David Bernhardt ethics violation investigation findings released

Jan 20, 2023

The Interior Department Office of Inspector General (OIG) released the findings of its investigation into former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s ethical obligations regarding Westlands Water District, a major water user and client of Bernhardt’s during his time leading the Natural Resources division of lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck.

The OIG found that while Bernhardt took numerous actions that were in the interest of Westlands, he did not technically violate his ethical obligations because Westlands, as a public agency, did not count as a “former client” under the Trump ethics pledge. Additionally, because the water issues that Bernhardt intervened on involved multiple water districts, his intervention did not technically violate federal ethics laws.

“This report is a step-by-step instruction manual for future swamp creatures who want to help their clients while skirting their ethical obligations to the American people,” said Center for Western Priorities Deputy Director Aaron Weiss. “The IG report reveals that David Bernhardt only accepted the job of Deputy Secretary after confirming that he’d be able to work on California water issues. He then put his finger on the scale every step of the way, even flying to California to meet with the career officials working on an environmental review of the Central Valley Project, which he knew would have major impacts on his former clients at Westlands Water District. Once he finished his work as Westlands’ inside man, Bernhardt went back to his old gig at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where he refused to cooperate with this investigation even as his firm continued to cash in and lobby Interior on Westlands’ behalf.”

BLM cites mining company for trespassing on endangered wildflower habitat

The Bureau of Land Management cited a mining company for trespassing on critical habitat for the endangered Tiehm’s buckwheat wildflower, which is known to grow only on roughly 10 acres of lithium-rich land in Esmeralda County, Nevada. BLM issued the citation after equipment owned by the company was found within Tiehm’s buckwheat habitat. The mining company, Ioneer, has 14 days to respond to the trespass notice. While most of the equipment has already been removed, BLM has directed the company to hold on further reclamation of the area until federal agencies can be present.

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This work reinforces how essential mature forests on federal lands are to securing our climate future. It’s now up to the agencies to protect these carbon-storing champions from the chainsaw with formal safeguards.”

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Picture this

The White Cliffs section of the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument is the most popular floating stretch on the river. The typical float time required for this section is 2 nights & 3 days. #Anniversary #NationalMonument

(featured image: Former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Bureau of Reclamation)