FOR THE RECORD: (April 7, 1995): A Thursday photo misidentified Rich Kuck, a Coeur d’Alene attorney. Skip Kuck, a local human rights activist, was not photographed.
Don’t mess with fans of firearms while in the woods, the U.S. Forest Service told its workers Wednesday.
“If you’re encountered by someone who wants to interfere (with your job), it might be time to go home and not complete your activity,” advised special agent Jerry Moore.
Moore was part of a panel that addressed Fernan Ranger District employees during the agency’s second-annual Diversity Day.
As the Forest Service strives to promote tolerance and diversity within the workplace, an anti-government movement is sweeping the West.
The following events have occurred recently:
A U.S. Forest Service office was bombed in Carson City, Nev.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was unable to investigate the death of a timber wolf in Idaho’s Lemhi County because of a confrontation with the landowner.
In Ravalli County, Mont., local law enforcement officials found themselves in an armed confrontation with anti-government activists during a routine traffic stop;
The Idaho Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday for and against a Boundary County law that threatens to undermine federal authority over public lands.
A week ago, Regional Forester David Jolly issued a memorandum to all employees that explains how to deal with potential confrontations. The Bureau of Land Management issued a similar memo two weeks ago.
“These are trying times in the federal workplace,” Jolly wrote. “You are entitled to be free of threats and intimidation on the job and in your private lives on account of your employment.”
At Wednesday’s workshop, Moore was joined by two attorneys and a member of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations who discussed the wise use movement and growth of citizen militias. Wise use advocates support taking control of public land on a local level. The militia movement challenges nearly all governmental authority.
Human rights activist Skip Kuck showed photos of militia supporters in North Idaho.
“It claims to be a people’s movement, but it thwarts the democratic process with threats of violence,” she said.
Yet, Moore and others said they have had no problems carrying out their duties.
“We have not felt threatened in Boundary County,” said Allen Chrisman, assistant ranger in Bonners Ferry. “Boundary County has a group of folks who have alternative lifestyles and very strong beliefs. It’s important that our employees are aware of that.
“If I felt the commissioners were embracing those attitudes, I’d be more concerned.”
The best way to prevent trouble is to avoid it in the first place, Moore said. But if confronted with an antigovernment extremist - especially an armed one - stay calm and cooperate, he advised.
“They have a right to disagree with things and voice their opinion,” Moore said. “Our concern is they might take the law into their own hands.”
ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo