BLM Reports Record Low Number of Threats in 2014
Despite Armed Standoff, Agency Claims Least Assaults and Threats Since 1996
Washington, DC — Belying armed confrontations and staff evacuations, official records from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management say last year was especially peaceful, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In fact, the total of 15 threats and assaults BLM reports during 2014 is the lowest number of such incidents it has reported since 1996, one-fourth below the prior year and nearly 50% fewer than it reported a decade earlier.
Strangely, BLM has no reports of any threats from the stand-off with armed militia members in the failed attempt to remove trespassing cattle owned by Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, even though photos show weapons pointed at BLM and other federal law enforcement personnel. While curious, it gibes with BLM’s insistence that it has not requested prosecution of Bundy or any of his associates – an admission the agency made in response to a lawsuit brought by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act. Yet it stands at odds with how Bundy himself saw it, as he said just last week in a prepared statement:
“We ran the BLM and U.S. Park Service and their contract cowboys along with their armed army off this Clark County Nevada land.”
“BLM apparently wants to pretend that the whole Bundy fiasco never happened,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “We are concerned that BLM may be discouraging employees from reporting threats in order to convey a false impression that there is proverbial peace in the valley.”
Instead, BLM records just two semi-related incidents: a “Threatening Phone Call in Connection with Gold Butte Operation” and intimidation of a non-law enforcement worker in Utah two weeks after the Bundy stand-off. The latter was closed with no action and the former is still pending prosecution.
Of the 15 incidents that BLM did report, only three are still pending. BLM closed six of them without any action at all and two others were transferred to another agency. The remaining four have no indicated final outcome except a “collateral fine” in one case, according to the BLM case summary.
While some incidents seemed relatively minor, such as an assault by “squirting water,” others seemed quite serious, including:
- “Attempted Murder of BLM LEO [Law Enforcement Officer] (Shot With Pistol)”; and
- “Attempted Assault on BLM LEO With Vehicle.”
“Given that there are now large swaths of federal lands where BLM staff and law enforcement do not feel safe even to operate, this decline in reported incidents provides scant comfort,” added Ruch, noting that PEER first started submitting Freedom of Information Act requests for reports of assaults and threats against federal resource agency employees twenty years ago in 1995, the year of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. “Like twenty years ago, we are seeing a spike in hostility toward government workers in the Sagebrush West fueled in part by political rhetoric. If we wish to avoid repeating history, we need to learn from it.”