Grazing Will Remain a Controversy on Carrizo Monument Under the New Plan

SLO Tribune: Finally, A Plan for the Carrizo
The plains monument has its first management guidelines, which will direct it for 20 years
By David Sneed |

Nearly a decade after it was created, the Carrizo Plain National Monument has its first resource management plan.
The plan uses grazing as a management tool for helping rare plants and animals and provides additional protections for those parts of the monument that have wilderness qualities. The plan will determine how the monument is managed for the next 20 years.
Jim Abbott, the Bureau of Land Management’s state director, formally approved the plan Saturday at a celebration at the monument, which attracted more than 400 people. Many were drawn by one of the most spectacular wildflower displays seen at the monument in years.

Tucked into San Luis Obispo County’s southeast corner, the monument covers about 250,000 acres, 206,000 of which are managed by the BLM. Other organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy and the state Department of Fish and Game, own holdings within the monument and helped write the management plan.
“The plan is really a major achievement for the various parties,” said Scott Butterfield, Carrizo program manager for the Nature Conservancy. “It’s amazing that everyone has come together to recognize the importance of the place.”
The plan is generally being greeted with support. However, the issue of grazing continues to attract some controversy.
Historically, the monument was heavily grazed. Now, cattle along with prescribed fires and other tools are used to create a habitat that is beneficial to the many rare and endangered plants and animals that live there.
The starkly beautiful Carrizo Plain is often described as California’s Serengeti, because it contains the last remnants of the grasslands that once covered the Central Valley. It also contains Painted Rock, a significant Native American rock art site, and highly visible sections of the San Andreas Fault.
Many environmental groups have praised the management plan. These include the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club. They particularly like that the plan gives added protection to 60,000 acres where roads and motorized vehicle use is minimized.
Other groups such as the Center for Biological Diversity say the management plan is a good start, but they don’t want any grazing to be allowed. They contend that scientific evidence shows grazing is harmful to endangered species.
The monument was created in 2001 in the final days of the presidency of Bill Clinton. It has been managed using cooperative plans drawn up in the late 1900s.
The BLM began drafting a new resource management plan in 2003. That effort foundered because of controversies over grazing and oil drilling as well as the death of monument manager Marlene Braun in 2005. Efforts to write a management plan were restarted in 2007.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.

As this article points out, grazing will remain a controversy. There are no scientific studies that show that grazing is beneficial to the Plain. It was over this issue that Marlene Braun found herself locked in a struggle with her supervisor, Ron Huntsinger, and the top BLM California bureaucrats, Jim Abbott (now director of BLM California) and Mike Pool (appointed by the Obama administration as Deputy Director of Operations in DC).

Carrizo Plain Management Plan Unveiled
Thursday, April 22, 2010

The long-awaited, first-ever management plan for the Carrizo Plain National Monument — a 200,000-plus-acre, grassland-covered landscape in southeastern San Luis Obispo County known as “California’s Serengeti” — was released earlier this month and prescribes wilderness protection for some areas while using livestock grazing on other spots to aid native plant and animals. While the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations applauded the plan, the Center for Biological Diversity decried the grazing, arguing that such practices harm species such as the rare kit fox and giant kangaroo rat. Those who’d like to visit the Carrizo while helping to improve the habitat for pronghorn antelope and tule elk should sign up for Los Padres ForestWatch’s fence removal weekend, May 1 and 2, by emailing


The Sierra Club together with the Center for Biological Diversity, Los Padres ForestWatch and Western Watersheds Project all lodged protests about the proposed RMP see…
Cal and Letty French, (tel 239-7338 Prefer e-mail
lettyfrench@ from the Sierra club are also leading the next weekend on the CPNM.

April 22, 2010 at 3:40 p.m.

Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Stiffs Conservation in Favor of Cattle

The actions of the Obama Administration on environmental matters is disappointing to say the least. Now, the Carrizo Plain National Monument has a plan, and The Wilderness Society published an article lauding the newly adopted plan and the protections it will give endangered species of flora and fauna. The Center for Biological Diversity gives the plan a more negative and mixed review.

Below is the Center for Biological Diversity’s press release.

For Immediate Release, April 9, 2010

Contact: Michael Connor, Western Watersheds Project, (818) 345-0425 (w); (818) 312-4496 (mobile);
Ileene Anderson, (323) 654-5943 (w); (323) 490-0223 (mobile);
Carrizo Plain National Monument’s Plan Comes Up Short for Conservation

SAN FRANCISCO— The Interior Department has put in place a 20-year plan for California’s Serengeti – the Carrizo Plain National Monument – that sacrifices rare wildlife habitat and native-plant preservation to entrenched livestock-grazing interests. Located in the western foothills of California’s San Joaquin Valley, the monument was created in 2001 to protect the visual splendor, cultural resources, rare plants, and wildlife of the valley’s largest remaining native habitat. The Carrizo Plain, an arid plain formed by the San Andreas fault, includes 206,635 acres of Bureau of Land Management-administered lands as well as lands administered by the state, private entities, and conservation groups.

“The Carrizo Management Plan is a step forward,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, “but it still fails to recognize the science, which clearly shows that grazing hurts rare species.”

While the management plan is an improvement over the Bureau’s long history of neglect of the Carrizo, it inexplicably allows livestock grazing to continue despite scientific studies that confirm grazing activities degrade habitat and undermine the long-term conservation of wildlife. The national monument is home to many endangered and rare species, including the San Joaquin kit fox, blunt-nosed leopard lizard, giant kangaroo rat, California condor, pronghorn antelope, tule elk, vernal pool species, and a suite of rare native plants.

“The BLM is trying to argue in this plan that livestock grazing should continue as a management tool, but all the science shows the opposite,” said Michael Connor, California director of Western Watersheds Project. “The science shows that cattle presence on the plain increases nonnative weeds, is detrimental to rare plants, and impacts federally protected species, so this simply is not a viable approach.”

“In the face of a changing climate, preserving the Carrizo Plain ecosystem with its suite of rare and imperiled species is imperative if we are to recover these species in the wild,” said Anderson. “The Bureau of Land Management’s previous management was based on 19th-century practices; the new plan moves the Bureau’s practices into the 20th century, but they still need to get to the 21st.”

Here are some of the public comments. The BLM’s RMP process can be found here.

If you have thoughts about the plan, please share them in the comments section.

Sarah Christie, environmental expert, forced to resign from Planning Commission

A story is playing out once again that will end with the removal of a woman of intelligence, vigor, dedication and vision from the Carrizo. It is not the work of BLM this time, but apparently being too good at one’s job is dangerous for women in cattle/oil’n’gas/and solar energy country. “Headstrong” is a bad quality in women working for the environment, and a lot of people like to see these women put in their place. (KT)

So long, Sarah
Supervisor Jim Patterson intends to ax Planning Commission Chairwoman Sarah Christie.

Sarah Christie is expected to resign from the SLO County Planning Commission at the request of Supervisor Jim Patterson, who appointed her five years ago.

Sarah Christie is the type of public official who can rip you to shreds and hold a quizzical look that says, “How did you not see this coming?”

She’s a brutally incisive decision maker who can steer a meeting, sway a vote, and shift opposing political views, using keen reasoning and unparalleled knowledge of local laws.

Maybe it’s because of those very qualities that Christie has become one of the most divisive members of SLO County government. And maybe they account for why, after five years, she’s being forced out of office.

Christie is expected to resign from the SLO County Planning Commission during the Dec. 17 meeting. She’s been perceived by some critics as an extreme, left-biased roadblock and by supporters as one of the best planning commissioners in memory. When she steps down—barring a change of heart by Supervisor Jim Patterson, who appointed her—she may allude to spending time with her family or other such political clichés. Whatever her official explanation may be, Christie is not stepping down by choice.

Throughout her tenure, Christie has been at the forefront in the pitched battles between SLO County’s environmentalists on the left and developers on the right. Despite vigorous campaigns by pro-growth agitators to unseat her, her position has been secure. But somewhere along the line very recently, Patterson turned against her.

About 15 people met with Patterson on Dec. 7 to change his mind: As far as anyone can tell, they failed.

Many political figures self-destruct amid scandals and corruption charges; Christie may meet her demise for no reason other than she’s an expert. “I just think it’s really sad for Sarah personally … just because she’s so smart,” one supporter said. “Just because we have an intelligent woman. And that’s a bad thing?”

Christie is an undeniable pain in the ass to any developer who relies on smooth public relations consultants and slick PowerPoints. Pat Veesart, a former District 3 planning commissioner, thinks “it’s always been an unlevel playing field” in the world of county development. Christie, he believes, provided a counterbalance for the public, who is usually shortchanged compared to developers with deep coffers and ready access to decision makers.

Ultimately, Christie is just one vote on the commission, a government body that can be easily overridden by the Board of Supervisors. And the Planning Commission rarely gains much public attention, aside from a small circle of activists and wonks. But Christie’s departure would signify much more than just the loss of a mid-level decision maker who is virtually a volunteer (planning commissioners make $150 per meeting); it would be a sign the county’s political infrastructure is vulnerable to pressure from private interests.

