oversight

National Forests: Special Recreation Areas Not Meeting Established Objectives

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-02-05.

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

                         United   States   General   Accounting   Of’fice
                         Report to the Chairman, Subcommittee
            GAO          on National Parks and Public Lands,
                         Committee on Interior and Insular
                         Affairs, House of Representatives

i
i
    .   r
            Fehuuy1990
                         NATIONAL FORESTS
                         Special Recreation
                         Areas Not Meeting
                         Established Objectives
Resources, Community,   and
Economic Development    Division

R-238089

February 5,199O

The Honorable Bruce F. Vento
Chairman, Subcommittee on National
  Parks and Public Lands,
Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:

This report responds to your request that we review the Forest Service’s management of
special recreation areas. The report assesses whether these areas have been developed,
operated, and maintained as provided for in designating legislation, Forest Service policy,
and the individual plans the Forest Service has developed for them.

Copies of the report are also being sent to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of the
Forest Service. We will make copies available to others upon request.

This work was performed under the direction of James Duffus III, Director, Natural
Resources Management Issues, (202) 275-7756. Other major contributors are listed in
appendix III.

Sincerely yours,




J. Dexter Peach
Assistant Comptroller General
                          Executive   Summary




                          have been either delayed or dropped, and visitor information services
                          were inadequate and/or maintenance levels have been reduced at 15 of
                          the 20 areas.

                          Officials at the special recreation areas told GAO that funding shortfalls
                          in the early to mid-1980s were often the cause of the problems in facility
                          development, visitor information services, and maintenance levels. Over
                          the last 3 years, funding for these areas has been increased, and the
                          Forest Service has developed other initiatives-such      as greater use of
                          volunteers and encouragement of contributions from both public and
                          private sources-to help offset funding shortfalls. However, officials at
                          these areas t,old GAO that these increases and initiatives are not likely to
                          bring the areas up 10 lhc standards called for in Forest Service policy.

                          Information on progrrss made, deferments, and future resource needs to
                          develop, operate, and maintain these areas up to the levels called for in
                          Forest Service policy and plans is not readily available. Without this
                          detailed information. n&her the Forest Service nor the Congress can
                          make sound decisions on the appropriate levels of funding or the time
                          frames for meeting t hc>ob,jrctives detailed in the areas’ plans.



Principal Findings

Many Special Recreation   Many of the special recreation areas fell short of the expectations estab-
                          lished for them in Fortbst Service policy or the individual area plans.
Areas Not Meeting
                          This has occurred both in the extent of facility development and the
Planned Objectives        level at which they haye been operated and maintained.

                          Officials at 10 of thtb 20 areas reported to GAO that planned projects-
                          such as campgrounds, road improvements, and information stations-
                          have been delayed or dropped altogether. Eight of the 10 areas that
                          reported delaying or dropping projects were designated before 1980.
                          Plans for these older areas had generally envisioned relatively large-
                          scale facility developnlent. In contrast, only 2 of the 12 areas designated
                          since 1980 reported delaying or dropping projects. The plans for these
                          more recently designat cadareas generally focused more on the preserva-
                          tion of natural rcsour(‘(‘s and called for limited development.




                           Page 3                                  GAO/RCED-W-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Status of Special           In managing most of its special recreation areas, the Forest Service has
                            not adequately monitorrd and reported on the status of development
Recreation Area Planned     and oprarations. Area officials were often unable to provide GAO with
Objectives Not Adequately   documentation detailing planned, actual, and scheduled project comple-
Monitored and Reported      tions. GAOfound one alra-Mount       St. Helens National Volcanic Monu-
                            ment-where     officials tracked, updated, and reported progress and
                            accomplishments annually against the objectives stat.ed in the area plan.
                            Similar information for all the special recreation areas would assist the
                            Forest Service and t,hc (Congress in making decisions on funding levels
                            and time frames for mW ing the objectives established for these areas.


                            (;r\o recommends that the Secretary of Agriculture direct, the Chief of
Recommendation              thr Forest Service to develop information on and periodically report the
                            status of development. operations, and maintenance at each special rec-
                            rrat,ion area to the Congress. Such information should, as a minimum,
                            include (1) aspects of each area’s plan that, have been completed, (2)
                            aspt’cts of the plan that have yet to be completed, (3) the proposed time
                            frame and the estimated costs associated with completing the work nec-
                            Wsary to fulfill t,he plan, and (4) an assessment of the resources needed
                            to operate and main1 air1 1hose areas at shou-case I~~vt~ls.


                            G.\Oobl ained t,he vitws of officials directly responsible for the program
Agency Comments             and incorporated thtsir c.omments in the report whcrc appr0priat.e. At.
                            tht‘ request of thtl S11b1ommittee Chairman, however, GAOdid not, obtain
                            writ ten t*ommcnts on ttlis report. Forest Service officials said they gen-
                            crally c,oncrlrred wilt1 (; IO‘S recommendation.




                                                                    GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Tables   Table 1.1: Congressionally Designated Forest Service                               9
             Special Recreation Areas
         Table 2.1: Special Recreation Areas Reporting Dropped                            16
             Projects or Delays in Developing Planned Recreation
             Facilities
         Table 2.2: Area Officials’ Responses to Questions on the                         19
              Adequacy of Interpretive Services and Maintenance
              Levels
         Table 3.1: Forest Service Cost Share Projects Funded in                          30
              Fiscal Year 1988 at Special Recreation Areas
              Reviewed by GAO

Figure   Figure 3.1: Forest Service-Wide Trend for Recreation                             26
              Funding, Fiscal Years 1980-89




         Abbreviations

         GAO       General    Accounting Office
         131       National    Monument
         NRA       National    Recreation Area
         WA        National    Scenic Area
         XMEA      National    Management Emphasis Area
         KS1i.A    National    Scenic Research Area


         PaI@ 7                                 GAO/RCED9027    National   Recreation   Areas
                                          listed in table 1.1 ,I In total, these 20 areas comprise about 6.3 million
                                          acres. Individually, they range in size from Misty Fiords National Monu-
                                          ment in Alaska, which contains more than 2 million acres, to Pine Ridge
                                          National Recreation Area in Nebraska, which contains less than 7,000
                                          acres.

Table 1.1: Congressionally Designated
Forest Service Special Recreation Areas                                                      Date                         Approximate
                                          Name                     Designation”     established      State(s)                  acreage
                                          Spruce Knob              NRA                      1965     West Vlrglnla              100,000
                                          Seneca Rocks”
                                          Shasta-Trlmti            NRA                      1965     California                 212,000
                                          Mount Raged              NRA                      1966     Vlrglnla                   154,000
                                          Flaming     Gorge”       NRA                       1968    Utah, Wyoming              201,300
                                          Orcaon      Dines”       NRA                       1972    Oregon                      34,000
                                          Sawtooth”                NRA                       1972    Idaho                      756,000
                                          Hells Canyon’            NRA                       1975    Oregon,      Idaho         652,500
                                          Arapaho                  NRA                       1978    Colorado                    35,700
                                          Rattlesnake              NRA                       1980    Montana                     61,000
                                          Admlraltv       Island   NM                        1980    Alaska                     969,600
                                          Misty Fiords             NM                        1980    Alaska                   2,294,300
                                          Mount     St Helens”     NM                        1982    WashIngton                 110,000
                                          White Rocks’?            NRA                       1984    Vermont                     36,400
                                          Oregon      Cascades     NMEA                      1984    Oregon                     156,900
                                          I~Iount Baker”           NRA                       1984    Washlnaton                    8,600
                                          lirotth Cascades         NSA                       I 984   WashIngton                   87,600
                                          Mono Basin               NSA                       1984    Callfornla                  115,600
                                          Allegheny                NRA                       1984    PennsylvanIa                 23,100
                                          Pine Ridge               NRA                       1986    Nebraska                      6,600
                                          Columbia        River    NSA                       1986    Oreaon.                    285,100
                                          Gorae                                                      Wasiinqton

                                          Total acres                                                                         6.300.300

                                          ‘hRA. National Recreation Area NM, National Monument. NMEA National Management Emphasis Area,
                                          USA National Scenic Area

                                           Areas vIsIted by GAO




                                            ‘I‘hwr Ki;rtionalManagementI’.mphaslsAreasand onei%tional ScfmcResearchArea designatedby
                                          I lw (‘Congress wwe not mclrldt,dm UDTreview becauserecreatmnwas Either not mentionedin the
                                          Icy~siatwnor appearedsrcondary to the primary purposeof the act: LakeTahoeBasin in Nevadaand
                                          (‘;~hfwr~ia(19X0),Ire Metcalf KmagementArea in Montana(19831,Antone BenchArea in IJtah
                                             I!)841,,md(‘awadc llvad m Oregon(1974) The WindmgStair NatmnalRecreationArea in Oklahoma
                                           ( !$t&u IFIR81was alsonut ~r~~~ludrdhwauw it was drslgnatcd after the start of this review.



                                           Page 9                                           GAO/RCED-99.27National Recreation Areas
                            Chapter I
                            Introduction




                            The Forest Service first established its policy for special recreation
Forest Service              areas in the late 1960s. The policy called for these areas to receive spe-
Direction for Special       cial emphasis and priority in protection and development and in the
Recreation Areas            administration of their use commensurate with their specific congres-
                            sional recognition as national recreation resources. The Forest Service
                            policy and objectives for special recreation areas call for

                            providing a showcase for National Forest management standards for
                            programs, services. and facilities;
                            providing for public enjoyment of the area for outdoor recreation or
                            other benefits;
                            protecting the special values and attributes of the area (that is, scenic,
                            cultural, historic, wilderness, wildlife, or other values) that contribute to
                            public enjoyment; and
                          . managing any other resources in the area in a manner that does not
                            impair the public recreation values or the special attributes of the area.

                            While the term “showcase” is not defined, Forest Service special recrea-
                            tion area managers said that they interpret it to mean that they should
                            manage these areas to a noticeably higher standard than other Forest
                            Service units.


Special Recreation Area      For each special recreat.ion area, the Forest Service develops a manage-
                             ment plan and incorporates management direction for the area in an
Plans Contain                overall plan for the t,ntire forest. The areas’ management plans are
Development and              based on the managcmcnt objectives in the implementing legislation and
Management Objectives        on the directives of thcl National Forest Management Act of 1976.’

                             The plans include a description of recreation experiences to be provided,
                             a list of necessary recreation facilities, and management direction for
                             other area resources, such as forest cover, forage, federally listed
                             threatened and endangered flora and fauna, fish and wildlife, and
                             minerals.

                             As of *June 1988, 17 of the 20 areas either had final special recreation
                             area plans or were covtlred by final overall forest plans. In addition, two
                             area plans were includ(sd in draft forest plans. The remaining area, the
                             Columbia River Gor$ National Scenic Area in Oregon and Washington,




                             Page 11                                  GAO/RCED-9027   National   Recreation   Areas
Chapter 1
Introduction




because both areas were designated in 1984 and their area plans had not
been completed.

For the nine areas visited, we compared the area plans’ recreation objec-
tives with their legislated purposes and the recreation facilities develop-
ment that was called for with what had been accomplished. We
discussed progress in meeting objectives with area and Forest Service
headquarters, regional, and national forest officials and reviewed Forest
Service funding trends We also discussed the degree to which planned
development has occurred with representatives of local governments
and environmental groups for some of the areas.

To assess whether the areas were operated and maintained at showcase
levels called for in Forest Service policy, we asked officials of the 20
areas for information on (1) the type and condition of current facilities,
(2) the level of funding and staffing, and (3) the impact, if any, funding
limitations have had on meeting showcase levels for services and facili-
tics. In addition, at the nine areas we visited, we toured the facilities
with Forest Service staff to observe and document service and mainte-
nance levels and facility condition. We also reviewed Forest Service-
wide recreation funding and maintenance backlog data, and discussed
area conditions and funding levels with cognizant Forest Service
officials.

In April 1988, the Forest Service introduced a new National Recreation
Strategy initiative int.ended to improve the quality of recreation oppor-
tunities offered on Forest Service land. We discussed the strategy with
 Forest Service headquarters, regional, and forest recreation staff, and
with area officials to obtain their opinion of the strategy’s strengths and
 limitations as they relate to special recreation areas. We also attended a
jointly sponsored Forest Service and National Park Service National Rec-
 reation Symposium held in October 1988.

We conducted our work between March 1988 and September 1989 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. We
obtained the views of Forest Service officials responsible for special rec-
reation areas and incorporated them where appropriate. As requested,
however, we did not obtain official written agency comments on this
report.




