News round-up: Bison, Pinyon-Juniper, and the FBI

Recent stories from DGR chapters and members:

  • Yellowstone National Park is proposing a 50 year bison quarantine plan. Quarantine is total human manipulation of wild, migratory bison and is a toxic mimic of true wildlife restoration, ending with domesticated bison living behind fences for the rest of their lives. The “big greens” are all supporting it. This is a “quick fix” that will give them false claims to victory, while seriously harming the integrity and culture of wild migratory buffalo. The bison need you to submit comments by February 15: Buffalo Field Campaign West Yellowstone Montana- Stop the Slaughter
  • Will Falk has written another essay in support of the DGR-led campaign to stop the destruction of Pinyon-Juniper forests in the Great Basin. His latest piece examines the history of collusion between the BLM and the ranching industry.
  • The FBI continues to harass aboveground activists:
  • Derrick Jensen interviews activists each week for Resistance Radio, engaging them in fresh discussions about the most pressing issues of the day. He’s interviewed several DGR members in the last two months, and all the interviews are worth hearing. Browse them at the Derrick Jensen Resistance Radio archive.

Congress Members Seek to Undermine Lummi Nation’s Request For GPT Permit Denial

Featured image: The 22-foot western cedar totem pole, which features animals and symbols important to the Northern Cheyenne people was created by Master Carver and Lummi Elder Jewell James and the House of Tears carvers, of the Lummi Nation. The totem pole is a gift from the Lummi Nation to members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in southeast Montana as a symbol of solidarity between two tribes whose homelands are threatened by proposed coal export projects. A dedication ceremony for the totem pole was held on January 22, 2016, outside the Northern Plains Resource Council building in Billings, Montana, where the totem pole will stand until a more permanent home is found on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. Photo courtesy of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

By Sandy Robson / Coal Stop

Author’s note:  Today, one hundred and sixty-one years ago, the Treaty of Point Elliott was signed on January 22, 1855, by Isaac Stevens, then-Governor of Washington Territory, and by Duwamish Chief Seattle, Lummi Chief Chow-its-hoot, Snoqualmie Chief Patkanim, and other chiefs, subchiefs, and delegates of tribes, bands, and villages. 

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Elliott Treaty monument in Mukilteo, WA

In my endeavor to honor today’s 161st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Point Elliott, this piece brings attention to the disturbing fact that, presently, certain members of Congress are dishonoring that very same treaty as they seek to undermine it. 

Treaty rights of the Lummi people are secured to them by the U.S. federal government in the Treaty of Point Elliott. Specific to treaty fishing rights, is Article 5 of the Treaty provides that, “The right of taking fish from usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory. . .”

In determining whether Lummi Nation’s treaty-guaranteed rights of access to its usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations, and harvest of fish, would be adversely impacted by the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, a 48 million metric ton per year coal export terminal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) will be applying a de minimis threshold standard. Any impacts considered to be greater than de minimis by the Corps would warrant the GPT permit denial that Lummi Nation requested of the Corps back over a year ago, on January, 5, 2015.

Underneath the brief summary below of the legislative efforts of several members of Congress, is a detailed outline of the politicians; the campaign money, totaling over a quarter million dollars those politicians have received thus far; and the companies and projects, all relating to legislation that would diminish and undermine tribal treaty rights pertaining to proposed coal export projects in Washington state.

 The Story

Congressional legislators who are backed by the coal industry and coal export terminal interests, have tried multiple times to attach a rider onto various bills that would undermine tribal treaty rights relating to the proposed Pacific Northwest coal export terminals. The original amendments proposed were specifically designed to try to prohibit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) from making its determination regarding the Lummi Nation’s treaty fishing rights relating to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point), before the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be completed for the project.

The language crafted in an amendment presently proposed by federal legislators, could adversely impact the treaty rights of all Indian Tribes and Indian Nations pertaining to projects such as GPT, or the Millennium Bulk Terminal, a 44 million metric ton per year coal export terminal proposed in Longview, Washington, both of which are presently under environmental review.

The fact that the Corps “owes the highest fiduciary duty to protect Indian contract rights as embodied by treaties” is entrenched in case law. That solemn duty and obligation owed to the Lummi Nation by the U.S. federal government, in this case by the Corps in relation to the GPT project, is something the agency addresses separately from any EIS it is tasked with on proposed projects.

In December, 2015, those multiple attempts to attach a rider which would undermine the Lummi Nation’s exercising of its treaty rights relating to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project, proved successful when Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), and Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), proposed Amendment 13, the “McKinley Amendment.” The amendment is attached to H.R. 8, the “North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015.”

The “McKinley Amendment,” now designated Amendment 850, had originally been designated as Amendment 13 in the House. Amendment 13 was passed by the House on December 2, 2015, and then H.R. 8 was passed by the House the next day, on December 3, 2015.

Amendment 850, the “McKinley Amendment,” seeks to prohibit the denial of a permit for the construction, operation, or maintenance of an export facility until all reviews required under NEPA are complete.

amendment 850On December 7, 2015, H.R. 8 was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The next step for H.R. 8 will be a hearing in the Senate.

People should contact their U.S. senators to voice their opposition to Amendment 850, the “McKinley Amendment,” that is attached to H.R. 8.

Every day that passes as the Corps is making its decision on the fate of the GPT permit, is another opportunity for coal-backed legislators such as Congressmen McKinley and Zinke, and Senator Daines, to craft legislation aimed at diminishing Lummi Nation’s, and other tribes’ treaty rights.

Honor The Treaty. Now.

