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Rumored to be the Director of the Bureau of Land Management

Karen Budd-Falen is a “leading candidate” to head the Bureau of Land Management, although the White House has “declined to confirm that President Trump has decided on a nominee for the post.”

Karen Budd-Falen has been described as “a darling of the original Sagebrush Rebellion,” which was “the movement that [in] the 1970s… pushed for major changes to federal land control.” By 1991, Newsweek was reporting that Budd-Falen had “become the hired gun of choice for ranchers facing court action from federal agencies.” Budd-Falen “grew up as a fifth generation rancher on a family-owned ranch in Big Piney, Wyoming” and “received her undergraduate degrees and her law degree from the University of Wyoming.” She began her career in the Reagan administration, serving in the “U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. She later served as a law clerk to the Assistant Solicitor for Water and Power.” Budd-Falen began “working against environmental restrictions with the Mountain States Legal Foundation,” a 501(c)(3) dedicated “to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system,” and which has been described as being affiliated with “ALEC/Koch” and has taken “funding from oil and gas companies.” Budd-Falen is currently a property rights attorney and “the owner of the Budd-Falen Law Offices, L.L.C. located in Cheyenne, Wyoming” along with her husband, Frank Falen.

Sources: [Jennifer Yachnin, “Potential BLM pick has fought for ranchers, property rights,” E&E News, 06/16/17, “MAKING IT LOCAL; Time for a new Sagebrush Rebellion,” High Country News, 12/06/04, Jeremy P. Jacobs, “PROPERTY RIGHTS: High-stakes suit pits ranchers against water-sampling greens,” Greenwire, 11/18/14, James N. Baker, John Taliaferro and Patricia King, “Who’s Who: 20 for the Future,” Newsweek, 09/30/91, “Karen Budd-Falen: Senior Partner,” Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC, accessed 07/21/17, Timothy Egan, “Drilling in West Pits Republican Policy Against Republican Base,” New York Times, 06/22/05, Mark Trahant, “True civil discourse may be our best hope for solving West’s environmental problems,” The Seattle Times, 12/13/98, “About Mountain States Legal Foundation,” Mountain States Legal Foundation, accessed 02/23/17, Joel Kirkland, “Senate GOP pledges vote on Pruitt as Trump chaos grows,” Environment & Energy, 02/15/17, and Bob Sloan, “ALEC, the Koch Led CABAL & ‘The Amicus Project’ – Fed Court Interference,” Daily Kos, 07/24/12]

Special Interests

Cliven Bundy (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen has represented Nevada rancher and anti-government extremist Cliven Bundy in his anti-conservation efforts.

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Harvey Frank Robbins (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen was the “longtime attorney” of Harvey Frank Robbins, a ranch owner “with a grudge against the government,” who had “been involved in lawsuits and countersuits” with the Bureau of Land Management “over numerous grazing violations.”

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Hugh McKeen (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen represented Hugh McKeen, an extremist rancher in Catron County, NM, who repeatedly, despite warnings, grazed his cattle in forbidden areas, in violation of his grazing permits.

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Houston County Landowners Concerned About Property Rights (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen represented this group which sued Houston County, Minnesota claiming the county had acted "outside of authority provided by the state in denying landowners the right to develop their properties."

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Andy Johnson (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen represented Andy Johnson, a Wyoming farmer who sued the EPA for what he claimed was “an illegal overreach of its authority.”

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Arizona & New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth (Political Extremism)

Budd-Falen represented this group, which has been “frequently lumped into the… wise-use movement,” a movement “made up of private property rights, farming, ranching, logging and mining organizations” and is “closely aligned with the militia movement in the West.”

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Western Legacy Alliance (Political Extremism)

WLA, which funded Budd-Falen’s “spurious” research on the Equal Access to Justice Act, was formed in response to lawsuits from “radical environmental groups.” WLA believes that “ranchers are simply on the receiving end and it is time to stand up and fight.”

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Clajon Production Corporation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented a group of landowners—including “a wealthy” “majority shareholder in the Texas-based Clajon Production Corp.,”—who challenged Wyoming’s allotment of “big-game hunting licenses for landowners.”

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Dayville Grazing Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented the Dayville Grazing Association which intervened in a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, who claimed that argued that the grazing in Oregon was “causing irreparable injury to stream banks and steelhead spawning areas.”

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Smithsfork Grazing Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented ranchers with the Smithsfork Grazing Association, who “sued the BLM” in a challenge to “the federal agency’s 2005 order to reduce grazing" in southwestern Wyoming.

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Nebraska Habitat Conservation Coalition (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented this coalition, made up of natural resource, irrigation and power districts, in a federal lawsuit seeking “to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat designation for an endangered bird,” the piping plover.

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Canyon Club Inc. (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented this developer that was sued by environmental groups while it was “constructing an upscale housing development and championship golf course on ranch land,” because, the environmental groups argued, the development would harm bald eagles.

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Save Our Snowplanes (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented “a group of ice fishermen calling itself ‘Save our Snowplanes’” that challenged “a ban on operating snowplanes on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park.”

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Nevada Land Action Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen has filed amici briefs on behalf of the Nevada Land Action Association, which “was created in 1976 to help defend public land grazing and agriculture in general in Nevada."

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New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance when it repeatedly attempted to challenge “a plan that reduced the number of roads and trails available to off-road vehicles in Santa Fe National Forest.”

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New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen filed an amicus brief on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association in a lawsuit challenging “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) designation of critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl.”

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Anniversary Mining Claims LLC (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen represented Anniversary Mining Claims LLC in a lawsuit against the federal government. Anniversary Mining sued to use a road on federal public lands “for the use of commercial vehicles to transport minerals.”

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also connected to:

Mountain States Legal Foundation (Resource Development on Public Lands)

Budd-Falen worked at the Mountain States Legal Foundation, an organization that is affiliated with ALEC and the Koch network and has taken funding from oil and gas companies.

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Background Information

Previous Employers

Additional Background on Employers of Note:

Karen Budd-Falen’s law firm provides “legal representation regarding endangered species, clean water, private property ownership and use, federal lands, local government involvement, local zoning and property rights, energy law, and other areas of law affecting ranchers, farmers, and other landowners.”  

[“About Us,” Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC, accessed 07/21/17, “Energy Development,” Budd-Falen Law Offices LLC, accessed 07/21/17, and Craig Welch, “Bush switches nation’s tack on protecting species, The Environment and the Presidency,” The Seattle Times, 09/27/04]

Karen “Budd-Falen often loses in court” and “frequently pursues legal arguments, such as her claim that county authority supersedes federal authority over federal land, that collapse in court.”

[Amanda Marcotte, “Karen Budd-Falen, the Bundy family’s lawyer, may be Trump’s pick to manage federal lands,” Salon, 07/18/17]

Karen Budd-Falen “has represented Cliven Bundy in his anti-conservation efforts in the past.”

Her “legal relationship with Cliven Bundy goes back to the early ’90s, when Bundy and other ranchers hired Budd-Falen as their lawyer in their fight to continue grazing cattle on public lands that were designated for preservation in order to protect an endangered species of tortoise.”

[Amanda Marcotte, “Karen Budd-Falen, the Bundy family’s lawyer, may be Trump’s pick to manage federal lands,” Salon, 07/18/17]

Karen Budd-Falen said that “‘the Cliven Bundy situation goes to show how American citizens react when a government has so expanded that it believe that the citizens are subservient to political power.’”

She called the armed standoff between Bundy and the federal government “‘simply a case of the government putting a rancher out of business because the rancher has to prove a negative — the burden is on the rancher while all deference goes to the federal government and the government only has to make allegations to eliminate a family, a business, a community, a way of life.’”

[Michael Bastasch, “Feds accused of ‘intimidation’ and ‘bullying’ ranchers,” Daily Caller, 04/14/14]

Karen Budd-Falen said that she “‘totally get[s]’” what drove Cliven Bundy “to do what he did.” She said, “‘I think you’re going to see more of that because we’re not left with any choice.’”

Budd-Falen also claimed the Bundy standoff was “symptomatic of Washington’s increased hostility towards ranchers.” She explained, “‘The Cliven Bundy situation goes to show how American citizens react when a government has so expanded that it believe that the citizens are subservient to political power… In this case, the federal government claims that it had to remove grazing to protect a species — when in reality, livestock grazing has a miniscule impact (not even a bad impact) on the species.’”

