Smokey Sent Back to his Den

by Frank DuBois

This month we cover the Forest Service & BLM law dogs, & the relationship between prairie dogs, the plague & peanut butter.

Imagine this scenario:

On a state highway a New Mexico citizen passes a Forest Service LEO. The LEO alleges he did this at a high rate of speed and without using his turn signals.

The LEO turns on his emergency lights and follows the citizen at an alleged 70 mph and turns on his siren.

The citizen travels for a mile and half until he finds a safe place and pulls over and parks next to a deputy sheriff.

The LEO asks the citizen to turn off his engine, which he does.

The LEO asks the citizen several times for his identification, to which the citizen replies the LEO has no authority to pull him over. The LEO says unless he produces identification he will be arrested. The citizen presents his drivers license and the LEO issues him a citation. 

At a later date the LEO files additional charges of resisting an officer and “wreckless” [sic] driving. 

Finally, the U.S. attorney revises the charges to interfering with an officer and failing to stop when ordered to do so.

The citizen challenges the citations and they go to court.

How would the judge rule?

Actually, this is not just a scenario but actual events that took place in January of this year on U.S. Highway 180 in Catron County, New Mexico. The citizen is Alvin Brent Laney, the LEO is Forest Service Officer Mandrick and the federal judge is U.S. Magistrate Lourdes A. Martinez.

Based upon arguments and a motion filed by Laney’s attorneys, A. Blair Dunn and Dori Richards, Judge Martinez dismissed all charges.

On the interference charge Martinez ruled the feds failed to show how driving another 1.5 miles and initially failing to identify himself interfered with “Officer Mandrick’s official duties ‘in the protection, improvement or administration of the National Forest System.’ ”

Martinez also found the feds failed to explain how Officer Mandrick was engaged in an “official duty” when pursuing Laney on a non-Forest System road.

And finally, Martinez wrote, “…the court also finds that Officer Mandrick did not have authority or jurisdiction to stop or cite Defendant on a non-Forest System road for actions that did not implicate the Forest System.”

There is one little old fact I left out. Officer Mandrick asked the Deputy Sheriff on location to sign the original citation, but the Deputy declined the request. 

It would behoove you to check with your local Sheriff and make sure he hasn’t cross-commissioned the officers of any land management agency.

On the importance of this particular case attorney Dunn said, “The significance of this case is the Court pointing out that absent a clear showing that it is a forest system road, not merely a road existing inside of the US Forest System lands, that they do not gain jurisdiction to stop any individual for anything other than a crime that affects the protection of USFS lands.  Further this becomes the law of New Mexico until another case says differently”. 

I’ll close with an excerpt from the opinion which caused a broad smile to appear on my face:

Moreover, if Officer Mandrick felt endangered by going 70 miles per hour while chasing Defendant, he should have let Defendant’s alleged speeding and reckless driving be handled by an officer with jurisdiction to pull Defendant over for those violations, and the United States fails to explain why Officer Mandrick did not call law enforcement to do so.

Now you know why there were so many changes in the charges. The Forest Service LEO had filed charges based on a section of the federal regs that dealt with National Forest System Roads. Not only did the LEO not have jurisdiction, he had issued the complaints based on the wrong section of his own regs.

BLM & Burning Man

Having explored the competency of the Forest Service LEOs, let’s now turn to the BLM.

Every year thousands of people celebrate the Burning Man event on lands managed by the BLM in northwestern Nevada. As part of the permitting process, BLM seeks to recover costs and apply certain conditions to the permit.

This year the BLM demanded a compound be constructed at their on-site camp which would have flush toilets, washers and dryers, showers, air conditioning and refrigerators. It was to contain a 24-hour full-service kitchen to be stocked with 10-ounce steaks, 18-ounce pork ribs, poultry, ham, fish, vegetables, potatoes, bread, and a salad bar with five toppings and three dressings.  And, oh yes, “soft ice cream” to be available 24/7, as well as cakes, cookies, pies, cobblers, puddings and pastries.

By obtaining emails, a Nevada paper identified BLM Special Agent Jack Love, located in Salt Lake City, as the culprit behind many of the requests. The paper said Love was also the one who led the LEOs in the Bundy fiasco.

The arrogance displayed is amazing, but I like this excerpt from an editorial by another Nevada paper:

Here’s an idea for the BLM: provide some basic camping courses to your staff — in the outdoors, not at a five-star hotel — and hire fewer wimps.

Bees, prairie dogs &
peanut butter

I wrote last month about a Toad Road and jokingly predicted we would soon see Turtle Turnpikes and Frog Freeways. We haven’t seen those yet, but we have come across a Bee Highway.

Norway’s capital Oslo is creating a “bee highway” to protect endangered pollinators essential to food production. The goal is to provide safe passage through the city and they are doing so with individuals, school children and others planting sunflowers, marigolds and other nectar-bearing flowers at key points in the city. This is a pretty cool, voluntary project and we wish them success.

Then there are prairie dogs. They are the almost exclusive prey of a protected species, the black-footed ferret. Problem is, the prairie dogs keep dying of the plague which in turn wipes out the ferret.  Enter some scientists who want to provide an oral vaccine to the prairie dogs. How do they get the dogs to ingest the oral vaccine? They use peanut butter, and it apparently works.

We now have a Toad Road, a Bee Highway and Prairie Dog Peanut Butter.

I’ll bet it was Peter Pan Prairie Dog Peanut Butter. But was it the Creamy, or the, oh my…Crunchy?

Till next time, be a nuisance to the devil and don’t forget to check that cinch.

Frank DuBois was the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003, is the author of a blog: The Westerner (www.thewesterner.blogspot.com) and is the founder of The DuBois Rodeo Scholarship