Endangered Species:

Management Improvements Could Enhance Recovery Program

RCED-89-5: Published: Dec 21, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 19, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined possible implementation deficiencies under the Endangered Species Program to determine: (1) the extent of recovery of domestic threatened and endangered species; (2) federal agencies' progress in developing recovery plans; and (3) whether the agencies implemented their recovery plans.

GAO found that it was unable to measure program success because: (1) few domestic species were officially declared either extinct or recovered; (2) the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) lacked centralized information on species' movement toward or away from recovery; (3) increased work loads and funding shortfalls hampered FWS and NMFS recovery efforts; (4) FWS did not adhere to its priority system for preparing and updating recovery plans, allocating funds, or tracking recovery activities; and (5) FWS concentrated its recovery funds on highly visible species and those species that were approaching recovery, rather than prioritizing the most endangered species and those actions needed to prevent future extinctions. GAO also found that: (1) the agencies had not initiated many planned recovery tasks; and (2) as of September 30, 1987, the agencies had approved plans for 56 percent of the domestic species and had plans underway for an additional 18 percent.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NMFS has developed a database which will track the status of all domestic species and the recovery activities surrounding those species. The Endangered Species Information Tracking System is now online.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to develop and maintain centralized information on the status of all listed domestic species.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior determined that the development and maintenance of a centralized system was not cost-beneficial. A decentralized system has been implemented at the seven regional offices. Information is "centralized" as part of the region's annual report to the Secretary and biannual report to Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to develop and maintain centralized information on the status of all listed domestic species.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NMFS has developed a tracking system of all recovery activities, including implementation costs, as well as the status of all domestic species. The Endangered Species Information Tracking System is currently online.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to develop and maintain a tracking system of all initiated recovery activities. Initiated tasks should be identified by recovery plan task numbers and, when possible, indicate implementation costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior issued revised Recovery Planning Guidelines which include instructions for recovery plans and expenditure report requirements. An expenditure report has been issued.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to develop and maintain a tracking system of all initiated recovery activities. Initiated tasks should be identified by recovery plan task numbers and, when possible, indicate implementation costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NMFS has published proposed recovery plan guidelines to incorporate the recommendation, but the guidelines call for periodic review, not annual review.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to ensure that: (1) recovery plans are annually reviewed, are updated as necessary, and do not contain inappropriately classified high-priority task designations; and (2) the priority systems are used in allocating recovery funds or amended. The Director, NMFS, should also clarify how the agency's priority system, once finalized, can recognize species approaching recovery while giving priority to the most endangered species.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior has revised its Recovery Planning Guidelines to better assign task priorities requiring annual review of recovery plans, and ensure that priorities are appropriate and effectively utilized.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior should direct the Directors, NMFS and FWS, respectively, to ensure that: (1) recovery plans are annually reviewed, are updated as necessary, and do not contain inappropriately classified high-priority task designations; and (2) the priority systems are used in allocating recovery funds or amended. The Director, NMFS, should also clarify how the agency's priority system, once finalized, can recognize species approaching recovery while giving priority to the most endangered species.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Director, FWS, issued a memorandum to all regional and headquarters program staff directing them to take those steps necessary to ensure that any funding reallocations within the Endangered Species Program comply with budgetary reprogramming procedures.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director, FWS, to take those steps necessary to ensure that any funding reallocations within the Endangered Species Program comply with budgetary reprogramming procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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