Click for next page ( 16


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 15
1 Introduction Established in 1964' the Inane and Water Conservation Fund ~WCF) is the primary source of federal funds for acquiring land for conserva- tion. Since 1964, more than $3.6 billion has been spent by federal agencies to acquire land; another $3.2 billion has been available as matching Finds for the states to acquire land and to develop recreational facilities. The purposes for which acquisitions can be made have been expanded to include other objectives, such as establishment of wildlife and endangered species habitat. That shift sometimes has strained feder- al-Iocal partnerships and polarized groups seeking to preserve land for competing purposes. Each year, Congress must decide how much should be appropriated for land acquisition and how the amount should be allocated among the various federal agencies and Me states. Concern about how EWCF funds are distributed by federal agencies and how the different agencies choose acquisitions prompted Congress to ask the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the land-acquisition criteria and procedures of Me four agencies Mat are responsible for the bulk of land acquisition the Bureau of Land Management (BEM), Me Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Me National Park Service (NPS), and the Forest Service (IJSFS) and to compare their methods with those of private groups, such as Me Nature Conservancy. In response, the National Research Council appointed Me Committee on Scientific and Technical Criteria for Federal Acquisition of Lands for Conservation in the Board on Envi 15

OCR for page 15
16 SETTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION ronmental Studies and Toxicology. The committee was asked specifical- ly To review criteria and procedures by which BEM, USFWS, NPS, and USES acquire lands for conservation; To assess the historic, public policy, and scientific bases of land- acquisition criteria and compare them with nongovernmental organiza- tions; To assess the effectiveness of these federal agencies in preserving natural resources while achieving mandated public policy objectives of Me agencies; To evaluate the extent to which agencies use objective methods, scientific knowledge, and systematic criteria in making Weir recommen- dations for acquisition for conservation. The committee was composed of members with expertise in public land and wildlife law and policy, national resource economics and man- agement, land use, sociology, conservation biology, ecology, hydrology, and watershed management as well as experience with land-acquisition practices and transactions. Over the course of its deliberations, the commiKee~heard presentations from national and regional representatives of the four land-management agencies, as well as representatives from some nonprofit conservation organizations and organizations that represent interests affected by land acquisition, such as the Farm Bureau. The committee also had opportu- nity to garner perspectives from local communities and governments. (Appendix A is a list of persons who made presentations to the commit- tee and participated in discussions of its task.) The committee evaluated the land-acquisition criteria of BEM, USFWS, NPS, and USES in Me context of agency missions, the dynam- ic nature of ecosystems and landscapes, human conservation needs, and changing social objectives. The committee considered patterns of land- ownership, the many meanings of conservation, and the relationships among government agencies, nonprofit organizations, private landown- ers, diverse populations, and over interested parties that influence the acquisition process. This report emphasizes primarily the ecological and biological aspects of conservation while recognizing the importance of social objectives,

OCR for page 15
_ INTRODUCTION 17 such as cultural and historical preservation and equitable distribution of recreational opportunities. Priorities among objectives are value judg- ments beyond Me scope of the committee's charge, but all of the objec- tives above are recognized by law and are integral components of con- servation. LAND-ACQUISITION AGENCIES The four federal agencies reviewed have separate, somewhat comple- mentary, missions. All are responsible for managing large areas of land, most of which is rural; but overall, the lands present a wide range of conditions and opportunities for meeting biological and human needs. Land acquisition is one too! used by Congress and the agencies to fulfill Heir missions. The four agencies are responsible for the following: The National Park Service is responsible for managing the national parks and monuments, as well as cultural and historic sites, constituting more than 350 units on 76 million acres, the largest part of which is in Alaska (54 million acres) and the West. These lands have natural, historic, and scenic features and provide public recreation opportunities. The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains the national wildlife refuge system, which has some 89 million acres (approximately 60 million in Alaska) in 472 units; protects nesting and migration habitat for migrato- ry birds; provides habitat for endangered and threatened species and for other wildlife; offers recreational opportunities for the public; and per- mits other uses of the refuges where compatible with the primary wild- life purposes. The Forest Service manages the national forests and grasslands, which together account for about 191 million acres of forest and range- lands throughout the United States. USES lands are available for a wide range of commodity uses, recreation, and resource protection. The Bureau of L`and Management manages the federal resource lands, about 270 million acres, almost entirely in the I! contiguous western states and Alaska. Much of those lands is arid and is located in small, scattered tracts. These lands are used for recreation, commodity production, and resource protection.

