An anonymous group of current and former Bureau of Land Management employees, including a few from Nevada, have joined a Twitter-based revolt against their new boss.
The “Alt_BLM” Twitter account, launched Thursday afternoon, describes itself as the unofficial resistance team of the BLM, dedicated to “defending science and our public lands.” The posts so far have offered a harsh rebuke to President Donald Trump and his policies.
A bureau employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, said the account was started “to show solidarity with other natural resource agency employees” and keep uncensored information flowing.
“The intention is to ensure that there is an open forum for accurate information about public lands,” the federal worker said. “It’s a free country. We will continue to tell the truth whether President Trump likes it or not.”
The worker said contributors to Alt_BLM include former agency employees and retirees as well as current staffers in Nevada, other Western states and Washington, D.C. The account is not taxpayer funded and does not claim to speak for the BLM, the worker said.
Roughly 85 percent of Nevada is under federal ownership, and the BLM manages most of that land — some 74,000 square miles, an area larger than New England.
Alt_BLM is not to be confused with another account called AltBLM, which popped up later the same day. Both are part of a growing group of federal agency “Alt” accounts launched last week in response to news reports of a hiring freeze, a suspension of grants and curbs on external communications at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The social media revolt was also spurred by a brief ban on Twitter use by the National Park Service after the agency’s official account retweeted several Inauguration Day posts that appeared critical of Trump. That was followed by a series of pointed tweets about climate change from the official account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
Government officials have since said those posts were made by former Park Service employees who still had the passwords to the agency’s Twitter accounts.
OPEN TO INTERPRETATION
Trump has long used Twitter to communicate with — and at times confound — his followers. As anyone who has ever used the platform knows, its trademark 140-character limit does not always lend itself to clarity, nuance or subtlety.
In this atmosphere, even the most innocent tweet can be interpreted as an act of defiance.
Death Valley National Park found itself in the spotlight earlier this week after the park sent out a series of tweets about Japanese internment in Death Valley during World War II.
Some interpreted the posts as a dig at the new president, but park spokeswoman Abby Wines insists they were nothing of the sort. She said they were written by a ranger who has been talking about the camps in recent history presentations in the park.
Since the Inauguration incident, Wines said the Park Service has sent a reminder to employees that official Twitter accounts are only to be used for park information and public safety messages, not matters of national policy.
Wines said some members of the public seem to be under the mistaken impression that the Park Service is still banned from using Twitter, so any post by a park is treated as an act of defiance.
“We sent out a tweet about our pupfish, and people were even retweeting that with #resist,” she said with a laugh. “We were not making a political statement. It was, ‘We have pupfish. They’re cute. Come see them.’”
Contact Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.