SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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FOREST SERVICE PAYMENTS TO COUNTIES
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS,
OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
MAY 18, 1999
Serial No. 10619
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
Boyd, Hon. Allen, a Representative in Congress from the State of Florida, opening statement
Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, opening statement
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Goodlatte, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, opening statement
Thompson, Hon. Mike, a Representative in Congress from the State of California, prepared statement
Walden, Hon. Greg, a Representative in Congress from the State of Oregon, opening statement
Davies, David, superintendent, Graham County Schools, Robbinsville, NC
Ferguson, Howard R., superintendent, Forest Area School District, Tionesta, PA
Jones, Patricia, superintendent of education, Perry County, New Augusta, MS
Linkenhoker, Paul D., coordinator, administrative services, Alleghany Highlands School District, Covington, VA
O'Keeffee, Jane, chair, Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lakeview, OR
Summers, Jack H., Jr., superintendent, Liberty County School System, Bristol, FL
von Doenhoff, Chris, Houston County judge, Crockett, TX
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement
Bolen, Richard, president, Board of Education, Wakefield School District, statement
Stupak, Hon. Bart, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan, statement
Turner, Hon. Jim, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, letter of May 12, 1999 to Chris von Doenhoff
FOREST SERVICE PAYMENTS TO COUNTIES
TUESDAY, MAY 18, 1999
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Department Operations,
Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1:09 p.m., in room 1302, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Bob Goodlatte (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Canady, Cooksey, Walden, Clayton, Berry, Goode, Phelps, Hill, Thompson of California, and Stenholm [ex officio].
Also present: Representative Boyd.
Staff present: Kevin Kramp, David Tenny, Callista Bisek, clerk; and Danelle Farmer.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA.
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Mr. GOODLATTE. Good afternoon. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry of the House Agriculture Committee will come to order.
The purpose of this hearing is to review the Federal 25 percent payments to counties as required by the act of 1908. On behalf of the subcommittee, I extend a special welcome to our witnesses today, none of whom, I am told, have ever testified before Congress. I congratulate you on your willingness to participate today in this important national process. I welcome you to Washington, and hope that you feel that your time here has been well spent. The subcommittee is eager to hear what you have to say, and we recognize that it is your business we are here to conduct.
Nearly 100 years have passed since President Roosevelt signed the act of 1908 establishing what we now call the 25 percent payment to counties. This law established a historic compact between the Government and local communities within the national forest system. Its premise was simple. Because the Forest Service was the dominant landowner in these communities, and because the communities were powerless to tax the agency, the Government would share 25 percent of the revenue derived from the forest with the impacted communities. The communities would then use this revenue to finance schools and the local road infrastructure.
Now, nearly 100 years later, the Government has defaulted on its fiduciary obligations under the compact. Federal timber sales have plummeted by over 75 percent from historic averages. Twenty-five percent payments have dropped in some communities by as much as 90 percent. Schools have canceled classes, cut teachers, eliminated extracurricular activities, and cut corners in every conceivable way to keep their doors open. Local economies have been decimated and families dislocated as parents desperately seek to make ends meet by looking for work anywhere they can find it. And, tragically, in the middle of this chaos are innocent school children who look to their parents, to their teachers, to their communities, and to their Government for quality education and quality of life.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ironically, this calamity in our rural schools and communities comes at a time of growing calamity in our national forests. Forty million acres of national forest are at risk of catastrophic fire. Twenty-six million acres are at high risk of insect and disease mortality.
Our national forests are in desperate need of management. Our schools are in desperate need of money. Our rural economies are in desperate need of stability. Reason and commonsense tell us the obvious answer: Manage the forest to improve forest health. The 25 percent payments generated will nourish our schools. The jobs created will heal rural economies. But our Government is not doing this. The compact is broken, and it needs to be fixed.
That is why the subcommittee has called this hearing today. And that is why we have invited witnesses from the impacted communities to tell us their story. It is clear that the ''Washington knows best'' approach has failed. It is time for a new approacha ''homegrown'' approach.
I understand that many of our witnesses here today are a part of a national grassroots movements called the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition. This coalition, which represents nearly 400 organizations in over 30 States, has developed a set of principles for addressing the 25 percent payment problem. I am impressed with the straightforward common sense of these principles. I am also impressed with the membership of the coalition, which brings together a diverse group of interests who share education and the welfare of our children as a common priority.
The Schools Coalition reminds of the Quincy Library Group, which has earned a national reputation for local consensus building and problem solving. In my view, this coalition is Quincy blown up to a national scale. I strongly support Quincy, and I strongly support the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition and the principles they are presenting today. I look forward to working with our rural communities and the members of this coalition to fashion their principles into a law that works.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is time to fix the compact. It is time to restore a future for our rural school children. It is time to mend our broken rural communities. And it is time to put the homegrown ideas of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition to the test. This is where it starts. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves with you and working together toward success.
With that, I am pleased to welcome and yield to the distinguished ranking member of the subcommittee the Congresswoman from North Carolina, Mrs. Clayton.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We both represent predominately rural congressional districts and the witnesses we have appearing before us this afternoon come from rural America.
I want to welcome Mr. David Davies of Graham County, NC, and all of the witnesses. I appreciate your taking the time to be with us, and I look forward to hearing your testimony.
In reviewing you testimony, I noted several references to the drive to an airport which was 2, or 3, even 4 hours away. I know Mr. Davies drove three hours to Atlanta to catch a flight to Washington, and I recall that Ms. O'Keeffe had to drive 4 hours to Reno to make a flight connection.
Like you, I live in rural America and my home is at least 2 hours from the Raleigh-Durham Airport that I use weekly to commute to Washington. I have served as the Chair of my county commissioners, and know firsthand the difficulty of passing a budget to support public schools and to establish the county property tax rate. I am aware of the tremendous challenge counties face in providing adequate funding for local schools to prepare our children to thrive and compete in the 21st century. Let me add that I feel our schools are the foundation for developing successful young people and vibrant communities with strong economies.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have also served as the Assistant Secretary of Community Development in North Carolina. I know that the blessings of the rural communitythe peace, tranquillity, the beautiful natural environment, and the slower pace of lifecan create barriers sometimes when you want to attract business and industry to bring new jobs and diversity to your tax base.
All counties depend on the natural resources available to them to generate revenue. Because of the difficulty in diversifying, rural communities are more dependent on their natural resources. My district in eastern North Carolina is rural and agriculturally-based with soil that is ideal for growing tobacco. My farmers make more money off of 1 acre of growing tobacco than any other crop they grow. The profit tobacco farmers make on their tobacco crops determines if they have a profit or loss on their farm. The money from tobacco also turns over 8 to 10 times to the banks, the stores, and businesses, and to the local economy, and also to support schools.
The same is true of the timber industry in our national forests and the communities that depend on them to provide jobs and economic stability. Policy changers have caused a decline in timber harvest and subsequently a decline in Forest Service payments to counties. These are counties that often have 40, 50, and sometimes 70 percent of the county land that is owned by the Forest Service or another Federal agency.
As the testimony submitted reflects, there is no other source of income to replace the loss of revenue, and our schools, our students, and rural communities bear the brunt of this funding decline.
I look forward to the testimony from all the witnesses and assure you that we will give careful consideration to your recommendation and to the Coalition's proposal.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mrs. Clayton.
It is now my pleasure to recognize the gentleman from Oregon, Mr. Walden, for an opening statement.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF HON. GREG WALDEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to thank you for holding this hearing on an issue that is so vital to the people of Oregon and to other States, especially the citizens of our rural communities that are made up of a large percentage of Federal land.
I also want to welcome someone who feels this issue is important enough that she made a trip close to 3,000 miles to Washington. Thank you, Commissioner O'Keeffe. She is the Chair of the Lake County Commission and you mentioned that, you know, having them testify before us was the first time these people had done that, Mr. Chairman, and I want to you know we want to extend full courtesy to them, because I have testified before her commission in open session. They have been very generous to me, so I intend to return the favor.
Jane knows well the challenges faced by counties made up to a great extent by Federal land. In fact, Lake County, I believe, is 79 percent under Federal Government control, which leaves very little for a local tax base, especially when a State has a constitutional requirement of 1.5 percent limit on base that is left.
The West is truly unique. Where private land ownership is historically the norm in the East, the West is developed with the Federal Government serving as landlord over a vast portion of lands. Not all of our lands were settled and claimed much as those in the East have been developed. I have the second largest district in the United States that is not a single-member State. I understand how difficult it is for these counties with enormous Federal control to raise revenue.
Take Union County, for example; in 1990, Union County received $1.1 million in forest revenue payments. Last year, they received just $567,000. Over a half a million dollars, 50 percent, wiped out from this rural county's budget. Wallowa County, it has gone from $2 million in fiscal year 1990, to $536,000 in fiscal year 1998, a 75 percent decline in revenues. All of this has happened because of vastly reduced timber harvest on our Federal lands. And frankly, under this administration, it appears that they are headed toward a zero cut on Federal lands. What does that mean for the residents, the people of these counties?
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Union County it means that rather than maintaining paved roads, crews are converting paved roads back to gravel. They are converting their paved roads back to gravel because they can't maintain the paved roads. There is hardly any new road construction. They are doing everything they can to preserve the existing paved roads. It is also difficult for rural counties to address their other needs for health and safety and schools and other services when funds are being diverted from essential programs.
In addition to the direct payments that our counties receive, they have historically derived benefit from the utilization of the resources of our National Forests. Mills have provided good jobs and a tax base for our rural communities. It is important that we continue to manage our forests at sustainable levels, so that we can maintain the livelihoods of those who live in our rural communities. Our counties will benefit, our school children will benefit, and most of all our children themselves will benefit.
I applaud the efforts of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition and the work they have made towards finding a long-term solution to this problem. I believe that today we will learn some important lessons about the needs of rural Federal land intensive counties.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, Jane, thank you for agreeing to come and testify.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Walden.
Does anyone else have an opening statement? If not, I have two short letters that I would like to read into the read. The first is from the Senate Majority Leader.
Dear Bob: Thank you for holding the hearings on the problems educators are facing as a result of the dramatic reductions in timber harvesting on National Forest lands. This is a serious issue, and I believe you have successfully highlighted the problem. The proposal to decouple National Forest timber sales from the 25 percent funds is also a real threat to the economic well being of those communities located within our National Forests. There are many counties in Mississippi that would be put in harms way by this idea. I support your efforts to protect our rural communities and especially the children in those timber dependent counties.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With best wishes, I am sincerely yours, Trent Lott.
I also want to read a letter from Mary Elizabeth Teasley, the director of government relations from the National Education Association, a letter addressed to Mr. Robert Douglas of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition.
Dear Mr. Douglas: On behalf of the National Education Associations 2.4 million members, we would like to express our support the work of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition. NEA believes that students in rural schools served by the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition deserve the same educational opportunities as students living in other communities. The National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition has developed an important framework within which to address problems relating to funding of forest counties and schools through the Forest Reserve Payments. The coalition's principles address immediate short-term needs and provide a foundation for a long-term solution. We look forward to working with you and the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition as Congress addresses this critical issue.
At this time, it is my pleasure to recognize the Honorable Allen Boyd, a Congressman from the great State of Florida, who is not a member of the committee, but has a great deal of interest in this issue and who wishes to introduce one of our witnesses.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ALLEN BOYD, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF FLORIDA
Mr. BOYD. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I want to welcome all the witnesses today who are going to testify. Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Clayton, Ranking Member Stenholm, I want to thank all of you all for holding this hearing. I believe this is a very important issue. It is one that Hal Summers and I have been working on for a long time.
I have the distinct privilege of introducing Hal Summers today. Hal is a good friend of mine. He is also the superintendent of schools in Liberty County, FL. Liberty County is the smallest school district in the State of Florida, and I think Hal will probably tell you there is less than 1,500 students in the total school district.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This issue that you are addressing today has seriously affected a large portion of the congressional district that I represent in north Florida. That district is a very rural district, it encompasses 19 counties and two national forests, the Apalachicola and the Osceola, in Florida's panhandle. None of those school districts is more seriously affected than the one that Hal Summers represents as Superintendent.
Hal and I came into our current jobs together, but it didn't take him longas a matter of fact, I believe before even we were elected, he made me aware of the seriousness of this issue and we went to work together on it almost instantly. That is why I am particularly pleased that he has agreed to testify today. Because I believe that he brings a very unique perspective to this issue due to his varied career experience.
As I said, he is currently the superintendent; he is in his first term, and in that position he has had to make many difficult decisions due to the loss of payments from the Federal Government. Before this, though, Hal was a soil conservationists with a Soil Conservation Service for 15 years, and also served as the director of the Save our Rivers Program down in Florida. This is a very successful program that provides for the purchase of sensitive environmental lands. I believe that Hal brings a very unique perspective.
Hal went to work along with other members that you see here at the witness table a couple of years ago, or maybe even less than that, to put together a nationwide coalition to deal with this issue. I am very pleased that he is here today representing, not only Liberty County, but all of north Florida. Thank you, Hal.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Congressman Boyd.
Now I am pleased to introduce the panel. First, Mr. Chris von Doenhoff, Houston County Judge, of Crockett, TX; Dr. Paul D. Linkenhoker, from my congressional district, coordinator for administrative services, Alleghany Highlands School District, Covington, VA; Mr. David Davies, superintendent, Graham County Schools, Robbinsville, NC; Dr. Howard R. Ferguson, superintendent, Forest Area School District, Tionesta, PA; Ms. Patricia Jones, superintendent of education, Perry County, New Augusta, MS; Mr. Jack H. ''Hal'' Summers, Jr., superintendent, Liberty County School System, Bristol, FL;; and Ms. Jane O'Keeffe, Chair, Lake County Board of Commissioners, Lakeview, OR.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We want to welcome you, and tell each and every one of you that your full statements will be made a part of the record and we would be happy to have you summarize you testimony.
