The recent uproar over armed EPA agents descending on a tiny Alaska mining  town is shedding light on the fact that 40 federal agencies – including nearly a  dozen typically not associated with law enforcement — have armed divisions.

The agencies employ about 120,000 full-time officers authorized to carry guns  and make arrests, according to a June 2012 Justice  Department report.

Though most Americans know agents within the Drug Enforcement Agency and the  Federal Bureau of Prisons carry guns, agencies such as the Library of Congress  and Federal Reserve Board employing armed officers might come as a surprise.

The incident  that sparked the renewed interest and concern occurred in late August when a  team of armed federal and state officials descended on the tiny Alaska gold  mining town of Chicken, Alaska.

The Environmental Protection Agency, whose armed agents in full body armor  participated, acknowledged taking part in the Alaska Environmental Crimes Task  Force investigation, which it said was conducted to look for possible violations  of the Clean Water Act.

However, EPA officials denied the operation was a “raid” and didn’t address  speculation about whether it was connected to possible human and drug  trafficking.

“Imagine coming up to your diggings, only to see agents swarming over it like  ants, wearing full body armor, with jackets that say “POLICE” emblazoned on  them, and all packing side arms,” gold miner C.R. Hammond told the Alaska  Dispatch.

The other federal agencies participating in the operation were the FBI, the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Coast Guard,  the National Oceanic and the Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Park  Service.

The FBI, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Park  Service are among 24 federal agencies employing more than 250 full-time armed  officers with arrest authority, according the federal report, which is based on  the 2008 Census of Federal Law Enforcement Officers.

The other 16 agencies have less than 250 officers and include NOAA as well as  the Library of Congress, the Federal Reserve Board and the National Institutes  of Health.

The number of federal department with armed personnel climbs to 73 when  adding in the 33 offices of inspector general, the government watchdogs for  agencies as large as the Postal Service to the Government Printing Office, whose  IG has only five full-time officers.

The EPA defended its use of armed officers, after the Alaska incident.

“Environmental law enforcement, like other forms of law enforcement, always  involves the potential for physical, even armed, confrontation,” the agency  said.

But Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has already ordered an investigation,  saying “This level of intrusion and intimidation of Alaskans is absolutely  unacceptable.”

In addition, Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Republican, and Mark Begich,  Democrat, have inquired about the incident.

Murkowski said purported concerns about rampant drug and human trafficking in  the area sounded “wholly concocted” to her.

“This seems to have been a heavy-handed and heavy-armor approach. Why was it  so confrontational? The EPA really didn’t have any good answers for this,” she  told the newspaper.

This is not the first time armed EPA guards have been accused of intimidating  behavior.

In May 2012, North Carolina resident Larry Keller was visited by armed EPA  agents after sending an email to Al Armendariz, the regional administrator who  was video-taped saying his enforcement strategy was to “crucify” executives from  big oil and gas companies.

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