The Bureau of Land Management Modernizes Law Enforcement Reporting
Trump Administration implements structure recommended by Office of the Inspector General
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today announced it has modernized the reporting structure of its Office of Law Enforcement and Security. The realignment was recommended by the Office of the Inspector General in 2002 and numerous federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals.
“The Bureau of Land Management Rangers and Special Agents are the most highly trained and capable natural resources law enforcement officers in the country,” said William Perry Pendley, Deputy Director for Policy and Programs. “Nonetheless, as the Inspector General declared over two decades ago, with their ‘authorities and powers’ come ‘heightened responsibility and accountability [that] demand tight reign, close supervision, clear chain of command and rigorous oversight. A centralized organization is the only management structure that provides this kind of control and accountability.’” “Beginning today, BLM’s law enforcement officers will be supervised by fellow, highly trained law enforcement officers who fully understand the difficult responsibilities they execute daily.”
“This change to a straight-line-authority model is long overdue and will make for a successful BLM law enforcement program far into the future," said Eric A. Kriley who became Director for the Office of Law Enforcement and Security in December. “I will work with our State Directors, other BLM employees, and Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to fulfill the BLM’s national resource management mission.”
In March 2001, at the request of the Secretary of the Interior, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) assessed the Department of the Interior’s law enforcement activities, including those of the BLM. The OIG’s January 2002 report, “Disquieting State of Disorder: An Assessment of Department of the Interior Law Enforcement,” listed its overarching concern as, “Most law enforcement offices are under the direction of managers who have limited or no law enforcement experience or training. This decentralized Bureau management has had near total autonomy, with the power to determine law enforcement priorities, funding and investigative direction.”
In July 2002, in response to the OIG report, the Law Enforcement Review Panel, created by the Secretary, issued, “Law Enforcement at the Department of the Interior, Recommendations to the Secretary for Implementing Law Enforcement Reforms.” On July 19, 2002, the Secretary approved the report and directed that its recommendations be implemented. Although a BLM Office of Law Enforcement and Security was created and straight-line law enforcement reporting for BLM Special Agents established, BLM law enforcement Rangers continued to report to and be supervised by BLM State Directors and district and field office managers, none of whom has a law enforcement background or more than a minimum (24 hours) of law enforcement training.
Last year, Robert D. MacLean, Director, Office of Law Enforcement and Security, reaffirmed the importance of the OIG’s report and the 2002 Secretary’s Order.
“It’s about time, said Dennis McLane, former BLM Ranger and Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement, “The Bureau of Land Management has finally restructured its entire law enforcement lines of authority in a way that complies with the accepted standards of general Federal law enforcement organizations and joins the several other land management agencies that have already made this critical change.”
“The recent public outcry for improved police professionalism has created immediate opportunity for an examination of law enforcement structure and leadership,” said Sheriff Fred Lamphere, President of the Western States Sheriffs Association (WSSA). “We are hopeful that the efforts to restructure the chain of command throughout BLM law enforcement division will provide increased consistency in management and quality of law enforcement leadership. The WSSA has had a very positive relationship with BLM directors, state directors and district managers over the past several years. These relationships are essential. We hope to continue working closely with the BLM leadership for years to come as we all strive to solve issues related to public lands management.”
The BLM’s 212 Rangers and 76 Special Agents, assigned throughout the lands managed by the Bureau, are responsible for protecting the natural resources owned by the American public, the visitors to the nation’s public lands, and federal employees charged with managing the lands for multiple use and sustained yield. Meanwhile, BLM law enforcement officers are often tasked to assist other federal agencies, including by protecting border resources, assisting during natural emergencies such as hurricanes and wildfires, and preserving order during civil unrest. BLM’s law enforcement officers work cooperatively with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, which is essential given the vast land masses for which they are responsible.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in the 11 Western states and Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. In fiscal year 2018, the diverse activities authorized on BLM-managed lands generated $105 billion in economic output across the country. This economic activity supported 471,000 jobs and contributed substantial revenue to the U.S. Treasury and state governments, mostly through royalties on minerals.