Illegal and Unauthorized Activities on Public Lands--A Problem With Serious Implications

CED-82-48: Published: Mar 10, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 10, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the federal role in providing outdoor recreation in California and Oregon.

GAO noted that field officials at selected locations of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service are not always effectively enforcing laws relating to illegal and unauthorized activities on public lands. Although the magnitude and seriousness of crimes such as burglary and larceny, marihuana cultivation, timber thefts, and trespassing are not fully known, available evidence indicates that such activities are widespread and increasing on BLM and Forest Service lands. Field officials of the National Park Service (NPS) are doing a better job of enforcing laws and regulations; nevertheless, there is currently an increase in crimes against people and their property. In each of the three agencies, management constraints such as travel, vehicle, and duty restrictions limit efficient and effective law enforcement activities. Limited agency resources and the remoteness of the land contribute to the rise of illegal and unauthorized activities. However, the agencies' top management did not believe that a serious problem existed. This was due, in part, to a lack of information on these kinds of activities on the public lands managed by the agencies nationwide. The Department of the Interior has not developed an effective, uniform, and timely management information system as GAO previously recommended. The information system of the Forest Service is new, thus statistics are not yet available for the entire nation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to give increased emphasis to using the agencies' law enforcement powers and carrying out their responsibilities whenever unauthorized activities affect resource management and use. Where necessary, existing regulations should be revised to deal specifically with the problems of crimes against persons and property, marihuana cultivation, timber theft, and trespassing. Also, the roles of land managers in enforcing such regulations should be clarified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to give increased emphasis to using the agencies' law enforcement powers and carrying out their responsibilities whenever unauthorized activities affect resource management and use. Where necessary, existing regulations should be revised to deal specifically with the problems of crimes against persons and property, marihuana cultivation, timber theft, and trespassing. Also, the roles of land managers in enforcing such regulations should be clarified.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to increase the level of law enforcement effort devoted to preventing and controlling the illegal and unauthorized activities which GAO identified. This action should instruct the field staffs to: (1) meet their obligations and responsibilities for dealing with these activities; and (2) foster mutual aid and cooperation with other law enforcement entities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to increase the level of law enforcement effort devoted to preventing and controlling the illegal and unauthorized activities which GAO identified. This action should instruct the field staffs to: (1) meet their obligations and responsibilities for dealing with these activities; and (2) foster mutual aid and cooperation with other law enforcement entities.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to remove manpower, resource, and policy constraints which impede efficient and effective law enforcement efforts, to the extent feasible, by giving emphasis and support to prevention activities, including: (1) preventive patrolling; (2) making vehicles available when needed; and (3) ensuring adequate coverage of law enforcement personnel through improved duty assignment planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to remove manpower, resource, and policy constraints which impede efficient and effective law enforcement efforts, to the extent feasible, by giving emphasis and support to prevention activities, including: (1) preventive patrolling; (2) making vehicles available when needed; and (3) ensuring adequate coverage of law enforcement personnel through improved duty assignment planning.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service's Law Enforcement Management and Reporting System (LEMARS) is fully operational. Forest area and headquarters officials cite one benefit from the system reporting incidents for budget purposes. However, the system establishes no communications between forest sites and, consequently, it will not be useful on the ground.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to establish and effectively implement law enforcement information systems that provide management with essential and reliable reporting information on the seriousness and extent of crime on public lands. Such systems are vital to supervising and controlling law enforcement efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The BLM system is being piloted but it will be several years before an assessment of its benefits can be made. The Park Service does not intend to implement the recommendation. Based on guidance in the Project Manual, this recommendation is closed.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the heads of the land management agencies to establish and effectively implement law enforcement information systems that provide management with essential and reliable reporting information on the seriousness and extent of crime on public lands. Such systems are vital to supervising and controlling law enforcement efforts.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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