Oath Keepers expose abuse of power by BLM, U.S. Forest Service
By RUSS BALBIRONA For the GPAA
More than 100 county sheriffs from around the country are banded together to remember their sworn oaths to stand for the Constitution and fight back against federal agencies they say have overstepped the bounds of their authority.
Sheriff Richard Mack and the County Sheriff Peace Officer Association held the first ever Constitutional Sheriffs Convention at the Tuscany Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas at the end of January. More than 100 county sheriffs representing 35 states attended the two-day event.
Created as a venue to unite sheriffs in their efforts of upholding and defending the United States Constitution, the goal of the conference was to increase participants understanding and awareness regarding the power of their constitutional authority and their duty to serve and protect the people.
“I think the best thing that came out of the convention was we had a little bit of training and education involving constitutional rights, Articles of Confederation, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” said Sheriff Jon Lopey of Siskiyou County, Calif.
“We were reminded that as public servants we serve the people. We serve at the pleasure of our citizens. We were also reminded of our obligation to serve the people and to scrutinize the policies or programs that could be in violation of the Constitution and the rights of our citizens,” Lopey said
“It was a good gathering and provided sheriffs the ability to look at their positions and responsibilities in ways that have typically been just law enforcement in the past and realize our roles and responsibilities go far beyond just enforcing the laws. It’s guaranteeing freedom and protecting people’s liberties,” said Sheriff Gregory Hagwood of Plumas County, Calif.
Sheriffs who chose to attend the conference heard expert speakers and presentations on such subjects as the Bill of Rights, 2nd Amendment, 10th Amendment, nullification and state sovereignty, property rights, Agenda 21, and the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
Oath Keepers founder, Stewart Rhodes, spoke of NDAA 2012 in an interview with Revolution Radio’s Terry Dodd. He described NDAA 2012 as “the United States version of King George III’s Intolerable Acts,” and called it “the most dangerous law in American history.”
Beyond his speech topic, Rhodes conjectured that the convention was a good thing as it allowed the sheriffs to see that they were not alone and other sheriffs were experiencing the same things they were.
“One of the things domestic enemies of our constitution like to do is make you think you’re all by yourself,” said Rhodes.
“Another thing that was a great plus … sheriffs got together and found we all have commonality in the issues we’re facing; especially the sheriffs that have a lot of public land like Siskiyou County,” Lopey said.
“There were sheriffs from all over the country who are experiencing some of the same difficulties when it comes to dealing with some federal entities,” Hagwood said.
Famed Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio, was the keynote speaker at the closing of this historic gathering of some of the finest sheriffs and peace officers this country could provide.
Many sheriffs in the Pacific Northwest have been dealing with federal agencies they argue are overstepping their bounds of authority; namely the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
These sheriffs are standing up to these federal agencies and doing so at great risk, often putting their careers on the line. “Sheriff Gil Gilbertson (Josephine County, OR) and Sheriff Glenn Palmer (Grant County, OR), had a recent meeting with federal agencies and were actually threatened by these agencies,” said Lopey.
Lopey’s Siskiyou County is comprised of approximately 65 percent public lands. And, like many other sheriffs in the Pacific Northwest, he is being beseeched by reports from citizens that some federal agencies are overstepping their authority.
“I want to make it clear that it isn’t all federal and state agencies, but some federal and state agencies. Sometimes they enact regulatory provisions that they haven’t properly coordinated with local officials and citizens,” Lopey said.
“Some of these regulatory acts could potentially adversely impact public safety and also undermine the economy and a lot of our counties or destitute absolutely destitute.”
In the early 1980s, Siskiyou County had 22 lumber mills; all of which provided much needed jobs and afforded the people of Siskiyou County the ability to provide for their families. Siskiyou County currently has only two remaining lumber mills, he said.
“Let’s just say the enforcement of some of these provisions have rendered my county economically destitute. In our county and many other counties you look at what has made us great: the timber industry, ranching, farming, mining, and recreation. A lot of those industries are being taken away from us; literally destroyed by some of these regulatory provisions that sometimes in my opinion have very questionable constitutional authority and justification,” Lopey said.
While sitting in on high level meetings with federally employed biologists, Lopey said he was told: ‘Well, you just don’t understand what’s going on. This is critical habitat for the endangered species.’
But Lopey begs to differ.
“We are a poor county and our people are suffering. The ranchers and farmers are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever seen and then you have these bureaucrats coming in and in some cases trying to push people around and try to tell me I don’t understand?” he said.
