Heated Rhetoric on Nevada Monument Invites Confrontation
Federal Employees in the West Put in Crosshairs by Superheated Political Rhetoric
Washington, DC — Politicians condemning the legitimacy of President Obama’s designation of the Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada are irresponsibly putting federal employees at risk, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The group, which represents federal employees, strongly objects to language used in the last few days by some local and national politicians, as it is certain to inflame tensions.
Last week’s presidential monument designation was met by vituperation from elected officials such as U.S. Representatives Bishop, Hardy, and Heck who called the action “shameful,” a “land grab,” “disgusting” and “loathsome.” These statements suggest that resistance could be a legitimate recourse for citizens who disagree with the action. No serious commentator, however, opines that the presidential designation was anything other than completely lawful. Perhaps the vitriolic statements reflect frustration that there is no viable legal means to overturn it.
“We have been to this rodeo before when in the mid-90s political language questioning the legitimacy and morality of federal actions led to the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in our nation’s history with the bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “As Proverbs warns ‘Whoever troubles his own house shall inherit the wind.’”
Nevada has already been the scene of armed militia facing off with federal law enforcement as well as local officers killed by militia members. There is a growing area of federal land in Nevada near this new monument where resource agency law enforcement officers do not venture. The designation of a new, more than 700,000-acre national monument in this same area, while deserving of protection, may be akin to throwing another log on a fire.
At the same time, the federal government does not appear to have a clear or coherent strategy for addressing potentially violent incidents. For example, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy is allowed to illegally graze on 160,000 U.S. Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service acres in defiance of federal court orders. Political support for Bundy has encouraged other ranchers to commit grazing trespass and invite armed stand-offs.
“Toning down the rhetoric would be a good first step, but the administration needs to show that it is substantively and not just symbolically committed to conservation – and standing behind those public servants it has put on the front lines,” Ruch continued. “That means we should stop ignoring abuses of our shared resources and take consistent official action when violations occur.”