SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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REVIEW THE USDA FOREST SERVICE BUDGET REQUEST FOR FISCAL YEAR 2001
SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS,
OVERSIGHT, NUTRITION, AND FORESTRY
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
MARCH 8, 2000
Serial No. 10645
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-HAGE, 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
GIL GUTKNECHT, Minnesota
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBOB 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
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
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRISTOPHER JOHN, Louisiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
KEN LUCAS, Kentucky
MIKE THOMPSON, California
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
JOE BACA, California
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
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina,
Ranking Minority Member
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
BARON P. HILL, Indiana
MIKE THOMPSON, California
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
C O N T E N T S
Clayton, Hon. Eva M., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, opening statement
Goodlatte, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Virginia, opening statement
Letter and submitted questions to the Forest Service1\
Dombeck, Mike, Chief, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement
Adams, Stanford M., director, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, letter of December 28, 1999 to Mrs. Clayton
Combest, Hon. Larry, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, et al., letter of March 25, 1999 to Chairmen Young and Regula
Lyons, James, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, statement
1\The Forest Service did not respond to submitted questions for the record in time for printing.
REVIEW THE USDA FOREST SERVICE BUDGET REQUEST FOR FISCAL YEAR 2001
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 8, 2000
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Department Operations,
Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:16 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Bob Goodlatte (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Walden, Clayton, Berry, and Thompson of California.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also present: Representative Pomeroy.
Staff present: Kevin Kramp, subcommittee staff director; David Tenny, professional staff; Wanda Worsham, chief clerk; Callista Bisek, scheduler/clerk; and Quinton Robinson, minority consultant.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
Mr. GOODLATTE. Good morning. This hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry to review the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service budget request for fiscal year 2001 will come to order.
I would first like to welcome everyone to our hearing this morning. I especially welcome Chief Dombeck and his deputies who have joined us today.
I understand that your lead staff person, Thelma Strong's birthday is today so happy birthday, Ms. Strong. We are glad you get to spend your birthday in such a stimulating environment. The purpose of our hearing this morning is to review the fiscal year 2001 budget of the Forest Service. As a threshold matter, I want to make two observations. First, I remain deeply concerned about the financial and performance accountability of the agency.
In January 1999 the General Accounting Office designated the Forest Service as an agency at high risk of waste, fraud and abuse and mismanagement due to the unreliability of the agency's financial statements. More recently, before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the General Accounting Office stated that ''The agency still faces several major hurdles before it can provide accurate and timely information on how much of its funds are spent on specific strategic goals and objectives and what it accomplished with the money.''
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While I recognize the agency's ongoing efforts to become more accountable, I must agree with the GAO's analysis. For this reason, I intend to hold fast to the position taken by this committee last year that Congress simply cannot increase funding for an agency that is unable to adequately safeguard public investments. Second, I want to address the Forest Service's proposal to simplify its budget structure. As a matter of fiscal responsibility, I cannot support a simplified budget structure until the agency can demonstrate that it has overcome the basic accountability hurdles identified by the General Accounting Office.
Now turning to the substance of this hearing, I would like to focus on three specific areas. First, Chief, I would like to congratulate you on your efforts to implement the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program consistent with the provisions of the Research Act enacted by this committee. I applaud the memorandum of understanding that you recently signed with the National Association of State Foresters. The MOU is a positive step in the right direction.
Still, I am concerned about the apparent disconnect between the substance of the MOU and your budget request. We need to work together to insure that the MOU is adequately funded and carried out with fidelity. Second, and turning to a less positive note, I remain disappointed in the position of the Forest Service and the administration on the Payments to States issue.
The President's budget states that the administration ''stands ready to work with Congress to produce legislation that provides increased guaranteed, stable Payments to States and communities.'' While I appreciate this apparent change of heart after our unfortunate experience last fall, I remain skeptical judging from the proposed level and source of funding for Payments to States in the administration's budget. Simply stated, the funding level is inadequate and the proposed sources of revenue are illusory.
Once again, this sends a very confusing message regarding the administration's commitment on this critical issue. My colleagues and I will continue our efforts to work with the Senate to see legislation through to enactment and to insure that it receives adequate permanent funding. I sincerely hope that the administration will act consistent with its words and not repeat in the Senate the same disappointing performance it delivered in the House.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, I wish to address the recent onslaught of major rulemakings and planning initiatives that the Forest Service has heaped upon local managers and communities. Within the last 6 months, the agency has initiated at least five major rulemakings, each significantly affecting the management of the National Forest System. There is little evidence of any thoughtful coordination of these efforts, they are eating up scarce budget resources, they are preventing project implementation, they are destroying agency credibility with affected communities, and they threaten to further confuse the procedural maze that has tied up resource managers in a perpetual planning cycle.
If I could draw a football analogy, the Forest Service seems to be in the 4th quarter, hurry up, no huddle offense and every play is a Hail Mary. This is no way to run an agency, and it is certainly no way to develop a credible, cohesive policy for managing our Nation's forest resources. In the words of a senior Forest Service line officer, the agency's present course is highly irregular and very damaging to morale and productivity.
In closing, I want to extend an offer I made a year ago.
Chief Dombeck, we need a Forest Service dedicated to sound, credible resource management above political expediency. We need leadership that will work with and support local managers and local communities, not oppress them. We need an agency that is fully accountable for what it achieves on the ground with taxpayer dollars. We need an agency that will work with rather than against Congress.
Chief, my hand is extended with an intent to achieve these important objectives. The ball is now in your court.
We are glad to have you with us and I at this time am pleased to recognize my distinguished colleague from North Carolina, Mrs. Clayton.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. EVA M. CLAYTON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
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Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I appreciate you calling this hearing and also welcome the Forest Service and Chief Dombeck. You and your staff are welcome. I am not sure the birthday lady really sees this as a stimulating environment but I appreciate your description of that because I just hope the Chief knew this was her birthday because you might have one up on him.
Mr. Chairman, the Forest Service has a questionable record of financial management at best. However, it does have a laudable commitment to land stewardship. Therefore, it is imperative that the financial accountability is insured as we proceed to make sure that their goals are maintained. The National Forests are a national treasure. They are the headwaters of the Nation and provide habitat for many threatened and endangered species. They are one of the premier sources of high quality outdoor recreation available anywhere.
I applaud the Forest Service for their efforts and their recognition of the need to bring financial accountability and fiscal discipline back to this agency which is required to maintain its leadership in conservation. I hope we can help focus the agency's effort and provide positive reinforcement for that trend that they are pointing in the right direction. We have oversight responsibility which include policy management and fiscal operation.
Although the mission of the Forest Service is much broader than the management of the federally-owned National Forests but much more work remains to be done with our National Forests. Private forests, a vast majority which are owned by private landowners of small tracts, cover more than twice as many acres as the National Forests. These lands are the source of 80 of the Nation's wood supply, again with the vast majority coming from small tracts.
In North Carolina the average tract of private forest land is barely larger than 20 acres and non-industrial owners own more than 75 percent of our forests. The forest products industry is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the United States. It accounts for 144,000 jobs and a payroll of $3.2 million in North Carolina alone. And I would say parenthetically it is very large in my rural district. The value of the annual timber deliveries to mills in the United States exceeds $19 billion, more than any other single agricultural product.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are two main ways in which the Forest Service can meet the needs of this important sector of our economy, a critical part of the forest landscape. First, the forest inventory and analysis program provides critical forest data to all forest users including forestry schools and colleges, forestry industry, forest resource planners and various governmental agencies. This program in combination with the Forest Health Monitoring program provides critical information about the extent, type and condition of all forests.
As you know, the agency has fallen behind in recent years on conducting this inventory. I am very interested in hearing from you, Chief, as to the progress that the agency has made in getting the FIA program back on track. For instance, I understand the Forest Service initiated annualized inventory in nine States in fiscal year 1999 bringing the total to 11 and that the Forest Health Monitoring is in place for 70 percent of the country.
I understand that you plan to initiate annualized inventory in six new States in fiscal year 2001. I also know that several States are in their final periodic inventory and will have a transition for periodic to annualized in the near future including North Carolina. The agency will also be moving ahead with the merger of the Forest Inventory Analysis and the Forest Health Monitoring plot work in States where both programs are in place. I am also told that you signed a memorandum of understanding on February 15 of this year with the National Association of State Forests to help commit both organizations to implement the FIA program as mandated in 1998 farm bill Research Title.
The State and private forestry programs are another critical component of the Forest Service mission. The Forest Service has been a strong advocate for these programs which help protect private forest lands from insects, disease, and fire and they use incentive and technical assistance in the approach to working with private forest landowners. I look forward to your hearing and all of the information that you provide and I too want to pledge my support in making sure you maintain the leadership and the stewardship you have. Welcome and I look forward to the discussion.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you very much. Does anybody else have an opening statement? If not, we are pleased to welcome our panel led by Mike Dombeck, Chief of the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Chief Dombeck is accompanied today by Mr. Randle Phillips, Deputy Chief for Programs and Legislation of the Forest Service; Mr. Jim Furnish, Deputy Chief for the National Forest System; Ms. Vincette Goerl, Deputy Chief, CFO/Office of Finance of the Forest Service; Ms. Janice McDougle, Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry; Mr. Robert Lewis, Deputy Chief, Research and Development; and Mr. Clyde Thompson, Deputy Chief, Business Operations, all of the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
I would like to welcome all of you and tell you that your written statements will be made a part of the record. And, Chief, we will be pleased to receive your testimony at this time.
STATEMENT OF MIKE DOMBECK, CHIEF, FOREST SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. DOMBECK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to start too by wishing Thelma Strong a happy birthday. I think Thelma exemplifies what is best about the public servants of the United States and the 30,000 Forest Service employees. In fact, Mrs. Clayton, just to make sure we do have a good day, I promised Thelma lunch at some time today and it will be within the bounds of the ethics of an employer/employee relationship. So happy birthday, Thelma.
I have my full statement that I would ask be submitted to the record but I would like to step back and talk a little bit about the environment that we are in and some of the accomplishments of the Forest Service. The resource debate that we are in today is not new. It was here in the days of Gifford Pinchot. It was with us in the 1930's. It was with us in the 1960's. And it is with us today and I presume it will be with us 50 years from now.
What is changing is the balance and one of the advantages that we have in the United States is as we deal with a balance in our resource uses and demands as society continues to change its needs and demands on the National Forests and all its resources, we have choices in this country and I really think that is a good thing. In fact one of the exciting things about this job is dealing with those choices and sometimes the debate is intense and sometimes there is full agreement.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Not too many years ago there was dialog about the Forest Service having lost its sense of mission and the leadership of the Forest Service then at that time really focused on the natural resources agenda and what things we ought to be focusing on as an agency, and we determined at that time to focus on recreation, on sustainable forest and grasslands ecosystem management, to focus on our road system and infrastructure, and to focus on watershed health and restoration.
And I am pleased to say that in the last couple of years I hav not heard a lot of dialog about the Forest Service having lost its sense of way. There may be those that would like to see different balances but I am real pleased with the communications of that agenda and the importance of so many things including recreation and considering that 80 percent of the people of the United States grow up in urban areas and cities and towns and are in a sense somewhat disconnected from the land that produces the water, the fiber, the quality of life that we need.
And I am pleased with the redefinition of that and the support that we have received in appropriations the last few years in that. I want to focus on your comments on accountability and say that I have had more hearings on the issue of financial management accountability than all the other chiefs put together. And we have the message and you have my full commitment and the full commitment of the leadership team to get on top of this as quickly as we can. And along those lines I believe one of the best things the Congress and this committee can do is to keep the pressure on. And the Forest Service is a decentralized culture and resource decisions need to be made at the local level as much as possible given that each watershed is different and each community is different.
But a credit and a debit is the same no matter where you go and we have really focused and tightened up our approach on accountability in the Forest Service but we have a long way to go and we need your continued support. Now I would just like to mention a few items that we have changed as we make progress along the lines of accountability and financial management.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This past year I made accountability and financial management a priority only second to wildland firefighting and safety. We completed our first ever real property inventory. We implemented the Foundation Financial Information System. We have put resource management and business management on an equal plane in the Forest Service. We have our Chief Operating Officer as well as an Associate Chief for Natural Resources, both of which report to me.
In the past, I think we had a situation where the resource management was considered the priority and everything else was secondary and then over time our financial management accountability systems slowly eroded. We have Deputy Chief Vincette Goerl next to me, who is our first ever Chief Financial Officer. We have trained over 1,300 employees in business management practices. We have initiated the development of business plans for many, many of our operations.
We have for the first time in a long time all of our leadership positions filled. We have made accountability a priority. We have moved to the Primary Purpose Principle. We have followed the recommendations of the National Academy of Public Administration in streamlining and simplifying our budget and that is an area I think that will help us achieve accountability, and I am sure we will have more dialog on those lines.
We have really focused more on the outcome-based performance to put forward a budget for the 2001 fiscal year that is tied not to how we spend the money as much as it is to what the outcomes are, but a transition will be required as we move along these lines. I want to acknowledge also that in the United States we have the best science and the best resource managers in the world and sometimes I think as we discuss the balance and resource uses we sometimes forget that we have the best wildland firefighters in the world.
We have got the best foresters, hydrologists, biologists, and I am proud to say that many of those employees do work for the Forest Service and we are working in the climate of change and a climate of greater public involvement than we have ever had in the past and our accomplishments are many. In fact, as an agency we make about 15,000 decisions a year in the form of categorical exclusions, EAs and EISs, and of those 15,000 there are perhaps 300 that are controversial and maybe 10 or so that are so controversial they are almost white hot and they tend to sap a lot of the energy and time of all of us.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But multiple-use is alive and well in the Forest Service. We have got 5.2 billion board feet of timber under contract. Last year we grazed 9.3 million head-months of cattle. We have got 23,000 recreation sites. We published 2,700 technical research publications. We served almost 150,000 communities in Economic Action Programs and items associated with urban forestry. We have 133,000 miles of trails, 380,000 miles of roads. We permitted over 1,000 energy and minerals operations and the list really goes on and on over the accomplishments of the Forest Service.