[Angela Lu, “Long Land Battle,” World Magazine, 11/29/14, and Michael Bastasch, “Feds Accused of ‘Intimidation’ and ‘bullying’ Ranchers,” Daily Caller, 04/14/14]

Karen Budd-Falen was the “longtime attorney” of Harvey Frank Robbins, a ranch owner “with a grudge against the government,” who had “been involved in lawsuits and countersuits” with the Bureau of Land Management “over numerous grazing violations.”  

In a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Robbins and Budd-Falen sued BLM staffers “as individuals” for “pressuring” him to “let them use the road through his property,” “invoking RICO, an anti-racketeering law.” Their victory in the case could have “ruined the staffers’ personal finances,” but the U.S. Supreme Court “ruled unanimously against Budd-Falen” and her clients because “the racketeering law wasn’t intended to expose federal employees to extortion charges whenever they push the envelope with regulations.”

[Cat Urbigkit, “Budd-Falen to argue in nation’s highest court,” Pinedale Online, 12/04/06, Ray Ring, “Rebels with a Lost Cause,” High Country News, 12/10/07, Amanda Marcotte, “Karen Budd-Falen, the Bundy family’s lawyer, may be Trump’s pick to manage federal lands,” Salon, 07/18/17, Henry Weinstein, “THE NATION; U.S. agents avoid a racketeering suit; The high court rejects a rancher’s legal strategy against the BLM,” Los Angeles Times, 06/26/07, and United States v. Robbins, Case No. 98-8038, 06/14/99]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Hugh McKeen, an extremist rancher in Catron County, NM, who repeatedly, despite warnings, grazed his cattle in forbidden areas, in violation of his grazing permits.

McKeen, who sued the U.S. Forest after it suspended 25% of his grazing permit due to repeated violations, called the Forest Service “‘our worst enemy’” and wrote, “if you are a rancher or logger, you will understand why the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, was taken over.” McKeen claimed that the Forest Service “framed” him when they reduced his cattle numbers, and wrote that most of the “rangers I have had in the past 50 years have had evil intentions and are never fired.” McKeen has also compared government regulations to slavery, stating, “‘I think I know how colored people used to feel. I’m a slave and I’m a slave to the federal government.’”

[McKeen v. United States Forest Serv., 615 F.3d 1244, 08/02/10, “Ranchers turn to Livestock Board for help in Gila grazing fight,” Associated Press State & Local Wire, 03/06/04, Hugh McKeen, “Federal government causing chaos [Letter to the Editor],” Silver City Daily Press & Independent, 02/05/16, and Jim Nesbitt, “Harvest of Discontent,” American Cowboy, 05-06/96]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Maynard Alves, a Nevada rancher who complained about livestock from a neighboring ranch trespassing onto his ranch, and claimed that the operators of the neighboring ranch were “‘hiding behind’” Shoshone Indian land rights.

The neighboring ranch was operated by Mary and Carrie Dann, Shoshone Indians who argued that claims against them were invalid because of aboriginal rights. “Tribal leaders” “united behind the Danns, hoping the sisters’ lawsuit would provide the vehicle for re-establishing Shoshone land rights.” “‘These people have taken my livelihood away from me, and I have to stand here and watch with my hands in my pockets,’” said Alves, Budd-Falen’s client. “‘In my opinion, they are hiding behind their lineal ancestry to steal.’”

[Maynard Alves v. United States, Case No. 97-5042, 01/12/98 and Jennifer Warren, “U.S.-INDIAN LAND FEUD HEATS UP,” Los Angeles Times, 09/24/91]

Karen Budd-Falen represented the Mantle family “in their various legal battles with the National Park Service,” including a complaint that the family had been “illegally dumping solid waste on park property.”

The Mantles had “feuded with federal managers for decades over their right to operate their late father Charlie’s 520-acre cattle ranch within the boundaries of Dinosaur National Park,” such as when the Park Service determined that a spring box installed on the property “was an unauthorized water development.”

[Christopher Smith, “Judge Tells Dinosaur Park To Restore Water to Ranch,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 12/16/96]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a group of landowners—including “a wealthy” “majority shareholder in the Texas-based Clajon Production Corp.,” which owned “some 90,000 acres in Carbon and Albany counties in southern Wyoming”—who challenged Wyoming’s allotment of “big-game hunting licenses for landowners.”

Budd-Falen’s clients claimed that Wyoming’s formula for distributing hunting licenses was unfair to landowners and argued to increase the number of licenses issued to landowners. Opponents of the lawsuit claimed it sought to privatize “public wildlife, a move that would jeopardize not just Wyoming’s season, but public hunting everywhere,” because it would reduce the number of licenses available to the public. Public hunting advocates said the lawsuit “might be the most serious threat to the nation’s hunting tradition in recent times.” The Hunters Institute said this case was part of a movement to “end public hunting traditions in this country, turning the sport into the pastime of a wealthy few.” Even a Republican legislator in Wyoming said the lawsuit was so dangerous that “‘every sportsman in the state should be extremely concerned about it.’” The case demonstrated “‘new property-rights agenda’” where groups attempted “to force state and federal governments to compensate property owners for complying with environmental regulations,” arguing that such regulations “are de-facto takings of that property.” The issues touched “everything from wetlands designations to Endangered Species Act rulings, and even common conservation policies.”

[Bob Saile, “Wildlife lawsuit sad sign of times,” The Denver Post, 02/06/94, “Public hunting faces challenge from lawsuit,” The Times-Picayune, 03/06/94, and “Suit challenges state ownership of wildlife,” Associated Press, 08/30/93]

Karen Budd-Falen represented “32 Nevada ranchers who graze livestock where federally protected tortoises roam” and “took the ranchers’ case to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Salt Lake City after an Interior Department administrative law judge denied their claims in 1995.”

“The ranchers had asked the Interior Department judge to halt the BLM’s grazing moratorium,” claiming that they were excluded from the BLM’s “decision-making process” and that “there is no scientific evidence that livestock grazing hurts tortoises.”

[Keith Rodgers, “Nevada ranchers applaud court ruling,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, 03/20/97]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2002, represented cattle ranchers in the Mojave Desert who challenged BLM grazing restrictions, which “had been imposed to protect the endangered desert tortoise.”

[Sharon McNary, “Mojave grazing restrictions lifted: CATTLE: The ban, to protect the desert tortoise, is taken off the eastern and northern regions,” Press-Enterprise, 12/21/02]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2003, represented ranchers in northern Utah, whose grazing permits were challenged by the Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group. Western Watersheds argued that the grazing “has resulted in soil erosion, habitat destruction and degraded water quality in streams.”

[“Group asks federal court to cancel 149 grazing permits in Utah,” Associated Press, 04/03/03]

Karen Budd-Falen was hired by “Tweeti Blancett, a coordinator for George Bush’s presidential campaign in San Juan County, N.M.,” and her husband, Linn, when they “sued to try to force the federal Bureau of Land Management to clean up” the “32,000 acres of public land” the couple “used for grazing cattle” in 2005.

The Blancetts accused the BLM “of failing to protect their grazing allotment from oil and gas drilling,” and said their land had become “riddled with gas wells and pipelines” and “petroleum byproducts have poisoned the water…killing animals and causing the fertility rate to plummet.” Budd-Falen represented the Blancetts again several years later, when they sued the Interior Department, claiming that their property was “put in jeopardy by the BLM’s reliance on an erroneous dependent resurvey.”

[Timothy Egan, “Drilling in West Pits Republican Policy Against Republican Base,” The New York Times, 06/22/05, “Judge dismisses ranchers’ suit on oil and gas rights on BLM land,” Associated Press, 04/14/06, and Blancett et al. v. United States Department of the Interior et al., Case 1:10-cv-00254-JAP-KBM, filed 03/19/10]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a Florida property owner, Jesse James Hardy, who owned “160 acres in the Everglades,” which the state of Florida attempted to take through eminent domain “for the state’s $8 billion Everglades restoration project.”

The Everglades restoration project would restore “a pollution-free water flow” and give “habitat back to the panthers and wading birds.” Hardy, who had paid $60,000 for the land in 1976, had “rejected all offers” from the state for the land, “including one for $4.5 million.” Hardy argued that his property was “not in the Everglades, and the state can do its science experiment without his contribution.” Budd-Falen “hired experts to say that his land was never underwater,” and said that she thought “‘the state just wants the land.’” “‘Sometimes environmentalists are not about protecting the environment, they’re about stopping use,’” she said. “‘Isn’t that what the King of Nottingham did in Robin Hood?’” Hardy lost his case in 2005, and “was given $4.95 million” for the property. Hardy called the Everglades Restoration project “‘the biggest fraud ever put onto the people of the state of Florida, big as the panther is. There ain’t no Florida panther. Those cats are from Texas and I seen the trailers load up,’” he said.