OCR for page 15
18 SEl-l lNG PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Many of the individual units of these federal land systems are solid parcels of land, but many also have significant gaps in the land base. And units are created from time to time to meet newly recognized needs. Land acquisition is used to obtain privately owned land within existing units as well as to expand the boundaries of federal land systems and to connect existing systems. Some federal lands are controlled by agencies other than the four considered in this report. After the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, Me Department of Defense controls the third largest amount of federal land 3.9% (26 million acres) (GSA, 1989~. Federal lands controlled by agencies other Me BEM, NPS, USES, and USFWS might have an important part in the management of wildlife and recovery of Greatened and endangered species. Several colonies of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, for example, are located in federal forests on military bases in the Soup. GUIDELINES FOR CRITERIA To evaluate criteria for land acquisition, some standards are needed by which the value and utility of criteria can be measured (Fink, 1991~. Acquisition criteria may appear in an agency's organic law, as in BEM's Federal Land and Policy Management Act; in general acquisition statutes, such as the Condemnation Act and the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Acquisition Policies Act of 1970; in a wide range of programmatic laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and He National Trails System Act; and in a host of project-specific or unit-by-unit laws-the National Park Service alone is subject to more than 40 laws of this sort spelling out He practices of eminent domain. Land-acquisition criteria also emerge as a result of explicit delibera- tion within and among He agencies (e.g., the USFWS Land Acquisition Priority System CLAPS) Application Manual, the USES Land Acquisition Handbook, and He Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Proce- dure for Compiling Federal Land Acquisition Priority List); in general planning documents, such as BEM's Wildlife 2000 and Recreation 2000 documents; as well as in regional planning endeavors, in action-specif~c impact statements, and in species recovery plans prepared in accordance with He Endangered Species Act of 1973.

OCR for page 15
INTRODUCTION 19 Land-acquisition criteria may be detected in the common practices of agencies. NPS, for example, does not often attempt to acquire partial interests (e.g., easements or development rights). BLM and USES land exchanges are constrained by the complexities of land-exchange transac- tions. Congress itself has certain procedures to bring political consider- ations into the process and has ultimate control of land-acquisition prior- ities through the appropriation process. Any number of unspoken rules and hard-to-identify practices govern contacts between government agen- cies Hat acquire land and the people who own it. Comparing such diverse criteria is extremely difficult, because each participant has different goals and priorities, different sets of statutory and administrative constraints, a different notion of what constitutes conservation and lands appropriate for conservation, and different modes of acquiring them. The criteria themselves are variable, addressing different small pieces of a large picture. The most successful acquisition criteria examined by the committee were constrained and focused by well-understood policy goals. It is one Ding to look for the best acquisition for a specific purpose, e.g., to maintain an endangered species, protect cultural artifacts, or provide hiking or bicycling opportunities. It is quite another to try to achieve those goals simultaneously through composite criteria intended to deter- mine the highest priorities among the goals. A private group, such as The Nature Conservancy, can pursue its goal of protecting "natural" places without the homogenization of pur- pose Rat can hobble the acquisition programs of public agencies. Thus, private groups can be innovative in defining goals and methodologies (Rousch, 1991) without attempting to satisfy multiple purposes and con- stituencies. Among federal land-acquisition agencies, the advantages of singularity of purpose and coherence of aim are found in USFWS Land Acquisition Priority System (LAPS) criteria (see Chapter 3), which are an excellent vehicle for identifying migratory bird habitat within the United States. Basic Considerations The committee identified four important considerations that need to be evaluated in determining appropriateness of criteria.

