oversight

Federal Land Management: Availability and Potential Reliability of Selected Data Elements at Five Agencies

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-05-03.

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

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Subcommittee on Energy and
                            Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural
                            Resources, House of Representatives

                            FEDERAL LAND
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 9:00 a.m. MDT
Thursday, May 3, 2012

                            MANAGEMENT
                            Availability and Potential
                            Reliability of Selected Data
                            Elements at Five Agencies
                            Statement of Anu K. Mittal, Director
                            Natural Resources and Environment




GAO-12-691T
                                             May 3, 2012

                                             FEDERAL LAND MANAGEMENT
                                             Availability and Potential Reliability of Selected
                                             Data Elements at Five Agencies
Highlights of GAO-12-691T, a statement
before the Subcommittee on Energy and
Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural
Resources, House of Representatives



Why GAO Did This Study                       What GAO Found
The federal government manages               The five agencies varied in the extent to which they collected the over 100 land
about 650 million acres, or 29 percent,      and resources, revenue, and federal land use designation data elements that
of the 2.27 billion acres of U.S. land.      GAO asked them about. Specifically, all five agencies collected data on four
Four land management agencies—the            basic data elements, which related to total surface acres managed, total acres
Bureau of Land Management (BLM),             managed within each state, the number of special use permits generated for
the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS),         filming activities on federal land, and the number of cultural and historic sites
the National Park Service (NPS) in the       listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In contrast, none of them
Department of the Interior (Interior),       collected information for 33 other data elements, such as the percent of total
and the Forest Service, in the
                                             acres under oil, gas, or coal leases that have surface disturbance or where the
Department of Agriculture—manage
                                             surface disturbance has been reclaimed, or information on the potential
about 95 percent of these federal
acres. Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation
                                             quantities of oil, gas, and coal resources on federal land. Agency officials cited
(BoR) manages another 1 percent of           various reasons why the agencies did not collect certain information, such as
these acres. The five agencies collect       believing another federal agency collected it, it was inconsistent with the
certain data to help manage federal          agency’s mission, or they lacked the authority or resources to do so.
lands under their jurisdiction.              When an agency collected information, it was usually stored in a primary agency
This testimony summarizes GAO’s              data system—a centralized electronic data system maintained at an agencywide
findings from GAO-11-337, a report           level. For example, GAO queried each agency about 57 federal land and
issued in April 2011. In this report,        resources data elements, and while the number of data elements each agency
GAO reviewed the extent to which the         collected varied significantly, ranging from 3 to 22, the majority of the information
five agencies collect certain federal        that was collected was stored in a primary agency data system. Similarly, GAO
land and resource data (referred to as       asked each agency about 35 specific revenue data elements, and again while
data elements), how these data               the number of data elements each agency collected varied significantly, ranging
elements are stored, and their potential     from 6 to 22, the majority of the information that was collected was stored in a
reliability. GAO included over 100 data      primary agency data system. When the agencies collected information but did
elements at each agency in its               not store it in a primary agency data system, it was available in other formats
analysis. These elements can be              such as paper files, land use plans, or other agency documents and files that
categorized as information on (1)            may have been located in multiple field locations.
federal land and the resources the five
agencies manage, (2) revenues                GAO assessed the potential reliability of the data elements that the five agencies
generated from selected activities on        collected and determined that less than half of the data elements stored in a
these lands, and (3) federal land            primary agency data system were potentially reliable. Generally, data elements
subject to selected land use                 were assessed as potentially reliable when information about the completeness
designations, such as wilderness             and accuracy of a specific data element provided high assurance of its reliability.
areas.                                       It is important to note that GAO assessed the potential reliability of these data
What GAO Recommends                          elements for a given period of time, and additional analysis would be needed to
                                             determine the reliability of specific data elements for specific purposes. Among
GAO made no recommendation in its            the reasons some of these data were assessed to be potentially unreliable were
2011 report and is making no new             insufficient information about the accuracy and completeness of data elements
recommendations in this testimony.           and lack of internal controls for data quality.




View GAO-12-691T. For more information,
contact Anu K. Mittal at (202) 512-3841 or
mittala@gao.gov.