[Roberto Santiago, “State moves to seize land for Glades restoration,” The Miami Herald, 08/31/04, Kelley Benham, “Standing his ground,” St. Petersburg Times, 03/01/05, and Nicholas Spangler, “When $4 million feels like a rip-off,” The Miami Herald, 02/03/06]

Karen Budd-Falen represented the Dayville Grazing Association, which intervened in a lawsuit brought by environmental groups, challenging “grazing on the Murderers Creek and Blue Mountain allotments” in Oregon.

The lawsuit was filed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Center for Biological Diversity, which argued that the grazing was “causing irreparable injury to stream banks and steelhead spawning areas.” The Dayville Grazing Association estimated that their attorneys’ fees could total “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

[Mark Engler, “Key grazing dispute ruling still pending,” Blue Mountain Eagle, 07/14/04]

Karen Budd-Falen represented “a sprawling Nevada ranch” that, along with the “world’s biggest gold mining company,” “agreed to dramatically reduce livestock grazing across nearly 800 square miles of public land” in a March 2006 settlement.

The conservation group Western Watersheds Project “had asked an Interior Department administrative law judge to ban grazing outright” on the property. Budd-Falen called the settlement “‘a temporary compromise,’” and “said the ranch agreed to the settlement so it could gather evidence to prove next year that the land can sustain grazing at levels the BLM had approved.” A spokesman for Western Watersheds Project said the settlement was “evidence that the grazing levels were unsustainable,” saying, “‘It shows the scamming that has been going on for a long time, giving the big ranchers and big mines whatever they wanted in terms of grazing levels.’”

[Scott Sonner, “Mining company, Nevada ranch reach grazing deal with environmental group,” Associated Press, 03/23/06, and “GRAZING: Mining, Nev. ranching firms reach deal with enviros,” Greenwire, 03/23/06]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a group of off-roaders who “purchased tiny pockets of private land at the top of” Surprise Canyon, near Death Valley in California, and then sued “the federal government for access to their property, arguing that the canyon is a public right of way.”

Five years earlier, “environmentalists successfully sued to get the narrow canyon and its spring-fed waterfalls closed to vehicles, arguing that the federal Bureau of Land Management was not carrying out its duty to protect the land.” Budd-Falen “dusted off a Civil War-era mining law” to argue the off-roaders’ case, which was dismissed by a federal judge in 2007, “citing a lack of jurisdiction.”

[“Calif. off-roading rights case pitting environmentalists against property owners dismissed,” Associated Press, 07/28/07]

Karen Budd-Falen represented “a group of ranchers with cattle grazing permits” who alleged that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act “by arbitrarily limiting grazing in the” Malheur National Forest in Oregon. Environmental groups alleged that cattle grazing on the lands were harming the steelhead trout population.

[Oregon Natural Desert Ass’n et al v. U.S. Forest Service et al, Case No. 2:07-cv-01871-HA, filed 12/21/07, and Richard Cockle, “Ranchers say a ban on grazing would end their very existence,” The Oregonian, 05/10/09]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2007, represented “ranchers on the 11 allotments within the” Joseph Creek Rangeland Analysis Area in Oregon when the Center for Water Advocacy challenged their grazing rights.

Budd-Falen argued that her clients would be “irreparably harmed if a restraining order or injunction was imposed and no grazing were allowed.” The Center for Water Advocacy argued that grazing “would adversely impact steelhead habitat, aspen groves, sage grouse habitat, and exotic endangered plants.”

[Corey Wicks, “Judge denies Joseph Creek grazing injunction request,” Wallowa County Chieftain, 04/12/07]

Karen Budd-Falen represented ranchers with the Smithsfork Grazing Association, who “sued the BLM and various government officials” in a challenge to “the federal agency’s 2005 order to reduce grazing on the 91,000-acre Smithsfork Allotment located north and east of Cokeville, in southwestern Wyoming.”

According to the Western Watersheds Project, grazing was “causing major problems with streams in the area that support Bonneville cutthroat trout, a species that the BLM has listed as sensitive.”

[Ben Neary, “Appeals court rules against Wyoming ranchers,” Associated Press, 05/06/09]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a group called Houston County Landowners Concerned About Property Rights, which sued the Minnesota county “in 2010, after four years of unsuccessfully lobbying the county to rewrite portions of its zoning code.”

The group claimed that Houston County had acted “outside of authority provided by the state in denying landowners the right to develop their properties.” “‘Land-use planning cannot go so far as to take private property rights,’” said Budd-Falen.

[Craig Moorhead, “Land-use group threatens to sue Houston County,” Houston County News, 04/07/10 and Nathan Hansen, “Houston County property lawsuit dismissed,” Winona Daily News, 02/11/12]

Karen Budd-Falen has repeatedly clashed with the Western Watersheds Project, an Idaho-based conservation organization, in legal battles.

Budd-Falen represented a group of 15 Wyoming ranchers who brought a “nuisance lawsuit” against “Western Watersheds and its Wyoming project director, Jonathan Ratner, for trespassing” in 2014. The ranchers accused the group’s “members of trespassing on private land to collect water samples” and crossing “onto ranches in Fremont and Lincoln counties more than two dozen times since 2005 to monitor water pollution.” Ratner had “spent a couple years testing pollution levels in water on public lands” and found “that, because of all the cattle grazing in the area, levels of E. coli in Wyoming streams were far higher than federal regulations allowed.” Budd-Falen denied Ratner’s assertion that “the case against him is a blatant attempt to pile legal fees onto Western Watersheds that discourage activism,” saying, “‘It wasn’t about data collection. It was about trespassing on private property.’” However, Budd-Falen reportedly bragged “in 2015 to a group of ranchers that ‘one of the funniest things I’m doing right now’ is that she ‘figured out a way to sue Western Watersheds Project.’” The case was settled in 2016, with no monetary damages imposed against Western Watersheds or Ratner. After she brought the case, Western Watershed’s executive director at the time referred to Budd-Falen as the group’s “‘nemesis.’”

[“WATER POLLUTION: Wyo. ranchers sue stream-monitoring enviros for trespassing,” Greenwire, 06/16/14, Amanda Marcotte, “Karen Budd-Falen, the Bundy family’s lawyer, may be Trump’s pick to manage federal lands,” Salon, 07/18/17, “Settlement reached in Fremont County trespass lawsuit,” Associated Press, 09/10/16, and Jeremy P. Jacobs, “PROPERTY RIGHTS: High-stakes suit pits ranchers against water-sampling greens,” Greenwire, 11/18/14]

Karen Budd-Falen defended rancher Bradford Smith after he and his brother were charged with dumping “garbage, waste, and debris generated on private property” on public land in Moffat County, Colorado.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the ranchers “‘diverted water, to create a ditch from a pond, to an area where they had a flock of sheep,’” which “‘can impact public land in ways that can’t be foreseen.’” He also noted that “said they used heavy equipment to tear up ditches for dumping refuse.” Budd-Falen’s client was convicted of “knowingly and willfully allowing livestock to graze on public land without a permit” and “willfully removing or destroying plants on their parts, soil, rocks or minerals.”

[Erin Fenner, “2 Moffat County residents charged with dumping on BLM land,” Craig Daily Press, 06/24/13, “Two Moffat County Ranchers Indicted For Building Trash Dumps On Public Lan And Illegally Diverting Water,” Department of Justice, Press Release, 06/20/13, and United States v. Smith, Case No. 1:13-cr-00261-REB, 06/18/13]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Andy Johnson, a “southwest Wyoming farmer” who sued the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2015, for what he claimed was “an illegal overreach of its authority.”

Johnson had “a stock pond on his property to provide a watering hole for his cattle,” which the EPA informed him “was in violation of the Clean Water Act.” In January 2014, the EPA sent Johnson a compliance order, “instructing him to remove the stock pond or face $37,500 in fines for every day he refused to do so.” Johnson claimed, “‘when the EPA came into my life, they didn’t just attack me, they attacked our family and our home.’” The case was settled in 2016.

[James Chilton, “Wyoming man files lawsuit against EPA because of stock pond,” Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 08/28/15, and Pacific Legal Foundation, Press Release, 05/09/16]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a coalition of groups, including the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, in a case that challenged the Bureau of Land Management’s “ongoing illegal treatment of wild horses residing on public lands” and its plan “to remove wild horses from the West Douglas Herd Area” in Colorado.

[Complaint, Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Inc. et al. v. Salazer et al., Case 1:10-cv-01645-RMC, 09/29/10]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Utah ranchers who demanded that “the Bureau of Land Management remove ‘excess’ wild horses from” land near Cedar City, which they claimed was “overrun with free-roaming horses that displace their cattle.” The case was dismissed by a federal judge in July 2017.

