Washington, DC - Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has introduced two bills to remove police powers from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S Forest Service. The law enforcement responsibilities would then be transferred on to local sheriffs.
According to Free Range Report, Congressman Chaffetz issued a press release on January 24, 2017. In that release, he said “It’s time to get rid of the BLM and US Forest Service police. If there is a problem your local sheriff is the first and best line of defense. By restoring local control in law enforcement, we enable federal agencies and county sheriffs to each focus on their respective core missions."
His goal is to reduce and/or eliminate as much federal control as possible and give it back to local law enforcement. This comes after the highly publicized incident involving Cliven Bundy, who had a longstanding feud with the BLM. It is ironic that both Bundy and the BLM were born in 1946. But that is the only thing they have in common. The feud involved Bundy paying fees to graze his cattle on BLM land, which began in 1973, according to The Las Vegas Journal. Bundy believes that the right to graze his cattle on what he perceived to be his land goes back to the 1800's when the area was first settled.
For 20 years, all was well. Then, in 1993, without any notice, the BLM reduces Bundy's herd size on the leased land, and also restricts where his cattle can graze. Bundy refused the conditions and the BLM cancelled his permit. In 1994, the BLM ordered Bundy to remove his cattle from the leased land. And the ongoing dispute with the BLM continued until it led to an armed militia pointing guns at federal law enforcement officers. BLM backed down which emboldened the Bundys.
Bundy and sons then led an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge office in 2016. Militia group members from across the nation joined together with the Bundys to stop what was perceived by them as unwanted and unwarranted federal intrusion.
The core of the issue is the idea that the Federal Government owns far too much land in the west; land, they say, which should belong to the States.
In the Congressman's statement, he said that the bill would free up resources for the federal government by removing the law enforcement function from the BLM and giving it back to the local Sheriff's Office. Two other Utah Congressmen, Rep. Mia Love and Rep. Chris Stewart, jointly co-sponsored the bill, it also establishes funding for the extra resources that the local Sheriff's Office would need, based on the amount of public land in each state.
According to the proposed bill, the BLM would save five percent in its annual budget and the Forest Service seven percent. One of President Trump's first acts was a federal hiring freeze, but that has been a first action by many previous Presidents.
Rep. Chaffetz acknowledged the long-standing tension between Utah ranchers and the BLM. He said “Let’s not kid ourselves. The blood pressure is running high, especially in southern Utah, and I don’t want anyone to get killed," He also said that he wanted subpoenas issued to what he called "out of control" federal agencies to justify their need for submachine guns.
Setting aside the issues for how much land the U.S. owns and how they manage it, law enforcement officers appears to be taking the blame for federal policy. It's like disbanding your local police force because you don't like a law passed by the State legislature.
It's important to remember that agencies like the U.S. Forest Service exist for a reason. If Forest Service Officers did not exist, no law enforcement officer would patrol the millions of square miles of National Forests. Providing more funding to the Sheriff's departments to handle these areas would result in them handling calls in the area, but Sheriffs are unlikely to send their deputies out in the middle of nowhere where they would be unavailable to respond to calls in a timely manner.
The laws in the Forest Service and BLM areas of jurisdiction would be unlikely to be enforced with this plan, and maybe that's the point. It leaves ones to wonder why they are only cutting enforcement.
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