Managing Natural Resources
A variety of agencies are responsible for protecting our nations land and water natural resources. The management of these resources is largely characterized by the struggle to balance the demand for greater use of these resources with the need to conserve and protect them for the benefit of future generations.
The federal government owns and manages approximately 650 million acres of land in the United Statesabout 30 percent of the nations total surface area (see fig. 1).
Figure 1: Federal Lands Managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service
Four major federal land management agenciesthe Department of Agricultures U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interiors Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and National Park Serviceare responsible for managing about 95 percent of these lands and resources for a variety of uses. Specifically, BLM and the Forest Service manage federal land for activities such as recreation, timber harvesting, livestock grazing, oil and gas production, and mining. FWS is responsible for managing federal land primarily to conserve and protect fish, wildlife, and their habitat, among other compatible uses such as hunting and fishing. The National Park Service manages federal land to conserve, preserve, protect, and interpret the nations natural, cultural, and historic resources. In addition, Interiors Bureau of Indian Affairs provides basic services to more than 560 federally recognized tribes, including natural resources management on Indian lands. (See figure 2 for land management distribution information.)
Figure 2: Distribution of land managed by the Forest Service and Interior land management agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Other prominent federal agencies involved in natural resources management include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), within the Department of Commerce, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). NOAA works to conserve and protect natural resources through fisheries management, coastal restoration, and supporting marine commerce; development of daily weather forecasts and severe storm warnings; and ongoing climate monitoring and research. Under its Civil Works Program, the Corps plans, constructs, operates, and maintains a wide range of water resources projects, including efforts in the Everglades, the Louisiana coast, and along many of our nations major waterways. The Corps is also responsible for executing the cleanup of formerly used defense sites.
Natural resources management work related to federal lands and waters touches on many of these activities. Specifically,
- Federal land management, including recreation, timber harvesting, livestock grazing, wilderness and species protection, and wildland fire management;
- Water resources management, including wetland protection, coastal management, flood control, freshwater supply, and the link between water resources and energy production;
- Oceans and fisheries, including marine species protection, fisheries management, tsunami hazard mitigation, and marine aquaculture;
- Native American land management issues, including taking land in trust, irrigation, rights-of-way, and land claims.
- Mineral and other natural resource extraction on federal lands, including hardrock and coal mining as well as onshore oil and gas development.
Army Corps of Engineers
GAO-12-352, Mar 8, 2012
Endangered Sea Turtles
GAO-12-242, Jan 31, 2012
GAO-12-189R, Dec 12, 2011
GAO-11-144, Dec 17, 2010
Wildland Fire Management
GAO-09-877, Sep 9, 2009
Payments to Counties
GAO-13-475T, Mar 19, 2013
GAO-13-351T, Feb 14, 2013
GAO-13-189, Jan 18, 2013
GAO-13-226, Jan 4, 2013
Rural Water Infrastructure
GAO-13-111, Oct 16, 2012
Unconventional Oil and Gas Development
GAO-12-874, Sep 5, 2012
GAO-12-640, Jul 3, 2012
GAO-12-593, Jun 6, 2012
Unconventional Oil and Gas Production
GAO-12-740T, May 10, 2012
Federal Land Management
GAO-12-691T, May 3, 2012