Endangered Species: Fish and Wildlife Service Generally Focuses Recovery Funding on High-Priority Species, but Needs to Periodically Assess Its Funding Decisions

GAO-05-211 Published: Apr 06, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2005.
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Highlights

Currently there are more than 1,260 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. While few species have gone extinct since 1973, only 9 have been "recovered" or removed from the list because they no longer need the act's protection. This has raised questions about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) allocates its recovery funds. Proponents of the act believe that the Service's recovery funds are only a small fraction of what is needed to make greater recovery progress. The act and agency guidelines require the Service to prioritize species to guide recovery fund allocation. In fiscal year 2000 through 2003, the Service spent $127 million dollars in recovery funds attributable to individual species. In this report, GAO analyzed (1) the extent to which the Service's allocation of recovery funds compares with its recovery priority guidelines and (2) what factors influence the Service's recovery allocation decisions.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior To help ensure that the Service allocates recovery resources consistent with the priority guidelines over the long term and in a transparent fashion, the Secretary of the Interior should require the Service to periodically assess the extent to which it is following its recovery priority guidelines and identify how factors other than those in the guidelines are affecting its funding allocation decisions.
Closed - Implemented
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has made plans to assess recovery program funds periodically and identify factors other than priority number that may have influenced the level of funding certain species receive in its recovery expenditure reports. The first report in which this assessment is to be done is in its report on threatened and endangered species expenditures for fiscal year 2008 that is expected to be issued in December 2009.
Department of the Interior To help ensure that the Service allocates recovery resources consistent with the priority guidelines over the long term and in a transparent fashion, the Secretary of the Interior should require the Service to report this information publicly, for example, in its biennial recovery report to Congress.
Closed - Implemented
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plans to assess recovery program funds periodically and identify factors other than priority number that may have influenced the level of funding certain species receive in its recovery expenditure reports. The first report in which this assessment is to be done is in its report on threatened and endangered species expenditures for fiscal year 2008 that is expected to be issued in December 2009. This is a public report that FWS posts on its website.

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