comments the same as all of the others. They refused to do that until we told the area manager that we were going to contact our Congressional Representatives about the issue and only after that conversation, in late June of 2009, 5 months after the BLM took them into custody, did the BLM finally acknowledge them and give each of those 500 comments a letter log number. However, they are still not being figured in the total number of comments received and the BLM is falsely claiming that during the public comment period for the Draft John Day Basin RMP & EIS that they received about 350 public comments when in fact they received approximately 875 public comments. Of that total about 75 percent or more of the people support only Alternative 1 (No Action / No Change) for
the JDBRMP & EIS. The BLM supports their own crafted alternative which places unfair and biased restrictions on the public land user based on prejudice and misleading data and other circumstances.
For your information, the BLM sorted and hand picked approximately 350 out of 875 public comments and date stamped, numbered and acknowledged only the comments that THE BLM WANTED TO USE during the final stages of the plan to craft the Final EIS and the Record Of Decision. Those 350 comments will be downsized further because at this time the BLM is hand sorting them again to determine which ones are worthy enough to be considered as a SUBSTANTIVE COMMENT. About 300 of BLM’s keeper comments are unique form type letters provided to the BLM by email from members of approximately 4 special interest organizations that provided a unique form type letter on their websites to make it easy for their members to submit a public comment to the BLM. Most of those particular 300 comments have identical requests and all of them were sent to the BLM by email only. Most of them contained only an email address for contact purposes and no names or addresses for identification purposes. Many that did provide a location were from other States such as New Jersey, New York, Iowa and California. The 4 special interest groups and their members that submitted comments are all saying what the BLM and team leader wants to hear, they want all roads and trails restricted or closed, their comments will assist the team leader, private business interests and the BLM in gaining what they seek with their specially crafted Resource Management Plan. The huge amount of comments that we and others provided in support of Alternative 1 (No Action No Change) were all signed by real people from Oregon that utilize and have a deep passion for the public lands that are being analyzed during this planning process and they were sent the hard way, by certified mail and by real people. Then the BLM blatantly sorted and discriminated against 500 of those public declarations by casting them out, most likely for the reason that all of those people are requesting that the BLM provide the people with legal public access to the thousands of acres of blocked, gated, landlocked and privatized public lands and they all support Alternative 1 (No Action/No Change) for the John Day Basin RMP & EIS. This is not what the BLM or private business interests want to hear so they thought they would just make those 500 letters go away so that it would appear that the majority of the participants supported the same actions as the team leader and some others. It is disgusting, disrespectful and unlawful for the BLM to modify, ignore or discard any written public statement presented for a public comment event.
For many years the general public has petitioned the BLM to provide legal public access to desirable areas of blocked, gated, landlocked and isolated public lands within the planning area and for just as many years the BLM has side stepped the issue. Good useful roads already exist and they travel to all of the sought after blocked, gated, landlocked and privatized public areas and in fact those roads are used everyday by a few select private landowners and their business partners that are allowed special access rights to thousands of acres of public lands that are strictly off limits to the general public. These roads were paid for with taxpayer dollars from past logging operations. In early 2005 we wrote to the President and other Congressional Representatives about this problem. The President contacted the BLM on our behalf and we have a copy of the BLM‘s response to the President, dated March 2005, in which the BLM told President Bush and others that the best way for the people to accomplish the task of getting public access to landlocked public lands would be to participate in this planning process. Well, here we are, we have participated in the JDBRMP & EIS from the start and the BLM is still turning their backs on all of us and on all of society! The time is right for the BLM to provide the people with equal and legal pubic access to all of those landlocked public lands. We ask you to support and stand with the people on this issue and please direct the BLM to secure and provide the people with legal public access to those public lands that are blocked, gated, landlocked and privatized. .
Another serious problem with this RMP is that the BLM is not acknowledging what the people strongly desire in this land use plan. The BLM is using only select few of the public comments that they received and they are not listening to the majority of the people. They are unlawfully sorting comments and removing those public statements that do not support them with where they want to go with the Record Of Decision. The BLM calls the comments that they are acknowledging SUBSTANTIVE COMMENTS. The BLM will only consider, use, acknowledge and respond to a substantive comment. The BLM should be directed to consider and respond to all written statements received during the planning process for the JDBRMP & EIS.
