Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Starting a new garden? Why go to the nursery? Just visit Federal land!

A story ran in the Tuesday, December 22 issue of The Oregonian, that I want to share with you. A number of things in this story stand out to me.

First of all did you know that the government issues permits allowing developers and individuals to collect plants on federal land? I suppose I am naive but I had no idea! Doesn't that seem just a little odd?

Secondly these developers reportedly trespassed on government land for years taking "thousands of vegetative resources!" Seriously? Who do they think they are? Imagine if everyone did this...why bother going to the nursery and paying for your landscaping? Just go to the park and dig up what you like! Crazy!

If you are interested here is a link the story as it appeared online and here is a link to the Pronghorn Resort website (it certainly looks fancy, just look at all those "vegetative resources" on the homepage picture)....the story:

Developers of high-desert resort to pay feds $200,000 in trespass dispute
By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
December 21, 2009, 5:00PM

In the craggy buttes northeast of Bend, the Pronghorn resort features two world-class golf courses, swanky homes and an elegant clubhouse.

It also features a substantial number of plants, trees and grasses pilfered from federal land, according to a lawsuit filed last week by the U.S. government -- a complaint settled simultaneously by Pronghorn.

High Desert Development Partners LLC, part-owner of Pronghorn Resort and Golf Club, agreed to pay $200,000 to settle the suit but did not admit any liability, according to government attorneys who handled the case.

Pronghorn officials did not return a phone call today seeking comment.

The developer’s work crews were accused of repeatedly trespassing on 250 acres of U.S. Bureau of Land Management property and taking thousands of vegetative resources, including juniper trees, dead junipers often called “Ghost Trees,” Idaho fescue grasses and sagebrush.

The vegetation helped give a desert-like appearance to the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course and the Tom Fazio Golf Course, both of which opened in the last five years.

The complaint sought triple the fair market value of the natural resources that the government accused Pronghorn of taking as well as costs to rehabilitate and stabilize the high-desert land from which they were taken.

On Nov. 8, 2004, the BLM issued a permit allowing Pronghorn’s developers to collect 1,000 plants on its nearby land. The permit came with provisos: it expired on May 1, 2005, and there would be no extensions.

Five months after the permit expired, BLM officials learned that Pronghorn still collected vegetation off the federal land and they notified Pronghorn’s director of agronomy that he was violating federal law, according to the government complaint. Pronghorn was ordered to cease collecting plants.

In late October, 2005, Pronghorn requested a permit for 3,000 to 5,000 plants from BLM land. That request was denied, in part, because those permits are primarily intended for individuals to collect small amounts of landscaping materials and, according to the lawsuit, “removal of plants at that scale would subject the permit to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.”

The government accused Pronghorn of repeatedly trespassing on BLM land and collecting vegetation without a permit from May 2005 to June 2006.

“The manager who supervised the removal of vegetation from BLM land is no longer employed by Pronghorn,” government prosecutors wrote in a press statement.


  1. Hi Loree~~ The audacity! To tell you the truth, I can see how this could happen, human nature being what it is. Here's this vast spread of government land and nobody's looking... And who is the government anyway? The people, right? So therefore it's MY land. My plants. And besides there's a gazillion more. Nobody's even gonna miss these. And on and on. I doubt $200K will set them back much, if at all.

  2. OMG wanting a permit to collect 3000-5000 plants from federal property-these people are unbelievable. Like a Jack Nicholaus golf course is a charitable institution!

  3. Grace, I do see your point. I hate to admit it but there was a time when I picked a vast quantity of daffodils at Volunteer Park in Seattle, I think my friend and I used the same rational that you mention. However we were stupid kids. These are adults who should have known better.

    Nicole, exactly! I don't think (even in this economy) they could consider themselves in need of charity.

  4. When Mr. MulchMaid and I were landscaping our previous garden years ago, we several times got permits to dig native plants and collect rocks in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. It seemed to us like a perfect arrangement, since we went where logging had happened and the landscaping was pretty much raped already. I actually imagined we were "saving" some of the plants we collected. We might have brought back a total of 20 plants and 20 rocks in those couple of trips.
    But I always had a problem with people making a profit from it, as I know some plant collectors do around here with native plants they sell to nurseries and landscapers. And I definitely think the process should be regulated and monitored for exactly the reasons described in the article. Sadly, Grace is right: the fine is a negligible hand-slap for such a huge operation, I fear.

  5. Crazy. On a totally flip side of that type of story, I heard from someone in Seattle that she was part of a a group that went into sites that were planned for development, where they rescued the native plants from the site (can't remember what they were doing with them), and the volunteers who helped got to keep a few of the rescued plants for themselves. I wonder if there's such a thing in our area. That seems like potentially a better way to handle such permit situations.


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