SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCOVERSIGHT OF THE FISCAL YEAR 1999 BUDGET FOR THE FOREST SERVICE
THURSDAY, MAY 7, 1998
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:03 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Robert F. (Bob) Smith (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Doolittle, Goodlatte, Pombo, Everett, Lucas, Lewis, Hostettler, Chambliss, Emerson, Moran, Blunt, Thune, Cooksey, Stenholm, Peterson, Minge, Pomeroy, Holden, Farr, Baldacci, Goode, McIntyre, Stabenow, Etheridge, and Boswell.
Staff present: Paul Unger, majority staff director; Dave Tenny, professional staff; Sharla Moffett, professional staff; Dwight Fielder, science fellow; Callista Bisek, assistant clerk/scheduler; Wanda Worsham, clerk; and Danelle Farmer, minority staff consultant.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
The CHAIRMAN. The hearing will come to order.
This hearing is called to review the 1999 presidential budget for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, especially the Forest Service.
A little over a year ago, the Committee on Agriculture gave a hearing in Sunriver, OR, to discuss the deteriorated conditions of the East Side Forest in, particularly, the State of Oregon. At that time, Chief Dombeck and I made a number of commitments to each other.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, we agreed that our highest priority was to protect and restore the health of the land; the second, that active hands-on enforced management is essential to restoring the health of the land; third, that we need a well-thought-out plan of action; and finally, we needed to cooperate with each other and with the affected stakeholders in order to get the results we wanted on the ground.
A great deal has happened since that hearing. We have had six following hearings after that, and I have attempted and endeavored to keep my end of the bargain. I think my efforts attest to that fact. And I intend to maintain that commitment until I relinquish this chairmanship.
But how is the Forest Service doing? That is the question of this hearing today. We have heard much from the Chief about his professed dedication to restoring the health of the land, and his ''natural resources agenda for the 21st century.'' The chief states that his ''first priority is to maintain and restore the health of ecosystems and watersheds.'' He emphasizes that a critical component to healthy watersheds is addressing the ''40 million acres of national forest that are exposed to abnormally high risks of fire.''
The chief further states in his resources agenda that critical to watershed health is a ''forest road system that best serves the management objectives and public uses of national forests.'' The chief has told us of an urgent need to address a $10 billion backlog in road construction and maintenance, a backlog that is four times the agency's entire budget for fiscal year 1999.
Finally, the Chief states in his resources agenda that ''to keep our watersheds healthy and productive, we must better understand their status and condition across all ownerships.'' The chief identifies the forests inventory and analysis program as a principal tool for gaining this enhanced understanding.
These are lofty and worthwhile policy objectives. But I question whether these objectives are adequately reflected in this agency's budget. It is one thing to talk good policy; it is quite another to fund it.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Starting with the issue of forest health, I would still like to know the location of 40 million acres the Chief says are at an unacceptable risk of catastrophic fire. On August 9, 1997, that is almost a year ago, I sent a letter to the Secretary with a copy to Chief Dombeck, in which I asked the location of the 40 million acres at risk. To this date, I have not received any answer to my letter or to the location of the 40 million acres, which remain a mystery to this committee and, I suspect, to the Forest Service as well.
Equally mysterious is how the Forest Service budget is going to address 40 million acres. As I mentioned, the Chief's budget proposes hazardous fuels reduction on 1.5 million acres in 1999. At that rate, it will take 30 years to address the problem, and I wonder how many more catastrophic fires and how much money will be spent on catastrophic fires by the Forest Service in that 30-year period. Furthermore, the Chief's budget decreases by $7.5 million, the amount requested for Forestland Vegetation Management. With no mention of the thinning proposed in his natural resources agenda, the budget simply again does not match the rhetoric.
The same holds true on the issue of roads. In 1997, the Forest Service estimated the cost of the road reconstruction backlog to be $5 to $6 billion in 1997. The Inspector General's office said that this estimate had no reliable statistical basis, was inflated and not readily supported. Then, just a year later, the Forest Service announced the cost of the backlog had ballooned to a shocking $10 billion. This committee has yet to be briefed on this backlog, after many requests; and at this point, we don't know if it is real or if it is imaginary. And I am assuming, of course, if it is real, that the Forest Service will help us oppose efforts to cut road money when that comes to the floor of the Congress.
