Issues of concern to people who live in the west: property rights, water rights, endangered species, livestock grazing, energy production, wilderness and western agriculture. Plus a few items on western history, western literature and the sport of rodeo... Frank DuBois served as the NM Secretary of Agriculture from 1988 to 2003. DuBois is a former legislative assistant to a U.S. Senator, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior, and is the founder of the DuBois Rodeo Scholarship.
Thursday, August 07, 2014
BLM, local law enforcement tensions near breaking point in the West
James Perkins sees the federal Bureau of Land Management more as a belligerent occupying army than a government agency serving U.S. citizens, including those like him in south-central Utah.
Perkins is the sheriff of Garfield County, a rural bastion the size of Connecticut with only 5,500 residents, where 90% of the land is maintained by the BLM. The relationship between local law enforcement and often heavily armed federal officers has always been tense, and now threatens to reach a breaking point.
He and others attribute the deteriorating relations to what he calls BLM's culture of elitism, which provoked Garfield County to join two other Utah counties this year to pass a resolution restricting or banning federal law enforcement within their borders. "I don't know any sheriff who doesn't want a good relationship with the BLM," he said. "We're a rural agency and we'd like a partnership, but it seems they have a hard time recognizing our authority. They'd rather be independent."
The BLM has faced a string of challenges. In April, it called off a cattle roundup after rebellious Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy was backed by an armed citizen militia that stood its ground with semiautomatic weapons. The BLM looked, in turns, overzealous and ineffectual.
Then, in May, citizens of rural San Juan County in Utah staged a protest, driving all-terrain vehicles into a canyon the BLM had closed to such traffic. Perkins and others recently addressed a House public lands subcommittee that was collecting testimony about concerns over the BLM, including claims about bullying ranchers and refusing to respond to emergency calls.
They didn't mince words.
"Over the past decade or so we have observed and experienced a militarization of BLM's officers," said Leland Pollack, a Garfield County commissioner. "Right or wrong, some equate BLM's law enforcement operations to the Gestapo of the World War II era."
BLM officials in Washington call the claims "vague and inaccurate."... In an interview, he (Sheriff Perkins)described an incident this year in which a county detective was investigating whether a BLM officer had failed to report a traffic accident, as required by law. "I was told by the chief of BLM law enforcement in Utah that we had no right to investigate one of his officers and that the matter should have been turned over to their internal affairs division," Perkins said. "When I'm told by the federal government that I don't have the authority to investigate crimes in my county, well, that's just troublesome to me."...more