Page 13                                 GAO/RCED90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                                               Chapter 2
                                               Many Special Recreation     Areas Not Meeting
                                               Planned Objectives




Table 2.1: Special Recreation Areas
Reporting Dropped Projects or Delays in        Area                               Examples       of delayed        projects
Developing Planned Recreation Facilities       spruce Knob:S;neca        Rocks    Campgrounds,        p~cnrc areas, scenic             drive
                                               Shasta-Tnnlty                      Campgrounds,        InformatIon         station,    vIsItor center
                                               Mt Rogers                          Campgrounds
                                               Flamrng     Gorge                  Boat ramp, informatlon           slte
                                               Oregon      Dunes                  VIewpoInt and InformatIon               statlons,   wsltor     center,   parklng
                                                                                  imrxovements
                                               Sawtooth                           Campgrounds,        trailheads
                                               Hells Canvon                       lnteroretive   facilities.     roads
                                               Arapaho                            Campgrounds,         picnic area
                                               Admiraltv     Island               Foot trails
                                               Mount St. Helens                   Viewpoint,     parkrng       Improvements,          picnic area



                                               Details describing three examples of delayed or dropped projects at sites
                                               we visited are discussed below.


Hells Canyon National                          Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in Oregon and Idaho contains the
                                               deepest canyon in the ITnited States-even deeper than the Grand Can-
Recreation Area                                yon. As provided for in the area plan, the area was to include a wide
                                               range of recreation activities, including driving access to scenic over-
                                               looks of the canyon and boating on the Snake River below. When the
                                               area was designated in 1975, roads for reaching the canyon rim and the
                                               river were not in good condition. One of the key objectives of the area
                                               plan was to improve the roads to these areas. The plan specified projects
                                               to reconstruct several roads, including one to a viewpoint on the can-
                                               yon’s western rim and two to boat launch areas on the river.

                                               Projects to improve these three roads were identified in the area plan
                                               that was approved in 1981. Appeals by various interest groups delayed
                                               implementation of the plan until 1984, and according to a Forest Service
                                               official, funding limitations then delayed work on any of the three roads
                                               until 1988. During the 13-year period since the area’s designation, driv-
                                               ing access to these areas has been restricted to those visitors willing to
                                               risk travel on extremely rough roads. More specifically:

                                           l   The road to the viewpoint at the canyon rim is a 24-mile dirt and gravel
                                               road that requires about a 3-hour trip each way because of its rough
                                               condition. The Forest Service does not recommend the road for automo-
                                               biles with low clearance or automobiles pulling trailers. In wet weather,
                                               the Forest Service requires vehicles using the road to have either tire
                                               chains or 4-wheel drive. In 1988. the Forest Service received about


                                                Page 15                                                    GAO/RCED-90-27             National     Recreation    Areas
                        chapter 2
                        Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                        Planned Objectives




                        the Sawtooth NRA [National Recreation Area] is causing resource and
                        visual damage, especially along the Salmon River.”

                        Pettit Lake is another example of an area where campsites are inade-
                        quate at Sawtooth. This area was scheduled for a campground with 40
                        sites in 1975 to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors. An area
                        official explained that because the campground has not been built, an
                        area originally designated for day use only has been converted to an
                        overnight campground, with barriers installed to keep campers from
                        camping too close to the lake. However, we observed that the barriers
                        had been removed. As a result, recreation vehicles were occupying the
                        shoreline, limiting day-use access and damaging shoreline vegetation.


Oregon Dunes National   The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, established in 1972, is
                        located on a scenic U.S. highway along the Oregon coast. The recreation
Recreation Area         area is 41 miles long and contains sand dunes ranging from small dunes
                        with crests of 6 to 8 feet to large dunes with heights to 300 feet and
                        lengths to 5,000 feet. The area had about 1.4 million recreation visitor
                        days in fiscal year 1987 (latest data available). The Forest Service esti-
                        mated that nearly one-third of the visitors were off-road vehicle users.
                        The area plan, approved in 1979, called for construction of a broad
                        range of information and interpretive facilities to inform the visiting
                        public about the Dunes environment and the recreation opportunities
                        there. The plan called for construction of a visitor center, information
                        stations at the north and south ends of the area, and two dune over-
                        looks, but did not include cost estimates for these facilities. During our
                        visit, we found that many of these projects had not been implemented.
                        The Forest Service Area headquarters office, located approximately at
                        the midpoint of the 41.mile length of the area, was the only place where
                         information brochures and maps were available. As a result, visitors
                         entering the area from the north or the south must travel about 20 miles
                         to obtain information about the dunes. Although a few key roadside
                         locations had informative pictorial signs (the result of a 3-year, $1.15
                         million sign project completed in 1988), we found other significant fea-
                         tures and access points unmarked.

                         As of March 1989, area officials said that only one of the information
                         and interpretive facility projects, an overlook costing about $350,000,
                         was completed. The second overlook, which was originally scheduled for
                         completion in 1983. is currently planned for construction in 1994. The
                         plan for the area no longer calls for the visitor center or information



                         Page 17                                      GAO/RCED9027   National   Recreation   Areas
                                          Chapter 2
                                          Many Special Recreation       Areas Not Meeting
                                          Planned Objectives




                                          We found that visitor programs and services (such as educational pro-
Most Areas Not                            grams and visitor information services) at most special recreation
Receiving Showcase                        areas-regardless    of when the areas were established-generally      fell
Management                                short of the showcase level directed by Forest Service policy. Forest Ser-
                                          vice internal reviews at some areas have noted that developed site facili-
                                          ties were generally not managed at expected showcase levels and that
                                          interpretive services were below the level anticipated in the area plan.
                                          We asked the managers of the 20 special recreation areas to describe the
                                          adequacy of the condition of facilities and level of service for programs.
                                          As table 2.2 shows, managers of 15 areas reported that they believed
                                          their interpretive services were inadequate to meet the needs of the visi-
                                          tors or that they had lowered maintenance or cleanup levels between
                                          fiscal years 1984 and 1988.

Table 2.2: Area Officials’ Responses to
Questions on the Adequacy of                                                   Inadequate interpretive       Lowered maintenance or or
Interpretive Services and Maintenance     Area                                 services (yes/no)             cleanup levels (yes/no)
Levels                                    Pre61980 areas
                                          AraDaho                              Yes                            Yes
                                          Flaming     Gorge                    Yes                            Yes
                                          Hells Canyon                         Yes                            Yes
                                          Mt. Rogers                           Yes                            Yes
                                          Oregon      Dunes                    Yes                            Y&S
                                          Sawtooth                             Yes                            Yes
                                          $r%e        Knob-Seneca     Rocks    No                             No
                                          Shasta~Tnnlty                        Yes                            Yes        __      ~~         -
                                          Post-1980         areas
                                          Admiralty     Island                 Yes                            Yes
                                          Allegheny                            No                             Yes
                                          Columbia      River Gorge            No response                    No response
                                          Misty Fiords                         Yes                            NO
                                          Mono Basin                           Yes                            No
                                          Mount     Baker                      Yes                            Yes
                                          Mount St Helens                      No                             Yes
                                          North Cascade                        Yes                            No
                                          Oregon      Cascade                  No                             No
                                          Pine Rldqe        ~-                 No                             No
                                          Rattlesnake                          No                             Yes
                                          White Rocks                          No                             No


                                          Officials at 12 of the 20 areas indicated that inadequate funding or
                                          staffing was the c’ausr for areas’ having lower maintenance or cleanup



                                          Page 19                                                GAO/RCED-99-27     National   Recreation       Areas
                           Chapter 2
                           Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                           Planned Objectives




                       . Shasta-Trinity had an interpretation services program that included
                         campfire theatre programs and guided nature hikes prior to 1979. An
                         area official said that three full-time and five seasonal staff were availa-
                         ble for this function then. He added that since 1980, staffing for this
                         function has been reduced to the point where only one of his staff has
                         some interpretation duties. As a result, according to the official, these
                         services have been virtually nonexistent for the past 10 years.

                           The Forest Service has ackn.owledged that except in a few select loca-
                           tions, interpretation has been all but eliminated because of funding pri-
                           orities. According to one official, the first casualty of reduced budgets is
                           interpretive services, which are eliminated in favor of maintaining facil-
                           ities. Officials at five of the nine areas we visited indicated that increas-
                           ing funding levels for interpretive service would be essential to achieve
                           the showcase management objectives established for these areas in For-
                           est Service policy.


Maintenance   Levels       Officials of 12 of the 20 areas reported to us that maintenance or
Reduced                    cleanup levels had been lowered between 1983 and 1988. At some areas,
                           this meant postponing needed facility repairs until they become critical.
                           Officials at two of the older areas stated that more money and staff had
                           been available for maintenance a decade ago, and several officials said
                           their areas had declined in terms of overall condition since being estab-
                           lished as special recreation areas.:! Thus, many areas we visited were not
                           being maintained at showcase levels. The following are examples of con-
                           ditions reported:

                       . At Arapaho, the staff reported that all maintenance except for health
                         and safety items had been postponed or eliminated since the early
                          1980s. As a result, nearly two-thirds of the area’s 345 developed over-
                         night camping sites have not been adequately maintained. According to
                         an area official, because of this insufficient maintenance, many of these
                         sites are substandard and visitors must put up with eroded and uneven
                         camping pads, broken or missing fire rings, unpainted structures, and
                         old, leaking toilets.
                       l i\t Flaming Gorge, the staff reported that necessary preventive mainte-
                         nance work on complex sewage and water systems had not been done.
                         According to an area official, five full-time people would be required to

                           %~!ausc information on oyxalions and maintenancefunding at the arealevel had beendiscardedor
                           sent to storagefor the years bc>fow1986,WC’were not able to determinethe historical pattern of
                           funding for operationsand mamtenancr



                           Page 21                                           GAO/RCED-90-27    National   Recreation   Areas
                       Chapter 2
                       Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                       Planned Objectives




                       An effective monitoring and information-reporting system on the status
Status of Planned      of the special recreation areas does not exist. As a result, information on
Objectives Not         progress made, deferments, and future resource needs for the special
Adequately Monitored   recreation areas has generally not been developed and reported.
and Reported           To determine the progress made at special recreation areas compared
                       with planned objectives, we reviewed Forest Service budget submissions
                       to the Congress and found that such information was not included in the
                       submissions. We also asked officials at Forest Service headquarters for
                       these data and found that they did not have this information. Conse-
                       quently, we queried officials at the individual special recreation areas
                       for this information.

                       We found that the monitoring and evaluation of recreation development
                       and progress varied greatly among the areas. For example, while offi-
                       cials at 10 of the 20 areas provided us a list showing delays in complet-
                       ing projects contained in the area plans, some of these lists did not
                       include all the project.s proposed in the area plan or did not include the
                       current status of all pro,jcc’ts. As a result, we were unable to directly
                       quantify the exact nurnb(~r of projects delayed or the average length of
                       the delays. In addition officials at most of the arcas we visited were
                       unable to provide us with documentation detailing planned, actual, and
                       scheduled project complct ion. For example, at one of the areas, we were
                       told that there was n(~ written documentation reporting the status of
                       past construction a11drcronstruction projects included in the area plan.

                       With regard to visitor st‘r\ ices and facility maintenance, Forest Service
                       internal evaluations 01 some areas have noted problems accompanying
                       lower-than-planned I~~\~lsof’ visitor services and facilities maintenance.
                       For example, a 1984 allalysis of special recreation areas in the Pacific
                       Northwest stated, “lOr~r] credibility with the public get,s stretched fur-
                       ther each year as w(b fail to meet our publicly-proclaimed commitments.”
                       A 1987 management r(bviw focusing on Mount St. Helens stated that
                       “the Forest, Service inragc could be tarnished if facilities are allowed to
                       deteriorate and publit sclrvices arc‘ significantly reduced.” Also in 1987,
                       a report on Flaming Gorgtl and Sawtooth concluded that “capital invest-
                       ments are deteriorating and many improvements will soon reach a point
                       where public healf I ( imd safety will be compromised. This could result in
                       the need to close swtx~ fac4ities.” However. these internal evaluations
                       are not prepared on 21rc,glllar basis and do not always include an exami-
                       nation of all plannctd gO>IIsand objectives.




                        Page 28                                      GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Development, Operations, and Maintenance
Shortfalls Linked to Funding Limitations

                       According to special recreation area officials, funding and staffing
                       shortfalls were often the cause of the delays in facility development, the
                       inadequacy of visitor information services, and lower maintenance and
                       cleanup levels discussed in the previous chapter. Funding decreases
                       (expressed in constant 1989 dollars) for special recreation areas mir-
                       rored general decreases in Forest Service recreation funding between
                        1980 and 1986. Funding for Forest Service-wide recreation during fiscal
                       years 1987-89 has been increased, but as of fiscal year 1989 had not
                       been restored to the fiscal year 1980 level. Officials at six of the nine
                       special recreation areas we visited told us that they believed the current
                       increased funding levels would allow them t,o complete planned develop-
                       ment projects within 10 years, but officials at all nine areas said the
                       increased funding levels were still insufficient to meet operations and
                       maintenance needs.

                       The Forest Service has recently initiated efforts to offset its anticipated
                       recreation funding shortfall. In April 1988, it issued a National Recrea-
                       tion Strategy, which calls for stretching available federal dollars
                       through greater use of volunteers and through seeking out public and
                       private groups to share the expense of developing, repairing, and oper-
                       ating facilities. Although these efforts may provide some help, we
                       believe it is questionable whether they will provide sufficient additional
                       resources to develop planned facilities and achieve a showcase level of
                       operations at the special recreation areas.


