Active Discouragement

katqanna

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I was invited to give a presentation to the Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife this last week, topic of my choosing. There have been a number of communication psychology presentations and papers I have been researching over the last year and one just a month ago by a fish/wildlife biologist that gave a keynote address at Minnesotas DNR, that had a number of bullet points that I see taking place here in Montana and surrounding states, some dealing with marginalizing the public's participation in public trust matters. So I distilled a number of the points down and used the local application of FWP, how we, as members of the public, can become better engaged.

One of the points was Charitable Status/non-profits – prohibited from advocacy, silencing the most passionate and informed public. Many of our sportsmens groups are non-profits. This is one of the reasons that I chose not to register EMWH as a non-profit, so that I wouldnt be silenced in this manner.

But there is another aspect to the silencing of the most passionate and informed, that of our state and federal agencies employees. I hear current and retired employees lament their restrictions, whether overtly or implied.

This article came up this morning of an IDFG employee, sanctioned for his personal twitter post against Raul Labrador's stand on public lands.

“Bring it on @Raul_Labrador Sportsmen and women are going to beat your ass, too. Keep #publiclands open to the public and managed for all.”

State worker to congressman: Sportsmen ‘are going to beat your ass’ over public lands bill

I mildly debated this very situation at the meeting, with a Region 2 Game Warden, the lack of freedom of speech for our State FWP employees to advocate for scientific wildlife management instead of politics.

In a similar vein, an FWP Game Warden, Dirk Paulsen, is being hamstrung from pursuing poaching cases (Paulsen has issued citations to tribal members for illegally hunting on the sub-marginal lands), again, due to politics.

Meanwhile, piece by piece, our Public Trust Doctrine and NAM are being chipped away at, eroded, dismantled, while those most passionate and informed are prohibited from advocating or enforcing the public trust. It is disheartening, to say the least.
 

Nameless Range

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I am a public employee (currently on my lunch break).:)

I have twitter and facebook accounts under my real name, and I discuss land management and wildlife issues there, of which I have some broader knowledge due to my job. My employer has no say in those. Legally they can't and do not and plenty of public employees voice their opinions on all things political outside of work without repercussions.

I don't think the two examples above are good examples of inhibiting freedom of speech. The Idaho employee's tweet was inappropriate, unprofessional, and possibly a threat. One can have their opinions outside of work sure, but come on. Any employer with half a brain nowadays reviews potential employee's social media and Google results. Not to make sure political, religious, or other ideologies align, but rather, to see if that person is incendiary, negative, and a grown-up.

I don't know much about the Paulsen situation, but where I work as a public employee, I have never felt voicing my opinion, even on issues contra to the actions of the agency I work for, has been an issue. Maybe I am lucky.
 
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MtnWest

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“Bring it on @Raul_Labrador Sportsmen and women are going to beat your ass, too. Keep #publiclands open to the public and managed for all.”

Roger Phillips was the outdoor writer for the Idaho Statesman and now with IDFG. Not very PC but he said what many are thinking including myself.

Keep up the good work katqanna!
 

Ben Lamb

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I am a public employee (currently on my lunch break).:)

I have twitter and facebook accounts under my real name, and I discuss land management and wildlife issues there, of which I have some broader knowledge due to my job. My employer has no say in those. Legally they can't and do not and plenty of public employees voice their opinions on all things political outside of work without repercussions.

I don't think the two examples above are good examples of inhibiting freedom of speech. The Idaho employee's tweet was inappropriate, unprofessional, and possibly a threat. One can have their opinions outside of work sure, but come on. Any employer with half a brain nowadays reviews potential employee's social media and Google results. Not to make sure political, religious, or other ideologies align, but rather, to see if that person is incendiary, negative, and a grown-up.

I don't know much about the Paulsen situation, but where I work as a public employee, I have never felt voicing my opinion, even on issues contra to the actions of the agency I work for, has been an issue. Maybe I am lucky.

Good post.

