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Washington • Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he will introduce legislation to jettison law enforcement officials under the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service in favor of giving the money to states who can prop up local sheriffs.
The Utah Republican says local law enforcement should be responsible for responding to incidents on wide swaths of public land.
"The first line of defense should be the sheriff," Chaffetz said Tuesday. "Right now there's an open request for proposals for sub-machine guns to be purchased by the BLM. They're building up this arsenal and it's very concerning for me how volatile this situation is."
After recent incidents like the standoff in Oregon's Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Chaffetz said it's best that local sheriffs, who more often know the subjects involved, be the ones responding to concerns on public lands and not federal agents.
Chaffetz said he'll introduce the bill next week when the House returns to session and all three of his Utah Republican colleagues will be co-sponsors. Neither the Interior Department, which oversees the BLM, nor the Forest Service could be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Chaffetz says his bill allows BLM or Forest Service personnel to have a sidearm "which I would want for myself," Chaffetz adds but that there shouldn't be tactical teams within the public land agencies.
"We need to be more Andy Griffith and less Rambo," the congressman added.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, had introduced similar legislation in 2014 to cut funding for any "paramilitary units" within the BLM, the IRS and other regulatory agencies, saying they should rely on local law enforcement instead. The bill is still awaiting a hearing.