Lawmaker Says BLM Was ‘Completely Insane’ On Bundy Standoff
This article was written by Steve Tetreault and originally published at Review Journal
Republican lawmakers on Thursday criticized the Bureau of Land Management’s handling of the April standoff with Clark County rancher Cliven Bundy, saying tensions could have been eased by local authorities rather than the BLM’s use of heavily armed agents.
“Whether Bundy was right or wrong, was the BLM’s response reasonable? Anyone watching that unfolding fiasco can answer it was completely insane,” said Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., who added that guns should be taken out of the hands of federal land managers.
Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said photos of combat-uniformed and heavily armed agents crouched behind utility vehicles looked like they were taken in Afghanistan or Iraq rather than the American West. He said it was part of a troubling pattern of non-law enforcement agencies having SWAT-like units armed like “the tip of the spear.”
“I have observed more and more the level of militarization occurring within many federal agencies, and I mean almost every federal agency,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure having these teams scattered across dozens of agencies is the most efficient use of resources. It’s heavy-handed and intimidating to the American people.”
Perhaps inevitably, a hearing of the House public lands subcommittee about tensions between the BLM and local counties turned to a debate on the Bundy operation. A BLM roundup seeking to enforce a court order and remove the rancher’s cattle from public land for nonpayment of fees turned into a tense standoff with armed Bundy supporters. The roundup ultimately was abandoned.
McClintock said the BLM should have turned the matter over to the county sheriff, Doug Gillespie. Gillespie himself has been critical of the BLM’s operation.
“Local law enforcement knew the circumstances, knew the people involved and would exercise much better judgment nine times out of 10,” McClintock said. “So I ask once again, why are we arming land managers?”
James Perkins, a Utah county sheriff at the hearing, told McClintock he was “absolutely 100 percent right. If that had been turned over to the county, we wouldn’t even be talking about it today.”
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