SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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U.S. FOREST SERVICE FOREST INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS,
OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
APRIL 14, 1999
Serial No. 10613
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
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COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
LARRY COMBEST, Texas, Chairman
BILL BARRETT, Nebraska,
JOHN A. BOEHNER, Ohio
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
NICK SMITH, Michigan
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
KEN CALVERT, California
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCGIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
BOB RILEY, Alabama
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, Idaho
DOUG OSE, California
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
ERNIE FLETCHER, Kentucky
CHARLES W. STENHOLM, Texas,
Ranking Minority Member
GEORGE E. BROWN, Jr., California
GARY A. CONDIT, California
COLLIN C. PETERSON, Minnesota
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
SANFORD D. BISHOP, Jr., Georgia
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
VIRGIL H. GOODE, Jr., Virginia
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRISTOPHER JOHN, Louisiana
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
KEN LUCAS, Kentucky
MIKE THOMPSON, California
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
WILLIAM E. O'CONNER, JR., Staff Director
LANCE KOTSCHWAR, Chief Counsel
STEPHEN HATERIUS, Minority Staff Director
KEITH WILLIAMS, Communications Director
Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia, Chairman
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois,
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJERRY MORAN, Kansas
JOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina,
Ranking Minority Member
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
VIRGIL H. GOODE, Jr., Virginia
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
GEORGE E. BROWN, Jr. California
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
C O N T E N T S
Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, opening statement
Goodlatte, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, opening statement
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCWitnesses
Garner, James W., Virginia State Forester, Charlottesville, VA
Hubbard, Jim, Colorado State Forester, on behalf of the National Association of State Foresters
Lewis, Robert, Deputy Chief, Research and Development, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Moser, John W., Jr., professor, forest biometry, Purdue University
Prisley, Stephen P., forest resources information manager, Westvaco Corp., on behalf of the American Forest and Paper Association
U.S. FOREST SERVICE FOREST INVENTORY AND ANALYSIS
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 14, 1999
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Department Operations,
Ocersight, Nutrition and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:35 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Bob Goodlatte (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Present: Representatives Hostettler, Walden, Clayton, Berry, Goode, Phelps, Hill, and Thompson of California.
Staff present: David Tenny, Kevin Kramp, Callista Bisek, Wanda Worsham, clerk; and Danelle Farmer.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Mr. GOODLATTE. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry will come to order.
I would like to welcome everyone here today and before we move on to our substantive hearing I want to take note of our beautiful new hearing room. I do not know if you noticed the new carpet, drapes. It looks wonderful and makes it more inviting and comfortable, although some of our Forest Service witnesses this morning may take issue with that observation.
I would also like to note that because we have a mark-up in the Conservation Subcommittee I am going to have to leave for a period of time and then come back.
I want to welcome our witnesses today, some of whom have traveled long distances to be with us. I extend a special welcome to Jim Garner, who presently serves as the Virginia State Forester and has for many years. It is always good to have someone here representing the home front.
The purpose of this hearing is to review the Forest Service's implementation of an important law enacted last Congress, due primarily to the efforts of this committee, which improves the Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis or FIA program.
FIA is a program of on-the-ground data collection which, according to the Forest Service, ''is the only continuous inventory that periodically quantifies the status of forest ecosystems across all private and most public land ownership in the United States.''
FIA data are the most fundamental building blocks of sustainable forest management. By measuring exactly what is happening in the forest over a period of time, they give forest managers the information needed to plan effectively, make good project-level decisions, and achieve desired outcomes.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC By way of illustration, the risk maps presented to this subcommittee at our first hearing relied on FIA data to project insect and disease mortality risk in forests nationwide. These maps are critical tools for addressing the mounting forest restoration and maintenance backlog in our country. We cannot effectively reduce this backlog without reliable data that tell us where we need to go and what we need to do.
FIA is also perhaps the most universally popular program administered by the Forest Service. The program has the enthusiastic support of professional foresters, environmentalists, industry, private landowners and virtually any other group that has an interest in forest management.
Yet, despite the value and popularity of the program, FIA data are only useful when they are current, consistent and reliable. When they are not, then professional and public discussions on forest management often digress into uninformed, agenda-driven debates. That is the case presently in Virginia and elsewhere in the South, where interest groups are presently assailing the sustainability of forest practices. Current and reliable FIA data is needed to replace high profile and often inaccurate sloganeering in the press with informed, problem-solving dialogs that will improve forest management for the long term.
That is why this committee included in the Research bill signed into law last Congress a provision to improve the FIA program nationwide. This new law requires data to be more timely, reliable and consistent nationwide. It requires the Forest Service to work closely with the States to determine which data is most important and how it can be organized to foster the best possible forest management. Most importantly, it memorializes public support for the program by establishing FIA as a research priority within the Forest Service.
Despite this clear direction from Congress, however, I was shocked at our recent budget oversight hearing to learn that Chief Dombeck had not yet determined whether the FIA program and the implementation of the new law were a top research priority within the Forest Service. Indeed, both the Chief's comments and the agency's budget proposal led me to believe that, in fact, it is not. I note, for example, that the budget requests a $37 million overall increase for research programs, yet proposes a modes increase for FIA that will essentially maintain the status quo rather than aggressively implement the new law. That is unacceptable.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Indeed, I find it ironic that the Chief, who publicly advocates improving the health of the land and ending conflicts over forest management, hesitates to give his unqualified commitment to a universally popular research program that goes further toward meeting both of those objectives than any other. If the Chief cannot fully support the FIA program, then his professed commitment to land health and sustainable forest management is nothing more than a slogan.
The most important threshold we must cross to successfully implement the new law is to establish the FIA program as a clear priority with the Forest Service. I sincerely hope that the Forest Service witnesses will be able to provide that clarity for the subcommittee today as they present their Strategic Plan for implementing the law. I also invite the Forest Service and the other witnesses here today to work with the subcommittee to identify how we can structure and fund the FIA program in a way that will implement the law consistent with the intent of Congress, and specifically the intent of the House Agriculture Committee.
With that I wish to acknowledge the distinguished ranking member of the subcommittee, Mrs. Clayton of North Carolina, and recognize her for any opening remarks she may have.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding yet another hearing on forestry. This is an evolving series of hearings that we are having to make sure we address every phase of it.
I need to say parenthetically also that the budget resolution is coming up on the floor and I am on the Budget Committee, so I have a competing interest, as well.
I would like to welcome all of the distinguished witnesses and thank you for being here today. I look forward to your testimony regarding the implementation of the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, FIA.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The FIA program enjoys broad support because it provides the data which allows us to gauge the health of our forests, from the forest ecosystems to timber and non-timber information on both public land private lands.
Both State and National lawmakers use FIA data when making public laws. Government and private researchers use it as a foundation for conducting further research and analysis. State Foresters use this data for economic development and public policy planning, while private businesses use it for business planning.
Environmentalists use FIA to monitor and assess the effects of public policies regarding land use. The Forest Service uses FIA in preparing a variety of internal reports and occasionally revising and updating forest plans.
The broad base of uses for FIA data underscores the need for an improved, sustained program that will provide consistent nationwide data and thereby allow us to make the wisest use of both Federal and State resources.
As we all know, the FIA program was established by the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998. Provisions required under this new law included a Strategic Plan from the Forestry Service which was submitted on April 7, 1999, although it was due in December 1998. How that we have the plan, we need to establish the forestry priorities, funding in the forestry budget, cost effectiveness and finally, a logical way to implement consistentlyI would agree with the chairmanconsistently, and apparently this has not been consistentthe implementation of the FIA program.
I thank the chairman for holding this hearing and if I have to leave, you will know why. Thank you.
Mr. WALDEN [presiding]. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.
I am going to go ahead and dispense with my opening statement, other than to express my concerns about the program and my support for the importance of it as it plays into the forest planning process.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would prefer to go ahead and get directly into your testimony, gentlemen, so I guess we will start with the panel. Dr. Robert Lewis, I believe you are first up. Thank you and welcome.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT LEWIS, DEPUTY CHIEF, RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, U.S. FOREST SERVICE; ACCOMPANIED BY RICHARD GULDIN, DIRECTOR, SCIENCE POLICY, PLANNING, INVENTORY AND INFORMATION, U.S. FOREST SERVICE
Mr. LEWIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Congresswoman Clayton from North Carolina. Thank you for the opportunity.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Are you from South Carolina?
Mr. LEWIS. I am from Mississippi.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I will adopt you anyhow.
Who is from South Carolina? Somebody is from South Carolina.
Mr. PRISLEY. [Raises hand.]
Mrs. CLAYTON. OK. I did not see a North Carolina but at any rate, I want to welcome all of you, Mississippi included.
Mr. LEWIS. It is very nice to be here this morning.
I am here representing the agency and my official capacity or position in the agency is Deputy Chief for research and development. I have with me today Dr. Rich Guldin sitting to my left and he has national responsibility for the Inventory and Monitoring Program at the staff level.
We are very pleased with the support that this subcommittee has offered to the Forest Service for the Inventory and Monitoring Program.
When I came to Washington, DC in 1997, one of the areas that I looked at was the Inventory and Monitoring Program. The Inventory and Monitoring Program, as has been pointed out, was inconsistently administered through all of the Forest Service.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We responded to the request of this subcommittee and the Congress and the Senate to develop a Strategic Plan for Inventory and Monitoring. We also utilized the information provided by the Blue Ribbon Panel No. 2, made up of distinguished individuals from the State forestry organizations, industry, and also academic. We tried to follow that very closely in developing the Strategic Plan that you have.
In our Strategic Plan, the intent was to, No. 1, improve the efficiency of the program that we are administering. We do this by consolidating the Forest Health Monitoring Program in the old Forest Inventory and Analysis Program.
We also have very explicit directions in terms of policy, of having consistent Inventory and Monitoring information on all lands, whether public or private.
We also looked at developing skills and techniques in presenting information in a consistent way throughout the Nation as we implement the Strategic Plan.
We believe also that we can administer a more cost-effective program and we have proposals in our Strategic Plan to do that, as well.
Traditionally, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program operated on a 10- to 11-year cycle, on average. The law required us to do an annualized inventory covering 20 percent of the plots annually. We have outlined in our Strategic Plan a way of accomplishing that. We have also presented an alternative, which we refer to as Option B, which would have a different length of the inventory in the East and the Western U.S.A. and I hope that we can discuss some of that.
I will be very brief in concluding my comments, Mr. Chairman, that the FIA and the Forest Health Monitoring Program will play a very significant role in supplying the indicators of forest sustainability. This is indeed very important.
I will also conclude by stating that the Inventory and Monitoring Program is a very important program within our agency. It is truly a high priority and I hope that we can discuss some of that later.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To allow more time for dialog and discussion, I would like to conclude my remarks at this time and I would be happy to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lewis appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Lewis. I think we will go on with the other members of the panel and then open it up for further comments and questions. We appreciate your testimony today.
Now let us go to Dr. John Moser, professor of forest biometry at Purdue University. Thank you and welcome.
STATEMENT OF JOHN W. MOSER, JR., PROFESSOR OF FOREST BIOMETRY, PURDUE UNIVERSITY, WEST LAFAYETTE, IN, AND PAST PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
Mr. MOSER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I am also representing the Society of American Foresters, of which I have served as past president, and I also serve as a member of the Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA.
I am especially pleased to have this opportunity to comment on an extremely important program with the U.S. Forest Service.
The FIA program had its origins in the Organic Act in 1897 when Congress acknowledged the need for information regarding the supply and conditions of the Nation's natural resources. Now, more than 100 years later, the foresight and wisdom embodied in conceiving that informational need is invaluable.
Today the FIA program is the only program that monitors the extent, condition, uses, health and impacts of management of forest ecosystems across all ownerships in the United States. This strategic inventory program is the envy of many nations. In fact, data from the FIA program allowed the United States to deliver more forest inventory information on criteria and indicators of sustainable forests than any other reporting Nation. These same criteria and indicators are embraced by the National Association of State Foresters as a framework for monitoring State-level sustainability.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We believe that the Forest Service's draft Strategic Plan on FIA exemplifies the program's commitment to adapt to the changing needs of the forestry profession and the larger public interested in forests of this Nation. The following issues are critical to the future implementation of this Strategic Plan: timeliness of information, consistency of the program, pursuit of an ecological approach to forest inventory, and receipt of priority funding.
