Federal Employees Increasingly Under Attack on Public Lands

A National Park ranger stands near a giant U.S. flag over the processional route before a memorial service for Mount Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson on Jan. 10, 2012. A National Park ranger stands near a giant U.S. flag over the processional route before a memorial service for Mount Rainier National Park Ranger Margaret Anderson on Jan. 10, 2012. Elaine Thompson/AP

Federal employees working in the country’s outdoor areas were victims of more violent attacks in 2012 than in previous years, according to a report by an advocacy group.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a non-profit alliance of government officials and environmental advocates, cited a number of factors for the increase, including drug trafficking on federal lands and alcohol abuse.

Of the six federal agencies that reported 313 violent incidents in 2012, the U.S. Park Police saw the sharpest year-on-year increase in incidents, which were up 42.9 percent to 100 reports. Other agencies experiencing an increase in attacks on their employees included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service.

“Unfortunately, violence and abuse directed against public servants is becoming more common,” PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said in a statement. “The saying ‘it’s not easy being green’ is becoming truer with each passing year.”

PEER compiled the report from data obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to several federal agencies. Ruch told Government Executive that PEER counted incidences that were marked by federal officials with several keywords, including ‘threats,’ ‘intimidation,’ ‘assault’ and ‘terrorism.’

Examples of attacks include the shooting of a park ranger in January 2012, an attempt to run a Park Police officer over and various threats issued against federal workers.  

An Interior Department spokesman told Government Executive that officials would review the report fully. The department is “committed to providing a safe and sustainable work environment for all employees as well as an enjoyable and safe experience for visitors to our public lands,” he said.

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