The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Billings Field Office staff has seen an increase in newly installed improvements being riddled with bullet holes, ripped out, or burned.
“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 OK to vandalize, it’s not OK to dump trash on public lands, and it’s not OK 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 managed by 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.
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.
“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.