                       Special recreation area managers told us that shortfalls in funding and
Funding for Forest     staffing were often the reason for the delays in projects, the inadequacy
Service-Wide           of visitor information services, and the lower levels of cleanup and
Recreation Fell        maintenance. Specifically, officials at 8 of the 10 areas where facility
                       developments had been delayed or dropped cited funding or staffing
Substantially During   shortfalls as the reason. At all 15 areas where services and/or mainte-
the Early 1980s        nance levels had been reduced, officials cited funding or staffing as the
                       cause. However, the Forest Service was unable to provide us with
                       annual recreation funding allocated to these areas for fiscal years 1980
                       through 1985. As a result, we could not develop quantifiable trend data
                       on funding levels for t.hcse areas for the lo-year period ending Septem-
                       ber 1989. As a surrogate, we used Service-wide recreation funding allo-
                       cations to determine the direction of funding during that period.

                       During fiscal years 1980 through 1986, the Forest Service experienced a
                       mqjor reduction in the purchasing power of its recreation dollars. Figure
                       3.1 shows the level of Service-wide funding for recreation during fiscal


                       Page 25                                  GAO,‘RCED-‘JO-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                             Chapter :I
                             Development,    Operations, and Maintenmcc
                             Shortfalls Linked to Funding Limitations




                             “Since 1978, some maintenance and services have been deferred while operation
                             needs were being addressed. Accumulation of deferred maintenanceis now the
                             focus for some of the highest priority work because of the potential investment loss
                             and rapidly increasing nwd for major site and facility restorations.”

                             The update stated that the percentage of Service-wide recreation use
                             management that meets full Forest Service standards for quality recrea-
                             tion had decreased from 74 percent in 1978 to 27 percent in 1985. It
                             concluded that financial and work force limitations reduced the agency’s
                             capability to manage recreation at acceptable levels and “results
                             directly in facility deterioration and closure.”

                             The deferred maintenance and facility deterioration caused by the
                             shortfall in funding has contributed significantly to a growing Service-
                             wide backlog of recreation repair and reconstruction projects. The For-
                             est Service reported that the Service-wide backlog of recreation facilities
                             in need of repair and reconstruction increased from a 1978 total of
                             about $134 million to nearly $300 million by 1986. The Forest Service
                             reported that $52 million of this amount was directly related to high-
                             priority projects to reduce health and safety hazards to the public.


Special Recreation Areas     During fiscal years 1980-86, the Forest Service generally did not single
Also Affected by Declining   out special recreation areas for priority funding. Most of the special rec-
                             rcation area managers we talked to stated that they had to compete
Budget                       with other forest areas on a near-equal footing for limited resources to
                             implement their plans. These managers reported that this, combined
                             with Service-wide budget reductions, has resulted in a decline in both
                             facility development and operations funding similar to that experienced
                             Service,-wide. Because, information on operations and maintenance fund-
                             ing by area had, in most cases, been discarded or sent to storage for the
                             years before 1986. WI’ wer(L not able to determine the historical funding
                             pattern.


                             Beginning in fiscal year 1987, Service-wide funding for recreation
Recent Funding               increased, as figure 3.1 shows. Expressed in constant dollars, fiscal year
Increases Inadequate          1989 funding was about 30 percent greater than the fiscal year 1986
to Address Backlog           l~t~l. According to t htb Forest Service, however, this Service-wide
                             inc,reasc in recreation f’unding has not been sufficient to eliminate con-
                             struction backlogs or bring maintenance up to levels described in forest
                             plans. In a 1989 rrporl, the Forest Service compared planned recreation
                             neclds Icported in the f’orttst plans to initial funding allocations for fiscal



                             Page 27                                      GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                        Chapter 3
                        Development,    Operations, and Maintenance
                        Shortfalls Linked to Funding Limitations




                        through the use of volunteers and partnerships to help operate and
                        maintain facilities and support recreation projects. The strategy applies
                        to all national forests; however, it specifically calls for recognizing the
                        value of special recreation areas within the forests.

                        The new recreation strategy has not been in place long enough to deter-
                        mine the extent to which it will enhance the development and operation
                        of special recreation areas. However, two internal Forest Service analy-
                        ses identified several concerns brought up by Forest Service employees
                        that may limit the strategy’s effectiveness: (1) limitations in the ability
                        of the current “busy” Forest Service work force to accomplish addi-
                        tional responsibilities, (2) limitations on the use of volunteers, and (3) an
                        absence of guidelines on establishing and implementing partnership
                        agreements.

                        With regard to the first concern, Forest Service employees said that the
                        “workbench is full” and that they do not have extra time to take on new
                        tasks, such as developing partnership skills and strategies and imple-
                        menting volunteer programs. Forest Service officials also noted that
                        many employees are so pressed by day-t,o-day tasks and existing priori-
                        ties that they do not have sufficient time to adequately plan and imple-
                        ment new programs.

                        With regard to the second concern, the Forest Service employees noted
                        that although individual volunteers contribute significantly to the devel-
                        opment, operation, and maintenance of recreation facilities, volunteers
                        are not free labor. Recruiting, training, and supervising volunteers
                        require a considerable investment of time and money, with no assurance
                        that volunteers will remain committed and available.

                        Finally, the Forest Service chief and his staff discussed the need for
                        partnership guidelines to support managers’ efforts to increase the num-
                        bers and kinds of partnerships. However, as of May 1989, guidelines for
                        managing partnerships had not been finalized.


Recreation Cost Share   To supplement the new strategy, the Forest Service implemented the
Program                 Recreation Challenge Cost Share Program. To compete for funds under
                        this program, forest managers must secure matching contributions from
                        private individuals, public agencies, or other sources. In fiscal year
                        1988, the Congress appropriated $500,000 to implement the program,
                        which generated about, $900,000 in pledged contributions, according to



                        Page 29                                       GAO/RCEDSO-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Chapter 4

Conclusions and Recommendation


              Forest Service policy calls for special recreation areas to be managed as
              showcases for National Forest programs, services, and facilities. Specific
              development and management objectives for these areas are contained
              in individual plans t,he Forest Service develops for each area. We found
              that many of the special recreation areas fall short of expectations
              established for them in Forest Service policy and individual area plans
              both in the extent, to which facilities have been developed and in the
              levels at which they are operated and maintained. For example, officials
              at 10 of the 20 areas we reviewed reported delaying or dropping
              projects contained in the area plans, and officials at 15 of the 20 areas
              reported that visitor services were inadequate and/or that maintenance
               levels had been lowered. Special recreation area officials told us that
               funding and staffing shortfalls were often the cause of delayed or
              dropped facility development, inadequate interpretive services, and
               lowered maintenance or cleanup levels.

              The reported funding shortfalls at special recreation areas correspond to
              funding shortfalls in t,hc Forest Service recreation budgets in the 1980s.
              Between fiscal years 1980 and 1986, the purchasing power of the Forest
              Service budget for recreation declined about 26 percent. Although the
              Forest Service has had increases in recreation funding for the last 3
              years, special recreation area officials told us that they believed these
              levels are still insufficient to achieve the showcase levels called for in
              Forest Service policy for these areas.

              The Forest Service has developed initiatives to encourage public contri-
              butions of time and dollars, which could help offset these shortfalls.
              Although these initiatives will doubtless provide some help, preliminary
              indications are that thc‘rc are limitations on the amount of these
              resources and the Forest Service’s ability to use them. It is unlikely that
              in themselves the additional resources available to the Forest Service
              through its initiatil ESwill bridge the gap to achieve full showcase levels
              of development ant1 opt’rations for the special recreation areas.

              Detailed information on the amount of resources that would be needed
              t,o develop, operate>. and maint.ain these areas up to the levels called for
              in Forest Service policy and the individual area plans is not readily
              available. In addition. information on progress made, deferments, and
              future needs has gt~n~Xrallynot been developed. Without such data,
              ncithr>r the Forest Servict> nor the Congress has the detailed information
              needed to make decisions on appropriate levels of funding and time
              frames for meeting thcl goals established for these areas. We did find one
              area-Mount St,. I1~~l(~~\s~P~wh(lrr officials tracked, updated, and


              Page 31                                 GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Page 33   GAO/RCED-9027   National   Recreation   Areas
Appendix      I
Funding Levels for Special Recreation            Areas




                                                          Fundinq level (actual dollars)
Activity                                       FY 1966        FY 1967         FY 1966                           FY 1969
Arapaho       National      Recreation   Area: Established October 1976
Recreation        use                            $193,000           $238,000              $225,000             $121,000
Recreation        construction                      19,500            35,200                  60,000                271,000
OtheP                                                6,650            34,800                  15,700                  8,000
Total                                            $219,150          $306,000               $300,700            $400,000

Rattlesnake          National    Recreation   Area: Established        October       1960
Fiecreatton       use                              $10,000           $10,000                $10,000                 $12,000
Recreation        constructIon                               0        70,000                          0                       0
Other"                                               5,000            25,000                  10,000                  8,000
Total                                             $15.000          $105.000                $20.000              $20.000

Admiralty         Island National    Monument:       Established      December        1960
Recreation        use                              $52,430           $45,130                $50,250            $256,500"
Recreation        construction
                        -~                                   0                 0                       0             15,000
Other”                                             224,380           265,290                327,140                 203,428
Total                                            $276,610          $310,420               $377,390             5474,920

Misty Fiords National            Monument:       Established     December          1980
Recreation        use                              $35,900           $20,500                $11,900             $164,500b
Recreation        constructIon                      15,000                     0                       0                      0
Other"                                             447,200           488.900                369,000                 424,400
Total                                              $498,1             $509,4                 $380,9            $588,900

Mount St. Helens National             Volcanic     Monument:       Established       August 1982
Recreation        use                            $700,000           $800,000               $850,000             $850,000
Recreation        constructIon                   1,600,OOO           850,000                766,000            3,400.000
Othera                                             530,000         2,990.000                944,000            6,428,OOO
Total                                         $2,830,000         $4,640,000           $2,560,000           810,678,OOO

White Rocks National             Recreation      Area: Established      June 1984
Recreation        use                               $5,000             $5,000                 $5,000                $15,000
Recreatton        construction                      18,600             40,000                  3,000                          0
Other"                                              29,600              4,000                   5,500                 12,500
Total                                             $53,200            $49,000                513.500                 527.500




 Page 35                                                         GAO/RCRD-9027            National     Recreation      Areas
Appendix I
Funding Levels for Special Recreation        Areas




                                                        Funding level (actual dollars)
Activitv                                 FY 1966            FY 1967         FY 1966              FY 1969
Total Allocation
          .~           For Areas Listed Above
Recreation      use                        $3,757,520     $4,969,500       $5,187,180         $6,408,525
Recreatron      construction                1,952,400      2.750,150        3,666,200          10,553,900

Subtotal     for recreation                $5,709,920     $7,719,650       $8,853,380        $16,962,425
OtheP                                       2,552,620      5,934,580        4,243.910          10,932,243

Total for recreation           and other   56.262.540   51X654.230      $13.097.290         $27.694.666

aThe “other” budget actwty reported here includes fundrng for other recreation-related actrvrtres asso-
crated wrth these areas, rncludrng trawl maintenance, tra constructvan, and wrlderness management,
where applrcable

%cludes wlderness management fundrng that was rncluded rn the “other”       fundlng actrvrty reported rn
prewus fiscal years




Page 37                                                  GAO/RCEB9@27       National    Recreation   Areas
                        Appendix U
                        Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                        The major features of the Shasta and Trinity units are the lakes-Lake
                        Shasta, with a 370-mile shoreline offering wooded flats, steep rocky hill-
                        sides, creeks, and thousands of acres of mountainous country surround-
                        ing the lake, and Clair Engle Lake and Lewiston Lake on the Trinity
                        unit, with 145-mile and 15-mile shorelines, respectively. Both units offer
                        boating, water skiing, swimming, fishing, camping, picnicking, hiking,
                        and hunting. Both Shasta and Clair Engle Lakes have outstanding
                        houseboating opportunities. Area officials report approximately 3 mil-
                        lion recreation visitor days annually.

                        The designating legislation directs that the area provide for (1) public
                        outdoor recreation benefits; (2) conservation of scenic, scientific, his-
                        toric, and other values contributing to public enjoyment; and (3) man-
                        agement utilization and disposal of renewable natural resources that are
                        compatible with and do not significantly impair public recreation and
                        the conservation of scenic, scientific, historic, or other values contribut-
                        ing to public enjoyment.

                        The Forest Service’s major planned objective for the area is to recon-
                        struct existing campground facilities. In addition, the area plan calls for
                        constructing major forest roads to five areas that provide access to the
                        lakes or are sites for potential development of several large, modern
                        campgrounds. These campgrounds will replace the many small, scat-
                        tered sites around Shasta Lake, which the Forest Service plans to close
                        because they are costly to operate.


