WASHINGTON, DC--Federal environmental employees faced an increasing threat from bombs, assault weapons and other types of violence in 2002, according to a compilation of agency records released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Agency incident reports, obtained by PEER through the Freedom of Information Act, document a growing danger to employees of the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as crime and anti-federal sentiments intensify on public lands. An analysis of the reports found that
Attacks on Forest Service employees spiked by nearly 20 percent in 2002, including incidents involving pipe bombs and assault weapons;
Violence against BLM agents, rangers and range specialists rose by almost one quarter (24 percent), including death threats, assaults and stalking;
Incidents against FWS employees edged up as well (9 percent increase), including growing reports of disputes with property owners living on or near federal refuges.
"These numbers may be only the tip of the iceberg, as many people in the field are discouraged from reporting threats and assaults," stated PEER's National Field Director Eric Wingerter, whose group is a service organization for embattled environmental specialists. "By its environmental policies, the Bush Administration is actually encouraging defiance of resource regulations, leaving its own staff to deal with growing conflicts without backing from above."
PEER maintains the nation's only database of incidents against federal resource employees. Despite the passage of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, requiring the U.S. Attorney General to collect and report data "relating to crimes and incidents of threats…and acts of violence" against government employees in the performance of official duties, no such reports have been made. PEER began its reporting system in 1995.
"While Attorney General Ashcroft is spreading alarm about foreign terrorists, his Justice Department continues to ignore threats coming from the radical property rights community," Wingerter added. "None of the federal environmental agencies devote resources to studying or preventing violence directed against their own workforces."
Reported Incidents of Threats or Violence Against Federal Employees