Forest Service:

Land Acquisitions Within the Lake Tahoe Basin

RCED-95-22: Published: Oct 31, 1994. Publicly Released: Nov 23, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether the Forest Service is treating land owners in the Lake Tahoe Basin fairly in acquiring their environmentally sensitive lands under the Santini-Burton Act, focusing on the extent to which the: (1) Forest Service acquires lands within the basin under the authorized buyout program; (2) land values have been affected by environmentally sensitive classifications; and (3) Forest Service's acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands constitutes a government taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment.

GAO found that: (1) under the act, the Forest Service has acquired almost 11,000 acres in the Lake Tahoe Basin and plans to acquire an additional 9,000 acres; (2) the Forest Service has spent about $86.5 million for land acquisitions and administrative expenses; (3) although the effect of environmentally sensitive classifications on land values cannot be quantified, land use restrictions have resulted in the reduction of fair-market values of some lands; (4) none of the Forest Service's acquisitions constitute a taking of private property by the federal government without just compensation; (5) the Forest Service has paid most property owners more than their original purchase price for the lands; and (6) property owners should expect further restrictions on the growth in the basin to protect the lake and its environs.

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