New District Manager for area that includes Carrizo Plain National Monument

News Release

For Release: February 23, 2009
Contacts: John Dearing (916) 978-4622 or Jan Bedrosian (916) 978-4612
CA-CDD-09-05
Kathy Hardy is named BLM district manager for Central California

The Bureau of Land Management has selected Kathy Hardy of El Dorado Hills, California, as the district manager for the newly formed Central California District.

Hardy will be headquartered in Sacramento and will oversee BLM field offices in Ukiah, Folsom, Bakersfield, Bishop, and Hollister. The five offices manage over 2.1 million acres of public land, including the Carrizo Plain National Monument; the central California segment of the California Coastal National Monument; the American, Merced and Tuolumne wild and scenic rivers; Piedras Blancas Light Station Outstanding Natural Area; Cosumnes River and Pine Hill Preserves; and the Alabama Hills. The current five field office managers will remain in place under this new district structure.

Hardy graduated from the University of Virginia in 1981 with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. She began her federal career that same year at Sierra National Forest in Oakhurst, California. She has served twenty-eight years with the U.S. Forest Service at increasingly responsible positions in a variety of assignments in California, Colorado, and Wyoming. She is currently the deputy forest supervisor for the Stanislaus National Forest. This is her first position with BLM.

“We are truly grateful to have someone of Kathy’s caliber as the Central California District manager,” said California State Director Mike Pool. “She brings an incredible amount of land management experience and knowledge and will be an excellent fit for our Central California District,” Pool said. He said the newly formed district is part of a national reorganization designed to streamline and standardize BLM’s management functions.

Hardy, who reports for work on May 1, says she is honored to be chosen for the position and looks forward to the many challenges the federal land agency faces.

*********End of news release

Hardy is not an uncontroversial figure. She has been named as someone who is very pro-rancher in a blog on Cattle Grazing in Toulumne County.

Politics as Usual: A Yes-Man Advanced to Head BLM

Mike Pool, the BLM California Director who rejected Marlene Braun’s appeal over her suspension for sending an email to people with whom she worked has now been promoted. Pool, who had approved the Resource Management Plan Braun submitted before her field office Ron Huntsinger arrived quickly changed his tune and began doing what the Bush Administration wanted: helping to get rid of Marlene Braun.

It is more important than ever to get the full Dept. of Interior OIG report released.
News Release

For Release: February 18, 2009
Contact: John Dearing/Jan Bedrosian, 916-978-4610, email: jdearing@ca.blm.gov;
CA-SO-09-03
BLM Taps Californian Mike Pool as Acting National Director

Mike Pool, California state director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has been tapped to serve as the agency’s acting national director in Washington D.C., effective March 1.

Pool, 55, a career veteran, has served more than 34 years with BLM, starting at the field office level and working his way up through a variety of assignments in Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington D.C., and the Department of the Interior.

He has been California state director since 2000, overseeing 15.1 million acres of public lands in California and another 1.5 million in northwestern Nevada. In the new acting position, he will oversee 256 million surface acres – more than any other federal agency. Most of this public land is located in 12 western states, including Alaska.

He replaces current BLM Acting Director Ron Wenker, who will return to his current position as BLM’s Nevada state director. Pool will remain in the new assignment pending selection of a permanent director by new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. In California, Pool’s Associate State Director Jim Abbott will serve as acting California state director.

“I’m honored by the new assignment and look forward to assisting the new administration care for the public lands under BLM’s jurisdiction,” he said. The 55-year-old Pool, an Arizona native raised in New Mexico, holds a B.S. in wildlife science from New Mexico State University.

RELATED: “Mike Pool, State Director”(BLM-California)
Biography of BLM-California’s state director and new acting national director.
http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ca/pdf/pdfs/caso_pdfs.Par.44155.File.dat/PoolBio.pdf

Bullying in the Federal Workplace

Workplace bullying is getting the attention of several state legislatures this term, from Vermont to New York and New Jersey in the east, and Illinois in the Midwest, and Utah in the West. Workplace bullying is a problem beyond the states, though. This blog exists largely because a federal employee, a monument manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, committed suicide because her field office supervisor made her life unbearable. I became interested in following the investigation of her case, but also in learning more about the land so dear to her, very near where I live.

