Chaffetz Seeks to Cut Law Enforcement from USFS, BLM
Recently, Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced H.R. 4751 - Law Enforcement for Local Lands Act of 2016.
This bill would eliminate the law enforcement components for both the US Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and redirect enforcement through the local sheriff via block grants. The reasons cited for its passage are USFS and BLM have had ongoing disagreements with local law enforcement in Nevada and Utah. Specifically, Rep. Chaffetz points out federal agencies do not enjoy the same level of trust and respect as local law enforcement who are deeply rooted in local communities. Chaffetz goes on to state HR 4751 will help deescalate conflicts between law enforcement and local residents while improving transparency and accountability.
It should not come as any surprise that anti-federal government sentiment in the west is as high as it’s ever been. The Western States Sheriff’s Association (WSSA), and in particular the Utah Sheriff’s Association, were the driving forces behind this bill. For years, USFS paid millions of dollars to sheriff’s departments across the country for cooperative law enforcement patrols. Many of these contracts are still in effect today, but due to budget cuts and improvements in USFS LEI, some of these cooperative agreements were significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. It is glaringly obvious that if USFS and BLM law enforcement is eliminated, the individual sheriff departments that make up WSSA stand to gain millions of dollars in block grants from the federal government. Even though millions of dollars would be directed to local law enforcement, these agencies would be under no obligation to enforce such laws, particularly when those laws involve controversial topics with special interest groups.
These special interest groups include Cliven Bundy and his anti-government supporters. Rep. Chaffetz accuses the BLM and USFS for charging excessive grazing fees for the use of federal lands. The grazing fees are adjusted annually and is calculated by using a formula originally set by Congress in the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. For purposes of this article, there is not enough space to discuss how the fees are calculated, but suffice it to say the fees are very low and not overly burdensome to a rancher who owns several thousand head of cattle. The BLM and USFS are merely following their mandate given by Congress. If Rep. Chaffetz feels grazing fees are excessive or unnecessary, perhaps he should introduce legislation that rescinds them instead of proposing preposterous legislation that seeks to eliminate thousand of law enforcement positions.
FLEOA understands and recognizes that serious issues exist, which led to the introduction of this legislation. However, we believe there are better and more viable solutions than simply eliminating two integral and vital federal bureaus. There are better approaches to work out differences in policy and enforcement, than pass a law eliminating law enforcement functions of the USFS and BLM altogether.
By Nate Catura, National President, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association is the largest non-profit, nonpartisan professional association that exclusively represents over 26,000 federal law enforcement officers from over 65 agencies.
Posted in Hear it from FLEOA