And we are doing this with about 10,000 fewer employees than we had in the early 1990's as the workforce of the entire Federal Government continues to shrink. So as we discuss the various issues associated with the Forest Service, I accept your offer because I believe that irrespective of what our resource philosophies might be, I think we all share the goal of having a Forest Service that is effective, that is efficient, that is responsive, that is fiscally accountable.
And I am pleased to say we need the help of the committee to achieve our objectives. With that, I will stop and ask that my full statement be entered into the record. We would be happy to answer any questions that we can, and I think with the team of people that we have here with our deputies, we can deal with most of the issues you are concerned with.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dombeck appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Chief. I appreciate that and I again want to congratulate you on the memorandum of understanding you recently signed with the State Foresters. This is a step in the right direction. I have got a few questions about its implementation, however. The MOU indicates that you need $48.7 million in fiscal year 2001 to implement the program. Is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Your budget request, however, asks for only $40.7 million in total funding. How do you intend to make up that $8 million difference?
Mr. DOMBECK. The commitment of the State Foresters, I think, was really the first step in the Forest Service saying that this is an important program, this is a program that is a priority within the Forest Service. And our intent in meeting that commitment is taking a look at the budget flexibility that we have to meet that and stay within the law and if we need to come to Congress for reprogramming for other kinds of options then we will do that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. But do you have any specific way of making up this $8 million difference?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, let me ask Robert Lewis, our Deputy Chief for Research, who is in charge of that program, to give us some details.
Mr. LEWIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Chief Dombeck. The memorandum of understanding was an excellent step in the right direction. In December. the Chief and several of his deputies met with Stan Adams from the State Forestry Association and at that meeting we made a commitment that we would request the funding through our budget process truly implement the memorandum of understanding.
And we did make that request within our agency and we did make an appeal to OMB and that appeal was not supported by OMB. Nevertheless, we have not given up. And the Chief has flexibility to request reprogramming, and the total program will depend what the appropriation turns out to be come October 1.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, thank you. That is very helpful but it raises the question, Chief, of whether or not the administration shares your commitment to the program.
Mr. LEWIS. I can say that within the agency we are fully committed from the Chief down.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. What about above the Chief though, what about other folks in the Department of Agriculture and in the White House and at OMB, are they supportive of this program and fully funding it?
Mr. DOMBECK. They are certainly supportive conceptually because we are putting $40 million of the $48 million to that already but like in all areas I don't think I have a single program or program manager that tells me they have enough money to do what all they want to do just like the other agencies I think that appear before you. We all have more work than we have funds to accomplish that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Certain western regions of the Forest Service have been unwilling to participate in the FIA program in the past. Has that changed?
Mr. LEWIS. I am really delighted at a decision that the Chief made this year. For the first time in the history of the Forest Service the regions will be on board. In fact, the Chief has committed in the year 2000, the year that we are currently in, $5 million from NFS to administer that program to make sure that the National Forests inventory and analysis is consistent and comparable to what we do on other Federal, State and private lands. That commitment is really solid and the Chief has already delivered on that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. In that regard, how much money is the Forest Service, the National Forest System, going to contribute to the FIA effort annually?
Mr. LEWIS. Currently the National Forest System is committing $5 million for 2000. That is compared to $3.4 million for 1999. And the commitment in the 2001 budget is $6.2 million of NFS dollars. That would bring us up to what we need.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Now do you intend to provide for full funding for the MOU in the current fiscal year?
Mr. LEWIS. In the current fiscal year we are targeting to the MOU $39.4 million.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. So you don't anticipate needing a reprogram request?
Mr. LEWIS. Not for the 2000 year.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And under the MOU, how quickly will you be in a position to fully implement the FIA program as outlined in the Research Act?
Mr. LEWIS. The Research Act requires us to develop a strategic plan and that plan has us implementing fully what is in that strategic plan by the year 2003, I believe.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. I will have some other questions but at this point, I think we should recognize the other members of the panel starting, of course, with the ranking member, Mrs. Clayton.
Mrs. CLAYTON. There are, I guess, some questions about your new financial structure proposal in addition to the amount. I accept, although may not agree, that often times the goal is certainly greater than the achieved budget request because the difference between the $48 million and the $41 million is perhaps not what we prefer but indeed there are sometimes a goal and a difference. But the structure of the arrangement is giving some question.
And I would just like for you to help us understand the rational for it and also respond in the light of the whole issue of accountability, your own goals. In my understanding, you are proposing a new structure and it is unclear if this new structure would be governed or assure accountability, submerging of programs perhaps into one structure. And I am sure there is an objective or there is a rationale for this so I want to give you an opportunity to be on the record about why this new structurewhat do you see it achieving in terms of efficiency and accountability and what was the thinking behind this.
Mr. DOMBECK. One of the most significant rationales is we are literally choking on complexity. The Forest Service has one of the more complex budgets in Government, and what I did when I came on board is solicit the help of a Big Ten accounting firm to take a look at our budget structure, our accounting systems, and then with the support and encouragement of the Appropriations Committee, contracted with the National Academy of Public Administration to take another look at the systems, the structure that we needed to move the Forest Service ahead.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Services is a big organization. If we were in the Fortune 500 list, we would be somewhere around 454 with 30,000 employees. But just to give you an idea of why this complexity is so important, we do about 100 million transactions a month. A few years ago we found ourselvesbecause of the decentralized culture and nature in the Forest Service that I mentioned in my opening statementthat we had 40 systems that didn't talk to one another and 800 data entry points.
And, for example, with the complex budget line items that we are asking you assist us with streamlining, an individual employee working on a $100,000 project might have to make budget and accounting entries into 15 different line items. Well, then if you take a look at the transactions associated with those 15 different line items, you have annual leave, you have sick leave, you have health benefits, you have Social Security, you have State income tax withholding, Federal income tax withholding.
And suddenly you have this tremendous complexity that just for one pay period might be 90 transactions. And with the Primary Purpose Principal, we can accomplish the same thing with as few as four transactions. In fact, I think we have a graphic that depicts this. Now when you take that number of transactions, because of the complexity, and multiply it by 26 pay periods in our system and then you multiply it by 30,000 employees it takes a tremendous infrastructure to deal with that complexity and we need to streamline that.
The advantage of that will allow us more time, more dollars to the field. A second point that I want to make along those lines is that the budget allocation, the planning process and our accountability mechanisms had not been linked by working through the strategic plan that is required by the Government Performance and Results Act. Our objective is to make sure that our planning process, that our budget structure allocations and performance measures are all linked.
And we have moved also to the first time ever to outcome-based performance. We are spending all of our energy tracking the dollars through an exceedingly complex system while we are not spending enough time focusing on the outcomes so that we expect the things that you actually fund us to do. And more efficient systems will help us monitor this much more closely and will make your job of oversight, I think, significantly less challenging and more effective.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CLAYTON. I see my time has expired but maybe we can come back and you can further explain how you are assured of the accountability of that. I think it is important that all that get on the record.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. We will definitely do another round. The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Berry.
Mr. BERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have any questions at this time.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. The gentleman from California, Mr. Thompson.
Mr. THOMPSON of California. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have a couple of things I would like to mention and will mention all three and then you can speak to those. One is the watershed assessments under the Northwest Forest Plan, the survey and management. If you could give us some idea of how we are progressing in this regard. The other is in my district this last year we had a very extensive problem brought about because of a pretty tragic forest fire.
Some of your critics would suggest that maybe if there was better management done, we could have prevented some of this. And I have sent you a letter asking for some specifics but if you could just mention what you are doing to make sure that through some sort of management we can prevent this from happening. I would be interested to know about that.
Lastly, you just mentioned that it is a multi-use system and it is a multi-use system that is in good shape and specifically mentioned recreational uses. And I note that there is a pretty substantial increase in recreational dollars and I am just wondering how those are going to be distributed and if by chance any of them end up on the north coast of California.
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, thank you. I will first address recreation. Not many people realize that the Forest Service probably accommodates more recreation than any other public land entity in the United States. In fact, it is our fastest growing program with some 860 million recreation visitor days. I mentioned 23,000 recreation facilities of various kinds, the trails, and the workload continues to increase.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, I was on the Angeles National Forest a few weeks ago with the Secretaryand we have got 11 million people within an hour's drive of the Angeles National Forestand it represents 72 percent of the open space in the LA Basinand you see with the population pressures and the desire of people to enjoy the outdoors that is important. We are asking for an increase in recreation and our recreation staff iswe held a national summit in October and they are holding regional summits to really focus on six specific areas, including customer service and a variety of others that I would be happy to provide for the record, but recreation is one of our key programs.
With regard to your comment on fire risk and fuel treatment, I will just make one comment there and we can delve into that further because that is a topic of interest to a lot of people. Our fuel treatment budget is increasing and has continued to increase. And in acres treated, we went from somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 thousand acres that we treated in the mid1990's to now about 1.5 million acres, and we need to keep on racheting that up, the level of fuel treatment. And we hope the committee supports our efforts in that area.
We have also done extensive work in the development of risk maps, identifying the risk in various parts of the country, risks to not only fire but also tree mortality associated with insect disease, pests, a variety of things. And we can address that more, and I know we have got limited time and we can come back to that, but let me ask Jim Furnish, who has got firsthand experience with the survey and manage issue to share some insights.
Mr. FURNISH. Yes, if I might, Congressman, I would like to address both those issues, the survey and management, as well as the watershed assessments and make some general comments. On the watershed assessments, that was a requirement of the Northwest Forest Plan, and I think in the early years the Forest Service experienced significant costs associated with the watershed assessments. I think we have learned as we have gone.
We have been able to streamline and minimize the effort required to complete those watershed assessments and turned them from a job into something that is actually an element of great value that has enabled us to streamline some of the project planning associated with the NEPA requirements within the watersheds. It also gives us a big picture look at the types of things that are really necessary for watershed restoration.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the survey and manage requirements, as you are no doubt aware, we had a court opinion that required us to retrench and commit significant financial resources to resolving some of the survey and manage deficiencies. We continued to conclude with a draft proposal and then work our way through really articulating how much it is going to cost to meet the requirements of the court-ordered opinion there on survey and manage.
Mr. THOMPSON of California. If I could just interrupt you.
Mr. FURNISH. Certainly.
Mr. THOMPSON of California. Are there provisions in this budget for that? It is my understanding that I hear from my forests that they just don't have the money to do what it is they need to do.
Mr. FURNISH. This is from the survey and manage requirement?
Mr. THOMPSON of California. Yes.
Mr. FURNISH. There was a significant commitment made in the budget for fiscal year 2000, over $20 million for meeting survey and manage requirements this fiscal year. And then we also have an expectation that we will be spending perhaps even more than that next fiscal year.
Mr. THOMPSON of California. So this is an unfounded concern of the forests, they do have the money to do this?
Mr. FURNISH. I am not saying it is an unfounded concern because there is a large body of work that is required but I would suggest that the Forest Service nationally is committing significant financial resources to remedy this issue, both this fiscal year and plans for next year.
Mr. DOMBECK. This issue is like many that we have. This is part of the balance that we all struggle with is there is like FIA and other programs. There is a lot more work than we have employees and funds to do in almost all facets of what we do, whether it is recreation, dealing with the fuel treatment fire risks, survey and manage, FIA. It is across the board even on the grasslands.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THOMPSON of California. Chief, on the issue of fire risk, do you consider wind damage part of that equation when you determine the high risk areas?
Mr. DOMBECK. We havein fact, the last few years we have had several parts of the country where we have had significant blowdown that we have had to deal with, most recently last summer on the boundary waters, canoe area where we had a swath of land about 35 miles long and 12 miles wide that was just literally flattened.
Mr. THOMPSON of California. Thank you.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. We are now pleased to be joined by a member of the full committee, the gentleman from North Dakota, Mr. Pomeroy.
Mr. POMEROY. Mr. Chairman, I thank you. I appreciate very much your allowing me to participate in this hearing. Within North Dakota there are 3 million acres of grassland, which is a very small part of what the Forest Service does but it is very, very important to us. Chief, you indicatedfirst of all, let me just tell you that I think that you are an extraordinarily talented administrator.
I think you are certainly the best director of the Forest Service that I have seen and I have watched you operate during your visit out in North Dakota and I thought that the skills you brought to bear were perfectly suited to restoring a level of confidence that needed restoring frankly between ranchers in western North Dakota and the Forest Service as it undertook its management responsibilities.
With that, with high hopes for significant improvement in that relationship, I must tell you that relationship has never been worse. That won't be a surprise to you. One of the white hot controversies you indicated in your outset at the opening remarks that stems from a management plan the Forest Service has advanced for the grasslands in among other places western North Dakota.
I understand that one of the innovations you have brought toward into the Forest Service is a new process of creating management plans, one that is more inclusive that brings the views of stakeholders to bear at an earlier point. Is that in fact the case and can you tell us a bit about that?
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. We are in the process now of finalizing, updating our planning regulations and this is something that has been in the mill for a long time, at least 10 years or longer. And the public comment period has closed on that. In fact, the leadership team of the Forest Service just a couple of weeks ago met and reviewed the remaining issues and rendered decisions on those planning regulations.
