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    Results:

    Subject Term: Conservation

    7 publications with a total of 26 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should work with the Task Force to clarify roles and responsibilities of mission staff engaged in collaborative efforts on combating wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should work with the Task Force to clarify roles and responsibilities of mission staff engaged in collaborative efforts on combating wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development should work with the Task Force to clarify roles and responsibilities of mission staff engaged in collaborative efforts on combating wildlife trafficking in Southeast Asia. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: Brian Lepore
    Phone: (202) 512-4523

    9 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in the movement of Marine Corps units by, for example, reconsidering when units should move to Guam to minimize leaving facilities vacant.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that the Marine Corps' plans for movement of units from Okinawa to Guam has considered many factors, including, among others, the capabilities required to support Pacific Command and the logistical requirements associated with the movement of forces. In its response, DOD stated that the Marine Corps is already working to ensure that its plan is continually refined to balance fiscal and construction realities with operational risk, capability requirements, and readiness. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in training needs in Iwakuni, Hawaii, and CNMI by, for example, identifying other suitable training areas.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that it has already conducted an extensive analysis of training needs. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in reduction in runway length at the Futenma Replacement Facility by, for example, selecting other runways that would support mission requirements.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that it disagreed that the length of the runway planned at the Futenma Replacement Facility is a capability deficiency for the Marine Corps. DOD stated that, at the time of its agreement with Japan, it understood that the Futenma Replacement Facility would not possess a long runway and that the Marine Corps drove the final requirements to support the capabilities required for their missions at the Futenma Replacement Facility. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in challenges in Australia regarding seasonal changes and biosecurity requirements that affect equipment downtime by, for example, deciding on a location for the wet season and identifying a solution for biosecurity requirements.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that these factors are not capability deficiencies but rather real-world constraints around which DOD and Australia are working to develop the most bilaterally beneficial annual program possible. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD with reliable information on potential sources of delays for the design and construction of infrastructure in Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to update the Marine Corps' integrated master schedule for Guam so that it meets the comprehensive, well-constructed, and credible characteristics for a reliable schedule. For example, the update to the schedule should include resources for nonconstruction activities.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and stated it has begun updating its integrated master schedule based on our review to conform to the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide and plans to adopt the best practices of assigning resources and establishing activity durations to ensure the schedule is comprehensive. In its response, DOD also stated it plans to continue to work to verify that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically and conduct a schedule risk analysis. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with sufficient information to mitigate risks for infrastructure construction and sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to complete a Risk Management Plan for Guam, and include, at a minimum, plans to address: (1) construction labor shortages, (2) explosive--ordnance detection, (3) cultural-artifact discovery and preservation, and (4) protection of endangered species.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD concurred with this recommendation and identified plans to mitigate risks for infrastructure construction and sustainment, such as coordinating with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to address foreign-worker visas, approving an explosive-safety exemption for construction projects in Guam and CNMI, and developing a monitoring and mitigation tracking plan to ensure Navy compliance and execution of environmental requirements. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the cost estimates for Guam to address all best practices established by GAO's cost estimating guide. Specifically, the revisions to the cost estimates should include: a unifying Work Breakdown Structure, risk and sensitivity analyses, and an independent cost estimate.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD nonconcurred with this recommendation and stated that the department does not accept the assertion that GAO's best practices are universally applicable to a wide range of activities that includes military construction, acquisition, or basing. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the DOD cost estimates for Hawaii to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In its response, the department agreed that good cost estimating practices are prudent for good decision making but did not agree that it should expend effort to update its cost estimates for the Hawaii program due to reasons of timing. Specifically, DOD stated that, for Hawaii, high-level cost estimates are sufficient at this early planning stage and a detailed Work Breakdown Structure is not needed. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should revise the DOD cost estimates for Australia to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In its response, the department agreed that good cost estimating practices are prudent for good decision making but did not agree that it should expend effort to update its cost estimates for the Australia program due to reasons of international agreements. Specifically, DOD stated in its response that, for Australia, the costs borne by DOD under this program will be subject to international agreement rather than the GAO cost estimating guide. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help NMFS and the Councils incorporate climate information into the fisheries management process and better manage climate-related risks, the Secretary of Commerce should direct National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Assistant Administrator for Fisheries to develop guidance to direct the NMFS regions and Councils on how climate information should be incorporated into different parts of the fisheries management process.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Commerce and NOAA agreed with this recommendation. On December 2, 2016, the Department of Commerce provided GAO with a letter stating that NMFS will continue to work with the Regional Fishery Management Councils and other stakeholders to identify how to best incorporate climate-related information into the fisheries management process. The letter also identified a number of NMFS' ongoing and planned efforts related to this goal. We plan to follow-up with the agency in Summer 2017 to obtain an update on the status of these efforts and the extent to which they address our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help NMFS and the Councils incorporate climate information into the fisheries management process and better manage climate-related risks, the Secretary of Commerce should direct NOAA's Assistant Administrator for Fisheries to, in finalizing the regional action plans for implementing the NOAA Fisheries Climate Science Strategy, (1) incorporate the key attributes associated with successful performance measures in the final performance measures developed for the plans and (2) assess whether agency-wide performance measures may be needed to determine the extent to which the objectives of the Strategy overall are being achieved, and develop such measures, as appropriate, that incorporate the key attributes of successful performance measures.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Commerce and NOAA agreed with this recommendation. In a letter to GAO on December 2, 2016, the Department of Commerce identified the following two actions that NMFS plans to take to address this recommendation by the end of calendar year 2017 - (1) NMFS will review the draft regional action plans and take appropriate action to ensure, to the extent possible, the performance measures in the final plans include key attributes of successful measures; and (2) NMFS will assess the need for agency-wide measures to track and evaluate achievement of the Strategy objective, and develop such measures as appropriate. We plan to follow-up with the agency in Summer 2017 to obtain an update on the status of these efforts.
    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: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To further improve agency controls that help prevent payments to participants whose incomes exceed eligibility limits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FSA to implement a process to verify that accountants' and attorneys' statements accurately reflect participants' incomes as reported on income tax returns and supporting documentation or other equivalent documents.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department agreed with this recommendation at the time of our report but, as of April 2017, has not acted to implement it because of the sensitive nature of questioning accountants' and attorneys' professional judgement. However, we believe doing so would reduce the likelihood of improper payments supported by U.S. taxpayers and would be an appropriate action for the agency to take.