~hv’4~llltM~I’ I!)!10 RANGELAND MANAGEMENT BLM Efforts to Prevent Unauthorized Livestock Grazing Need Strengthening II 142904 EESTRICTED-- RELEdSED Not to be release outside the General Accounting Offlce unless specifically approved by the OffIce of Congressional Relations. ., ., __ ,.,.,_..--., --. - _.-----, _I-.- .---.-. ,- ---1 -- (;Ao/ac’I;:r)-!,1-17 _______II_. ____” ._. .._ -.. ._.--. _.. --- .I -I_- _.. . .._ ..-... ..- ..-. .- -. . ..I --.- ^... -...-.--.-_ _ _ --.--.-_ ._ ..- - --.--_ ..--- ---.---~ - United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division B-240694 December 7, 1990 The Honorable Bruce F. Vento Chairman, Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs IIouse of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: This report responds to your February 28,1989, request that we examine the efforts of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to detect and deter unauthorized livestock grazing on public rangelands. Unauthorized grazing-referred to by BLM as grazing trespass-can take several forms, including grazing more livestock than allowed by permit, grazing in areas that are closed to livestock, or grazing during unauthorized times of the year. An effective trespass enforcement program must offer reasonable assur- Results in Brief ance that offendeks, especially willful ones, (1) will be detected and (2) when detected, will be assessed an appropriate penalty not only to penalize them but also to deter others from trespassing. BLM’S trespass enforcement efforts do not meet either of these requirements. Because many grazing areas are inspected infrequently or not at all during the year, offenders are not likely to be detected. When offenders are detected, BLM frequently exacts no penalties’ and, for the more serious violations, seldom assessesthe minimum penalties its own regu- lations require. As a result, grazing trespass is not adequately deterred, which can lead to degradation of public rangelands, among other things. BLM staff attribute the shortfalls in trespass detection and deterrence primarily to insufficient staff resources. While additional staff would undoubtedly enable improved performance, more effective and aggres- sive detection and deterrent efforts could be made within existing staffing levels. ‘The term “penalties” is used to include both the assessmentof damages and costs for violations, as well as civil penalties such as suspension of a grazing permit. Page 1 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts -..--.z B-249694 Before 1934, livestock grazing on public rangelands was uncontrolled, Background and the lands were damaged by decades of overgrazing. W ith the pas- sage of the Tayior Grazing Act in I934 (43 USC. 315 et seq.), grazing became a regulated activity. However, because it was assumed that the lands would ultimately be transferred to private ownership, BLM'S approach to public lands management was relatively passive or custodial. In the face of continued rangelands deterioration, the Congress passed the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.). The act established a federal commitment to (1) retain ownership of public lands, (2) improve deteriorated lands, and.(3) manage the lands in a manner that would ensure their productive capacity in perpetuity. The Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978 (43 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) reaffirmed the national policy to manage, maintain, and improve the condition of the public rangelands so that they become as productive as possible for all users. BLM manages nearly 162 million acres of rangelands in 16 western states and, among other duties, monitors vegetation and land conditions and oversees grazing operations. The rangelands are divided into about 22,000 separate grazing units, generally referred to as allotments. The allotments are largely managed through renewable permits and leases to about 19,600 livestock operators. The permits and leases specify the number and type of livestock allowed on the allotments, the time and duration of use for grazing, and special conditions or use restrictions. BLM issues permits for up to 10 years, but it may alter, suspend, or cancel them if range conditions are being degraded or permit conditions are violated. In 1989, BLM charged operators $1.81 per animal unit month (AUM)~ to graze their livestock on public rangelands, which was considerably less than the commercial value of the forage.3 In its range management guidance, BLM recognizes the importance of protecting against grazing trespass. Its Handbook on Unauthorized Grazing Use states that officials “must give priority to preventing and detecting unauthorized grazing use on the public lands.” BLM'S grazing regulations (43 C.F.R. 4100), establish three levels of grazing trespass- non-willful, willful, and repeated-willful-with progressively harsher 2An AUM is defined as the amount of forage neededto suppbrt a 1,000 pound cow, a horse, or five sheep for 1 month. 