SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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REMOVING ROADBLOCKS TO RESPONSIBLE FOREST MANAGEMENT
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 2, 1998, PORTLAND, OR
Serial No. 10564
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, Oregon, Chairman
LARRY COMBEST, Texas,
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Vice Chairman
BILL BARRETT, Nebraska
JOHN A. BOEHNER, Ohio
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
CHARLES T. CANADY, Florida
NICK SMITH, Michigan
TERRY EVERETT, Alabama
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma
RON LEWIS, Kentucky
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
JOHN N. HOSTETTLER, Indiana
ED BRYANT, Tennessee
MARK FOLEY, Florida
SAXBY CHAMBLISS, Georgia
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
JO ANN EMERSON, Missouri
JERRY MORAN, Kansas
ROY BLOUNT, Missouri
CHARLES W. (CHIP) PICKERING, Mississippi
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JOHN R. THUNE, South Dakota
WILLIAM L. JENKINS, Tennessee
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCJOHN COOKSEY, Louisiana
CHARLES W. STENHOLM, Texas,
Ranking Minority Member
GEORGE E. BROWN, Jr., California
GARY A. CONDIT, California
COLLIN C. PETERSON, Minnesota
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
EVA M. CLAYTON, North Carolina
DAVID MINGE, Minnesota
EARL F. HILLIARD, Alabama
EARL POMEROY, North Dakota
TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
SCOTTY BAESLER, Kentucky
SANFORD D. BISHOP, Jr., Georgia
BENNIE G. THOMPSON, Mississippi
SAM FARR, California
JOHN ELIAS BALDACCI, Maine
MARION BERRY, Arkansas
VIRGIL H. GOODE, Jr., Virginia
MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
DEBBIE STABENOW, Michigan
BOB ETHERIDGE, North Carolina
CHRISTOPHER JOHN, Louisiana
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC JAY W. JOHNSON, Wisconsin
LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
PAUL UNGER, Majority Staff Director
GREG ZERZAN, Chief Counsel
STEPHEN HATERIUS, Minority Staff Director
VERNIE HUBERT, Minority Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Smith, Hon. Robert F. (Bob), a Representative in Congress from the State of Oregon, opening statement
Batty, Robert, superintendent, Grant County Education Service District
Bradley, William, deputy state director, Oregon State Office, Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior
Burley, Charles, eastern Oregon manager, Northwest Forestry Association
Freeman, Larry, senior consultant, Shipley Environmental, Inc.
Lillebo, Tim, eastern Oregon field representative, Oregon Natural Resources Council
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Reynolds, Dennis, Grant County judge, Grant County, OR
Robertson, Bill, chairman, Ashland Forest Lands Commission
Weakley, Jeannie, member, Local 2949, Western Council of Industrial Workers
Williams, Robert, regional forester, region 6, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
REMOVING ROADBLOCKS TO RESPONSIBLE FOREST MANAGEMENT
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 1998
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 11:00 a.m. in the Mt. Hood Conference Room, Sheraton Hotel at the Airport, Portland, OR. Hon. Robert F. (Bob) Smith (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Staff present: John Snider, district director; Dave Tenny, professional staff; Dwight Felder; Monique Brown, and Danelle Farmer, minority consultant.
OPENING STATEMNET OF HON. ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
The CHAIRMAN. We will come to order. Good morning, everyone. Welcome. Thank you for coming, especially those of you who have traveled a great distance. We appreciate you being here. I have a statement for the record. And at the end of that statement, we will begin listening to our witnesses.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In January 1997, the Committee on Agriculture held a hearing in Sunriver to begin addressing critical forest management issues, especially in the east side forests of Oregon. During the hearing, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, Governor Kitzhaber, and I agreed that timely, proactive management was needed to restore ecological balance to our forest and to reduce the ever-growing threat of catastrophic fire.
We agreed that such efforts could be accomplished in a way that would benefit our resource dependent communities. And finally, we agreed that such an ambitious agenda would require an unprecedented amount of cooperation between the Forest Service, local communities, the State of Oregon, and Congress.
We all left Sunriver determined to succeed, or I thought so. Unfortunately, the result was a year and a half of preparation of a bill which would have provided for scientific counseling to the Forest Service and to the regions of the country.
We held some seven hearings. All along the way we requested support of the Forest Service officially. None came. We asked cooperation of the Governor's office, even after we had all agreed to the Governor's 11-point program at Sunriver. No support came. The result was a threat by the administration through the Forest Service to veto the bill. The bill ultimately lost on the floor of the House of Representatives; a sad result of what was a very optimistic opportunity, or so we thought, at Sunriver.
As the dust cleared from Sunriver, the Forest Service was preparing, at that time, an environmental impact statement for a fire recovery project on some 30,000 acres called the Summit fire on the Malheur National Forest. The Summit fire had burned the previous September. The intent of them out there was to complete the project preparation by late spring and begin recovery of the forest by early summer. On its face, the Summit fire recovery project embodied the principles articulated in Sunriver. It was a forest recovery project designed to restore a landscape that had suffered a catastrophic burn.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If executed in a timely way, the project would have conservatively generated $22 million to the taxpayers in timber sale revenues, over $5 million for local schools and roads, and over $5 million to the K-V fund for site restoration, habitat improvement, and other critical on-the-ground investments. The project received an unprecedented amount of public support, including that of the entire community in Grant County, the Governor's office, Senator Wyden, Senator Smith, and myself.
By all accounts, the Summit project was a test case of whether what we began at Sunriver could actually be achieved on the ground. Yet despite having literally satisfied every criterion established at Sunriver, something went tragically wrong, and the project failed.
The project preparation extended to nearly 2 years. Trees rotted on the stump. Over 90 percent of the commercial value of the project was lost, and with it most of the site restoration fund. Revenue returned to the Grant County School District literally disappeared.
Perhaps most tragically, as the Summit project deteriorated, so too did the community's trust in the Forest Service. The goodwill and optimism generated at Sunriver had been, in many ways, reduced to ashes. In short, we are right back where we started.
Now, I am here to try to find out why; why a project with so much going for it would fail. I am also here to identify what must be done to prevent another Summit from happening again in the future. In a word, I am here today to see if we can resolve some of what we began in Sunriver.
I have entitled this hearing ''Removing Roadblocks to Responsible Forest Management.'' We have heard much over the last year and a half about removing roadblocks that prevent the Forest Service from responsibly managing our forests.
Governor Kitzhaber has established a Citizens Advisory Committee and given it the task of identifying and removing roadblocks. Chief Dombeck has charged the Forest Service to collaborate with the public to remove roadblocks and thereby rebuild the community trust in the agency that has seemed to erode in recent years.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Yet despite these well-intended efforts, the Summit sadly reminds us that a year and a half after we discussed all these issues, the roadblocks are still there. We have made little or no real progress since the gavel fell at Sunriver.
Citizens panels are not working. Collaborative stewardship is not working. Something is preventing them from succeeding. And I believe that something lies maybe within our grasp in our discussion today within the Forest Service. To this end, I have decided to use the Summit project as a case study in our hearing today. I believe the Summit is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Indeed, I believe that the Summit project is symptomatic of a number of problems within the Forest Service that destroy public trust and prevent sound forest management. A careful study of the project, therefore, might well yield important insights into what we should do to fix these problems and put the Forest Service back on track.
In order to manage the scope of today's hearings, I intend to focus on three specific issues which I believe lie at the heart of our inquiry. First I want to examine the communication between the regional office and the local agency professions. It appears, from the Summit record, that severe communication breakdowns between the region and the local managers contributed significantly to the procedural delay.
Second, and closely related to the first issue, I want to examine the role of the regional forest and the Washington office in the decision-making process. Both had a considerable impact on the Summit. My intent is to determine precisely what that impact was.
Finally, I want to examine the Forest Service appeals process and specifically the role of the regional forester in that process. Part of this inquiry will include a comparison of the Forest Service appeals process with the process used by the BLM.
Having outlined the purpose and format of this hearing, I want to make a few things perfectly clear at the outset of this discussion. First, I strongly support our local on-the-ground Forest Service professions who work day in and day out to manage the resource in the best way they know how. These people are the backbone of the agency and are to be commended for their work. My intent is not to berate or belittle them. It is my firm belief that they are the victims of the problem, not the source of it.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, I firmly intend to legislate a solution to these problems identified today, unless I can be completely convinced that there is an administrative remedy available. We have waited long enough for administrative revenues. They have been tried, and they have failed.
I am already moving legislation to make the Forest Service more fiscally accountable, because I am convinced that the agency cannot achieve that objective on its own. I will not hesitate to legislate again if I feel it necessary.
Third, I want to emphasize that my overriding purpose today is to improve the agency and not tear it down. Nevertheless, I intend to be candid and critical in my questions and observations. I expect the dialog today to be forthright and constructive. I will have little patience for answers that simply restate the company line.
The simple fact of the matter is that Congress has grown impatient with the Forest Service. I am not looking for solutions that can be implemented a year or 2 or 10. I am looking for what will make a difference now. And I might add, as we are passing in this respect, it is unfortunate that, in my opinion, the Forest Service has lost much of its support system in Congress.
To give you some idea about that, George Miller, the great environmentalist Congressman from San Francisco, recently introduced legislation which wiped out the total overhead for the K-V fund, one of the five funds that the Forest Service has, totally wiped out the administrative expense for the fund. Now, it did total 31 percent, as does, by the way, all Forest Service overhead. Something between 27 and 31 percent of their budget is overhead, which is intolerable.
But Mr. George Miller's legislation passed by a substantial number, which wiped out the overhead for the K-V fund, which meant that you had to go into all these other funds to find sufficient dollars. If it should pass the Senate, which it won't, you would have to go into all these other funds to find money to operate the four other funds, which is a tragedy, but I think it points out a major situation.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the Forest Service has lost the trust of the communities, which it has, that have always supported it. And I for 35 years have supported the Forest Service function. I have lost confidence in the Forest Service; if they have changed constituencies, trulyand they may haveif they have gone from a management of forestry to, let's say, an environmental and an organization which merely contributes to recreation, then I think the Forest Service has lost part of its constituency.
If it depends upon the environmentalists for its constituency, then it has nothing left, obviously, because the environmental constituency plans to harvest no trees. Zero. And you will hear some of that today. So if you have lost the grass-roots communities and you have lost the environmentalists, what in the world's name do you have left to support your position? My point is, very little.
Finally, I have invited the Bureau of Land Management to join us today on our second panel, because I believe the agency can make an important contribution to the hearing. My intent is not to compare BLM professionals to Forest Service professionals. Rather, it is to compare the two agencies institutionally to determine whether what has worked in one agency might be successfully applied to the other. You will recall that Congress recently did this exact thing with the purchase of the road credit issue. I think it is a healthy approach that might yield positive and constructive results.
To conclude, I want to reiterate the point I made in Sunriver a year and a half ago. I did not intend that hearing to be just another meeting, nor do I intend this hearing to be just another meeting. Hopefully we can find solutions and contribute positively to an improvement within the Forest Service to actually remove roadblocks through efficient management for not only the resource, but the communities and to the constituencies across the country. So I invite you all to join me in that effort.
And while I might finally add, there might be those who believe that since I am retiring at the end of this session, I may go away. I want to remind those of you who believe that, that I retain many friends in Congress. My philosophy continues in Congress. And I have discussed these issues with the prospective Chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the next session of Congress, and I can tell you that he is vitally interested and will continue this work.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, with that, I am pleased to have with us already and promptly our first panel this morning. So let's begin over with Mr. Burley. Mr. Burley represents the Northwest Forestry Association.
We are happy to have you here. Thank you for coming. We are looking forward to hearing you.
STATEMENT OF CHARLES BURLEY, EASTERN OREGON MANAGER, NORTHWEST FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
Mr. BURLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for
this opportunity to testify here today. Before I present my comments on why region 6 is having so much difficulty implementing the forest health restoration and salvage projects on the ground, I would like to state that these comments are not directed towards any one individual in the agency. There are many well-intentioned, hard-working individuals of the Forest Service that are equally as frustrated with this problem as I am.
It is important to point out that with forest health restoration and salvage projects, time is of the essence. This is simply a matter of common sense. In these cases, lack of action results in heightened risk to the resource base due to wildfire, insects and disease, erosion, et cetera. Similarly, lack of action results in deterioration of product value in some cases by as much as 80 to 90 percent. I have some photos, charts, and other visuals here today that I would like to display later, if time permits.
Using the Summit fire as an example, I can demonstrate the problem region 6 is experiencing trying to get salvage and restoration projects done. The Summit fire burned in August 1996. It covered nearly 38,000 acres, 28,000 of which were on the Malheur National Forest. Late that year the Malheur decided to prepare an EIS to examine consequences of salvaging fire-killed timber and restoring burned areas.
The industry reluctantly agreed to the EIS, and the Forest maintained it would provide the best chance of getting something done. The draft EIS was released in May 1997. It proposed salvage harvest on 11,400 acres of approximately
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC110 million board feet.
After a public comment period, the final EIS and record of decision were released in October 1997. It called for the harvest of about 108 million board feet from over 9500 acres. Throughout this process, from when the fire was still smoking until the record of decision was issued in October 1997, this project was the focus of extensive public review and involvement. This included environmental groups, forest products industry, local citizens, county commissioners, and other local regional and national elected officials, school boards and education service districts, Governor Kitzhaber's office, and a citizen advisory panel and scientific panel appointed by the Governor to address east side forest health issues.
So what happened? The October 1997 record of decision was appealed by environmental groups and tribes raising the usual issues of water quality, aquatics, roads, et cetera. On December 15, 1997, the record of decision was withdrawn. There were seven reasons or issues given by the Forest Service for withdrawing the record of decision. I won't go into details now on these seven issues, but I will say they were questionable, for the most part.
Furthermore, these issues were process in nature and could have been remedied without modifying the project on the ground. The Forest Service then decided to prepare a supplemental EIS to address these seven issues. The result was a final supplemental EIS and record of decision issued in July 1998.
The final project was to salvage 50 million board feet of fire-killed timber from 6700 acres. The question is, how can the Forest Service start with 28,000 acres that are burned, 300 million board feet, roughly, of dead timber, and end up treating only 24 percent of that and producing 17 percent of the volume, most of which was marginal at best.
When the Malheur first drafted the original EIS early in 1997, it went to the regional office for an internal review. We were told that review produced a list of concerns with the document that needed to be addressed prior to a final. We had asked for the record of this review but were told that none existed.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After the public comment period closed to the draft EIS, the Malheur published its final EIS. At this point one would think that if the regional office had earlier identified concerns with the draft, it would follow up to ensure these were corrected prior to publishing the final. However, when we asked if this was the case, we were told that, no, the regional office did not provide any such oversight prior to publishing the final EIS.
When the appeals were filed, normal procedure called for the Forest to send the administrator of record its response to the appeals to the regional office for its review and decision. This was done in the case of the Summit.
Unfortunately, the review of the appeal did not rule on any fine merits of the appeal. Instead, it resulted in the seven reasons for withdrawing the decision I mentioned earlier. Not all of these seven issues were based on the appeals.
In fact, we were told during the meeting in the regional office on December 29, 1997, that some of the seven issues were not raised by the opponents but rather by the regional office itself. This begs the question, where was the regional office during the entire process? Certainly a project such as Summit that was the focus of so much external attention warranted greater quality control.
When I reviewed the draft EIS, the regional office should have provided written comments as part of the record, which we were told that it did not. Then prior to publication of the final, the regional office should have provided oversight on its earlier review and any ensuing developments to ensure the final EIS was adequate. According to the Forest Service, this too was not done.
