Why does Jason Chaffetz hate America?
The bill, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act of 2016, was introduced last week by Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) along with the rest of Utah’s Republican delegation: Reps. Mia Love, Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart. It would strip officials in the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of their authority to enforce laws regulating federal land. Rather, local and state authorities would be provided with a block grant to enforce the laws instead.
Speaking to Deseret News earlier this month, Chaffetz accused those federal officials of being “more Rambo and less Andy Griffith than I would like.”
The GOP bill comes a little more than a month after the precarious conclusion of a tense showdown between anti-government extremists and authorities over public land use that left one extremist dead, a small Oregon town terrorized for weeks, and federal employees allegedly harassed and threatened.
So basically the law would strip enforcement of federal laws from federal agencies and hand it over to the local agencies. What could possibly go wrong?
The bill is raising of host of criticisms among those concerned about the conservation of public lands, particularly as right-wing extremists in the West have become more aggressive in their resistance to federal law concerning land use.
“[I]t’s mind-boggling that my Republican colleagues would try to assist those who break these laws – some of whom are also involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and even terrorism – instead of working to conserve our natural resources for everyday Americans,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, in a statement to TPM. “Validating Cliven Bundy and his sons is not the way to improve land management and reduce conflict on U.S. public lands, but that is exactly what this Republican-led bill would do.”
“The bottom line that this is a bill that would put park rangers and law enforcement at risk at the exact time when they are being threatened by these anti-government extremists,” Aaron Weiss, the media director for the conservation group the Center for Western Priorities, told TPM. “It’s unconscionable that Chairman Chaffetz and Congresswoman Love would try to run a bill designed to endanger park rangers and law enforcement.”
Motivating some of the participants in the two showdowns is the belief that the federally-controlled land that stretches across vast expanses of the West should be handed over to local governments, and that local sheriffs — not the federal government — should settle disagreements over land use.
Two of the bill’s sponsors, Bishop — who is also chair of the House Natural Resources Committee — and Stewart, launched the “Federal Land Action Group” last year to work on legislation that would turn public lands over to local control.
Critics of the BLM bill argue that the lawmakers sponsoring it are in effect siding with anti-government extremists pushing the line of thought that the federal government should not be in charge of regulating public lands.
“This is the latest in a long line of attempts to demonize agencies like BLM, which are in fact innocuous agencies that do a ton of good,” Mark Pitcavage, a senior researcher at the Anti-Defamation League, told TPM.
If you have a bank and it gets robbed, the solution to that problem is not to turn your security over to the minimum wage rent-a-cop that sits at the desk in the lobby doing the crossword puzzle.
It’s almost as if Rep. Chaffetz is encouraging the criminals to step up their attacks.