The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is getting one step closer to enforcement of alcohol rules on its lands in Idaho. More than 12 million acres of federal lands lie within Idaho’s borders, but because no supplemental rules to the BLM’s authority exist there, the agency can’t do much when it comes to enforcing open container and drinking and driving violations.

But that is about to change. Recently, the BLM announced it would begin the process of adding supplemental rules to its enforcement capabilities in Idaho. The rules would allow BLM officers to enforce open container and under-age drinking laws as well as drug laws. Currently, they can only write tickets or call local law enforcement when an issue arises. Most western states have supplemental rules to deal with this sort of thing, but not Idaho.

How big of a problem has alcohol and drug abuse become across the nation? Apparently it’s bigger than you might think. A report from the Magic Valley News in Twin Falls Idaho quotes BLM Law Enforcement Ranger Keith McGrath saying, “on BLM land nationwide, we’ve seen an increasing trend in crime over the past decade,” McGrath said. “Regardless of the offense, the commonality is alcohol.”

Bringing Idaho’s BLM enforcement capabilities up to the same level of other states will not be an instant solution. From now until Nov. 22, the agency will take public comments on the idea. This process will be interesting to follow.

On a personal note, I have lived in western states where any bolstering of the BLM’s power tends to be met with skepticism. On the other hand, if this is becoming a local law enforcement problem, it’s likely to gain support from the folks in Idaho. 

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