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8 The Off ice of Management and Budget l The OMB land acquisition priority procedure (LAPP) (Appendix B) is a mechanism for combining the requests of the agencies in the Depart- ment of We Interior and We Department of Agriculture into a single list for funding that is submitted to the Congress. LAPP places general con- straints on all acquisitions, for example, the property must be within the boundaries of an existing federal conservation or recreation unit "if such boundaries are set by statute," which is customarily the case for National Park Service (NPS) and Forest Service (USFS) acquisitions. Other con- straints are that the property targeted for acquisition "presents no known health/safety/liability problems (e.g., hazardous waste contamination, unsafe structures," and that there is "no indication of opposition from current owners" to We proposed acquisition, although We criteria state Nat "condemnations may be necessary in rare instances." For properties that meet those minimum criteria, LAPP contains a point system for comparing candidate properties. The highest number of points (80) are awarded if We proposed acquisition "provides multiple recreation opportunities . . . and is within a county with a population of one million or more"; or if "the principal benefit to be derived from the acquisition is its wetlands characteristics as defined in We Emergency Wetlands Act of 1986." Fifty points are awarded if We proposed acqui- sition will interdict an "imminent (within 2-3 years) property develop- ment that is determined by the regional or State director to be incompati- ble with the affected unit's au~or~zed purposes." Twenty-five points are awarded if the proposed acquisition will foreclose a "short-to-medi ~3
184 SETTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Uffl term (within 4-8 years) property development" that is judged to be incompatible with the purpose of the unit. Points also are awarded if the acquisition satisfies other measures-preservation of the habitat of an endangered species, 40 points; preservation of a nationally significant "natural or cultural feature of a type not now represented in any Federal conservation/recreation unit," 40 points; inclusion of infrastructure that would make the property accessible to the general public and to elderly and handicapped citizens, 20 points; use of less-than-fee acquisition techniques, 10 points; improvement of manageability and efficiency of a unit, 20 points; and others. LAPP has some mechanisms to relax the rigidity of Me point system and incorporate considerations of agency judgment and preference. One provision, for example, allows an agency's assistant secretary to award points to Me 20 highest priority projects that former Me agency's mis- sion. The Land Acquisition Working Group reviews and modifies the tenta- tive ranking of land acquisition proposals to consider, among over things, proposed exceptions to Me minimum criteria and "subjective factors not taken into account in the scoring process." Examples of subjective factors are "the role of a given acquisition in a coordinated Federal/State/Iocal effort to preserve recreation lands; the possible effect of an acquisition on State, local, or private efforts to offer competing recreation opportunities; Me prospect that a private conservation group may desire to purchase the property." ADEQUACY OF THE LAPP CRITERIA The LAPP criteria are subject to criticism on several grounds. The primary difficulties stem from the ambition of the aim and the choice of He means. The aim is to facilitate comparisons of the acquisition pro- posals of numerous federal land managers. The means to achieve this is comparison by a numerical ranking system. One of the most obvious inadequacies of the LAPP criteria is that Hey compare acquisition alternatives without regard to He specific purpose of the acquisition. Although a numerical ranking scheme obvi- ously facilitates comparisons after the problem of assigning numbers is overcome, valuation judgments always will be at issue.
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 185 The Minimum Criteria Even the minimum criteria show how difficult it is to develop a single set of standards for all federal land acquisitions. For example, the criterion Cat restricts acquisitions to within or contiguous to existing units diminishes the options of NPS and USES but not of the Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), which theoretically can look for land nation- wide.~ On the other hand, recent study of land acquisition in the Lake Tahoe area shows that the simple legislative technique of limiting acqui- sition programs to defined geographic areas can give the endeavor a precision and focus that otherwise might be lacking (Fink, 1991~. Whether the federal government should purchase property contami- nated with hazardous waste is a difficult decision. But that criterion excludes consideration of ecosystem restoration and mitigation of haz- ards on otherwise desirable properties. Indeed, land of this sort is now for sale at Love Canal. The criterion that specifies a willing seller is contrary to the condemnation of private property for public purposes sanctioned in scores of statutes applicable to the public lands. The LAPP criteria acknowledge the connection between acquisition and use with a threshold requirement that the cost of infrastructure necessary to make We property accessible, safe, and usable by the gener- al public does not exceed 10% of We estimated purchase price. Costs of management are pertinent to acquisition decisions, although some sites might merit building a substantial infrastructure, just as some sites might justifSr mitigating a hazard. "Acquisitions nationwide are themselves constrained. If USFWS were instructed by Congress to Maximize the preservation of biological diversity with its acquisition Finds, the agency conceivably might be tempted to make strategic purchases of land in Latin America or elsewhere outside of North America. The acquisition policies Hat established a network of military bases around the globe obviously were not confined by considerations of domestic geography. Whether a similar principle will govern the establishment of world- wide ecological bases is a political question.
