Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Utah Sheriffs Threaten To Arrest Rangers If They Try To Close Public Lands

Clashes between ranchers and federal land managers over grazing rights are continuing. In southern Utah, things have gotten so bad lately that some local sheriffs have threatened to arrest federal rangers who try to close forest roads and cut off access to ranchers and other users. Garfield County is roughly the size of Connecticut, and it’s up to Perkins and a half dozen deputies to patrol all of it. “The country’s big and it’s vast,” Perkins says. “I mean it’s like this for miles and miles and miles.” Federal land makes up 94 percent of this county, so you’d think that Perkins would welcome the help of federal authorities. Think again. In the sage brush hills outside the one-stoplight town of Panguitch, he pulls off the highway and points to a dirt track. “This is a conflict, and you’re gonna see just a little bit of it. Here’s a road right here, that was put here with teams and wagons,” Perkins says. “We’re talking pioneer wagons here. Boulders lie in front of it and a bulldozer chewed it up so pickups or ATVs can’t drive up it anymore. Federal rangers did this recently,” he says. Locals have had access here for generations. “There is an agenda — and don’t kid yourself — there’s an agenda to get rid of the grazing, there’s an agenda to shut down our roads,” Perkins says. There are a few dozen or so sheriffs mostly in rural Western states who refer to themselves as “Constitutionalists.” It’s not really a movement, but they are outspoken and rarely do they hesitate to get in very public fights with the Obama administration — over everything from gun control to whether the BLM should have law enforcement powers. He talks openly about detaining, or as he says “Mirandizing,” federal rangers. He recalls one case recently. “I told the Forest Service ranger that if he went out and closed a road that Garfield County has jurisdiction on, I would arrest him,” he says. And then there was the time that his deputies did arrest a BLM ranger they said was illegally issuing citations to campers...more

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