During the next couple of months, as the Forest and the regional office deliberated on how to proceed; that is, whether to prepare an amended record of decision or a supplemental EIS, there were numerous conversations between the two offices. We repeatedly tried to explain to the Forest Service that the seven reasons for withdrawing the record of decision were process in nature and did not warrant substantive changes to the project on the ground.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Nevertheless, they not only decided to prepare a supplemental EIS, but in the course of doing so, they slashed the final product by more than half with no satisfactory justification. Furthermore, they delayed cost to taxpayers and local communities millions of dollars in direct cost in lost revenues.
To summarize, it is frustrating when the Forest Service withdraws or remands a decision for no apparent reason, or at least no substantive reason. If they applied the same criteria to be arbitrary and capricious to withdrawing or remanding that they do to a record of decision, the withdraw or remand decisions often would not stand up.
It is quite apparent that region 6 abused the process as the end rather than the means to accomplishing resource objectives on the ground. They have become so worried about trying to bullet proof a document and decision which is a hopeless cause, that they have created a bureaucratic process that consumes time and money, fails to accomplish the necessary resource objectives, and ends up being challenged anyway.
There is a pervasive and excessive aversion to risk in region 6. If this same aversion to risk were applied in the financial markets, the agency would be hoarding its dollars under a mattress.
I would characterize Summit and similar projects in region 6 as follows: It is bad science from a forester's perspective, poor management from a manager's perspective, and an absolute waste of our nation's renewable resources from a taxpayer's perspective.
If time permits and the chairman so desires, I could go through the visuals. Otherwise, I will just thank you, and I will take any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Burley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Thank you, Mr. Burley. We will get back to your program after all the witnesses have testified.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Lillebo.
Mr. LILLEBO. Hello, Bob, how are you doing today?
The CHAIRMAN. Fine, sir.
Mr. LILLEBO. Hope you are well and your family is well.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. LILLEBO. You know, it has been a long time since we have gotten together or been at a hearing together. In fact, it has been a long time sincewe met in the woods when we were hunting on the Malheur a long time ago, but neither one of us have probably been spending enough time out in the woods.
The CHAIRMAN. I am surprised both of us came back.
Mr. LILLEBO. Yeah. Isn't that amazing? As we said when we met in Washington, DC, we were glad that neither one of us was armed.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, that is good.
STATEMENT OF TIM LILLEBO, EASTERN OREGON FIELD REPRESENTATIVE, OREGON NATURAL RESOURCES COUNCIL
Mr. LILLEBO. Anyway, referring to the letter that I ask what kinds of things are impediments to the Forest Service achieving their actions, I think the number one way for forest management to be improved by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, or any other agency, is simply to follow and comply with the environmental conservation laws of this country, by carefully following the National Forest Management Act, the Clean Water Act, the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, Endangered Species, and National Environmental Policy Act.
I think that far less controversy and far fewer appeals and many, many less lawsuits would occur if those laws were carefully followed and if each of the projects took those into account from the beginning, right from the very start. I really think that this would generate much better management, and I think we would achieve a higher level of continuity in Forest Service management. To me it is the number one key issue, following the national resource management laws and do it right the first time.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another thing is on-the-ground actions. The Forest Service now has an ecosystem management policy. It is the overriding direction. ex-Chief Dale Robertson came out and talked a lot about ecosystem management. And the Forest Service, I think, in the last decade or soit is my feeling, anywayhave made great strides towards achieving getting closer to that ecosystem management policy, trying to achieve that.
However, on the ground sometimes there are still managers, I believe, that are caught kind of in the old timber-dominant policies or the old kind of development policies of the past, and I think it is going to take a little more time for those ecosystem management policies to be implemented.
For example, on the Summit fire, it really kind of started out, at least from our perspective, with the Forest Service announcing how many million board feet of timber that it was possible to get out of there and how much could be logged rather than speaking immediately to how the area's ecosystem could be restored.
We visited the fire. We made comments even before the smoke cleared. And it is pretty basic. It is the kind of things we have talked about for years and years. I think it is also part of the ecosystem management philosophy. Staying out of the roadless areas; protecting the riparian areas; salmon, steelhead, bull trout habitat; and protecting the old growth; leaving green forest. There is precious little green forest there. And trying to keep those areas there to be future seed source was an important one. Anyway, there are lots of activities that could have occurred that were non-logging.
But I would say if the Forest Service had truly looked at the salmon, steelhead, and watershed restoration as the No. 1 issue, then I think the project would have followedit probably would have taken only one iteration of the National Environmental Policy Act process. I think the public could have got involved, and I think an action would have taken place a lot sooner, if they would have started out with that premise.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Land use plans, I think those are a little bit outdated, and I think if those were updated, that we would find that the new standards and so forth that would be implemented by using the new science that has been developed over the years and that we would find that the Forest Service would be able to achieve a lot more of their goals and be able to start out with a solid science base and then be able to go ahead and carry through a project, because they wouldn't be going back and having to say, well, we forgot that we need to leave more of this, or we needed to have more of thesemore snags, whatever it is, those kinds of things. So we need to update those plans.
Another thing is following their plan. The Vinegar Hill Indian Rock scenic area, it has been that way for 30 years. It has been out of the county and in a no-cut allocation, no logging for the last 30 years, and I think if they would have taken to heart their plan and said, hey, maybe we will stay out of the roadless area, stay out of the special scenic area, I think that the project probably would have proceeded at a faster pace.
Also, the public opinion, after seeing poll after poll, has gone through and shown that the public is more interested now in the natural resources: the watershed, the fisheries, clean drinking water, wilderness, recreation, those kinds of issues, above extractive commodities. The Forest Service, I think, is moving and recognizing that. And I think they need to do more so of that.
A couple other things. External pressures, there has been some political and local services which I think push the Forest Service in this local case to maybe go a little too much overboard with logging, and that was really the problem. Too much development, too much cutting, too many roads. And I think that is whypart of the reason that this project was delayed.
Other congressional sometimes have tried to bypass environmental laws. For example, the infamous salvage logging rider and some of the recent forest bills that Senator Larry Craig have introduced come to mind. I think that local energies and political energies would be far better served and invested in trying to help diversify economies, trying to promote sustainable forest products, and also trying to help support local family-wage jobs and businesses in those rural communities. I think there have been some efforts that way, but I am just saying I think that is one of the main things to put energy into.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The people you spoke tothe Governor's plan, I remember you supported it. It said actively go out and manage. I think the Forest Service should heed a lot of the issues in his 11-point plan. It also said actively go out and do some thinning, those kinds of things. It also said clearly, we should avoid ecologically sensitive areas. We should avoid controversial areas that would include roadless areas, old growth, riparian areas, and sensitive fish habitat. I think the Governor's plan recommended some good things. Unfortunately, I believe that the original Summit plan did not take those into account.
Chief Mike Dombeck, the Forest Service, in this case, and others should heed some of the words that he has been giving the last couple of years here; I think the lastsince he has been the chief.
He gave a speech, and it says, ''If we are to redeem our claim to be the world's foremost conservation leader, our job is to maintain and restore ecologically, socially important environmental values. We need to do a better job of talking about and managing for these values. Values such as wilderness, roadless areas, clean water, protection of rare species, old growth forests, and naturalness.''
He said that in 50 years we will not be remembered for the resources we developed. We will be thanked for those that we maintained and restored for future generations.
I think he started to give direction, and I think he goes along with Governor Kitzhaber's plan when he said to the Senate this spring that the Forest Service had lost a lot of its credibility with the public and that the agency must rebuildand you said that, too, Bobthat public trust by careful management.
He said also that it is simple common sense that we must avoid roadless areas, old growth, riparian areas, and sensitive fish habitat. Like I say, again, this Summit project I think got off on the wrong foot as far as those issues.
In closing, roadless areas; watersheds for municipal drinking water; salmon, steelhead habitat, bull trout; recreation; wilderness is one of the great values that can help protect those areas. I think that sensitive recommendations by the Forest Service in their new forest plans, in their new round of forest plans, if they recommended roadless areas, a lot of these others, I think they remove, in a sensitive way, a lot of the controversy for some of those places. We would also protect in the long term those resources that the Forest Service is, you know, charged with protecting.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One last thing, the Deschutes National Forest has only had a couple of timber sale appeals in the last year, so why is this the case. I believe thatand I think if we check the record, that the Deschutes has generally heeded the advice of science, generally heeded the advice of Kitzhaber's plan, generally heeded the advice of Chief Dombeck's direction, and they have generally stayed out of the roadless areas, the old growth, riparian, and the sensitive fisheries areas. It just seems to make sense.
Anyway, my testimony is repetitive, and that is deliberate. I think there are many obvious and well-documented social, scientific, biological, and political reasons to protect our forest and to protect our sensitive public lands.
To me, again, it is simple common sense that we go ahead and work very carefully, very diligently to try to restore our forests, restore our riparian, our salmon and steelhead habitat, restore the old growth forests that we have already logged, and go ahead and try to protect and then restore those clean drinking-water sources for many Oregon communities. And then what we do have left in the form of roadless areas, certain areas which have been recognized as being of the highest ecological and important areas, we should go ahead and designate those as wilderness and for long-term protection.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Lillebo appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. Reynolds, County judge, Grant County, the second preferred place in the world to be. The other one is 70 miles due south of you it is called Burns, OR.
Mr. REYNOLDS. I acknowledge your bias.
The CHAIRMAN. Good, you acknowledge my bias.
STATEMENT OF DENNIS REYNOLDS, GRANT COUNTY JUDGE, GRANT COUNTY, OR
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REYNOLDS. Congressman Smith, I appreciate the invitation to appear before you representing the Agricultural Committee. Today I bring a message from the citizens of Grant County. Two years ago I would have been able to say I represented 8,100 people. Today I sadly have to say I represent only 7,950.
I have not always been an elected official. I often say I am a forester by education and a sawmill manager by experience, a contract logger by choice, and a county judge by means of temporary insanity.
I speak to you representing these citizens who reside on an area of real estate 2,869,928 acres in size and is 64-percent federally managed. Our principal industries include and have included for over 134 years, forestry, livestock, agriculture and hunting.
Six times in 1997 Grant County has had an unemployment picture that is the worst in the State of Oregon. Today the estimated jobless rate in June 1998 is 13.7 percent. However, we can boast that that is only second highest in the State of Oregon to Hood River, which is at 13.9 now.
Grant County's average income per job in 1996 was $22,000, while the average income for Oregon wage earners was $27,000, and corresponding United States workers at 29,000.
Grant County has had a very colorful and historic past since since 1862. And when Grant County was created in 1864, the government has played a long-term, major role in the development of Grant County, encouraging settlement by gifting of land with the Homestead Act; encouraging road construction by gifting of land to the State of Oregon; accommodating existing habitants by the establishment and award of grazing allotments; awarding a large volume, long-term timber sale and continuing a 90-year practice of gifting a percentage of its income to the State of Oregon for distribution to Grant County for the construction and maintenance of its roads and schools. All of this has contributed to a long-term trust relationship with Grant County.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, Grant County is still plagued by its remoteness. Transportation to markets and from supply centers is atypically expensive compared to other geographic locations. This long-standing fact has and continues to limit what enterprises can grow in Grant County.
Grant County remains today much like it was in its early days, with its farm employment at 21.5 percent, lumber and wood product at 11.4 percent, construction and mining at 3.7 percent, of a total work force amounting to 3,770 workers. This one strong indication is the 10.1 percent of government component that exists today.
We ask ourselves this question: how important can a single salvage timber sale like Summit be to the trust relationship our Federal Government has established with Grant County.
It is very important for the citizens of Grant County to understand that the Federal Government is going to honor its management obligations to the citizens of these United States to manage Federal lands on an even flow and sustained-yield basis. It is important to note that the industry in Grant County stands ready as a tool in the carpenter's box for a carpenter ready to help the U.S. Forest Service discharge its management duties.
The woods products industry would much prefer to assist in the management of green forests so that situations like Summit are less likely to occur. Employees, like the industry, would rather make a living working in a healthy green forest than among the charred carcasses of once vibrant trees. Once the trees are dead, sustainable yield quantities are negatively and substantially impacted.
Today is the 150th day since the commencement of the fire in the Summit area. The timber sales have been sold. Yet it will be the end of this week before the purchaser will know if they can contribute to the restoration purchasesor practices or that they will be ordered to wait an additional precious and valued degenerative days for current litigations to climax.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Current Federal management decisions continue to be plagued by conflicting and overlapping Federal laws and regulations.
Seven hundred and fifty days ago the trees died. The sales were sold and awarded for the purchase price of $2,073,32 in spite of phone calls from the Washington, DC, office requesting that sales not be awarded, pending more conferencing. Had all the standing dead volume been available for sale within the 2 or 3 months after the fire, it is estimated that the value would have been worth about $120 million.
One management constraint after another diminished the sale volume offered in the preferred alternative to approximately 108 million board foot. Additional review, additional conferencing brought more application, continued product deterioration, reduced the final sale volume to approximately 45 to 52 million.
The timber value has comfortably deteriorated or deteriorated an estimated amount of $45 million to the communities. At this rate, county schoolscounty schools and county government would lose approximately $11 million.
The Federal planning process is grossly flawed and remains constipated by continued litigative efforts sponsored by those who feel Mother Nature knows best. The process gives no consideration to the fact that the planners are dealing with rapidly deteriorating product values. The sale is treated as though it were green volume sale.
The U.S. Forest Service possesses the knowledge and the expertise to accelerate the healing process after a major fire event but is so often hampered by its own rules and regulations.
Weyerhauser to the north of us has demonstrated the private sector's ability to accelerate the healing process near Mt. Saint Helens after its eruption. Vigorously growing trees 20-foot plus in height stand today on private property along the private property line bordering U.S. Forest Service lands, which demonstrate minimal recovery by comparison.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The current record of decision appeal process makes planning cumbersome. The BLM, with its independent review, seems better able to handle these issues. A similar review established by U.S. Forest Service should serve to relieve part of this issue.
The planning process seemed to throw hurdles in the way of local Forest planning staff. The local Forest planning staff had the support of the community members, understanding each time that they were presented with reasons why things weren't the way they thought they should be, they understood and continued their support.
From the continuously changing laundry list of items that needed additional documentation or analysis, to the Washington, DC, phone call to the Forest on the day of the sale asking to hold up award, members of the community had a visible and genuine sympathy for the local planners who were convincingly attempting to proceed with salvage sale in a most thorough, yet expeditious manner.
Management decision makers must be legislatively empowered to make decisions consistent with their professional expertise and required to utilize codified, peer-reviewed and peer-approved science. These managers deserve a degree of litigious insulation if they have applied the science consistently.
Frivolous litigation must be legislatively stopped or financially discouraged. The burned timber salvage sale program process must be streamlined like was done with the blowdown timber in Texas.
Thank you for this opportunity, and we will respond to questions later.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Reynolds appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Judge.
Mr. Batty is with the Grant County Education Service District. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT BATTY, SUPERINTENDENT, GRANT COUNTY EDUCATION SERVICE DISTRICT
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BATTY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to be here, and I represent the interests of our children and the public schools and our managers of those public schools.
For a number of years we have been dependent upon the management of the forest to provide resources which support our schools and their general fund operations. And during the Summit fire and the ensuing 2 years that we have observed what is happening with this process, the Summit fire was a catastrophe for our children and for the support of our schools. And we are extremely concerned about the longevity of this process and the destruction of the value, then, that supports our young people.