The BLM needs to correct their mistakes, acknowledge, document and publish the true number of public comments received for the Draft John Day Basin RMP & EIS. We want the BLM to acknowledge and use each and every comment that they received not just those they consider to be a substantive comment. Furthermore, we request that the BLM send written notification to all of the people participating in this process describing all errors and corrections that have been made since the plan started and in light of the fact that so many of the BLM employees that started the plan are no longer working on it the BLM should identify the employees that are working on the plan at this time and explain how each of those employees contributes. Please direct the BLM to do this for all concerned.
During the public comment period for the Draft John Day Basin RMP & EIS several BLM employees including Christina Welch and Monte Kuk traveled to many different towns on different days. During those public meetings they were asking the people to submit written or verbal comments for this land use plan and they provided comment forms for those people that wanted to use them. The BLM told the people how important their comments would be. However, they did not tell the people that they would hand sort those comments at a later date and that only a substantive comment would be worthy of respect and consideration. The BLM did not educate the people or provide the definition of a substantive comment. BLM employees held several open house meetings in various towns creating substantial expenses.
It seems that a lot of revenue was used for misleading reasons and to solicit public comments that the BLM never intended to use anyway. Why were these people duped into thinking that their presence at one of the meetings or their opinion really mattered and why did the BLM waste all of those peoples time and money? Why were so many taxpayer
dollars wasted for no good reason?
To make matters worse , on March 16, 2009, through the Freedom Of Information Act our organization requested a copy of all public comments that were received by the BLM for the Draft John Day Basin RMP & EIS. On April 7, 2009 we received a CD that contained about 40 percent of the comments that the BLM had actually received for the Draft
comment period. Upon close review of the documents on the CD we discovered the 500 comments mentioned earlier in this letter were missing and had not been date stamped, given letter log numbers or scanned into the database. This is when we discovered that some of the public comments submitted by our organization had been tampered with and modified without our knowledge or consent. One of those documents was our letter dated December 1, 2008, attached hereto as (Exhibit A) in which we addressed concerns about Monte Kuk.
The CD has a descriptive display box for each comment and that box outlined that each of our comments that had been tampered with were modified on December 22, 2008 at about 7:00 P.M. in the evening, see attached Exhibit B. If Exhibit B is unclear or if you want copies of the documents that BLM modified please contact me at legendhill53 (at) msn.com and I will provide you with copies by email.
It is important that you understand that other public comments may have been discarded, removed, tampered with or modified as well, however, we have no way of knowing unless each and every person is contacted and asked to review their own comments that were scanned onto the CD that the BLM FOIA Officer has.
We sent our letter dated December 1, 2008 (Exhibit A) in which we addressed serious concerns about Monte Kuk to State Director Ed Shepard and to the Prineville District Managers. As a follow-up to our letter (Exhibit A) we spoke on the telephone to the Prineville area manager, Christina Welch, and told her that we believed Monte Kuk should step down or be replaced as team leader and we did not feel comfortable with him remaining on the team at all. In another conversation with the area manager she said that she questioned Monte Kuk and Monte admitted hunting on private land down by the river but not in the high country so she did not feel that he should be replaced and it was okay for him to continue as team leader. Then we received a written reply to our letter of December 1, 2008. That reply was date stamped December 23, 2008 by the Prineville BLM and Christina Welch signed that letter in which it clearly states; “Staffing choices are internal, proprietary decisions and are based on a number of factors. I have confidence in our current staff and see no relevant reason to replace any of them.” The State Director did not answer our letter. At this point we realized that nobody at the BLM cared about any of this and the Prineville area manager had strongly defended Monte Kuk each and every time that we mentioned our concerns and the John Day Basin RMP & EIS just kept moving forward in the same distasteful and corrupt direction.
