Judge rules wildlife agency must reinstate Incline man on social media

Laney Griffo

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Nevada Department of Wildlife was forced to unblock an Incline man from their Facebook after a judge found they blocked him without cause.

However, NDOW’s accusations of domestic terrorism are still pending in the court.

Mark Smith filed a suit in the Nevada Second District Court against NDOW in July 2018, alleging defamation, libel, slander, violation of the Nevada Public Records Act and violations of First Amendment rights.

Smith and his organizations, Nevada Wildlife Alliance and Mark E. Smith Foundation, have long been outspoken against NDOW’s practices, especially when it comes to euthanizing bears.

“We brought a bit of pressure on the Department of Wildlife from the governor’s office to be more responsible on the way they handle both the bear hunt and urban bear conflict issues,” Smith said. “And frankly, they don’t like that, they don’t like to have the public involved in the way this government department runs.”

The case claims that in training sessions held with Truckee and Washoe County law enforcement agencies, Carl Lackey, a biologist with NDOW, created slides, “utilizing Smith’s name and picture representing that Smith’s wildlife advocacy and work with nonprofits and businesses amounts to “solicitation of harassment” and “Domestic Terrorism,” thereby alleging Smith has committed a crime.”

The case doesn’t state what Smith said or did that would lead Lackey to label him as a domestic terrorist and Smith isn’t sure either what he did or said to warrant that. However, about a year and a half ago, Smith’s legal term sent depositions to members of senior management of NDOW and law enforcement.

“Every one was asked the question if they had any reason to believe that I’m a terrorist and every one of them said, ‘no,’” Smith said.

The case is still pending but Smith said they’ve offered a settlement that he’ll likely turn down. His legal team did, however, ask for a ruling on the Facebook issue specifically.

Smith, NWA and the Smith Foundation were blocked from NDOW’s Facebook after they were regularly active on the page.

“Because NDOW’s public Facebook page constitutes a public forum for First Amendment purposes, the viewpoint-based blocking of Smith, NWA and the Smith Foundation unconstitutionally suppresses Smith, NWA and the Smith Foundation’s fundamental rights to speak freely and limits Smith, NWA and the Smith Foundation’s ability to participate in the government sanctioned page,” the case alleged.

After Smith filed the injunction, NDOW made the offer to settle, allowing Smith back onto their Facebook page and paying his legal fees. On Aug. 3, 2021, the court accepted the offer.

Smith said since being reinstated, he hasn’t engaged much, saying, “they don’t create an inviting environment.”

However, he also requested a list of other people who had been banned and the reasons why, which he was denied. Violation of the Nevada Public Records Act was included in the original suit.

The Facebook issue was the only one to be resolved; the other seven cases are still pending in court.

A representative from NDOW said they cannot comment on a pending case.

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