Top row, left to right: state flags of West Virginia, Montana, and Washington State. Bottom row, left to right: Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
Top row, left to right: state flags of West Virginia, Montana, and Washington State. Bottom row, left to right: Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
The Politicians

Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT) — Ryan Zinke, along with U.S. Senator Steve Daines, led a group of sixteen senators and seventeen members of the House in sending two July 28, 2015 letters (one from the Senate and one from the House) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The letters urged U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy, to complete the environmental review process for the proposed GPT project prior to the Corps making a determination whether impacts to any tribes’ U&A (usual and accustomed) treaty fishing rights are more than de minimis, or too small or trivial to warrant legal review.

U.S. Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) —  Senator Daines attempted multiple times, during the summer of 2015, to attach a specifically crafted amendment to various pieces of unrelated legislation. The amendments were specifically designed to try to prohibit the Corps from making its determination regarding the Lummi Nation’s treaty fishing rights relating to the proposed GPT, before the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) would be completed for the project. Daines ended up withdrawing his amendment. It is important to note that while Senator Daines orchestrates such efforts against the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation, he is a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Senator Daines, along with Congressman Zinke, led the group of sixteen senators and seventeen members of the House in sending the two July 28, 2015 letters mentioned above, to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.)— McKinley proposed Amendment 13 (now designated Amendment 850), the McKinley Amendment, which the House passed by a voice vote on December 2, 2015. Congressman Zinke co-sponsored that amendment.

Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA) – Dan Newhouse’s office was contacted about his position on Amendment 13 (now called Amendment 850) that was passed by the House on December 2, 2015, by a voice vote. Congressman Newhouse’s office staff responded “he supports that amendment, he supported it in the Rules Committee, and worked with McKinley and Daines on that.” Apparently, once again, Senator Daines has been involved in an attempt to undermine the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation, as he worked with Congressman McKinley on Amendment 850.

The Money

Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), so far, has received the following campaign contributions relating to the proposed coal export terminals:

–$1,000 from FRS Capital for 2015-2016

–$3,500 from Arch Coal for 2015-2016

–$2,000 National Mining Association for 2015-2016

–$10,750 from Arch Coal for 2013-2014

–$5,000 from National Mining Association for 2013-2014

–$33,500 from Arch Coal for 2011-2012

–$10,000 from National Mining Association for 2011-2012

–$2,400 from Boich Companies for 2012 election cycle

Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT), so far, has received the following campaign contribution for the 2015-2016 election cycle relating to the proposed coal export terminals:

–$6,000 from FRS Capital Corp (ultimate parent company over Carrix and SSA Marine) for 2015-2016 election cycle

–$4,500 from Cloud Peak Energy (has 49% stake in PIT/GPT) for 2015-2016 election cycle

–$4,000 from Arch Coal for 2015-2016 election cycle

–$3,000 from National Mining Association for the 2015-2016 election cycle

–$17,700 from BNSF/Berkshire Hathaway for 2013-2016

Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), so far, has received the following campaign contributions relating to the proposed coal export terminals:

–$2,500 from FRS Capital Corp for the 2015-2016 election cycle

–$32,500 from Berkshire Hathaway for 2013-2016

–$26,400 from Boich Companies for 2013-2016

–$16,000 from Cloud Peak Energy for 2015-2016

–$11,500 from Arch Coal for 2013-2016

–$17,500 from National Mining Association for 2013-2016

Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-WA), so far, has received the following campaign contributions relating to the proposed coal export terminals:

–$6,000 from FRS Capital Corp (ultimate parent company over Carrix and SSA Marine) for the 2014 election cycle

–$2,500 from FRS Capital Corp/SSA Marine for the 2015-2016 election cycle

–$6,000 from Berkshire Hathaway (parent company over BNSF which would transport coal from WY and MT to the proposed Pac NW coal export terminals) for 2015-2016 election cycle

–$3,000 from Arch Coal for 2015-2016 election cycle

–$1,000 from National Mining Association for 2015-2016 election cycle

All of the campaign contributions listed above were obtained from the website, OpenSecrets.org.

The Companies and Proposed Projects

Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) — a proposed 48 million ton per coal export terminal at Cherry Point, in Whatcom County, Washington

Pacific International Terminals (PIT) — a subsidiary of SSA Marine and the applicant for the GPT project

SSA Marine — parent company over PIT

FRS Capital Corp — parent company over Carrix. Carrix is the parent company over SSA Marine

Cloud Peak Energy — presently has a 49% interest in PIT/GPT, and has an agreement with SSA Marine for an option to ship up to 17.6 million short tons of capacity per year through GPT

Arch Coal — in January, 2011, Arch Coal acquired a 38% equity interest in Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC and its proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Terminal. Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on January 11, 2016. Since Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the stock has lost more than 80% of its value, and effective January 12, 2016, trading in Arch Coal common stock was suspended on the New York Stock Exchange

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview Coal Export Terminal — a proposed coal export terminal project to redevelop an operating bulk materials port on the Columbia River in Longview, Washington, for the export of 44 million metric tons of coal annually. The terminal is served by BNSF and Union Pacific railroads

Millennium Bulk Terminals-Longview, LLC (formerly Millennium Bulk Logistics) — a subsidiary of Australia-based Ambre Energy that was a majority (62%) partner in the Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal project (Arch Coal has a 38% interest). In November 2014, Ambre Energy sold its two Rocky Mountain coal mines and its stake in proposed coal export terminals planned for Washington and Oregon to Resource Capital Funds (a Denver, Colorado private equity firm) for $18 million, according to company filings with Australian regulators

Resource Capital Funds (RCF) is a long-established investor in Ambre Energy, maintaining a voting position on the company’s board, and loaning Ambre approximately $95 million. RCF bought the Decker mine in Montana, and the Black Butte mine in Wyoming, along with Ambre’s stake in the Morrow Pacific Project in Oregon and its stake in Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal in Washington