                        The Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, located in the Jefferson
Mount Rogers National   National Forest in Virginia, was established in May 1966. The 154,000-
Recreation Area         acre area is characterized by scenic mountainous terrain, including
                        Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia. The area’s landscape theme
                        is rural America, and its intent is to retain and restore visual elements of
                        early rural America, including stone bridges, rail fences, old mills, stone
                        iron fences, and intermingled fields and forests. The Mount Rogers area
                        is located in southwest Virginia. Included among the recreational oppor-
                        tunities at Mount Rogers are camping, picnicking, fishing, hunting,
                        horseback riding, and swimming. Mount Rogers officials reported about
                        693,000 recreational visitor days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information
                        available).

                        Mount Rogers’ authorizing legislation calls for the Secretary of Agricul-
                        ture to manage the area for public outdoor recreation benefits; conserve



                        Page 39                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                     Appendix II
                     Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                     area is open to off-road vehicles. Other recreation opportunities include
                     camping, hiking, fishing, and environmental education and interpreta-
                     tion. Area officials reported approximately 1.4 million recreation visitor
                     days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information available). About one-quar-
                     ter of the yearly visitors are off-road vehicle recreationists.

                     The law established thcl area “in order to provide for the public outdoor
                     recreation use and enjoyment” and for “the conservation of scenic, sci-
                     entific, historic, and other values contributing to public enjoyment.” The
                     area plan, approved in 1979, proposed managing the area to provide for
                     a broad spectrum of recreation activities. It called for confining develop-
                     ment to the perimetflr, leaving the interior in an undeveloped state. It
                     also called for retaining cxist,ing access roads and campgrounds and did
                     not propose any new a~ess roads to the beach. The area plan also pro-
                     vidcd for a formal visitor center, unmanned visitor contact stations at
                     the north and south boundaries, and a moderate number of signs to help
                     interpret resources


                     The Sawtooth National Recreation Area is in the Sawtooth National For-
Sawtooth
-         National   est in central Idaho The Congress designated the 756,000-acre area in
Recreation Area      August 1972. Located about 120 miles from Boise, Idaho, it is accessible
                     by two state highways The Sun Valley resort lies near the southern end.
                     Three other communities lie within the area-Stanley, Lower Stanley,
                     and Sawtooth City--offering restaurants, lodging, and other facilities.
                     Encompassing parts I )I’ three mountain ranges, the area includes over
                     300 high mountain lakes and hundreds of streams. The area also con-
                     tains the headwatcrs of several major Idaho rivers, most notably the
                     Salmon River. In 1972. legislation established the 217,088-acre Sawtooth
                     Wilderness, which makes up about 29 percent of the area. The area
                     emphasizes a widtl rang? of primitive and developed activities, including
                     camping, hiking, bacakpacking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing,
                     snowmobiling, fishing, and hunting. The area also offers boating and
                     other water-related activities on the many lakes in the area, while the
                     Salmon River provides white-water rafting opportunities. Area officials
                     estimate that the arca averages about 1 million recreation visitor days
                     each year.

                     The area was established to ensure that the natural, scenic, historic,
                     pastoral, and fish and wildlife values are preserved and protected and
                     that recreation valu~u arc enhanced.




                     Page 41                                  GAO/RCED-W-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                       ---~
                              Appendix II
                              Sg nopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                              recreation objectives. The area plan was approved in January 1985. We
                              were told that the plan recognized that public facility areas were over-
                              crowded, and outlined a number of projects designed to improve availa-
                              ble facilities and activities.


                              The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is located in the Lo10 National
Rattlesnake National          Forest within 5 miles of Missoula, Montana. Established in October
Recreation Area               1980, the area totals 61,000 acres, a major portion of which makes up
                              the municipal watershed of Missoula. Valued for its solitude and free-
                              flowing waters stored and used for municipal purposes, the area has
                              long been used as a wilderness by residents of Montana. There are no
                              public access roads within the area and no overnight campground facili-
                              ties. Three trailheads provide walking access to about 230 miles of trail
                              and primitive camping. The Forest Service estimates that there were
                              about 6.000 recreation visitor days in fiscal year 1987 (latest informa-
                              tion available).

                              The law that created the area splits it into two almost equal portions.
                              ,4pproximately 33,000 acres, titled the Rattlesnake Wilderness, is to be
                              managed under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The remainder of the area is
                              managed for watershed. recreation, wildlife habitat, and ecological and
                              educational purposes. The Forest Service area plan calls for limited
                              improvements to trailhcad facilities, including new toilets, an expanded
                              parking area, and a horse-unloading ramp scheduled for 1991.


                              Admiralty Island National Monument, in Alaska’s Tongass National For-
Admiralty Island              est, is accessible only bb air and water. The 969,600-acre area was desig-
National Monument             nated in December 1980. The island lies in the southeastern portion of
                              the state. The island’s northeastern shore is within 10 miles of Juneau.
                              Alaska’s capital. Mo~mtains running north to south divide the forest-
                              covered island.

                              The area offers dispersed primitive recreation, with opportunities for
                              solitude, hunting, fishing, boating, backpacking, cross-country skiing,
                              and bird watching. In addition, the designating legislation allows an
                              existing special-use permit for a lake lodge resort to continue as long as
                              the management of the lodge remains consistent with the purposes of
                              the area. According to an area official, in addition to visiting the island,
                              many people view it from tour boats and planes. The area had about
                              293,000 recreation visll or days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information
                              available).


                               Page 43                                  GAO/RCED-9027   National   Recreation   Areas
                       Appendix II
                       Synopsis of Special Recwation   Areas




                       volcanic activity, then enter a transition zone where trees were killed
                       but left standing, and end within the blown-down blast area. Turnouts
                       along the road provide access to hiking trails and vistas of mudflows
                       and older volcanoes: Mount Hood to the south, Mount Adams to the east,
                       and Mount Rainier to the north. One lookout, Windy Ridge, is within 3.5
                       miles of the crater and provides a breathtaking panorama of the vol-
                       cano, the building lava dome at its base, and the stark landscape created
                       by the eruption. Naturalist activities and interpretive talks are pre-
                       sented by Forest Service personnel to help visitors understand and enjoy
                       this special place, and a new visitor center-opened in 1986 and only 5
                       miles from an interstate highway-offers      displays featuring the 1980
                       eruption and explaining Mount St. Helens history. The Forest Service
                       estimated that there were approximately 1 million recreation visitor
                       days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                       The public law establishing the monument provided for protecting sig-
                       nificant features, allowing geologic forces and ecological succession to
                       continue unimpeded, and permitting scientific and recreation uses. The
                       area plan, completed in 1985, presents the Forest Service’s approach to
                       preserving the natural processes while providing for construction of
                       trails, roads, and the associated support facilities needed for full recrea-
                       tion use and en.joyment,. Many of the recreation construction projects
                       listed in the plan are to replace facilities lost during the eruption: over
                       200 miles of roads and viewpoints, 97 miles of trails, 244 camp units,
                       and 54 picnic units were damaged or destroyed. The plan calls for rees-
                       tablishing road access to safe viewing points, constructing a primary
                       visitor center, building day-use facilities and interpretive displays at
                       key viewing points. and rrrreating an extensive trail system.


                       White Rocks National Recreation Area was established in June 1984 and
White Rocks National   lies within the Manc.hester Ranger District of the Green Mountain
Recreation Area        National Forest. Known for its white rock cliffs and ice bed area, the
                       36.400-acre area is traversed by a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
                       White Rocks was established to preserve and protect existing wilderness
                       values and promote wildlife habitat watershed protection, opportunities
                       for primitive and st>miprimitive recreation, and scenic ecological and sci-
                       entific values. The area is located in south central Vermont and is acces-
                       sible from nearby highways. The area had about 39,000 recreation
                       visitor days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                       The legislation establishing the area calls for the promotion of primitive
                       and semiprimitive rcc*rcation usages. Approved on January 30, 1986,


                       Page 45                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                  __-.
                         Appendix I1
                         Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                         found in the Northwest, as well as consistently good nordic skiing condi-
                         tions. The Forest Service reported about 12,000 recreation visitor days
                         to the area in fiscal year 1988 (latest information available).

                         The area was designated as part of the Washington State Wilderness
                         Act, with direction to manage the recreation area in a manner to best
                         provide public outdoor recreation (including but not limited to snowmo-
                         bile use); conserve scenic, natural, historic, and other values contribut-
                         ing to public enjoyment; and manage natural resources in a manner
                         compatible with the purposes of the recreation area. According to an
                         area official, between 1984, the year the area was established, and 1988,
                         the Forest Service has essentially managed the area at the same level as
                         before designation. About 20 miles of hiking and horse trails provide the
                         major recreation act.ivity. A draft area plan to provide specific direction
                         for the administration, development, and operation of the Mount Rake1
                         area was circulated for public input in late 1988. The draft plan includes
                         proposals for improving and expanding the trail system, adding sanita-
                         tion facilities, enlarging the trailheads to accommodate horse trailers,
                         and adding signs to provide information on recreation opportunities and
                         limitations. and descript.ions of natural and scenic features.


                         The North Cascades Scenic Highway, managed by the Forest Service as
North Cascades           a national scenic area, is located in Washington State’s Okanogan and
National Scenic Area     Mount Baker-Snoqualmie Kational Forests and was designated in July
                         1984. The 87,600-acre area. located about 140 miles north of Seattle,
                         Washington, is divided by a state highway providing the northernmost
                         route through Washington’s rugged Cascade Mountains. The recreation
                         activities include camping, hiking, fishing, helicopter skiing, snowmobil-
                         ing, cross-country skiing, bicycling, driving for pleasure, and viewing
                         scenery. The area had approximately 172,100 recreation visitor days in
                         fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                         The enabling legislation calls for the preservation and protection of the
                         area’s scenic beauty and recreation qualities for future generations. As
                         of .July 1988, the area offered a picnic area, two campgrounds, and
                         trails. The draft plan calls for developing various new facilities or major
                         upgrades to facilities. such as a visitor center, additional highway over-
                         looks, picnic areas, c*ampgrounds, and trail loops. Trails will be main-
                         tained to a level approl)riate for nonmotorized users.




                         Paye 47                                  GAO/RCED9027   National   Recreation   Areas
                                                                                                            -
                       Appendix II
                       Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                       boat launches and a water and sanitation system, which are in good con-
                       dition. In fiscal year 1987 (latest information available), the area had an
                       estimated 174,000 recreation visitor days.

                       The legislation that designated the area calls for managing the area for
                       outdoor recreation purposes; conservation of fish and wildlife; protec-
                       tion of watersheds; maintenance of free-flowing streams; conservation
                       of scenic, cultural, and other natural values of the area; and develop-
                       ment of resources while minimizing environmental disturbances such
                       development causes. A Forest Service official explained that the Forest
                       Service has not added any new facilities since designation, pending the
                       development of an implementation plan with specific objectives.

                        -___
                       The Pine Ridge Eational Recreation Area was designated in October
Pine Ridge National    1986 and is located in northwest Nebraska approximately 300 miles
Recreation Area        from Denver, Colorado. The 6,600-acre area, in the Nebraska Kational
                       Forest, is a unique island of wildlands, home to a thriving elk herd. in an
                       area of agricultural development. The area offers primitive and
                       semiprimitive nonmotorized recreation, such as camping, hiking, pic-
                       nicking, horseback riding, and hunting. Area officials estimated 200 rec-
                       reation visitor days in lQ87 and 500 in 1988 (latest information
                       available). The area manager believes that this increase in visitors
                       resulted from local publicity on the designation of the area. As of
                       December 1988, the arca had two trails, one picnic area, and one toilet.

                       The enabling legislation directed the Pine Ridge area to be managed to
                       allow t,he continuation of existing primitive and semiprimitive rccrea-
                       tion use; to preserve and protect the forest, aquatic, and grassland
                       habitat; to protect and conserve special areas having uncommon or out-
                       standing wilderness, biological, geologic, recreational, cultural, historic,
                       archeological, scientific, or other values; to allow the continuation of
                       existing livestock grazing uses; to control noxious weeds and insects;
                       and to control fires.


                       The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, established in Novem-
Columbia River Gorge   ber 1986, includes portions of the Columbia River Gorge along the Wash-
National Scenic Area   ington and Oregon boundary. The area is within a l-hour drive of
                       Portland, Oregon, by way of a major interstate highway that runs
                       through most of the arca The 285,100-acre area is managed by the For-
                       est Service in cooperation with the Columbia River Gorge commission.
                       The area, part of bot 11the Gifford Pinchot and Mount Hood Kational


                       Page 49                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Appendix III

Major Contributors to This Report


                          James Hunt, Assistant Director
Resources,                Charles Rarchok, Assignment Manager
Community, and            Katherine Hale, Eva!uator
Economic
Development Division,
Washington, D.C.

                          Sterling Leibenguth, Evaluator-in-Charge
Seattle Regional Office   .Iulianne Hartman, Evaluator
                          Robert Miller, Evaluator




(140722)                  Page 51                                GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Appendix II
Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




Forests, offers river-oriented activities, hiking, and day-use opportuni-
ties. The enabling legislation calls for protecting and enhancing scenic,
cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the Columbia River
Gorge. According to Forest Service officials, the area plan is expected to
be approved by 1990 or 1991. Several facilities, including an interpre-
tive center and a conference center, are specifically mentioned in the
law.




