LOCK HIM UP!

Tomorrow, April 24, 2019, is the deadline for submitting comments to the Bureau of Land Management on what they should do about the illegal bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River in Dunn County, North Dakota. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’re familiar with what I’m talking about. If not, click on this link and go catch up—it won’t take but a few minutes. If you want the whole damn history of this deal, click here, and here, and here.

I’m not going to tell you what to write, but . . . well, wait a minute—I’m going to SUGGEST to you what to write. I’ll make it easy for you. First, read the comments sent in by Badlands Conservation Alliance.

Here’s what they said:

Badlands Conservation Alliance (BCA) is a western North Dakota based nonprofit organization focused on public lands and public natural resources in western North Dakota. Many of our members live in or originated in the small communities and rural landscapes surrounding these public lands. Members hold significant familiarity with these lands and value them for a host of ecological, heritage and personal reasons, frequently through multiple generations.

Badlands Conservation Alliance supports Alternative 2, removal of all facilities and complete reclamation, for the following reasons:  

  • Bice knew he was building the bridge and road on BLM land, but did not seek a right-of-way permit from the BLM to do so. That is obvious from two maps submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of the permit application to the Corps for construction of the bridge. The two maps, on page 13 and 17 of the attached document (Corps of Engineers permit application), clearly show the bridge was proposed to be built on federal land. In addition, Mr. Bice’s construction manager, Travis Caldwell, stated on page 18 of the Corps application “Our proposed construction site lands on a small piece of federal land and would request a right of way for bridge abutment and road to the bridge.” No right of way was ever requested or granted by any federal agency.
  • In granting the bridge permit, the Corps of Engineers stated in a letter to Mr. Bice dated April 8, 2013, signed by Daniel Cimarokski, North Dakota Program Manager for the Corps, “This determination is applicable only to the permit program administered by the Corps of Engineers. It does not eliminate the need to obtain other Federal, state, local or tribal approvals before beginning work.” In spite of that, Mr. Bice went ahead with not only building a bridge on federal land but also constructed a road leading to it. Then Mr. Bice constructed a water depot on BLM land and also plowed up some BLM grazing land and planted it to alfalfa. Anyone who has a grazing permit from the BLM knows it is illegal to plow and plant grazing land. And obviously, Mr. Bice had no permission from anyone to build a water depot on BLM land.
  • Additionally, Mr. Bice tried to mislead the public by lying to the Bismarck Tribune. A Tribune story by Amy Dalrymple dated August 5, 2018, said: “Bice said he believed he owned the property and he chose the location to avoid removing a lot of trees.” Again, citing the Corps of Engineers permit application, Mr. Bice knew he did not own the land.

Because of this blatant disregard for BLM regulations, we highly recommend you choose Alternative 2 and require Mr. Bice to remove the bridge and the water depot and reclaim all the land disturbed for the bridge, water depot, road, and alfalfa field. If BLM does not choose Alternative 2, and Mr. Bice is allowed to keep the bridge in place, BCA requests the BLM require Mr. Bice to construct and maintain a public road on both sides of the bridge connecting with county, state or federal public roads so the public may use the bridge at any time.

BCA notes that BLM has eliminated the sale or exchange of the land to Mr. Bice (Alternative 3), from consideration, which BCA supports. However, BLM includes language in the EA that says “While the BLM remains open to a potential land exchange for this area, the immediate issue is to resolve the trespass, and not extend the unauthorized use out several more years.” That is confusing. For the record, BCA strongly opposes any land exchange with Mr. Bice for the property on which the bridge, water depot, road and alfalfa field are located.

Finally, in addition to the civil penalties allowed under Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 2808.11, the BLM may also seek to enforce the criminal penalties under Subpart 9262.1 in front of a U.S. Magistrate Judge, seeking a penalty for a “knowing and willful trespass” of up to $100,000, and a prison sentence of up to 12 months. The evidence clearly shows that Mr. Bice is guilty of a “knowing and willful trespass,” and given the severity of the trespass, particularly the construction of a bridge and water depot, and the destruction of riparian lands for a road and the growing of crops, BCA recommends trying the case before a U.S. Magistrate Judge and seeking the imposition of the severest penalties allowed under 43 CFR § 9262.1 and 43 U.S.C. § 1733(a) – a fine of $100,000 and 12 months in prison.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment.

Respectfully,

Lillian Crook, Board President Badlands Conservation Alliance

PO Box 2337 Bismarck, ND 58502-2337  

bca@badlandsconservationalliance.org

There. Now, full disclosure: Lillian Crook, the founder of BCA and its current president, is my wife, and I am a BCA member, and I had a hand in helping draft the comments. But BCA’s board wrote and submitted the final comments and that board speaks for me and the hundreds of BCA members across the country.

I’ve sent in my own comments. Here’s what I sent in this morning to Loren Wickstrom, BLM’s North Dakota manager out in Dickinson:

Dear Mr. Wickstrom:

Earlier you received comments from Badlands Conservation Alliance (BCA) on the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Bice Bridge in Dunn County, North Dakota.

I agree with all their comments and support Alternative 2.

