National Forests:

Special Recreation Areas Not Meeting Established Objectives

RCED-90-27: Published: Feb 5, 1990. Publicly Released: Feb 5, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Forest Service's management of 20 special recreation areas within the national forest system to determine whether the Service achieved the development, operation, and maintenance levels consistent with their designating legislation.

GAO found that: (1) the Service did not develop, operate, or maintain many of the special recreation areas according to Service policy, designating legislation, or the individual area plans; (2) 8 of the 10 areas that delayed or dropped projects for campgrounds, road improvements, and information stations were designated before 1980, while areas designated after 1980 generally focused on preservation of natural resources and had limited development goals; (3) 15 areas had inadequate visitor information or interpretive services and lowered maintenance levels; (4) Service funding for recreation programs declined about 26 percent between fiscal year 1980 and 1986; (5) the Service's April 1988 National Recreation Strategy emphasized showcasing recreation at special recreation areas and called for stretching available federal funds through greater use of volunteers and through seeking out public and private groups to share development and operations expenses; and (6) the Service did not adequately monitor or report on the status of the areas' development and operations. GAO believes that the limited amount of resources available to the Service would not enable it to achieve its planned levels of facility development and showcase levels of operation.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Forest Service has issued instructions to its regions to compile budgetary needs estimates for its NRA. Data collected will be in accordance with the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture, should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop information on and periodically report the status of development, operations, and maintenance at each special recreation area to Congress. Such information should, as a minimum, include: (1) aspects of each area's plan that have been completed; (2) aspects of the plan that have yet to be completed; (3) the proposed time frame and the estimated costs associated with completing the work necessary to fulfill the plan; and (4) an assessment of the resources needed to operate and maintain those areas at showcase levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture


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