                                                                                      United States Government Accountability Office
Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Holt, and Members of the
Subcommittee:

I am pleased to be here today to participate in your field hearing on land
inventory management. The federal government manages about 650
million acres, or 29 percent, of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United
States. Four land management agencies—the Bureau of Land
Management (BLM), the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and the
National Park Service (NPS) in the Department of the Interior (Interior),
and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture—manage about
95 percent of the federal land. The Bureau of Reclamation (BoR), also in
Interior, manages another 1 percent of this land.

The agencies manage their land for various purposes. For example, BLM
and the Forest Service manage land for a variety of uses—including
recreation, timber harvesting, livestock grazing, oil and gas production,
mining, and wilderness protection. In contrast, FWS and NPS primarily
manage land to conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat and park
resources, respectively, and resource development is generally not
allowed on FWS- and NPS-managed land. BoR focuses on managing,
developing, and protecting water and related resource projects, such as
dams, irrigation, and hydroelectric plants. Lands managed by these
federal agencies may also be specially designated, for example, as
wilderness areas or national trails.

To help manage federal land, the five agencies collect data that track,
among other things, land use, revenues generated from activities
occurring on the land, and land that has been designated for a specific
use, such as wilderness areas. However, in the past, we, the
departments’ Offices of Inspectors General, and others have raised
concerns about the accuracy and completeness of the data used to
manage federal land and resources and revenues collected from activities
on federal land. As these prior reports have concluded, without accurate
and complete data, managers cannot make fully informed decisions and
effectively manage and evaluate agency activities.

In 2010, at the request of the House Committee on Natural Resources
and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, we
undertook a study to review the extent to which each of the five federal
land management agencies collect data that were considered by the
committees as key to managing federal lands and resources. In April
2011, we issued a report—Federal Land Management: Availability and
Potential Reliability of Selected Data Elements at Five Agencies


Page 1                                  GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
             (GAO-11-377)—that described which data the agencies collected, where
             the agencies stored these data, and the potential reliability of these data.
             My testimony today is based on the findings of this report, which
             contained no recommendations. The 2011 report contains a detailed
             explanation of the methods used to conduct our work, which we
             performed in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
             standards.


             The four major federal land management agencies—BLM, the Forest
Background   Service, FWS, and NPS—manage their land and resources in
             accordance with their respective missions and authorities. BLM and the
             Forest Service are responsible for managing about 69 percent of federal
             land for a variety of uses, including recreation, timber harvesting,
             livestock grazing, oil and gas production, and mining. FWS is responsible
             for managing about 14 percent of federal land, primarily to conserve and
             protect fish and wildlife, and their habitat, although other uses, such as
             hunting and fishing, are allowed when they are compatible with the
             primary purposes for which the lands are managed. NPS manages
             approximately 12 percent of federal land to conserve, preserve, protect,
             and interpret the nation’s natural, cultural, and historic resources.

             In comparison, BoR, which manages about 1 percent of federal land, has
             a much narrower primary mission—to manage, develop, and protect
             water and related resources in an environmentally and economically
             sound manner. Accordingly, BoR maintains 348 reservoirs, 476 dams,
             and 58 hydroelectric plants on federal land and is the largest wholesale
             supplier of water in the United States and the second-largest
             hydroelectric power producer in the nation. BoR land is largely managed
             to meet its primary mission, but this land also provides other benefits,
             such as recreation.

             These agencies may collect a variety of data to manage and oversee
             their activities. For our 2011 report, we examined over 100 data elements
             that fall into three broad categories: (1) information on federal land and
             the resources the agencies manage, (2) revenues generated from
             selected activities on federal land, and (3) information on federal land
             subject to selected land use designations. We developed this list of data
             elements by reviewing, among other things, the request letter for the
             work, past GAO and Congressional Research Service reports, and
             interviewing agency officials. The five agencies may collect other data
             related to land management that were not included in this review. The
             three data element categories are described below.


