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Highlights

Over the past two decades, the number of acres burned by wildland fires has surged, often threatening human lives, property, and ecosystems. Past management practices, including a concerted federal policy in the 20th century of suppressing fires to protect communities and ecosystem resources, unintentionally resulted in steady accumulation of dense vegetation that fuels large, intense, wildland fires. While such fires are normal in some ecosystems, in others they can cause catastrophic damage to resources as well as to communities near wildlands known as the wildland-urban interface. In 1999, GAO recommended that the Forest Service develop a cohesive strategy for responding to wildland fire threats. As a follow-up, 5 years later, GAO was asked to identify the (1) progress the federal government has made in responding to wildland fire threats and (2) challenges it will need to address within the next 5 years.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should provide the Congress, in time for its consideration of the agencies' fiscal year 2006 wildland fire management budgets, with a joint tactical plan outlining the critical steps the agencies will take, together with related time frames, to complete a cohesive strategy that identifies long-term options and needed funding for reducing and maintaining fuels at acceptable levels and responding to the nation's wildland fire problems.
Closed - Not Implemented
Given the recommendation language to prepare the plan in time for the Congress's consideration of the agencies' fiscal year 2006 wildland fire management budgets and the lack of any cohesive strategy or tactical plan as of April 2008, this recommendation is now closed - not implemented.
Department of Agriculture The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior should provide the Congress, in time for its consideration of the agencies' fiscal year 2006 wildland fire management budgets, with a joint tactical plan outlining the critical steps the agencies will take, together with related time frames, to complete a cohesive strategy that identifies long-term options and needed funding for reducing and maintaining fuels at acceptable levels and responding to the nation's wildland fire problems.
Closed - Not Implemented
Given the recommendation language to prepare the plan in time for the Congress's consideration of the agencies' fiscal year 2006 wildland fire management budgets and the lack of any cohesive strategy or tactical plan as of April 2008, this recommendation is now closed - not implemented.

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