SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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WILDFIRE RISKS ON FEDERAL LANDS
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 4, 2000
Serial No. 10665
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
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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
BOB RILEY, Alabama
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMICHAEL 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
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
DAVID D. PHELPS, Illinois
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCKEN 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
C O N T E N T S
Combest, Hon. Larry, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, opening statement
Chenoweth-Hage, Hon. Helen, a Representative in COngress from the State of Idaho, opening statement
Stenholm, Hon. Charles W., a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, opening statement
Kempthorne, Hon. Dirk, Governor, State of Idaho
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPrepared statement
PANEL TWO 1\
Artley, Don, State Forester, State Forestry Division, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Missoula, MT
Bosworth, Dale, Regional Forester, Northern Region Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Missoula, MT
Hubbard, James, State forester, Colorado State Forest Service, Fort Collins, CO
Laverty, Lyle, Regional Forester, Rocky Mountain Region, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Denver, CO
DellaSala, Dominick A., director, Klamath-Siskiyou Regional Program, World Wildlife Fund, Ashland, OR
1\This panel was not required to provide testimony and appeared only to answer questions of a technical nature.
WILDFIRE RISKS ON FEDERAL LANDS
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2000
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:04 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Larry Combest (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Present: Representatives Goodlatte, Smith, Chenoweth-Hage, Moran, Thune, Cooksey, Simpson, Fletcher, Stenholm, Condit, Peterson, Clayton, Etheridge, Boswell, Phelps, Lucas of Kentucky, Thompson of California, and Hill.
Staff present: Tom Sell, David Tenny, Brent Gattis, Callista Gingrich, Wanda Worsham, clerk; and Quinton Robinson.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY COMBEST, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
The CHAIRMAN. Good morning. This hearing will come to order. I welcome everybody here this morning to this important hearing, and I would especially like to welcome Governor Kempthorne, who joins today representing the Western Governors Association as well as the great State of Idaho.
The year 2000 has been one of the worst wild fire seasons of the centry. To date, 7 million acres of forestland have been destroyed by wildfires. To put this in perspective, that is equivalent of a 1 mile swath of forest stretching from Washington DC to Los Angeles and back. This tragedy has been made worse by the terrible loss of homes and property in Los Alamos, suburbs of Denver and other places throughout the interior west.
The experts have warned us that this was coming. The same experts tell us that unless we act now, the worst is yet to come. Yet sadly, the prevailing in Washington is a policy of neglect. The legacy of this policy is deplorable. Fifty-one million acres of Federal land are at high risk of catastrophic wild fire due to overcrowded forest conditions. Sixty percent of our national forests are in unhealthy condition. One of every 3 acres of national forest is dead or dying.
We can not stand idly by and allow their tragedy to continue. It is time for a new policy. Yesterday Congress took the first step by approving a wildlife disaster provision in the Interior bill providing $1.8 billion to clean of forests that have been burned this year and to protect our remaining forests from burning in the future. Congress also included in this bill a new plan for reducing the fire risk in our forest. This plan, which was brought to us by the Western Governors Association, has three essential parts. First, it creates partnerships between State and Federal land managers. Second, it directs Federal and State partners to jointly develop a comprehensive 10-year strategy for reducing forest fires.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, it gives States a direct role in the planning, decision-making and implementation of the 10-year strategy. This new policy provides an opportunity to finally do work on our Federal land that should have been done over the last decade. We are pleased that Governor Kempthorne is here on behalf of the Western Governors Association to discuss it with us. Governor, we are prepared to work with you and other Governors to make this new policy work.
I recognize Mr. Stenholm.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES W. STENHOLM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we welcome you, Governor, and those that you represent. As everyone knows, on September 8, Secretary Glickman, along with Secretary Babbitt, submitted a report to President Clinton entitled ''Managing the Impact of Wildfires on Communities and Environment.'' That report was timely given the 6.9 million acres that have burned this year, along with firefighting costs of roughly $1.5 million per day.
Mr. Chairman, we have no control over the severe long-lasting droughts and lightening strikes. These are the forces of the La Nina weather phenomenon that we have to live with, but we have other choices. Currently, we are prepared to spend as much as $2.8 billion for on restoration preparedness and fuels treatment. We must development a long-term common sense plan to manage these wild fire conditions.
When homes and lives are at stake, we can not afford to argue about whether a brush removal project is actually an incentive for a commercial timber sale. Under our existing forest management policies, there is often too much focus placed on protecting the resource in an unnatural state that will burn out of control. The President's recommendations, I believe, are a step in the right direction to address this problem. However, its implementation needs to be carefully monitored. We all agree that reducing fuel loads will require removing brush and small trees and downed material through prescribed burns or thinning. We must find a way to conduct these activities under reasonable conditions. The choice is simple. We can engage in fuel removal projects that cost roughly $300 per acre, or we can continue to spend $1,200 per acre to contain wildfires. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. The Chair will recognize, briefly, Mrs. Chenoweth-Hage to welcome the Governor of her State.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH-HAGE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am so honored that our Governor is here, the chairman of the Western Governors Conference. I would like to say that this is an issue that I have been absolutely immersed in for the last 4 years holding 16 hearings on this particular issue over the last 4 years. I want to say something personal, Mr. Chairman, and that is, that while I have been immersed in this issue, I was with the Governor on a number of occasions as we have flew over the fires, as we examined what the conditions were out there, and then I would get on the plane and come back here to Washington DC. He stayed there and he lived with it. He was out every single day observing what was going on, observing entire watersheds that were being destroyed, resources that were being destroyed, communities and our resources. It was something he lived with.
So I think in his statements today, he will bring a perspective to this whole issue that we need to pay attention to.
Governor, welcome and thank you so much for being here.
The CHAIRMAN. I would also recognize the gentleman from Idaho, Mr. Simpson.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
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Mr. SIMPSON. Thank you. I have an opening statement that I will submit for the record, Mr. Chairman. I had the opportunity this summer to visit a number of fires, both with the Governor and the President, and also spent a couple of days with my chief of staff on the Clear Creek fire in Idaho which was the largest fire in the United States. This picture that we have here today as we talk about fuels reduction and so forth is just a picture that was taken as we were driving around where the Clear Creek fire was, and it was just snapped out of the pickup as we were driving around. And I think it demonstrates some of the problems that we have in our forest with the fuels and overloading of fuels. It almost looks like if you look at that one section of it, it reminds me of how, when I was a boy scout, they told me how you build a campfire. It looks like kindling all around there.And that is land that is prime for catastrophic fires. And it was this type of land which burned in Idaho.
I will submit my statement for the record. It is my honor to have Governor Kempthorne here, as Congresswoman Chenoweth-Hage said, he is a Governor that is a hands-on Governor. He was out every day addressing these fires, talking to the people, seeing what the State of Idaho could do. As you know, he is on the executive committee of the National Governors Association. He is the vice-president of the Council of State Governments and chairman of the Western Governors Association. He is a very proactive Governor, one that got the Western Governors Association together to talk about how to manage these Federal lands with the Secretary, both Glickman and Mr. Babbitt, to talk about how to manage these forestlands and how to get State and local involvement in managing these forestlands.
So it is my pleasure to have him here today to talk about the recommendations of the Western Governors Association and to talk about these effects of these catastrophic fires on the West. I appreciate it. Thank you.
[The prepared statements of Mr. Goodlatte, Smith, Mrs. Chenoweth-Hage, Mr. Simpson and Ms. Stabenow follow:]
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. BOB GOODLATTE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF VIRGINIA
I would first like to thank all of our witnesses for joining us here today. I would especially like to thank Governor Kempthorne for taking time out of his busy schedule to be with us today. Governor, thank you.
We are here today to discuss the impact of the most devastating fire season in recent memory and what is being done to ensure that such a season will never happen again. Approximately 51 million acres of Federal lands are presently at high risk of damage due to fire. These lands are in need of proactive management to reduce fire risks. The recent and ongoing fires throughout the western United States7 million acres as of mid-Septemberdemonstrate the inevitable outcome if we maintain the status quo.
Despite widespread recognition of the problem, Federal land management agencies have been slow to respond to the need for treating high hazard lands. Federal agencies lack cohesive strategies for dealing with the issue and are not effectively deploying their resources to the ground in an equitable and timely manner. The result is an annual increase in the number, size, severity, and cost of fires on public lands and with often severe impacts on adjacent private lands and property.
Yesterday the House of Representatives took a critical step to reverse this trend. The House approved a $1.8 billion emergency spending package to assist in the effort to restore our recently destroyed forests and prevent catastrophe in the future. Congress is providing this money, in large part, to implement the new plan agreed to by the Western Governors, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Secretary of the Interior to form State, Federal and local teams to rehabilitate burned-over forests and reduce the risk of wildfire in our most at-risk forests.
The Western Governors believe that our forests can be made more fire resistant in a way that rebuilds the health of the forests, restores riparian systems and watershed and provides wood to local communities. They also believe that these objectives most effectively achieved by directly involving Federal, State and local participants in all aspects of preventing and managing wildfires, acting as full partners in planning, analysis, decision making, and project implementation. As I understand it, these ideas are the cornerstones of their agreement with the Secretaries and will provide the key policy underpinnings of a 10-year strategy for reducing wildfire risks on all Federal forestlands that will be developed under that agreement.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The success of Federal, State and local partnerships is imperative to the health of our Nation's forestlands in the long term. All too often the State and Federal cooperative partnership is anything but cooperative. As emphasized by the Western Governors, and again emphasized here today, successful forest management, and the success of the Western Governors' plan, hinges on the appropriate blend of Federal, State and local priorities and expertise.
We cannot afford to have another fire season like the one we have had this year. If we are going to be responsible stewards of these national treasures, we need to act decisively and act now. Today we are taking a critical first step. We welcome the input of our western governors. We welcome the agreement they have reached with the Secretaries. We welcome the resulting plan. And, perhaps most of all, we welcome the input of the local professionals who are with us today who will be most directly responsible for making this new policy work.
Governor Kempthorne, we are behind your efforts. Old policies have failed. It's time for a new plan. Let's work together to make it work for the benefit of our national forest treasures and the people who live, work and recreate in them.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. NICK SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this hearing today to review Wildfire Risks on Federal Lands. I also appreciate the witnesses taking the time to come here to Washington and speak about some of the policy shortcomings that have really been evident with this summer's wildfire situation. I think it is clear that we need changes to minimize the effects caused each year by naturally spreading forest fires. The Federal Government, through coordination of the USDA and Department of Interior, should work with State and local officials to make these changes. New policies should be based on scientific principles that will maximize and sustain forest health, not
misguided recommendations from special interests groups.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I commend the leadership of Governor Kempthorne and the Western Governors Association for providing us with a solid starting foundation in making these changes. I am also hopeful that the policy language that we have included in the Interior appropriations legislation can be built upon further and implemented by our next administration to ensure that we minimize these critical threats from forest fires in the future. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH-HAGE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
As chairman of the first subcommittee in Congress to focus solely on national forests and forest health, I am pleased that the Agriculture Committee has convened today to discuss what the General Accounting Office has called the greatest single threat to the long-term health and sustainability of the national forests: the risk of ever larger, hotter, catastrophic fires due to the over-accumulation of vegetation and dry forest fuels. I cannot overstate the importance of this issue. I would like to thank the witnesses, especially Governor Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho, for being here today.
During this Congress alone, as Chairman of the Resources Subcommittee on Forests, I have held 16 hearings addressing fire and fire management on the national forests. From these hearings we have learned that the recent fires were not only predictablewe knew they could occurbut they were also inevitable when our land management policies ignore the voluminous scientific data on forest conditions and forest management practices.
Over the past four years, we have learned that there are practical solutions available to forest managers to reduce risk in the urban-wildland interface, unquestionably the area in most urgent need of action. Mechanical thinning and prescribed burns are two important tools needed by Federal land managers. Broader stewardship contracting authority would help to make both of these tools more affordable.
However, we must not forget that approximately fifty million acres of land are now at high risk of catastrophic fire, including many resources at risk beyond the urban-wildland interface. Congress and the administration must now take aggressive action to promote the
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOClong-term improvement of our forest lands and ensure that management decisions are grounded in science to protect and improve the natural resources entrusted to our care.