Eighty-two percent of the work done by the FIA program is conducted on private and non-Forest Service public lands. This is managed through a single line item in the Forest Service research budget. To inventory of the remaining 18 percent, the FIA program must negotiate individually with each of the nine Forest Service regions, not just for consistent data collection but for the very existence of the inventory itself.
Congress has given the National Forest System funds to implement the FIA program on its lands before, but implementing a nationally consistent forest inventory has not been a high priority for NFS.
SAF has discussed NFS's need to address backlog after backlog, and the accountability issues from which the agency suffers are no stranger to this committee. To ensure that a consistent landscape-scale national inventory of all our Nation's forests are funded, we recommend a separate line item in the National Forest System budget to enable the FIA program to conduct a consistent and compatible inventory on NFS lands.
The Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 mandates a 20 percent annualized inventory in all States that will achieve a complete inventory every 5 years. We are extremely pleased with this legislation. The annualized inventory, strongly recommended by both Blue Ribbon Panels, is essential to reduce cycle times. The question is are the implementation processes within the FIA Strategic Plan sufficient to comply with the statutory obligation? And are the Forest Service's funding priorities appropriately directed to enable compliance?
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The proposed merger of the Forest Inventory Analysis and the Forest Health Monitoring Program is a logical and bold step in the draft plan. It is recommended by both SAF and by the second Blue Ribbon Panel. Such a merger offers opportunities to gain efficiency by combining two separate programs.
We believe that both ecological data collected currently by FIA and by FHM and the timber variables collected by FIA should be evaluated to develop a consistent set of core variables to determine both forest health and timber variables.
We have doubts that an annualized inventory program with timely reporting will become reality. It is plainly stated in the fiscal year 2000 budget justification that the inventory cycle time will remain at an average of 11 years. The proposed FIA budget of $25.8 million is 11 percent of the Forest Service's research budget and 0.9 percent of the agency's total budget.
To comply with the 1998 farm bill research title for FIA and to implement prioritized elements of the Strategic Plan, the funding level absolutely must increase. FIA priorities must receive greater recognition and prominence within the Department of Agriculture. To ensure this, we recommend a separate line item budget for the FIA program.
Mr. Chairman, this strong recommendation for priority FIA funding is made with full knowledge of the Committee on Agriculture's concern about the agency's lack of basic financial and performance accountability. We believe the FIA program has been responsibly managed. Moreover, it has a long history of working effectively with partners to deliver the highest quality program at the lowest cost.
In conclusion, SAF strongly supports the Forest Service's FIA program. As this Nation approaches the millennium, we believe Congress should exercise the same invaluable foresight and wisdom as it did more than 100 years ago with the passage of the Organic Act. You now have the obligation to help make that vision truly a world-class program.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Moser appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, sir.
Next we will hear from Mr. Stephen Prisley.
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN P. PRISLEY, FOREST RESOURCES INFORMATION MANAGER, WESTVACO CORPORATION, SUMMERVILLE, SC, ON BEHALF OF THE AMERICAN FOREST AND PAPER ASSOCIATION
Mr. PRISLEY. Thank you. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I really appreciate this opportunity to present the forest industry's perspective on the FIA Strategic Plan and the implementation of the annual inventory. I would like to highlight some successes and what we see as weaknesses in implementing the annual inventory, as called for in the research title of the 1998 farm bill.
My name is Steve Prisley and I am forest resources information manager for Westvaco Corporation and currently chair of the FIA Research Subcommittee of the American Forest and Paper Association.
As major forest landowners in the United States, we place tremendous value on the information developed by this program. This is information that supports strategic decisions on current mill operations, new directions, growth potential and future utilization options. A fully operational annual inventory system is one of the industry's top forest policy priorities and we believe that the Forest Service has the expertise to implement this program if they can muster the conviction and commitment to do so.
I would like to focus the remainder of my remarks this morning on four critical areas within the draft Strategic Plan that we feel need greater attention and accountability. While we agree that the Strategic Plan provides the initial step in developing a commitment to an annualized system, there are gaps in the plan and its implementation that must be attended to.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, an annualized inventory system will provide real-time information on the status of the forest resource base across all regions of the country. Implementing a 5-year annualized cycle in the East and a 10-year cycle in the West would provide the coverage and intensity that satisfies both regions. It also provides the flexibility to accommodate the different regional resource conditions, demographics, land use changes and growing cycles.
The Congress recognized these distinctions and offered this flexibility when it passed the authorizing legislation last year. By providing this flexibility and encouraging State cost-sharing, we believe the costs of implementing an annual system can be significantly reduced from Forest Service projections.
We strongly support increased funding levels but we do not see some of the efficiencies in the projections in the plan that we would expect to see. Instead, we see a 120 percent increase in the number of plots and a 120 percent increase in required funding. Apparently the Forest Service anticipates no economies of scale, no streamlining of overhead and none of the efficiencies in operation that have already been noted in States where annual inventories have started. We feel that the Strategic Plan merits more than this business-as-usual approach to budgeting.
Second, partnerships and organization will be critical elements in the successful implementation of this plan. This will require close collaboration with the State Foresters, as well as effective internal communication among the research, National Forest System and State and private organizations within the Forest Service.
The Strategic Plan should describe how each of the inventory units will work with their State partners in delivering and administering an annualized inventory system. Certainly the Southern and North Central research stations provide an excellent model of this kind of successful collaboration with States and their regions.
Third, the research title of the farm bill calls for a comprehensive inventory of the Nation's forests, which includes the collection of uniform and consistent data across all ownerships. Either the National Forest System is part of this country's forest landscape or it is not. If it is, it needs to be included in the only national comprehensive forest inventory that exists. Otherwise, national-scale issues, such as sustainability, carbon sequestration, and ecosystem health and productivity cannot be addressed in a consistent framework.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are particularly perplexed as to why the Forest Service has been unable to implement this congressionally mandated requirement on the Nation's public land system.
Fourth, the Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA recommended the incorporation of forest health monitoring plots into the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It is difficult to judge what the impacts of this provision will be. The Strategic Plan alludes to expected efficiencies and cost savings, but it provides no details. How much is currently spent on FHM plot-taking? What are the costs per plot compared to the cost per FIA plot? How much of the overall cost increase identified in this plan can be attributed to the expansion of FHM versus the movement of FIA to an annual inventory?
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the forestry community is united behind the implementation of an annual inventory system. In 1997 the FIA Blue Ribbon Panel published a report that called for elevating the priority of the FIA in the U.S. Forest Service programs. It called for moving toward an annual Inventory and Analysis System as quickly as possible, fulfilling the congressional mandate of reporting on all lands, and concentrating on collecting a core set of data and finally, developing a Strategic Plan to accomplish these elements.
To ensure that these objectives are accomplished, there must be organizational accountability and wide recognition that the FIA program is a core mission of the USDA and the Forest Service and it requires a commitment by Congress to adequately fund this program.
The forest industry is pleased with the direction and emphasis that Congress has placed on the FIA program over the past 2 years. We support an additional $4 million for the FIA program in fiscal year 2000, with the caveat that it be used exclusively for assisting States in the collection of field plot data and not be siphoned away from this core effort.
We also recommend that $6.2 million from the NFS system be transferred from their Inventory and Monitoring account to the FIA budget of Forest Service Research.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again I thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks and I would be glad to respond to any questions at the appropriate time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Prisley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Prisley.
Next is Mr. James Garner, Virginia State Forester from Charlottesville. Good morning and welcome.
STATEMENT OF JAMES W. GARNER, VIRGINIA STATE FORESTER, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
Mr. GARNER. Mr. Chairman, thank you, sir. Congressman Goode, nice to see you this morning.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for allowing the input of the National Association of State Foresters on this critical and important program. I have submitted written testimony focussing primarily on what the Southern group of State Foresters have been involved in in this process. As the chair requested, I will speak briefly about what we are doing in Virginia to implement this program.
Our last inventory was completed in 1991 and the analysis was published in 1992. Our record since then indicates a 26 percent increase in harvest levels in Virginia since 1990. We believe this is a conservative estimate.
The increase has mandated a review of our reforestation program, economic decisions by the forest industry, policy questions on resource sustainability, and concerns from public citizens about the health of Virginia's forests, water quality, and other environmental amenities. As indicated in my written statement, these same concerns are being expressed throughout the South.
Due to several confounding problems, the Forest Service estimated that it would be the year 2009 before Virginia could get another inventory. We simply could not wait that long for accurate, timely data in face of the rapid changes in our State.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Working cooperatively with the other State Foresters in the South, the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station and the Atlantic Regional Office developed a Southern Annual Forest Inventory System. The States could voluntarily agree to do the field work and the Experiment Station would handle data management and analysis. This was a win/win solution to provide me with good continuous data.
Virginia and Alabama were the first two States to start this program. Virginia was given a matching grant to provide financial assistance to begin the process. We developed four crews, one for each of Virginia's inventory units. The crews were trained and certified by the Forest Service. We began our work July of 1997. Our goal was to measure 20 percent of our plots each year, complete the work by the year 2002, with a report completed by 2003.
Given the resources available from the Forest Service and my own operating budget, we tried to structure our field work as efficiently as possible. But as the events unfolded in Virginia, the need for timely data became even more critical, so last fall I made the decision to double the number of our crews from four to eight. To date we have completed 32 percent of our plots and should have 50 percent done by the end of 1999.
I hope this effort will allow the completion of the field work and the report before our original goal of the year 2002. I am told that after we reach 50 percent of our plot measurements, it is possible to begin some computer modeling to estimate some trends. Although these models may be academically acceptable to indicate trends, I view them as what they are, and that is an educated guess.
I am anxious to complete the measurement cycle as quickly as possible so that we may have up-to-date, factual data.
As the chair has no doubt seen in some local newspapers back home, the increased harvest has led to some sensational headlines and much public debate. The completion of this inventory, I hope, will reduce the emotional debate to a more factual forum.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The first inventory in Virginia was in 1940. We have had five since, at 10- to 12-year intervals. The 1940 inventory set the stage for Virginia's successful forest policy decisions.
Mr. Chairman, I can think of no inventory, for no other program other than our forest fire efforts, that is more critical to Virginia than our present efforts to obtain this important data. The governor, the General Assembly and local officials need this information for land use policy, to determine the health and vitality of our forests, as well as make economic and environmental program decisions. In my opinion, this database is the foundation for our future conservation efforts.
I want to close by complimenting and commending the Southern region of the Forest Service for their creative and cooperative efforts to respond to the Southern State Foresters' needs. Candidly, however, I am troubled by the efforts at the national level as this program evolves. The efforts to establish a national program is causing uncertainties and confusion because of changing policy, plot data collection standards and an attempt to incorporate forest health monitoring into the inventory system.
The Southern region and the Southeastern Forest Experiment Station responded valiantly to the needs of the Southern States. It is a critical program in our region. Unfortunately, the priority seems to have lost its way on the trip to Washington.
I would like to thank the chairman and this committee for your understanding of our needs and the importance of this program, and I assure you the State Foresters stand ready to assist in any way we can.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Garner appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. WALDEN. Let us hear now from Mr. Jim Hubbard, Colorado State Forester from Fort Collins on behalf of the National Association of State Foresters. Good morning and welcome.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF JIM HUBBARD, COLORADO STATE FORESTER, FORT COLLINS, CO, ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS
Mr. HUBBARD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and committee members.
The State Foresters view this issue as something requiring resolution. Congress has established this as a fundamentally important program in the Research Reform Act of 1998. As you have heard, the Blue Ribbon Panel has forwarded its recommendations and come to a conclusion across the broad group. The National Research Council on Non-Federal Lands has identified information management and particularly the gaps as a critical issue needing resolution.
Timely, accurate information is essential on all lands and it is a top priority for the State Foresters.
The need has been established, universally agreed to. The key elements now in implementation include shortening the cycle, moving to an annualized inventory system, collecting long-term core data to standard protocol and providing quality assurance.
The leadership, through the Strategic Plan that the Forest Service has developed and the implementation, should remain with Forest Service Research, in our opinion. Improve a good program. Provide the quality control, the analysis, and develop the new technology that will be needed in the future. The National Forest System lands are a necessary component.