I also encourage the BLM to seek criminal penalties which the law allows for a “knowing and willful trespass.” It’s pretty obvious Mr. Bice is guilty of a “knowing and willful trespass,” and, as BCA said in their comments, the severity of the trespass, particularly the construction of a bridge and water depot, and the destruction of riparian lands for a road and the growing of crops, merits the severest penalties allowed, a $100,000 fine and 12 months in the pokey.

Respectfully,

Jim Fuglie

So, if you want to send in comments, what the heck, just tell them you agree with BCA, like I did. That’s my suggestion.

Now, the mechanics of sending in comments. There is a comment form on the BLM website. I used it to send in my comments. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but if you just ignore the boxes at the top of the form, type your comments into the comment box, click on “Next” down at the bottom, fill in your contact information on the next page, you can probably do it in about 10 minutes (depending on how fast you type).

Or you can send a letter to Loren at:

Bureau of Land Management

North Dakota Field Office

Loren C. Wickstrom, Field Manager

99 23rd Avenue West – Suite A

Dickinson, North Dakota 58601-2619

But here’s a note on doing that. On March 26, just less than a month ago, I received an e-mail from the BLM notifying me of the comment period. It started out like this:

Dear Interested Party,

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released the Environmental Assessment (EA) and the draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Little Missouri River Bridge and Other Unauthorized Developments to the public for review and comment prior to making a final decision.  You are being notified because you previously commented on this project during the July/August 2018 public scoping period, and you made your email address available to the BLM.  

The EA and draft FONSI are available online at: https://go.usa.gov/xQF89

Comments will be accepted until 5:00 pm MDT on April 24, 2019.  Comments must be made through the above site.

Note that it says “Comments must be made through the above site.”

A press release was attached to the e-mail. It said:

Comments will only be accepted through the ePlanning web page dedicated to this environmental assessment.

Note that it also says comments must be made on their website.

That got me to wondering if it is legal for them to limit comments to a website, and not accept written comments through the mail, like most of us do when we comment on government projects. I’ve always liked having a written document in my file drawer when I do that.

So, Sunday night, when I was sitting down to write my comments, I decided to ask the BLM if it would be okay to send in written comments. I sent an e-mail to the guy out in Montana who had sent me the original e-mail and press release, and asked him:

“Really, can you do that? If I e-mail comments or mail them, will they not be considered? What about people who don’t own computers or use the internet? There are lots of people like that. This would seem to disenfranchise them. That doesn’t even seem right, or even legal.”

I bet there are some people who live in, or just love, the Bad Lands and the Little Missouri State Scenic River, but don’t have Internet access, and would send a letter by U.S. Mail if that was acceptable. I questioned if it was legal to restrict comments to the Internet.

I got an e-mail right back the next morning that said:

“To clarify, we are accepting all written comments received on this EA, as long as they are received by the BLM by April 24, 2019.  Individuals may mail or hand-deliver their written comments to us.  However, electronic comments will only be accepted through ePlanning, as that database allows large numbers of comments to be better organized, instead of potentially flooding one or more email inboxes.  We apologize for any confusion in our press release and email statements.”

Okay, I get the e-mail thing. Although that would be the easiest thing for us to do, it is not the easiest thing for them. Sheesh.

What kind of ticked me off was the “to clarify” line. They weren’t “clarifying” anything. They were changing their policy about accepting written comments because I complained.

Well, okay then. So now, it’s fine to send a letter in the mail. Except nobody knows that except me (and now you). Tomorrow’s the deadline, and letters must be in their hands by tomorrow, and they have not notified the public that written comments will be accepted. There could very well be some people out there in the Bad Lands with no Internet access who would like to send in comments but have been told they have to do it on a website.

So, here’s what I suggest. Keep the comment period open for another 30 days, to let people do that. I suggest they send out a press release saying that there is a new comment period on the illegal bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River and comments can be mailed to:

Bureau of Land Management

North Dakota Field Office

Loren C. Wickstrom, Field Manager

99 23rd Avenue West – Suite A

Dickinson, North Dakota 58601-2619

I’m sure Loren would love to hear from them. Because Loren’s a good guy (I know, because he has a pointing dog, and all pointing dog owners are good guys).

See, Loren’s the guy who blew the BLM whistle on this Bice guy and his bridge (after I told him about it) and started this whole Environmental Assessment and comment process. The bridge is ILLEGAL and he wants to do something about it. And it was likely somebody in a pay grade above his that set that ILLEGAL comment process, restricting it to their website. Let’s see if he can get that fixed, too. For another 30 days or so.

Meanwhile, I hope Loren does what the BCA and I suggested in our comments–send Wylie bice to the pokey for a year for his blatant violation of the law. Yeah, that’s right. LOCK  HIM UP!

 

 

2 thoughts on “LOCK HIM UP!

  1. Living in Texas now, it wouldn’t do me much good to participate as my comments wouldn’t hold much water. But, I do wish good luck to everyone. I hope they listen. Make them listen. This BIce fella needs to have Loren’s dog point him out for the fowl man he is. No pun intended. HA HA

    Like

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