Utah Congressman introduces bill to strip police powers from BLM, Forest Service

The undeniable perception was that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents using dogs, Tasers, armored vehicles, full body armor and automatic weapons to confront a rancher who was delinquent with his grazing fees, constituted a terrifying overreaction.

The office of Utah Congressman, Jason Chaffetz, issued a press release on January 24 announcing his introduction of legislation to restore equality in law-enforcement authority to Western states. The press release reads:

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) released the following statement after reintroducing two bills dealing with the 67 percent of the State of Utah that is under federal ownership.

“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.

“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.”

Bill Details:
H.R. 622, Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, first introduced last year, removes the law enforcement function from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service. Instead, 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. The bill, jointly sponsored by Utah’s Rep. Mia Love and Rep. Chris Stewart, also establishes a formula to reimburse local law enforcement based on the percentage of public land in each state. The resulting cost savings will reduce the BLM budget by five percent and the Forest Service by seven percent.

This measure is neither arbitrary nor sudden on the part of Congressman 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. The Federalist Papers quoted Chaffetz:

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz is sick and tired of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents and Forest Service armed to the teeth. It’s dangerous, unnecessary and sends the wrong message.

“These agents are more Rambo and less Andy Griffith than I would like,” he told the Deseret News Tuesday. So he wants to take away their guns and authority.

“Let’s not kid ourselves. The blood pressure is running high, especially in southern Utah, and I don’t want anyone to get killed,” Chaffetz said, adding his bill has the endorsement of his Utah colleagues in the House.

The Republican lawmaker said he also wants to issue subpoenas to the “out of control” federal agencies to find out why exactly they think they need submachine guns. He said he has asked them repeatedly with no satisfactory response.

“I want to know what kind of arsenal they have. I’m met with blank stares,” he said. “They’re wholly unresponsive. They don’t feel compelled to answer our letters.”

The federal government’s law-enforcement role in local disputes over resources and land has grown increasingly militant over the years. Images from the Bundy Ranch Standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in the spring of 2014, imprinted on the minds of millions exactly the ‘Rambo’ tactics Chaffetz referenced. The undeniable perception was that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agents using dogs, Tasers, armored vehicles, full body armor and automatic weapons to confront a rancher who was delinquent with his grazing fees, constituted a terrifying overreaction.

In 2014, possibly in response to the Bundy Ranch Standoff, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association drew up a resolution addressing many of the same concerns as the Chaffetz bill. Referring to the 10th Amendment which limits federal power over states and citizens, the resolution reads, in part:

Pursuant to the powers and duties bestowed upon us by our citizens, the undersigned do hereby resolve that any Federal officer, agent, or employee, regardless of supposed congressional authorization, is required to obey and observe limitations consisting of the enumerated powers as detailed within Article 1 Section 8 of the U S Constitution and the Bill Of Rights.

The people of these United States are, and have a right to be, free and independent, and these rights are derived from the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.” As such, they must be free from infringements on the right to keep and bear arms, unreasonable searches and seizures, capricious detainments and infringements on every other natural right whether enumerated or not. (9th amendment)

We further reaffirm that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” (10th amendment)

Furthermore, we maintain that no agency established by the U S Congress can develop its own policies or regulations which supersede the Bill of Rights or the Constitution, nor does the executive branch have the power to make law, overturn law or set aside law.

Although Congressman Chaffetz has never openly encouraged citizens or local or state law-enforcement agents to defy the federal government, his bill would draw a clear line between local and federal authority in law-enforcement, and theoretically end outrageous and dangerous spectacles such as that which erupted over Cliven Bundy’s unpaid grazing fees.

Federal bureaucrats playing Rambo isn’t the only motive behind the Chaffetz bill. 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. Enacting a federal hiring freeze was one of President Trump’s first executive acts. With shrinking budgets and limited powers being the new reality for bloated agencies such as BLM and Forest Service, funds for the federal police state may naturally dry up.

