Padilla, Tillis Lead Bipartisan Legislation to Help Find Missing Persons on Federal Land
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Thom Tillis (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced the TRACE Act, bipartisan legislation that would require the Department of Justice (DOJ) to include an additional category to the existing National Missing and Unidentified Persons Systems (NamUs) database so the public and law enforcement partners can better track people who go missing on federal land.
The bill also requires DOJ to submit an annual report to Congress on the number of cases of persons missing on public lands or suspected of going missing on public lands from the previous year. This report would help family and friends of people who have gone missing on public lands more easily find and include this information in NamUs, while law enforcement agencies can simultaneously work to improve the national records of individuals missing on public lands. The bill would further require that NamUs contain a tab to clearly report if unidentified remains or missing persons were found or last seen on public lands. Additionally, it would require that the Attorney General submit a report to the Judiciary Committee outlining NamUs cases on federal lands.
California currently has 3,289 missing reports in the NamUs system.
“Hundreds of thousands of people go missing in the U.S. every year, but without a system to track those who go missing on public lands, law enforcement’s ability to help bring them home is that much more difficult,” said Senator Padilla. “We must ensure that our public lands are safe and secure spaces for everyone, which is why I am introducing the TRACE Act to provide accurate and readily accessible data, equip law enforcement to resolve more cases, and help bring peace of mind to affected families.”
“Every year, thousands of people go missing on public lands without being recorded in the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System,” said Senator Tillis. “This oversight is impeding law enforcement from keeping track of those who go missing to help search and rescue efforts. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan legislation so these cases can be added to the database and potentially save hundreds of lives in the future.”
According to a NamUs report, over 600,000 people go missing in the United States annually. While the majority of these cases are resolved, tens of thousands of people remain missing every year.
There are approximately 640 million acres of federal land which include national parks, national forests, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Estimates suggest that at least 1,600 people have gone missing on public lands, though the number is likely much higher, as isolated or rugged terrain on public lands can make it especially difficult to find or identify people who go missing. Despite this, there is no functional system to report people who have gone missing on public lands. Having accurate data on how many people go missing on our public lands every year is crucial to aid search and rescue efforts and resolve cases.
NamUs is the main system used by law enforcement, families and friends of missing persons, medical examiners, and coroners to report unidentified remains and missing persons.
The TRACE Act is endorsed by the American Rescue Project, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Outdoor Industry Association, Public Lands Solution, Trust for Public Land.
Full text of the bill is available here.