Ambre Energy had purchased Cloud Peak Energy’s 50% interest in Decker mine and related assets in September of 2014, and assumed 100% ownership of Decker Mine. Part of that deal included an option granted to Cloud Peak Energy for up to 7 million metric tonnes per year of throughput capacity at the proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Longview Terminal, and Ambre Energy’s assumption of all reclamation and other Decker liabilities and replacement of Cloud Peak Energy’s $66.7 million in outstanding reclamation and lease bonds

Under the deal between RCF and Ambre Energy, RCF would operate under the name Ambre Energy North America, and the leadership team would stay the same. In April 2015, Ambre Energy North America changed its name to Lighthouse Resources Inc. Lighthouse Resources is a privately held company headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah

BNSF Railway — applicant for the interrelated (to GPT) Custer Spur rail project and company that would transport coal from WY and MT to the proposed GPT and Millennium Bulk coal export terminals

Berkshire Hathaway — parent company over BNSF

Boich Companies — Boich Companies is a privately held coal mining and marketing company headquartered in Ohio, and is a joint-owner of Signal Peak Energy, LLC (Signal Peak Coal Mine) in Montana. Signal Peak Energy is jointly-owned by Boich Companies, FirstEnergy Corp., an Ohio-based utility company, and Pinesdale LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss commodity trader Gunvor Group, Ltd. The three partner companies formed an entity, Global Mining Holding Company LLC, to hold all the ownership interests. Global Mining Holding Company’s owners are FirstEnergy Ventures, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy; WMB Marketing, a Boich subsidiary; and Gunvor Group

Signal Peak Energy is a major exporter of coal, primarily to Asia, so it’s likely that Boich Companies is interested in getting a contract for shipping/exporting its Signal Peak coal to Asia through GPT in Whatcom County, WA. It is currently shipping coal through Westport Terminal in British Columbia. Signal Peak Energy is jointly-owned by Boich Companies, FirstEnergy Ventures (Ohio-based utility company), and Pinesdale LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Swiss commodity trader Gunvor Group, Ltd.

Boich Companies is part owner Global Coal Sales Group which acquires coal mined at its affiliate Signal Peak Energy’s mine, from FirstEnergy Generation (a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp), and sells the coal in the international market. Global Coal Sales Group LLC, contributed $50,000 to the coal interest-funded Political Action Committee SaveWhatcom, during the 2013 Whatcom County election

National Mining Association (NMA) — is the national trade organization of the U.S. mining industry representing mining interests before Congress, the Administration, federal agencies, the judiciary, media, and the public. NMA also has at least two Political Action Committees.
Cloud Peak Energy, BNSF Railway, Peabody Energy, Millennium Bulk Terminals, Arch Coal, and Lighthouse Resources are listed members of the National Mining Association

Goldman Sachs — it was announced on July 5, 2007, that Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners committed to equity investment in Carrix (parent company over SSA Marine), giving Goldman Sachs Infrastructure Partners a 49% interest in Carrix). This funding was integral to the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. In January 2014, Goldman Sachs pulled out of the GPT project, selling its 49% interest back to SSA Marine.

Update from the Field: Choices Based on Lies Are Not Choices

By Stephany Seay / Buffalo Field Campaign

Featured image: A young bull buffalo walks the hills in the Gardiner Basin. Photo by Stephany Seay

Based on what we witness in the field everyday, the killing taking place near Gardiner could more accurately be described as a slaughter than a hunt. The tribal game wardens we have spoken with agree, and they recognize that Montana’s livestock interests have organized the circumstances to shift blame away from themselves to the tribes. There is obviously something terribly wrong when every last buffalo to migrate through Beattie Gulch ends up dead, or when hunters feel so desperate to kill every buffalo they see. Whether or not tribal hunters view their hunts as supporting the larger management scheme, the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP) government agencies and affiliated tribal entities certainly do. There is no moral or scientific justification to the idea, perpetuated by the management agencies, of “surplus buffalo” and safeguards allowing buffalo safe passage between Yellowstone and Montana are sorely needed.

We have never and will never stand against treaty rights, but we maintain a steadfast opposition to the current management that uses hunting as a means to eradicate the buffalo. As currently practiced, the hunt is an extermination plan set up by livestock interests to ensure that buffalo never reclaim the lands that are their ancestral home and birthright. It is fundamentally wrong and immoral for hunters to be led to believe that if they don’t kill the buffalo in this way, that they will just be slaughtered anyway.

This little buffalo calf was shot in the leg by hunters at Beattie Gulch. He survived and somehow managed to run off, escaping through nearby private land; but his leg was shattered. A Montana game warden shot him to end his suffering, then with assistance from a Montana Department of Livestock stock inspector and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer, he was hauled out from his resting place along the Yellowstone river. As if to reward this unethical hunting behavior, the agents ended up giving him to the hunter who wounded him. Photos by Stephany Seay and Deleana Baker, respectively, Buffalo Field Campaign. 
This little buffalo calf was shot in the leg by hunters at Beattie Gulch. He survived and somehow managed to run off, escaping through nearby private land; but his leg was shattered. A Montana game warden shot him to end his suffering, then with assistance from a Montana Department of Livestock stock inspector and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer, he was hauled out from his resting place along the Yellowstone river. As if to reward this unethical hunting behavior, the agents ended up giving him to the hunter who wounded him. Photos by Stephany Seay (above) and Deleana Baker (below), Buffalo Field Campaign.

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So long as buffalo die, the livestock industry and the governments don’t care who does the killing or how. Contrast this to the tens of thousands of elk in the region who have been implicated in the transmission of brucellosis, and yet no one is claiming that there are “surplus” elk and no one is targeting them for transmitting disease to cattle. The welfare ranchers don’t want to lose their foothold on control of the grass, so the buffalo, whom they view as competitors, must die. Hunters are in fact serving livestock interests no matter an individual hunter’s intentions.

