Forest Service:

Management of Reforestation Program Has Improved, but Problems Continue

RCED-94-257: Published: Sep 15, 1994. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Forest Service's management of the Knutson-Vandenberg (K-V) fund, focusing on: (1) the Forest Service's collection and accounting controls; (2) how the Forest Service plans, implements, and manages K-V projects; and (3) the changes the Forest Service believes are necessary to improve K-V fund management.

GAO found that: (1) K-V fund revenues, which are obtained through timber sales, provide the Forest Service with a constant source of funding for the reforestation of harvested lands, improvement of timber standards, and improvement of renewable resources in timber sale areas; (2) the Forest Service's oversight and management of the K-V program is decentralized; (3) K-V planning and reforestation efforts are lengthy and complex and are closely tied to the timber sales process; (4) over the last 5 years, the Forest Service has spent about $1.1 billion on K-V projects and has reforested over 1.6 million acres using K-V funds; (5) the Forest Service has issued a comprehensive handbook to address various program management problems identified in previous reviews; (6) although the handbook has appeared to significantly reduce the number of inappropriate projects being funded by the K-V program, some management problems, including the lack of adequate documentation and insufficient staff training, remain; and (7) the Forest Service needs to ensure that its K-V program files are thoroughly documented and its staff are given the necessary training to properly plan, implement, and monitor the K-V program.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service revised its K-V handbook (FSH 2409.9) in July 1995 to strengthen its existing requirements under Section 04 to include the verification and documentation recommended by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture, to further improve management of the K-V program, should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to require district rangers to verify, before approving and signing the original sale area improvement plans and their revisions, that K-V projects listed in the sale area improvement plans are clearly related to needs for mitigation and to enhancement measures mentioned in the environmental analyses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service revised its K-V handbook (FSH 2409.9) in July 1995 to strengthen its existing requirements under Section 04 to include the verification and documentation recommended by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture, to further improve management of the K-V program, should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to require district rangers to verify, before approving and signing the original sale area improvement plans and their revisions, that the sale area improvement plans contain the required narrative support for planned K-V projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service revised its K-V handbook (FSH 2409.9) in July 1995 to strengthen its existing requirements under Section 04 to include the verification and documentation recommended by GAO.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture, to further improve management of the K-V program, should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to require district rangers to verify, before approving and signing the original sale area improvement plans and their revisions, that documentation (e.g., initials and dates) shows that the sale area improvement plans have been annually reviewed and revised as appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service has provided the training to the staffs involved in the K-V program in its regions 4 and 5 as recommended by GAO. Each of these regions have an action plan that states that this training will be continued in the future.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Forest Service to provide appropriate training to forest and district office staff involved in the K-V program in the Intermountain Region (Region 4) and the Pacific Southwest Region (Region 5).

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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