3The commercial value for forage is determined annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was established at $8.49 per AUM for 1989. Page 2 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts B-249694 penalties for each level. For each non-willful trespass, the offender must pay the commercial value of the forage consumed. For willful trespass, the penalty increases to twice the commercial value of the forage con- sumed plus charges for any damages to the land and BLM expenses incurred to detect, investigate, and resolve the violation. In addition, for either type of trespass, BLM may suspend or cancel all or portions of the grazing permit. For repeated-willful trespass, the required penalty is three times the commercial value of the forage consumed plus compen- sation for applicable BLM violation-related expenses. BLM must also sus- pend or cancel all or portions of the grazing permit. Grazing trespass is occurring, but BLM'S detection efforts are not suffi- Trespass Detection cient to identify the extent of the problem. Management does not have a Efforts Are Minimal systematic method for detecting violations, and it does not allocate resources specifically for trespass detection or categorize detection efforts as a reportable accomplishment for field staff. Consequently, many allotments are rarely or never visited during the year. This situa- tion is made worse by staffing shortfalls, Even though BLM'S range staff is too small for the amount of work to be done, we believe that BLM can improve its detection efforts within current staffing levels. Extent of Grazing Trespass While the full extent of grazing trespass on BLM grazing allotments is not known, it does occur, and GAO has documented-during this and other Is Unknown reviews-grazing violations that BLM has not detected. For example, in a 1988 report on BLM'S management of riparian areas,4we noted several instances of cattle trespass in these ecologically critical zones. During an October 1987 BLM tour of a “showcase” riparian project in Nevada, for example, we noted that a large number of cattle had broken a fence and grazed the area to a “desert-like” condition. This trespass had not been detected by BLM officials until our visit, and the officials stated that such events are common. We found another example of undetected grazing trespass in BLM files in Oregon. A permittee’s grazing-use report indicated a higher grazing level, different dates of use, and different types of livestock than authorized by the permit. However, BLM staff had not compared the grazing-use report with the grazing permit and were unaware of this 41’ublic Ran elands: Some Riparian Areas Restored but Widespread Improvement Will Be Slow CeAO/ReEf5 _88_106 , June 30, 1988). Riparian areas are the narrow bands of green vegetation along the banks of rivers and streams and around springs, bogs, lakes, and ponds that are crucial to the overall ecological health of western rangelands. Page 3 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforta B.240094 permit violation until we pointed it out. The BLM range supervisor agreed that grazing trespass had occurred. Staffing Shortfalls According to BLM managers, the agency does not have enough range Identified as a Major staff to conduct a serious trespass detection program. Between 1981 and 1990, BLM range staff decreased by 25 percent, from 551 to 413. The BLM Obstacle range management budget for fiscal year 1991 increased nearly $3.8 million over the previous year. However, at the time of our report, deci- sions had not been made about how much, if any, of the additional money would be used to increase the number of range management staff. On average, each range staff member is now responsible for 47 permits and 392,000 acres of public rangelands. In our discussions with b range staff, we found that at least 26 were responsible for more than 1 million acres each, or an area about the size of Delaware. Insufficient staffing has been identified as a problem in previous reviews of BLM'S rangelands management. A 1986 report by Interior’s Inspector General,6 as well as several previous GAO reports, have cited the insufficient number of staff as a factor contributing to BLM'S difficul- ties in fulfilling its grazing program objectives. (A list of related GAO reports appears on the last page of this report.) Also, almost 60 percent of the range staff we questioned said that more staff would greatly improve grazing trespass detection.6 BLM Has No Systematic While additional staff would undoubtedly be helpful, significant Approach for Detecting resource increases for trespass detection are not likely under today’s budget limitations. Most improvements in trespass detection will depend Grazing Trespass on BLM’S more effectively using the resources it already has. Currently, BLM has no systematic method for detecting grazing trespass, such as visiting randomly selected allotments or targeting operators with a history of noncompliance. Permittees and lessees,therefore, operate essentially under an honor system, with little threat of compli- ance checks. In many instances, allotments with grazing activity receive few visits during the year or are not visited at all. For example, from 5Review of BLM’s Grazing Management and Range Improvement Programs, U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Inspector General, Mar. 1986. 6BLM identified 414 range staff who could have direct responsibility for grazing trespass detection. Our questionnaire was sent to a randomly selected sample of 201 of these staff, responseswere received from 200, and 155 said they had direct responsibility for detecting grazing trespass. Page 4 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts B-240694 our survey of BLM range staff, we estimate that about 319 (+/- 19) range staff have direct responsibility for detecting grazing trespass and about 119 of them did not visit half or more of their grazing allotments during fiscal year 1989. When range staff visit their allotments, it is usually for a different purpose, and they generally make no concerted effort to count the number of livestock or take other specific steps to detect trespass. Given this level of effort devoted to trespass detection, BLM is not in a position to gauge the full extent of trespass activity. While BLM’S handbook says that preventing and detecting grazing tres- pass on public rangelands is to be given priority, it receives much less