Congress has consistently pointed out the severity of the fuel accumulation in a series of hearings and reports since the late 1980's. In response, the Forest Service has written numerous plans acknowledging the scope of the problem. Many of these plans included sound and responsible recommendations for correcting the problemrecommendations, however, that were never followed. Despite repeated warnings, this administration, in particular, has failed to act. This has fast become a tragedy of epic proportions.
I have documented numerous cases of Forest Service failure to adequately prepare for a fire fighting season of this magnitude. Staffing and equipment levels are dangerously low. At one point this summer, the agencies were short 400 fire fighting crews when, amazingly, we have documentation of additional crews and equipment available for fire fighting but not deployed. How is this possible? Our firefighters are the best in the world, but are they being used efficiently? Even as Congress appropriates more funds for fire preparedness, the Forest Service has been siphoning more off the top for other initiatives, leaving fewer funds to reach the field. This must stop, now.
Experts know that a combination of thinning, brush removal, and reintroduction of fire can return forests to a healthier, more natural, fire-resistant condition. What Federal agencies have been lacking until now is the political will to do what must be doneto actively manage forests, primarily in the wildland-urban interface, in order to minimize risk. Undoubtedly, doing so will surely draw the wrath from a small but powerful and well-financed elite who are against the professional management of Federal lands.
I thank the chairman for addressing this timely topic today, and I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL K. SIMPSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, thank you for scheduling this hearing to explore future avenues for forest management including fuels reduction and treatment in order to decrease the likelihood for future catastrophic fires. I am hopeful that this hearing will generate the dialog that is needed to start the process of restoring and rehabilitating our national forests.
First, let me start by thanking the men and women who have been selflessly fighting fires throughout the western United States this summer. Unfortunately, I have the distinction of representing the district that had the largest single fire in the United States: the Clear Creek fire in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The Clear Creek fire covered an area of over 200,000 acres, outside of Salmon, ID. An area one-third the size of the State of Rhode Island. However, it is but one of many that has burnt throughout Idaho and the United States.
I was fortunate in that I was able to spend 2 days on the Clear Creek fire lines and in the camps with the men and woman who have been heroically fighting this catastrophic fire. I saw firefighters on the lines in the smoke and ash, I met the support crews in the camps who cook, provide fire fighting supplies and equipment, make maps all night long in preparation for morning briefings, and the man who ran the showers so that firefighters could have a basic semblance of normalcya hot shower after 16 hours on the firelines.
Spending a couple of days in the firecamp and on the lines I picked up a few things Tom the people who are at the ground level.
One is obvious and we've been discussing this for years. We have to manage our forests. They are in an unhealthy state as evidenced by the Forest Service's own estimates placing 40 million acres at high fire risk. I saw the high fuel loads, lodge pole pine so thick it looked like toothpicks had been dropped from the sky, and brush choking the ground. We need to find a way to rem our forests to a more healthy and natural state that includes managed prescribed burns and thinning.
We may not agree on every aspect of achieving that natural state, but we can find common areas where we can agree that fuels reduction is better than the alternative, catastrophic forest fires.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is very appropriate. A well-funded fuels reduction program will pay significant dividends in the reduction of fire fighting and restoration costs over time. I am pleased that an additional $1.8 billion has been included in the fiscal year 2001 Interior Appropriations Conference Report. Moreover, I am excited that the Western Governors' Association and the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior were able to reach an agreement creating new Federal-State partnerships to improve forest health.
Additionally, we must develop an approach to rehabilitate and restore lands already stricken by these catastrophic fires. A plan must be quickly set in motion that addresses the health of our forests and watersheds and restores vital wildlife habitat. However, we will not be successful without input and participation from the States. Federal-State partnerships are crucial to the implementation of forest health management plans and forest restoration and rehabilitation plans.
Mr. Chairman, these are but a few of the things that I discussed while spending time on the Clear Creek Fire. Forest health and fuels management is an issue that Congress must spend more time discussing and finding answers to. We have to seek more proactive ways to manage our Nation's forests.
Once again, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for holding this hearing. I am hopeful that the information presented here will bring us one step closure to healing our forests.
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. DEBBIE STABENOW, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Chairman Combest and Ranking Member Stenholm, thank you for convening today's hearing on wildfire risks on Federal lands. I appreciate the opportunity for the committee to address this important issue.
As we are all well aware, our western forests have suffered devastating wildfires this year that caused significant threat to life, property, and to the Federal forests and land we strive to protect and preserve. More must be done to prevent these disasters. Today's hearing is an important step in assessing the current state of the Federal lands and striving for solutions to prevent future fires. While Michigan did not suffer the devastation that has plagued the West, my State's three forests could be the site of future fires and I am looking forward to examining management practices and preventative measures that will benefit not just the west but the entire Nation.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I look forward to today's testimony from the panels of witnesses and would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you. Additionally, I would like to express my condolences to my colleagues and to the witnesses who represent areas that suffered through the wildfires this summer.
The CHAIRMAN. Governor Kempthorne, please proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. DIRK KEMPTHORNE, GOVERNOR, STATE OF IDAHO
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. May I also say how proud Idaho is of Congresswoman Chenoweth-Hage and Congressman Simpson. They provide outstanding representation for all the people of Idaho. To all the members of your committee, Mr. Chairman, it is an honor to be before you. Any discussion of 2000 fire season must begin with an acknowledgment of the heroic efforts of our fire fighters. I visited them many times this summer whether they were from the Army or Marine Corps, or the National Guard, the Forest Service, the BLM, our Smoke Jumpers hotshot crews, the National Interagency Fire Center, State Forest officials, local volunteer fire fighters, the pilots of the helicopters and the airplanes, law enforcement, everyone did an outstanding job.
The camaraderie and morale was high. And the cooperation and coordination was exceptional. This is how government ought to work, and we should use it as a model as we now look at how government should work in terms of future forest health policy. This has been the worst forest fire season in Idaho's recorded history. To give you an idea of what Idaho has experienced this year, more than 1.2 million acres went up in flames. Of that amount, it is estimated conservatively that fires consumed 1 billion board feet of timber. That is the equivalent of the amount of timber it takes to build 100,000 single-family homes.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To give you some idea about fuel loads in the forests in Idaho for every acre of State forest and land, there are 20 acres of federally-owned forested lands. In fact, if you take all of the Federal land that lies within the State of Idaho, the amount of land is equivalent to the entire land mass of the State of Maryland and Massachusetts and New Jersey and Connecticut and Delaware and Vermont and New Hampshire and Rhode Island combined. A 20 to 1 ratio, and yet, we have removed more board feet of timber off the State land than all of the Federal land combined.
Take the Clear Creek fire which Congressman Simpson referenced, the largest fire this year in Idaho, more than 216,000 acres. When you fly over this area, you can see what kind of a dramatic difference can be made when you address the fuel loads. In the middle of all of those charred acres lies a green oasis. It is the result of a prescribed burn which took place a few years ago. So the intensity of the flames approached and they simply went around. The fuel load wasn't there. I heard about fuel loads continually from fire fighters who were putting their lives on the line to fight these fires. Until we address the issue of fuel loads, we will continue to see these dramatic and devastating fires. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of charred and devastated acres, there are a series of other issues we need to address.
Dealing with the loss of critical habitat and its impact upon species, including endangered species, the loss of grazing opportunities on allotments because they were burned, determining how to help a community so choked by smoke after day that it threatened the opening of school for the entire district, our Department of Environment Equality has calculated that the Idaho fires put 86,000 tons of smoke pollution into the air. Do we charge that as Federal smoke or State smoke? Helping a rancher who lost 600 head of cattle through one lightening strike. Yes, he may qualify for low interest loans, but he has been wiped out.
So what do we do? To officials here in the East trying to understand the kind of damage these wild fires have done, please picture in your mind the aftermath of a horrible hurricane on the east coast. Now apply that picture to the West. That is what we have been through. We have just suffered a horrible hurricaine of fire. If you look at all of this and it is very clear. This summer, any justification for continuing the status quo forest policy just went up in flames, across the State of Idaho and throughout the West. Clearly, it is time for a new policy, one that is based on scientific principles, one that focuses on forest health. And I don't put that in terms of logging quota, but instead on what is necessary to reduce the fuel load. There are a number of tools that can be used to accomplish this. Selective thinning, prescribed burns, commercial cuts to cite a few, but the primary goal must be forest health, something that all of us involved in this debate should agree.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also believe that a new policy must have the States working as full partners with the Federal Government, not only for the recovery efforts in the short term, but in the long-term efforts at forest health and wild fire risk reduction. Significantly, we must reduce the command and control from Washington, DC. and get the decision-making down to where it needs to be, on the ground and in the hands of the land managers, our national forest supervisors and our State foresters.
Last month in Salt Lake City, I joined a bipartisan group of Governors at a meeting with Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman to talk about developing this new policy. And out of that meeting came an agreement to move forward. The Governors have worked with Federal land management officials to develop a collaborative framework for this new policy. And as a result of this work, the Western Governors Association submitted language to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee members that would establish this framework.
Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this language and the accompanying cover letter be made part of this record. And I am pleased that the report language agreed to by the conferees on the Interior appropriations bill last week will allow this new strategy to be implemented. A strategy where the States are full partners in the planning, decision-making, and implementation with the Federal Government. And more importantly, a strategy that emphasizes key decisions that need to be made at the local level, which will mean real changes on the ground management of Federal lands in the West.
Mr. Chairman, that is a brief summary of what happened this summer in Idaho and in the West. We hope we can take the lessons we have learned from these devastating fires and develop new policies that will mean greater prevention and less remediation in the coming years. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Governor.
All of the information that you wish to be submitted to support your testimony will be made a part of the record, and again, we thank you very much for coming out here to give us your view points on yours and that of the Association on the devastation which has occurred.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In your statement, you said something to the effect that the status quo no longer exists. It went up in flames. What is the status quo?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, I think the status quo is previously based upon an allowable cut, based upon some indication of a total number of board feet that may be removed, and then through a series of appeals that are filed, sales of timber do not go forward. I believe, Mr. Chairman, therefore, we need to change the approach, and that is to come to an agreement as to what is best for the forest health in identifying that we do have fuel load. Mr. Chairman, unless we have dramatic increase in moisture next year, all of the conditions that exist this year continue to exist, and the expectation is that we can assume that it may be just as devastating next year if we do not begin to remove the fuel load.
And that is where we need to have the collaborative process and we need to empower the Federal land managers, your National Forest supervisors in collaboration with State foresters in coming up with what can be the approach. It may be a prescribed burn; it may be the thinning; it may be commercial cuts; but we need to go forward with this because to do nothing, which really has been the policy, does not work.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, the condition which led to some of these devastations which you have mentioned, it continues to exist into next year if there is not some dramatic change in moisture. This is not something that you woke up this year and realized that it was a problem, did you?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. No, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Why has there been nothing done in the past to deal with these conditions which existed that created such a tinder box.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, I would, again, point to the reality that with a 20 to 1 ratio of forested State land versus the Federal, where we still removed more board feet off the State land than we did off of that entire Federal land, I can't show you the empirical data, but our State forester can give you supporting information that would indicate that we suffered as many lightening strikes on State land as we did on the Federal land, and yet we did not have the devastation of the State land because of the reduction of the fuel load.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If we can use those same principles of thinning when we have an outbreak of blister rust, when we have the infestation of a tussock moth. As the president of the Idaho Land Board, I can tell you month after month we move immediately at removing that type of timber because it poses a great danger to the surrounding timber. Unfortunately, we see that the Federal Government cannot move that quickly.
The CHAIRMAN. A lot of the discussion about this issue is going to be under the assumption that everybody knows what the conditions are and the policies are, and I would like to make it a little more elementary than that. You had mentioned that you had taken the board feet, more board feet of lumber off of the State lands even though it was one-twentyeth of the Federal lands. Why have not more board feet been harvested from the Federal lands?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, over the years there have been appeals upon appeals to stop the Forest Service when it is Federal forest land from moving forward with the sale, appeal after appeal. It has tied things up, and I believe that you've gotten to the point that you have forest supervisors that are just as frustrated as we are at the State level at the local level because they feel their hands are being tied, because they don't have the support from Federal Government in Washington, DC to going forward and start removing this fuel load.