[Brian Maffly, “Judge rejects Utah ranchers’ plea to evict wild horses,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 07/13/17, Lindsay Whitehurst, “Judge allows wild-horse lawsuit to move forward,” Associated Press, 04/21/15, and “Karen Budd-Falen – Local Land use Plans & Petitions for Redress of Grievances,” YouTube, 10/25/16 (09:59)]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 1999, submitted an amicus brief in support of the Public Lands Council. In the case, the Council challenged “federal grazing regulations” issued by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the Interior Secretary.

Budd-Falen filed the brief on behalf of several groups, including the Arizona & New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth, which has been “frequently lumped into the so-called wise-use movement.” The wise use movement is “made up of private property rights, farming, ranching, logging and mining organizations” and is “closely aligned with the militia movement in the West.” Budd-Falen has submitted amicus briefs on behalf of the Arizona & New Mexico Coalition of Counties for Stable Economic Growth on multiple occasions.

[Brief of Amici Curiae Alameda Book Cliff’s Ranch et. al., Public Lands Council v. Bruce Babbitt, 529 US 728 (2000), “Public Lands Council v. Babbitt,” Oyez, accessed 08/09/17, Brief of Amici Curiae Alameda Book Cliff’s Ranch et. al., Public Lands Council v. Bruce Babbitt, 529 US 728 (2000), James Scarantino Testimony, House Resources Committee Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health, 04/04/00, Michael Wickline, “Crapo gets money for Highway 25 or 95 or whatever it’s called,” Lewiston Morning Tribune, 04/16/98, David Helvarg, “Wild Western Movements,” In These Times, 07/28/97, Brief of Amici Curiae New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association et. al., Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association v. Salazar et. al., 11/04/10, and Brief of Amicus Curiae of Coalition of Counties, City of Tombstone v. United States of America et. al., 06/18/12]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2001, “won a ruling from a regional appeals court” in “an important suit” against “critical habitat” designations, “which protect habitat deemed essential to the recovery of endangered species.”

Budd-Falen represented the “New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau and several other groups” who “sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over a critical habitat designation for the southwestern willow flycatcher,” arguing that “the federal government had not properly considered economic impacts.” In the case, “ranchers argued that their livelihoods could be threatened if they were forced to fence cattle out of certain areas, build new stock ponds or remove livestock from federal grazing allotments.” The ruling “ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider the economic impacts of its critical habitat designations,” which “worried environmentalists.” Peter Galvin, “a conservation biologist and co-founder of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity,” said that the case prompted concerns “‘that what industry is doing here is attempting to basically turn back the clock on wildlife protections.’”

[Ray Ring, “Property-rights lawyers score one against wild salmon; Court rulings force re-evaluation of endangered fish and habitat in the Northwest,” High Country News, 05/24/04, and “New Mexico endangered species case sparks others,” Associated Press, 08/11/02]

Karen Budd-Falen represented the Nebraska Habitat Conservation Coalition in a federal lawsuit seeking “to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service critical habitat designation for an endangered bird,” the piping plover.

Members of the coalition included “23 natural resource, irrigation and power districts, the cities of Lexington and Grand Island, the Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation and Nebraska Cattlemen.”

[Margery Beck, “Coalition files lawsuit over piping plover habitat designation,” Associated Press, 02/15/03]

Karen Budd-Falen represented a developer (Canyon Club Inc.) that was sued by environmental groups while it was “constructing an upscale housing development and championship golf course on ranch land.” The environmental groups argued that the development would have an “adverse impact on bald eagles.”

[Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance v. Robert B. Flowers et al., Case No. 03-8034, 03/02/04, Greater Yellowstone Coalition et al. v. Robert B. Flowers et al., Case No. 02-8087, 02/20/03, and Cara Froedge, “River club’s trouble mounts,” Jackson Hole News & Guide, 09/24/08]

Karen Budd-Falen represented “a group of ice fishermen calling itself ‘Save our Snowplanes’” that challenged “a ban on operating snowplanes on Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park” in 2005.

Snowplanes, “propeller-driven machines that slide on skis across frozen lakes,” were banned on the lake in 2001 “because they made too much noise” and “were often audible from as far as three or four miles from the lake.” Budd-Falen lost the case in 2009, when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Save Our Snowplanes “lacked standing to appeal the National Park Service’s ban on the machines” because the group “had challenged the Park Service’s 2001 winter use plan after the plan was no longer in effect and had been replaced by another rule.”

[Ben Neary, “Appeals court says snowplane group has no case,” Associated Press, 06/04/09]

In 2011, Karen Budd-Falen filed an amici brief in support of BLM rules, “first proposed by the grazing industry,” that “put restrictions on the BLM’s enforcement powers and limited public involvement in the public-lands management process.”

The Nevada Land Action Association, one of the amici represented on Budd-Falen’s brief, has, in the past, asked Congress to investigate the BLM, claiming that the Interior Department attempted “to ‘usurp’ the powers of Congress” and was depriving “‘Americans of freedom, rights and property value without due process of law.’”

[Western Watersheds Project v. Public Lands Council, Case Nos. 08-35359, 08-35360, 09/01/10, and Ian Thomas, “9th Circ. Refuses To Rehear Grazing Rights Appeal,” Law360, 01/19/11, Brief of Amici Curiae Eureka County et. al., Public Lands Council v. Western Watersheds Project, 05/19/11, J. Goicoechea, “NLAA Dues Notice Letter,” The Progressive Rancher, July/August 2015, and Page 15, Reno Gazette-Journal, 01/17/77]

Karen Budd-Falen represented several organizations—including the New Mexico Trappers Association, New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, and United Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife—in a case that challenged “trapping within the occupied range of the critically endangered Mexican gray wolf” in New Mexico.

[Gavin Broady, “Enviro Group Loses Challenge To NM Wolf Trapping Regs,” Law 360, 12/05/12, Rene Romo, “Magistrate Tosses Trapping Lawsuit; Group: Species Act Was Violated,” Albuquerque Journal, 12/05/12, WildEarth Guardians v. Kirkpatrick et al, 1:12-cv-00118-JCH-SCY, filed 02/07/12, Complaint, WildEarth Guardians v. Kirkpatrick et al, 1:12-cv-00118-JCH-SCY, filed 02/07/12, Motion to Intervene, WildEarth Guardians v. Kirkpatrick et al, 1:12-cv-00118-JCH-SCY, filed 02/07/12, WildEarth Guardians v. United States Forest Service, 1:07-cv-01043-JB-ACT, filed 10/17/07 and “Environmentalists Join Forces: The new group is called WildEarth Guardians,” WildEarth Guardians, 01/28/08]

Karen Budd-Falen defended Andrew VanDenBerg, who was sued by the federal government after building a “one-mile road built across federal property in San Juan County,” Colorado.

VanDenBerg “used mechanical equipment to construct the road to his mining claim across” BLM land, and “removed top soil, vegetation and hundreds of trees ‘creating an unnatural corridor from 10 to 20 feet wide,’ in a winter foraging habitat for Canada lynx, which is a federally designated threatened species.” VanDenBerg settled the case and agreed to pay “$80,000 in order to remove and mitigate his work.” Budd-Falen claimed that VanDenBerg was “vilified by a press release issued by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office (part of the U.S. Justice Department).”

[United States v. VanDenBerg, Case 1:11-cv-02042-WYD-BNB, filed 08/05/11, “Telluride man to pay $80,000 to remove wilderness road,” The Denver Post, 06/20/12, and Karen Budd-Falen, “Power of the Bureaucracy to Stop Private Property Access,” Wyoming Livestock Roundup, accessed 08/14/17]

Karen Budd-Falen represented the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance when it repeatedly attempted to challenge “a plan that reduced the number of roads and trails available to off-road vehicles in Santa Fe National Forest.”

Although conservationists said the plan protected “more than 400,000 acres of land and wildlife,” Budd-Falen’s clients sought “to loosen the rules” on off-road vehicle use. A federal judge ruled against Budd-Falen’s clients in 2014, saying the group “did not have a persuasive enough argument.” In 2017, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that “the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance didn’t have a legal basis to sue” and challenge the plan for a second time.

[Holbrook Mohr and Garance Burke, “Gorsuch willing to limit environmental groups in land cases,” Associated Press, 03/05/17 and “Santa Fe forest travel plan upheld by court,” Associated Press, 07/27/14, and “Appeal rejected in off-road vehicles case on forest use,” Associated Press, 04/27/16 and Michael Phillis, “10th Circ. Again Nixes Challenge To Santa Fe Park Rules,” Law360, 07/24/17]

Karen Budd-Falen filed an amicus brief on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association in a lawsuit challenging “the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) designation of critical habitat for the Mexican Spotted Owl.”