attention than other rangeland tasks and responsibilities, BLM has not established trespass detection as a work-load measure for which field office managers are held accountable, and the results of detection efforts are not categorized as a reportable accomplishment. Conse- quently, resources are not allocated specifically for grazing trespass detection and range staff have very little incentive to conduct such work. When detection efforts are or can be expected to be minimal, a strong Penalties Applied by deterrent can provide incentive for those being regulated to voluntarily BLM Do Not Serve as comply with regulations. Those who might consider willfully violating an Adequate Deterrent rules and regulations must believe that penalties outweigh the benefits of violating grazing requirements. B&s trespass enforcement program does little to instill such a belief. Most detected grazing trespass goes unpunished and, for the more serious violations, BLM seldom assesses even the minimum penalties required by its regulations. In a 1986 report, Interior’s Inspector General concluded that BLM field offices were not diligent in pursuing and recovering all agency costs incurred for trespass cases, as required by BLM regulations. That same year BLM'S acting chief for the Division of Rangelands Resources reached the same conclusion.7 However, we found this condition still prevalent during our review, Most Trespass Incidents In fiscal year 1989, BLM closed 345 formal trespass cases with penal- Are ProcessedInformally ties-259 non-willful, 77 willful, and 9 repeated-willful, However, on the basis of our questionnaire results, we estimate that approximately and Without Penalties 1,300 to 1,900 additional trespass incidents occurred in fiscal year 1989 ” 7Fiscal Year 86 Alternative Internal Control Review, memorandum to BLM Internal Controls Coordi- nator from Acting Chief, Division of RangelandsResources,July 30, 1986. Page 6 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts 0240094 that were judged to be non-willful and were handled informally by a telephone call or a visit to the trespasser.RFines were not imposed for any of these incidents. For example, a permittee in Oregon who was grazing more and different types of livestock than authorized by his ’permit and during unauthorized times of the year was not assessed a penalty. Rather, he was warned that if he was found to be in violation of his permit in the future, a portion of his permit might be suspended. BLM’S regulations do not provide BLM range staff with the flexibility to resolve trespass incidents informally. However, BLM range staff told us that, as a practical matter, the administrative time and expense incurred to formally investigate and process minor non-willful violations would far outweigh any benefits derived from the resulting fines. Additionally, they said that if the violation is minor and non-willful, and the operator is cooperative in correcting the problem, more is gained by maintaining good agency-operator working relationships than by taking punitive action against the offender. BLM Did Not Assess In addition to informally resolving most trespass incidents it considered Required Penalties in the minor, BLM did not assess required penalties for the more serious viola- tions that were formally processed. In 71 of the 86 willful and repeated- Most Serious Trespass willful cases where penalties were assessedin fiscal year 1989, we Cases found that BLM did not collect the costs incurred to detect, investigate, and resolve violations, even though its regulations required it to do so. Lesser penalties can reduce the deterrent value of BLM'S enforcement efforts and can lead livestock operators to compare the costs of com- plying with permit requirements with the penalties likely to be assessed if a violation is detected and then make compliance decisions on the basis of the cheaper alternative. A BLM manager stated that one tres- passer in his area paid less in BLM'S willful trespass penalties than it would have cost him to buy hay for his livestock. In addition to monetary penalties, BLM regulations state that a grazing permit may be suspended or cancelled for non-willful and willful tres- pass events and shall be suspended or cancelled, in whole or in part, for repeated-willful trespass. In fiscal year 1989, BLM did not penalize any of the 77 willful trespassers. Moreover, six of the nine repeated-willful “This figure is baaedon a projection of responsesto a questionnaire sent to BLM’s 140 resource area offices. Responseswere received from each office. We are 96 percent confident that there were between 1,311 and 1,897 unreported violations during the year. Resourcearea offices are the primary field locations for public contact and information on the use of BLM lands. Page 6 GAO/RCEDQl-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts B-240094 offenders had BLM grazing permits, but only one permit was partially suspended and no permits were cancelled. This partial suspension con- sisted of a reduction of about 30 percent in the grazing season-the tres- passer was required to remove his livestock from public rangelands 6 weeks before the end of the 21-week grazing season. Some BLM range staff told us that they seldom assessedthe minimum required penalties because they were not aware of the requirement to collect all reasonable costs incurred; others believed that including such costs, as well as sus- pending or cancelling the permits of repeated-willful trespassers, was optional or discretionary, rather than mandatory, on their part. BLM'S management philosophy emphasizes decentralized control, with as Greater BLM much authority and responsibility as possible delegated to lower oper- Oversight