             Page 2                                 GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                        •   Federal land and resources. We identified 57 data elements in this
                            category that relate to (1) information on the total surface and
                            subsurface acres of federal land managed by each of the five land
                            management agencies and the total acres managed for specific
                            purposes, such as hardrock mining or grazing, and (2) the volume of
                            various resources, such as oil and gas and timber extracted or
                            harvested from federal land.
                        •   Revenues generated from activities on federal land. We identified 35
                            data elements in this category that relate to information on revenues
                            generated from activities on federal land, which are derived from the
                            use or sale of land and resources. Sources of revenue include
                            revenues generated from oil and gas activities, hardrock mining, and
                            special use or right-of-way permits issued for transmission lines,
                            filming activities, and concession activities. We also included cost
                            recovery fees—which are intended to recover agency costs for
                            processing certain plans, applications, or permits associated with
                            various activities on federal land—in this category of data elements.
                        •   Federal land use designations. Data elements in this category relate
                            to information on the number of acres each agency manages that are
                            associated with various special designations of federal land, such as
                            wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, paleontological sites, and
                            critical habitat set aside for endangered species. Some of these land
                            use designations apply to all five federal land management agencies,
                            but some are unique to a specific agency, and the number of land use
                            designations applicable to each agency varies.

                        The five agencies varied in the extent to which they collected the over
Extent to Which Data    100 land and resources, revenue, and federal land use designation data
Elements Are            elements that we queried them about. Specifically, all five agencies
                        collected only 4 of the same data elements of the over 100 data elements
Collected by the Five   that we asked them about. These 4 elements related to total surface
Agencies Varied         acres managed, total acres managed within each state, the number of
                        special use permits generated for filming activities on federal land, and
                        the number of cultural and historic sites listed on the National Register of
                        Historic Places. In contrast, none of the agencies collected information for
                        33 data elements that we asked them about, such as the percent of total
                        acres under oil, gas, or coal leases that have surface disturbance or
                        where the surface disturbance has been reclaimed, or information on the
                        potential quantities of oil, gas, and coal resources on federal land.

                        Specifically, of the 57 federal land and resource data elements we asked
                        each of the five agencies about, BLM and the Forest Service collected the
                        most—22 and 20 data elements respectively—and BoR collected the


                        Page 3                                 GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                                                 least—3 data elements. Table 1 lists the 57 federal land and resources
                                                 data elements we asked about and indicates which of the five agencies
                                                 collected them.

Table 1: Federal Land and Resource Data Elements Collected by the Five Federal Agencies

                                                                                                                 Collected
Data element                                                                                     BLM     Forest      FWS     NPS   BoR
                                                                                                         Service
1.   Total surface acres managed                                                                    ✔        ✔         ✔      ✔     ✔
2.   Total subsurface acres managed                                                                 ✔        ✔
3.   Total acres managed within each state                                                          ✔        ✔         ✔      ✔     ✔
4.   Total acres acquired that facilitated the establishment of buffer areas around military                                  ✔
     installations
5.   Total acres withdrawn that facilitated the establishment of buffer areas around military                                 ✔
     installations
6.   Total acres acquired for national park units                                                                             ✔
7.   Total acres acquired for wilderness areas                                                      ✔        ✔
8.   Total acres acquired for battlegrounds
9.   Total acres acquired for wildlife refuges                                                               ✔         ✔
10. Total acres acquired for national recreation areas                                              ✔        ✔                ✔
11. Total acres acquired for other purposes                                                                  ✔         ✔
12. Total acres that were added to the federal estate through eminent domain powers of                       ✔         ✔      ✔     ✔
    the federal government
13. Total acres disposed of through sale or exchange                                                ✔        ✔         ✔      ✔
14. Potential quantity of coal resources on federal lands (tonnage)
15. Potential quantity of coal reserves on federal lands (tonnage)                                  ✔
16. Total acres of federal lands available for coal leasing under existing land management
    plans
17. Total acres of land that have been leased for coal development                                  ✔
18. Total acres of federal lands leased for coal development that are in producing status
19. Extent to which coal has been produced from leased lands (tonnage)
20. Potential quantity of oil and natural gas resources on federal lands (barrels/cubic feet)
21. Potential quantity of oil and natural gas reserves on federal lands (barrels/cubic feet)
22. Total acres of federal lands available for oil and natural gas leasing under existing land
    management plans
23. Total acres of federal lands that have been leased for oil and natural gas development          ✔                         ✔
24. Total acres of federal lands leased for oil and natural gas development that are in             ✔                         ✔
    producing status
25. Extent to which oil and natural gas has been produced from leased federal lands
    (barrels/cubic feet)




