Legislation introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) would terminate all Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service law enforcement. In its place, H.B. 622 would provide block grants to states to enforce federal law, which in turn would trickle to the county sheriffs. EPIC opposes HB 622 as it would make policing environmental crimes more difficult and would play into the hands of public land giveaway advocates.
HB 622 would make busting trespass marijuana grows more difficult. Trespass grows are a plague on our public lands—and evidence suggests that the number of grows is increasing. Animals are poached and poisoned (including rare species like the Pacific fisher). Mass amounts of chemical fertilizers run off into salmon-bearing rivers. Pesticides and other poisons are wantonly spread across the forest landscape. It is the job of federal law enforcement officers to bust these sneak thieves who profit off the spoliation of our public land, and based off conservations with the BLM and the Forest Service, trespass grows are public enemy number one to the agencies. Stripping federal agencies charged with the management of these lands with the power to enforce the laws that they set is counter-intuitive and would result in a reduced police presence over environmental crimes.
Putting the law into local sheriff’s hands is also dangerous. Local sheriffs are elected by the county in which they sit. And sometimes, the people elect someone like Sheriff Glen Palmer of Grant County, Oregon. Sheriff Palmer has gained notoriety for his antics. He has deputized a posse of friends, including individuals identified as “anti-government extremists” by the state, to police the county. Sheriff Palmer is the subject of a state investigation concerning the destruction of public documents. He has pulled out of cooperation agreements between the Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service, declaring that he did not believe that the federal government had any power on their own lands. And he has publicly supported the Bundy clan and their band of buffoons during the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge siege last year. LaVoy Finnicum, the Malheur militia member who was killed in a confrontation with police, was on his way to meet with Sheriff Palmer in the nearby city of John Day—apparently under the impression that the sheriff would protect him—when he ran a police blockade, resulting in his death.
Indeed, transferring power to the local sheriffs is of the larger agenda forwarded by fringe land giveaway proponents. Under a strained (and legally rejected) interpretation of federal law, Bundy et. al. do not believe that federal law enforcement on public lands is legal. Instead, they argue, all power belongs in the hands of the local sheriffs on which the lands sit. One of the key demands of the terrorists who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was a turnover of power to local law enforcement. What happened to never giving in to terrorists?
Two California Congressmen have co-sponsored the legislation: Rep. Doug LaMalfa and Rep. Tom McClintock. Let them know that this legislation is a bad idea. Give their offices a call and tell them that HB 622 is a bad idea.
Rep. Tom McClintock:
Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-2511
California Office: (916) 786-5560
Rep. Doug LaMalfa:
Washington, D.C. Office: (202) 225-3076
California Office: (530) 223-5898