Representative Lewis’ legislation aligns with U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz’ recent bill targeting federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Forest Service. Lewis’ bill, however, addresses the actions of federal employees more specifically than the legislation introduced by Congressman Chaffetz, which would strip police powers from the aforementioned agencies. And at the heart of HB17-1141 are the constitutional rights of allotment owners, who have historical jurisdiction over grazing lands now administered by federal land management bureaucracies.

by Marjorie Haun

Kimmi Lewis, a cattlewoman from Colorado’s State District 64, a large rural district comprised of 9 counties nearly spanning the entire state from south to north, sees a need to defend landowners from aggressive federal agencies and their officers. On February 1 she introduced Colorado HB17-1141, the Equal Protection from Federal Employee Personal Attack bill, to the Colorado State House. The bill specifically addresses the property rights of grazing allotment owners who may have conflicts with federal land management agencies.

Kimmi Lewis Colorado House District 64–Facebook photo

The unofficial summary of the bill reads:

The bill makes it illegal for a person who is a federal employee acting under color of law to take any action:

  • That deprives a range allotment owner of any property right appurtenant, inherent, or related to the range allotment, including the right to possess, use, dispose of, exclude other from, or defend the range allotment; and
  • For which the deprivation offends due process or is a physical or regulatory taking without the payment of just compensation.

A violation is an unclassified felony punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. An owner who suffers a loss as a result of the person’s actions also has a civil right of action to recover damages.

A spate of over-the-top attacks by federal agents on ranchers, allotment owners, small businesses, and free speech rights over the last several years make this bill timely.

Free Range Report has covered news related to intimidating and aggressive tactics on the parts of federal agencies in the following recent articles:

The Hammonds

LaVoy Finicum

The Bundy Ranch

Dr. James Redd

Bob Weaver

The Custer Museum

Representative Lewis’ legislation aligns with U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz’ recent bill targeting federal agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the U.S. Forest Service. Lewis’ bill, however, addresses the actions of federal employees more specifically than the legislation introduced by Congressman Chaffetz, which would strip police powers from the aforementioned agencies. And at the heart of HB17-1141 are the constitutional rights of allotment owners, who have historical jurisdiction over grazing lands now administered by federal land management bureaucracies.

Lewis’ bill in its current draft form reads:

First Regular Session
Seventy-first General Assembly
STATE OF COLORADO
DRAFT
LLS NO. 17-0494.01 Michael Dohr x4347 HOUSE BILL
House Committees Senate Committees
A BILL FOR AN ACT
101 CONCERNING THE MALICIOUS DEPRIVATION OF CONSTITUTIONAL
102 RIGHTS BY A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE RELATED TO PUBLIC LANDS.
Bill Summary
The bill makes it illegal for a person who is a federal employee
acting under color of law to take any action:
! That deprives a range allotment owner of any property right
appurtenant, inherent, or related to the range allotment,
including the right to possess, use, dispose of, exclude
other from, or defend the range allotment; and
HOUSE SPONSORSHIP
Lewis,
SENATE SPONSORSHIP
(None),
! For which the deprivation offends due process or is a prior draft
physical or regulatory taking without the payment of just
compensation.
A violation is an unclassified felony punishable by a fine of up to
$500,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. An owner who
suffers a loss as a result of the person’s actions also has a civil right of
action to recover damages.
1 Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Colorado:
2 SECTION 1. Legislative declaration. (1) The general assembly
3 finds that:
4 (a) The livestock sector of the agriculture industry of the state is
5 a critical and significant portion of the agriculture industry of the state
6 and necessary for the continued health, prosperity, and well-being of the
7 people of the state; and
8 (b) A significant number of livestock within the state spend a
9 significant part of their lives on federal range lands.
10 (2) The general assembly further finds that:
11 (a) The United States supreme court has held that stockwater
12 rights, range rights, right-of-ways, and improvements appurtenant to or
13 associated with range allotments are property rights worthy of protection
14 under the fifth amendment of the United States constitution; and
15 (b) Federal employees are required by the fifth amendment and
16 executive order 12630 to consider the takings implications of their
17 decisions and actions on the property rights of ranch or range allotment
18 owners before taking those actions.
19 (3) The general assembly declares that this act is necessary to
20 preserve public safety and welfare.
21 SECTION 2. In Colorado Revised Statutes, add 18-8-410 as
22 follows:

