BLM Rangers Seek Power
Of Non-Federal Laws, Also

By Steve Sexton
copyright (c) 1997, Elko Daily Free Press

Nevada legislators listened to comments Wednesday on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's effort to increase its powers and asked the agency why drunken driving was slated to become a federal offense.
"I didn't know there was a federal driving under the influence law, " said Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, during a hearing of the Assembly's Natural Resources, Mining and Agriculture Committee.
About 60 people, including county commissioners, sheriffs, and district attorneys, packed the hearing room, waiting for an opportunity to comment on the proposed rule changes.
Assemblyman Marcia de Braga, D-Fallon, the committee's chairman, called the hearing despite a March 7 deadline for the close of the comment period.
"There's been a great deal of concern expressed over the proposed changes," de Braga said. "We may have to send a resolution to Congress because of the March 7 date. " Maxine Shane, BLM public affairs specialist, and Donnette P. Gordon, BLM special agent-in-charge, continued the agency's assertions that the changes do not expand its police powers.
"The regulations do not expand our powers nor will they increase the size of our force," Gordon said. "BLM rangers have been in Nevada since 1977. " Shane said the four special agents and 15 rangers stationed in Nevada, who



patrol 48 million acres that include more than 700 grazing allotments and the largest feral horse and burro herds in the world, need to have law enforcement authority because of a variety of activities occurring on public lands. Those include off-road races, artifact and horse theft, shooting of wild horses, mineral and land fraud, fire fighting, hazardous material transportation and the growing of marijuana and construction of methamphetamine laboratories.
Gordon said there were 10 new regulations to the proposed rules that would affect Nevadans. One of those, shooting firearms near a building or over waterways and roads, would not affect hunters, she maintained.
Assemblyman Roy Neighbors, D-Tonopah, asked the two officials to cite what specific U.S. Constitutional authority the BLM had for law enforcement.
Gordon responded that the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) of 1976 gave the Secretary of the Interior the power to protect the public lands.
"That's not what I asked," Neighbors shot back. "We're talking about the


 
Constitution, can you cite something specific? "
"Specifically on law enforcement? No, not in the Constitution," Gordon said.
The committee membership didn't waste any words as several asked direct answers.
"Are you or are you not going to enforce Nevada statutes?" from Carpenter.
"We do not have that authority," responded Gordon.
"Yes or no, do you support these changes?" asked Assemblyman David Humke, R-Reno.
"It's improper for me to say whether they're proper or not. They're just out there for public comment," Shane said.
Following the presentation by Gordon and Shane, the committee opened the meeting up for comment from citizens.
Sheriffs from Lander, Eureka and Nye counties all said they were doing an adequate job of enforcing the law on public lands, as evidenced by their elections and re-elections.
County commissioners from Elko, Eureka, Humboldt and Nye counties also opposed the rules, saying the federal authorities were exceeding their authority.
And county prosecutors from Eureka and Nye counties argued the rules go beyond what is allowed by the U.S. Constitution. (A summary of Eureka's formal response appears on Page 6.) Several representatives of statewide organizations, such as the Nevada




Cattlemen's Association and Nevada Woolgrowers Association, also presented testimony that the proposed rules would infringe on the liberties of residents.
"I'm afraid this is an exercise in public futility because of the lack of public hearings and even when they are held, they are with the mind set of already being made up," de Braga said.
Carpenter suggested the committee could compile all the information, send a "very strong letter" to the U.S. Congress and follow it up with a resolution from both houses of the Nevada Legislature.
Assemblyman Genie Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, agreed saying, "We need to look carefully at this and make sure Uncle Sam doesn't turn into Big Brother."
In related news, Elko County Commissioners passed a resolution designed to comment on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's move to increase its police powers, saying the attempt violates the U.S. Constitution and will be considered illegal in Elko County.
The resolution was passed 4-0 on Wednesday with Commissioner Mike Nannini absent from that portion of the meeting. The issue came before the commission at the end of a seven-hour meeting.
The resolution also was made part of Elko County's policy, a move designed to force the federal government to acquiesce to county policy through regulations in the Federal Land Management and Policy Act.


 
The resolution requests constitutional compliance and rejects the BLM's attempt at increasing its police power beyond the limits of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the U.S. Constitution.
The clause states that Congress shall have the power: "to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards and other needful buildings. "
Public lands activist Ed Presley, who helped write the resolution, said the constitutional clause means the federal government only has authority over lands it purchases with the consent of the states and that those lands can only be used for federal "needful buildings. "
The clause limits the federal government authority to Washington, D.C., and in federal buildings, such as the post office, Presley said.
The resolution also incorporated a resolution passed by the county's Public




Land Use Advisory Commission, which calls for, among other items, the arrest of any federal agent attempting to enforce the proposed rule changes on a charge of impersonating a law officer.
"No citizen of Elko County, Nevada, may be subjected to this proposal or final rule now or ever," says the first resolve of PLUAC's document.
County Commissioner Llee Chapman questioned the use of the phrase, "now or ever" in the resolution because of unseen circumstances.
Presley said the county resolution title statement solves the problem because it prohibits the "unlawful" conveyance of powers.
Chapman also questioned if the resolution by itself was enough of a comment, considering a lengthy document from Eureka County objecting to the proposed rule changes and advice from BLM officials to make specific comments.
"There's no reason to comment on over a hundred pages of gibberish," Presley said.
The resolution also incorporated the theme of a Jan. 30 Elko Daily Free Press editorial written by Ken Gray and entitled "Reinventing the Middle Class"


 
denouncing federal agency requests for comments on proposed policies and actions as a waste of paper and breath.
"If you send your public comments to the [U.S.] Forest Service or BLM, the comments will be received, stamped and buried," Gray writes.
The resolution says, "Elko County expresses that, the comment solicitation phase of proposed federal regulations by federal agencies has historically proven to be nothing more than a




scheme to put forth an appearance of legitimacy. "
Finally, the resolution acknowledges a statement by the BLM's chief ranger in Nevada, Blaine Heald, who gave sworn testimony before the county commission Jan. 15 that the agency would not seek approval from the Nevada Legislature as other federal agencies have done for the increased police power because "they wouldn't give it to us anyway."


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