“I think the message is going to be loud and clear among those circles,” Veesart said.

What’s odd is not that Christie might be forced out; what’s odd is the timing. She’s served for five years as Patterson’s appointee and has come under fire before. Calls for her blood peaked months ago but have faded.

Why now?

By most accounts, her position on the county’s future energy policy was the final straw; a position that poses a financial threat to large solar projects—projects involving people with ties to certain county officials.

“I think it’s the solar stuff, I do,” said Robin Bell, of the Carrisa Alliance for Responsible Energy.

Two large solar electric projects have been proposed for construction in the Carrizo Plains, which is in Patterson’s district. There were originally three projects, but after several sales and company buyouts, SunPower and First Solar stand as the only applicants. Both companies have a lot riding on those projects, which came about after PG&E brokered a deal to add 800 megawatts of power to its grid. State law requires utility companies to increase supplies of renewable energy.

The latest Wedbush research report for stock investors, published Dec. 4, gave both solar companies neutral ratings. The report warns that expected lawsuits and delays in the approval process could significantly extend company timelines to construction. According to the Wedbush analysis, SunPower’s share price anticipated for the next 12 months is scaled back from $29 to $21.

And the escalating global market, particularly because of Chinese solar manufacturers, means First Solar and SunPower must build a lot of solar panels to stay competitive, explained Wedbush solar analyst Christine Hersey.

“Investors just need to realize it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than maybe they were previously thinking,” Hersey said, adding that the Carrizo projects are the largest U.S. projects ever proposed by either company.

Although the projects are the vanguard of a state and national push for green energy, they have come under intense scrutiny because of potential impacts to wildlife. Neither project has yet moved to the county’s approval process—both are still drafting environmental review documents.

In June 2009, a deliberative process began to unfold that potentially could undercut such large projects as the ones proposed in the Carrizo, and it originated in the Planning Commission.

Simultaneously, some critics were calling for Christie’s resignation as she and the other commissioners were redrafting the county’s General Plan. Over multiple meetings, the commissioners have been updating policies for the Conservation and Open Space Element of the plan. Some of the policy reforms focus on energy: namely what kind, where should power plants be built, and should there be large power plants or should we instead favor solar panels on rooftops? Should energy companies be required to avoid environmental impacts or merely offset them?

Such were the questions the commissioners pondered during the course of the early meetings. It was a rough start, but as the commissioners gained momentum in their review, Christie became the focal point in the most contested debates about the new energy policies. Indeed, Christie provided the groundwork for the current version of policies with a draft she wrote based on public comments—if only because no one else brought language to the table. Though the commissioners continued to work from Christie’s draft, she personally caught so much flak she felt obligated to explain what she had provided. “They’re not necessarily my edits,” Christie said on July 6. “They’re a reflection of the public’s input.”

But what the public wanted and what some commissioners were willing to concede were mostly disparate. Some policy language gave preference to distributed power sources—solar panels on rooftops—instead of large local industrial solar plants. Other bits of wording went a bit beyond historical county guidelines by saying that in SLO County, new projects should avoid environmental impacts. Historically, commissioners and some county planners argued, projects are only expected to mitigate impacts. But asking developers to avoid impacts may preclude some projects from passing county standards.

“My guess is four of us are a little more on the side of accepting that there may be some trade-offs,” Commissioner Anne Wyatt said. In other words, the policies Christie proposed went too far.

Commissioner Carlyn Christianson also warned the policies might restrict projects from moving through the county’s approval process. But Christie countered, laughing as though she was going crazy, “So nothing in this document is going to prohibit anything from happening. All this document is going to do is to lay out a general path. These are general guidelines.”

She continued, “And I’m getting a little bit of a sense that we’re trying to craft this document to meet the needs of some specific applicants, which I think is completely inappropriate.”

By July 23, representatives from the solar companies were attending the meetings in person and submitting letters on the record urging the county to pull back on the restrictions.

As the commissioners wrapped up the energy element, they tentatively approved the language, but left it on uncertain ground. Surprisingly, Christianson and Wyatt, who are both part of the Democratic 3-2 majority, actually apologized as they closed the books on the energy element.

“I do not feel that some of the decisions made by the commission are things I do agree with, but I do think the Board of Supervisors will have a chance to review some of those decisions made by the commission,” Christianson said.

On Dec. 17, Christie and the rest of the commission are scheduled to finalize the new General Plan elements. Some commissioners hinted they want to revise the earlier language and gut the suggestions Christie included.

It is an undeniably tense issue for the commission, so significant that solar representatives have been drawn into the debate before their projects go up for public review.

“There’s been quite a bit of discussion about Sarah’s role as chairman of the Planning Commission and her extensive involvement in revising the open space element of the county’s General Plan,” said Chris Crotty of Crotty Consulting in San Diego.

Supervisor Jim Patterson long withstood pressure to remove Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie, but something or someone recently changed his mind.
Crotty’s name might sound familiar for two reasons. First, he has a long history as a political consultant in SLO County, having guided the election campaigns of Supervisors Patterson, Adam Hill, and Bruce Gibson. And second, SunPower recently hired Crotty as a consultant.

“Let me put it this way,” Crotty said. “The document that the planning commission utilized to make those changes was a document that was authored by Sarah Christie.”

It’s not only that Crotty is being paid to represent a company trying to build in SLO County and is buddies with the people who will make the decision, or that Christie may have upset the balance on a project in Patterson’s district. If you ask Bell or Veesart why they think Christie’s job is on the line, it’s because she irked the wrong people.

When it comes to the large-scale solar projects, Bell said, “It was apparent that Sarah was going in one direction and Jim was going in the other.”

But after tidal waves of pressure for Patterson to remove Christie, which she had always survived, would the solar companies somehow be able to drown her out? “You can bet that it’s a factor in this,” Veesart said. “You can bank it.”

Crotty responded that no one from SunPower asked that she be removed.

Damage control

Neither Christie nor Patterson would confirm she’s slated to retire from her position, though Patterson told New Times on Dec. 14 he would have a statement later during the week. Perhaps a wave of support for Christie would sway Patterson’s decision, though many say they worry it’s unlikely things will change.

According to several of Christie’s supporters, who asked not to have their names disclosed because a decision has not been made official or public, Christie will be replaced during the first meeting next year. One of her supporters, referring to criticism levied against Christie throughout her five years in the position, said, “I think that it’s just been this drum beat. I figure that it’s gotten harder and harder for the supervisor to ignore.”

Her worried supporters have lobbied Patterson. But Patterson insisted a recent meeting with several of them had nothing to do with Christie and anything about her being kicked out was merely gossip.

One person who attended that meeting told New Times “it was just weird.” The group urged Patterson to change his mind while he sat, listened, jotted a few notes, but didn’t indicate what he would do.

“What prompted him to even think about hanging her?” the attendee wondered.

For now, the message is being tightly controlled. One potential replacement could be Patterson’s appointee to the Water Resources Advisory Committee, Dan O’Grady, who was nervous to comment on the matter and a bit cryptic about whether he had been pegged for the job.

“I need to just refer you to Jim about any questions about his appointments,” O’Grady said dryly. “I don’t think that would be appropriate for me to [comment].”

O’Grady didn’t return a follow-up call.

Andy Caldwell, who’s a Santa Maria talk show host and executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, has become one of Christie’s biggest, or certainly one of the loudest, critics. On July 14, Caldwell publicly called for Christie to be removed from the commission. He asked the Board of Supervisors directly and repeated his opinion in a commentary he contributed to New Times (“Remove Sarah Christie from the planning commission,” July 23).

Asked about Christie, Caldwell was thrilled she might be on the way out.

“But I think what’s occurring right now is what I would refer to as an echo,” Caldwell said, meaning the blasts from himself and others were reverberating from the opposing political spectrum. “And that is the truth about Sarah Christie is a lot of the lefties don’t even like her because she doesn’t listen to them.”

He went on: “I think ultimately this is going to come back to Patterson and [Supervisor Bruce] Gibson where it rightly belongs because they’re not reining her in. … Sarah Christie’s days are numbered.”

Christie has never pretended she’s trying to win friends. Her reputation and tone on the commission is usually hard-edged and sometimes stubborn. After the 2008 election—which switched the Board of Supervisors from a Republican to a Democratic majority, which was reflected by the commission—Christie appeared to mellow a bit. No longer on the defensive as far as voting, her attitude tempered from boiling to a quiet simmer. By reputation, Christie has been a strong voice on the commission for smart growth and environmental stewardship—a voice that has likely won her as many fans as it’s created enemies.

“Sarah has shown more people skills than she had previously,” said Jerry Bunin of the Homebuilders Association of the Central Coast. “But I wouldn’t call her a fair and balanced commissioner. She’s not objective unless the housing is overwhelmingly affordable and therefore difficult to make financial sense to build.”

Patterson was first elected in 2004—he was re-elected in 2008—beating out contender Mike Ryan. Christie was integral in the first campaign and was appointed to be his planning commissioner. She held the office through his re-election last year. She’s also the legislative director for the California Coastal Commission, and has a long résumé of community and environmental activism, starting as a journalist and local government employee.