In a recent set of articles on FedSmith.com, Steve Opperman has tackled the subjects of workplace violence and workplace bullying.

Bullying, whether via the latest technologies or by more traditional means, is a growing problem in American workplaces of all kinds, and I don’t see why Federal agencies would be exceptions.

In fact, I just received an e-mail from a woman who indicated that she has been bullied so severely in her current job, to include being screamed at in anger by managers and treated with no respect by some of her co-workers, that she felt compelled to tell her story to someone. I have received similar comments from other FedSmith.com readers in the past in response to articles I have written that may have touched on the subject, so I know that there are employees in a number of Federal agencies who feel they are being bullied.

After Opperman wrote his first article, he had so many responses, he published another, in February, 2009. In this article, he discussed what federal employees could do:

First, I strongly encouraged the writers to contact their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) immediately and arrange to speak to a counselor. EAP services are generally free to employees for up to a specific number of visits per issue, and taking this step would give the troubled employee access to a qualified professional counselor who could serve as an objective “sounding board” and could undoubtedly provide the employee with some tips on developing “coping skills.”

At least one commenter on the FedSmith.com website questioned the wisdom of contacting an EAP counselor who is paid under an agency contract, but I have never personally experienced a “pro-agency bias” on the part of an EAP counselor. The fact is that the EAP counselors are not permitted to divulge any information about the content of the counseling sessions to the employer, with only such narrow exceptions as the employee’s written permission to do so (e.g., in a “last chance” agreement) or a threat of violence.

Beyond that, there is a range of options. In cases where a bullied employee believes he/she has witnessed other employees being bullied/intimidated, and/or has been approached by others who have experienced such behavior, the old theory of “safety in numbers” may come into play. In such circumstances, employees may elect to approach management on a collective basis to talk about their perceived bullying problem.

But let’s presume for the moment that the behavior is perceived to be directed at just one person. The alleged victim could talk to his/her supervisor about it, providing concrete examples of the behavior she/he considers to be bullying and/or intimidating, as well as dates, times and circumstances. If the supervisor doesn’t correct the problem, the affected employee has the right to go up the chain of command in an effort to resolve it.

Sometimes the alleged bully is the supervisor, in which case the stakes, and the stress level of the alleged victim, are likely to be significantly higher than if a co-worker is the perceived offender. However, it is at least possible that the supervisor does not know that his/her behavior is being viewed as bullying, so starting with that person would, I think, still usually make sense. If the behavior continues, the alleged victim could go to the supervisor’s boss to discuss the situation, and then continue up the chain of command if necessary.

I fully recognize that this strategy contains risk, in that an alleged victim could antagonize her/his supervisor and/or higher-level officials, but at least she/he would have gotten the concerns on record, which is likely to be very important if the situation is not resolved.

One option that I almost always recommend would be to talk to someone in the servicing Human Resources (HR) office – in this case probably an employee relations specialist. During my Federal career, we in HR were considered management advisors who were also required to provide accurate information to employees regarding their rights, responsibilities, benefits, etc.; this is a big difference, and one that should be kept in mind. Another possibility would be talking with an agency attorney, such as an ethics officer.

If the alleged victim is part of a bargaining unit, she/he could talk to a union representative for advice about making use of the negotiated grievance procedure or other possible courses of action. If the bullying/harassing behavior appears to be based on race, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or other protected class covered under Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its progeny), he/she could talk to an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) specialist in the servicing EEO office or to an EEO counselor. If it doesn’t appear to be based on any of those factors, and the alleged victim is not part of a bargaining unit, he/she could file a grievance under the agency’s administrative grievance procedure.

As for other potential actions, an alleged victim could file a complaint with the agency’s Inspector General (IG), which operates under the Inspector General Act of 1978.

As I interpret that act, the employee would have to connect the dots between bullying and the efficiency and effectiveness of agency operations before it would fall within the IG’s jurisdiction. The alleged victim could also opt to file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and/or the Government Accountability Office (GAO), alleging violations of Merit System Principles and/or engaging in Prohibited Personnel Practices. If the OSC decides that the alleged victim has made credible allegations, it can propose disciplinary action, up to and including removal, against the person committing and/or allowing the bullying; OSC would then “prosecute” the case, with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) serving as the judicial body. If the GAO finds such allegations credible, it could report those findings to Congress, for which it serves as the investigative arm. The alleged victim could also contact his/her Congressional representatives.

