The National Fire Plan: Federal Agencies Are Not Organized to Effectively and Efficiently Implement the Plan

GAO-01-1022T Published: Jul 31, 2001. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2001.
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This testimony discusses how federal agencies conduct fire management under the National Fire Plan. Effective fire management requires coordination, consistency, and agreement among five federal land management agencies in two departments--the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture. Human activities, especially the federal government's decades-old policy of suppressing all wild fires, have led to dangerous accumulations of felled trees and other dead vegetation on federal lands. As a result, conditions on 211 million acres continue to deteriorate. The National Fire Plan represents the latest effort to address wildland fire on federal lands. Two conditions set this effort apart from earlier efforts. First, Congress has to recognize the need to sustain increased funding for wildland fire management in future fiscal years. Second, Congress has issued direction to reduce the risk of wildland fire in the wildland-urban interface. However, many of the policy's guiding principles and recommendations have not been implemented. The failure of the five federal land management agencies to incorporate into the National Fire Plan many of the federal wildland fire management policy's guiding principles and recommendations can be traced to their reluctance to change their traditional organizational structures of federal wildland fire management. As a result, the five agencies continue to plan and manage wildland fire management activities primarily on an agency-by-agency and unit-by-unit basis.

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