The buffalo death toll is quickly rising. More than fifty of the country’s last wild buffalo have been killed by hunters since we last wrote. Mid-week, over five-hundred buffalo migrated into Montana, nearly all at once, through Beattie Gulch at Yellowstone’s north boundary. Being in the midst of this ancient phenomenon is at once one of the most beautiful and most heartbreaking experiences. The migration of hundreds of buffalo is such a beautiful sight, a flow that has purpose and integrity, so simple in its power, timeless and perfect, seemingly unstoppable; but this ancient march is also heartbreaking because it leads so many buffalo straight to their deaths.

As we expected, word of this migration spread quickly, and hunters arrived en masse that night, the following day, and through the weekend. We expected a massacre, but through the course of days, the majority of the buffalo threatened to cross various lines, edging towards areas where they could be hunted, only to retreat in the nick of time. Frustrated hunters were driving all over the Basin, even through the Park, following us, glaring at us, wanting to blame us, looking for buffalo that they could kill, but finding few. Those few were gunned down rapidly at the Park boundary, in acts of haste and desperation. Many have been shot and wounded, fleeing into Yellowstone where hunters cannot pursue them, left to die slowly or walk forever with bullets in their flesh.

By Sunday, frustrated and determined to get their buffalo meat, hunters in pick-ups and on foot crowded around the park boundary, watching a family group of about thirty buffalo slowly make their way towards Beattie Gulch. The firefight that ensued that morning ended life for twenty-eight of those buffalo; the eight survivors, two of them shot and wounded, fled up the mountain and away with their lives.

Images from the slaughter at Beattie Gulch, described above. Photos by Deleana Baker, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Images from the slaughter at Beattie Gulch, described above. Photos by Deleana Baker, Buffalo Field Campaign.

Make no mistake: BFC fully supports treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, yet our first priority is to the buffalo. What is taking place here is an extermination plan, and hunters are being used. We have to work in solidarity to demonstrate this, to end livestock control, and to get the buffalo — through migration — back on the landscape, in great numbers so that the proper, respectful relationships can be restored. Buffalo will take care of the people, but the people need to take care of them first. They need our help.

This whole Plan — which treaty hunting is certainly a part of from the government’s viewpoint, and all the discussions and decisions that happen within the IBMP — is in place to harm the buffalo and to keep them from restoring themselves across the landscape. We need to put our collective energy into fighting the IBMP and the law that places the Montana Department of Livestock in charge of buffalo in Montana. We must acknowledge that wild buffalo are ecologically extinct, and the IBMP is using hunting as well as slaughter and hazing to facilitate their destruction, to prevent their restoration.

Catcher Cuts the Rope, Gros Ventre (A'aninin), looks into the formidable enclosure where quarantined Yellowstone buffalo now reside on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.
Catcher Cuts the Rope, Gros Ventre (A’aninin), looks into the formidable enclosure where quarantined Yellowstone buffalo now reside on the Ft. Belknap Indian Reservation. Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign.

The same can be said of quarantine, which is a management tool for livestock, not wildlife. Again, livestock interests present “choices”: dead buffalo or buffalo behind fences. Yellowstone National Park is aiming to develop a fifty-year plan for operational quarantine, making the process of domesticating wild, migratory buffalo an entrenched aspect of bison management. To be free or caged in is not an option in the wild world, it is a human option. Quarantine is something to satisfy the human; an easy way out, a toxic mimic of true wildlife restoration.  It is a means to control what should be free. Quarantine is also part of the brucellosis lie, the premise being that bison pose a brucellosis threat, which we know to be untrue. Should elk be quarantined also? Elk have brucellosis but roam free.

The quarantine process begins with buffalo families being torn apart, adults shipped to slaughter, calves orphaned and raised in domestication. Then, those who survive the human-handling and testing of the quarantine process will live behind fences for the rest of their lives. We have seen the buffalo who suffered “living” in quarantine; they were not happy, they looked to get out of those pens. They were humiliated and afraid. Many of them have died horrible deaths because they could not escape their enclosures. Quarantine is part of the culture of death, this “civilized” system that systematically destroys life on the planet. Quarantine asks us to accept an “easy fix” that will give the human ego gratification.

Migration is free and alive; it is having the ability to make choices, being self-willed. Buffalo behind fences to be food for humans is a view that reduces them to meat. They have strong relationships with more than humans. The compromise should be in standing aside and respecting how a creature places one foot in front of the other — and we fight those things that get in the way of that. Quarantine removes the buffalo from their natural community, from life and their gift to life. Who is asking the buffalo’s perspective, asking them what they want? The buffalo will tell you that migration is they key to restoration. They know the way.

So many feel stuck in the “choices” that the government and industry have put before us.  People believe that they are doing the buffalo a “favor” by hunting them, or by supporting quarantine, because otherwise they would be captured and shipped to slaughter. They are shipped to slaughter anyway. Having to pick hunt, quarantine, or slaughter is being forced to make artificial and unnecessary choices. So long as this Plan is in place, so long as Montana is in control, so long as wild buffalo numbers are driven down to serve livestock industry politics, and so long as wild buffalo are prevented from restoring themselves on the landscape, the problems will persist. We must fight this Plan and livestock control in all it’s guises. We must demand an end to livestock control, demand that wild buffalo walk the earth, demand an end to this management scheme.

One industry’s intolerance is driving a national treasure towards the brink of extinction. We must put an end to livestock industry control over wild buffalo, and to do so we must repeal the law — MCA 81-2-120 — that places them in charge. As evidenced by his decision to grant year-round habitat on Horse Butte, Montana Governor Steve Bullock is listening, but the livestock industry is trying to undermine his citizen-supported decision. He must hear from us all, frequently. Please contact Governor Bullock today, even if you have already, thank him for granting year-round habitat on Horse Butte and urge him to help repeal MCA 81-2-120. With endless pressure, endlessly applied, we can end livestock industry control and gain more of the buffalo’s Montana home for them to roam.