Page 60                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                      Appendix II
                      Synopsis of Sprcial   Recreation   Areas




                      Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, designated in September 1984,
Mono Basin National   is located in east central California about 70 miles east of the Yosemite
Forest Scenic Area    National Park headquarters and within a few miles of the Nevada bor-
                      der. It is accessible by state and U.S. highways. San Francisco is the
                      nearest major city. about 4 hours driving time away. The landscape con-
                      sists of a broad shallow basin with Mono Lake in the middle. Mono Lake
                      is a salt lake, 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. The area includes about
                      115,600 acres. Because it is on the Pacific flyway, it is popular with bird
                      watchers. The lake’s tufa towers, limestone formations similar to stalag-
                      mites found in caves, is a scenic attraction, as are the nearby volcanic
                      domes and craters. The area has several interpretive sites and a county-
                      operated picnic area with restrooms. The area has no overnight camping
                      facilities. The area had an estimated 78,200 recreation visitor days in
                      fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                      The public law designating the scenic area provided for the protection of
                      the area’s geologic. ecological, and cultural resources, as well as for rec-
                      reation and interpretive use and scientific research. The law made these
                      provisions subordinate: to protecting the existing water rights of the
                      state of California. The act also required a study of the ecology of the
                      scenic area by the Nat ional Academy of Sciences and authorized con-
                      struction of a visitor cacntrr.

                      The Forest Service released a draft environmental impact statement and
                      area plan in September 1988. The draft plan’s preferred alternative
                      emphasizes interprct.ivc opportunities and the possible construction of a
                      campground. The arc’s received funding for a visitor center in fiscal year
                      1988 and expects to have a $4.3 million center completed in 1990.


                      The Allegheny National Recreation Area, located in the Allegheny
Allegheny National    National Forest in Pennsylvania, was designated in October 1984. The
Recreation Area       area is easily accessible by state highways and is about 160 miles from
                      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. According to a Forest Service official, a por-
                      tion of the area makes up part of the Allegheny front, which is primar-
                      ily wilderness and undeveloped forest land. He explained that it is used
                      for low-development rc>creation opportunities-such          as hiking, dis-
                      persed camping, and hunting, since it is next to a designated wilderness.
                      Ife also noted that t tic area includes part of the Allegheny reservoir,
                      which offers more developed recreation facilities, such as campgrounds
                      and boat launches. 111addition to hiking trails. Forest Service officials
                      report that all facilitic>s ar(b in fair condition, with the exception of the



                      Page 48                                    GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                       Appendix II
                       Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                       the area plan calls for the development of some winter and summer
                       trails, more camp sites, and additional parking facilities.


                       The Oregon Cascades Recreation Area, which the Forest Service man-
Oregon Cascades        ages as a national management emphasis area, was established in June
National Management    1984 and is located in southwest Oregon along the spine of the Cascade
Emphasis Area          Mountain range north of Crater Lake National Park. Portland, Oregon, is
                       about a 4-hour drive via interstate and state highways. The 156,9OO-
                       acre area includes 70.800 acres of designated wilderness and a section of
                       the popular Pacific Crest Trail. The area is largely roadless and has only
                       hike-in campgrounds. It offers no information and interpretive services.
                       The recreation opportunities available in the area include fishing, hunt-
                       ing, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. The nonwilderness parts of
                       the area offer a back-country experience for drivers of off-road vehicles
                       and an alternative to off-road driving at the Oregon Dunes National Rec-
                       reation Area. The area had about 6,600 recreation visitor days in fiscal
                       year 1987 (latest information available).

                       The enabling legislation, among other things, directed the Forest Service
                       to maintain the natural scenic characteristics of the area to the extent
                       practicable, and to provide for the use of motorized recreation vehicles.
                       The draft area plan calls for low-intensity, semiprimitive use. Although
                       trails are to be improved and expanded, no new facilities are proposed
                       or anticipated for the area.


                       The Mount Baker IGational Recreation Area, established in July 1984,
Mount Baker National   consists of 8,600 acres on the south slope of Mount Baker, locat.ed about
Recreation Area        100 miles north of Staattle, Washington. The area consists primarily of
                       four large subalpine meadow systems with panoramic views of the
                       10,778.foot summit of this dormant volcano, which is capped with snow
                       year-round. The arca is rich with interesting geologic features associ-
                       ated with glaciation and volcanism. The Sulphur Creek lava flow and
                       Rocky Creek mudflows are visible from many points within the area.
                       Also, the ancient remains of cinder cones and a massive trench carved
                       by the action of a glacier are accessible for exploration. Access to the
                       area is primarily limlt.cd to a single unpaved Forest Service road, which
                       leads to a trailhead and several high mountain trails. In summer, the
                       area is popular with day hikers, backpackers, mountaineers, and horse
                       groups. The area offers only back-country camping, with access only by
                       trail. In winter, the>area offers perhaps the finest off-road snowmobiling



                        Page 46                                 GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                        Appendix II
                        Synopsis of Special Recrration   Areas




                        The designating legislation calls for protecting objects of ecological, cul-
                        tural, geologic, historic, prehistoric, and scientific interests. Currently,
                        the area has 12 primitive public recreation cabins, 6 trail shelters, 1
                        resort, and 24 miles of trail. The 8 miles of road, providing access to the
                        Greens Creek Mine, is allowed under the enabling legislation. The cabins,
                        shelters, and resort offer a primitive experience, since they have no
                        power or water and offer only pit toilets, and there are limited plans for
                        additional facilities. The Forest Service plans to continue development
                        of the Admiralty Island Water Trail as part of the National Recreation
                        Trail System, including three foot trails. The area plan also calls for
                        replacing a bear observatory.


                        Misty Fiords National Monument, in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, is
Misty Fiords National   accessible only by air or water. The 2,294,300-acre monument, estab-
Monurnent               lished in December 1980, is 25 air miles from Ketchikan, Alaska.
                        Bounded by sheer granite cliffs, it is made up of both mainland property
                        and small islands. Over 100 trout-filled lakes, densely timbered river
                        valleys, and streams containing salmon are included in the area. In addi-
                        tion to being able to view the area from tour boats and planes, visitors
                        can hike, camp, cross-country ski, rock climb, and take nature photo-
                        graphs. The area had an estimated 194,000 recreation visitor days in
                        fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                        The designating legislation states that the area is to be managed to pro-
                        tect objects of ecological, cultural, geologic, historic, prehistoric, and sci-
                        entific interest. As of October 1988, the area offered 14 primitive
                        recreation cabins, 4 sh~~lters,and 22 miles of maintained trails.

                         According to an area official, the current area plan calls for little change
                         in facility development. He said more shelters may be built to protect
                         hikers from storms, and plans include adding to the existing trail sys-
                         tem. In addition, arca officials are exploring the offering of interpretive
                         services on tour boats m partnership with private businesses.


                         On May 18, 1980, after 123 quiet years, Mount St. Helens in southwest
Mount St. Helens         Washington State erupted, blasting 1,300 feet from its summit and
National Volcanic        transforming the green forest around it into a blown-down, gray land-
Monument                 scape. The 1 lO,OOO-acreMount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
                         was created in 1982 and is within a 4-hour drive of Portland, Oregon,
                         and Seattle, Washington. Within the monument, Forest Service roads
                         wind through forest where a layer of pumice is the only sign of recent


                         Page 44                                  GAO/RCED-99.27   National   Recreation   Areas
                        Appendix II
                        Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                        The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, established in December
Hells Canyon National   1975, is located in west central Idaho and northeastern Oregon. It is
Recreation Area         about 4 hours driving time from Boise, Idaho, the nearest metropolitan
                        area. The Snake River flows north through the 652,500-acre area, form-
                        ing the boundary between the two states. The 67.5 miles of river have
                        wild or scenic designations under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The
                        area’s terrain is rugged; elevations range from 9,393 feet to 800 feet,
                        where the Snake River leaves the area. On three-quarters of the area,
                        the ground slopes at 30 percent or more. Access within and to Hells Can-
                        yon is not easy. Approximately 79 percent of the area is roadless and
                        undeveloped or is classified as wilderness. Only two unimproved roads
                        in the area offer access to the Snake River. Fishing, hunting, sightseeing,
                        and hiking are long-established pursuits in Hells Canyon. Trail riding
                        and floating or jet boating on the Snake River are available to visitors.
                        The area also contains prehistoric and historic sites. The estimated
                        number of recreation visitor days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information
                        available) was 210,000.

                        The public law creating the area contained objectives that included pro-
                        viding public outdoor recreation; protecting the free-flowing nature of
                        the rivers; conserving scenic, wilderness, cultural, and scientific values;
                        and utilizing natural resources-such as timber, minerals, and range-
                        land-in a manner compatible with the other objectives. The law
                        allowed 5 years for completion of an area plan. The Chief of the Forest
                        Service approved the area plan in May 1981, but the resolution of
                        appeals delayed release of the plan for implementation until April 1984.
                        The plan emphasized improving vehicle access within the area and con-
                        tained a facility development program over two 5-year periods.


                        The Arapaho National Recreation Area is located in the Arapaho and
Arapaho National        Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado and was designated in October
Recreation Area         1978. According to an area official, water-based recreation on five lakes
                        is the major attraction of the 35,700-acre area. These lakes constitute
                        the “Great Lakes of Colorado,” a part of the Colorado-Big Thompson
                        Water Diversion Pro.ject. The Arapaho area is located within a 2-hour
                        drive of Denver. Colorado. The area’s visitation was reported at 475,000
                        recreation visitor days in fiscal year 1987 (latest information available).

                        Arapaho’s authorizing legislation requires the Secretary of Agriculture
                        to provide for public recreation and enjoyment; conservation and devel-
                        opment of scenic, natural, historic, and pastoral values in the area; and
                        use and management of natilral resources in a manner compatible with


                        Pa@= 42                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                        Appendix II
                        Synopsis of Special Recreation   Areas




                        scenic, scientific, historic, and other values contributing to public enjoy-
                        ment; and manage, use, and dispose of natural resources in a manner
                        compatible with and not significantly impairing, the recreation area’s
                        purposes. The Secretary of Agriculture was also authorized to acquire
                        needed lands for the area and directed to institute an accelerated pro-
                        gram of outdoor recreation facilities development. The Mount Rogers
                        area has had two area plans-the first approved in 1968 and a revision
                        prepared in 1980. The current plan calls for low-density recreation
                        development.


                        The Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, established in October
Flaming Gorge           1968, is located in the northeastern corner of Utah and the southwest
National Recreation     portion of Wyoming. One of the most popular activities in the area is
Area                    boating on the 92-mile-long Flaming Gorge Reservoir. The Green River,
                        below the Flaming Gorge Dam at t.he southern end of the Reservoir, is
                        also popular with fishermen and floaters. In addition to water-oriented
                        activities, recreation inchides camping, hunting, and hiking. Area offi-
                        cials reported about 680,000 recreation visitor days in fiscal year 1987
                        (latest information available).

                        The Congress created the area for the purpose of “public outdoor recre-
                        ation use and enjoyment” and “the conservation of scenic, scientific, his-
                        toric, and other values contributing to public enjoyment.” The area plan,
                        approved in October 1977, emphasized the recreational uses of the area
                        and promoted appropriate multiple uses of the land. Many facilities
                        needed for the varied recreation purposes were already in place at the
                        time of the plan’s issuance. They included 22 campgrounds and picnic
                        sites, 9 boat ramps, 4 boat campsites, and 2 visitor centers, The area
                        plan proposed (1) providing adequate water and sanitation facilities, (2)
                        completing projects under construction, (3) expanding existing facilities
                        when necessary, and (4) constructing needed new facilities.


                        The Oregon Dunes Kational Recreation Area, established in March 1972,
Oregon Dunes National   is a 4 1-mile strip of land on the central Oregon coast about 150 miles
Recreation Area         southwest of Portland, Oregon. Access to the area is via a U.S. highway,
                        which roughly parallels the east boundary About one-third of the
                        33,996acre area cant ains active, open sand dunes. These dunes range
                        from small dunes with crests 6 to 8 feet high to large dunes with heights
                        to 300 feet above sea level and lengths to 5,000 feet. Two major rivers
                        and four smaller streams dissect the area. The area has 32 freshwater
                        lakes within its boundaries or adjacent to it. About 47 percent of the


                        Page 40                                  GAO/RCED90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Appendix II

Synopsis of Special Recreation Areas


                      Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area was established in
Spruce Knob-Seneca    September 1965. Located in northeastern West Virginia near the Vir-
Rocks National        ginia border, the lOO,OOO-acrearea is about 175 miles from Richmond,
Recreation Area       Virginia. Featuring the highest mountain in West Virginia, along with
                      spectacular rock formations, the area is considered to be one of the most
                      challenging rock-climbing destinations in the East. Other attractions
                      include fishing, hunting, and white-water canoeing. According to an area
                      official, state and federal highways into the area are narrow, two-laned
                      roads. He also stated that a planned major four-lane highway was never
                      completed. Recreation visits have lagged far behind original projections.
                      The 1969 management plan for the area estimated that recreation visi-
                      tor days would grow from 110,000 in 1967 to 2.5 million by 1980 and 5
                      million by 2000. Forest Service officials reported that recreation visitor
                      days at the area in fiscal year 1987 (latest information available) totaled
                       150,000.

