For Immediate Release
Kirsten Stade (202) 265-7337
Attacks on Federal Forest and Park Staff Reach All-Time High
Incidents More than Triple in National Parks, Forest Violence Up a Third in 2009
WASHINGTON - Attacks and threats against U.S. Forest Service employees and
National Park Service rangers reached an all-time record in 2009,
according to agency incident reports released today by Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). This spike in violent
incidents reflects growing danger to both staff and visitors on federal
Agency incident reports, obtained by PEER through the Freedom
of Information Act, document increasing lawlessness in remote public
lands where people go to get away from urban ills:
- The National Park Service (NPS) recorded 158 attacks or
threats on its law enforcement rangers, more than triple the 36 such
incidents it reported for 2008 and nearly 50% above its previous record
year of 2004. These numbers are understated, however, as the agency
only records assaults against its law enforcement staff and not those
directed against other workers and these numbers do not include assaults
on the U.S. Park Police, an urban police force largely based in D.C;
- The U.S. Forest Service logged 427 violent incidents in
2009, a 33% jump from the year before and the greatest number ever
recorded. This is also the fourth straight annual increase; and
- The U.S. Bureau of Land Management reported only a
slight increase in incidents but surveys of its law enforcement rangers
by PEER indicate a strong sentiment that the influx of violent elements
with off-road vehicles (ORVs) presents a new major threat on
recreational desert lands.
Incidents ranged from murders to
sexual assaults to break-ins of government buildings. Drugs and alcohol
appeared to play a role in a large number of incidents. These figures
do not reflect the effects of liberalized firearm rules in national
parks and refuges which went into effect earlier this year.
"These numbers suggest that the challenges facing national park
and forest workers have never been greater," said PEER Staff Counsel
Christine Erickson who obtained and compiled the agency incident
reports. "They say 'it's not easy being green' but deteriorating public
treatment of federal land management staff make that statement truer
today than ever before."
PEER has maintained a database of incidents against federal
resource employees since the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah
Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The U.S. Justice Department stopped
tracking assaults on federal employees back in 2002, after it persuaded
Congress to repeal a reporting requirement for such incidents.
"We remain mystified that the Justice Department does not deem
attacks against federal workers a high enough priority to even monitor,"
stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that DOJ does have a
program devoted to animal rights groups but no program on threats
against environmental workers. "Our concern is that surging
anti-government rhetoric may be playing a role in this rising tide of
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