A rural Utah county commissioner told a U.S. House committee on Thursday that the Bureau of Land Management is acting like the Gestapo because the agency refused to renew a law enforcement contract with the county sheriff and are doing their own law enforcement on public land instead.
The Gestapo was, of course, the feared secret police arm of the Nazi Party in Germany from 1933 to the end of World War II in 1945. It was administered by the notorious SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and was largely responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of millions of human beings.
The Bureau of Land Management, an agency inside the U.S. Department of Interior, was created in 1946, and manages the various uses of the nation's roughly 250 million acres of public lands—including recreation, grazing, wildlife, drilling and mining—in accordance with federal law, which was written in accordance to the U.S. Constitution by democratically-elected congressional representatives.
According to available public records, the Bureau of Land Management has never been under the control of the Nazi party, nor is there any record of the BLM kidnapping, torturing or killing anybody.
Anyway, according to the Salt Lake Tribune, Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock accused the federal agency of "bullying, intimidation and (a) lack of integrity," which has led to a difficult relationship with ranchers in the region.
"Some equate BLM's law enforcement operations to the Gestapo of the World War II era," Pollock said in written testimony during the hearing on alleged BLM abuses to the House Natural Resources Committee.
Over the past decade or so we have observed and experienced a militarization of BLM's officers. I am confident you are aware of recent, highly publicized actions involving BLM agents in Nevada. But you may not be aware that much of the support for the rancher by everyday citizens may have resulted from a growing frustration from the way they are treated by local BLM officers.
The BLM came under fire last April by conservatives for trying to carry out a legal court order to confiscate the cattle of documented taxpayer ripoff artist, racist and occasional Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy.
While they were out there in Nevada, the "everyday citizens" cited by Pollock also illegally stopped traffic at gunpoint, threatened to use "their woman" as human shields, harassed the media and asked for welfare payments while they sat around in the desert, among other things.
When the BLM decided not to employ the Garfield County Sheriff's Department for their local law enforcement needs anymore, the county commission passed a resolution declaring that the federal government didn't have any law enforcement authority in the county.
Garfield County Sheriff James D. Perkins testified to the committee that he has "good working relationships" with other federal agencies in his jurisdiction, but not the BLM.
"I see this lack of coordination — rather, their refusal to coordinate — as a system-wide failure that needs to be urgently addressed," he told the committee.
In an interview with the Deseret News in June, Perkins claims that his department did all the work when it comes to law enforcement at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument with no help from the BLM.
"They do not respect the authority of the sheriff at all. It is hard for them to accept that this sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in this county."
The committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, called the Garfield County actions "hypocritical," noting that the county was trying to get federal funding via a contract with the sheriff's department while passing a resolution denying federal authority in the county limits.
"Cooperation with all stakeholders is critical to carrying out the BLM's mission and finding common ground in balancing the many uses of the public lands," Krauss said. "In doing so, across the Bureau we routinely enter into contracts, agreements and partnerships with a variety of entities, including local law enforcement, ranchers and members of the public, that serve to protect public health and safety and improve resource conditions on public lands across the West."
In May, another Utah county commissioner, San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, led several hundred armed protestors on a short ATV trip down a closed BLM trail in Recapture Canyon in southern Utah—endangering several Native American burial sites and cliff dwellings.
Authorities documented but did not stop the protest, and federal prosecutors are still considering charges against the riders.
Image via AP