Thank you so very much for being with us for wild buffalo!

Death Threats and Detention in Paraguay

NEW REPORT DOCUMENTS CHALLENGES OF DEFENDING INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS IN THE PARAGUAYAN CHACO

By  / Intercontinental Cry

Featured image: Members of the the Ayoreo community of Cuyabia. Photo: Iniciativa Amotocodie

We don’t care if our struggle involves going to prison or even dying. Our struggle is about justice because the land is ours and our children’s.”

—Alejandro Servín

When Alejandro Servin and five others members of the Enxet Sur indigenous community Kelyenmagategma returned home after two days in the woods hunting and collecting honey, little did they expect to be showered with bullets.

“Three of us were walking ahead when we heard the shots, a bullet just missed me. We ran back into the forest to seek refuge but the employees of the estate managed to catch the youngest member of our group, Francisco, who was 14 years old at the time,” says Servín. “As a result all of us came out. Three hours later a contingent of police arrived, arrested us without a warrant and brought us – in the estate owner’s truck – to the nearest police station.”

Following their arrest, the six indigenous men were transferred to the capital Asuncion where they were held incommunicado for 48 hours without access to a lawyer or contact with their families. They were eventually charged with “theft of cattle” – a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison under the Paraguayan Constitution. TierraViva – a human rights NGO that provides legal support and advocates for the land rights of indigenous communities in the Chaco region of Paraguay – eventually managed to get the charges dropped due to lack of evidence and the serious legal inconsistencies surrounding the arrest.

It is these as well as an array of other cases documented during more than 20 years of work in the Paraguayan Chaco that lead TierraViva to publish the first ever report on the situation of Human Rights Defenders. The report, released in December of last year, features case studies of illegitimate criminal charges, threats and acts of violence against 19 indigenous leaders and human rights lawyers working on land rights in the Chaco.

Paraguay is divided into strikingly different eastern and western regions by the Rio Paraguay. The southeastern Paranena region can be generally described as consisting of an area of highlands that slopes toward the Rio Paraguay. The Chaco in the nothwestern region is predominantly lowlands, also inclined toward the Rio Paraguay, that are alternately flooded and parched. Image by freeworldmaps.net.
Paraguay is divided into strikingly different eastern and western regions by the Rio Paraguay. The southeastern Paranena region can be generally described as consisting of an area of highlands that slopes toward the Rio Paraguay. The Chaco in the nothwestern region is predominantly lowlands, also inclined toward the Rio Paraguay, that are alternately flooded and parched. Image by freeworldmaps.net.

This arid forested region represents just over 60 percent of Paraguayan territory. It is inhabited by indigenous communities who know it as their ancestral land and private landowners who began to purchase estates from the 1940s onwards, denying the existence of those indigenous communities. This was the case for Kelyenmagategma: the company El Algarrobal SA bought land in 2002 that was inhabited by this Enxet Sur community.

In the past decade, land in the more populated eastern part of the country has become scarce leading to an expansion of the agricultural frontier into the Chaco. The rate of deforestation over the past five years has averaged 500 hectares (equivalent to 500 football fields) per day. In response to this alarming trend, indigenous communities have begun to organize and unite to secure legal title to parts of their ancestral lands to protect what remains of the unique Chaco ecosystem.

Despite the fact that the constitution of Paraguay recognizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples to their ancestral lands, according to Rodrigo Villagra Carron of TierraViva:

“What we see is an undeniable pattern of Government support for the interests of private landowners and the repression of those who defend human rights and national and international legislation related to the rights of Indigenous People.”

This was echoed by Cristina Coronel at the launch of the report in Asuncion in December:

“What this report reveals is [a] world where things are upside down… where indigenous communities and lawyers are defending universal human rights, but instead of protecting them, the police, public prosecutors and other representatives of the government protect the cattle ranchers and agro-industrial companies responsible for illegal deforestation and evictions of Indigenous People from their ancestral lands.”

This can clearly be seen in the case of Unine Cutamurajna from the Ayoreo community of Cuyabia who denounced illegal deforestation by Brandenstein Agro-Forest Investment (BAFI). Cuyabia acquired legal title to 25,000 hectares of land in 1996; but since then it is estimated the community has lost at least 6000 hectares due to land grabs by cattle ranchers. On one occasion, in 2015, the community hijacked a bulldozer that had been clearing vast tracts of forest on land belonging to them. Instead of investigating the illegal actions of BAFI, the Government of Paraguay sent a contingent of police to recover the bulldozer.he community has subsequently suffered threats from heavily armed private security guards working for the company.

“The Government sides with the cattle ranchers because they have money. We Indigenous People don’t have money,” says Unine. “But we will keep defending our land, it doesn’t matter if they continue to threaten us. We will not give up one more single piece of our ancestral land.”

Other cases in the report include:

  • Government employee Irma Torales who, while working at the Public Registrar’s Office, refused to become involved in a case of embezzlement of funds destined for the purchase of land for indigenous communities. Her actions lead to the arrest and imprisonment of the former Director of the National Indigenous Institute of Paraguay. Despite this, Irma was subsequently demoted to a more junior role with a significant reduction in her salary.
  • Human Rights Lawyer and Director of TierraViva Julia Cabello who faced a possible one-year suspension from practicing law or disqualification from the Paraguay Bar Association for a criticism she made of a Supreme Court Decision to review the constitutionality of a law allowing the return of more than 14,404 hectares of traditional land to the Sawhoyamaxa indigenous community.

TierraViva intends to use the report to carry out continued advocacy and raise awareness of the grave situation of human rights defenders in the Chaco.

According to Villagra Carron:

“This report is a condemnation of the structural inequality in Paraguay and a call to action. The cases documented in it are by no means exhaustive but just a few examples of what is happening in a broader context of rights deprivation. We urgently need to bring this situation and the government’s complicity and/or role in perpetuating it to public attention or the situation risks becoming even more dangerous, serious and unjust.”

