Land Ownership:

Similarities and Differences in the Management of Selected State and Federal Land Units

RCED-97-158: Published: Jun 27, 1997. Publicly Released: Jul 14, 1997.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO compared state and federal land management, focusing on: (1) the purposes and uses for which state-owned lands are managed; and (2) state and federal land management activities, operating costs, and revenues.

GAO noted that: (1) the majority of state-owned lands in New Mexico and Utah are trust lands, which are managed to generate revenue and are generally not open to the public; (2) the remaining state-owned lands in New Mexico and Utah and all of the state-owned lands in North Carolina are public lands, which are managed by state departments and agencies for various purposes and uses; (3) the public lands are managed, among other things, to provide recreational opportunities for the public or to preserve the states' natural, historic, and scenic resources; (4) the three state parks and the three national parks GAO reviewed conducted similar activities, but the state parks placed more emphasis on visitor services while the national parks gave a higher priority to conserving natural resources; (5) the state parks also cost less to operate and less per visitor, but more per acre to manage; (6) in addition, although the state parks usually generated less revenue, they recovered a higher percentage of their operating costs; (7) the activities emphasized by the state parks, as well as their smaller area and staffs, were among the factors contributing to the differences in costs and revenues; (8) the three state wildlife/waterfowl management areas and three national wildlife refuges conducted similar activities; (9) however, the state areas gave less attention to visitor services than did the three national refuges; (10) the state areas generally had lower operating costs as well as lower costs per acre; (11) the activities emphasized by the state areas and their smaller area and staffs were among the factors accounting for the differences in the operating costs; (12) because both the state and the national areas are managed to provide habitat for and to protect wildlife, the revenues generated from the public uses of these areas were minimal; (13) both the state forest and the national forests emphasized timber growth and production activities, but the state forest did not manage for recreation while the national forests did; (14) the state forest's operating costs were significantly smaller than the national forests', while the costs per acre to manage were 35 percent higher; (15) in addition, although the state forest generated less revenue, it recovered a much higher percentage of its operating costs; and (16) again, the activities emphasized by the state forest, as well as its much smaller size and staff, were among the factors contributing to the differences in costs and revenue.

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