In focus with Chris Stewart on need to abolish federal law enforcement powers

ST. GEORGE – If Congressman Chris Stewart has his way the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management could someday lose their law enforcement functions.

Stewart was one of the co-sponsors of the bill proposing the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act of 2016 that, if passed, will abolish the Forest Service Law Enforcement unit and the Investigations unit within the Department of Agriculture and the BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security in the Department of Interior.

The bill emphasizes the importance of state and local policing of federal lands and requires both the Agriculture and Interior secretaries give grants to the states to fund those needed law enforcement activities.

Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, originally introduced the bill in March. Utah Reps. Rob Bishop and Mia Love are also co-sponsors of the legislation. No congressional action has been taken on the proposed legislation so far.

 play-arrow See video excerpt of our Chris Stewart interview top of this report.

“Federal agencies do not enjoy the same level of trust and respect as local law enforcement that are deeply rooted in communities,” the lawmakers stated in a collective statement issued upon introducing the bill.

“This legislation will help de-escalate conflicts between law enforcement and local residents while improving transparency and accountability. The BLM and Forest Service will be able to focus on their core missions without the distraction of police functions.”

The Utah lawmakers pointed to reported conflicts between federal land officers and local communities as part of the reason for introducing the bill.

During an exclusive interview with St. George News, Stewart said federal law enforcement officers are now dealing with many issues that should be reserved for local sheriffs who are familiar with the residents and topography of the area.

“I can’t tell you how many sheriffs I’ve talked to who are resentful and angry of federal officials, not just the BLM, who are coming in and taking on law enforcement responsibilities that the sheriff should be doing. And they’ve heard stories and examples from citizens who, in some cases, have been abused by these officials.”

Federal News Radio located in Washington state quotes the National President of the Federal Enforcement Officers Association, Nate Catura, stating that while the sheriffs’ concerns may be valid, the issues between federal, state and local law enforcement are not as prevalent as some would argue.

“It’s just pandering to a very small minority group of people that are just anti-government,” Catura said. “They just hate the federal government. They want as little interference with the federal government as possible, and they see that the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are causing problems for them in their local areas. Except that probably 85 percent of the United States doesn’t have any problem. It’s just in Utah and Nevada and probably a small part in Oregon.”

Catura also maintains state and local officers lack the specialized expertise and training needed to patrol federal lands.

Stewart doesn’t agree and believes the law enforcement arm of the federal government is doing more harm than good.

“So if we take away that law enforcement capability it takes away the problem and allows them (federal officials) to do what they’re good at and what they should be doing and that’s managing the land, managing the forests, managing the wildlife,” Stewart said. “It allows the sheriff to do what they’re trained to do, what they’re good at and that’s protecting our citizens and law enforcement. There shouldn’t be an overlap between the two.

The Utah Sheriffs and Western Sheriffs associations both actively support the bill arguing there are “aggressive and over reactive federal land agents,” who often overstep their authority.

This is a huge concern for the Utah congressman who argued there is a lack of accountability when it comes to the actions of federal law enforcement officers.

“There is a reason local sheriffs are elected,” Stewart said. “If they’re hassling you, or if their deputies are hassling you, you can go hold them accountable. Federal officials, that’s not the case. Many of these times we can’t identify who these officials are and if you do they’re just not as responsive because they work for the federal government.”

Stewart introduced a similar bill two years ago called the Regulatory Agency De-militarization (RAD) Act of 2014. The bill stemmed from the trend of federal regulatory agencies developing SWAT-like law enforcement teams. Examples of these include the Department of Education, Department of Federal Trade Commission and Department of Environmental Protection.

RAD died in committee but had it passed it would have prohibited federal agencies, other than those tasked with enforcing federal law such as the FBI, from purchasing machine guns, grenades and other weaponry regulated under the National Firearms Act.

It also would have repealed the arrest and firearm authority granted to Offices of Inspectors General in the 2002 Homeland Security Act.


Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews | @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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  • Pheo August 9, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Why stop at just limiting the power of federal agencies? I think that the state and city have too much power in my neighborhood. Our homeowners’ association should be able to set our own community standards without the interference of people who don’t live there. We should have the ultimate say as to what goes on in our neighborhood.

