Thursday, March 26, 2009

Federal Land Management: Additional Documentation of Agency Experiences with Good Neighbor Authority Could Enhance Its Future Use

This Government Accountabiliyt Office Report (GAO-09-277), dated February 2009, reviews Fifty-three projects conducted under Good Neighbor authority through fiscal year 2008, including 38 in Colorado and 15 in Utah, with most of the projects (44 of 53) conducted on U.S. Forest Service land. These projects included hazardous fuel reduction on about 2,700 acres of national forest and about 100 acres of BLM land, mostly in Colorado, and the repair of firedamaged trails and watershed protection and restoration in Utah. Together, the two agencies spent about $1.4 million on these projects, split almost evenly between the two states. Although most projects involved contracting for services such as fuel reduction, some projects involved timber sales in which contractors purchased timber resulting from their fuel reduction activities. These timber sales occurred only in Colorado and totaled about

Federal and state officials who have used Good Neighbor authority cited project efficiencies and enhanced federal-state cooperation as its key benefits. For example, the agencies cited their ability to improve the effectiveness of fuel reduction treatments in areas that include federal, state, and private ownership. Federal and state agencies have also encountered challenges such as a lack of understanding of the authority and complicated processes for approving Good Neighbor agreements. Agency officials and others also noted several factors to consider when conducting future Good Neighbor projects, whether in Colorado, Utah, or other states that may be granted the authority—including the type of projects to be conducted and the type of land to be treated. While the agencies are not required to document their
experiences in using the authority, officials contemplating future use of the authority could benefit from such documentation—including information on successes, challenges, and lessons learned to date.

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