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  1. I support the reduction of power of the Forest Service and BLM. The unexcitable action of the agencies in Nevada, California, and Oregon is criminal and they should be held accountable. The ambush and killing in Oregon needs to be investigated by the new attorney general.

    I support the efforts of Congressman Chaffetz.

    1. Yeah, just wow, Ruby Ridge overkill much? These guys need to be on the BORDER if they want to be aggressive!

    2. I stand in wholehearted agreement with you! Poor ole LaVoy Finnicum and his family and other loved ones… Poor victims sitting in prison preparing for court right now… What a Travesty, a very Shameful, Deplorable situation! We must all stand together in Prayer and Solidarity evermore!

      1. Maybe Trump will correct some of the misdeeds of the previous administration. The rest will have to pay over.

      2. He was murdered and the local news ALL acted like they had rounded up
        the Barrows gang and crowed about heroics of those who rounded them up
        Amusing and sickening given the failure in Oregon to round up ILLEGAL felons
        but the local news brays about ranchers.
        I stood in my den and cheered when the trial was over and so did many
        who stood outside but sad thing is more to come..

    3. What drugs are they passing around in your house? Unexcitable action? LaVoy Finnicum wasn’t murdered, he was shot in the commission of a crime. There is no need for me to further argue the point because it is fact.

      This ignorance and anti-fed BS is disturbing and sad. It is people like you that embolden Chaffetz. Passing off law enforcement authority to local sheriffs is a power play and just another scheme to line the pockets of local commissioners. Commissioners and state officials can tell sheriffs what to do, but they can’t federal agencies. Anyone who really thinks this through understands how much it doesn’t make any sense.

      1. Were you there? Did you get all your “knowledge” of the event from mainstream media? All of his friends were ACQUITTED of any crimes in Oregon by a Jury of their peers.

        You need to adjust your thinking. You don’t have the facts.

    4. CONCUR..
      Their latest involved confiscating rich land left to Oregonians by a horticulturist who spent years working with the gardens he created..much of it
      was native flora but not all.
      BLM came along and declared it a research area and locked it up to all but
      those it deemed ‘researchers’
      The story was on tv and the camera panned the beautiful area which was to
      be open to Oregonians as other gardens are..
      Now no access save to those BLM allow to enter.
      What happened in eastern Oregon was about A LOT more than ranchers and
      grazing land

  2. There is no constitutional basis for the federal government to exercise any control at all over the lands in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and a host of other states (mostly in the West). Tehy should have been turned over to those states a hundred and fifty years ago.

    There is no constitutional basis for a federal police force of any kind.

    Are we, or are we not a CONSTITUTIONAL republic?

    1. Yes it is in the constitution article 6 section 2. THe federal government laws under the constituti8n are the supreme laws of the land over state laws and even state constitutions. Dann you constitutionist ever read the dang thing instead of monkey mouthing someone’s bumper sticker

      1. Not when the federal government creates laws that are in direct conflict with the constitution..

      2. Harold Poople, wow- some sense among the irrational, thank you. Yes, there is absolutely a proven/clear/historical basis for federal control of federal lands.

      3. Le Sellers is right. Instead of making mocking remarks of someone why don’t you read more of the constitution. No statement that says that the fed takes precedence over the states is valid for any where it conflicts with other specifics in the constitution. If the fed had total control there would be no state control or governments at all. The fed is very restricted in its purvey it is just that it has unconstitutionally expanded to many areas where it is not allowed.

        As far as the fed owning or controlling land they can only do that three ways. Once land is included in a constitutionally formed state it is to be turned over to the state unless it fits the enumerated uses, or lands that are in a state and that state allows the fed to use some of their land for the restricted uses allowed. And forget trying to come up with supreme court opinions that attempt to defy the constitution. Those are unconstitutional. The constitution takes precedence over any court opinion. Read these two explanation articles. And start spending time with someone like KrisAnne Hall to learn about the original and still valid constitution. http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2014/05/07/federal-land-ownership-is-it-constitutional/. https://www.i2i.org/what-does-the-constitution-say-about-federal-land-ownership/

      4. Uh Harry you do know that the States created the federal government. What part of the powers of the federal government are few and defined. Try reading the 9th and 10th amendments. Better yet here; The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not ( get that, shall not) be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people. And the 10th The powers not delegated to the united States by the Constitution, are reserved to the States respectively or to the people.