STATEMENT OF CHRIS VON DOENHOFF, HOUSTON COUNTY JUDGE, CROCKETT, TX
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for having us here today.
My name is Chris von Doenhoff. I am County Judge of Houston County, TX. That is not Houston, TX. We are about 120 miles north/northeast of Houston, TX. We are a rural county. We have a population of less then 22,000 people.
The Davy Crockett National Forest occupies 93,228 acres of our county and, Mr. Chairman, I have some exhibits which I would like to offer into the record. They are letters from Congressman Turner, who was here, but I believe has left the room; some figures from our county treasurer; a letter from the Grapeland Independent School District; the Latexo Independent School District; and from our neighboring county to the south, that Judge Mark Evans is with me here today, we have letters from the Centerville Independent School District, the Apple Springs Independent School District, and the Groveton Independent School District. I would hope that those documents would be made a part of the record.
Mr. GOODLATTE. We will take care of that right now. Without objection, they will be made a part of the record.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. I don't know how many of you might know it, but the county judge in Texas is the same thing as the chief executive officer of the county. I have also served as mayor of the city of Crockett in the past, but I also served before that as 12 years on the Crockett School Board, and that is what I would like to mention to you here today.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are five school districts within the county, and each and every one of them receives a portion of these forest revenues. The written material will give you the exact figures, but let me give you one example. In 1996, Houston County received $1.43 million and some change from forest revenue. In 1998, we were down to $125,000 and some change. That is over a 90 percent drop, and we are told that next year will even be worse. I challenge you, if you were sitting in my chair or these school district chairs, how you would balance those budgets. The options are pretty few for a school district in Texas. They can either cut back those services or they can tax the people more, and those are pretty poor choices since the National Forest lands are exempt from those taxes. And when they do either of those things, our school children suffer. Typically, what they suffer is the lost of capital expenditures. In other words, they don't get the computers, the software, the connections to the Internet, and all the things that other districts in other areas of the State and Country have. So if our children are to compete in the marketplace for jobs with children from around the country, they have got to be afforded the same basic opportunities to learn.
In my written materials, you have a letter from the Grapeland Independent School District and their letter is pretty typical of the area. They made their budget in 1997 plan based on the year prior money, set their tax rate, adopted their budget, and then the forest was hit with an injunction. And they immediately spent the next year operating in the red, and since that time they have tried to raise their taxes and come back into the black, but they are still operating in the red. The Crockett Independent School Districtwhere I livein March of this year announced the layoff of seven professional employees, I don't know about the nonprofessional, but these are the teachers and the administrators. They are cutting back due to a loss of funds.
Let me tell you the other side, when properly funded. I want to tell you about a young man Rolando Machuca. He came to mind because I got his announcement of graduation from East Texas Baptist University. He will graduate this month. He was a 1995 graduate of the Crockett High School. His mother is a maid, she has cleaned my house in the past. His father works at the Northcutt Woodworks. He is the first of his family to receive a college education. Fortunately for him, he was able to graduate from Crockett High School before this crunch hit. And he is the success story, and that is what we need is more success stories.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So on behalf of these students in all these five districts, I urge you, in essence, to put the forest back to work. Follow the forest plans that are in place, so that the districts can receive their 25 percent revenue from the revenues of the forest. And it is all interconnected with our economy.
I know I am from the country; I don't know how it works here in Washington, DC, but in Houston County in order to have children, we still have to have parents. And these parents have got to work somewhere. And so if you talk about cutting back school revenues, county's revenues, but what about the parents? So many of them work in the forest and work directly in the forest. A good number of them, if they are not working in the forest, work indirectly because they may work at a convenience store, at a hardware store, or own the hardware store, a clothing store, or any number of things. So when these revenues decrease, then their ability to earn a living shrinks as well.
And let me put it on a bit more personal basis for you. My great-great-great-grandfather was the first county judge of Houston County, TX in 1837, and my great-grandfather served as county judge in the 1890's. I am serving now in the 1990's, and I have done this and these other positions, because what I am trying to do is preserve for my children and now my grandchildren, since they are up and gone, a good place to live and an opportunity to go to school and be able to get a quality education; and hopefully, if they choose to do so, live in Houston County, and have reasonable opportunity to earn a good living.
So, Mr. Chairman, I thank you for this opportunity. I hope that you and all the members of the committee can do whatever you can to ensure that we go back here and that we receive the 25 percent revenues. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. von Doenhoff appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Linkenhoker, welcome. You represent a county that is one of the most beautiful counties, in one of the most beautiful congressional districts in the country. It has, I would guess, nearly 50 percent of its land owned by the Federal Government as a part of the George Washington National Forest, and we very much welcome having you here today and looking forward to hearing your testimony.
STATEMENT OF PAUL D. LINKENHOKER, COORDINATOR, ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICES, ALLEGHANY HIGHLANDS SCHOOL DISTRICT, COVINGTON, VA
Mr. LINKENHOKER. Thank you, Chairman Goodlatte.
And as you said, I am a resident of the Alleghany County of Virginia, in the sixth congressional district and to all of the committee members, and Mr. Goode, fellow Virginian, I am happy to be here today.
There are about 25,000 people that live in the Alleghany Highlands that I serve as the coordinator for administrative services in the school district. There are about 3,000 students there. At one time there were over 4,000. Through the loss of jobs and declining economy, and so forth, there are not as many students there because there are not as many parents there anymore.
But, as you said, at least 50 percent of the land in Alleghany County is National Forest. The last county audit in 199798 year indicated that there were $3,043,297 in revenue raised from property taxes from property owners like myself. But there were only $55,000 raised from the Federal Government's payments in lieu of taxes. If the estimated 147,200 acres of national forest land in my county were valued at a minimum of $200 an acre, the real estate tax on the property would generate at least $208,000. So as you can see, we are getting a very minimum amount of return off of the National Forest lands. The Commonwealth of Virginia provides 53 percent of the revenue for my school district; the locality provides 41 percent; the Federal Government, 6 percent, in 199798, $71,845 for forest reserve lands.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now it would appear that I would be not too concerned about a source of funds that provides less than one-half percent of my school divisions operating budget. But my responsibilities involve the management of school transportation and maintenance operations. After all the fixed costs for personnel and operations, there is only a small amount of funding left for discretionary use, and that involves the purchase of school buses and the completion of maintenance projects such as roof repairs, HVAC upgrades, or building modifications. I think you are all keenly aware of the focus the media gives to both school bus safety and the building needs of the Nation's school districts.
In my school division's current budget there is $140,000 for school bus replacement and $108,000 for improvements to buildings and grounds. This year we are going to get $81,522 as Forest Reserve funds for the school district. So you can see that I am keenly interested in this source of revenue; that $81,522 can purchase two school buses or it can replace the roof on a school building, or it can provide boiler repairs in two of our schools. I urge the Congress to consider legislation which will guarantee a minimum funding level from this source.
In the past 10 years it has been anywhere from $33,560 to a high of $88,514. If you average the three highest revenue years of Forest Reserve funds, our school division would be guaranteed at least $83,895 from this source of revenue. It would seem that, with ownership of more than 50 percent of the county's land, that level of funding would even be inadequate.
I would just add one thing, our whole community is dependent on timber. Westvaco, it is the largest employer in our area, is a large paper manufacturing facility, and it provides more local tax revenue than property taxes. The vast majority of residents are dependent on the paper industry and the timber resources for their existence. School children deserve to benefit from this resource, and the Federal Government, I believe, has an obligation as the county's largest landowner to be a part in providing those children the benefits that they deserve.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Linkenhoker appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Linkenhoker.
Mr. Davies, welcome.
STATEMENT OF DAVID DAVIES, SUPERINTENDENT, GRAHAM COUNTY SCHOOLS, ROBBINSVILLE, NC
Mr. DAVIES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee.
In my written materials that I have submitted, I have included considerable demographic information about Graham County that I want to allude to at this time. Graham County is a small, rural county in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. With a total land are of 292 square miles, 70 percent of the county is either national forest, Tennessee Valley Authority, or part of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. For years this extremely small tax base has been supplemented by funds generated by the management of National forest lands. Recent reductions in harvesting have had a direct impact on the public schools of Graham County. A combination of the highest unemployment rate in North Carolina, and a high poverty rate, the absence of 24-hour healthcare has contributed to the difficulty in providing a quality education to the children of our county.
It is important to put a face on the people that are affected by these cuts. The 7,000 citizens of Graham County are survivors. The Native American population is descended from the Cherokee Indians who refused to be part of the removal and The Trail of Tears. Many of the other citizens of our county are descended from the early pioneer families who carved their homes from the rugged mountain environment. A strong work ethic and desire to succeed has been the backbone of Graham County for generations.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The revenue Graham County Schools has received for the management of timber on National Forest land has historically represented 14 to 22 percent of our local current expense fund. We have actively sought alternative fund sources to compensate for the loss of the timber revenue. While we have made great strides towards overcoming this hardship, the increase and operations cost has negated much of the effort.
We are not asking for a handout, just the opportunity to sustain the timber revenues while we search for environmentally sound ways to support our educational needs. Many of the males in our county work outside Graham County. They will go to south Georgia, those that have been in the logging industry. So, basically during the week, we have single-parent families, which is not a very good situation either.
At present, the reduction of timber management revenue forces Graham County schools to maintain a level of competence that cannot be competitive in today's global society. School security, remediation, and enrichment activities must take a back seat to utility bills, maintenance of outdated facilities, and combination classrooms. As recently as last month, we were forced to drop our Junior ROTC Program because could no longer afford to pay the salary of the instructor. We will continue to provide the best educational opportunities we can for our children. We ask only that you honor your previous commitment and help us help ourselves.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Davies appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you.
Mr. Ferguson, welcome to the committee.
STATEMENT OF HOWARD R. FERGUSON, SUPERINTENDENT, FOREST AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT, TIONESTA, PA
Mr. FERGUSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you to the rest of the committee members as well for the opportunity to testify today.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I had been asked when called to tell a story of the Forest Area School in Tionesta, PA, which I am happy to do because I feel it is a compelling story. It is quite different then some of the other stories being told because we have not seen a dramatic reduction in revenues at this point. The difference is not that the timber has been harvested appropriately, because it has not been. The actual cut has been deleted by 40 million board feed per year over the last several years. The difference is that we are harvesting cherry trees, black cherry, in Pennsylvania which has an extraordinary value and, as the value has increased, while the actual cut has decreased the value of the wood by board footage has maintained a stable base for us at this point. That very compelling issue, though, is what makes our story different, but important because the percentage of revenues in the Forest Area School District based on a timber cut are very high.
And while we talk about money as we all need to today, and board footage, and so forth, I would hasten to say at the outset before I quote numbers, that we are really talking about children here, ultimately, and that is really what the topic needs to be.
But in terms of real dollars, to give you an idea on budgets in the last 10 years, which was rung from $5.5 million to a current proposed budget of $8.5 million for the next academic year. We have seen revenues in a range of $534,000 annually to a high of $913,000 in our school district, representing averages of between 10.92 percent and 13.01 percent of the total revenues which we receive from the State of Pennsylvania and from local efforts. The average over those years has been 11.49 percent of our total revenues.
Now, while we have not seen a reduction, as I mentioned, although we have in the last two years seen incremental loss in the forest revenues, but not dramatic as in the west. If we would lose these revenues, which appears to be a very real possibility presently due to injunctive relief as well as legislative and executive branch proposals. We would stand to suffer dramatic loss.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To give an idea of what that would be, a mil of tax in the Forest Area School District over the last ten years has averaged between $57,000 and $60,000, depending on each year. In 199798, if we were to have lost all of the forest revenues in that year, the millage lost would have been $415.26; in 199899, 14.75 millswith absolutely no place to replace that except in local effort, which is politically impossible as well as pragmatically impossible.
We have made allowances for this in the school district with a very forward thinking Board of Education, to the point now where we actually have amassed enough money in capital reserve and an ending fund balance to pay off our debt service. So in a worst-case scenario, we would be able to sustain a complete loss of timber revenue in the short term and pay off our debt, and actually the timber revenue fundamentally to pay the debt service, the numbers are almost equal.
The problem in the Forest Area School District is one of the future in the event that we would suffer a loss, because we would be compelled to remain status quo, which is simply not good enough for the children. We would, as was mentioned earlier, suffer gravely in capital expenditures. We are in need, without questionI think everybody would say this whether constituent or administrator or teacherwe are in grave need of an elementary school. We have two; one is an old high school; it is not contemporary; it is not fuel-efficient; it is just not appropriate anymore for children. Our plans are to construct such a school within the next five years, but that is dependent certainly on sustaining revenues at their current level, particularly from the forest.
Politically, it would not be possible to replace these revenues. We have a very high elderly population, as many rural school districts do, with fixed incomes. There is literally no industry in Forest County. I say ''literally'' because that is true. We now have one small group making windows, but all of the industry known to the county over the years has gone away due to foreign competition of variety of other issues, which you are familiar with, I realize. There is a very low income per capita in Forest County.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To give you an example of how that would work, in the State of Pennsylvania income is measured on our subsidy between 1.5 and 0.82, with 0.82 being the highest poverty. We are a 0.71. So well not as poor as some areas of Pennsylvania, certainly very poor.
