South Florida Ecosystem Restoration:

A Land Acquisition Plan Is Needed to Supplement the Strategic Plan Being Developed

T-RCED-00-137: Published: Apr 5, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 5, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of the Interior's actions in response to previous GAO recommendations to improve the management of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, focusing on what: (1) the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force has done to identify and acquire lands needed to accomplish the goals of the restoration initiative; and (2) Interior did to help ensure that it maximized the acreage purchased with $200 million set aside in the 1996 Farm Bill for the initiative.

GAO noted that: (1) the Task Force is developing a strategic plan, which is scheduled to be completed in July 2000; (2) until the Task Force completes the plan, however, GAO cannot determine whether it contains all the components of a strategic plan that GAO recommended; (3) in addition, although a conflict resolution process is not yet in place, Interior has developed recommendations that it will propose to the Task Force in April 2000 for resolving "the most difficult conflicts" among the federal, state, tribal, and local entities participating in the initiative; (4) while critical to the initiative's success, GAO found that the Task Force has not yet developed a land acquisition plan that identifies all of the lands needed to accomplish the goals of the restoration initiative; (5) to maximize the acreage acquired with the $200 million in Farm Bill funds, Interior developed a cost-sharing policy that required the state of Florida to match the federal funds dollar for dollar; (6) GAO found that Interior did not consistently require the state to match the funds; and (7) had it done so, an additional $77 million would have been available to acquire lands for the restoration initiative.

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