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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

More Bomb Blasts: Anti-Environmentalism

Air Date: Week of

Strong anti-government feeling drove the massive destruction in Oklahoma City and may also be a force behind the recent bombing of a U.S. Forest Service facility in Carson City, Nevada. The County’s Movement, which champions local control over federal land has links to the right wing, Wise Use and Militia Movements, and some say they have fostered an environment of fear in Carson City among forest service workers. The County Movement leaders claim the attacks were staged by the government. Terry Fitzpatrick reports.


CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The Oklahoma City bombing has brought into sharp focus right-wing extremist groups who bitterly resent the actions of Federal law enforcement agencies. But officials who manage America's public lands have also come under fire. Two Federal buildings in Nevada have been bombed in the past 18 months. The most recent attack, on the Forest Service headquarters in Carson City, came just 4 weeks ago. We sent reporter Terry Fitzpatrick to investigate the attacks and how they affect the debate over environmental control in the West.

(Wood being cleared)

FITZPATRICK: There's still debris outside the office window of District Ranger Guy Pence of the US Forest Service in Carson City.

PENCE: The explosive device was set up under this flashing, in order to - to retain some of the impact...

FITZPATRICK: On March 30th, at night when the office was closed, a small bomb here caused $5,000 of damage.

PENCE: ... and then this part of the wall was blown away, and then...

FITZPATRICK: It was the second explosion at a Federal facility in Nevada. In October of 1993, just past midnight, someone blew a 20-foot hole in the roof at the Bureau of Land Management in Reno. No one was injured in either blast and no one has been arrested, but the attacks have brought attention to the growing conflict here, over who controls and manages Federal lands.

PENCE: The goals and objectives of managing national forest lands are for long-term sustainability, and I, you know, sometimes we make decisions that are not - they just don't make everybody happy.

FITZPATRICK: Restrictions on grazing, logging, and mining have some people so angry that they formed the County Supremacy Movement. They believe the county is the highest form of government and they're challenging Federal authority throughout the west. One of their leaders is Dick Carver, a rancher and county commissioner in Nye County, Nevada, about a 4-hour drive from Carson City.

CARVER: We're not governed by elected officials any more. We're governed by these bureaucrats that work for the Federal government, and what we've got to do is back these bureaucrats off. We have to govern our people in our own counties.

FITZPATRICK: Carver has a history of organizing his neighbors in confrontations with Federal officials.

(A bulldozer running)

FITZPATRICK: Last summer, on the Fourth of July, Carver and dozens of supporters used a bulldozer to reopen a road that the Forest Service had closed to the public. They made a videotape of their activities. The incident turned into an armed showdown when a Forest Service police officer arrived.

CARVER: When he showed up with a gun on, about 50, I would say at least 50 people out there put guns on also.

FITZPATRICK: The officer stood in front of the bulldozer with a sign ordering Carver to halt. But Carver would not and the officer was forced to step aside. Carver maintains that his actions were legal. That's because Nye County has declared all Federal land claims to be unconstitutional, and Federal law enforcement invalid. Federal officials are concerned that confrontations like this might have spurred the bombings in Reno and Carson City. They say Carver is not a suspect; no evidence links him to the blasts. But Ranger Guy Pence thinks Carver's tactics and rhetoric have created a highly charged climate.

PARKS: I guess the word that I would use is inciteful. And I think it's irresponsible, I think it's dangerous for us as a society.

FITZPATRICK: Carver denies responsibility for the attacks, and has his own suspicions about who set off the blasts.

CARVER: Are you sure that it isn't the Forest Service employees themselves doing it to paint a bad picture on Dick Carver?

FITZPATRICK: Federal authorities respond it's ludicrous to think they would bomb their own buildings. Fearing that the situation is getting out of hand, the Justice Department has asked the courts to reaffirm Federal authority in Nevada. While the case is pending, government workers travel in pairs and avoid wearing uniforms. Some carry pepper spray. Dick Carver realizes his declaration of county rule has created a volatile situation, and he worries someone could get hurt.

CARVER: Bureaucrats out here have no criminal law enforcement jurisdiction. They don't have a right to stop people on the highway or in a canyon. They don't have the right to have these lights on their pickups. They don't have the right to carry guns out here and arrest people for not wearing a seat belt. That's the type of action that we're afraid somebody's going to get hurt. Because people are going to just take so much of that.

FITZPATRICK: Carver says the County Supremacy Movement is a peaceful cause and the issue can be resolved in court without violence if, for now, Federal authorities will stay away. For Living on Earth, I'm Terry Fitzpatrick in Nye County, Nevada.



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