Grizzlies, guns and guile
Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) defends constitutional liberties and the rule of law. This non-profit, legal foundation has represented the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation and its members in many cases over the decades. MSLF President William Perry Pendley spoke to Farm Bureau members March 1 at the WyFB Legislative Meeting.
“Grizzlies, guns, and guile are what I’m here to talk about especially as they relate to federal agencies and their attorneys,” Pendley stated.Grizzly Bears
“In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it wanted to achieve a minimum target of 500 grizzlies and we are at 700 grizzlies and well north of that number now,” Pendley stated. “The FWS also concluded recently that there is a one percent chance grizzly bears will become extinct in next 100 years. That is a 99 percent chance they won’t become extinct. That is why the agency is correct to designate the Yellowstone area grizzly bear as distinct and remove it from the Endangered Species Act list.”
According to Pendley, there is an incredible fascination and idle curiosity about the grizzly bear that captures people’s attention. “However, there is a big difference in being interested in something and being affected by it,” he stated. “By intervening in this current case (Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America), we will be allowed to put in front of the court the personal experience of Wyoming landowners; that is what is missing in these lawsuits.”
MSLF, on behalf of Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, Charles C. Price, and W&M Thoman Ranches, LLC, intervened in the case of the Crow Indian Tribe v. United States of America) to advocate for the position of ranchers and farmers in Wyoming and ensure their rights and livelihoods are not trampled.
“It is amazing that our culture has embraced our Second Amendment rights so completely that they do not have to be explained to us; until, that is, we get to a place where a district judge says we can’t use guns and then we have to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” Pendley said. “The bottom line is can the federal government take away your Second Amendment rights? The answer is no.”
Pendley described a case in which MSLF successfully defended a client who killed a grizzly bear in self-defense.
“In representing our client who killed a grizzly bear I was very surprised that the issue of guns came into the case. I thought it would be a self-defense/endangered species case,” Pendley said. “The judge reached the crazy conclusion that a person here in the West could not take his rifle outside with him even when there is danger.”
The man was prosecuted for eight years, unsuccessfully, by the federal government.
In another gun case litigated by MSLF, an Idaho woman won the right to carry firearms for self-defense on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lands. “The district court ruled the federal agency’s ban on the possession of firearms violated the Second Amendment,” Pendley said. “In response to our successful lawsuit, the Trump administration threw in the towel and is now changing its regulation.”
“When I think of guile I think of ‘sly, cunning, deceitful’ and it makes me think of the federal government,” Pendley said. “It is just my experience.”
Two of the cases Pendley referenced are examples of federal government land grabs.
The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation was represented by MSLF in Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Represented by MSLF, the Wyoming Farm Bureau sued the EPA for its illegal attempt to redraw the lines of the Wind River Indian Reservation,” Pendley stated.
“A 1905 treaty redrew the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation to exclude the small town of Riverton, but the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes asked the EPA to redraw those boundaries to encompass Riverton again,” Pendley said. “The tribes filed application with the EPA to run air quality issues on the reservation. They have that right, but what changed in this circumstance is the tribes spent 82 of their 87-page application talking about why the reservation was more than we think it is.”
“They included 1.48 million acres of Wyoming including the town of Riverton that the tribe sold back in 1904,” he continued. “The case was heard in the Tenth Circuit in Denver and it ruled 2-1 to vacate the EPA’s order in Feb. 2017. The tribes then urged the full court to rehear the case. The court reached the same conclusion in large part because the EPA did not ask the court for another review.”
According to Pendley the judges looked at three issues: 1) Language of statutes, what was written down, how was it said, etc.; 2) What was going on at this time that would lead us to conclude that this in fact is what Congress did; and 3) How has the land been treated over the last 100 plus years.
“The bottom line of the opinion is the judges determined that Congress did intend to diminish the boundaries of the reservation in 1905,” he explained. “They decided the language controlled and was very clear about intent to convey.”
This all began in 2008 and now fast forward to 2018. The tribes have now filed for the Supreme Court to review this case even though the EPA did not ask for a review. “One of the attorneys representing the tribes is Kenneth Salazar who was the Secretary of the Department of Interior when the agency issued a decision that the tribes were right,” Pendley stated. “We will file on behalf of the Wyoming Farm Bureau and its members to tell the court it should not hear the case.”
The second case Pendley referenced is regarding uranium mining and the withdrawal of federal lands from multiple-use. “Uranium One is a mining company that controls over 20 percent of American uranium,” Pendley stated. “In 2010, the Obama administration with the blessing of then Secretary of State Clinton allowed the Russians to purchase Uranium One.”
“Then the very next year Secretary Ken Salazar withdrew millions of acres of uranium rich lands in northern Arizona,” he continued. “MSLF filed a lawsuit against this land withdrawal.”
According to Pendley, Congress must approve the withdrawal of federal lands from mining, grazing, and other multiple-uses if it is greater than 5,000 acres. “We have asked the Supreme Court to hear this case,” Pendley said. “It is a long shot, but we can change Western land law by barring future presidents from being able to withdraw our lands from multiple use.”
“We are excited to give you a real voice in the courts for the people who are on the ground and suffering from these policies made by people from far away,” Pendley concluded.