                      The legislation establishing the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks area called
                      for the Secretary of Agriculture to provide for public outdoor recrea-
                      tion; conservation of the scenic, scientific, and historic values of the
                      area; and management of natural resources in a manner compatible with
                      the purpose of the recreation area. The law requires the Secretary of
                      Agriculture to institute an accelerated program of developing facilities
                      for outdoor recreation The 1969 area plan called for an aggressive pro-
                      gram of campground, picnic, road, trail, and related facility construc-
                      tion. According to area officials, only a small portion of planned facility
                      development has occurred for a variety of reasons, including (1) public
                      opposition to development, (2) decisions not to build two scenic drives
                      through the area, and (3) problems with the limestone strata in the area,
                      which precluded lake development. Forest Service officials said they
                      formulated a new forest plan in 1986 that shifted the emphasis for the
                      special recreation area from the old concept of extensive development to
                      one of limited recreation development.


                      Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity     Xational Recreation Area is located in
Whiskeytown-shasta-   northern California approximately 200 miles north of San Francisco.
Trinity National      The area was established in November 196.5 to recognize the recreation
Recreation Area       opportunities provided by reservoirs created by the Bureau of Reclama-
                      tion’s Central Valley Project. The 212,000 acres of the Shasta and Trin-
                      ity units are administered by the Forest Service, while the National Park
                      Service administers the Whiskeytown unit, which includes Whis-
                      keytown Lake. Interstate 5 runs through the Shasta unit, and a state
                      highway allows access to the Trinity unit.


                      Page 38                                 GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Appendix I
Fhding  Levels for Special Recreation         Areas




                                                     Funding level (actual dollars)
Activity                                    FY 1966       FY 1987        FY 1966    FY 1969
Oregon Cascades           National    Management  Emphasis Area: Established June 1984
Recreation   use                                $7,600                 $7,800                $11,200                 $27,000
Recreatm     constructm                                  0                      0               8,000                 17,600
OtheP                                                    0                      0                      0              21.500
                                                $7,600                 $7,800                $19,200             $66,100

Mt. Baker National        Recreation      Area: Established          July 1984
Recreation   use                                $7,000                $12,000                $12,000                 $15,000
Recreation   constructIon                                0              10,000                 10,000                          0
Othera                                          23,000                  68,000                 78,000                 16,000
Total                                         $30,000                 $90,000            $100,000                $31,000

North Cascades ~ National
~._____.                             Scenic Area: Established           July 1964
Recreation   use                               $30,000                $32,000                 $35,000                $40,000
Recreation   construcbon                        23,000                           0              2,000                   6,400
OtheP                                            16,000                 16,000                 18,000                 20,000
Total                                          $69.000                $48,000                $55.000             $66.400


Mono Basin National          Forest Scenic Area: Established                Seotember           1984
Recreatfon   use                               $63,930                $81,900                 $78,500                $78,700
Recreation   construchon                         15,900                 18,500                 13,200           4.120.000
OtheP                                           120,920                108,900                102,500                234,000
                                               ,.             ___~        __~~
Total                                        $200,750                $209,300           $194,200$4,432,700


Allegheny    National       Recreation    Area: Established           October        1984
Recreation   use                               $84,500                 $82,000                $89,000                $82,000
Recreation   construction                                 0                      0             29,000                          0
Other”                                            1.500                  1.200                  1.000
                                                                                                   ~~            ~.500
Total                                          $86,000                $83,000               $119,000                 $87,500

Pine Ridge National         Recreation     Area: Established           October        1986
Recresse-                                                                 $800                 $1,000                  $9,065
Recreation   constructlon                                                        0                      0                      0
Othera                                                                   5,700                  3,800                   4,300
Total                                                                  $6.500                  $4.800                $13.365

Columbia     River Gorge National          Scenic Area: Established                  November       1986
Recreation   use                               $45.000               $315,000                $426,000            $794,000
Recreation   constructlon                                 0                      0                      0              50,000
Other”                                            5,000                 35,000                164,000                           0
Total                                          $50.000               $350.000               8590.000            $844.000
                                                                                                              (continued)




Page 36                                                         GAO/RCEDSO-27            National       Recreation     Areas
Appendix I

F’unding Levels for Special Recreation Areas



                                                             -       Funding Ilevel (actual dollars)
                Activity                                   FY 1986       FY 1987          FY 1988    FY 1989
                Spruce Knob-Seneca            Rocks National Recreation Area: Established September 1965
                Recreation   use                                 $104,000          $120,000              $165,000            $114,800
                Recreation   construction                          126.400           822 000            1 475.000                 705.900
                OtheP                                                8,700           215,400              102,000                 740 700
                TiGi                                             $239,100        $1,157,400        $1,742,000             $1,561,400

                Shasta-Trinity     National     Recreation        Area: Established      November         1965
                Recreation   use                                 $635,090         $1,059,930           $1,094,000            $887,500
                Kecieatlon   constructior                           15,000           420,950                        0              42,600
                Other"                                            851,730            934,890            1,110,000            1,098,584
                Total                                        $1,501,820          $2,415,770        $2,204,000             $2,028,084

                Mt. Rogers National          Recreation      Area: Established        May 1966
                Recreation   use                                 $106,780           $138,770             $130,860            $147,531
                Recreation   construcbov                                     0       133,500                        0             889,000
                Other+                                              44,720            37,300                20,460                -83;331
                Total                                            $151,500          $309,570             $151,320          $1,119,862

                Flaming Gorge National           Recreation        Area: Established      October        1968
                R&reatlon    use                                 $567,690           $745,870             $773,670            $982,929
                Recreation   construction                           30,000           112,000              425,000                 538,000
                Other"                                              20,920            83,500                 7,810                  4,000
                Total                                            $618,610          $941,370        $1,206,480             $1,524,929

                Oregon Dunes National            Recreation       Area: Established       March 1972
                Recreation   use                                  $400,000          $540,000             $600,000             $853,000
                Recreation   constructlon                           64,000           134,000              200,000                 254,000
                Other"                                              36,000           246,000              320,000                 160,000
                Total                                            $500,000          $920,000         $1,120,000            $1,267,000

                Sawtooth     National       Recreation    Area: Established         August      1972
                Recreation   use                                  $561.600          $516,800             $408,800             $560,000
                Recreation   constructIon                                    d         69.000             425 000                 235.000
                OthW                                                 4,300            107,700               85,000                978,000
                Total                                            $565,900          $693,500             $918,800           $1.773.000

                Hells Canyon National           Recreation       Area: Established       December         1975
                R&reatm      use                                  $148,000          $198,000             $210,000             $398,000
                Recreation   constructlon                           25 000             35,000              250,000                  10,000
                Other"                                             177,000           267,000               560,000                482,000
                Total -                                          $350,000          $500,000         $1,020,000               $890,000
                                                                                                                           (continued)




                Page 34                                                          GAO/RCED90-27          National     Recreation     Areas
                                           -
                 Chapter 4
                 Conclusions   and Recommendation




                 reported progress and accomplishments annually in a 5-year outlook for
                 achieving objectives in the area plan. Similar information for all the spe-
                 cial recreation areas would assist the Forest Service and the Congress in
                 making decisions on funding levels and time frames for meeting the
                 objectives established for these areas.

                 We recognize that in times of tight budgetary constraints all funding
                 needs and requests may not be realized and that delays for planned
                 projects may be expected. However, appropriate levels of funding and
                 time frames for meeting congressional and public expectations for these
                 areas can better be decided if both the Forest Service management and
                 the Congress have sufficient information to make appropriate choices
                 and trade-offs. That information is not available for Forest Service man-
                 agement purposes or congressional review. Development and disclosure
                 of such information is needed for the Congress and the Forest Service to
                 make informed decisions on the benefits and consequences of various
                 options and alternatives for these special recreation areas.


                 We recommend that the Secretary of Agriculture direct the Chief of the
Recommendation   Forest Service to develop information on and periodically report the sta-
                 tus of development, operations, and maintenance at each special recrea-
                 tion area to the Congress. Such information should, as a minimum,
                 include (1) aspects of each area’s plan that have been completed, (2)
                 aspects of the plan that have yet to be completed, (3) the proposed time
                 frame and the estimated costs associated with completing the work nec-
                 essary to fulfill the plan, and (4) an assessment of the resources needed
                 to operate and maintain these areas at showcase levels. Forest Service
                 headquarters officials told us that they generally agreed with this
                 recommendation.




                 Page 32                                 GAO/RCED-SO-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                                         Chapter 3
                                         Dwelopment,      Operations, and Maintenance
                                         Shortfalls  Linked to Funding Limitations




                                         the Forest Service. In fiscal year 1989, the Congress increased the pro-
                                         gram’s appropriation to $3 million.

                                         Forest Service guidelines call for giving special consideration to congres-
                                         sionally designated areas within the forests-including     the 20 special
                                         recreation areas-when making decisions about which projects to fund
                                         under the Recreation Challenge Cost Share Program. For fiscal year
                                         1988, 31 projects were selected Service-wide. Forest Service officials
                                         told us that five of these projects were for special recreation areas.
                                         These five projects received $80,300 in Forest Service funding, which
                                         generated $88,000 in pledges from partners, as shown in table 3.1.

Table 3.1: Forest Service Cost Share
Projects Funded in Fiscal Year 1988 at                                                                                      Federal        Nonfederal
Special Recreation Areas Reviewed by     Area name               Project description                                          share           pledges
GAO                                      Arapaho                 Park with handicapped              access                  $27,000                $27,000
                                         Mt Rogers               Handmpped        access         trail                        25,000                25,000
                                         White Rocks             Appalachian     Trail shelters                               20,000                20,000
                                         Sawtooth                Hlstorlc   ranger statlon        restoration                  6.000                 7,000
                                         Sawtooth                Horse Llnloadlng     faclllty                                 2,300                 9,000
                                         Total                                                                              $80,300            $88,000



                                         The $168,300 in federal and nonfederal funds generated by the Recrea-
                                         tion Challenge Cost Share Program for special recreation areas repre-
                                         sents about 2 percent of the $8.8 million total fiscal year 1988 recreation
                                         use and recreation c*onstruction funding reported available for all spe-
                                         cial recreation areas.


Initiatives Not Likely to                The increased use of volunteers, partnerships, and the cost share pro-
Provide Sufficient                       gram provides a step toward closing the gap between current and
                                         planned recreation facility development and showcase operations at
Additional Resources                     these areas. However. it remains to be seen just how much the initiatives
                                         will add, since many areas already use volunteers and partnerships. At
                                         many of the sites we I-Isited, officials depend on volunteers and partners
                                         to oversee campground activities, operate visitor information centers
                                         and cultural sites, assist in building trails and other facilities, and help
                                         restore historic buildings. While some officials were optimistic about
                                         increasing the level of participation, Forest Service officials’ concerns
                                         regarding using volunteers and partnerships are significant enough to
                                         suggest that these programs arc not likely to fulfill all the efforts needed
                                         to bring the areas up to the’ showcase levels called for in Forest Service
                                         policy


                                         Page 30                                                         GAOjRCED-St-27   National    Recreation     Areas
                        Chapter 3
                        Development,    Operations, and Maintenance
                        Shortfalls Linked to Funding Limitations




                        year 1989. Our analysis of final fiscal year 1989 funding allocations
                        showed that 48 percent of the $24 million in recreation construction
                        projects listed in forest plans for fiscal year 1989 would be funded and
                        that about 72 percent of the $142 million in recreation operation and
                        maintenance needs called for in forest plans would be met.

                        Since fiscal year 1986, funding for special recreation areas has increased
                        faster than the Service-wide rate. For example, recreation funding in
                        constant 1989 dollars for these areas has increased about 170 percent
                        from about $6.3 million in fiscal year 1986 to about $17 million in fiscal
                        year 1989. Comparatively, funding for Forest Service recreation overall
                        has increased by about 30 percent, from about $127 million to about
                        $166 million during the same period.

                        Detailed information on the resources needed to develop, operate, and
                        maintain each of the special recreation areas is not readily available.
                        Nevertheless, officials at six of the nine areas we visited said they
                        believed that if the current higher funding levels continue, all facility
                        development projects listed in their area plans could be completed
                        within the next 10 years. However, most of the officials at the nine
                        areas we visited doubted that these funding levels would be sustained.
                        In addition, officials at all nine areas we visited told us that the
                        increased funding available for fiscal year 1989 for recreation use activ-
                        ities was still insufficient to meet Forest Service standards, let alone the
                        undefined but higher showcase standard.