  • Bob August 9, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    BLM and forest service should absolutely not have a militarized police force like they do. It’s Orwellian as all hell but most of the public are too busy with iphones and distractions to care about such things…

  • RealMcCoy August 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Fun Fact: The Sheriff is the only legal law enforcement, as the Sheriff is an ELECTED official, voted on by the people.
    There are only two Law Enforcement officers in America; The County Sheriff and the US Marshal. The sheriff is the only elected law enforcer whose duty it is to protect the unalienable rights of the People both in the court room and within the county. While the U.S. Marshal is responsible for protecting the unalienable rights of the People in the Federal Court room.
    US Forest Service and those ilk are hired employees, and do not legally have Constitutional authority to enforce law.
    Now, that doesn’t mean they don’t do it, or that the courts won’t side with them, or that you won’t get your butt thrown in prison for some misdeed, but as far as the Constitution is concerned (you know, our nation’s founding document), only a Sheriff has REAL legal authority. The rest are essentially hired thugs, hired by made up government departments that the people of the United States did not get to vote on.

    • Pheo August 9, 2016 at 4:23 pm

      The word sheriff is not in the constitution.

      • RealMcCoy August 9, 2016 at 5:50 pm

        I didn’t say ‘in the constitution’, I said ‘Constitutional authority’. There is a difference, if you care to look it up.

        • Chris August 9, 2016 at 10:27 pm

          No, there is no difference. Constitutional authority must come from the text of the Constitution, and you have cited not one passage of it to support what you say. You must have a copy of that Cleon Skousen version of it.

          • RealMcCoy August 10, 2016 at 10:49 am

            There is a difference. It’s not my job to walk you through the research though.
            The Sheriff is listed in a state’s constitution, not federal.
            The other law enforcement personnel are not.
            I didn’t say they haven’t been given the powers of law enforcement, just that they were not duly elected to do so.
            Here is your example:
            You elect a congressman to represent you. He/She is now a legally elected official and can enact laws. You elect a Sheriff, and he can enforce laws. You live in a neighborhood with a homeowners association and paint your mailbox blue, and the homeowners association can go so far as to evict you- they have the legal power to do so, but they are not a legal authority. Someone was just dumb enough to give them the authority over you.


            And for you Wiki fans:

            Learn a little about your rights as Americans, and how they are being eroded.
            It’s not that difficult, people.

          • Chris August 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm

            You just can’t get anything right, McCoy. The word “sheriff” does not appear anywhere in the Utah state constitution. As you would say, educate yourself.

          • mrsmith August 11, 2016 at 8:43 am

            What difference does it make if the word Sheriff is in the constitution or not? McCoy’s point is that a Sheriff is given supreme authority to enforce law in the county which he was elected by. This is the power of the people which the constitution is talking about. The people get to decide who enforces the law. This is a protection and a right granted by the constitution. McCoy is saying that the Government has no power to appoint law enforcement authority that is not subject to the Sheriff. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

          • Roy J August 11, 2016 at 6:24 pm

            mrsmith, maybe you didn’t hear what U.S. District Judge William Downes said about that. Here it is again, “…utterly false. Any person who interferes with federal officers in performance of their duties subjects themselves to the risk of criminal prosecution.”

    • Pheo August 9, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      The real reason people latch onto this sheriff idea is that they want to circumvent federal law and still feel like they are still patriotic. Guess what? The public lands belong to all Americans, not just locals. All Americans should have a say in what happens here.

      I guarantee that the people that claim to love America the most are the ones talking about “taking the country back”. Who are you taking the country back from? Those liberals from whom you want to take the country from are as American as you. They also love their country, but have a different opinion about how to make America as great as it can be. But rather than acknowledging this, it is easier to label opponents as “others” and un-American, as people from whom you have to take the country back.

    • Roy J August 9, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      Uh, no. None of that is true.

      • RealMcCoy August 9, 2016 at 5:50 pm

        Uh, yes it is. Educate yourself.

        • Roy J August 9, 2016 at 10:06 pm

          No, it isn’t. I took a 10 second tour of the Internet to confirm that everyone with an accredited law degree and wasn’t incarcerated was still laughing at the sovereign citizen movement. They were, objection stands.

          • RealMcCoy August 10, 2016 at 10:56 am

            This isn’t a sovereign citizen movement. It’s also easily looked up.
            Take more than 10 seconds and you’ll find it.
            If Obama made a new law enforcement department to prosecute people that said mean things about him, and the new ‘cop’ decided you should be arrested, you would respect that authority?