Assuming that it is real, however, the budget request to address the problem is meager at best. When you add the combined road construction and road maintenance budgets together, it totals less than 2 percent of the stated backlog. Again, the budget does not match the policy rhetoric.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The chief's budget also appears to be grossly inadequate to make meaningful improvements in the Forest Inventory and Analysis program. This committee recognized the importance of the FIA program by including provisions in the research bill to shorten the inventory cycle from the current 10 to 15 years down to 5 years. The Congressional Budget Office and the Forest Service itself indicated that a $17 to $18 million increase would be needed to implement the improved program, yet the budget only requests a $4.5 million increase for FIA. Once again, the budget does not match the policy rhetoric.
Finally, I have grave concerns about the reports I continue to get about the amount of money the Forest Service is spending on overhead. Time and time again, I am told, despite increases in the agency's annual appropriations, fewer and fewer dollars are reaching the ground. The chief's budget requests $259 million to cover the agency's general administration costs. That is roughly 8 percent of the agency's total budget. Yet, upon examining the agency's request for road construction and reconstruction, which are presumably earmarked to address the road backlog, I notice that the agency is charging 33 percent of this program to overhead, 33 percent to overhead. In fact, it charges more to overhead than it puts on the ground for road funding available for the entire Appropriations Committee, and the point is that it provides less money than it does for reconstruction. If this is any indication of what is happening to other programs within the agency, then I have little hope that any level of funding increase will have any positive impacts on our forests.
Quite frankly, it appears to me the Forest Service's mission of ''caring for land and serving people,'' has changed to ''staring at land and serving bureaucrats.''
I had accepted the administration's invitation to make our national forest ''a common ground, not a political battleground''; however, it is nearly impossible to find common ground with an administration and a Forest Service that is more intent upon paying lip service to the forest than managing it.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I stated before, I am committed to the goals we set at Sunriver. I expect the Forest Service to be committed to them as well. It is time the agency produced a budget that actually restores the health of the land, rather than one that just talks about it.
I have reached out for the last 18 months from this committee and from an intense desire to improve the conditions in the forest of this country. And I have reached out to the Forest Service, without result. I asked them time and time again to assist us in preparing a bill that they could accept, and we receive rhetoric, nothing more than rhetoric.
A bill was finally produced, and without their support, and I must say, without the support of the Governor of Oregon, and it was defeated on the floor of the House of Representatives, a bill that would improve the forest health of America's forests. I am embarrassed about that. I am embarrassed about the Forest Service. The Forest Service should change its program now.
Are there any other opening statements? If not, I am pleased to welcome our colleague from northern California, Mr. Herger, who has been involved in these forest issues for his time in Congress.
Mr. Herger, welcome. We would like to hear your statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. WALLY HERGER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. HERGER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members. Before I begin, I would request unanimous consent to submit for the record a statement of the California Farm Bureau Federation to the House Agriculture Committee regarding the Forest Service management.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HERGER. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I share the multiple concerns that you have expressed. I would like to, in the limited time I have, address two major concerns that I have concerning the Forest Service and the way it manages its resources.
First, I am concerned about what I feel is a major misdirection of policy from Washington that I believe is literally destroying the environment in our national forests. Second, I am concerned about what has been pointed out by the General Accounting Office as a failure by the Forest Service to properly manage its annually appropriated dollars. These issues are critically important to me and my constituents.
My congressional district in northern California includes parts of nine national forests. These same forests also make up two-thirds of the State of California's watershed and are the source of drinking water for more than 60 percent of our State's 33 million residents.
Unlike other forests in other parts of the United States, the forests in the West suffer from an unusually high incidence of fire. During the hot summer months, these forests receive very little rainfall. Historically, Western forests were filled with stands of large trees. The forest floors were less dense and were naturally and regularly thinned by lightening-caused fires that would clean out dense underbrush, leaving the big trees to grow bigger.
