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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Forest Service's management of its National Wilderness Preservation System lands, focusing on: (1) the extent of resource deterioration in wilderness areas; and (2) Service staffing and funding devoted to wilderness management.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. To improve administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to develop baseline inventory information on the condition of each designated wilderness and monitor changes in the condition and extent of use in wilderness areas.
Closed - Implemented
A task force was formed to address the resource information needs for wilderness management and ensure incorporation of such information in Forest Service data systems. The task force has completed its work and issued its report on monitoring for wilderness conditions.
Department of Agriculture 2. To improve administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to consider the applicability of the limits of acceptable change method or other methods to assess changes in wilderness conditions.
Closed - Implemented
One hundred forty additional trainers who can assist or train local units in applying the limits of acceptable change concept were certified, and revisions to the Forest Service Manual will include an entire section on limits of acceptable change.
Department of Agriculture 3. To improve administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to evaluate present Forest Service administrative sites to determine whether the structures: (1) are the minimum needed to protect the resource and the safety of users; and (2) set a proper example for other visitors to the area.
Closed - Implemented
Forest Service headquarters provided written guidance to evaluate structures. Revisions to instructions have been completed.
Department of Agriculture 4. To improve administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, to establish a uniform national policy for dealing with outfitter and guide structures and facilities within wilderness areas that minimizes the presence of such structures in keeping with the spirit of the Wilderness Act.
Closed - Implemented
An agreement was reached on June 4, 1990, between the Forest Service and the Idaho Oufitters and Guides Association. This agreement sets the tone for future outfitter and guide structures being temporary in nature. Revisions to the Forest Service Manual are expected.
Department of Agriculture 5. To improve administration of the National Wilderness Preservation System and provide Congress with current and accurate budget information, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Chief, Forest Service, in conjunction with the development of baseline inventory information on the condition of individual wilderness areas, to compile information on the total funding and staffing needed to manage wilderness areas in a manner that will meet the objectives of the Wilderness Act.
Closed - Implemented
Forest Service field units are now required to complete Wilderness Implementation Schedules that will address such issues.

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