Land Management Agencies:

Major Activities at Selected Units Are Not Common Across Agencies

RCED-97-141: Published: Jun 26, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 1997.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the land management activities carried out by six agencies, focusing on: (1) those activities that are common across agencies; (2) the changes that have occurred related to the missions and activities carried out by these agencies; and (3) cost and revenue data for selected units at these agencies.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO identified 31 different activities performed by the agency units it examined in support of their various missions; (2) these activities include cultural resource management, habitat conservation, natural resource management, rangeland management, and other activities; (3) little commonality exists among the major activities performed, those on which these units spent most of their resources; (4) visitor services, maintenance, and construction were the major activities that showed the most commonality in that they were performed at units of three or more of the six agencies; (5) providing visitor services is a primary mission in some agencies and a secondary mission in others, whereas maintenance and construction are integral activities for most units; (6) the units spent most of their resources (except for construction and maintenance expenditures) on activities related to their specific missions; (7) overall, the legislatively established missions of these agencies have not changed; (8) however, there has been a shift in the activities that are emphasized and in the way that activities are managed; (9) for example, from 1990 through 1995, recreational use of federal lands increased by almost 245 million visits for the six agencies and about 4.5 million visits for the 14 units GAO visited; (10) in contrast, consumptive uses, such as mining, grazing, and timber production, have decreased at some units for a variety of reasons; (11) for example, since the market for uranium has substantially declined, uranium mining at Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management units has also decreased; (12) the total fiscal year 1995 costs to carry out the agencies' activities and the revenues generated at the 14 units GAO reviewed varied widely; (13) total costs ranged from $225,000 for a Bureau of Reclamation unit to almost $18 million at a Forest Service unit; (14) similarly, revenues ranged from zero at a Reclamation unit to nearly $800,000 at a Forest Service unit; and (15) however, the costs do not provide a basis for comparison because the agencies' budget and accounting systems are designed differently and units' uses and sizes vary greatly.

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