The CHAIRMAN. As Governor of the State, you probably do not raise a lot of cotton in Idaho, at least the times I've been there I haven't seen any. By the same token, in my district of Texas I tell people that I have a town that is named No Trees and it is appropriately named. Forestry and forestry health is not an issue which we grow up with and which we understand all the intricacies and implications of, because it is not something we deal with on a commercial basis. But I have, over a period of years, ventured into those areas because of the concerns that come under this committee. And I was astounded at my first visit several years ago into an area, not in Idaho but not far from Idaho, in which we were able to look at those areas which were being managed, and it was pristine forest, the grounds were clear, the grass was growing, the trees were beautiful, clear, they were healthy.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And then the areas in which nothing was allowed to be done, and not only were there were just scores of trees that were dead on the ground, but even the trees that were alive, most of them were diseased because they simply could not grow in the conditions under which they were being forced to grow. And there was no activity whatsoever, and it was a stark contrast. And even to a novice in forestry issues such as myself, it was explained it was so obvious that those areas in which nothing was being done were literally powder kegs waiting to explode.
And in looking further into the issue, we obviously became aware that this is the same type of condition that was occurring all over the United States. And this has been an accident waiting to happen in which people for a long time have predicted it would. And I think the points that you have made that have beenthey are specifically interesting is that in the controlled burn area, the fires went around it, and even in the areas that had as equally as many lightening strikes in the State-managed forests as were in the Federal lands, the forest fires did not occur.
This is a test which no one wished to be run, but it is a test and an example in which there are certainly some things that can we learned from it.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, I have appreciate very much your overview of what's been discussed here. I would like to reiterate just a couple of points. First, to reiterate that when I visit with forest supervisors, these are good individuals. They have been trained in land management. They know what policies ought to be applied but their hands have been tied. They are frustrated and they expressed that to me. But I remember, Mr. Chairman, that as a member of the United States Senate, I would also visit with those forest supervisors, and in those situations, they would confide in me. But it wasn't a situation that they could come to a table like this and say what they were thinking.
There is an example of a fire in Montana where you have the State land, the beneficiary of the timber from that State land are the schools in Montana. Now they have gone through and they have done a good thinning operations. But they border Federal forested land. The forest fire raging through the Federal land then of course jumped into the State land. Annually, they would harvest about 42 million board feet from that land and the beneficiary again would be the schools. But in 1 day they lost 80,000 board feet.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They wished their neighbor had a thinning policy so that sort of devastation doesn't come through and take from them some of the dramatic revenue that helps the school children in Montana. I think, Mr. Chairman, that there has been an attitude recently that with regard to forests that we deal with it more as a FEMA model then Department of Defense.
FEMA, meaning we know there is going to be devastation and we will simply go in in the aftermath. We would like to get ahead of that, more in the defense mode of prevention so that we do not have to keep coming back and ask for a supplemental to go in and somehow try to restore critical habitat that has been lost.
I remember, Mr. Chairman, when the Senator from Rhode Island, Senator John Chafee, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, came out to Idaho, and we had hearings on the Endangered Species Act. I took him to some of the forested land including the private forests. I showed him some extensive studies that were being done on the sedimentation in the water and erosion, and he asked me which Federal agency is requiring all those extensive studies. I said, Mr. Chairman, that is the point. No Federal agency is doing that. That is being done totally by the private land owners, by Potlanch Corporation because they want to have a healthy stand of trees, and they want to know the impact on erosion. So I believe if we put the trust back into the people that are there on the land, it really will yield results.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Stenholm.
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and following on your line of questioning, out of curiosity, Governor, on the State-owned lands with the harvesting that you have done, what percent of the annual growth are you harvesting, would you know that figure?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Stenholm, I will make that figure available to you.
Mr. STENHOLM. I was just curious. Mr. Chairman, your predecessor, Bob Smith of Oregon, held extensive hearings on this matter 4 years ago, 3 years ago, did about as good of a job as I could see a chairman do, trying to find a middle ground with the vast differences of opinion that are prevalent regarding the management of our forests, put together a compromise bill and proposal and watched it go down in flames on the House floor. It was amazing to me.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am like the chairman, the number of trees other than mesquite trees in my district are nonexistent. But I do recognize the importance of lumber. And I too have had the opportunity just this year, not in Idaho or Montana, but in Mississippi to visit a small tree farm, and I mean small. But to actually see what you can do when you help God with the management of his forests versus allowing Him to do it all by Himself.
It was amazing to see the growth in a small 15-acre plot, and the beauty and the growth and the production of lumber and then to see right next to it, only in this case, it is 15 acres, one of those plots that you demonstrate or you have testified to that go over millions of acres. It is mind boggling to me why those who are bent on the other side cannot see that. Many times I ask myself what is it that makes me smarter than them, and usually you get an answer to this. But in this case, just as you have testified today, the 1 in 20, and when the fires get to the State-owned lands, what happens? What is the difference?
And you have testified to that. And when the cost and all these things are associated, it is just mind boggling to say I watched this committee attempt it. I rode shotgun with Chairman Smith because he was the expert.
I listened to numerous witnesses, my staff listened, came up with a compromise, but yet we could not pass it. Now, what has happened now and I guess my question to you is how do you plan to get the Forest Service and the communities to work together in order to prevent lawsuits and delay under this new agreed program? What has changed? Has something changed in the attitude now or what gives you the optimism now with the agreement that you and Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman and the Governors seem to have now, what has happened that maybe will prevent the lawsuits and delay and that we can really get on with doing as you have testified our foresters want to do?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Stenholm, I appreciate the question. What has changed is that we see the continuation of the devastation, and I think even those people who have been reticent to see any sort of thinning are now beginning to say, perhaps we do need to reevaluate. In, working with the administration here in the final year of the current administration's term of office, we have this agreement in the aftermath of another devastating fire season. The language itself, if I may just quote from the Interior appropriations bill, states, and I am quoting, ''The managers direct the Secretaries to engage Governors in the collaborative structure to cooperatively develop a coordinated national 10-year comprehensive strategy with the States as full partners.''
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I believe Mr. Stenholm that is part of the key, the fact that the States can develop it, the fact that we can now point to land management policy that are being implemented in a number of western States, we can show empirical evidence that the health of the western State forested land is far better than the Federal forested land in the West, to look at the policies that have been utilized at the State level. I don't know that this will prevent some individuals from continually trying to file the appeals. But we need to move forward with those appeals. It may be language that would be necessary as we develop this that Congress will continue to enact. We will need Congress to continue its very powerful role of oversight and appropriations and hold all of us to this task. So there may be additional language that would streamline the process to some extent.
Mr. STENHOLM. Governor, I certainly do not want to deny anyone to have their day in court or their opinions heard, but I will be very much interested in working with you to see that that is all they have. If they are a minority voice, that the endless delays that go into all of these questions, whether it is forest conservation or whether it is soil, lands and water conservation, you have testified very powerfully today on behalf of your fellow Governors that have seen the devastation that has occurred because of what we have done up to this point.
I would hope that the entire community, the environmental community, the forestry industry and all of us who enjoy the beauty of the forest would begin to realize that we do need a more common sense approach if we are truly going to preserve it. And I thank you for being here and I look forward to working with you, with this chairman.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Stenholm, let me thank you for your comments and the leadership which you have been providing on this issue for a number of years and your cooperation. When you talk about the forests, Mr. Stenholm, may I just again illustrate, with this type of devastation, and you have a number of States that are diligently working to restore endangered species, such as fish in critical spawning areas, and you then have the fires go through, they burn the crowns of the trees so that the shade over those creeks and rivers is lost for how many years, which means the sun then is going to raise the level of the temperatures of those creeks and rivers, which may mean that we will never get those endangered species recovered in that area.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are so many ramifications to this that we really do need to take this much more balanced approach. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Simpson.
Mr. SIMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. That is an interesting discussion, Governor, about the appeals process, and I think it is one that has frustrated many people for years, for the price of a 33-cent stamp, you can stop a sale that has been planned for many, many years. The Forest Service is also frustrated with that proposals. Almost any decision they make, they are going to get sued from one side or the other. And they spend more time and money trying to defend the decisions that they make than they do that money that could be used better out on the ground reducing the fuel loads and so forth.
Somehow we have got to change the appeal process, and as Mr. Stenholm said, I want people to have their day in court, but there needs to be a reasonable process by which that can occur and not just anybody who has a 33-cent stamp or somebody that is going to law school and wants to challenge the way the system works and see how it works. And the amount of damage that that can do is devastating. But could you explain to me a little bit about the Governors Association, how you see this collaborative effort working between the Governors and the Federal Government in both the restoration projects that are going to be necessary? We have two problems here. One is the restoration of the damaged forests already, and two, reducing the potential damages in the future and the catastrophic fires in the future. How is this association that you see with the States and local communities, how is that going to actually work, do you see it?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman and Mr. Simpson, significantly, the Western Governors Association is a bipartisan association, so we have Republican Governors and Democrat Governors that are working side by side on this. It is not a political issue. The language that was developed with the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture with the Western Governors Association significantly does not say that the managers suggest or the managers hope. It says that the managers direct that there will be this collaborative process.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So you have Governors from these respective States that are already working together. We have a number of policies that have been passed in recent history, deal with forest health dealing with watershed management dealing with restoration. We have ideas, and in fact on State land and on private land, we have examples of what has been successful, and in those cases where they have not been successful, we have lessons learned. That can all be brought to the table.
But it is not to say that the Federal land managers are void of good management techniques. I believe they have them. They just need the opportunity to demonstrate them. And I am hoping that this collaborative process with the Western Governors Association and our Federal partners we can now come together with this sort of directive from Congress and from the President to say this is what we do want to happen. Get away from the management of aftermath of devastation, get ahead of that, start preventing it. And you are correct Mr. Simpson, restoration is immediately in front of us.
Mr. SIMPSON. I appreciate that and I really am glad to hear you comment on the fact that the local forest supervisors and forest personnel really are good people. They really do have the knowledge of the needs in these forests and know more about them than probably anybody else. I was very impressed as I have been around the last several, years and talked with them about sometimes their frustration about what is going on and the decisions that are coming from Washington DC, and the one-size-fits-all policy that sometimes comes out of Washington.
And it seems to me that an over the last several years maybe longer than that, we used to have local forests planning that involved local individuals and the local forest people and the State people. And now it has progressively moved more and more toward Washington, DC where the decisions come from Washington, and consequently, that has been a great deal of frustration to the local forest personnel, and as I understand it, we are losing a lot of those people from the local service that have been there for years due to the frustration that goes on.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I am glad to hear your comments about the fact that when we talk about the Forest Service, it shouldn't be this all-inclusive thing that we are frustrated with. There are many, many good people doing a great job in the Forest Service.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Absolutely.
Mr. SIMPSON. I appreciate it. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Simpson.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Governor Kempthorne. Thank you for your testimony and thank you for your sensitivefor caring in your community. I would agree with you when you said that the fire fighters from all stripes who indeed put their lives on the line, and I appreciate your observation of their commitment and professionalism in that area.
I also looked at the appropriations language for the Department of Interior and you referenced it and saw that managers are very concerned with their areas and they are being directed to work with the local areas. I think the collaboration is the first step, but I gather from you that you wanted to bypass solving controversial issues first but wanted to have all the players at the table so that the best management coming from a variety of sources would have the benefit of discourse in resolving the answer; is that correct?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, Mrs. Clayton, that is correct. I have always believed that if you get the right people around the table and empower them to be there and recognize that they are partners, they can come up with solutions. This is a formula that will work if given the opportunity. And Congress has a key role to play in its oversight.
Mrs. CLAYTON. The reason for me asking that this is that it is not a predetermination of how you thin or how you log or whatever. All of it ought to be on the table, the actors being there, all of them ought to be a part of that process.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman and Mrs. Clayton, that is correct. It was very significant that at the press conferences we held in Salt Lake City with the Governors and with the Secretary of Interior and Agriculture, the discussion was on for forest health, watershed management, restoration. It was not on quotas of logging. It was not on specific means of accomplishing that. We have learned a great deal over the years on good management techniques. There are areas now that you can go in and thin and not know that anyone has been there, except that you now have a healthier forest.
Mrs. CLAYTON. I agree with you. My district was also devastated last year, and many Members of Congress know how I had to beg and plead for some relief and we wish we indeed could prevent hurricanes. And I like your analogy of the hurricane of the forest because we suffer hurricanes or floods.
And you look at theand you really want to try to relieve the suffering. When you pull yourself back from that, you really want to try to think that you can prevent it. And I, as one, think that the old saying ''an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.'' but in all reality, I am not sure that we can prevent hurricanes, but I think we certainly can mitigate the impact by how we build and how we act and how we treat the environment.
