Risks multiply for land managers

  Beatings, bombings, death threats and other acts of violence against Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees are on the rise. According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility), agency workers or buildings were attacked or threatened nearly 100 times in 1998 alone. One Forest Service employee found a cat with a hangman's knot around its neck placed on his porch - just after a rock and brick were thrown through his front window. In Idaho, a man phoned in this threat: "I used to poach moose; now I am going for rangers." A female Forest Service employee in Oregon was abducted for four days. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has asked Congress to repeal the section of the Anti-Terrorism Act that requires the department to record or report all attacks on federal personnel. Agency spokesman John Russell says local police can better track and investigate incidents. "A crime might be based on a personal vendetta, or be an act of terrorism," Russell says, so reporting procedures often fall into a gray area, one his department says is better navigated on a local level. But PEER National Field Director Rob Perks, who headed the research project, believes the move reflects the Justice Department's view that the more you talk about threats and other incidents, the more they occur. "We think that's bogus. It's like saying, don't arrest muggers, because it may induce more muggings," he says. If the threats and attacks continue, Perks fears, some employees may be less willing to do their jobs. "And if that is what happens, then the violators win."


PEER's report, Attacks on Federal Employees, is available on its Web site: www.peer.org. More detailed BLM and Forest Service data is also available from PEER at 2001 S St. NW, Suite 570, Washington, DC 20009 (202/265-PEER).


* Karen Mockler