Administration of the Federal Ban on Exports of Unprocessed Federal Timber

T-RCED-90-8: Published: Nov 7, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 7, 1989.

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GAO reviewed the Forest Service's and Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) implementation of the federal ban on unprocessed federal timber exports. GAO found that: (1) although the Service's regulations made it difficult for firms to buy more Service timber to replace increased exports of private timber, BLM regulations allowed firms to increase their purchases and exports, over time, without limit; (2) neither agency regulated federal timber acquired through intermediaries to replace exported private timber; (3) the agencies' control mechanisms to monitor private timber export levels relied almost solely on reports from purchasers; (4) the agencies generally did not test or audit the accuracy of purchaser reports and depended on firms to inform them of suspected violations; and (5) enforcement was difficult because the historical export levels were established by geographical area, which was often vaguely defined, and because the penalties for violations were limited.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On August 20, 1990, Congress enacted Public Law 101-382 which, with a few minor exceptions, prohibited both direct and indirect substitution of unprocessed timber from federal lands for exported unprocessed timber from private lands.

    Matter: Congress should take action to make changes in the current legislation to clarify its intent with regard to use of historic levels which serve as the basis for the replacement of federal timber for exported private timber.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Public Law 101-382 contains provisions for civil penalties and debarment of timber contractors for violation of the act.

    Matter: Congress should take action to make changes in the current legislation to establish appropriate penalties for those companies that violate the law.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Passage of Public Law 101-382 on August 20, 1990, required that regulations be finalized no later than 9 months following enactment. However, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) declined to allow collection of data from companies that could be selectively tested.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Forest Service and BLM, respectively, to institute improved internal controls which would include at least selected testing of information provided by the companies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OMB declined to permit the agency to collect data from companies that can be selectively tested.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Forest Service and BLM, respectively, to institute improved internal controls which would include at least selected testing of information provided by the companies.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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