February 16, 2017
The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) appreciate this opportunity to provide you with our observations/input on HB17-1141, The Equal Protection From Federal Employee Personal Attack Act: http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/hb17-1141. As we understand it, this bill would “make it illegal for a person who is a federal employee acting under color of law to take any action:
- That deprives a range allotment owner of any property right appurtenant, inherent, or related to the range allotment, including the right to possess, use, dispose of, exclude other from, or defend the range allotment; an
- For which the deprivation offends due process or is a physical or regulatory taking without the payment of just compensation.
A violation is an unclassified felony punishable by a fine of up to $500,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years, or both. An owner who suffers a loss as a result of the person's actions also has a civil right of action to recover damages.”
We are concerned that HB17-1141 would essentially make federal employees attempting to do their jobs (i.e., managing public lands grazing allotments) vulnerable to a felony if the grazing permittee simply felt they were mistreated. This would obviously have a chilling effect on BLM and USFS employees endeavoring to manage our multiple-use federal lands for the benefit of all Americans. It may also be unconstitutional due to the supremacy clause, which would make such legislation null and void.
In addition, given the dangerous antics of armed extremists who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon last year, this legislation would appear to support and embolden similar antics. As you’re likely aware, the Bundy brothers (who led the occupation) are the sons of Cliven Bundy, a vitriolic anti-government activist who in 2014 engaged in an armed standoff with federal authorities over unpaid cattle grazing fees at his Nevada ranch. The armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ended after a 41-day occupation of the refuge. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the occupiers left the refuge with $1.7 million in damages.
We believe that HB17-1141 would likely embolden similar extremist behavior and put public employees in danger, and ask you to oppose this proposed legislation. Please take our comments into consideration, and thank you for your public service.
Colorado BHA Board Chair