OCR for page 15
20 SETTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Conservation of sustainability: Criteria should contribute to sustaina- bility of renewable resource bases within a particular region. Conserva- tion for sustainability includes the consideration of cultural and biologi- cal diversity and the processes that renew or perpetuate them. The goal of sustainability is beyond the capacity of any single program, discipline, or organization to achieve, but land acquisition can play an important role that complements other programs. Fulfillment of agency purpose: Criteria should further Me missions of the agencies and help to achieve their land-acquisition goals. If the use of criteria leaves certain agency missions unaccomplished or largely neglected, the criteria are inadequate. Clarity: Criteria should lend themselves to ease of administration and consistency of application. Criteria that are either so complex as to defy understanding or so subjective as to permit manipulation are unsatisfac- tory. Accommodation of variation and change: Any land-acquisition priori- ty scheme intended to function over time confronts a variety of policy challenges, including continuity despite changing conservation needs and values, the capacity to plan for and implement comprehensively while responding to opportunities, and the need to meet a variety of specific and often competing goals. Scientific knowledge, values, and other circumstances change over time; useful criteria must be flexible enough to respond to these chang- es. For example, adequate protection of biological diversify has led to various proposals to restore or protect endangered habitats by assorted policies, including land acquisition. NPS, USES, USFWS, and BEM all pursue conservation strategies that rely upon continuous collection of evidence and ongoing evaluations that give presumptive weight to histor- ical practices. Written criteria and land-acquisition policies change in We course of agency practice and administrations. The missions of Me agencies them- seIves have been reshaped and modified over time, and land-acquisition practice often is the subject of rapid-f~re legislative instruction, program by program, and project by project. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Act has been modified in re- sponse to legislation to protect endangered species, establish wildlife refuges, and protect wetlands. EWCF beneficiaries have changed al

OCR for page 15
INTRODUCTIOU 21 so BEM was not an original beneficiary of the EWCF, but it now is a major recipient. State and local governments have not fared well throughout tile many changes to the EWCF, although their needs were considered by the original drafters of the EWCF as being at least as urgent as those of the federal agencies (Glicksman and Coggins, 19841. In addition, the lands acquired and public expectations regarding them change over time. For example, the USES acquired forested land in the eastern United States for timber management. The land had been cut over, and during the decades when no harvesting was possible on the lands, the agency's custodial management was noncontroversial. Peo- ple's expectations about the land changed to favor hunting, fishing, and recreation. When the timber was once again of merchantable size, the timber sales program was not acceptable in some cases to the local population. Land that had been acquired primarily for timber manage- ment had become important for other conservation purposes. The physical and biological environment changes constantly. Suitable habitat for a species requiring slightly over-aged timber stands will not meet that criterion forever. And climate change probably will bring physical and biological changes on large scales and short time frames, as it did in earlier times. Changes such as those described above interact with strategies of acquisition in subtle ways. The most reliable way to achieve permanent dedication of a parcel of land to a stated purpose is to acquire the entire pa,rce! and all related interests (a "full-feet' acquisition). But changes in the behavior of a protected species, for example, or in climate or the scientific understanding of habitat needs, might warrant protection with a broader reach. Planning Versus Opportunity Formal acquisition criteria permit planned decision-making; nonethe- less, unanticipated opportunities arise and disappear quickly, and criteria must be responsive. An acquisition program should adhere to a standard planning mode} that includes identification of unambiguous goals, speci- fication of alternatives, and selection of an option that best advances identified goals. Planning on federal lands is expressed in a variety of ways, including

