Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Conservation practices"

    4 publications with a total of 13 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to direct EQIP program managers to coordinate with the leaders of USDA's CEAP to help ensure that CEAP studies consider the practical limitations and trade-offs faced by program managers and to provide program managers with better information to target EQIP funds where they will optimize environmental benefits.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to revise guidance on state offices' EQIP allocation processes, stipulating that data on environmental concerns, where available, should be a primary factor influencing allocations within states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to establish a review process at the regional level for review and concurrence of EQIP payment rates above a threshold (e.g., rates greater than 50 percent, with justification).

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Recommendation: To help achieve EQIP's purpose of optimizing environmental benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service to modify guidance and ranking tools so that they more accurately value an EQIP application's anticipated environmental benefits relative to estimated costs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: Agency has not taken action.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve FWS's ability to evaluate the effectiveness of its compensatory mitigation strategies and ensure that the agency appropriately plans the obligations necessary for this purpose, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should establish a timetable with milestones for modifying the RIBITS database to incorporate FWS's in-lieu fee program information.

    Agency: Department of the Interior: United States Fish and Wildlife Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with this recommendation. As of March 2017, we are awaiting further information.
    Director: Steve D. Morris
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of federal efforts to monitor wild, native bee populations, the Secretary of Agriculture, as a co-chair of the White House Pollinator Health Task Force, should coordinate with other Task Force agencies that have monitoring responsibilities to develop a mechanism, such as a federal monitoring plan, that would (1) establish roles and responsibilities of lead and support agencies, (2) establish shared outcomes and goals, and (3) obtain input from relevant stakeholders, such as states.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, USDA had taken relevant and positive actions but had not yet fully implemented the recommendation related to monitoring wild, native bees. In June 2017, USDA held a stakeholder listening session to gather input to prepare for the development of a monitoring plan. Prior to that, in February 2017, USDA chaired a meeting with representatives from USDA and Interior to discuss how to proceed in replying to the native bee monitoring recommendation. According to a senior USDA official, the meeting participants agreed to form a team to address the recommendation. The participants also planned future relevant activities. These included plans to (1) hold a stakeholder listening session in June 2017 to determine what will be needed to conduct a robust native bee survey, including the identification of any non-Federal entities that might be able to contribute to a native bee monitoring initiative; (2) develop a prospectus in August 2017 that will be shared with all the agencies represented on the Pollinator Health Task Force to ensure minimal duplication of effort and to capitalize on any other activities; (3) hold a December 2017 workshop of stakeholders and scientists to write a white paper on how to combine Federal resources to address the need for a native bee survey; (4) develop the white paper in February 2018 with information on the status of monitoring efforts, current and future needs for effective and comprehensive monitoring, and the status of monitoring partnerships between Federal agencies, State agencies, and nongovernmental organizations; (5) continue bi-weekly conference calls with task teams to address what can be done with current resources; and (6)complete a gaps analysis in May 2018 to determine how to allocate additional resources.
    Recommendation: To increase the accessibility and availability of information about USDA-funded research and outreach on bees, the Secretary of Agriculture should update the categories of bees in the Current Research Information System to reflect the categories of bees identified in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's research action plan.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, the agency informed GAO that it planned to complete the recommendation by October 2017.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the effectiveness of USDA's bee habitat conservation efforts, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of FSA and NRCS to, within available resources, increase evaluation of the effectiveness of their efforts to restore and enhance bee habitat plantings across the nation, including identifying gaps in expertise and technical assistance funding available to field offices.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, the agency had not acted on our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that EPA is reducing the risk of unreasonable harm to important pollinators, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to develop a plan for obtaining data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on nonhoney bee species, including other managed or wild, native bees.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the agency had taken actions relevant to the recommendation but had not fully developed a plan to obtain data from pesticide registrants on the effects of pesticides on non-honey bee species. According to EPA, until suitable test methods have been developed, the agency has continued to rely on honey bees as a surrogate for the broader range of bee species that include both solitary and social non-honey bees. The agency continues to track the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD's) efforts to develop suitable test methods to evaluate the effects of pesticides on non-honey bees. EPA provided comments to the OECD on the acute oral and acute contact toxicity test guidelines developed for bumble bees, which are social non-honey bee managed bees; these test methods were recently finalized by OECD as formal test guidelines. Also, EPA staff serve as members of the International Commission on Plant-Pollinator Relationship (ICP-PR), for which a non-honey bee workgroup has been developing acute and chronic toxicity test methods for other managed non-honey bees, including the solitary mason bee. EPA researchers in the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (within the Office of Research and Development) are developing methods for measuring effects of pesticides on bumble bee colonies through the use of micro-colonies, and will be participating in field studies over the next two years to determine the effectiveness of these methods in evaluating impacts to bumble bees from