The report received support from the Gran Chaco Ecumenical Small Projects Fund which works to strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations, groups and communities in the South American Chaco to transform the conditions of poverty and inequality and promote human rights.

To see the full report in Spanish click here.

New Map shows US West Rangeland Health

Searchable BLM reports and satellite images for 20,000 grazing allotments

When the Bureau of Land Management ordered the removal of cattle from public rangeland this summer near Battle Mountain, Nevada, the state was in its third year of severe drought. Conditions were too dry to sustain the number of cattle that were grazing there, the BLM contended. Locals responded in part by announcing a “Cowboy Express” ride from Bodega Bay, California to Washington, DC to protest federal overreach and to demand that local District Manager Doug Furtado be ousted.

Disagreements like the one in Battle Mountain are hardly novel in Western politics. But this week, a new tool to understand livestock impact on public lands was thrown into the mix. Washington, DC-based non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) released an interactive map that collates over 45,000 BLM records that diagnose 20,000 allotments. The map is seven years in the making, the result of Freedom of Information Act requests PEER and Western Watersheds Project put to the BLM.

Read more at A new map shows rangeland health West-wide

Damage to the land from livestock can be seen in satellite images. Image by High Country News.
Damage to the land from livestock can be seen in satellite images. Image by High Country News.
Shaded areas indicate where rangeland has failed to meet BLM health standards between 1997 and 2013. Image by High Country News.
Shaded areas indicate where rangeland has failed to meet BLM health standards between 1997 and 2013. Image by High Country News.

Brazilian court suspends license for Belo Monte dam

By Glenn Scherer, Mongabay

Featured image: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff visits the construction site of the Belo Monte Dam, 2014. Photo by Ichiro Guerra/Sala de Imprensa licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic license

The gigantic Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, located on the Xingu River in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, stood just weeks away from beginning operation this week — but the controversial mega-dam, the third largest on earth, has now been blocked from generating electricity by the Brazilian court system until its builders and the government meet previous commitments made to the region’s indigenous people.

Federal court judge Maria Carolina Valente do Carmo in the city of Altamira, in the state of Pará where the dam is located, has suspended the dam’s operating license. It will not be reinstated, she decided, until the dam’s owner Norte Energia SA, along with Brazil’s government, meet a 2014 court-ordered licensing requirement to reorganize the regional office of Funai, the national agency that protects Brazil’s indigenous groups.

Judge Valente do Carmo has fined the government and company R$900,000 (US$225,000) for non-compliance with the Funai requirement, a provision included in the rules governing Belo Monte when the project was given its preliminary license in 2010.

This is the latest in a series of snafus that have plagued the dam’s construction. Licensing of the project was delayed last September by Brazil’s environmental agency IBAMA, due to a failure to complete agreed to provisions to mitigate the impacts of inundating thousands of acres of Amazon rain forest — flooding that could displace 20,000 people.

Indigenous village near the Xingu River in the Amazon. Indigenous lands could soon be flooded by the Belo Monte dam. Photo by Pedro Biondi/ABr licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil license.
Indigenous village near the Xingu River in the Amazon. Indigenous lands could soon be flooded by the Belo Monte dam. Photo by Pedro Biondi/ABr licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Brazil license.

Earlier in 2015, federal prosecutors found that Norte Energia violated 55 different obligations it had agreed to in order to guarantee the survival of indigenous groups, farmers and fishermen whose homes and lands will be lost.In December, Brazil’s Public Federal Ministry, an independent state body started legal proceedings to have it recognized that the crime of “ethnocide” was committed against seven indigenous groups during the building of the Belo Monte dam.

Indigenous groups have fought the dam since its inception, saying that it will severely impair their water supply and impact fishing and hunting. They especially contend that it will reduce the river’s flow by 80 percent at the Volta Grande (“Big Bend”), where indigenous Juruna and Arara people and sixteen other ethnic groups live, according to the teleSUR television network.

Partially republished with permission of Mongabay.  Read the full article at Brazilian court suspends operating license for Belo Monte dam

After the Last River

Guatemala: First Trial for Systematic Violations of Indigenous Women

Featured image: Indigenous woman testifies at a law court in Guatemala, 2012. Photo: Sandra Sebastián

Guatemala’s recent history bears the mark of a 36 year long, painful internal armed conflict, during which the State systematically violated the rights of the Mayan population.

According to the Report of the Commission for the Historical Clarification of Human Rights Violations in Guatemala, 83.3 percent of the human rights violations were committed against them.

Indigenous women have particularly suffered from the conflict. They have been victims of rape, abuse and sexual slavery.

WOMEN’S ALLIANCE AGAINST IMPUNITY

Women’s organizations have played an important role in spreading information on the legal actions and in collecting and documenting the testimonies of several of them, who are now over 50 and suffer from severe PTSD.

The Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio y la Impunidad (Alliance Breaking the Silence and Impunity), including organizations such as Mujeres Transformando el Mundo(Women Changing the World – MTM), the Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y de Acción Psicosocial (Community Studies and Psychosocial Action Team – ECAP) and the Unión Nacional de Mujeres Guatemaltecas (National Union of Guatemalan Women -UNAMG) has been active since 2009 providing support to women and following up on the cases.

The three organizations play different roles in promoting public debate on the cases: MTM is in charge of the judicial strategy, ECAP offers psychosocial support to the victims and UNAMG works on the public stance of the plaintiffs.

SEPUR ZARCO: A CASE THAT MAY SET A PRECEDENT

Sepur Zarco is a community located on the border between the departments of Alta Verapaz and Izabal, in northern Guatemala. Six military detachments settled in this region during the internal armed conflict for the purpose of extermination and torture.

