News and Press Releases

Thousands of Plants from Public Land Used For Golf Course Landscaping

December 17, 2009

The federal government has reached a settlement with High Desert Development Partners, LLC, the former managing partner and part-owner of Pronghorn Resort and Golf Club, in Bend, Oregon, over the removal of vegetation from 250 acres of federal land. According to the civil Complaint filed today in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, Pronghorn work crews removed many thousands of plants despite the fact that its government permit allowed for the removal of just 1,000 plants. Pursuant to a settlement reached by the parties, High Desert Development Partners does not admit liability, but has agreed to the entry of a $200,000 Judgment in favor of the United States to resolve the case.

“It is critical that we protect our public lands from this type of theft and environmental damage,” said United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “A private company cannot enhance its property at the expense of public lands that all Americans have the right to enjoy.”

According to the government’s Complaint, Pronghorn Resort and Golf Club sits on 640 acres adjacent to BLM land. The resort, whose marketing materials portrayed it as “committed to the ecologically sensitive development of [its] golf courses,” includes two premier golf courses: a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course opened in June 2004, and a Tom Fazio Golf Course opened in August 2006. In November 2004, Pronghorn obtained a BLM permit to collect 1,000 transplants from the adjacent federal land for landscaping in and around the resort. In addition to limiting the number of transplants, the permit authorized only transplants collected prior to its expiration in May 2005.

In October 2005, after the permit had expired, BLM officials learned that Pronghorn continued to harvest plants. The company made a request for an additional permit, which was denied. The Complaint further alleges that between May 2005, and June 2006, Pronghorn workers repeatedly trespassed on BLM land and collected vegetative resources, including: juniper trees, dead juniper trees often referred to as “Ghost Trees,” Idaho Fescue Grasses, and Sagebrush and other vegetative resources, far exceeding that allowed under the limited permit. These plants and grasses were used to create and/or enhance the desert-like appearance of the resort’s golf courses. Additionally, Pronghorn workers failed to comply with environmental protections mandated by the permit and damaged public lands while removing vegetation.

The manager who supervised the removal of vegetation from BLM land is no longer employed by Pronghorn.

Judgment in favor of the United States for $200,000 is expected to be entered in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon in the near future, resolving the case.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the civil settlement was negotiated by Assistant United States Attorneys Harold Malkin and Kayla Stahman with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon was recused from the case.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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