oversight

Survey of Certain Aspects of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant Program to the States

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-08-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          DOCnORMP RESUME

03093 - (A23134591   (Restricted)

rSurvey of Certain Aspects of the Land and Water Conservation
Fund Grant Program to the States]. August 4, 1977. 6 pp.

Report to Robert L. Herbst, Assistant Secretary for Fish and
wildlife and Parks, Department of the Interior; by Frank V.
Subalusky, Assistant Director, Community and Economic
Development Div.

issue Area: Land Use Planning and Control (23001; Water and
    Water Related Programs: Use of Existing Water Supplies
    (2501).
Contact: Community and Economic Development Div.
Budget Function: Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy:
    Water Resources and vower (301); Natural Resources,
    Environment, and Energy: Conservation ind Lani Management
     (3n2) ; Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy:
    Recreational Resources (303).
Orcanization Concerned: Bureau of Outdoor Recreation.
Authority: Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965, as
    amended.

         Lands acquired and/or developed with Land and Water
Conservation Fund assistance are not being consistently
inspected by the States or the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation to
assure that the properties are properly selected and developed
and adequately maintained in accordance with the Land and Water
Conservation Fund Act. Although the adverse effects of not
making required inspections were relatively minor, there is a
clear need for the Bureau to evaluate its site inspection
program requirements_ Findings/Conclusions: In several
instances, local sponsors were not aware of the Federal
requirements and restrictions on Land and Water Conservation
rund assisted properties. This situation could result in Fund
property being convcrted to nonoutdoor recreation uses. Actual
site inspectiuns during project development are important
because they can provide the Bureau with the opportunity to
correct project deficiencies before a significant amount of
Federal funds have been expended. Recommendations: The
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Department
of the Interior, should have the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation
evaluate its current site inspection program requirements and
take action to insure that the approved program is bring
properly implemented. TL~ Bureau should also be required to
teriodically notify Land and Water Conservation Fund sponsors of
the Fund's assisted projects under their jurisdiction and
require the sponsors to verify that the properties are, in fact,
being used for approved outdoor recreation purposes_ (SC)
     A= ":X#YX             f:   UNTrrED STATES GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
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                                                                AUG      4 1977



           The Honorable Robert L. '-erbst
          Xa=       stant-S~ecrettarfory    T Fissh
             and Wildlife and Parks
           Department of the Interior
           Dear Mr. Herbst:
                We recently conmleted a survey of certain aspects of the Land
           and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant program to the States.
           Our work was performed to determine whether the program is being
           effectively administered by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR).
               We noted several matters which we believe would be of interest
          to you and which warrant your attention. These relate primarily to
          the BOR site inspection program for grant projects which, as you
          know, has been established to he.lp insure that Federally supported
          projects are properly selected, developed and adequately maintained.
               During our work we contacted officials of the Bureau of Outdoor
          Recreation in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California, and Ann
          Arbor, Michigan; lWe also met with State and local park officials
          in California, Nevada, and Illinois; and visited about 100 LWCF
          project sites in these States.
                In addition, we mailed questionnaires to sponsors of about 850
          LWCF grant projects in .rizona, California, and Nevada primarily to
          determine if the properties were being used for outdoor recreation
          use-in accordance with the grant project agreements with BOR. The
          detailed information which we obtained through the use of the
          questionnaire may be of some assistance to BOR in its administration
          of the grant program and should you or members of BOR wish to discuss
          this data we will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements.
BACKGROUND
     As you are aware, the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965,
as amended, was enacted to stimulate a nationwide program for high-quality
outdoor recreation areas and tacilities. Under ;,he act, funds are provided
for (1) the acquisition of land for federally administered recreation areas,
and (2) matching grants to State and local governments for the planning,
acquisition, and development of recreation lands and facilities.
     The 1976 amendments to the act increased the amount of funds authorized
from $300 million to $900 million annually oy fiscal year 1980. Sixty
percent of the funds are allocated for grants to States for State and local
recreation priojects, and the remaining 40 percent is given to Fede-ral lend--
managing agencies to purchase land and water areas for Federal use. Since
inception of the program, through fiscal year 1976, BOR approved nearly
18,000 State and local outdoor recreation projects and had gratnted over
$1.4 billion in Federal funds for these projects.
BOR Should Evaluate its
Project Site Inspection Prgram!
     Property acquired or developed with LWCF assistance must be retained
and used for pub'ic outdoor recreation purposes. To help inisure that
properties are properly selected, developed, and maintained, BOR has entered
into agreements with the States to conduct site inspections--pre-award,
progress, final, and post-completion--of the projects; The inspections
are made to determine:
     --that the site is suitable for the proposed development and/or
       acquisition,
     --the progress that is being made to develop the project,
     --if the projects have been completed in accordance with the
       approved plans, and
     --whether the properties are retained and used for outdoor
       recreation purposes, in accordance with the provisions of
       the act.
     Generally speaking, the BOR/State agreements give the responsibility
for conducting site inspections to the States. However, BOR's role does
vary from State to State. BOR officials told us they rely heavily on the
States to carry out inspections, and added that BOR only conducts "periodic"
inspections to deerennine if the States are fulfilling their responsibilities.


