Utah Lawmakers Move to Strip Federal Agencies of Police Powers

By Faye Higbee

Utah Lawmakers Move to Strip Federal Agencies of Police Powers

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act. The bill strips the BLM and the USFS of any law enforcement duties  and gives enforcement power to the local communities. Thus far, the bill has 6 co-signers including Chaffetz, all Republicans- 4 Utah, 1 Washington, 1 Arizona.

“Federal agencies do not enjoy the same level of trust and respect as local law enforcement that are deeply rooted in local communities. This legislation will help de-escalate conflicts between law enforcement and local residents while improving transparency and accountability.” Jason Chaffetz

Utah’s Governor Gary Herbert issued a statement regarding the introduction of the bill:

“I have long been a proponent of shifting federal powers and functions to state and local governments, where they rightfully belong. The Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act does just that. It will provide block grants to states and allows local law enforcement to take the appropriate lead role in enforcing the law. I strongly urge Congress to pass this legislation.”


Utah Rep Jason Chaffetz – Photo via Flickr by Don LaVange

H.R. 4751

“To terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and to provide block grants to States for the enforcement of Federal law on Federal land under the jurisdiction of these agencies, and for other purposes.”

(a) Forest Service.—Not later than September 30, 2017, the Secretary of Agriculture shall terminate the Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations unit and cease using employees of the Forest Service to perform law enforcement functions on Federal land.

(b) Department Of The Interior.—Not later than September 30, 2017, the Secretary of the Interior shall terminate the Bureau of Land Management Office of Law Enforcement and cease using employees of the Department of the Interior to perform law enforcement functions on Federal land.

(c) Termination Of Authorization Of Appropriations.—Beginning with fiscal year 2018 and each fiscal year thereafter, no amounts are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary concerned for a covered law enforcement agency or for Federal law enforcement functions on Federal land.

The bill does not remove the ability of a BLM or USFS employee to carry a gun for self-defense while on duty.

Removing power

The idea behind this bill is that these “law enforcement” duties distract BLM and Forest Service employees from their primary duties – to manage the land. While that is true, this is going to be a fight, if it ever makes it out of committee.

All monies saved from paying agents for this duty are to be returned to the states.

The Washington Examiner writes,

A letter the Utah Sheriffs’ Association sent to Chaffetz shows that federal police agents and their local counterparts are butting heads, and that local police believe the feds are intruding on local authority.

“The Utah Sheriffs’ Association has seen federal officials try and usurp this authority by enacting laws and regulations that mirror state law,” wrote Sheriff Robert Dekker, president of the group. “They have dealt with aggressive and over reactive federal land agents and have joined with other Western states sheriffs in the same issues.”

Dekker said his group “support this bill 100 percent.”

The bill was referred to the House committee on Agriculture since its  introduction on March 16. While it has a lot of grassroots support in Western States Rights circles, pulling the power away from agencies that love power is going to be like yanking teeth out of a wild boar’s mouth.