  3. He forgot the “National Park Service” they act like its THEIR LAND. Completely ignore any laws, some are patriotic, but most are radical environmentalists. Who are basically communist minded. The parks DO NOT BELONG TO THE ENVIRONMENTALISTS!

  4. The only “justification” for the Feral (not a typo) Government to conduct any kind of “law enforcement” activity is in only three areas: 1) Counter fitting; 2) treason and 3) Crimes on the high seas.

    Therefore, all of them–the FBI, the DEA, all of ’em are UN-constitutional and should be abolished.

    1. Right Doc. I can’t believe how many sit back and parrot things being right because of unconstitutional opinions by courts or because they have no idea what the constitution says. That is our supreme law of the land and just because all of these things the fed has taken on have been going on and we somewhat allowed them doesn’t make them constitutional. The founders spent most of their words and writings spelling out the rights the people have that are to not be infringed and with as many limits on the fed they could think of. They knew that the fed would naturally attempt to grow and every bit of that growth only serves to remove more and more of our liberties and freedoms. Most of our daily lives was supposed to be within the states and they even tried their best to limit that. Those like us need to work to slow/control/stop these illegal agencies but especially to work to get us fully back to the constitution and nothing less.

    1. Fish and Wildlife department is also involved in this debacle. Trump recently signed off to return thousands of acres to states control that the former president had declared as newly dedicated, preserved areas under government protection. I have followed the Bundy epic from the beginning, and learned of numerous other ranchers and farmers in other states being subjected to the same bullying and harassment for years. Lavoy Finnicum had also experienced the identical tactics with federal agencies which led him to join the support effort for the Bundy family. I am glad that Chaffetz has actively challenged this power land grabbing history of the government.

  5. I support Chavez as I too have experienced their heavy handedness. They are shutting down access to public lands all over the country under the guise of environmental or finding a fish or bird to protect from us that might not even exist. I love all animals and birds and am an avid hunter and fisherman. I also love to prospect for gold and gems, but access to good places to prospect and hike is getting harder to find. More regulations from the Forest service, Blm, and other agencies restrict our given rights, and actually violate our rights at times. Please support efforts to limit their authority.

  6. The conduct of the (BLM) Bureau of Land MisManagement in Bunkerville should be investigated by the new DOJ.

    1. And replace them with what? You’re a good guy Dell, but how about all the people doing criminal activities? The Sheriff’s Department in my large rural county don’t like to walk too far from their cars. Maybe they’ll have to learn to hike to take care of those causing problems. What ideas do you have?

  7. I think this is far overdue, and I will ask my representatives in Congress to support this proposed bill. I live in Las Vegas, and am a frequent “wanderer” on our public lands; I do not destroy or mis-use the lands, just go idly about my sightseeing. I have been confronted several times by BLM “Rangers”, and only one was even marginally civil and considerate of my presence. Overwhelmingly, I was treated as a trespasser on what they considered their own “turf”, and in a couple of instances was ordered – “ordered” to leave, and they followed me until I got to a main highway. They have come to treat the public’s land as if it was private property, and they are the security guards. That is just not right.

  8. We fully support this effort on the part of Congressman Chaffetz of Utah and extend our thanks to him for what he will accomplish. Pardon the Hammonds and send them home. Please keep this issue on the forefront folks.

    1. Do you even know the truth about what the Hammonds did? They almost killed a 13-year-old boy because of his uncle, Steven Hammond, who had him set fire to the forest- on purpose- and not a prescribed fire. The group had been caught poaching deer and so they burned the evidence. His nephew quoted his uncle as saying “[Uncle Steven] started handing out boxes of Strike Anywhere matches and said we were going to light up the whole country on fire.” Dusty Hammond almost DIED and is clear to this day about what happened. There are a lot of people that you could argue that have been hurt by the federal government, but those folks aren’t the right people to get behind. They are arsonist, period. I wonder sometimes if people understand what they’re supporting.