I am worried also about the fact that townships in Pennsylvania, when the money is received, townships can give 50 percent of the return to school districts, or 75 percent. Currently, in the Alleghany National Forest, school districts are generally seeing a 75 percent return. It is my judgment, and I think fairly true, that if the timber would be reduced, that the townships would go to a 50/50 split, causing school districts to raise taxes or suffer terrible changes in programs for children.
And last, but not least, very quickly, the idea of decoupling in the Forest Area School District Alleghany simply will not work because the decoupling, while it can be intoxicating for a school superintendent to accept those funds either in the short or long term, the truth is the number of jobs in Forest County that would be lost, and the change of the demographics of the population, would not only disrupt the social fabric of the community, but in all likelihood would cause a significant reduction in student populations of the attending districts, and a loss of State subsidy, which in all likelihood would probably equate the payment in lieu of taxes from the Federal Government. Therefore, a net loss would be sustained.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Ferguson appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you.
Ms. Jones, we are glad to have your testimony.
STATEMENT OF PATRICIA JONES, SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION, PERRY COUNTY, NEW AUGUSTA, MS
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. JONES. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee.
My name is Pat Jones, and I am superintendent of education in Perry County, MS, in the southern part of Mississippi, located in the heart of 162,000 acres of National Forest lands.
To say that National Forest lands is important to the success of my school district is an understatement. I survive through those funds. I support 26 teachers out of national forest funds. At the rate of decreasing that is going now, and if we also look at zero payments, I stand a chance of losing 26 teachers, which does many things to my district.
No. 1, it will substandard the quality of education that I am now providing for my students. No. 2, it would provide or jeopardize our accreditation rating in the State of Mississippi, which we have worked so hard to achieve.
To say that my county is dependent on the forest industry would be an understatement. In my county, there are approximately 12,000 inhabitants. Sixty-five percent of these families derive their income from the forest industry. Because Perry County is dependent on the forest industry, revenues generated from the management of National Forest lands contribute heavily to the economy of our county.
While 25 percent payments are extremely important to the operations of our schools and county government, it pales in comparison to the overall economic benefit the county forest provides to our area. Last year, the Forest Service returned $651,000 to Perry County; of that, 50 percent was spent on the education of my near 2,400 children.
These children are our most valuable resourcenot only the children in my school district, but also the children in the 38 counties that are also affected by National Forest lands in the State of Mississippi. Our children, as I said, are our most precious resource. We must give them the priority that they deserve. We must assure that they will become good leaders for our future. And to do this, we must assure that forest lands are managed properly.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At the present time, as I work on my budget in my school district, I am having to cut most of my athletic programs. This is sad to children, because I have children that have placed first, and second, and third in the State. And now I will have to do away with these programs.
This is deplorable to our children, and we need to all that we could possibly do to assure them a quality education and a quality social growth, not only academic, but also socially. They need to be able to be functional in our society. I want to assure that my students get the same opportunity that other students across the Nation get.
In a State that ranks the lowest in the Southeast in per capita spending on education, every source of income is important, most of all, my national forest payments. Since 1994, the cost of education in my county, has increased by 20 percent. Yet, my national forest payments have decreased by 26 percent. While I am concerned about the decline in national forest revenues, I am more concerned about the lost opportunities to raise the level of education in my schools. I am concerned about this because it has prevented my school district from keeping pace with education in other districts throughout our State. Had the payments continued to increase or even remain steady, my students could have the same opportunities as those in other districts in areas such as computer technology, science, art, music, and other enrichment programs.
I ask that you, please, put our children in the priority position that they deserve.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Jones appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Ms. Jones.
Mr. Summers, we would be pleased to have your testimony.
STATEMENT OF JACK H. SUMMERS, JR., SUPERINTENDENT, LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL SYSTEM, BRISTOL, FL
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. SUMMERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I wish to thank the committee for inviting me to speak at this hearing. I am Hal Summers, superintendent of schools in Liberty County, FL.
This afternoon I would like to acquaint you with the history of the Forest Service in Liberty County and to tell you about some of the effects of the forest management on the Apalachicola National Forest and what effect this is having on our children in Liberty County.
Liberty County is a rural county in the Florida panhandle with a population of about 7,000, including 1,300 school children. It has a total area of 525,000 acres, 97 percent of which is forested, with half of that owned by the U.S. Forest Service within the Apalachicola National Forest.
All of the national forest land in our county was purchased from private landowners beginning in 1933 and 1934. The land has been cut-over and burned repeatedly. The Forest Service ended up owing 47 percent of the land in our county. Almost as soon as the forest was established, the CCCs moved in to begin a program of fire control and tree planting with many of the local people. This was the beginning of a very highly productive forest that we currently have today. Until recently, our forest was the mainstay of a strong local forest product-based economy and, through sharing 25 percent of the revenue from timber sales, provided substantial support for our local schools and Government.
However, in about 1989, the Forest Service began to manage its land in a different way entirely, mostly to protect the habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Liberty County has the only recovered population of this bird in the world. It is interesting to note that our local woodpecker population recovered without the benefit of any of the management restrictions, which are now in effect. It is unclear why the Forest Service changed the management methods, which has resulted in their recovery, but they did make these changes. Their effect on the timber harvest is shown on exhibit 1, which I would like to enter into evidence and that you have today.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Perhaps the most significant thing about this chart is not the decline in harvest. Rather, it is the fact that in 1998 the net annual growth of timber on the Apalachicola National Forest was about 800 percent greater than the volume harvested. The saw timber is 50 times greater than the volume harvested.
I have exhibit 2, which I would also like to enter into evidence today, which shows what effect this timber harvest reduction had on forest revenues to the four counties and school districts within the Apalachicola National Forest. I am also representing, today, not only Liberty County, but four adjacent counties. The black values on the graph are 25 percent returns, and the shaded values, payments in lieu of taxes. These PILT payments are not shared with the school districts. The 25 percent payments declined from a 198793 5-year average, in 1998 dollars, from right at $2 million to less than $220,000 in 1998, a loss of 89 percent.
Therefore, due to this reduction, our school district has been forced to do the following: We have reduced school staffing by 11 positions out of a total of 151, and I might add, this year I am looking at an additional $250,000 cut, which means I will probably cut another 15 positions. We are looking at increasing the average class size from 23 to 28 students this year, with a loss in money; I am looking at over 35 kids in some classes. Discontinue the enrichment programs of health, computer education, and humanities. Discontinued vocational programs of industrial arts, small engine repair, and electronics. And I might add that 80 percent of the kids that graduate from Liberty County High School do not attend college. That means we are turning out kids, almost 80 percent, on the streets and many of them do not have jobs.
We have curtailed the school media center. We have eliminated certified art and music teachers from the elementary school staffs. We reduced the pre-K program, formerly the only program in the State to serve all 4-year-olds. And this year I am looking at privatizing; we are giving it to someone else to run it. We have terminated a new program of technology acquisition, which would have placed the county on par with other Florida school districts.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will not detail the impacts on county government, which are significant. You will find most of those listed in the written supplement in my presentation, today. The most far-reaching impacts of Forest Service management will be the adverse effect on the future of our children. An education system crippled by such funding cuts cannot train our young people in the skills needed to join tomorrow's society as contributing, functioning citizens.
Liberty County wholeheartedly supports the National Forests Counties and Schools' short-term proposal for stabilizing the payments to counties and schools. However, I cannot strongly emphasize enough that a tax-supported entitlement does not address the root issue. The basic problem in the Forest Service's focus on management is to benefit creatures and their habitat without regard for the needs of the people. We believe that, in large part, this management is based on ideology rather than on science.
This is not a question of birds or people. We firmly believe that science-based management can fully protect the bird and protect its habitat, while benefiting economic and social benefits to society. Forest Service's failure to use the best available science and to consider the social impacts of management has resulted in today's unhappy situation.
In closing, I would like to make just one other comment. That is, in the next few weeks, the Liberty County School Board and the Liberty County Board of County Commissioners will ask our neighboring counties to join us in filing an administrative claim against the USDA's Forest Service for damages suffered as a result of the agency's failure to comply with law and regulation in the management of the Apalachicola National Forest. We are taking this action, with the greatest reluctance, and only after 11 years of fruitless attempts to have the Forest Service take action on this problem.
Again, I thank you for allowing me to appear before the subcommittee today. Thank you.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Summers appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. COOKSEY [presiding]. Mr. Summers, can I ask you to repeat one of the last statements that you made? Did you say that you felt that the Forest Service has made some mistakes, that it failed to use sound science?
Mr. SUMMERS. Yes.
Mr. COOKSEY. In regard to the birds?
Mr. SUMMERS. That is correct. Right now in Liberty County, within a three-quarter mile radius of a red-cockaded woodpecker nest, they do not do any timbering at all and it is almost shut down. The timbering now is less that 2 percent in the forest, because of this.
Mr. COOKSEY. So you feel, your statement, then, is saying that you feel that they are too cautious in regard to this?
Mr. SUMMERS. Yes. They have management plans, but they are not adhering to these management plans. The data they are using is not concise science.
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you.
Commissioner O'Keeffe from the State of Oregon, glad to have you here today. The former chairman of this committee, Congressman Bob Smith, was from the State of Oregon, and we miss him. I understand he is busy watching the trees grow in Oregon. [Laughter.]
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I am sure that he is, and he is that former Congressman of my district.
STATEMENT OF JANE O'KEEFFE, CHAIR, LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, LAKEVIEW, OR
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, for this opportunity to submit testimony.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My name is Jane O'Keeffe and I am Chair of the Lake County, OR, Board of County Commissioners. I am also Chair of the Association of Oregon Counties' Public Lands Committee. I plan to share with you the impact of changing forest management policies on the stability of our natural-resource-dependent rural county, and the principles of a legislative proposal to improve this situation.
As a county commissioner, I would like you to know how the current Federal forest policy situation is played out in my county, Lake County, OR. Lake County has a land mass of 8,500 square miles. We have 7,500 people. I often tell folks to be happy in Lake County, you need to like solitude and sagebrush. We have lots of that. We are located in south-central Oregon, on the edge of the Great Basin. Seventy-eight percent of Lake County is owned by some sort of Government agency, either the Forest Service, the BLM, or U.S. Fish and Wildlife. With the extremely high amount of Federal ownership in Lake County, the policy decisions this committee and the agencies make affect our lives every day.
The citizens of Lake County, with help from the State of Oregon, are doing everything we can to maintain the vitality of the county. Nevertheless, Lake County's unemployment rate stands at 15.1 percent today. It has proven difficult to recruit any type of industry to Lake County. The Oregon Economic Development Department has targeted Lake County as one of highest priority counties for economic development assistance. We have the lowest gain in employment growth in Oregon, at minus 7.3 percent for 1998. In the past 4 years, the only successful business recruitment strategy that Lake County has undertaken is the location of a State prison.
Why is business recruitment so difficult in Lake County? The main reason is isolation. It is well over 180 miles to the nearest interstate freeway access from any point in the county. There are no commercial air connections available in Lake County. Given this situation, the citizens of Lake County have always had a keen awareness of the symbiotic relationship between the Fremont National Forest and our communities.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC National forest policies have a great effect on our local economy. When timber production is at a sustainable level, our communities thrived. In 1990, Federal judges began to impose screens on Federal timber sales on the east side of Oregon. Three major sawmills in Lake County closed during that period. The multiplier effect of those mill closures was devastating to our communities.
On the west side of Oregon, counties under the Northwest Forest Plan were able to cushion some of the effects of timber harvest reductions with a safety net plan. Eastern Oregon counties have had no such protection.
County road departments are funded primarily by Federal forest receipts. In Lake County, our 718 miles of roads are the major farm to market arterials to; also, are the gateway to the national forests and the BLM lands.
Lake County is fortunate to have modest road reserves. For the proposed budget year 19992000, we will be using a portion of our road reserves for general operations.
I find it quite appropriate that I sit here before you today with my friends in education. I also find it a little bit ironic, this morning at a press conference the room was filled with school children from Oregon. I am here to talk about roads and county budgets and county economies, but we were able to bring our kids, anyway.
It took a while, but counties and schools finally recognized our mutual interest. In 1998 a coalition was formed, and we call ourselves the National Forest County Schools Coalition. In Reno, in March 1999, the coalition held its second national conference. Much time and thought went into preparing the following legislative concepts, which have broad-based national support from over 380 entities. We ask you today to consider the following principles in drafting legislation:
In the short term, cover all national forest counties and include O&C counties. Provide a short-term safety net with a specific termination date for special payments. Require payments be guaranteed based upon 100 percent of the average of the highest three years since 1986, or actual 25 percent forest receipts, and/or 50 percent receipts for O&C counties, and/or 4 percent growth receipts for public domain lands, whichever is greater. Provide for indexing of payments to a CPI. Provide this temporary relief in a form that will not discourage the management of Federal lands in a manner that will generate revenue.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the long term, provide a process for developing a long term solution to ensure long-term sustainable forest management and a return to actual gross receipts. Any long-term solution must promote local government coordination and community-based partnerships. Recognize the need for sustainable economic self-sufficiency of rural communities through the best use of natural resources. It must be in accord with the definition of sustainable forest management, wherein ecological, economic, and social factors will receive equal consideration in the management of national forests.
Finally, a long-term solution must provide for total forest management that considers the principles of multiple use and other factors as they relate to the total systemic and sustainable forest health, based on current best science, using independent critical peer review.
