Trump makes life more dangerous for public land managers

A GAO Report released Monday documents incidents where employees of the Forest Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service were threatened or assaulted.  The security review was requested by the Democratic chairman of the U.S House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Raul Grijalva, and there is a hearing today before a House subcommittee.  According to Snopes (so it must be true):

Grijalva said the findings underscore growing concerns over the safety of government workers on public land.  The Arizona lawmaker also criticized the Trump administration’s appointment of Bureau of Land Management Acting Director William “Perry” Pendley, who has expressed support for Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Bundy’s family played central roles in a 2014 standoff over grazing fees in Nevada and the 2016 occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  “Making a folk hero out of Bundy, that sets a dangerous precedent,” Grijalva said. “At the top of the agency, they reinforce and embolden some of these actions by doing nothing and previously being in support of them.”

Professor John Freemuth, an expert on U.S. land policies at Boise State University, said it was true that the Trump administration’s pro-development policies could help quiet resentments toward the government. But Freemuth added that anti-government rhetoric also gets legitimized when it’s espoused by prominent figures.

Also, as the Washington Post points out:

President Trump demonstrated his position last year on those anti-government ideologues who violate federal facilities, and it is not a comforting one for federal employees.  He pardoned two men whose convictions on public-land arson charges helped ignite the six-week Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon in 2016. He absolved Dwight Hammond Jr. and Steven Hammond, father-and-son cattle ranchers in southeastern Oregon whose convictions carried mandatory five-year sentences.

In a formal response to the GAO report, Interior Department Assistant Secretary Scott Cameron agreed with recommendations to carry out security assessments at hundreds of government facilities. In a separate response, Forest Service Chief Victoria Christiansen also agreed with the recommendation for security review.  Neither response gave details on when the security work would occur.

It’s a tough time to work for the “deep state.”

13 thoughts on “Trump makes life more dangerous for public land managers”

  1. Speaking of Cliven Bundy…Just a reminder that he is STILL grazing his private livestock on OUR federal public lands and STILL owns the federal government (and American taxpayers) more than $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. What a country!

  2. Jon (original comment said Matthew, which was incorrect), with all due respect to Mr. Grijalva, the GAO study was begun for other reasons before Trump was around and it appears that it covered the period 2013-2017. Since Trump was elected in 2016, and didn’t have politicals in place for a while, it seems to me that he can hardly be blamed for any 2013-2017 numbers. I am not a Pendley fan- but I’m not sure about the mechanism by which his appointment (over one agency, the BLM) sends the message that it’s OK to attack federal employees.

    Workplaces may have more to fear from disgruntled employees than ideologues. Better security seems like an unmitigated good.

    • Hi Sharon, Please address your comment to Jon Haber, not me. The only thing I’ve mentioned here is the fact that Bundy is still illegally grazing his cows on our public lands and the fact that Bundy still owes the federal government over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees. Thanks.

      P.S. For those who don’t know, Jon was employed for 32 years by the U.S. Forest Service.

    • I wasn’t blaming Trump for those numbers. I was pointing out two articles that suggest that the Trump administration is aggravating the conditions that lead to threats and assaults.

  3. It is so sad that today young people who would like to work in the fields of forestry, wildlife, ecology, etc. end up having to focus so much on being law enforcement officers and security guards, instead of doing the vital work that we need to ensure our forests and public lands are healthy and sustainable.


  4. The FS and BLM employees use to be, and still could be, an important part of our rural communities.
    But when they consolidated the staff in the city, eliminating jobs in the community (and the district ranger lives hours away), when you close camp grounds, close roads, eliminate jobs in the woods, have law enforcement people running around like the junior Gestapo, and don’t stop your pickup to say hello, how’s it going, it is going to cause some resentment.
    (and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that resentment goes both ways.)
    Dealing with the public can be trying, but it is the people’s forest.
    I agree with Mike, there is so much vital work to be done in our public forests.

  5. Mike’s comment that people go into law enforcement “instead of doing the vital work” on public lands is dangerous and ignorant. One of the only reasons I feel safe as a federal lands employee is because of the brave men and women working along side me who wear a badge and a gun. They are vital to everything that is done every day to steward public lands. They deserve thanks and praise. And to Bob Sproul – nobody who takes a federal job gives up their right to choose to live wherever they want. Stop patronizing us about the good old days.

  6. Michael, the idea that this is somehow either-or is silly. We need more ‘ologists, and we need more law enforcement officers. Our foresters, biologists, ecologists, and archaeologists depend on law enforcement officers to put teeth into the decisions they make. Yes, I am technically a “forest officer” but I have neither the skills nor the knowledge to make a criminal investigation stick.

  7. I think my comment has been badly misconstrued. I bemoaned the fact that our students who study forestry, ecology, and natural resource management hope to apply the knowledge and skills they gain in school to real-world situations. But, when they enter the USFS and BLM they often are forced to devote an inordinate amount of time performing the duties of a law enforcement officer instead of dealing with the myriad other problems (climate change, invasive non-native species, pathogens, wildfire, etc.) that forests are facing. Policing bad (public) actors detracts from the time that could be spent on dealing with other important issues. I did NOT say that their service in protecting our public lands is “silly” and not needed; they are, and I thank every “forest officer” for their work, even if they have no legal powers to make “criminal investigations stick.” I salute our “forest wardens.”

    • Thanks for clarifying, Michael. I’m not sure that’s the way it works..e.g. I’m not sure people working on NEPA docs take off and do law enforcement tasks. But it would be helpful for someone currently working to share what they see currently going on on their district in terms of who is doing the policing work.


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