Congress Should Confront the Rise of Violent Extremism on America’s Public Lands

Congress has the power and responsibility to investigate the threat of anti-government extremism to America’s public lands, public servants, and nearby communities. Since 2014, when Cliven Bundy led hundreds of anti-government militants in an armed standoff with federal law enforcement officials near Bunkerville, Nevada, anti-government activists have organized and led at least four other armed confrontations on public lands.

Congress should begin to fulfill its oversight responsibilities by launching an investigation into the rise of violent confrontations organized by anti-government extremists on public lands. This investigation could be conducted by a special or select committee or through the committees responsible for homeland security, natural resources, and Indian affairs.

Since Cliven Bundy summoned militias and anti-government activists to Nevada in 2014, a complex web of extremist groups has been actively organizing and carrying out the recent armed takeovers of public lands, including the assault on the Malheur NWR. These groups include the III Percent Patriots; the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, or CSPOA; the Pacific Patriots Network; Oath Keepers; People For Constitutional Freedom, or PFC; and Operation Mutual Aid.

A Centers for American Progress review of the fundraising efforts of the land seizure movement reveals several financial irregularities that merit federal or state review. In particular, several of the previously mentioned groups seek donations from the public as if they were charitable organizations, yet the contributions they receive appear to go to for-profit entities or individuals.

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