186 SETTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATON The Twelve Ranking Criteria Prevents Imminent Development This criterion highlights the opportunistic aspects of land acquisition. Imminence of development usually is a manifestation of several features (e.g., location, value, size, and control of access) that influence the value of a particular parcel. The development decision thus might have important multiplier effects. The Washington Department of Wildlife's recent purchase of a cattle ranch in the Methow Valley, which a devel- oper had proposed transforming into a resort, for example, is likely to influence future development in profound ways (Seattle James' 19911. A strategy of opportunism gives priority to near-term problems and diminishes the role of long-term goals and plans. Purchases to head off imminent development, moreover, tend to be high in local friction and costs, which can take a toll on acquisition budgets. Provides Multiple Recreation Opportunities Close to Population Centers This criterion is limited and overly simple. It does not purport to measure the quality of the recreational experience. It provides only an indication of He possible demand for recreation without considering Be extent to which this demand is already being met by federal or other public recreation areas. The important question pertains to the available supply of recreational opportunities relative to population. As written, the criterion gives priority for land acquisition to places like King Coun- ty, Washington which includes Seattle and has a wealth of readily available opportunities in national forests and state lands-at He expense of, for example, St. Louis, which is two counties away from He Mark Twain National Forest and has no over nearby extensive public forests. Preserves Endangered and Threatened Species Habitat This criterion assigns 40 points if He acquisition would preserve He habitat of an endar~gered species and 30 points if it would preserve He
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 187 habitat of a Greatened species. But the aggregate number of points that can be assigned to a property because of other criteria can exceed 300. Thus, the endangered species criterion shows particularly well We effect of disparate acquisition programs serving distinct needs: regardless of importance, this criterion could not be Me primary motivation for an acquisition. This is a curious outcome given the strong congressional commitment to the protection of species in Me Endangered Species Act. Properties that might be regarded as the highest priorities from the point of view of endangered species benefits can rank well below other properties whose value to endangered species is much less but whose scores are enhanced by extraneous considerations. Thus, if a priority list of proposed acquisitions for the federal endangered species program were constructed, it is likely that such a list would be substantially rear- ranged when it was passed through Me filter of the LAPP criteria. Moreover, beyond introducing a systematic bias against acquisitions for certain protected species (e.g., those located far away from major urban areas), Me criteria also might reward factors inimical to Me con- servation of certain species. For example, some species, like the piping plover and Me Chesapeake tiger beetle, depend upon undisturbed beach habitats. The conservation of those species is likely to depend upon fairly strict controls on a variety of recreational activities; yet, under the uniform criteria, more recreational opportunities translate into higher overall scores. Another example is the desert tortoise, whose conserva- tion likely depends upon restricting off-road vehicle use. The existing criteria either systematically hinder the acquisition of land for Hose species, or encourage the tolerance of incompatible uses as part of the price of acquisition. This criterion also suffers from a failure to adapt to rapid change. In recent tunes, an increasing amount of nonfederal land is being proposed as critical habitat for Greatened and endangered species-millions of acres alone for Me spotted owl. When the Land and Water Conserva- tion Fund ~WCF) Act was enacted in 1964, neither Congress nor the federal agencies could foresee Me extent to which Me protection of Greatened and endangered species habitats would become a major land management objective of Me 199Os. Future federal acquisition priorities must recognize ~is, and Me acquisition criteria and Me congressional appropriations process must be able to respond to this important conser- vation need. Insofar as Me value of a proposed acquisition for endangered species