In 1982, the army captured the men of the Mayan community and their widows underwent domestic slavery, sexual violence and sexual slavery.

The abuses were committed by the army of Guatemala for six consecutive months, during which women did shifts every 3 days to cook and clean and wash military uniforms, and were individually and collectively raped over and over again.

Some of them described how they were injected and forced to take birth control medicines to prevent pregnancies.

After setting up a Tribunal of Conscience Against Sexual Violence in 2010, indigenous women decided to take the case to the formal justice system and filed a lawsuit in 2011.

The case is the first to reach the Guatemalan national courts for crimes of international significance against women.

As for its typification and in accordance with the Historical Clarification Commission, rape during the internal armed conflict was used in a widespread, massive and systematic way as part of the counterinsurgency policy of the State.

Therefore, sexual violence is a crime against humanity, a war crime and a constituent element of genocide.

In the post-conflict phase, though, sexual violence as a crime against humanity is still invisible.

That is why it is expected that the evidence and the proceedings will arouse national and international interest and allow for a new phase of discussion and historical reparation for fierce racism in the country.

The public trial will be held in Guatemala City on February 1, 2016. There are two defendants.

Guatemalan women’s organizations call on all stakeholders to make a positive contribution to the trial, to attend public hearings and duly oversee the proceedings.

Article first published in Spanish by Servindi. Translated by Open Democracy and republished by Intercontinental Cry under a Creative Commons License.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Denies Endangered Species Act Protection to Yellowstone Bison

Featured image: A bull buffalo lies dead, just outside Yellowstone’s north boundary.  Photo by Stephany Seay, Buffalo Field Campaign

On January 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) denied Endangered Species Act protection for the iconic Yellowstone Bison. The agency’s decision comes 14 months after Western Watersheds Project and Buffalo Field Campaign petitioned to list these bison as an endangered or threatened species. The groups sought federal protection for the Yellowstone bison because these unique bison herds are harmed by inadequate federal and state management and other threats. In the finding, the USFWS now agrees that the Yellowstone bison are a distinct population of bison, reversing its 2011 position.

“If buffalo are to recover as a wild species in their native ecosystem, science must prevail over politics,” said BFC Executive Director Dan Brister. “The best available science indicates a listing under the Endangered Species Act is necessary to ensure the survival of this iconic species.”

“Friends of Animals is committed to protecting the last wild bison in America. We are disappointed in USFWS’s finding and suspect that the decision was improperly influenced by the interests of private ranchers in the area. We are reviewing the agency’s decision and plan to take further legal action if necessary,” stated attorney Michael Harris of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program.

“We petitioned the USFWS to list the Yellowstone bison because of clear management inadequacies and growing threats to this key population of wild bison. The USFWS decision is disappointing because protection under the Endangered Species Act is the only way to counter the management inadequacies and growing threats,” stated Michael Connor of Western Watersheds Project.

The groups’ petition catalogues the many threats that Yellowstone bison face. Specific threats include: extirpation from their range to facilitate livestock grazing, livestock diseases and disease management practices by the government, overutilization, trapping for slaughter, hunting, ecological and genomic extinction due to inadequate management, and climate change.

Federal and state policies and management practices threaten rather than protect the Yellowstone bison and their habitat. Since 2000, more than 4,000 bison have been captured from their native habitat in Yellowstone National Park and slaughtered. The Forest Service issues livestock grazing permits in bison habitat. The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming forcefully remove or kill bison migrating beyond the National Park borders.

Once numbering tens of millions, there were fewer than 25 wild bison remaining in the remote interior of Pelican Valley in Yellowstone National Park at the turn of the 20th Century. The 1894 Lacey Act, the first federal law specifically safeguarding bison, prevented the extinction of these few survivors.

The agency’s justification can be found online at:
http://buffalofieldcampaign.org/ESA_90_Day_Finding.pdf

The petition to list Yellowstone bison is available online at http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/ESAPetition20141113.pdf

Visit Buffalo Field Campaign for field updates

Police Intimidation: From Dalton Trumbo to Deep Green Resistance

By Mark Hand / CounterPunch

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security agents have contacted more than a dozen members of Deep Green Resistance (DGR), a radical environmental group, including one of its leaders, Lierre Keith, who said she has been the subject of two visits from the FBI at her home.

The FBI’s most recent contact with a DGR member occurred Jan. 8 when two FBI agents visited Rachael “Renzy” Neffshade at her home in Pittsburgh, PA. The FBI agents began the visit by asking her questions about a letter she had sent several months earlier to Marius Mason, an environmental activist who was sentenced in 2009 to almost 22 years in prison for arson and property damage.

Neffshade told CounterPunch she refused to answer any questions from the FBI agents. Based on the line of inquiry, Neffshade concluded the FBI agents were not necessarily looking into gathering further information about Mason. “It seemed like they were pursuing an investigation into me, but who knows? I didn’t answer any of their questions,” she said. “It’s important to remain silent to law enforcement as an activist. It is a vital part of security culture.”

DGR, formed about four years ago, requires its members to adhere to what the group calls a “security culture” in order to reduce the amount of paranoia and fear that often comes with radical activism. On its website, DGR explains why it is important not to talk to police agents: “It doesn’t matter whether you are guilty or innocent. It doesn’t matter how smart you are. Never talk to police officers, FBI agents, Homeland Security, etc. It doesn’t matter if you believe you are telling police officers what they already know. It doesn’t matter if you just chit chat with police officers. Any talking to police officers, FBI agents, etc. will almost certainly harm you or others.”

Keith, along with Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, co-authored a book published in 2011, Deep Green Resistance, on which the DGR group is largely based. DGR describes itself as an “aboveground organization that uses direct action in the fight to save our planet.” On its website, DGR states there is a need for a separate “underground that can target the strategic infrastructure of industrialization.”