The State Foresters believe we can be a strong partner and have shown that we already are acting in that role, in data collection of core variables. The cost efficiencies in leveraging do occur from this approach. And the merging of Forest Health Monitoring into Forest Inventory and Analysis for a single, comprehensive system makes sense.
The National Association of State Foresters' position on appropriation is that we support the 5-year business plan to implement the Strategic Plan developed in response to the research title in the farm bill. The first year this plan calls for an $8 million increase. There is $4 million increased in the administration's proposal. The State Foresters therefore recommend the additional $4 million to keep on track with the implementation of the Forest Service business plan.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The additional $4 million that the State Foresters recommend would go through USDA Forest Service, State and private forestry to States to participate in the core data collection. That is a total of $41 million for fiscal year 2000. Full implementation is currently targeted at $56 million. We believe that State participation over time can help bring that cost down.
It is also critical that the National Forest System lands be included and share in the cost and that NFS be somehow required in the process.
I will conclude as I began. Everyone agrees that we need to solve the Forest Inventory and Analysis issues, that we need to improve our inventory, improve our analysis. We can. Timely, continuously updated information is necessary for policy and priority decisions; we have established the direction. We know how to do this. It is a top priority and needs immediate action. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hubbard appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Hubbard.
I want to thank each of you for coming today and giving us your comments.
I would like to start the questioning with Mr. Lewis. During the last hearing, the chairman of our subcommittee asked the Chief of the Forest Service whether FIA was a priority research program. His answer was somewhat vague and frankly somewhat unresponsive, so the chairman had written to the Chief restating the question but has not yet received a reply. At this point I think some of us are seriously questioning whether the FIA program is, in fact, a research priority of the Chief or frankly, anyone else in Washington. I hope you are here to clarify that for the subcommittee and I appreciate your earlier comments.
Could you tell the subcommittee just what priority you do place on the FIA program and does the Chief share your view, Mr. Lewis?
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEWIS. I will be happy to answer that. The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program is a priority not only to research but also to the agency in total. It is a personal priority that I have when I put my research hat on. It is one of several very important areas that we are investigating through the Research and Development Program and we expect to have greater participation by National Forest and also further participation by State and private forestry.
To say that FIA is the only priority would be a mistake. The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program is equivalent to a health straining system that detects the health of the population. But unless we have the technology available to deal with the problems that are detected, then we are in trouble.
So there are priorities dealing with forest health, non-native invasive species, in addition to the Inventory and Analysis Program. It is one that I personally place very high priority on.
Mr. WALDEN. If it is a high priority research area, why does your budget only fund the program at a level that will sort of maintain the status quo?
Mr. LEWIS. The budget increase that the administration supported was $4 million for the year 2000. I must point out that the administration did not have a copy of the Strategic Plan when the agency request was developed, but our overall implementation plan called for an $8 million increase over a 3-year period if we go with option B, which is the less ambitious level.
And it is my intention as deputy, putting on my hat as deputy chief research, to request funding to fully implement it, starting in 2001.
Mr. WALDEN. OK, because one of my concerns is apparently in the narrative of the budget it suggests the inventory cycle will remain at an average level of 11 years.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEWIS. The $4 million increase includes $2 million for the traditional Forest Inventory and Analysis Program and $2 million for the Forest Health Monitoring Program. And it comes to a total of $4 million.
But in reality, the increase for the FIA program, as we know it today, would be only $2 million. What we are recommending in our Strategic Plan is that we consolidate the two and make them one and our intent is to have the Forest Health Monitoring done in all 50 States by 2001 and hopefully we will be able to accomplish that.
Mr. WALDEN. But will that still result in an 11-year cycle? Or what year cycle can we get to under what you are proposing?
Mr. LEWIS. What we are proposing in our Strategic Plan, and I believe it has already been stated by the panel in several cases, we are recommending that we have a 10-year cycle in the Western U.S.A. and 5-year cycle in the eastern U.S.A. and that we negotiate with various States.
Now, the average would be less than 10 years, with full implementation by the year 2003.
Mr. WALDEN. Would any of the other panelists like to comment on that? Mr. Hubbard?
Mr. HUBBARD. Yes, I would.
Regarding the priority within the agency, the State Foresters would support the Forest Service as an agency in their prioritization of Forest Inventory and Analysis. Their agency request did reflect full implementation of their business plan to achieve the requirements of the research title within the 5-year period.
The State Foresters are prepared to give the Forest Service some help to full implementation. That is why we put in an additional recommendation and we will work with the administration to make sure they are aware of the priority.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As to the cycle, the West is willing to accept a 10-year cycle but the South cannot. The 5-year cycle is appropriate in the South. So the total for the Nation has to come below 10 for this to work.
Mr. WALDEN. Anyone else? Mr. Garner, do you have a comment?
Mr. GARNER. No, sir. I think Mr. Hubbard covered it.
Mr. WALDEN. All right. Anyone else? Yes, Mr. Moser?
Mr. MOSER. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I think that you heard from several of the panel members about the concern about the priority funding and I, likewise, share that concern as probably my strongest concern about the whole Strategic Plan.
I would like to go back and just look at the FIA, not the combined budget of the proposed FIA-FHM but the FIA budget. In fiscal year 1997 it was $14 million. In fiscal year 1998 there was a $3 million increase. I was encouraged. In fiscal year 1999 there was a $4 million increase. Again I am encouraged.
As you heard Mr. Lewis indicate, for fiscal year 2000, for the FIA segment, it is $2 million. The trend is down. I think both the chair and Mrs. Clayton's comments about the constituency that depends upon the need for FIA datathat is one program that is a bright star in the Forest Service. We have people clamoring for that.
What does the $2 million say about the trend? I am still not convinced that the trend is like we would like to see it, upward.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you.
I would like to turn now to my colleague,Mr. Berry, for any comments or questions you may have.
Mr. BERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Our ranking member, Mrs. Clayton, had to leave but she wanted me to ask Dr. Lewis what is the cost of amending the inventory system and what plans are in place in the field to achieve this?
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEWIS. What is the cost of amending it according to the Strategic Plan? I want to make sure that I heard the question right.
Mr. BERRY. Yes, sir.
Mr. LEWIS. We have two price tags. One would be full implementation of the Strategic Plan, going to a 10-year cycle. I believe that is about $82 million per year. The inventory strategy which is option B, which would give a 10-year cycle in the West and 5 years in the East, would be $56 million per year.
Mr. BERRY. And what are the plans in the field to achieve this?
Mr. LEWIS. The field has to work through the Washington office, through the Chief's office in helping us develop and justify an agency request that would be supported by the administration, and we plan to do that.
Mr. BERRY. Thank you, Dr. Lewis.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, Mr. Berry.
Let us go now to Mr. Goode.
Mr. GOODE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to ask Mr. Garner, whom I have known for many years, a question or two. I just want to say to Jim that I certainly have appreciated your fine service as State Forester for a couple of decades at least now.
Mr. GARNER. I am as old as dirt.
Mr. GOODE. Is it still true in Virginia that the rate of growing trees exceeds the rate of cutting trees?
Mr. GARNER. That was true when we completed the 1991 survey and that question is asked of me, Congressman Goode, almost weekly and I cannot answer that. I think that illustrates the importance of this program.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. I gather from what you said, at least for Virginia and the Southeast and maybe more States, you would feel more comfortable with the States doing this, maybe with Federal grant help, rather than the U.S. Forest Service doing it. Am I reading you wrong?
Mr. GARNER. I think our goal in the South, Congressman, is to get the plot work done and get the information to us. And being realistic, it seemed that the annualized approach was a good partnership with Forest Service and the States to hurry up and get it done.
In terms of preferences, I am not sure we have one except we do not the work done and we are willing to do our part in getting it done.
Mr. GOODE. In Virginia you mentioned you had set up a team, I believe you said a four-unit team which you doubled recently. Is that correct?
Mr. GARNER. That is correct.
Mr. GOODE. How many persons do you have hired on that four-unit team?
Mr. GARNER. We have eight full-time persons and then, as the crew assistant we hired four part-time hourly people because I did not have positions available to hire full-time people. And we have one coordinator who coordinates the whole effort.
Mr. GOODE. Ballpark, what was your cost on the four-unit team? Was that all State money?
Mr. GARNER. No, sir. In fiscal year 199798, our total budget was $300,000 for that unit, of which we received about $150,000 from the Forest Service. It was a matching grant.
Mr. GOODE. But they were State employees?
Mr. GARNER. Yes, sir. That is correct.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. You got a grant of about half of the cost from the Forest Service.
Mr. GARNER. Last year.
Mr. GOODE. Last year. And for the others, our fiscal year is July 1 to July 1.
Mr. GARNER. That is correct.
This year our budget, since I doubled the crews, our budget is almost $500,000 and my grant from the Forest Service is $182,000. So Virginia is paying for 60 percent of the program.
Mr. GOODE. And you got that in this year's General Assembly?
Mr. GARNER. I took it out of operations. I had to take it out of operations.
Mr. GOODE. With spending $500,000, doubling your crew, when would you anticipate having your counts completed?
Mr. GARNER. I would hope that not only will the field work be done but the report will be done before the year 2002, based on the information that we get from Southeastern Experiment Station, which is well beyond our original goal.
Mr. GOODE. And would you anticipate that it is going to cost you $500,000 next fiscal year, too?
Mr. GARNER. I think in round figures, yes, sir, because we will have established our whole unit now.
Mr. GOODE. And then what? Maybe one more fiscal year of $500,000?
Mr. GARNER. Yes, sir. We want to keep on going, but once we reach the entire cycle, we will probably drop back then and just do the four-man crew and keep it annual, keep it current.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. The benefits from working with the feds is really you are in charge of the operation of Virginia in Virginia. Is that correct?
Mr. GARNER. Only the field work, Congressman. The Southeast Forest Experiment Station does all of the data management and the analysis. We bought field recorders. They are computers and they do all of the data entry in the field and then they are downloaded every other night into the computer system that goes into the Forest Service computer. So we have consistency across the South. So we download every night or every other night.
Mr. GOODE. The $182,000 that you are getting this fiscal year from the Forest Service, does that include the people at the Forest Service station that you mentioned? Does that include support help? Or the $182,000 is used to pay for both teams out there working and gathering data?
Mr. GARNER. That is correct. It is just our grant to do the field work.
Mr. GOODE. So the supportive help is from Forest Service personnel, U.S. Forest Service personnel that are already in place?
Mr. GARNER. Yes, sir, at the Experiment Station.
Mr. GOODE. All right, let me ask you this. Nationwide, could you use an average of $500,000 per year, per State? Do you think that would take care of al the plotting nationally or do you have a handle on that?
Mr. GARNER. I would have to defer to some of my colleagues because the States vary so much. I can only really speak specifically for Virginia. That sure would take pressure off of me and I would have to let the other State Foresters speak for their specific areas, because the country does vary considerably.
Mr. GOODE. If it was an average of 50 per State, I can see Alaska costing a lot more and probably California.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Well, my time is up. Thank you.
Mr. WALDEN. Do you have one more question?
Mr. GOODE. I wanted to ask Mr. Prisley from Westvaco, what do you think it would take to do a good quality job like Virginia is doing nationally?
Mr. PRISLEY. Again that would be tough. Most of my experience is in the South. Most of our land is in the South. We look at Virginia as a model of how it should be done.
To the best of my knowledge, if you look at the cost estimates, where an annual inventory has been done in the Strategic Plan, those are the areas with the lowest cost estimates. Now granted, when you get into the Western States, you have different conditions. You have remote areas. You have harder topography, less access, and they have a different set of problems.
But certainly we have seen huge promise from the way Virginia has done it, that proves that it can be done, that these partnerships can work and it may not cost what you would think from a business-as-usual stance.
Mr. GOODE. I would roughly figure $25 million to do a turnkey job if you did it like Virginia did it, and that is assuming the feds paid all the half a million and in Virginia's case, they are paying 60 percent.
Mr. PRISLEY. And that may cover the field work and then certainly there are the important aspects of data management, analysis and keeping standards in place that are done at the national level by the Forest Service.
Mr. GOODE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. WALDEN. You are welcome.
Let us go now to Congressman Hill. I think you are next.
Mr. HILL. No questions.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. No questions? OK.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Lewis, I came in a little bit late so forgive me if you are not the appropriate person. I am just interested right now in getting the updated data on the Shawnee National Forest that lies in my district. I do not know where on the scale it is in terms of other forests in the United States, but I would be interested in knowing what your numbers are and how that contrasts to the last numbers that my predecessor had, in terms of your new data analysis.
