[env-trinity] Trinity Journal- Constitutional Sheriffs say excessive regulation puts public safety at risk

Tom Stokely tstokely at att.net
Wed May 23 10:37:08 PDT 2012


Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 6:15 am
Constitutional Sheriffs say excessive regulation puts public safety at risk
By Amy Gittelsohn The Trinity Journal | 0 comments
Some like-minded North State sheriffs, including Trinity County Sheriff Bruce Haney, have banded together to take on issues they say affect public safety such as overgrown forests and intrusion by the federal government.
They’ve been referred to as the Constitutional Sheriffs, and a panel of six of them spoke Saturday at the Support Rural America conference hosted by the Trinity County Patriots at Mountain Chapel in Weaverville.
In addition to Haney, the sheriffs who spoke to the crowd of about 150 included Jon Lopey of Siskiyou County, Tom Allman of Mendocino County, Dave Hencratt of Tehama County, Mike Poindexter of Modoc County and Dean Wilson of Del Norte County.
"A lot of the issues facing rural America aren’t just happening here, they’re happening everywhere and that’s why we’re here today," Haney said.
The effort was kicked off with the Defend Rural America conference in Yreka in October that Haney participated in. More events are planned in June and July in other counties.
Haney said federal and state agencies are making decisions of concern to law enforcement because they affect public safety, such as decommissioning of U.S. Forest Service roads without properly coordinating with local governments.
That word "coordination" would come up frequently during Saturday’s conference. Not in the context of assessing a potential drunken driver, as Haney joked, but as a requirement before government action.
"We’re asking them to follow their own regulations," Haney said. "We didn’t make it up."
"We got involved because our job is public safety," Haney said. "As we enter a new fire season our forests are of grave concern to me as public safety officer."
He noted that last year the number of searches for missing people in the national forest was "unprecedented and said roads are needed for access during such searches and for firefighting.
"There’s no reason we can’t responsibly harvest and thin our forests," he added.
Haney is forming a Sheriff’s Public Safety and Coordination Advisory Team and said he wants a diverse membership for that group.
The other sheriffs also expressed concerns about the Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan, dense forests, possible expansion of spotted owl habitat and removal of dams on the Klamath River.
Hencratt, of Tehama, said the Travel Management Plan on that side of the Shasta-Trinity forest called for less decommissioning of roads as a result of a coordination committee involving county supervisors, planning, and himself.
The sheriff's is a powerful office, Hencratt said, "but we have zero power without the backing of the people."
A couple of the sheriffs said they have gone to bat for residents having problems with natural resources agencies.
"Who knows how to protect the natural resources better than the people who have been living off that land for four or five generations?" Poindexter asked.
Sheriff Wilson said in these rural communities, "We have everything we need. We have all the resources we need" to have a vibrant economy. Government rules are preventing that and interfering with citizens' rights in the process, he said.
"As sheriff it’s my duty to see those rights are protected," he said.
Allman, of Mendocino, said the sheriffs are not affiliated with extreme groups. "We’re just saying we believe our role as sheriffs is to be the watch keeper in our counties," he said.
Likewise, Haney said someone saw him on You Tube after he participated in the Yreka event and asked what kooky group he was in.
"I considered that just being a good neighbor," he said. "If that makes me a little kooky and a little loony I’ll accept that."
Lopey, of Siskiyou, spoke of the importance of honoring the U.S. Constitution.
"We’re under attack," he said.
"What's more important than growing food?" he asked, saying there is a concerted effort to take water from ranchers and farmers for endangered species.
When plans were made to take out four dams on the Klamath River, "they didn’t coordinate properly with us," he said, adding that 70 percent of the people in Siskiyou County say they don’t want the dams removed, "but they aren’t listening."
In response to a question from the audience, Haney repeated a question Lopey asked of the sheriffs and his own response: "If we have to protect these dams, are you guys willing to stand with me?" and "I said, ‘Yes.’"
Ronny Rardin, commissioner of Otero County, N.M., was a guest speaker at the event.
Citing writings of James Madison, the Tenth Amendment and items from the Federalist Papers, he said those who think the federal government is the most powerful followed by the state and then local governments have it wrong.
"Your local government is the most powerful government," he said.
Rardin talked about efforts to thin the forest in Otero County – "the driest in the nation," he said.
In May 2011, the Otero commission passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency due to extreme fire hazards and stating it is empowered to clear and thin the area as necessary under state law.
Rardin said with the support of the sheriff and district attorney, the commission announced plans to go to the forest and cut one acre on Sept. 17. "Our congressman said he’d cut the first tree," Rardin added.
The initial response from the U.S. attorney was that anyone who went on Forest Service land and broke the law would be arrested, Rardin said, but the sheriff responded he’s the only one with arrest powers and would use them, for kidnap, on anyone trying to arrest the congressman or chair of the commission.
Ultimately, Rardin said, an agreement was reached. The tree-cutting took place, each side agreed not to arrest the other, and Rardin’s side agreed to provide insurance, police the area and tape it off.
In February, the federal government sued the commission and state of New Mexico in district court, asking that the court declare that the state law and Otero resolution are pre-empted by federal legislation and regulations.
Rardin said he welcomes the court battle.
Trinity County could also make a stand, he said, noting that the county has a vegetation ordinance, a larger budget than Otero's and fewer people.
On coordination
The words coordination and coordinate came up frequently at Saturday's Support Rural America conference. The origin is the text of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 which directed the federal Bureau of Land Management. It states that in the development and revision of land use plans, to the extent consistent with the laws governing the administration of the public lands, the Interior Secretary shall coordinate with state, tribal and local governments by considering their plans, "assist in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies between Federal and non-Federal Government plans, and shall provide for meaningful public involvement of State and local government officials." The National Environmental Policy Act also requires coordination with local governments, the speakers at Saturday's event said.
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