The key difference is that the new planning regulations, which will go into effect late this year, versus the current regulations is they bring people on board in the goal-setting process. It is a different dynamic rather than the Forest Service and the resource manager saying here is what we want to do, what do you think? It asks the question what should we be doing and what is important to the local communities and it is a different dynamic.
And I think the Forest Service has had more experience and along with that frustrations with our nearly 20 years of planning effort so what we are doing is we are taking what we learned from the past, the recommendations of the Committee of Scientists, and then moving forward into the next generation of planning. Now, however, the grasslands plan has been developed there locally but under the current planning regulations versus the new.
Mr. POMEROY. I have a request that I really want you to give serious consideration too. The comment period on the grasslands management plan ended February 2. It has generated an enormous amountthe plan itself has generated an enormous amount of controversy. You have advanced five alternatives for management of the grasslands and indicated that your preference was alternative No. 3. Alternative No. 3 is viewed by many of the stakeholders, these individual ranchers that have a very important stake in this management plan, they believe it would put them out of business.
In addition, we have had significant, well-substantiated comment from among others experts in range management, an ag economist out of North Dakota State University and others that have similarly spoken to the very significant and damaging character of the plan. In addition, I believe that the thrust of the comment period testimony is that the range land is generally in good shape. I would tell you that in my seven years now, going on eight, of representing North Dakota in Congress no one has ever complained to me about not having access to those lands. So if there is a multi-use problem, I have never had it called to my attention. I don't believe there is a multi-use problem.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a result, I think we are at a point where the Forest Service would do well to go back to the drawing board, wait until the finalization of the new planning process and under the new planning process develop a plan for the grasslands with a more inclusive approach, more stakeholder involvement early on. The process as we see it is very much like you have described very candidly. You said that the existing process is here is what we want to do, what do you think?
Well, I have got the signatures here, 13,500 folks from western North Dakota that think that the plan that you have advanced would put them out of business. We need to take another run at this because what you have proposed does not work, is not warranted, and would be in fact disastrous to the economy of western North Dakota. I am going to ask my staff member to deliver these petitions to you.
And I think the way out of this, the way out of taking this white hot problem that you have got, that I have got, that western North Dakota has in light of the grasslands proposal, is to maintain the status quo in light of no proof that there is significant harm occurring under the status quo while we take another run at this under the new process. Your response?
Mr. DOMBECK. The current plan, of course, was developed in North Dakota with the involvement of the forest supervisor with Larry Dawson and the team there, but I think we will take a look and see what flexibilities we have and provide you a response in writing.
Mr. POMEROY. Chief, thank you. I can't ask for more than that. Thank you.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. The gentleman from Oregon, Mr. Walden.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I apologize for being late to the hearing but I have flown all night to be here and pleased to have this opportunity to ask a few questions. Good morning, Chief, Mr. Furnish, and others. As you well know, the Pelican Butte ski area is a winter recreation site proposed in the Winema National Forest 28 miles north of Klamath Falls. It would provide an estimated $37.5 million a year to a community that has been negatively impacted by changes in forest policy on our Federal lands.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Proposed development has been undergoing environmental review by the Forest Service since October 1996. The draft DIS was released November 6, 1998, and extended the public comment period during which 11,000 public comments were received, closed February 26 of last year, and I know that the Forest Service is working closely with other Federal and State agencies and the local governments and Klamath tribes to address the various issues raised among those 11,000 comments.
Chief, you have indicated that the site-specific analysis such as the Pelican Butte process will be allowed to continue while the Forest Service conducts rulemaking to implement the President's initiative. I am concerned, however, that if the roadless area rulemaking process is completed before the Forest Service issues a decision on the ski area that the site-specific process could be terminated despite these years of efforts, which of course would fly in the face of the open public process that we have been going through, which was culminated in the draft DIS.
So I would appreciate some clarification today on what effect any change in the rules as a result of the President's new roadless area initiative will have on the ongoing Pelican Butte process. Pelican Butte is the only ski resort project in the Nation that is so far along in the process and it has the published draft DIS. So we are just trying to get some clarification here if that is going to be allowed to continue.
Mr. DOMBECK. The development of the alternatives associated with the President's roadless request that you mentioned is in the process now but what I might do is I might ask Jim Furnish toso that is an ongoing process. But Jim, by the way, is relatively new to our team in Washington from Oregon.
Mr. WALDEN. Welcome.
Mr. FURNISH. Thank you. We are certainly aware of the dilemma that the specter of a roadless initiative raises for many projects that are under way and you are correct in characterizing Pelican Butte as quite far along in the process. There have been remarkably few new ski areas developed on National Forest lands in the last 2 decades. Most of the activity is occurring around expansions of existing areas.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have nothing but high praise for Chuck Graham, the Acting Forest Supervisor on the Fremont National Forest, for getting hold of that process, working very actively with the community of interest there to bring the real element of credibility and good planning to that process. I think our position has been all along, since the initiative was released on the roadless, that it is at this point in time a proposal, not a rule. And until such time as we have a rulemaking on roadless areas any decisions that are made in the intervening period will stand as written.
And I have had some briefings just recently from Chuck and Don Hoffeins, the project planner, and they are moving with great pace and are planning on issuing a decision in the relatively near future on Pelican Butte.
Mr. WALDEN. If I hear you right, what you are saying is if the rulemaking on the roadless area comes in first then it will trump their decision if it comes in second, is that right?
Mr. FURNISH. Well, I think we are very much aware of and concerned about the issues related to this transition period. My understanding is that Pelican Butte like many other projects around the United States is planned for the final EIS and a Record of Decision in the relatively near future. The roadless rulemaking is not anticipated to be completed until this winter so we do not see a conflict in store.
Mr. WALDEN. Is the Pelican Butte roadless area included in the 50 million acres the President has promised to permanently protect?
Mr. FURNISH. There are inventoried roadless areas that are in the project proposal regarding Pelican Butte. That is why this issue would be important.
Mr. WALDEN. Is it not possible to grandfather these projects that have been underway for half a decade if not more?
Mr. FURNISH. Well, there would be some consideration
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. I mean it is kind of like goal posts on them, isn't it?
Mr. FURNISH. Yes. There would be some consideration. In our view this would not really be a binding point on Pelican Butte because we anticipate reaching a decision point on Pelican Butte far in advance of a rulemaking on the roadless policy.
Mr. WALDEN. I appreciate what you are saying. I remain concerned, however, that if there is a delay which occasionally happens in the planning process, because I know you are going to get the roadless rules done before the end of the year. I have heard that, read that. It is a commitment of this administration to do that and more.
Mr. FURNISH. I would want to characterize our efforts on Pelican Butte as: We are deep into that process and have made a lot of progress, and we anticipate being able to conclude the Pelican Butte decision process in the very near future prior to the conclusion of the roadless rule.
Mr. WALDEN. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. The gentleman from Arkansas, Mr. Berry.
Mr. BERRY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Chief Dombeck, I heard you refer, I think, already several times this morning about not having the resources you need to do some task in the service. And I know from meeting with the managers of the National Forest in the district that I represent they don't have the resources that they need. We have many, many needs there that go unmet. In fact, they continually cut back what they are doing rather than even maintaining a constant level of services.
But I notice in the budget that I believe there is $118 million, nearly 70 percent of the requested funding increase for the acquisition of new land, and if you can't take care of what you got, I wonder what we are going to do with some more.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, your question really doesis a pertinent one that we deal with all the time as we take a look at the balance. I think much of the Lands Legacy Initiative that I think you are referring to, much of that is also directed at acquiring easements and things like that with the objective of maintaining open space to have landowners that perhaps might subdivide or sell to give them an opportunity on a willing landowner basis to participate in another program to allow the maintenance of open space in this country because one of theI think the global concerns is that fragmentation is occurring at almost a scary rate.
If we take a look at woodlands, the number of tracts of forest land between 10 and 50 acres doubled from 1978 to 1994, so how do we maintain our tract size, our forest productivity, and allow landprovide assistance to landowners to stay on their family lands if they wish. So that is also a part of this equation. The other part of the equation as we look at opportunities to acquire in-holdings for a variety of reasons, it might be for endangered species habitat. It might be to consolidate areas where there might be an in holding, again, on a willing seller basis only, provide recreation opportunities, access, deal with endangered species issues. Once those opportunities are gone, they are usually gone for a long time.
There is another issue that makes the numbers just a little bit confusing this year and that was the one time funding for the acquisition of the Baca Ranch. How much was the funding? It is about $100 million and that is a 95,000 acre holding in New Mexico. That again is one of these in the eyes of many including many Members of Congress is a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring into public ownership. But I certainly understand your concern because we have a tremendous backlog in maintenance of our buildings, of our trails, of our roads, and that also has to be a priority for us to deal with.
Mr. BERRY. I kind of knew the need there but I still get back to the basic question, is it better to have it in public ownership and let it not be taken care of? You know, a poor old country boy from Arkansas has a little trouble understanding that.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I think the opportunity for easements to keep the land in private ownership is also one of the primary objectives of the Lands Legacy Initiative.
Mr. FURNISH. I would like to add to that, if I might. I know particularly with the Ouachita National Forest one of the things that the Forest Service deals with in the long history since the creation or acquisition of many of the eastern National Forests at the time in which the lands were acquired they actually create a National Forest, then things happen. For instance, the Wild and Scenic River Act, and I know on the Ouachita National Forest many of these acquisitions are targeted at once we have a Wild and Scenic River created to really enable the Federal acquisition to create a quality Wild and Scenic River that lends itself to good management it is really a benefit to both the resource and the public we serve.
And I know on the Ouachita National Forest these lands arethese monies are intended to help us acquire the lands to really create a good cohesive Wild and Scenic River package.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. I would like to add something about the Land Legacy Program. The President's budget for 2001 has approximately $60 million in that program. The current demand for the program by private landowners and State forestry organizations total about $365 million. These lands do not convey to the Federal Government. They remain working lands in the hands of the landowner and we have stewardship provisions which assist those landowners in managing the lands under these easements.
Mr. BERRY. Well, I guess one of my concerns is, and this wasn't the Forest Service, it was the National Park Service, but they stated in public meetings in the district that I represent that their intent with the regulations that they tried to put forth and the effort that they might to control the land even that they don't own around one of these rivers is to depopulate the area because they think it would be better if those people didn't live there anymore. Now these folks have been there for quite a while.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I find that very offensive that the Park Service feels like they have the authority to do something like that or make that kind of a decision and leave the United States Congress out of it, and in particular leave the residents of that area out of it and this is what I am concerned about. Not only that but also the ability of the Forest Service and other Department of Interior agencies to take care of the land that they have already rather than to acquire some more just to depopulate it.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I thank the gentleman. I have some additional questions. The administration recently submitted a new legislative proposal to Congress accompanied by a letter signed by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior and Education outlining the administration's objectives regarding Payments to States. This proposal is mentionedthe proposal comes nearly a year too late. The administration should have submitted its proposal when we asked for it last year instead of simply issuing veto threats.
The House has spoken on this issue in a strong, bipartisan manner with a vote of 274 to 153. Chief, on December 9, you and Under Secretary Lyons submitted an appeal of your initial OMB allowance to the Secretary, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't recall. I would have to check. Is that correct? Staff says we did.
Mr. GOODLATTE. In that appeal you criticize the OMB's proposed offsets for the Payments to States proposal. To quote your memo, ''Fiscal year 2000 legislation is being reproposed in order to provide offsets for the Payments to States decoupling proposal. The agency has very strong reservations about the validity of the offsets, the chances of successful implementation, and the wisdom of pursuing many of these legislative proposals.''
According to the USDA 2001 budget summary, the offset provided for the Payments to States proposal are identical to those you criticized in your appeal. Can I ask first why did the OMB refuse your request to find more valid offsets?
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I think I would have to answer thatI have not been personally in the central part of that. I know there has been some concern. I think the offsets in our view were not as clear as they should be. One of the reasons that we felt it was important to engage the Secretary level in the three departments is to ensure that there was the commitment on the part of the administration to move forward with this. I think weI hope you see this as a positive step forward as well in the commitment of the administration to find those offsets.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I must say that the OMB refusal raises questions about the administration's commitment and I am wondering about your commitment and the administration's commitment to enacting legislation to resolve the county payment problem this year and finding the necessary offsets to fund it.
Mr. DOMBECK. I would say the commitment is there and in fact of all of the things I think that we are working on together I believe that the highest likelihood of completion is this issue so I am somewhat optimistic that we can move forward. Realistically, one of the things we see is any time you lay money on the table it is sort of up for grabs and it just may be snatched away from us in a time of tight budgets for other purposes, and I believe that is also part of this equation as well.
And I think until there is a more certainty or the level of certainty is there that this money would actually be used to offset the Payments to States, we are going to be dealing with that issue because of the concern about the money being snatched away for other things.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, this is a pretty significant issue. As you know, the National Forests Counties and Schools Coalition has now swelled to nearly 900 members in 37 States and includes the National Education Association, organized labor, the National Association of Counties, the Association of State, County and Municipal Employees, the United States Chamber of Commerce, and dozens of other national, regional and local organizations. There is almost nobody left that is not a part of this coalition. At what point do you intend to engage this coalition in good faith discussions on Payments to the States issue?
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I think that the negotiations that are going on now, the letter from the Secretaries, the proposed legislation that has been developed by the administration I think is a real positive step forward and taking a look at the issues. We are I think in agreement on most things on this issue. I think we are closer on the Payments to States issue than we are on a lot of others. And, as I said, I continue to be optimistic with this issue.
