Utah Sen. Mike Lee Targeting Powers of BLM and Forest Service

Mike Lee

Lee, Mike Lee ConstitutionSALT LAKE CITY — By Amy Joi O’Donoghue – Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants to rein in the law enforcement authority of the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service and is crafting legislation he says will either restrict or abolish their authority.

Lee said Monday he aims to hem in powers he says were never envisioned under the Federal Land Management Policy Act of 1976.

“Our federal land management agencies have drifted far from their intended purposes,” he said. “The BLM has expanded its operations far from public lands.”

BLM Western Info

Lee, chairman of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, convened a hearing earlier this month on the issue, querying top agency officials about the role their law enforcement plays on federal lands, and if that could be fulfilled by local sheriff deputies.

“It is incumbent on this subcommittee to ask whether combining resource management and criminal law enforcement has resulted in a profound disservice to both,” Lee said.

“We need to get back to managing federal lands as opposed to terrorizing the communities that surround them,” he said Monday.

Lee and others are optimistic the Trump administration is supportive of the West’s concerns, with massive restructuring underway in the BLM and a possible relocation of its headquarters to states that include Utah and Colorado.

Rangers hired by BLM
Rangers hired by BLM

State Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, in an update to his colleagues on the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Interim Committee last week, described a whistleblower’s memo from a lead investigator who assessed how federal officers handled the 2014 armed standoff against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.

“I routinely observed, and the investigation revealed a widespread pattern of misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations among senior and supervisory staff at the BLM’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security.”

Lee points to the 2009 Blanding raid involving Redd — who killed himself — as an example of BLM law enforcement gone amok, with multiple pre-dawn raids served at gunpoint.

“What happened in Blanding is a symptom of the underlying problem,” he said.

The so-called “Kill Book,” he added, is “abhorrent. This is the kind of thing that could have or would have been addressed more quickly with a state or local law enforcement agency.”

Lee said local law enforcement can carry out the same functions of BLM and the Forest Service and are more accountable to local residents.

BLM Boundary guards“I don’t think it is an easy conclusion that these (federal lands law enforcement) agencies are worth having,” he said.

Local conservation organizations have complained about the lack of federal law enforcement resources to protect vital and irreplaceable cultural resources in remote regions of the state.

“Abolishing or restricting federal law enforcement officers is a thinly veiled step toward seizing public lands for the state,” said Mathew Gross, a spokesman for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

“That’s what the Utah delegation wants, but it’s not what the American people want. The first-responders who patrol and protect our federal lands have been set up to fail with under staffing and a lack of funding. They should be receiving more support, not less, from Congress.”

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Don McDowell, Arizona native, is an avid outdoorsman and has been an active bass pro fisherman for over 16 years and in the past 15 years has developed his own radio show promoting bass fishing and conservation efforts for bass fishing that escalated to nominations with several bass groups and organizations. In the past 12 years, Don has pursued his conservation agenda through AZBFN-TBF as Conservation Director and with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in the spring of 2014 redesigned his website to include those efforts highlighted below and has increased the AZGFD exposure, public education of the AZGFD and Commission issues on his radio show and website soliciting local and national support for Arizona. 2014 has seen the founding of SRT Outdoors, Inc., 501 C3 organization, “Not for Profit, for Conservation” which is concentrating on grants for mitigating the effects of Gizzard Shad on Roosevelt lake thorough habitat enhancement, Florida Strain Bass stocking, lakes bottom mapping, etc. and feral hog research.

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