We consider the natural resource of our forests to be as important as the natural resource of our children to our country. And in our rural area, we are dependent upon the management of that forest resource to support the classroom needs of our children.
In Grant County those dollars are used to pay for our teachers and basic classroom operations. They are not used to provide additional support for the buildings or additional support personnel or used for basic education.
The result of the management of forest resources has resulted in one of our largest school districts going from a 5-day school week to a 4-day school week. And so the impact of the management of the forest, in terms of preserving the net asset value of catastrophic fire or blowdown, is significant, and it is felt within our schools immediately.
In the State of Oregon, we do not have the luxury of going to the taxpayers to make up the difference. And so, consequently, our children are going to pay the price and are paying the price for the management of the forest. And if the net asset value is not preserved, our children are going to suffer, and they are.
The smaller schools have not reduced their operation yet, but it is going to be just a matter of a year or two when we are going to have to reduce the teachers, and our children will have less educational opportunities.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I have watched this 2 years progress and have been involved with meetings with the Forest Service, the local Forest Service personnel are part of our community and they contribute immeasurably to our community. And they have tried their best to put together expeditiously a sale in the Summit fire that preserved that value, because they understand that these assets support our kids. They support also not only our kids, but they support our family structure. And that is as important to the schools, in terms of finances, as the additional revenue from the forest.
As those months progressed, we continually saw that there were additional items that needed to beand hurdles that needed to be overcome. And as we watched that, we watched the net asset value of our resource for our kids diminish to the point where our kids are paying a big price for the procedures now that are in place.
There was a July 3 blowdown in our area that is catastrophic. And if this continues to occur, in terms of longevity of this procedure and the procedures involved, our children are going to pay a huge price. And we should not have to place this on the backs of our rural children.
And I applaud you for looking into this issue. I shouldn't even have to be here discussing the interests of our children with the Federal Government, because they have taken care of this in the past. But our children are at risk, and the risk is immediate.
And I would urge the Forest Service toand applaud Congress for looking at ways in which we can preserve the net asset value of our children by the value of our forests. And we live there. We wantthere isn't anyone in our area that wants to see the forest demolished. We want a sustainable yield, and we want the trust and the partnership to continue.
And if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them, but I appreciate the opportunity to bring this forward.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Batty appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Batty.
Mr. Robertson from the Ashland Forest Lands Commission. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF BILL ROBERTSON, CHAIRMAN, ASHLAND FOREST LANDS COMMISSION
Mr. ROBERTSON. Good morning. Thank you.
I chair the Forest Lands Commission for the city of Ashland. The city owns about 1,400 acres of forestlands, which is partially our city's watershed. The rest of the city watershed is under Forest Service ownership.
In about 1989 we began to manage our forestlands for the first time; hired professionals to draw up a plan; went through the screening by the community, an arduous task. And we have begun over the past 4 years actually being on the ground and beginning to get some projects done.
We have had some cooperative efforts with the Forest Service. We have done a controlled burn together. We have in our work left some dead standing timber that we hope we will be able to join with their HazRed project in being able to remove it. That is probably our most time-sensitive issue over that.
The HazRed project, which is the Ashland Interface Fire Hazard Reduction Project, began in July 1996. Public meetings in September of 1996. The EA was made final and available in February of 1997. Early in January of 1997, we had a flood that delayed the EA. They made some modifications to that based on the results of the flood event.
During March and April of that year, numerous field trips were held. The philosophical patterns of the vegetative manipulation is the same as we are using on our own city-owned lands. Fuel breaks on the ridges, flanking on the sides. And actually we are able to go through most all of our ownership.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are just now working on a riparian plan. We have been staying out of the riparian areas, but we will be doing some habitat assets and such in our riparian areas.
These projects, together with several grants and State grants from different drainages in the same area, in the hills above Ashland, have all worked together to try to create a landscape design plan so that everyone is more or less working in conjunction and heading in the same direction.
I personally attended most of the public meetings and most of the field trips. Actually, our district ranger went to great lengths. She went out and had the trees marked prior to the public input period; offered field trips; people could go up and walk around and actually see the trees to be marked. After considerable input, changes were made in the plan. And the amount of trees to be removed was reduced considerably.
The project encompasses about 1,500 acres, a thousand of which will just be forest health enhancement, underburning, brush cutting, no real commercial extraction from those. There is about 500 acres that will be commercial work. Some of the fuel breaks were cut back in scope. Road construction was cut back in scope. I think they are only going to build a quarter mile of road, and that is going to be reconstructed afterwards. There had been 1.2 miles of fuel break proposed, and they have cut that back to four-tenths of a mile, which is connecting two fuel breaks that were built in the early eighties. The average diameter of trees was cut back from 16 inches to 14 inches.
The decision notice went out on March 27, 1998. And as I said, after considerable public input, it had the full support of the Ashland Forest Commission, the Mayor, and our City Council. In addition, the regional ecosystem office was invited to comment, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. They reviewed the project and found it consistent with the standards and guidelines of the Northwest forest plans.
In spite of the fact that the project was well planned, scientifically sound, and enjoyed broad public support in a rather liberal community, the Forest Service regional office remanded the district ranger's decision to go forward and hence has delayed this project. It is frustrating that it has been delayed by the aberrant vocal angst of what appears to be a minority; those who have said that they would appeal any option that was chosen.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The bottom line is simple. If a project like this can be stopped so easily, there must be something wrong with our process.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Robertson appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Robertson.
Ms. Weakley, welcome, representing the Western Council of Industrial Workers.
STATEMENT OF JEANNIE WEAKLEY, MEMBER LOCAL 2949, WESTERN COUNCIL OF INDUSTRIAL WORKERS
Ms. WEAKLEY. Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of the 25,000 men and women of the Industrial Workers, Western Council, I would like to thank you, the chairman, today for inviting us here.
Although much of the discussion today focuses on the failure of specific timber sales, the effects of U.S. Forest Service management problems reverberate throughout the United States. Our Nation relies on the Forest Service providing adequate services and sound policies to preserve healthy forest ecosystems while providing a sustainable level of timber for production. Our members rely on the Forest Service to protect their economic well-being and to support timber-dependent communities.
In recent years it has become increasingly clear the agency is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in inefficiency and waste. Now is the time to examine its management practices, identify any inadequacies and determine solutions for the future.
Various reports declare the Forest Service's fiscal practices inept. In 1995, the General Accounting Office, GAO, stated that the agency lacks a credible, comprehensive, and consistent system to collect and report data because it has no ability to identify where and how resources are expended and whether objectives are being met efficiently.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unable to verify the accuracy of the 1995 annual report, the Agriculture Department's own Inspector General labeled the report insufficient. While spiraling overhead costs continue to hinder the productivity and success of the Forest Service's programs, the agency has not produced a proper financial statement since 1995. This is unacceptable.
Our members are specifically concerned with how inefficiencies and mismanagement at the agency affect the Federal timber sale program.
In 1993 President Clinton promised to protect both the environment and the economy. He committed his administration to finding a middle ground for managing our national forest to bring an end to the timber wars. But today the Forest Service is turning its back on the commitment.
Just last month our union held a press conference to present a series of intra-agency documents that clearly lay out a plan to abandon President Clinton's promise. These documents show that Forest Service management wants to eliminate commercial timber harvesting on Federal lands. The agency, along with its allies in the environmental community, cites the fact that operating costs now exceed timber sale revenues as a reason to end the Federal timber sale program.
But the facts show that the answer lies in improving the way the agency manages costs and administers the timber program, not in terminating an essential program that employs tens of thousands of men and women nationwide and provides an economic backbone for hundreds of rural communities.
The Forest Service declared that the sudden policy shift is based on a draft report from the Committee of Scientists, a panel recently established to make recommendations for the management of national forests over the next century. The Western Council of Industrial Workers and fellow unions supported the initial concept of the panel and even recommended a distinguished list of possible appointees, all of which were later turned down.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At a July press conference, our executive secretary, Michael Payette expressed great disappointment upon reading the Committee of Scientists' recent draft report. We are disturbed at the recommendations that call on the Forest Service to move away from commodity production and become more involved in guiding private forest management. The panel also calls on the U.S. to abide by international convention treaties and agreements that have not even been adopted by Congress.
The Western Council criticizes the panel's proposals and the fact that the Forest Service is already beginning to implement them even before the scientists complete their work.
It seems clear to us that the Secretary of Agriculture and the Forest Service Chief has selected a panel of scientists who would justify the results they wanted.
So while our members are lining up in the unemployment line, administration officials continue on a path to break President Clinton's promise, playing a political game with our livelihoods.
Twenty thousand men and women have lost their jobs, as Federal timber sale levels plummeted since the 1980's, yet the program's overhead costs have spiraled and total operating costs have not declined. Your committee reports that current overhead costs are roughly 31 percent of the total cost of the timber sale program.
In 1996 the Forest Service spent over 200 million on overhead costs compared to 54 million for environmental documentation and 5 million for litigation. In fact, costs to prepare and offer timber sales have actually tripled since 1988the total cost and consumes 30 percent of the agency's field resources. Traditionally, administrative and environmental impact analyses have accounted for only 30 percent of the cost of the sale.
These inflated costs reflect the dramatic rise in the number of appeals and lawsuits filed to challenge sales. While many appeals are filed to express legitimate concerns, we find that an alarming high number of appeals are frivolous efforts, attacking legitimate, environmentally sensitive sales. As the agency shifts resources to combat these attacks, our workers, communities, and national forests suffer.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our members are also concerned about the effects of the agency's mismanagement and inefficiencies on the health of the national forest. Millions of acres of national forestlands are suffering from a health forest emergency. These lands are filled with dead, dying, and diseased trees that threaten to infect healthy trees and increase the risk and severity of catastrophic forest fires.
Forest Chief Mike Dombeck recently testified that some 40 million acres of national forestland stand at a high risk of wildfire, yet the agency is only able to treat less than 1 million acres per year.
The Forest Service also reports a $10 billion backlog in reconstruction and maintenance costs for the national forest road system. Poorly maintained roads prevent access for combating and controlling wildfires and for conducting necessary forest health and watershed maintenance activities.
The Committee on Agriculture itself has discovered that the deteriorating health and productivity of our national forests is primarily due to a decline in active forest management. It is time to remedy these management blunders and focus on achieving results and providing healthy forests for all America.
Finally, our members are concerned about the effects of the Forest Service mismanagement on critical programs to assist timber workers displaced by declining harvest levels or Federal forests.
Last December our Union reviewed President Clinton's Pacific Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. This initiative was designed to provide support and retraining for workers displaced by Option 9, the President's Forest Pacific Northwest Plan, through several programs, including the Old Growth Diversification Fund and the Rural Community Assistance Program (Rural CAP). We discussed serious problems with the manner in which the funds were distributed and ultimately the way the programs have been administered.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, our investigation found that only 12 percent of the funds distributed under the Rural CAP have gone to programs even remotely associated with the wood products industry. We also found that the percentage of funds that have gone to cover Forest Service overhead costs and employee salaries is increasing rapidly, reaching 15 percent of total costs. This poor performance is also unacceptable.
Thousands of workers in the forest product industry depend on the Forest Service programs for their livelihoods. As taxpayers, we expect an efficient and competent government that works.
We commend the House Committee on Agriculture for its efforts to critically examine the Forest Service's fiscal management policies. We also applaud Chairman Smith's efforts to require the agency to reduce costs and limit overhead through the Forest Service Costs and Fiscal Accountability Act of 1998.
The Western Council of Industrial Workers stands behind the efforts to clean up the mismanagement and inefficiencies and create an efficient and effective Forest Service which is fully accountable to the industry, their workers, and the American taxpayers.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak before the committee.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Weakley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. Burley, let's look at your additional information at this point.
Mr. BURLEY. Thank you. I believe you have in your packet copies of these color photos, and I would like to go through just a couple of them real quickly to highlight some of the key points.
The first photos labeled 1 and 2 are photos of forestlands in eastern Oregon. In fact, these are in the Grand Ronde watershed. These are private, industrial forestlands that have been recently treated to address forest health problems.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You can see by these pictures that the stocking levels have been reduced. You have got a diversity of age class and canopy structures, you know. There is some large woody debris down, but for the most part, the fuel production is such that you have got very little risk of wildfire here.
Skipping to photo 3, we see typical conditions that existed in the area prior to the Summit fire. This is a very stark contrast to what we saw in photos 1 and 2. Very, very overstocked stand, very high mortality. Just ripe for a problem.
Photos 5, 6, they show what the Summit looked like after it burned. Photo 7 is the same thing. You can see in some of these areasphoto 7 shows an intermittent stream. Looks like a wallow in here. Just complete burn.
Photo 8 is a picture of Forest Service road 5507, which is on the Umatilla National Forest. This is the Tower fire. They burned at the same time. This is the Oriental Creek, and you can see by this photo that it blew out in May 1998. So this is, you know, a year and a half, almost 2 years after the fire. There has beenyou know, prior to this photo being taken, there had been no management activity associated with salvage or restoration in that area.
Photo 9 is a picture standing basically where the road washed out. This was taken in June 1997, or almost 1-year after the fire. This is Oriental Creek, which is anadromous and runs right down the middle fork of the John Day.
Photo 10 is the same view as photo 9, but you can see in 10 that we have got some very tremendous amounts of sediment and debris that have washed down into the stream bottom. This was taken in May. This was the event that caused the blowout of the road.
Our estimates are based on, you know, these photos here and the people that have actually been out on the grounds, that there is probably anywhere from 15 to 20 feet of debris that piled up behind the road before it blew out.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Eleven and 12, basically the rest of the photos are the same spot. The point here is to illustrate that, you know, these things could happen at any time. We saw inI think it was 1986, the Tanner Gulch fire in the upper Grand Ronde where there was a large storm event as the fire was burning that created a lot of debris and sedimentation. Wiped out three age classes of salmon in the Grand Ronde River.
Here in this case we had the blowout of Oriental Creek, and there was a similar one, I believe, that happened on Summit that I haven't seen myself, but 2 years later. So the point is we think that the longer we go without dealing with these problems, the greater the risk is.
To my left here I have got some examples. First of all, these cookies were cut out of logs that actually were burned in the Summit fire. The one that is laying down here is a Douglas fir. You can see by this, though this doesn't have the blue stain, it is checking and splitting already. It has got lots of worm holes and borer holes in this already, which is degrading it.
This is ponderosa pine. You can see the blue stain that is completely split through. That is 33 feet from the base of the tree up where that cookie was cut. It has got wood borers, and basically the value is quite low.
The boards we have here, they are numbered 1 through 8. And I will just point out three of them just to illustrate the point here. The first board was takennow, these were not cut out off of Summit, but these illustrate the same problem. The first board was immediately after a fire. It is cut such that it would sell for five-quarter select, which is the shop grade material. And the value in the mill is roughly $2,500 a thousand.
If we skip to board number 6, that same board, the fall after the fire, so basically one year after the fire, instead of being five-quarter select would be about number 4 common. And the value, instead of being $2,500, is about $500.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And then the last board, No. 8, is again the same thing, only it is 2 years later, as Summit and Tower are. And we can see the blue stain. We can see the wood borer holes on it. Very low value. Again, could have been five-quarter select had it been salvaged early. Instead, 2 years later, it is No. 4 common or worse. And the value is $300 or less.
So again, the flip chart up here on the table that we have shows more or less chronologically how the Summit fire evolved. The first column is the Summit fire within the Malheur in 1996 and shows our rather conservative estimates that there was about 300 million board feet of timber that was burned in the fire, for a conservative estimate of $90 million stumpage. We heard today some estimates are a little bit higher, but I think for illustrative purposes 90 million would work.
The 25-percent payments to states and counties off the $90 million would have been $22 1/2 million. K-Vwe have no way of estimating what that would have been in that scenario.
The draft EIS preferred alternative in May 1997, of course, these are estimated values at that time, since we didn't actually sell the timber, but the total volume under that alternative would have been roughly 110 million, as I said earlier, for a stumpage value estimated to be $21.6 million, with $5.4 million going to the State and county payments.
K-V funds could have been as high as $5.4 million. And the original EIS identified, if I could read my notes correctly, about $5.7 million; K-V $5.4 million, which was reforestation. Obviously something needs to be done.
So one of the draft EIS alternatives in May 1997, theoretically, had it sold at that time, the value would have certainly paid for a lot of the K-V work.
The final EIS that was withdrawn in December 1997 was 108 million feet for about $6.2 million in stumpage and 1.7 in 25 percent payments. There would have been no K-V dollars available under that alternative.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will just skip to the last column, what was actually sold in July 1998. The estimates originally were 50 to 52 million feet. Actual receipts, weighted average, worked out to about $2 million, with 25 percent payments about $505,000. And our estimates are that there was probably $700,000 to $800,000 available for K-V, but we think due to the prioritization, that is going to SSF instead of K-V.
And then I was informed today by the purchaser of these sales that as they have been cutting it out and getting the better estimate on what is actually there, the 52 million that we see under the last column is more in the neighborhood of 37 million feet of what they are actually to recover. The stumpage value therefore reduces accordingly to about $1.6 million. And then, of course, the 25 percent payments would go down immensely.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask you, while we are speaking about K-V, are there efforts that you know about for reforestation as we speak, and if there are no K-V funds generated, where does the Forest Service get the money?
Mr. BURLEY. Well, my understanding is that they have been doing some restoration outside the harvest units. My understanding also is thatand perhaps Bob Williams can correct us on this, but my understanding is the way that this region works today is that their prioritization is toof course, the essential reforestation has to be paid for. And then monies that are left over would go into the salvage sale fund, and then there are some other things.
Now, like I said earlier, we believe that $700,000 to $800,000 out of this final alternative may have been available to K-V, although I display zero dollars up here because we think due to this prioritization that it is SSF, which leads to the question, well, how did they get the money for reforestation. We can presume it is coming out of some appropriate funds.
The CHAIRMAN. You had a reference point, too.
Mr. LILLEBO. Yes. During the testimonyalso I understand there was reference to a rebuilding in Congress, of fiscal accountability. It also has some reference in the contract language, and I had part of that in my testimony, but I just wanted to say that as far as contract language, I think a lot of things concerning building, a project like that, independent contracts would be fine.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, when it comes to actual on-the-ground management of the Forest Service lands and implementing the ecosystem management policy, I believe it would be very important to have the Forest Service do that, have the employees be actively involved, the ones on the ground dealing with resources. I just wanted to make that clear.
I think it is on the table there. It is some pictures of the Summit fire area. This summer there was a severe storm event, and at that time the water came down Badger Creek and affected Badger Creek and Big Boulder Creek.
What you see there is a blowout of thevery similar to what Chuck has. It came down, took out some roads, took out some culverts, dumped a lot of sediment, and really did some pretty severe damage farther downstream to a very important salmon, steelheadcontributes to the salmon, steelhead span down in the lower portion of the river.
So I guess what I am trying to show you there is this actually started up in a roadless portion and came on down through and both affected the roadless and the eroded area.
But what it tells us is that this is a very sensitive area. Since it burnedthis is before any logging, this is before any road reconstruction, or anything that has occurred there. So it is telling us it is even more sensitive, and yet that is why I think it is important that the Forest Service went through their environmental process to go ahead and make sure that they didn't do things that might be a negative impact, because here we have somethingjust a natural event. So it is all the more likely we need to be more careful.
I guess I referred earlier to the idea there where I was thinking that you could resolve a lot of the controversy, as I said, by possibly just going ahead and designating a lot of roadless areas as wilderness, that is one option, or some other things, but that is something that we really want to look at long term because of public opinion that goes along with that and also because how it fits into ecosystem management and protection of the resources.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I would question which public opinion you are talking about. When I look at your handout, as well as Mr. Burley's, I see devastation there. That in my opinion is a direct result of what you don't want to do, and that is simply manage these forests so that they appear as this picture might give you. And I apologize this has stumps in it, so you wouldn't like it.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LILLEBO. Some of those pictures that we went through were eroded and logged areas, as well as
The CHAIRMAN. It is a managed source. This fire, the Summit, had the country looked like this, you would not have the devastation. You wouldn't have ruined the environment. You would not have ruined the water purity. You would not have eliminated the wildlife opportunity. That is my point.
Mr. LILLEBO. Well, going out on the ground, there were lots of areas that were managed very similar to that; in fact, areas that actually burned just as intensely as areas that hadn't been managed. There wereso there was the effect of that fireI guess my point would be you have areas that were managed, they burned just the same as the others. The point is being careful with our managementand I think you are saying that, as wellis going to be the key in all of this.
The CHAIRMAN. I was on the fire, too, when it was still smouldering, and I can tell you that when the fire is hot, as you well know, it looks like that; absolutely cooks the ground.
While I have you on this point, has there ever been a sale, in your opinion, that followed the National Forest Management Act, the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act? Has there ever been a sale that did that?
Mr. LILLEBO. Yes, there have been lots of sales that
The CHAIRMAN. I doubt that very much. Then why does your organization always appeal every sale?
Mr. LILLEBO. That is not a true fact. I was just telling the Forest Service 2 days ago, and we were exactly looking at a sale, where we recommended that this is the kind of management doing some things
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Did you have input in this Summit sale?
Mr. LILLEBO. Yes. In my testimony I included that before the smoke had cleared, we would make recommendations
The CHAIRMAN. And were they adopted?
Mr. LILLEBO. No, they were not.
The CHAIRMAN. I see.
Mr. LILLEBO. Some were, some were not.
The CHAIRMAN. My point is this, I don't think that there has ever been a sale that could ever qualify under intense kind of judgment all of these acts of Congress, because I think they are overlapping, contradictory, and impossible to follow. That is not leaving the Forest Service with an out. It is merely pointing to the fact that a judge, when answering one of your appeals, if he so chose, could always find something wrong with every sale. Every sale has a problem.
The question is if it is a judgment issue as to whether or not it violates, to some great degree, every one of these acts. And that is the problem with it, because it is always a judgment issue, isn't it? It is alwaysfrom your point of view and mine, we would have gridlock. But from a judge's point of view, supposedly, they have some balance that you and I don't have, as our critics would analyze us, that they could reach some kind of a decision that would generally follow these acts. But there are, I am sure, glaring omissions from time to time that the court has taken into consideration.
Mr. LILLEBO. I would like to invite you to go outthere is a sale in the Malheur and a couple on thejust sometimeor your staff, I agree to go with you, show you ones that I think have been done well that have actually been implemented and executed and planned well. And they are very, very fresh sales.
The CHAIRMAN. That would be fascinating for me to see that.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Judge Reynolds and Mr. Burley, we have talked about the need to improve the trust, the public trust in the Forest Service. And, you know, I understand, you live with Forest Service personnel as I did in our little towns, and their interests are many times exactly our interests. They want to see the community prosper. They want to see kids educated in a proper manner.
And that brings me to the question, in your opinion, since this whole Summit thing went awry, do you think that was a local decision, was it a regional decision, or was it a Washington, DC, decision that provoked the lengthy problems that we have?
Mr. REYNOLDS. Yes, Congressman, trying to portray what I saw as a visual observation, I saw the local entities, planning entities, stand before heated crowds being asked repeatedly, why. I saw them respond to those. I saw the frustration in those responses when there appeared to be a reason today that wasn't there yesterday.
From those observations I would conclude that then observing the crowds, the crowds understood, appreciated the concerted efforts of the local planning organizations, and I would have to conclude that based on information coming back to the community after the initial review at the regional level, a concern that there was someone or some entity at the regional office thatwho had a purposeful intent of scuttlebutting the Summit sale.
I brought this personally to the attention of Mr. Williams in, I believe, September at an Association of Oregon Counties meeting. And I would invite you to agree that when things become so predictable, that there is merit in the allegations in the first place.
And then topping it all off was the third and crowning incident, and that is when in early spring of 1997 at an Association of Oregon Counties I was made aware of other counties experiencing similar problems where sales were on the docket, the gavel was all but to drop, and the Washington office would call and ask for the sales to be removed from the docket. Very similar to what happened at 9:05 a.m. on the morning of the first five sales on Summit.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I would have to conclude that the citizens of Grant County have a heightened respect for the local planners, but I don't think we could say that about the regional office or the Washington office at this time.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. Batty, do you care to comment on this?
Mr. BATTY. Mine are only suspicions, but I also attended those meetings and saw a lot of frustration on the part of our local people as the plan for the EIS and the whole process was laid out to us, as time progressed, there were other hurdles that had to be addressed that weren't a part of the planning process that we had observed. And we have trust in our local people that they are going to put together a decent EIS and do what they need to do.
And so as this unfolded, I did call Mr. Williams and asked him, in fact, at a meeting in Portland, asked him if the local forest had all the resources they need to expeditiously move the sale, because this is a catastrophic fire, and the blooming occurring over on the east side is more rapid. There it is.
And we have seen the result now of 2 years now in the delay, and it is exactly as people had relayed to me that the timber value was going to go. There was only one bidder on the sale, because the other mill in our area couldn't take the product.
So we saw that there were more hurdles as we went along with this process that the local forest didn't have the resources to get out the product that they needed to in the time in which they needed to do this. But evidently, they didn't, because it came back from the regional office that we needed now to address seven more issues and to almostwe went through the whole process again. And as you know, it is a lengthy process to put out a sale because of the appeal, the time, and so on, that the Forest Service has a lengthy process.
And there doesn't seem to be any way in which you take into consideration the catastrophic event. And, you know, we are concerned not only with the restoration of forest, but the net asset value of that forest is extremely important to us.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And then to have the chief calland I just don't see that the line office from the top down has been giving the same directions to the local forest, because during the sale, which was unprecedented, Washington, DC, called and told them to yank the sale. And it doesn't seem to me that the Forest Service is in sync in terms of their local people in how they should proceed to put this together, nor do I believe, and our schools are questioning, whether the Forest Service is at all concerned with a trust relationship and net asset value of the forest and, particularly, its impact to our children.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think, in your opinion, is this ineptitude on the part of the Forest Service, or do you think it is a contrived decision to delay?
Mr. BATTY. I don't know what it is, but it seems contrived.
The CHAIRMAN. I was going to ask you, Mr. Burley, as well, in your judgment and, you know, having had the experience of offering many, many, many sales over the years, the Forest Service knows the pitfalls that they must overcome. And they also understand exactly that delay wins the day for radical environmentalists who are reallytheir whole purpose is never to harvest a tree, be it a dead one or not. So if there is a contrived delay system inside the Forest Service, it must be working. Do you think there is a delay process inside the Forest Service?
Mr. BURLEY. Well, Mr. Chairman, it isyou know, the problem is that the decisionmaking process has becomeand this is a bit of an understatementso politicized these days, that it is really kind of hard to tell who is making decisions anymore. The decisions come down the normal chain of command through the line officers, but, you know, to find out just how that high decision originated is hard to come up with today.
We have seen, for instance, Hells Canyon NRA where they have been working on an environmental impact statement now for the better part of 3-plus years, and they were literally days from going to the printer with the final EIS when they got the callthey being Karen Wood, the forest supervisor on the Wallowa/Whitmanto stop, go back, and fully evaluate the alternative that the environmentalists wanted them to consider in 1995 that was dismissed because it was outside the scope of project.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, you know, when I inquired with people where that call came from, it came out of CEQ. That is the story I got. And you just have to question who is running that agency anymore.
The CHAIRMAN. And we are going to get into this a little later, but while you are still here, this process situation that doesn't occur with the BLM that does occur with the Forest Service, in that the regional forester is the appealsis the judge in many of these cases and yet has the responsibility to support, through resources, the line officers in putting up these sales, that could be classified as a conflict of interest, I assume.
In your opinion, do you think the process would be served by separating those functions?
Mr. BURLEY. That is one possible alternative on how to address that problem. That is kind of a hard problem to get a handle on.
We have had these conversations and asked whyyou know, why doesn't the regional office provide what I would consider to be, you know, more guidance or oversight or whatever you want to call it. And, that tends to beone of the responses you get is, well, they need to be a little bit careful, because in the event of an appeal, they want to be able to remain objective and review, you know, the appeal without having been influenced in their minds, as far as making the actual decision.
There is some merit to that, but at the same time, I mean, there are enough people in a regional office that some could be working on helping them get the product done, and the others could be doing the review on the appeal. That is another possible solution.
So I don't know what the exact answer is, but I think it is important that the regional office needs to understand that they arethey need to help the forest get the work done and not what in my opinion sometimes becomes an impediment to getting the work done.
The CHAIRMAN. Judge, from what you know about this, do you think the regional office supported the local line officer in this particular situation?
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. REYNOLDS. Yes. Chairman Smith, I believe that it is very similar to county government in that Mr. Lillebo here was potentially a victim of the same circumstances within county government when Mr. Lillebo and his wife acquired a permit to build a house in an Oregon scenic waterway, was challenged by the public. The county governing body was responsible for providing guidance and assistance to its own planning department in the decision-making process. But we were cautioned heavily by counsel that we had a conflict of interest within that process, because if Mr. Lillebo were to disagree with the findings of the planning commission, his appeal then would come to the county governing body.
So, yes, I think that there is a conflict. And I think a process that would separate that would provide a greater degree of assistance to the on-the-ground decision makers at the Forest level and provide a better working relationship between regional office and the supervisor's office.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Robertson, your example is one of a very small acreage but of similar kinds of delay problems that have really delayed the other landowners in that watershed from proceeding, I assume. I suppose this puts the whole Ashland area in jeopardy of fire; is that correct?
Mr. ROBERTSON. Yes, it has been, but it certainly continues the situation.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, is there an end to this project?
Mr. ROBERTSON. I understand there will be an end, that the local district office is working toward going through the channels so that this in fact will be a project on the ground. Work that was hoped to have been done this year, it looks like if things work out, potentially will be done next year.
The CHAIRMAN. We have been talking about the process. Do you have any comments on what you think might improve the process so that we don't go through these kinds of delays?
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROBERTSON. You know, I have had such a narrow focus just on our small areaand I was very impressed with the process that took place locally. I was amazed with the field trips and the television shows and the numerous newspaper articles and all the different things that took place. I wasn't familiar with the appeal process on how that takes place and what goes on. I am kind of surprised at the way it appears to work or not work.
The CHAIRMAN. By the way, I stood on the watershed with Secretary Babbit, and we looked out, and one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife people was with us, and there was some harvesting of timber going on, thinning. And I said, ''You can't harvest there. This is spotted owl country.''
And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist said, ''Yeah, there's actually 12 pairs of owls here, but you can harvest timber next to a spotted owl nest if you don't do it while they're either breeding or they're nesting. That gives you about 6 months a year.''
I said, ''You can't say that.'' He said, ''I am saying it.''I said, ''Could you put it in writing?'' He said, ''Yes, I will put it in writing.''
I have his letter in writing. Makes one wonder why we have set aside 85 percent of region 6 for spotted owl, doesn't it?
Anyway, Ms. Weakley, thank you for coming here. There wasyou were involved in a press conference that supposedly had some documents indicating that the Forest Servicesomeone within the Forest Service had a plan to eliminate forestry; is that correct?
Ms. WEAKLEY. Chairman Smith, I was not there. Our executive secretary, Mike Payette, was at that press conference. He is the one that presented these documents to the press. It has to do with intra-agency documents that say that the Forest Service is clearly going to lay out a plan to abandon the President's promises.
I don't have that with me today, but I can get that to you.
The CHAIRMAN. I would appreciate that very much. Obviously, this question that continually arises is if the Summit situation drags on for 2 years, was it ineptitude on the part of the Forest Service, or if you wanted to eliminate all harvesting of trees, including dead trees, you would string it out this way, so it wouldn't be any value, would it?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. WEAKLEY. Exactly.
The CHAIRMAN. So I suppose you could ask the question, which is it? Not a very nice answer, I admit. I would like to see that documentation.
Ms. WEAKLEY. I will get that to you as soon as possible.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Burley, to your knowledge, did the Chief's office interfere with the local manager's decision on the Summit?
Mr. BURLEY. I am not sure what extent the Washington office played in the Summit. I know that they were certainly, you know, kept informed of what is going on. The forest chronology, the record of the NEPA process and whatnot indicates that they have had reviews with the Washington office, as well as the regional office.
The Washington office waslater in the process, they did get involved to some extent when the discussions came up about trying to get waivers from CEQ, as happened in Texas. Just how far the Washington office went on carrying the ball with that is really not very clear.
But I think probably the one issue in the Washington office that does stand out quite a bit surrounds this issue with bull trout, the last-minuteliterally the last-minute phone call, and that is troublesome. And the reason for that is that, you know, for 9 months the Snake River Steelhead had been listed. They were listed, I think, last fall, I forget exactly when. And for 9 months the Snake River Steelhead had been listed.
And the Forest Service had been working on a program, biological opinion on the plan, and resource management plans. And projects were continuing. I know there were some timber sales that had been stopped pending some outcome of that stuff, but people were informed about those things right up front.
In the case of bull trout what seems rather unusual is that the bull trout were listed onI forget the exact date, June 10, I think it was, or July 10, but the sales occurred weeks later. And so, you know, the Forest Service knew, Fish and Wildlife Service knew that they had to deliver a programmatic biological opinion on the Malheur Forest plan. And they were doing that. But, you know, why wait until the very last minute and not even informI mean, the Forest didn't even know, because I was there in the room at 10 o'clock when they opened the bids, and we were informedthe purchasers were informed that they, you know, pending a lawsuit, saw no reason why the sales wouldn't be awarded, while in another room that phone conversation was going on. And that is highly unusual.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Do you know of any other instances as a sale is taking place that either Washington or the regional office was directly involved in the delay process, Mr. Burley.
Mr. BURLEY. No, I don't.
The CHAIRMAN. All right. Thank you all very much. I appreciate your testimony.
Mr. Robert Williams, regional forester; Mr. Carl Pence; Mr. Bill Bradley; and Dr. Larry Freeman.
Mr. Williams, please.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT WILLIAMS, REGIONAL FORESTER, REGION 6, FOREST SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, ACCOMPANIED BY CARL PENCE, FOREST SUPERVISOR, MALHEUR NATIONAL FOREST
Mr. WILLIAMS. Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to discuss planning and implementation of fire recovery and ecosystem health restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest region. As you requested, I will discuss generally planning approaches and, specifically, planning on some of the fire recovery projects. Carl Pence is also here with me today and will assist in answering questions when we get to the specifics.
Our objective, of course, is to make good land and resource management decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner that assures that future generations have healthy, diverse, and productive forests. Many factors, including the integration of science, threatened and endangered species listings, and court decisions have prompted the need for greater accountability in our decision making.
In the last few years, we have used two different project planning approaches when proposing salvage activities following large fires. In order to improve the efficiency of restoration efforts, at the outset we divide the project into areas of minimal technical or scientific controversy and areas that are more complex or controversial. A categorical exclusion or an environmental assessment may be the appropriate documentappropriate to document the effects in specific situations where the simplicity of issues and the required analysis will allow, thereby shortening the planning time frame.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For a very small portion of the Summit fire area, a categorical exclusion was determined to be appropriate, and two small sales were prepared accordingly, which removed 1.3 million board feet.
Additionally, two preexisting timber sales were burned in the fire. Their contracts were given an emergency adjustment to reflect the changed conditions, thus facilitating the removal of some of the burned trees. This process allowed us to move forward very quickly, but the opportunity to use them is limited.
We utilize the second approach for planning in areas with complex resource issues and controversial effects where a landscape must be analyzed in order to adequately assess issues and resource effects. This approach may require the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement or EIS.
Additionally, this scale of analysis often requires completion of a watershed assessment before moving to site specific project analysis. We followed this strategy to make an informed and deliberative decision for the Summit fire recovery project because of the large area involved, the complexity of the resource issues to be analyzed, and the need to analyze cumulative effects at a broad scale. Whichever approach you used, there is no guarantee of the speed at which implementation will occur.
For example, the Tower fire burned at the same time as the Summit fire. Issues associated with the Tower fire were less complex and no harvest was proposed in the roadless area, unlike the Summit fire. Therefore, an environmental assessment was the appropriate environmental document. Yet the Umatilla National Forest awarded the big Tower sale only a few days before the first five Summit sales were awarded. The processing time saved by using the first approach on the Tower fire was offset by the sale's litigation which delayed implementation.
The Summit project illustrates how fire recovery efforts are implemented. And the Summit fire began on August 13, 1996. On September 9, the Summit fire recovery project was initiated, even as fire fighters continued to fight the wildfire. Burned area emergency rehabilitation work such as soil stabilization measures and public scoping for the recovery project began in mid-October.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Summit draft EIS was sent to the printer on March 4, 6 months from the beginning of planning for the recovery project. One month later, the 45-day public comment period began and was completed on May 19, 1997. The final EIS and record of decision were completed August 25, 1997, and the appeal period began.
The appeal period ended on November 17, 1997, with receipt of two appeals. In this case, the Forest elected on December 15 to withdraw the record of decision in order to address the issues more fully that were raised in the appeals.
A draft supplemental EIS was prepared and sent out for public review on March 27, 1998, beginning another 45-day comment period which ended on May 11. The comments were reviewed, and the final EIS was made available to the public on June 12, 1998. The new record of decision was signed July 13, 1998. That began a new appeal period.
However, because the Chief of the Forest Service determined an emergency existed and granted a waiver on a stay of implementation, the Forest proceeded to implement the decision by offering five of the timber sales planned as part of this project.
The preparation of those sales and five others was occurring concurrently with the planning process, and adjustments to possible on-the-ground actions were evaluated as the planning process progressed.
Also occurring concurrently with the planning process was the Endangered Species Act conferencing, then consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on bull trout, which was listed as threatened during this planning process. Consultation with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservations also was ongoing throughout the process.
Statutorily mandated review and appeal periods and the physical time necessary to print documents amounted to nearly 40 percent of total time required from the start of the fire until the last sale was sold.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The cost of planning and analysis to complete NEPA documentation for all Summit sales is estimated at $1 million, while implementation costs to date are estimated at $1 million, excluding sale layout, marking, appraisal, contact preparation, and advertisement. Expected revenue from the sales is approximately $2 million. Emergency fire rehabilitation efforts cost $136,000, and reforestation costs to date are $1.4 million.
As of today, reforestation has been completed on approximately 6,000 acres. Hardwoods and conifers have been planted along more than 21 miles of streams, and soil stabilization has been accomplished on over 7,500 acres. Resource values gained from protection and restoration efforts have not yet been quantified.
The Summit wildfire, like many wildfires, was fueled by overcrowded, dense, dry forests. Prescribed fire is a crucial part of reforestation efforts. Recognizing the urgent need for prescribed fire, the Forest Service has requested significant funding increases for this work.
The President's budget has reflected these increased requests and Congress has favorably responded by providing additional funds in 1997 and 1998. These funds will help restore ecosystem health and resiliency by reducing excessive fuel levels in overcrowded forests.
There is a cost to ecosystem stewardship, but as we have experienced with the Summit project and elsewhere in the region, the cost of doing nothing is much higher, in terms of both fire suppression costs and natural resource costs.
We are also exploring new authorities that allow us to venture beyond traditional timber sale contracting and are helping communities look at new ways to use small diameter, underutilized wood that results from our precommercial thinning project.
This concludes my testimony. I will be happy to answer questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Williams appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. Bradley, you are the line manager. I would like to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM BRADLEY, DEPUTY STATE DIRECTOR, OREGON STATE OFFICE, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Mr. BRADLEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The Bureau of Land Management has been asked to provide the committee with information on how it plans, prepares, and offers timber sales and, in that context, how the BLM responds to protest or appeals of proposed timber sales.
The BLM manages nearly 16 million acres of public lands in Oregon, including some 13.7 million acres of basin and rangelands in eastern Oregon. The BLM's forestry program in Oregon is largely concentrated in the 2.5 million acres of public lands which lie west of the Cascade Range in a checkerboard ownership pattern. These public lands are managed by the BLM under the guidance of locally developed resource management plans supported by the regional umbrella of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Local resource management plans respond to the need to provide healthy ecosystems, a predictable and sustainable timber harvest, clean drinking water and streams through watershed analysis and restoration, and to support populations of native species, including old growth dependent and threatened and endangered species.
Under the Northwest Forest Plan umbrella, the BLM and the Forest Service are working closely on watershed analysis, late successional reserve assessment, stream restoration, and other projects.
Based on the Resource Management Plan's directions to provide, among other resource uses, a predictable and sustainable timber harvest, the estimated allowable sale quantity for BLM's five western Oregon districts and the Klamath Falls resource area is 211 million board feet per year.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC During fiscal year 1997, the BLM offered 212 million board feet. The value of these western Oregon sales totalled nearly $79 million in fiscal year 1997. Sales from the BLM-managed public domain lands in eastern Oregon and eastern Washington were valued at 1.4 million.
Fire recovery and forest health issues are important but not overriding considerations in the BLM-Oregon forestry program. There has been no significant large-scale wildfire activity in western Oregon since the late 1980's, when several large fires burned in the southwest corner of the state.
For BLM-managed lands, forest health issues related primarily to overly dense stocking of trees due to fire suppression are limited to the forestlands in southern, and to a lesser extent, northeastern Oregon. The BLM-managed lands in eastern Oregon are predominantly range lands.
The committee has asked the BLM to discuss three elements of our timber sale preparation process: timeliness in planning, public involvement, and dispute resolution.
Timeliness in planning. The planning of specific projects for any program: fire recovery, timber harvest, in-stream fishing restoration, or road management, has become an extremely complex process. Project planning begins with the convening of the interdisciplinary team, a group of BLM specialists who review issues related to their own field of expertise, such as soils, fuels management, wildlife, or fisheries.
This process results in a watershed or planning area analysis to identify site-specific needs or opportunities on the ground to meet the objectives of the local resource management plans.
Once a project area and its objectives are identified, the BLM begins the process of fuel review to narrow the fairly broad proposal to more discrete action areas. The fuel review covers many operational and environmental considerations, including access needs, identification of property lines, and occurrence of threatened or endangered species or habitat. This portion of the BLM timber sale preparation may take a year or more.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When a project proposal has been fairly well defined, the BLM publishes a public notice offering the public the opportunity to identify site-specific issues and concerns. This typically consists of publication of a district planning newsletter which is sent to the persons who have expressed interest in the project and organizations on our mailing list, and frequently posted on the Internet. The BLM also sends letters to adjacent landowners and water users of record. After this first opportunity for site-specific public input is completed, the interdisciplinary team meets again to review both the public comments and internally raised issues to fine tune the project.
The work of the interdisciplinary team is threefold: one, to insure that the final project design considers the identified issues and meets the objectives of the land use plan and other environmental laws; two, to insure the project contains required project designed features to mitigate identified environmental impacts; and three, to complete the environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The appropriate interdisciplinary team members are also responsible for completing any required interagency consultation for compliance with the Endangered Species Act. For increased efficiency, this consultation typically covers multiple projects. Consultation is completed early in the planning process to provide the regulatory agencies with an early opportunity for input to the project design. An example of the inefficiencies developed under the Northwest Forest Plan now seems the natural model.
Public involvement. Once a formal environmental analysis is writtentypically an environmental assessment tiered to an umbrella Environmental Impact Statementthe document is made available for public review and comment. This is the first point at which a NEPA document is available. Public comments received during this review are considered prior to reaching and publishing a final decision for the implementation of a specific project.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While the actual interdisciplinary team review of a well-defined project and the writing of the associated environmental assessment can be completed in 4 to 6 months, the required environmental clearances may take up to 2 years. Botanical clearances, for example, can only be done during flowering season. Similarly, it takes observation over two consecutive nesting seasons in the spring to determine if marbled murrelets are present in the area of a proposed timber sale.
Completion of environmental assessment, including clearances, concludes this portion of the BLM's timber sale preparation process. The next step is the decision to conduct an advertised timber sale.
Dispute resolution. I understand the BLM previously has provided the committee with an informal flow chart on timber sale protests and appeals, so I will highlight a few key points.
The CHAIRMAN. I have that and I would like to enter it into the record. Thank you.
Mr. BRADLEY. Protests of a BLM decision to conduct an advertised sale must be made within 15 calendar days of the advertisement of the sale. Timber sales on public lands in Western Oregon remain very controversial, so despite the BLM's effort to maximize public involvement, a fair number of BLM-proposed timber sales received protest. In the past several years, for example, the BLM had a protest and subsequent appeal on nearly every sale in its Roseburg district.
If a protest is denied by the BLM authorized officer, usually the local field manager, the party bringing the protest has 30 days to appeal that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals. Ultimately, the appealing party has the option to file suit in U.S. District Court once all administrative remedies are exhausted.
Returning to the example of a timber sale, the filing of a protest or appeal temporarily suspends the BLM's award of the sale. If the denial of a protest is not appealed, the BLM proceeds with the sale. If, on the other hand, the denial of a protest is appealed to the IBLA, the appellant must request a stay when the appeal is filed.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Typically the IBLA rules fairly quickly, usually 30 to 60 days, on request for a stay. If a stay is not granted, the BLM may proceed full force and effect with the timber sale. The IBLA is notified when we do this. The IBLA will still rule on the appeal, even if operations have been completed, unless the appellant withdraws.
In the BLM-Oregon's experience, the time frame for the IBLA to rule on appeal on a timber sale may be 2 to 3 years. The BLM procedures for resolving protests and appeals are set out in regulations.
And this concludes my statement, and I would be pleased to answer any questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bradley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you, gentlemen, very much.
Dr. Freeman, thank you for coming. We appreciate hearing from you.
STATEMENT OF LARRY FREEMAN, SENIOR CONSULTANT, SHIPLEY ENVIRONMENTAL, INC.
Mr. FREEMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the Summit documents. I mention commenting on the documents, because Shipley Environmental, the company I work for and have been working for for 20 years, specializes in NEPA documentation, and to some degree, the NEPA processes. But the documentation is where we really have our niche.
The CHAIRMAN. Under contract with various agencies.
Mr. FREEMAN. Yes. Under contract not only with the Forest Service, but with most of the Federal agencies that must comply with the NEPA process. Most recently I have done some work, for instance, with the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My written testimony on page 2 lists six observations. And in my oral comments I will go down the six, expanding on them briefly in light of some of the testimony that is already been procured this morning. As I said before, this is based on my reading of the final EIS, the original record of decision, and the supplemental EIS and the supplemental record of decision.
Point No. 1, the Forest Service project planning for the Summit recovery project was well conceived and efficiently managed at the forest level. I based that observation on the original final environmental impact statement and the record of decision. It seemed to me that the documents record a very sound public-involvement process, which is required under NEPA and the CEQ regulations. There were, I think, a reasonable range of alternatives. The effects were discussed in a fair amount of detail and were fairly convincing.
I was particularly impressed with the original record of decision, which was, I would characterize, defensively written, in the sense that for legal reasons, it addressed places where the Forest Supervisor, Carl Pence, had knowledge or did not have knowledge on a process, laid out the pros and cons of the particular rationale for that decision. So again, I think it was a very defensible and efficiently managed process.
Item two, the original final environmental impact statement was prepared in record time. To get that out within roughly 12 months is better than 99 percent of the EIS's that I deal with. That says something about NEPA processes and the requirements as they are performed across Federal agencies.
No. 3 is a subjective judgment, but one that again I want to mention to you based on my experience of merely 20 years of reviewing documents. And that is the original final environmental impact statement and associated record of decision would likely have survived litigation, assuming the Forest Service decided to move ahead with the original record of decision. That is a subjective judgement.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you, yourself, said in the prior panel, environmental impact statements are not expected to be perfect. The courts understand that. They understand that there are gaps in information, there are inaccuracies, things done in the heat of trying to get a processa project out.
No. 4, the decision to withdraw the original ROD was unnecessary. This again is a subjective judgment. I looked at both appeals that came into the Forest. They were, in many cases, quite good and very sound in many ways. As I looked at the Forest Service documents, at least the ones that I had availableI didn't have the full administrative recordit seemed to me that the Forest Service had addressed most of the items raised in the appeal.
So at the appeal level, the regional office could have come back and said, well, most of these were addressed to some detail, some degree of adequacy, maybe not as adequate as they would have liked, but at least they could have perhaps judged a different way on the appeal. At least that possibility exists.
Observation 5, compliance with existing provisions of NEPA and with the CEQ regulations is inevitably a time-consuming political process. My second point was that this process for Summit had gone faster than I think most people would expect. Twelve months is really an admirable process, but we have got to expect the fact that the deadlines and time lines and waiting periods under NEPA and the CEQ regulations almost mandate 12 months as a minimum time. And the Forest, in this case, came up with that, at least in their original documentation.
And my final point: We may deplore project delays, but these delays reflect our polarized political processes. I think some of your discussion with Mr. Lillebo represents pro and con back to political processes. And NEPA, as it performed in forests, inevitably addressed these political constraints and have to take them into account as decisions are made.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That concludes my testimony. I appreciate the opportunity.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Freeman appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Dr. Freeman, very much.
Mr. Williams, getting back to your testimony, I thought I understood you to raise the question of the Tower fire as an example of one that was finalized in a reasonable manner but invited litigation, which meant that the same time frame elapsed as roughly did the Summit. Did I understand you correctly?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. So that what you are saying is thatI guess you are intimating that if you had accepted the ROD offered by Mr. Pence and suggested by Dr. Freeman as being substantive enough to stand litigation, the time frame would have made no difference, likely, because it would have been litigated? Is that what you are intimating?
Mr. WILLIAMS. That is very likely the outcome. The thing we don't know is whether or not we would have been sustained in court.
The CHAIRMAN. Right.
Mr. WILLIAMS. And that is where the judgement call comes in.
The CHAIRMAN. Right. And I want to get to the judgment in a minute. But in either case, are we saying now that no matter how we plan, if we plan it so well that it is near perfect, it takes us 2 years and results in a loss of $88 million, in this case, of resource, or we rush it along, subject it to litigation, and it still takes us 2 years at a loss of $88 million? Is that what you are satisfying?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Pretty close to correct, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. So in either case, it is a waste? We wasted the resource, have we not?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. WILLIAMS. Those are the conditions we are under, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. So what is your suggestion as to how we remedy what is a waste ofI think everyone agrees, even Mr. Lillebo doesn't like firebut what is your suggestion that we improve this process so that we don't waste the resource, we don't injure the schools, we don't put people out of work? I mean, it is a very frustrating situation, I suppose you could say. Do you have any suggestions?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Nothing other than making major changes in the processes that we have to live with.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's go back to the process for a minute. As I intimated earlierand I don't know that you need to agree or disagree, but I think you would agree that the question of your position with respect to line officers as the regional forester is, one, you have to beor you are required to be the judge, in this instance, with respect to a timber sale process coming up to you from, let's say, Mr. Pence. And at the same time, you ought to be giving him or your office should be assisting him, should he need that, and always do, and the assistance to put together the very project that you are going to sit in judgment on. Is that a conflict of interest?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I don't believe it is a conflict of interest. You are right, I have both responsibilities. We have responsibilities to carry out the work in the region, and we also have the responsibility to carry out an effective and unbiased appeals process. That just goes with the job. We try to do that through the maximum delegation to the field line officers, in this case, to the forest supervisor. And we do not maintain a large cadre of people in our office to either do oversight or, definitely, to provide hands-on assistance to the field. They are to be called on for consultation.
In the case of the Summit, Carl and I consulted on what help did he need. We assisted him in getting some of that help from other national forests, make sure that he had the funds. But the decision making in the field was left to him so that he could carry that out.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't sense and I don't feel a conflict of interest in those two responsibilities.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me ask you this another way, if the judgment or portion of your responsibility were removed, as it is in the Bureau of Land Management, to some other entity, would that, in your opinion, free you up to give more assistance to line officers in the preparation of a sale?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I am not sure it would free me up to give more assistance. It would probably open the door to have more direct communication line officer to line officer.
As it is now, we do maintain an arm's length on making the decisions so that I can effectively operate as a reviewing officer.
The CHAIRMAN. Would that be beneficial?
Mr. WILLIAMS. I don't have any reason to feel that it would be strongly beneficial, because I am just not sensing that we have a significant problem with that issue today.
The CHAIRMAN. Who made the decision to pull the ROD, the initial one?
Mr. WILLIAMS. The actual decision to pull it was the forest supervisor's. However, he and I did dialog on that and had we gone through the completion of the appeals process, we would have remanded it. So it was simply a question of either we would remand it or he had the opportunity to pull it. We saved a few days of time by doing that. He was able to get organized and move forward and get on with the work.
The CHAIRMAN. Were you influenced in your decision by Washington?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Not at all.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. When Washington called in the second ROD and tried to suggest that you pull it, what was that about?
Mr. WILLIAMS. You are speaking of at the time when we advertised the sales and were opening the awards?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. WILLIAMS. That was very specifically tied to the biological opinionprogrammatic biological opinion regarding the bull trout. We have started working with BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service in late 1997 to make sure that we had all the bull trout conferencing done so that it would not cause a problem with any of our projects. And we had multiple teams working on that.
And that process was moving along, and we thought that we had a process in place that was going to allow us about an additional 9 months, after the biological opinion was issued, to complete reviews on current and existing and near-term projects.
As we got within a few weeks of the cut-off date, I believe it was July 10, as I recall, the Fish and Wildlife Service received legal advice that they could not issue the biological opinion as we had thought was going to be done. That put us in a box, in terms of what do we do with projects that are right here in the near term.
So we worked with them, thinking we were going to have the programmatic decision by the date of the Summit sale. As it turned out, it kept drifting, for various reasons, 1 or 2 more days. We got down to the date of the Summit sale, and the question was, do we dare award those sales without having a biological opinion.
So we were engaged in a dialog between our attorneys and our threatened and endangered species specialist to make that determination. And on the morning of the award of the saleor on the morning of the opening of the bids, we agreed that we ought to withhold the award until we could clear that issue. So we worked on that. I think it was on the Thursday morning that we made that decision, and on Tuesday we awarded the sale. So it was 4- or 5-day delay while we sorted that out and decided to go ahead with the sales.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. And I understand that the Fish and Wildlife Service supported you going ahead with this?
Mr. WILLIAMS. They did. And that was a part of that dialog that occurred during that period.
If I could just ask Carl to make sure that I relayed that correctly. He was actually closer to the discussions than I was.
Mr. PENCE. Yeah, that was pretty accurately posed there.
The CHAIRMAN. By the way, Mr. Pence, I think that the community would agree with me that in my analysis of this whole thing, I think you conducted yourself in a very professional manner, and I compliment you on your work.
Mr. PENCE. Thank you, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I think that I would have to agree with Dr. Freeman. I would have liked to have seen the original ROD stand up, which I think it would. And it was pulled for reasons that we will never know, I suppose.
Dr. Freeman, you have analyzed a lot of these NEPA document programs. Is there anything other than changing the law that you could see that could expedite the process, might expedite the kind of situation we find ourselves in here where we are wastingwe are wasting the resource, we are spending millions of dollars of taxpayers' money?
In fact, as you heard Mr. Williams, I think we are getting $2 million, maybe $1.6 million out of this whole thing, and it is going to cost us $2 or $3 million to extract $1.6 million. Fair game for the environmentalists who say, why do we need a Forest Service to deficit finance every timber sale.
So it seems to me that we are going to have to do something here to either just succumb to the violent message, we don't need a Forest Service, or try to make some reasonable changes.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Is there anything in the process that you are aware of that you think might be helpful, and in the process change the Forest Service?
Mr. FREEMAN. I think I highlighted that the option probably is to go back and look at some of the time lines for NEPA and CEQ documentation.
Several times in my written testimony I referred to the fact that it is a political issue. NEPA, along with some other laws, the Administrative Procedures Act, and other environmental laws, opened the Federal decision making to public scrutiny. And unless you make some exceptions in the law for salvage sales and for other types of sales which are so very time sensitive, it seems to me that the law established is one that probably our public is going to be reluctant to fiddle with.
You probably recall that at the 20-year anniversary of NEPA, 1991, 1992, there were publications from both sides. The environmental groups were reluctant to go in and try to strengthen NEPA. Industry groups and other people who supported NEPA were also saying, hey, we don't want to touch NEPA, because the strengthening may happen, and we may not be able to weaken it as we wish. So it becomes a political issue, and NEPA and CEQ are inevitably political.
I guess I also wonderyou have already begun to explore the issue of adjusting the Forest Service appeals process to make it more consistent with BLM. Perhaps that is one way it would work. Again, these are all legal adjustments, as you probably say.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Williams, you, of course, were aware, obviously, of the support for this project from the Governor and the Senators and me and others. And it was a very high-profileobviously high-profile project.
You mentioned that you were in communication with Mr. Pence, and yet there seems to be some gaps in what was actually discussed with Mr. Pence prior to the time that he completed the ROD and later. The region had many other suggestions later after Mr. Pence had offered the first ROD. It seems to me there was a communication gap, in fact, that did not give Mr. Pence the opportunity to consider those issues that were raised later in the process.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Can you comment on that charge?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Probably not in the detail that you would like. We had a lot of people that were involved in that. I know Carl had some of our specialists visit the project on the ground. They looked at it. They provided advice.
I have only been able to conclude there were some communication breakdowns in terms of what people were looking at and telling each other. And through the process of folks taking that information back, converting it into plans, putting it into the ROD, some folks thought they were saying one thing, and somebody else thought they were hearing something else.
Carl may be able to shed more light on that than I can. We were trying to provide only that help that was requested and asked for from NEPA.
The CHAIRMAN. I have a boss and an employee here, and I am not willing to sacrifice one or the other of you, frankly. But I am trying to get to the question, again, of the process; that if you had only one responsibility, and that was to provide all the assistance that you could muster to your line officers without this arm's length issue, I am wondering whether or not the communication would have been better, you could have offered more resources, in this case, to Mr. Pence, and you wouldn't have had this idea that you had to be arm's length. I know it is a judgment issue.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I don't think it is an arm's length question. It is probably more the way we are organized and structured, because we deliberately try to keep our regional office as small as we can, and we have been deliberately reducing the size of the regional office and try to keep those resources in the field, so when we need resources to help another forest, we try to move them around from one place in the field to another place in the field. Our folks are there on a limited basis to provide consultation and advice, but we really don't maintain a staff of people to go out and spend long periods of time overseeing what is being done on the ground.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Did you ever think about subcontracting to Dr. Freeman?
Mr. WILLIAMS. We have subcontracted with Dr. Freeman.
The CHAIRMAN. Has he been worth the money that you paid him?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Based on the compliments you gave Carl, I think he is definitely worth it. We have had a long history of very intense training with NEPA, and his company has provided much of that.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, then in the future in some of these obviously sensitive kinds of processes, I assume you may be calling on him again.
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, that is certainly an idea. Whether we call on him or if Carl would call on him to come in and do a last-minute review, I think that is a worthy idea to take a look at, and that would provide us again with that arm's length that we have.
If I could just add one piece of information, which I did not include in my testimony. When we look back at most of the previous 5 years of NEPA decisions in this region, we average about 865 decisions a year, and of those 865 aboutor an average of 255 are appeals. So about 30 percent of the decisions that are made throughout the region by the forest supervisors are appealed. And of those 30 percent or those 255, about 7 percent are remanded or are withdrawn.
So we are lookingtoday we have talked about two different projects; the HazRed project and the Summit project, both of which either have been withdrawn or have been remanded. But the total number is very, very small percentage-wise. Something less than the total of about 2 to 2 1/2 to 3 percent of our projects have been remanded.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Bradley, are you satisfied with your appeals process in the context that we have been discussing it?
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BRADLEY. As it is currently operating, yes. Yes, we are.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, it sounds like to me that it takes much less time. Do you think it does?
Mr. BRADLEY. It takes much less time when we can go full force and effect. Now, if for some reason IBLA grants a stay, you know, as I said in my testimony, it takes 2 to 3 years for them to be resolved.
The CHAIRMAN. But you haven't had theseas you mentioned, you haven't had these kinds of examples of time pressure kinds of sales that we call salvage, except in the eighties in the Southwest, I remember.
Mr. BRADLEY. Yes, that is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, then, of course, more of your sales are in jeopardy of appeals in the green than they would be in salvage, I would think.
Mr. BRADLEY. Yes, they are.
The CHAIRMAN. So full force and effect, explain that to me for the record.
Mr. BRADLEY. Well, it essentially means if IBLA does not grant a stay of the action, then we can implement the project.
The CHAIRMAN. There is a similar situation, is there not, Mr. Williams, in the Forest Service that there is a method of moving rapidly in case there is a severe enough reason to move?
Mr. WILLIAMS. You are speaking of the appeals process or the NEPA process?
The CHAIRMAN. I am talking about appeals.
Mr. WILLIAMS. I can easily get in over my head on the technicalities of this, but in the appeals process we can ask forand did, in this caseexpedited awarding of the contracts without waiting for the automatic stay period. We did that. We requested that of the Chief, and we remanded that.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I can't go into a lot more detail. I simply don't have the information. It has saved usI think it is a month or 6 weeks. I don't recall the exact time frame. It is a relatively short time frame, but we thought it was important due to the field season nature of this decision.
The CHAIRMAN. I guess, finally, there is this overriding issue, Mr. Williams, and you have heard from local people that there is a loss of public trust in the Forest Service, and there is a perception that the regional office is not doing enough to support line officers, in their judgment.
How do we restore the public trust, if that is the case, in the Forest Service?
Mr. WILLIAMS. Well, I have two different answers that are given to me on a fairly regular basis. One you have heard today, and that is get the cutout, and the other one is, don't get the cutout.
And people use exactly the same language, there is no trust in the Forest Service, because you are not doing what we think is the right thing to do. If you are going to continue to go into roadless areas and continue to harvest timber, you are not going to have our trust. And the opposite side of that is if you don't harvest more aggressively, you are not going to have our trust.
We are trying to stay within a balanced perspective of the laws that we have to work in, trying to use those rules, trying to meet the multiplicity of laws that we are dealing with now, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act. And I think it is just the nature of where we are working these days.
The CHAIRMAN. I really worry, as I mentioned earlier in my opening statement, that the radical environmentalists are those that never want to harvest another tree. And they have us in a position now that we cannot hardly offer a sale in America, even a salvage sale, that comes in without costing the government money. So we are always in the deficit situation.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They have been railing on us for years, you know, why operate extractive kinds of efforts if it is costing the taxpayers money. And every one of these is costing the taxpayers money. And, of course, you know, Mr. Lillebo wins every time and will continue to win. And I don't know how long Congress is going to stand for these kinds of things ringing in their ears when they say, why are we appropriating money on the Forest Service when every sale is a deficit sale, even a salvage sale. That really bothers me, because the minute that happens, then we really turn our back on the resource.
Unfortunately, you know, I have been begging Chief Dombeck to really address this issue. He never has, frankly. And it is simplyas was pointed out here earlier, we are in jeopardy of somecatastrophic fire jeopardy of some 40 million acres, primarily in the West.
We spent a billion dollars fighting fire in 1996. We are spending $50 million on the ground addressing maybe 1 million acres, or less, of the 40 million. Forty years later we will get to the last million acres. At that point it will be gone, it will be burned, and we have wasted the resource.
It is a tragedy, horrible thing, and my heart goes out to the people who have spent all their lives in the business of managing natural resources to, you know, see it come to this.
And I think you are right. I think we have to change public opinion, if we are ever going to rectify it. And I think we might make some very important small process changes along the way that can happen. But if we can never ever get these issues to harvest with any reasonable time, then we have wasted the resource and wasted our time. It is sad.
Well, that being the happy note, I thank you all for coming. I appreciate it. Thank you. This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:26 p.m., the committee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Statement of William Bradley
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has been asked to provide the Committee with information on how it plans, prepares, and offers timber sales and, in that context, how the BLM responds to protests or appeals of proposed timber sales.
The BLM manages nearly 16 million acres of public lands in Oregon, including some 13.7 million acres of basin and rangelands in eastern Oregon. The BLM's forestry program in Oregon is largely concentrated in the 2.5 million acres of public lands which lie west of the Cascade Range in a checkerboard ownership pattern. These public lands are managed by the BLM, under the guidance of locally developed Resource Management Plans (RMPs) supported by the regional umbrella of the Northwest Forest Plan.
Local RMPs respond to the need to provide healthy ecosystems, a predictable and sustainable timber harvest, clean drinking water and streams through watershed analysis and restoration, and to support populations of native species, including old growth dependent and threatened and endangered species. Under the Northwest Forest Plan umbrella, the BLM and the Forest Service are working closely on watershed analysis, late successional reserve assessments, stream restoration, and other projects.
Based on the Resource Management Plans' direction to provide, among other resource uses, a predictable and sustainable timber harvest, the estimated Allowable Sale Quantity for the BLM's five western Oregon districts is 211 million board feet per year. During fiscal year (FY) 1997, the BLM offered 212 million board feet. The bid values for these western Oregon commercial timber sales totaled nearly $79 million in FY 1997; timber sales from the BLM-managed public domain lands in eastern Oregon were bid at $1.4 million.
Fire recovery and forest health issues are important, but not overriding, considerations in the BLM-Oregon forestry program. There has been no significant large scale wildfire activity in western Oregon since the late 1980's, when several large fires burned in the southwest corner of the state. For BLM-managed lands, forest health issues, related primarily to overly dense stocking of trees due to fire suppression, are limited to forest lands in southern, and to a lesser extent, northeastern Oregon. The BLM-managed lands in northeastern Oregon are predominately rangelands.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Committee has asked the BLM to discuss three elements of our timber sale preparation process: timeliness in planning, public involvement, and dispute resolution.
TIMELINESS IN PLANNING
The planning of specific projects for any programfire recovery, timber harvest, in-stream fisheries restoration, or road managementhas become an extremely complex process. Project planning begins with the convening of an interdisciplinary team, a group of BLM specialists who review issues related to their own field of expertise (such as soils, fuels management, wildlife, or fisheries). This process results in a watershed or planning area analysis to identify site specific needs or opportunities on the ground to meet the objectives of the local Resource Management Plan.
Once a project area and its objectives are identified, the BLM begins the process of field review to narrow the fairly broad proposal into more discrete action areas. The field review covers many operational and environmental considerations, including access needs, identification of property lines, and occurrence of threatened or endangered species or habitat. This portion of the BLM timber sale preparation may take a year or more.
When a project proposal has been fairly well defined, the BLM publishes a public notice, offering the public the opportunity to identify site specific issues and concerns. This typically consists of publication of a district planning newsletter which is sent to persons who have expressed interest in the project and organizations on our mailing list, and frequently posted on the Internet. The BLM also sends letters to adjacent landowners and water users of record.
After this first opportunity for site specific public input is completed, the interdisciplinary team meets again to review both the public comments and internally raised issues to fine tune the project.
The work of the interdisciplinary team is threefold: (1) to insure that the final project design considers the identified issues and meets the objectives of the land use plan and other environmental laws; (2) to insure the project contains required project design features (standards and guidelines) to mitigate identified environmental impacts; and (3) to complete the environmental analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The appropriate interdisciplinary team members are also responsible for completing any required interagency consultation for compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For increased efficiency, this consultation typically covers a year's worth of projects. Consultation is completed early in the planning process to provide the regulatory agencies with an early opportunity for input to the project designan example of the efficiencies developed under the Northwest Forest Plan, now seen as a national model.
Once a formal environmental analysis is written (typically an environmental assessment tiered to an umbrella Environmental Impact Statement), the document is made available for public review and comment; this is the first point at which a NEPA document is available. Public comments received during this review are considered prior to reaching and publishing a final decision for the implementation of a specific project. While the actual interdisciplinary team review of a well defined project, and the writing of the associated environmental assessment, can be completed in 46 months, the required environmental clearances may take up to 2 years. Botanical clearances, for example, can only be done during flowering season. Similarly, it takes observation over two consecutive nesting seasons (in the spring) to determine if marbled murrelets are present in the area of a proposed timber sale.
Completion of environmental assessment (including clearances) concludes this portion of the BLM's timber sale preparation process. The next step is the decision to conduct an advertised timber sale.
I understand the BLM previously has provided the Committee with an informal flow chart on timber sale protest and appeals, so I will highlight a few key points. Protests of a BLM decision to conduct an advertised timber sale (or other forest management decision) must be made within 15 calendar days of the advertisement of the sale. Timber sales on public lands in western Oregon remain very controversial, so despite the BLM's efforts to maximize public involvement, a fair number of BLM proposed timber sales receive protests. In the past several years, for example, the BLM had a protest and subsequent appeal on nearly every sale in its Roseburg district.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If a protest is denied by the BLM authorized officer (usually the local field manager), the party bringing the protest has 30 days to appeal that decision to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). Ultimately, the appealing party has the option to file suit in U.S. District Court once all administrative remedies are exhausted.
Returning to the example of a timber sale, the filing of a protest or appeal temporarily suspends the BLM's award of the sale. If the denial of a protest is not appealed, the BLM proceeds with the sale. If, on the other hand, the denial of a protest is appealed to the IBLA, the appellant must request a stay when the appeal is filed. Typically, the IBLA rules fairly quickly (3060 days) on the request for a stay. If a stay is not granted, the BLM may proceed full force and effect with the timber sale; the IBLA is notified when we do this. The IBLA will still rule on the appeal, even if operations have been completed, unless the appellant withdraws. In the BLM-Oregon's experience, the time frame for the IBLA to rule on an appeal on a timber sale may be 2 to 3 years.
The BLM's procedures for resolving protests43 CFR 5003.3 and appeals43 CFR 4.411 are set out in regulations. This concludes my statement. I would be pleased to answer any questions.
Statement of Dennis Reynolds
Thank you, Chairman, Smith for inviting me to testify before this Committee on Agriculture. My name is Dennis Reynolds. Today I represent 7,950 citizens residing in Grant County, OR as their elected county Judge.
I have not always been an elected official. I often say: ''I am a Forester by Education; Sawmill Manager by Experience; A Contract Logger and Irrigation Headgate and water Measuring Device, designer, fabricator and installer, by Choice; and a County Judge by means of Temporary Insanity.''
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I speak to you today representing Grant County residents who reside in a county 2,897,920 acres in size of which 64 percent is publicly managed. Our principal industries include and have included for over 134 years forestry, livestock, agriculture, and hunting.
Grant County is also currently known for its exceptionally high rate of unemployment. An article titled ''Grant County's jobless rate highest in State'' of The Oregonian on February 17, 1998 reported Grant County finished 1997 with an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. Its jobless rate was the worst in Oregon while the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Oregon stood at 5.3 percent in December. ''Six times during 1997 the Eastern Oregon county's unemployment picture is the worst in the State.'' Grant County's estimated jobless rate in June of 1998 is 13.7 percent. This was second highest in Oregon behind Hood River County at 13.9 percent.
Grant County's average annual pay per job in 1996 was $21,831 while Oregon's was $27,031 and the United States was $28,945. (Oregon Employment Department 1998 Regional Economic Profile Region 13, pg 40)
In 1862 two major events occurred in Grant County: One was the discovery of gold. The second was that B.C. Trowbride took out the first homestead claim in what was to be Grant County. Grant County was created in 1864 out of Wasco County which at one time covered all of eastern Oregon, Grant County contained the areas of both Grant and Harney counties today. During this era of western settlement there was nothing startling about a homestead, but it was indicative of a great change in attitude towards this area. Up until this time no man woman or child of any nationality had any intention of coming to Grant County to stay. It was a good place to hunt, fish, trap, mine, or summer a band of sheep, but it was not a place to call home the year-round. Even the Native Americans had used the area only seasonally. It was a place to get rich, either by mining, livestock or trapping, and then take your fortunes back to civilization. To the Chinese, America was the great, gold mountain; a place to earn a fortune and then leave to return home.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Other homestead claims were filed in valleys such as Fox, Long Creek, Ritter, Izee, Seneca and Silvies, away from the John Day River, and were settled in the 1870's and 1880's. Products developed were a mixture of livestock and small grains. Transportation costs made milling of flour important as did its place as an essential food item in the area. At one time there were flour mills operating at Long Creek, Prairie City, John Day and Ritter.
Supplies for Grant County's population had to be packed and later freighted to Canyon City. Because of minimal population and the difficulty of collecting taxes, Oregon found it difficult to raise money to build sufficient roads to serve what had become the largest city in the State of Oregon at that time. (10,000 men) While there was very little money, there was plenty of land. The land was mostly under Federal domain, especially in eastern Oregon where the need for some semblance of a road was most urgent.
Congress responded to the State's need in 1868 by giving it Federal land along the route of a road. The intent was for Oregon to then cede this land to a road construction company in return for building a road. After much suspicion of fraud the Dalles Military Wagon Road, which ran from The Dalles to Bosie was built.
It was called a military road in order to make it easier for Congressmen from other states to justify giving away that much Federal land to a particular state, and ultimately to a particular business. Supposedly, the military benefited because it could use the road without paying a toll. In actuality the army made only limited use of the road. Aside from all the fraud, the intent of the road was to make it easier to get supplies into remote areas, and make it less burdensome for farmers to get their produce to market. As soon as farmers in isolated areas exceeded the demand for their wheat and fruit in their immediate locality, they found the high cost of shipping to more populated areas made their products almost worthless.
Settlement of Grant County was slowed by the belief that agriculture would be an impossible undertaking in the area. The first plantings of potatoes intended to compete with the high cost of potatoes freighted in from The Dalles at 16 to 24 cents per pound were utter failures, fueling the idea that the area was an agricultural waste land. It wasn't until a potato crop belonging to John Herburger sold for 25 cents per pound with a limit of four pounds per customer that agricultural community started to grow.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Historical accounts speak of the ''luxuriant bunch grass'' in the hills around Canyon City. It was this resource that first attracted cattle to Grant County. Livestock production, like the growing of crops was slow to start due to the believed severity of the winters. Settlers soon realized that the bottom lands along the John Day River could produce hay, and this, coupled with the hill and forest land for summer grazing, made an excellent area to raise livestock. Settlers realized this with such enthusiasm that by the late 1870's and early 1880's the range was beginning to show lower production brought about by exuberant grazing. It was thought the only way to compete was to run as many animals as you could, and if the range wouldn't support a cow then a sheep would get by. Occasional violence between cattlemen and sheep men erupted in the late 1890's and early 1900's.
What happened to end the livestock disputes more than anything, and restored management to the range, was the creation of the Forest Service in 1903. With its inception came specific allotments, controlled numbers and animals and regulation of time and use on the range.
One of Grant County's greatest renewable natural resource is its timber. It is this high quality softwood, ponderosa pine, that first attracted mills to the area. During the 1800's sawmills were small with few employees and satisfied only the local demand. In 1926 Edward Hines Lumber Company of Chicago was enticed into the area with U.S.F.S. promises of an exceptionally long term and large volume timber sale offering. By the 1940's there were several large companies operating in Grant County. Logging and saw milling soon out passed agriculture as the county's number one industry.
On May 23, 1908 Congress determined there needed to be an incentive to promote community development. It was determined a community needed adequate roads and schools. The roads would further compliment access to Federal lands the U.S.F.S. was charged with managing. Schools would attract family workers while aiding in the development of these communities. While the percentage has increased once since the law was passed, today Grant County receives 25 percent of the revenue paid to the U.S.F.S. forests located within its geographic boundaries.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The history reiterated above came from a booklet titled ''Grant County in the Beginning'' which credits The Oliver Historical Museum for providing background research and Jack Southworth for his editing of the information.
The present strongly reflects our past. Farm employment is 21.5 percent, Lumber & Wood Products manufacturing is 11.4 percent, and Construction and Mining is 3.7 percent of our total employment force of 3,770 workers. A strong deviation is the 10.1 percent Government component.
Grant County is still plagued by its remoteness. Transportation to markets and from supply centers is atypically expensive compared to other geographic locations. This long standing fact has and continues to limit what enterprises can grow in Grant County.
Government has played a long term, major role in the development of Grant County. Encouraging settlement by gifting of land with the Homestead Act, encouraging road construction by gifting land to Oregon, accommodating existing habitants by the establishment and award of grazing allotments, awarding a large volume long term timber sale, continuing a 90 year practice of gifting a percentage of its income to the State of Oregon for distribution to Grant County for roads and school, has all contributed to a long term trust relationship with Grant County.
How important can a single salvage timber sale like Summit be to this trust relationship our Federal Government has established with Grant County? This answer must be qualified. To understand the depth of this question it one must first understand how much more important it is for the citizens of Grant County to trust that the Federal timber managers will shoulder the responsibility they have to the citizens of these United States to manage Federal lands on a even-flow sustained yield basis. It is important to note the industry in Grant County stands ready to help the U.S.F.S. discharge its management duties. The wood products industry would prefer to assist in the management of green forests so that situations like Summit are less likely to occur.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Employee preference parallels the industry thought process. They would rather make a living working in a healthy green forest than among the charred carcases of once vibrant trees. Once the trees are dead, sustainable yield quantities are negatively and substantially impacted.
