Federal Facilities:

Further Review of Hawthorne Army Depot Land Management Proposals Needed

NSIAD/RCED-00-251: Published: Sep 21, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 2000.

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Barry W. Holman
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Department of Defense's use of withdrawn land near Hawthorne, Nevada, focusing on: (1) the status of the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) proposal to reduce the amount of withdrawn land near Hawthorne; and (2) possible approaches for addressing the use of this land.

GAO noted that: (1) the BLM's Carson City field office and the Hawthorne Army Depot have not reached agreement on the BLM's proposal to terminate Army control and exclusive use of a large portion of the lands at Hawthorne, including the Mount Grant watershed; (2) the BLM's field office has requested about $175,000 to prepare a detailed plan for managing the watershed for multiple uses such as recreation, mining, and livestock grazing; (3) BLM officials in Nevada have agreed to develop the plan because local community and depot officials questioned terminating the withdrawal without having a specific management plan in place; (4) the BLM's headquarters office has funded a general plan for a large area of Nevada for fiscal year 2001, but the general plan will not contain detail on the management of Mount Grant; (5) the BLM's State Director in Nevada told GAO they could develop a detailed plan in 2001 if fully funded; (6) BLM officials in Nevada also say they will not proceed with terminating the withdrawn lands until they develop the plan and attempt to obtain the depot's concurrence; (7) differing approaches have been proposed for managing lands involving the Mount Grant watershed; (8) one approach would be for the Army to continue to limit public access to the watershed; (9) a second approach would have the BLM manage the land and open portions of the watershed to multiple uses, with some restrictions to protect the depot's water supply; (10) specifically, this approach would allow public access, livestock grazing, and mineral mining on the mountain and would consider placing additional natural resource protections on some of the land; (11) other approaches could involve joint cooperative agreements; (12) the Departments of Defense, Interior, and Agriculture have developed a draft guide that discusses joint land management between the military services and land management agencies; and (13) where the military has used joint agreements with the BLM at other locations, GAO's work has shown both advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Prior differences between Secretaries of the Army and Interior regarding land management issues have been resolved. The Department of the Interior indicates that, given the current national security situation, it is inappropriate for the Bureau of Land Management to proceed with its withdrawal review and associated resource management planning for the military's withdrawal from Mount Grant. The military and the nation have a continuing need to retain these lands under military control until the threat of terrorism has been eliminated.

    Recommendation: Given the differing views that exist over the land management approaches, the Secretaries of the Army and of the Interior should direct the Hawthorne Army Depot and the Nevada field offices (the Carson City field office and the Reno state office) of the BLM to set specific goals and milestones to resolve the differences in the proposed approaches and complete the withdrawal review process. The goals should include review of the advantages and disadvantages of a joint cooperative agreement approach to determine whether such an approach would be useful in this situation. In their review, they should consider guidebooks such as the draft Interagency Handbook for the Joint Stewardship of Withdrawn or Permitted Federal Lands Used by the Military to determine the most effective land use management plan for Mount Grant.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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