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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the use of personal watercraft and snowmobile use on federal lands, focusing on: (1) the extent to which personal watercraft and snowmobiles are used in federal units that are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Forest Service; (2) the bases for agency decisions to authorize or prohibit the use of these vehicles; (3) whether restrictions exist on vehicle operations in places where their use is allowed, and how are these restrictions enforced; and (4) the extent to which federal agencies assessed the impact of such use.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Interior The Secretaries of the Interior and of Agriculture should ensure that, where snowmobile and personal watercraft use occurs on federal lands, agencies under their jurisdiction monitor such use to determine what impact, if any, these recreational vehicles are having on natural resources, public safety, and the visiting public. This monitoring should be designed to provide sufficient information to make knowledgeable decisions on the impact of these vehicles in individual units. Once this information is collected, it should be used in any future decisions on whether personal watercraft and snowmobiles are to be allowed on federal lands and waters, and if so, how their use should be managed.
Closed - Implemented
Although the current administration does not support the findings, in response to court direction and public input, Yellowstone National Park has developed an extensive monitoring program for snowmobile use in the park. According to the Park Service, information from this monitoring program will be shared with other park units that have snowmobile use and, as funding permits, these other units will implement some level of monitoring to assess impacts from the use of personal watercraft and snowmobiles.
Department of Agriculture The Secretaries of the Interior and of Agriculture should ensure that, where snowmobile and personal watercraft use occurs on federal lands, agencies under their jurisdiction monitor such use to determine what impact, if any, these recreational vehicles are having on natural resources, public safety, and the visiting public. This monitoring should be designed to provide sufficient information to make knowledgeable decisions on the impact of these vehicles in individual units. Once this information is collected, it should be used in any future decisions on whether personal watercraft and snowmobiles are to be allowed on federal lands and waters, and if so, how their use should be managed.
Closed - Implemented
As of July 28, 2004, the Department of the Interior has not yet provided its 60-day response to the recommendations. The Department's liaison officer stated that the administration still does not support the findings. However, in response to court direction and public input, Yellowstone National Park has developed an extensive monitoring program for snowmobile use in the park. Information from that monitoring will be shared with other parks that have snowmobile use and, as funding permits, will implement some form of monitoring to assess impacts from personal watercraft use.

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