Karen Budd-Falen is the wrong choice to oversee our public lands
by Nicole Ghio, fossil fuels program manager
Trump’s nominee to lead the BLM has a dangerous disdain for the agency she’s been tapped to lead
Meet Karen Budd-Falen, Trump’s rumored nominee to direct the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who succeeds in standing out in an Administration already bursting with conflicts of interest, dangerous rhetoric, industry ties, and incompetence.
Budd-Falen rejects federal oversight of our shared public lands. She was a lawyer for the Bundy family, who engaged in an armed standoff with federal officials due to Cliven Bundy’s failure to pay grazing fees — what Jon Stewart called “the world’s largest dine and dash.” Despite Bundy’s willingness to put lives at risk and rip-off American taxpayers, Budd-Falen expressed sympathy for him, saying: “I totally get what drove him to do what he did…I think you’re going to see more of that because we’re not left with any choice.”
Budd-Falen’s disdain for the very employees and agency she would manage as the director of BLM was apparent in another memorable case in which she attempted to sue individual BLM employees under racketeering laws meant for organized crime. If that sounds dubious to you, you are not alone. The Supreme Court rejected her arguments in a rare unanimous decision.
In fact, Budd-Falen and her extremist clients have racked up a long list of court rejections due to her seemingly poor understanding of the law. She represented Hugh McKeen, another militant, anti-government rancher, whose authorization to graze cattle on public lands was reduced after he repeatedly ignored warnings about exceeding his allotments. When describing his relationship to the federal government, McKeen said: “I think I know how colored people used to feel. I’m a slave and I’m a slave to the federal government.” Budd-Falen lost the McKeen case.
Taken together, Budd-Falen’s client list and track record call not only her competency into question, but also her judgement. That’s a dangerous combination when you consider that BLM is the government’s largest land manager, overseeing 250 million acres of public lands and over 700 million acres of subsurface minerals, oil, coal, and gas. This area includes the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante Monuments, which President Trump and his Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke intend to dismantle, a position Budd-Falen also supports.
Budd-Falen’s disdain for our wild heritage extends beyond the land itself. She has called the Endangered Species Act (ESA) “a sword to tear down the American economy,” and the website for her firm touts her lawsuits and testimony against the ESA, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and other critical environmental laws that protect biodiversity and public health. She also echoes this Administration’s dangerous rejection of climate change. Her opinion piece “Global Warming: Who Really Decides if it Exists” absurdly argues, “many of us are not convinced that global warming is anything except a natural phenomena (sp) if it scientifically exists at all.”
Budd-Falen’s disdain for our wild heritage extends beyond the land itself.
As the director of BLM she could have the power to sell off our public lands to fossil fuel interests, embolden militant ranchers, gut critical environmental safeguards, pollute our vulnerable waterways, and leave an irreversible scar on our wild places.
We can’t let this happen.
The good news is that we still can stop Karen Budd-Falen’s nomination — just like we stopped other nominees, from Sam Clovis to Michael Dourson. But we need your help.
Tell your Senator: don’t put extremist, anti-environmental lawyer Karen Budd-Falen in charge of our public lands.