Natural Resources and Environment:

Wilderness Mineral Assessment Reports Could Be Improved To Better Meet Land Use Decisionmaking Needs

Published: Aug 14, 1984. Publicly Released: Aug 14, 1984.

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As part of the work which GAO has conducted over the past 2 years in examining a number of federal mineral land assessment programs, GAO explored aspects of the wilderness mineral assessment program conducted jointly by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of Mines for the Forest Service.

GAO found that these assessment reports are not as useful to Forest Service planners as they could be. While the primary purpose of the wilderness mineral surveys is to aid land use decisionmakers, the reports are often: (1) difficult to understand and to use; and (2) little more than raw data requiring lengthy interpretation. In addition, information necessary to place mineral data in perspective is missing. The surveys are fairly detailed and, depending on the size and complexity of the area studied, a single assessment may consume up to 3 years of research team time. Although the Forest Service is a principal user of the mineral assessments, it has had little input as to the format or the content of the assessment reports. These reports are highly technical and are intended to add to what is known about the nation's geology. Although the reports are supposed to be aimed at land use decisionmakers, USGS distributes the reports to state and local governments, oil and gas industries, and academia. Forest Service officials suggest that the reports could be far more useful for land use decisions if the data were directed toward land use managers. Forest Service managers need to know where the minerals are located, whether they are in demand, whether they might be economically mined, and how they would be transported. In addition, regularly scheduled briefings on these topics could be valuable. The Bureau routinely collects this information. GAO found that, despite Bureau intentions, few changes have been made in the assessment reports.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: USGS and the Bureau of Mines, in consultation with the Forest Service, should revise the wilderness mineral assessment reports so that they are more useful to Forest Service planners and land managers. USGS should provide further interpretation of the mineral resource data. The Bureau of Mines should furnish resource, technological, and economic information that places the survey results in context for planning purposes.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Mines

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The three agencies drafted a Memorandum of Understanding that spells out the information to be included by the Bureau and USGS in mineral assessment reports, and the format of the reports. Officials from all three agencies agreed that this recommendation was essentially implemented even though the memorandum will not be signed and finalized until sometime in the fall of 1986.

    Recommendation: USGS and the Bureau of Mines, in consultation with the Forest Service, should revise the wilderness mineral assessment reports so that they are more useful to Forest Service planners and land managers. USGS should provide further interpretation of the mineral resource data. The Bureau of Mines should furnish resource, technological, and economic information that places the survey results in context for planning purposes.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Geological Survey

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The three agencies drafted a Memorandum of Understanding that spells out the information to be included by the Bureau and USGS in mineral assessment reports, and the format of the reports. Officials from all three agencies agreed that this recommendation was essentially implemented even though the memorandum will not be signed and finalized until sometime in the fall of 1986.

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