Natural Resources:

Defense and Interior Can Better Manage Land Withdrawn for Military Use

NSIAD-94-87: Published: Apr 26, 1994. Publicly Released: May 26, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) and federal resource agencies' management of six legislatively withdrawn lands, focusing on: (1) the extent to which resource management activities and military operations have affected each other; and (2) whether opportunities exist to improve resource management programs at the six locations.

GAO found that: (1) the results of resource management at the six military training sites have been mixed; (2) although military operations have not been hampered by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource management activities, some training activities have been changed to accommodate wildlife concerns; (3) military officials expressed concern that future training requirements may not be met because of environmental constraints; (4) although military operations have hampered BLM resource management activities, the full impact of military operations on resource conditions is unknown due to the lack of data; (5) BLM resource management activities have been hampered most by land access restrictions and the overall presence of the military; (6) as of 1993, BLM has been able to implement only half of the five resource management plans; (7) BLM has assigned a low priority to resource management on military lands and has allocated considerably less funding for resource management activities at these sites; and (8) the military and BLM can improve resource management at all six sites by working more cooperatively, developing information systems on resource conditions, and strengthening monitoring of planned resource management actions.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since the GAO report was issued, DOD and Interior have been extensively involved in liaison actions regarding the development of the Mojave Ecosystem management initiative in support of the 1995 California Desert Protection Act. Defense planning guidance requires the military departments to complete baseline inventories of natural and cultural resources on a timeline that is consistent with the National Biological Survey. Recent testimony given by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environment refers to DOD actions to coordinate with Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service, such as DOD's land conservation efforts known as "islands of Nature," at Eglin AFB and Camp Pendleton, and the bird conservation program known as the Air Force Bird Strike Hazard (BASH) program at Elmendorf AFB.

    Recommendation: To develop a more cooperative relationship and strengthen DOD resource management, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy to improve liaison activities with Interior agencies to ensure that local BLM and Fish and Wildlife Service officials have reasonable access to withdrawn lands and military managers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) requires integrated natural resource management plans to be prepared and implemented to provide for the effective management of natural resources and the protection of threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and biodiversity. Installation commanders have ultimate responsibility for implementing these plans in coordination with local and field offices. The military departments must report annually to the Secretary of Defense (OSD) on their progress in implementing DPG requirements. To assist in monitoring those efforts, OSD has developed specific measures of merit to track the progress made. In addition, DOD is continuing to work toward establishment of baseline data for possible use in assessing the cumulative effects of military operations, as required under the environmental impact statement process of Public Law 99-606.

    Recommendation: To develop a more cooperative relationship and strengthen DOD resource management, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy to develop improved baseline data to assess the cumulative effects of current and proposed military operations on range natural resource conditions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DPG requires integrated natural resource management plans to be prepared and implemented to provide for the effective management of natural resources and the protection of threatened and endangered species, wetlands, and biodiversity. Installation commanders have ultimate responsibility for implementing these plans in coordination with local and field offices. The military departments must report annually to the OSD on their progress in implementing DPG requirements. To assist in monitoring those efforts, OSD has developed specific measures of merit to track the progress made. In addition, the DOD is continuing to work toward establishment of baseline data for possible use in assessing the cumulative effects of military operations, as required under the environmental impact statement process of Public Law 99-606.

    Recommendation: To strengthen Interior's management under the act, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, BLM, to improve internal controls over military range programs by: (1) establishing schedules and milestones for implementing actions called for in resource management plans; and (2) more closely monitoring implementation milestones and actions accomplished.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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