These are nationally supported principles. And I urge your support of these legislative concepts. Thank you very much for your time.
The prepared statement of Ms. O'Keeffe appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Commissioner O'Keeffe.
I know that you probably all think that this city is a source of great wisdom, but it is not. I can remember, and I haven't been here that long myself, but I can remember when we had debates about this issue last year or the year before. We debated everything in the world, all the reasons, pro and con, for some of the policy that has been utilized in the national forest. But I cannot remember anyone ever anticipating this problem. So this is an example of unintended consequences. So, this is not really the source of all wisdom, but don't go back to your districts, particularly our districts, and tell anyone that.
I think it has come down to the question whether we are going to grow trees or grow children's minds. I think that both can be done, and be done very well, if you believe that trees are a renewable resource.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will first turn to Mrs. Clayton for her questions.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am going to associate myself with your remark concerning unintended consequences. I think the testimony from all of the witnesses reaffirms how those of us who are in the process of approving legislation for good and worthy reasons really need to study the impact of it, and I appreciate your coming and sharing with us. All too often, your testimony is very painful, as it also is reminiscent of many of us who live in rural areas, where I am not affected as much by the forest, but I am affected by similar principles when the natural resources are not there.
I am going to ask several questions, but let me start with your last testimony on the recommendation of the principles. Ms. O'Keeffe, you are proposing that any legislation that we consider have these principles in that. Is that right?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. That is correct.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I guess I should know this, but is there any legislation being drafted or is this your first recommendation to us as we draft it? Do you know any bill that is in the process, or are you coming to us because we have two committees with jurisdiction here? Agriculture is one, and the Office of Natural Resources is the other. I am told there is not a bill. So you are thinking of recommending to us as we create an opportunitive bill?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. That is correct.
Mrs. CLAYTON. The lawsuit, Mr. Summers, that you have in Florida piqued my interest. Could you tell me the nature of that, and how that is moving?
Mr. SUMMERS. We have just recently asked the Forest Service to submit some documents to us for review. Most of the information of the science that they have used, we feel is not sound information. The school district is very poor, but we have had a retired Forest Service person that has been working very closely with us for the last 15 years. Ever since 1989, we have been looking at this situation, since we started seeing that the income was being reduced.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I contacted an environmental attorney Terry Cole in Tallahassee, FL, who is now working gratis because of the district being very poor. He is going to help us with the filing of this administrative claim against the Forest Service. We are in the beginning stages right now. As I said earlier, I am a new superintendent. I have only been in the office a little over 2 years. This was a challenge, needless to say, when I took office, going from 300,000 to less that 20,000 per year. I have talked with the U.S. Forest Service; they have new agency heads, but nothing has come to fruition in any of the talks. So, I decided this was the only thing we could do.
Mrs. CLAYTON. The goal of the lawsuit is to recover the claims, but the basis of the lawsuit is that U.S. Forest Service has not used proper science?
Mr. SUMMERS. That is correct.
Mrs. CLAYTON. So, if the legislation is put forth, and the remedy, you are just using two tracks, one judiciary process
Mr. SUMMERS. I was not aware of this today, the hearing. In fact, I have only gotten involved that last couple of weeks, and asked to come.
More than likely, if this occurs and we do have legislation and we get things moving forward, we will back off of this. This was our last effort trying to get funding.
Mrs. CLAYTON. It is just a matter of feeling frustrated, and no other avenue to you?
One other question, and either of you can answer it: Are you asking in the legislation that we return to what the current law was, 25 percent, or are you now asking for? Help me out. Are you trying to return to the principle we had, or are you trying to establish a new base line for support?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I think that, basically, what we are asking for is a safety net until we get to a return of the 25 percent receipts.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CLAYTON. So, it is a gradual kind of return to that. From Pennsylvania, you had the reverse problem, and it was good to have you here because you were able to tell us, if you lost that amount of moneydid I understand you would have to raise your taxes by 15 percent tax base?
Mr. FERGUSON. That would be the highest case. In the one year, we would have had a 15 mill equivalent. This year, and the return this year, which is $883,000, it would be slightly less than that, but still at 14 mills.
Mrs. CLAYTON. But I want everyone to understand the nature of your uniqueness was that the value of your timber was so valuable. It wasn't because they were cutting any less; it is just that was going to upset
Mr. FERGUSON. Well, I didn't make myself clear, with apologies. There is substantially less timber being cut. The forest plan that was devised by the management of the Alleghany called for 96 million board feet annually, would be a sustainable cut. That was in the 1986 forest plan, which has not been revised subsequent to 1986. The actual, most recent cut was approximately 52 million board feet. So, net reduction in timbering, which is not based on scientific analysis, from any point of view, has been substantial in terms of reduction.
We have been fortunate on the Alleghany, because the inflationary pressures on the valueit is all hardwood, but particularly of black cherry, which is used for veneers, I am sure you know. The escalation of that price, the market conditions have escalated so greatly that we have realized very little reduction in actual dollars, although now we have seen in all of the school districts and townships in the last 2 years a beginning of a descent. An example, in our case, our high was $913,000; we are seeing a return of 883, which is not significant, admittedly.
But the problem is, as of right now, on the Alleghany there is a zero cut occurring. This has to do with an endangered species, in our case, the Indiana bat. And it is my understanding, of a 536,000 acres, one specimen has been recovered by the scientists from the Pennsylvania State University. And based upon that discovery, we are now in time of analysis, as I understand it.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, potentially, notwithstanding the inventory that is already sold, and I believe that is 29 million board feet, which as I understand it will be cut at some point in time, but that is the only inventory that is actually sold, but theoretically, if that injunction wasn't relieved, we could go to a zero cut in the next fiscal year, and potentially plummet to zero by the year 2001, which would then create a situation where we would have to have a dramatic tax increase, which is actually not doable. So, what would really happen is that we would reduce services and we would have to abolish our 5-year plans in terms of capital improvements.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I have extended my time, so I will yield back.
Mr. WALDEN [presiding]. Thank you. I would just followup on that comment in that, for example, on the Malheur National Forest, the timber management plan, the 10-year plan, called for about 200 million board feet to be harvested. In 2000, they hoped to get to a high water market, 38 million board feet. So, that kind of dramatic reduction results in, when most of the land around there is federally-controlled, not many jobs and a huge loss of income.
I wanted to go next with a few questions. I am impressed, of course, with the breadth of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition. Your members include the National Education Association, the American Association for School Administrators, Organized Labor, National Association of Counties, and a dozen other national groups, and they are very diverse.
What is it about your coalition that has attracted such diverse support? Somebody want to take that one? Mr. Ferguson.
Mr. FERGUSON. I don't know that I can really exactly answer that, to be candid, but I think that the fact that so many constituencies have joined together is a clear indication of the complexity and seriousness of the problem. I think we, certainly, in this particular panel, have certain agenda items in common, and they would be the welfare of children and I think the maintaining the fabric of cultures.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Certainly, in the private sector, there might be some agendas that might be different, but just as important. It is important to realize, as on the Alleghany, as an example, if I were speaking as a non-school superintendent, one of the arguments that I would quickly make would be the idea of mortality. It just so happens on the Alleghany, the Northeast experimental station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is on the Alleghany. Therefore, we are blessed with a lot of people who deal with the science of forestry. They will all tell you that the Alleghany is about to reach what they refer to as a climax forest, which has dire impact on the environment in terms of creating an overstory which limits vegetation, changes habitat.
I think if you looked at everybody who has a vested interest, whether it is a fiscal one as the school districts and townships do, or if you look at science in terms of ecological questions, or if you look a businesses in terms of return and profit, I think that is what causes them to come together. I think that it shows dramatically, though, that this is a very significant problem that is being recognized by a wide variety of constituencies.
Mr. WALDEN. Who is it that is opposed to your efforts? It seems to be a local sort of base solution process. Who is out there leading the charge against why we are here?
Mr. FERGUSON. In the case of the Alleghany National Forest, actually part of it is financed by the Sierra Club. But there is a local group out of a little town, Clarion, Pennsylvania, which is a college community just south of the Alleghanyit is not in the Alleghany National Forestthat has been the focal point. They refer to themselves as the Alleghany Defense League, I believe it is Alleghany Defense Association or League; I am not 100 percent sure. They have been able to bring certain financial support to their cause, and they have really created quite a change in the culture.
We have had a wide variety of injunctive issues to deal with, which we have been able to prevail fairly well''we'' being the Alleghany Forest Alliance, of which our school districts and all districts are a part. But they are very costly, and the irony of the whole situation is now that the school districts and townships are contributing to legal defense, that is yet another way, of course, of deleting the available funds for school children. But that would be the main opposition in our case; I trust that is different with some of the other people here.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. I want to switch to a little different question, perhaps direct this one to Commissioner O'Keeffe. When these payments declined, what are your options in Lake County for providing the replacement revenues and services for the schools and the county? Can you outline for the committee kind of what is left out there?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Well, there really isn't much left, Congressman Walden. Oregon has, would you say, property tax limitations. Most of the communities in Lake County, the main communities, Lakeview and Christmas Valley are under the $5 cap, the $10 cap. So to go to a property tax mainly just reduces the amount of money to other government services. It takes about $2 million a year to maintain our county roads, and we would not be able to collect anywhere near that under a property-tax-type scenario. The State of Oregon does backfill losses to schools, however; low population counties are able to give schools money out of their excess forest receipts. That is something that Lake County has not been able to do for a number of years.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you very much.
Mr. GOODE. I would like to ask Mr. Linkenhoker from Alleghany, is Alleghany in the National Forest Counties and Schools Association?
Mr. LINKENHOKER. We are not at this time. We just really got involved about 3 weeks or so ago by some individuals who contacted us to tell of that problem. And so, we are very much in support of their efforts, but at this point the school board has not had an opportunity to make a decision to make it a part of the National Forest Counties and Schools Association. But, obviously, by my presence here, we do support those efforts.
Mr. GOODE. Could you tell me, again, how much reduction Alleghany County experienced in the Federal payment.
Mr. LINKENHOKER. Over a 10-year period, the amount of money in forest reserve lands has fluctuated between the low of $33,000 to a high of $88,000. I think we are more concerned with the fact that it is a source of revenue, even though it is a small source of revenue, that we can't count on. If we know that it is going to be a minimum level, and as is suggested by the proposal for legislation that would level it out at the top 3 years, then we would know we were at least getting $83,000 a year. I can budget for that; I can plan on certain programs at that amount.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. Let me ask you, I, of course, don't have the privilege of representing Alleghany, but Bedford, Nelson, and Albemarle have some national forest lands in Virginia; you don't know whether they are in this coalition or not?
Mr. LINKENHOKER. No, sir, I do not.
Mr. GOODE. Have you talked with anybody in any of those three jurisdictions?
Mr. LINKENHOKER. Not in those jurisdictions.
Mr. GOODE. This is a question; I will just go down the line, and start with Mr. von Doenhoff, and I may not have pronounced it correctly. Several conservation groups have talked with me over the past 2 or 3 years, and I have got the distinct impression, and Mr. Ferguson would probably say that is the case with the Defense Fund group, that their position is, don't cut a tree ever on any national forest land. And I think the argument is that is better to let them die and let the bugs generate to feed the woodpeckers, or whatever. Do you agree with that word of policyand I may not have misstated it much, I doubt? If that were the policy, do agree with that policy or disagree?
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. I certainly disagree; you know, those bugs and those insects they don't know man-made boundaries, and if you ignore what is happening in the national forestand we have examples of that in Texas, where the bugs cross over into private lands, private ownership, and they don't stop along fence linesit creates a devastating situation not only to the national forest and national lands, but to these private landowners, through no fault of their own, trying to manage their own forests.
Mr. GOODE. All right.
Mr. LINKENHOKER. A retired national forest employee gave me information prior to coming here. He states very clearly that there is a health problem in the national forest in terms of trees dying that they are not able to be used in the timber industry to help create jobs, and so forth.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. Do you disagree?
Mr. LINKENHOKER. So I very much disagree.
Mr. GOODE. Do not cut anything, any place, any time?
Mr. LINKENHOKER. We have cut a lot of trees in Alleghany County, and there are a whole lot left and they grow back.
Mr. GOODE. All right. Mr. Davies, what is your view?
Mr. DAVIES. I also disagree. As I stated before, many of the people in our county, because it was a logging community, have gone elsewhere to work.
Mr. GOODE. All right. Mr. Ferguson.
Mr. FERGUSON. I would disagree as well, sir. As I mentioned earlier, scientists will tell you to a person that maintains a forest who will create health and hardwoods for the United States, I am sure softwood as well, though we don't deal with that in the Alleghany National Forest. I would also point out that there is tremendous revenue being produced here, not just for the private sector, income tax, taxes on business, that would all be lost as a result of a zero cut.
Mr. GOODE. Ms. Jones.
Ms. JONES. I would certainly disagree. With a county that already has 7.5 unemployment rate, that would raise it.
Mr. GOODE. All right. Mr. Summers.
Mr. SUMMERS. I would disagree as well.
Mr. GOODE. All right, Ms. O'Keeffe.
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I am not here to represent the zero cut movement today, Congressman.
Mr. GOODE. I am sorry, what was your answer?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I am not here to represent the zero-cut movement today. I do not agree.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODE. You disagree too with the zero cut?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I disagree.
Mr. GOODE. Good. I thank all of you for your answers, and I know it will be printed up that way. [Laughter.]
