Natural Resources and Environment:

Need To Reexamine the Federal Role in Planning, Selecting, and Funding State and Local Parks

CED-81-32: Published: Apr 22, 1981. Publicly Released: Apr 22, 1981.

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GAO assessed how well the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service (HCRS) has administered the share of a fund established under the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 which was spent for State and local outdoor recreation to evaluate the basis for making grants from the fund and to provide recommendations to help guide future public funding of park and recreational land facilities.

Under the act, these plans must establish a framework for identifying recreational demands and needs and provide a basis for funding projects. Improvements are needed in State planning methods and in project selection, approval, and funding. HCRS and States also need to develop methods to evaluate the effectiveness of projects financed through the fund as a basis for subsequent planning. Many grantees are becoming increasingly dependent on other Federal programs to help finance their share of the park and outdoor recreation facilities financed through the fund. Many State and local governments continue to request acquisition and development grants even though they are having difficulty operating and maintaining their existing park systems. The present trend of increased reliance on Federal support for operation and maintenance funds to help satisfy the act's matching requirements could lead to the Federal Government's providing most of the funds for State and local government park systems. GAO believes that this Federal financial commitment was not intended under the act. GAO agrees with the proposed budget cuts, because eliminating the State share would enable States to use funds earmarked for land acquisition and development for the operation and maintenance of existing systems.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No appropriations were provided for fiscal year 1983 and beyond.

    Matter: Congress should review the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act's matching requirement and the act's corollary restriction against using Federal funding sources to satisfy the match.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No appropriations were provided for fiscal year 1983 and beyond.

    Matter: Congress should decide whether the matching requirement should be eliminated or modified so that the match must be satisfied by State or local origin funds and resources, exclusive of funds available under other Federal grant-in-aid programs.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No appropriations were provided for fiscal year 1983 and beyond.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act to provide the Secretary with explicit authority to discontinue funding projects in whole or in part in States where it is determined that existing projects are not adequately operated and maintained.

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

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

    Matter: Congress should accept the President's proposed elimination of funding to States for recreation projects from the Land and Water Conservation Fund because States are becoming dependent on Federal funding sources for planning, acquiring, developing, operating, and maintaining their outdoor recreation facilities.

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No appropriations were provided for fiscal year 1983 and beyond.

    Matter: Congress should authorize the Secretary to waive all or part of the required match for fiscally stressed grantees.

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 Secretary of the Interior should clarify and provide guidance to States on how the new project selection guidelines should be developed and implemented.

    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 Secretary of the Interior should monitor State plan implementation to assure that the awarding of grants is directly linked to the planning process.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. 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 Secretary of the Interior should monitor the States to ensure compliance with the statutory requirements for disclosing the amount and sources of Federal funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  4. 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 Secretary of the Interior should withhold States' eligibility to participate in the fund program during periods when plans do not meet applicable requirements, as determined under criteria established by the Secretary.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  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 Secretary of the Interior should develop uniform criteria for monitoring the flow of all Federal funds to State and local governments, including a cross-referencing index system to identify the various Federal sources and amounts going to each project.

    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 Secretary of the Interior should encourage State and local governments to budget the entire life-cycle costs of proposed projects showing the Federal contribution and the State or local government total obligation for the estimated useful life of the project.

    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 Secretary of the Interior should also encourage States to collect user fees whenever practicable to lessen the burden of operation and maintenance costs on local tax revenues and Federal programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  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 Secretary of the Interior should require States to prepare comprehensive outdoor recreation plans that identify and rank the recreational needs of the State and establish project funding priorities.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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