[Arizona Cattle Growers Association v. Ken Salazar et al., Case No. 08-15810, 06/04/10, Brief of Amicus Curiae New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association v. Kempthorne et. al., 07/25/08, Brief of Amici Curiae New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association et. al., Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association v. Salazar et. al., 11/04/10, and “9th Circuit upholds habitat designation for Mexican spotted owl,” Greenwire, 06/07/10]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Anniversary Mining Claims LLC in a lawsuit against the federal government. Anniversary Mining sued to use a road on federal public lands “for the use of commercial vehicles to transport minerals.” The lawsuit was dismissed.

[Anniversary Mining Claims LLC v. United States, Case No. 2:16-CV-932 JCM (GWF), 02/14/17]

Karen Budd-Falen argued, in an amicus brief in support of People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners, that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) should not apply to species within the boundaries of a state.

Budd-Falen argued that the federal government had “no constitutional authority to regulate the taking of Utah prairie dogs” because the species “resides entirely within the boundaries of the State of Utah.” Such a change would gut the ESA; the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Budd-Falen, saying that “bans on the unauthorized destruction of threatened or endangered wildlife is a ‘cornerstone’ of the Endangered Species Act.”

[People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service et al., Case No. 2013-cv-00278-DB (2015), Brady McCombs, “Burrowing prairie dogs again a concern after ruling,” Associated Press, 03/30/17, Brian Maffly, “Court ruling preserves federal protections for Utah’s prairie dogs — though some shooting still allowed,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 03/30/17, and Brief of Amici Curiae Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts et. al., , People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners V. United States Fish & Wildlife Service et al, 05/22/15] 

Karen Budd-Falen is “one of the most prominent figures in the county supremacy movement’s legal efforts” and has “written extensively on what she believes is the legal basis for the county supremacy movement and provided her services in representing counties in several cases.”

Budd-Falen promotes “the theory that federal laws should take into account the ‘custom and culture’” of local areas and helps counties “codify what its custom and culture is so that the federal government can defer to the counties and allow them to make policy according to that definition.”

[Jacqueline Vaughn Switzer, “The History and Politics of Environmental Opposition in the US,” Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1997]

In the 1990s, Karen Budd-Falen “helped draft” ordinances passed by county officials in Catron County, N.M, “declaring federal powers subservient to county ‘custom and culture’ – meaning grazing and logging.”

Under the ordinances, “federal employees who did not cooperate could be arrested.” The ordinances were passed in response to a 1989 logging ban intended “to protect the Mexican spotted owl.”

After drafting the Catron County ordinances, Karen Budd-Falen went “from state to state,” inciting “county residents to stand up for their rights” and advocating for the adoption of land-use plans like Catron County’s. By 1994, “more than 40 counties in several states” had passed Catron-based land use plans, “often using a guidebook Catron leaders [were] marketing.” 

[Dan Meyers, “Anger Is Rising In A Western Turf War Ranchers And Others, United In Outrage, Challenge Federal Control. How Far Will The Battle Go?,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 05/19/94, and Candace Burns, “N.M. Land Use Model Confuses Officials, Environmentalists,” Post Register, 04/01/93]

Karen Budd-Falen defended the Catron County Board of Commissioners when it was sued by environmental group WildEarth Guardians over a 2007 “ordinance regarding endangered Mexican gray wolves.”

WildEarth Guardians complained that the ordinance authorized “county officials to kill or otherwise injure federally protected Mexican gray wolves,” in violation of the Endangered Species Act. A federal judge ruled that “the group’s claims were moot since the county had already amended the ordinance to remove provisions that authorized county officials to take action against wolves that were deemed to be threats to people.”

[WildEarth Guardians et al v. Board of County Commissioners, 6:07-cv-00710-MV-WDS, filed 07/25/07, and Susan Montoya Bryan, “NM judge rules on Mexican gray wolf ordinance,” Associated Press, 10/02/08]

Karen Budd-Falen represented the Catron County Board of Commissioners in 2013, when the county filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over road access.

[Catron County v. United States et al., Case No. 2:12-cv-00237-MV-WPL, 03/27/13]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 1995, represented county commissioners in Boundary County, Idaho, after they passed ordinances asserting “county control over federal land within the county.”

Budd-Falen claimed that the county was “simply asserting its authority, granted to it by congressional law and federal regulation, to participate in development of federal agency land use plans.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Turnabout: Federal law gives Boundary Country role to play [Opinion],” Lewiston Morning Tribune, 04/30/95]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 1998, “helped write land-use plans and worked with local governments interested in adopting them” in multiple counties in Arkansas. She claimed that “the plans do not restrict the powers of the federal government but help ‘facilitate the relationship between the county and the federal government.’”

[“Property-rights activists persuade counties to adopt land-use policies,” Associated Press, 12/08/98]

Karen Budd-Falen represented “Kane and Garfield counties in southern Utah” in a challenge to “the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s policies on grazing in the 1.9 million-acre reserve.”

The lawsuit targeted “a long-held practice by environmental groups of buying up grazing permits from ranchers and then not using them, or asking that the BLM permanently ‘retire’ them.” Budd-Falen also represented individual ranchers in the case, including Trevor Stewart, the son-in-law of Utah State Rep. Mike Noel, who “helped procure” $50,000 from the State of Utah for the counties to fund the lawsuit. Although the $50,000 grant was initially denied by the “Permanent Community Impact Board Fund, which distributes mineral-lease royalties collected from oil, gas and coal production on federal lands,” “board members agreed the counties’ cause was ‘worthy’ and directed the counties to submit a proposal for ‘alternate eligible projects of roughly the same dollar value.’” The board approved $25,000 grants to each of the two counties; the “manager of the fund” “said the board had been under some pressure from the 2003 Legislature, which passed intent language in the appropriations bill,” written by Mike Noel, “suggesting the board grant $50,000 to Garfield and Kane counties.” A Garfield County commissioner claimed that public money paid to Budd-Falen for her work on the lawsuit was “for the public good, to preserve the rural economy.”

[Donna Kemp Spangler, “The BLM’s cow wars,” Deseret News, 03/08/03, “Two counties use state funds for individuals’ grazing permit lawsuits,” Associated Press, 11/23/03, Felicity Barringer, “A Strategy to Restore Western Grasslands Meets With Local Resistance,” The New York Times, 12/01/05]

Karen Budd-Falen represented Skagit County, Washington, in a lawsuit brought by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

The tribe alleged that the county “violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by their construction of three tidegates in the Skagit River delta.” The county “admitted that they discharged fill or dredged materials into federal waters” without the necessary permit, and the court found that it “violated the ESA because the tidegate resulted in harm to threatened chinook salmon.” The Swinomish Tribe had “treaty rights to Skagit salmon” and had “been battling the county in court on behalf of the salmon for more than a decade.” The Skagit River was “the only river in Washington with healthy populations of all five native salmon species as well as steelhead trout.”

[Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Skagit County Dike District No. 22 Case No. C07-1348RAJ, 09/05/08, and Lynda V. Mapes, “Raising taxes to save the salmon?” The Seattle Times, 03/23/07]

Karen Budd-Falen filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Tombstone, Arizona, in a case that became “ground zero in a rekindled Sagebrush Rebellion.”

The city claimed that it had “a right of way to access the Coronado National Forest to repair municipal water lines damaged by floods” and a fire. The U.S. Forest Service “balked at” issuing “Tombstone a permit to use heavy construction equipment to fix the pipeline.” The city took “the feds to court,” “with the conservative Goldwater Institute taking on Tombstone’s legal work,” and argued that it “shouldn’t have to ask anyone for permission to maintain its own water line.” Utah State Rep. and American Lands Council founder Ken Ivory also supported Tombstone in the legal dispute, saying that “the conflict playing out in Tombstone is an example of the Forest Service dictating to, rather than working with, local government officials.”

[“Summary Judgment Grants Against City’s Claims to Access Water Lines,” Lexis Legal News, 06/17/15, Ann O’Neill, “Spotted owl could be game-changer in Tombstone water war,” CNN, 06/09/12, Jeff Glor, “Locals duel with feds in Wild West city of Tombstone,” CBS News, 06/15/12, Brief Amicus Curiae of Coalition of Counties, City of Tombstone v. United States of America et. al., 06/18/12, Brief Amicus Curiae of Coalition Of Arizona/New Mexico Counties for Stable Economic Growth, City of Tombstone v. United States of America et. al., 03/29/13, and Ann O’Neill, “Spotted owl could be game-changer in Tombstone water war,” CNN, 06/09/12]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2013, was hired by Ravalli County, Montana, “to challenge the Bitterroot National Forest Service’s filings for new water rights on headwater streams.”