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you for the question. Let us go to Mr. Thompson now.
Mr. THOMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to ask unanimous consent to submit a statement for the record. I don't really have any questions, but what I would like to do is just to associate myself with those who testified today. I don't think I need to get the answer to questions to something that has been lived out and played out in my district.
But I just want to emphasize, for the record, to my colleagues, that this is a real issue on the north coast in California. I think a primary example is the Smith River National Recreation Area, which was established by Congress with this great promise of wonderful things to come, and as monies dwindle in this part of my district, in this part of California, it becomes increasingly more difficult not only to educate our kids, which is very, very important, but also to bring to fruition all of the great promises that were made to us. If you consider in that county 42 percent of the county roads lead into, either directly or indirectly, into this area, which is supposed to be this fantastic recreational area and the counties don't have the money to maintain those roadsso we are never going to be able to gain access to that recreational area. So this is a very vexing issue that we need to be able to address, and we need to ensure that we have the resources to make these areas, not only in my district, but across the States prosperous. So, I look forward to our work on that.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Thompson follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE THOMPSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'd like to express my support for these witnesses and the other representatives of local government and schools today who are justifiably concerned about Forest Service county payments.
The reduction in timber-related revenues is significantly affecting areas in my district including Del Norte, Humboldt and Mendocino counties. As an example, Del Norte County in the northwest corner of California is heavily timber-dependent. Del Norte is the site of Smith River National Recreation Area. The county road system provides access to this nationally recognized resource area. In fact, over 42 percent of the county-maintained road system provides either direct or indirect access to these USFS lands.
The continuing steep decline in USFS receipts to the county roads will place the county in the unfortunate position of no longer adequately maintaining this road system within the Recreation Area. This will lead to unintended environmental impacts and will further negatively affect any economic opportunities for this county to capitalize upon the existence of the Recreation Area, which was the original intent of Congress.
Equally as important, schools in my district are taking a major hit as a result of declining timber sales. I believe this is an unacceptable condition and Congress must make every effort to fix this problem.
Mr. Chairman, I commend you for conducting this hearing and look forward to working with you to correct this unfair situation for many of America's rural counties.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, sir. Mr. Summers, I would like to go back to you in following up on the case that your organization is pursuing. What would the implications nationally be, do you feel, if eventually you won your case in the court of law?
Mr. SUMMERS. I think it would have an effect on the other counties and it would affect the other forests in the United States. Nothing like this has ever been done. I am walking out on faith, because, again, I live in a county, reside in a county, where we only have a $5 to $6 million budget. Our school board members don't even know where we are going to get the money to fund this attorney that is going to take the case, but we know we have got to do something.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Do you know what percent of the land mass in your county is controlled by the Government?
Mr. SUMMERS. Yes. Almost 50 percent is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. We also have Neal Land and Timber and St. Joe Paper Company. When you look at all of it combined, there is 89 percent of our county that is held by large companies in the U.S. Forest.
Mr. WALDEN. But off the tax rolls, it is about 50 percent?
Mr. SUMMERS. That is correct, right.
Mr. WALDEN. Ms. O'Keeffe, isn't there a suit similar to this going on in the Malheur that some of your colleagues in the Grant County Commission are looking at as well. Can you speak to that?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I believe that is true. I believe that the Grant County Commissioners, it is a coalition to have filed a notice of intent to sue in the Malheur National Forest.
Mr. WALDEN. In a similar situation?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Similar situation, yes.
Mr. WALDEN. For the rest of you, perhaps, if you know the level of land in your home counties that is under government control, and therefore, off of your tax base, could you address that for the committee?
Mr. FERGUSON. The Federal Government owns approximately 45 percent of the land in Forest County. There are four counties in the Alleghany, I can only speak to two. In Warren County it is approximately 40 percent. Also, however, as far as money being off of the tax roll, Forest County has a large amount of State gainway on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as one, albeit small, portion of the State forest. I would say the total amount of land off of the tax rolls, I am estimating, is probably 60 percent. But the 45 percent of the Federal land is a fairly accurate percentage.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. OK.
Mr. DAVIES. Graham County has 60 percent national forest land and another 10 percent in Cherokee Indian Reservation and Tennessee Valley Authority.
Mr. WALDEN. OK.
Mr. LINKENHOKER. Fifty-one percent in Alleghany County's national forest.
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. Slightly in excess of 20 percent of Houston County is occupied by the Davy Crockett National Forest.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you.
Ms. JONES. Forty-one percent in Perry County in Mississippi.
Mr. WALDEN. I notice that one of the principles that you have is to make the Forest Service more accountable for their basic responsibilities for active healthy management of our forests. Could you comment on the Forest Service's accountability for county payments under the current system? County payments declined; what penalty does the agency have to pay? Any? Somebody want to take that?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. We are getting the payments that we deserve in the sense that we are getting the 25 percent forest receipts. There is no penalty that I am aware of for the Forest Service for not managing the land sustainably.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. von Doenhoff, I understand that you may need to catch an airplane.
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. Yes, I do.
Mr. WALDEN. Feel free to leave.
Mr. VON DOENHOFF. Thank you.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you for coming.
Are there other questions for our panel from members? Mrs. Clayton?
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CLAYTON. I also, just want to thank them all for coming and to say how moving and effective their testimony. I know Mr. Davies from my State was concerned about that this was their first appearance. Sometimes fresh and homespun and honest and sincere is the best testimony. So I want to thank you for all being genuine and sincere in your effort.
I do want to followup Mr. Goode's comment when he asked about zero cutting, and just to say there are those who may, you know, just claim that the school coalition is simply a front and that your real objectives return to a historical level of a timber harvest without regards to a circumstance. Would you just comment on that? How would you respond to that?
Mr. DAVIES. A simple question to the teachers that no longer work for the public schools might answer that, those that have been sent home because we can't pay their salaries.
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I would also disagree with that. I think you would find me here, if invited, also telling you about the restoration needs that are on our forests. We have a local forest sustainability committee that is looking at a total restoration focus on our national forest.
Mrs. CLAYTON. You are from the State of Oregon?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I am from Oregon.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Right. The Chair tells me that, not only from Oregon, that you are from his district.
Ms. O'KEEFFE. That part of Oregon.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I wanted to put that in the record obviously, because the forest sustainability, as well as the economic value as a result of using the national resource from the forest, are not incompatible to each other. You can be easily dismissed as only considering the economic value and not considering the holistic view, and I just wanted your comment on that. Again, I appreciate all of your testimony.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Did you have questions, go ahead?
Mr. PHELPS. Mr. Chairman, I don't know if it is for any of the panelists, but do we have an idea, if we totaled up just this group's testimony, of what is the revenue loss that they have had? What that is the total?
Mr. WALDEN. I would have to pick a period of time probably as receipts have declined. I don't know that we have that, but it is enormous.
Mr. PHELPS. And these are not all probably the cases that are throughout the Nation right now.
Mr. WALDEN. No, it is nationwide.
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Our receipts have gone from $5.2 million in 1989 to a projected $290,000 this year.
Mr. WALDEN. So, $5.2 million to $290,000, and can you put that in the context of your overall budget for county per year?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Our total county budget is $15 million.
Mr. WALDEN. So you have lost $5 million down to $290,000?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. Right.
Mr. PHELPS. The reason I ask the question, I guess we are faced, as Congress, with either the Department measurement policies trying to cope with the decline of numbers allowed to cut affecting the revenue versus what kind of handouts or grants can you receive from sources such as us to make up the difference of what is not allowed to get through revenue, it seems to me like. As I am sure your respective States are doing about as much as they can to try to make up the differenceI don't know how much more they could absorb to try to at least keep the schools funded and the roads and all of the other basic things that we all want. I was just trying to get a number. I am sure that it is an awesome number if we assess the whole nationwide forest dilemma here in the timber cuttings. It would be interesting to know that; maybe we can soon. Thanks.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. I can't give you the number, but I can now give you the percentage, not that this little thing dripped into my head, but our staff provided it.
Nationally, the total decline in 25 percent payments over the last 10 years has decreased by 65 percent in the last 10 years. So that is not the hard dollar figure, but that gives you the magnitude of the problem, and for many of these counties they have such small land base on the tax roll and some have property tax limits; they have nowhere to go.
Mr. PHELPS. So, that is not necessarily reflective of the lack of demand for the product?
Mr. WALDEN. No, it is the reduction in harvest. For example, the President's Northwest Forest Plan, off the top, reduced forest harvest by 80 percent. That was what was projected, and then litigation other factors have reduced that harvest of the 20 percent even more, until less than half of that, I believe, is the figure.
Mr. PHELPS. So, the market of where that product was going is, where are they getting that timber loss?
Mr. WALDEN. The market is still there. They are importing it from overseas, South America, as well as from Canada, as they continue to subsidize their market up there. They have sort of filled the gap with imports.
Mrs. PHELPS. Thank you.
Mr. WALDEN. I wanted to followup with one other line, because this is really part of the crux of the matter here. The administration has proposed a decoupling plan. It says, decouple from timber harvest, guarantee you a flat dollar amount, as long as Congress sort of comes through and appropriates what they guarantee, which hasn't always been the case. And yet, your plan does not support decoupling, I don't believe. Does anybody here support decoupling, and if so why, and if not why not? Could you address that, because that is really the heart of the issue, I think.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. O'KEEFFE. I would have to tell you that, on the face of it, decoupling is attractive as a county commissioner. It would be nice to be able to take the money and run, so to speak. However, we are well aware that healthy forests and healthy communities go together. And we are really not interested in being part of a proposal that provides the U.S. Government with an incentive not to manage land.
Mr. WALDEN. Other members want to comment on that, feel free to. Mr. Summers?
Mr. SUMMERS. No.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Ferguson.
Mr. FERGUSON. I think that decoupling fails to recognize some fundamental truth, one of which is the nature of communities would be drastically affected. I agree, as I said earlier, it can be attractive to a public official because, assuming that it lasts over a period of years, it takes some of the mystery out of future budgets. But the truth is that it doesn't really do that, because it changes jobs; it changes demographics; it interrupts families; it reduces the number of students.
It also isn't susceptible to the market. If you take the case of black cherry, as an exampleand I don't know about softwood, so I may be speaking out of turn here, admittedlybut if you look at hardwoods in the United States, and particularly the hardwoods of the Alleghany plateau, there is no reason to believe that the value of those will not just respond to inflation, but probably will far exceed inflation over the next 5 or 6 years. Therefore, if the cut was sustained according to the Alleghany Forest administration's own target plan of 96 million board feet, not only would have seen more funds returned based on meeting the target, but the inflation and the market conditions would also enhance our income.
Decoupling will not work in northwestern Pennsylvania, because too many jobs would be lost and we would never be able to sustain the same income as we can by making it a market issue.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Davies, do you have any comment on that? Either of you?
Mr. SUMMERS. This would be the same thing in Florida. Good example, Georgia Pacific just a few weeks ago looked at Liberty County, come into Liberty County, our board industry, because of the fact that they could not supply the timber, they looked elsewhere. We lost 150 jobs, 2 weeks ago, because of that, merely because there was not available timber to supply there.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Thompson.
Mr. THOMPSON. Well, if you are interested in those who are opposed to decoupling, I guess I feel obligated to speak up. I mentioned earlier what a terrible situation that we are facing in regards to just road and schools, under the current situation. If we decouple, we won't have roads and we won't have schools, and we will be relegated to a position where we have to compete against every other Federal budget priority to fund these. It would be just an absolute disaster for any rural area in the United States and any timber-producing area in the United States.
Mr. WALDEN. I don't have any other questions unless other members of the panel do. Any further comments from our panelists today?
Mr. FERGUSON. If I can make one last comment? I was asked yesterday, I got a phone call from a citizen who somehow learned that I was coming to Washington. He asked me to tell the members of the committee, or mentionand he is correct I thinkthat there are serious safety issues involved here. His point wasthis had not occurred to mehis point was, if you look at county roads in rural areas, the possible decline in the maintenance, particularly in areas with large snows, such as the Alleghany plateau, he wanted to make it known, from his point of viewhe is a volunteer firemanthat there were serious safety issues, and I did put something about that in my original letter to the members of the committee, but not nearly as eloquent as he. He felt that the decline in road care, the infrastructure issues had dire consequences for emergency response, and I think he is correct. And he pointed out to me, very emphatically, and as a school superintendent, I needed to argue for school bus safety as well, because the roads would deteriorate. More importantly, in my judgment, the snow removal would deteriorate significantly, and I certainly believe we have different situations here. But on the Alleghany plateau, we are recipients to the infamous lake affect snow off of Lake Erie. So he made a point, I promised him I would enter his thoughts into the record here. So he wanted to remind me and others of safety. Thank you very much.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. I appreciate that, Mr. Ferguson; that is a good closing comment. If you could leave us with one thought, each of you, what would it be? What do you think is the most important thing that we should walk away from this hearing understanding?
Ms. O'KEEFFE. I would like to just leave you with a healthy forest/healthy communities connection. I think to me, that says it all.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Summers.
Mr. SUMMERS. We need help desperately. Again, with a county as large as we have, the acreage, the only people we have to look to is you to help us with this.
Mr. WALDEN. Ms. Jones.
Ms. JONES. One thing that I would like to say, sir, is that also in the planning process, if we could include the grassroots people and their comments and concernswe have had no input into any of the planning process, and I think it would be good to have the input from the grassroots sector.
Mr. WALDEN. Into the planning process of the
Ms. JONES. The national forest planning process.
Mr. WALDEN. OK. Thank you.
