Honorable Governor Sandoval:
We have a situation in the Mount Lewis Field Office, Battle Mountain, NV, that is out of control. District Manager Doug Furtado, policies and decisions are running livestock permittees out of the ranching business.
My husband, Dan, and I have three grazing allotments in the Battle Mountain district, North Buffalo, Copper Canyon and Argenta. Last May, 2013, Badger Ranch was issued a Full Force and Effect (FFE) decision closing the North Buffalo and Copper Canyon Allotments to livestock grazing for the remainder of the drought and one growing season. We removed our cattle from the allotments and found some alternative pasture of them. The remainder of the cattle were sold. We are appealing this FFE decision. North Buffalo is in Humboldt County and Copper Canyon is in Lander County and encompass approximately 300 square miles with no fences except the boundary fences. Both are managed by the Battle Mountain Field Office.
Chiara Ranch, also owned by Dan and me, has a grazing permit in the Argenta Allotment, Lander County. We brought our cattle home in September and October last year, because of the drought conditions. Our grazing permit is from March 1 to November 30 each year.
February 20, 2014 at 2 p.m. at the Battle Mountain Field Office, an Argenta permittee meeting was held. Four of the permittees were in attendance: Tomera Ranches; Filippini Ranching Co.; Jim Filippini; and Chiara Ranch. In addition to the permittees, District Manager Doug Furtado, Area Manager Christopher Cook, Assistant Area Manager Michael Vermeys, Range-Con Adam Cochran, Assemblymen Ira Hansen, Congressman Mark Ameodi’s representative Megan Brown and several other BLM employees were at the meeting.
The permittees were told that the drought triggers had been met and exceeded in 2013, in Argenta, and that the allotment needed rest. We were asked to take voluntary non-use through May 2014 and then June 1 the BLM would take a look at the situation and see what had grown and revaluate. We told Cook that when the spring rains come in the high desert that it jumps to life and there is abundant forage. We asked if we would be able to turn out cattle June 1 and Christopher Cook told us probably not, the allotment had exceeded the drought triggers in 2013 and he said it needed to be rested. He would consider turn-out for six weeks in the fall, after there was snow in the mountain so the cattle would not go up in the uplands. If he authorized any grazing it would be in November and two weeks into December.
Doug Furtado was asked why he would not work with the permittees to get through the drought, like our neighboring district managers were doing. One permittee has a family that ranches in the Elko district and told Furtado that district is working with the permittee through reduced numbers, non-use and managing the allotments to help the family stay in business. Furtado told us if those district managers were making those decisions, “they were not doing their jobs.” He was following the rules and making decisions according to the drought environmental assessment. He also told us this was the worst drought in 500 years. He had issued seven FFE decisions and that, in 2013, 80,000 AUMs had been under non-use, in the Battle Mountain district.
Chiara Ranch submitted a grazing application March 1, 2014 applying for voluntary non-use through April 31, 2014. On April 28, 2014, we extended an invitation to Christopher Cook, area manager, to meet Dan and me in the field to look at the southwest end of the Argenta allotment. We would like to apply for use in that area because of the forage that was available because of the spring rains and snow we had been getting. We agreed to meet at the Mill Creek Campground. Cook would not be able to attend but would send Michael Vermeys, Assistant Area Manager and Adam Cochran, Range-Con. When we met at the campground, we sat at a picnic table and were told by Cochran the feed we saw was due to the rest the allotment had. Dan explained it was not the rest but the rain. We were told that no grazing would be authorized. Meeting ended. Dan and I drove up Mill Creek and observed the forage and were amazed how good it looked.
[Editor’s note: Several other meetings—a May 7 Elko County Commissioners’ meeting, a May 8 Lander County Commissioners´ meeting, and a cancelled then reconvened May 12 Lander County Commissioners´ meeting—were detailed by the author but had to be edited for space constraints.]
May 15, Dan and I attended the 2:30 PM BLM meeting. Chris Cook gave us an agreement, sponsored by the two Lander County Commissioners between the BLM Mount Lewis Field Office and Julian Tomera Ranches Inc., Chiara Ranch and Henry Filippini Jr. (Argenta Permittees). We were told we would have to sign this agreement and submit it with our grazing application. May 16, I submitted the Chiara Ranch grazing application along with a revised and edited version of the “agreement.”
May 17, a “Grass Tour” was organized by the Tomera Ranch, John Carpenter and Grant Gerber, the Elko County Commissioner. The BLM was invited along with Lander and Elko County Commissioners, any interested public and media, ranchers from neighboring counties, as well as our representatives in the Nevada Legislature. The “Tour” was well attended. The forage and grass is abundant. No Battle Mountain BLM people were on the “Tour.”
On May 19, I went to pay my grazing bill and Adam Cochran told me no bill will be generated or application approved until everyone signed the BLM’s version of the agreement. May 20th was the turn-out date, on our application. May 20, I was told by Chris Cook that the agreement I had signed and turned in with my grazing application would not be accepted. BLM had a new agreement (cleaned up version) and that the permittees and the two commissioners would all have to sign it and turn it in before any grazing applications would be processed. And that if we, Chiara Ranch, turned out any cattle before that was done, we would be trespassing.
This is where we are now, Governor. I feel that the actions of the Battle Mountain BLM are tyranny and blackmail. We have been lied to and manipulated, and enough is enough. There is no justification for their actions. The Argenta permittees all have grazing permits in good standing. Chiara cattle have been walking the fences since the middle of March, wondering why we won’t open the gate. They have been having calves in the dust and on feed grounds. The poor bovines are as stressed out as we are. Alternative pasture is not available; our neighbors are in the same situation, either taking cuts, suspensions or non-use.
BLM officials are public servants and as such they should act professionally and openly, no secrets or personal agendas. Not everyone can agree all the time, but if there is a focus on the positive, a solution can be reached. They work for us and should be working with us. I feel that Doug Furtado is giving all the decent people in the BLM who work with permittees a “black eye.” We have had some very good folks in the past who would work with us and shake our hand and it is a done deal. Not anymore. No one in Furtado’s office is to make a decision without his approval.
Badger and Chiara Ranch, Tomera Ranches and Henry Filippini, Jr. are looking at having to sell all our cattle because of the decisions being made in this office. The forage and grass that is available should be managed for grazing, not for wildfires. I realize that the wildfire budget is in the billions and the management of livestock grazing is nothing in comparison.
The Filippini family has been ranching in Eureka, Elko and Lander Counties since the 1870s. My families, Ugalde, Johnstone, Peraldo and Reconzone have been ranching in Humboldt and Washoe Counties since the early 1900s. My brother owns and operates the ranch our grandparents started from a meadow and three springs. Our dad and his seven siblings were raised there. My granddaughter is fifth generation Nevadan. Four generations have been bred and born on this land. We have seen the worst and the best that the Nevada High Desert has to offer and still choose to live and ranch here. It is all in the hand that Mother Nature deals us. We don’t abuse the land, water or the resources, it is our livelihood. We know when to turn cattle out and bring them home. We are hardworking Americans who love this country and this place called Nevada.
I plead with you to instruct the Department of Agriculture, Director Jim Barbee, to investigate this situation, sooner than later.
Respectfully, Eddyann U. Filippini Badger Ranch and Chiara Ranch