188 SEl-llNG PRIORIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION is concerned, this criterion is a crude determination. A property either is habitat for a threatened or endangered species or it isn't; all endan- gered species habitat properties receive 40 points, and all threatened species habit properties receive 30 points. Yet, there are other consider- ations that could be extremely important in ranking proposed endangered species acquisitions. For example, an acquisition that helps avert a conflict over a proposed development might be viewed as a higher prior- ity than one that does not. An acquisition that encompasses several endangered species is presumably a higher priority than one that encom- passes only one. An acquisition within designated critical habitat is likely more important than one outside critical habitat. An acquisition of a larger tract or of a critical corridor should be accorded more weight. Those and other considerations could be used to fine-tune ac- quisition priorities for the endangered species program, but they are too detailed to receive any attention in the broad-brush criteria of the LAPP system. Preserves a Nationally Significant Natural or Cultural Feature of a Type Not Now Represented in Any Federal Unit This criterion presumes some compilation or list of features necessary to complete a preservation system. Although work of this sort has been done by NPS, nothing approaching a consensus (scientific or otherwise has been reached on the components of such a preservation system. At the same time, recognition of this criterion shows the tension between stability and dynamics that attends any attempt to restate acquisition criteria. Knowledge and values about what is worth preserving change rapidly, and acquisition practice must be responsive to ~at. This criterion reflects also He view Mat preservation of nationally sig- nificant natural and cultural features is a justification for federal acquisi- tion. The committee generally shares this view, but federal acquisitions are only part of a complex web of state, federal, local, and private property holdings. Important features of Be type adverted to in this criterion might be able to be protected by other means.
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 189 Preserves Biologically Valuable Wetlands or Riparian Habitat An acquisition can be awarded 80 points for this criterion, double that of protecting endangered species. Like many of the criteria, the term wetlands has been given a definition, although considerable discretion is involved in distinguishing among different types of wetlands. As with He endangered species criterion, the wetlands criterion shows how difficult it is to reconcile an acquisition program with a regulatory program. Under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, for example, wetlands are protected by law and use restrictions that can be imposed on private owners without compensation and within a broad range of conditions. Indeed, the higher the public values of wetlands, the lower He likelihood Hat payment is required as a formal legal matter under the takings clause. Among the policy questions presented are whether ac- quisitions should be deferred until regulation is proven inadequate; whether acquisition and regulatory programs focus on different kinds of properties; whether acquisitions achieve goals that regulation cannot; and whether a high priority (or high point) acquisition program undercuts the effectiveness of the regulatory program by raising expectations of a buy- out. Includes Infrastructure for Access for the Public and Handicapped People The assignment of points for improved access is quite plausible. Acquiring key land parcels and rights-of-way Hat can provide public access to large areas of otherwise inaccessible federal land is extremely important. For example, at He request of the Bureau of Land Manage- ment (BL~M) and USES, He Keystone Center conducted a policy dia- logue in 1988 on He problems associated wig obtaining public access to federal land where such access was blocked by adjacent private owner- ship (Keystone Center, 1989~. That report identifies He confusion, frustration, and confrontation that often attends barriers to access to the public lands. It recommends incorporating access needs in the planning processes of government entities, as well as developing the innovative and practical means to improve access.