Mr. FERGUSON. I would thank you and the other members of the committee for helping raise consciousness on this issue because I think that is very important throughout the country. Thank you very much.
Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Davies.
Mr. DAVIES. I think we can do a good job with forest management and at the same time provide our children with the education that they so dearly deserve.
Mr. LINKENHOKER. I would say that people are more important than things, and children are people, too.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Thank you all very much for participating.
The Chair would seek unanimous consent, which should be easy to achieve, to allow the record of today's hearing to remain open for 10 days to receive additional material and supplementary written responses from witnesses to any question posed by a member of the panel. Without objection, it is so ordered.
This hearing of the Department of Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 2:50 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. BART STUPAK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
I am writing to express my strong opposition to the proposed decoupling of the 25 percent payments to counties from the U.S. Forest Service's timber sale program. This proposal would have a devastating effect on my district's counties, economy, and forest health.
My first concern with this proposal is the impact decoupling the 25 percent payments would have on the counties in northern Michigan. As you are aware, since the Federal Government does not pay property taxes on its own land, counties with Federal land rely on the 25 percent payments and PILT payments to provide essential services such as education, law enforcement, emergency fire and medical, search and rescue, solid waste management, road maintenance, and other health and human services. One only needs to examine the history of PILT payments to see what would happen if we replaced the 25 percent payments with an entitlement program.
The PILT program has never been fully funded since its inception in 1976. Furthermore, even though the authorization levels were increased four years ago, funding for PILT has fallen approximately one-third, or $60 million, in real dollars since 1980. The PILT program does not adequately compensate our counties for Federal lands and neither would the replacement for the 25 percent payments.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, I am concerned about the impact decoupling the payments would have on the economy in northern Michigan. The forest industry is one of the top employers in the district I represent. In fact, Michigan generates $91.5 million in timber-based employment. If the 25 percent payments are separated from the timber sale program, it is likely that the Forest Service would stop commercial timber sales. My district already suffers from high unemployment; eliminating a major employment and revenue source would only further depress our economy.
Finally, with the decoupling of the 25 percent payments likely to result in the elimination of timber sales on National Forests an even greater strain will be placed on forest health. Since 1991, more
trees die and rot each year in national forests than is sold for timber. This proposed policy will only increase this trend, promoting the outbreak of disease and creating fuel for forest fires. Northern Michigan is already under a red flag alert for forest fires and a recent fire in my district destroyed over 5,600 acres of state and private land. Through decoupling the 25 percent payments we will decrease the health of our forests and increase the amount of fuel on the ground, only adding to the already high threat of forest fires.
The timber programs on our National Forests have been under attack in recent years in the name of environmental protection. The real victims of these attacks, however, are not ''damaging'' Federal programs, but rather our counties, our economy, and our forests themselves. I am glad that you are investigating this matter, and I urge you to oppose any efforts to decouple the 25 percent payments to counties from the U.S. Forest Service's timber sale program.
Thank you for your time and consideration of my request.
Testimony of Paul D. Linkenhoker
My name is Paul Linkenhoker. I live in Alleghany County, VA, a region referred to as the Western Highlands. There are two small independent cities in the county, Clifton Forge and Covington. The 1990 census listed 13,766 residents in the county and with the two cities, there are approximately 25,000 people living in the region. I am employed by the Alleghany Highlands School Division as the Coordinator for Administrative Services. The school district has an enrollment of approximately 2,950 students and serves both Alleghany County and Clifton Forge. I represent no particular organization other than my school division and the students it educates. My purpose is to give you information about the effect of Forest Reserve Funds and the impact they have on the budget for our school division.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At least 50 percent of the land in Alleghany County is National Forest. In 199798, the county generated $3,043,297 in revenue from property taxes and $55,518 from the Federal Government as payments in lieu of taxes. If the estimated 147,200 acres of National Forest land were valued at a minimum of $200 per acre, the real estate tax on the property would generate $208,740 for the county treasury. Total revenues from all sources collected by the county during that fiscal year were $19,113,789. The school division budget for 199798 was $19,958,665 and more than 41 percent was provided by local funding sources. The Commonwealth of Virginia provided more than 53 percent of the revenue and the Federal Government funded just less than 6 percent of the budget. The school division received $71,845 in Forest Reserve Funds. Complete information for the current budget year is not yet available but the percentages listed here are in line with historical data.
It would appear that there should be little concern about the impact of a source of revenue which is approximately 0.36 percent of the total school budget. However, my responsibilities involve the management of school transportation and maintenance operations. After all of the fixed costs for personnel and operations, there is only a small amount of funding left for discretionary use involving the purchase of school buses and the completion of maintenance projects such as roof repairs, HVAC upgrades, or building modifications. You are all keenly aware of the focus the media gives to both school bus safety and the building needs of the nation's school districts.
In my school division's current budget, there is $140,000 for school bus replacement and $108,00 for improvements to buildings and grounds. That represents 1.18 percent of the total budget. The revenue from Forest Reserve funds for 199899 was $81,522 and so you can see, I am keenly interested in this funding source. In many cases, the funds available for school buses and maintenance projects are held until the last months of the budget year in the event that there are cost overruns in other categories or diminished revenue from sources which are estimated and not fixed. A concern with the Forest Reserve funds is that they are very unpredictable. Revenue from this source over the last ten years has fluctuated between a low of $33,560 in 199192 to a high of $88,514 in 199596.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I urge you to consider legislation which will guarantee a minimum funding level from this source. Averaging the three highest revenue years of Forest Reserve funds would guarantee our school division at least $83,895. That's about two school buses, the replacement of a roof on a school building, or the repair of boilers in two schools. With ownership of more than 50 percent of the county's land, one would think that even that level of funding is inadequate.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Alleghany County, Virginia
Population - 13,176 (1990 Census Bureau)
Area - 452 sq. miles
National Forest Area (51 percent) - 230 sq. miles or 147,200 acres
Property Taxes: $3,043,297
Federal Payment ILO taxes: $55,518
Property Taxes: $3,018,872
Federal Payment ILO taxes: $56,700
Property Taxes: $2,729,422
Federal Payment ILO taxes: $58,919
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 199495
Property Taxes: $2,669,338
Federal Payment ILO taxes: $58,798
Forest Reserve Funds appropriated to the Alleghany Highlands School Division
* If the National Forest properties in Alleghany County were valued at a minimum of $200 an acre and paid the real estate tax rate of $.71 per $100 of assessed property, the county would receive $208,740 in revenue from this property.
Statement of Richard Bolen
My name is Richard Bolen, and I am here today representing a small school district, in a rural county, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I am the president of the Board of Education of the Wakefield School District. We are a small school district with a school population of 325 students. I was elected to the School Board in 1991, and at that time we had a student enrollment of 535. Over the past 8 years we have lost approximately 40 percent of our students because of a downward, spiraling economy, that has been devastated by the shutdown of the area's largest employer, the Copper Range Mining Co., located in White Pine, Michigan. In addition, our town's largest employer, Conner Forest Industry, closed its doors after operating in the area for over 70 years.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Historically, the area's economy has been supported by mining (iron and copper) operations, logging, some agriculture, and with winter recreational sport activities, primarily skiing. Today, mining has completely disappeared and farming is almost non-existent. The economy is now centered around winter recreation (skiing and snowmobiling), limited summer and fall tourist activity, timber harvesting, small manufacturing, and government. Timber related jobs account for approximately 70 percent of all manufacturing jobs in the county. As you can see, our economy is heavily dependent on a healthy forest products industry.
Now, if you look at the commercial forest land base in the county, well over 40 percent is in public ownership. The Federal Government (Ottawa National Forest) owns 90 percent of all public land within Gogebic County. The other 10 percent is made up of state forest land and a 50,000 acre county forest that I manage as the Gogebic county forester.
Public land is important to our citizens for a variety of reasons, and being a public forester, I know the importance of providing the public with many of these uses. While all uses are important, I do know that to sustain rural economies, a healthy timber harvesting program on public land is critical, not only in terms for wood for the forest products industry, but also for the jobs that this available wood supply helps to maintain. As this relates to my neck of the woods, public timber is not only critical, it is absolutely essential in maintaining a healthy economy but also a way of life that has existed since the 1880's. Make no mistake, without a consistent timber supply from public land combined with that of the private land base, communities and schools such as Wakefield will cease to exist.
I do think it is important to point out that the national forests have played an integral role in sustaining rural America. They have been rebuilt with patience and vision by dedicated professionals who understood the value of this renewable resource and what it could, and should, mean to local communities as well as to the nation. It is because of their perseverance that we have the National Forest System we have today. Now, having said that I think it is also equally important to give credit to rural America, who by not insisting upon full taxation on the Federal lands gave the Forest Service the opportunity to rebuild these lands. It truly has been a unique partnership between the Forest Service and rural America, who struck a bargain so many years ago that essentially said, ''Rural America, give us the land and let us manage it and we will insure that we help to sustain the economic well being of your communities.''
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This partnership has worked remarkably well for almost a century. For their part of the bargain, the Forest Service has restored these lands with forests that have provided a continuous supply of wood for the forest products industries of this country, which in turn provided jobs for local communities which helped to sustain local economies. The National Forests also provided citizens with opportunities to recreate in various ways on these lands. For its part, rural counties and schools were willing to accept only meager amounts of financial returns in the form of PILT payments and the 25 percent Payment Fund. Counties and schools accepted these lower revenues because they believed in the national forest mission and they were willing to share the risk so that these lands could be restored and eventually help play an integral part of rural economies.
Now, after sharing the risk for so many years, it seems that the proposed decoupling of the 25 percent Fund payments to counties and local schools is a direct attack on the integrity of that partnership. Counties and schools such as the ones I represent believe the decoupling of the 25 percent Fund payments will not provide for permanent funding levels. One only has to look at what has happened to the PILT payments in recent years to see that a fully funded program will most likely not occur. In addition, we are very concerned that the decoupling of the 25 percent Fund may lead to more reductions in the Forest Service Timber Sale Program and eventually to the elimination of cutting of any Federal timber.
Small schools in rural America where teachers can really get to know their students and students don't feel like just another number are beginning to disappear. Consolidation and annexation of school districts is changing the face of small communities where once a small but proud school was the heart and soul of a community. Small schools are now being replaced by larger and sometimes not truly identifiable school districts that may or may not be any better than the ones they replaced. I am not against consolidation! Planned well throughout merging of small schools with community support may be the best choice for our children. But forced consolidation, or worse yet, annexation because of economic hardships, only sours the soil of any new combined district.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My small school district is facing this crisis now and I can tell you it rips a community apart and it only breeds ill will and distrust between schools that are forced to merge in any form. I do not say that the decoupling of the 25 percent Fund Payments will force my little school to merge with another school district, but it won't help our situation. But I can assure you that any further reduction or elimination of Federal timber sales will certainly jeopardize our chance to remain a viable school district, at least, as we have known it for almost a century.
In conclusion, rural counties and schools have been willing to share the risk with the Forest Service all these years to help rebuild these forests and now when these forests can and should contribute to local economies, it is only fair that we share in the wealth that has been created in part by our sacrifices. The best way to insure that the Forest Service continues to help sustain rural schools is to provide for a healthy consistent timber sale program. If a realistic timber sale program is maintained and the 25 percent Fund payments program is kept in tact, the Forest Service will be doing their fair share to honor the partnership they created with the citizens of rural America. Doing anything less is unforgivable!
WHEREAS, The Forest Service has proposed decoupling the 25 percent Fund payments to counties from its timber sale program and if these 25 percent Funds are indeed decoupled there's a good chance that the Forest Service will further de-emphasize its timber sale program.
WHEREAS, The Forest Service returns 25 percent of gross revenues to the counties in which the lands are located. These funds are used to support local schools and roads and the timber sale program is responsible for generating 90 to 95 percent of all receipts collected by all agencies making these payments. This proposal would discontinue these payments and freeze them at the higher of 1997 levels or a 3-year average period.
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WHEREAS, Our forests in Michigan are growing and maturing due to good management. The value of the timber is also growing and from 19911997 the value of the Federal timber sold in Michigan has increased by 112 percent. We can not support eliminating a program that is providing jobs, forest health and growth, wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational opportunities and increasing local tax revenues.
WHEREAS, According to a study by the Independent Forest Products Association, if no Federal timber were sold, Michigan would stand to lose $540,347 in 25 percent and PILT Payments as compared to FY 1997 payments. According to the Forest Services own TSPIRS document there was more than $91 million in direct, indirect and induced employment created by the Federal Timber Sale Program in FY 1997. Michigan's economy and the rural communities where forest service ownership is prevalent would have a hard time coping with economic losses of this magnitude.
WHEREAS, The Forest Service proposal to decouple the 25 percent payments to the sale of timber and replace it with a ''stabilizing'' flat payment is in all likelihood bad for Michigan and a promise they can not make. Congressional funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program has only once in 27 years been fully funded. In FY 1996 counties received only 77 percent of the promised payment in FY 1997 payment declined to 53 percent and in FY 1998 counties received a mere 46 percent of the promised payment.
WHEREAS, Michigan currently has the largest timber surplus in the nation, grows 2.5 times more wood than is being harvested each year and gained 1.1 million acres of timberland since 1980 these statistics are due in large part to a commitment to good forest management.
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THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The Board of Education of the Wakefield School District requests the Congressional delegation ensure that the Forest Service act upon their commitments, financially through 25 percent and PILT Payments and, by implementing the forest plans developed by, among others, the citizens of Michigan.