The State of Montana had previously “denied all their objections due to a lack of standing.” The county commission “voted unanimously to accept up to $1,500 in private funds to hire the Wyoming-based Budd-Falen Law Offices as a consultant,” after Karen Budd-Falen had called Commissioner Ron Stolz, claiming that her law firm “had received phone calls from some Ravalli County residents who said they were willing to pay for the firm’s services if the County” hired them. Budd-Falen informed the county that her hourly billable rate is $250/hour.

[Perry Backus, “Ravalli County to hire out-of-state water rights attorney,” Ravalli Republic, 11/20/13 Michael Howell, “County hires Wyoming attorney, private citizen pays,” Bitterroot Star, 11/25/13, and Karen Budd-Falen, “Retention of Legal Services of Budd-Falen Law Offices, LLC,” Budd-Falen Law Offices, 11/05/13]

Karen Budd-Falen helped draft a land use plan for Curry County, New Mexico, which was tabled in September 2016. Budd-Falen worked with Y2 Consultants on the plan, which had a $40,000 contract with the county.

[Kevin Wilson, “Groundwork laid on land use policy,” Clovis News Journal, 03/16/16 and Douglas Clark, “County votes to table land use plan,” Clovis News Journal, 09/21/16]

Karen Budd-Falen, spoke to a group of “landowners negotiating with pipeline companies” in Stanley, North Dakota, in April 2016, as well as to “a group of county commissioners and other community leaders about how locally elected officials can influence federal energy decisions.”

Budd-Falen “encouraged local government to get involved using the National Environmental Policy Act. ‘As a cooperating agency, you get to help shape the decision,’” she said.

[Amy Dalrymple, “Wyoming attorney urges Bakken landowners to organize on energy issues,” Duluth News Tribune, 04/04/16]

Karen Budd-Falen’s law firm represented the State of Montana in a lawsuit where it, with the State of Wyoming, sued “the Interior Department (DOI) over a final rule to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas operations on public and tribal lands.”

The rule updated “30-year old regulations” to “help curb waste of public resources, reduce harmful methane emissions, and provide a fair return on public resources for federal taxpayers, tribes and states.” In the lawsuit, which was filed in November 2016, “the states derided the methane rules promulgated by the DOI and its Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as a ‘blatant attempt by a land management agency to impose air quality regulations on existing oil and gas operations under the guise of waste prevention.’”

[State of Wyoming et. Al. v. United States Department of the Interior et. al., Case No. 2:16-cv-00285-SWS and Charlie Passut, “Montana, Wyoming Sue BLM Over Venting/Flaring Final Rule,” NGI’s Shale Daily, 11/22/16, and U.S. Department of the Interior, Press Release, 11/15/16]

Political Connections

Karen Budd-Falen, since 2002, has contributed $3,296 to conservative candidates and causes, including “Tea Party favorite” Cindy Hill and Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

[Political Moneyline Search for Karen Budd-Falen, CQ, accessed 05/05/17, National Institute for Money in State Politics Search for Karen Budd-Falen, accessed 05/05/17, and John Celock, “Cindy Hill, Demoted Wyoming Education Chief, Requests Budget Increase Of Almost $4 Million,” Huffington Post, 02/08/13]

Current Activity

Residents of Ravalli County, Montana don’t want Karen Budd-Falen to speak before their county commission because she has advocated for “major changes to federal authority on public lands.”

Montana Representative Theresa Manzella is trying to bring Karen Budd-Falen to Hamilton, Montana, “to discuss land use policies,” and specifically “to make a four-hour presentation to the Ravalli County Commission on ways to ‘add teeth’ to the Bitterroot Valley Natural Resource Use Plan.” However, “about a dozen Ravalli County residents” have spoken out against Budd-Falen presenting before the commission because she has “pushed for major changes to federal authority on public lands.”

[Eve Byron, “Controversial land use attorney invitation sparks protests,” Missoulian, 11/02/17]

Other Information

Karen Budd-Falen serves on the Wyoming Water Development Commission; her term expires in March 2021. She was appointed to the position, which requires confirmation by the Wyoming Senate, in 2012, and was reappointed to the board in 2017.

[Karen Budd-Falen, Truth in Testimony Form, 10/29/13, “Senate Confirmation Boards 2017,” accessed 08/02/17, and “Directory,” Wyoming Water Development Commission, accessed 07/31/17]

Karen Budd-Falen is on the Board of Trustees of the Wyoming Natural Resource Foundation, which describes itself as “a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to conserving Wyoming’s natural resources, heritage, and culture.”

[“Board of Trustees,” Wyoming Natural Resources Foundation, accessed 07/31/17, and “About WNRF,” Wyoming Natural Resources Foundation, accessed 07/31/17]

Karen Budd-Falen was a member of Donald Trump’s Interior Department transition team.

[Dean Scott, Rebecca Kern, and Renee Schoof, “Trump Transition Adds More EPA, Energy Advisers to Team,” Bloomberg, 12/12/16]

Karen Budd-Falen was the attorney for the Cheyenne-based Spirit of Freedom Institute, whose director thought it “was politically targeted during the 33 months it took the Internal Revenue Service to give it tax-exempt status.”

[Laura Hancock, “Cheyenne group says it was politically targeted by IRS,” Casper Star-Tribune, 03/19/14]

Karen Budd-Falen believes that “‘the basis for every freedom is property rights.’” She says she decided to become a property rights attorney “over ranch grazing in Wyoming,” where the “federal government owned 75 percent of the land near her family’s ranch.”

She claimed that the National Environmental Protection Act “stopped her family from doing important work on their land, such as building fences” and said Washington was trying to “‘take away land that’s been used by a family for generations.'”

[Clay Schuld, “Property rights attorney speaks on lawsuit,” Houston County News, 03/21/12, “N.M. residents help feds assess environment act,” Albuquerque Tribune, 08/02/05, and Timothy Egan, “Wingtip ‘Cowboys’ in Last Stand To Hold On to Low Grazing Fees,” The New York Times, 10/29/93]

Karen Budd-Falen authored research, first published in 2009, which looked at “litigation filed by environmental organizations and the amount of attorneys’ fees these groups have received from the federal government for these cases,” specifically highlighting payments from the Equal Access to Justice Act.

The research, which was funded by the Western Legacy Alliance, was cited by Republican members of the Congressional Western Caucus to claim “that environmental groups have used the Equal Access to Justice Act to win back millions of dollars in attorney fees for lawsuits filed against the Forest Service and other federal agencies.” In 2012, Budd-Falen claimed “that environmental groups have amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in EAJA awards.” Environmental groups said Budd-Falen’s work was “spurious and greatly misrepresents the share of funding they receive under the act and a similar program called the Justice Fund.”

The Western Legacy Alliance (WLA), which funded Karen Budd-Falen’s “spurious” research on the Equal Access to Justice Act, is an Idaho-based group that was formed in response to lawsuits from “radical environmental groups.” WLA believes that “ranchers are simply on the receiving end and it is time to stand up and fight” and has compared grazing regulations to “the mafia’s ‘protection program.’” Budd-Falen has also submitted an amicus brief on WLA’s behalf. WLA has referred to environmental groups receiving payments through the Equal Access to Justice Act process as “radical environmental groups extort[ing] taxpayer money from the federal government disguised as ‘reimbursement for attorneys fees,'” and has asked Congress to investigate the “‘apparent abuse of EAJA by certain organizations.'”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Environmental Litigation Gravy Train,” Memorandum, Budd-Falen Law Offices, 09/15/09, Phil Taylor, “Lawsuit abuse charge by Western lawmakers enrages enviros,” E&E News, 11/19/09, William Perry Pendley, “Equal Access To Justice Act Is Neither Equal Nor Just: Environmental Groups Get Paid Off And File More Lawsuits; Meanwhile Private Citizens Battle For Years For Their Fees,” Mountain States Legal Foundation, 09/15/12, Western Legacy Alliance, “El Paso Corp./Ruby Pipeline Unwittingly Funds Demise of United States Ranchers Through Extortion Masterminded by Western Watersheds Project, Jon Marvel and Oregon Natural Desert Association,” Pinedale Online, August 2010, and Brief of Amici Curiae New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association et. al., Arizona Cattle Growers’ Association v. Salazar et. al., 11/04/10]

Although she is an outspoken critic of Equal Access to Justice Act payments made to environmental groups, Karen Budd-Falen has been awarded nearly half a million dollars for attorney fees in cases against government agencies through the program, including “$100,000 from a single lawsuit fee return” in 2011.