In the “Deep Green Resistance” book, the authors ask, “What if there was a serious aboveground resistance movement combined with a small group of underground networks working in tandem?”

“[T]he undergrounders would engage in limited attacks on infrastructure (often in tandem with aboveground struggles), especially energy infrastructure, to try to reduce fossil fuel consumption and overall industrial activity,” the authors write in the book. “The overall thrust of this plan would be to use selective attacks to accelerate collapse in a deliberate way, like shoving a rickety building.”

In speeches and writings, Jensen, a co-leader of DGR, often ponders this question: “Every morning when I wake up I ask myself whether I should write or blow up a dam.” He also has argued about the necessity of using any means necessary “to stop this culture from killing the planet.” Jensen said he has not been questioned by the FBI about his involvement with DGR. He is also unaware of any DGR members who have been arrested for their work with the group.

In late 2014 and early 2015, the FBI contacted about a dozen DGR members either by telephone or through in-person visits. Max Wilbert, a professional photographer and one of the founding members of DGR, said the FBI contacted him on his cell phone during this period. “I immediately said that I wasn’t going to answer any questions and hung up the phone,” Wilbert told CounterPunch. “This is the best way to deal with this sort of government repression. As soon as they know that you will answer questions, they will keep coming after you.” If activists refuse to answer questions, the FBI or other police agencies are more likely to leave the person alone, he said.

In September 2015, Wilbert was among a group of DGR members detained at the U.S.-Canada border as they were on their way to attend a speech by author Chris Hedges in Vancouver, British Columbia. The group was eventually denied entry into Canada.

Wilbert said the Canadian border guards seemed to be searching for a reason to deny the DGR members entry. After focusing on some women’s self-defense gear in the car (some people in the vehicle were planning to offer a free class on self-defense in British Columbia), the border guards’ questions started turning to each person’s activism.

Making sure he was honest with the officers, Wilbert told the Canadian border guards that he had volunteered to take photographs of Hedges’ scheduled speech. “They said that they suspected I was entering the country to work illegally,” he said.

After getting turned back by the Canadian guards, the vehicle’s occupants faced additional scrutiny by U.S. border agents. At the U.S. border, the questions became much more political in nature. The U.S. guards asked Wilbert and his colleagues about the groups they belonged to and the ideas that these groups promoted. “Officers from the Canadian side even came over and spoke with the U.S. officers about us,” he said.

U.S. border guards confiscated Wilbert’s laptop computer. “Under U.S. law, they can legally copy your entire hard drive and keep the contents for something like 30 days,” he said. After a few hours, the border guards returned the computer. But Wilbert chose to get rid of the laptop after the search because he was concerned the government agents had tampered with it.

The Department of Homeland Security also has demonstrated an interest in the environmental group. DGR member Deanna Meyer, who lives in Colorado, was asked by a DHS agent during a visit to her home if she would be interested in “forming a liaison,” according to a July 6, 2015, article in Earth Island Journal. The agent reportedly told Meyer he wanted to “head off any injuries or killing of people that could happen by people you know.” Meyer refused to cooperate with the DHS agent.

Wilbert views the federal police agencies’ ongoing actions against DGR members as harassment and intimidation. “It makes a mockery of free speech and democracy. We may advocate for radical and revolutionary ideas, but our work is legal. We are nonviolent. We are peaceful people,” he said.

The federal government’s treatment of DGR members is similar in some ways to how political activists were treated during the Red Scare era of the 1950s, contended Wilbert.  A relative of blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is a member of DGR and a friend of Wilbert’s.  Her childhood was marked by government surveillance, blacklisting and intimidation, he said. Pointing to Dalton Trumbo and other victims of the McCarthyite period, Wilbert emphasized these tactics are not new.

“This government uses intimidation and violence because these tactics are brutally effective. For me and the people I work with, we expect pushback,” Wilbert said. “That doesn’t make it easy, but in a way, this sort of attention validates the fact that our strategy represents a real threat to the system of power in this country. They’re scared of us because we have a plan to hit them where it hurts.”

The police scrutiny of DGR members is continuing at the same time local and federal police agencies maintain a hands-off approach to the takeover of a federal government installation in eastern Oregon by an armed right-wing militia. Some of the militia members claim they would be willing to kill if police attempted to end their occupation of the federal wildlife refuge.

If environmental activists staged an armed occupation of a coal-fired power plant, coal export terminal, or hydroelectric facility in the Western United States, they would be subject to an intense and immediate response by police agencies, Wilbert said. “The federal government doesn’t really give a damn, by and large, about what happens in the open West, at least when it’s wealthy white people doing the occupying,” he said. “But any occupation that actually threatened their power would see swift retribution. That is one of the main jobs of the police: to protect the rich and business interests against the people.”

DGR has learned that the “Deep Green Resistance” book is part of the FBI’s library at the agency’s offices in Quantico, Va. “They’re definitely aware of us. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to find out what kind of information the FBI is gathering,” Wilbert said. “But those requests were denied because they involve active investigations.”

When FBI agents visited her home in Pittsburgh, Neffshade said she felt fear during the questioning. She tried to remain calm. “I felt pressure to respond to their questions because, hey, I’ve been taught that it’s rude to just stand in silence when someone is speaking to you,” she explained. “I maintained silence long enough to gather my thoughts about which phrases are appropriate to say to law enforcement. After they left, I felt shaky and had to fight off feelings of paranoia.”

Before they left, the FBI agents handed Neffshade a business card and said, “If you change your mind, here is contact information.” Neffshades immediately contacted members of DGR to let them know the FBI had showed up on her doorstep.

While the FBI visit will make her more careful about what she writes in letters to prisoners, Neffshade said she has no plans to retreat from her involvement with DGR.

Mark Hand has reported on the energy industry for more than 25 years. He can be found on Twitter @MarkFHand.

Strategic activism