This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Confrontations of federal employees in the West over management of national forests and other federal lands run the gamut from written and verbal threats to assaults and shots fired, an investigation by High Country News found.
Read the main story here. These are excerpts from case files obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. High Country News documented scores of incidents from Oregon to North Dakota and Montana to Arizona from 2010 to early 2014.
Someone fired seven rifle shots at a uniformed Forest Service fire-prevention employee driving an agency pickup in California's Tahoe National Forest. "The firefighter reported seeing three (suspects) above the roadway on an open embankment, one of which was holding a rifle. ... The firefighter then observed (the rifleman) raise the rifle and point it at him inside his USFS vehicle. The firefighter quickly backed his vehicle away (and heard) two shots fired. As the firefighter continued backing away from the scene ... he heard five more shots fired." Investigators found footprints and spent rifle cartridges, but never cracked the case.
July 28, 2010
A "loud and confrontational" man walked into a BLM office in Moab, Utah, over two days and repeatedly threatened to kill and beat up men and women working there. He was upset over road closures and charged that "everyone here is a tree-hugger." Waving his arms angrily, he said he was a Vietnam War veteran "trained to kill people" and wanted to "break some bones. ... Come outside, we'll settle this." One employee reported, "I got scared and ran to the back office (thinking) he was going to explode." They locked the office after he left, fearing he would return with a gun. Later, he told a sheriff's deputy that "on occasion he rides his ATV out on a ridge and waits with his .300 Winchester rifle for a BLM employee to drive by" and that he "knows where to dispose of bodies so they will not be found."
Oct. 13-15, 2010
A man harassed a female Forest Service employee shopping in a rural grocery store near La Pine, Oregon, saying "how corrupt the government was," and adding that the next time he "saw a government truck unattended (he) would make sure it would not make it back to the Forest Service compound." He also accused her of conspiring to start wildfires. The employee, who was "visibly very upset," feared the man might do her "physical harm."
Aug. 23, 2010
Someone threw a firebomb at BLM campground hosts in the Wildwood Recreation Site near Oregon's Mount Hood. "Two BLM recreation site hosts ... were performing campsite duties and traveling in a golf cart (when they) heard a loud noise and the sound of shattered glass. They pulled over ... and discovered the remnants of a Molotov cocktail. There was a sock, which was used as a wick, still burning, diesel fuel and a broken Corona glass bottle. (They) realized this device had been thrown at them."
It wasn't the campground's first firebomb: "Previously that morning, two other devices were found by a BLM employee on the pavement in the same area. ... These devices were constructed in the same manner as the Molotov cocktails thrown at the campground hosts. ... There is a history of vandalism, trespass, dumping and destruction of vegetation in the wooded area near the incident site."
July 24, 2013
An off-duty BLM employee, who was having a drink with friends in a northern Idaho bar, was approached by a man who "started giving him grief about a recently fenced-off area" managed by the BLM. Later that evening, the man threw a salt shaker at the BLM employee, hitting him in the chest.
Feb. 4, 2011
Two drug traffickers threatened a BLM employee in a sports bar in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The employee reported: "I was on the patio (of the bar) when I was approached by a Hispanic male ... no visible tattoos, no scars, and no distinguishing features. He said he knew who I was and that I needed to work with them to smuggle drugs in a government vehicle. He said I would make $5,000 a run. I told him I would not do it. ... He left and returned in a few minutes with a second Hispanic male ... The first male said I needed to work with them or they would kill me and my family. I again repeated that I would not work with them. The second male hit me across the bridge of my nose. I threw a few punches and took off running ... across the parking lot."
Aug. 22, 2013
A man walked into the Council Ranger District office of Payette National Forest in Idaho and "made comments regarding shooting people, which the employees interpreted to mean that (he) was threatening to shoot Forest Service employees." He was upset about road closures in the forest, and said: "This is our forest. You have no right to close roads. ... We are getting fed up. ... this is going to go to war and we'll start shooting if it keeps up." And he asked them if they'd heard about a Forest Service employee in Utah who got "blowed away."
When law enforcement officers later questioned the man, he "differentiated between shooting people that may only wound them, and killing them. (He) stated that he was not planning to shoot or kill anyone, but he wanted to get the Forest Service's attention, so he planned the incident."
Sept. 29, 2010
A man aimed a rifle at a Forest Service employee who tried to handcuff the man's wife in the Little Belt Mountains in Montana's Lewis and Clark National Forest. The couple had driven into a prohibited area while deer hunting. The woman, who refused to show her hunting license, said she "did not have to put up with Gestapo government officials." When the Forest Service employee tried to handcuff her, she resisted, and then, as the employee later reported: "I noticed (the suspect) on top of the hill with a rifle. (He) was yelling 'Hey, get the f- away from my wife.' He repeated this several times (holding his rifle) at chest and shoulder height directed toward me. ... I felt extremely threatened."
Nov. 26, 2011
A man scuffled with two BLM employees who wanted to cite him for not having a proper ATV registration on a back road in the mountains near Silverton, Colorado. This confrontation began when the BLM employees, driving marked agency ATVs, stopped a group of off-road vehicle drivers. The man refused to climb off his ATV, so they wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. In the melee, he hit one BLM employee on the head and tried to grab one by the groin, saying: "I will f- your world up" and homophobic insults.
July 6, 2012
A female Forest Service employee reported an altercation with a man who appeared to be involved in locking a public road in Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado: "At this gate I found a chain and two locks, neither of which were a Forest Service lock. ... A Jeep came down the road and parked in the middle of the road. ... As I stood next to the Jeep holding the chain and locks (a young man driving the Jeep) started to pull (the chain and locks) away from me."
As the confrontation escalated, the Forest Service employee reported, "I became concerned that if (he) gained possession of the chain/locks he would be able to swing them out the Jeep window and hit me in the head. ... I grabbed his wrist trying to keep control ... (He) repeatedly stated we were not going up that road, that (he) had orders to stop anyone from going up that road, it was private property. ... (He) also made numerous comments about suggested sexual encounters he would recommend for me to help the situation (i.e. go find a boyfriend to f- or a husband to f- or maybe I'd be happier with other females) along with other derogatory statements toward me."
June 8, 2012
When two Forest Service employees driving ATVs on a road in Bighorn National Forest near Ten Sleep, Wyoming, approached a slow-moving Chevy pickup, the driver swerved repeatedly to prevent them from passing. Eventually, the pickup driver stopped and "grabbed (one employee) by the throat," saying the feds "did not own the road."
Oct. 15, 2012
An oilfield worker threatened an off-duty BLM employee during a birthday celebration for the employee's wife in a bar in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The employee had previously cited the man for violating oilfield regulations. In the bar, the man showed a lot of "animosity" and repeatedly told the employee to "watch (your) back, 'cause I'm coming after you." He also repeatedly rubbed the employee's wife's arm in a way that made her feel threatened.
Jan. 31, 2012
An inebriated man who'd gotten his pickup stuck on a rough road in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Bear Lake County, Idaho, yelled obscenities at a Forest Service road-grading crew, complaining that they weren't smoothing the road properly. When the man tried to pull the driver of the road-grader out of the cab, the driver, a Forest Service employee, kicked and punched him to keep him at bay.
Later that day, the same man drove a Ford Bronco at another Forest Service employee who approached him in a campground. That employee "heard the man's (Bronco) accelerate and ... saw the man looking right at him," but dodged the Bronco.
When that employee climbed into a Forest Service truck to give chase, the Bronco's driver turned around and aimed at the forest service truck "at high rate of speed." The employee "anticipated a collision and put his vehicle into park and put (his) foot on the brake and leaned back to prepare for impact." The Bronco driver swerved at the last second and clipped the side and front of the Forest Service truck, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
Aug. 5, 2010
A "crazed, shirtless" man "covered in blood" and brandishing a stick confronted BLM employees who were conducting a mussel survey near Eugene, Oregon. The man also blocked the crew's route with his Toyota camper. He later told investigators that he was an artist who "survived by eating crayfish and other food he found in the forest."
Oct. 1, 2012
A BLM employee patrolling a "dance rave" in the desert near Black Rock City, Nevada, observed two men urinating on a "fully marked patrol vehicle." The employee chased and scuffled with one of the men, deploying his Taser. The crowd intervened, pinned the employee to the ground and hit him multiple times in the back. He escaped with the help of an onlooker in a white cowboy hat, and then, "due to the adrenalin dump," he "began to vomit."
Sept. 3, 2011
An oilfield worker described as a "pumper" threatened a BLM employee near Buffalo, Wyoming. The employee, who was monitoring the Fence Creek Oil Field, noticed "a flow line running on the ground." When he asked the pumper about the problem, "a heated conversation took place," and the pumper said, "Don't get on me or you won't like the outcome." When the employee returned a week later, he found "a hanging rope that was tied to be a noose."
Sept. 28, 2011
This material was originally published in the Oct. 27, 2014, issue of High Country News, hcn.org.