I am concerned aboutI remain concerned with the House bill that the offset comes on the back of the very Forest Service programs that we have been talking about here that would reduce our operating budget for things like fire suppression, forest management, watershed improvement, recreation, those kinds of things. And it is hard for me to support something that is going to take money out of our own hide.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, of course that bill was modified to take that funding out of the entire budget, not targeted to the Forest Service, and I would have thought that would have been a satisfactory result of that issue. Have you had direct discussions with this coalition?
Mr. DOMBECK. I have not had personalI have had personal conversations with members of the coalitions but my staff has met with them numerous times, I believe.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Are there interest groups that are preventing you from working closely with that coalition?
Mr. DOMBECK. Not that I am aware of.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And are there interest groups that support your position as opposed to the one reflected in the House legislation?
Mr. DOMBECK. I am not sure I could name them but I think if we take a look at what I see as a generous offer to the counties and Payments to States, I would hope that we can work out a deal.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Mrs. Clayton.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you. Just I want to echo I hope to share your optimism about the resolution of the county issue and I hope you are right that it will be resolved and that it will be resolved where there are wins-wins on both sides both for the forester and also for the county because it is an important issue, and I think time is indeed of essence. I won't belabor it. I think you answered.
But I want to just emphasize what you and your printed testimony said that you applaud the new memorandum that you have and the collaborative effort you have with the States and your efforts with the forest inventory analysis is moving in the right direction. And obviously that has to be supported by funding as well as about structure and implementation. And there are some questions about, I guess, the increase of the activities kind of at the last momentnot last moment but in a concentrated time.
They have had this planning activity. You put it on a board. You would see kind of a gradual increase and then all of a sudden we have a number of things coming on board at one time. And that talks about resources and implementation and expectation. Is there an urgency for all of those to happen at one time and if so how does that also allow you to do all the things you want to do in terms of the forest inventory analysis as well?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, of all of the issues I deal with as we think about the controversies that we all hear about I think as is evidenced by the stack of 13,000 signatures that was presented by Mr. Pomeroy, forest inventory analysis is an item that I see great agreement on. The industry is supportive. The State Foresters are supportive. The Forest supervisors need it and, hence, I appreciate the encouragement of the chairman. I opened up the Journal of Forestry and read your article that you co-authored with the Virginia State Forester as well as the response to that in the subsequent publication of the Journal of Forestry.
So we have gotthat is one we are really committed to but I think if you are talking about issues like the planning regs, like roadless, like some of the other things that we are dealing with, these are not really new issues. The thing that is new and different is, we are trying to bring them to completion. The planning regs, for example, have been in development since 1989 and 1990 and it just sort of goes on and on and on without resolution.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And the roads policy that we just unveiled last week, the proposed transportation roads policy that really provides guidance to how we will manage the existing transportation network of the Forest Service in a more efficient way is alsothis is an issue that has been around for a long time. And, if anything, the Forest Service gets criticized for not getting this stuff done in a timely manner. So we are committed to get as much of this stuff done because the cost of not resolving these issues is also exceedingly high.
They cost us in appeals and local controversy and litigation, and the more of these threads that we can pull out of a lot of the controversies that we deal with I think we will achieve more success in the future by doing that.
Mrs. CLAYTON. There is an effort to coordinate these?
Mr. DOMBECK. Again, there are two points of view on this. Some will say, well, you are dealing with these issues piecemeal. The other side would say to deal with them in a more coordinated fashion certainly makes sense. And I think what you see in sort of the big three that we are dealing with at this time, the roads, the roadless and the planning regs will dovetail very nicely upon completion.
Mrs. CLAYTON. It is just some central coordinating mechanism or are they justthe synergy just allows them to coordinate?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, they are in different, sort of, different positions than where they are with regard to their level of completion. The planning reg, for example, is being finalized by the writing team now. It has been in progress for about 10 years. I believe we will be submitting that to the Department and to OMB for clearance within the nexthow soon, Jim? Within the next month. The transportation or road policy is out for 60-day public comment period now and that will be finalized we hope by late summer.
And the roadless effort we are involved in we also will have the proposal out in late spring that lays out the alternatives. We are planning two sets of public meetings associated with that, one, to make sure that people understand how to interpret the data to really be able to assess the pros and cons and the ramifications of that policy.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A second set of public meetings, then, for them to come back and react to that data and provide us input in that, and then from there we will move to the finalization of that policy and that is all being coordinated by Jim Furnish, the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, and his staff.
Mrs. CLAYTON. My time is almost over and I do have two other questions if I can persist. One is I kind of like the legacy program but I also want to understand it and I guess I also am from a rural area so I am trying to understand how North Carolina and my rural area indeed will participate. Is the legacy program and the urban communities program pretty much the same, urban and the communities?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, there are differences. The urban programs tend to focus more on economic action, assistance to provide expertise to keep our cities as green as we can and some of the economic action programs are targeted at communities of less than 10,000. And then of course the Forest Legacy program really
Mrs. CLAYTON. That is really what I was getting at. Less than 10,000 also comes in the definition of what is rural. All these programs, urban is exempt from the rural, and if you want to get small towns keeping their green boundaries, are they exempt from the urban program?
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me ask Janice McDougle who manages that area to give us some details.
Mrs. MCDOUGLE. Under the State and private program authorities we have responsibilities to urban and rural communities. In fiscal year 2000 we spent in the State of North Carolina about $500,000, a half million dollars, in the Urban and Community Forestry Program. We do provide assistance in your State for Forest Stewardship planning. We have over a quarter million acres under stewardship plans already.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Even in rural North Carolina?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCDOUGLE. Yes.
Mrs. CLAYTON. In the First Congressional District?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. I will get back to you on that. [See page 57.]
Mrs. CLAYTON. That is where I was going. You understood where I was going.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. I got you.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you very much, and if you will get back to me I would appreciate it. I do have a question that my colleague asked me, Mr. Chairman, to present for him. He was unable to get here in time. Congressman Thompson wanted to know, Mr. Dombeck, he understands that the Forest Service is currently discussing a new compliance agreement with the Mississippi Forest Commission. Do you intend to encourage changes regarding the hiring of African Americans with the Mississippi Forest Commission because I would say that for the whole Forest Service but since he raised the question of Mississippi there must be a problem there.
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, we too are very concerned about environmental justice in our programs there and I have one of the deputy chiefs that is not here, Clyde Thompson, Deputy Chief for Business Operations, who also is from Mississippi, I believe is going to Mississippi at the end of the month to continue the effort in working with the Mississippi Forestry Commission to deal with some of the issues there. I feel that working together with not only the Forest Service but USDA we have recognized some of the needs that we have in Mississippi and are working in a positive way to get where we need to be with those programs.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Chief, I am delighted that you are reading Jim Garner and other learned works. It is my understanding that the subscriptions to the journal just spiked right up after that exchange. The gentleman from Oregon.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will be adding that to my subscription list too, of course.
Chief, did you at any time as you went through this process with all these different rulemakings underway kind of lay out a master plan with your folks that would insure these rulemakings be done in an orderly manner and be consistent? It seems likeI read about them in the paper that this one is coming out now and then there is another one and I get out in my district and talk to some of your folks out there and they are kind of reeling from all the rulemaking they are having to drop everything to do and I am just kind of curious, is there a master plan?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, but also issues evolve as we dig into them. For example, if we move from the dialog, I talked about this just a little bit in my opening statement, there was the dialog floating around the country both within the Forest Service and other places that we had an agency that had lost its way, that had a muddled mission. And what we did in the leadership in late 1997 is gather all the regional foresters, the station directors from all around the country and talk about what should we be focusing on.
And the four issues that they recommended out of well over 30 that we considered as we think about how to narrow the scope is sustainable forest and range land ecosystem management, roads, recreation and watershed health and restoration. And also at that time the planning regs had been in revision and that revision process since about 1989 or 1990 were overlaid over all of this. Then the concern over the infrastructure of the agency where we have the $11 billion backlog with the largest proportion of that being roads really has to do with roads.
And you just keep on going with the controversies you are dealing with without trying to redefine them. And the thing that I feel good about the roads issue is I think we have redefined that issue. In both the House and the Senate our road budget was attacked every year for a long time. And by the assumptions on the part of many was that roads equal logging equal sedimentation equal bad, and I think we gotat least we haven't seen the Kennedy-Porter amendments the last couple of years, and really I think are working together with trying to get the funding to maintain this infrastructure because the thing about the roads issue is with the backlog that we have, these two are also local jobs, in many cases work that can be done by some of the same people that are suffering from the down turn in the timber operation in their part of the country.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. Yes, well, I would be happy to have that discussion with you because having just come out of the district yesterday and the day before meeting with county officials talking about how their road budgets have been decimated by the lack of timber harvest and receipts and knowing where this administration stands on the legislation we passed, I bet I win that argument when it comes to jobs and road building and all.
Let me shift gears just a moment, Chief. In recent correspondence with Chairman Regula of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, you identified the roadless policy alone will consume $9 million at the Washington office level in fiscal year 2000. That is over one-fifth of your entire planning budget for the year if my figures are right. What additional costs for this policy will you incur in the field in fiscal year 2000 and what have you budgeted for it?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think the field costs for 2000 is at about $1.2 million.
Mr. WALDEN. Nine million dollars at your Washington office level and $1.2 million throughout the entire system at the field level? Does that mean most of the decisions then are being made here as opposed to out there because I hear from those folks that they are sort of inundated with this.
Mr. DOMBECK. The work that is going on in the field associated with this, No. 1, is gathering the data, and I think you will see that there are a lot of spin off benefits to the data that is being gathered. When we take a look at just the position of the roadless areas, all of the health risk issues that we are dealing with, taking a look at the economics of the communities as they are impacted by these various policies. So that is one facet of it.
The other facetand much of this we had already so it is a matter of synthesizing it, if you will. The second major workload on the field associated with this is the public meetings and public meetings are something that we don't do enough of just in helping people understand what is important and why and the listening aspect. And we have had so far aboutwe have had a meeting I believe on every National Forest associated with roadless.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WALDEN. And I think those meetings are helpful, especially if what is said there is actually absorbed into the rulemaking and decisions.
Mr. DOMBECK. And I think you will be pleased when you see the roll out of the proposal as will happen here in late spring when we are really going to focus on making sure our employees are extremely well informed, making the data available on the Web. In fact, I think the outreach on this issue has been far beyond almostyou will see will be far beyond almost anything we have done including maps available on the Web. We are going to put out the TIF and CD rom.
Mr. WALDEN. Good. You said later this spring the proposal will be out so when do you think it will be in final form?
Mr. DOMBECK. The time line that it is on now would be to haveI should perhaps have Jim maybe give us some specifics. The draft environmental impact statement and alternatives will be out in May, is that right, Jim?
Mr. FURNISH. Yes, our intention is to issue a draft DIS and a proposed rule in May and then to conclude this effort with a final EIS and a final regulation in late this calendar year.
Mr. WALDEN. OK, so like November or December?
Mr. FURNISH. Yes.
Mr. WALDEN. All right. Could I ask one other question, Mr. Chairman? If you are able to provide Chairman Regula with the cost estimates for this roadless policy planning process, the $9 million that you said there, have you been able to come up with cost estimates to do the other various sets of regulations that are underway? If you can calculate this one, I assume you can calculate the cost to do some of these other initiatives that are pretty aggressive. Maybe it all dovetails together, I don't know.
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that data with me but certainly we project the cost of what we have to do.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FURNISH. I might add that I think at least in kind of order that we expect at about $10 million the roadless effort to be the most expensive. The planning rule would be next. Those costs are largely behind us. We are almost concluded with that effort and in the road policy that was just released last week would be the least costly of those three elements.
Mr. WALDEN. All right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you. Well, Chief, realistically speaking it is highly unlikely that the Forest Service will get a big funding increase in fiscal year 2001. In fact, it is more likely that funding will remain flat or decline. That is going to require you to make some decisions about your priorities so in following on to the question that has just been asked I would like to know which is a greater priority, you completing all of these rules and planning initiatives within the specific time frames or meeting your local on the ground project level commitments and obligations.
Mr. DOMBECK. I think what we will look for is the best balance that we can achieve there. Obviously, we have significant needs. In fact, I was just talking with Congressman Baird yesterday about shortfalls in a visitor center associated with Mt. St. Helen's, and we have those kinds of issues all around the country. We want towe are committed to the increases that we have asked for associated with forest health, fire risk, fuel treatment, wanting to be able to move ahead with large scale watershed restoration efforts, the stewardship contracting efforts that are increasingly in demand around the country.
Then we have all of the aspects of the State and private program which Janice talked about, everything from environmental justice to the urban forestry program, so it really is a tough balancing act that we need to work through together and hence the purpose of these hearings and other dialog. What I think are sometimes perceived as national policies that come out are also focused on resolving local issues, many of which have been very costly to local communities because they haven't been resolved.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I guess it is like if you have a house and it is wintertime you got to pay your light bill, your heating bill, your water bill. It is a continual act of adjustment and juggling, and we do our best to do that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. When you sit down to juggle all those payments in a household, you have to set priorities. How would you arrange the five rules and planning initiatives in order of priority for the department, for the agency?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, obviously our planning regulations are exceedingly important to us. A presidential request to focus on an issue like roadless is something that we work for the executive branch and that is a priority for us but we are also doing our best to focus on the elements in the natural resources agenda. The purpose of that is really to focus resources on forest health and restoration on our infrastructure, our roads network, the needs that we have in watershed restoration.
I would like to just mention a couple of things that I think are evolving within the Forest Service that are good news along these lines as we are really taking a risk assessment approach increasingly as we gather the data on fire risk, on risk of mortality of trees for various reasons, the failure of road systems, all of those. The risks associated with wildlife habitats. So it is something that as a team, and we will be doing it again as we approach mid-year for 2000, which, Vincette, when do we sit down and take a look at our priorities as we talk about the trade offs that we have to make. We will be doing that within the next month.