                                  -2-
       :We rioed--that all. of the required.inspections are not being made
  BOR or the tates. -- Although the-:i:mpact of -not performing             by
                                                                such inspections
  was only minimal, the potential exists for more.serious deficiencies
  occur.                                                                   to

        'BOR requires that pre-award, progress, and final inspections be
  formed on ever     LWCF-development project,-                           per-
                                                .' that a pre-award inspection
  be :made: onj ver LWCF land.acquisition projec-. Post-completion inspec-
  tons..are       ire on-IaT -pojects. - Duringor survey, we found that
 - Donly fina
           1   specti ons- were       made faregl
                                    f-beifng-          ar basis.I-
                 inspec:ors
                    kd 'o  a~
                            ~spel                 :Swl:tate                -cases...
   w1ere they Goo~ded the matching   -funds.- State offi cia s sai d to make
 pre-award inspections on projects that they-had planned and which they
 were familiar with is,- in teir view, unnecessarvy. They further
  that a conflictof :interest question could e raised because Statestated
  inspec tors       1      B--skedo
                            i-s-e       --tesupp rte-d projects. -State officials
 also said thfa if    pre-award inspections are necessary on State funded
 projects, then they should be performed by BOR, and not by the State.
        Progress inspections on State:and ocall, supported projects were
 made on a "hit or miss" basis and were lusually      performed only if an
 inspector was performing some other work at or near the project       site.
 State officials said, in their view, the periodic progress reports
 by project sponsors.--State and local--could be used in lieu of the submitted
 progress inspections.                                                    site

      BOR regional office officials agreed that the "objectivity" of
 conducting pre-award, as well as other tyoe of inspections,             States
                                                              on
 projects is somewhat questionable. The officials added that they their   own
                                                                      are
 convinced that progress insp:ections are needed. In their opinion,'final  not
 inspections are the most. important inspections. BOR regional offitials
 they would review the need to continue making progress inspections.          said

      BOR requires that po:,t-completion inspections be made within three
years after completion of the project and at least once   every five years
 thereafter. The States we visited were not always conducting   these inspec-
tions and we found that BOR has no system to insure that the inspections
are made at the required intervals. California officials said they
not been performing all the required post-completion inspections        have
admitted that this area is in need of improvement. They said that   and
a January 1977 reorganization within their Department of Parks and under
Recreation a full time staff has been assigned to work on LWCF activities
and they said-this will allow the State to increase its inspections
the future.                                                             in


