A southern Utah sheriff is threatening to arrest federal agents over conspiracy theories about environmental extremists taking over government agencies.
“There is an agenda — and don’t kid yourself — there’s an agenda to get rid of the grazing, there’s an agenda to shut down our roads,” said Garfield County Sheriff James “Danny” Perkins, who describes himself as a “constitutional sheriff.”
Perkins and other like-minded sheriffs have threatened to arrest federal rangers who attempt to close forest roads and restrict access to ranchers and others, reported NPR.
The sheriff showed reporters a road that had been carved by pioneers but recently shut down by rangers.
“Boulders lie in front of it and a bulldozer chewed it up so pickups or ATVs can’t drive up it anymore,” he said.
Tensions between ranchers — which Perkins is, in addition to his law enforcement duties — and federal agents is running as high as they’ve been since at least the late 1990s.
Armed militants engaged in a 2014 standoff to support Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who disputed the constitutionality of grazing fees and assorted fines he owed the government.
Bundy and nearly two dozen standoff participants were finally arrested earlier this year, after the scofflaw rancher’s sons led an armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon.
The Bundys count several Republican lawmakers as allies in their quest to undo federal control of public land — and Perkins clearly shares their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which is disputed by most legal scholars.
Perkins told NPR that he can’t find a single reference in the Constitution to Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service law enforcement officers, and he said those federal agents have no constitutional authority to arrest Utah residents for driving ATVs on public land or building illegal campfires.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined,” he says. “I can even understand that.”
Perkins said he threatened to arrest one Forest Service ranger if he closed a road in Garfield County’s jurisdiction, and the sheriff said he did arrest a BLM ranger who deputies believe was illegally issuing citations to campers.
“Wasn’t me that pulled the trigger on that deal,” the sheriff said. “Do I think he needed to come to jail? I do — the guy’s a fruitcake.”
Despite sharing an interpretation of the Constitution and a mistrust of federal authorities, Perkins declined invitations — and, in some cases, resisted pressure — to join the Bundys and their militia supporters.
“I said it at the time, and I’ll stand by it, that is nothing but domestic terrorism,” Perkins said. “Yes, there’s been a story, a lot of these guys have been bullied around by the BLM, but you don’t handle it that way.”
Watch this video of Perkins discussing his views posted online by The County Seat: