United States GA!!0 General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20548 - j S-9 6s5? Resources, Community, and Economic Development Division .- B-278756 December 18, 1997 The Honorable Don Young Chairman, Committee on Resources House of Representatives The Honorable Helen Chenoweth Chairman, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health Committee on Resources House of Representatives Subject: Federal Lands: Information About Land Management Agencies’ Wildfire Preparedness Activities Each year, wildtires on federal lands consume millions of acres of forests. Because wildfire preparedness activities can have a tremendous effect on the number and severity of wildfires, you asked about these activities at five federal land management agencies: the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of the Interior. Specifically, this report provides information on (1) the amount of money the land management agencies expended on federal wildtire preparedness activities during fiscal years 1992 through 1996; (2) the amount that the federal agencies expended for state and local wik&e preparedness activities; (3) the amount of equipment and personnel the federal agencies loaned to state and local entities for wildfire preparedness activities; and (4) the process the federal agencies used to formulate budget requests for wildfire preparedness activities. Wildfire preparedness involves the land management agencies’ capabilities to provide safe, cost-effective fire management programs through training, planning, staffing, and providing equipment. Preparedness also includes programs to reduce hazardous fuels (flammable materials on the forest floor, such as fallen trees zmd dry underbrush). Wild&e preparedness activities GAO/NED-9%48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities B-278756 require hiring and training personnel, purchasing and contractjng for equipment and supplies, and preventing situations that may lead to-wild&-es. In short, these activities are ones undertaken before the actual outset of a wildfire. In summary, during fiscal years 1992 through 1996, the federal land management agencies (1) expended about $1.9 billion on wildfire preparedness activities; (2) provided about $82.3 miltion in grants to state and local firefighting organizations; (3) loaned states federal excess property valued at about $651 million; and (4) used a computerized model based on historical w-ildfire costs to formulate budget requests for wildfire preparedness activities. Detailed information on these activities is presented in enclosures I through IV. The information presented was provided to us by the land management agencies for fiscal years 1992 through 1996. As agreed with your offices, we obtained financial data for the most recent 5-year period possible. During our work, fiscal year 1997 data were unavailable. We performed our work from July through November 1997 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. In order to respond to your request, we obtained financial and other data from the headquarters office of the Forest Service and from the Department of the Interior’s National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.’ The financial information that we obtained from the Interior agencies was national in scope, while the data provided by the Forest Service were for individual field units. We did not contact individual field offices about the financial data, but we did contact several Forest Service regional offices to obtain information about their cooperative state grant programs. We did not independently verify the accuracy of the data we gathered. We provided copies of a draft of this report to the Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of lndian Affairs, the Fish and Wildhfe Service, and the Forest Service. Interior and its agencies concurred with the factual content and provided technical clarifications, which we incorporated into the report. The Forest Service did not have any comments on the draft report. We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior as well as to the Chief of the Forest Service and the Directors of the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, ‘The Bureau of Land Management maintains and operates the National Interagency Fire Center in cooperation with the Forest Service and the other Department of the Interior agencies. The day-to-day fire management activities of the Interior agencies are conducted from the Center. 2 GAOIRCED-98-48R Wddfire Preparedness Activities B-278756 _ and Fish and Wildlife Service. We will make copies available to other interested parties upon request. Major contributors to this report were Linda Harmon and John Kahnar, Jr. Please call me on (206) 2874810 if you or your staff have any questions. and Science Issues Enclosures - 4 3 GAOIRCED-9848R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I - ENCLOSTJREI AMOUNT OF FUNDS EXPENDED BY THE LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCIES ON FEDERAL WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS ACTIVITIES Table I.1 shows, for each of the land management agencies, by fiscal year, their total expenditures on federal wildfire preparedness activities. Table I.2 shows, by specitic category, what activities were funded by the land management agencies. Tables I.3 through I.9 show how much the agencies expended by category, by fiscal year. Table 1.1: Land Management Aaencies’ Wildfire Preparedness Expenditures. Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $188,525 $247,678 $260,200 $287,018 $287,906 $1,271,327 Bureau of Land Management 65,305 68,707 61,493 66,998 66,880 329,383 National Park Service 13,927 15,427 15,344 13,559 19,465 77,722 Bureau of Indian Affairs 25,317 24,230 25,112 24,133 25,704 124,496 Fish and Wildlife Service 12,554 15,244 14,242 13,745 15,320 71,105 Total” $305,628 $371,286 $376,391 $405,453 $415,275 $1,874,033 “These totals do not include about $82 million in grants to states for wildfire preparedness activities, which are discussed in enclosure II. GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I _ ENCLOSURE I Table 1.2: Land Manaqement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preparedness Expenditures. bv Cateaory. Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Expenditure category 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Personnel costs $168,518 $218,180 $225,104 $240,232 $250,674 $1,102,708 Travel 9,309 10,872 10,827 12,954 10,347 54,309 Transportation 5,052 4,832 5,125 5,314 4,651 24,974 Rent, communications, and utilities 10,172 11,324 13,434 13,443 15,326 63,699 Services, supplies, and printing 87,608 103,211 96,127 106,709 108,703 502,358 Equipment, land, and structures 19,086 17,464 17,242 19,412 18,549 91,753 Grants and claimsa 3,097 2,809 2,440 3,160 4,216 15,722 Other” 2,786 2,594 6,092 4,229 2,809 18,510 Total 1 $305,628 1 $371,286 1 $376,391 1 $405,453 1 $415,275 1 $1,874,033 aThese totals do not include about $82 million in grants to states for wildfire preparedness activities, which are discussed in enclosure II. bThe Forest Service had expenditures that were not reported to us by the Department of the Interior agencies. These included, among other things, contracts, loans/investments, refunds, and internal transactions. Of these expenditures, internal transactions were the largest single category and represent inter-office expenditures for any type of preparedness expenditure. Together, these expenditures represent only about 1 percent of the Forest Service’s total annual expenditures for preparedness, except for fiscal year 1994 when they represented about 2 percent. Because these preparedness expenditures were relatively small in nature compared to the total, we combined them for reporting purposes. GAOLRCED-984R Wildiire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE1 _ ENCLOSURE1 Table 1.3: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preparedness Exoenditures for Personnel Costs, Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $109,361 $152,554 $158,152 $171,806 $179,138 $771 ,011 Bureau of Land Management 35,386 40,107 40,252 40,956 42,329 199,030 Bureau of Indian Affairs 10,099 10,266 10,776 10,683 10,465 52,289 Fish and Wildlife Service 6,052 7,034 7,170 7,337 7,973 35,566 National Park Service 7,620 8,219 8,754 9,450 10,769 44,812 Total $168,518 $218,180 $225,104 $240,232 $250,674 $1,102,708 Note: Personnel expenditures include salary and benefit costs for full-time employees and salary costs for part-time employees. GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I _ ENCLOSUFtE I Table 1.4: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preoaredness Exoenditures for Travel, Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $6,317 $7,017 $7,222 $8,981 $6,792 $36,329 Bureau of Land Management 1,383 1,714 1,490 1,890 1,406 7,883 Bureau of Indian Affairs 618 414 465 492 433 2,422 Fish and Wildlife Service 558 636 670 619 572 2,995 National Park Service 433 1,091 1,040 972 1,144 4,680 Total $9,309 $10,872 $10,827 $12,954 $10,347 $54,309 Note: Travel includes the costs incurred while persons are on travel status, such as per diem, cost of transportation, lodging, and rental vehicles. GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I _ ENCLOSURE I Table 1.5: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preoaredness Exoenditures for Transuortation Costs. Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $1,440 $1,533 $1,740 $2,090 $1,772 $8,575 Bureau of Land Management 1,809 1,868 1,842 1,759 1,340 8,618 Bureau of Indian Affairs 1,344 934 1,085 925 852 5,140 Fish and Wildlife Service 79 85 94 145 207 610 National Park Service 380 412 364 395 480 2,031 Total $5,052 $4,832 $5,125 $5,314 $4,651 $24,974 Note: Transportation of things includes the rental of commercial vehicles, parcel post costs, and transportation of household goods for a change of duty station. : 8 GAOLRCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSUFtE I ENCLOSURE I Table 1.6: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preoaredness Expenditures for Rents, Communications, and Utilities, Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 ._ _ Dollars in thousands I Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $8,086 $9,222 $11,697 $11,719 $13,644 $54,368 Bureau of Land Management 1,626 1,652 1,294 1,324 1,257 7,153 Bureau of Indian Affairs 293 238 261 197 216 1,205 Fish and Wildlife Service 77 124 88 129 122 540 National Park Service 90 88 94 74 87 433 Total $10,172 $11,324 $13,434 $13,443 $15,326 $63,699 Note: Included in rent, communications, and utilities are charges for rent paid to the General Services Administration or commercial real estate operators, charges for telephones and other communication services, postage, computer and copier equipment rental, and utility charges. 