What’s The Reason?
Published: 17 August 2013
For those ranching on public lands, there have always been challenges. Some would say that is an understatement, but you know we play with the hand we’re dealt.
Since the late 1970s the BLM has had law enforcement “Rangers,” and I think the Forest Service has the same – there is one in every field office. It was a good idea, and still is, as we get more and more people in the West recreating out in the country. As usual, some break the law, and it’s always good to have law enforcement take care of the bad guys.
I attended a meeting earlier this week between ag leaders and state BLM range personnel to discuss issues common to both parties and ways to correct or solve issues that could be addressed. It was communication at its best as all were looking for positive ways to solve issues that they could. Now, everyone understood that at this meeting they were not going to solve national issues like the wild horses or major policy issues that have to come from Washington, D.C., but there are plenty of issues that can be solved at the local or state level.
In recent years there have been issues arise from BLM Rangers being too aggressive out in the hills – not against the bad guys, but against locals or ranchers and hunters who may live on the land. We learned that rangers do have the authority to enforce state laws on government lands. I know that a law enforcement officer cannot “kind of” enforce the law, but stopping and ticketing a rancher for a broken taillight on a pickup that has never seen pavement is a bit much. After reading more about the problem, I found out other states are having similar issues.
In El Dorado County, California, the sheriff wants to strip federal officers of their authority to enforce state laws in the county, and in Utah a state legislature passed a law that would have told federal lawmen in the state to take a hike rather than enforce state laws on federal lands, but it was quickly set aside by a federal judge. The Utah legislature and governor are moving quickly to reword the law to make it work.
It isn’t that people want the Rangers to disappear. Well, maybe some do, but it is the enforcement of state laws on federal lands and being way over the top or way too aggressive on the enforcement of those state laws. Even law enforcement officers have to use common sense, especially federal rangers. It’s one thing to be tough along the Mexican Border or in the California desert or forests where there are drug issues, but in most places in Wyoming, the law-abiding ranchers, farmers and hunters should be the Ranger’s good friends, as they can be their eyes and ears and help them do their jobs. Rangers are also the face of their agencies and they can put a bad face on the local field office.
The relationship that federal law enforcement officers have with ranchers, farmers and hunters should be positive, but burning those bridges with over-aggressive enforcement won’t help anyone.
We respect their work. We just want them to respect us, too. What’s their reason not to?