GAO finds gaps in federal land management data

About half the data elements being collected for federal land management are potentially unreliable, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

GAO assessed the potential reliability of more than 100 data elements being collected by five agencies, including the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management and Agriculture’s Forest Service.

The data pertains to 650 million acres of land under federal management.

The review determined that “less than half of the data elements stored in a primary agency data system were potentially reliable,” states the May 3 report.

The main reason for the gaps in reliability were insufficient information about the accuracy and completeness of data elements and lack of internal controls for data quality, the report said.

The data elements collected include such information as acres managed, number of special use permits generated for filming activities on federal land, and the number of cultural and historic sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

But none of the agencies were collecting 33 other elements, such as information on potential quantities of oil, gas, and coal resources on federal land.

“Agency officials cited various reasons why the agencies did not collect certain information, such as believing another federal agency collected it, it was inconsistent with the agency’s mission, or they lacked the authority or resources to do so,” the report said.

The other agencies collecting the data were the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service, all in Interior.

The GAO made no recommendations in the report.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.


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