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Utah congressman proposes bill that removes law enforcement powers from Forest Service, BLM

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Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is re-introducing a bill, which was first introduced last year, removing the law enforcement functions from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service.

The bill calls for deputizing local law enforcement, combined with block grant funding, to empower existing duly elected law enforcement offices to carry out these responsibilities.

In a press release from Chaffetz’s office, the congressman said, “It’s time to get rid of the BLM and US Forest Service (FS) 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.

Chaffetz’s measure, HR. 622, would strip the police functions of the BLM and FS while allowing block grant funding for elected local law enforcement such as county sheriffs and their deputies to make arrests and conduct investigations on land controlled by the agencies. The grants would use a formula based on the percentage of public land in each state. The bill currently has six co-sponsors, all Republicans from Western states including Utah Reps. Mia Love and Chris Stewart.

According to The Free Range Report, this measure is neither arbitrary nor sudden on the part of Chaffetz. Utah, and its neighbor to the west, Nevada, have been ground zero for conflicts between federal police forces, local sheriff’s departments, and citizens, some of them deadly. Taking a cue from sheriff’s organizations, ranchers, and others in rural parts of the West, Chaffetz first floated the idea last May.

Chaffetz’s initiative is focuses on his belief the federal government’s law-enforcement role in local disputes over resources and land has grown increasingly militant over the years. He also believes keeping agents armed is dangerous, unnecessary and sends the wrong message, according to The Free Range Report.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. The blood pressure is running high, especially in southern Utah, and I don’t want anyone to get killed,” the congressman said.

“These agents are more Rambo and less Andy Griffith than I would like,” he told the Deseret News in March of 2016.

The measure is not only about bringing law enforcement back to the local level, it’s also aims to save the taxpayer money.

As it states in his press release, the measure will result in a net savings of taxpayer money, despite the provision for federal reimbursements to local law-enforcement agencies given jurisdiction over public lands.
“The long overdue disposal of excess federal lands will free up resources for the federal government while providing much-needed opportunities for economic development in struggling, rural communities,” the release said.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I agree completely with the remarks concerning Rambo and Andy Griffith! Most of the Park Rangers couldn’t quite make it on local police standards so they take the ranger jobs, get the training needed at fed expense and then move on to local police jobs. The Rambo attitude of many is a deterrent to people enjoying the out doors at times. When I’m on the BR Parkway with my telescope set up watching the stars I really need some bored ranger shinning his bright lights in my face and asking me what I am doing. Duh….. Leave me alone! It’s obvious I’m not stealing shrubs or mining for gold so why interrupt me because you are bored at midnight?

  2. The last thing we need are aggressive LEO when addressing sensitive issues like this. Having local people addressing local issues makes sense. Use common sense when approaching issues as serious as this or as your example of star watching. Observe people, see what they are doing and treat people with respect. This will make things go much smoother and not intimidate the general public.

  3. This proposal is ridiculous. Rangers working for the federal agencies like the US Forest Service and BLM are better prepared to handle law enforcement situations on their agency land’s than the typical deputy sheriff. The BLM, forest service or park service ranger is well trained to handle crimes or violations against natural resources than a high-school educated locally-selected deputy who only training is from their law enforcement academy ( think Andy Griffith or Barney Fife).
    Law enforcement on land management agencies requires knowledge, skills and abilities that come from well-educated, highly-skilled, well-trained professionals. Anyone who knows what it takes to get a ranger job with one of these agencies would understand the keen competitiveness in filling one of the few ranger jobs as compared to getting a job as a local sheriffs deputy.
    It really perturbs me that people who haven’t a clue want to make such a major policy change.

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