  9. We do not need federal agencies having their own armed law enforcement. Violations of laws by person on public lands should be referred to local law enforcement, ie. Elected sheriff’s for enforcement. In 20 years of law enforcement I never met a federal law officer that had any sense about dealing with people. They just throw their weight around as though everything is black and white. They refuse to listen to the people they are suppose to serve.

  10. Thanks Jason, I agree with the bill, and now we have a president that appears to have our countries best interest in mind and not the globalist agenda, it’s about dam time!

  11. This is not just about the use of public lands. My parents (97 and 90) own land that they live on, on the Utah Colorado line, and have been subjected to years of harassment by the BLM, who demands that they “donate” their property to the government. The BLM representative from Grand Junction, Colorado, has brought armed guards with her when visiting Dolores County, when she came to inform the residents and land owners that they might as well give up now, because all of the privately owned land in that area is “hers,” or will be, when she is successful at blocking all attempts for owners to make a living from it. The goal seems to be to gain control over millions of acres of land by introducing non-native species of wildlife and plants, and having those species declared “endangered.” Last year while I was visiting my parents, a helicopter came at midnight and hovered for some time over their little home. It did not come from any local law enforcement. I checked.

  12. If they (the blm and park service) have a police force, they should be paying taxes to the state for the land they say they own. The park service here have been told that they have no jurisdiction on any county or state road that goes through the National park or National Forest. My dealings with them is that they act like jack booted thugs and should be dealt with.

  13. Sorry but I disagree, BLM officials in CA are the only ones that will allow people living in California to use federal land same way all other states do, the interactions I’ve had with them have been FAR better than local LE . If you leave that up to local LE the Sacramento way would prevail: limited hunting, limited camping and fishing no target practice …. & Yes… I understand that I should move but that is not always the option….

  14. I read these articles and I firmly believe that the main issue we have is ignorance about 1) the constitution and our history 2) what law enforcement does in different arms of the federal government and 3) how the media twists things to make a story. Who of you were at the Bundy Ranch Standoff? People see a couple of video clips and all of a sudden they were there. People watch the video of Lavoy Finnicum’s death and still think he was murdered, but watch the standoff video and can’t possibly think that the entire situation was misrepresented? No- it must always be the big-bad government that injures the small american citizen/victim. This bill is ridiculous. Before you spout off something like “Thanks Jason, I agree with the bill, and now we have a president that appears to have our countries best interest in mind and not the globalist agenda, it’s about dam time!” or “The only “justification” for the Feral (not a typo) Government to conduct any kind of “law enforcement” activity is in only three areas: 1) Counter fitting; 2) treason and 3) Crimes on the high seas.”, please please please educate yourself with more than just some video clip or some story from someone that is a fellow fed-hater. By educate, I don’t mean read a few articles from some right (or left) news site or have gotten your PhD in the 70’s, I mean meet these agents, talk to them, do a ride-along (preferably not while you are in the commission of a crime). Hear and learn both sides. For those you who had met up with not so smiley law enforcement agents. Why don’t you try dealing with people like you and see how you would behave? I feel sorry for them, not you.

  15. Deep State, the globalist guerrillas of private courts that operate a private D.C. corporation of secret principals called “United States” (there are 3, Hooven & Allison Co. v. Evatt, U.S. Ohio, 324 U.S. 652, 65 S.Ct. 870, 880, 89 L.Ed. 1252. 1945) are easily controlled by the county sheriff who demands they show written identification of their venue and jurisdiction on the land of the Union State before proceeding with police action. hankalbertson@yahoo.com

  16. I don’t have a problem with forest rangers packing their own side arm under the second amendment because the woods can be a dangerous place but remove the police power.

    The BLM should be out of business period. It does not manage land and what it does manage it does so poorly. All it does is collude with the EPA to remove as much land from the public domain as possible.

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