Over the past two decades, provisions of the Food Security Act of 1985, among others, have allowed the Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in partnership with the Department of the Interior's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to add farmlands found to have important resources to the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Farm Service Agency transferred such farmlands to the Service through outright ownership ("fee simple") or through conservation easements. Individual farmlands are managed by the nearest refuge office. GAO was asked to examine (1) the extent of farmland received by the Service, (2) the extent to which the Service is currently managing its farmlands, and (3) alternatives for managing these lands. To answer these objectives, GAO visited five refuges and surveyed managers responsible for a random sample of 98 farmlands.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Interior||To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) management of its farmlands, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Service to ensure that the Service's records for all of its farmlands are accurate and complete by reconciling regional and refuge office records and property records to determine which farmlands were transferred from the Farm Service Agency.|
|Department of the Interior||To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Service's management of its farmlands, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Service to develop a proposal to Congress seeking the authority for additional flexibility with regard to the farmlands the Service determines may not be in the best interest to continue to include as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.|