          • Roy J August 10, 2016 at 5:34 pm

            realmccoy, I don’t know where you get your info, but hopefully you never end up trying to defend your loonybird position in court because otherwise you will be getting your sovereign bubble bursted, oh and also go to jail. probably. But hey, don’t believe me, let’s hear what U.S. District Judge William Downes has to say about the matter:

            “”A federal authority, if he comes into a local jurisdiction, should be in communication, and should be working with the local sheriff before an arrest is made,” Micheli said in news reports. “The fact (is) that the sheriff is the authority in that jurisdiction.”

            This idea had been bandied about for a while, especially after a mid-1990s federal court case presided over by former Chief U.S. District Judge William Downes, and misinterpreted my many.

            Some stories said Bighorn County Sheriff Dave Mattis said the decision validated his claim that all federal officials are barred from the county without his permission. Other folks, such as those in the Sovereignty Movement — — who believe the entire government has been a corporation since the Civil War — also maintain this position.

            This outraged Downes. He posted a letter on the court website denouncing that and similar statements that he had issued a ruling supporting the sheriff-as-ultimate-authority idea.

            “This court has never made the comments attributed to it which purports to advise state officers they can prohibit federal law enforcement officers or agents from entering a Wyoming County,” Downes wrote.

            “Those alleged quotations are utterly false. Any person who interferes with federal officers in performance of their duties subjects themselves to the risk of criminal prosecution,” Downes wrote.

          • RealMcCoy August 11, 2016 at 10:51 am

            RoyJ, you and several others are not reading what my original intended message was: I didn’t say they don’t have the power to enforce laws through the federal government- I said they were not elected, thereby not a true LEGAL law enforcement agency.
            That was all I said.
            A hall monitor in school has the ‘authority’ to write someone up for detention, but they aren’t a ‘legal’ authority.

            Another example:
            The IRS is not a legal law enforcement agency either. It was created to oversee tax collections, yet now it creates it’s own rules/laws, and is given the authority to enforce them with weapons. Yes! The IRS is militarized, or did you not know that?
            What started out as a voluntary income tax has now become de facto law, with criminal consequences for non compliance.

            The core point I was pointing out is that the Sheriff is the only REAL legal authority, as he is elected. The rest are all hired and appointed.
            I never said the courts don’t acknowledge their power.

            I would never use the ‘sovereign citizen’ defense either, as it is a fools errand to even try in today’s political climate.

          • Roy J August 11, 2016 at 11:30 am

            realmccoy, you have a lot to learn about the history of legally appointed government officials in the United States, law enforcing or otherwise. I’d list some, but given your inability to admit when you’re wrong (a common sovereign citizen trait) and your tendencies towards prevarication and argle-bargle, I don’t see the point. But there are plenty of unelected ‘hall monitors’ in this very county who are legally capable and authorized to toss your goofy hignness into jail if you tempt them…XD

    • Chris August 9, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      There is no passage in the Constitution that supports what you say.

  • godisdead August 9, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    I support the B.L.M. and Forest service enforcement officers. My experience with them has always been positive.
    The local sheriff’s dept., especially in rural Utah, is another matter. They are “good old boys”, who let the locals run amuck while harassing out of towners.
    Stewart is simply telling the teabaggers in Utah what they want to hear so he can get their uneducated votes this November. He is worthless as our representative and is in office only because Utah republicans rigged the election with their unethical gerrymandering.

    • RealMcCoy August 9, 2016 at 5:53 pm

      You are confusing the city police with the Sheriff’s department. Police want out of towner’s money from tickets; the Sheriff is busy with real crime.

      • godisdead August 9, 2016 at 6:04 pm

        I’m not confused. Maybe you are.
        The constitution separates governments powers. The executive branch can enforce laws passed by congress. This is why we have the the B.L.M. and Forest service having police powers.

      • Chris August 9, 2016 at 10:30 pm

        You must not know any real sheriffs. Nothing in the Constitution acknowledges the existence of sheriffs or of counties.

        • RealMcCoy August 10, 2016 at 10:51 am

          You really are naive. Take more than 10 seconds and check your STATE Constitution. The Sheriff has nothing to do with federal powers.

          • Chris August 10, 2016 at 3:23 pm

            look above, doofus. I did check the Utah constitution, and it says absolutely nothing about sheriffs. Obviously, you did not check anything before shooting off your mouth.