I think in the final analysis it is an act of nature or God, but we certainly can mitigate the impact as to how we have treated our environment. Are there some things that you think we as citizens living in and around forest areas, highly forest areas, should do to make sure how we recreate in forest areas to be on the prevention side? There are some things that we could help mitigate the impact. Not that you can prevent it altogether, but I think there are some behaviors that perhaps we could look at as policy makers in precluding that if these behaviors continue, the likelihood would be that they would put us in far worst situation if indeed a fire should happen or may cause a fire.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman and Mrs. Clayton, I do. And when you look at the number of fires that swept through the West, very few of them were man-caused. There may be some. Most of them would be dry lightening strikes. In Idaho, we would have 30 to 50 dry lightening strikes every late afternoon, evening. You can go back in time and see that there were much greater numbers of fires that were human-caused in previous years. But I think everyone has gotten much more conscious about prevention, if you are camping and what you do with regard to the forests or the camp fire.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also I think that we are seeing that and we are not there yet, with regard to structures that people who want to live near or in the forests need to be cognizant of the fuel load around their dwelling.
I visited some communities that if the heroic efforts of the fire fighters had somehow not shaped that fire away, it would have swept through communities and wiped them out.
Primarily they were wood structures. They had the undergrowth and the trees growing right up to the wood roof. This is something where you have to have the private land owners that have the responsibility. We have had suggestions that the State, if the Federal Government is not moving quickly enough on the bark beetle infestation, because again, every month I can show you that the State Board of Land Commissioners we would authorize a timber sale because of the bark beetle infestation. We had to move quickly to get it out of there. And the suggestion from some was that the State ought to go in and declare that certain Federal lands should be sold.
We all know that we have no jurisdiction to do that. But it shows you the frustration of the people that are living out there trying to be good neighbors with the Federal land. They respect that land. Significantly this year, I signed into legislation a measure that was started by a group of fourth graders in Idaho to declare the huckleberry the official fruit of Idaho. Well, it is now law. Huckleberries, if you have not enjoyed them, they're a wonderful delicacy. You find them in the forest. So you have children, you have senior citizens that want to go and gather the huckleberries. They can't do that if we have such fuel load that it is no longer safe for them to enter. And I won't get into the roadless issue right now.
Mrs. CLAYTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you Mr. Chairman. I have an opening statement I would like to be made part of the record.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. All members statements will be made part of the record.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you Mr. Chairman. Governor Kempthorne, welcome. We are pleased to have you back in Washington. We very much appreciated your service in the Senate and we very much welcome the message that you bring back today. I serve as Chairman of the Forestry Subcommittee of this committee, and my district is in the east in Virginia. And while the climate is different and the trees are different, we have nonetheless some of the very same problems due to mismanagement of our national forests and other Federal lands. My district is not as big as your State. It is about the size of the State of Connecticut. About two-thirds of it is forest land, about half of that is owned by the Federal Government, and about half by private and State forests. And the ratio that you cited, a very similarabout 90 to 95 percent of the timber harvest comes off of the privately-owned and State lands, and 5 to 10 percent comes out of 1 million acres of national forest land. And I think that has resulted in very unhealthy forests.
And if you look at the maps that have been prepared by the Forest Service showing high risk of catastrophic wildfire and insect and disease infestation, you will find that the colors on the map in my district are very similar to the colors on the map in Idaho. So we share your problem and your concern.
Let me ask you, in addition to the problems cited by the gentleman from Idaho regarding the appeal process and the need to have people have their day in court, if you will, but a more streamlined process so people can work together and resolve this and then move forward, it seems to me there are other problems with the evolution of our policy. And one is that some of the more extreme environmental organizations have promoted what they call a no-cut policy in our national forests. Some like the Sierra Club have popularized the notion that it is a good environmental policy to not have any cutting in our national forests. And I wonder if you might address that.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Goodlatte, thank you very much for your comments and for the question. In addressing your question specifically, I do believe that that is an extreme position, the idea that you should never cut a tree. I hope we have not reached the point that in order to be politically correct, you do not harvest a tree. It is a renewable resource. That does not mean that every tree should be harvested. There are trees that can and should be designated that they are not to be cut. Whether it is based upon the sensitivity of the area that they are located or perhaps even the magnificence of the size of the trees. We have had exchanges with private land owners with State land and Federal land because of an area that is populated with those magnificent trees.
If you look at this room, this very beautiful hearing room here in the Nation's Capital, if it is no longer politically correct to harvest a tree, then all of these beautiful cabinets should be removed, these tables, these chairs. So if we can no longer use wood, then what is the alternative? Is it extractive minerals? Well, of course, that is disturbing Mother Nature also. So that means anything mineral should be removed.
What is the alternative then? Soon you are at the point where you must look to the man-made items. We know the waste stream that man-made products also provide. I think it brings us full circle that if we take a balanced approach, we can still accomplish a healthy environment and a healthy economy. There can be beauty in both of those working synergistically together. I wanted to just add too, Mr. Goodlatte, that there is empirical data to confirm exactly what you said about the amount of board feet that is removed from the private land or State land in your district, and that which is not from the Federal land. There are examples throughout the United States that you can prove that by removing that fuel, you have enhanced the health of the forest and you have removed the risk that it may just be assumed by flame.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Would it be helpful to the balanced approach and the efforts to seek common ground, with those who wish to protect the environment, to have some of these organizations back away from this no-cut policy, this absolutist position that makes it very difficult to negotiate and find any middle ground?
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Goodlatte, I would hope so, but I know that there is some organizations that take extreme positions because they feel it is necessary to sustain their dues from concerned members that share those thoughts. In my service here in the State capital, I came to the conclusion that there are a number of organizations that while they fight and argue and state that they have strong positions that they hope to someday accomplish, if they ever accomplish them, they are out of business. And that is against their own nature.
So I think that one of things we have seen through the Western Governors Association, and I have to give Governor Levitt and Governor Kitzhaber credit for the leadership ofthis is a process called in libre which is a collaborative process where you bring the diverse people to the table. I have seen this work, and that is what we need to do. If we truly are sincere about forest health, then we ought to leave the rhetoric outside and come in and sit down at the table and do what is right, based on what science we can agree on.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I have seen that, too. I asked that question as a lead-in to what has developed here in the Congress as in response to the conditions out west. As you mentioned in your testimony, Congress memorialized the content of the Western Governors Association agreement with the secretaries in the conference report of the fiscal year 2001 Interior appropriations bill.
In what I think is an act of good faith on the part of the Congress, we have provided $1.8 billion in that bill which the conference report passed by this House overwhelmingly yesterday. And I think we should be clear on how this money should be spent, and I would like to review with you a few of provisions in the conference report and ask you to comment on them briefly, since I know I used my time here. But the language in that conference report states that States and local governments should be full partners with the Federal Government, with the Federal land managers in putting together a long-term strategy to deal with the wild land fire and hazardous fuel situation.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC According to the Western Governors, what is the meaning of the words ''full partners''?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Goodlatte, it would affirm the principles upon which the country was founded, that is federalism, that we were the United States of America. We are not the Federal Government of America, and therefore, ''full partners'' mean that in that collaborative process, that we have equal and full voice and that the final decision is agreed upon through consensus by those that have been invited to the table.
Mr. GOODLATTE. What kind of strategy do the Governors envision?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. The strategy would be to simply bring the empirical data to affirm what we think would be best practices, to use that data to make the case. I think that we would find that there is not that much disagreement from our Federal partners because they have seen it. I think they would like to be utilizing the same tools and the same management techniques, but they have felt for some years that their hands have been tied.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I would note that the report states that the State and Federal land managers should be full partners in the planning, decision making and implementation of the plan to reduce the fire risk in our Federal forest. And I think those are important words that hopefully everyone will take seriously in the legislation that we have passed, that I understand the administration intends to sign into law. And I hope we can use this as a foundation for moving forward to address this problem not only in the West, but in my district and many other parts of the country as well.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Governor.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Thank you, Mr. Goodlatte.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Phelps.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am honored to have you here with us. This is the first time I have heard and met you and I am very impressed with your comments. I just wanted to move into a question and maybe follow up with statements of what is already been embraced in our discussion. I have the Shawnee National Forest in my district, which, when you think of Illinois, most people think of Chicago and flat corn and soybean land, but in the southernmost is a beautiful part of the Ozarks is Shawnee National Forest, which is not a well-known forest on a national basis, but is very beautiful and virgin areas that we want to see kept virgin in many respects.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But this whole idea of balance, I have often been haunted with the idea of what would happen if drought conditions hit an area that is close to that, maybe close to a decade ago, and we really don't have the resources of the forest supervisors as such to really safeguard if anything like that happened, at least not to my knowledge.
So as a former State legislator too, that was very much of a concern to me, but it is really hard when we hopefully assemble this group of people that you referred to to focus in on what the real obstacle or obstacles are, I think that is the challenge of any question, because when we are dealing with the powerful forces of nature, one has to recognize that maybe it is God's way of telling us we are not in control unless we all with reasonable input take, I think our mission given by God to be good stewards of what we have, was given, have been given.
So many times I guess that is where the old adage ''fight fire with fire'' comes from, because I guess you literally have to sometimes, in order to prevent greater catastrophes. The irony of that as well as when you look at flooded areas of our Nation and what has happened in these disasters have mounds of water everywhere and not a drop to drink.
So I think there is a message in all of this, powerful forces of nature is that sort of puts us in our place, to at least depend on each other for wisdom in these very difficult questions, because just in looking at what you are trying to do, and what I understand it would be assuming a group to acknowledge what is in our control and what isn't, because most of what has happened, what you have testified to has not been caused by man. There has been a few incidents, maybe misjudgments and unfortunate situations and that is always going to happen. But what do we do to prepare for what we can't control from the forces of nature such as strikes of lightening when the conditions are already ripe for disasters makes you wonder what happened before man was even on earth. It seemed like it was a nature of balance, that was happening anyway. But now that we are here and assigned with a stewardship, it seems like we certainly surely can bring reasonable people together to strike this balance, whatever that is.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So my question would be, what do you anticipate and identify to be the major obstacles that you as one of the leaders would bring forth to this so-called group that might reason together?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, and, Mr. Phelps, I believe that one of the challenges will be with those organizations or individuals that are preservationists as opposed to conservationists, where they would have everything left as is. That would go back to the point of Mr. Goodlatte, that no harvest of any trees, just leave things as they are. But if you look at the history and the different practices that have been utilized, the period where any fire that began was immediately put out, well, fire does have a purpose. I believe it is the ponderosa pine that needs to have a fire in order for the pine cones to open so that the seeds can come out and you can germinate the next generation of pine trees.
Fires going through an area do remove the understory and get that fuel load down. But what is happening is with the policy that we have had of the recent years where the fuel load has become so sufficient, where the undergrowth has not been allowed to be thinned, it is not only the undergrowth that is then on fire. In flying through my State, you would see three and four views of what looked like mushroom clouds, because the fires create their own storm, and they create winds of 40 to 50 miles an hour, and so the undergrowth then exploding and going up into the crowns of the trees, causing those crowns to explode, sending the burning embers 1 to 2 miles out in front of the fire, just feeding itself; and that is why they call it the beast, because it feeds itself. That is what we have to begin to curtail.
So I would say our greatest obstacle is to have reasoned people come together and just say if we can agree that we want healthy forests, then let us begin with that premise and bring our reasoned thoughts together.
Mr. PHELPS. Just real quickly to follow up, do you not believe that one of the problems and the obstacles to overcome would be to convince those that maybe you classify preservationists, pure preservationists, to be at least convinced that profit is not the motivation; it is not capitalistic from the standpoint of harvesting?
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Phelps, I do. And I think that, again, those individuals on the other side who may be in the business of commercial harvest, they have to come forward and say that they agree also. And I have heard this from our forest industry leaders, saying that they agree that the motivation is not for the quota of how many logs they can harvest, but for the sustained forest health. By a sustained healthy forest, with multiple use, then, yes, there will be those opportunities for commercial logging. But that is not the objective.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mrs. Chenoweth-Hage.
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Governor, we have had this discussion often but one of the examples to address, one of the questions that Mr. Phelps asked, is so evident in Idaho because in 1910 Mother Nature caused a fire of huge proportions that went across three States in 1910, and it burned the soil so deeply that in many areas of that huge fire, the forest is not able to naturally regenerate itself, even today.