With Paulsen, and any interaction between a state agency and sovereign nations like Tribal Gov't there has been a long standing tradition that agency personnel have no jurisdiction on the reservation. There have been several cases of negotiated jurisdiction where Game Wardens, with the permission of the Tribal Gov't, were able to execute warrants.
 

Oneye

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He didn't say what he had to say in the most politically correct way and then had to delete it. While he could have more eloquently got his point across I think he should be able to say it and leave it posted without criticism.
 

JLS

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Good post.

With Paulsen, and any interaction between a state agency and sovereign nations like Tribal Gov't there has been a long standing tradition that agency personnel have no jurisdiction on the reservation. There have been several cases of negotiated jurisdiction where Game Wardens, with the permission of the Tribal Gov't, were able to execute warrants.

Nevada v. Hicks stated that Game Wardens can execute warrants on tribal lands for violations that occurred outside of the reservation. They do not need to negotiate with tribal law enforcement in order to do so.

Paulsen's issue was not within reservation boundaries. It was on trust land that was bisected by a county road.
 

katqanna

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Here is the article from Sept 2014, when Paulsen was detained for 5 1/2 hours. He was not on Tribal lands and had

The incident did not occur on reservation lands, Huestis said, but was instead near the junction of Timber Ridge (also shown on some maps as Barney Olson Road) and Hays roads, about 12 miles west of the small tribal community of Hays...

Paulsen has been an FWP warden for seven years. During the past three years he has investigated four incidents of elk poaching near where he was stopped by tribal officials.

As to Roger Phillips tweet, on his personal account, people can argue over terminology all they want. How many of you, using your personal accounts to make statements here have written a$$, bull$h*t, fvck or a myriad of other words? It was his bloody personal twitter account, speaking out about a subject he is passionate about. Clearly he would not do so in an official capacity for IDFG. But he was self identifying himself as a member of the sportsmen public, which he has every right to.

Just because he is also an employee of a state agency (or could be federal in other peoples cases), does not remove him from the general public, with a right to express himself, on his personal time, with his own personal social media platforms.

Worse to me, are the cases that relate to the issues at hand that employees are not allowed, prohibited from addressing that do pertain to their jobs, to advocate for the science and good management. We need those voices.
 

Ben Lamb

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All I'm saying is that there has been a lot of tension between tribes and FWP enforcement since we got our first warden.

To think that it will go away denies the rich tapestry of wildlife management history.
 

JoseCuervo

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So, a bit of the backstory to the original post and the "watchdog" org that posted this.

Dustin Hurst is the communications director for the lobbying group "Idaho Freedom Foundation" that is a Koch-Brothers GOP mouthpiece established to keep GOP politicians in Idaho in line with the Koch Brothers / ALEC groups.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation / Idaho GOP / Koch Brothers are continually proposing anti-hunting legislation this year (and year's past.) The IFF has a "Freedom Index" where they score each bill on "Freedom" and then punish legislators with low "Freedome Scores."

When Roger tweeted this out, Dustin Hurst quickly re-tweeted it and said "This guy is a state employee". Then, Dustin deleted it, and, I am guessing he and the IFF then pushed this to cowardly GOP legislators to pressure the F&G. And, of course, the F&G caved.

Lesson learned, don't take on the Koch Brother's GOP legislatures.
 

katqanna

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Gunflint, here is the link to the Minnesota DNR keynote address by James (Jim) T. Martin, a biologist, formerly with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for 30 years.

The Perfect Storm: Four Factors Squeezing Conservation in the 21st Century.

1. Increasing gap between public's expectations for managing the natural resources and the amount of resources that are available. Less funding to state fish & wildlife agencies, slow strangulation, with declining hunting and angling populations, agencies are feeling the squeeze. People will be getting their science from Nature Conservancy & Defenders of Wildlife, collapse in 25 years.

2. Rate of Development. Where do you roll the development to? Ag or the wilds? Most are not planning because it is too politically contentious. Water conflicts – fish & wildlife last to the table, getting left behind.

3. Climate Change, rate of change is accelerating. You can look at the models or drive 400 miles south and see your future.