If all else fails, and the behavior continues and is affecting the employee’s mental and/or physical health, I would strongly encourage the bullied employee to look for another job. I know that’s easy to say and hard to do these days, but protecting one’s health and well-being is critically important and from everything I’ve read, including the comments made in response to my first article on this subject, employees who feel they are being bullied generally experience a great deal of stress, as well as physical and/or psychological manifestations of that stress, as detailed in the first article.

As I noted in that article, a number of organizations consider bullying to be an aspect of violence in the workplace. I am finding that there is a lot of information available on the Internet about workplace bullying, and that it seems to be a large and still growing problem – with “cyber-bullying” perhaps being the latest trend – but that very few organizations have specific policies in place for dealing with it.

I don’t know all the details of Marlene Braun’s case, the manager of the CPNM. But I am aware that she went to HR. One week after doing that her boss handed her two memos that threatened more disciplinary action that would completely ruin her 13-year federal career. One week after that she killed herself.

I should add that the Federal Tort Claims Act prevents any pursuit of a lawsuit of a wrongful death case against the government or the supervisor. And no federal statutes prohibit workplace bullying.

So I would question the wisdom of going to HR, or the OIG, until it becomes clear that the people from the previous administration who fostered a culture of fear and bullying are removed. I recommend reading these articles in their entirety, though. Clearly state legislation will not be enough.
http://www.fedsmith.com/article/1780/
http://www.fedsmith.com/article/1872/
Please sign the petition to get the Department of Interior to release
the full OIG report regarding Marlene Braun’s suicide: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/JusticeforMarleneBraun

The California Desert Conservation Area

Before you read this press release, consider signing the petition to the Dept. of Interior to release an investigation it completed several years ago on the death of monument manager Marlene Braun: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/JusticeforMarleneBraun. Help her family, friends, and all of the people who care about the Carrizo Plain find some closure to this tragedy.

Immediate Release: February 4, 2009
Contact: Jeff Ruch (202) 265-7337

CALIFORNIA DESERT WINS NEW PROTECTION VIA FEINSTEIN AMENDMENT — Lion’s Share of CDCA Included in Landscape Conservation System by Omnibus Bill

Washington, DC — The vast majority of the California Desert Conservation Area will be included within the National Landscape Conservation System if an Omnibus Public Lands Bill which passed the Senate last month is finally enacted. An amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) prior to the January 15, 2009 Senate approval addressed the status of the CDCA, but there is bureaucratic resistance within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which manages the vast area, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

The CDCA covers 10 million acres, approximately one-tenth of the entire California surface area. Legislation to codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS), a network of national monuments, historic trails and conservation areas within the BLM, had been silent about how much of the CDCA would be included. The Feinstein amendment declares that all CDCA lands administered “for conservation purposes” will be included within the NLCS.

Current BLM classifications for CDCA indicate that approximately 8 million acres (80% of the CDCA) are now managed for conservation (either as closed or limited access areas to protect wildlife and habitat). Another 1.5 millions acres could be managed for conservation once other uses have ceased – meaning that up to 95% of the CDCA could ultimately be included, leaving out only the 500,000 acres now used for “intensive” off-road vehicle traffic.

“Senator Feinstein pledged to protect the California desert and she came through,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that BLM staff in California had fought for its inclusion within the NLCS but had been overruled by the agency’s Washington headquarters. “We hope that the new BLM leadership will embrace this opportunity that the departing leadership appeared to dread.”

According to documents received by PEER through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against BLM, “disadvantages” perceived by agency leadership to including CDCA within the NLCS are that it –

* “Increases public expectations that CDCA will be managed to emphasize conservation, protection, and restoration”;

* “Increases scrutiny of some existing resource uses” and

* “Changes the management of the CDCA…” and increases “the complexity” of its budget.

“BLM headquarters still does not seem to understand that the reason the California Desert Conservation Area was created actually had something to do with conservation,” Ruch added. “BLM regarding public expectations that public land should be protected as a ‘disadvantage’ is just plain perverse.”

