[Protest of Forest Service Prohibition on Use of Surveying Technique]

B-215251,B-215294: Sep 10, 1984

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An engineering firm and a surveyor protested the Forest Service's prohibition of the use of a magnesium tracer technique in current and future offers to perform boundary surveys of National Forests in California because both the Forest Service and the state regard the technique as a fire hazard. The protesters complained that: (1) the Forest Service has allowed the use of the technique the past and, therefore, should do so now; (2) California law cannot be applied to restrict contracts performed on federal lands; and (3) because the technique which they use is a more accurate, efficient, and cost-effective surveying method, it was an abuse of discretion for the Forest Service to take this action. Both Forest Service regulations and California state law prohibit the use of this technique in forested areas. Despite any allowance of the use of the technique in the past, the Forest Service agrees with California that it is a fire hazard. In addition, National Forest surveys often necessitate entrance onto adjoining state or private lands and the possibility of violating California law with respect to adjoining nonfederal lands would still exist. GAO will not question an agency's decision concerning its best method of accommodating its minimum needs absent a clear showing that the decision is arbitrary or otherwise unreasonable. GAO found that the Forest Service is justified in prohibiting the technique where a fire hazard outweighs any restrictions which might be imposed on a protester. This action did not prevent the protesters from competing, rather it required them to propose the use of an alternative surveying method. Accordingly, the protests were denied.

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