190 SElTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Infrastructure presumably is defined elsewhere, but it might include disparate items, such as highways on He one hand and curb-cuts for wheelchairs on the other. Expands Units With Recent Rapid Growth in Visitor Use This criterion effectively makes increased visitor use a goal, even when it might be something to be avoided. It suggests the need for setting visitor use goals Mat vary considerably from one federal area to another. The criterion also should reflect the relationship between feder- al and other public use areas in serving recreation users. Improves Manageability and Efficiency of a Unit Although pertinent to acquisition practice, this criterion suffers from the same bluntness that permeates the other criteria. The points avail- able under this criterion do not provide for differentiation between large projects with sizable administrative savings and small projects Mat pro- vide few, if any, savings. The ability to identify administrative cost savings is particularly important when considering land exchanges, where both parties might be able to reduce Be long-term costs of prop- erty-line surveys, road development, and other land management expens- es. Results in Federal Savings in Acquisition Costs Through the Use of Land Exchanges, Donations, or Other Alternatives Alternatives to acquisition must be considered. Particularly for large projects and during an era of constrained federal budgets, the ability to accomplish high-priority acquisitions without using appropriated funds
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BU=ET 191 should be encouraged, so that EWCF monies can be used most effective ly. Land exchanges could help reduce Me perception in many western states Mat the percentage of federal land ownership is too high and increasing, to Me long-term detriment of the local property-tax base and economy. Federal acquisition of land for conservation purposes In Lose areas might be accomplished more easily if citizens and governments were aware Hat over federal Iands were being made available to Be private sector or to a state agency. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to manipulate a point system to ensure Mat a high-priority, noncash acquisition opportunity ranlcs above an identical opportunity Cat requires We use of EWCF appropriations. An acquisition of Cat sort is not necessarily superior; exchanges and dona- tions are quite complex. Furthermore, the criterion is based on percent savings in acquisition cost rawer Can a more relevar~t absolute dollar savings. Involves Federal Acquisition of Less Than Full-Fee Title to the Property Federal acquisition practice has not fully exploited Be opportunities for less-~an-fee acquisition. But this important proposition is buried in an evaluation system Cat gives a slight mark-up (10 points) to acquisi- tions that use a less-~an-fee approach. The criterion also does not account for Be quality of the lands acquired. Insistence upon less-than- fee analyses would be better placed in Be procedures of the individual agencies rather than in the document that sets acquisition priorities. Involves Significant Nonfederal Partnership The purpose of this criterion is not clear. If the purpose is to obtain financial support from others, points should be awarded in relation to the proportion of costs borne by the partners. The current allocation of 5 points for each partner effectively means that points are awarded for adding complexity to the arrangement.
192 SETTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Ranks 20 Highest Priority Projects According to Agency Mission Although the criteria give weight to individual agency priority rank- ings, agency priorities with special criteria Hat differ from He priorities of He administration often are reversed. For example, in fiscal year 1991, the highest ranking USFWS project under He LAPP criteria was ranked 32nd on the agency priority list. REFLECTION OF AGENCY MISSIONS AND Al)"IHORITIES For purposes of illustration, the L`APP criteria are discussed below as they relate to He missions and land acquisition authorities of a single agency USES. USES has aquisition authority under EWCF, the Na- tional Trails Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. Purposes of land acquisition under those authorities include land that provides access to national forests over nonfederal lands. Other acts establishing specific units, such as national recreation areas, might have additional land acquisition authority. Parts of the national forests serve specific purposes, and Congress has provided specific land acquisition authority in addition to the general authority of the Weeks Law and He broad outdoor recreation acquisition authority of He L~WCF Act. The criteria for setting acquisition priori- ties, ~us, must serve an array of purposes and uses, some of which deserve greater priority in land acquisition than others, despite the even treatment apparently assigned by the Multiple-Use and Sustained-Yield Act. For purposes of this analysis, He committee divided He LAPP crite- ria into four groups: · Protection criteria (e.g., prevents imminent development, preserves endangered and threatened species, preserves natural or cultural features not now in any federal area, preserves biologically valuable wetlands or riparian areas) · Recreation criteria (provides multiple recreation opportunities close to population centers; expands units with recent rapid growth in visitor use)
OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 193 · Administranve criteria (includes infrastructure for access by public and handicapped people; improves manageability) · Cost criteria beads to federal cost savings through land exchanges and donations; involves federal acquisition of less than full-fee title; involves significant nonfederal partnership) Protection and Recreation Criteria The protection and recreation criteria are related to, but not entirely coincident wig, the statutory missions for the national forests. They fad! to address timber, grazing, watershed protection, and mining uses of He national forests, although this might be appropriate at Be present time in view of the increased attention being assigned to wildlife and ecosystem concerns relative to over conservation purposes. The criteria also fad! to address the specifics of the several statutes Mat designate areas of the national forests as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, national trails, and over areas, which should have special attention in land acquisition programs. The protection and recreation criteria also fad] to address ecosystem- management concerns on the national forests, especially those related to avoiding forest fragmentation. Those are important in He context of protecting endangered species in forested areas, such as the northern spotted owl, but do not receive attention in the criteria. The protection criteria in one group and the recreation criteria in another reflect the dichotomy in objectives Cat were to be met by the EWCF. That poses problems of the sort mentioned above, whereby protection of endangered species could be assigned low priority overall because one criterion does not combine well with any of He recreation- related criteria and might well be wholly at odds wig them. The recreation criteria do not fit recreation on He national forests well. Priority is given to opportunities for multiple kinds of recreation in counties wig populations of ~ million or more. This could give acquisition priority to counties that already have a wealth of recreational opportunities at the expense of counties that do not.
