Wilderness Management:

Accountability for Forest Service Funds Needs Improvement

RCED-92-33: Published: Nov 4, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1991.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

James Duffus, III
(202) 512-7756
contact@gao.gov

 

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

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed how the Forest Service distributes and spends congressionally designated funds for wilderness area management on national forest lands.

GAO found that: (1) Congress increased Service funding by almost 80 percent from fiscal year (FY) 1988 though FY 1991 to help ensure that national wilderness areas were protected and maintained their natural conditions; (2) of the $44.7 million Congress designated for wilderness management in FY 1988 through FY 1990, the Service reprogrammed $16.4 million to other activities; (3) because of this reprogramming, expenditures for wilderness management that had increased from $8.5 million in FY 1988 to $10.2 million in FY 1989 decreased to $9.6 million in FY 1990; (4) of the $28.3 million the Service spent on wilderness management, it used $10.5 million for wilderness management expenses at the executive levels, and spent the remaining $17.8 million on wilderness management at the district levels; (5) the Service failed to comply with congressional procedures or seek prior congressional approval before reprogramming funds; (6) contrary to congressional reprogramming procedures, the Service's internal guidance handbook did not require that the agency seek congressional approval prior to reprogrammings; (7) the Service has taken steps to ensure that it spends designated funds as Congress intends, follows congressional reprogramming procedures, and improves accountability of wilderness management funds, and it plans to revise its handbook accordingly.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service changed its reprogramming guidelines to prevent regional foresters from reprogramming funds without prior approval from appropriations committees effective for fiscal year 1992.

    Recommendation: To enable better management and oversight of funds designated by Congress for wilderness management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to revise the Program Development and Budgeting Handbook to conform to House Appropriations Committee reprogramming procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service established separate accounts for recreation management, cultural resources, and wilderness (the three categories of expenditures within the recreation uses budget line item) to better present the needs, tradeoffs, and benefits of any reprogrammings.

    Recommendation: To enable better management and oversight of funds designated by Congress for wilderness management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to revise the manner in which expenditures in the recreation uses budget activity are accounted for to show how funds, when programmed within or from this budget activity, benefit wilderness, recreation, or cultural resource management.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service included eight measurable targets for wilderness management in all regional foresters' performance evaluations and required all line officers' performance elements to address the issue of accountability for wilderness management.

    Recommendation: To enable better management and oversight of funds designated by Congress for wilderness management, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to establish specific output targets for wilderness management and measure manager performance against those targets.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Aug 15, 2016

Jul 26, 2016

Jul 21, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Jun 14, 2016

Jun 13, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here