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.