4. Conservation system that is the envy of the world in jeopardy. Trained professionals that advised elected officials, who are accountable to the public. Breakdown in that firewall. Elected officials are shutting up the professional advice, directors are not trained professionals and no one is willing to call “bullshit”. A fight on our hands to prevent the politicization of our science infrastructure.

This is a very important message. I highly encourage y'all to take the 31 minutes to watch it. I had to wait a few days for them to get it online after the address, was chomping at the bit. ;)
 

HSi-ESi

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Yeah, but "Steve Forbes also tweeted one of Dustin's stories one time".

Maybe someday, if I work hard enough, I too can get tweeted by Steve Forbes.

To the OP though - personal time is personal time. I don't personally think that tweet was too out of line (if it was on personal computer, off hours, etc). I only wonder why you would give someone ammunition - that tweet could easily have been worded differently to get your point across.

For Paulsen - tribal relations are difficult for non-tribal to negotiate. There's always more lying under the hood.
 

Foxtrot1

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I am a natural resource program manager for a state agency. Our agency actively views employee Twitter or facebook accounts. We are restricted from being involved in anything deemed political. So if I participate I have to remove any reference to my job title/position from any of my comments viewable by the public. Overall I think it's BS.
 

Ben Lamb

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Dustin got run out of Montana fairly quickly. IFF is a nasty little group of trolls.
 

Northwoods Labs

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This has happened in Wisconsin as well. Biologists and resource managers cannot talk to the media at all, everything has to go through the WDNR Secretary and "Communications Director" (or something like that). Both of these folks are governor appointees. (Side story: Just recently someone told WDNR Secretary Cathy Stepp that fish, wildlife, clean air, and clean water are the WDNR's main customers. Stepp's response: "Well, last time I checked, they don't pay taxes and they don't sign our paychecks.")

Also, all former WDNR employees, as well as folks in the UW system (UW-Stevens Point is one of the top natural resource schools in the country), are barred from serving on committees that create the management plans for wildlife, fisheries, and state lands
 

mplane72

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This is old news here but a perfect example of what the OP is talking about.

Tom Litchfield, the State Deer Biologist for Iowa, nearly lot his job over this article and interview. He received a written reprimand from his Wildlife Supervisor, along with the possibility of termination of his job. This reprimand goes into his permanent file, which is scrutinized when considered for future promotions, etc.

http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2013/10/dirty-politics-deer-management?src=SOC&dom=fb
 

katqanna

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Randy, you are welcome.

Yesterday someone seeing this thread sent me some links to news articles of a similar event here in Montana in 2011, just before I got involved with hunter conservation. Two FWP employees, on their own time, sent personal letters to a meat processor Ed Ryan saying they would no longer use his services after he testified in support of House Bill 361.

Somehow Ensign’s and Atwood’s letters came to the attention of some legislators. During a hearing on the confirmation of Dan Vermillion to the FWP Commission, Rep. Debby Barrett, R-Dillon, long a critic of FWP policy, asked FWP director Joe Maurier what he intended to do about the issue...

To back his claim that the men had lost credibility, Maurier’s affadavit also cited personal conversations with several people, most of whom are vocal critics of FWP management and the Breaks elk policy. They included Barrett, Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, Bozeman outfitter Paul Ellis, Mac Minard of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, and outfitter and Rep. Bill Harris, R-Mosby.

Maurier ordered the men transferred out of the Region 7. The employees appealed and won. They had violated no rules on the books, were acting as individuals I read through the articles (heres one), then found the preliminary decision which ruled in favor of the two FWP employees.

These personal letters from Atwood and Ensign are just that - personal letters ending a personal business/customer relationship. They did not reference agency position, policy, or belief.

FWP tired to make it seem as though there were other reasons for the transfer order, but thankfully there was audio of Maurier from public meetings and his own interoffice memorandum stating the attacks by certain landowners, legislators and other constituents as the reason, with no reprimands on the employees records to validate the retaliation.
 
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