GAO calls for increased protection of federal land employees from threats and assault

An activist pulls sentry duty at the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve on Jan. 15, 2016 in Burns, Ore. The Government Accountability Office called for increased protection of federal land employees due to hundreds of threats between 2013 and 2017. File Photo by Jim Bryant/UPI

Oct. 22 (UPI) — A government watchdog called on the Trump administration to increase protections of federal employees overseeing public lands due to hundreds of instances of threats and assaults in a four-year period.

Agency employees for the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service have been assaulted or threatened at least 360 times from 2013 to 2017, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office released on Monday.

“The number of actual threats and assaults is unclear and may be higher than what is captured in available data for various reasons. For example, employees may not always report threats because they consider them part of the job,” GAO said.

Threats ranged from telephone threats to attempted murder against federal land management employees, and FBI data showed that the FBI initiated under 100 domestic terrorism investigations into potential threats against federal land management agencies.

Among the threats listed in the report were the six-week armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Reserve in 2016 and two other armed standoffs in Montana and Nevada.

The GAO said the majority of the threats involved the BLM and were motivated by anti-government ideologies.

Officials from the four agencies said they don’t have the resources, expertise, or training to conduct agency-wide assessments. The report stated that FWS has a plan to complete its assessment, but the other three agencies do not.

The GAO made six recommendations calling on the agencies to develop a plan for completing facility security assessments and take action to ensure their assessment methodologies comply with federal requirements.


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