GAO Audit Critical of USFWS Monitoring
In a May 2009 audit report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a critical assessment of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracking of required monitoring reports noting the Service has incomplete information about effects on listed species from Section 7 Consultations.
The western United States, including vast stretches of federal land, is home to more than a third of the 1,317 species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Under Section 7 of the Act, federal agencies must ensure that any actions they authorize, fund, or carry out, whether on federal or private lands, do not jeopardize listed species.
The GAO audit found the Service lacks a means of tracking the monitoring reports it requires in biological opinions and does not know the extent of compliance with these requirements. To track monitoring reports, the Service relies on its biologists to keep abreast of biological opinions and follow up on required monitoring reports. At the field offices GAO visited, Service biologists could not account for all required monitoring reports in 40 of 64 consultation files (63 percent) requiring such reports. Service staff said they face a demanding workload, and responding to new consultation requests often takes higher priority than following up on monitoring reports.
Monitoring reports can play a critical role in the consultation process because they provide an evaluation of and a feedback loop on the effects actions have on listed species and the effectiveness of protective measures taken to minimize the impact of take. The lack of monitoring reports increases the risk of litigation to protect species.
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