Budd-Falen claims the EAJA “has been hijacked by very radical, what they call environmentalists, but who are really not because they don’t care at all about the environment, they simply care about making more money” and said, in 2013, that she had received attorney’s fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act “five times in 22 years.” Budd-Falen has also represented clients who attempted to have attorney’s fees reimbursed through the Equal Access to Justice Act.

[“Karen Budd-Falen Discusses EAJA,” Defend Rural America Radio Show, 6/20/13 (15:10), Karen Budd-Falen, Truth in Testimony Form, 10/29/13, and Kieran Suckling, “The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts,” Hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee, 12/06/11, “Karen Budd-Falen interview on Walls in our Minds,” Dr. Kate’s Radio Revolution, 01/13/12 (6:05), Karen Budd-Falen, “Another Federal Government Cover-up?,” 05/29/13, Shooting Star Ranch LLC v. United States, Case No. 99-1197, 10/17/00, and United States v. Robbins, Case No. 98-8038, 06/14/99]

Karen Budd-Falen, at a 1997 House Natural Resources Committee hearing, argued that the U.S. Forest Service should “eliminate the forest-wide standards and guidelines” on livestock grazing known as Uniform Action Guidelines and, instead, issue grazing allotments based “on an allotment-by-allotment basis or stream reach-by-stream reach basis.” She claimed that Uniform Action Guidelines may violate the civil rights of ranchers and suggested that a preference to graze on an allotment on public lands may constitute a “property interest.”  

[“Livestock Grazing,” Oversight hearing before the Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health on the Committee on Natural Resources, US House of Representatives, 04/08/97]

Karen Budd-Falen “was instrumental in drafting the original Grazing Improvement Act,” which was introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) in 2011. Budd-Falen said the bill’s “most important element” was “that grazing permittees could appeal BLM and FS decisions through the Administrative Procedures Act.”

[“Caren Cowan: Senate grazing act spells disaster,” Deming Headlight, 01/20/14 and Sen. John Barrasso, Press Release, 05/31/11]

Karen Budd-Falen accused the federal government of waging “a full scale war” on private landowners, saying it was “no wonder that so many injured individuals mistrust the federal government.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Power of the Bureaucracy to Stop Private Property Access,” Wyoming Livestock Roundup, 05/18/16]

Karen Budd-Falen believes that the federal government—an “all-powerful, unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy”—has “set up a dictatorship over some of the private citizens who actually employ them.”

[Karen Budd-Falen Testimony, House Natural Resources Committee Hearing, 10/29/13 (36:25)]

Karen Budd-Falen believes that the federal government and environmental groups are engaging in “rural cleansing.”

She wrote that “rural cleansing” occurs “as those who rely on the use of their property are forced to relinquish their rights and move to more urban settings in search of jobs.” She believes that “rural cleansing” is happening because “people are easier to control in large metropolitan areas than we are scattered out throughout the country.”

[“Federal Bullying and Rural Cleansing,” YouTube, 12/16/13 (16:35 and 18:35), and Karen Budd-Falen, “Federal Government Bullying and Rural Cleansing,” Wyoming Livestock Roundup, accessed 07/27/17]

Karen Budd-Falen said, “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen final figures on how they want to do this, but there’s just a million different ways to lock up land. They do it through wilderness area legislation or the president creates some sort of an Antiquities Act area, or you have a smart growth area…. One of the things I think is fairly brilliant about this project is they’re not trying to eat the entire apple at once. But they get control a little bit at a time, and a little bit at a time, and it’s sort of like boiling a frog.”

[“Karen Budd-Falen Land Grab,”  iSpy on Salem, 06/25/11, accessed via Archive.org, (13:30)]

Karen Budd-Falen believes that rural communities and ranchers are “under attack by radical environmental groups and overzealous federal regulators.” She claimed that farmers “are generally outmatched in terms of time and money in” environmental litigation, saying, “‘It really is like David and Goliath, with two Goliaths instead of one,’” presumably referring to environmentalists and the federal government.

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Re: Leveling the Playing Field: Support for the Grazing Improvement Act of 2011,” Memorandum, 05/23/11, and “Central Oregon irrigators face tricky negotiations after legal victory,” Herald and News, 04/12/16]

Karen Budd-Falen said, at a rally protesting the Bureau of Land Management, “‘There’s no question we are in a war and if we don’t stand up and be counted, we’re going to lose that war.’”

At a Constitutional Sheriffs event, Karen Budd-Falen said, “We may not be on a ship crossing the Pacific like my dad was, and we may not be veterans like this gentleman who sang the Star Spangled Banner was, but we’re veterans now. Because we’re veterans of a war that if we don’t win, our kids have nowhere to go.”

[Mike Stark, “Ranchers rally at BLM office,” Billings Gazette, 11/11/03, and “Alturas Sheriffs Panel, Karen Budd-Falen,” YouTube, 08/16/12 (44:50)]

Karen Budd-Falen has voiced opposition to the “silly” Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which established “public land policy” and “guidelines for the administration, management, protection, development, and enhancement of public lands.” Budd-Falen said that, when she was in high school, her father, who was “really cool,” “went to DC several times to oppose FLPMA.”

[“Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA),” Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development, accessed 07/27/17 and “Karen Budd-Falen – Local Land use Plans & Petitions for Redress of Grievances,” Washington County on YouTube, 10/25/16]

Karen Budd-Falen is an outspoken critic of the Endangered Species Act, which she called “a threat to private property use, working ranch families and resource and job providers” that “is used as a sword to tear down the American economy, drive up food, energy and housing costs and wear down and take out rural communities and counties.”

Budd-Falen believes “that there are significant flaws in the Act and loopholes that should be closed” and thinks that the Act’s “‘process and litigation are not about saving species; it is about spending American taxpayer money.’” Budd-Falen also warned that the Obama Administration would increase the act’s scope: “‘It will be more designations and bigger designations,’ she said.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts,” Hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources, 12/06/11, Shar Porier, “Endangered species listing process wastes taxpayer cash, attorney says,” The Arizona Range News, 03/9/11, and Mateusz Perkowski, “Analysis: Ranchers fear expanding scope of ESA [Opinion],” Blue Mountain Eagle, 04/09/13]

Karen Budd-Falen, in congressional testimony from 2011, claimed she does “not advocate the complete repeal of the” Endangered Species Act. However, in a 2016 speech, Budd-Falen said she “would repeal the ESA in a heartbeat.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “The Endangered Species Act: How Litigation is Costing Jobs and Impeding True Recovery Efforts,” Hearing of the Committee on Natural Resources, 12/06/11, and “Liberty Summit 2016 Episode 4,” The Cavalry Group on Vimeo, 09/21/16] (14:40)]

Karen Budd-Falen complained that there are “600 foreign species on the American [Endangered Species Act] that have never set one wing, one toe, or one hop in the US. Animals in Africa,” including “animals in countries that hate us.” She added, “How in the heck did we decide that we need to protect a species in countries that don’t even like us? I think it’s dumb enough to buy oil from people who don’t like us.”

[“Alturas Sheriffs Panel, Karen Budd-Falen,” YouTube, 08/16/12 (24:00)]

When asked if the Endangered Species Act would “inevitably lead to the destruction of the progress we’ve made in this country,” Karen Budd-Falen replied, “I think that is fair.”

She added that the ESA is a “land-grab and human control issue.”

[“Karen Budd-Falen on ‘Walls in our Minds,'” 01/27/12 (13:40)]

Karen Budd-Falen has repeatedly insulted the environmental groups she has had legal battles with over the years. She called Wild Earth Guardians “a terrible environmental group” and said Center for Biological Diversity was made up of “the scariest people on the planet who live in a compound” who don’t care about protecting wildlife, but only care about “getting those farmers off of their land.”

She claimed that Center for Biological Diversity’s goal is “population control and that kind of thing. It wouldn’t just be turning the land back to the Native Americans, it is getting rid of people.” Budd-Falen described Western Watersheds Project as “an environmental group that I have to deal with” that “really hates livestock grazing” and “has two goals—both of them are to eliminate livestock grazing.”