Then on the evening of December 22, 2008 at about 7:00 P.M., someone with after hours access to important public documents at the Prineville BLM, unlawfully tampered with and modified public documents that were submitted to the BLM in good faith. Our letter dated December 1, 2008 (Exhibit A) in which we addressed very serious concerns about Monte Kuk was modified in many ways, the number 1 was removed from the date, the font was completely changed, words were changed, words were put sideways, some letters were changed to numbers, Oregon was changed to oregon, upper case and lower case letters were modified and the finished product made no sense and the letter was made to look like an idiot tried to type the letter. This is a serious offense. The BLM employee or employees that did this are guilty of libel, defamation, abuse of office, official misconduct, misuse of confidential information and tampering with public records, among other things. On the CD of public comments that we received from the BLM the modified version of Exhibit A is letter log #71 and the original unmodified version is letter log #72. Document #71 & #72 began as the same identical letter until the BLM modified a copy of #72 and identified the modified version as #71. Some of our other comments with different letter log numbers were modified on this same CD. They were also modified on December 22, 2008 at about 7:00 P.M.
To make certain there was no mistake we contacted the BLM FOIA Officer and requested a second CD of the same public comments and a hard copy version printed by the BLM of public comments #71 & #72 and some others. On April 17, 2009 we received that information. The second CD held the same modifications as did the printed hard copy documents that we received from BLM FOIA Officer Mike Paschall. During this time FOIA Officer Mike Paschall and I discussed the modified documents in detail. Shortly thereafter I was informed that Mike Paschall was no longer with the BLM and he had transferred to the Corps Of Engineers in the same building.
We have filed three FOIA requests dated March 16, 2009, April 20, 2009 and May 25, 2009 in which we requested certain information about the handling of public comments by the BLM, the hours during which they are put onto discs and the names of all employees that were responsible for those actions. We have only received vague and partial answers. During a telephone conversation with the Prineville area manager we were told that the BLM will not answer any of those questions until they have completed the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record Of Decision for the John Day Basin RMP. We were told again that Monte Kuk is the only person at the Prineville BLM that can answer any of our questions. The plan is still moving ahead in the same direction and the BLM is willing to complete it at any cost.
On June 6, 2009 we sent another Certified Letter to the BLM State Director asking him if our concerns about Monte Kuk were being addressed. We did not receive a reply and we sent the same letter again on July 13, 2009 and followed it up with a phone call. On August 13, 2009 the State Director replied with a letter that was similar to the BLM’s reply of December 23, 2008 in which the BLM indicates Monte Kuk has done nothing wrong and shall remain as team leader of the JDBRMP & EIS.
How lucky can they get, the private landowners and their business partners are guaranteed to be in the winners circle as they have one of their own players on the planning team, that person has interfered from the start, now he is team leader and according to the area manager he is the only person with any knowledge of what is going on with the RMP and he is the only person with enough knowledge about it to answer any questions . If we want any questions answered about the handling of public comments or the process involved he will answer those questions but only after he is finished with his JDBRMP & EIS.
Furthermore, we are deeply troubled by another inappropriate situation that the Prineville BLM has created and it appears that it is in retaliation for the concerns we have set forth regarding Monte Kuk. Each time we send a letter to the BLM or verbally ask questions about Monte Kuk, missing comments or just about anything else, we are faced with what we feel is intimidation, harassment or blackmail. In order for you to have a clear understanding of the situation we need to outline the chain of events, as follows.
We have a very large number of volunteers that visit Rudio Mountain on a regular basis and we have cared for and watched over Rudio Mountain for more than 50 years. People were concerned because the old original road and marker signs on Rudio Mountain were in need of some help. Many of those signs could not be read or found as they were either decaying, missing or had been vandalized.
Over a period of years we had asked the BLM to replace those signs and the BLM explained they were short on funds and would not be able to replace any of the small signs we were concerned about. Yet somehow the BLM found enough money to make and install several new signs and sign posts on Rudio Mountain in areas and along roads that are closed to the general public but used all the time by the private business interests that we talked about earlier in this letter. These new signs did not benefit the general public in any way and they only benefited the private landowners, their business partners and their fee hunting clients that utilize landlocked public lands on Rudio Mountain. We were upset that the BLM spent tons of money to replace signs for the private sector and we complained to the BLM State Office. During that time folks at the BLM State Office explained that the BLM Sign Guidebook instructs the BLM to look for opportunities for partnerships with organizations or user groups that might be willing to partner with the BLM and donate material, labor and efforts. From that day forward we realized it was our calling to make and replace those signs for the general public.
