The Idaho director of the Bureau of Land Management has advised employees on official business not to resist if they are arrested by state or local authorities.
Instead, Bureau employees should do their best to cooperate - and call the U.S. Attorney’s Office as soon as possible, said Martha Hahn, Idaho director of the Bureau of Land Management. She recently sent a memo to all 625 employees in the state, advising them of how to ensure their safety.
Hahn urged employees who are confronted or assaulted while on official business to immediately contact Bureau of Land Management rangers or special agents. She included after-hours telephone numbers for three special agents.
“As you are probably aware, so called ‘County Supremacy’ or ‘States Rights’ movements have been gaining momentum across the western United States,” Hahn wrote. “For some members of the public, federal ownership of the public lands is an extremely emotional issue.”
Boundary County officials are headed to the Idaho Supreme Court next month to defend their land use plan. It was ruled unconstitutional by a District Court judge last year.
But county commissioner Bob Graham said the court battle has not sparked any controversy or confrontations between locals and federal officials.
“What we are trying to do with our land use plan is enhance the cooperative relations between federal agencies and the county government,” he said. “What I know of the wise-use movement in other places is quite separate and to the extreme right of what our land use plan is all about.”
Graham, who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service and the former Bonners Ferry District Ranger, said Boundary County is not trying to usurp authority from federal agencies.
“We just want them to involve us in land use planning,” he said, adding the county has never advocated citizens or county law enforcement officers confronting state and federal workers.
“I don’t think it’s fair to equate what we are doing with other wiseuse movements,” he said.
In Nye County, Nev., the movement has expressed itself with threats, intimidation and violence toward federal employees, Hahn wrote in her memo, adding: “Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that these movements may be taking the same tone in some parts of Idaho.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Nye County, alleging intimidation of federal employees.
Specifically, the Justice Department maintains Nye County resolutions call for state control of federal lands - and involve threats of arrest or violence against Forest Service employees for enforcing federal laws.
Nye County officials maintain there have been no threats and reports of intimidation are exaggerated. Nye County Commissioner Dick Carver visited Idaho recently and spoke to a group in Salmon, exhorting them to assert more control over public lands.
Tension had been running high in Salmon and Challis over a federal court injunction that sought to bar logging and mining in the Salmon River drainage. The injunction - which has since been lifted - was intended to protect habitat for salmon.
In her memo, Hahn urged all BLM employees to report all incidents and threats. Employees should make certain other employees know where they are, including their routes of travel and expected time of return.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Associated Press Staff writer Kevin Keating contributed to this report.
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