In that same area, that same old-growth forest was the same forest that Lewis and Clark came across into Idaho, and that's the only area where they nearly starved to death because there was no game, because the forest would not support the habitat for the game.
So Mother Nature works in cycles and we have certainly felt it in Idaho, haven't we, Governor?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. We have.
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. And as Chairman of the Western Governors Conference, I am always amazed at your skill in bringing people together. And in follow-up to what Mr. Goodlatte was asking you, I wanted to ask you, Governor, about a recent editorial that Secretary Babbitt had published in the Los Angeles Times right after you fashioned an agreement with the Secretary of Interior as well as the Secretary of Agriculture.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''Governor,'' he writes in that editorial, ''logging and thinning are two very different concepts. Logging is about taking more big old-growth trees that are not fire hazards and that are already badly depleted in many forests. Thinning is about weeding out the unnatural accumulations of small-diameter trees that create explosive fire conditions,'' end quote.
Now, as I said, this statement was published, right after you finished an agreement with them, in the Los Angeles Times.
Is this statement consistent with the agreement that you fashioned with the Secretaries?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman and Congresswoman Chenoweth-Hage, while we have fashioned an agreement, it certainly doesn't preclude individuals from continuing to state how they may personally feel. I am sure that among the western Governors, I am one that does see that there is a place for commercial harvest as one of the tools, and other Governors may be a little more reticent to say that and indicate that.
Mr. Babbitt certainly has his opportunity for opinion. But I remember reading about the Cuban missile crisis when there were two letters from Khruschev apparently, one was conciliatory and one was very aggressive, and the administration at the time decided to respond to the conciliatory.
So it is in that same spirit that we will look to find the common areas that we can agree with the administration and go forward.
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. That is very good. I continually learn from him.
I do want to say that it is soit has been a mystery to me why this administration can't understand that these forests are like gardens. I mean, we need to prune our gardens and sometimes we need to prune out the dead wood as well as the little weeds underneath.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So with that, I yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Condit.
Mr. CONDIT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't have a question. I would just like to welcome the Governor here, and I am delighted to see him again. The Western Governors' Association is fortunate to have Governor Kempthorne as their chairman and their spokesman. He has shown why this morning there is some hope with his leadership that maybe we can resolve some of these problems, and I am just delighted to see you again and wish you well and commit myself, and I am sure that my colleagues here would commit themselves, to do what we can to be helpful in this area.
So welcome, Governor. Thank you very much for your leadership.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, may I just make a comment to Congressman Condit?
The CHAIRMAN. Please. Absolutely.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. I want to acknowledge Gary's leadership because one of the things that I was determined to undertake with others was to stop unfunded Federal mandates, and Gary Condit was indeed at the forefront of leading that effort in the House. I really think the first billthe first language that was crafted was my language with Gary Condit. So I just want to salute that effort. It ultimately was implemented, was signed into law, and has had a very positive effect. And so on behalf of local governments and State governments, I thank you, Congressman Condit, for your help on that and your leadership.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Governor, welcome. Thank you for your leadership. You mentioned in your testimony, you and other western Governors met with Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman. Can you tell me the motivation behind that meeting?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Smith, I would say the motivation was frustration. And I believe as Governors we just about had it, and I think members of the administration realized that there wasn't justification to continue the status quo. It was in that atmosphere that we came together. Again, we have empirical data on our side to show that State management of lands has been more effective than Federal management of lands, and we have empirical data to show that.
At some point, in some forum, I would love the opportunity to discuss the idea of some pilot projects, not necessarily taking over ownership, but let some States manage some Federal parcels, and we will show you that we can do the job.
But part of the reason for that, Mr. Smith, is because the managers of those decisions are the same managers that live in that area, instead of back in Washington, DC. So it was in that atmosphere that we had a coming together, and a coming together of thoughts as well.
Mr. SMITH. Well, in Michigan, we have considerable Federal forestland, in upper Michigan in the Upper Penninsula, but certainly the motivation and organization of the western Governors probably adds impetus to what other areas of the country might do to have their Federal forestlands better managed.
Now, I am not aware of some of the particulars of the so-called agreement. Can you give me some of the ideas of the particulars of that agreement in your meeting with the Secretaries?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Yes. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smith, really, and I won't quote much of this, but just some of the language where it states, quote, the managers direct the Secretaries to engage Governors in a collaborative structure, to cooperatively fashion a 10-year plan where the States are full partners.
It references local governments as well, local officials, and again I don't know if you were here, Mr. Smith, but the point is that the word ''directs'' is significant; where it is not suggesting, it is not hoping for, but this Congress directs that that will take place, and the President would sign that.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That not only sets the atmosphere but perhaps it gives endorsement to the Secretaries to seriously sit down with us and begin to craft a new forest health policy.
Mr. SMITH. If the States had moreeven if we went as far as saying more authority in helping determine the policy on the federally-owned forestlands within their particular State, would there be a lot of differences between States, depending on how politically excited the environmental movement might be in those States?
Governor KEMPTHORNE. I think that any sort of approach would reflect some differences of approach. The Shawnee National Forest, I am sure that the management techniques would be different. Just as the chairman's district, with the cottonprinciples of land management with cotton are going to be different than what we might deal with. Dealing with deciduous trees versus evergreen trees, yes, it would reflect that it is tailored to the species, to the terrain, to the geography, and so you would see differences.
Mr. SMITH. I mean, the so-called precautionary principle, which now I think could be better determined, or identified in a lot of areas of over precaution in terms of the environment, in terms of the motivation of some special interest groups that are looking for a cause in some cases, I think has often detracted Federal policy in terms of doing what is politically expedient rather than basing their decisions on scientific information.
So if you have a final comment, fine, but thank you very much for being here.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Mr. Smith, thank you. And, again, I would just reiterate, I know that there are some organizations in the full spectrum, from business to environmentalists, et cetera, that if they are ever successful in accomplishing their agenda, they are out of business and that is not their objective. So they will always find a reason to argue.
Mr. SMITH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Thune.
Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me say welcome, Governor, as well. It is nice to see you again. I want to say congratulations on all the great work that the western Governors have done. I know our Governor of South Dakota, Governor Janklow, was involved in those discussions.
We have had our own fights with forest fires this past summer in the Black Hills Forest, so I was very pleased to see the work that you put into the agreement, and I am anxious to work with you as partners in trying to implement it, and would also just pick up on one note. I don't have a question but to say that I couldn't agree more with the statement that you made about perhaps trying some pilot programs where States are given the opportunity to manage.
We have a Custer State Park in South Dakota that is very effectively managed locally, is able to do a lot of the things and probably could have done some things that would have helped prevent the forest fires that we experienced in South Dakota this summer, and I think that our forest is very ably managed in South Dakota by local forest managers. The Forest Service, the people out there, are very good, but frankly, a lot of times they don't have a lot of control because they are told by Washington, DC what they can and cannot do.
My own view is that we would do a much better job at the State level, I think, of managing a resource, which is a rich treasure not only for our State but for the entire country. I would certainly welcome the opportunity to participate in any pilot program that might come down the road here, but in any event I just wanted to say thank you for your great work and your leadership on the issue, and it is something that is very important to all of our western States and something that we really need to get ahead of, and I think that the work that you have done helps us to do that.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Thune, thank you for your comments. Yes, Governor Janklow was one of the Governors that participated in the Salt Lake meeting in his quiet, sensitive fashion, who isthank goodness for his candor because it often gets us back on track. In addition, Governor Janklow, Governor Racicot of Montana, Governor Racicot and Governor Kitzhaber, really have been lead Governors in this area, and Governor Geringer of Wyoming and Governor Levitt of Utah and myself were there. So it was a good meeting. I hope good things come of it. We are certainly dedicated to that, and we think that the table has been set.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THUNE. I yield back the balance of my time.
The CHAIRMAN. Governor, thank you again for coming and for the work that you have put into this with the Western Governors' Conference in trying to deal with this issue in the future. The only thing worse than having the fires would be having the fires and nothing progressive happened. Hopefully from this, there are some measures that are taken that might not have been able to be dealt with prior to this. But if, in fact, that does prove to be true in the future, we will look back at your efforts, I think, as being pioneering in this effort because it is something that has been, as for those of us who come from communities that are called no-trees, this is something that has been going on for a long time and it is a major problem and we are seeing this year just what can happen and, as you have so adequately expressed, the possibility of it occurring again is very real.
Thank you for sharing your time with us this morning.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Well, Mr. Chairman, I sincerely thank you for inviting me and for the opportunity to express the views of myself, but also the Western Governors' Association. And I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and all the members of your committee for the atmosphere of this hearing. I think it has been very positive and collaborative, and from this I think we are off to a good start.
So thank you again. I truly appreciate it.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. You are welcome to stay if you would like.
Governor KEMPTHORNE. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. We would like to invite now our second panel of witnesses to the table. We have invited these gentlemen to join us for the purposes of answering technical questions about the proposal that we have discussed with Governor Kempthorne. The gentlemen do not have opening statements, it is my understanding, but are ready for questioning and we will begin that immediately.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The panel consists of Mr. James Hubbard, the State Forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, from Fort Collins, CO; Mr. Don Artley, State Forester of the Forestry Division with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, from Missoula, MT; Mr. Lyle Laverty, Regional Forester of the Rocky Mountain Region with the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from Denver, CO; and Mr. Dale Bosworth, the Regional Forester of the Northern Region Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from Missoula, MT.
Gentlemen, we appreciate very much your joining us to help shed some light on this almost historic problem that is occurring from a professional standpoint, those of you who, in fact, make your living in and around the forest.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Bosworth and Mr. Laverty, how long have you worked for the Forest Service?
Mr. BOSWORTH. Mr. Chairman, I am Dale Bosworth, Regional Forester of the North Region. I have been with the Forest Service for about 34 years.
The CHAIRMAN. Thirty-four years.
Mr. LAVERTY. Mr. Chairman, I started when I was a kid. I have worked for the Forest Service for 37 years.
The CHAIRMAN. There is obviously a lot of history there that you have both been around for a great deal of time and are familiar with the trends that have led up to the disasters that have occurred this year. How long have we known that these disasters either were coming or were very possible?
Mr. BOSWORTH. I will go ahead and start and give you my view. I think there has been a fair amount of concern about the potential for these kind of fires for a long time, and we have seen buildup, particularly in these drier pine types that we have that are in and around some of the communities in what we refer to as a wildland urban interface. We have known that there has been buildup of fuels and have had concerns about this for a long time. At the same time, we have taken some action in various places around the country. We have a number of examples in the northern region where we have done thinning and put prescribed fire back in but it hasn't been nearly enough.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LAVERTY. I guess I would just also follow up. I believe that as an agency we have recognized that there is a need to treat these stands, and if you look at our progress, perhaps even from 1994 up to the current level, we have actually seen an increase, although we still need to go farther in our investment in fuels treatment. We have seen since 1994 to 1997 almost a 600-fold increase in terms of funding for fuels treatment on the national forests but, as Dale pointed out, we recognize that it is a much larger job than that, and I think that's where some of the funds from title 4 are going to help us move even a significant difference ahead.
The CHAIRMAN. What other recommendations have you made in controlling the potential problem?
Mr. LAVERTY. Let me start with that, Mr. Chairman. One of the opportunities I have had this last year is to work with a group of folks to put together the Cohesive Strategy, which is a framework as an agency that we have recognized how we can as an agency get ahead of this fuels issue. It has become part of the foundation of the report that went back to the President, but it is this strategy that many of you have referenced this morning in terms of how we are going to work with the States and the communities to deal with this fuel situation we have.
We have identified about 59 million acres of lands in the interior West that are at risk of catastrophic fire, and the strategy has laid out a premise. It has a great framework in terms of priorities on how we can begin to invest these funds, dealing with communities that are at risk, watersheds that are at risk and species habitat that are at risk. With that framework, we also recognize the importance of the collaborative effort with the States and communities to begin to identify those values that are at risk and then how can we make those kinds of investments.
The CHAIRMAN. What recommendations have you made that have not been implemented?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LAVERTY. Actually, I have been extremely close with the Cohesive Strategy, and as I read the report to the President, all of the principles that we have identified in the Cohesive Strategy are incorporated in that response. So we are ready to go.
The CHAIRMAN. As of now when this agreement has been reached, but prior to this period of time, over this buildup of years in which we have seen this problem coming, what recommendations have you made that have not been acted upon?
