BLM employees questioned in federal investigation

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — Investigators with the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) say in a report that they found alleged wrongdoing in the relationships between certain National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) employees of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and anti-access groups, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The U.S. Interior Department’s OIG referred its findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for prosecution but was told, according to the OIG report of its investigation, that the law, Lobbying with Appropriated Monies, ‘has no criminal sanctions associated with it, and thus, declined to prosecute in lieu of administrative action.’

The OIG then submitted its findings to BLM Director Robert Abbey for appropriate administrative action.
The investigation of the employees of the NLCS, which is responsible for conserving nationally significant landscapes, was initiated after BLM officials reviewed documents requested by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and former Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) in July and September of 2008, respectively. When the BLM found documents it believed showed inappropriate relationships with advocacy groups and possible violations of anti-lobbying laws and policies by the NLCS, it referred the matter to the OIG for investigation.
‘Our investigation determined that numerous activities and communication took place between NLCS officials and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), including discussions about the NLCS budget and BLM editing brochures and producing fact sheets for a specific NGO,’ Mary Kendall, acting inspector general, said in a memorandum to Abbey received Oct. 2. ‘Our investigative efforts revealed that communication between NLCS and certain NGOs in these circumstances gave the appearance of federal employees being less than objective and created the potential for conflicts of interest or violations of law.
‘We also uncovered a general disregard for establishing and maintaining boundaries among the various entities,’ Kendall wrote.
Specifically, the OIG alleged that a NLCS staff member asked a representative of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to influence legislation before Congress involving the protection of some areas in New Mexico. Federal law bars federal employees from trying to shape legislation.
The investigation also found, among other things, that NLCS staff helped the NWF edit a brochure that may have been used for lobbying, and NLCS staff may have disclosed BLM budget information to Wilderness Society officials before the information was presented to Congress.
In response to the investigation report, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) issued a release calling the use of government worker time, effort and money to lobby ‘simply wrong.’
‘The ongoing, explicit, far-reaching coordination between special interest lobbying groups and NLCS staff revealed in this report is troubling,’ he said. ‘Reading case after case of lobbyists outsourcing their work to federal employees is unsettling. This inappropriate meddling of private and public lobbying efforts is precisely the sort of thing I warned against before the NLCS legislation was rushed through Congress.
‘The American people deserve to know that government employees, paid for by their hard-earned dollars, are not engaged in lobbying, not playing favorites and not being co-opted by interest groups,’ he said. ‘In most cases I believe this is true. However, in this specific instance, certain government officials clearly fell short.’
The NLCS legislation that made it a permanent agency within the BLM was S. 22, the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009.  It was fast-tracked through Congress and then signed into law by President Obama on March 30, 2009.  The AMA opposed this bill because it would close over 2 million acres of public land to responsible OHV users, and because the legislative process didn’t allow for full public comment and debate.
To read the full investigative report, click:
To read the congressional letters that initiated the OIG investigation, click:
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world’s largest motorcycling organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists’ interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations.

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