In 2009, as part of a regular rotation, Christie landed the commission chairmanship, which seemed to throw a fresh coat of paint on the target on her back. Earlier this year, the bloodlust from Christie’s detractors spiked after the release of a 2008 grand jury report. Though Christie wasn’t named, the grand jury reported that she may have overstepped her bounds when she contacted the state Department of Fish and Game about a sand and gravel mining operation proposed in Paso Robles. But the grand jury recommended no punishment, nor in fact any actual wrongdoing, stating instead that planning commissioners should have more training.

If indeed Christie is forced out, it would be a huge loss, several supporters told New Times.

SLO Councilwoman Jan Marx said Christie is “very thorough, very bright, and she knows a lot. Sometimes that’s threatening to people.”

“She is magnificent,” Veesart said. “There’s no other way to describe her. … She’s leagues above everybody else in county politics.”

If Christie is forced out, her absence will resonate far beyond the Planning Commission. As one supporter said, “I think this is getting very political and I am sorely disappointed in Jim Patterson.”

Staff Writer Colin Rigley can be reached at

Christie says she was betrayed
By Bob Cuddy |

Former Planning Commissioner Sarah Christie says the man who appointed her, Supervisor Jim Patterson, betrayed her in “a muscular act of political disloyalty” and has created a rift in the North County environmental movement.

Christie resigned Thursday under pressure from Patterson, who asked her to leave.

Christie said Patterson knuckled under to people “who came running into his office with their hair on fire and said Sarah Christie is trying to hijack the General Plan.”

Patterson denied the existence of either a betrayal or a rift among environmentalists.

Some Christie supporters said at a minimum Patterson may lose support among his base should he run for re-election in 2012.

Sue Harvey of the environmental group North County Watch said the chief problem with Christie’s departure is the loss of her knowledge and skills. But, she added, “If you are asking does this fragment and erode Patterson’s political base, yes I believe it does.”

Morro Bay Vice Mayor Betty Winholtz was part of a group that tried to talk Patterson out of replacing Christie a week before he did so. She told The Tribune on Tuesday that the group warned him it would be political suicide to abandon Christie.

However, Patterson told them and later the general public that he asked Christie to resign because a growing number of people were telling him that they were not being treated even-handedly when they went before the commission.

He said, for those people, “It was like going to court and thinking the judge is biased and you don’t have a chance.”

“I try to … build consensus,” Patterson told The Tribune. “I don’t think she was good at building consensus.”

Asked if that were perception or reality, Patterson said, “It’s actuality as well.” He said he observed her at commission hearings and “she was not handling herself well,” coming off as confrontational and “too forceful.”

Political fallout

Christie and Patterson spoke with The Tribune in separate interviews.

The discussions delineated a fissure that has been widening since at least last summer between the two old friends and political collaborators. The pair worked to dislodge conservative Supervisor Mike Ryan in 2004 and fend off a strong attack from Ryan acolyte Debbie Arnold in 2008.

Christie, a strong-minded, highly knowledgeable environmentalist and a member of the California Coastal Commission staff, drew criticism from the start, particularly from North County ranchers, gravel miners and property rights advocates.

She acknowledges being a lightning rod for criticism but adds, “Lightning rods are important; they keep your house from burning down.”

Until this past summer, Patterson defended her, even during the 2008 campaign when she was being loudly reviled by Patterson’s opponents. He said in light of that and other acts of loyalty, he finds Christie’s accusation of betrayal “odd.”

“I don’t get the betrayal thing,” Patterson said.

During the 2008 election, Christie said Patterson’s campaign polled to see how much of a drag she was on his re-election chances. “It was on the table,” she said.

Patterson was re-elected in June 2008, but it was not until this past August that he told her to prepare her exit strategy, she said.

Christie said he told her there are people in the community who would not speak to him because she was his planning commissioner.

“He thinks with me gone the noise will stop and he can go back to being the beloved, benevolent politician he sees himself as,” Christie said.

Christie believes the change in Patterson’s thinking occurred after she submitted comments ahead of time for the commission’s discussion about energy last summer. None of the other commissioners did that this time around, although Christie said they had in previous meetings on other subjects.

She said people unhappy about the way that meeting went showed up at the next hearing and “excoriated the Planning Commission.”

Patterson said it is “absolutely untrue” that he is being pressured by energy companies.

He said he had been “thinking about this for a long time,” and his feeling that it was time for a change grew when he began hearing complaints about Christie’s confrontational style from people who were “not the usual critics.”

“I’m talking about the general public,” he said, citing people in business, health care, agriculture and housing, for example.

None of Christie’s fellow planning commissioners who spoke at the commission meeting after she resigned echoed Patterson’s criticism.

Bruce White, who represents the conservative North County on the commission, called her “thoughtful, considerate and respectful.”

South County farmer Gene Mehlschau, who sometimes disagrees with Christie on policy, added that “the issues are more widely discussed because we are different; that’s the beauty of it.”

In one sense, the matter is academic. Patterson has appointed Dan O’Grady of Atascadero, who has similar values but a different style, saying, “She (Christie) is not the only one who can do this work.”

But if the coalition that worked to put Patterson in office falls apart, it could put a conservative back on the board from the 5th District. That in turn could tip the board’s 3-2 environmental balance back into a 3-2 pro-growth dynamic.

Solar Power: Eco-Friendly or Environmental Blight?

There is an interesting article in Time Magazine on solar proposals involving the Carrizo Plains.
Solar Power on the Carrizo:,8599,1887120,00.html?imw=Y
By Matt Kettmann / Carrisa Plains Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2009

California wants to run on sunshine. The state is forcing utility companies to provide 20% of their output by way of solar power and other forms of renewable energy by 2010. Last November, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said he wanted the portion to be one-third by 2020. Now the feds are bringing the money to help fund all this sunny energy, with the Obama Administration’s stimulus package promising to pay for 30% of solar-power projects that begin by the end of 2010.

But could this politically backed, popularly supported solar surge spiral into eco-disaster? That’s what some say is happening to the Carrisa Plains, a sparsely populated swath of arid, sunny and relatively cheap land in eastern San Luis Obispo County, where three of the world’s largest solar plants ever proposed are under review.

People who live near the Carrizo Plains National Monument have concerns:

“It’s peaceful out here. I love the wildlife,” says Mike Strobridge, 32, an auto mechanic, explaining why he moved to the Carrisa Plains with his daughter. “But then these solar guys are going to come in, and they’re just gonna destroy the area.” Strobridge is especially troubled because he will be “surrounded on four sides” by the three projects. What’s more, like his neighbors and other concerned parties — including the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo County — Strobridge is worried about the impact the power plants will have on endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox. He is also concerned about the effect on dwindling water supplies as well as the more intangible treasures of the area: the unimpeded views, the stark silence, the rustic natural beauty, the huge wilderness area called the Carrizo Plain National Monument just down the valley — that is, just about everything that led him to buy the property 10 years ago.

Although there is support for solar power among environmentalists (you may have seen AllianceforAmerica’s commercials) there are environmental and other concerns. Ranchers whose grazing rights are the subject of controversy may be making money on the new solar projects as well.

Darrell Twisselman — whose family has lived in the area since the 1880s and whose land would host the two photovoltaic plants for a hefty profit — remembers when they built a solar photovoltaic plant there in the mid-1980s. (At 6 megawatts, it was tiny compared with the current proposals, one of which has a 177-megawatt capacity.) The project faced similar gripes then. “Everyone complained about them for two weeks, and then everyone forgot,” Twisselman says. “And they were what you might say unsightly. You could see them from everywhere.” The technology, however, was worse then, and “the panels cooked,” melting in their own heat, says Twisselman. That was just one reason the government pulled funding and the project was dismantled.

Despite the earlier Carrisa solar experiment, the state feels it is still inexperienced in judging the impact of huge solar plants. According to California Energy Commission chairwoman Karen Douglas, “We’ve got much more experience siting natural-gas plants than siting renewables, both from a staff and commission perspective. So some issues are rising up in the renewables case that are substantively different than what has been the core of the siting work before the solar applications started coming in so quickly.”


Check out the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. There has already been a vote on some amendments, but there are other votes coming up:
Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 – H.R.146

The House will vote on this public lands, national parks and water development legislation.

Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act – H.R.1404

The House is scheduled to vote on this bill intended to improve funding and management of fighting wildfires.

And please consider signing the petition to release the Department of Interior’s Inspector General’s Report on the death of Carrizo Plain National Monument manager Marlene Braun by clicking here.

Carrizo plan may limit grazing for 1st time Please Sign the Petition for Marlene!
Sunday, Feb. 01, 2009
Carrizo plan tilts toward wildlife food
The first management plan for the monument reduces the amount for livestock grazing
David Sneed –

Eight years after the sprawling and ecologically diverse grasslands in San Luis Obispo County’s southeastern corner became the Carrizo Plain National Monument, its first comprehensive management plan has been introduced.

Livestock grazing is likely to continue to be a contentious issue. The new plan reduces the amount of grazing that will be allowed, giving wildlife first dibs.

The 206,000 acres of public land within the monument contain the last intact remnant of the grasslands that dominated the San Joaquin Valley in prehistoric times.

As a result, it contains one of California’s greatest concentrations of rare and endangered species.

It also contains a sacred American Indian rock art site, as well as the most visible section of the seismically active San Andreas Fault. The Bureau of Land Management is the lead custodian of the monument and author of the management plan.

“The plan contains a range of management alternatives developed in cooperation with our managing partners — The Nature Conservancy, California Department of Fish and Game — the monument advisory committee and the public,” said Johna Hurl, monument manager.

Despite its isolation, the monument has been a source of controversy since it was designated in the waning hours of the presidency of Bill Clinton in 2001.

First, there was a failed attempt to reduce the monument to a fraction of its current size. Later, a proposal to designate the area as a United Nations World Heritage Site was rebuffed.

Oil companies have also eyed the monument for exploration, something national monument status would not prevent. But the biggest controversy has been the use of livestock grazing within the arid landscape. Many felt that BLM managers originally placed too much emphasis on grazing at the expense of the rare plants and animals found there, said Neil Havlik, natural resources manager for the city of San Luis Obispo and a member of the monument’s advisory panel.

The controversy reached a crisis in May 2005 when monument manager Marlene Braun committed suicide, in part because of bitter disagreements with her BLM bosses in Bakersfield over grazing. The suicide delayed efforts to write a management plan for the monument for two years.

“The effort basically imploded,” Havlik said. “There was a tremendous loss of energy and effort at that point.” But new managers in Bakersfield have restored trust in the process.

“They are willing to listen to the partners,” Havlik said.

The new plan’s reduction of grazing is based on a scientific study of the effects of spring foraging on the valley floor of the monument. It uses 10,000 data points that found that grazing does not benefit giant kangaroo rats and other sensitive species to the degree originally thought.

“It’s the right plan at the right time for the right place,” said Tom Maloney, Central Coast project manager with The Nature Conservancy. “We’ve settled on a plan that gives primacy to the species and natural communities.”

This is not likely to sit well with ranchers who think that grazing can play an important role in rehabilitating the monument after many years of dry-land farming.

They point out that migratory herds of tule elk and pronghorn antelope played an important role in the ecology of the plain. Livestock, if managed properly, can duplicate the role that those wild herds used to play, said Chuck Prichard, a rancher who runs cattle on a 15-mile swath of land just north of the monument.

“Grazing has a definite role,” he said. “My problem is that many government managers don’t understand the role of grazing.”

Prichard hasn’t had a chance to read the new management plan, but he’s not optimistic.

He’s afraid that the plan will use what he calls the “Walt Disney approach” to resource management, sacrificing grazing in favor of improving aesthetics of the monument.

“Sometimes it looks great and sometimes it looks pretty beat up,” he said. “That’s part of the natural process.”

But there is one variable that is beyond human control that will likely dictate grazing levels on the monument more than anything else — weather. It has been more than a decade since the Carrizo Plain received enough rainfall to justify grazing at the certainty levels ranchers like, Havlik said.

“No one can argue that the weather has not become an issue,” he said. “I think most ranchers recognize that the area is pretty marginal for grazing.”

The Largest Human Consequence

This is reprinted from the blog Organic Matter, and it includes comments from the original. There are several additional articles embedded in some of the posted commetns:

I think it’s extremely important that we be able to put a human face on environmentalism – the public at large cannot be expected to care about environmental issues unless they’re framed so people understand that bad environmental policy hurts humans. I’ve become pretty well-versed in the human consequences of problems from climate change to biological invasion to the loss of global biodiversity. This, however, is a consequence that had never before occurred to me:

[Marlene] Braun had come to the Carrizo Plain three years earlier, after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management placed her in charge of the new national monument — 250,000 acres of native grasses and Native American sacred sites, embraced by low mountains, traversed by the San Andreas Fault and home to more threatened and endangered animals than any other spot in California.

About 120 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Carrizo Plain National Monument is largely unknown to the outside world. But in Braun’s short tenure as monument manager, the plain had become a battleground between conservationists and the Bush administration over the fate of Western public lands.


Braun’s suicide is the latest chapter in a century of conflict between cowboys and conservationists in the drought-plagued Southwest, where livestock compete with wildlife for sparse vegetation, and hungry animals can turn grassland into desert.

The full article is a long read, but one that manages to be fascinating, terrible, and beautiful at the same time. It’s a fitting eulogy for an all-too dedicated environmentalist if ever I read one.

A damned shame

A very discouraging article, indeed.

I can’t help but feel that Braun’s suicide only confirmed the assumptions made by so many “anti-greens,” more often than not just folks trying to make a living. Braun was surely thought of as an effete idealist with no knowledge of the land, a displaced urbanite come to interfere with standard operating procedure, in this case, cattle grazing.

I know the attitude well, having grown up in a rural farming/fishing village. Fortunately, none of the “city folk” that made a lot of noise on the Eastern Shore of Virginia killed themselves, though they did often retreat. The only sucessful conservation movements were spear-headed by local citizens.

Bloody discouraging, in any event.

Marlene Braun’s suicide

I just read your comment concerning Marlene’s death. I worked with her in Alaska and considered her a friend. The article you are referring to I have not seen. Could you tell me where to find it or send a copy, please. Thanks.

Marlene Braun’s Suicide

I am a biased party, perhaps, being Marlene’s childhood friend and executor, but I would like to address the previous comment. Marlene grew up in a rural environment in Ohio, was in the army where she reached Sgt. in two years and was “best in boot camp,” worked hard at the phone company to put herself through school, went with an MA in soil science to work in Alaska taking samples in the Arctic, could pack 70 lbs up a mountain, liked hunting and fly fishing. She wasn’t “effete” in any way, and she really knew the land. Moreover, she liked working for BLM and did not want to work in the private sector. What makes this hard for me, as her friend, is that BLM management acts if she wasn’t a GS13 that they promoted rapidly on merit, but some flake who shot herself. She was a strong person who lived out on the Carrizo in an unheated house (she chopped her own wood) and worked every waking minute to make it better. It was a bureaucrat who fell asleep while she gave him a tour of the Carrizo, who has been sitting at a desk doing what his bosses tell him, who decided she had to get off the Carrizo. He was going to fire her. And she said no in the most emphatic way possible. I miss her deeply, but no one who knew her could make the assumption that she couldn’t handle the outdoors! Thanks for making the story available here. BLM managers to investigate this fairly and independently, not with a kangaroo court.


Kathy, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to post on our humble little blog. I hope you don’t find it trite for us to be talking about such a serious matter on the Internet.

The details that you’re able to provide about Marlene make the story even more upsetting for me, since she is no longer just a name in the news. At the same time I didn’t get the impression that Hungry Hyaena intended to make any judgment about the quality of Marlene’s character, but rather to address how she was seen by the local ranching community.

I don’t know whether he’s right or wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the local ranchers had no idea of Marlene’s background or personal narrative, and did indeed perceive her (incorrectly, obviously) as the effete idealist that HH describes. The article indicates that there were a few ranchers who agreed with Marlene’s management decisions rather than fighting against them, and I would expect that those individuals were more likely to be familiar with her actual experience, and to have open enough minds to see what she saw happening to the land because of overgrazing.

Thanks again for taking the time to tell us about your old friend.


Thank you, Kathy, for providing us with some background. Like Chris, I am happy to read that Marlene was a hearty individual; she sounds like a very special person, indeed.

I in no way intended to disparage Marlene or her legacy.

I still feel that many readers (and folks on the sideline in the region) will think of Marlene as one of these “effete urbanites,” even if she was anything but. It’s easier to dismiss that which you can caricature and I appreciate your painting a more vivid portrait for us here.

Marlene’s “image”

I just want to follow up. I really appreciate the posting about Marlene, and I wasn’t put out by Hungry Hyaena’s comment. I just wanted to say that whatever people might perceive, here is how I knew her. You’re absolutely right that a lot of people will form opinions about Marlene or did form them based on her stance on grazing. I lived in Idaho and California when I was younger and I know how it feels when people from back East (where I live now :)) come in with ideas not based on experience. Some ranchers at the Carrizo did not like Marlene, for various reasons. She was pretty hard-nosed sometimes. There is a post in the Billings Outpost from Aug. 25, with some responses you might be interested in, particularly the last one. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts!

re: Marlene’s “image”

And thank you for taking the time to help people understand Marlene better.

Marlene Braun

I didn’t know Marlene but after 30 years with the BLM as a wildlife biologist (half that time in California) I can assure all that the circumstances regarding management and livestock are similar throughout the west. I have also been battling with management over abusive practices for my entire career. I fully understand how Marlene could just get tired. Too often the uninformed public just doesn’t understand how much environmental damage is occurring at the hands of the mystic cowboy. Moreover, every BLM manager that has the nerve to stand up to the livestock industry and enforce the law is soon moved or otherwise muzzled. You may hear many fine words about progress in livestock management by the BLM but where the rubber meets the road the most common result is to continue business as usual. This pattern will continue until sufficient political pressure is brought to bear to cause a change. Still, I doubt that this will happen for at least another three years! The current administration is doubtless the most stifling and one-sided I have ever experienced. Meanwhile, I encourage you to actively let your state and federal representatives know how you feel and how you intend to vote, and to support a watchdog organization that will take the BLM to task when they foul up (and they will).

More on the suicide and other field office supervisors

There is more news regarding Marlene Braun’s death at the Billings (Mt) Outpost in its Aug. 25 and Sept. 15 issues. The magnitude of the problem is huge!

Marlene Braun

While it has not occurred on this site yet, recently responses or emails have been sent to several sites purporting to be from BLM people who saw Marlene abuse employees, act with insubordination, and behave in unstable ways. The particular allegations are different (in The Billings Outpost is it that her policies threatened endangered species, in others it is that she was a gun collector and therefore everyone feared she would “go postal,” in some that she nearly caused the suicide of another employee). The writers are sorry she had to die, they say, but they are glad she is gone. Each refers to a tenure at Carrizo of 3.5 years, though this is inaccurate. These “talking points,” if you will, are an attempt to smear Marlene’s name, which she cannot defend. The position of The Living Trust of Marlene A. Braun has always been that we want an impartial investigation into the conduct of Ron Huntsinger towards Marlene. We still await the report of the Independent Management Review team. I am not sure who is behind the emails and responses to postings that disparage Marlene, since all use pseudonyms or choose to remain anonymous, but I will say that they do not come from the many kind BLM employees who attended a “farewell party” for Marlene and were her friends. I believe this effort to draw attention away from Ron’s behavior and onto alleged behavior by Marlene is a diversion, and one that I hope will not succeed in driving attention away from the fact that Marlene died, having a written down in a suicide note that it was a choice she made because Ron Huntsinger made her life “utterly unbearable.”

Human consequences of environmental actions

I don’t want to lay everything at the hands of Washington, D.C., but recently there has been an assault on the environment unparalled in recent decades. James Watt was not as bad this! The assault on the environment naturally has consequences for those who manage it. We tend to think of these land managers as just bureaucrats, and a lot of them are. There are plenty of people working for agencies like the BLM who are marking time, or who don’t have college degrees but are making scientific decisions, etc. But there are also many dedicated people who care about the mandate to conserve public lands. Conservation doesn’t mean non-use. It means reasonable use so that the land is not hurt. That is what Marlene Braun was trying to do. She was regulating the use of the land in accordance with the CFR sections applying to her monument, which are not the same as all other BLM lands. The Bush administration, with its new grazing regs, NPS regs, and legislation it has rammed through Congress has basically come out and said a piece of land is a piece of land and we will do what we want with it. Graze it, drill it, develop it, commercialize it, privatize it. They are doing this with our tax dollars too, since it costs a lot of money to subsidize ranchers, for example. These policies put a lot of stress on the real stewards of the land, those who want to do right by their mandates. The CA BLM had a draft resource management plan that it approved back in early 2004 and everyone hoped for a few revisions and then to put it out to the public for comment. Instead it was held up, altered beyond belief, partnerships were stretched to the limit, and it is now just a mess. Maybe not everyone would choose suicide, or find suicide the only way out of an intolerable situation–I hope not–but there are human dynamics that may have made this suicide almost inevitable. Other managers are trying to get transferred or just get out of federal service altogether. That is not good for the country or the lands. How many women in particular have been pushed out? I can think of at least four women in high positions who were. It isn’t surprising that people who care for the environment are feeling assaulted by the policies of this administration, and that its culture of bullying makes field managers or regionals who are so inclined feel that they are immune if they do push employees to the limit. Part of our environmental movement has to focus on the human consequence of policies adverse to the responsible management of federal lands.

Endangered species act

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is home to a lot of endangered species that live underground, or that have been reintroduced to the area. I am so sorry Marlene is not here to see the rise in kit foxes for instance. I read a letter on the Bullying and Trauma Institute site that actually accused Marlene of endangering species. What a crock! She put her whole being into saving animals. But the whole endangered species act is under attack right now. Check the Sierra Club website for more info. The house passed Richard Pombo’s act and now it goes to the Senate. Along with fighting for justice for Marlene we need to fight for what she’d want protected–the helpless creatures which might be destroyed if we don’t act. I agree with the writer above that what happened to Marlene is part of a bigger Bush attack on the environment.

Office of Inspector General Investigating

Death spurs BLM to ask for probe

Manager of Carrizo Plain killed herself; friend thinks woman’s boss bullied her

By SARAH RUBY, Californian staff writer

no rumors, just facts

Doesn’t any find it odd, that both Mr. Huntsinger and Mr. Anderson worked in BLM New Mexico at the same time, both came to BLM California at the same time, both went to DC on details, both have EEO complaints and other issues filed against them, and both are being investigated by the OIG at the same time.

Hmmmmm…..are we missing something here? Okay news media, do your own investigation and let us know what you find.

BLM News Release 2/3/2005 Ron Huntsinger new BLM Bakersfield Manager

BLM News Release 2/11/2005 Steven Anderson new BLM Redding Manager

Photos of BLM CA State Director Mike Pool, BLM CA Associate State Direcotr Jim Abbott, BLM Redding Manager Steve Anderson, BLM Redding Asstiant Manager/Chief of Resources Francis Berg

Carrizo Plain

I learned about this back in August when I was attending a seminar. A friend told me about it, and I have to say I did not give it much thought. Then I started seeing other articles about the Carrizo. I live and teach in Southern California and one of my biology colleagues also mentioned it to me. I cannot believe what I have seen on reputable Internet sites about the California Bureau of Land Management! All over my state there is not only a huge waste of taxpayer dollars through embezzlement and mismanagement, but it sounds like a huge number of employees fear for their job safety if not their physical and mental safety. I saw this “Greatest Human Consequence” and indeed it is. If Marlene Braun were alone, I might put this down to individual depression. But as I have read article and started talking to people, I see that this is endemic. The people in the science departments at USC and elsewhere are alarmed at the state of the environmental practices, but as someone in the Arts side of the university, I am equally concerned about the toll this is taking on people’s health. I have heard there are troubles on other monuments and in other offices like Redding. I don’t study the BLM. I didn’t know very much about it at all until recently, but the evidence points to the need to discipline managers like Ron Huntsinger and hire managers with training both in human interaction and environmental conservation. My science colleagues tell me a lot of managers don’t even have an advanced degree in any scientific field–and they make more than people with Ph.D.s teaching in universities? And taxpayers complain about the costs of higher ed? They should be demanding that land managers be credentialed people who have management skills at all levels.


Wow it is not just the management skills, leadership and graduate degrees that are lacking. You actually have high graded managers and decision makers who have no degrees whatsoever. In fact a relative of mine was told her masters degree would mean nothing in the BLM…and that has definately panned out to be true. It is a clique of those who will cover for each other most of all.

Oil Drilling on Carrizo + Investigation

A lessee has applied to start drilling for oil on the Carrizo Plains National Monument. If any of you live in Central Cal and feel strongly about not having your monument look like Taft or smell like Bakersfield, we need a full EIS plus a 90-day public comment period. We ought to get this since the entire Monument is an Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). Please write to your state reps, US senators, call the BLM. If you care about the environment as i know everyone on this site does, this is very important.

The office of the inspector general is investigating other personnel issues at the Bakersfield office, and Ron Huntsinger is running amok here, so here’s the address if you have any evidence regarding that office: IG: 1849 C St., NW, Mail 5341, Washington DC 20240. Phone: 202.208.5745 Fax 202.219.3856

Protect the people and the land!

Carrizo Drilling

The lessee has the right to apply for his drilling permit because he has a grandfathered lease. What’s more troubling is that Huntsinger’s comments in the San Luis Obispo Tribune seem to suggest that this might not have a bad environmental impact even if went through. That is misleading. We have to remember that Huntsinger scrapped large parts of the draft RMP according to reputable reports in the LA Times and elsewhere, and these parts of the plan were rewritten to give the public less opportunity to review. I am not that familiar with the Plan because it has basically been on hold for a long time and no one except a few people know what is going. There is a mining and drilling fest going on, for all those who follow the environmental news in the LA Times. I was happy to see an article on the comeback of the Pronghorn on the Carrizo, and I hope TNC and our state fish and game are keeping a watch on the Carrizo.

Sierra Club Issues Commendation of Marlene Braun

This is a commendation that Marlene received posthumously for her work on the Carrizo, and the Sierra Club vows to fight on!

“November 21, 2005

“The Board of Directors of the Sierra Club last week awarded a special commendation to the late Marlene Braun, who managed the Carrizo Plain National Monument in eastern San Luis Obispo County from the time of its proclamation by President Clinton in 2001 until her death last May.

“Noting that ‘the Monument contains the last significant intact San Joaquin Valley grasslands and is the home of one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species in the nation,’ the Sierra Club commended Braun for opening ‘a new chapter in the cooperative management of the area by the Bureau of Land Management, The Nature Conservancy, and the California Department of Fish and Game. She embraced, nourished, and encouraged the partnership and reached out to a broad spectrum of the public. Grazing on the valley floor was minimized under her watch, and the numbers of pronghorn, giant kangaroo rats, kit foxes, and native plant species increased as a result. Her dedication and commitment to the Carrizo inspired those who were honored to know and work with her.’

