Natural Resources:

Status of Merchantable Material Contracting Pilot Program Authorized by the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000

GAO-03-596R: Published: May 9, 2003. Publicly Released: May 9, 2003.

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Barry T. Hill
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The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, enacted October 30, 2000, mandated that we assess a merchantable material contracting pilot program authorized by the act and report on our assessment by September 30, 2003. The pilot program encompasses certain forest-related projects undertaken as a result of the act and mandates the use of separate contracts for the harvesting or collection of merchantable material, such as timber, and the sale of that material rather than a single contract for both activities.

In summary, based on our preliminary work, of the approximately 1,300 forest-related projects approved at the time of our review, only 13 are expected to generate merchantable material and, thus, be eligible for the pilot program. Only 6 of these 13 are expected to be conducted within the pilot program--and none of the 6 has yet been implemented. Given the preliminary nature of the pilot program and the small number of projects, a full-scale assessment by September 30, 2003, would provide very limited information. We briefed Congress on these findings and reached agreement that no further assessment of the pilot program will be conducted at this time. Also as agreed, we are providing this letter summarizing program activity to date.

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