Angered by a bombing at the home of a Forest Service ranger in Nevada, a California Democrat urged Congress again Wednesday to investigate growing violence and intimidation aimed at government land managers in the West.
“This latest explosion follows a long series of acts of violence and intimidation against federal employees charged with enforcing the laws on public lands,” Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said.
“These acts have frequently occurred in the context of criticisms of these employees for enforcing laws that the criminal perpetrators oppose,” he said.
Miller, ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee, asked Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, to hold a hearing on the topic in light of the bombing Friday night in Carson City, Nev. He had made similar requests earlier this summer.
The explosion Aug. 4 destroyed the van of District Ranger Guy Pence while it was parked in the driveway of his home, shattering windows in front of the house. Pence was gone at the time, but his wife and children were home. They were not hurt.
The blast came about four months after a pipe bomb exploded outside Pence’s Forest Service office. That bombing after hours on March 30 blew out a window and damaged walls in the unoccupied building on the city’s main street.
On Halloween 1993, a bomb was tossed onto the roof of the Bureau of Land Management’s state headquarters in Reno, causing extensive damage. It, too, was not occupied at the time.
Both the BLM and the Forest Service are involved in so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion” issues in Nevada, including increased fees for grazing livestock, mining on federal lands, and public access to lands under their control.
The U.S. Justice Department is suing Nye County, Nev., in a dispute over enforcement of environmental policies on federal lands. Leaders of local land owner groups who claim the lands really belong to the states have denied any involvement with the bombings.
But Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the bombing “the ugly underbelly of the county supremacy movement in Nevada.” He blamed backers of the rebellion who are trying to wrest control of public lands in the West from the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Young was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
When Miller and other Democrats on the committee called for hearings on the matter in June, Young responded that he would continue to monitor the situation but that the “type of hearing you suggest is not an appropriate use of the committee’s resources at this time.”
Young, who enjoys support from loggers, miners and ranchers and often is criticized by environmentalists, said in a June 30 letter to Miller that “threats and unlawful violence against federal employees should not and cannot be tolerated.”
He went on to write, “The rising tide of anger and resentment, particularly in the West, over the intrusive and impoverishing federal land polices enacted by Congress of the last two decades has reached crisis levels.”
Miller said Wednesday, “While we recognize that a small, and apparently dangerous, minority of Americans does not support these (resource protection) policies, we all agree that the use of violence and intimidation is reprehensible and should be vigorously prosecuted.
“That message, however, is not conveyed clearly when the oversight committees of the Congress fail to do their duty to investigate these deplorable attacks or their impact on the ability of public agencies to perform their jobs adequately,” he wrote in the letter to Young and Rep. James Hansen, R-Utah., chairman of the subcommittee on national parks, forest and public lands.
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