194 SElTING PRIORITIES FOR LAND CONSERVATION Administrative Criteria These criteria do not relate to conservation goals but are concerned with how conservation goals are met. The criterion for fair access is related mainly to recreation. Assigning the same weight (20 points) to existing infrastructure to make He area accessible to Be handicapped and to making the area accessible to the general public is generally inappropriate for the national forests, although it might be appropriate in some cases. Infrastructure for providing access to the national forests for the general public usually means high-cost roads; access for the handicapped might mean trails modified to allow wheelchairs, which are usually much less costly than roads. Thus, an area with good roads might be given a lower rating for acquisition because it does not have handicapped access, although access could be provided later at costs much below Lose for building basic road access. The criterion Mat gives priority to units with rapidly growing visitor use also does not fit the national forests very well. Most of the national forests support extensive recreation. It is unlikely Mat such recreation will be limited by the area of land available. It is more likely to be limited by restrictions on supporting facilities, such as parking areas and campgrounds. This criterion appears more relevant to national recre- ation areas in urban areas (e.g., Gateway NRA) than to national forests. Manageability could have some relevance to meeting conservation goals. It could be used to give weight to acquiring inholdings, which are common on the national forests and pose administrative and cost problems. Where such inholdings are relevant to meeting conservation goals, they presumably would be assigned priority under the protection criteria. The day-to~ay problems of maintaining land lines, controlling use, and providing access suggest that this criterion deserves attention. It should not, however, be thought of in the same way as those criteria that are related to conservation goals. Cost Criteria These criteria are aimed at getting the largest area or greatest value of land for whatever amount is spent. They account for a total of 50 of the maximum of 420 points that could be awarded, exclusive of the 150
OFUCEOF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET 195 points for use by the assistant secretary. Presumably, the expected acquisition costs against which savings are measured are based on fair market value. The committee is not so concerned with the weight as- signed to cost savings (50 points), but with the applicability of the mech- anisms that are considered Hess than full-fee title and partnerships) relative to the conservation goals that are to be met. Botkin (1990) suggests three categories of natural areas that should be maintained: no-action wilderness, which is needed as a baseline for science; preagricultural wilderness, in which the goal is to maintain the appearance of the landscape as first viewed by explorers; and conserva- tion areas set aside to conserve biological diversity. The latter two categories generally would require active, sometimes intensive, manage- ment to meet the specific goals for which the areas were maintained. The inclusion of criteria for less than full-fee title acquisitions and partnership in the criteria suggest substantially more important consider- ations than costs that should be addressed. Conclusions As applied to the national forests, the criteria are imprecise and over- ly simple. They do not address the real tensions between recreation and protection as the two major goals of the EWCF or the conflicts between imperatives, such as endangered species protection, priorities for com- pleting congressionally designated areas, systems (e.g., wilderness), and other less-absolute objectives. They mix criteria for protection and recreation goals with administrative and cost criteria. And they miss Me great variety of conditions in the national forests: solid blocks versus fragmented parcels, spectacular versus ordinary landscapes, isolated versus well-traveled lands, and economically useful lands versus rock and ice~Selds. The scheme ranks potential areas In and around the national forests win points assigned for the various goals and over factors without any precision. And none may be necessary. The agencies' claims that Congress accepts their rankings for at least 70% of Me acquisitions might reflect the agencies' knowledge of what will and what will not be acceptable in Congress more Can it does the efficacy of the ranking system.