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    Washington Report and State News Dec 18, 2023

    Department of the Interior Under Pressure to Speed up Appraisals

    The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Appraisal and Valuation Services Office is under increasing pressure from conservation organizations to reduce turnaround times on appraisals for the acquisition of open space. In response, the House and Senate introduced legislation that allows AVSO to utilize the services of any appraiser with a valid certified general credential — with some preference given to local appraisers.

    This legislation follows recent appropriation increases to the DOI aimed at filling appraiser staff positions and reducing turnaround times.

    The Appraisal Institute understands that another effort to improve appraisal turnaround times is under development at the DOI and involves a pilot program that would allow the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage appraisals for acquisitions valued at less than $1 million. Separate chief appraisal functions are envisioned for each bureau to preserve appraisal independence during the pilot program. However, no additional funding is provided, which means that other bureaus within DOI may see decreased service during the pilot program that’s scheduled to run for two years; an evaluation of the program would be conducted after the first year.

    AVSO was created in response to concerns from the DOI Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, among others, concerning appraisal quality within the DOI. A series of audit reports from the 1990s through mid-2000s exposed widespread concerns about declining appraisal independence, lack of adherence to appraisal standards, unsupported highest and best use assumptions and concerns about the stewardship of taxpayer dollars.