Mr. LEWIS. OK, we can provide that for you later, but we do not have that information with us today.
Mr. PHELPS. Do you know what kind of timetable? Has this already been done and it is just getting to us in paper form?
Mr. LEWIS. Right.
Mr. PHELPS. Do you know if there are indications of any contrasting changes, as opposed to the past that come to mind? I know this may not be one of the high priority forests compared to the rest of the Nation.
Mr. LEWIS. One bit of information we supply would be the changes from one inventory to another and we would be able to compare the most recent inventory with the previous one. And we provide information on species, diversity, growing stock, a whole variety of information.
Mr. PHELPS. Do you also have the figures on what is being harvested in terms of clear-cutting and selective cutting and the ratios?
Mr. LEWIS. We also include estimates on how much has been harvested, the growth-to-removal ratio. All of that information is provided.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PHELPS. And the wood that is harvested, it shows where it goes, also?
Mr. LEWIS. We have, through our economics and our analysis program, do mill analysis to see where the wood products came from and where they are growing and we provide that, as well.
The last report was in 1986 for that particular forest199697, I am sorry. And it will be compared with what was reported in 1986.
Mr. PHELPS. I will be interested in getting that. Thank you.
Mr. LEWIS. We will provide it.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Thompson, do you have any questions?
Mr. THOMPSON of California. No questions.
Mr. WALDEN. Mrs. Clayton.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I had one question, as I had to leave to go to the floor. I presume, Mr. Lewis, you answered the cost for the annualized survey.
The other one the concern was in the staffing for the consistency of implementation of a program, noting the difference in the Northwest culture of a lag in their implementation. How do you speak to that? What is in place or what can be done to ensure that kind of accountability?
Mr. LEWIS. Right. That is a very important issue and is one of the key things that we wanted to address, not only in the Strategic Plan but also in the implementation plan that we are developing, which will consist of a team made up of a Western, Southern, and Northeastern State Forester.
We had inconsistent, incomparable data collected from some of our regions, especially the National Forest System. And the intent is to make the data very consistent, uniform, collected exactly the same way in every State, in all 50 States.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I use this analogy, and pardon me for using the name of a trademark, but about a year about when I came to Washington, when Rich and his staff were working on developing the Strategic Plan, the comment that I made is I want our Inventory and Analysis data to be as consistent as a McDonald's hamburger from coast to coast. That is really what we are after, and we will have the protocols in place to make that happen.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I see my staff has written 5-year cycle in the East and 10-year cycle in the West. Is that to compensate for the culture difference or the resistance?
Mr. LEWIS. It's time to compensate for the rate of change in variables, variables such as the growth rate, the amount of harvest. You heard the State Forester from Virginia state that the harvesting rate is much higher there than perhaps in some of the Western States. There are regional differences biologically and also culturally, as well.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you. I understand we have a vote on the rules. What I would like to do is recess the subcommittee. There are some other questions that need to be covered and then after we vote, we will return. My apologies for having to interrupt this hearing at this time.
Mr. LEWIS. Could I make just one statement?
Mr. WALDEN. Yes, Mr. Lewis. Go ahead.
Mr. LEWIS. This is for Congresswoman Clayton. The $82 million that I gave as the cost of implementing the program would be the cost including the State and other partner contributions. It is not $82 million Forest Service Research. That is the total combined cost with our partners' contributions.
Mrs. CLAYTON. It is inclusive of State, as well as private?
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEWIS. Right.
Mr. WALDEN. And how much is the Forest Service piece?
Mr. LEWIS. We try to negotiate that based on the State's willingness to contribute, and it can vary from State to State.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I think the chairman's question was how much do you propose, you being U.S. Forest Service?
Mr. LEWIS. Our proposal, if we go to plan B, would be that we had from $8 to 10 million per year in the annual appropriation over the next 3 years.
Mr. WALDEN. We need to recess until after the vote. It is a 15-minute vote, so we shall return after voting. The subcommittee stands in recess.
Mr. WALDEN. I will call the subcommittee back to order. I am going to proceed with a few other questions as my colleagues make their way back over here.
Mr. Lewis, I notice that your plan mentions that there are less costly alternatives to your Strategic Plan. Can you briefly explain these alternatives and how they square with the requirements of the law?
Mr. LEWIS. Right. The less costly would be alternatives less than the annualized inventory, which would collect data from 20 percent of the plots annually. That would be the option of having a 10-year cycle in the Western U.S.A. and 5-year cycle in the Eastern U.S.A.
Mr. WALDEN. So just reducing how much
Mr. LEWIS. It would reduce the frequency of inventories in the Western U.S.A. in particular.
For example, in the State of Alaska, the variables do not change as rapidly as they do in the Southern part of the country. The growing season is different. There is perhaps less management activity there, as well.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Where we have very intensive forest management and changes occur more rapidly, we believe that those variables are the ones that we want to pinpoint, such as the State Forester of Virginia pointed out about the activities in his State. We would like to accommodate that.
Mr. WALDEN. But you do not have other alternative strategies, other than just cutting back, reducing
Mr. LEWIS. Other than reducing. The requirement that we actually go out to the ground and collect data from the permanent inventory plots would be a requirement on any option that we choose. That is very important to truly do an assessment and evaluation of what is on those particular sites.
Mr. WALDEN. Of the other panel members, do you have a comment on that? Mr. Moser?
Mr. MOSER. Mr. Chairman, I have a question to clarify the position that Mr. Lewis has just indicated. He indicated that a less costly alternative may be in reduction of the annualized inventory.
I would really like clarification here because I think the mandate set forth in the 1998 legislation says that annualized inventories will be conducted. Does he mean an actual deviation from the annualized process?
Mr. WALDEN. Required by law.
Mr. MOSER. And I really think that is a key, as you have heard several of my colleagues say, the fact that it is an on-going inventory, that we have state-of-the-art information at any given point in time. I really think that is crucial.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Lewis? Would you like to address that issue?
Mr. LEWIS. That is absolutely the issue that we are discussing and it would be a reduction, something less than an annualized, less than a 10-year inventory cycle in the Western States, which would not be, as the law explicitly points out, to actually have a 5-year cycle.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Help me with this. I am trying to figure out how that can even be a consideration. Why do you think that can be an alternative strategy when we have a law in place? Does the agency think it can be above the law?
Mr. LEWIS. Our Strategic Plan, the basic plan calls for an annualized inventory, which would do 20 percent of the sites or plots each year, but we went a little bit further by providing an alternative if Members of Congress and the administration would like to look at some other options.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Garner, I understand, as you mentioned, Virginia has been a leader in reducing the FIA cycles. Can you explain how you have done that and why?
Mr. GARNER. Mr. Chairman, how we have done it is for me to maximize the grant that we received from the Forest Service and take money out of our operating budget and take existing personnel and locate them within the four units that we have to just candidly put them in the woods and let us go to work. We used our own equipment. The Forest Service did provide the data recorders, which we thought was critical because of consistencywe wanted all of the data to be comparable and compatible with all the other States.
We did this, as I mentioned earlier, because of the need for up-to-date information. Our harvest levels are going up. We are having a public debate with old data. We have emotions involved and I think the governor and the General Assembly needed factual information to make policy decisions.
So I kind of robbed Peter to pay Paul and took the Forest Service grant and did the best we could with it.
Mr. WALDEN. And that is the $500,000 you were talking about with Mr. Goode that you added to the grant?
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GARNER. Yes, sir. It was $482,000 was our budget and of that, $180,000, I think, was a Forest Service grant. So I took it out of my operational money and made the program work.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Hubbard, in your opinion should that Virginia model of cooperation be extended nationwide? Is this how we are going to get this done?
Mr. HUBBARD. Yes, I think it should. I think the States, in cooperation with Forest Service Research and the local research stations, need to decide that we have to figure out how to move to an annualized system. The West is not as excited about that as the East. The East is ahead of the West.
The 5-year cycle in the East, 10-year cycle in the West makes some sense. Colorado, for instance, right now is on a 16-year cycle; 10 looks pretty good.
So I think we can work out some accommodations and stay within the law and do annualized, and I think with the State partnerships starting to work closer, especially in data collection, we will see cost reductions, cost efficiencies.
Mr. WALDEN. Does it disturb you to hear this discussion about, as an alternative, not engaging in the annualized cycle, in violation of Federal law?
Mr. HUBBARD. I think it is something we have to work through. There are a number of Western States that still are not convinced that annualized serves their purpose, so they are asking themselves, how do we comply with the law and provide the core data elements consistent with the law, even though the system may be a little bit different than the strict interpretation of annualized?
I believe we are going to overcome those arguments and we will all make the transition to annualized. I believe that should occur. It might take a little longer in some places.
Mr. WALDEN. Are there, based on your experience, and I will just throw this out, are there facets of the FIA program that can be more cost-effectively administered by the States, and what are those?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HUBBARD. I definitely think there are and it is the data collection. Because of consistency nationally, we do not want to compromise quality control, quality assurance. And the Forest Service analysis system works very well if it has the resources to do the job.
So the principal partnership comes in the data collection and that fits State capabilities very well.
Mr. WALDEN. OK.
Mr. Prisley, you have criticized the Forest Service's national inventory data. In your opinion, how have the problems identified by some of your other panelists impacted national databases like the RPA timber assessment update? And I will ask the other members to comment, as well.
Mr. PRISLEY. Again timeliness typically is the most critical issue. As an example, in South Carolina right now there are groups that are passionate about the forests of South Carolina, pointing to a 1992 report that is still reporting the devastation of a hurricane that happened 10 years ago. That is the most current data and they are trying to influence 1999 forest policy in South Carolina based on something that happened 10 years ago.
Currency is the most important thing and the annualization of the inventory is something we feel is imperative.
I know as we discussed this, going to a 10-year cycle in the West and 5-year cycle in the East, it can be a little confusing, but you can still have annualized inventory at a 10-year cycle if you take 10 percent of the plots every year instead of 20 percent. That still provides annualization of the inventory at a lower intensity. And we note that the report language of the research title of the farm bill provides that flexibility in saying that there is flexibility for States to accommodate unique circumstances. And we would encourage the Forest Service to make use of that flexibility, but still hold to an annual system.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In terms of data quality and adequacy of the data, we have had good experiences and bad in the data quality. Like I say, in South Carolina we have a very good picture of what it looked like 8 or 10 years ago. In other areas where we cross regions, like in the chairman's backyard in Western Virginia and West Virginia, we have different regions doing the data collection and we have had problems there. We see that being rectified if the annual system is implemented properly.
Mr. WALDEN. OK. Do other panel members want to comment? Mr. Lewis?
Mr. LEWIS. Yes. The 20 percent of plots annually and 10 percent plots would work. That is option B that we are proposing or recommending, and it would be an annualized system.
Also, the focus of the program, the driver should be accurate information, timely, useful information and cost-effective. Those are some key things that I looked at, as manager.
Mr. WALDEN. I think that is pretty logical.
Mr. Moser, I believe you wanted to comment?
Mr. MOSER. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I guess in terms of being able to comply with the law in terms of the time frame to carry out the inventory, one of my instincts, with a background in sampling, says the sampling intensities in these areas of low variability we have heard about in terms of the West are real, but I think we can look at some other things in terms of, for example, changing the grid that would be there so that you take less numbers of plots and can be able to effect the inventory, still meeting the standards that are required of the inventory, and to be compatible. So I think there are some alternatives you can look at here.
I think the other thing we really have not heard about is, and it was sort of alluded to in Mr. Lewis's comments earlier about the need for technology, that the technology for collecting information is rapidly changing. I think we need to work very hard at being able to implement that technology.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And that is the technology that is being applied extremely well by the Forest Service units in the North Central region and in the Southern region to be able to effect that. What you are seeing in those regions is the advance of the annualized process before it was law. You are also seeing it in the Forest Service's own data. The cost of doing this is less.
So we need to be able to take technology and use this technology and work on some of these problems. I think there are ways to get at that and I encourage you to work with the Forest Service to be able to effect some of these alternatives.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Lewis, I would like your comment on that. Is it a technology issue that you need
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, technology improvement and use of the modern technology would be a key part of it. Also I might point out that the Forest Inventory and Monitoring Program has a research component to it, as well, and we really have to work toward developing new and better technology and applying it as rapidly as we can.
We are also working more closely now with NASA. We are working toward using some of the technology they have developed, as well, and trying to apply it in a way that would be reliable, that would give us accurate information.
But as it stands today, there is still a need to send people, human beings, out on the ground to actually check to see and measure what is taking place. We cannot do that remotely.
Mr. WALDEN. Do you have at your disposal in the various regions the technology they are talking about for the people who are on the ground? And if not, what is your plan to get there?
Mr. LEWIS. We make use of maps and other data that we acquired through our collaboration with others. And the intent is to bring greater focus to the remote sensing that my colleague is referring to.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. I just want to make sure I understand. So you feel like you have the technology today to accomplish the task?
Mr. LEWIS. It is not where it should be but we are trying to implement new technology as it is being developed and as it is being made available to us. I believe that all of the technology that NASA has is not available for public use.
Mr. WALDEN. I understand. I am just trying to sort through this issue. I am new to this process, so bear with me a second because I thought I heard from Mr. Moser that there was technology perhaps readily available today that maybe was notis that right, Mr. Moser? Am I capturing your comments?
Mr. LEWIS. Let me add something to that. In the past we had marked plots that only the Forest Service knew where they were located, and we still have that. We believe in protecting the confidentiality and rights of private property owners.
But we are also using GPS systems that will allow us to more quickly locate those permanent plots we have. 20 years from now people need to be able to go specifically to the plots that we have in place today, and that is part of the data comparability thing. That saves a lot of time.
You heard mention of the use of data recorders in the field. Well, that is universal throughout the agency. We are applying that technology, as well. Our field crews actually electronically enter the data and download it on computers at night.
Mr. WALDEN. That is what we heard, I think, from Virginia.
Mr. LEWIS. Right. We believe that we can gain through collaboration with NASA in maybe using some of the technology that is available for civilian use, and we plan to do that as aggressively as we can.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Moser, do you want to followup on that?
Mr. MOSER. Yes, I would. I think the point that Mr. Lewis made about having crews in the field is critical, but the technology that we are referring to is work that is being done in the North Central region's FIA program and in the Southern region's FIA program, where they are looking at plots through the use of remote sensing and determining plots where a disturbance has occurred. Those plots become a priority to go in and revisit and detect the change that is there, using existing data to build mathematical models, as has been referred to, to update the current plots.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The whole concept behind this is that we can take the permanent plot set, visit some, get information, update all the others, so we do not have the issues that Mr. Prisley is referring to.
Mr. WALDEN. So statistical sampling and then extrapolate the data over the other plots? Is that what you are saying?
Mr. MOSER. It is building mathematical relationships to be able to update the parameters of those plots. The Forest Service has a research techniques unit in Fort Collins that has worked closely with these units. So the personnel that have the capabilities are there. The technology is there. We have to get it implemented in other places and I think North Central and the Southern have been just the stars in implementing this sort of thing.
Mr. WALDEN. Where would you say the problem is, then? Is it out in region 6, in the West?
Mr. MOSER. I think that Mr. Hubbard hit on some of the points in terms of there are different Forest Service regions dealing with this problem and there is an effort that is being made to bring those more together, to be able to gather these consistent data sets.
That has not always been the case. A lot of the regions have worked independently of that and have developed their own techniques. There is a long history here of trying to get these consistent. We have to get over those barriers and get on with that, I think.
Mr. WALDEN. Well, Mr. Hubbard, maybe I will turn to you and just ask about the issue of cooperation and getting over this. Do you feel that the system is cooperating in the implementation of the new law? And what are the results?
Mr. HUBBARD. The new law certainly has everyone's attention. So what each unit is doing is trying to determine how they move from where they are now to an annualized system. And the foresight of establishing the forest inventory system has been established already in testimony and that has gone on for quite a while and served needs very well.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Needs change. Needs for current inventory are changing faster in the South than they are in the West. The needs on the west coast, Oregon in particular, changed dramatically with spotted owl and data systems were
Mr. WALDEN. And salmon.
Mr. HUBBARD. And salmon. Data systems were adjusted to deal with that. And as units adjusted systems, they are asking how we change to an annualized; what is that going to do to the integrity of our current data system?
And it is not that they are ignoring it. It is that they are saying we have to figure out how to accommodate this. And some are moving faster than others. And I think it is important for us to encourage everyone to move to the annualized system and figure out how to make the transition.
Mr. WALDEN. Eventually I want to get to a discussion about the relationship between these data and forest health because that is clearly an issue in my part of the world and in the debate we are having in the West about salmon recovery and habitat and overstocking and forest health, issues that are out there.
Mr. Moser, based on your observation, do you feel like there is full cooperation within the Forest System to implement the law? And if not, where do you think there are problems? How do we fix them?
Mr. MOSER. I'm not quite sure what the question was in terms of full cooperation between
Mr. WALDEN. Well, within the Forest Service System and between the various parties involved to collect these data. Do you think there is good cooperation? If not, where and how do we fix it?
Mr. MOSER. I think there are extremely good examples of cooperation, particularly with the major partners, which are the State Foresters. I think you have heard both of our State Foresters indicate that that has occurred. I know there are regular meetings between State Foresters and the Forest Service. There is close cooperation in terms of developing the individual plans. So I feel relatively good about that sort of thing.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think there is always some room for improvement and I think there is a lot of variability that occurs, just simply from State to State in the way the States operate.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Hubbard?
Mr. HUBBARD. Two things. I think what we need to do about it is reinforce the annualized inventory system and make sure everybody understands that that is where we are moving toward. Now, there may be some accommodations in getting there, but we are going to get there.
The other part I need to bring up is the National Forest System. The cooperation there is not good and there are reasons for that, of course. The National Forests are dealing with another data system to do forest planning. That is at a different scale. They are spending a lot of money. It is an important function that needs to continue. They are trying to figure out how to integrate regional databases to give a better picture. All of that is necessary and important and it takes money.
And as we talk about converting to a new system in Forest Inventory and Analysis, it could redirect some of those dollars and take away from the objectives that the National Forest System has forest planning purposes.
So we have to figure that out. And initially, my recommendation as a State Forester would be the National Forest System lands have to be part of this picture. We cannot have that land base excluded. It costs money to do plots on the National Forest System lands and that has to be covered.
Right now the suggestion is that come from National Forest System monies, someplace, and be dedicated to Forest Inventory and Analysis. I think that will have to be reinforced.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Moser?
Mr. MOSER. Yes, I would like to followup a bit on Mr. Hubbard's comment about the National Forest System and their inventory. I think it is absolutely mandatory that FIA has the control on the sample design, the training, the QA process for the sample plots and the grid and that they need to have the control of that inventory so that we have this consistent data set. The RPA report that is latethat is where the hole is. Somehow we have to transfer that control.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have suggested the line item. Of course, the line can be there but unless it is transferred to FIA to implement in some fashion, it is not going to get done. It has been there before in terms of their budget allocation and it has not gotten done. And I think you have just heard from all the panel that that is crucial.
Here is a large block of land that is in National Forests across this Nation that is being excluded. The question that came from the member from Illinois about the Shawnee, that is an example where that is on National Forest lands and FIA has not had control of that inventory that is there. So there are lots and lots of examples like that and we need to work on those.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Lewis, would you like to respond to that?
Mr. LEWIS. Not really. [Laughter.]
However, I will. I will respond in this way.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you.
Mr. LEWIS. There is a need for consistency, as my colleagues have already stated, and I support that idea, that we really need to be very consistent. Currently, seven out of the nine regions are participating, as our State cooperators are, in financing the Inventory and Monitoring System. There are two States that we are still working to get to that particular level of support. They are partners, as well, within our agency.
Mr. WALDEN. Can you identify those two?
Mr. LEWIS. I can.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you. Would you be so kind as to identify those two?
Mr. LEWIS. Regions 5 and 6. Those are the two that we are working on currently. And those are the ones that we will try to work extremely hard to make come into the fold. And I think we can succeed.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Good. I appreciate that. Obviously in my district I have lots of meetings with Forest Service officials on a whole range of issues because we are pretty well shut down out there and what is there is being bug-infested and I will not get off into my soapbox.
But it intrigues me that there are planning decisions being made affecting both public lands and private permittees on public lands in anticipation of listings and in anticipation of things that could occur in law, and yet it appears here we have a law that we are not quite meeting up to.
So I struggle with this and the people I represent struggle with how can they not follow the law when they are forcing us to do things today in anticipation of something that has not occurred yet? So that is one of the frustrations.
Mr. GOODLATTE. You are doing a great job.
Mr. WALDEN. I did not think they would even show me a gavel in my first session, let alone let me hold one.
I guess we have heard the criticism regarding the impact of some of this information on FIA data. It sounds like you are going to do something to correct this?
Mr. LEWIS. Right, and the assessment data required for RPA that was mentioned earlier will have the technical problems resolved by May 1. This is what I was told this morning.
Mr. WALDEN. That was my next question.
Mr. LEWIS. Oh, gee, I am sorry.
Mr. WALDEN. May 1? All right. And you are going to be able to ensure that the Western data in that assessment is current and reliable by May 1?
Mr. LEWIS. I have been told by one of the people on my staff that that will be the case and I really firmly believe it and I stand behind the staff person. And I will go out on a limb in saying that that will be the case.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Or on May 2 there will be somebody else doing that, or what?
Mr. LEWIS. I hope not.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Chairman, did you have any comments?
Mr. GOODLATTE. No. I think you have another category or two there you might want to followup with and you are doing great.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Garner, you have expressed concern about the proposal in the Strategic Plan to merge the FIA program with the Forest Health Monitoring Program. Do you want to go over your concerns on that? And then maybe Mr. Moser could comment, as well.
Mr. GARNER. Well, please do not think that I am saying we should not do it. That is not what I am saying at all. I think that it needs to be done with great care because first, it will remain two distinctly different objectives, if you will, particularly in the early stages, occupying the same competing space. So I think that needs to be worked out and thought through in advance, that we do not get into a competition effect of two different staffs, two different functions under the same umbrella, sibling fighting, if you will. So I think that needs to be looked at carefully.
The thing that bothers particularly us in Virginia is that it seems to be a tendency to add on what we are going to measure. It certainly has been. Virginia was one of the early States to be a partner in this Health Monitoring Program. In fact, we were the second or third State, I think.
It is one of those things that you add onto because this would be nice to know or someone came up and said, ''Well, while you are in the woods, can you sample this?'' All that adds to the time. All that detracts from what it is we are doing out here in the first place. And when you start to do that, you add time, you take money.
And I think the beauty of the last 100 years of FIA has been it has been so clearly focussed on what we were out there doing and why we were doing it.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So really, Mr. Chairman, I am not saying it cannot be done. That is not what I am saying at all. I only offer as one State Forester that we move in that direction with great care and forethought so that we do not get entrapped into losing the major thrust of the existing FIA program.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Moser, do you want to comment on that?
Mr. MOSER. Sure, I would like to, please. I agree with a lot of the statements that my colleague had indicated but I think what appeals to me about the merger are two things. One, it does offer the opportunity for the efficiency by having two inventory systems, as opposed to one across this great Nation.
Second, I think that it provides the opportunity that we can get additional input into the criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry. That is a real benefit. I think we can get additional data.
Now the question is how do we get this done? That is a concern and Mr. Garner has expressed some of those concerns. I, too, share those concerns about what happens to the budget for the two? How do they merge? Is it truly a merger or is it two groups that are going to say, ''Well, what am I going to do and what are you going to do and how do we get this done?''
The core set of variablesthey are absolutely crucial. And if you look at the set that is now core for FIA and the set that is now core for FHM, there are some vast differences. And I think those things need to be evaluated so that they can work out to not have the same concerns that have been expressed by Mr. Garner, who is here.
The other real concern I have in terms of implementation is that under the current procedures for Forest Health Monitoring, the window to collect that data is very, very narrow. It is when leaf is out and it is during the summer months. A lot of FIA work is done independent of that, in terms that the leaves can be off the trees and do that sort of thing. Are we going to have to visit plots twice? How do we get this whole process implemented?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So there are a lot of questions here, but I believe the value ultimately is worth the effort to try to see how we can work them out.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Lewis, do you want to respond to that?