“Braun, a career employee of the Bureau of Land Management, was known to feel deeply about, and fight tenaciously for, meaningful conservation of the Carrizo Plain. She took to heart the Monument’s management plan, which only allows grazing as a management tool for the benefit of native species, and consequently ran up against the status quo within the Bureau and the cattle industry. At the time of her death, she was struggling to ensure that the new, yet to be released Resource Management Plan—the document for guiding future management decisions on Carrizo—would not be rooted in the paradigm of managing public lands for economic return rather than conservation.

“When Braun committed suicide in May, she left behind detailed notes and correspondence that documented the punitive conditions she was working under at the BLM and the abuses she suffered in the workplace. Subsequent investigative journalism by the Los Angeles Times illuminated the pressures brought to bear on her by BLM management as a result of her determined conservation efforts.

“’In the short time that Marlene was with us on the Carrizo, she made a huge impact on the lives of the untold thousands of native plants and animals that depend on this last natural remnant of the San Joaquin for their survival,’ said Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club’s National Conservation Director. ‘In the face of extreme pressure and against the odds, she fought for what is right. The Sierra Club and others will continue that fight in her name and on behalf of the land she sought to protect.’”

A New LA Times article on Bullying

This blog is great for environmental news and I follow it, but this story about Marlene Braun is also about bullying. There is a story in the LA Times today, Dec. 5, 2005 about bullying in Ventura California and the problems in the state at large. BLM is mentioned, but it should be. But the Bullying and Trauma Institute, which also has info on Marlene Braun’s suicide is mentioned in the article a lot. Recommended reading.

Please help if you know anything

The Redding office is also being investigated along with Bakersfield BLM. Please, if you know anything that would help the investigation contact the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Room 3320 (MS-5341), Washington DC 22040.

Levels of Pettieness

The new one I just learned about is a relative…apparently getting the Braun treatment and some of the same cast of characters in the perpetration of it. This week she was “counseled” , 1st step in a conduct problem about knocking on the door of a library room looking for an employee but the manager was in the library with some personnel type from the BLM SO. My relative has now learned she will never knock on a closed door in her office again. We are just praying that another door will open for her unlike what happened to Marlene. She has been tormented for about the same length of time as Ms Braun.

An Update

The newest one my relative at the BLM in California is now enduring is a request for medical documentation…ie fitness for duty because she has had problems with black mold in her work area…she now has asthma and is concerned about not only her health but the health of those in the building. So many ways to punish a diligent employee…I have told her it is criminal negligence on the part of the BLM to not act… I guess they are looking at another route to get rid of her.

The Braun Treatment

I work for the Dept. of Agriculture. When I started there it was boys club. I got hired because there was directive to get more women in (I had a degree from an Ivy League school, but took my fair share of affirmative action hits). It’s a better place now. And people say it is hard to get fired from government jobs, which is largely true. But then someone is targeted. They make a personal call on their government issued cell phone, for example, which is wrong, but not the real reason the government wants to fire them. When they really want you to go, they bring out the medical form for employees who use too much sick leave. It asks for detailed questions about your health and no one ever wants to get it. So they come back to work–unwell. Or they fill it out and it proves they have so many medical problems they shouldn’t be working there. Want a transfer to nowhere? No. Now they aren’t being cooperative.

Watch out for this. The manual that tells bosses how to avoid harassment is also a guideline for how to do it. I haven’t seen it done much, but when it happens, it is always by the book. I would be willing to bet Marlene Braun started watching her cell phone use, never made personal copies on a work copier, and was asked to bring in the detailed medical form at some point. Most people quit because they cannot take the scrutiny. Did they tell her they would find a job in DC? But no job appeared?

If your relative keeps fighting, she has a long row to hoe. PEER is a great resource. Document everything. And good luck!

The bizarre part is my relati

The bizarre part is my relative has used minimal sick leave even when she was treated for fungal pneumonia. UInfact many of those she works with are probably totally out of shape…

I and others tell her to seek the federal court system. Where after all the bs and all the games and all the torment and financial and physical impacts for my relative both sides will face a jury of their peers.
A system that is still intact… and one the players cannot manipulate it is called jury tampering…

Hoping One Day We Can Learn

Another Failure in a Death Notification
By Anonymous (not verified) at January 5, 2006 – 8:07am | parent | reply
And one more time we all see the lack of understanding. The most powerful message a person will be given…is the death of a loved one.
The miscommunication of those lost in a coal mine could have been advoided if a person trained in traumatic death notification had been part of the cadre.
Understanding that this is something that will remain with the loved ones forever… You make damn sure the Coroner has witnessed the death cause and that the DA and LE have made their calls…and then you allow the notificaion to happen to family members by someone who has walked the talk. not some agency or company rep unless they meet the other words until you know traumatic death you know not what you speak of, and those in reciept will know the difference. And they will live with your message until their dying days. Cokie Roberts and many others who have suffered the loss truamatically can you tell this…they will also give you the guidance and training needed

Drilling on BLM Land

Bakersfield Californian, The (CA){PUBLICATION2}

January 14, 2006
Section: Local
Page: b5

BLM wants to know what you think of opening up land to oil exploration

The Bakersfield Californian
Now’s the time to speak up about the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s plan to open 2,532 acres near Taft to oil and gas exploration. The land is part of Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2, which the federal government gave to the BLM in August to stimulate domestic energy production.

About a quarter of the reserve’s 10,451 acres are unexplored. Before leasing plots, BLM must say how it will balance endangered species with its goal of tapping energy reserves, among other management concerns.

“As far as we know it shouldn’t be controversial because with … the way lands in that area have been managed,” said Ron Huntsinger, manager of the BLM field office in Bakersfield.

BLM wants to use an existing plan, known as the Caliente Resource Management Plan, to manage the land. The public has a month to comment on this strategy.

The property sits beyond Taft’s oil fields in western Kern.

The Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 2 was set up in 1912 to protect emergency oil supplies in case of crisis.

The BLM has to study the land before deciding how many plots to lease. Once it does, it will open them up to bidders.

Please call Mike Pool, Jim Abbott or Ron Huntsinger and let them know what you think or email

Environmental Conference/Marlene Braun to be Honored

For an invitation or to view the proposed program , see

Whats going on in BLM CA

People have been coming right out and putting their names on the table, saying they have been targets of CA BLM. Andrea Carter got fired. This takes a lot of courage and and they put their names on the Billings Outpost Blog about Marlene.

Somehow I think Marlene’s death had two results. People either ducked for cover or they became emboldened. I applaud these women and men who are risking their livelihoods or at the very least who are likely to have even worse working environments because of what they did. I can’t advise everyone to do this, because everyone is a different situation and needs to know how far they can go, how much they can stand emotionally, financially, etc. I just want to say whether you were shaken by Marlene’s death in either way, there are people concerned about your wellbeing. Be strong!

BLM Redding Field Office

This was in the Billings Outpost this morning referring to one of the supervisors in the BLM Redding field office who has been writing in the blogs. It seems that someone responded to him. The supervisor goes under the name of “KF”

Re: another problem
by One of the “whiners” at 2006/04/22 20:30:31 GMT-6
It has taken me a while to respond to you because I was not sure how to go about it. Yes we knew it was you all this time. You know for someone who likes to quote the facts you should get yours straight. The Redding issue has not gone away and even now you and the others are being watched by people a lot bigger than work in that office. You may have thought you and the others got away with it but ” those who steal from the people must pay back to the PEOPLE” I hope you still feel that the side you chose was the right one when your jail cell is next to your “good buddy”. Good luck with your paranoia now. Marlene’s death will never be in vain if it brings the corruption in the California BLM out in the open. AND BELIEVE ME IT WILL!!!

Honest Chief

There is some justice in the world of the Dept. of Interior. Theresa Chambers, fired for speaking her mind about a matter that she was obligated to oversee, has finally received some justice. And we hope that same kind of justice might be given to Marlene Braun, who likewise spoke out on matters concerning issues of work. The supervisors of both of these women were more concerned about appearances than the real job they were supposed to do. They both felt personally insulted and instead of doing their jobs, took revenge. Nothing will bring back Marlene, so in that way there will be no happy ending as there is for our Honest Chief, but if we have raised awareness of bullying gone amok, of a system that promotes self interest over public interest, then that is some accomplishment. Congratulations to Honest Chief Theresa Chambers.

