Natural Resources and Environment:

Shortfalls in BLM's Management of Wildlife Habitat in the California Desert Conservation Area

T-RCED-90-1: Published: Oct 2, 1989. Publicly Released: Oct 2, 1989.

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GAO discussed the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) management of wildlife habitat in the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA), focusing on its efforts to protect and enhance wildlife under current legislative authority. GAO found that: (1) in 1980, BLM developed a comprehensive land use plan that required it to develop specific plans for and monitor 57 wildlife habitat management areas and 28 wildlife-related areas of critical environmental concern; (2) as of March 1989, 38 of the required habitat management area plans remained undeveloped; (3) of the 349 tasks in the 22 completed plans, BLM completed only 33 percent, partially completed 21 percent, had not started work on 46 percent, and consistently assigned low priority to or indefinitely delayed essential monitoring; (4) BLM did not maintain current wildlife inventory and population trend data for the more than 635 vertebrate species and countless other species living in CDCA; (5) BLM shortfalls resulted from lack of funding and staff, because actual spending totalled only $53 million between 1982 and 1988, which was only 40 percent of the planned $130 million; (6) each of the eight wildlife biologists assigned to CDCA was responsible for an average of 1.5 million acres; (7) BLM generally allowed economic and recreational interests to take precedence over wildlife interests in resolving land use conflicts; and (8) BLM could not make lasting improvements in its wildlife protection and enhancement efforts until it requested and received funding and staffing levels sufficient to carry out the comprehensive CDCA plan.

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