Auditing and Financial Management:

Estimated Costs to Recover Protected Species

RCED-96-34R: Published: Dec 21, 1995. Publicly Released: Dec 21, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on species protected under the Endangered Species Act, focusing on the: (1) costs and time needed to recover selected species; and (2) Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) species recovery plans. GAO noted that: (1) the 58 species recovery plans reviewed contained cost estimates that were not based on rigorous scientific analyses; (2) total costs estimates ranged from $145,000 to $153.8 million and initial-years costs estimates ranged from $57,000 to $49.1 million; (3) cost estimates for high-priority recovery actions varied widely; (4) while FWS and NMFS expect to achieve their species recovery goals after the year 2000, one recovery plan is expected to take more than 100 years; (5) other federal agencies, state and local governments, and certain private parties are expected to participate in many FWS and NMFS recovery actions; (6) FWS and NMFS officials believe that recovery cost estimates alert various governmental and private entities to the possible range of costs and tasks needed for species recovery; (7) recovery cost estimates include actions that may not be taken because of a lack of funding or are no longer needed; and (8) FWS and NMFS believe that high-priority species will require more expenditures and the estimated recovery costs contained in the 58 plans reviewed are not representative of the cost estimates contained in all approved recovery plans.

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