                                                 Page 4                                         GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                                                                                                               Collected
Data element                                                                                    BLM    Forest      FWS     NPS   BoR
                                                                                                       Service
26. Value of bonds held by your agency to ensure reclamation of oil and gas operations            ✔
27. Potential acres of federal lands available for timber sale
28. Potential quantity of timber on federal lands suitable for commercial harvesting (board
    feet)
29. Total acres of federal lands that have been approved for commercial timber harvesting         ✔        ✔
    (acres) under existing land management plans
30. Extent to which timber on federal lands has been commercially harvested (board feet)          ✔        ✔
31. Total acres of federal lands from which timber has been commercially harvested                ✔        ✔         ✔
32. Potential acreage for livestock grazing on federal lands                                      ✔
33. Total acres of federal lands authorized for livestock grazing use under existing land         ✔        ✔
    management plans
34. Total acres of federal lands used for livestock grazing                                       ✔        ✔         ✔
35. Potential quantity of hardrock (locatable) minerals on federal lands
36. Total acres of federal lands available for hardrock (locatable) mineral mining under                                    ✔
    existing land management plans
37. Extent to which hardrock (locatable) minerals have been extracted from federal lands
    (tonnage)
38. Value of bonds held by your agency to ensure reclamation of hardrock (locatable)              ✔
    mineral operations
39. Total acres of federal lands that were burned as a result of wildland fires (Forest           ✔        ✔         ✔      ✔
    Service and NPS)/wildfires (BLM)
40. Costs associated with wildland fires (Forest Service and NPS)/wildfires (BLM)                 ✔        ✔         ✔      ✔
41. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under a coal lease that have surface
    disturbance
42. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under an oil and natural gas lease
    that have surface disturbance
43. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under a notice or plan level hardrock     ✔
    (locatable) operation that have surface disturbance
44. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under a coal lease where the
    surface disturbance has been reclaimed
45. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under an oil and natural gas lease
    where the surface disturbance has been reclaimed
46. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under a notice or plan level hardrock     ✔
    (locatable) operation where the surface disturbance has been reclaimed
47. Percentage of total acres of federal lands that are under a coal lease where surface is
    undisturbed
48. Percentage of the total acres of federal lands that are under an oil and natural gas
    lease where surface is undisturbed
49. Percentage of the total acres of federal lands that are under a notice or plan level
    hardrock (locatable) operation where surface is undisturbed




                                             Page 5                                           GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                                                                                                                Collected
Data element                                                                                    BLM    Forest        FWS    NPS   BoR
                                                                                                       Service
50. Total acres of wildlife refuge with energy development and production currently taking
    place
51. Total acres of wildlife refuge with mineral development and production currently taking
    place
52. Ownership of the fluid mineral estate being developed on wildlife refuge (federal, state,
    private)
53. Ownership of the solid mineral estate being developed on wildlife refuge (federal,
    state, private)
54. Total percentage of federal mineral estate that has been withdrawn from mineral entry                  ✔
    under the General Mining Act of 1872
55. Total percentage of federal mineral estate that has been withdrawn from mineral entry                  ✔
    under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920
56. Total percentage of federal mineral estate that has been withdrawn from mineral entry                  ✔
    under the Mineral Leasing Act for Acquired Lands
57. Total percentage of federal mineral estate that has been withdrawn from mineral entry                  ✔
    under the Mineral Materials Disposal Act of 1947
                                             Source: GAO.



                                             Of the 35 revenue data elements we asked each of the five federal
                                             agencies about, BLM collected the most and NPS collected the least, 22
                                             and 6, respectively. Table 2 lists the 35 data elements that relate to
                                             revenues generated from activities on federal lands and which of the five
                                             agencies collected them.

Table 2: Revenue Data Elements Collected by the Five Federal Agencies

                                                                                                                Collected
Data element                                                                                    BLM   Forest        FWS     NPS   BoR
                                                                                                      Service
1.   Oil and gas bonus bids                                                                      ✔
2.   Oil and gas rents                                                                           ✔
3.   Oil & gas royalties
4.   Coal bonus bids                                                                             ✔
5.   Coal rents                                                                                  ✔
6.   Coal royalties
7.   Geothermal bonus bids                                                                       ✔
8.   Geothermal rents                                                                            ✔
9.   Geothermal royalties
10. Other leaseable commodities bonus bids




