Federal Lands:

Land Acquisitions Involving Nonprofit Conservation Organizations

RCED-94-149: Published: Jun 15, 1994. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal land acquisitions from nonprofit conservation organizations, focusing on the: (1) extent that federal land management agencies purchase land from or with the assistance of nonprofit organizations; (2) adequacy of controls for protecting the government's interest in such acquisitions; and (3) extent that nonprofit organizations realize financial gains in such transactions.

GAO found that: (1) from fiscal year (FY) 1988 through FY 1992, 18 nonprofit organizations were involved in 246 Forest Service acquisitions for $138.8 million and 3 Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) acquisitions for $10.7 million; (2) the Forest Service relied heavily on nonprofit organizations for its land acquisitions; (3) acquisitions from nonprofits tended to involve significantly larger properties; (4) the Forest Service and BPA had adequate controls to safeguard the government's interest in the acquisitions; (5) the agencies generally offered fair market prices for the properties, and the prices were established by qualified appraisers and adequately reviewed; (6) all the acquired properties were designated by Congress or the agencies as priority acquisitions to help achieve the agencies' missions and goals; (7) although 4 of the nonprofit organizations reviewed made substantial financial gains on some properties, they had net losses on their total transactions when their acquisition, direct, and indirect costs were factored in; (8) the 4 nonprofit organizations accounted for about 49 percent of the acres acquired and about 37 percent of the dollar value of the agencies' acquisitions; and (9) agency officials believed that nonprofit gains or losses were irrelevant to their acquisitions, since they based their purchase offers on the properties' fair market value.

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