the use of pesticides used in horticulture. According to the agency, once sufficient data are available, EPA will be in a better position to determine the extent to which honey bees serve as reasonable surrogates for estimating the sensitivity of non-honey bees to pesticides. According to agency officials, EPA included the recent OECD acute contact and acute oral toxicity tests with bumble bees with the suite of laboratory and semi-field studies in a rulemaking effort that would codify these tests as formal data requirements for registrants. EPA had planned to solicit public comment on the proposed bumble bee testing requirements; however, the rulemaking effort has been delayed until the regulatory burden of the rule can be more thoroughly evaluated. According to agency officials, in January 2017, EPA hosted an international workshop on non-honey bees to evaluate the extent to which the primary routes of exposure for honey bees (i.e., contact and ingestion of residues in pollen/nectar) are protective and serve as suitable surrogates for evaluating exposure of non-honey bees to pesticides. Workshop participants discussed data needed to evaluate exposure for solitary and social non-honey bees. The proceedings of this workshop will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, and will inform EPA's understanding of whether additional routes of exposure need to be considered as part of EPA's risk assessment framework for pollinators. While these are positive developments, they do not constitute full implementation of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help comply with the directive in the White House Pollinator Health Task Force's strategy, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Pesticide Programs to identify the pesticide tank mixtures that farmers and pesticide applicators most commonly use on agricultural crops to help determine whether those mixtures pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA had taken actions relevant to this recommendation but had not fully implemented it. According to EPA, during February and March 2017, the Office of Pesticide Programs continued its efforts to monitor residues in honey bee colonies providing pollination services in almond orchards. In April 2017, EPA requested that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation provide Pesticide Use Reporting data, including specific formulation and quantities applied to specific sites on specific dates during almond bloom. EPA has also reached out to the Almond Board, as well as to beekeepers and almond growers, to request information on the most common tank mixes applied during almond bloom. Although EPA has previously requested Pesticide Use Reporting data from California and the state has provided preliminary data, the information was not sufficiently detailed to extract actual formulations applied on specific dates to specific areas within the almond growing region of California. The combination of information requested from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Almond Board is expected to provide data to evaluate and identify commonly used pesticide tank mixes applied during almond pollination as a case study. According to EPA officials, data from California indicate that the use of tank mixtures in almond orchards decreased by roughly 60 percent from 2014 through 2016, suggesting that best management practices recommended by the Almond Board may be having a positive effect on almond grower practices with respect to tank mixtures. While these are positive developments, they do not yet fully implement the recommendation. It is not yet clear that EPA has used information on the identity of the most common tank mixtures to determine whether they pose greater risks than the sum of the risks posed by the individual pesticides. In addition, it is not yet clear that EPA has identified tank mixtures commonly used on crops other than almonds.
    Recommendation: To measure their contribution to the White House Pollinator Health Task Force strategy's goal to restore and enhance 7 million acres of pollinator habitat, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrators of the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop an improved method, within available resources, to track conservation program acres that contribute to the goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, USDA had not acted on this recommendation.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should provide specific guidance to EPA's 10 regional offices on how they are to fulfill their oversight responsibilities, such as how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics that reflect the greatest likelihood of effective implementation and tangible water quality results.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2013, EPA issued new guidance "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories" for the nonpoint source program. The guidance includes a checklist that aligns with the intent of our recommendation to provide additional guidance to regional offices. In July 2016, we issued an update of EPA's progress on our recommendations. In it, we conclude that EPA's 2013 guidance does not provide specific instruction to the regional offices on how to review states' plans for project feasibility and criteria to ensure that funded projects have characteristics reflecting the greatest likelihood of tangible water quality results, as we recommended. In January 2017, EPA said that it looked broadly at ways to improve the program and remain committed to making technical and program changes as needed. We will continue to monitor EPA's efforts on this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help protect the quality of our nation's water resources, and to strengthen EPA's implementation of its responsibilities under the Clean Water Act's section 319 nonpoint source pollution control program, the Administrator of EPA should, in revising section 319 guidelines to states, and in addition to existing statutorily required reporting measures, emphasize measures that (1) more accurately reflect the overall health of targeted water bodies (e.g., the number, kind, and condition of living organisms) and (2) demonstrate states' focus on protecting high-quality water bodies, where appropriate.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In 2013, EPA issued final "Nonpoint Source Program and Grants Guidelines for States and Territories." The guidelines require EPA regions to review some watershed-based plans in each state annually, for example. The new guidelines also require that half of a state's 319 allocation be spent on implementing watershed plans, which according to EPA, emphasizes overall health of targeted waterbodies. In July 2016, we issued an update on our recommendations saying that the EPA officials said that they plan to change the program's measures of effectiveness, but have not had time or resources to do so. EPA officials said they plan to create a workgroup to focus on creating a measure for the protection of healthy water bodies in 2017. In January 2017, EPA said that it remained committed to pursue a measure for maintaining high-quality waters. Until EPA takes concrete action on this measure, we will keep this recommendation open.