THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS
A House of Representatives bill that would eliminate federal law enforcement officers on America’s national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands would leave hundreds of millions of acres vulnerable to abuse and lawless behavior, tax state and local authorities and fundamentally compromise American’s safety, both in and around public lands, said a coalition of law enforcement officers and public lands sportsmen this morning.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association joined with Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and other law enforcement officers in a call with reporters today to advocate for safe, consistent enforcement on U.S. public lands – and to urge Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who sponsored H.R. 622, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, to abandon the legislation.
“Our nation’s BLM and Forest Service officers are on the front lines of conservation every day,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “H.R. 622 would negatively impact our valuable lands and waters at a time when law enforcement is critically needed to safeguard important natural and cultural resources and secure public safety.
“Asking local law enforcement to perform the functions of these agencies is equivalent to asking your dentist to perform a gall bladder surgery,” continued Tawney. “Local, state and federal law enforcement have a long and successful history of cooperation. Public lands users such as sportsmen understand and support this tradition.”
FLEOA Executive Director Pat O’Carroll stated that H.R. 622 jeopardizes both the public and federal workers.
“Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officers and agents conduct complex investigations crossing county, state and international borders,” said O’Carroll. “They are highly trained and routinely investigate the destruction of archaeological sites, timber theft, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, wildlife poaching and catastrophic wildfires. FLEOA believes that Congress should be recognizing their valuable contributions to the protection of our endangered public lands.”
Career law enforcement officers seconded FLEOA’s position.
“This bill if passed, would eliminate a thousand federal law enforcement officers from the BLM and USFS who are dedicated, knowledgeable and, above all, passionate about enforcing natural resource laws and protecting the safety of public land users,” said Lanny Wagner, retired state chief law enforcement ranger with the BLM. “Local politics should never have an opportunity to influence the management of federal public lands and the safety of visitors. The potential loss of both natural and cultural resources due to the inability of the crimes to be investigated properly – or at all – would be devastating to current and future generations.”
“I am not belittling local law enforcement in any way; however, they simply cannot do what’s needed on our public lands,” said Jay Webster, retired patrol captain with USFS Law Enforcement & Investigations. “Local law enforcement is not going to be able to deal with specific issues like tribal rights, timber, fire and special uses. Now that I am retired, I can view this legislation not only as former law enforcement but also as a member of the public – and an outdoor enthusiast. It’s a bad idea.”
Randy Newberg, host of the TV show “Fresh Tracks” and a passionate public lands user, summed up the threat posed by H.R. 622 to sportsmen, as well as to the public at large.
“What we see in H.R. 622 is surely an attack on the integrity of our public lands,” said Newberg. “This bill represents just one of many efforts by fringe elements seeking to impose their radical ideology on Americans, millions of Americans, who treasure these public lands. Public lands are one of America’s greatest treasures. Attacks on these lands and all they represent to American public land users are anti-hunting, anti-fishing and, at their core, anti-American.”
Last week, Rep. Chaffetz withdrew a companion bill to H.R. 622. H.R. 621 would have mandated the sale of more than 3 million acres of public lands. His decision to abandon the bill followed strong, outspoken and unrelenting criticism from sportsmen and others.