Mr. LAVERTY. I would just say from a field perspective, the fact that we recognize that we have additional needs for additional treatments, and as we balance the agency's budget, not only the agency's but also the administration's budget, just our ability to do what we recognize needs to be done is probably the issue that we have already wrestled with.
The CHAIRMAN. Would the $1.8 billion which passed yesterday have been adequate to help you get started on this had it been expended in a more managed means in the past?
Mr. LAVERTY. I believe that the $1.8 billion is going to help us make a dramatic step. It is a step. This is a situation that has happened not over a 5- or 10-year period, but this is probably a century of growth that we are wrestling with right now. So it is not going to be solved overnight, but I think it is going to help us begin to set forth a pattern and a framework on how we can address those situations.
Mr. BOSWORTH. Could I add to that, please, Mr. Chairman? It seems to me one of the problems in the past has been that we haven't necessarily been able to focus on the important acres that we need to focus on because they are very expensive to treat. And so we have done a fair amount of fuel work over the years, fuel reduction work, but we have had to do that in the places where we could do it for the least cost. I think the situation that we are in now will allow us to be much more strategic in identifying those high-priority areas to treat, those areas are going to be in and around communities particularly, and get those into a condition that will then help protect those communities.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Just very quickly, would you both agree that managed logging is a good part of forest management?
Mr. BOSWORTH. Yes. I think that it depends, again, on the area and it depends on what you are trying to accomplish, but I believe that a timber sale is a useful tool in accomplishing forest health objectives in some areas. In other areas, you need to use service contracts or you need to use Forest Service crews and do prescribed burning. It just depends on the area, but I think one of the tools which is a good tool to use is a timber sale contract.
Mr. LAVERTY. Mr. Chairman, one of the examples that we have in Colorado, we had a fire in June, and it burned through both private land and onto the national forests, onto the Pike National Forest. When it entered the Pike National Forest, it went into a stand that had been treated. We had a number of different treatments. We had some precommercial thinning. We had had some commercial harvest, but both of those activities had been followed up with prescribed fire, and when it entered that stand, it came out of the crowns and down to the ground, and just minimal effect in terms of the long-term damage that comes from many of the wildfires we have.
A similar situation in 1996, we had a fire that burned about 11,000 acres in about 4 1/2 hours in that same watershed that resulted in both suppression costs and restoration costs that were about $25 million. That is part of the headwaters, the Denver Water System, and it has cost Denver Water, of that $25 million, about $12 million just to clean out the debris from the reservoir as a result of that.
So if you take the simple math, the $25 million by 10,000, 11,000 acres, that's a substantial cost per acre, and we can make a significant difference in terms of the effects of fire by being proactive. Many of the costs that we are talking about in the report to the President are going to allow us to make those investments, and the return on the investmentyou just take those numberswill be significant. There are still going to be costs as we focus on the wildland urban interface. Those are going to be much higher costs than some of the other acres that would take place in the general forest zone.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Stenholm.
Mr. STENHOLM. Under current Federal land regulations or land management regulation, certain land management activities may take place under what is referred to as a categorical exclusion. My question is, if we take a look at the activities that must be done to fix the fuel loads problems that we have, how could we use the categorical exclusion to get the work done as soon as possible?
Mr. BOSWORTH. OK, I will start with that.
At one time, we used categorical exclusions, we had various categories that were excluded from doing an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement. And one of the categories was small timber sales that didn't have road construction and whatnot. We lost that tool through a court case here about a year ago, and if we are going to use a timber sale as a tool, then we must develop an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
Now, there are ways that we are trying to expedite that process so that it doesn't slow us down, and there are still opportunities to use categorical exclusions for other nontimber sale kinds of activities. We use them in, for example, in a campground. If we need to remove hazard trees from a campground, we can use a categorical exclusion there. The categorical exclusion does not mean that you are not following the NEPA process. It just means that you are not having to document that in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement.
So I think there are some opportunities to use that in some of the prescribed burning and some of the other fuel reduction kinds of work, but it wouldn't right now apply if you are going to use a timber sale.
Mr. LAVERTY. Yes, Mr. Stenholm, I would just follow up on Dale's comment. One of the areas that we are working on right now to consider how we are going to be effectively able to use these funds is to streamline that. And I use the word ''streamline,'' but it is perhaps more expedite the environmentalthe NEPA process that we go through. One of the efforts that is taking place in our chief's office here, folks are looking at how we can use some technology with the information that we have gathered over time about resources to make that process go much quicker, and I think that's going to help us; not that we have to circumvent the NEPA process but it is really going to expedite how well and how quickly we are going to be able to get projects online.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STENHOLM. How could a stewardship project play a role in these activities?
Mr. BOSWORTH. One of the things that we are experimenting with in my region is what we call stewardship contracting, where we look atwell, there are several parts of the concept, but one would be to do an upfront collaboration with the community to try to define what end result you want on a piece of ground. So you would start off by looking at a chunk of ground and having people who are concerned, have them involved and then find that end result.
Then once you find the end result, you could go out with a request for proposals tofor a contract, where potential contractors would tell you, then, how they are going to achieve that end result. What it would do is it would allow us to bundle up a variety of different projects up into one contract that would achieve your end results on the ground.
I think there is a huge opportunity inwhen we are looking at these issues that we have been talking about today, to use stewardship contracting to help achieve those end results. Again, it would be one tool. There are other tools, like a timber sale contract or a service contract or Forest Service crews and whatnot, but it would be another very valuable tool that I think would help in the collaborative effort and help bring people to the table to try to come to a common understanding on what we want to leave on the land, rather than all the arguments about what we are taking from the land that we seem to be into all the time.
Mr. LAVERTY. That was just but one of the tools that we recognized as we put the Cohesive Strategy together, that stewardship was one of the tools we could use along with all of these others. We also recognized the importance of integrating all of our program opportunities, not just fuels programs but our regular timber sale program as well, to focus those on those priority areas.
The CHAIRMAN. Mrs. Chenoweth-Hage.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, if you permit, I have a handout I would like to give to the members, and the members of the panel.
This handout involves the total acreage by percentage of the classification of our national forests in region 1 and region 4; which in region 1 it is Mr. Bosworth's region, region 4 is Mr. Blackwell's region and he is officed out of Ogden, Utah. So these are the two regions that suffered the worst wildfires out of the Northwest.
Out of that area, the wilderness area comprises 16 percent of the total national forestlands; and the roadless areas, 43 percent; and all other areas, that includes State and private land, 41 percent. But over here in the far right column, it shows that 44 percent of the loss, or the areas burned, were in the wilderness areas. Thirty-four percent of the area burned was in wilderness areas, and then only 22 percent in other areas that were eroded, and this runs contrary to what the administration likes to say about their roadless policy.
They like to say, and I quote from their roadless policy, and something that they have stated many times, ''Roadless areas are generally higher elevation weather areas and thus less prone to fire.'' in other words, fires burn 50 percent more acres in the lower-risk roadless areas than in roaded areas.
Do you have an explanation for why the area burned in roadless areas was so much greater than the area burned in roaded areas? Mr. Bosworth.
Mr. BOSWORTH. OK. These figures are combined, as you said, for both region 1 and region 4. I know that in my region, or region 1, we actuallyI don't have the exact figures but actually we ended up in our region with a higher percentage of roaded areas burned. The fires that started in region 4 were in the Frank Church River No Return Wilderness, and a higher percentage of wilderness area was burned there.
One of the reasons, and there are lots of different reasons why some of this takes place, one would have to do where lightening strikes and where the fires get started. We are most aggressive on our initial attack in the areas where there are homes that would be threatened, and in many cases we had so many fires start at one timeI think on the Bitterroot, I know one night we had 60 or 70 fires that started all in one night, we weren't able to put people on all of those fires. And the last ones we were worried about were the ones that were in wilderness or roadless areas.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The first ones that we attempted to suppress with our initial attack were those that were going to be close to homes and communities. As some of the fires that we were not able to suppress in the initial attack got larger, then, of course, most of our resources went to protecting homes and protecting communities, and so we had many fewer people on the wilderness fires than we did in those that were around the wildland/urban interface. So consequently, a lot of those fires burned more acres than they normally would have.
Under a more normal situation, we are able to attack fires in the wilderness areas or the roadless areas with smoke jumpers and if they are fires that we want to suppress, then we are able to attack those under initial attack and usually do pretty well with them. But this year was a fairly different year.
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. Mr. Bosworth, let me follow up, though. Much has been said in this hearing about fuel reduction treatments in the roadless areas, and I wanted to ask both you and Mr. Laverty, how will the fuel reduction treatments in roadless areas be accomplished in any kind of a cost-efficient manner? Can you give us an idea of the cost per acre treated compared to the cost in roaded areas? My concern is if we are thinning in roadless areas, we are going to have to thin with helicopter. Is that the case and how does the cost compare?
Mr. LAVERTY. I am not sure we have a specific cost per acre. We can get that for you, because I think we do have that kind of information available. But one of the things that we have talked about with the Cohesive Strategy, that recognizing that we are focusing on those ecosystems, there is aboutif I recall the figure, there is about 16 percent of these 59 million acres that we have identified at high risk are in roadless areas.
If you look at where the values are, communities and in many cases watersheds, those are outside of those. So we have a lot of acres that we can treat, that need treatment, before we even get into having to go after some of the roadless area treatments in these fire-adapted systems. If you look at how we are going to make that initial investment of the funds that we have, we can make good investments in the roadless, and it is not going to be a big problem for us in terms of trying to treat these values that are at risk.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There are certain places that I know we are going to make some entry into some of those roadless areas, but we just need to look at how does that fit in the scheme of values that communities identify that these are important for us to treat. So I am not sure if that answered your question.
Mr. BOSWORTH. Let me just add to it. I agree with what Lyle said, that the highest priority areas are going to be most likely in roaded areas. But unquestionably, it would be more expensive if we had some high-priority areas that are roadless, it is going to be more expensive than it was if it was roaded. Access would be different. In some cases, we may be able to use prescribed burning to achieve our objective in roadless areas, and that's less expensive than if you are going to do mechanical treatment. But assuming you want to do some kind of mechanical treatment in a roadless area and then use prescribed fire, it is going to be more expensive.
Mrs. CHENOWETH-HAGE. Our main concern is that most roadless areas can't use prescribed fire and still succeed because there is such a heavy fuel load there. I see my time is up, but I know that probably you have made the analysis of being able to thin in roaded areas compared to roadless areas, and so I would appreciate a cost comparison.
Mr. BOSWORTH. We can get you those figures, and also I think it would be important to note that there are some very high-cost areas also that are in the roaded interface areas and we probably should include those as well.
Mr. LAVERTY. If I could just follow on that point.
The CHAIRMAN. If I could, please. I am sorry. In deference to you, we are going to try to let you go before we have to go vote, and so what I am going to do is recognize Mr. Simposon and then Mr. Thune for questions they may wish to have at this point. There will be other questions, I feel quite certain, for the entire panel for the follow-up.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SIMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do have some that I will submit in writing and have the responses to, if that's OK. But I just noticedI was reading this; although the Forest Service has approximately 47 million acres of forestland classified as category 3, high-risk category, the President's 2001 budget request calls for treating approximately 1.4 million acres. These funds requested for the purpose of $75 million, or an average cost of $54 per acre, yet the Forest Service estimates of average cost for treatment for Category 3 lands ranges from $150 to $250 an acre in the eastern United States to $275 to $600 in the western United States, overhead excluded.
Now, recently, the President called for a $1.5 billion for 2001 to respond to the immediate problem, but there still seems to be no long-term strategy for what's going to happen for the next 10 years, as we talked about with the Governor, a 10-year plan, about what it is going to cost us in terms of trying to treat and reduce the fuel loads and so forth.
Mr. LAVERTY. Mr. Simpson, if I could maybe take that on. The Cohesive Strategy provides that framework, and it does lay out a strategy for really up to 20 years in terms of how we would go after treating these condition class 2, condition class 3 stands on the national forest, and we do have a good framework in terms of what the costs would be.
As Dale and I have just shared, these are estimates. These figures, the $275 to $600 an acre that you talked about in the West, those are general forest type of treatments, and as we move into this wildland/urban interface, those costs are going to go up significantly.
