PANGUITCH, Utah (ABC4 Utah) A southern Utah sheriff is not shy about his frustrations with two federal agencies he says are overstepping their bounds in Garfield County.
Sheriff James “Danny” Perkins has gone so far as to threaten to arrest Forest Service Rangers closing county roads.
“This isn’t just about the Wild West and Cowboys, this is about public lands and keeping them public,” Sheriff Perkins said.
In 2009, Dixie National Forest staff took a second look at roads within the area, to satisfy a federal Travel Management Rule. The Motorized Travel Plan aimed to designate roads and trails for motor vehicle use. The US Forest Service said it would not limit access but instead, protect the forest from unmanaged use.
Up to 20 percent of those roads, according to Sheriff “Danny” Perkins, were owned and maintained by Garfield County.
The situation hit the boiling point during negotiations with a ranger last fall.
“I pulled him aside at that time and told him that if he closed any of our roads that we owned, that we have ownership over, that I would arrest him,” Sheriff Perkins said.
The Motorized Travel Plan designated approximately 2,700 miles of routes for vehicles, after the forest service analyzed nearly 5,200 miles of known routes.
Perkins argues the closed roads prevent local cattleman from getting to equipment while restricting hunters and public land users. Dixie National Forest officials say land owners may be allowed to use the roads under certain circumstances.
“The successful management of our nation’s public lands depends on us working together, and I assure you the Dixie National Forest actively strives to improve our coordination and relationship with Garfield County,” said Dixie National Forest Supervisor Angelita Bulletts in a written statement.
Sheriff Perkins also expressed his frustrations over little communication Bureau of Land Management (BLM) law enforcement.
While he admits tensions have eased up recently, Sheriff Perkins says the BLM has overstepped local authorities in previous investigations.
“You can’t have people out there doing their own thing, and not coordinating their efforts through my office. Period,” Sheriff Perkins said.
Jeff Fontana with the BLM tells ABC4 Utah the federal agency is working hard to improve relationships with local authorities across the state. Within the last two years, Fontana says BLM law enforcement began meeting regularly with the Utah Sheriff’s Association.