Mr. LEWIS. Yes. The Forest Health Monitoring Program, as we proposed, would be integrated with Forest Inventory and Analysis and we would have a new program called Forest Inventory and Monitoring.
The Forest Health Monitoring Program is a very cost-effective program to get a quick snapshot of the relative health of the condition of the Nation's forests. For an investment of about $5 million, in addition to what we have today, we can cover all 50 States.
It is true that the Forest Health Monitoring Inventory is not as intense as the Forest Health Monitoring. In other words, we only visit one out of the 25 FIA plots, but they are the same plots. We are designing it to be so.
Also, the Forest Health Monitoring crews that go out to the field will collect FIA information and FHM information while on the same plot.
Our station director up in the Northeast, when we did inventory of the State of Maine, we found in that State that it took a crew a full day to drive and get to a plot in hilly terrain. It did not matter whether they collected half of the data they are currently collecting or twice as much. That was not the most time-consuming part. The most time-consuming part was getting to the plot and setting up, and they did not have enough time in one day to go to another plot.
So I believe that we will collectI know that we will collect Forest Health Monitoring and FIA information at the same time and the modest investment will be really good.
The Forest Health Monitoring Program will give us information on the forest crown conditions, tree diameter, biodiversity, exotic plants, and also it will pinpoint flare-ups and problems that we must look at more intensely if we are to really address some of the emerging health problems that we are facing. It is a good, quick snapshot.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we are almost there. I believe we have 33 States currently, so we only have 17 to go, and we will be there.
Mr. WALDEN. And that is at a cost of $5 million to do the other 17?
Mr. LEWIS. Five million dollars to do the other 17. And that is why we invested $2 million in our 2000 request, to try to get there much quicker. But I respect and understand the concerns of Virginia and other Southern States, as well, but we would really like to work to try to accommodate their needs, as well as the FHM needs nationally.
Mr. WALDEN. I assume you share the same concerns and commitment toward the West, like Oregon?
Mr. LEWIS. Right.
Mr. WALDEN. OK, I just wanted to check that.
Mr. LEWIS. And by the way, the Forest Health Monitoring Program is administered consistently in all 33 States, and it will be in the 50 States, as well.
Mr. WALDEN. Well, I note these inventory programs are very important and I know in the Northwest Forest plan there are some real issues, separate, I guess, from this.
Mr. LEWIS. Right.
Mr. WALDEN. All about the species they have to try to find and identify, down to little lichen and things you can barely see or that come out for 1 week a year that are causing some real difficulties there. I just throw that out as an issue.
Mr. LEWIS. Yes. To respond to that, that is one reason that regions 6 and 5 are telling us that they have all of the information we need. But FIA needs are not as intense as that. We do not get down to the bacteria and the microorganisms.
Mr. WALDEN. Well, come on out to Oregon.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Well, let me followup on that because if they have more data than you need, is it just a matter of filtering out what FIA requirements are, then?
Mr. LEWIS. I will have to get Rich Guldin to answer that.
Mr. GULDIN. They have a large amount of data. They do not have all of the data that the FIA program needs and some of the data that they do have are not collected using the standard protocols that bring the consistency to the program which the other panelists have referred to.
Mr. WALDEN. And so is there a plan in place to get them consistent? That is what you are saying you will have very soon in these other regions?
Mr. GULDIN. We are working toward attaining that consistency. We have successfully negotiated that with seven of the nine regions and we are encountering some additional difficulties with the two regions that Dr. Lewis mentioned.
Mr. WALDEN. And is that principally because of the President's forest plan requirements?
Mr. GULDIN. I think it is a matter of competing priorities for those regions. They have a lot of priorities and FIA is not as high a priority for those regions as it is in some of the other parts of the country.
Mr. WALDEN. All right. Yes, Mr. Hubbard?
Mr. HUBBARD. You are right. It is because of the Northwest Forest Plan and the short-term answers that people are demanding, that you know you have experienced in Oregon, they need to know that kind of information. That does not always fit in with the protocol standards for the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program or the Forest Health Monitoring.
The difficulty we come up against is in scale and in priority. And in the South, their principal objective is to reduce the cycle of the information that we have been collecting. So if you add in more information, Forest Health Monitoring information, that is going to affect the cycle. Right now their priority is the cycle.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have to work these things out and it varies by region. But we can work them out; we just need to make sure you hold us to task.
Mr. WALDEN. Would anybody hazard a guess if you had to have all the forests meet the data collection requirements that are required under the Northwest Forest Plan, how long it would take? Would that extend the data collection cycle or reduce it?
Mr. LEWIS. It would extend it.
Mr. WALDEN. Considerably? Somewhat?
Mr. LEWIS. My guess would be considerably.
Mr. WALDEN. I would agree with you, based on what they said.
Somebody else wanted to make a comment and then I guess we need to wrap it up. Yes, Mr. Garner?
Mr. GARNER. I hope I misunderstood Dr. Lewis a moment ago when he was talking about introducing the Health Monitoring into FIA, that we would be adding additional information to all of the plots. If that is what I heard, then that illustrates my fear, because you do not need to take all of this data on all of the FIA plots, and it has a tendency to grow a life of its own when you start down this path. That is my fear.
Mr. LEWIS. Let me clarify that. We will not collect all of the Forest Health Monitoring Information on all of those plots. You did misunderstand.
Mr. GARNER. I am glad he said that with the tape recorder running.
Mr. WALDEN. Yes, everything you say is on the record.
If there are no other questions or comments from panel members, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. GOODLATTE. I just want to thank all the panelists for coming and their participation. We hope to emphasize to the Forest Service how important we consider this information and that you will send signals in a number of different ways about how much of a priority this is for the service and that we can get more consistent, more reliable and more quick data available so that these folks and others can utilize it.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think it is one of the things that everybody agrees on, whether you are an environmentalist or whether you are in the timber industry or whether you are responsible for managing these forests, as all of your Forest Service employees are. This information is truly valuable and we want to see it treated that way.
Mr. WALDEN. With that I would also extend my appreciation for your comments and the dialog we have had today and I will adjourn the subcommittee.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Actually, you want to ask unanimous consent that the record remain open for 10 days so that if anybody has anything that they promised us they would submit or would like to submit for the record, they will have the opportunity to do that.
Mr. WALDEN. You did not even see my lips move, did you? [Laughter.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Now you may go ahead and adjourn.
Mr. WALDEN. Now we will consider it adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 12:35 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Testimony of James W. Garner
Forest Inventory Analysis has been one of the most important issues for National Association of State Forestersespecially in the 13 Southern States. The shift of the forest products industry from Pacific Northwest to the South has increased harvesting in our area dramatically since 1990. State Foresters have the responsibility for sustaining the health and vitality of the non-Federal forest resources of our states. We are generally looked upon as the keepers of forest resource data and information in our respective States. State legislators and local policy makers must have good, reliable information for land use decisions, economic development, future program needs and general forest health information. Because over 60 percent of the forests in the South are owned by non-industrial private owners, keeping up-to-date harvest levels and growth/drain data is difficult and continues to be a critical need.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Since the 1940's, the State Foresters in the South has depended upon USDAForest Service (USFS) to conduct periodic Forest Inventory and Analysis in our States. The interval between surveys was usually 10 to 12 years apart. A combination of factors has caused the USFS to loose its ability to provide the States with timely inventory updates. This has become a critical issue.
The Southern Group of State Foresters (SGSF) and staff from the Forest Service Southeastern Forest Experiment Station developed the Southern Annual Forest Inventory System (SAFIS) project. This was a State/Federal partnership which typifies our long history of cooperative efforts with the USDA Forest Service. Most of the Southern State Foresters have agreed to provide the field work and data collectionto USDA Forest Service standardsand the Forest Service would do the data summaries and analysis. This program would provide on-going measurement of approximately 20 percent of the permanent plots each year. At the end of five years, instead of the usual 10 to 12, we would have a complete and up-to-date inventory of the State. Designed as a win-win example of partnerships, the State Foresters gain a continuously updated summary of forestry growth/drain, acreage, species, and volume, while taking on field work that has become difficult for the Forest Service to keep up with.
Virginia and Alabama were the first two states to implement SAFISwe began in July 1997, and as of last month, Virginia has completed 32 percent of our plot measurements. We highly commend the Regional Office of the USDA Forest Service in Atlanta and the Forest Service South Eastern Forest Experiment Station for the support of this creative approach and for locating funding help to begin the pilot efforts. Apparently, the need for up-to-date data has been recognized nationwide by many users. There is now a groundswell of supporters for an improved Forest Inventory Monitoring (FIM) approach. These supporters include the forest industry, conservation groups, and the scientific community. Unfortunately, this increased awareness and interest has become a double-edge sword.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, it should, we hope, bring new support at the National level for the program. If successful, we will start down a path to make wiser, more informed decisions about the health and sustainability of our forest resources. Second, it can enhance partnerships among Federal and state agencies, conservation groups, and the private business sector. Thirdly, the science-based data will show the public the true facts of forest conditions, which may reduce their dependency on media sound bites to understand and address complex natural resource decisions. As noted, however, there is another edge to the sword.
Unfortunately, the strategic plan requested by Congress is slowing the progress we have made in the South. As noted by the Chairman, the plan is yet to be completed. We have seen several drafts, provided comments, and attended many meetings. There is a need for Federal financial and human support, including the strong and credible expertise of the Experiment Station to store and analyze the field data, in a timely manner.
The FIM program now seems to be evolving into a mixing pot of ideas for what I would characterize as ''nice to have'' data collection. The original science-based, highly focused inventory, to meet specific needs has become, ''there's something here for everyone''. This expansion to include sometimes-unrealistic measurements will produce inefficiencies in plot measurements, questionable data credibility, and significant delays in providing answers policy makers desperately need. Some of the proposed changes will also break our ability to track trends and changes. When you change the rules midstream, you begin to then compare apples and oranges. Forestry is a long-term science, changes take time and trends develop slowly. Without consistent, long-term collection of specific measurements, these subtle differences will not be evident. The present draft strategic plan has been modified somewhat to recognize the regional differences that exist in forest ecosystems. This is good news and care should be exercised in avoiding a ''one size fits all'' program. Most of the State forestry agencies, especially in the South, have barely maintained their human and financial resources during the 1990's. Yet, because this program is so important, many of us have redirected our finite resources to implement the FIM in partnership with the Forest Service. This diversion of resources to FIM reduces our ability to deliver other services to our citizen landowners, including needs for reforestation, water quality efforts, and technical assistance. But this decision indicates our belief in the long-term importance of good data and analysis. We also believe we have already demonstrated the cost/benefit ratio of this partnership. The design and implementation of the SAFIS project clearly shows we can obtain the field data at a lower cost than the previously run program. We need financial help to support these field teams so that our limited state funds will not be diverted from our citizens who pay the bills back home.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me shift for a moment to the Forest Health Monitoring Program (FHM). This program is as long-term and important as FIM. Changes in forest health come as slowly and as subtly as changes in tree growth. Forest Health Monitoring is critically important and must be sustained on a continued basis. On the surface this makes sense. Many efficiencies can be realized by visiting the same plots for a dual purpose. We do, however, have concerns and offer a word of caution.
The collection of evidence for each program serves two entirely different purposes and the type of data comes from different sources and at different seasons. The combination of the two programs can be done; however, it must be done with care and forethought. It could be argued that FIM is one of the building blocks to support FHMnot the other way around. In our quest to respond to public concerns about increased harvest, wildlife habitat, water quality and sustainability, please do not relegate FHM to a lower status that will prevent professional natural resource managers from making wise decisions about our future forest health.
In closing, let me summarize our view of Forest Inventory Monitoring.
The need for an improved, sustained FIM program is paramount to the future of good resource management in this nation.
The concept of SAFIS is a good and creative solution.
The early cooperative support by USFS has been excellent.
The formalization of a nationwide program has slowed existing efforts.
The attempt to expand the FIM beyond its original purpose has led to frustration, uncertainty, and potential inefficiencies.
The State/Federal partnership in the South has proven its cost-effectiveness and ability to produce timely results.
States will need Federal supporthuman and financialto continue the partnership.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The States must be involved in the formulation of the program plan and development.
Finally, move with care while incorporating FHM and FIM into one program.
