National Park Service: Opportunities Exist to Clarify and Strengthen Special Uses Permit Guidance on Setting Grazing Fees and Cost-Recovery

GAO-06-355R Published: Feb 09, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 09, 2006.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights

In our September 2005 report, Livestock Grazing: Federal Expenditures and Receipts Vary, Depending on the Agency and the Purpose of the Fee Charged, we reported that the National Park Service (Park Service) allowed livestock grazing on nearly 1.6 million acres at 31 park units. To manage grazing on their lands, the park units spent at least $410,000 in fiscal year 2004, which included activities such as fence maintenance, personnel, and monitoring resource conditions; they also collected about $196,000 in receipts from ranchers for the privilege of grazing livestock on Park Service lands. In fiscal year 2004, the park units retained about $192,000, or 98 percent, of the receipts collected. During the course of our work, we found that the park units were not consistently implementing the Park Service's special uses permit guidance for fee-setting and cost-recovery. This letter presents the results of our further evaluation of the park units' efforts to manage grazing permits on their lands and makes recommendations to strengthen the Park Service's guidance for setting fees, recovering costs, and retaining funds. This letter discusses (1) the fees that park units charge for grazing permits and (2) reporting and retaining of cost-recovery amounts from grazing permits.

Skip to Recommendations


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Park Service As the Park Service revises its guidance on fees for special uses permits, it should ensure that the guidance reflects the resolution we reached with the Solicitor's Office regarding the authority for the Park Service's fee structure.
Closed – Implemented
GAO's General Counsel issued a decision on Special Park Use Fees on August 23, 2007 (B-307319). The National Park Service Special Use Program Manager incorporated the decision into second-level guidance--the Director's Order--for the program and has incorporated changes from the Federal Register notice into the document. The Director's Order was approved by the Director of the National Park Service in February 2010.
National Park Service The Park Service should develop strategies to better ensure that the park units calculate and document cost-recovery amounts.
Closed – Implemented
The National Park Service Special Use Program is holding several training sessions per year for special use management and fees. According to the Special Use Program Manager, the new training will incorporate the GAO decision on grazing fees.

Full Report