The other area that we are also making significant investments in is our technology infrastructure because if you don't keep pace with the investments and the GIS tools, the various tools that allowed us to pull together information like that risk map up there, it is a real challenge.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Is Mr. Lewis still with us? I wonder if I might get a little more specific about this. From a planning perspective, is it typical to proceed from general propositions to more specific propositions or the other way around?
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LEWIS. From a planning in terms of the inventory and analysis program?
Mr. GOODLATTE. From setting all these priorities that we have just been speaking about, these five different planning initiatives of the agency.
Mr. LEWIS. Setting priorities is a very important and a complex process. And I concentrate primarily on the priorities within the research program but using the metaphor of the household when you plan your budget annually you identify first the things that are absolutely essential that are critical to the maintenance and running of that particular household. And then you go down to some of the things that would be optional that would give you a good return on the investment over time. At least that is the way I look at.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I will address this to you or to Chief Dombeck. It would appear that you haven't taken that approach with regard to these five rules and planning initiatives, that you are moving from the specific to the general and so that raises the question are you interested in getting them done or getting them done right.
Mr. DOMBECK. We are interested in both. For example, the roads rule, I think what you will see with that roads rule is the first and most thorough science-based analysis to take a look at the transportation network. In fact, I have a copy of the road analysis science report that I believe is something that will be used by counties, by local communities and others because it is the most up-to-date synthesis of how we move forward with this.
Now using the roads as an example, the next thing that will happen is we know we have more roads than we can afford to maintain so what do we do. The thing that will happen is the guidance developed not only provides the science analysis but then we sit down with the counties, with the planning commission, and focus on a transportation network to sort of take a look at an atlas, take a look at the Forest Service roads and the county roads and what are our growth projections and then what kind of transportation system do we need, what kind do we want, and then prioritize that and you will have some very important roads that we will have to seek funding for.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On the other side of the ledger, what do you do with your lower priority ones, do you turn them into hiking trails, biking trails, are they environmentally sensitive areas and have to be relocated. And I view this as a process that will really not only save money in the long hall but also bring the leadership of our local communities together to really focus on how the two mesh.
Mr. LEWIS. I would like to add something to that in reference to the general specifics. Once we have general goals and missions and we know what those are, then it is incumbent upon us to outline specifically what it would require to get to that goal and to deliver on that particular mission. The Chief cited the scientific analysis that we have on the transportation policy. Well, that is one of the tools that we developed to get to the specific of delivering a transportation system on National Forest that is adequate and that is environmentally sensitive and that fulfilled the needs that we have.
Mr. FURNISH. Mr. Chairman, if I could add a very practical example of the value of something like a road analysis procedure. On the Siuslaw National Forest they used to spend about $3.5 million per year maintaining roads. Today they spend about $700,000 a year, almost a net savings of $3 million. The roadless rule we anticipate will cost the agency about $3 million. There is an annual savings on one National Forest out of 125 of $3 million by applying that road rule. I think that demonstrates the benefit of those investments that gave us the tools to actually manage a road system more efficiently than we have in the past.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, Chief, I would still like to see you order these planning initiatives in terms of a logical sequence. Can you do that for us? How does one follow on the other? It seems like you are moving in the wrong direction in terms of your planning priorities and I am wondering if it wouldn't make more sense to slow down your time table a little and work through the rules and planning initiatives in a more methodical linear way.
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, if we take a look at the three planning roads and roadless, the planning rules have been in progress for about 10 years. I don't know that we want to slow that one down and make itprotract that any longer and I certainly am not supportive of slowing that down. I think we need to get this stuff done.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The roadand it is near completion. Most of the investments in that planning regulation are already behind us and we need to now enjoy some of the fruits of that. On the road policy, that is also virtually completed. But I want to point out that in the roadless issue then that emanated from a lot of the comments associated with road policy in a letter to the President from about 175 members of Congress asking us to look at this issue.
And so we in a sense areI guess if I were to say we have got to get all three of them done and we have got to get them done in a way that has least impact on our ability to deliver in the field. And it is sort of like medical research. Do you stop cancer research because you have more patients to treat than you can treat already with somehow, the challenge. If we could do that, all of our jobs would be a lot easier but the challenge is to balance all these as we continue to move forward.
Mr. GOODLATTE. But I think the opposite is occurring. I think you have halted the local treatment of the forest to local planning process and involvement and superimposed upon that a very general, very large plan about which there are no specifics. People attending the meetings conducted by the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in my district asked, well, what roads are we talking about, what specific areas are we talking about so that we can comment upon them and their answer was we don't know yet. We will tell you that later on.
And so to me we are jumping the gun in terms of trying to make a decision that is effective and we are making decisions without local input because local input is meaningless. The hundreds of thousands of comments that you have got from people are about a general concept. They are not about the specific needs of specific parts of our National Forests.
Mr. DOMBECK. There are two waysand I can clarify that significantly, I believe. There are two ways that we would typically move forward with rulemakings. No. 1 is we lay out some specific proposals for people to comment on and that has been more along the lines of what people have been interested, and this is for scoping, the scoping part of the NEPA process which really doesn't have a public meeting requirement. So my view is we exceeded our requirement by about 185 public meetings.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second approach to scoping is toand this was the case, the President saying look at this issue, what is the spectrum associated with this issue, and that was the case. The next step based upon that scoping then is to develop a proposal and gather all of the information, the maps, and then go back in another round and say here is the data, here is the information, let's take a look at it, here are the alternatives that we believe are out there in front of us.
And then I certainly acknowledge the confusion in some parts of the country but the other thing that we did is the only requirements that we put on meetings in the I think nine regional or large city meetings that we have wasI am not exactly sure on the number, but on each National Forest we said to the forest supervisors go ahead and interact with your constituents locally in the format that you typically do.
Mr. GOODLATTE. But let us contrast that with what the ongoing process has been in those two forests. I did some research on the public involvement associated with the forest plan revisions in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. As you know the George Washington Forest plan was revised a few years ago and the Jefferson plan is currently being revised. I found that between the two revisions the Forest Service held at least 28 public meetings typically lasting as long as 5 hours a piece with an average of between 40 and 75 people.
In addition, the agency held at least eight open houses, 10 other planning meetings. That totals nearly 50 meetings. In addition, the agency has at every step of the process accommodated requests for extensions of comment periods and other requests aimed at enhancing public involvement. That is just the ongoing process in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests regarding a comprehensive plan for the use of those forests.
And I assume that similar processes are taking place at National Forests across the country. Contrast that with a very short process, the very non-comprehensive process, a process that contains very little information on which the public can give specific comments that has taken place with regard to this overall massive roadless proposal that is now in the works that I assume you are going to very shortly issue some rulemaking on. Would you describe the process that I just described to you as being vigorous? I think you would, wouldn't you?
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Do you as a rule encourage your local professionals to engage the public this vigorously?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and of course that level of vigor varies on the complexity of the process. If you take a look at a forest plan, you have among the most complex because you are virtually dealing with every facet and every aspect of land allocation use associated with that. But I got to say one thing. If anything, the Forest Service has been roundly criticized by Congress and by others for not getting stuff done quickly enough because of these extended processes.
And what it really amounts to is then this isthey go on and on, and not only in things like getting the planning reg done, the roads policy out, the roadless policy done, I haven't had anyone tell me that they are happy with the length of time it takes us to get most of our stuff done.
Mr. GOODLATTE. No, but by the same token I think people would tell you that the decision-making process ought to be based upon specific information and that the comments offered by the public ought to be based upon specific proposals and we are not seeing that at all in the opportunity that has been presented to the public to do that. And that is in contrast to the very specific proposals and very specific responses that have come through that planning process which is effectively an ongoing process.
The forests change, they age. Different parts of the forest should be roadless today. They may not need to be roadless in the future. It may be detrimental to the health of the forest for certain areas to be roadless in the future. And to have this kind of ongoing process suddenly short circuited by this nationwide rush to judgment on varying estimates of 40 to 60 million acres of public land to fulfill somebody's perceived objective rather than to fulfill a conscious, deliberate, ongoing discussion of what is needed for the forest.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is why we have these plans reviewed and revised every period of years is because of the fact that the nature of the forests, the conditions in the forests change. And to suddenly think that we in one swoop in one rush in one year should be coming up with a decision that is going to have lasting effects for generations of Americans and for generations of forest growth all decided at one time seems to me to clearly be putting the cart before the horse in order to fulfill somebody's objective, somebody's legacy rather than what would be a sound approach to managing our National Forests.
Mr. DOMBECK. I think you will see some of the best information put forward as we move forward with the roadless proposal to do pretty much what you describe to really have the broadest information available for the public not only to understand the data but then to have time to go home and digest it and see what it means and then come back again to react to that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I hope that works out that way but so far that hasn't been the case. Public participation that I just mentioned to you I would compare with the process that has so far taken place with regard to the roadless policy. The communities within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest have to date had exactly one two-hour open house at which no public comment was received. A total of 19 people showed up.
When local communities requested a modest extension of time to comment on the scope of the policy because they had already had five major planning meetings in December and were facing holiday and end of year crunches you flatly refused. Now to me that doesn't compare very well with the ongoing process and would challenge the assertion that there is going to be the kind of comprehensive public comment when 19 people have an opportunity to show up at a meeting and don't have the opportunity to provide public comments for two National Forests that comprise nearly 2 million acres of national land and are in a part of my State that is populated by about a million and a half people, I don't think that is really drawing out very much public comment when 10 people show up.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I think you will be pleased when you see the level of information and approach that we use as we move into the real analysis of the proposal and the public input.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me ask you, what was the reason for denying the request by the local governments to have a short extension of their comment period?
Mr. DOMBECK. The President requested that we meet a deadline and we look at the time frame that we have to work within and move forward with that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. But what would be the reason for the President not being willing to be flexible on this? I mean these forests are going to be around for a long, long, long time to come, I would hope, and I wouldn't think that every decision regarding their future needs and future uses would be made within some arbitrary artificial time frame that might be structured to meet the terms of the length of his administration.
It would seem to me that it would make far more sense to get this process going but in the interest of getting the best information and the best input from everybody affected by it not allow that artificial time line to bring about the conclusion of the process but rather simply to get the process started.
Mr. DOMBECK. And that is in fact our intent just to make sure there is a broad understanding of this policy as possible. We are well within the time frame and the requirements of the NEPA process. As I said, with regard to the scoping meetings that we have had initially, which by the way generated a half a million comments, that
Mr. GOODLATTE. They are comments about nothing. They are comments about, yes, it is a nice idea to have roadless areas. It is not a comment about whether or not there is a particular need for a particular part of a particular National Forest to be roadless or not to be roadless. And so I think the comments are certainly nice to have but they are simply based upon a generated by a lot of outside organizations, contact people say write in and say you like roadless areas. It doesn't have anything to do with whether it is particularly good to have a roadless area in one part of a National Forest or not.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And after all that is the responsibility of your agency and of all the communities that live in and around these forests and are dependent upon them for all the various multiple uses that are made of the National Forests, and if the whole purpose here is to run some kind of a popularity contest and then to jam it through, I don't think you are living up to your responsibility.
And I have to say that that is shared by a number of people within the Forest Service and I am deeply concerned about the burden that this combination of rules and planning initiatives is having on your field professionals, on the affected communities. I am especially troubled by a couple of letters that I know you are aware of, one from regional forester Lyle Laverty, and another from forest supervisor Jim Caswell. To quote from Mr. Laverty's letter, he says ''I am concerned about the apparent lack of coordination among your staff in Washington and the lack of communication with my staff here in the region. The consequences of scheduling so many meetings in such a short period of time have included overburdened employees and confused and worried public.''
And Mr. Caswell's letter is even more to the point saying ''The track and approach we are on is just flat wrong. It mocks every speech and every public statement regarding collaboration you have made since becoming Chief.'' Would you care to respond to those letters?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. One interesting thing is I get lots of input from employees and I alsoand in fact I phoned Jim Caswell, who is doing a superb job in Idaho, and he already had ideas ready for me expecting a phone call. In fact, I welcome that kind of honest input from employees. I also have input from employees saying right on, this is something that we need to address, we have needed to address for a long time.
Many of these are issues that have been festering too long within the agency that have driven our unit costs up. So I, like you with your constituents, the Forest Service of 30,000 employees has virtually every opinion in not only its leadership but in the ranks of the organization.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me say I think it is a good trait of yours and of the agency that you are open to receiving criticism from subordinates and that you are open-minded about taking that and dealing with them. I think that is very good and I commend you for that. But I would like you to address the substance of their complaints.
Mr. DOMBECK. The substance I believe of Lyle Laverty's was really talking about strategic planning and beyond the details I guess I would defer to Lyle Laverty for any interpretations on his letter but in fact I met with a forest supervisor this morning with Jim Furnish to talk about some of these various issues about how can we better work with a large decentralized organization like the Forest Service to really make sure that they have what they need, and we will continue to work very hard at that.
We have at the request of regional foresters, including Lyle Laverty, are meeting on a more regular basis as a team than we have in the past and this was initially focused on accountability and financial management but as we work through the decision process associated with the planning regs that whole team was involved. And I will continue to make an effort to ratchet that level of involvement up.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Well, I have abused the patience of my colleagues here. Let me just conclude this by saying that I am very concerned that the administration is more interested in getting this done than in getting it done right and I think that it is going to have a long-term detrimental impact on the forest if that is the approach you continue to take, No.1.