Statement of Robert Lewis
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the Forest Service Strategic Plan for Forest Inventory and Monitoring. I am Robert Lewis, Deputy Chief of Research and Development for the USDA Forest Service. With me this morning is Richard Guldin, Director of Science Policy, Planning, Inventory and Information who is also with the Forest Service.
This plan, submitted with my statement, is written to comply with P.L. 105185, the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 (Agricultural Research Act).
The strategic plan outlines the changes in the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program and the Forest Health Detection Monitoring (FHM) program to meet the requirements of the agricultural research act. The plan's key elements include:
Integration of the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program with the field portion of the Forest Health Detection Monitoring (FHM) program and increasing the use of remote sensing and advanced technologies to provide consistent data.
Currently the FIA and FHM programs must rely upon concurrence of five FIA units, nine National Forest Regions, one Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office, and four FHM offices to bring together a consistent set of resource data and analysis for the nation. To increase efficiency and reduce duplication the strategic plan recommends the Forest Service's research arm assume responsibility, authority, and funding for the strategic inventory by merging the FIA and FHM programs to create a new Forest Inventory and Monitoring (FIM) program. Along with increasing efficiency by eliminating duplication between the programs, this new organization will deliver a more integrated and simplified database covering a wider array of ecological data about forests.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCCONSISTENT DATA, SKILLS AND TECHNOLOGIES
FIA and FHM need to cover all lands and to collect data in a consistent manner. Only this way can we compare data across the country from one State to the next. By putting the responsibility of the program in research, as indicated in the plan, we will be able to achieve the consistency that we need.
FIA and FHM are internationally known for their high quality and accurate data. To maintain these standards we will need to incorporate the skills and expertise of our cooperators by making them active participants in all phases of the program. As the scope of the merged FIA and FHM programs expand to meet new customer needs, we will need to perform additional analysis. We will explore the use of outside talents of university faculty, graduate students, and other partners to conduct analysis and reporting.
We currently use remote sensing and other advanced technologies and we are increasing their use to reduce program costs. However, the availability of global positioning systems to accurately locate plots has increased concerns about private property issues. Private property rights are very important to us and therefore, we do not release the location of plot coordinates to the public.
PROGRAM COSTS AND ALTERNATIVES
We estimate that the program specified by Congress to measure 20 percent of all plots every year would cost over $82 million per year for Federal and State contributors. This is $45 million more than what is available from research and cooperators for 1999, $37 million. Much of the increase is due to the increased frequency and scope of sampling, especially in areas of difficult access and short field seasons in the western United States and Alaska.
Nationally, the average cycle length for FIA is about 1011 years and FHM is in only 32 States. The new FIM program would reduce the cycle to five years and include FHM in 50 States. Some of the increased costs are also due to the change from periodic to annual forest inventory procedures which require covering the entire United States every year, rather than concentrating field operations in a few States at a time.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We realize that this is a significant increase above the current level of funding for States and the Federal Government, but there are less costly alternatives which we believe would be nearly as satisfactory to our customers. This includes alternative ways to inventory areas such as interior Alaska, portions of the interior west, and perhaps other areas with sparse population, limited access, and low rates of vegetative change. By factoring this into the program and based on concurrence from State Foresters, costs could be reduced from $82 million to $56 million annually.
Program costs are outlined in the strategic plan and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss these alternatives with the Subcommittee.
Mr. Chairman, the FIA and FHM programs will play a significant role in supplying indicators of forest sustainability for a broad contingent of local, regional, and national clients. With the proposed FIA and FHM program, we will be able to provide data for criteria and indicators while ensuring accuracy as well.
This concludes my statement. I would be happy to address any questions you and members of the subcommittee may have.
Testimony of John W. Moser, Jr.
Mr. Chairman, I am Dr. John W. Moser Jr., past president of the Society of American Foresters (SAF), and professor of Forest Biometry at Purdue University. Additionally, I served as a member of the Second Blue Ribbon Panel on Forest Inventory and Analysis. The more than 18,000 members of the Society constitute the scientific and educational association representing the profession of forestry in the United States. SAF's primary objective is to advance the science, technology, education, and practice of professional forestry for the benefit of society. We are ethically bound to advocate and practice land management consistent with ecologically sound principles. I wish to thank the subcommittee for its continued support of professional forestry, and its continued support of SAF's priorities. Moreover, I am especially pleased to have this opportunity to present our comments on the Forest Service's Strategic Plan for improving the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program. I thank the Chair for the opportunity to testify on this crucial program.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The FIA program, as we know it today, had its origin in The Organic Act of 1897 when Congress acknowledged the need for information regarding the supply and conditions of the Nation's natural resources. Now more than 100 years later, the foresight and wisdom embodied in conceiving that informational need for our Nation's forest resource is invaluable. Today, FIA is the only program that monitors the extent, condition, uses, impacts of management, and health of the forest ecosystems across all ownerships in the United States, and provides comprehensive analysis of resource trends as a basis for improved resource management and protection. This strategic inventory program is the envy of many nations who now seek to develop methods to monitor the sustainability of their forests. In fact, information from the FIA program allowed the United States to deliver more forest inventory information on the criteria and indicators of sustainable forests than any other reporting nation10 of 28 biological indicators. We also note, these criteria and indicators have been embraced by the National Association of State Foresters as a framework for monitoring state-level forest sustainability.
The concern today is not the value of the FIA program. Unquestionably, the FIA program has served this Nation well for 70 years by providing state and national decision makers, environmental organizations, private industry, research institutions, and the media with crucial information regarding the Nation's natural resources. The concern today is a sense of urgency by this very diverse set of partners and stakeholders, including the SAF, who believe that funding priorities within the United States Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service threaten the quality and timeliness of forest resource data and summaries that are critical for policy and investment decisions for some of this Nation's most valuable renewable natural resources.
We believe that the Forest Service's draft strategic plan, created in response to section 253(c) of the Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 and the recommendations of the Second Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA, exemplifies the commitment to adapt to the larger public interested in the forest of this Nation and the changing needs of the forestry profession. While it is an incisive initial step, we believe there are outstanding issues critical to the future implementation the FIA Strategic Plan. We are concerned about program consistency, timeliness of information, pursuing an ecological approach to forest inventory, and receiving priority funding that is appropriately directed to mission accomplishment.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTHE NEED FOR CONSISTENCY ACROSS ALL OWNERSHIPS
Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) is the only program, congressionally mandated, to report on the extent, status, and trends of the Nation's forests at the landscape scale. Consistency of resource information based upon a nationally standard set of core measurements across all forest ownerships is the linchpin of a successfully implemented Forest Inventory Analysis program.
Eighty-two percent of the work done by the FIA program is conducted on private and non-Forest Service public lands. The Forest Service funds this 82 percent through a single budget line within the Forest Service Research budget. To inventory the remaining 18 percent, the FIA program must negotiate individually with each of the nine National Forest Regionsnot just for consistent data collection, but for the very existence of the inventory itself. This is not a new issue. Congress has given the NFS funds to implement the FIA program on its lands before, but implementing a nationally consistent forest inventory has not be one of their highest priorities. SAF has discussed the Forest Service's need to address priority issues before this Congress and this committee before, and there is no doubt that we will continue to do so in the future. We are committed to ensuring that the Forest Service has the funding necessary to carry out FIA as mandated by Congress. To insure that a consistent landscape scale national inventory of all our Nation's forests are funded, we recommend a separate line item in the National Forest System budget to enable the FIA Program to conduct the FIA inventory on NFS lands.
We believe this will assure that information will be collected consistently and efficiently across all of our Nation's forest lands for State, regional, and national reporting of the sustainability of our Nation's forests.
THE NEED FOR TIMELY INVENTORY INFORMATION
The Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998 mandates a 20 percent annualized inventory in all states to effect a complete inventory every five years. We are extremely pleased with this legislation and thank this committee for its continued support. It is essential to reduce cycle times as many have exceeded 10 to 15 years. The 1992 and the 1997 Blue Ribbon Panels strongly recommended an annualized inventory. Given the legislative mandate, the question is, are implementation process within the FIA Strategic Plan sufficient to comply with the statutory obligation and are the Forest Service's funding priorities appropriately directed to enable compliance?
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Prioritizing the states for initiation of the annualized inventory is critical to successful implementation. We believe that some FIA regions are better prepared than others. For example, the Southern and North Central regions have devoted considerable research and development efforts into the use of remote sensing and mathematical models for monitoring change and updating plots that were not included in a given year's inventory. These regions have worked closely with the states in their area to prepare them for the initiation of an annualized system. In these instances, we believe that the implementation and transition will be efficient and cost effective.
Other criterion for early prioritization should include states making considerable financial commitment to collecting and updating their inventories. Eight states currently making significant contributions include: Alabama ($828,000); Arkansas ($400,000); Georgia ($700,000); Kentucky ($500,000); Louisiana ($400,000); South Carolina ($277,000); Tennessee ($320,000); and Virginia ($400,000). While the draft plan includes a prioritization list, it does not provide a clearly defined rationale for that prioritization.
The plan does not provide many details on the actual implementation process. We believe that the input and cooperation from all State Foresters in developing their individual state implementation plans, as mandated by the legislation, is crucial for a timely implementation of the annualized inventory and the five-year reports.
AN INVENTORY THAT TAKES AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH
We believe that ecological data must be collected along with a core set of timber variables from the FIA inventory of the Nation's forests. This likewise is an important recommendation from the Second Blue Ribbon Panel. The proposed merger of the Forest Inventory and Analysis and the Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) Programs is a logical and bold step in the draft Strategic Plan. Conceptually the merger is logical as it offers opportunities to gain efficiency and cost savings by combining two separate inventories.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Tactically, the FIA-FHM merger is less clear. While the FIA program has been collecting non-timber vegetation data since 1979, the program has not had consistent protocols for gathering and reporting this information. The FHM program likewise has a set of protocols for data collection and reporting. To effectively merge the two inventories, the Forest Service should evaluate the ecological data presently collected by FIA and FHM to develop a consistent set of core data across the Nation that would be useful in determining both forest health and timber values. Additionally, there are questions regarding the allocation of combined funding, personnel and the necessary windows for field data collection. Currently, the FHM program is administered in only 26 states; the draft plan does not provide an implementation plan extending FHM to the other 24 states.
These concerns are raised because we support the merger and strongly desire to see an equitable process. The inventories, if effectively integrated, have an enormous potential to provide a more comprehensive picture of forest conditions and it would provide an effective method for the international reporting of criteria and indicators for sustainable forestry.
In reviewing the administration's fiscal year 2000 proposed FIA budget, the icy chill of doubt and concern tingle down one's spinedoubt and concern that the 1998 legislative mandate for an annualized inventory program with timely reporting will become reality. Especially when the Administration states in its fiscal year 2000 Budget Justification that ''the inventory cycle will remain at an average level of 11 years.'' The proposed FIA budget of $25.8 million is 11 percent of the Forest Service's Research Budget and 0.9 percent of the agency's total proposed budget. To comply with the 1998 farm bill research title for FIA and to implement prioritized elements of the strategic plan, Congress must increase the FIA funding level and the Administration must place greater priority on the FIA program. To insure that the FIA Program obtains funding commensurate with its responsibility to conduct an inventory of our Nation's forests, we recommend a separate line item in the Forest Service's budget for FIA.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, this strong recommendation for priority FIA funding is made with full knowledge of the Committee on Agriculture's concern about the Agency's perceived lack of basic financial and performance accountability. We believe the FIA Program has been responsibly managed; moreover, it has had a long history of working effectively with partners to deliver the highest quality program at the lowest cost.
In reviewing funding levels in the draft FIA Strategic Plan, there is little question that staggering increases are proposed. We believe that those funding levels are in direct response to what was asked for by Congress. Further we wonder if those levels present the most efficient use of financial resources to accomplish the task? It would be appropriate to ask the Forest Service if there were alternative ways to inventory areas such as interior Alaska, portions of the interior west, and perhaps other areas with sparse populations, limited access, and low rates of vegetative change. The caveat being that any such solutions would still deliver information that is consistent and compatible with the remaining program. My instincts suggest that sampling intensities in areas of low variability or change need not be as high as in areas of greater variability and change to achieve similar accuracy standards. By factoring this into the program, additional funding might be reduced substantially.
