Use of Forest Development Funds Should Be Based on Current Priorities
RCED-91-53, Mar 7, 1991
Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) forestry program, focusing on BIA: (1) achievement of its timber harvest goals on commercial Indian timberland; (2) accomplishment of needed forest development; (3) controls over funds disbursement; (4) forestry program staffing since 1977; and (5) efforts to attract Indian foresters.
GAO found that: (1) tribes actively participated in developing multi-year forest management plans, and in planning and approving individual timber sales; (2) BIA experienced problems in keeping forest management plans current due to funding and staffing shortfalls and inability to obtain timely tribal involvement in developing plan components; (3) such factors as market conditions and compliance with relevant federal laws affected the achievement of timber harvest goals; (4) the 1977 backlog of forest development needs was incomplete and imprecise, and failed to include over 300,000 additional acres of needed timber stand improvement; (5) while BIA data indicated that needed forest development had been completed for about one-half of the backlog acreage, data on individual reservation accomplishments were uncertain; (6) dedicated funding failed to address changing development needs because it was still targeted at reducing the 1977 backlog; (7) BIA improved its controls over forest management deduction funds; (8) BIA forestry staff increased significantly since 1978; and (9) BIA had several headquarters and field-level programs to encourage Indians to study and train for the forestry profession.
- Closed - implemented
- Closed - not implemented
Matter for Congressional Consideration
Matter: Congress should discontinue funding to eliminate the 1977 forest development backlog. Instead, Congress should base funding on BIA annual determinations of the most important and highest priority forest development needs.
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: Congress has directed BIA to make forest development funding available for all forest development work. BIA states that it intends to request future funding based on annual assessment of current priority needs. The fiscal year 1993 budget will be the first year this will be possible.
Recommendation for Executive Action
Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to: (1) determine the most important and most cost-effective forest development needs consistent with current reservations' forest management plans and annual harvesting activity; and (2) annually rank those needs to support BIA budget requests for forest development funding.
Agency Affected: Department of the Interior
Status: Closed - Implemented
Comments: BIA has developed a new inventory of needed forest development work that is to be updated annually. The new inventory will be the basis for BIA budget requests for forest development funding beginning with its fiscal year 1993 budget.