Neededfor ating levels. Under this philosophy, large numbers of geographically dis- Trespass Enforcement persed managers must interpret and implement agency regulations and policies; for grazing trespass, 140 resource area managers are involved. Program A system for effective internal controls and oversight must be in place to assure management that the program is operating as intended. In 1986, Interior’s Inspector General concluded that BLM did not have an effective program to detect and prevent grazing trespass. In the same year, BLM identified its rangelands program as an area for potential fraud, waste, and abuse. During our review, we found that BLM'S tres- pass enforcement program still contains serious weaknesses that require greater management oversight. For internal controls and oversight to be effective, BLM managers must have more comprehensive and timely information about all known or suspected trespass cases. Adequate Management BLM'S reporting systems do not provide its top management with com- prehensive data by which to judge the effectiveness of trespass enforce- Information System Is Not ment by field offices. Currently, BLM'S summary data include only closed trespass cases where penalties were collected. Data are not routinely collected, analyzed, and reported to provide information on cases that are (1) handled informally, (2) open or being appealed, or (3) dismissed or closed without penalty. Moreover, information is not compiled on the level of grazing trespass (non-willful, willful, and repeated-willful), or whether the violator was or was not a permittee. Finally, summary data are not compiled for permits that are suspended or cancelled or for pen- alties that are assessedfor resource damage. BLM managers need timely and reliable information on grazing trespass detection and penalty assessment to evaluate trespass activity from year to year and make appropriate staffing or program adjustments. Page 7 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts B-240694 Trespass Case Files Are Proper documentation of enforcement actions is crucial to determining Not Adequately patterns of abuse-which is necessary for identifying repeated-willful trespass. According to our review of agency permit files and discussions Documented with range staff at selected BLM resource area offices, detected trespass incidents are not consistently documented. Moreover, trespass incidents deemed relatively minor by BLM staff and handled informally by a tele- phone call or a visit to the trespasser are generally not recorded in the trespass record and are not documented in the permittee’s file. Without a record of these incidents, BLM staff cannot demonstrate a historical pattern of violations, and BLM management does not have an accurate picture of trespass activity. BLM has no systematic method for detecting grazing trespass. The rela- Conclusions tively low priority accorded grazing trespass detection is evidenced by several management actions: detection has not been established as a work-load measure for field office managers, results of detection efforts are not categorized as reportable accomplishments, resources are not allocated specifically for detection, and range staff are not asked to rou- tinely visit grazing allotments for detection purposes or target operators with a history of noncompliance. Permittees and lessees operate essen- tially under an honor system with little threat of compliance checks by BLM. Moreover, penalties for violations are rarely assessed. Even though BLM regulations do not provide the flexibility to resolve trespass incidents informally, an estimated 84 to 88 percent of non-willful incidents were handled informally in fiscal year 1989. BLM range staff told us they do not consider it an efficient use of resources to incur the expenses associ- ated with detecting, investigating, and resolving most minor, non-willful violations. In addition, BLM did not assess penalties required by its regu- lations for most of the willful and repeated-willful trespass violations detected during fiscal year 1989. BLM range staff did not adhere to existing BLM regulations in assessing penalties for these offenses. BLM'S reporting systems do not provide its top management with com- prehensive data they can use to judge the effectiveness of trespass enforcement by field offices. As a result, BLM management does not know how often grazing trespass is searched for, identified, handled, or resolved. Page 8 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts 5249694 To improve the effectiveness of BLM'S grazing trespass detection and Recommendationsto deterrence efforts, we recommend that the Secretary of the Interior the Secretary of the direct the Director of BLM to Interior 9 develop a grazing trespass detection strategy that will (1) establish detection as a work-load measure and a reportable accomplishment for which managers are held accountable, (2) use visits to randomly selected allotments to provide systematic compliance coverage, and (3) target additional follow-up visits for those livestock operators who have a history of repeated violations; l either (1) ensure that penalties are assessedfor all non-willful trespass violations as provided for in BLM regulations or (2) amend BLM regula- tions to establish a procedure for the informal resolution of non-willful trespass violations at the local level; l require that all trespass incidents- including those now handled infor- mally-be documented and made part of the permanent trespass file; . ensure that field staff impose the penalties required under BLM regula- tions for willful and repeated-willful grazing trespass; and l develop a management information system to provide