OCR for page 15
22 SEl-llNG PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION land-use management plans, land-protection plans, and environmental Impact statements. Such formal planning and deliberate choice is re- flected also in the acquisition criteria. Land-acquisition decisions in- volve a comprehensive search for prospects, careful evaluation of We costs and benefits associated with serious nominees, weighing of alterna- tive choices, and selection of the best candidates measured against crite- ria. But opportunism still has a role in the land-acquisition policies of a nation Mat was Me reluctant recipient of the Louisiana Purchase and called the purchase of Alaska "Seward's Folly." Acquisitions involving opportunistic land exchanges can be almost entrepreneurial endeavors, partly because land acquisition through ex- changes presents issues and functions that generally do not conform to established systems for setting priorities. An illustration of the opportu- nistic nature of land acquisition is presented by the recent collapse of savings and loan associations. In short order, the federal bailout law brought into Me hands of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Resolution Trust Corporation many valuable properties that included sensitive wetlands and estuarine areas (Frederick, 19911. Abandoned railroad rights of way also have provided recent fleeting opportunities for other uses. Acquisition practice must be responsive to sudden and unexpected opportunities of this sort. Nonprofit organizations often have exploited sudden opportunities to the benefit of the nation. Groups and entities with diverse concerns can fulfill functions that governments cannot-overcoming financial limita- tions and red tape, dealing with owners who do not wish to bargain with governments, responding to sudden crises and fleeting opportunities, satisfying Me private owners' desires to sell quickly, arranging compli- cated transactions, and providing services for the agencies that eventual- ly will manage Me land (Montana Land Reliance/Land Trust Exchanges, 1982). Acquisition and Alternatives In public land law, land acquisition includes full-fee purchase and condemnation by eminent domain; acquisition of lesser interests, such as easements, rights of way, and life estates; and odler means, such as sales, exchanges, gifts, and bequests. Beyond ~is, mechanisms used to manage the federal lands include acquisition, disposition, and numerous

OCR for page 15
INTRODUCTION 23 use and allocation decisions. It is important to underscore Me essential continuity and interconnection among those mechanisms. Response to allocation of resources leads to changing public demands, which can lead to new acquisition, management, and disposal decisions. Acquisition is one means to accomplish management goals, and it can be used as an alternative to other forms of management or as a supplement to regula- tion. For example, advocates of vigorous enforcement of Section 404 of the Clean Water Act to restrict development in wetlands believe that acquisition should be used to supplement regulation Slouch, 1988~. But acquisition is not a substitute for regulatory land-use restrictions. Circumstances could arise in which an aggressive acquisition strategy aimed at wetlands or endangered species habitat, for example, could work against regulation by driving up expectations and demands of landowners that Weir land be acquired by the government, an expecta- tion that might never be satisfied in fact. Strategic acquisitions, howev- er, have art important role to play across We spectrum of management activity. Broader experimentation with less-~an-fee acquisitions is warranted for two reasons in particular: future management aims likely will be ecosystemwide, and Hey will reach across public and private lands. The Nature Conservancy underscores the implications of this approach: As The Nature Conservancy turns to preserving whole landscapes, it will necessarily pay attention to human needs. For example, neither the Conservan- cy nor anyone else will be able to buy all the critical land needed to protect the 100 miles of the Sacramento River habitat targeted by the Conservancy's Cali- fornia office. It will take voluntary agreements with landowners, cooperation with other nonprofit groups and local land-use regulations. It will take sophisti- cated coordination win an array of state and federal agencies (Rousch, 1991~. Indeed, the ability to forge amicable relationships with resident popula- tions might be We dominant factor for success or defeat of parklands and preserve initiatives nationally and internationally (West and Brechin, 19911. The distinction between the rights of public and private landholders is becoming less obvious. Public and private ownerships are evolving and converging, with private rights emerging in the public lands, and public obligations appearing in~the private sector. Private property normally is

