Interior Secretary David Bernhardt quietly signed a directive last month that could have significant impacts on how the Bureau of Land Management's law enforcement rangers protect federal lands.
The directive, which surprised BLM senior leaders and law enforcement personnel when it was unveiled Friday, alters the chain of command for the bureau's more than 200 law enforcement rangers in ways critics say give political appointees control over how laws and regulations are enforced.
In approving the changes, Bernhardt ignored recommendations developed over more than two years by a team of Interior Department and BLM career officials that called for granting more oversight of law enforcement personnel to individual state directors, according to multiple sources. Those recommendations were set to be finalized next month.
Instead, the new BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security structure establishes a chain of command that critics within the bureau say cuts out state-level leadership on how law and regulations should be enforced in favor of regional special agents in charge and the new OLES director, Eric Kriley, who took over the department last month.