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Rangers Disappearing?

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As many of you know we are firm believers that public land is just that – land that the public owns. All of us as Americans have a stake in their success, not just the people who live there and that is one of the reasons we have written multiple times about the land transfer subject. In 2016, David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wrote a piece for us after their official statement on the land transfer issue came out. We were thrilled to have him write it and based on how many of you read it, we know it hit home. Before that there were two pieces from 2014 and 2015 that I put together that hopefully rang true for many of you.

In the legislative world, HR 621 was recently defeated after Jason Chaffettz pulled it from consideration after the public outcry hit what I will call “epic levels” on his social media channels. The #keepitpublic tag has hit all time highs and it doesn’t look like it will slow down even remotely in the near future.

HR 622 is is still on the books and the outcry is starting to be heard on this piece of legislation. In a nutshell, this particular bill would remove rangers from the Forest Service and BLM payroll. There would no longer be a dedicated law enforcement branch for these entities because that responsibility would be transferred to the county sheriff.

To some this sounds good – in theory. Let’s take a look at how things work for a local sheriff and their deputies the way it is. Any deputy will tell you that their department is short staffed and with the current atmosphere in our country there isn’t much incentive for quality people to join the law enforcement ranks. Now, add the responsibility of patrolling National forest land to a profession that already has its hands full recruiting quality deputies.

Add in that an understaffed Sheriff’s department is then forced to prioritize which crimes they are going put their effort into investigating. Unless it’s a murder in the middle of a National Forest it isn’t going to get much attention because let’s face it, deputies will be answering calls close to population bases as that is where the fire always burns the hottest. If you were answering calls in dispatch with limited officer numbers would you send a response to the domestic dispute on the edge of town or the report of someone using their ATV on a closed 65 miles away?


Now, let’s get a little closer to home with what Forest Service Rangers are tasked with. In the Cody region there are two rangers that have the ability to write major tickets, yup, there are two of them. We aren’t talking about a huge staff that has access to SWAT forces, we are talking a fairly minimal number of people. Those two are tasked with enforcing laws across one of the largest wilderness regions in the United States. When you see a rule being broken in a campground or someone making a camp in a spot that isn’t supposed to allow camping, you now know why.

This issue is beyond complicated. I will be the first to tell you that I have a lot of complaints about the way things are going on Federal land. From over grazing issues to how much work it takes just have someone get a permit to harvest firewood. We spend far too much fighting fires because we have been fighting fires for years, yes it’s a cycle that happens naturally. Fire suppression accounts for dollar figures that are mind boggling and frankly it kills budgets.

The RMEF was one of the first to tackle the bigger issue of, “what brought us to this point?” Why are so many people hell bent on “disposing” of public land? Well, it’s because they see massive beetle kill, broken down trails and disrespect for the land. If you haven’t read their position on this I would encourage you to take a few minutes and do so.

The simple reality is that if we want to see improvement in the way federal land is managed, it is going to take all of us stepping up and making our voices heard. How many of us attended the last BLM public meeting where comments were taken into consideration for policy? How many of us actually took the time to pen a letter to the Forest Service about a proposed rule change in regard to a road closure?

If we want to see federal land managed in a way that benefits everyone from ranchers, hunters, recreationists and mineral developers, we will need to make our voices heard. The beauty of the country we live in is that we have the ability to do that. My guess is that a few of you have opinions just like I do on things that could be improved. The opportunity is there for all of us to have a voice that matters. The question is, will we do it before we lose access?




P.S. Make sure you have subscribed to to the Eastmans’ Elevated Podcast and found them on social media. The latest episode features Dan Pickar and Brian Barney talking about what it takes to be a consistently successful bowhunter!

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. Guy,
    Thank you for staying on top of things, and keeping people informed. The Federal lands need to be cared for, and my hope is the current administration will be ready to add Forest Service personnel to the cause. I’m hopeful the new Interior Secretary will take a hard look at staffing across the west, and make the proper recommendations.
    We as hunters need to push all of our Congressmen to sign the appropriate legislation to protect the sovereignty of our Federal lands, and improve them. The neglect goes back to the Clinton administration changing Forest law, eliminating forest harvest, and management, closing forest roads, all without scientific review
    History leads directly to increased forest fires, and strained budgets, and past administrations refused to look at science, or common sense, to the why of literal millions of dollars spent on forest fire suppression over the past three decades.
    Total neglect of the BLM, and FFL lands are the result of incompetent politicians seeking the maintenance of their careers over the care of the country. My sincere hope, and I believe it is not wishful thinking, is that the current President will push the people’s cause forward above, and beyond the clutch of politics.

  2. Well your correct about it being a very complex set of issues, and that the federal government has screwed our western lands through poor application of bad laws, including the ESA. They have put a cookie cutter aproach to land management that requires lots more local science based decision making. Here in western Oregon the feds have ruined our forest lands and environmental groups have them locked into no active management. I would support more local management that could easily be paid for with forest products that currently go up in smoke each year.

