Information on the Forest Service's Efforts to Control the Spread of the Western Spruce Budworm in the Carson National Forest

RCED-86-8: Published: Oct 30, 1985. Publicly Released: Nov 4, 1985.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Forest Service's efforts to prevent and suppress the spread of the western spruce budworm in the Red River Canyon area of the Carson National Forest. GAO also studied how the public influenced the Forest Service's decision to initiate a budworm suppression program in the area.

The western spruce budworm is a common pest to conifer and spruce trees, and the Carson National Forest has experienced a number of major budworm infestations since 1922 and, by 1984, budworm outbreaks had defoliated about 67 percent of the mixed conifer and spruce trees in the Forest. GAO found that the Forest Service uses chemical and biological pesticides to control budworms, but agreed in 1984 to a legal settlement that restricted its use of aerially-applied pesticides in the Forest. GAO also found that, under the current suppression program, the Forest Service: (1) injected a number of trees with a chemical pesticide; (2) sprayed a number of trees with a biological pesticide; (3) aerially sprayed the biological pesticide over about 25,880 acres of federal, state, and private land; and (4) plans to make aerial applications of the biological pesticide in 1986 and 1988 and, if necessary, in 1987 and 1989. The Forest Service initiated the program to maintain tourism, recreational opportunities, and the natural state of wilderness areas. In addition, GAO found that the Forest Service's decision was influenced by: (1) state concerns that recreational values in the area would degrade, causing a detrimental effect on state and local tax revenues; (2) congressional concerns that it undertake a suppression program; (3) local legislation that encouraged a suppression program; and (4) local concerns over tourism income for small businesses, the scenic quality of the area, and depressed property values.

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