BLM Redding and CA BLM State Office Investigations

There are women in the BLM Redding Office who are designated whistleblowers. There is an impending investigation from Department of Interior Office of Inspector General, Office of Special Counsel and EEO. The tension is high in the Redding Office and the male managers are acting inappropriately with the women. EEO complaints have been filed. The women have been retaliated against on an almost daily basis by the Field Office Mgr., Asst. Field Mgr. and their supervisors.
The women have claims of misappropriation of fire monies along with other whistleblower claims. There were at least two controversial fires that drew negative public attention – homes and property destroyed. BLM admitted their error in starting the 1999 Lowden fire due to untrained and unqualified personnel. Among other claims, the 2004 French fire rehab monies have been used fraudulently by the above-managers.
Additionally, there are still men making decisions about burning and doing controlled burns that do not even have Red card qualifications and are not following proper procedures. This could result in another fire like the 1999 Lowden fire which was started by BLM error and burned homes. One of the whistleblowers was recently fired by the BLM CA Associate State Director, the Redding Field Office manager and her supervisor because they are alleging that she is not qualified in her fire position due to not passing a pack test. She had 18 years in Federal Government service and only 8 years left to retire. One woman, during her recent performance evaluation was physically and verbally intimidated by her supervisor. The CA State Office is doing nothing to stop this behavior.

I think those women are brave and the public should know about the waste, fraud and abuse of the tax payer money that was earmarked to go to fire rehab and that unqualified employees and the unprofessional behaviors that resulted in the BLM fire that burned homes are still happening and there is a public safety risk. The local Redding, California community and the overall California community will be needlessly, but rightly so, concerned or frightened for their safety.

Fire season is starting soon and something must be done with the managers in the BLM Redding, California Office as well as some officials in the BLM CA State Director’s office to alleviate the safety problem and the retaliation matter. The BLM CA State office has been covering up for the BLM Redding manager’s and supervisors. It’s time to bring ethics back into the office which is much needed in the BLM CA.

If the CA BLM State Office hasn’t listened to the Redding women and their were originally 6 complainants and now down to three (Quid Pro Quo?), then one can only assume they never listened to Marlene Braun in Bakersfield. Something is very wrong with the way the BLM CA State office handles the No Fear Act Zero Tolerance Policy as well as Sexual Harassment Zero Tolerance Policy. They seem to cover-up for their managers who are doing the wrong-doing and could care less about the other employees.

In regards to your question,

In regards to your question, the FBI investigates a wide variety of economic crimes. We are usually tipped off to these cases by citizens, victims of criminal activity and from concerned people inside the various industries we investigate. Some major categories of white collar crime include:

Public Corruption — Voters deserve politicians and public servants who are honest and spend public money wisely. When there is wrongdoing, however, the FBI will work to convict those who have broken trust with our citizens.

Sad Anniversary

I saw an In Memoriam tribute in the Washington Post on May 2, 2006. That is the one year anniversary of Marlene’s death. It was very moving, with so many signatures of people who expressed their love and ask for justice. Marlene killed herself, but this is not just a story of depression that overcame someone. The story above is a good one with all the information. I hope some federal employees also saw the Wash.Post on May 2. I hope there is justice ahead.


So what is the status of the EEO investigation on the women in Redding and then I heard there was another EEO investigation that was just settled with the former BLM CA National Monument manager for the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains. We had heard she was detailed to the CA BLM State office…what was the outcome of her case…anyone know?

What’s up with the investigation report into Marlene Braun’s death?

We as taxpayers have the right to know, otherwise I guess we will have to hear it from the media.


Workplace Bullying Legislation Drive

We need to get mobilized on workplace bullying “Healthy Workplace” legislation. These are some tips:
Locate both California District and Capitol office information from their websites. Telephone the offices before emailing. If you don’t live in California just do the same thing for your state.

Members of the either the Assembly Labor or Judiciary committees would make ideal authors of the bill. Here are their names and phone numbers at both their District and Sacramento offices. Call today and tell them you want AB 1582 resurrected in the 2006-07 session.
Assembly Labor Committee members

Member Name — (Party, District #), District office city, office phone

Paul Koretz (D-42), Chair, West Hollywood, 310-652-4242 / (916) 319-2042
[Koretz was author of original bill in 2003 and who dropped the bill in 2004 without a hearing]
Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-61) Montclair, 909-621-7483 / (916) 319-2061
[She was co-author of original bill in 2003.]
Gene Mullin (D-19), Vice-chair — 650-341-4319 / (916) 319-2019
John Laird (D-27) Santa Cruz (831-425-1503) Seaside (831-384-1980)/ (916) 319-2027
Loni Hancock (D-14) Berkeley, 510-540-3660 / (916) 319-2014
Judy Chu (D-49) Monterey Park (323-981-3426) El Monte (626-450-6116) / (916) 319-2049
Shirley Horton (R-78) San Diego, 619-234-7878 / (916) 319-2078
Guy Houston (R- 15) Brentwood (925-513-8558) Livermore (925-606-4990) / (916) 319-2015

Assembly Committee on the Judiciary

Ellen Corbett, Chair (D-18) San Leandro, 510-6140181 / (916) 319-2018
Tom Harman, Vice Chair (R-67) Huntington Beach, 714-843-4966 / (916) 319-2067
Patricia Bates (R-73) Oceanside (760-757-8084) Laguna Niguel (949-495-0730) / (916) 319-2073
John Dutra (D-20) Fremont, 510-440-9030 / (916) 319-2020
Loni Hancock (D-14) Berkeley, 510-540-3660 / (916) 319-2014
Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-35) Santa Barbara (805-654-1649) Ventura (805-648-9943) / (916) 319-2035
John Laird (D-27) Santa Cruz (831-425-1503) Seaside (831-384-1980)/ (916) 319-2027
John Longville (D-62) San Bernardino, 909-388-1413 / (916) 319-2062
Cindy Montanez (D-39) Mission Hills, 818-838-3939 / (916) 319-2039
Robert Pacheco (R-60) City of Industry, 626-839-2000 / (916) 319-2060
Todd Spitzer (R-71) Orange, 714-998-0980 / (916) 319-2071
Darrell Steinberg (D-9) Sacramento, 916-324-4676 / (916) 319-2009
Juan Vargas (D-79) Chula Vista, 619-409-7979 / (916) 319-2079

Scheduling appointments to make your case:

Schedule appointments
Instead of saying that you are seeking someone to sponsor the bill, initially simply say that you would like to schedule an “information session”
Keep your focus narrow and to a few simple points
Research the legislator’s biography and past voting record on your issue, and explain how supporting you will further their goals, and will not be perceived as a shift in their platform
Leave simply stated written material, stating your view, and also the opposing view, with your counter remarks to those with opposing viewpoints
Optimally, you should have 3-4 people in your group at the appointment (one person is not as strong and too many simply make the legislator focus on “getting through the meeting” amicably, instead of really discussing the issues)
Match the people in the room to the person being lobbied
Always have a constituent of the legislator present at the meeting
If possible, have someone at he meeting who shares common history with the legislator (i.e. if the legislator is an ex-teacher, the presence of someone in education is beneficial)

Finding a legislator to sponsor a bill:

If you can find a legislator who has a firm personal belief in what your bill represents, this is optimum
Try to find a sponsor that will “own” you legislation, making yours one of the 12 bills that they believe must pass. (This is best realized if the legislator or a family member of theirs has been affected by the issue raised in your proposed bill).
You can call a legislator’s office and simply ask if the legislator has in the past supported legislation of this kind; if not, go on to someone else
If the legislator or their family member (especially a spouse or child) has been affected by the issue you represent, you have the strongest chance for support
Always make a case for how your legislation will in no way conflict with the legislators agenda/platform, and how in fact it further supports it
Emphasize to the legislator what’s in it for them to support your legislation
In addition to stating your case, give the legislator in writing what the opposition may say, and how the opposition can be successfully counter argued
Accept that politically some legislators may not be able to sponsor your bill, but may still be able to simply vote favorably for it, and that some simply will not support it

Rallying support for the legislation:

Offer that if the legislator can offer their expertise to amend and improve the legislation, that this help is valued and appreciated (When they their add ideas they become stakeholders and therefore “own” the legislation and become much stronger proponents of it)
Gain support of people representing bodies of people where possible (i.e. unions, associations or organizations)
Realize that individuals can only heavily influence is they are a spouse or major financial contributor
Realize that grassroots letters from constituents are very effective
Know that media can be used to support your legislation (Don’t forget that when you attempt to gain media coverage, your information must be sent two places: 1) to the news division, and, 2) to the editorial division

Advocacy Skills:

Know that the goal of advocacy is to affect the legislative process
Know that you are asking legislators to either reinforce their stance (easy) or to change their stance (difficult)
Know that if you fail on your first attempt that raising the issue again, and again, can win on a subsequent attempt
Tell legislators how their support of the legislation helps them to achieve their agenda (That it supports their platform, provides gains in constituent support, leaves a legacy of voting for an issue that they can be proud of in retirement)
Try to anticipate questions you might be asked and rehearse your point, counterpoint, response skills
Go beyond the talking points by knowing your material and by reading the bill
“Inoculate” the legislator to attacks they may get by supporting you, by telling them the arguments that can be made against your proposed legislation and how the legislator can counter argue for you
If you have many points, stick to just the three strongest ones
Written materials should be left behind
Written materials should state your case simply, can be humorous, or can be a dramatic statement, that includes a visual, and should memorable
Never mistake polite listening for agreement or endorsement
After a meeting, access its chemistry, and if you should either continue your efforts with the legislator, or move on to someone else
Never debrief in the hallways, elevator, restroom, or anywhere near where the actual meeting took place (You can never tell who may be overhearing you)
If you are unsure of what a legislator said, call their office for clarification (They will appreciate being given the opportunity to clarify, rather than be misquoted)
Always follow up every step of the process with thank you letters and emails (so few do this)

Retaliation against MS Braun, violation of laws in question

What BLM laws were being violated that were the subject of Ms Braun’s emails to BLM, before she took her life. and why did BLM confisciate her computer to cover that up, and did Ms Braun’s trustee get her hard-drive or hand copies of what she had written to BLM before any BOL retaliations.. Can any answer thsoe matters as to laws involved being violated by BLM, with facts, and particulars, and laws in issue

Violation of laws

You bet we can provide the facts, laws, general orders and BLM procedures in which Marlene’s case should have been handled.

