Natural Resources and Environment:

National Direction Required for Effective Management of America's Fish and Wildlife

CED-81-107: Published: Aug 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1981.

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GAO conducted a review of specific federal fish and wildlife programs to evaluate the overall effectiveness of federal agencies' management of fish and wildlife resources and habitat to ensure that development activities have the least possible adverse effect on fish and wildlife.

Several laws require federal agencies to seek the advice of the Fish and Wildlife Service on planned activities that may affect fish and wildlife. However, the Service is able to respond to only about half of these requests because of a lack of staff and funds. The Service has not established a priority system to identify and respond to those projects having the worst potential impact on fish and wildlife. Effective management of the National Wildlife Refuge System has been limited because the Service has not provided the needed guidance. The Service is also having problems managing the National Fish Hatchery System. It has not been able to establish and carry out national priorities for identifying which fish species to produce and which hatcheries to operate. Lack of direction and funding limitations contribute to this problem. For example, the National Wildlife Refuge and Fish Hatchery Systems have deteriorated to the point where there is a $650 million new development and rehabilitation backlog. The Service's current policy and attitudes stress conservation and protection of fish and wildlife, and this conflicts with the Animal Damage Control Act's original intent of predator control. The current program has not significantly reduced livestock losses caused by predators. Livestock insurance as an alternative was considered but was not feasible. Thus, managing the newly designated Alaskan federal lands presents a challenge between conservation and development interests.

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: The Secretary of the Interior should establish policies, objectives, and guidance for an effective fish and wildlife research program. As part of this effort, the Secretary should consolidate the Fish and Wildlife Service's two research programs into one organizational unit.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to update the Fish and Wildlife Service's Wildlife Refuge Manual and flyway management plans.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to establish priorities on the types of refuges and hatcheries that should be developed, operated, and maintained.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to determine which marginal refuges and hatcheries could be eliminated, propose a plan to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees setting forth the reasons why they should be discontinued, and seek approval from the Committees to close them.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to review the condition of refuges and hatcheries and establish priorities for a rehabilitation program.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Should the Animal Damage Control Program remain in Interior, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to develop and propose to Congress amendments to the Animal Damage Control Act of 1931 that reflect the current objectives of the Animal Damage Control Program to bring predators under control, rather than to eradicate, suppress, and destroy them.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Should the Animal Damage Control Program remain in Interior, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to determine whether the control program should: (1) be continued as is, or be modified to increase effectiveness; and (2) more fully explore alternatives such as livestock insurance to determine if they are viable.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service to give greater emphasis to conserving and managing fish and wildlife.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should direct the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, and the Forest Service to give greater emphasis to conserving and managing fish and wildlife.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should enter into a cooperative agreement which will give the Fish and Wildlife Service the authority to decide how animals should be managed by other agencies in those instances where wildlife species migrate across the boundaries and are being managed by more than one federal agency. Such an agreement should also include the states where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should review the Fish and Wildlife Service's operations to determine whether its new priority system is effective in identifying those projects that have the greatest potential adverse impact on fish and wildlife.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should enter into a cooperative agreement which will give the Fish and Wildlife Service the authority to decide how animals should be managed by other agencies in those instances where wildlife species migrate across the boundaries and are being managed by more than one federal agency. Such an agreement should also include the states where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

    Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

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