“Citizens have the right to earn a living and when you shut the forests down because you think that harvesting timber is going to have an adverse affect against the [Northern] spotted owl … this whole issue is lopsided because most of the consideration has been given to fish, rocks, trees and birds — not to the people.”
Many of these policies are enacted at the state level or on the federal level in Washington D.C., where the bureaucrats are far removed and shielded from the devastating economical effect they have on the daily life of these communities, Lopey said.
“Do you think the bureaucrats at these higher levels understand the economic conditions in Siskiyou County. Do you think they understand the traditions, the way of life, how we survive? Do you think they even care? I don’t think so,” said Lopey with more than just a hint of disgust in his voice.
“Mining is another issue. There are laws on the books for well over a hundred years that allow for harvesting of valuable minerals. Gold mining has always been a very important part of the culture, traditions and actually the economic vitality of Siskiyou County. There have been in some cases inexplicable shutdowns of forest service roads and access issues,” he said. “Look, I’m not an anti-government guy; I question the implementation of some of these regulations because there are special interests groups that literally want to turn Siskiyou County into a nature preserve,” Lopey continued.
“Ranchers, farmers, and most miners are people that love the outdoors and we want to preserve the environment. Most of us wouldn’t live here if we didn’t love the outdoors.”
Lopey said his motivation for getting more involved and joining Oath Keepers is to protect freedom.
“We want America to be the America that we grew up in and I want my kids and my grandchildren to enjoy this country like I have,” he said.
“A lot of great men and women fought for the freedoms we have and unless we fight for the freedoms we have and hold our elected officials accountable, we’re not going to have the same America we grew up in. I can tell you categorically that rural America is under attack and we’ve got to stand up for the rights of our citizens and do the right thing.”
Hagwood’s description of what is taking place in Plumas County reverberated much the same.
“The [U.S.] Forest Service has undertaken what they call rulemaking, but what they are doing is fundamentally changing the public’s access to public lands. In doing so, they’ve added a number of very punitive and enforcement measures to restrict people’s access to federal property … They’re interfering with people’s ability to exercise private property rights,” Hagwood said.
“I’ve made it very clear that the sheriff’s office in Plumas County will not be participating in any of those measures that limit people’s access to public lands,” he said.
Hagwood mocked the pettiness of the U.S. Forest Service for issuing parking tickets in the forest.
“They’ve instituted a one vehicle length parking limit, where you cannot park your vehicle any more than one vehicle length off what they’ve designated as the road. So when people are out hunting or gathering firewood, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and their resource officers are out there with tape measures running around measuring the length of vehicles to see if they have parked more than the length of that vehicle off of what they’ve designated as the roadway,” Hagwood said.
“They’re engaging in punitive measures against people who are not doing anything inherently wrong, whatsoever. It’s absolutely unnecessary and it’s an overreach of their authority.”
When asked about the many actions U.S. Forest Service and BLM are taking against the people who are attempting to work or play on public lands, Hagwood said, “I see it as a measured attempt to slowly and surely keep people off of public lands.”
Approximately 70 percent of Plumas County is federal land and the majority of these regulatory provisions have a huge impact on the populace of Plumas County.
Both Hagwood and Lopey agree that sheriffs whose counties have major tracts of federal land seem to have more issues with these federal agencies overstepping their bounds of authority. However, Hagwood warned the more metropolitan counties.
“A lot of what they are doing up here is because they are claiming an endangered red-legged yellow spotted frog or something. What happens when they find one down in your area and start denying access to some of your residential neighborhoods? You need to understand that just because it’s not affecting you right now, doesn’t mean that they won’t come up with something later that will,” he said.
The sheriffs are calling on all Americans to stand up and voice their outrage and disappointment at what is happening in their own backyards, he said.
Hagwood summed it up best: “I would encourage your readers to support your officials at the local state and federal level who understand the true role and the limited powers that the federal government was designed for and support those elected officials who are doing their best to guarantee your freedoms and safeguard your liberties. Attend meetings, become involved become educated. Do it reasonably, do it civilly, do it professionally … but do it!”
Read original artical here: http://www.goldprospectors.org/Communication/ArticlesandInformation/tabid/153/EntryId/545/Sheriffs-challenge-federal-agencies.aspx
Russ Balbirona is a freelance writer and treasure hunter based in Wisconsin. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org