                                      3-
     Nevada officials said that they have not made required post-completion
inspections because of the lack of funds. They said they are considering
assessing local sponsors a "service charge" for the cost of administering
the grant program, and negotiating an "overhead rate" with the Department
of the Interior to obtain.additional funds, so that more emphasis can be
placed on site inspections.
     Unauthorized construction
     at project sites          .
     During our site visits, we noted five projects where local sponsbrs.
had constructed buildings en the project sites without -BOR approval, -on-
struction of such buildings, as yoau know, is-permitted on-ly if compatible
with authorized outdoor recreation uses and only if TBOlhas given its:
prior approval. In these cases, BOR's approval was not requested and
local officials sponsoring the projects said they were not even aware that
BOR approval was needed. When we brought these projects to BOR's attention,
we were advised that the buildings "appeared" to be compatible with the in-
tended use of the site, and we were told also that in all likelihood, BOGR
wold have approved the construction if ft had beer, requested.
     Construction of buildings that were not compatible with planned out-
door recreation uses has occurred in other locations. For example, BOR
recently noted that a large community center and two school district
buildings were constructed on a project site. The construction occurred
without BOR's knowledge and constituted a conversion of the property to
other than recreation uses. The sponsor of the project acknowledged that
the two school district buildings were on the project site and replacement
property must, therefore, be provided. But the sponsor contended that it
does not have to replace the community center property because that land
was purchased without LWCF assistance. BOR maintains that the entire area
was assisted by LWCF and we were told that BOR is taking action to have
the sponsor provide suitable replacement property.
    Leasingtof land acquired for
    outdoor recreation purposes
     Another potential problem area related to the leasing of project land
to third parties prior to development of the site for approved outdoor
recreation use. Under certain conditions BOR will allow, With prior ap-
proval, interim leasing of land before it is developed--but usually for
not more than three years. We identified several projects where leasing
was occurring without BOR approval. For example, one project, a 150 acre
tract of land acquired in 1971 with a $90,700 LWCF grant, was to be developed
for picnicking, hiking, golfing, and general playground activities. At the
time of our visit, in January 1977, the site was still undeveloped and a
large part of the land was being leased for agricultural purposes and as
such, was not available for outdoor recreation use. BOR officials advised
us that they would review this situation and would take corrective action
as is necessary.

                                    1- 4*
  Conclusions
      -We found that lands acquired and/or developed with LWCF assistance
  are not being consistently inspected by the States or BOR to assure that
  the properties are properly selected and developed, and adequately main-
  tained in accordance with the LWCF act. Although the adverse effect of
  not making required inspections was relatively minor, we believe that
  the results of tnis' survey clearly pointed out the need for BOR to evaluate
  its site inspection program requirements;
         An effective inspectitn program is -basically essential to insure that
   the general public is receiving maximum benefits from the LWCF grant pro-
:grami a Idalso to make certafinthz thtt          t
                                           propereties acquir:edAand developed
   continue to be available for their approved outdoor recreation use. We do
   not agree with the States that periodic progress reports by project
   sponsors would be a suitable substitute for actual site inspections during
   project development. In our view, these inspections are particularly im-
  portant since they can provide BOR the opportunity to correct project
   deficiencies before a significant amount of Federal funds have been expended.
       As previously discussed, we noted several instances where local
  sponsors were not aware of the Federal requirements and restrictions on
  LWCF-assisted properties, i.e., obtaining BOR approval before leasing pro-
  ject land to a third party prior to development, or before constructing
  buildings on tWCF property. This situation could result in LWCF property
  being converted to nonoutdoor recreation uses. We believe that BOR should
  periodically inform local sponsors that their LWICF-assisted properties are
  subject to certain Federal restrictions. In this regard, BOR could
  periodically identify the LWCF properties under individual sponsor's juris-
  diction and request that they verify that the properties are, in fact, being
  used for approved outdoor recreation purposes. This procedure would alert
  local sponsors of their LWCF project responsibilities and could also be
  used by BOR in connection with its performance of the required site
  inspections.
 'Recommendations
      We recoknend that you have BOR evaluate its current site inspection
 program requirements and take action to insure that the approved program
 is being properly implemented.
      We also recommend that BOR be required to periodically notify LWCF
 sponsors of the LWCF assisted projects under their jurisdiction and
 require the sponsors to verify that the properties are, in fact, being used
 for approved outdoor recreation purposes.


                                         -5-
     We are sending copies of this letter to the Asistant Secretary,
Policy, Budget, and Administration; and the Director, Bureauof Outdoor
Recreation.
     We would appr, -iate receiving your views and comments within 30
days on any actions. nu have taken or plan to take on the above matters.
Should you or your stuff desire any additional information, please let
me know.
                                    Sincerely yours,


                                    Frank V. Subalusky
                                    Assistant Director




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