House Dems to host forum on extremism

House Democrats on Wednesday will host a Capitol Hill forum to discuss extremism on public lands in the wake of the 40-day occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

The forum, led by House Natural Resources ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), comes months after the liberal Center for American Progress released an analysis highlighting five armed uprisings on public lands in the past two years in Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Montana (Greenwire, March 24).

The think tank recommended a congressional probe into the resources and policies that are needed at the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and U.S. Forest Service to protect federal lands and the people who visit them.

In April, Grijalva and other Natural Resources Democratic leaders requested a formal hearing on the Malheur takeover and threats to federal employees (Greenwire, April 15).

"It is our duty to conduct aggressive oversight to ensure our public lands are protected for all Americans," Grijalva; Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans ranking member Jared Huffman of California; and Subcommittee on Federal Lands ranking member Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

No hearing has been held on that incident or other flare-ups on public lands, including Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's armed 2014 standoff with BLM over the confiscation of his cattle.

Eight Democrats are scheduled to attend the forum at the House Visitor Center: Grijalva, Thompson, Huffman, Tsongas, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Alan Lowenthal of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey.

One of the witnesses is Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery, Ala.-based nonprofit that tracks extremism.

SPLC released a report in January finding that the number of national anti-government militia groups increased 37 percent in 2015 from 2014. It identified 276 militia groups last year, up from 202 in 2014.

The forum will also feature testimony from an expert on extremism from George Washington University and conservationists.

Schedule: The forum is Wednesday, June 15, at 1 p.m. at the House Visitor Center, Room 210.

Witnesses: Richard Cohen, president, Southern Poverty Law Center; J.J. MacNab, Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, George Washington University; Tim Blount, executive director, Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge; David Jenkins, president, Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship; Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain director, Vet Voice Foundation.

By:  Phil Taylor
Source: Environment and Energy Daily