However, posting them on a Blog is not appropriate. If you are truly interested then I suggest you get a copy of the police report, and go to your nearest BLM office and look through the General Orders, CFR’s and Department Manuals. There you will find the laws, and yes, I would have to say, BLM never followed those procedures correctly.

As far as your other questions, the BLM laws you refer to, those would be Federal laws and procedures which should be followed, but are not. There are several policys that are to be followed, which are not.

There are several cover-ups within the BLM California State Office as well as other offices, but ultimately the final decision comes from the BLM CA State Director’s office and the DOI-BLM Office of Law Enforcement services in DC. Only those DOI & BLM federal employees and law enforcement officers/supervisor’s know what general orders etc., were not handled properly and those are the individuals who should step up to the plate and file a disclosure with the Office of Special Counsel instead of keeping what you know to yourself and have it eat at you for the rest of your life. You know who you are.

New BLM Grazing Regs. Favor Ranchers and Limit Public Input

Readers please check the BLM website for the new grazing regulations released July 12, 2006 and due to go into effect next month, Aug.2006. They give the ranchers more control and the public much less say in the management of our public lands. Go to the BLM News Bytes site at: for the detailed report and to for information regarding the lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in response to the new regs.
I personally am grateful to Marlene Braun for trying to let the science determine when grazing was appropriate and not a powerful interest group with a financial conflict of interest. I wish our representatives shared this strength of character. Please write them and urge them to manage our public lands as dictated by science and not the almighty dollar. Keep Marlene’s efforts alive and write your representatives. Don’t let them get away with it.

U.S. Department of the Interi

U.S. Department of the Interior
Bureau of Land Management
News Release

For Release: July 26, 2006 CA-SO-06-11
Contact: John Dearing (916) 978-4622 or Dave Christy (916) 985-4474

Carrizo Plain National Monument Planning to Resume

With the recent appointment of the new Carrizo Plain National Monument Advisory Committee, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is ready to resume work with the public on a draft resource management plan (RMP) to guide the monumentâ?Ts future, according to BLM State Director Mike Pool.

The committee, a nine-member panel appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, will advise BLM on development of the plan, said Pool. â?oWeâ?Tre very pleased to have the new committee in place and we look forward to their help in crafting a land use plan that both recognizes the special values that led to the monumentâ?Ts designation and provides for an appropriate level of public use and enjoyment.â?

BLM has decided to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to support the plan, based on â?opublic requests and our interest in expanding public involvement in the planning process,â? he said.

In cooperation with the committee, the BLM and its monument managing partners, The Nature Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game, will be conducting additional public scoping meetings later this fall to gather input on issues to be addressed in the draft RMP and EIS, expected to be ready for public review and comment sometime in 2007. Prior scoping comments received will also be addressed to ensure the documents are responsive to all public issues and concerns.

The Carrizo Plain, the largest undeveloped remnant of the once vast San Joaquin Valley ecosystem, was designated a national monument in 2001 in recognition of its special resource values, including threatened and endangered species such as the San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, and blunt-nosed leopard lizard. It also contains nationally significant geological features, such as one of the best exposed examples of the 10-million year old San Andreas Fault, as well as one of the most significant cultural sites in California at Painted Rock. In the spring, the Plain exhibits a lavish wildflower display of goldfields, purple owls, lupine, and the rare California jewelflower.

Carrizo Plain Advisory Committee members are: Ellen Cypher, PhD, plant ecologist and research ecologist, Bakersfield; Neil Havlik, PhD, natural resources manager, San Luis Obispo; Raymond Hatch, former mayor, Taft; Michael Khus-Zarate, an educator and member of the Carrizo Plain Native American Advisory Council, Fresno; Dale Kuhnle, rancher, Santa Margarita; Jim Patterson, San Luis Obispo County supervisor, Atascadero; Robert Pavlik, environmental planner, San Luis Obispo; Carl Twisselman, rancher and member of the BLM Central California Resource Advisory Council, McKittrick; and Raymond Watson, Kern County supervisor, Bakersfield.

Further information on the Carrizo Plain can be obtained from BLMâ?Ts Bakersfield Field Office, 3801 Pegasus Dr., Bakersfield, Calif., 93308 or (661) 391-6000.
California State Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825

New life for Carrizo Plain pl

New life for Carrizo Plain plan a year after suicide
Ideas for how to use the grasslands will get the thorough review the
monument’s manager wanted before she died
By David Whitney

WASHINGTON — Nearly 15 months after the manager of the Carrizo Plain
National Monument killed herself in an ultimate act of job frustration,
the Bureau of Land Management is reviving the process of creating a
management plan for the 250,000-acre preserve.

Marlene Braun killed herself May 2, 2005, capping a months-long dispute
with her bosses over how the grasslands preserve should be managed and in
the process earning reprimands and suspensions for what her superiors
considered intemperate acts of insubordination.

The backdrop for the battles was more political than personal. Created by
presidential proclamation just hours before President Clinton left office
in 2001, the Carrizo Plain had become a battleground over cattle grazing
on public lands — an issue on which the BLM typically found itself siding
with cattlemen.

These public lands, on the border between Kern and San Luis Obispo
counties, are the last big patch of wild grasslands left in California
and the home of the largest concentration of endangered species in the
state. Some, such as the giant kangaroo rat, are in direct competition
with cattle.

Braun had openly complained that she felt efforts to curtail grazing were
being resisted at higher pay grades in the agency and that she was
suffering the fallout.

She was not alone in feeling that a bureaucratic cloud had fallen over
the Carrizo.

“Four months before her death, we were in a holding pattern,” said Neil
Havlik, natural resource manager for San Luis Obispo who headed the
advisory committee writing a management plan with the BLM and its Carrizo
partners, the California Department of Fish and Game and The Nature

“It just unraveled, and we were not sure why,” Havlik said. “There must
have been some reason for the hiatus, but I do not know what it was.”

Havlik said the plan was 90 percent complete months before Braun, 46,
shot her two dogs, then herself.

The committee was nearly ready to go to public hearings. Havlik tried to
save the advisory committee from going extinct, writing letters to
then-Interior Secretary Gale Norton asking that the committee’s life be
extended so that it could finish its job.

The Interior Department said no, and on Dec. 31 the committee ceased to

Investigation completed

The first sign that life was being breathed back into the Carrizo’s
future came June 30, when the BLM tersely announced the committee was
being reconstituted, again with Havlik at its helm.

According to the BLM, the agency was ready to restart the planning
process because the Interior Department’s inspector general had wrapped
up the investigation of Braun’s death.

BLM spokesman John Dearing in Sacramento acknowledged in a telephone
interview this week that the “very tragic event” of Braun’s death had put
everything on hold.

What the inspector found or concluded about Braun’s death has not been
released. The Interior Department first said it would release only a
summary of its report Thursday, and then on Thursday said a reporter
would have to file for the document’s release under the federal Freedom
of Information Act, which can take days, weeks or months.

One significant change

Dearing said he could not comment on whether the report, presented to
BLM’s California director Mike Pool last month, contained recommendations
or findings or will result in any changes.

But in the third paragraph of a press release Wednesday, the BLM revealed
one significant change.

Braun, as well as many environmental groups, had been a strong believer
that whatever the final management plan decided, it should be subject to
a full environmental impact statement and not the less-thorough
environmental assessment the agency had been advocating.

Posthumously, Braun prevailed.

Pool said that the agency had decided to prepare a full environmental
statement, a decision he said was based on “public requests and our
interest in expanding public involvement in the planning process.”

In a telephone interview Thursday, Havlik said he was ecstatic the
planning process is resuming and believed it should be only a matter of
months before work on the management plan could be released for public

Havlik said he thinks the plan also will carry forward management
objectives for the Carrizo that Braun would have liked, saying “I want to
continue to honor her.”

“There needs to be some significant change at the monument,” Havlik said.
“Standards there are not state of the art, and grazing is one of the more
controversial issues.”

Irv McMillan, a close friend of Braun and a cattle rancher on a
1,350-acre spread in Shandon, said the Carrizo is one place where fewer
cattle belong so that indigenous wildlife such as the giant kangaroo rat
can firmly reestablish itself.

McMillan said Braun’s death has invigorated people like himself to hold
firm in protecting the Carrizo.

“People are not going to forget,” he said.

David Whitney covers Central Coast issues from the McClatchy Washington

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