                        The Forest Service has recently initiated efforts to offset its funding
Forest Service          shortfalls for recreation. In April 1988, it issued the National Recreation
Initiatives to Offset   Strategy, which gives special attention to showcasing recreation at spe-
Funding Shortfalls      cial recreation areas. The strategy calls for stretching available federal
                        dollars through greater use of volunteers and through seeking out public
                        and private groups to share the expense of developing, repairing, and
                        operating facilities. Although these efforts may provide some help in
                        developing and operating the areas, we believe that, on the basis of con-
                        cerns identified by the Forest Service, they may not provide sufficient
                        help to achieve the areas’ planned levels of facility development or a
                        showcase level of operations.


National Recreation     The National Recreation Strategy has a goal of meeting recreation needs
Strategy                without depending solely on the Forest Service budget. The strategy
                        encourages all Forest Service managers to leverage federal dollars


                        Page 28                                       GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                                        Chapter 3
                                        Development,    Operations, and Maintenance
                                        Shortfalls Linked to Funding Limitations




                                        years 1980-89. Funding is expressed in terms of constant 1989 dollars,
                                        which means that funding levels for all years shown in the figure have
                                        been adjusted to the purchasing power of the dollar in fiscal year 1989.
                                        As the figure shows, the amounts available dropped from fiscal year
                                        1980 to fiscal year 1986. In fiscal year 1980, recreation funding had a
                                        constant dollar value of $170 million. By fiscal year 1986, the value for
                                        recreation funding had dropped to $126.6 million, a reduction of about
                                        26 percent. However, fuitding was increased in each of fiscal years
                                        1987-89.


Figure 3.1: Forest Service-Wide Trend
for Recreation Funding, Fiscal Years
1980-89                                 Constant FY 1089 Dollars (in Millions)
                                        im




                                        110


                                        100

                                                1980      1!is1      1002        1083   1984   1985    1986     1967       Iwo          lom
                                                Fiscal Year



                                        In July 1986, the Forest Service reported that in recent years financial
                                        and work force limitations had reduced the agency’s capability to man-
                                        age all recreation USC’activities at acceptable levels Service-wide. In its
                                        1985 Recommended Renewable Resources Program LJpdate,’ the Forest.
                                        Service reported:


                                        ‘The Forestand RangelandNcwwablc Kewurce Act of 1974,as amended,directs the Secretaryof
                                        Agnculture to penodlcally wscssthe status of the nation’s forest and rangeKCNXIKXS
                                                                                                                         and rccom-
                                        menda programfor their managt’men+   and USP.The 1986programupdate is the third npdatc% rmde!
                                        this lrgislatmn




                                        Page 26                                                GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation     Areas
Chapter 2
Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
Planned Objectwes




We did find one area-Mount St. Helens-where officials annually
updated, reported progress and accomplishments, and prepared a 5-year
budget for achieving planned development and operation objectives.
According to officials at the Forest Service office responsible for Mount
St. Helens, the annual published updates prepared for this area have
contributed to keeping the planned goals and objectives stated in the
area plan on target. The area manager told us that the report serves as a
combination implementation plan, accomplishment report, and docu-
mentation to support project needs. The detailed information contained
in the reports provides an implementation schedule with associated cost
estimates for review by Forest Service, local, and congressional
interests.




Page 24                                       GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
  Chapter 2
  Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
  Planned Objectives




  provide proper maintenance to clean pipes and replace older pumps and
  broken pipes. He said t,hat in 1988 he did not have the resources to
  assign anyone full-time responsibility for maintaining these systems;
  consequently, the systems were vulnerable to breakdowns during peak
  summer weekends. An area official reported that a few breakdowns
  have occurred that required closing a campground. In fiscal year 1989,
  funding permitted dedicat,ing three full-time staff to maintaining these
  systems.
. At Shasta-Trinity, maintenance at the primary swimming beaches for
  visitors to the area was reported deferred for 15 years. As a result,
  nearly all the sand on the beaches has eroded, leaving a strand of rocks,
  mud, and weeds at the water’s edge. According to an area official, these
  beaches are no longc>rdesirable places to swim.

  Of the 12 areas reporting reductions in maintenance and cleanup levels,
  7 were established before 1980. ( These older areas are more vulnerable
  t,o the effects of drl’c~rrcd maintenance because they generally have
  older facilities t,o main1 ain. However, limited maintenance funds can
  also be a concern al newer facilities. For example, an official at Mount
  St. Helens, one of the newer areas, expressed concern about the impact
  of future deferred maintenance. He reported that after committing
  nearly $35 million for new facilities over the past several years, funding
  has not increased c*orrcspondingly to meet new operation and mainte-
  nance demands. He cst,lmated that a 20- to 25.percent increase would be
  needed over the currcmt recreation funding budget of $850,000 to bring
  the area’s maintenanc,c up to full Forest Service standards. He said that
  if the rate of maintenance funding does not increase, the new facilities
  would deteriorate at a faster rate than would be expected if adequate
  routine maintenance> were performed. We have reported that the contin-
  ued deferral of maintc>nanc8e.carries the potential for continuing deterio-
  rat.ion to t,hc point whc~rt some assets will be lost permanent1y.l




  Page 22                                       GAO/RCED99-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                               Chapter 2
                               Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                               Planned Objectives




                               levels, and officials at 9 of the 20 said that inadequate funding contrib-
                               uted to the inadequate interpretive service levels reported.


Visitor Services Are Often     According to Forest Service policy, special recreation areas should pro-
                               vide interpretive services to enhance visitors’ understanding and appre-
Inadequate
                               ciation of the areas’ special features, and these services should be
                               maintained at showcase levels. These services include providing guided
                               nature walks to special features, operating interpretive and information
                               sites where visitors can obtain explanations of natural and historic
                               events and directions to popular features, and conducting educational
                               programs to help visitors understand and follow forest practices. While
                               the policy does not provide details on what constitutes showcase levels,
                               many of the area officials we talked to stated that information and
                               interpretive services were often inadequate and did not approach show-
                               case levels.

                               Officials of 12 of the 20 areas stated that information or interpretive
                               services were inadequate. Examples provided by Forest Service person-
                               nel include the following:

                             . At Sawtooth, eight rangers patrolled 247 miles of wilderness trail during
                               1980, providing information and assistance to visitors. Because of staff-
                               ing cutbacks, only one ranger was available to provide such services in
                                1988, and the area staff has severely curtailed evening and weekend
                               walks and talks at campground amphitheaters and the visitor centers.
                             . At Flaming Gorge, Forest Service interpretive staff declined from as
                               many as 12 in 1970 to one in 1989. As a result, weekend interpretive
                               programs for visitors that were held at campgrounds during the May-
                               through-September visitor season have been eliminated since 1983. In
                               addition, a Forest Service official told us that visitors receive limited
                               information about boating safety and regulations, environmental issues
                               affecting the area, or the geology, cultures, and history that make the
                               area unique. Furthermore, all four Forest Service boats used for safety
                               and information patrols, facility maintenance, and rescue operations on
                               the 91-mile-long reservoir were taken out of service in the mid-1980s
                               because of funding shortfalls. In 1988, the Forest Service entered into a
                               partnership with a local county government to jointly maintain and
                               operate one boat to patrol the reservoir. An area official told us, how-
                               ever, that one boat IS not sufficient to meet the area’s water recreation
                               management responsibilities and that at least five boats are needed to
                               conduct adequate safety and information patrols.



                               Page 20                                       GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                      Chapter 2
                      Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                      Planned Objectives




                      centers. According to an area official, inadequate funding was a primary
                      reason for these projects being dropped.

                      A Forest Service internal review of the area conducted in 1982 found
                      the development of both information and interpretive facilities to be
                      inadequate. The review noted that the plan, which specified a visitor
                      center and two information stations, had been developed with public
                      involvement but that the decision to drop these projects had been made
                      unilaterally by the Forest Service. The review stated that “organiza-
                      tional credibility is lost when plans that go through the public involve-
                      ment process are abandoned or changed without reinvolving the public.”
                      We were told that, except for the overlook and some new roadside signs,
                      little has changed sincta 1982.

                                                    --
                      Unlike the areas designated in the 1960s and 197Os, 10 of the 12 plans
Limited Development   for the areas designated in the 1980s do not call for a major investment
Planned for Most      in new recreation facilities. For the most part, the legislation calls for
Areas Designated      the continuation of existing recreation activities and the preservation of
                      the natural resources. and plans for these areas project limited develop-
During the 1980s      ment. For example, the Mount Baker National Kecreation Area in Wash-
                      ington State, established in 1984, is an 8,600-acre area used extensively
                      for snowmobiling. The main planned developments in recreational facili-
                      ties are restrooms, signs, and improved trails. Forest Service personnel
                      estimate the total cost of these planned improvements at $512,000.
                      Another example, is Admiralty Island National Monument/Wilderness in
                      Alaska. Established in 1980, it is the second-largest special recreation
                      area with 969,600 acres. Only about $100,000 is planned for facility
                      projects, including a bear observatory and three trails.

                      There are two exceptions to this general trend-Mount       St. Helens and
                      Columbia River Gorge. At Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monu-
                      ment, Forest Service officials estimated that about $66 million would be
                      needed for projects such as a visitor center, major road reconstruction,
                      hiking trails, and interpretive sites. As of April 1989, about $35 million
                      was reported spent. or obligated for these projects. At Columbia River
                      Gorge, the Congress has authorized about $29 million for recreation
                      facility development, including a visitor center and a conference center.
                      The Forest Service is currently studying the recreation potential of the
                      area before developing a facility and management plan. A completed
                      plan is anticipated by fiscal year 1990.




                       Page 18                                      GAO/RCED9@27   National   Recreation   Areas
                        Chapter 2
                        Many Special Recreation   Areas Not Meeting
                        Planned Objectives




                        $450,000 to reconstruct about 6 miles of the road. The remaining 18
                        miles was scheduled for completion in 1989, but because of funding
                        shortfalls, completion is now planned for 1990, funding permitting.
                    l   The remaining two roads provide driving access for visitors who want to
                        tow their boats to boat launches on the river. However, because of the
                        rough conditions of these roads, Forest Service officials do not recom-
                        mend that vehicles pulling boat trailers use them. According to an area
                        official, reconstruction of one of the roads is planned to start in 1990
                        and the other in 199 1.

                        The Forest Service has recognized that facility development at Hells
                        Canyon has not occurred as planned. For example, in a 1985 internal
                        assessment of the area, the Forest Service noted that with regard to rec-
                        reation development and road access, “there is a building groundswell of
                        opinion that the Forest Service has not lived up to the promises of the
                        National Recreation Area     . .”


Sawtooth National       The Sawtooth National Recreation Area, designated in 1972, is located in
Recreation Area         Idaho and is a popular area for camping. When the area was designated,
                        it had about 540 campsites. One of the goals listed in the area plan,
                        approved in 1975, called for building 738 new campsites by 1995. The
                        additional campsites were proposed to accommodate projected increases
                        in visitors over a ZO-year period and to allow 25 percent of the existing
                        campsites to be closed each season so that the impact of heavy use could
                        be minimized. According to Forest Service officials, as of August 1988
                        only 75 of the 728 new campsites had been built, and the visitor trend
                        still supports the need for the additional 663 campsites.

                        The area manager told us that some damage to the area has occurred
                        because the additional sites have not been built. For example, at several
                        locations where existing campsites have been insufficient to handle
                        demand on summer weekends, campers who are turned away from the
                        developed areas move their recreation vehicles to undeveloped areas.
                        The result has been damage to meadows and riverbanks, which results
                        in soil erosion and unsightly conditions. Also, according to the manager,
                        campers at these undeveloped areas have sometimes dumped waste-
                        water into the river. The manager stated that both the erosion and the
                        dumping contribute to degrading habitat for salmon and other fisheries
                        that are specifically to be protected under the terms of the designating
                        legislation. A 1987 Forest Service internal assessment of the area
                        reported that “uncontrolled campground overflow to dispersed areas on



                        Page 16                                       GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Many Special Recreation Areas Not Meeting
Planned Objectives

                          Many of the special recreation areas fell short of the expectations estab-
                          lished for them in Forest Service policy or in the individual plans for
                          these areas, and did not approach showcase levels. These shortfalls
                          have occurred both in the extent to which facilities have been developed
                          and in the level at which they have been operated and maintained. More
                          specifically:

                        . Officials at 10 of the 20 areas reported that planned projects have been
                          either delayed or dropped.
                        . Officials of 15 of the 20 areas said that visitor information or interpre-
                          tive services were inadequate and/or that maintenance or cleanup levels
                          have been lowered. At eight of the nine areas we visited, we found
                          examples of inadequate services and/or maintenance activities that
                          were at levels below full-service standards.’

                          These conditions affect both the quality of a visitor’s recreation experi-
                          ence and the value of the Forest Service’s capital investments. Effects
                          on recreation include difficulty in reaching scenic vistas, overcrowding
                          in campgrounds, and inadequate information about an area’s significant
                          features. Insufficient maintenance may shorten the useful life of recrea-
                          tion facilities.

                          We obtained most of tltc information about these areas from officials at
                          the individual special recreation areas because a central monitoring and
                          information-reporting system about the progress and status of these
                          areas does not exist.