                                             Page 6                                           GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                                                                                                      Collected
Data element                                                                         BLM    Forest        FWS     NPS   BoR
                                                                                            Service
11. Other leaseable commodities rents
12. Other leaseable commodities royalties
13. Grazing fees                                                                       ✔         ✔          ✔            ✔
14. Claim maintenance fees for hardrock mining                                         ✔
15. Location fees for hardrock mining                                                  ✔
16. Special use permits for transmission lines                                                   ✔                       ✔
17. Right-of-way permits for transmission lines                                        ✔                    ✔      ✔     ✔
18. Special use permits for water projects                                                       ✔
19. Right-of-way permits for water projects                                            ✔                    ✔      ✔
20. Special use permits for solar projects                                             ✔                                 ✔
21. Right-of-way permits for solar projects                                                                              ✔
22. Special use permits for wind projects                                              ✔         ✔                       ✔
23. Right-of-way permits for wind projects                                             ✔                                 ✔
24. Special use permits generated from camping activities                              ✔         ✔          ✔            ✔
25. Special use permits generated from day use activities                              ✔         ✔          ✔            ✔
26. Special use permits generated from filming activities                              ✔         ✔          ✔      ✔     ✔
27. Special use permits generated from concession activities                           ✔         ✔
28. Cost recovery fees associated with hardrock mining                                 ✔
29. Cost recovery fees related to Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) preparation                                       ✔
30. Cost recovery fees for processing oil and gas Applications to Drill                ✔
31. Cost recovery fees associated with geothermal activities                           ✔
32. Recreation fees                                                                              ✔          ✔      ✔     ✔
33. Entrance fees                                                                      ✔                    ✔
34. Use fees                                                                                                ✔      ✔
35. Concession receipts                                                                                     ✔      ✔     ✔
                                              Source: GAO.



                                              Some land use designation data elements that we asked the five federal
                                              land management agencies about applied to all five of them, and some
                                              were unique to a specific agency. As a result, the number of land use
                                              designations applicable to each agency varied. Specifically, 26 federal
                                              land use designation data elements applied to BLM, 21 to the Forest
                                              Service, 21 to FWS, 30 to NPS, and 17 to BoR. NPS collected the most
                                              information on federal land use designation data elements and BoR
                                              collected the least, 25 and 1, respectively. Table 3 lists the data elements
                                              collected for federal land use designations by those that apply to all
                                              agencies and those that apply to each of the five agencies.


                                              Page 7                                 GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
Table 3: Federal Land Use Designation Data Elements Collected by the Five Federal Agencies

Federal land use designation data elements applicable to all five agencies
                                                                                                                 Collected
Data element                                                                                      BLM      Forest     FWS    NPS    BoR
                                                                                                           Service
1.   Total acres designated as Wilderness Areas under the Wilderness Act of 1964 and                 ✔         ✔        ✔      ✔
     subsequent associated legislation
2.   Total river miles designated as Wild and Scenic River under all categories of                   ✔         ✔        ✔      ✔
     designations under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, as amended
3.   Number of cultural and historic resource sites listed on the national register of historic      ✔         ✔        ✔      ✔     ✔
     places under the Historic Sites Act of 1935 or the National Historic Preservation Act
     of 1966
4.   Number of National Historic and National Scenic Trails designated under the                     ✔         ✔        ✔      ✔
     National Trails System Act of 1968, as amended
5.   Number of National Recreational Trails or roads designated under the National Trails                      ✔        ✔      ✔
     System Act of 1968, as amended
6.   Number of paleontological sites                                                                 ✔         ✔        ✔      ✔
7.   Total acres designated as Research Natural Areas                                                          ✔               ✔
8.   Total acres designated as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act                     ✔         ✔               ✔
9.   Total acres designated under the United Nations Biosphere Reserve Program
10. Total acres designated as World Heritage Sites                                                   ✔                         ✔
11. Total acres designated as Wetlands of International Importance/Ramsar sites
12. Total acres designated as Globally Important Bird Areas
13. Total acres designated as International Historic Sites                                                                     ✔
Federal land use designation data elements specific to BLM
1.   Total acres designated as National Conservation Areas                                           ✔
2.   Total acres designated as National Monuments by public proclamation of the                      ✔
     President under the Antiquities Act of 1906, or by the Congress
3.   Total acres designated as Cooperative Management and Protection Areas                           ✔
4.   Total acres designated as National Recreation Areas                                             ✔
5.   Total acres designated as Special Recreation Management Areas                                   ✔
6.   Total acres designated as Outstanding Natural Areas                                             ✔
7.   Total acres designated as Forest Reserves                                                       ✔
8.   Total acres inventoried as Wilderness Study Areas through Section 603(a) of the                 ✔
     Federal Land Policy Management Act
9.   Total acres designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern                               ✔
10. Total acres designated as administrative sites
11. Total acres designated as Visual Resource Management Classifications
12. Total acres designated as Wildland Fire Use Management Areas
13. Total acres designated as Herd Management Areas                                                  ✔