Several months ago we had one of several discussions with the Prineville area manager in which it was decided that our members would donate the money, materials, labor and time to replace the old, missing, rotted and vandalized road name and other small signs on Rudio Mountain at no cost whatsoever to the BLM. The area manager authorized the project indicating that she thought it was a very thoughtful offer and a good idea. We began work on the project shortly thereafter. We had considered doing this for years as Rudio Mountain is situated in the high country in a very secluded and remote area of Grant County, Oregon. It is a very popular area and visitors have a tendency to get lost. Many people visit the area during hunting seasons when deep snow and ice often blankets the ground and all roads look identical. In light of recent tragedies in other remote BLM locations, considering that some of the elderly visitors were having trouble finding their bearings, knowing that medical help or search and rescue people were far away from this remote area we felt it was time to act on the matter. We volunteered to pay for all material, labor and installation costs associated with replacing the signs and when our mission was completed all of the signs would generously be donated to the BLM for the health, safety and welfare of the people that visit Rudio Mountain.
We worked on the project for months in our spare time. People from all walks of life helped out, we had old folks, children, disabled people and folks with crippled hands. The project brought joy to many folks. It was important that each board and sign was designed to look as close as possible to the old original signs. We hand cut each letter with great effort using a portable hand held router. When the task was finished we installed each sign with volunteer labor.
Furthermore, there is an old cemetery/memorial located on Rudio Mountain and our members have always cared for and maintained the grave sites and the land surrounding them. Most of the original markers were stolen or vandalized in 1997 during our Federal District Court battle over public access rights to Holmes Creek Road, private landowners were on one side of the docket and the BLM and our organization, as partners, were on the other side, after a challenging battle we won that case and restored public access on Holmes Creek Road but some folks were very unhappy. We felt it was our duty to replace some of the old grave markers that had been stolen or vandalized. While we were working on the sign project we also hand crafted a few grave markers to put back on the graves.
Sometime after the signs were replaced we attended a public meeting for the JDBRMP. At that meeting Monte Kuk approached us and said that a person he knew told him that someone had put up road name signs on Rudio Mountain and Monte told us the signs were not authorized so he had authorized the removal of all of the signs. We told Monte Kuk right then and there that the area manager had authorized the signs on several occasions over a period of time. Monte was upset and said he would talk to the area manager about it. In the next few days we discovered that some of the signs were missing. We called the area manager to tell her what Monte had done. The area manager said she would place a call to stop the removal of any more signs on Rudio Mountain but by this time we had already lost several signs.
Wouldn’t you think that a biologist would check with a supervisor before authorizing road signs to be removed from public lands?
On or about December 5, 2008 the BLM received our certified letter of complaint, dated December 1, 2008 and attached hereto as Exhibit A, regarding Monte Kuk. Then on December 11, 2008 we received a telephone voice message from the area manger and she appeared to be upset indicating that we had made some very serious accusations against Monte Kuk and that she would be responding in writing. Near the end of her message she told us that the new signs are very nice but unfortunately they are not appropriate and they were not authorized! She told us that we could either remove them or the BLM would do that for us. We could not believe what we were hearing. At a later date the area manager contacted us and said that even though she had authorized the signs the recreation person and the biologist did not like them so we should take them down. After several discussions it was determined that the recreation person and the biologist could not override the authorization given by the area manager. At this point the area manager agreed the sign issue would be put on hold and in the future we would meet with the engineer to discuss the signs.
