U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT NEWS RELEASE
Billings Field Office
|Release Date: 08/13/13|
BLM to Vandals: It’s Not Recreation
Billings, Mont. – The Bureau of Land Management’s Billings Field Office maintains a number of recreation sites near Billings that are designed to provide the public with near-by opportunities to hike, bike ride, view wildlife, picnic, or learn more about this region’s rich cultural and paleontological resources. The BLM makes it a priority to enhance the public’s recreation experience with upgraded facilities and better amenities when resources allow, but BLM staff has seen an increase in newly installed improvements being riddled with bullet holes, ripped out, or burned. Vandalizing BLM sites and resources is not considered a form of recreation.
“On-the-ground improvements like new signs, fenced parking areas, fire grates and picnic tables are made whenever we have the funding to do so,” said Jim Sparks, field manager for the Billings Field Office. “But as our budgets shrink and we’re forced to choose priority projects, as field manager I’ve got to think long and hard before I invest any more taxpayer dollars into improving these recreation sites. It’s not okay to vandalize, it’s not okay to dump trash on public lands, and it’s not okay that it’s costing all of us with these senseless acts.”
Sparks estimates about $100,000 has been invested the past several years in improving multiple recreation sites throughout the field office. About $30,000, which is most of this year’s available funding for the BLM’s Recreation Program, has been spent on repairing damage resulting from vandalism.
And it’s not just been one time and they’re done. At the Acton Recreation Area 18 miles north of Billings, BLM crews recently repaired damage incurred at the hands of vandals, only to go out the next day and find the repaired facility again destroyed. Not long after conducting repairs for a second time, the vandals hit again. About 20 minutes northeast of Billings, the BLM manages the popular Shepherd Ah Nei Recreation Area, which provides both motorized and non-motorized recreational opportunities. That site too has been hit three times, now forcing the BLM to cancel any further plans in the foreseeable future for repair or replacement of the vandalized property. The Sundance Lodge Recreation Area near Laurel has been struck three times and the 17-mile Recreation Area hit twice in recent months. Amenities provided in the areas of Castle Butte, Elk Basin, and the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range have also been vandalized.
The BLM has increased law enforcement patrols with some success in catching the culprits, but when there are 434,000 acres to cover, the BLM Ranger can’t always be in the right place at the right time.
“That’s why the BLM is asking for the public’s help as our eyes and ears in stopping the vandalism and inane waste of taxpayer money,” added Sparks. “The public should not expose themselves to dangerous situations, but note vehicle descriptions, take photos, and contact us with any other valuable information that might help solve these crimes.”
The public may contact BLM Law Enforcement at (406) 698-9854, the Billings Field Office at (406) 896-5013, or the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office for non-emergency events at (406) 657-8200, to report a crime or share information. Callers may remain anonymous. The public should always dial 911 for emergencies.
Under 18 U.S.C. 1361, individuals convicted of vandalizing natural and cultural resources or facilities managed by the BLM are subject to fines up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment.
For more information, contact Jim Sparks at (406) 896-5241 or Craig Drake at (406) 896-5349. For the latest BLM news and updates visit us on the web at www.blm.gov/mt, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BLMMontana, or follow us on Twitter @BLM_MTDKs.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2012, activities on public lands generated $4.6 billion in revenue, much of which was shared with the States where the activities occurred. In addition, public lands contributed more than $112 billion to the U.S. economy and helped support more than 500,000 jobs.
Billings Field Office 5001 Southgate Drive Billings, MT 59101
|Last updated: 08-13-2013|
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