And, No. 2, I think it is already having an immediate detrimental impact on a number of other projects and priorities of the Forest Service. Your document, ''Ecosystem Management Coordination FY2001 Proposed Budget'' identifies 36 forest plan revisions currently in progress. The same document states that of these 36, 20 to 25 will be significantly slowed or delayed at least one year due to budget constraints.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I would suggest to you that those budget constraints are caused by the focus on trying to rush through this priority that I think is a priority in name only and not a priority in terms of getting a roadless policy done right and some of these other policies. Mrs. Clayton, I don't know if I prompted a new question or comments from you but I would be happy to recognize you again.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Yes. Well, I just wanted to conclude. I don't have additional questions but I guess I do have an observation. I think you said earlier that serving in the public servant that your position sort of gave you an opportunity to look at some critical issues. And I would say also that serving as the Chief of the Forest Service, you can be assured that you are not in a bed of roses there.
But, in planning and management there are always controversies. You have to put in balances and priorities of those who are existing as well as the priority of new changes. A little bit of a background in planning and knowing the controversies I have had people don't like that. So part of the process of gaining integrity of the planning process is process. And I think you can begin to see that timing in a process adds to credibility in the process and you can't ignore that having sufficient time for engagement of people, and also when you have one stream of planning going with such an elaborate involvement then you have another process with a short fuse. You have some inconsistency within your own planning.
So I would just urge you to try to get the planning done. I applaud the idea of moving forward but I also know that how you do things is just as important as what you intend to do. So it can be counterproductive in throwing so many things out at one time. And sometimes you have to be dynamic in order to get things done in any one significant area so there is some value some times in having a lot of synergy going.
But if you are true to a goal of a planned comprehensive process with the involvement of people you can't ignore the time value in that process. The integrity just demands that you cannot ignore the involvement of staff resources in that process. The integrity demands it. You cannot ignore the allocation of resources in terms of dollars. I mean you just can'tthey have to correspond. That is what talks about commitment.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I applaud you and I want you to know that we certainly want to work with you but we also know that there are constraints and balances if this is going to be a reality. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you very much. And I guess we are near an end. I want to thank all of you for your participation this morning, your patience with our multitude of questions. I would seek unanimous consent 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 questions posed by any member of the panel, and I believe a few did have some questions which they sought some written responses. Without objection, that is so ordered. And this hearing of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:11 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the reord follows:]
Statement of Mike Dombeck
Chairman Goodlatte, Representative Clayton, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Forest Service's proposed budget for fiscal year 2001.
Performance and financial accountability will be key to building agency credibility, without which we will be unable to obtain the necessary resources to accomplish the agency's mission. As I testified before the House Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee on February 16, 2000, the Forest Service is implementing a variety of actions to enhance its financial management, fully integrate strategic planning and budgeting, and demonstrate organizational effectiveness through the application of sound business practices.
In my testimony today, I want to discuss four key areas: (1) sustainable communities; (2) funding and objectives for the Natural Resource Agenda program areas; (3) actions the Forest Service is taking to ensure it improves program and financial accountability; and (4) other highlights from of the President's budget.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The President's budget supports the Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda and is directly tied to the Government Performance and Results Act (Results Act). The budget proposes a simplified budget structure for the National Forest System appropriation to reflect better the agency's routine activities, as well as its integrated activities to restore and maintain land health while promoting ecological sustainability.
Overall, the President's budget is requesting $3.1 billion for Forest Service discretionary spending in fiscal year 2001. This is a 14 percent increase over fiscal year 2000 that is necessary to ensure the Forest Service accomplishes its multiple-use mission of caring for the land and serving people.
The budget requests a $138.6 million increase in funding for the National Forest System. This is a 12 percent increase from fiscal year 2000. The budget proposes an increase of $13.3 million to enhance the agency's role in forest and rangeland research. It includes funding for such priorities as the use of agricultural products for energy and fiber, the role of carbon in productivity cycles, applications of new technology in resource management and coordination of the Forest Inventory and Analysis program. The budget also proposes an increase of over 22 percent in the State and Private Forestry appropriation that now includes funding for International Programs. This increase will help State and private land managers practice sustainable forestry and conservation of their lands.
Let me first share some thoughts with you about how we can work together to ensure we have sustainable communities that thrive, prosper and promote land health and community well-being. To accommodate these goals the Forest Service is shifting its focus to pay greater attention to what we leave behind on the land, as reflected in the following major policy initiatives.
Roadless Initiative: Our roadless initiative recognizes the unique role that public lands play in maintaining large blocks of unfragmented forest. In an increasingly developed landscape, the ecological and social values of roadless areas are essential for protecting drinking water supplies, providing habitat for rare and vanishing fish and wildlife species, hunting and fishing and other recreation opportunities, bulwarks against the spread of invasive species, and reference areas for research. Less than 5 percent of our planned timber harvest is projected from these areas.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Roads Policy: We released the proposed roads management policy on March 2, 2000. The proposed policy will help us better manage more than 380,000 miles of roads to ensure safe public access while stemming erosion and protecting water quality. Providing sufficient access is especially important considering that we soon expect to see one billion visitors to our National Forests in a year.
Land Management Planning Regulations: Our draft planning regulations will ensure the protection of ecological sustainability through a framework of collaborative stewardship and better integration of science and management. To meet the social and economic needs of local communities, I believe the Forest Service should operate in an open and transparent manner, so the American people have every opportunity to influence and shape the way their land legacy is managed; these new regulations will help accomplish that objective.
Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Memorandum of Understanding: Three weeks ago, I signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Association of State Foresters to cooperate in the full implementation of the FIA program. I view this as a historic agreement to aggressively speed up the collection and enhancement of critical information about the status and trends of the Nation's forested resources.
This important element of sustainable forest management activities will improve the information base for all Federal, State, and private forested lands throughout the United States. The Forest Service is leading a national effort to gather and report on the state of the Nation's forests in 2003. Under this agreement the Forest Service will seek to attain full funding of the FIA program by fiscal year 2003. In addition, we will immediately work to coordinate the President's fiscal year 2001 budget with the funding levels identified in the agreement.
Mr. Chairman, I pledge to you today that we will keep the Congress fully informed as these policy initiatives mature and develop and invite you to be a part of the public process.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCNATURAL RESOURCE AGENDA
When I became Chief, many people, including members of Congress, complained that the Forest Service had lost sense of its mission. In response, I outlined a Forest Service ''Natural Resource Agenda for the 21st Century.'' The Natural Resource Agenda makes clear that land and watershed health is the agency's highest priority. This is based on the simple premise that we cannot meet the social and economic needs of the people without first securing our goal of healthy, diverse, and productive ecosystems.
The Natural Resource Agenda sets agency priorities and gives strategic focus to Forest Service programs, emphasizing watershed health and restoration, sustainable forest ecosystem management, the National Forest road system, and recreation.
Watershed Health and Restoration: The Forest Service is the Nation's largest and most important water provider. National Forest lands are the largest single source of water in the continental United States. Over 3,400 communities rely on National Forest lands in 33 States for their drinking water, serving over 60 million people. We recently determined the water on National Forest lands to be valued, at a minimum, of more than $3.7 billion per year. This $3.7 billion does not include the value of maintaining fish species, recreation values, nor the savings to municipalities who have low filtration costs because water from National Forests is so clean.
Although there have been significant improvements in water quality since the Clean Water Act of 1972, 40 to 50 percent of our watersheds still need restoration and protection. The Forest Service is a full partner in carrying out the President's Clean Water Action Plan that aims to protect public health and restore our Nation's precious waterways by setting strong goals and providing States, communities, farmers, and landowners with the tools and resources to meet these goals. The fiscal year 2001 budget includes an increase of $84 million for continued implementation of the Clean Water Action Plan.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service will use cooperative strategies built around watersheds and the communities they sustain to implement the Clean Water Action Plan, including restoring stream corridors and riparian areas, cleaning abandoned mine lands and hazardous material sites, decommissioning and maintaining roads, and improving rangeland vegetation and grazing management.
In fiscal year 2001, the Forest Service will focus on 12 large-scale watershed restoration projects begun in fiscal year 2000, investing more than $18 million to accelerate implementation of the projects. The Forest Service expects partner organizations such as conservation, wildlife and forest management groups, American Indian tribes, State and local governments, and community organizations to match its funding commitment. The 12 projects include:
Research and development in New York City's municipal watersheds and the Chesapeake Bay;
River restoration on the Chattooga, Conasauga, Rio Penasco, Upper Sevier, Upper South Platte, Warner Mountain/Hackamore, and White Rivers; and
Pacific Costal watersheds, the Blue Mountains of Oregon, and the Lower Mississippi Valley.
In carrying out these projects and the agency-wide focus on watershed health, the Forest Service will draw upon many disciplines, including State, Private and International Forestry, the National Forest System, and Research.
An important aspect of restoring and improving watershed health addresses the lands at risk. Traditionally, risk has meant fire danger and insect and disease infestation. Over 58 million acres of the Nation's forest lands are at risk due to mortality from insects and disease and 40 million acres within the National Forests are at risk of catastrophic wildfire due to past management practices and fire suppression. The Forest Service fully intends to use active management to treat these stands to restore forest health and in the process, provide jobs and wood fiber to local communities.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We need to look at risk with a different perspective, thinking of risk in terms of the 40 to 50 percent of agency managed lands that require attention on a broad scale for a variety of reasons. For example, recreation facilities, trails, and roads that are poorly maintained result in national forest lands being at risk due to degraded water quality which harms fisheries, wetlands and riparian areas. Further, we need to expand the discussion of risk beyond National Forest System lands to the non-Federal forest lands at risk not only due to watershed quality problems, but also due to conversion from open space. The administration has proposed several strategies to address this broad risk issue including a $9.5 million effort to research and implement new methods for economical use of small diameter trees to meet national wood fiber demands.
This expanded concept of risk is also portrayed in the agency's performance-based budget request for fiscal year 2001. For example, we are requesting an additional $19.2 million for the performance measure acres of forest, rangeland and lakes improved. With this additional funding, we propose to improve 430,000 acres of habitat for inland and anadromous fisheries, threatened and endangered species, and wildlife, which is an increase of 135,000 acres from fiscal year 2000 enacted.
Watershed restoration and protection will also serve as the focus of future forest plan revisions. The fiscal year 2001 funding request for the watershed health and restoration component of the Natural Resource Agenda totals $487.7 million, a 9 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management: The Forest Service and its partners are using a comprehensive criteria and indicator framework to achieve sustainable forest and range management in the Untied States. In 1999, the agency released new draft planning regulations that provide a framework for implementing collaborative stewardship. When completed, these regulations will govern administration of 192 million acres of National Forest System lands.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sustainable management of all of the Nation's forest and rangelands requires collaboration among many interests and coordination across the landscape. The United States has adopted the Sustainable Forest Management Criteria and Indicators developed through the international Montreal Process. They provide a common framework allowing the Forest Service to work with interested State and private landowners to evaluate the health, diversity, and resiliency of our Nation's forests.
The fiscal year 2001 requested funding for the Sustainable Forest Ecosystem Management component of the Natural Resource Agenda totals $406.7 million, a 16 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
National Forest Road System: Mr. Chairman, I know there is significant interest about our roadless initiative. We must put the 30-year controversy over roadless areas to rest. One of the reasons I think it is so important to resolve the roadless issue is so we can begin to address other pressing demands, such as forest health.
The National Forest System has more than 380,000 miles of classified roads and more than 60,000 miles of unclassified roads. However, the agency only receives about 20 percent of the funding it needs annually to maintain these roads to Federal safety and environmental standards. As a result, the deferred maintenance backlog is in the billions of dollars.
One of the 47 performance measures within the agency's performance-based budget addresses Forest Service roads and is an example of how performance measures will be used. The road condition index performance measure displays year-to-year changes in the condition of the road system based upon five attributes. The proposed index for fiscal year 2001 is constant with the prior year, based upon a relatively static fiscal year 2001 funding request. In out years, the index will likely decline year to year without significant increases in funding.
Last fall the President asked the Forest Service to begin developing a proposal to conserve and protect National Forest roadless areas that have remained unroaded for a variety of reasons including inaccessibility, rugged terrain, or environmental sensitivity. These areas also serve as the headwaters to many watersheds and provide clean water and wildlife habitat as well as aesthetic values.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The proposal we are developing has two parts. First, we are considering restricting certain activities, such as road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas. Second, we will consider establishing procedures for local forests to consider as they plan activities in roadless areas.
We released the proposed road management policy and draft environmental assessment for public comment on March 2, 2000. The policy outlines a process by which the Forest Service and local people can work together to determine the best way to manage local forest transportation systems, to make the existing forest road system safe, responsive to public needs, environmentally sound, affordable, and efficient to manage.
Before the Forest Service builds news roads in roadless areas, it should invest its limited resources on projects that have broader support, cost less, and have fewer environmental effects. Our fiscal year 2001 funding request for the National Forest Road System of the Natural Resource Agenda totals $129.5 million, an 11 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
Recreation: Recreation is the fastest growing use of the National Forests and Grasslands. The Forest Service is the Nation's largest supplier of public outdoor recreation opportunities, providing more that 2.5 million jobs and contributing more than $100 billion to the Nation's gross national product.
The Natural Resource Agenda seeks to provide recreation opportunities that do not compromise land health and that increase customer satisfaction, educate Americans about their public lands, build community partnerships, and develop new business relationships with partners to expand recreation opportunities. Some of the recreation assets on our National Forests include:
31 National recreation areas, scenic areas and monuments;
133 scenic byways;
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 56 major visitor centers;
Over 133,000 miles of trails;
Over 4,000 miles of wild and scenic rivers;
More than 18,000 campgrounds, picnic areas and visitor facilities;
50 percent of the habitat for salmon and trout in the lower 48 States;
80 percent of the habitat for elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goat in the lower 48 States;
63 percent of the designated wilderness in the lower 48 States;
2.3 million acres of fishable lakes, ponds and reservoirs;
200,000 miles of fishable streams; and
Hundreds of thousands of listings on the National Register of Historic Places.