A Resource Management Plan, a Petition for Justice and a Bio-Gem!

A lot is happening on the Carrizo. The draft RMP has been released. You can download the plan at http://www.blm.gov/ca/pdfs/bakersfield_pdfs/CarrizoRMP2009/Draft2009/Index-Main.pdf.

There is also a petition to release the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General’s full report, with testimony, to the people who have requested it, such as the Trust of Marlene Braun, the family and the press, and PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/JusticeforMarleneBraun

Let’s have transparency in government. Marlene committed suicide alleging that she had been driven to it by the abuse of her field office supervisor, who is now the BLM science coordinator in Washington, D.C. Please sign the petition. The public should know what is happening in government, and we should be able to assess the jobs our civil servants are doing.

In happier news:

Oil and Gas Drilling Threat Puts Carrizo Plain National Monument Among North America’s Most Endangered Landscapes
Rare animal haven is named to NRDC’s BioGem Program

WASHINGTON (February 3, 2009) — Central California’s Carrizo Plain National Monument was designated as a BioGem by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) today. The BioGems project highlights the Western Hemisphere’s most extraordinary and at risk places stretching from the Arctic in Alaska to Patagonia in Chile.

“The Caliente and Temblor mountains frame one of California’s most amazing and least known natural wonders,” said NRDC Policy Analyst Helen O’Shea. “These wild lands are designated a national monument, but they are still not protected from Big Oil. Energy development could be the end of this glorious region. Sadly, the endangered animals that inhabit the area could disappear with the landscape that supports them.”

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to the greatest concentration of endangered species in California, including the California condor and the San Joaquin kit fox. Despite its designation as a National Monument, the Carrizo Plain is threatened by oil and gas development that could cause irreparable damage to critical wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. Vintage Production, an oil company, is planning to explore for oil reserves, using giant “thumper” trucks to send disruptive shock waves deep into the earth.

Since 2001, NRDC has campaigned to save more than 30 special natural places throughout the Americas that offer sanctuary for endangered wildlife, curb global warming and provide livelihoods for local communities. The national monument joins 12 other BioGems, including two other additions, the Peace-Athabasca River Delta and the country of Costa Rica.

In addition to naming three new BioGems, NRDC redesigned the “Save BioGems” Web site with new features in order to more effectively mobilize more than 400,000 online activists to protect these areas. The site features a blog by NRDC wildlife experts; an action alert widget that can be embedded on social networks; interactive slideshows and video; and more Spanish-language content. It also includes an “Action Log” where BioGems activists can track their actions and achievements in protecting these areas.

“The success of the BioGems Initiative demonstrates the power of the Internet as a tool for conservation,” said Jacob Scherr, co-director of NRDC’s BioGems Initiative. “Save Biogems has enabled people around the world to have a voice in protecting some of the most unique wild places in our hemisphere.”

For more information, go to http://www.SaveBioGems.org.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing. More information is available at http://www.nrdc.org.

______________________________

Josh Mogerman
Senior Media Associate
Natural Resources Defense Council
Midwest Program
312-651-7909 – o | 773-853-5384 – ml
(Please note that my phone numbers have changed.)
jmogerman@NRDC.org
Check out my blog at: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/jmogerman

National Defense Counsel Bio-Gems

Petition to Release Dept. of Interior Report
NRDC Identifies 13 Threatened Natural Areas in the Americas as “BioGems”

WASHINGTON (February 3, 2009) — The Natural Resources Defense Council named 13 natural areas and six associated wild species as “BioGems” today. These extraordinary and at-risk places stretch from the Arctic in Alaska to Patagonia in Chile. New to the list of BioGems are the Carrizo Plain National Monument in central California and the Peace-Athabasca Delta in Alberta, Canada, which are imperiled by oil and gas development. For the first time, NRDC has designated a country as a BioGem — Costa Rica — which is seeking to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation.

“These BioGems are some of the last wild and unspoiled places left in the Western Hemisphere,” said Robert Kennedy, Jr., senior attorney at NRDC. “By naming these places as BioGems, NRDC is empowering hundreds of thousands of concerned individuals to take effective action to save these natural treasures for generations to come.”

