New GOP Bill Would Strip Federal Land Management Agencies of Law Enforcement Authority

Washington, D.C. – Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) issued the following statement after today’s Subcommittee hearing on Department of Interior law enforcement.

“Today’s hearing is supposed to be about a legitimate oversight question regarding law enforcement issues at the Department of the Interior, but I have to raise my grave concerns about legislation regarding federal law enforcement recently introduced by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

“Federal law enforcement officials put their lives on the line every day for our country. The Department of Interior’s law enforcement officers are not only tasked with protecting our land’s valuable resources and wildlife, but they must also ensure the safety of all those who visit our prized parks and recreational areas. Without question, our law enforcement officers must have the tools they need to act swiftly and safely, especially after the occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon by armed militiaman.

“Yesterday, six of my Republican colleagues introduced H.R. 4751, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, which would strip the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service of law enforcement responsibilities on federal lands. Why we would even contemplate a proposal to strip federal law enforcement officers from the ability to do their jobs is beyond me. This proposal is dangerous.

“Federal law enforcement officers already face violence, threats of violence, intimidation and disrespect. This legislation follows that trend and does a real disservice to those who make numerous sacrifices for our country every single day. I have nothing but utmost respect for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but we must ensure those who protect us every day have the tools to do their jobs.”

The “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act of 2016” (H.R. 4751), introduced by a group of House Republicans, would terminate the Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations unit and the Bureau of Land Management Office of Law Enforcement, require the Departments of Agriculture (AG) and Interior (DoI) to “cease using employees... to perform law enforcement functions on Federal land,” and prohibit federal funding for law enforcement on federal land. The legislation authorizes grant funding to states to take over federal law enforcement; AG and DoI would be required to make such grants, whether federal funds are appropriated for that purpose or not. 

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