For Immediate Release: Jul 19, 2018
Contact: Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Drop in Reported Violence vs. Federal Employees in the West
Despite Incident Reduction, Land Management Workers Still Have Safety Concerns
Washington, DC — Reported assaults and threats against national park, forest, and rangeland employees and facilities dropped sharply last year, according to agency figures released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This reported reduction comes against a backdrop of pardons and prosecution dismissals for the Bundy and Hammond families associated with hostility and threatened violence toward these same federal agencies.
The figures collected from agencies under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cover 2017 and show:
- U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reported 25% fewer incidents than the previous year, and at the lowest level since 1995;
- After a spike in 2016, the U.S. Forest Service reported a more than 50% decline in 2017. The 101 incidents are the fewest it has registered since 2014; and
- The National Park Service reported only seven incidents, the fewest since PEER started collecting these data in 1995, although it should be noted that the NPS only compiles incidents directed against its law enforcement personnel; and
- The U.S. Park Police registered another more than 10% decline, continuing a steady decrease from a high of 120 incidents in 2014, down to only 17 in 2017.
“These numbers suggest that there is peace in the valley but the employees who call us continue to be concerned about their safety,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the only land management agency reporting a spike in incidents was the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service but its 2017 total was only five incidents. “These official tallies may not reflect the realities on the ground.”
The results of a PEER survey of wildlife refuge managers and BLM employees in December 2016 paints a different picture. Key results from that survey were:
- One in five responding refuge managers reported that members of their families or staff “have been threatened or harassed in connection with resource management policies.” Nearly half of those who experienced these incidents say they were not “encouraged to report” them;
- Nearly two-thirds of managers felt refuge visitors are not as safe as they were five years ago even though a similar percentage agree that security-related spending is higher; and
- Nearly half of BLM employees reported facing “threats to our safety due to resource management issues.” Significant percentages of natural and cultural resource specialists said they do not “feel safe when I am in the field.”
“These agencies are under new management in an administration striving to be as user friendly as possible in the Sagebrush West,” added Ruch, pointing to various actions and pronouncements by senior Trump administration officials. “This decline in threats and assaults may reflect a temporary and probably very uneasy truce.”