BLM agent who clashed with Bundys gets a promotion

By Phil Taylor | 05/24/2016 01:19 PM EDT

Dan Love, the Bureau of Land Management agent who oversaw security during the agency’s failed roundup of Cliven Bundy’s cattle in April 2014, has started a new position overseeing the security of BLM facilities nationwide.

Love, who was BLM’s special agent in charge for Nevada and Utah, this week was named BLM’s special agent in charge of security, protection and intelligence, a newly created post.

Love, who requested the reassignment, will remain in Salt Lake City but will be working for the agency’s national law enforcement office headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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Dan Love
Dan Love. | Photo by BLM Nevada, courtesy of Flickr.

"In this position, Dan will be responsible for a range of national level program components including facility security oversight and coordination efforts, as well as the bureau’s law enforcement intelligence program," BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security Director Salvatore Lauro wrote Friday in an internal email obtained by Greenwire.

"While I know Dan’s leadership in Region 3 will be missed, I’m confident his skills and talents will serve us well in establishing and developing these critical national office programs," Lauro wrote.

A polarizing figure, Love is both loved and reviled in Nevada and Utah, where he was BLM’s top cop (Greenwire, May 11).

The new position was created months after Ammon Bundy led dozens of armed anti-federal-lands activists in seizing the unoccupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The January incident forced the Fish and Wildlife Service to move more than a dozen refuge staff outside of Harney County to ensure their safety. BLM and the Forest Service closed their offices in Harney, too, and had their employees telework for weeks.

One week into the occupation, police disconnected power to a BLM fire station in Frenchglen, a small community about 40 miles from Malheur headquarters, to ensure militants did not take it over, too.

It’s unclear to what extent the new BLM law enforcement post is connected to the Malheur incident or to the general rise in anti-federal-lands activity in the rural West.

BLM’s facilities also face threats from the left. The Keep It in the Ground movement, which seeks to end the leasing of oil, gas and coal from federal lands and waters, has staged nonviolent protests at several BLM oil and gas auctions over the past several months and has disrupted some sales with songs and physical blockades.

BLM spokesman Craig Leff said Love’s new post is not a response to any particular incident. It aims to ensure the security of BLM’s roughly 175 state, district and field offices as well as warehouses and fire caches, and to keep BLM employees and visitors safe, he said. It includes intelligence gathering on emerging threats, including from websites and social media.

Love will oversee a team of three, Leff said.

The deputy special agent in charge for Nevada and Utah, Zachary Oper, who is based in Nevada, will assume Love’s old post in an acting capacity until BLM finds a permanent successor.

Gavin Shire, a spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said no similar post exists at FWS, which manages more than 560 national wildlife refuges including Malheur.

In 2006, the agency created a branch for emergency management and physical security within its Division of Refuge Law Enforcement, Shire said. It includes the chief of emergency management and the agency’s physical security specialist.

"This branch manages everything from emergency support function call-outs for law enforcement and security under the National Response Plan to emerging issues (such as the Zika virus) to ensuring the service’s support of the national Continuation of Operation posture," Shire said in an email.

Threats to federal land management facilities intensified in Nevada in the 1990s during a resurgence of the Sagebrush Rebellion, a movement by rural counties to assert local control over federal lands.

On Halloween in 1993, a bomb was hurled onto the roof of BLM’s state headquarters in Reno, which was unoccupied at the time. The blast severely damaged the building’s roof. In March 1995, a suspected pipe bomb was placed on the office windowsill of Forest Service District Ranger Guy Pence. The window was blasted out, but no one was injured.

Neither crime was solved.

In Nevada and Utah, Love led some of BLM’s most complicated law enforcement operations.

Love was the lead agent in BLM’s two-year undercover investigation with the FBI nearly a decade ago into illegal Native American artifact trafficking in the Four Corners region that resulted in the arrest of more than two dozen people and the suicide of a well-respected local doctor. In 2008, Love arrested and helped prosecute environmental activist Tim DeChristopher for disrupting a BLM oil and gas lease sale in Salt Lake City that critics said imperiled Arches National Park and the climate.

Sheriffs, county commissioners and Utah members of Congress said Love lacked the gravitas to handle the delicate politics of public land management in the rural West.

Allies said Love deserves credit for helping deter illegal looting and trading of artifacts from public lands and for ensuring nobody was injured or killed during the Bunkerville, Nev., standoff with Bundy.

"The biggest problem with Dan is nobody trusted him," said Garfield County, Utah, Sheriff Danny Perkins. "It sounds to me that they gave him a better job than he had."

Perkins added, "I think BLM has a lot of fence mending whether Dan is there or not. It looks like the ball’s in their court."

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