In an urbanized society, outdoor recreation provides most Americans with an opportunity to connect to the lands and waters that sustain them. The Forest Service has a unique brand of nature-based recreation to offer, including undeveloped settings and an array of services that complement the enjoyment of these special places. Recreation visitors expect a great deal from the Forest Service and they will expect even more in the future.
The fiscal year 2001 funding request includes $30 million proposed for developing tourism, reengineering the special use permitting process, and developing trails, recreational facilities and attractions targeted toward lower income or resource-dependent areas adjacent to National Forests.
The recreation component of the Natural Resource Agenda has developed a 6-point action plan to serve better the American public, including:
Conduct market research to get to better understand what people want;
Invest in special places, especially those being ''loved to death'' by visitation exceeding the capacity of the site;
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Reduce deferred maintenance through the application of techniques that assuring long-term sustainability of the site;
Invest in natural resource conservation education and interpretive services;
Take advantage of new business opportunities and provide services for underserved and low-income people; and
Aggressively secure, provide, and maintain a forest road system that is ecologically sound and available to all Americans.
Among the most valuable products of the National Forests are the experiences that live on a roll of film, or live as childhood memories of family hiking or camping experiences, or in the exhilaration one feels while running a wild river or seeing the crystal clear waters of Lake Tahoe. There is something for everyone to enjoy on the National Forests. We strive to serve new constituencies, urban populations, underserved and low-income people, and to maintain the relevancy of National Forests for future generations. The fiscal year 2001 proposed funding for the recreation component of the Natural Resource Agenda totals $397.4 million, a 13 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
PROGRAM AND FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY
I would like to now discuss our progress in restoring program and financial accountability to the Forest Service. With the dedicated help of Secretary Dan Glickman, we have worked very closely with other parts of the Department of Agriculture to implement the needed financial and programmatic reforms.
As I have said many times, if the Forest Service were in the private sector, with our 30,000-person workforce and 3.3 billion dollar budget, we would rival any Fortune 500 company. At the same time, due to persistent management weaknesses, financial accounting deficiencies, weak data, and poor strategic planning, I doubt very much we would last long in that environment.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service has not yet received a clean financial audit. When I arrived here, I had more than 35 individuals directly reporting to me. Our complex and cumbersome accounting system was staggering under the weight of 100 million individual financial transactions per month. Our Byzantine budget structure made it common that a district ranger interested in accomplishing 15 projects on the ground might have to make 250 budget entries simply to establish the projects in the accounting system. Meanwhile, because we have not sufficiently focused on strategic planning, appropriated budgets rarely, if ever, track expected outcomes described in agency forest plans.
The fiscal year 2001 President's budget proposes significant reform of the agency's budget structure. As noted by the National Academy of Public Administration, the current budget structure does not reflect the nature of agency work performed on the ground and forces our district rangers to spend too much time balancing the books and too little time focusing on the natural resources for which they are responsible. The new proposed structure is performance-based. It presents the budget directly linked to 47 performance measures, that are in turn, directly linked to the agency's strategic plan, the Results Act, and the Natural Resource Agenda.
The budget simplification and performance measures proposals are a cornerstone of our financial and accountability reform efforts. I am confident that with implementation, we will be able to clearly show how the Forest Service is using the taxpayers' money to conserve and restore the health, diversity, and resiliency of our lands and waters, and provide services to the American public.
No Chief of the Forest Service in recent history has had to address the issue of accountability more than I have. I know that a clean audit by itself will not restore the agency's credibility with Congress and the American people; the agency must change its culture based on the knowledge we cannot be effective resource managers if we are not first accountable for the taxpayers' money and for our own actions on the landscape. We are making significant progress.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am happy to report to you that the Forest Service has:
Successfully implemented a new accounting system;
Implemented the Primary Purpose method for changing expenditures to reduce the number of financial transactions by the millions;
Developed an integrated set of land health and service to people performance measures, that link land health and other outcomes on the land to its strategic plan and budget information;
Published its draft Strategic Plan (2000 Revision) for comment that shifts the focus of agency management away from inputs, outputs and process to outcomes on the landscape;
For the first time in many years, filled all leadership positions and also established the offices of the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer to take responsibility for improved program analysis and the linking of budget processes to agency performance and strategic planning;
Conducted the first thorough real property inventory in the agency's history that is critical for our financial audit;
Developed and implemented standard definitions for indirect costs;
Eliminated the backlog of over 1,000 civil rights complaints;
Replaced its crumbling technology infrastructure with a totally new platform for management of information technology; and
Implemented controls on trust fund expenditures to assure compliance with Congressional direction regarding indirect expenses.
Mr. Chairman, I do not think there should be any doubt that these actions demonstrate Forest Service leadership is committed to fix program and financial accountability deficiencies.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESIDENT'S BUDGET
I want to emphasize some other important aspects of the President's budget.
President's Lands Legacy Initiative: This initiative highlights the administration's continued commitment to protect public open space by acquiring lands for conservation and recreation.
By working with States, tribes, local governments and private partners, the Forest Service acquires lands to protect cultural and historic treasures, conserve open space for recreation and wildlife habitat, protect clean water supplies and wilderness areas and preserve forests, farmlands, and coastal areas. The fiscal year 2001 budget includes $236 million for the programs within the Lands Legacy Initiative.
The land acquisition portion of the initiative is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Many of the acquired lands are located in congressionally designated areas such as Wilderness, National Recreation Areas, Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Scenic Trails. Acquisitions also improve forest management through consolidation of boundaries and providing access to existing National Forests and Grasslands.
Forest Legacy, Urban and Community Forestry and Economic Action Programs also provide an avenue for the Forest Service to work with States and willing private landowners to provide jobs while conserving important forest economic, ecological-environmental and social values that represent national priorities.
Legislative Proposals: The administration will advance several new legislative proposals including Payments to States Stabilization, Healthy Investments in Rural Environments (HIRE), Land Acquisition Reinvestment Fund, and Facilities Acquisition and Enhancement Fund. Mr. Chairman, I am especially excited about our Payments to States legislation that we will transmit shortly. It focuses on providing States with stable and permanent education funding, while allowing more money to be spent on forest health restoration and restoring a closer working relationship between rural counties and the Forest Service.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The President's budget includes special emphasis on employing rural workers and enhancing the skills of America's youth. The administration is proposing the HIRE program in conjunction with a comprehensive proposal to reform four of our trust funds. This proposal eliminates the trust funds that have historically been dependent on timber receipts and proposes establishing a new permanent mandatory appropriation. All the work conducted under the existing trust fund authorities would be authorized under this new mandatory appropriation, but with preference for local contracting and employing of skilled rural workers to accomplish the work. With this expanded authority and appropriate funding levels, attention will be focused on addressing our critical forest health land treatments and facility, road maintenance and watershed restoration backlogs.
The fiscal year 2001 budget also reflects a number of legislative proposals that would reform selected programs to initiate or increase fee collections and expand the involvement of the private sector where appropriate.
Mr. Chairman, this budget effectively provides the resources necessary to implement our programs consistent with the Forest Service's Natural Resource Agenda, Presidential Initiatives and other priority funding areas. More importantly, the proposed new budget structure and performance-based approach shows the ecosystem conservation activities and public services that will benefit ours and future generations.
This concludes my written statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
Statement of James Lyons
Chairman Goodlatte, Representative Clayton, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the Forest Service's proposed budget for fiscal year 2001.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to present a brief overview of our budget request and highlight some of the priorities we've identified in three broad areas. Chief Dombeck will address these and other areas in greater detail. The three areas I want to highlight are: (1) the major Presidential initiatives, as reflected in the fiscal year 2001 budget, to promote the long-term sustainability and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands; (2) the strides that have been made in restoring program and financial accountability within the Forest Service; and (3) our ongoing efforts to resolve issues of long-standing concern to the public and the Forest Service as we better prepare the agency to meet the challenges it will face this next century.
Today more than ever, we are involved in important debates about the future of America's forests. Underlying all of these debates is a common thread: what we do today will ensure that our forests, grasslands and river systems retain their health, diversity, resilience and productivity for future generations. While there are differing approaches, I think that we would all agree that it is in the best interests of the Forest Service and the Congress to work together to ensure that we have sustainable communities that thrive and prosper in ways that promote land health and community well-being.
First, a brief overview. Overall, we are requesting $3.1 billion for Forest Service discretionary spending in fiscal year 2001. This is a 14 percent increase over the fiscal year 2000 appropriation and includes the funding to do such things as institutionalize accountability and provide the quality service that the American public expects the Forest Service to provide.
The budget requests a $138.6 million increase in funding for the National Forest System. This is a 12 percent increase from fiscal year 2000. In addition, the budget proposes an increase of $13.3 million to enhance the agency's widely recognized role in forest and rangeland research, including increased research for better utilization of small diameter timber and woody material and the relationship of soil productivity to the carbon cycle. The budget also proposes an increase of over 22 percent in the State and Private Forestry appropriation that now also includes International Programs.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBUDGET PRIORITIES OF THE PRESIDENT
Lands Legacy Initiative: Again President Clinton proposed funding for the Lands Legacy Initiative in the fiscal year 2001 budget to help protect environmentally sensitive lands from development, preserve great places, and provide more open, green space for Americans in suburban and urban areas. The Forest Service has three programs that play a role in this initiative: its land acquisition program; the Forest Legacy program; and the Urban and Community Forestry programs. While many in Congress are very familiar with the agency's valuable land acquisition program for which the President has requested $130 million, the Forest Legacy and Urban and Community Forestry programs are just getting the attention and recognition they deserve from the public as two additional valuable conservations programs.
The Urban and Community Forestry program provides grants and technical assistance to thousands of communities and major cites across America helping them to maintain or expand their ''green infrastructure.'' The program helps them plant trees along city streets, abandoned lots, parks, as well as understand all of the different ways trees can help solve environmental problems such as reducing storm water run off. While many are focused on providing money to build parks, Urban and Community Forestry funding actually provides the technical assistance to help decide how and what is planted in those parks. It is a program that complements such state-side programs like the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery program. Because the demand for this program has grown so strongly over the last 5 years, the President has again requested $40 million for this program.
The Forest Legacy program is unique in that it provides States money to acquire easements on private forested lands that are under pressure from development. Over 20 States are now participating in the Forest Legacy Program and are requesting nearly $100 million in assistance to purchase easements. The States utilize these lands for a number of purposes, including providing public recreation opportunities as well as preserving habitat for critical wildlife. As a result of this increase in demand, the President has requested $60 million for fiscal year 2001.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC HIRE Proposal: The President's 2001 budget includes the Healthy Investments in Rural Environments (HIRE) initiative that accomplishes a number of important goals for the Forest Service including:
Creating new private-sector jobs in rural and forest dependent communities, where jobs for skilled workers continue to be in dire need;
Providing the Forest Service more management flexibility to address the growing forest and rangeland health, ecosystem restoration, and facility, trail, and road maintenance challenges facing the national forests;
Improving the accountability and manageability of the Forest Service's trust fund system;
Continuing work currently performed by the Forest Service under the trusts, to address both the priority work funded by the existing trust funds and support a wide-scale jobs creation program.
To achieve these goals, the Forest Service proposes replacing four permanent and trust fund accounts (the Salvage Sale, Knutson-Vandenberg (K-V), Reforestation, and Timber Sale Pipeline Restoration (USDA-only) funds) with a new mandatory appropriation called HIRE.
Under the HIRE proposal, all timber sale receipts would return to the Treasury. At the same time, the Forest Service would receive a new mandatory appropriation of more than $300 million a year. The Forest Service would allocate this money to the field through the same allocation criteria methods it uses for discretionary funds and would display its allocations to Congress for greater accountability.
Payments to States: The administration has also been working diligently to stabilize county payments for education and road maintenance that have previously been linked to timber sale levels. Faced with declining timber sales on our National Forests, we have put forth proposals that would instead provide a more reliable stream of funding. Our proposal has evolved a great deal and we are now working with Congress to craft legislation that would stabilize payments, maintain healthy ecosystems, and restore a closer working relationship between rural counties and the Forest Service.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Clean Water Action Plan: The President's Clean Water Action Plan emphasizes targeting priority watersheds to improve water quality. Several actions in the plan are related to management of national forests and grasslands, including restoration of stream corridors and riparian areas, inventory and monitoring, cleanup of abandoned mine lands and hazardous material sites, decommissioning/ maintenance of roads; and improved rangeland vegetation and grazing management. The fiscal year 2001 budget includes an increase of $84 million for this initiative compared to fiscal year 2000. This funding is critical to meeting the requirements of the Clean Water Act, among other State and Federal laws.
Watershed Health and Restoration: Forest Service lands also serve as the headwaters for many major river systems and aquifers that are essential for the Nation's water supply, and contain valuable riparian, wetland, and coastal areas. Although there have been significant improvements in water quality since the Clean Water Act of 1972, 40 to 50 percent of our watersheds are still in need of restoration and protection. For this reason, the President is requesting $487.7 million for fiscal year 2001 for these activities, which is a 9 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
With this money, the Forest Service hopes to continue investing in twelve large-scale watershed restoration projects begun in fiscal year 2000. The main purpose of this effort is to develop an agency-wide strategy that focuses resource actions on significant portions of land to enhance its clean water, wetlands, migratory birds, fisheries, riparian areas, and watersheds as well as provide other goods and services to communities.
