Natural Resources and Environment:

Facilities in Many National Parks and Forests Do Not Meet Health and Safety Standards

CED-80-115: Published: Oct 10, 1980. Publicly Released: Nov 10, 1980.

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The National Park and Forest Services have not protected the health and safety of their visitors and employees. Substandard water and sewer systems and hazardous lodges, dormitories, bridges, and tunnels need to be repaired, upgraded, or limited in their use.

Health and safety inspectors found some facilities to be so hazardous that they recommended immediate closure until the facilities could be repaired or upgraded. The costs of bringing facilities up to standard range from $5,000 to $3.2 million. The Services took a broad range of actions once they became aware that a facility did not meet health and safety standards. The actions ranged from immediate closure of facilities to doing little. GAO was told of numerous actions taken to improve deficient facilities, but the improvements were often not sufficient to meet safety and health standards. During fiscal years 1979 through 1981, 50 percent of the construction funds that the Park Service recommended, and 69 percent of the recreation construction funds that the Forest Service requested were for projects other than health and safety. To correct identified health and safety deficiencies, the Park Service will have to spend about $1.6 billion, and the Forest Service needs about $109 million. There would have to be a five-fold increase in appropriations over the construction funds requested for fiscal year 1981. Two alternative funding methods are: charging higher entrance and camping fees at parks and forests, and negotiating with concessioners on a case-by-case basis to make health and safety improvements on facilities they own or manage.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has funded health and safety improvements out of general revenue funds, rather than repealing legislation to increase fees. The recommendation to repeal section 402 is still valid and is tracked in GAO report CED-82-84.

    Matter: Congress should repeal section 402 of Public Law 96-87 (93 stat. 666) to permit the Park Service to increase entrance fees and direct that the Services use funds resulting from increased entrance and camping fees for health and safety projects in the parks and forests where they are collected.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should give priority to funding projects for repairing and upgrading facilities with the most serious health and safety hazards at parks and forests.

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should require that the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior periodically report on the condition of the facilities until they are improved to meet all health and safety standards.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should request a greater share of their construction funds for repairing and upgrading facilities to bring them up to health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should request a greater share of their construction funds for repairing and upgrading facilities to bring them up to health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has made appropriations from general revenue funds to correct the most serious health and safety hazards.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should request a special appropriation from the Congress to correct the most serious health and safety hazards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has made appropriations from general revenue funds to correct the most serious health and safety hazards.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should request a special appropriation from the Congress to correct the most serious health and safety hazards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should negotiate with concessioners to have them make corrections to facilities they own or operate to bring them up to applicable health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should negotiate with concessioners to have them make corrections to facilities they own or operate to bring them up to applicable health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should take immediate action to correct health and safety problems with available funds or restrict the use of facilities that do not meet health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should take immediate action to correct health and safety problems with available funds or restrict the use of facilities that do not meet health and safety standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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