I was just talking to our fire folks last night, and in the front range we estimate it is going to cost us $1,000 an acre to treat those lands that are right next to those communities. And we are treating stands that we have ownership patterns where there is private lands, national forestlands, and those are high-cost acres to treat.
So as we develop even more experience in treating this wildland/urban interface, I think we are going to get some better experience in terms of what those real costs are. We are also going to gain some efficiencies. I think that is going to help us, too.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SIMPSON. I thank you for that. As I said, I will have some questions that I will submit in writing but I do look forward to working with you because I know that you are all interested in preserving a healthy forest and maintaining it for all of our citizens, and I appreciate the work that you do.
Mr. LAVERTY. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Thune.
Mr. THUNE. Thank you. I have some questions I would like to submit for the record as well, Mr. Chairman. Maybe I can get quickly here on the record. I have heard several people describe treatments to reduce a risk of fires in national forests as just removing small trees, and there have been suggestions of a specified tree size that could not be exceeded. Is it possible to effectively reduce the risk of fires merely by removing trees below some specified tree size?
Mr. LAVERTY. Let me see if I can respond to that. As we put together the Cohesive Strategy, we spent a lot of time talking about what has to happen to bring those stands back to that sustainable system. In some cases, depending on the stand structure, removing small trees is all you need to do. In other stands, we have got to change the structure, we have to move that crown and that canopy apart. We are going to have to take larger trees.
So there is a combination of treatments, and our whole approach on the strategy is to take that back to the forests and the districts and let those folks determine what needs to be done. It is almost a specific type of prescription that we would put together. It may take small trees, it may take larger trees.
Mr. THUNE. Is there any long-termI mean, if you are looking for companies that can use some of those treeslong-term assurances when it comes to availability and price about making investment decisions? I am thinking of a couple of companies in my State that could utilize it for making particle board and whatnot. But I guess the question would be they need some level of confidence that if they are going to make investments, that they are going to have available supply. Is that something that you can offer?
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LAVERTY. We are really conscious of the need to make sure that there is a sustainable flow. And some of the discussion that took place before this morning, I think, captures the hurdles that we need to go through to make sure that we can make that happen. But I think we are looking at the long term on how we can do that.
Mr. THUNE [presiding]. I see it is time to vote, so I will conclude the hearing.
I appreciate very much the panel's input. I suspect that you will have an opportunity to answer more questions that will be submitted for the record. I know I have some of my own. I know other members do as well.
Without objection, the record of today's hearing will remain open for 10 days to receive additional material and supplemental written responses from witnesses to any question posed by a member of the panel.
This hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture is now adjourned. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 11:45 a.m., the committee was adjourned.]
Testimony of Hon. Dirk Kempthorne
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Committee this morning.
Any discussion of the 2000 fire season must begin with an acknowledgement of the heroic efforts of our firefighters. I visited them many times this summer. Whether they were from the Army or Marine Corps, the National Guard, the Forest Service, the BLM, our smoke jumpers, hotshot crews, NIFC, the state forest officials, local volunteer firefighters, the pilots of the helicopters and airplanes, law enforcementeveryone did an outstanding job.
The camaraderie and morale was high. And the cooperation and coordination was exceptional. This is how government ought to work, and we should use it as a model as we now look at how government should work in terms of future forest health policy.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This has been the worst forest fire season in Idaho's recorded history. To give you an idea of what Idaho has experienced this year, more than 1.2 million acres went up in flames. Of that amount, it's estimated conservatively that the fires consumed 1 billion board feet of timber. That's the equivalent of the amount of timber it takes to build 100,000 single-family homes.
To give you some idea about fuel loads in the forests in Idaho: for every acre of State forested land, there are 20 acres of federally owned forested lands
In fact, if you take all of the Federal land that lies within the State of Idaho, the amount of land is equivalent to the entire land mass of the States of Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island combined.
A 20 to 1 ratio. And yet, we remove more board feet of timber off the State land than all the Federal land combined.
Take the Clear Creek Firethe largest fire this year in Idaho at more than 216,000 acres. When you fly over this area, you can see what kind of a dramatic difference can be made when you address the fuel loads.
In the middle of all of those charred acres lies a green oasis. It's the result of a prescribed burn, which took place just a few years ago. So as the intensity of the flames approached, they simply went around. The fuel load wasn't there.
I heard about fuel loads continually from firefighters who were putting their lives on the line to fight these fires. Until we address the issue of fuel loads, we will continue to see these dramatic and devastating fires.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of charred and devastated acres, there are a series of other issues we need to address:
Dealing with the loss of critical habitat and its impact on speciesparticularly endangered species.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The loss of grazing opportunities on allotments because they were burned.
Determining how to help a community so choked by smoke, day after day, that it threatened the opening of school. Our Department of Environmental Quality has calculated that the Idaho fires put 86,000 tons of smoke pollution into the airdo we charge that as Federal smoke or State smoke?
Helping a rancher who has lost 600 head of cattle through one lightning strike. Yes, he may qualify for low-interest loans, but he's been wiped out. How do we deal with that?
To officials here in the East trying to understand the kind of damage that these wildfires have done, picture in your mind the aftermath of a horrible hurricane on the east coast. Now, apply that picture to the West. That's what we've been through. We've just suffered a terrific hurricane of fire.
You look at all of this, and it's very clear: this summer, any justification for continuing the status quo forest policy just went up in flamesacross the State of Idaho and throughout the West.
Clearly, it is time for a new policy. One that's based upon scientific principles. One that focuses on forest health. And I don't put that in terms of logging quotas, but instead on what is necessary to reduce the fuel load. There are a number of tools that can be used to accomplish thisselective thinning, prescribed burns, and commercial cuts, to cite a few. But the primary goal must be forest healthsomething on which all of us involved in this debate should be able to agree.
I also believe that a new policy must have the states working as full partners with the Federal Governmentnot only for the recovery efforts in the short term, but in the long-term efforts at forest health and wildfire risk reduction.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Significantly, we must reduce the command and control from Washington, DC and get the decision-making down to where it needs to beon the ground and in the hands of the land managersour national forest supervisors and our state foresters.
Last month in Salt Lake City, I joined a bipartisan group of Governors at a meeting with Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman to talk about developing this new policy. And out of that meeting came an agreement to move forward. The Governors have worked with Federal land management officials to develop a collaborative framework for this new policy.
And as a result of this work, the Western Governors Association submitted language to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee members that would establish this framework. Mr. Chairman, I would ask that this language and the accompanying cover letter be made a part of this record.
And I'm pleased that the report language agreed to by the conferees on the Interior appropriations bill last week will allow this new strategy to be implemented. A strategy where the States are full partners in the planning, decision-making, and implementation with the Federal Government. And importantly, a strategy that emphasizes key decisions need to be made at the local level, which will mean real changes in the on-the-ground management of Federal lands in the West.
That, Mr. Chairman, is a brief summary of what happened this summer in Idaho. We hope we can take the lessons we've learned from these devastating fires and develop new policies that will mean greater prevention and less remediation in the coming years.
Statement of Dominick A. DellaSala
Recently, there has been a lot of interest regarding the issue of forest fires and forest fire fuels management. The recent spate of forest fires in the west and south has given rise to calls for various quick-fix solutions to the problem of wildfires. World Wildlife Fund recognizes that there is not a ''one size fits all'' solution for a problem that has accumulated over decades of fire suppression and mismanagement of our Nation's forests. We are specifically concerned about the inappropriate use of logging and road building to treat fire hazard reductions, particularly in roadless areas and other lands that have low fire. hazard risks.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some policy makers and special interest groups assert that restrictions on timber harvest in roadless areas are inappropriate because suppression of fires over the past century has so altered these forests that large, catastrophic blazes will occur without active intervention. Their notion is that logging should be used in roadless areas to reduce the risk of large fires, and new roads are needed to provide greater access for fire suppression.
But are roadless areas really at most risk for large, severe fires? Can timber harvest and increasing road access provide an environmentally sound and effective means for reducing fire risk in these areas? In order to help answer these questions, an exhaustive review was conducted by World Wildlife Fund of available scientific evidence on the relationship between fire, timber management and roadless areas, including recent analyses of this issue conducted by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Congressional Research Service.
The available science indicates that roadless areas are the least altered from historic conditions and present a lower fire hazard than forests in managed and roaded areas. While some roadless areas do pose a legitimate priority for reducing fire hazard, the evidence is clear that commercial timber harvest and road construction in these areas is likely to create many more problems than it solves. In fact, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement prepared by the U. S . Forest Service on roadless conservation offers two alternatives (Alternatives 3 and 4) that, if combined, would provide the most effective means for treating fire hazards in roadless areas where they are most needed while protecting their ecological values. Alternative 3 calls for
stewardship activities (non-commercial, thinning-from-below and well-managed prescribed fire) in roadless areas where fire risks are highest, while Alternative 4 calls for protecting all roadless areas from logging activities. Combining these two approaches would allow the Forest Service to strategically make use, of stewardship activities in roadless areas having the highest fire risks (as in Alternative 3)while fully protecting those roadless areas that do not present fire risks (Alternative 4). This strategy would also allow the agency to direct fuels reduction treatments in the areas of highest risks-the urban interface and previously logged areas where slash and underbrush have accumulated.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The large majority of efforts aimed at reducing the threat of fire should be focused in roaded areas located immediately adjacent to rural communities. This strategy would result in the least risk to ecological values and be most effective at reducing the threat of fire to human lives and private property and should include thinning and well-managed prescribed fire.
Attached you will find a report on fire hazards in roaded vs. roadless lands submitted in support of this statement. We hope that you will use sound science in crafting a long-term strategy for returning the health and integrity to our Nation's forests and we encourage you to oppose any legislation designed to increase logging and road building to combat forest fires.
Statement of Dale Bosworth
Thank you for the opportunity to submit testimony for the record concerning the recommendations of the Western Governors Association for addressing wildfire threats on Federal lands. I am Dale Bosworth, Regional Forester for the Northern Region of the Forest Service. Accompanying me today is Lyle Laverty, Regional Forester for the Rocky Mountain Region.
I appreciate your interest in what the agency is doing with respect to catastrophic wildfire. As the 2000 fire season continues, it is clear there is significant short term rehabilitation and long-term restoration work that must be done.
I would like to discuss how the Forest Service is positioned to implement the report Secretary Babbitt and Secretary Glickman provided the President on September 8, 2000in response to the wildfires of 2000.
The current fire season corresponds to a historical pattern of extensive wildfires during similar unusual weather conditions. The result has been an extended, severe fire season with wildfires burning simultaneously across the western United States. The Forest Service's firefighters and our interagency partners have done an outstanding job in these difficult conditions. So far this year, we have put out a remarkable 80,000 fires that burned 6.8 million acres across the western United States (2.5 million on Forest Service administered lands).
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC During his trip to visit fires in Idaho on August 9, 2000, the President requested a report from the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior outlining the Department's recommendations for immediate and short-term. activities to help rehabilitate burned areas and assist rural communities in recovering from the impacts of the fries. In addition, the President asked us to develop actions to help protect communities and natural resources from the risk of future unnaturally
The Secretaries issued this report, entitled ''Managing the Impact of Wildfires on Communities and the Environment'' (Secretaries' Report) on September 8, and the President has accepted it and its recommendations. The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior also met with the Western Governors Association (WGA) on September 16,2000, regarding their report. As a result of this meeting, the WGA supports the Secretaries' Report and efforts the creation of a Federal-State collaborative stewardship process to address the long-term issues of responding to future wildland fires, restoring fire damaged landscapes, and reducing the risk of fire to communities. We understand that this structure is addressed in the conference agreement for the fiscal year 2001 Interior and related agencies appropriations bill.
I would like to discuss the major findings and recommendations in the Secretaries' Report. The Secretaries' Report emphasizes five key points:
(1) We must continue to make all necessary fire fighting resources available. (2) We must restore landscapes and rebuild communities. (3) We must invest additional resources in reducing fire risks with priority on reducing risks to communities, threatened and endangered habitat, and readily accessible municipal watersheds. (4) We must work directly with communities and our other partners including other Federal agencies, the States, Tribes, and local governments. (5) We must emphasize accountability in implementing these recommendations and ensure that the recommendations receive the highest priority.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me discuss each of these key points in turn.
