When That Lonesome Whistle Blows

Daniel Patterson has remade himself from a steam calliope into a humble government whistleblower

By Dave Skinner

Every once in a while, I’ll catch a news item that not only justifies, but freshens and hardens my cynicism. This time, the Beltway news site Politico drooled out a 3,600-word epic produced in conjunction with nonprofit Type Investigations, covering exploration for lithium (a critical strategic element) underway in northern Nevada, with Australian miner Ioneer poking around a potential $2 billion deposit.

On top of that hopeful bonanza sits the only 21 acres of Thiem’s buckwheat on the entire planet. Never mind that there are about 250 species, mostly endemic (as in locally-adapted) buckwheats in the West, but that set up Politico’s narrative about “a foreign mining corporation against a handful of environmentalists defending a rare, ankle-high wildflower.”

Tellingly, our journalist writes he was escorted to the exploration site by a representative of the Center for Biological Diversity – a “handful of environmentalists” claiming 1.6 million members (but no membership dues income), with 172 employees paid $12 million out of a $21 million 2017 budget. Quite a handful.

Adding juice to the story was a “sweeping whistleblower complaint” submitted by a “five-year BLM employee” at Battle Mountain, Dan Patterson, in conjunction with and represented in court by the so-called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Patterson? Where the heck had I heard THAT name before, endlessly for years, until I didn’t, and had nearly forgotten? Well, the reporter helped me out, eventually. Fully 1,600 words into his epic, our reporter notes Mr. Patterson is a Michigan State University grad who’d come West, eventually getting elected in 2008 to the Arizona state House, then kicked out (really). But “one of his most recent jobs was at the Center for Biological Diversity” – where the reporter’s escort is currently employed? Coincidence? Nah, pattern.

So why the cynicism, Dave? Let me digress. In 2003, after the epic 2002 Biscuit Fire in southwest Oregon, I got an assignment from Evergreen, a pro-forestry magazine, to write and photograph Biscuit’s aftereffects, physical and political. Among many others, I interviewed Rich Fairbanks, the Forest Service lead on post-fire planning. While my sources were mostly frank to the point of bluntness, Mr. Fairbanks was cagey, guarded, giving only the most vacuous answers, duly quoted in print. My then-editor explained, “Dave, he’s a bureaucrat.” Okay, boss!

Well, out of 10 billion board feet toasted, at least two billion feet were basically roadside. Fairbanks’ team originally proposed only 90 million feet of salvage, upped to 284 million after intervention from headquarters.

Mr. Fairbanks took early retirement in 2005, and then became a “fire consultant for the Wilderness Society” (for about five years). In 2008, upon getting a Sierra Club award, Fairbanks declared himself “hugely at odds with the Bush Administration over their forest policy.”

Why Mr. Fairbanks didn’t tell me he was “hugely at odds” should be obvious. And since then, I’ve collected too many examples of agency departees (some first-hand) who never actually worked for the public while on the public payroll and now enjoy a nice pension as they pursue their true hearts.

But that’s post-facto. What about hiring extremists into government service? Well, it’s likely political appointees try to “pack” line-staff, GS-type jobs with the “right-minded,” at least partially in hopes they’ll quietly keep the correct political flame lit until the happy day when proper leadership returns to power – with promotions all around.

But from at least 2000 until 2015, Daniel Patterson was never quiet. He was, and remains, one of the noisiest, most-radical professional Greens in America, a literal steam calliope of green hype, named in hundreds of press releases and news articles, first with Center for Biological Diversity, then PEER, then back to CBD. From 2009 to 2012 he moonlighted from his PEER day job as a legislator – resigning after being approved for expulsion as “a serious discredit and threat to the House, its Members, the legislative process, his party, and his constituents.” I remember that fiasco, and idly wondered from time to time what Daniel was doing with himself.

Thanks to the gullible geniuses at Politico, now I know. Daniel Patterson has remade himself from a steam calliope into a humble government whistleblower.

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