Wildland Fire Rehabilitation and Restoration: Forest Service and BLM Could Benefit from Improved Information on Status of Needed Work

GAO-06-670 Published: Jun 30, 2006. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2006.
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Highlights

Since 2001, Congress and federal agencies, including the Forest Service and Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM), have recognized the importance of rehabilitating and restoring lands unlikely to recover on their own after wildland fires. However, while funding has increased for fire prevention, suppression, and first-year emergency stabilization, it has decreased for rehabilitation (work up to 3 years after fires) and restoration (work beyond the first 3 years). GAO was asked (1) how the Forest Service and BLM plan postfire rehabilitation and restoration projects, (2) how much needed rehabilitation and restoration work they have completed for recent wildland fires, and (3) what challenges the agencies face in addressing their needs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture To help Congress and the Forest Service make more informed funding decisions, and to help the Forest Service better address its high-priority postfire rehabilitation and restoration needs, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Forest Service to track and report to Congress all high-priority rehabilitation and restoration work needed and accomplished, regardless of funding source.
Closed – Not Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of Agriculture To help Congress and the Forest Service make more informed funding decisions, and to help the Forest Service better address its high-priority postfire rehabilitation and restoration needs, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Forest Service to conduct additional research on the beneficial and harmful effects of postfire projects, including but not limited to, postfire timber harvests.
Closed – Not Implemented
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
Department of the Interior To help ensure that long-term postfire restoration needs are addressed on BLM lands, the Secretary of the Interior should direct BLM to address postfire restoration needs that persist more than 3 years after a fire by establishing a procedure to transfer any incomplete work--including monitoring--from the rehabilitation program to other ongoing programs, and by tracking and reporting to Congress the status of all needed and completed postfire restoration work in those programs.
Closed – Not Implemented
BLM has not provided GAO with documentation describing any steps it took to establish a procedure or track and report status information to Congress.

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