Anytime the Department of the Interior buys, sells, leases, trades, or conducts any other type of land-related transaction, it must be done at fair market value to protect the public trust. AVSO is the only office within the Department with delegated authority from the Secretary to conduct appraisals to determine fair market value. As a result, AVSO interacts with many diverse programs and organizations, including Tribal appraisal programs and the many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that assist the Department with meeting its land and trust management objectives.
In number of appraisers on staff, AVSO is the third largest appraisal organization in the Federal Government, trailing only the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. With offices from Anchorage to Atlanta, Billings to Bloomington and scattered all over in between, AVSO is geographically dispersed to provide the best coverage to its clients.
Provide credible, timely, and efficient valuation services, ensuring the Department’s fiduciary responsibilities are met for Tribes and beneficiaries in trust and restricted-fee real property transactions and uphold public trust in Federal real property transactions.
AVSO is the product of an evolution of the valuation function within the Department. Prior to 2002, appraisal was a bureau function and appraisal staff were employees of the five bureaus that AVSO currently supports: Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), National Park Service (NPS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
In November of 2002, the Office of Appraisal Services, which conducted all Departmental appraisals for Indian real property, was transferred from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians. In 2003, after a series of critical audits by the DOI-Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, all appraisers within the land management bureaus were reassigned to a new office—the Appraisal Services Directorate within the National Business Center. Secretary Gale Norton recognized that appraiser independence is key to determination of fair market value and that to truly be independent, appraisers needed to be in a separate organization. This was reinforced by the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General in 2009, which concluded that the appraisal function ". . .must be organizationally independent of the agency realty personnel. . ."
In 2010, the Appraisal Services Directorate became the Office of Valuation Services and was moved from the National Business Center to the Office of Policy, Management, and Budget within the Office of the Secretary. In March of 2018, the most recent organizational change occurred and brought together all Departmental appraisal and minerals evaluation services under one organization, AVSO. The creation of AVSO as the Department’s single appraisal organization is the most recent effort to shore up the independence of valuation professionals and create efficiencies in operations that benefit the Department, its bureaus and offices, and American taxpayers. AVSO is finalizing the implementation of the most recent organizational change through a restructure effort to reduce duplication created by the consolidation and create additional flexibility in providing valuation services to the bureaus and offices within the Department.
In FY22, AVSO completed 3,563 appraisals on over 10.5 million acres of Federal and Indian lands and 241 mineral evaluations on nearly 11 million acres. AVSO provides a variety of valuation services that include real property appraisals, appraisal reviews, evaluation of mineral potential, grazing lease valuations, valuations of right-of-way interests, market studies, rental schedules, mass appraisals, area-wide minerals evaluations, consultations on property value, and concessions valuations. Real property appraisals are required by law for most real property transactions including land acquisition, disposal, exchange, probate settlement, and rights-of-way.
The types of property appraised include recreational, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential. Appraisal reviews are provided to ensure that all appraisal results are supported and compliant with applicable appraisal standards including the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions (UASFLA or the “Yellow Book”) and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). Most trust and restricted-fee property appraisals must be conducted in compliance with USPAP, whereas most federal land transactions must comply with the Yellow Book. Consultations provide valuation information and advice to Department and bureau management and staff attorneys and may also require testimony in court and at administrative hearings.
The 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, P.L. 93-638, gave Indian Tribes the authority to contract with the Federal Government to operate programs serving their Tribal members and other eligible persons. AVSO coordinates closely with the Office of Self-Governance (OSG) to provide guidance, oversight, and training to Tribal programs. AVSO's Office of Tribal Support provides coordination and oversight of its Tribal self-governance and self-determination compacts and contracts with other Department offices and staff.