9 GAO/WED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I - ENCLOSURE I Table 1.7: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preoaredness Exoenditures for Services, Suoolies. and Printina. Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 ._ Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $54,072 $67,387 $66,203 $75,330 $73,841 $336,833 Bureau of Land Management 20,039 20,080 13,865 18,909 18,441 91,334 Bureau of Indian Affairs 6,986 7,638 8,647 7,568 9,075 40,114 Fish and Wildlife Service 2,620 4,063 4,108 3,453 3,886 18,130 National Park Service 3,891 4,043 3,104 1,449 3,460 15,947 Total $87,608 $103,211 $96,127 $106,709 $108,703 $502,358 Note: Services, supplies, and printing include expenditures for, among other things, maintenance contracts on equipment; various contracts for airplanes and helicopters, personal services, and research; office supplies; fuel for vehicles, aircraft, and boats; and commercial printing and reproduction. 10 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I _ ENCLOSURE I Table 1.8: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire PreParedness Expenditures for Eauipment, Land, and Structures. Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year I Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 5-year total Forest Service $6,181 $6,986 $8,473 $12,570 $9,541 $43,751 Bureau of Land Management 5,028 3,226 2,692 2,150 2,098 15,194 Bureau of Indian Affairs 3,199 2,545 2,218 1,662 1,201 10,825 Fish and Wildlife Service 3,165 3,133 1,876 1,880 2,347 12,401 National Park Service 1,513 1,574 1,983 1,150 3,362 9,582 Total $19,086 $17,464 $17,242 $19,412 $18,549 $91,753 Note: Equipment, land, and structure expenditures include capitalized and noncapitalized equipment; easements; and buildings and other structures, such as roads. 11 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE I _ ENCLOSURE I Table 1.9: Land Manaaement Aaencies’ Wildfire Preoaredness Expenditures for Grants and Claims. Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 S-year total Forest Service $281 $385 $622 $294 $372 $1,954 Bureau of Land Management 34 60 58 11 8 171 Bureau of Indian Affairs 2,778 2,195 1,460 2,606 3,462 12,501 Fish and Wildlife Service 3 169 296 181 212 861 National Park Service 1 0 4 68 162 235 Totala $3,097 $2,809 $2,440 $3,160 $4,216 $15,722 Note: Grants and claims expenditures would include cooperative agreements and insurance claims. aThese totals do not include about $82 million in grants to states, which are discussed in enclosure II. 12 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE II _ ENCLOSURE II LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCIES’ EXPENDIT-URES FOR STATE AND LOCAL WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS ACTIVITIES ._ _ The Forest Service has two grant programs with states to provide funds for wildfire preparedness activities-Rural Fire Prevention and Control and Rural Community Fire Protection. The Department of the Interior agencies do not have a grant program similar to the Forest Service’s but rely on nonreimbursable cooperative agreements between the agencies and the state and local governments for preparedness activities. Table II.1 provides information on the funding for state and local wildfire preparedness activities. Table II.1 : State and Local Wildfire Preparedness Expenditures. by Aaencv. Fiscal Years 1992 Through 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year Agency 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 B-yeartotal Bureau of Land Management” $2,798 $1,001 $2,400 $2,772 $3,112 $12,083 Fish and Wildlife Service 271 223 232 192 67 985 Forest Service Rural Fire Prevention and Control 11,337 11,307 10,960 8,001 11,747 53,352 Rural Community Fire Protection 3,500 3,500 3,500 3,400 2,000 15,900 Total $17,906 $16,031 $17,092 $14,365 $16,926 $82,320 aAlf costs are related to an agreement between the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Forestry for the Oregon and California Grant Lands. Alaska, Idaho, and Montana have preparedness agreements where the Bureau of Land Management provides the service for $350,00O/year, $17,00O/year, and $5,00O/year, respectively. 13 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE II ENCLOSURE II Neither the Forest Service nor the Interior agencies has preparedness contracts with the states (except as noted in table II.1). Instead, the agencies use- grants and nonreimbursable cooperative agreements. The activities covered by these grants and cooperative agreements include fire prevention, environmental education, training, and developing operational procedures for fighting fires; the agencies do not charge one another for these services. Federal and state tie agencies also work cooperatively through the Wildfire Coordinating Group’ to establish common standards on a wide variety of elements, such as position qualifications, training, incident command system, dispatching, equipment, communications, fire behavior predictions, fire weather forecast, and operational procedures. In many parts of the cormtry, federal, state, and local agencies with fire protection responsibilities have worked with the other agencies to determine the most effective mix of protection resources to meet