    • At one time I agreed with you Steve. However, the more I think about it, the less inclined I am to root for local control in Oregon. I just no longer trust the state government. Before you can say “emergency clause”, I could envision the powers that be closing what are now federal lands to target shooting as a start. Then, work on eliminating hunting because it might endanger hikers. Not saying that couldn’t happen anyway, but I trust the current federal administration more than the Democrats who are just a seat or two away from having nothing to stop them in Oregon.

    • Following up on my earlier comments, there was a story in the Eugene Register-Guard this morning about the Elliott State Forest and Governor Brown’s plans for it. Included in that plan: “The state also would work with Native American tribes to allow them to regain ownership of ancestral lands within the forest.” This is an alternative to a private sale to Lone Rock Resources where: “Lone Rock planned to share ownership of the Elliot with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. The Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians also would have a conservation easement on the forest.” I don’t see either of those alternatives improving hunter access to the Elliott. If federal lands in Oregon were turned over to the state, I think we could expect more of the same. On the bright side, if you have deep pockets, maybe you could afford an elk hunt on Indian land like they have in Arizona for a mere $20,000. Unfortunately, that lets me out.

  3. The state of Wyoming is not helping this cause by restricting nonresidents from hunting wilderness within the national Forrest

    • I agree. It is ridiculous that it’s public land yet if I want to come hunt Wilderness in Wyoming I have to pay someone big money just to do that! Don’t seem very public to me? Or am I missing something??

  4. When the new administration was sworn in one reason is to take feds out of publics lands and put it back in the hands of the locals, including the local sheriff. Big government can’t save you and it’s time to get these Rangers off the federal pay role. This politically correct crap has been going on too long; it’s time to open the federal lands to drilling and start generating revenue from them. We hunters can work around it. Thanks Trump for so far keeping your word-keep it going and drain the swamp!

    • Sorry KW but you are wrong. Sounds great to be for states rights but there is a limit. Federal lands put in local hands will be the practical end of access to those lands. The state and local gov’ts just do NOT have the kinds of budgets to care for these properties. The local gov’ts will sell and/or exclusively lease the lands to make money for their other budgets. Think about how much land would be open to hunting if you put California (and other states) in charge of it? The Forest Service, BLM, etc., spends huge chunks of their time and money in litigation (surveys, environmental studies, etc) with every tree hugger group constantly suing them. It doesn’t leave much for the actual servicing of the lands. There are some environmental laws that require the Feds to reimburse these groups for suing them, win or lose…how stupid is that? Left alone to actually spend their time and budget managing the lands, the Feds would do a MUCH better job than the Locals.

  5. I would like to chime in on this, as on the surface it seems like a great thing to relinquish the Feds of managing these lands but as previously stated that can put undo strain on local resources. I am not sure of the wording in hr 622, but if ownership, not only management of federal lands is included,BEWARE! I am not an expert, and correct me if I am wrong, but , states are able to do things with their land that the Feds are unable to(such as selling them off). Again I am not an expert and probably do not like government interference in my life just as much as the next guy but make sure you read the fine print on all this type of legislation and understand the true consequences to our future generations. Randy Newberg has a great podcast regarding the issue of federal versus state land ownership/management.

  6. It is nice that you are so high and mighty but this comes from the distrust of government thugs given guns. These RANGERS are nothing but piss fir willies given a gun to protect THEIR LAND. This the problem that happened in Neveda with the BUNDYS, the BLM showed up armed mercinaries to PROTECH THEM!! Then when the public responded with protection for the BUNDYS whose personal property was being destroyed and tortured by the RANGERS, well you can understand the outrage! Especially when you find out it was all orchestrated by a Neveda senator to sell the land to China for him and his son to make huge profits!! Do we have a right to be concerned about armed government thugs?? You betcha!!!

  7. The eaja(equal access to justice act) has been a boon the professional litigation groups who care nothing of the environment. Good articles about this can be found at range magazine. Beware of letting the states which have no money to manage federal land much less there own due to litigation get control over federal land. These lands were set up for multiple use, not to be locked up and left to degrade to the point that they have. We are blessed to have the public land we have to hunt, fish and recreate on. It needs to be managed properly as intended. Litigation has brought it to the point of no return almost. I have had the misfortune of meeting some rangers who shouldn’t have been in the position they were in and some good ones, they need to do some screening on these folks because they can do the job local jurisdictions can’t.

  8. Sheriff John D’Agostini of Eldorado County California stripped USFS brownshirts of any legal authority to enforce state law within his jurisdiction in 2013. I urge Guy Eastman to read up on why this happened before he shoots from the hip on this subject anymore. http://www.mtdemocrat.com/news/sheriff-strips
    Local control is the way to go.

