Violence Against Employees

Ever since 1995, PEER has maintained the nation’s only database on violence against resource employees. The trend toward violence continues to grow with rank-and-file resource employees, those professionals in the field who are charged with implementing regulations and enforcing environmental laws, bearing the brunt. Across the country, those charged with protecting our environment are the victims of harassment, threats, intimidation, beatings, shootings and bombings.

Besides documenting incidents and calling attention to the problem, PEER helps targeted public servants fight back by filing lawsuits against harassers and pushing for policies that protect the safety of government workers.

Employee violence by year and agency

A Slice of Life in Public Service

    • A National Park Service ranger at Organ Pipe Cactus Monument in Arizona was run over by a moving vehicle driven by an anti-government land owner who had claimed ownership of federal land.
    • Ranchers in Reserve, New Mexico, threatened to kill U.S. Forest Service employees for trying to enforce grazing restrictions intended to protect endangered species.
    • An EPA employee in the Ozarks region of Missouri was beaten, bound with tape and abandoned in her vandalized vehicle by suspected pro-mining activists.
    • A federal mine inspector and his wife were seriously injured when a car bomb exploded while they were driving on a major interstate in California. The explosion occurred hours after a phone death threat to workers in the inspector’s office.
    • A Forest Service ranger in Arizona was harassed, threatened, forcibly thrown out of a public meeting, and then beaten by several attendees. The meeting was sponsored by the local cattle association and featured a prominent “wise use” attorney who spoke about “state’s rights.”
    • An anonymous telephone caller warned a refuge manager in California that he had offered a $15,000 contract to kill the manager.
    • A bomb placed on the windowsill of a Forest Service office in New Mexico exploded, causing $25,000 in damages.
    • A bomb detonated outside the home of a Forest Service district ranger in Carson City, Nevada, destroying the family van, which was parked in the driveway, and blowing out the front windows of his home. The office of that district ranger had previously been firebombed.

Abdication of Justice

Enacted by Congress in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act directed the Attorney General to collect data “relating to crimes and incidents of threats of violence and acts of violence” against government employees and their families in the performance of official duties. It was a law that was never implemented.

Citing the expense and impracticality of the law, the Justice Department immediately began lobbying for its repeal. Among other objections, Justice insisted that the law could not be implemented because it required subjective judgment from the FBI in identifying bona fide threats.

In 2002, Justice succeeded in securing a “Repeal of Compilation of Statistics Relating to Intimidation of Government Employees.” So in addition to abandoning its requirement to track threats, Justice does not keep statistics on bombings, arson, shootings and other crimes against public employees.

By contrast to its stance on public employees, the Department of Justice regards “eco-terrorism” as a top domestic security threat and prepares elaborate and detailed annual reports. If you ask public employees to rank the problems they must confront daily, “eco-terrorism” would not even make the chart. Despite the attention paid to the handful of eco-terrorism incidents, their number and impact are dwarfed by the volume and violence directed by Wise Use and resource-user groups against public employees and facilities.


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