their workload at the least cost. The agencies ba3ance workloads and costs by exchanging protection responsibilities on the basis of the closest forces and optimum mixes of equipment and skills. The federal land management agencies do not pay for the training of state and local firefighters. Rather, the federal agencies have established trajning committees that include state fire personnel. These committees schedule and present training courses in which each state receives a share of the training slots. State personnel may attend the national courses, but the states must bear the full cost of the participants’ attendance. In the case of the Forest Service, state and local agencies use some of their grant moneys for training course participation. The Forest Service’s Grant Programs The Forest Service administers the Rural Fire Prevention and Control and the Rural Community Fire Protection grant programs. The two programs are authorized by the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978.2 Rural F’ire Prevention and Control funds are appropriated to the Forest Service, and Rural Community Fire Protection funds are appropriated to the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Service, which passes The Wildfire Coordinating Group consists of representatives from each of the federal land management agencies and state foresters. 2The Rural Community F’ire Protection program was originally authorized by the Rural Development Act of 1972. The Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 repealed this provision of the 1972 act and authorized the Rural Community Fire Protection program under the 1978 act. 14 GAOLRCED-984R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE II _ ENCLOSURE II them through to the Forest Service. Both grant programs are matching programs; that is, the entities receiving the grants must match them in dollar amounts or in-kind contributions. The Forest Service’s Fire and Aviation Management staf? allocates the grant funds to the states through a formula that considers factors such as state acreage and acreage to be protected. The states are responsible for monitoring the grant recipients and for sending reports to the Forest Service concerning what has been accomplished under the grants. Both the Rural Fire Prevention and Control and the Rural Communiiy Fire Protection grant moneys were used to enhance state and local firefighting capabilities. For example, Idaho received $250,400 in Rural Fire Prevention and Control grants in fiscal year 1996 to prepare, among other things, a statewide fire report and fund dispatchers at two dispatch centers and the state’s portion of the cost of a jire retardant aircraft. Similarly, Georgia received $405,502 in Rural Fire Prevention and Control grants that were used for, among other things, updating state, district, and county strategic fire plans; providing smoke management training to ensure that prescribed burning can continue; and training and equipping Georgia Forestry Commission personnel. In fiscal year 1996, Idaho received $23,500 in Rural Community Fire Protection grants. The state used these moneys for, among other things, providing personal protective fire safety equipment to fire districts and training personnel in structural and wildland fire control techniques. Likewise, Georgia received $22,954 in Rural Community Fire Protection grants to, among other things, conduct 10 Wildland/Urban Interface Fire courses and provide a Rural Fire Protection Basic course to at least 14 local fire departments. 15 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE IIt _ ENCLOSURE III AMOUNT AND TYPES OF EQUIPMENT LOANED TO STATE AND LOCAL ENTITLE’S FOR WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS ._ . Neither the Forest Service nor the Department of the Interior agencies loan personnel to state or local governments. The Forest Service, however, manages the Federal Excess Personal Property program,3 which loans excess federal property to state and local firefighters. Under this program administered by state foresters, excess federal property (generally from the Department of Defense) that can be used directly in lirefighting or converted to firefighting use may be loaned to states. The types of loaned excess property range from shovels to helicopters; most are trucks that can be readily converted to tankers or pumpers. Other common items loaned include generators, pumps, fire hoses, breathing apparatus, and personal protective clothing. During fiscal years 1992 through 1996, the Forest Service loaned excess federal personal property valued at about $651 million to states for use in wildfire preparedness activities. Table III.1 shows, by year, the total value of the excess federal property loaned by the Forest Service to the states. Table lll.1: Value of Excess Federal Prooerty the Forest Service Loaned to States, Fiscal Years 1992 Throuah 1996 Dollars in thousands Fiscal year 5-year total 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 $79,449 $123,362 $112,129 $189,672 $146,083 $650,695 According to a Forest Service official, the states have “screeners” who examine lists of excess property published by the General Services Administration for property they may want to acquire. Often, the screeners are working with lists of desired equipment provided to them by local fire departments. When the states ident@ excess property they want to borrow, the Forest Service acquires it. Title to the equipment passes from the origina owning organization to, and remains with, the Forest Service; the states cannot sell the excess property. The states are responsible for removing the excess property, refurbishing it, and keeping track of its location. When a state no longer needs 3The Federal Excess Personal Property program is authorized by section 203 of the Department of Agriculture Organic Act of 1944, the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, and section 10 of the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978. 