Washington, DC - Significant numbers of National Wildlife Refuge Managers report threats or harassment against themselves, their family or their staff in connection with resource management decisions, according to a new survey conducted by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), the parent agency for the refuge system, says that it has no records of even a single incident against a staff member serving on any of the more than 500 wildlife refuges spread across the U.S.
The PEER survey was sent to every Refuge Manager in the country with more than half (57%) responding:
* One-third (32%) acknowledged threats or harassment against "...members of my family or refuge staff."
* Of those who reported incidents, nearly half (48%) said that they were not "...encouraged to report" the incident.
"These findings suggest that FWS lacks a standardized format for reporting those events as well as a system-wide data base to track threats and harassment of employees," stated PEER Refuge Keeper Gene Hocutt, a 29 year agency veteran who has managed refuges across the country.
In response to PEER information requests, other federal land management agencies, namely, the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released documents showing, since 1995, a steadily rising number of assaults and threats against agency personnel and facilities.
In a 1997 PEER survey, one-fifth of all Refuge Managers reported harassment or threats.
"It is past time for the FWS to take this issue more seriously and initiate steps to better protect its field people,"commented Hocutt. "National Wildlife Refuges are under increased pressure from an array of user groups. In order to protect the resource, the Refuge Manager sometimes just has to say 'no' and it is becoming more common in this day and age for people to take exception in an uncivil way."