Sacramento - As Congress considers additional funding for Bureau of Land Management law enforcement, almost eight out of ten (79%) of California's rangers say the agency is not able protect the public, according to a survey released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
The findings of the PEER survey corroborate those of an internal BLM Special Law Enforcement report on the California desert. That report found "the public lands have become unsafe for family recreation due to the use of drugs and alcohol, and the problems of lawlessness that occur with such use." Findings of the PEER survey include:
* More than seven out of ten rangers (71%) say their radio system is inadequate to ensure officer safety in the field; and
* Nearly three out of four (73%) say BLM lacks funding and personnel to fulfill its resource management mission.
The survey shows recreation has become BLM's highest priority, but nearly two-thirds (65%) believe off-road vehicles are having a negative impact on the public lands they patrol. More than half (56%) want to see BLM limit ORVs in over-used areas.
"Recreation in the California desert, especially ORVs, has exploded over the past several years, while the number of ranger has actually dropped," says PEER California Coordinator Karen Schambach. "For BLM to fulfill its mission of protecting both public safety and fragile desert natural resources, it needs two to three times the current number of rangers."
The House of Representatives has passed a $600,000 increase in BLM law enforcement funding targeted primarily at the California Desert District, a vast area extending from the Mexican border to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Since the Senate did not match the House action, this augmentation is part of the conference committee for the Interior Appropriations bill.
One-third of BLM Law Enforcement Officers, Wilderness Rangers and Special Agents who patrol 16.3 million acres of public lands in the Golden State completed the PEER survey.