                          We asked officials of t,he 20 special recreation areas if recreation facility
Many Planned              projects (such as campgrounds, roads, trails, and interpretive sites)
Facilities at Special     called for in legislation or individual area plans had been developed as
Recreation Areas Not      planned. Officials for IO of the 20 areas reported delaying or dropping
                          projects. Officials at all eight of the areas designated before 1980-
Completed                 areas in which large-sc,ale facility development had been envisioned-
                          reported delaying or dropping projects. Officials at eight areas reported
                          that insufficient funding had contributed to facilities not being built.
                          Descriptions of some projects delayed are shown in table 2.1,




                          Page 14                                  GAO, RCED-90-27National Recreation Areas
                           Chapter 1
                           Introduction




                           was designated in No\.ember 1986. and th(> Forest Service was still for-
                           mulating a plan for this area.

                           The entire planning process may take up to 6 years and allows for
                           extensive public involvement. When completed and approved, the plans
                           specify the actions the Forest Service plans to take to develop and man-
                           age the area accorclirq; to t tic>designating law. Forest, Service policy. and
                           public input.

                           Forest Service funding allocations for the special recreation areas were
                           not readily available for periods before fiscal year 1986. Detailed fund-
                           ing information for t treschareas for fiscal years 198G89 is presented in
                           appendix I. In fisc~;dyc’ar 1989, funding for these areas was about $28
                           million.


                           The Chairman of that Sllbc,ommittee on National Parks and Public Lands,
Objectives, Scope, and     House Committee on lntc~%~ and Insular Affairs, asked us to
Methodology
                         . provide information on the number of special recreation areas, the acre-
                           age they cover (SN (*II. 1). and their annual budgets (see app. I) and
                         . determine whether t tn~soirrtaas are being developed, operated, and main-
                           tained as provided fol in the designating legislation, Forest Service pol-
                           icy, and the indivitlrlal plans the Forest Service has developed for them
                           (see ch. 2 and 3)~

                           To determine whet ht,I the special recreation areas are being developed
                           and managed according to their legislated purposes and Forest Service
                           policy, and as planned by the Forest Service, we reviewed the laws and
                           legislative histories for each of the 20 areas. We asked officials of all 20
                           areas to provide IIS inl’ormation on ( 1) major rrcrration objectives con-
                           tained in their art’s plans and (2) the current implementation stat,us of
                           recreation facility (kX\clopmmt planned. WC made site visits to nine of
                           the areas, shown ilk t ;i bl(> I. 1. We selected these nine areas because they
                           represent a mix of sizcss.rcbcreation t,ypes, and geographic locations. We
                           contacted Forest St,r\ KY officials responsible for managing two addi-
                           tional areas (Mono &sin Yational Forest Scenic Area in California and
                           Oregon Cascades fl~~~~~~;~at  ion Aron in Oregon) but did not visit, the sites




                            Page 12                                  GAO /RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
                            Chapter 1
                            Introduction




                            The legislation that authorizes each special recreation area contains
Designating                 requirements that are unique for that area. Typically, the laws that des-
Legislation Varies          ignated these areas direct the Secretary of Agriculture to manage them
Among Special               in a manner that best provides for (1) public outdoor recreation benefits
                            and (2) the conservation of scenic, scientific, historic, or other values.
Recreation Areas            The emphasis and direction on the extent of recreational development
                            have changed over time. Generally, the earliest designated areas were to
                            have substantial facility development, while the more recently desig-
                            nated areas were to have less, if any, facility development.


Congressional Directives    The types of special recreation areas and the purposes for establishing
                            them have changed considerably over time. The first areas evolved from
for Areas Have Changed      attempts in the 1960s to provide for the nation’s growing recreation
Over Time                   needs. In general, the first eight areas designated from 1965 through
                            1978 reflected congressional and executive branch interest in providing
                            for high-capacity, all-purpose recreation. The laws designating them
                            emphasized a wide range of recreation opportunities to draw people not
                            only from cities in the general vicinity but from other states as well. In
                            addition, the areas had potent,ial for accommodating large numbers of
                            people, and the envisioned recreation facilities would require large-scale
                            capital investment by the federal government. For example, the law that
                            established Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1972 authorized $26.2
                            million for facility devt>lopment.

                             By the 198Os, legislative designation of special recreation areas had
                             changed dramatically. For most areas established after 1980, the legisla-
                             tion did not call for significant development of new recreation facilities.
                             Instead, the legislation often included wilderness designations and
                             emphasized continuation of past primitive recreation uses and preserva-
                             tion of the existing natural resources. Appendix II gives a description of
                             the 20 special recreation areas we reviewed, listed in the chronological
                             order they were designated. The differences in development levels in
                             these areas can be seen in these descriptions.


Designating Laws             In general, the designating legislation for each of the special recreation
Generally Not Specific on    areas does not require that specific recreation facilities be constructed.
                             Details on implementing plans to achieve the general legislative goals
Recreation Facility          established for each of these areas was most often left to the discretion
Development                  of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Forest Service.




                             Page 10                                  GAO/RCED-SO-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Chapter 1

Introduction


                         Between 1965 and 1988. the Congress created 25 special recreation
                         areas within lands administered by the I1.S. Department of Agriculture’s
                         Forest Service. The enabling legislation generally calls for providing
                         public outdoor recreation and prokting       scenic. nat,ural, historic, and
                         other values contributing to public en.joymt>nt. In general, the designat-
                         ing legislative acts for these areas establish broad purposes, but. leave
                         the details on implementat,ion to the discr~~t.ionof t,hc Secretary of Agri-
                         culture, who administers these areas through the Department of Agri-
                         culture’s Forest Service. Current Forest Scrvirt policy calls for these
                         areas to be managed as showcases to drmonstr ate the highest Xational
                         Forest management standards.


                         Each special recreation area within nat,ional forest lands has been desig-
Characteristics of       nated by a specific act of the Congress as iI Kational Recreation Area,
Special Recreation       National Monument, National Sctnic Arca. National Scenic Research
Areas                    Area, or National Managtlmcnt Emphasis .\rca. The Forest Service has
                         defined these five categories as follows:

                     . National Recreation Areas. These areas have outstanding combinations
                       of outdoor recreation opportunities, sccmxry. and proximity to potential
                       users. They may also have cultural, historic. and ot.her values contribut-
                       ing to public enjoyment.
                     . Kational Monument,s These arcas have uniqutb ecological, geologic, his-
                       toric, prehistoric, cultural, or scientific. interests.
                     . National Scenic Areas. These areas contain outstanding scenic charac-
                       t,eristics, recrealion values. and geologic, cc8010gical.and cultural
                       resources.
                     . National Scenic Research Areas. These areas contain outstanding scenic
                       values for research. scientific, and recreational purposes.
                     l National Managemtlnt Emphasis Arcas. This cat&gory comprises the
                       areas that do not fit the four other cacgoricx Areas with this designa-
                       tion contain uniqucl or outstanding physlcal katures and specific physi-
                       cal, cultural, or I)olii.ical characterist its rccviving specific emphasis in
                       the legislation.

                         We reviewed 20 of t.hc %5 arcas so designated on Forest Service lands!
                         including 13 National Recreation Areas, 3 National Monuments, 3
                         National Scenic Areas, and 1 Kational Managcmcnt Emphasis Area, as




                         Page 8
Contents


Executive Summary                                                                                       2

Chapter 1                                                                                               8
Introduction           Characteristics of Special Recreation Areas                                      8
                       Designating Legislation Varies Among Special Recreation                         10
                           Areas
                       Forest Service Direction for Special Recreation Areas                           11
                       Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                              12

Chapter 2                                                                                              14
Many Special           Many Planned Facilities at Special Recreation Areas Not                         14
                            Completed
Recreation Areas Not   Limited Development Planned for Most Areas Designated                           18
Meeting Planned             During the 1980s
Objectives             Most Areas Not Receiving Showcase Management                                    19
                       Status of Planned Objectives Not Adequately Monitored                           23
                            and Reported

Chapter 3                                                                                              25
Development,           Funding for Forest Service-Wide Recreation Fell                                 25
                           Substantially During the Early 1980s
Operations, and        Recent Funding Increases Inadequate to Address Backlog                         27
Maintenance            Forest Service Initiatives to Offset Funding Shortfalls                        28
Shortfalls Linked to
Funding Limitations
Chapter 4                                                                                             31
Conclusions and        Recommendation                                                                 32
Recommendation
Appendixes             Appendix I: Funding Levels for Special Recreation Areas                        34
                       Appendix II: Synopsis of Special Recreation Areas                              38
                       Appendix III: Major (‘ontributors to This Report                               51




                       Page 6                               GAO/RCED90.27   National   Recreation   Areas
                             Executive   Summary




                             Officials at 15 of the 20 special recreation areas told GAO that visitor
                             information or interpretive services were inadequate and/or that main-
                             tenance levels have been lowered. For example, at Sawtooth National
                             Recreation Area in Idaho, eight rangers patrolled 247 miles of wilder-
                             ness trail during 1980, providing information and assistance to visitors.
                             In 1988, only one ranger was available to provide such services. At
                             Shasta-Trinity Kational Recreation Area in California, maintenance at
                             the swimming beaches had been deferred for the last 15 years. An area
                             official told GAO that these beaches are no longer desirable places to
                             swim because nearly all the sand on the beaches has eroded, leaving a
                             strand of rocks, mud, and weeds at the water’s edge.


Shortfalls Linked to         Special recreation area officials told GAO that funding shortfalls were
Funding Limitations          often the cause of delays in facility development, the inadequacy of visi-
                             tor services, and lower maintenance levels. Between fiscal years 1980
                             and 1986, Forest Service funding for its recreation programs (of which
                             the special recreation areas are only a small part) declined about 26 per-
                             cent, from about $170 million to $127 million (in constant 1989 dollars).
                             According to Forest Service officials, during this period special recrea-
                             tion areas were generally not given higher priority or additional empha-
                             sis and suffered similar funding declines. Although the Forest Service
                             has experienced imrcases in recreation funding in fiscal years 1987-89,
                             the fiscal year 1989 level was still below the 1980 level in terms of con-
                             stant 1989 dollars. Speclial recreation area officials also told GAOthat the
                             higher levels of funding are still insufficient to achieve the showcase
                             levels of operations called for in Forest Service policy.


Forest Service Initiatives   In April 1988, the Forest Service issued its National Recreation Strategy.
to Offset Funding            which gives special attention to showcasing recreation at special recrca-
                             tion areas. The strategy calls for stretching available federal dollars
Shortfalls                   through greater use of volunteers and through seeking out public and
                             private groups to share the expense of developing, repairing, and oper-
                             ating facilities. In fiscal year 1988, these areas received about $168.000,
                             or about 2 percent of their recreation budgets, from a public/private rev-
                             rration cost share program. Although this strategy may help, GAO
                             believes that the limited amount of resources provided through this
                             strategy are not likely lo enable the Forest Service to achieve its
                             planned levels of facilil y development and showcase levels of operation.




                             Page 4                                  GAO/RCED-90-27   National   Recreation   Areas
Executive Summary


                   Between 1965 and 1988, the Congress designated 25 areas within the
Purpose            national forest system as unique or special. These areas offer some of
                   the most outstanding scenery-and varied recreation opportunities avail-
                   able on forest lands.

                   Concerned that the Forest Service has not developed and managed these
                   areas to levels consistent with their special designations, the Chairman
                   of the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, House Com-
                   mittee on Interior and Insular Affairs, asked GAO to determine whether
                   these areas are being developed, operated, and maintained as provided
                   for in legislation, Forest Service policy, and the individual plans the For-
                   est Service has developed for them.


                   Special recreation areas are designated by specific legislative acts. Typi-
Background         cally, the legislation directs the Secretary of Agriculture to manage
                   these areas in a manner that best provides for public outdoor recreation
                   benefits and the conservation of scenic, scientific, historic, and other
                   values. Details on implementing these general goals were most often left
                   to the discretion of the Secretary of Agriculture, who administers these
                   areas through the 1Y.S.Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. GAO
                   reviewed 20 of the 25 specially designated areas. The remaining five
                   areas were not included in GAO’S review because four did not have recre-
                   ation as their primary purpose and the other was designated after GAO
                   began its review. The 20 areas range in size from 6,600 acres to over 2
                   million acres and cumulatively include about 6.3 million acres.

                   Forest Service policy calls for these special recreation areas to be man-
                   aged as showcases to demonstrate national forest management stan-
                   dards for programs, services, and facilities. While the policy does not
                   define the term “showcase,” Forest Service officials interpret it to mean
                   that these areas shoiild be developed and managed to a noticeably
                   higher standard than other Forest Service recreation units. The Forest
                   Service has developed detailed area plans for all but the most recently
                   designated area. The plans include a list of necessary facilities, recrea-
                   tion experiences to be provided, and management direction for other
                   resources and activities m the area.


                   Many of the special recreation areas have not been developed, operated,
Results in Brief   and maintained up to the levels and standards called for in Forest Ser-
                   vice policy and the individual area plans. For example, special recrea-
                   tion area officials reportcad to GAO that planned projects at 10 of 20 areas


                   Page 2                                   GAO/RCEDW27   National   Recreation   Areas