16 GAO/RCED-984R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE III ENCLOSURE III the loaned excess property, it is returned to the Forest Service for disposal or re-loaned to another state. ._ - According to the Forest Service, most of the excess property loaned to the states is in poor condition and requires extensive rehabilitation to convert it into tiefighting equipment. However, the states may use some of their Rural Fire Prevention and Control or Rural Community Fire Protection grant moneys to rehabilitate the loaned excess property. The cost of conversion is much less than the purchase of comparable equipment. The loaned excess property may become important firefighting tools for local fire departments. For example, in November 1994 Wyoming state fire personnel transported from the Tooele Army Depot near Salt Lake City, Utah, 31 excess 2-l/2-ton trucks and two air compressors. Within weeks, one local fire department was able to use one of the excess trucks that had been converted into a l,OOO-gallonwildland firefighting engine. Wyoming officials estimate that by participating in the Federal Excess Personal Property program and rebuilding the excess property, they can save fcom 50 to 70 percent of the cost of new, commercial engines. For example, one Wyoming county built a compressed air foam system on one of the excess military trucks at a cost of $58,000; purchasing a commercial engine would have cost between $175,000 and $200,000. 17 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE IV _ ENCLOSURE IV THE PROCESS USED BY THE LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCIES TO FORMULATE BUDGET REQUESTS FOR WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESSACTIVITIES The land management agencies use Fire Management Plans to prepare annual wildfire budget requests. Fire Management Plans incorporate computerized analytical tools, such as Initial Attack Analyses, FIREPRO, and the National Fire Management Analysis System. Wildfire preparedness activities are one component of the analysis tools. These amdytical tools are used in developing annual budget requests for wildfire preparedness activities. The National Fire Management Analysis System was originally developed by the Forest Service in response to a 1978 congressional directive that the Forest Service conduct an economic benefit-cost analysis of its fire program and use that process to support aIll future national fire budget requests. The Forest Service implemented the National Fire Management Analysis System in 1980, and it has also been adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Similarly, the National Park Service began the development of a fire management analysis system titled FIREPRO in 1982. The Fish and Wildlife Service adopted a modified version of FIREPRO in 1993. F’ire Management Plans - provide a formal method to integrate fire program and land management planning, - establish a consistent procedure to evaluate the probable effectiveness and efficiency of tie programs, and - estimate the probable consequences of alternative fire programs and budgets at the local, regional, and national levels. The total cost of fighting wildfires on federal lands is the sum of preparedness activities, fuels management, rehabilitation, and suppression expenditures, plus the changes in values to resources, either positive or negative, that result from wildfjres. Using lo-year historical data on costs, weather, and actual fire conditions, Fire Management Plans identify the most ecomonically efficient fire protection program; the level which results in the least total costs (cost of preparedness, suppression, and economic losses). Each individual land management unit (national forest, self-governing Native American tribe) performs analyses using its Fire Management Plans to determine its most efficient program level, including preparedness costs. Individual unit’s estimates are aggregated into national totals, and the preparedness totals form the basis for the budget estimate that is sent to the Congress. The Congress appropriates the preparedness funds and the 18 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities ENCLOSURE IV _ ENCLOSURE IV Department distributes them to the agencies on the basis of their proportion of the total estimate. ._ (141083) 19 GAO/RCED-98-48R Wildfire Preparedness Activities Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary. VISA and Mastercard credit cards are accepted, also. 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Federal Lands: Information About Land Management Agencies' Wildfire Preparedness Activities
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1997-12-18.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)