Another way to reduce long-term costs would be to invest in advanced resource strategies now. Better use and integration of remote sensing, improved field measuring techniques and enhanced analytical tools are paramount. There are two ways to fund these investments, increased budgets or longer measurement cycles to free up funds. These alternatives represent a difficult choice. Funding needs were outlined in the Strategic Plan to address these areas. If costs must be trimmed, advanced technology is not the place to do it. Technology is vital to the future success of FIA and the United States as a global leader in forest resource monitoring.
As evidenced earlier in this testimony many states have made substantial financial contributions to supplement FIA's support of their states' inventory. This is indicative of the value they place on the benefits of the Nation's only program that monitors the extent, condition, uses, impacts of management, and health of the forest ecosystems. It exemplifies the leveraging potential of FIA's own budgets with satisfied partners and stakeholders whose major criticism is that they expect timely information.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, we strongly support the Forest Service's FIA Program. As this Nation approaches the new millennium, we believe that Congress has an opportunity to exercise invaluable foresight and wisdom, as it did more than 100 years ago when it acknowledged the need for information regarding the supply and conditions of the Nation's natural resources with the passage of The Organic Act. You now have the opportunity to help make that vision into a truly world class program.
Testimony of Stephen P. Prisley
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to present my testimony on behalf of Westvaco Corporation and the American Forest & Paper Association today on the forest industry's perspective on the implementation of the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, and to highlight successes and what we see as continued weaknesses in fully implementing an annual inventory system as called for in the 1998 research title of the farm bill.
My name is Steve Prisley and I am Forest Resources Information Manager with Westvaco Corporation. Westvaco is a major manufacturer of paper, packaging and specialty chemicals. We own over 1.3 million acres of forest land in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio with primary pulp and paper manufacturing facilities in Luke, MD; Covington, VA; Wickliffe, KY; Charleston, SC, and a small recycle mill in Tyrone, PA.
As a major forest landowner in the United States, we and many other members of the national trade association of the industrythe American Forest & Paper Associationvalue the information developed by the FIA program. It provides the critical and essential inventory information on growth, removals, supply and overall health conditions to plan our current mill operations and evaluate new directions, growth potential and future utilization options. A fully operational annual inventory system is one of the industry's top forest policy priorities and we believe the Forest Service has the expertise and know how to do this if they can muster the conviction and commitment to do so.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regardless of whether your interest is in forest preservation or forest use, we should all be able to agree on the need for an accurate accounting of what exists on our private and public forest land today. A current and accurate forest and ecosystem inventory is essential to allow us to address issues like sustainability, forest health, policy alternatives, carbon sequestration, changes in growth and productivity, changes in land use and demographics, ecosystem health and economic impacts. We also need accurate and current inventory data if we are going to effectively participate in international discussions about forest resources, global environmental policies and certainly forest health conditions. An accurate inventory is a critical element of Westvaco's Ecosystem-based Multiple Use Forest Management System. Our company's system has won numerous awards and guides our efforts to ensure the sustainability of our forests for generations to come. We shall pursue this with great vigor.
Mr. Chairman, I'd like to focus the remainder of my remarks this morning on four critical areas within the USFS draft strategic plan on FIA that needs greater attention and accountability: (1) annual inventory priorities and costs; (2) partnerships and organization; (3) data collection across all ownerships; and (4) integration of forest health monitoring in the FIA program.
While we agree that the FIA Strategic Plan provides the initial step in developing a commitment to an annualized system, there are financial, organizational, data collection and prioritization issues that require further clarification before plan implementation can occur:
First, an annualized inventory system will provide real time information on the status of the forest resource base across all regions of the country. Implementing a five-year annualized cycle in the East and a 10-year annualized system in the west would provide the necessary coverage and intensity that satisfies both regions. It also provides the needed flexibility to accommodate the different regional resource conditions, demographics and land-use changes, harvest levels and growing cycles. The Congress recognized these distinctions and offered this flexibility when it passed the authorizing legislation in 1998. By providing this flexibility and encouraging state cost-sharing, we believe the costs of implementing an annual system can be significantly reduced from Forest Service projections. While we strongly support increased funding levels, the cost projections in the strategic plan jeopardize its credibility. A cursory review of the estimates reveals a 120 percent increase in the number of plots to be taken, and a 120 percent increase in requested funding. Apparently, no economies of scale, no efficiencies in operation, no streamlining of overhead are anticipated. We feel this strategic plan merits more than a ''business-as-usual'' approach to budgeting.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, partnerships and organization are critical administrative functions that require close collaboration with the state foresters and internal agency communication between USFS Research, National Forest Systems and State & Private. The Strategic Plan should describe how each of the seven Research Stations will work with their state forester partners in delivering and administering an annualized inventory system. The Southern and North Central Research Stations provide an excellent model of successful collaboration with states within their respective regions in delivering an annualized inventory system.
Third, the research title of the farm bills calls for a comprehensive inventory of the Nation's forest lands which includes the collection of uniform and consistent forest resource data across all ownerships. Given the significant ecological and economic importance that the forest resource base provides, it is absolutely imperative that all ownerships be inventoried. Either the National Forest System is part of this country's forest landscape, or it is not. If it is, it needs to be included in the only national forest inventory that exists. Otherwise, nationally important issues such as sustainability, carbon sequestration, and ecosystem health and productivity cannot be addressed in a consistent framework. We are particularly perplexed as to why the U.S. Forest Service cannot implement this Congressionally-mandated requirement on the nation's public land system. Failure to enact this provision will continue to delay the 1999 USFS RPA Timber Assessment Update which describes current and future projects of timber supply and demand on U.S. forest lands.
Fourth, forest healthy monitoring is an important element that must be incorporated into the forest inventory and analysis program in an efficient and cost-effective manner. We would emphasize that many of the variables already collected on FIA plots provide a significant understanding of forest health conditions. We would certainly like to see greater efficiencies be used by collecting additional forest health variables on a subset of the FIA plots.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the entire industrial and non-industrial forestry community is united behind the implementation of an annual inventory system. In 1997, the FIA Blue Ribbon Panel II published a report that called for elevating the priority of the FIA in the USFS program objectives, moving toward an annual inventory and analysis system as quickly as possible, fulfill the congressional mandate of reporting on all lands, concentrate on collecting a core set of data and finally developing a strategic plan to accomplish these elements.
To ensure that these set of objectives are accomplished, there must be organizational accountability and the recognition that the FIA program is a core mission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service. And it must require a commitment by Congress to adequately fund the FIA program in the appropriations process.
The forest industry is pleased with the direction and emphasis Congress has placed on funding the FIA program over the past two years. We support an additional $4 million for the FIA program in fiscal year 2000 with the caveat that it be used exclusively for assisting states in the collection of field plot data and not be siphoned away from this core effort. We also strongly recommend and urge that $6.2 million from the National Forest Systems be transferred from the NFS inventory and monitoring account to the FIA budget of the USFS Research. The time is now to begin the Congressional mandate of incorporating the national forest system into the FIA core program.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks, and I'd be glad to respond to any questions.
Testimony of Jim Hubbard
The need for current, consistent forest inventory data for all forest lands has never been greater, a fact which this Committee recognized during the formulation of the farm bill research title. The State Foresters appreciated the working relationship that led to the forest inventory provisions in the research title. We support the goals of the research title, and we look forward to working with you, the Forest Service, and the Appropriations Committee to ensure that the agency budget and program structure can achieve those goals.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Beginning in 1999, the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) and Forest Health Monitoring (FHM) programs will be combined, as directed by Congress in the Agricultural Research, Extension, and Education Reform Act of 1998 (PL 105185), into a Forest Inventory and Monitoring (FIM) program aimed at reducing the current inventory cycle, improving the efficiency of data collection, ensuring greater compatibility and completeness of data, and, ultimately, improving the sustainability of forest resources across ownerships.
From our point of view, the most important objectives for the Forest Inventory and Monitoring Program should be:
(1) Shortening the inventory cycle to start moving towards the 5 year average called for in the Research title.
(2) Fostering Cooperation externally with the State Foresters and internally amongst the branches of the Forest Service to reduce costs and ensure consistency.
(3) Ensure that all forest lands, including the National Forests, are covered by an integrated system of forest inventory and forest health monitoring.
There is unanimous public and private support for the creation and implementation of an integrated Forest Inventory and Monitoring program. But successful and cost-effective implementation of this program will mean maximizing the available skills and expertise of each entity involved in the forest inventory partnership. Forest Service Research should take the lead in establishing a scientifically credible structure for program delivery. They also must more aggressively pursue development of new technologies, such as remote sensing, to reduce costs and inventory cycles.
The State Foresters believe that we, and our colleagues in the Forest Service's State and Private Forestry branch, have an equally important role in employing our field expertise with data collection, field delivery, and landowner relationships to ensure that collection of base forest inventory and monitoring data is done as efficiently as possible. To facilitate more effective State participation in the Congressionally mandated FIM program, the National Association of State Foresters recommends the establishment and funding of an FIM line-item in the Forest Service's State and Private Forestry budget. This will allow the Forest Service to contract with or establish other cost-share arrangements with State Forestry Agencies, whenever possible, for the collection of base forest inventory and monitoring data.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The new Forest Inventory and Monitoring Program should be led by the Research branch of the Forest Service in partnership with the State and Private Forestry and National Forest System branches, as well as the various State Forestry agencies. Each partner will play an important role in program implementation. The rest of my written testimony outlines some of the details that State Foresters recommend to guide the formation of this partnership.
Forest Service Research. The Research branch should provide the following:
Provide leadership in developing and tracking a collaborative structure for implementing the FIM program nationwide;
Coordinate data collection efforts on all land ownerships;
Provide quality assurance on data collection and analysis;
Compile and distribute forest resource information (to cooperators and publics);
Develop regional and State analyses and reports, including intensive site ecosystem monitoring projects;
Develop improved sampling technology, monitoring techniques, and forest indicators;
State and Private Forestry. Forest Service State & Private Forestry (S&PF) will, as appropriate:
Facilitate contracts with State to collect FIM program data;
Conduct annual aerial surveys of all states to support the FHM detection monitoring program;
Report results of all forest health detection work to FIM regional research coordinators;
State Foresters. State Forestry agencies will, as appropriate:
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Provide and monitor data collection crews to gather FIM data within their states;
Assist with access to plots on private lands;
Provide regional representation to the National Management Team for inventory and monitoring;
National Forest System. Forest Service National Forest System (NFS) will:
Provide financial and staff support for FIM program data collection on NFS lands in all regions of the Forest Service;
Conduct special aerial surveys of NFS lands to support detection monitoring program;
The full implementation of the combined FIM program, including a new line item within State and Private Forestry, would result in the following public benefits:
A consistent, scientifically defensible information base for land management planning.
Improved forest land stewardship resulting from better-informed public policy and management decisions at the Federal, state, and local levels.
Timely and integrated assessments of status and trends on the Nation's forested lands.
Increased efficiency and reduced costs from the elimination of overlapping programs and the optimization of available expertise.
An array of analysis products including tables, narrative analyses, trend projections, maps, and models describing the various dimensions of forest ecosystems (e.g. forest extent, location, species, composition, productivity, mortality, utilization, fragmentation, and ownership patterns).
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A continuously updated, publicly accessible information base for analyzing investment and management alternatives.
Increased customer satisfaction with agency programs resulting in improved availability, utility, consistency, and accessibility of information products.
All data collection, analysis, and reporting will be done according to agreed-upon standards of quality assurance and peer review, and must follow the structure, definitions, and methods determined for the core program.
The FIM program will combine existing plot, survey, and data analysis into a base Federal program that covers all states. Data collection should include field visits to 15 percent of plots per state per year in the East, and 10 percent of plots per state per year in the West, as well as continuation of current utilization and landowner surveys. State and/or regional reports should be produced at 5-year intervals and will describe the present status of forest condition, trends, and projections.
States and other inventory partners can contribute further resources to the base Federal program if they desire new or additional measurements, increased sample locations, or faster data collection.
The consensus on the need for better inventory is documented in efforts such as AF&PA's Blue Ribbon panel on Forest Inventory, and in NASF's efforts which lead to a joint letter to the White House from the Aubudon Society, the Global Forest Policy Project, the World Wildlife Fund, the American Forest & Paper Association, and the Society of American Foresters.
We hope that our recommendations will help in accomplishing these goals. A suggested budget structure follows.