Adopted on this 19th day of April, 1999.
WHEREAS, The Forest Service has proposed decoupling the 25 percent Fund payments to counties from its timber sale program and if these 25 percent funds are indeed decoupled there's a good chance that the Forest Service will further de-emphasize its timber sale program.
WHEREAS, The Forest Service returns 25 percent of gross revenues to the counties in which the lands are located. These funds are used to support local schools and roads and the timber sale program is responsible for generating 90 to 95 percent of all receipts collected by all agencies making these payments. This proposal would discontinue these payments and freeze them at the higher of 1997 levels or a 3-year average period.
WHEREAS, Our forests in Michigan are growing and maturing due to good management. The value of the timber is also growing and from 199197 the value of the Federal timber sold in Michigan has increased by 112 percent. We cannot support eliminating a program that is providing jobs, forest health and growth, wildlife habitat, water quality, recreational opportunities and increasing local tax revenues.
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WHEREAS, According to a study by the Independent Forest Products Association, if no Federal timber were sold, Michigan would stand to lose $540,347 in 25 percent and PILT Payments as compared to FY 1997 payments. According to the Forest Services own TSPIRS document there was more than $91 million in direct, indirect and induced employment created by the Federal Timber Sale Program in FY 1997. Michigan's economy and the rural communities where forest service ownership is prevalent would have a hard time coping with economic losses of this magnitude.
WHEREAS, The Forest Service proposal to decouple the 25 percent payments to the sale of timber and replace it with a ''stabilizing'' flat payment is in all likelihood bad for Michigan and a promise they cannot make. Congressional funding of the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program has only once in 27 years been fully funded. In FY 1996 counties received only 77 percent of the promised payment in FY 1997 payment declined to 53 percent and in FY 1998 counties received a mere 46 percent of the promised payment.
WHEREAS, Michigan currently has the largest timber surplus in the Nation, grows 2.5 times more wood than is being harvested each year and gained 1.1 million acres of timberland since 1980. These statistics are due in large part to a commitment to good forest management.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, The County Board of Commissioners of Gogebic County requests the Congressional delegation ensure that the Forest Service act upon their commitments, financially through 25 percent and PILT Payments and, by implementing the forest plans developed by, among others, the citizens of Michigan.
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State of Michigan County of Gogebic
I, Richard J. Brown, Clerk of the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners do hereby certify that the Resolution was unanimously adopted by the said Board of Commissioners at its meeting held on the 28th day of April, 1999, A.D.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of the Circuit Court at Bessemer, Michigan in said County, this 28th day of April, 1999.
Richard J. Brown, Clerk of the Gogebic County Board of Commissioners
Statement of Jack H. (Hal) Summers, Jr.
I wish to thank the committee for inviting me to speak at this hearing.
I am Jack H. ''Hal'' Summers, Jr., Superintendent of Schools in Liberty County, FL. I am a recently elected Superintendent; however, I bring to this position some 28 years of experience as both a Teacher and Administrator. I have degrees in Agriculture and Educational Leadership, and have served in past years as Director of the ''Save Our Rivers Program'' for the Northwest Florida Water Management District which provided for the purchase of environmentally sensitive lands.
This afternoon, I'd like to acquaint you with the history of the Forest Service in our County and to tell you about some of the effects that Forest Service management changes on the Apalachicola National Forest are having on our children.
Liberty County is a rural county in the Florida panhandle with a population of about 7,000 including 1300 schoolchildren. It has a total land area of 525,000 acres, 97 percent of which is forested, with half of that owned by the U.S. Forest Service within the Apalachicola National Forest. All of the national forest land in our county was purchased from private landowners beginning in 1933 34. The land had been cutover and burned repeatedly. As one old-timer puts it ''you could see a man riding a horse a mile away''. The Forest Service ended up owning 47 percent of the land in our county. Almost as soon as the forest was established, the CCCs moved in and began a program of fire control and tree planting with many of our local boys. This was the beginning of the highly productive forest we have today. Until recently, our forest was the mainstay of a strong local forest product-based economy and, through sharing 25 percent of the revenue from timber sales, provided substantial support for our local schools and government.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In about 1989, the Forest Service began to manage its land in a different way, mostly to protect the habitat for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Liberty County has the only recovered population of this bird in the world. It is interesting to note that our local woodpecker population recovered without benefit of any of the management restrictions, which are now in effect. It is unclear why the Forest Service changed the management methods, which had resulted in recovery, but it did make these changes. Their effect on the timber harvest is shown on Exhibit 1. Perhaps the most significant thing about this chart is not the decline in harvest. Rather it is the fact that in 1998 the net annual growth of timber on the Apalachicola National Forest was about 800 percent greater than the volume harvested. The sawtimber growth is 50 times greater than the volume harvested.
Exhibit 2 shows what effect this timber harvest reduction had on forest revenues to the 4 counties and school districts within the Apalachicola National Forest. The black values on the graph are 25 percent returns and the shaded values payments in lieu of taxes. These ''PILT'' payments are not shared with the school districts. The 25 percent payments declined from a 198793, 5 year average (In 1998 dollars) from $1,905,000 to $220,000 in 1998; a loss of 89 percent. Therefore, due to this reduction, our school district has been forced to do the following:
Reduced school staffing by 11 positions out of a total of 151
Increased the average class size from 23 to 28 students
Discontinued the enrichment programs of health, computer education and humanities
Discontinued vocational programs of industrial arts, small engine repair and electronics (80 percent of our graduates do not attend college)
Curtailed school media center
Eliminated certified art and music teachers from the elementary school staffs
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Reduced the Pre-K program, formerly the only program in the state to serve all 4-year-olds.
Terminated a new program of technology acquisition, which would have placed the county on a par with other Florida school districts.
I'll not detail the impacts on county government, which are significant. You'll find them listed in the written supplement to this presentation. The most far-reaching impact of Forest Service mismanagement will be the adverse effect on the future of our children. An education system crippled by such funding cuts cannot train our young people in the skills needed to join tomorrow's society as contributing, functioning citizens.
Liberty County wholeheartedly supports the National Forests Counties and Schools short-term proposal for stabilizing the payments to counties and schools. However, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that a tax-supported entitlement does not address the root issue. The basic problem is the Forest Service's focus on management to benefit creatures and their habitat without regard for the needs of the people. We believe that, in large part, this management is based on ideology rather than on science.
This is not a question of birds or people. We firmly believe that science-based management can fully protect the bird and improve its habitat while benefiting economic and social benefits to society. Forest Service failure to use the best available science and to consider the social impact of management has resulted in today's unhappy situation.
I must mention that this disregard for people seems to increase as the distance from the forest increases. Local Forest Service professionals recognize the irrationality and pernicious effects of current management but, as loyal agency employees, are obliged to follow the course set by those far-removed from the reality of the land.
A final note. In the next few weeks the Liberty County School District and Board of County Commissioners will ask our neighboring counties to join us in filing an administrative claim against the USDA Forest Service for damages suffered as a result of that agency's failure to comply with law and regulation in the management of the Apalachicola National Forest. We are taking this action with the greatest reluctance and only after 11 years of fruitless attempts to have the Forest Service take action on this problem.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, I thank you for allowing me to appear before this subcommittee and to share with you the concerns of the children and citizens of Liberty County and its neighboring Florida counties.
If anyone has any questions at this time I will be more than glad to entertain them.
Statement of David Davies
Graham County is a small, rural county in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. With a total land area of 292 square miles, almost 70 percent of the county is either national forest, Tennessee Valley Authority property or part of the Cherokee Indian Reservation. For years this extremely small tax base has been supplemented by funds generated by harvesting timber on national forest lands. Recent reductions in harvesting have had a direct impact on the public schools of Graham County. A combination of the highest unemployment rate in North Carolina and a high poverty rate has contributed to the difficulty in providing a quality education to the children of our county.
The citizens of Graham County are survivors. The Native American population is descended from the Cherokee Indians who refused to be part of the removal and ''The Trail of Tears.'' Many of the other citizens of our county are descended from early pioneer families who carved their homes from the rugged mountain environment. A strong work ethic and desire to succeed has been the backbone of Graham County for generations.
The revenue Graham County Schools has received for the harvesting of timber on national forest land has historically represented 14 percent to 22 percent of our local current expense fund. We have actively sought alternative fund sources to compensate for the loss of the timber revenue. While we have made great strides toward overcoming this hardship, the increase in operations costs has negated much of the effort.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are not asking for a handout, just the opportunity to sustain the timber revenues while we search for environmentally sound ways to support our educational needs. One example of our efforts is the development of a vertically integrated botanical-medicines industry in Southern Appalachia. By developing an industry that would create opportunity for the grower, processor and marketer, we will create a local industry that retains full economic value for the community.
At present, the reduction of timber harvesting revenue forces Graham County Schools to maintain a level of competence that cannot be competitive in today's global society. School security, remediation and enrichment activities must take a back seat to utility bills, maintenance of outdated facilities and combination classrooms.
We will continue to provide the best educational opportunities we can for our children. We ask only that you honor your previous commitment and help us help ourselves.
Testimony of Jane O'Keeffe
Greetings, I thank you for this opportunity to submit my testimony to the Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry.
My name is Jane O'Keeffe and I am Chair of the Lake County Oregon, Board of County Commissioners. I am appearing before you today in my capacity as Chair of the Association of Oregon Counties Public Lands Committee. Oregon is the nations largest contributor of timber products from public lands. Our economy, community stability, and public services are significantly affected by management of those forest lands. I plan to share with you the impact of changing forest management policies on the education of our children, , on the economy and stability of our natural resource dependant rural county, and the principles of a legislative proposal to improve the situation.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In Oregon Kindergarten through 12th grade funding is provided by the State of Oregon. Local monies raised by the school district reduce the amount of money that the state provides to the school districts. However, there are exceptions to this funding formula. Forest receipts in Oregon are shared 25 percent to schools and 75 percent to counties. In Eastern Oregon, several counties with low population may provide additional monies to school districts within the county without that money reducing the states contributions to the districts.
These counties have historically shared receipts with schools. However, with the severe reduction of forest receipts that Eastern Oregon counties have faced these counties feel that they can no longer share their receipts with schools. The state does not offset these reductions and the local schools must absorb these losses.
Reduced timber receipts in Oregon also affect the State of Oregon's ability to fund education statewide. Oregon has embraced the concept of education reform. However thus far the state has not been able to fund education reform to its potential. Part of the problem has been that each dollar that the state does not receive in timber revenue sharing must be backfilled by the state general fund, siphoning off state resources for advancing education reform. Again, our children suffer as a result.
I am going to switch gears now. As a County Commissioner I would like to share with you how the current Federal forest receipts situation is played out in my county, Lake County Oregon.
Lake County has a land mass of approximately eight thousand five hundred square milesour population is seven thousand five hundred. We are located in South Central Oregon on the edge of the Great Basin. Seventy-eight percent of Lake County is owned by some sort of governmental agency primarily the US Forest Service, The Bureau of Land Management and the United States Department of Fish and Wildlife. With the extremely high amount of Federal ownership in Lake County, the policy decisions this committee and the agencies make affect our lives every day.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The citizens of Lake County, with help from the State of Oregon are doing everything we can to maintain the vitality of the county. Nevertheless, Lake Counties Unemployment rate stands at 15.1 percent. It has proven difficult to recruit any type of industry to Lake County. The County has an enterprise zone, a business incubator building located within an industrial park, and a revolving loan fund with business start-up friendly terms.. Additionally Lake County has employed an economic development director and has had access to State of Oregon Lottery dollars through the Regional Strategies and Rural Investment Fund programs. The Oregon Economic Development Department has targeted Lake County as one of the highest priority counties for economic development assistance. Because of our job of 800 in the past ten years, this is significant in a county of seven thousand five hundred.
Locally there are many committed citizens that are working on various business recruitment and retention strategies. Make no mistake, in our economic atmosphere business recruitment is as important as business retention. We have the lowest gain in employment growth in Oregon at 7.3 percent for 1998. In the past four years the only successful business recruitment strategy that Lake County has undertaken is the location of a four hundred bed minimum security State Prison. This facility will provide one hundred and fifty family-wage in the Lakeview area starting in 2003.
Why is business recruitment so difficult in Lake County? The main reason is that the isolation that helps create a sense of safety and peaceful living makes Lake County a great place to live. This isolation makes Lake County an undesirable place to locate a manufacturing business. It is well over 180 miles to the nearest interstate freeway access from any point in the county.
There are no commercial air connections available in Lake County. Lake County owns a serviceable small airport with a paved runway in Lakeview. There is also a small airport in Christmas Valley in the Northern part of the county.. The nearest airport with affordable commercial connections is a 4 hour drive. For example In order to get to Washington DC for this hearing I had to drive 4 hours to Reno to meet my flight. This is not conducive to attracting businesses that may require employee travel.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Given this situation, the citizens of Lake County have always had a keen awareness of the symbiotic relationship between the Fremont National Forest and the communities of Lakeview, Paisley and Silver Lake. National Forest policies have a great effect on our local economies. When timber production is at a sustainable level our communities thrived. We also are keenly aware of the effects, both positive and negative of tourism and recreation on public lands located within the borders of the Lake County. In 1990 Federal judges began to impose screens on Federal timber sales on the east side of Oregon. All over Eastern Oregon sawmills began to close. Lake County was not immune. Three major sawmills closed during that period. The multiplier effect of those mill closures was devastating to our communities. One of the largest employers in Lake County is the Federalg overnment, mainly the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The Forest Service staff is downsizing locally. On the West side of Oregon counties under the Northwest Forest Plan were able to cushion some of the effects of timber harvest reductions with a safety net plan. Eastern Oregon counties have had no such protection. Our timber revenues in Lake County have plummeted from $5,282,415 in 198788 to a projected $293,133 for 199900.
