James Perkins sees the federal Bureau of Land Management more as a belligerent occupying army than a government agency serving U.S. citizens, including those like him in south-central Utah.
is the sheriff of Garfield County, a rural bastion the size of
Connecticut with only 5,500 residents, where 90% of the land is
maintained by the BLM. The relationship between local law enforcement
and often heavily armed federal officers has always been tense, and now
threatens to reach a breaking point.
He and others attribute the
deteriorating relations to what he calls BLM's culture of elitism, which
provoked Garfield County to join two other Utah counties this year to
pass a resolution restricting or banning federal law enforcement within
don't know any sheriff who doesn't want a good relationship with the
BLM," he said. "We're a rural agency and we'd like a partnership, but it
seems they have a hard time recognizing our authority. They'd rather be
The BLM has faced a string of challenges. In April,
it called off a cattle roundup after rebellious Nevada rancher Cliven
Bundy was backed by an armed citizen militia that stood its ground with
semiautomatic weapons. The BLM looked, in turns, overzealous and
Then, in May, citizens of rural San Juan County in
Utah staged a protest, driving all-terrain vehicles into a canyon the
BLM had closed to such traffic.