Since 2001, NRDC has campaigned to save more than 30 special natural places that offer sanctuary for endangered wildlife, curb global warming and provide livelihoods for local communities. NRDC redesigned its “Save BioGems” Web site with new features in order to more effectively mobilize online activists to protect these areas.

New NRDC BioGems

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to the greatest concentration of endangered species in California, including the California condor and the San Joaquin kit fox. Despite its designation as a National Monument, the Carrizo Plain is threatened by oil and gas drilling that could cause irreparable damage to critical wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. Vintage Production, an oil company, is planning to explore for oil reserves, using giant “thumper” trucks to send disruptive shock waves deep into the earth.

The Peace-Athabasca Delta is one of the world’s most important resting grounds for more than 1 million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks. For many waterfowl, this area is the only nesting ground. But Canada is ramping up tar sands oil extraction in the boreal forest just south of the delta, which could contaminate and reduce water flow into the delta, kill fish, and disturb habitat. Tar sands oil development also contributes to global warming, which has reduced ecologically important flooding in the delta.

In Costa Rica, NRDC is working with the Energy and Environment Ministry to identify measures to help the country meet its commitment of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral nation by 2021. NRDC also just signed an agreement with the national electric utility (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. In partnership with one of Latin America’s leading ecological facilities (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza) located in Costa Rica, NRDC has launched a rainforest rejuvenation project to plant 30,000 trees to restore a natural rainforest. These actions will help Costa Rica reaffirm its position as a global environmental leader and reduce pressure on its biodiversity and other natural areas.

“We have a new opportunity under the Obama administration to protect and save a number of our BioGems,” said Jacob Scherr, co-director of NRDC’s BioGems Initiative. “Places like the Tongass National Forest, Utah’s Redrock Wilderness, and wildlife like the polar bear remain in danger after eight years of reckless policies.”

Save BioGems Website
The newly redesigned Web site features a blog by NRDC wildlife experts; an action alert widget that can be embedded on social networks; interactive slideshows and video; and more Spanish-language content. The site also includes an “Action Log” where BioGems activists can track their actions and achievements in protecting these areas.

“The success of the BioGems initiative demonstrates the power of the Internet as a tool for conservation,” said Scherr. “Save Biogems has enabled people around the world to have a voice in protecting some of the most unique wild places in our hemisphere.”

For more information, go to http://www.SaveBioGems.org.

Source: The Natural Resources Defense Council

Carrizo Plain named as environmental “Bio Gem”

Petition for Justice for Marlene Braun

Carrizo Plain is New BioGem

Peace-Athabasca Delta named a BioGem

By Hanneke Brooymans, edmontonjournal.com
February 3, 2009

EDMONTON — Among the crown jewels of Canada’s boreal forest tracts, the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northern Alberta stands out as a BioGem, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The environmental organization named the region as one of three new BioGems on Tuesday. The other two newly designated regions are the Carrizo Plain National Monument in central California and the country of Costa Rica.

There are now 13 BioGems in all. The BioGems project highlights the Western Hemisphere’s most extraordinary and at-risk places stretching from the Arctic in Alaska to Patagonia in Chile.

Since 2001, NRDC has campaigned to save more than 30 special natural places throughout the Americas that offer sanctuary for endangered wildlife, curb global warming and provide livelihoods for local communities.

“Even within the boreal forest, the Peace-Athabasca Delta is one of the world’s most important nesting grounds for migratory birds. But these rest areas are threatened by the world’s largest industrial project — Alberta’s tarsand mines,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz director of NRDC’s Canada program, in a press release. “By designating this area as a BioGem, we can help prevent potential devastation from the oil industry and other development.”

The Peace-Athabasca Delta is a stopover and nesting area for more than one million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks, the council said. The delta and the bird populations are also of critical importance to local aboriginal communities.

The council fears ramped-up oilsands extraction could contaminate and reduce water flow into the delta, kill fish and disturb habitat.

Conservation groups recently released a report finding that oilsands projects could have a cumulative impact in the coming decades that could be as high as 166 million birds lost, including future generations, throughout the larger boreal forest.

hbrooymans@thejournal.canwest.com