The Plan to Stop Federal Law Enforcement of Public Lands

Utah Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz responded to public outcry and dropped H.R.621, which sought to sell off millions of acres of public land across the West. But a similar, lesser-known bill to gut public land protections, which Chaffetz introduced alongside H.R.621 on January 24, is still on the table.

Dubbed “the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act,” the bill proposes stripping the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management of its law enforcement powers. Both organizations employ uniformed rangers and criminal investigators, who enforce laws and investigate a whole host of issues on federal land: mineral resource theft, dumping of hazardous materials, vandalism of archeological areas, theft of artifacts and timber, and wild land arson, among other crimes. Opponents of 622 say that federal law enforcement officers also help protect species and habitats by deterring illegal off-highway vehicle use, patrolling big game habitats, and curbing waterway pollution.

With 622, Chaffetz appears to be ripping a page from the anti-public lands chapter of the Bundy Family playbook. The Bundy Family, widely known for it’s highly publicized 2014 standoff with Bureau of Land Management agents on its Nevada cattle ranch, believes federal agencies should totally cede control of America’s public lands to local counties. That was the point that Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, drove home last year as they led a group of armed men in the highly-publicized 41-day takeover of southeastern Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. At press conferences, Ammon Bundy argued that by controlling land at the local level, counties could decide whether “to get the logger back to logging, to get the rancher back to ranching, to get the miner back to mining.”

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