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Judge blocks Utah law limiting federal authority on public lands
States’ rights » Federal judge says law seeking to limit federal police powers on public lands would cause harm if enforced and is likely unconstitutional.

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At a recent confrontation in a BLM campground, according to court filings, a sheriff’s deputy threatened to arrest a BLM officer who had responded to a disturbance the deputy said should be handled by local authorities.

Incidents like these highlight the public’s confusion arising from HB155, which casts doubt on federal authority and puts officers at risk, Risner said.

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Regardless, land agencies have a limited, although important law-enforcement presence, according to court filings. The BLM employs eight agents and 16 rangers to patrol 22 million acres of federal land in Utah. Last year they made just three arrests and issued 27 citations and 110 warnings, according to a declaration filed by Erik Boik, Utah BLM’s chief ranger.

The Forest Service employs 200 forest protection officers and 22 law-enforcement officers, who made 69 arrests in Utah and issued 759 misdemeanor citations last year. Just over half the arrests were for drugs and 69 percent of the citations involved violations of rules protecting forest resources.

HB155 deprives the Forest Service of a critical land-management tool, according to Marlene Finley, deputy forester for the Intermountain region.

"Without an effective law enforcement presence to deter violation of federal laws and rules, there is a greater potential for damage to national forest land and resources from illegal fires, littering and other property damage, and illegal use of off-road vehicles in undesignated areas," she wrote in her declaration.


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