                                               Page 8                                             GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
Federal land use designation data elements applicable to all five agencies
                                                                                                  Collected
Data element                                                                       BLM      Forest     FWS    NPS    BoR
                                                                                            Service
Federal land use designation data elements specific to the Forest Service
1.   Total acres designated as National Forests                                                 ✔
2.   Total acres designated as National Grasslands                                              ✔
3.   Total acres designated as National Monuments                                               ✔
4.   Total areas designated as National Tallgrass Prairie                                       ✔
5.   Total acres designated for Land Utilization Projects                                       ✔
6.   Total acres designated as administrative sites                                             ✔
7.   Total acres within inventoried roadless areas                                              ✔
8.   Total acres for other land use designations listed in existing forest plans
Federal land use designation data elements specific to FWS
1.   Total acres within the National Wildlife Refuge System                                              ✔
2.   Total acres within the National Fish Hatchery System                                                ✔
3.   Total acres designated as Waterfowl Production Areas                                                ✔
4.   Total acres designated as Coastal Wetlands
5.   Total acres designated as Wetlands Conservation
6.   Total acres designated as Migratory Bird Habitat Areas
7.   Total acres managed as administrative sites                                                         ✔
8.   Total acres designated as National Monuments                                                        ✔
Federal land use designation data elements specific to NPS
1.   Total acres designated as National Parks                                                                   ✔
2.   Total acres designated as National Parkways                                                                ✔
3.   Total acres designated as National Cemeteries
4.   Total acres designated as National Monuments                                                               ✔
5.   Total acres designated as National Battlefields                                                            ✔
6.   Total acres designated as National Battlefield Parks                                                       ✔
7.   Total acres designated as National Battlefield Sites                                                       ✔
8.   Total acres designated as National Military Parks                                                          ✔
9.   Total acres designated as National Historic Parks                                                          ✔
10. Total acres designated as National Historic Sites                                                           ✔
11. Total acres designated as National Lakeshores                                                               ✔
12. Total acres designated as National Memorials                                                                ✔
13. Total acres designated as National Preserves                                                                ✔
14. Total acres designated as National Reserves                                                                 ✔
15. Total acres designated as National Seashores                                                                ✔




                                              Page 9                               GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
Federal land use designation data elements applicable to all five agencies
                                                                                                   Collected
Data element                                                                        BLM      Forest     FWS    NPS    BoR
                                                                                             Service
16. Total acres designated as National Recreation Areas                                                          ✔
17. Total acres designated as administrative sites
Federal land use designation data elements specific to BoR
1.   Total acres designated as Wetlands
2.   Total acres designated as National Monuments
3.   Total acres designated as National Natural Landmarks
4.   Total acres designated as administrative sites
                                             Source: GAO.



                                             Agency officials cited various reasons why their agencies did not collect
                                             certain information, such as they believed another federal agency
                                             collected it, it was inconsistent with the agency’s mission, or they lacked
                                             the authority or resources to do so. For example, according to BLM
                                             officials, the agency does not collect information on the total acres of land
                                             designated as Globally Important Bird Areas. The American Bird
                                             Conservancy designates these areas and, along with the National
                                             Audubon Society, collects information about these sites. BLM is informed
                                             if any designations are on its land but does not track these areas.
                                             Similarly, according to FWS officials, the United Nations World Heritage
                                             program keeps records for acres designated as World Heritage Sites, and
                                             FWS relies on this entity for information about these sites.