We must continue to make all necessary fire fighting resources available. As a first priority, the Forest Service will continue to provide all necessary resources to ensure that fire fighting efforts protect life and property. The Nation's wildfire fire fighting operation is the finest in the world and deserves our strong support. The 2000 fire season is not over yet. While weather conditions have helped our fire fighting efforts in Montana and Idaho, fires continue to burn, Very high to extreme fire indices continue to be reported in Oregon, Washington,
California, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
Investing in restoring landscapes and rebuilding communities.
The Forest Service will invest in restoring communities and landscapes impacted by the 2000 fires. Some communities already have suffered considerable economic losses as a result of the fries. These losses will likely grow unless immediate, emergency action is taken to reduce further resource damage to soils, watersheds, and burned over landscapes.
The Federal agencies will assess the economic needs of communities and, consistent with current authorities, commit financial resources to assist individuals and communities in rebuilding their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods. Existing loan and grant programs administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the Forest Service's rural development programs will provide this assistance. In addition, to expedite and simplify the delivery of assistance to communities, the
Federal agencies will establish one-stop centers, where individuals, businesses, and communities can get answers to questions and apply for resources quickly with minimal red tape.
The Forest Service is already evaluating landscape restoration needs to help prevent further loss of life, property, and resources from excessive erosion, water quality degradation, and other damage from burned areas. We have 78 Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) teams in place, and they are in the process
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCof treating more than 262,630 burned acres. More than $31 million dollars has already been released for treating damaged acres. Activities on the ground include tree planting, watershed restoration, revegetation, and soil stabilization. In completing this work, the Departments of Agriculture and the Interior will prioritize investments in landscape restoration to protect:
Public health and safety (e.g. municipal watersheds);
Unique natural and cultural resources (e.g. salmon and bulltrout habitat) and burned-over lands that are susceptible to the introduction of nonnative invasive species; and
Other environmentally sensitive areas where economic hardship may result from a lack of reinvestment in restoring damaged landscapes (e.g. water quality impacts on recreation and tourism).
Investing in reducing: fire risks, especially near communities. This year's fires reflect a longer-term disruption in the natural fire cycle that has increased the risk of catastrophic fires in our forests and rangelands. Because of a century-long policy of extinguishing wildland fires, studies show that today's wildfires typically burn hotter, faster, and higher than those of the past. At the same time because more people have moved into fire-prone areas adjacent to or intermingled with Federal and State wildlands, fire fighting has become more complicated, expensive, and dangerous.
Addressing these issues will require significant investments to treat landscapes through the physical removal of undergrowth, the prevention and eradication of invasive plants, and the reintroduction of fire to forest and rangeland ecosystems. The Forest Service has increased its efforts to reduce risks associated with the buildup of brush, shrubs, small trees and other fuels nearly fourfold since 1994. This year the Forest Service will treat approximately 1.4 million acres.
The General Accounting Office issued a report in April, 1999, titled: Western National Forests: a Cohesive Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats (GAO/RCED9965). The Forest Service is developing a strategy to respond to the concerns raised by GAO that will be finalized very soon. It is currently under review. The draft strategy is a tactical blueprint that establishes agency-wide goals, objectives, and milestones that specifically address fuel treatment expectations. The draft strategy is consistent with the broad objectives outlined in the Secretaries' Report, and provides a process for prioritizing and focusing our treatments.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Some critics have expressed concern that the administration's roadless area policy could increase wildfire risks and hinder both suppression and hazardous fuels management needs. The analysis in the draft Environmental Impact Statement does not support these concerns. To the contrary, evidence suggests that fire starts may be fewer in unroaded than in previously roaded forests. The proposed roadless area protection policy would not affect the Federal agencies' ability to control wildland fires. Importantly, the draft roadless proposal provides an exemption for roads that are necessary to fight active fires. The agencies' success rate in extinguishing wildfires .on initial attack is the same in roadless, wilderness, and roaded areas. Approximately 98 percent of all fires are extinguished before they grow large and out of control. In addition, the proposed roadless policy would allow road construction if a wildland fire threatened public health and safety.
Of the 89 million acres of National Forest System land that the Forest Service has identified as having a moderate to high risk of catastrophic fire, less than 16 percent are in inventoried roadless areas. Moreover, the Forest Service would prioritize efforts to reduce fuels in areas that have already been roaded because these areas tend to be much closer to communities and have higher fire risks.
Two fires in the Bitterroot National Forest serve as examples that fires in wilderness or roadless areas can be much less costly to fight. The Skalkaho Fire that burned 64,000 acres near communities, required 755 firefighters, and cost $7.2 million. Meanwhile, a fire in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness burned 63,000 acres, required only 25 firefighters, and cost $709,000 because of the lack of development needing protection.
At the same time, significant new information and the scope of this year's fires of aggressive fire suppression will
require additional resources, and will be an evolutionary processnot one that can be accomplished in a few short years. Indeed, greater investments must be made in working cooperatively with communities and the States to reduce fire risks in high priority areas such as those near communities and in critical watersheds. In the short-term there are many opportunities to treat these high priority areas through prescribed burning and thinning.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our request for new resources to reduce fire risks is entirely separate from our traditional forest management programs. The Forest Service's traditional forest management program focuses largely on harvesting large, commercially valuable trees. Similarly, salvage logging typically focuses on large, commercially valuable trees that have been damaged by fire, insects, disease, or some other natural disturbance. In contrast, our recommendations for reducing fire risks focus on removing brush, shrubs, small diameter trees, and downed material that have accumulated near many communities during the last century. The Secretaries' Report stresses the need to work cooperatively with communities, citizens, State governments, and other Federal agencies to remove this brush and small trees through small, controlled, intentionally set fires and mechanical thinning
Any harvest of commercially valuable timber would be handled separately through the Forest Service's normal commercial timber programs. Commercial logging is certainly not a panacea for reducing fire risks. However, there may be opportunities in appropriate circumstances, using funds other than from wildland fire management, to capture the economic value of some fire-damaged trees. The Forest Service will continue to consider the option of harvesting fire-damaged trees when appropriate, with priority placed on those areas where roads already exist and on achieving important ecological objectives on the ground. Such timber sales would proceed only after all environmental laws and procedures are followed and affected communities are afforded the opportunity to participate in the process.
We must work directly with communities and our other partners including the States, Tribes, and local Governments. Working with States, local communities and our other partners is a critical element in restoring damaged landscapes and reducing fire hazards near homes and communities. To accomplish this, the Secretaries' Report recommends expanding the participation of local communities in efforts to reduce fire hazards and the use
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCof local labor for fuels treatment and restoration work. The Forest Service would also improve local fire protection capabilities through financial and technical assistance to State, local, and volunteer fire fighting efforts. The Secretaries' Report also recommends learning from the public, encouraging grassroots ideas and local solutions for reducing wildfire risk, and expanding successful outreach and
education efforts to homeowners and communities through programs such as FIREWISE, which successfully educates homeowners about how to reduce fire risks to their homes and property.
We must be accountable for completing projects to reduce fire risks. Finally, the Secretaries' Report recommends establishing a cabinet-level management structure to ensure that the actions recommended by the Departments receive the highest priority. The Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior will co-chair this effort, assess the progress towards implementing the tasks recommended in the Secretaries' Report, and provide periodic reports to the President. Among other things, the new management team would be responsible for ensuring that appropriate performance objectives are established and met, ensuring that adequate financial and other resources are made available, establishing a system for identifying and addressing implementation issues promptly, and ensuring that the environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and all other environmental requirements, are undertaken and completed on a timely basis.
Regional integrated management teams will be accountable for accomplishing fuels treatment, restoration, and fire preparedness work. A number of existing, regional integrated management teams are in place to assist in the setting of regional priorities for land restoration, fuels treatment, and community cooperation and outreach. The Forest Service recommends that these regional structures be utilized and/or retooled, as appropriate, to provide a focal point for these initiatives.
Local teams, working closely with communities, the Department of Commerce and other appropriate agency partners, would manage projects on the ground. These integrated teams would identify specific land restoration, fuels treatment, and preparedness projects; coordinate environmental reviews and consultations; facilitate and encourage public participation; and monitor and evaluate project implementation.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Funding Needs. The Secretaries' Report builds on many of the actions that we are already taking. However, given the magnitude of the fire season and its effects, there is clearly a need for additional action and resources than would otherwise be possible within our baseline programs. The Secretaries' Report identifies a need for an additional $1.57 billion for the Departments of Interior and Agriculture in fiscal year 2001 to implement the recommendations. This flexible contingent emergency funding will be used to reimburse fire-fighting accounts strained by this year's fire season. It will also fund fire preparedness, fire operations, State and volunteer fire assistance, forest health management, and economic action programs related to accomplishment of the Secretaries' Report's recommendations.
Funding levels in different categories are approximate, and will be adjusted as needed as the year progresses. While the Conference Report for the Interior and Related Agencies Fiscal-Year 2001 Appropriations makes some changes to the funding levels recommended by the President, reasonable estimates for likely
program components of this funding are:
$203,547,000 for Fire Preparedness;
$338,97 1,000 for Fire Operations;
$276,000,000 for the Emergency Fire Contingency;
$42,994,000 for State Fire Assistance;
$10,790,000 for Volunteer Fire Assistance;
$12,000,000 for Forest Health Management;
$12,500,000 for the Economic Action Program.
Increasing funding for the work that needs to be accomplished will require new investments. Congress and the administration must work together to address this issue in order to help the Forest Service achieve this important goal of reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire across the landscape and implement an effective
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCrecovery and rehabilitation program.
The Forest Service is also reviewing its performance measures and strategic plan goals and objectives to ensure that measures accurately reflect the outcomes anticipated from the work and actions contemplated by the Secretaries'Report.
The outcomes associated with the additional funding are significant, and we estimate the following:
455,000 acres of fuels management on Federal lands targeted to high priority areas including wildland-urban interface areas. This is in addition to the President's fiscal year 2001 request for treating 1.345 million acres;
315,000 acres of fuels management on wildland-urban interface areas on non-Federal lands (through cost-sharing);
At least 750,000 acres of rehabilitation and restoration of burned areas;
4,300 volunteer fire departments in high-risk areas receiving increased assistance for training and equipment, and increase of over 1,800 from the President's fiscal year 2001 request, and;
8,000 new jobs created.
Implementation Strategy for the Secretaries' Report. The Forest Service is preparing to implement the Secretaries' Report. Additionally, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck developed the following principles to guide our efforts to address rehabilitation needs and reduce future risk of unnaturally intense wildland fires to communities and natural resources:
Assist State and local partners to take actions to reduce fire risk to homes and private property through programs such as FIREWISE;
Focus rehabilitation efforts on restoring watershed function, including protection of basic soil, water resources, biological communities, and prevention of invasive species;
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Assign highest priority for hazardous fuels reduction to communities at risk, readily accessible municipal watersheds, threatened and endangered species habitat, and other important local features, where conditions favor uncharacteristically intense fires;
Restore healthy, diverse, and resilient ecological systems to minimize uncharacteristically intense fires on a priority watershed basis. Methods will include removal of excessive vegetation and dead fuels through thinning, prescribed fire, and other treatment methods;
Focus on achieving the desired future condition in collaboration with communities, interest groups, and State and Federal agencies. Streamline process, maximize effectiveness, use ecologically conservative approaches, and minimize controversy in accomplishing restoration projects within existing law and regulation;
Monitor to evaluate the effectiveness of various treatments to reduce unnaturally intense fires while restoring forest ecosystem health and watershed function;
Encourage new stewardship industries and collaborate with local people, volunteers, Youth Conservation Corps members, service organizations, and Forest Service work crews, as appropriate, and; Focus research on long-term effectiveness of different restoration and rehabilitation methods to determine those methods most effective in protecting and restoring watershed function and forest health. Seek new uses and market byproducts of restoration.
We will continue to provide national leadership and to work with our Federal, State, and local firefighting cooperators, and Congress to ensure that the Federal fire fighting agencies and their cooperators have the resources needed to fight fire.
The Forest Service and other Federal agencies with fire fighting responsibilities are committed to minimizing the losses from future unnaturally intense fires such as those in New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, and across the interior West. We are committed to working with communities to implement a strategy to restore and
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCmaintain healthy ecosystems on National Forest System lands. That means reducing hazardous fuels, while ensuring safe and effective use of prescribed fire.
Our strategic approach and guiding principles will enable us to treat areas that pose the highest risk to people, property, and natural resources, and to do so in the most expeditious manner possible. This will require partnerships, resources, and common sense approaches to achieve our goals.