The over accumulation of vegetation is a serious problem, particularly in the interior West, where it is causing an increasing number of uncontrollable and destructive wildfires. The policy response to this was the development of the National Fire Plan--a long-term multibillion dollar effort to address wildland fire threats. GAO's work on wildland fires identified three needs: (1) a cohesive strategy to address growing threats to national forest resources and nearby communities from catastrophic wildfires, (2) clearly defined and effective leadership to carry out that strategy in a coordinated manner, and (3) accountability to ensure that progress is being made toward accomplishing the goals of the National Fire Plan. Two years ago, the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior developed strategies to address these problems, and recently established a leadership entity to respond to the need for greater contingency coordination. Whether the strategy and the council will serve as the framework and mechanism to effectively deal with the threat of a catastrophic wildland fire will depend on how well the National Fire Plan is implemented. To determine the effectiveness of this effort, a sound performance accountability framework with specific performance measures and data to assess implementation progress and problems is needed.
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