                                             In addition, some agencies did not collect data because they believe
                                             collecting it would be inconsistent with the agency’s mission. For
                                             example, according to NPS officials, with regard to data related to various
                                             aspects of coal, oil and gas, and hardrock operations on NPS land, these
                                             activities, if they are allowed at all, are quite limited on NPS land because
                                             they are inconsistent with the mission of the agency. For this reason, NPS
                                             does not collect information on the potential amounts of these resources
                                             on NPS land. These officials also told us that for any quantities of oil and
                                             gas extracted from NPS land, the Department of the Interior’s Office of
                                             Natural Resources Revenue would collect this information. In addition,
                                             BoR did not collect 54 of the 57 federal land and resource data elements
                                             we examined because, according to agency officials, these data did not
                                             relate to BoR’s mission. The officials noted that while BoR manages land
                                             associated with its mission, other activities do occur on its land that are
                                             incidental to its mission and are generally managed by another agency.
                                             For example, Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona is a National Recreation


                                             Page 10                                GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                       Area located on BoR land and managed by NPS. Thus, NPS would
                       collect data on the number of acres acquired for national recreation
                       areas, such as Lake Mead, and not BoR.

                       Further, some agencies cited a lack of authority or resources to collect
                       certain data elements as their reason for not doing so. For example,
                       according to agency officials, the Forest Service does not collect
                       information on surface land disturbed by coal mining because it is not
                       within Forest Service authority to require collection of this information.
                       Forest Service officials said Interior’s Office of Surface Mining,
                       Reclamation and Enforcement may collect this information. They added
                       that it is not within the scope of the Forest Service’s authority to require
                       the collection of information on surfaces disturbed by oil and gas
                       activities, but they thought that BLM might collect this information. BLM
                       officials stated that they would like to collect this information, but funding
                       is not available to do so.


                       When information was collected by the five agencies, it was more often
Approximately Three-   stored in a primary agency data system—a centralized electronic data
Quarters of the Data   system maintained at an agencywide level—than in other formats.
                       Specifically, approximately three-quarters of the data elements that the
Elements Collected     agencies collected were stored in a primary agency data system. For
Are Stored in a        example, we queried each agency about 57 federal land and resources
Primary Agency Data    data elements, and while the number of data elements each agency
                       collected varied significantly, ranging from 3 to 22, the majority of the
System                 information that was collected was stored in a primary agency data
                       system. BLM collected 22 federal land and resource data elements, and
                       15 of these elements were stored in a primary agency data system.
                       These included data elements related to the total acres that have been
                       leased for coal development, total acres that have been leased for oil and
                       gas development, and total acres for livestock grazing. However other
                       data, such as acres of surface and subsurface land, acres managed
                       within each state, and potential quantity of coal reserves on leased land
                       that the agency manages, were kept in BLM state offices in other formats,
                       such as electronic spreadsheets or hard copy. In contrast, all the data
                       elements the Forest Service, FWS, and BoR collected were available in a
                       primary agency data system.

                       Similarly, we asked each agency about 35 specific revenue data
                       elements, and again while the number of data elements each agency
                       collected varied significantly, ranging from 6 to 22, the majority of the
                       information that was collected was stored in a primary agency data


                       Page 11                                 GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                        system. For example, BLM stored all 22 of the revenue data elements it
                        collected in primary agency data systems, including those related to
                        revenues generated from right-of-way permits for transmission lines and
                        water and wind projects and special use permits for camping, day use,
                        filming, and concession activities. In contrast, of the 6 revenue data
                        elements that NPS collected, 3 were stored in a primary agency data
                        system—including those related to recreation fees, use fees, and
                        concession receipts—and 3 were stored in other formats—including
                        special use and right of way permits, which are kept at the park unit level.

                        With regard to data elements on federal land use designations, the
                        number stored in primary agency data systems or in other formats also
                        varied significantly by agency. For example, only 1 of the 17 land use
                        designation data elements applicable to BLM was stored in a primary
                        agency data system. Other data elements, such as those related to the
                        number of cultural and historic resource sites, National Monuments, and
                        National Historic and National Scenic Trails, were documented in
                        spreadsheets at BLM headquarters. Some data elements, such as the
                        number of paleontological sites and total acres designated as critical
                        habitat under the Endangered Species Act, were maintained at multiple
                        field offices in other formats, such as electronic files or hard copy. In
                        contrast, 13 of the 15 data elements that the Forest Service collects on
                        land use designation are stored in primary agency systems. These
                        include information on total acres designated as Wilderness Areas,
                        National Forests, National Grasslands, National Monuments, National
                        Tallgrass Prairie, Land Utilization Projects, administrative sites, and
                        Research Natural Areas; and the total river miles designated as Wild and
                        Scenic Rivers. At NPS, the format for data storage was more of a mix,
                        with 18 of the 25 data elements stored in primary agency data systems
                        and 7 stored in other formats, including electronic spreadsheets, Web
                        sites, or paper files at agency headquarters or in park units.


