Land Management:

The Forest Service's and BLM's Organizational Structures and Responsibilities

RCED-99-227: Published: Jul 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 13, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on: (1) the operational and demographic profiles of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM); and (2) GAO's observations on the major similarities and differences emerging from this information.

GAO noted that: (1) the Forest Service and BLM manage their federal lands for multiple uses through a multilevel--headquarters and field office--organizational structure; (2) the agencies are responsible for managing the same types of natural resources--such as timber, minerals, grazing, recreation, and wildlife--on about 70 percent of all public lands; (3) these lands represent about 21 percent of the nation's total service area, primarily in the West; (4) the agencies' lands are mostly contiguous, and some of their 1,064 offices are in the same location or in close proximity; (5) with over 44,000 multidisciplined permanent and temporary employees, the agencies' workforces are primarily white collar; a large portion of the employees are in scientific disciplines such as the biological sciences, the physical sciences, engineering and architecture; (6) the total obligations for these agencies amounted to $4.2 billion in fiscal year (FY) 1998, and their largest appropriations fund similar budget categories dealing with the management of rangelands and forestlands, wildlife and fisheries, and recreation; (7) during FY 1998, the Forest Service generated about $576 million in receipts from the sale or use of natural resources, and BLM generated about $140 million; (8) the organizational and demographic profiles of the Forest Service and BLM are similar in many respects, including the agencies' missions and goals, the amount of land managed in the lower 48 states, the purposes for which the lands are managed, the types of employees hired, the location and type of offices maintained, the budget categories incurring the largest obligations, the activities performed under these budget categories, and the types of receipts generated; (9) yet while these similarities exist, the agencies differ in terms of their magnitude and emphasis; (10) the Forest Service is a much larger organization in most of the attributes GAO examined, and each agency emphasizes different resource uses; (11) in addition, each of the agencies has several unique functions; and (12) the Forest Service has a large forest and rangeland research program and BLM has certain governmentwide programs that do such things as administering mining laws and making payments in lieu of taxes for the entire government.

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