OCR for page 15
24 SEINING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION subject to regulatory land-use restrictions to protect public values, while acquisition policy is shifting from what might be called a perspective of ouster to one of accommodation. Much of the legal structure of federal land acquisition is based on condemnation, classically exemplified by the interstate highway system and urban renewal programs, which were completed by taking the prop- erties of millions of Americans. Policy based on condemnation has many implications, including a low tolerance for inholders and unwilling sellers; indeed, the popular perception of condemnation proceedings presumes an unwilling seller versus the government. But condemnation can be undertaken between a willing seller and the federal government In a prominent example of accommodation, the committee was advised Cat NPS has moved gradually from a policy of attempting to remove all infolders to a policy of removing only those infolders whose uses are incompatible with management objectives. And a keystone of OMB acquisition policy is the presence of a willing seller (see Appendix B). Several factors contribute to the shift in strategy. Experience has shown that the purposes of EWCF acquisitions can be achieved largely within the framework of a willing seller. Properties acquired for recre- ation, wildlife habitat, cultural, or scenic protection do not always de- pend upon eradication of existing uses and removal of occupants. In some instances, occupant values even reinforce such objectives and can be an asset rather than a liability. THE INFORMATION GAP Determining the ownership of conservation land is difficult. The committee was unable to find any comprehensive source of information regarding what privately held lands the federal government considers desirable to acquire for conservation and what lands it already holds for conservation. More pertinent, perhaps, is that the committee could not identify what lands the federal government has acquired for conserva- tion. Even with the narrowest possible definition lands acquired with EWCF monies no comprehensive source is available to learn where lands have been acquired, by which agency, at what cost, and for what purpose, although such information is available in theory. The multitude of partial holdings (e.g., conservation easements that restrict land uses),

OCR for page 15
INTRODUCTION 25 which are difficult to define and map, also obscures basic information about federal land holdings. VALUATION CHALLENGES Any criteria for prescribing priorities for public policy actions are fraught with difficulties in comparing values, even within constrained contexts, such as Lose of USFWS LAPS criteria. Comparing values across the spectrum of resource use and geographical happenstance is even more difficult. One common technique to compare incommensurables is quantif~ca- tion. But even the most robust quantification schemes cannot eliminate He need for decisions based upon experience, reasoned judgment, intu- ition, and common sense. Importance of diverse values cannot be ex pressed in an ordinate arrangement. Land-acquisition criteria should deal openly and explicitly with differ- ences in value between the parcels competing in He priority scheme and convey adequate and meaningful information on value to He interested public and to Congress. The result of applying the criteria should be an efficient allocation of limited funds, providing the most gain to the nation for its investment. The criteria also should achieve widely shared goals that are anchored firmly in law. Ultimately, land-acquisition decisions affect many people and organi- zations, including property owners and local communities. The criteria used to guide land-acquisition priorities should reflect this and seek to treat Lose affected interests fairly. The criteria should invite a continu- ing re-examination of their premises in light of their performance and He experience gained in Heir use. REPORT ORGANIZATION The committee focused on technical and scientific criteria for land acquisition and on the way potential acquisitions are ranked at the na- tional level. The committee did not view its role as one of evaluating goals for land acquisition that have been set by Congress or as one of assessing the validity of the agencies' missions.

OCR for page 15
26 SElTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION The committee reviewed the changing policy framework within which federal land acquisition takes place. Thus, it considered the effects of shifting land uses and population change on maintaining biological diver- sity as well as the social and cultural dimensions encompassed within the modern understanding of conservation. This report starts by placing federal land acquisition in a historical and thematic context (Chapter 21. It describes the extent of the federal lands, Weir relation to other lands, and the broad purposes of federal land acquisition. Chapter 3 examines the organizations and interests that directly affect and are affected by federal land acquisitions. The missions, land-acqui- sition programs, and the operations of NPS, BEM, USES, and USFWS are described. The allocation of land-acquisition funds by Congress is discussed, as are the roles of various interested parties, including those who hold private land in or adjacent to the federal lands. The roles of private groups Mat also protect conservation {ends and assist the federal agencies in fulfilling their missions are described. Chapter 4 examines the social dimensions of land acquisition, includ- ing cultural issues that affect land policy and conservation and human needs. Chapter 5 addresses biological aspects of conservation and tech- nical procedures for establishing priorities. Chapter 6 describes the criteria of nonprofit organizations for land assembly. Chapter 7 describes the various techniques and tools used in acquiring land and interests in land, as well as examples that demonstrate Me complexity of acquisition strategies and transactions. Factors Cat deter- mine which techniques are most applicable are described. Chapter ~ is We committee's evaluation of the Office of Management and Budget's Land Acquisition Priority Procedure. The final chapter of Me report presents the committee's evaluation and recommendations. The current process for setting acquisition priori- ties is evaluated and recommendations are made for increasing the effec- tiveness of the process for establishing land-acquisition priorities.