[“Liberty Summit 2016 Episode 4,” The Cavalry Group on Vimeo, 09/21/16 (14:40), “Alturas Sheriffs Panel, Karen Budd-Falen,” YouTube, 08/16/12 (22:40), “Karen Budd-Falen Discusses EAJA,” Defend Rural America Radio Show, 06/20/13 (37:10), “Liberty Summit 2016 Episode 4,” The Cavalry Group on Vimeo, 09/21/16 (07:20), and “June 28 RDC Annual Meeting: Karen Budd-Falen,” Resource Development Council on Vimeo, 06/28/11 (07:55)]

Karen Budd-Falen claimed that environmental groups were able to convince the Obama Administration “that because they represent a ‘special class of voiceless victims,’ you know, like rocks and trees and worms and stuff, and because environmental law is such a specialty, that they should get paid $775/hour.”

She also said, “When the federal government pays these groups, what they’re paying for is litigation regarding bugs and birds and squirrels, and, you know, little creatures that we don’t care about.”

[“Alturas Sheriffs Panel, Karen Budd-Falen,” YouTube, 08/16/12 (11:35 and 15:35)]

Karen Budd-Falen said, during the Obama Administration, that U.S. global warming policy was “not based on scientific data, but on procedural statutes and payment of millions of dollars in attorney fees.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Environmental groups milking climate change [Opinion],” Capital Press, 12/31/09]

Karen Budd-Falen “argued that citizens should have the opportunity to sue individual federal employees, similar to how state and local government employees can be sued under the Civil Rights Act.”

Karen Budd-Falen, at a 2013 meeting of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation, “argued that citizens should have the opportunity to sue individual federal employees, similar to how state and local government employees can be sued under the Civil Rights Act. ‘While some may claim that we are here to ask Congress to eliminate the federal bureaucracy or the federal agencies, we are not,’ she said. ‘What we are asking for you to do is open the courthouse door to individuals who believe that their civil and constitutional rights are being violated by individual federal employees, using the power of their offices.’”

[Phil Taylor, “PUBLIC LANDS: Federal bullying or ‘mini sagebrush rebellions’? Panel hears out ranchers,” E&E News, 10/30/13]

Karen Budd-Falen called the “citizen lawsuit” provision, which “allows environmental activist groups to sue energy companies and other businesses which they claim have violated environmental regulations,” “‘the environmental law equivalent of ambulance chasing.’”

[Michael P. Tremoglie, “Environmental ‘citizen lawsuits’ are equivalent to ambulance chasing, critic says,” Legal News Line, 07/10/12]

Karen Budd-Falen defended the Hammond ranchers, who illegally burned about 140 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, by saying they “‘didn’t do anything like’” the EPA’s spill in Colorado.

Karen Budd-Falen said, of the Hammond ranchers, who illegally burned about 140 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, “‘What totally amazes me is what these guys did – they burned 140 acres. If you compare that to the EPA spill in Colorado, it amazes me that nothing will happen to those EPA employees. You have cities down there with no drinking water. The Hammonds didn’t do anything like that.'”

[Carrie Stadheim, “Where there’s smoke,” Tri-State Livestock News, 10/29/15]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2003, compared libraries to “porn shops,” claiming that the local “library refuses to put Internet filters on the computers in the children’s section of the library.” Budd-Falen urged citizens to oppose new library funding because it “means pornography will be readily available to your children.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “Bigger Library Means more Porn for Our Children,” Wyoming Tribune-Eagle, 10/25/03]

Karen Budd-Falen, 2015, described the state of “administrative regulatory burdens” as “‘mission creep.’”

Karen Budd-Falen, in congressional testimony from August 2015, said, “I would argue that the biggest problem that not only the ranching industry in the West, but all of the agriculture industries across the Nation, faces is ‘mission creep.’ Mission creep is the expansion of a project or mission beyond its original goals. Mission creep is usually considered undesirable due to the dangerous path of each success breeding more ambitious attempts, only stopping when a final, often catastrophic, failure occurs. The term was originally applied exclusively to military operations, but has recently been applied to many different fields. The phrase first appeared in articles concerning the United Nations peacekeeping mission during the Somali Civil War in the Washington Post on April 15, 1993, and in the New York Times on October 10, 1993. As the examples below show, federal bureaucracy ‘mission creep’ absolutely applies to administrative regulatory burdens today.”

[Karen Budd-Falen, “’Threats to Grazing From Federal Regulatory Overreach,” Hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior Hearing, 08/06/15]

Karen Budd-Falen criticized Debt for Nature swaps, which she characterized as a “way for America to spend money on foreign property.”

Debt for Nature swaps were designed as a “mechanism to sustain long-term conservation efforts in countries with rich tropical forests,” through which “eligible countries agree to use their debt payments to finance tropical forest conservation in their countries.” Budd-Falen, however, claimed that “there are several types of Debt for Nature programs being used to exert the opinions of a small group of radical environmentalists who believe that ‘nature is more important than people.’”

[Karen Budd-Fallen, “Government Trades Debt For Nature,” Beef, 02/10/11, and “Guatemala: $24 Million in Debt Now Slated for Conservation,” The Nature Conservancy, accessed 07/25/17]

Karen Budd-Falen said that being on Donald Trump’s Department of Interior transition team was “‘a great experience.’”

Budd-Falen “looked at different ways to improve the Endangered Species Act, hard rock mining on BLM lands, NEPA, and more” and “sought to help reduce regulatory pressure on BLM lands around the country to help businesses thrive.” She claimed, “‘they didn’t want us to just do things like write Secretarial Orders… they wanted us to implement these policies on the ground.’”

[Saige Albert, “Working in Washington,” Wyoming Livestock Roundup, 02/11/17]

Karen Budd-Falen appeared on a conservative radio show in 2011 to discuss Agenda 21, a “conspiracy theory” based on U.N. policy.

She claimed that “the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21” is “actually a way to move people into more populated areas” where “it’s much easier to control them economically and socially.” When asked if Agenda 21 “is something we really need to be concerned about,” Budd-Falen replied, “I think it’s really hard for people to believe that this is happening, but I think you have to sort of separate out who’s in charge and who is not…  I think that the general, run-of-the mill American citizen doesn’t understand that what they are helping to fund is really controlled by just a few individuals with a big plan.” Budd-Falen believes that Agenda 21 does not get more attention in the press “because it is so hard to believe,” and told listeners, “I would encourage you to really start understanding Agenda 21 and how it all fits together, because it truly does.”

[“Karen Budd-Falen Land Grab,” iSpy on Salem, 06/25/11, accessed via Archive.org,  “Agenda 21: The UN, Sustainability and Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory,” Southern Poverty Law Center, 03/31/14, and “About I Spy Radio,” iSpy Radio, accessed 08/09/17, “Karen Budd-Falen Land Grab,” iSpy on Salem, 06/25/11, accessed via Archive.org, (08:05)] 09:30, 11:55)] (04:32), “Karen Budd-Falen legislative luncheon talk on Agenda 21,” iSpy Radio, 09/24/11 (28:00) and (52:10)]

Karen Budd-Falen, in 2011, spoke at least two workshops on property rights and Agenda 21 in Oregon, which were sponsored by Americans for Prosperity and conservative radio show “I Spy.” At one event, Budd-Falen spoke about “how one aspect of Agenda 21 becomes the foundation to lock up land and remove it from public use.”

[“AGENDA 21 Workshop – How our Private Land is Being Stolen Away,” KlamathBasinInCrisis.org, accessed 07/24/17, and “Property rights seminar to be viewed in Seaside,” The Daily Astorian, 09/20/11]

Karen Budd-Falen supports the Constitutional Sheriffs movement, which “encourages law enforcement officers to defy laws they decide are illegal” and “sometimes puts police on the same side as ‘sovereign citizens,’ a fringe group that the FBI considers one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats.”

She has spoken at at least two Constitutional Sheriffs events, including a Tea Party-sponsored event in 2012 and a 2011 event at which “one sheriff after another stood up and spoke proudly about his involvement in the Tea Party and the ‘assault being perpetrated against our community by our own government’ by way of travel management plans and dam removals.”

[Julia Harte and R. Jeffrey Smith, “Constitutional Sheriffs: The Cops Who Think the Government Is Our ‘Greatest Threat,’NBC News, 04/18/16, Liz Bowen, “Baird Honored by Sheriff Lopey; Liz Writes Life,” Siskiyou Daily News, 01/17/12 and “Alturas Sheriffs Panel, Karen Budd-Falen,” YouTube, 08/16/12, “Sheriffs Stand TALL for the Constitution,” Robert Exter on YouTube, 10/29/11, and Jonathan Thompson, “Sagebrush Sheriffs,” High Country News, 02/08/16]

According to a San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, Karen Budd-Falen attended an Americans Lands Council “Public Lands event” “a couple years ago.”

[“San Juan County Commission Work Meeting,” Utah.gov, 04/04/17 (67:40)]