The old slogan, “If you see something, say something,” just got a little easier to do for anyone who sees nefarious activities on public lands in Southwest Colorado.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Office recently launched a “tip line” for people to more easily report suspicious activity, vandalism or any other possible illegal acts on public lands.
“Everyone has an ownership in public lands,” said Tyler Fouss, a law enforcement ranger for BLM. “And there are times when people don’t know where to report something they don’t think is right or feel is a violation.”
The previous system for reporting to the BLM was to leave voicemails with the agency’s law enforcement. But Fouss said rangers are rarely in the office, and as a result, there was some lag time in getting the report.
“Sometimes we don’t get the tip right away,” he said.
Now, people can report suspicious activity through calling the tip line or emailing a specific BLM ranger address, which is automatically sent to law enforcement.
“With this tip line, hopefully, they’ll help us respond to reports quicker,” he said.
So far, Fouss said the BLM has received one report to the tip line since it was launched about a month ago.
“It’s really not that well known to the public at this point,” he said. “But we’re hoping it’s a better system for people to report information to us.”
On average, the BLM receives a few calls a month from people who report suspicious activity, Fouss said, which can include vandalism, trash dumping or crimes to natural resources.
But enforcing the law on public lands has its difficulties, Fouss said.
For instance, it can be hard finding the culprit who dumped trash in a remote area, he said. In another example, by the time rangers respond to an area for a report of people illegally riding ATVs off-trail, the people are long gone. Also, cellphone coverage for reporting can be spotty in many of these areas.
But the public reporting suspicious activity does help BLM rangers, who can take the information and maybe increase patrols in a specific area, Fouss said.
Fouss said tips received to the BLM’s line will be redirected to the appropriate agency should the report be located on other jurisdictional lands, such as a national forest or corresponding county.
The Tres Rios office covers BLM lands in Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata and San Juan counties, including Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.
Denise Alonzo, spokeswoman with the Forest Service, said the agency doesn’t have a comparable tip line to the BLM’s, but reports of suspicious activity can be made to the Forest Service’s 24/7 dispatch at 385-1324.
Joe Lewanowski, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the agency has a program known as “Operation Game Thief,” where people can call in if they see suspicious activity, possible poaching or any nefarious activity toward wildlife at (877) 265-6648.
“It’s fairly well used,” he said.
The BLM’s tip line is (833) 660-5771 and email is TRFOtipline@blm.gov.
Fouss said the tip line is to report suspicious activity, not for use in emergency situations.