(Feb. 22) – With a 6-3 party-line vote, the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee defeated a bill this afternoon that threatened to make federal employees subject to criminal charges simply for doing their job managing public lands.

HB17-1141 would criminalize the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service for managing grazing on land being leased by grazers. The bill would set a dangerous precedent of creating penalties for a government employee doing their job and would threaten to embolden the small subset of ranchers who sympathize with the Ammon Bundy armed seizure of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon last year.

“I cannot tell you how much respect I have for the ranchers of this state,” said Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder. “I’m voting no on this bill because of the dangerous precedent that it sets.”

Scott Braden, a public land and wilderness advocate from Mesa County described the bill as “a misguided attempt that would make it nearly impossible for federal managers to do their job. Colorado is blessed with over 23 million acres of public lands. These lands bolster our economy and our quality of life.”

“I agree that our agricultural and ranching industries are important to our state and must be protected,” said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Adams County. “But any perceived abuse by federal employees against ranchers won’t be resolved by this bill.”

Organizations opposed to the bill include Conservation Colorado, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

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