Monday, June 26, 2006

The not-so-peaceful forest

My college classmates who were studying to be forest rangers and wildland conservationists did so to get away from urban life. But it seems urban life is tracking them down.

Attacks, threats and other altercations involving Forest Service workers reached an all-time high last year, according to government documents obtained by a public employees advocacy group. We're talking everything from verbally abusive campers to someone pointing a gun at Mr. Ranger.

The agency tally shows 477 such reports in 2005, compared with 88 logged a year earlier. The total in 2003 was 104; in 1995, it was 34.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and provided them to The Associated Press.

The environmental advocacy group said the government’s methods for collecting the data have not changed over the years. It said some of the blame for the growing violence in the woods is due to greater access to remote lands and waterways by motorized equipment. There's definitely debate over that.

"Most of the assaults in 2004 were as a result of encounters with drunks, drug
users or deranged environmental protesters," said Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service.

To learn more about the report, visit the PEER Web site.

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