timely, reliable, and adequate information on such things as (1) the number of compli- ance visits conducted, (2) the number and level of violations identified, and (3) how each violation is resolved, including those resolved informally. In its written comments on a draft of this report, the Department of the Agency Comments Interior stated that it agreed with the report’s recommendations. These comments are included in appendix I. In conducting this review, we found that summary data were not avail- Scopeand able on the extent of grazing trespass occurring throughout BLM range- Methodology lands. Therefore, we asked BLM'S 140 resource area offices to provide information on grazing trespass cases closed in fiscal year 1989. In addi- tion, we sent a questionnaire to 201 of 414 randomly selected range staff directly responsible for detecting grazing trespass on BLM rangelands. We asked for their views on detecting and recording livestock trespass. As with all sample surveys, the two surveys for this review are subject to sampling errors. Sampling errors define the upper and lower limits of the estimates made from the survey. Sampling errors for the estimates in this report were calculated at the 95 percent confidence level. Page 9 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts B-240694 We also interviewed and obtained information from officials at BLM headquarters and visited ten resource area offices in four states where public land grazing is widespread (Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyo- ming) to examine BLM'S procedures and practices for identifying and pursuing grazing trespass. We (1) examined allotment, permit, and tres- pass records and files and (2) interviewed BLM officials who administer the grazing program. We conducted our review between June 1989 and October 1990 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from the date of this letter. At that time, we will send copies to the appropriate congressional commit- tees; the Director, BLM; and the Secretary of the Interior. We will also make copies available to others upon request. This work was performed under the direction of James Duffus III, Director for Natural Resources Management Issues, who can be reached at (202) 276-7766. Other major contributors are listed in appendix II. J. Dexter Peach Assistant Comptroller General Page 10 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement JSfforta Page 11 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Txspass Enforcement Efforts Conterits Letter 1 Appendix I 14 Comments From the Department of the Interior Appendix II 15 Major Contributors to This Report Related GAO Products 16 Abbreviations AUM animal unit month BLM Bureau of Land Management Page 12 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts Page 13 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts Appendix I CommentsFrom the Department of the Interior United States Department of the Interior OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240 OCT :!I 1999 Honorable James Duffus III Director, Natural Resources Management Ieaues General Aaaounting Office Waehington, D.C. 20548 Dear Mr. Duffue: Thank you for the opportunity to review and comment on the draft proposed report entitled Rangeland Management: BLM Efforts to Prevent Unauthorized Livestock Grazing Need Strengthening (GAO/RCED-91-17). After retiewing the report, we agree with the General Accounting Office’8 recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the Bureau of Land Management’s unauthorized grazing detection and deterrent efforts. Sincerely, FOR vatid C. O’Neal Aasiatant Secretary, Laud and Minerals Management Page 14 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts AppendixII Major Contributorsto This Report Bob Robinson, Assistant Director Resources, Ronald Owens, Assignment Manager Community, and Alice Feldesman, Social Science Analyst Economic Development Division, Washington, DC. Laurence L. Feltz, Regional Assignment Manager Seattle Regional Office Robert A. Higgins, Evaluator-in-Charge Keith C. Martensen, Senior Evaluator Stan Stenersen, Senior Evaluator Janet L. George, Staff Evaluator Page 16 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM ‘l’respaes Enforcement Effort-9 RelatedGAO Products California Desert: Planned Wildlife Protection and Enhancement Objec- tives Not Achieved (GAOIRCED-89-171,June 23, 1989). Public Rangelands: Some Riparian Areas Restored but Widespread Improvement Will Be Slow (GAO/RCED-88-106, June 30, 1988). Rangelands Management: More Emphasis Needed on Declining and Overstocked Grazing Allotments (GAOIRCED-88-80, June 10, 1988). Changes in Public Land Management Required to Achieve Congressional Expectations (~~-80-82, July 16, 1980). Public Rangelands Continue to Deteriorate (CED-77-88, July 12, 1977). (140624) Page 16 GAO/RCED-91-17 BLM Trespass Enforcement Efforts _-~~----__ ..-..___I..I _-.I...,.I_(.,- .-..-.- I ..--..---._--.-_-_-- _ll,l_ ~-- ! I--~-_-1-.-- 1E Ortlt*ring Iuformation i ‘I’ht~ first five copies of each GAO report are free. Additional copies +lre .$2 ta;lcbh.Orders should be sent, to the following address, accom- p;rnitvl by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of l)ocuments, when necessary. Orders for 100 or more copies to be m;Lilcvl to a single address are discounted 26 percent. I1.S. (General Accounting Office P.O. Box 6015 (;ai thersburg, MD 20877 Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 2756241. First.4 llass Mail I’ostag!e bi, Fws Paid GAO Permit No. GlOO _-
Rangeland Management: BLM Efforts to Prevent Unauthorized Livestock Grazing Need Strengthening
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-12-07.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)