Missing Persons on Public Land: New Bill Eight Years in the Making

Randy Quill

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Advocacy Efforts Lead to the Introduction of the TRACE Act

Every year, numerous individuals go missing on public lands in the United States, leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions and grieving families. The lack of a centralized database to track these cases has been a longstanding issue, but recent progress offers hope for change.

“Today, @reptimburchett and I introduced the TRACE Act, our bill to improve law enforcement’s search and rescue information sharing efforts for missing persons on Federal lands. We must ensure comprehensive safety within our National Parks for each and every visitor.”

In this blog post, we explore the stories of missing individuals, the advocacy efforts of Heidi Streetman, and the introduction of the TRACE Act—a bill aimed at establishing a national database for missing persons on federal lands.

The Disappearances: Jacob Cyr, Joe Keller, and Dale Stehling

Jacob Cyr, an Iowa man, vanished during the Rainbow Family gathering in the Routt National Forest in 2013. His case, like many others, remains unresolved.

Joe Keller, lost on federal land in Colorado, was formally identified in 2016, a year after his disappearance. Dale Stehling went missing in 2013, and his remains were identified in 2020.

These cases exemplify the urgent need for improved procedures and resources to address missing persons cases on public lands.

The Advocacy Efforts of Heidi Streetman

Heidi Streetman, an educator with a passion for justice, has been at the forefront of the movement to establish a national database for missing persons on public lands. Inspired by the unresolved case of Natalee Holloway and the work of author Dave Paulides, Streetman took action.

In 2014, she initiated a petition demanding federal accountability for missing persons in national parks and forests. The petition has gained over 12,500 signatures to date, drawing much attention to the issue. We are so close to the goal, it would be a shame not to help at this point.

The Introduction of the TRACE Act

After years of advocacy and collaboration, progress finally arrived with the introduction of the Tracking and Reporting Absent Community-members Everywhere (TRACE) Act.

Co-sponsored by Representative Joe Neguse of Colorado’s 2nd Congressional District and Representative Tim Burchett of Tennessee, the bill aims to improve information sharing efforts for missing persons on federal lands.

It calls for enhancements to the existing National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) database, requiring additional categories specific to cases on federal lands.

The Impact of the TRACE Act

If passed, the TRACE Act would require administrative agencies to register missing persons on federal lands in the NAMUS database.

The database would include specific details such as the circumstances of the disappearance, ongoing search efforts, cause of death (if remains are found), and any relevant belongings or locations.

Additionally, leadership in the Department of the Interior and other agencies overseeing federal lands would receive annual information about the number of cases, fostering dialogue and innovative approaches to address this pressing issue.

A Call to Action: Sign the Petition

While the TRACE Act represents significant progress, there is still work to be done. Heidi Streetman’s advocacy has brought us closer to establishing a national database for missing persons on public lands, but we need your support.

Sign the petition demanding accountability and transparency in cases of missing persons on federal lands. Together, we can ensure that every missing person matters and work towards preventing future tragedies.

The introduction of the TRACE Act marks a significant milestone in the effort to address missing persons cases on public lands. With a national database, improved information sharing, and increased accountability, we have the opportunity to provide answers to grieving families and prevent future disappearances.

Join us in supporting Heidi Streetman’s advocacy by signing the petition and making your voice heard. Together, we can make a difference and bring about change in how we address missing persons on public land.

Demanding Accountability: Establishing a National Database for Missing Persons in Federal Lands

The Current Challenge: When search and rescue parties are unable to locate missing individuals, no records are required to be kept by the government about the missing person case or the circumstances surrounding the event.

Even when remains are found, no records are required to be maintained. Moreover, bureaucratic red tape and exorbitant fees often obstruct attempts to acquire information regarding missing persons.

The Benefits of a Centralized Database

The Call for Change: We must demand the creation of a national, publicly accessible registry/database in which all missing persons are accounted for in our national parks, forests, and on BLM lands.

Such a database would hold the government accountable for keeping track and reporting of the missing, inform the public of the facts surrounding missing persons cases on public lands, and maintain a record of all missing individuals and the circumstances under which they went missing on public lands.

The establishment of a centralized searchable database would bring numerous benefits:

  1. Governmental accountability and transparency with regard to the missing.
  2. Continued search efforts for the missing, leading to increased chances of recovery.
  3. Public empowerment to make informed decisions regarding personal safety in areas where people have gone missing.
  4. Law enforcement identification and investigations into hot spots where many have vanished.
  5. Regular updates and information for the loved ones of the missing, providing them with hope and support.
  6. Additional tools for law enforcement to gain familiarity with missing persons cases.

Join the Movement: Let’s come together and demand a publicly transparent database that will provide hope for the families whose loved ones are still missing and unaccounted for on federal lands.

By signing the petition, we can raise awareness and make our voices heard. Currently, the petition has garnered over 12,535 signatures, just shy of the goal of 13,000. Every signature counts, and with your support, we can make a difference.

Sign the petition today and help make the Department of the Interior accountable for persons missing in our national parks and forests. Together, we can create change, prevent future tragedies, and bring solace to the families desperately seeking answers.

Take Action: Sign the petition here: https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/910/113/575/

The mysterious disappearance of individuals from public lands is a complex and challenging issue. The cases of Joe Keller, Dale Stehling, Jacob Cyr, and many others, highlights the difficulties faced by search and rescue teams and the lack of a comprehensive approach to addressing missing persons cases in wilderness areas.

By establishing a centralized database, increasing public awareness, allocating more resources, promoting collaboration between agencies, leveraging technology, and providing support for families, we can work towards minimizing the number of missing persons and improving the outcomes of search and rescue operations.

Only through concerted efforts can we hope to prevent such tragic disappearances and bring closure to the families affected by these heartbreaking events.

Together, we can ensure a safer and more accountable future for our federal lands.

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