  9. I support your thoughts Dennis S, & agree with Rep Chaffetz constitutional views & voting. Swat teams for FS & BLM is unconstitutional and UN-necessary. Scary to think that every Fed dept now has them, right down to Dept of Education…WHY?? The brownshirts, by & large, are un-trained low-IQ thugs hiding behind a gun & a badge. Most do not understand the science or multiple-use concept of the BLM’s or Forest Circus’ mission. ..or just don’t care, ’cause it’s just a paycheck to them, not the vision of those who’ve gone before to build, protect & preserve these beautiful lands – plus those U.S. citizens inside those boundaries, recreating, hunting, fire wood gathering, or whatever. Growing up on a ranch bordering the federal lands, I’ll always be heartened & with good memories, & remember the Rangers of old, who carried an ax & a bow saw on their saddles to keep the trails open & clear. Spoke volumes to most. Firearms were to protect them from dangerous wildlife, not the polite society. Agreed, we live in a little different society now, so don’t beat my ears down with comments over that either, ’cause I won’t read it. Only those fighting the constitutional authority of COUNTY sheriffs will make the argument that “they’re under-staffed” and can’t patrol their counties Most law-enforcement agencies are vastly OVER-staffed, and under-worked. We’ve witnessed it first-hand, so don’t try to blow smoke up our pant legs!!! Maybe only in Cody they have 2 men to patrol a large area etc, but as with previous comments, Guy should research beyond his porch view on this subject, before shooting from the hip. Take away the SWAT teams, keep Public lands public, return to multiple-use to include restoring grazing rights levels to sane & sustainable levels, and ensure that the Feds in D.C. don’t keep our Western lands for their playground, while we are burdened under their onerous and oppressive regulations.

  10. Has 621 “been removed from consideration” or is it “still on the books?” Confused.

  11. Absolutely support your position, Mr. Eastman. If federal lands are are transferred to State ownership, ordinary hunter’s and fishermen WILL lose access, and quickly. Believe me, as a resident of a state with very little public land (Texas), you folks do not want to follow our example! “Pay to play” is no fun for any but the wealthiest sportsmen.

  12. First off. The L.E.O. (law enforcement officers) are not rangers. Rangers in the USFS are the head administrative manager of a District within a national forest. They sit behind a desk and go to meetings. They are not law enforcement personnel. Get yor stuff straight before talking. Second. Typically a LEO works alone in a massive geographic area. In the local national forest there are 2 LEO’s for a 1 million acre forest with several thousand miles of open roads and as many closed roads. There are ATV and backcountry trails, fishing access, campgrounds, and dispersed open camping almost everywhere on this forest. There are mine claims, logging, cattle range with many miles of barbed wire. There are more squatters, poachers, garbage dumpers, meth heads, illegal aliens, and dope growers all the time. In my experience, many of the local ne’er-do-wells use it as there playground to poach, steal or take what they can, and vandalize what is nailed down. Most people who do not want law enforcement on these forests, also don’t want game wardens because it interferes with there freedom to be dirt bags when no one is looking. L.E.O.’s are trained at a federal law enforcement academy. They are as experienced as any officer over time. There are no swat teams on national forest, as far as I know. A bunch of fear mongering. The national forests are owned by everyone in the U.S.A. No one person can set the rules. As it should be. We are all in this together.

  13. To often I see people like Guy who won’t educate themselves on the true problem with allowing the federal government to legitimize themselves with having LEO’s. Federal LEO’s don’t answer to the local constituents. Federal monies could easily be transferred to the Sheriff’s to hire more Deputy’s who answer to an elected official for patrolling our public lands. I highly doubt that the federal government has any constitutional right to have LEO’s for land management agencies. The feds become bully’s when they get to legitimize themselves as the sole protector of public lands. Its about the constitution, people forget about the infringement of their freedom when you allow the feds to manage things that local government does best. I understand that it affects some peoples personal playgrounds to hunt or recreate, but its about the constitution and the feds are not the answer. Don’t let your emotions fog your brain.

    • They are trained specifically for their positions and do a good job. They are also local people who live in our communities. If it was my decision there’d be more not less.

  14. Old Firefighter – Thanks Guy and other Eastman’s writers and editors for continuing to present these important stories and issues for public lands hunters/users. Your writeups of these issues are spot-on and represent well what I’ve seen and the realities of the issues related to keeping public lands public and patrolled by the few USFS and BLM LEO’s out there. Your description of the realities faced by Sheriffs departments across the country is also spot on. Those few USFS and BLM Rangers cover a LOT of country during their patrols. The work they do for us in protecting valuable natural resources, including big game trophies is of high value. Most of them work very well with State, County and municipal law enforcement officers and yes, like someone mentioned above, they live in our communities. Their kids go to school with our kids. They help you when you’re in trouble and they help to make sure our public lands are safe. In my long experience, those who argue loudest for their to be no law or no government are the ones we ought watch most closely for their first move to take from us those things we value most – including our freedoms. Thanks again for keeping head issues at the forefront of what we do. These are not “fun” topics in these troubled times.

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