Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen may be next BLM leader
While the White House has yet to confirm, it appears that Wyoming attorney Karen Budd-Falen will be the next leader of the Bureau of Land Management.
Budd-Falen, who with her husband, Frank Falen, owns a Cheyenne-based law firm, is University of Wyoming educated and a fifth-generation rancher originally from Big Piney, Wyo. Budd-Falen has worked extensively for private property owners, agricultural operations and local governments. Among her most well-known clients is the Bundy family who made headlines after a 2015 standoff between federal agents and supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy.
Most recently, Budd-Falen was appointed to the Trump administration’s transition team though her experience with the Interior Department dates back to the Reagan Administration in which she served as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management. She has presented testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Forest Health; the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources; the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Resources relating to the National Environmental Policy Act; the U.S. House of Representatives Full Committee on Natural Resources; and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. She has also testified before committees of the Wyoming Legislature.
Budd-Falen has railed against the BLM in cases of private property rights but Trent Loos, a Nebraska rancher, host of radio show Rural Route, and a member of the Trump administration’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, touts her value in the BLM’s top job.
“In both the Hammond and the Bundy situations there was a large population in the rural and ranching communities that was unhappy with Karen Budd-Falen that she did not get more hands on involved with either of those situations,” Loos said. “Most of that is because her family has been dealing with public lands for so long, that was an approach they didn’t take.”
Her father-in-law, John Falen was the longtime president of the Public Lands Council and she and her husband have both been involved in numerous high-stakes cases in which the BLM has been taken to task.
“That’s the story of Budd-Falen,” Loos said. “She always thinks that the litigation and holding the government accountable to the laws that are currently in place is or has been her approach.”
Loos maintains this approach is what separated Budd-Falen from the situations at both Bunkerville, Nev., and Oregon’s Malheur Wildlife Refuge though it is not the approach Loos said he ever supported.
However, it is that unyielding alliance to the Constitution that Loos said makes Budd-Falen an excellent choice.
“Never in any way, shape, or form did she back down from a fight with the BLM if she thought there was a legal way to hold them accountable,” Loos said.
UPHOLDING THE CONSTITUTION
In a 2007 interview with the Aspen Times, she said that she “believes in ranchers and farmers and what they do … I don’t love the law. To me, the law is the way I’m helping the people I love.” Loos agrees that best summarizes Budd-Falen.
“There’s no doubt why people who oppose multiple use and following the law as it’s written would be opposed to Karen Budd-Falen,” Loos said. “She believes in the Constitution the way it was written that guarantees multiple use. Not just rancher use but multiple use.”
Loos admits over the past few years, there have been times he hasn’t agreed with her but he maintains that she is the perfect fit for the position with the BLM.
“It’s important to point out that she was railing on the BLM when (the Obama Administration was) against multiple use,” he said. “That’s why she was raising a stink. We’ve had administrations moving away from multiple use not maintaining it. That’s why she went after the BLM so many times.”
Loos cites what he calls a misnomer with the public thinking that ranchers wish to make public lands private.
“No rancher wants to own the lands they’re permitted to graze,” he said. “They just want the government to follow the law that was set forth to be followed by multiple use.”
Budd-Falen did not reply to requests for comment.