1 18-8-410. Malicious deprivation of constitutional rights. (1) A prior draft
2 PERSON WHO IS A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE ACTING UNDER COLOR OF LAW
3 COMMITS DEPRIVATION OF A RANGE ALLOTMENT OWNER’S
4 CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS WHEN THE PERSON TAKES ANY ACTION:
5 (a) THAT DEPRIVES THAT RANGE ALLOTMENT OWNER OF ANY
6 PROPERTY RIGHT APPURTENANT, INHERENT, OR RELATED TO THE RANGE
7 ALLOTMENT, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO POSSESS, USE, DISPOSE OF,
8 EXCLUDE OTHER FROM, OR DEFEND THE RANGE ALLOTMENT; AND
9 (b) FOR WHICH THE DEPRIVATION OFFENDS DUE PROCESS OR IS A
10 PHYSICAL OR REGULATORY TAKING WITHOUT THE PAYMENT OF JUST
11 COMPENSATION.
12 (2) A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO COMMITS DEPRIVATION OF A
13 RANGE ALLOTMENT OWNER’S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS IS DEEMED TO BE
14 ACTING OUTSIDE THE SCOPE OF ANY FEDERALLY DELEGATED AUTHORITY
15 AND, THEREFORE, OUTSIDE THE PROTECTION OF ANY FEDERAL IMMUNITY
16 FROM PROSECUTION, AND THE EMPLOYEE IS SUBJECT TO BOTH A CIVIL
17 ACTION AND CRIMINAL PUNISHMENT UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS STATE.
18 (3) A VIOLATION OF THIS SECTION IS PUNISHABLE AS AN
19 UNCLASSIFIED FELONY CARRYING A FINE OF UP TO FIVE HUNDRED
20 THOUSAND DOLLARS AND UP TO FIVE YEARS IMPRISONMENT, OR BOTH, FOR
21 EACH SEPARATE OFFENSE.
22 (4) A PERSON WHOSE RIGHTS ARE VIOLATED PURSUANT TO
23 SUBSECTION (1) OF THIS SECTION HAS A PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION
24 AGAINST THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO VIOLATED SUBSECTION (1) OF THIS
25 SECTION AND IS ENTITLED TO DAMAGES.
26 SECTION 3. Potential appropriation. Pursuant to section
27 2-2-703, C.R.S., any bill that results in a net increase in periods of
1 imprisonment in state correctional facilities must include an appropriation prior draft
2 of money that is sufficient to cover any increased capital construction, any
3 operational costs, and increased parole costs that are the result of the bill
4 for the department of corrections in each of the first five years following
5 the effective date of the bill. Because this act may increase periods of
6 imprisonment, this act may require a five-year appropriation.

Although Lewis’ bill is worthy of serious deliberation by both houses of the Colorado State Assembly, it is unlikely to get out of the House intact. It has been sent by Democrat leadership to the House Committee on Veteran’s Affairs, also known as the ‘kill committee.’ Although the Colorado Senate has a Republican majority, reasonable legislation furthering the ability of ranchers and farmers to protect their property rights may be doomed with Democrats, who by and large embrace federal control of lands, in charge of the House and Governor’s Mansion.

Nevertheless, due to the influence of new associations in the state, including Dr. Angus McIntosh’s “Range Allotment Owners Association,” which has a strong presence in Colorado, it’s highly likely that measures such as the Equal Protection from Federal Employee Personal Attack bill, will continue to be pressed by representatives from Colorado’s rural districts.

Colorado Cattlemen’s Association photo

Free Range Report

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