By Matthew Brown ASSOCIATED PRESS
BILLINGS – Federal employees overseeing U.S. public lands were assaulted or threatened at least 360 times over a five-year period marked by heightened tensions with anti-government groups and dwindling ranks of law enforcement officers, a congressional watchdog agency said Oct. 21.
The Government Accountability Office in a new report highlights anti-government tensions that at times have boiled over, including a six-week armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon in 2016 and other standoffs with armed protesters in Montana and Nevada.
The clashes have been rooted in a deep distrust of government on the part of the protesters, who view the federal bureaucracy as unlawfully impeding people from using public land for grazing, mining and other economic purposes.
The incidents investigators cataloged during interviews with federal workers ranged from threatening phone calls and gunshots fired over the heads of employees, to the stabbing of a Bureau of Land Management worker outside a federal building.