  • munchie August 9, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    “Federal agencies do not enjoy the same level of trust and respect as local law enforcement that are deeply rooted in communities “…Isn’t that what they claimed in Alabama and Mississippi back in the 60’s?

  • lessgovt August 10, 2016 at 8:36 am

    Just another politician that is trying to get votes from people ignorant enough to vote for him. He sounds like Trump, stirring the mob to hate others.

  • mrsmith August 10, 2016 at 10:36 am

    Chris, The constitution most definitely references Sheriffs and here is the sources to which you seek:
    Utah constitution Title 17 chapter 22 has an entire subsection dedicated to Sheriffs and their authority.
    If you think that the US constitution doesn’t have any reference to this, it’s actually a part of and expressly guaranteed by the tenth amendment ratified on December 15th, 1791. This gives the authority to the states to regulate enforcement of the laws but does not grant the authority to the Federal government to enforce law within the state. This does not, however, remove the ability of the Federal government from creating officers that enforce rules and laws of federal land as long as they submit to the authority of the county which is the sheriff. Our own sheriff here in Wash county did an excellent comparison with what is currently law and what is proposed by house bill 276 amending Title 23. This is not the same as the federal law that Chris Stewart is proposing in that this would remove the authority of Federal agencies from creating the officers to enforce law on Forest Service and BLM lands.

    • RealMcCoy August 10, 2016 at 3:24 pm

      Oh good! Someone else gets it!
      Yes, you are correct. It amazes me how some people cling to their ignorance instead of doing a little homework and educating themselves.
      Chris, Pheo, Roy, godis…. just read a little more and you’ll learn so much!

      • Roy J August 10, 2016 at 6:03 pm

        realmccoy, please stop telling people to read stuff that will only teach them how to thwart their own powers of perception and get themselves into real trouble with the real laws of our land…XD

      • Chris August 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm

        we did read a little more and found out both of you are complete fools. When you read, you need to check into more than just your crackpot websites like what you linked to above. You’ve shown us what you think are reliable websites and made a complete idiot of yourself.

    • Chris August 10, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Wow, another idiot. Your citation is a Utah statute passed by the legislature. It is not a passage from the Utah constitution. Just google “Utah Constitution”, open any link with its text, and search for the word “sheriff.” It’s just that simple, but apparently not simple enough for you and McCoy.

      • mrsmith August 11, 2016 at 8:35 am

        Okay Chris, I get it. When your point is no longer a point you regress to name calling. Here’s another link that might help you understand how law works. I think it’s right up your alley.

        • Chris August 11, 2016 at 3:18 pm

          Neither you nor McCoy can refute my statements. McCoy claimed authority for sheriffs in the Constitution; I showed it did not even mention sheriffs. He then claimed authority in the state constitution; I showed it did not appear there either. You then jump in to support McCoy with a link to Utah statutes (not the constitution), but claim it to be from the “Utah constitution”; I showed it for what it is. Now, you link some ridiculous video about the legislative process, once again, not the constitution. You are both at the same intellectual level (not a good one), and I can say with confidence that you are both Trump voters.

    • Chris August 10, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      The 10th amendment is one sentence–“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” So, just where does that sentence “expressly guarantee” anything about sheriffs?

      • RealMcCoy August 10, 2016 at 6:03 pm

        Well, doofus, you obviously are set in your ways and choose to remain in the dark. That’s okay though. You just keep smiling when more and more government takes over your life.

        • Roy J August 11, 2016 at 10:36 am

          Two totally separate arguments there, realmccoy. Sheriffs elected and/or unelected does not equal more and more government. Elected and/or unelected does not equal more and more government.

          • RealMcCoy August 11, 2016 at 1:54 pm

            Do you even read what you wrote? It absolutely is the same thing.
            Elected= government entity (sheriff, judge, congressman)
            Unelected= still government entity (FBI, IRS, BLM,) – or do you sudenly not consider the FEDERAL Bureau of Investigation as government owned, the IRS is not another arm of the government? Bureau of Land Management is not more government making it’s own rules and laws?
            I’m done with the discussion, as all you do is close your eyes, cover your ears, and scream ‘nonononononononono’ at your computer screen instead of reading what I and mrsmith have actually said.

        • Chris August 11, 2016 at 10:49 am

          LOL, that’s the best you can do? Conspicuous is the fact that you provide absolutely no factual refutation of anything I said.

  • dhamilton2002 August 10, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Vote for Charlene Albarran and Chris Stewart will be gone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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