New Rules for Protecting Land in the National Park System--Consistent Compliance Needed

RCED-86-16: Published: Oct 31, 1985. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 1985.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Michael Gryszkowiec
(202) 275-7756
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

GAO reviewed the National Park Service's (NPS) compliance with a new Department of the Interior policy that requires the development of land protection plans to determine the need for acquired land so that the limited funds available are spent in the most cost-effective manner.

GAO noted that, in recent years, NPS has been acquiring fewer acres of land at increasing prices while appropriations for land acquisition have declined. GAO found that: (1) 25 of the 38 land protection plans it reviewed did not implement the policy or fully comply with NPS rules; (2) although the plans usually identified the minimum federal interests needed to protect the lands, they did not adequately justify the recommendation for a greater interest; (3) most plans did not provide for the disposition of potential excess land as required; and (4) other plans either recommended acquisition of lands already compatible with park usage or provided no justification for the recommended actions. GAO also found that: (1) NPS did not consistently follow rules when preparing the plans or reviewing the draft plans at headquarters; (2) headquarters did not perform required follow-up to determine if changes identified in the reviews had been made in the approved plans; (3) the plans reviewed did not consistently identify instances of noncompliance; (4) if NPS implements the plans' recommendations that do not comply with its rules, it could acquire more interest in land than it needs for resource protection, incur unnecessary acquisition costs, and deplete the limited funds available for land protection; and (5) NPS needs to correct plans that have already been approved and ensure that noncompliance is better detected and corrected to further minimize costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NPS regions reviewed those plans found to be noncompliant and corrected the deficiencies noted in the GAO review. Other approved plans are being reviewed and completed as these plans are updated every 2 years.

    Recommendation: To ensure that all plans fully comply with NPS land protection rules, and that only the minimum interest in land is acquired and retained, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, NPS, to: (1) not expend funds for acquisition of acreage that was found to be in noncompliance with NPS rules until plan recommendations comply or proper justification is provided; and (2) review all other concurred-in or approved plans to ensure compliance with NPS rules.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NPS stated that it will give further attention to purchase and sell or lease-back arrangements as plans are updated. However, it cautioned that it will not compromise the long-range goals for resource protection of the parks, which are established by the authorizing legislation.

    Recommendation: To ensure that all plans fully comply with NPS land protection rules, and that only the minimum interest in land is acquired and retained, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, NPS, to include provisions in the plans to sell off, where authorized, interests in land not necessary for resource protection and identify and sell, where authorized, unneeded interests in lands already acquired.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Headquarters' review process, effective August 1985, requires the proper handling of policy comments before plans are approved by regional directors.

    Recommendation: To ensure that all plans fully comply with NPS land protection rules and that only the minimum interest in land is acquired and retained, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, NPS, to establish a method that requires headquarters' plan reviews, including follow-up, to be properly and consistently conducted.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 28, 2016

Sep 26, 2016

Aug 15, 2016

Jul 26, 2016

Jul 21, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here