Natural Resources and Environment:

Mineral Data in the Forest Service's Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) Is Misleading and Should Be Corrected

EMD-82-29: Published: Feb 4, 1982. Publicly Released: Feb 4, 1982.

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In reviewing the executive branch input into establishing a national wilderness preservation system, GAO studied the Forest Service's Roadless Area Review and Evaluation (RARE II) report.

GAO found that, in the Forest Service's apparent rush to compute numerical mineral ratings, fundamental coding errors slipped into the RARE II report, misleading the reader into thinking that many study areas had no mineral potential when the potential was not actually known. Congress closely followed RARE II recommendations in its wilderness designation for four States, but may have been misled on the quality and quantity of data on which the Forest Service based its mineral ratings. Since wilderness legislation is currently pending and other State wilderness acts are expected to be introduced in the near future, GAO believes that it is important that Congress be aware of the inadequacy of mineral ratings in the RARE II report. Other questions that GAO believes need to be addressed to assure the most orderly establishment and administration of the wilderness preservation system include: (1) the merits of recurring mineral assessments in established wilderness areas without a stated policy and procedure for the possible reversal of wilderness decisions or other likely uses of the assessments; (2) possible solutions to the apparent failure to realize the congressional intent of continued industry exploration in potential wilderness areas until 1984; and (3) how best, and in what format, to provide Congress with the type of mineral information it needs to make wilderness determinations.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO had recommended that Congress defer its wilderness considerations until such time as it was provided with corrected mineral data by the Forest Service. Now that the Forest Service has provided that corrected data, Congress can take whatever actions it chooses without being inconsistent with the GAO recommendations.

    Matter: The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources should hold off any decisionmaking until the Department of Agriculture provides it with corrected data showing the true extent of its mineral knowledge of possible wilderness areas under its jurisdiction.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GAO had recommended that Congress defer its wilderness considerations until such time as it was provided with corrected mineral data by the Forest Service. Now that the Forest Service has provided that corrected data, Congress can take whatever actions it chooses without being inconsistent with the GAO recommendations.

    Matter: The House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs should hold off any decisionmaking until the Department of Agriculture provides it with corrected data showing the true extent of its mineral knowledge of possible wilderness areas under its jurisdiction.

Recommendation 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 Agriculture should direct the Forest Service to review mineral data set forth in the January 1979 RARE II report, determine the extent to which mineral data are erroneously coded, and provide a corrected report to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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