On any given day, between 80,000 and 90,000 people are actively listed as missing with law enforcement agencies across the U.S. But how many people have gone missing on the country's roughly 640 million acres of public lands--and who searches for them when they disappear? An investigation shows that the Department of the Interior "does not actively aggregate such statistics," and that the number of missing persons on public lands could be anywhere from a few hundred to potentially thousands.
From Outside Magazine:
After the September 11 attacks, Interior tried to build its own database to track law-enforcement actions across lands managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs. (The Forest Service is under the Department of Agriculture.) The result, the Incident Management Analysis and Reporting System, is a $50 million Database to Nowhere—last year, only 14 percent of the several hundred reportable incidents were entered into it. The system is so flawed that Fish and Wildlife has said no thanks and refuses to use it.
That leaves the only estimates to civilians and conspiracy theorists. Aficionados of the vanished believe that at least 1,600 people, and perhaps many times that number, remain missing on public lands under circumstances that defy easy explanation.
Numbers aside, it matters tremendously where you happen to disappear. If you vanish in a municipality, the local police department is likely to look for you. The police can obtain assistance from the county sheriff or, in other cases, state police or university law enforcement. If foul play is suspected, your state's bureau of investigation can decide to get involved. Atop that is the FBI. With the exception of the sheriff, however, these organizations don't tend to go rifling through the woods unless your case turns into a criminal one.
But all those bets are off when you disappear in the wild. While big national parks like Yosemite operate almost as sovereign states, with their own crack search and rescue teams, go missing in most western states and, with the exception of New Mexico and Alaska, statutes that date back to the Old West stipulate that you're now the responsibility of the county sheriff.