Federal Lands: Agencies Need to Assess the Impact of Personal Watercraft and Snowmobile Use
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC RESOURCES COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIV
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Many of our national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands are a potential source of recreational opportunities for the estimated 14 million adults who used a personal watercraft or snowmobile in 1999. However, the recreational use of these vehicles is often criticized as causing damage to plants, wildlife, and other resources, as well as creating safety problems and conflicts with other visitors to federal lands. Determining the extent to which these vehicles should be allowed to operate on these lands is a contentious and challenging issue faced by federal land managers. Although this issue draws considerable attention, relatively little reliable information has been assembled about the extent to which personal watercraft and snowmobiles are used on federal lands, the process by which decisions about their use are made, or the extent of monitoring being done in areas where their use is allowed. As a result, the General Accounting Office was asked to provide more information on these matters. GAO focused its work on the four major federal land management agencies-the Bureau of Land Management, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service in the Department of the Interior, and the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture. Collectively, these agencies manage about 95 percent of all federal lands. GAO addressed the following questions 1 To what extent are personal watercraft and snowmobiles used in federal units managed by these agencies 2 What are the bases for agency decisions to authorize or prohibit the use of these vehicles 3 In federal units where their use is allowed, do restrictions exist on operations, and how are these restrictions enforced and, 4 To what extent have these federal agencies assessed the impact of such use To respond to these questions, we asked managers from each of nearly 1,200 federal units within the four agencies to answer a questionnaire.
- Water Pollution and Control
- Environmental Health and Safety