Parks and Recreation:

Access Permits to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge Improperly Granted

RCED-87-69: Published: Dec 29, 1986. Publicly Released: Jan 7, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) access permit program at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, specifically whether individuals with vehicular access permits met the prescribed residential or commercial criteria. GAO examined: (1) laws and regulations to determine how access permits were issued; and (2) the refuge office files to determine whether they contained the documentation required to establish permit holders' eligibility.

GAO found that FWS: (1) issued 22 of the 54 access permits in effect as of August 1986 without adequate documentation as to the permit holders' eligibility; (2) issued 7 permits as medical waivers, although FWS regulations did not specifically provide for such permits for year-round access; (3) improperly renewed 10 other permits; and (4) took no action to correct some of the problems because of the controversy involved in trying to deny or revoke access permits.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: During October and November 1987, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge notified all permitees that FWS revised its access regulations on September 23, 1987. This notice also required permitees to apply within a prescribed period of time for renewal of their access permits and, if applicable, furnish appropriate documentation, as required under the revised regulations, to establish eligibility.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should instruct the Director, FWS, to notify the 22 residential and commercial permit holders who GAO found had not provided sufficient evidence of eligibility, and the 10 who did not submit renewal statements for 1986, that they must furnish the required documentation within a prescribed period of time, and that holders should also be required to provide documentation for their employees, or have their access privileges revoked.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FWS revised regulations expand coverage for medical and commercial permits. These regulations include criteria for securing permits and specify the type of documentation necessary to establish eligibility. All permitees, including medical and commercial permitees' employees are required to reapply and provide appropriate documentation, within a prescribed period of time, to renew their permit.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should instruct the Director, FWS, to ensure that the interim regulations issued in February 1987, allowing access for medical and other reasons, include clear criteria for these types of permits, and that guidelines are issued to specify the type of documentation necessary to establish eligibility. Once the regulations are issued, FWS should notify the eight current holders of such permits that they will have to reapply within a prescribed period of time and document their eligibility under the interim regulations or have their access permits revoked.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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