New data released on violent threats to federal employees

Documents show 15 incidents in 2014, but don't account for the Cliven Bundy standoff.

 

Last week, while in Nevada for a Western Governors’ Association event, Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell promised that scofflaw rancher Cliven Bundy will be held accountable for his unlawful actions. Bundy has been allowing his cattle to graze illegally in southern Nevada on and off for decades, and land near his ranch was the site of an armed standoff in April 2014 between his states’ rights-oriented supporters and federal officials and contractors.  

“Cliven Bundy has had multiple court orders to remove his cattle from federal public lands and he has not paid his grazing fees and he has not abided by the law,” Jewell told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We will continue to pursue that.” 

This statement echoes what she and other officials have said over the past 14 months, though the rancher and most of his supporters who pointed guns at the feds that day have seen no legal repercussions. Earlier this month, six anonymous gunshots were fired on public land near the camp of three Bureau of Land Management contract researchers from the Reno-based nonprofit Great Basin Institute who were monitoring water in the Gold Butte area, near the Bundy Ranch. The BLM has said it would take extra precautions in the area as a result.

Environmental groups that are concerned about the impact of grazing say that by allowing ranchers like Bundy to let livestock graze illegally in sensitive habitat encourages others to do the same, to the detriment of ecosystems. At least three green organizations, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Oregon Wild, have now partnered with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center and others to create the Ballots not Bullets Coalition. The Coalition launched in May, around the time that the conservative militia-type organization Oath Keepers and others, including two Bundy family representatives, gathered in southern Oregon to support gold miners in a dispute with the BLM.

There’s a long history of violence toward federal public lands officers, as was evident in the results of last year’s High Country News investigation on the topic. And since 1995, the nonprofit watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has compiled annual reports of such cases that involve BLM officials. Last week, they released their 2014 report, which included 15 incidents involving BLM officers. Despite the Bundy fracas, it was the lowest number since 1996.

Incidents of violence or intimidation reported by the BLM. PEER collected this data through Freedom of Information Act requests.

The new data include only two incident reports related to the Bundy standoff, including: “Threatening phone call in connection with Gold Butte operation.” Reports of the Bundy supporters pointing guns at federal officers during an impoundment of the rancher’s cattle did not make the list. Other BLM documents that PEER acquired in April indicate that there were many threats during and following the impoundment and standoff. This contradiction raises the question of how many other incidents the BLM has left off this list in previous years.

Last fall, HCN published a map of reported incidents involving BLM and U.S. Forest Service employees, which we’ve republished below. Click on each point to get a link to the actual incident report. The map now includes PEER’s newest data from 2014. Though the new data doesn’t include actual incident reports, it does give some details as to the nature of the threat or violence.

Information provided by US Department of Interior and BLM to PEER, in response to a FOIA request for incidents that took place in 2014.

If you are a public lands agency federal employee and have been the victim of a threat or assault, you can share that information with HCN here

---

Tay Wiles is the online editor of High Country News. 

High Country News Classifieds
  • WYOMING OUTDOOR COUNCIL OFFICE MANAGER - BOOKKEEPER
    The Wyoming Outdoor Council is seeking an office manager-bookkeeper to join our team. The office manager-bookkeeper supports the program and administrative functions of the Wyoming...
  • HEALTHY RIVERS SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY
    WRA seeks a passionate attorney to join our Healthy Rivers team. The Senior Staff Attorney will research and advocate for wiser water management and updated...
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • CONSERVATIONIST? IRRIGABLE LAND?
    Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and will be accepted until: February 03, 2020. Overview Conservation Voters for Idaho (CVI) protects Idaho's environment...
  • WRITING SKILLS TUTOR FOR HIRE!
    Fort Collins, CO college students welcome. Meet on your college campus!
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Colorado Plateau Natural & Human History Field Seminars. Lodge, river, hiking options. Small groups, guest experts.
  • NATURE EDUCATION DIRECTOR
    Our mission is to inspire a life-long connection to nature and community through creative exploration of the outdoors. We are seeking an educational leader who...
  • REALTOR NEEDS A REMOTE ASSISTANT
    This is a business assistant position, The working hours are flexible and you can chose to work from anywhere of your choice, the pay is...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Central Oregon LandWatch is seeking an Executive Director to advance our mission and oversee the development of the organization. Job Description: The Executive Director oversees...
  • WESTERN NATIVE SEED
    Specializing in native seeds and seed mixes for western states.
  • MEDIA DIRECTOR
    Love working with the media? Shine a spotlight on passionate, bold activists fighting for wild lands, endangered species, wild rivers and protecting the climate.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY - NEVADA
    The Center for Biological Diversity is seeking an attorney to expand our litigation portfolio in Nevada. Come join our hard-hitting team as we fight for...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation seeks an energetic leader to advance our mission, sustain our operations, and grow our grassroots power. For a full position description,...
  • HISTORIC COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITY IN DOWNTOWN NOGALES
    Nogales. 3 active lower spaces and upper floor with lots of potential. 520-245-9000 [email protected]
  • CHUCK BURR'S CULTUREQUAKE.COM BLOG
    Change will happen when we see a new way of living. Thinking to save the world.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DIRECTOR, TEXAS WATER PROGRAMS
    The National Wildlife Federation seeks a Director to lead our water-related policy and program work in Texas, with a primary focus on NWF's signature Texas...
  • SPLIT CREEK RANCH
    Spectacular country home on 48 acres with Wallowa River running through it! 541-398-1148 www.RubyPeakRealty.com
  • OJO CALIENTE COMMERCIAL VENTURE
    Outstanding location near the world famous Ojo Caliente Mineral Spring Resort. Classic adobe Mercantile complete w/living quarters, separate 6 unit B&B, metal building and spacious...