Recreation: Americans cherish the national forests and grasslands for the values they provideclean water, clean air, natural scenic beauty, important natural resources, protection of rare species, majestic forests, wilderness, a connection with their history, and opportunities for unparalleled outdoor adventure. In an increasingly urbanized society, outdoor recreation provides most Americans with an opportunity to reconnect to the lands and waters that sustain them. Recreation visitors expect a great deal from the Forest Service in terms of settings, experiences, facilities and services; and they will expect even more in the future. Recreation is the fastest growing use on the national forests and grasslands.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service will finalize its new recreation strategy this year with the help and input of the public. Our recreation strategy will be founded more on quality customer service, based on a complete understanding of customers wants and needs. The strategy will help sustain ecosystems, highlight special places and stimulate rural economies. We pride ourselves in innovative partnerships and collaborative relationships to accomplish the recreation job, all while ensuring that recreation opportunities take place within the ecological sideboards necessary to maintain land health. We strive to serve new constituencies, urban populations, the underserved and low-income people to maintain the relevancy of national forests for future generations.
The fiscal year 2001 funding request includes $30 million proposed for developing tourism; reengineering the special use permitting process; and developing trails, recreational facilities and attractions targeted toward lower income and resource-dependent areas adjacent to National Forests, where there are excellent tourism opportunities. The fiscal year 2001 proposed funding for the recreation component of the Natural Resource Agenda totals $397.4 million, a 13 percent increase over fiscal year 2000.
OTHER ADMINISTRATION PRIORITIES
Mr. Chairman, I would also like to make you aware of a few other initiatives that are being undertaken by the administration:
Roadless Area Initiative: In October 1999, President Clinton asked the Forest Service to begin an open public process to address how roadless areas within the national forest system would be managed in the future. Roadless areas have typically remained without roads because of inaccessibility, rugged terrain, low timber values, environmental concerns and high costs associated with litigation. In fact, historically, Forest Service entry into roadless areas has a fifty percent failure rate due to the reasons stated above.
Understandably, Forest Service managers often choose to invest resources in projects that have broader public support, less cost, and fewer environmental impacts than building roads in roadless areas.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, in response to the President's announcement, the Forest Service released a notice of intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) on October 19, 1999, and proposed a two part process to determine how the public would prefer.
Part one would address restriction of certain activities, such as new road construction, in inventoried roadless areas.
Part two would establish national direction for managing inventoried roadless areas, and for determining whether and to what extent similar protections should be extended to un-inventoried roadless areas. Part two would be implemented through local forest planning.
Both part one and part two would be implemented with extensive public involvement.
On December 20, 1999, the Forest Service concluded a comment period on the scope of the proposal. During this comment period, the agency:
Hosted an unprecedented 190 regional and local public meetings; Received more than 500,000 comments.
The Forest Service is now preparing a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that will detail the agency's proposed action and its likely effects. The agency plans to conduct another comment period and an equal number of public meetings when it releases the draft environmental impact statement and a proposed rule in spring 2000. The agency plans to release a final environmental impact statement and regulation before the end of 2000.
Forest Service Roads Policy: On the other side of the coin, the proposed Forest Service Roads Policy would revise how the Forest Service manages the more than 380,000 miles of existing roads already in the national forest transportation system.
The Forest Service currently has a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $8.4 billion dollars and only receives about 20 percent of the funding it needs annually to maintain its existing road system to safety and environmental standards.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The proposed policy is an attempt to:
Make the existing forest road system more safe, responsive to public needs, environmentally sound, affordable, and efficient to manage;
Implement a public involvement process and scientific analysis procedure at the local level to:
Help land managers and the public identify heavily used roads that the agency should prioritize in terms of its limited maintenance and reconstruction spending;
Help land managers and the public identify roads that are unused or environmentally damaging that can be decommissioned; and
Place a new emphasis on maintaining and reconstructing existing roads rather than building new roads.
A draft rule and procedures were released for public review last week.
Forest Service Planning Regulations: All of these proposals would be implemented in the context of the new forest planning regulations. The proposed planning rule would rewrite the existing Forest Service regulations implementing the National Forest Management Act of 1976. The proposed rule is based on the recommendations of a Committee of Scientists and 20 years of experience implementing forest planning.
The proposed rule would:
Base forest and grassland planning on the principles of ecological, economic, and social sustainability;
Require the Forest Service to actively engage the public and our other Federal, State, local, and tribal partners in the management of our national forests and grasslands;
Integrate science and scientists into the planning process and requires the Forest Service to focus on managing entire ecosystems rather than single species or outcomes; and,
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Integrate planning and management activities more closely so that the Forest Service can respond to new information and opportunities in a timely manner.
Last fall the Forest Service hosted a series of 23 town meetings across the country to discuss the proposed planning rule. The planning rule would provide the overarching framework for implementing the roadless area and road management initiatives, if the three initiatives are adopted. All of these initiatives seek to provide for long-term sustainability, ensure collaboration with the public, integrate science more effectively in the planning process, and incorporate new information and opportunities.
I think that we would all agree that the debate about the management of our national forests has been clouded in recent years with issues of accountability. In the past 10 years the Forest Service has been the subject of more than 315 audits by the General Accounting Office and the Office of the Inspector General. And the agency as well as the Department of Agriculture has yet to receive a clean financial opinion since they were first required of governmental agencies.
Under the capable direction of Chief Dombeck, the agency has worked very closely with my office, other parts of the Department of Agriculture and the Secretary to implement the needed financial and programmatic reforms.
These changes were made to position the Forest Service to achieve an unqualified audit opinion on its fiscal year 2000 financial statements. The agency knows, however, a clean audit opinion by itself will not restore the agency's credibility with Congress and the American people. A change in agency culture must occur - a change based on the knowledge that the Forest Service cannot be effective resource managers if they are not first accountable for the taxpayers' money and for their own actions on the landscape.
The Forest Service has presented its fiscal year 2001 budget in a performance-based manner that allows it to accomplish its conservation mission based upon performance measures that fully display on-the-ground outcomes of its management practices and services to the public.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This budget presents a program that is not simply based on a set of funding requests. Rather, the budget justification presents the President's budget in terms of direct on-the-ground accomplishment of work. Mr. Chairman, with the implementation of significantly improved accountability measures, we can refocus the debate about the Forest Service where it should be, on natural resource management policy.
I can vouch for the fact that Chief Dombeck is committed to making the necessary changes. Some of the more significant accomplishments include implementing a new accounting system, developing a simplified budget structure for the National Forest System, submitting a performance-based fiscal year 2001 budget, developing an integrated set of land health and service to people performance measures, and publishing its draft Strategic Plan (2000 Revision).
In addition, for the first time in many years, all leadership positions have been filled. Chief Dombeck has established the offices of the Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Financial Officer to take leadership responsibility for improved program analysis and the linking of budget processes to agency performance and strategic planning.
Mr. Chairman, I do not think that there should be any doubt that these bold, decisive actions demonstrate leadership commitment to correct the Forest Service's program and financial accountability deficiencies.
I am proud to say that during my tenure, the Forest Service has made significant progress in restoring accountability while refocusing the agency's attention to its multiple use mandate. In so doing, we have placed a new priority on maintaining and restoring the health of the land while ensuring the sustainability of goods and services produced on our National Forests. We have renewed our commitment to re-greening our communities - both urban and rural - and sought ways to improve the economies of forest dependent communities by broadening their economic base. We are emphasizing collaboration in working with our public and private partners, and encouraging innovative solutions to our resource management challenges.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm proud of the progress we've made and look forward to the opportunities ahead. Thank you. I would be pleased to answer any questions that you may have.
March 24, 2000
MR. MICHAEL P. DOMBECK
U.S. Forest Service
201 14th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20250
DEAR CHIEF DOMBECK:
The subcommittee has prepared the attached questions to follow up on our recent hearing on the Forest Service's fiscal year 2001 budget. Please respond to these questions in writing by close of business, Friday, March 31, 2000. Your written responses will be included in the hearing record.
If, for any reason, you will be unable to provide this information by the date requested, or if you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Kevin Kramp or Dave Tenny at (202) 2252171. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chairman
QUESTIONS FROM THE SUBCOMMITTEE
Presently the Forest Service is engaged in a number of national rulemakings and planning initiatives. For purposes of the questions that follow, these include (1) the President's proposed roadless policy, (2) the proposed transportation policy, (3) the proposed forest planning rules revision, (4) the proposed GPRA strategic plan, and (5) the proposed unified Federal policy on watershed management. To help the subcommittee better understand the cumulative cost of these rule-makings and planning initiatives and their immediate impacts on program delivery, please provide the following information:
The total amount that will be obligated for each rule-making or planning initiative from fiscal year 2000 appropriations. Please identify for each initiative the budget line items or expanded budget line items from which such amounts will be obligated and the total amount obligated from each.
The names and positions of the employees committing staff time to each rulemaking or planning initiative. For each employee, please identify the organizational unit (e.g., Washington Office, Regional, Forest, Ranger District, Research Station, Detached Unit, et cetera) to which they are assigned and their responsibilities within the unit. Also, for each employee, please identify the expected time commitment the employee will be required to make to the rule-making or planning initiative to which that employee is assigned and the steps, if any, that have been or will be taken, to compensate for any work product associated with that employee's usual duties that has been or may be lost due to that employee's time commitment to the rule-making or planning initiative.
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Please identify for each budget line item or expanded budget line item any work programmed for fiscal year that will be delayed or prevented due to the obligations identified in (a) or the employee time commitments identified in (b).
According to the Forest Service publication ''Ecosystem Management Coordination, Fiscal Year 2001 Proposed Budget'' there are presently 36 forest plan revisions in progress. Please identify the total number of these that will be delayed (including the anticipated duration of the delay) or otherwise hindered either by the obligations identified in (a) or the employee time commitments identified in (b).
To help the subcommittee better evaluate the nature and effectiveness of the public meetings held on each national forest during the public comment period on the scope of the President's roadless policy, provide the following information for each meeting:
Date, location, duration and total attendance.
A description of the advance notice provided, including public notices in local newspapers and through other media, notice to local elected officials and any other types of notice provided to individuals or the public at large. For each type of notice, please identify the date on which the notice was provided.
Documentation of any requests for an alternative date or time for the meeting.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A description of the meeting format (e.g. open house, town hall, roundtable, et cetera) and whether public comment for the record was received.
If public comment was received, a list of the issues raised and the number of comments, in favor of and opposed to, the proposition raised in each issue.
To help the subcommittee better interpret comments submitted to the Forest Service on the scope of the President's roadless policy, please provide the following information:
The total number of comments.
The total number of comments requesting either an extension of the comment period or more information.
The total number of non-substantive comments. For purposes of this inquiry, non-substantive means any comments that were mass-produced (post cards, form letters, form e-mails, et cetera) and any that did not otherwise provide technical or science-based input.
Of the substantive comments submitted, please provide a list of the issues raised and a tally of the types of comments made regarding each issue.
Question from Mr. Walden
Mr. Furnish informed the subcommittee that the final record of decision on the Pelican Butte ski area environmental impact statement would be published ''far in advance of a rulemaking on the roadless policy.'' Please provide a specific date or range of probable dates on which the final record of decision will be published.
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Please provide a detailed explanation of how the Pelican Butte project will be impacted by a final decision on the President's roadless policy. Include in your explanation whether there will be a need to grandfather the project into the final roadless policy. If no such need will exist, please explain why.
Questions from Mr. Ewing submitted on behalf of Mr. Hoekstra
Many small, independent business owners use Special Use Permits (SUP) to operate their enterprises within the national forest system. These small enterprises, such as canoe liveries, outfitter guides and horse-riding stables, provide a unique opportunity for taxpayers to access our national forests. In many cases, they offer families and individuals that cannot afford to own a canoe or other expensive equipment an opportunity to utilize the resources of rivers or trails in the national forests. Unfortunately, many of these small businesses using SUPs are falling victim to an increasingly burdensome fee structure imposed by the U.S. Forest Service. For example, a SUP holder operating a small canoe livery in the Huron-Manistee National Forest in Michigan pays:
1.8 percent of gross revenues to lease or utilize Federal resources as a condition of their permit;
additional landing fees within the Federal forest;
subsequent to implementation of the recreational fee demonstration program, their customers must also pay for parking within the national forest at those landings.
Now the proposed rule issued by the U.S. Forest Service on November 24, 1999, for recovering processing and monitoring fees would impose another cost on SUP holders. I, therefore, request the following questions to be addressed by the U.S. National Forest Service:
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is it necessary to add another layer of costs associated with SUPs?
Have you considered re-evaluating the current rental fee structure to ensure that it covers necessary Forest Service expenses associated with the SUPs?
I am also concerned that the application and monitoring fees associated with this rule are not clearly defined and are, in fact, very vague. The actual costs that a SUP holder will incur on an annual basis for both the permit application and monitoring is open-ended. There is potential for costly environmental assessments and excessive monitoring of the SUP holders and it appears that all of the costs for those activities would be billed to the SUP holders without their input or ability to reduce those costs. As this rule stands, it will increase the cost for families to enjoy our Nation's resources, and potentially put many of these small entrepreneurs out of business.
Will the agency be clarifying the monitoring and processing fee structure to provide a clearer cost assessment for SUP holders?
Businesses operating with a SUP provide access to the National Forest System for thousands of Americans. If the USFS puts canoe liveries or other businesses operating with SUPs out of business because of increasing fees, the public will lose access to the rivers and other resources.
Is it the intent of the USFS to limit public access to National Forest resources through SUP holders?
Will the USFS work to build collaboration with SUP holders and give serious consideration of the comments they have submitted during the comment period?
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"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."