The Prineville Bureau of Land Management should be planning a public field trip out to the site of a private home built in the middle of public land outside of Prineville. Instead, it’s continuing to take steps to restrict the public’s ability to understand what’s going on.
Step 1. The BLM didn’t notify the public about this case and how it might resolve it for 9 years. We still don’t know why it took so long. The people with the home have been able to use it and drive right across public land to get to it.
Step 2. The BLM concealed from the public the names of the people with the house. How is that not important public information?
The Bulletin had to uncover it. Bulletin reporter Stephen Hamway wrote that Chuck McGrath and Jennipher Grudzien, co-founders of Bend-based Grace Bio-Labs Inc., bought a two-story home in 2008 southeast of Prineville. (“Private house on public land causes problems,” The Bulletin, Sept. 24, 2017) McGrath apparently discovered that same year that it was on land owned by the BLM. He told them. The BLM told us it verified the home was on their land in 2008. And now in 2017, the BLM is doing something about it.
Step 3. When the BLM created a website about the issue, it did not include a map. How is the public supposed to understand what is going on without a map? The BLM didn’t put up a map until after we complained. The property is about 20 miles southeast of Prineville, on the way to Post.
We could go on with more of the BLM’s secrecy steps. To be fair, though, the BLM has made some effort to explain itself. Two Prineville BLM staff members met with The Bulletin’s editorial board. And the BLM is processing public records requests The Bulletin made about this case and similar issues.
But if the BLM sincerely wants to be transparent about this case, it should make the entire file associated with it public on its website. It should add a statement explaining why it did not propose a land swap as a solution — simply because the people who own the home don’t like that idea. And, finally it should host a public tour of the property so the public can see what is at stake. The BLM’s handbooks and manuals that direct how it should go about its work suggest “field tours” in similar circumstances to improve public understanding.
The BLM says it doesn’t plan one at this time. Figures.