                        We assessed the potential reliability of the data elements that the five
Less than Half of the   agencies collected and determined that less than half of the data
Agency Data Stored in   elements stored in a primary agency data system were potentially
                        reliable. Generally, we assessed data elements as potentially reliable
Primary Agency Data     when information about the completeness and accuracy of a specific data
Systems Were            element provided high assurance of its reliability. It is important to note
Assessed to Be          that we assessed the potential reliability of these data elements for a
                        given period of time, and additional analysis would be needed to
Potentially Reliable    determine the reliability of specific data elements for specific purposes.



                        Page 12                                GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
With regard to federal land and resource data elements, we assessed as
potentially reliable 24 data elements that the five federal agencies stored
in a primary agency data system:

•   At BLM, of the 15 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, 6 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At the Forest Service, of the 20 data elements that were stored in a
    primary agency data system, 4 were assessed to be potentially
    reliable.
•   At FWS, of the 10 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, 6 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At NPS, of the 10 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, 8 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At BoR, of the 3 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, none was assessed to be potentially reliable.

Reasons why these data were found to be potentially unreliable included
concerns about the accuracy and completeness of the data and internal
controls for data quality. For example, all of the federal land and resource
data elements in the Forest Service’s Land Area Report data system and
the Automated Lands Program data system were assessed as potentially
unreliable, in part because their associated data systems had weak
internal controls for data quality.

With regard to the revenue data elements stored in primary agency data
systems, we assessed 17 as potentially reliable:

•   At BLM, of the 22 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, 13 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At the Forest Service, of the 9 data elements that were stored in a
    primary agency data system, 1 was assessed to be potentially
    reliable.
•   At FWS, of the 10 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, none was assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At NPS, of the 3 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, all 3 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At BoR, of the 4 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, none was assessed to be potentially reliable.

Reasons why these data were found to be unreliable varied. For example,
at BLM, we assessed two data elements—revenues generated by coal
bonus bids and coal rents in the Collection and Billing System—as



Page 13                                GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
potentially unreliable, in part because BLM did not provide sufficient
information about the accuracy and completeness of these data elements
in the Collection and Billing System. In addition, at FWS, we assessed the
revenues generated from the right-of-way permits data element as
potentially unreliable, in part because the revenues cannot be broken
down by type of permit, and even if the type of permit were known, the
frequency of revenues generated from these permits is unknown (e.g.,
annually or one-time).

With regard to the data on land use designations, we assessed as
potentially reliable 25 land use designation data elements stored in
primary agency data systems:

•   At BLM, the 1 data element that was stored in a primary agency data
    system was not assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At the Forest Service, of the 13 data elements that were stored in a
    primary agency data system, 2 were assessed to be potentially
    reliable.
•   At FWS, of the 6 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, all 6 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At NPS, of the 18 data elements that were stored in a primary agency
    data system, 17 were assessed to be potentially reliable.
•   At BoR, the 1 data element collected was not stored in a primary
    agency data system.

As with the other two types of data elements, the reasons why these data
were found to be potentially unreliable varied. For example, we found the
land use designation data element at BLM potentially unreliable, in part
because of limitations with the accuracy of historic data. In contrast, we
found eight data elements stored in the Forest Service’s Land Area
Report data system potentially unreliable, in part because the data
system used few internal controls for data quality, and the data in the
system had not been audited.


Chairman Lamborn, Ranking Member Holt, and Members of the
Subcommittee, while we recognize that managing the vast federal estate
is a daunting task, this task becomes even more challenging when federal
land managers do not have access to complete, accurate, and
comprehensive land inventory data. This concludes my prepared
statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may
have at this time.



Page 14                               GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
                   For further information about this testimony, please contact Anu K. Mittal
GAO Contacts and   at (202) 512-3841 or mittala@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Acknowledgements   Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
                   of this testimony. Elizabeth Erdmann, Assistant Director; Antoinette
                   Capaccio, Carol Kolarik, Rebecca Shea, and Lisa Turner also made key
                   contributions to this testimony.




(361406)
                   Page 15                               GAO-12-691T Federal Land Management Data
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