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Highlights

GAO analyzed: (1) how Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service land-use plans address oil and gas issues and the social, economic, and environmental impacts of oil and gas development; and (2) stipulations the agencies used to reduce such impacts.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture To ensure that resources available to improve oil and gas information are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to determine which resource areas or forests will yield the most revenues and give priority to revising plans or studies for those areas so oil and gas development can proceed expeditiously, with the least possible damage to the environment.
Closed - Implemented
The Chief, Forest Service, has identified high-priority forests, and reevaluated this list annually since 1989. High priority forests are identified and consideration has been given to budget constraints.
Department of the Interior To ensure that resources available to improve oil and gas information are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to determine which resource areas or forests will yield the most revenues and give priority to revising plans or studies for those areas so oil and gas development can proceed expeditiously, with the least possible damage to the environment.
Closed - Implemented
BLM has identified high-priority areas.
Department of Agriculture To better ensure that the environmental impacts of oil and gas leasing and development on federal lands are adequately considered in land-use plans and at subsequent key decision points and that available resources are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to provide clear guidance on how to address cumulative impacts in land-use plans and related environmental studies. In addition, the Chief, Forest Service, should be directed to clarify when the recently issued guidance can be met by amending the land-use plan, completing additional environmental studies, or supplementing the plan with additional information.
Closed - Implemented
The Forest Service has draft guidance on cumulative impacts which its field offices are using until final guidance comes out in the Federal Register.
Department of the Interior To better ensure that the environmental impacts of oil and gas leasing and development on federal lands are adequately considered in land-use plans and at subsequent key decision points and that available resources are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to provide clear guidance on how to address cumulative impacts in land-use plans and related environmental studies. In addition, the Chief, Forest Service, should be directed to clarify when the recently issued guidance can be met by amending the land-use plan, completing additional environmental studies, or supplementing the plan with additional information.
Closed - Implemented
BLM has developed additional guidance on how to address cumulative impacts.
Department of Agriculture To better ensure that the environmental impacts of oil and gas leasing and development on federal lands are adequately considered in land-use plans and at subsequent key decision points and that available resources are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to establish an oversight and evaluation program to ensure that: (1) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requirements are adequately addressed, whether in land-use plans or other environmental studies, before leases are issued or permits to drill are approved; and (2) appropriate stipulations or conditions of approval are attached to leases and permits. As part of this program, the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, should establish measurable goals and target dates to correct identified problems.
Closed - Implemented
The Forest Service has developed an action plan and a memo of understanding with BLM and a training session to its regions regarding NEPA. Additionally, the Service has drafted more detailed guidance as to how to complete environmental studies prior to leasing decisions. It has drafted a manual that, when final, will require its regions to ensure that stipulations are attached to APD and leases.
Department of the Interior To better ensure that the environmental impacts of oil and gas leasing and development on federal lands are adequately considered in land-use plans and at subsequent key decision points and that available resources are used efficiently, the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should direct the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, respectively, to establish an oversight and evaluation program to ensure that: (1) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 requirements are adequately addressed, whether in land-use plans or other environmental studies, before leases are issued or permits to drill are approved; and (2) appropriate stipulations or conditions of approval are attached to leases and permits. As part of this program, the Director, BLM, and the Chief, Forest Service, should establish measurable goals and target dates to correct identified problems.
Closed - Implemented
BLM has made changes to the processes it uses to ensure that the act's requirements are addressed in land-use plans and that appropriate stipulations are included in leases and permits.

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