While the local businesses are suffering in Lake County so is our County Road Department. County Road Departments are funded primarily by Federal Forest receipts. In Lake County our 718 miles of roads are the major farm to market arterials and also are the gateway to the National Forests and the BLM lands. Hart Mountain near Plush is a National Antelope Refuge. Thousands of people visit the refuge each year and must travel over a county road to arrive at their destination.
Lake County is fortunate to have modest road reserves. For the proposed budget year 199900 we will be using a portion of our road reserves for general operations. It is expected that we will be out of reserve funding in four years if legislation is not enacted to correct the situation. Our assetsour county roads will deterioate. Our citizens travel will be curtailed by lack of snow removal and poor road conditions.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I find it quite appropriate that I sit here before you today with my friends in education. Rural schools and counties are reliant on natural resource policies that are determined by Congress and the Administration.
It took a while, but counties and schools finally recognized our mutual interest. In 1998 a Coalition was formed. We call ourselves The National Forest County Schools Coalition. In Reno in March of 1999 the Coalition held its second national conference. Much time and thought went into preparing the following legislative concepts. which have broad based national support from over 380 business, labor, and public entities.
We ask you today to consider the following principals in drafting legislation:
Short Term Principles: Cover all National Forest Counties nationwide and include O&C Counties.
Provide a short term safety net with a specific termination date for special payments as part of the legislation.
Require payments be guaranteed based upon 100 percent of average of highest three years since 1986 or actual 25 percent forest receipts and/or 50 percent receipts for O&C Counties, whichever is greater.
Provide for indexing of payments to a CPI
Provide this temporary relief in a form that will not discourage the management of Federal lands in a manner that will generate revenue.
Long Term Principles: Provide a process for developing a long term solution to ensure long-term sustainable forest management and a return to actual gross receipts. Any long-term solution must:
1. Promote local government coordination and community based partnerships. Recognize the need for sustainable economic self sufficiency of rural communities through the best use of natural resources whether for farming, grazing, mining, timber harvest, recreation, or aesthetics.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 2. Be in accord with a definition of sustainable forest management wherein ecological economic and social factors will receive equal consideration in the management of national forests.
3. Provide for total forest management that considers the principle of multiple use and other factors as they relate to the total systemic and sustainable forest health, based on current best science, using independent critical peer review.
These are NATIONALLY SUPPORTED principles. Not just school interests and counties support these principles but other organizations as well, such as; American Association of School Administrators, American Forest and Paper Association, National Association of Counties, National Education Association, Northwest Forestry Association, United Mine Workers of America, United States Chamber of Commerce. I have attached a complete list to this testimony for your review.
Thank you so much for your time today spent in consideration of this testimony. I hope the critical linkage between healthy national forests, healthy schools, and healthy and vibrant rural communities and a stable county road system throughout the United States has been made apparent to you. I urge your support of the legislative concepts brought forth by the National Forest County Schools Coalition.
Statement of Patricia Jones
Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Subcommittee, my name is Pat Jones. I am the Superintendent of Education of Perry County Mississippi. I am pleased to be here today to present our views on the importance of 25 percent payments and our concern about the current direction in national forest management.
Perry County opposes the administration's proposal to decouple 25 percent payments from timber sales. We do support the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition efforts to find a long term solution to the problem of declining payments from national forest lands.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To say that my county is dependent on the forest industry would be an understatement. In this county of 12,000 inhabitants, 65 percent of the families derive their livelihoods from the forest industry in one way or another. Of the total disposal income earned in the county, 70 percent is derived from the harvesting, manufacturing and sale of the forest products.
Although, unemployment is low, our county is poor. The per capita income of the county is approximately $13,000 annually. This is less than half the national average and only two-thirds of the Mississippi average. I say this to tell you that increasing taxes as a means of improving our schools is not a universally accepted option in our county. Unlike many other counties the reduction of national forest funds does not mean an automatic increase in taxes, but instead a decrease in the quality of education.
Because Perry County is dependent on the forest industry, revenues generated from the management of national forest lands contribute heavily to the economy of our county. While 25 percent payments are extemely important to the operations of our schools and county government, it pales in comparison to the overall economic benefits the national forest provides to our area. The national forest timber sale program, although drastically reduced, generated approximately $3.6 million in income to the residents of our county in l998. Of the 393 thousand acres in the county, 162,000 acres or 41 percent is in national forest ownership. Last year the Forest Service returned $651,000 to Perry County of which 50 percent was spent on the education of the 2400 children in our schools.
In a State that ranks the lowest in the Southeast in per capita spending on education, every source of income is important, including national forest payments. Since l994 the cost of education in my county has increased by 20 percent, yet our national forest payments have decreased by 26 percent. While I am concerned about the decline in national forest revenues, I am more concerned about the lost opportunities to raise the level of education in my schools. I am concerned about this because it has prevented my school district from keeping pace with education in other districts throughout our state. Had the payments continued to increase or even remained steady, my students could have the same opportunities as those in other districts in such areas as computer technology, science, art, music and other enrichment programs.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am told that the DeSoto National Forest has reduced timber sales by 55 percent of that stipulated in the current forest plan. To Perry County this translates into a loss of $737 thousand annually and to my schools a loss of $368 thousand annually. Ladies and gentlemen can you imagine what $368 thousand a year would mean to the children of Perry County?
We are very concerned about this trend but feel helpless in our attempts to bring about positive changes. Through our association with the Mississippi Public Lands Coalition we have repeatedly discussed this matter with local U.S. Forest Service Officials but are told that the major emphasis on national forest management in the future will not be on multiple use management, as required by law, but instead on ecosystem sustainability, endangered species, etc. While all of this may be politically correct, it is not necessarily biologically nor ecologically correct and certainly does not bode well for the education of the children of Perry County and the other 38 school districts in Mississippi that share national forest funds.
While our concerns are gone largely unheeded, those of environmental groups from Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois and other states seem to receive immediate and full attention. Let me give you an example: Last September 28, when hurricane George hit the Mississippi gulf coast approximately four million board feet of prime longleaf timber was leveled on the DeSoto National Forest. In spite of diligent efforts by the local District Ranger and his staff to immediately initiate salvage operations, an out-of-state environmental group challenged the salvage of the downed timber. After months of haggling and delays, the timber still has not been salvaged and at this point is no longer usable. A similar situation occurred in February of this year on the Homochitto National Forest when a tornado leveled another 750,000 board feet. The salvage of this timber has been delayed and it may lose its value before it can be salvaged. Tornadoes have also blown down timber on the Bienville and Tombigbee National Forests this year which also has not been completely salvaged. I am told that the total value of this timber, had it been salvaged in a timely manner, could have amounted to over $2 million . The county's share of this could have been as much as $500,000. Ladies and gentlemen this is not only deplorable, it is poor management of public assets, poor stewardship of our resources and reflects a total disregard for the education of our children. Whatever is wrong with the system must be fixed.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are concerned that several environmental groups made commitments to stop all harvesting of timber on national forest lands, in other words, zero cut. Five years ago I would have scoffed at the suggestion that timber sales would be eliminated on national forest lands. Now I am not so sure. I would like to enumerate to you what a policy of no cutting would mean to the schools of Perry County:
Eliminate 26 teaching positions, including key positions in art, music, and athletics
Increase the size of classes from 18 to 30
Jeopardize accreditation rating
Curtail our attempts to raise our science and computer technology programs to the level of other districts
Discontinue programs in health, humanities and vocational training which is so important to a rural community such as ours
At a time when this administration speaks of raising the education level of our children, I do not understand why rural counties containing national forest lands must be subjected to constant threats of cutbacks in national forest funds.
At the outset I said that we oppose the administration's proposal to decouple 25 percent payments from timber sales. Following are several reasons for this:
(1) The most obvious is the fact that it would cost Mississippi counties $2.3million annually in 25 percent funds; (2) We see this as an attempt to stop national forest timber sale by undermining the support of county governments and school districts. The administration is well aware that there will be no incentive left to sell timber if school and county governments will not benefit from these sales. This would not be in the best interest of our county or state since so much or our economy is based on the pulp and paper industry. Mississippi counties could lose more than 2,200 jobs resulting in payroll losses of over $40 million annually to local communities. In addition, raw materials for local wood using plants would be lost and management of other resources such as wildlife, recreation and watershed would suffer since funds from timber sales are used to manage these resources; (3) The administration proposed entitlement system of payments will result in unpredictable and unstable annual payments since receipts will be subject to congressional approval. Two examples of just how fragile this proposal can be is the revenue sharing programs of the l980's and the l982 Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act. A basic premise of the laws governing national forest management is that timber receipts are the basis for compensation of counties for losses of tax revenues. The current system has a long history of success and acceptance among recipients of the funds; (4) The authority and mechanisms for payments to counties are prescribed in numerous-laws dating back to the inception of the national forest system. The first provision for compensating counties for loss of tax revenues was the Agriculture Reapportionment Act of l908. Under this law, 10 percent of the net receipts from national forest were to be distributed to the counties containing national forest lands. The Weeks Law of 1911 amended the 1908 law to require 25 percent be returned to counties. There are numerous other laws that reaffirm the intent of congress with regard to payment to counties.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Joint Principles developed by the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition contains the framework for developing a workable solution to the problem. The principles contain a short term safety net payment system for those counties that have been hardest hit while maintaining the option of 25 percent payments for other counties. Also, included is a long term proposal to manage national forest in a manner that would negate the need for further temporary relief. These principles enjoy nationwide support with over 360 organizations signed on as supporters. Within the near future, legislation containing these principles will be proposed. We hope you will support such legislation. Ladies and gentlemen this concludes my testimony. Thank you.
Testimony of Chris von Doenhoff
I am Chris von Doenhoff. Currently, I am serving my second term as County Judge of Houston County, TX. Houston County is located in the eastern portion of Texas, approximately 120 miles north-northeast of Houston and 140 miles south-southeast of Dallas. It is a rural, agriculturally-based county having a population slightly less than 22,000 people.
The Davy Crockett National Forest covers 93,228 acres of our county. Fifty-eight percent of the Davy Crockett National Forest lies within Houston County.
Prior to being elected County Judge, I served as Mayor of the City of Crockett for nearly three years. Prior to that service, I served on the School Board for the Crockett Independent School District for twelve years, serving as President of that Board for six years. I appear before you today to talk about the school children of our County and the effect upon their education by the reduction of revenue from the national forest.
There are five independent school districts within Houston County. Each of the five districts receive a portion of the revenues from the national forest. I have attached a summary, prepared by the County Treasurer of Houston County, enumerating the actual monies received by each of the school districts from 1995 through 1998. As you can see from the exhibit, each of the districts is receiving less than ten percent of the money they received in 1996. The reduction in revenue is primarily due to a federal court injunction restricting harvesting in the national forest. School districts in Texas have only one meaningful source of revenue, property taxes. The national forest lands are exempt from taxation. Without the forest revenues, the school children of our county suffer. They suffer in direct and immediate ways. They suffer from the loss of capital expenditures (computers, programs, training). They suffer from the loss of access to resources through the Internet. If our children are to compete in the marketplace for jobs with children from other areas, they must be afforded the same basic opportunities to learn.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have provided you with a letter from the Superintendent of Schools of the Grapeland Independent School District. As you can see, in 1997 they planned for their regular forest revenues; (however, the court injunction occurred in August, 1997). Their budget had been approved and a tax rate had been set. Therefore, they operated in the red as a result of the loss of revenue. The following year, they raised their taxes to attempt to make up for the loss of forest revenue. However, they know that there is a limit their taxpayers can withstand.
I would like to tell you about a success story. His name is Rolando Machuca. Rolando is a graduate of Crockett High School in 1995. I have just learned that he will graduate from East Texas Baptist University this month. He is the first of his family to receive a college degree. He was an all around student in high school, participating in band and football, but mostly, he was a good student who wanted to learn. Fortunately for him, he graduated from high school before the loss of forest revenues. The school districts had not been forced to cut back programs or reduce capital expenditures. We need more success stories like Rolando Machuca.
For the benefit of the students currently enrolled in our five school districts, I urge you to put the forest back to work, so that these school districts can receive their twenty five percent fund payments from forest revenues. These payments generate the necessary monies to pay costs of education in our rural areas. Increasing local property taxes is not the answer.
Failing to ''put the forest back to work'' has a much greater spillover effect. The parents of these children suffer loss of jobs. A significant portion of our county citizens earn their daily income either directly or indirectly from the national forest. They may work in the national forest, they may harvest timber, they may sell or service equipment used in the national forest, they may operate a grocery store, convenience store or an automobile dealership. No matter what they do, when the forest is closed down, everyone's income is directly affected. The parents cannot give their children money for meals at school; likewise, they can't afford to buy children resource materials, such as books, computers, Internet services.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our schools and county government are suffering at the moment. We need a short-term safety net to get us through this difficult period. But, we don't want to be on federal welfare. There is no reason for it to be so. If the 1908 Forest Act is followed, the Federal Government will not need to appropriate a penny for our schools or county government. There is no reason for a taxpayer in Kansas to be subsidizing taxpayers in Houston County, Texas.
Please don't decouple us from the 25 percent fund payments. I support the position taken by the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition, and I hope you will also.
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."