BLM rethinking quest for more powers | NevadaAppeal.com

BLM rethinking quest for more powers

CORY MCCONNELL

After an outcry from county authorities around the state, U.S. Bureau of Land Management managers are rethinking a request for more law enforcement powers on public lands, a bureau spokeswoman said Thursday.

A second round of public comment on a proposal to give BLM rangers enforcement authority over such crimes as driving while under the influence and possession of alcohol by a minor drew 76 comments. “Many of them were negative,” said BLM spokeswoman Maxine Shane.

The bureau began seeking the new powers last spring in response to increased traffic and alcohol-related mischief at places like Sand Mountain Recreation Area, about 30 miles east of Fallon, and the Red Rock Canyon near Las Vegas.

BLM state director Bob Abbey has called the proposed rules an attempt to take advantage of all available law enforcers – a limited resource when it comes to the far-flung, but increasingly popular reaches of the state’s open land.

Many drug- and alcohol-related crimes are covered by state and local statutes, not federal laws, and the BLM doesn’t currently have the authority to regulate them other than by making citizens’ arrests.

But while local law enforcement agencies say they welcome help from the BLM during blowout events such as Memorial Day weekend at popular spots like Sand Mountain, many bristle at the idea of federal rangers roaming public lands in search of violators.

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“I would like to see them discarded,” Churchill County Sheriff Rich Ingram said of the proposed rules. “I think there are other, more viable options available without adding more federal regulations.”

Shane said BLM is working with the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association to try and come up with a set of regulations local authorities can live with. The association is putting together a subcommittee to work with BLM, NSCA executive director Jim Nadeau said Friday.

At the very least, Ingram and Churchill County District Attorney Arthur Mallory would like to see the regulations site-specific, so they only apply to certain spots, like the recreation areas in Churchill and Clark counties.

Ingram said he would also like to hammer out an agreement with the BLM to reimburse the Sheriff’s Department for increased enforcement during Sand Mountain’s major weekends.

“We wouldn’t be a replacement of the BLM, but if it were to materialize, this Sheriff’s Department would have a bigger presence,” Ingram said. “It could only help, with the growing numbers out there.”

Shane said the “supplemental rules” proposal will likely be submitted again after being re-worked between the BLM and the NSCA.

Cory McConnell can be contacted at cmcconnell@lahontanvalleynews.com.