Protest by Homeowner Coalition
BLM Las Vegas Manager Accused
Of 'Gross Malfeasance of Office'

by Steve Miller
copyright 1997, Electric Nevada

In order to generate a $5,000,000 agency slush fund he alone will control, the Las Vegas district manager of the Bureau of Land Management is illegally circumventing national environmental laws, an official protest filed with the BLM charged this month.
At issue is a proposal by District Manager Mike Dwyer which would allow mining of 22,000,000 tons of gravel over a 10 year period from a pit in the community of Lone Mountain, Nevada, nine miles northwest of Las Vegas. Homeowners there are already currently objecting to dust and 50-ton truck traffic from the seven companies now mining the pit.
The protest was filed in behalf of a nine-group coalition of area homeowners and environmentalists early this month by Frederick Schuster of Thunder Consulting, a Banning, California firm.
The BLM Las Vegas office, said Schuster, has a long history of intentionally misclassifying commercial gravel mining as "community pit" operations in order to evade environmental assessment requirements, to evade federal mining laws, and to get money to do things the U.S. Congress has not funded.
"Historically, the [Las Vegas District Office] has been designating community pits not for the purpose for which they were intended (i.e., expediting small repetitive sales of sand and gravel) but as a means of granting large commercial sales without benefit of a mining

plan ... or a current environmental assessment," said the protest.
"In the immediate case, the violations of the LVDO are so flagrant as to constitute gross malfeasance of office by the District Manager and the district staff."
Even though air quality in the Lone Mountain area, like Las Vegas itself, fails to meet both state or federal standards, says the protest, "[d]espite these facts the BLM went forward with a pit that would contribute further to the dust and carbon monoxide pollution."
District manager Dwyer, asked about the protest, said it was premature because mining contracts with the most recent high-bidding firms, Diamond Construction and American Sand and Gravel, have not yet been awarded.
Those contracts -- to mine a combined 4 million tons of gravel -- said Dwyer will hinge on completion of a new environmental assessment that will be put out for public review.
"If we haven't made a decision or taken an action that would have some impact, there is nothing to protest," Dwyer said.

 A spokesman for one of the environmentalist groups in the protest coalition disagreed.
started the process," said Robert Hall, of Nevada Environmental Coalition, "and any act that would lead to creating more dust is prohibited."
Also, he said, the 1992 environmental assessment for the Lone Mountain gravel pit allows 300,000 tons per year to be extracted,

but the BLM is permitting twice that much to be mined.
According to consultant Schuster, the Lone Mountain pit is the second-largest gravel pit in BLM history. Schuster himself is a former BLM officer, now retired.

Complete text of the formal protest

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