The Summit salvage sale represents the least desirable type of forest management service either the industry or citizens of the county wish to provide the U.S.F.S. It has been 750 days today since Summit started burning, the timber sales have been sold, yet it will be the end of this week before the purchaser will know if they can continue to harvest the sales or be ordered to wait additional precious and value degenerative days for current litigation to climax. The Summit salvage sale has been tremendously consumptive of manpower and budgets at the forest level resulting in minuscule quantities of green timber being readied or offered for sale consistent with the present and existing forest plan. The entire Summit salvage sale volume represents approximately 158 days of production for one sawmill in the community. Total volume under contract in the community is about 59 percent of installed mill capacity. If these numbers do not improve, Grant County will loose another sawmill.
Current Federal management decisions continue to be plagued by conflicting and overlapping Federal laws and regulations. In a recent meeting with the forest service planning team where members discussed with concerned citizens the pros and cons of how many standing dead trees to leave to meet Management Indicator Species constraints. The land area in question was about 7 percent of the proposed activity area which was about 11,000 acres, which was about 29 percent of the total area burned. Therefore, if you allow the surface area of this page to represent the 37,961 acres burned the square at the top of this page represents the proportionate size of the area in question. What covers the remainder of this page? More standing dead trees. This makes no sense to the rational thinking person.
It is now 750 days after the fire and the death of the trees. The sales have sold and awarded for a purchase price of $2,073,032, in spite of a phone call from the Washington D.C. office requesting the sales not to be awarded pending more conferencing. The purchase price will yield $130,000. to schools and $388,258.to county roads in Grant County. Had all of the standing dead volume been available for sale within 2 or 3 months after the fire it is estimated the volume would have been worth $120,000,000. One management constraint after another diminished the sale volume offered in the preferred alternative to approximately 118 million board feet. Additional review, more constraint application and continued product deterioration reduced the final sale volume to approximately 45.1 million board feet. The timber value has comfortably deteriorated in value to the American taxpayers, $45,126,968.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At this rate, County and Schools loose apx. $11,281,742 (25 percent). While all this transpires the stream continues to run chocolate brown. Salmon spawning beds continue to silt. The county will have lost a little more than $1,767,000 of family wage payroll not including the in-county turn over benefit. I ask you, who wins in this scenario? If only the American taxpayers knew what was being wasted!
The Federal planning process is grossly flawed. The process gives no consideration to the fact that the planners are dealing with rapidly deteriorating product values. The sale is treated as though it were a green volume sale. The U.S.F.S possesses the knowledge and expertise to accelerate the healing process after a major fire event but is to often hampered by its own rules and regulations. Weyerhaeuser has demonstrated the private sector's ability to accelerate the healing process near Mt. Saint Helens, after its eruption. Vigorously growing trees twenty feet plus in height stand today on private property along the property line bordering the U.S.F.S. lands which demonstrate minimal recovery by comparison.
The current record of decision appeal process makes planning cumbersome. A forest supervisor trying to obtain input and assistance in the decision making process from their Regional Office finds themselves dealing with the same individuals who will be required to hear any subsequent appeals of the supervisors decisions. This puts both the forest supervisor and the regional employee in a precarious position. The B.L.M. with its independent review board seems better able to handle this issue. A similar review board process established in the U.S.F.S. should serve to relieve the issue.
The planning process seemed to throw hurdles in the way of the local forest planning staff. From the continuously changing laundry list of items that needed additional documentation or analysis to the Washington DC phone call to the forest on the day of the sale, asking to hold up award. Members of the community had a visible and genuine sympathy for the local planners who were convincenlly attempting to proceed with this salvage sale in a most thorough yet expeditious manner.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Management decision makers must be legislatively empowered to make decisions consistent with their professional expertise and required to utilize codified, peer reviewed and peer approved science. These managers deserve a degree of litigious insulation if they have applied the science consistently.
Frivolous litigation must be legislatively stopped or financially discouraged. The situation can not be resolved until the weakest link in the chain, which is now an inevitable litigation at the end of any planning process, is removed. In the words of a fellow forester, ''When the tail starts to wag the dog, it's time to cut the tail off.''
The burned timber salvage sale program process must be streamlined like was done with the blowdown timber in Texas.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide input on this important community related process.
Statement of Jeannie Weakley
On behalf of the 25,000 men and women of the Western Council of Industrial Workers, I would like to thank the chairman and the members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak with you today.
Although much of the discussion today focuses on the failure of specific timber sales, the effects of the U.S. Forest Service's management problems reverberate throughout the United States. Our nation relies on the Forest Service to provide adequate services and sound policies to preserve healthy forest ecosystems while providing a sustainable level of timber for production. Our members rely on the Forest Service to protect their economic well-being and to help support timber-dependent communities. In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the Agency is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in inefficiency and waste. Now is the time to examine its management practices, identify any inadequacies and determine solutions for the future.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Various reports declare the Forest Service's fiscal management practices inept. In 1995, the General Accounting Office stated that the Agency lacks a credible, comprehensive and consistent system to collect and report data because it has no ability to identify where and how resources are expended and whether objectives are being met efficiently. Unable to verify the accuracy of a 1995 Annual Report, the Agriculture Department's own Inspector General labeled the report insufficient. While spiraling overhead costs continue to hinder the productivity and success of the Forest Service's programs, the Agency has not produced a proper financial statement since 1995. This is unacceptable.
Our members are specifically concerned with how inefficiencies and mismanagement at the Agency affect the Federal timber sale program. In 1993, President Clinton promised to protect both the environment and the economy. He committed his administration to finding a middle ground for managing our National Forests to bring an end to the ''timber wars.'' But today, the Forest Service is turning its back on this commitment. Just last month, our union held a press conference to present a series of intra-Agency documents that clearly layout a plan to abandon President Clinton's promise. These documents show that Forest Service management wants to eliminate commercial timber harvesting on Federal lands. The Agencyalong with its allies in the environmental communitycites the fact that operating costs now exceed timber sale revenues as a reason to end the Federal timber sale program. But the facts show that the answer lies in improving the way the Agency manages costs and administers the timber programnot in terminating an essential program that employs tens of thousands of men and women nationwide and provides the economic backbone for hundreds of rural communities.
The Forest Service declares that the sudden policy shift is based on draft reports from the ''Committee of Scientists,'' a panel recently established to make recommendations for the management of national forests over the next century.
The Western Council of Industrial Workers and fellow unions supported the initial concept of the panel and even recommended a distinguished list of possible appointees, all of which were later turned down. At a July press conference, our Executive Secretary, Michael Pieti, expressed great disappointment upon reading the Committee of Scientist's recent draft reports. We are disturbed at the recommendations that call on the Forest Service to move away from commodity production and become more involved in guiding private forest management. The panel also calls on the US to abide by international conventionstreaties and agreements that have not even been adopted by Congress. The Western Council criticizes the panel's proposals, and the fact that the Forest Service is already beginning to implement themeven before the scientists complete their work. It seems clear to us that the Secretary of Agriculture and the Forest Service Chief have selected a panel of scientists who would justify the results they wanted. While our members are lining up at the unemployment line, Administration officials continue on a path to break President Clinton's promise, playing political games with our livelihoods.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Twenty thousand men and women have lost their jobs as Federal timber sale levels plummeted since the late 1980's, yet the program's overhead costs have spiraled and total operating costs have not declined. Your Committee reports that current overhead costs are roughly 31 percent of the total costs of the timber sale program. In 1996, the Forest Service spent over $200 million on overhead costs, compared to $54 million for environmental documentation and $5 million for litigation. In fact, costs to prepare and offer timber sales have actually tripled since 1988. The cost for environmental documentation and analysis now reaches 70 percent of the total costs and consumes 30 percent of the agency's field resources. Traditionally, administrative and environmental impact analyses have accounted for only 30 percent of the total cost of the sale.
These inflated costs reflect the dramatic rise in the number of appeals and lawsuits filed to challenge sales. While many appeals are filed to express legitimate concerns, we find that an alarmingly high number of appeals are frivolous efforts, attacking legitimate, environmentally sensitive sales. As the Agency shifts resources to combat these attacks, our workers, communities and national forests suffer.
Our members are also concerned about the effects of the Agency's mismanagement and inefficiencies on the health of national forests. Millions of acres of national forest lands are suffering from a forest health emergency. These lands are filled with dead, dying and diseased trees that threaten to infect healthy trees and increase the risk and severity of catastrophic wildfires. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck recently testified that some 40 million acres of national forest land stand at a high risk of wildfire, yet the Agency is only able to treat less than one million acres per year. The Forest Service also reports a $10 billion backlog in reconstruction and maintenance costs for the national forest road system. Poorly maintained roads prevent access for combating and controlling wildfires and for conducting necessary forest health and watershed maintenance activities. The Committee on Agriculture itself has discovered that the deteriorating health and productivity of our national forests is primarily due to a decline in active forest management. It is time to remedy these management blunders and focus on achieving results and providing healthy forest lands for all Americans.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, our members are concerned about the effects of USFS mismanagement on critical programs to assist timber workers displaced by declining harvest levels on Federal forests. Last December, our union reviewed President Clinton's Pacific Northwest Economic Adjustment Initiative. This Initiative was designed to provide support and retraining for workers displaced by Option 9, the President's Pacific Northwest Forest Plan, through several programs including the ''Old Growth Diversification Fund'' and the ''Rural Community Assistance Program (Rural CAP).'' We discovered serious problems with the manner in which the funds were distributed and ultimately the way the programs have been administered. For example, our investigation found that only 12 percent of the funds distributed under the ''Rural CAP'' have gone to programs even remotely associated with the woods product industry. We also found that the percentage of funds that have gone to cover Forest Service overhead costs and employee salaries is increasingly rapidly, reaching 15 percent of total costs. This poor performance is unacceptable.
Thousands of workers in the forest products industry depend on the Forest Service's programs for their livelihoods. As taxpayers we expect an efficient and competent government that works. We commend the House Committee on Agriculture for its efforts to critically examine the Forest Service's fiscal management policies.
The Western Council of Industrial Workers stands behind the efforts to clean up the mismanagement and inefficiencies and create an efficient and effective Forest Service which is fully accountable to the industry, the workers and the American taxpayers.
Thank you again for inviting me to speak before the committee.
Statement of Robert W. Williams
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee: Thank you for the opportunity to discuss planning and implementing fire recovery and ecosystem health restoration projects in the Pacific Northwest Region. As you requested, I will discuss general planning approaches and, specifically, planning on the Summit Fire Recovery project.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTWO PLANNING APPROACHES
Our objective is to make good land and resource management decisions in a timely and cost effective manner that assures future generations healthy, diverse, and productive forests. Many factors including the integration of science, threatened and endangered species listings, and court decisions have prompted the need for greater accountability in our decision making.
In the last few years we have used two different project planning approaches when proposing salvage activities following large fires. In order to improve the efficiency of our restoration efforts, at the outset we divide the project into areas of minimal technical or scientific controversy and areas that are more complex or controversial. A Categorical Exclusion or an Environmental Assessment may be appropriate for documentation of effects in specific situations where the simplicity of issues and required analysis allow, thereby shortening the planning time frame.
For a very small portion of the Summit fire area, a Categorical Exclusion was determined to be appropriate and two small sales were prepared accordingly which removed 1.3 million board feet. Additionally, two pre-existing timber sales were burned in the fire. Their contracts were given an emergency adjustment to reflect the changed conditions, thus facilitating the removal of some of the burned trees. These processes allow us to move forward very quickly, but the opportunity to use them is limited.
We utilize a second approach for planning in areas with complex resource issues and controversial effects where a landscape must be analyzed in order to adequately assess issues and resource effects. This approach may require the agency to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Additionally, this scale of analysis often requires completion of a Watershed Assessment before moving to site specific project analysis. We followed this strategy to make an informed and deliberative decision for the Summit Fire Recovery project because of the large area involved, the complexity of the resource issues to be analyzed, and the need to analyze cumulative effects at a broad scale.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Whichever approach is used, there is no guarantee of the speed at which implementation will occur. For example, the Tower fire burned at the same time as the Summit fire. Issues associated with the Tower fire were less complex and no harvest was proposed in the roadless area, unlike the Summit Fire Recovery project; therefore an Environmental Assessment was the appropriate environmental document. Yet, the Umatilla National Forest awarded the Big Tower sale only a few days before the first five Summit sales were awarded. The processing time saved by using the first approach on the Tower fire was offset by the sale's litigation which delayed implementation.
THE SUMMIT TIMELINE
The Summit project illustrates how fire recovery efforts are implemented. The Summit fire began on August 13, 1996. On September 9, the Summit Fire Recovery project was initiated, even as firefighters continued to fight the wildfire. Burned area emergency rehabilitation work, such as soil stabilization measures, and public scoping for the recovery project began in mid-October.
The Summit Draft EIS was sent to the printer on March 4, six months from the beginning of planning for the recovery project. One month later, the 45 day public comment period began and was completed on May 19, 1997. The Final EIS and Record of Decision were completed August 25, 1997, and the appeal period began.
The appeal period ended on November 17, 1997, with receipt of two appeals. In this case, the Forest elected on December 15 to withdraw the Record of Decision in order to address the issues more fully raised in the appeals. A Draft Supplemental EIS was prepared and sent out for public review on March 27, 1998, beginning another 45 day comment period which ended on May 11. The comments were reviewed and a Final Supplemental EIS was made available to the public on June 12, 1998. A new Record of Decision was signed July 13, 1998. That began a new appeal period; however, because the Chief of the Forest Service determined an emergency existed and granted a waiver on a stay of implementation, the Forest proceeded to implement the decision by offering five of the timber sales planned as part of this project.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The preparation of those sales and five others was occurring concurrently with the planning process, and adjustments to possible on-the-ground actions were evaluated as the planning process progressed. Also occurring concurrently with the planning process was Endangered Species Act conferencing, then consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on bull trout, which was listed as threatened during this planning process. Consultation with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation also was ongoing throughout the process. Statutorily mandated review and appeal periods and the physical time necessary to print documents amounted to nearly 40 percent of the total time required from the start of the fire until the last sale was sold.
The cost of planning and analysis to complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation for all Summit sales is estimated at $1 million, while implementation costs to date are estimated at $1 million, including sale layout, marking, appraisal, contract preparation and advertisement. Expected revenue from the sales is approximately $2 million. Emergency fire rehabilitation efforts cost $136,000, and reforestation costs to date are $1.4 million. As of today, reforestation has been completed on approximately 6,000 acres. Hardwoods and conifers have been planted along more than 21 miles of streams. And soil stabilization has been accomplished on over 7500 acres. Resource values gained from protection and restoration efforts have not been quantified.
The Summit wildfire, like many other wildfires, was fueled by overcrowded, dense, dry forests. Prescribed fire is a crucial part of our restoration efforts. Recognizing the urgent need for prescribed fire, the Forest Service has requested significant funding increases for this work. The President's budget has reflected these increased requests and Congress has favorably responded by providing additional funds ($5.9 million for the Region in FY 97, $11 million for the Region in FY 98). These funds will help restore ecosystem health and resiliency by reducing excessive fuel levels in overcrowded forests.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There is a cost to ecosystem stewardship but, as we have experienced with the Summit project and elsewhere in our Region, the cost of doing nothing is much higher in terms of both fire suppression costs and natural resource costs.
We are also exploring new authorities that allow us to venture beyond traditional timber sale contracting and are helping communities look at new ways to use small diameter, underutilized wood that results from our precommercial thinning projects.
This concludes my testimony. I will be happy to answer any questions you may have. To address specific questions related to the Summit Fire Recovery project, I am accompanied today by F. Carl Pence, Forest Supervisor of the Malheur National Forest.