The problem is that each time we mention our concerns about Monte Kuk or other matters we are always intimidated with the removal of the signs. The last time we asked questions about this the area manager indicated that we should move the cemetery. We told her that was not appropriate and that would become a legal challenge if she was serious. This sends a chill up my spine. Why would the area manager authorize the signs, let us invest several months of time, money and hard labor into the project, let us install the signs with volunteer efforts and then turn against us and tell us to remove the signs and cemetery? Is it because we have serious concerns about the team leader and the handling of 500 public comments, the brutal killing of wild mustangs, among other things? This is not appropriate and the nonsense needs to stop. The area manager told us several times that she had the BLM Law Enforcement Officer looking into the matter and we do not understand why law enforcement would even be involved. We researched the BLM Sign Guidebook thoroughly and we did not commit a crime.
The road signs came out so good and everyone that we talked to adored and appreciated them. It seems the only people that do not appreciate the signs are biased BLM employees and select private business interests that want the public banned from these public lands. Why would a biologist be concerned over road markers unless it was something personal? The signs were officially authorized by the area manager and they are perfectly legal. The signs are in constant limbo each time we mention something the Prineville BLM does not like. By allowing this disturbing behavior to continue the BLM is being disrespectful to society and to the people they are supposed to serve. Actions like this are an embarrassment to the BLM.
We ask that you stand with us and direct the BLM to approve of, legalize and respect the road marker signs and cemetery markers that we generously made, installed on Rudio Mountain and donated to the BLM for the safety and wellbeing of the general public.
For your information, we have told 2 persons at the State Directors Office that our public comments were tampered with and modified among other things. One of those people is aware that we are writing to Congressional Representatives with these concerns. We have requested several times that Monte Kuk step down or be replaced.
It is time that we acknowledge that the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement is illegal and it should no be allowed to be completed. Furthermore, it is politically and personally driven and set forth only to benefit private landowners and their business partners that own adjoining private lands that manage timber land operations, cattle operations, public land grazing leases, fee hunting businesses, outfitter/guides, and other private business ventures while utilizing our public lands within the John Day Basin planning area. The BLM is using hard earned taxpayer dollars to develop a management plan that will shaft the general public and bring about personal gain for private business interests. These private landowners and their business partners resent public land visitors that wish to recreate on, hike, camp, hunt, fish, watch birds or wildlife, take pictures, search for rocks, utilize and enjoy the same public lands that are shared with their grazing leases and public lands that adjoin fee hunting ranches that use our public lands for their fee hunting clients. These private business operations have sought to privatize public lands for decades and they want to ban the general public from public lands or make it such a miserable experience to visit certain public lands the people will never come back.
The people are being led down the garden path. The public is being deceived and victimized through this resource management plan in ways they may never fully understand. For the safety and welfare of the general public we would like you to stop all action on the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. We request that you launch a formal investigation into the matters set forth in this letter. The public interest is not being served by protecting a faulty land use management plan that has been sprinkled with bad character from the onset. On behalf of the general public we respectfully request that the entire plan be discarded as it does not serve the best interests of the people. If a plan of this sort is truly needed it can be launched again with a fresh start.
We are respectable people that have a deep passion for our public lands and the pleasures found there. Generation after generation we have cared for these public lands with our hands, our hearts, our sweat and devotion. The information provided above gives us moral grounds to ask you to intervene on our behalf. We ask that you stand with us and provide us with the support that we need to prevent this bad situation from going any further. We need your assistance in this matter. We would like you to review this letter and attachments and contact the BLM on our behalf and with your concerns. You may provide the BLM with a copy of this letter in its entirety if you so desire.
Please understand that we need you to conduct an independent investigation into all portions of the JDBRMP & EIS. In this letter we have pointed out several critical problems that have occurred throughout the planning process. You must realize this may just be the tip of the iceberg. We have no way of knowing what else has taken place or what else could be going on. With questionable people leading the project it creates distrust every step of the way. The problems that have occurred thus far throughout this planning process do not serve the best interest of the general public.
As designated managers of our precious public lands the Bureau Of Land Management has a responsibility to provide the public with the highest quality of service possible. That is certainly not happening here.
Again, it would serve the public interest best if the John Day Basin Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement was rendered not worthy of further consideration and set aside in the same way as its nasty sister, the Western Oregon Plan Revisions.
Time is of the essence here. We look forward to your reply. Thank you for your assistance with this urgent matter.
This work is in the public domain