However, because of decades of well-meaning, but aggressive fire suppression practices, these forests have grown out of hand, creating an almost overwhelming threat of catastrophic fire. According to the U.S. Forest Service's own estimates, our national forests are 82 percent denser than they were in 1928. This thick undergrowth, combined with increasingly taller layers of intermediate trees, has turned Western forests into deadly fire time bombs.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, when a fire starts, it quickly climbs up the dense tree growth like a ladder, until it tops out at the uppermost or crown level of the forest and races out of control as a catastrophic fire. Because of its high speed and intense heat, a crown fire has the capability of leaving an almost sterile environment in its wake, with almost no vegetation, wildlife or habitat left behind.
For example, in 1996, California experienced its worst fire season on record with more than 550,000 acres catastrophically burned throughout California. It is important to recognize that these were not the historically ''good fires'' that merely cleaned out the dense underbrush. These catastrophic fires destroyed the environment, destroyed habitat, and destroyed everything in their path.
These dangerous conditions, however, are not irreversible. The Forest Service, if redirected by the Congress, must begin taking proactive steps which would restore forest health. These forests require an aggressive policy that should focus on thinning out of smaller trees and dense underbrush to restore our forests to their historic healthy conditions.
Regrettably, this policy is not being implemented because of mandates from the agency's Washington offices, and directives from the Clinton-Gore administration. The Forest Service in the field is suffering from a virtual paralysis.
In yet another area, I am also very concerned about the lack of accountability of the Forest Service for its financial resources. For example, in a December 29, 1996, letter to the Budget Committee chairman, the GAO noted the Forest Service could not account for the way it spent $215 million in its 1995 budget. In addition, in a March 26 joint hearing before the House Budget, Resources, and Appropriations Committees, Mr. Barry Hill, associate director of the General Accounting Office, testified that although the Forest Service had been notified of areas where it needed to improve ''that agency has not acted on some of the recommendations, has studied and restudied others without implementing them, and has left the implementation of others to the discretion of its independent and autonomous regional offices, and, fourth, with mixed results.''
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, and members, this problem must be corrected. In closing, I urge this committee to redirect the mission of the Forest Service on two very important issues. First, this agency must move away from its current extreme environmental agenda that for years has literally destroyed our national forests. Second, we must demand a complete revamping of Forest Service financial accountability.
Mr. Chairman and members, with the leadership of this committee, we can proactively, sensibly and aggressively turn this agency around. Again, I thank you for this opportunity to testify on these very crucially important issues.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman for his testimony.
Are there questions of Mr. Herger?
Mr. FARR. In your district, you have nine national forests in it, but from your statement, I think you are just concentrating your efforts on the forest management practices, not on the forest recreational practices. Are you also saying they have destroyed our forests for recreational purposes?
Mr. HERGER. I don't believe, Mr. Farr, that that is what I am saying. As you are very appropriately pointing out, recreation is crucially important there. In the 5 minutes that I had, I did not address that, but it really is not being done for recreational area purposes.
Our forest health is being destroyed, which is very much affecting recreation and everything else. A forest that has been completely burned to the ground, whose soil is sterile, as we find in many areas, one area just north of Lake Tahoe, for example, in the cottonwood fire just a couple years ago, is not good for recreation, it isn't good for habitat or anything.
So we are seeing the general policy of hands off, leaving the forests as they are, which, by, again, very well-meaning people, beginning really around the turn of the century where we began stopping all forest fires, has created this situation of incredibly dense forests that now when the lightning strikes, as is very common, as you are undoubtedly aware, we may have 11- or 13,000 lightning strikes during a summer, we are seeing catastrophic fires that destroy everything.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So in answer to your question, we are seeing a misdirection of management which is dramatically adversing every aspect of our force, including our ability to be able to have people enjoy recreation in those areas as well.
Mr. FARR. One follow-up question, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Sure.
Mr. FARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You and I are from the same State. You have State forests in your congressional district as well. Is there a different management policy on State forests than there is on Federal forests?
Mr. HERGER. There is. I am far more satisfied with the management we have of our State forests. We much more aggressively go out and deal with, for example, how we fight forest fires with the State of California than we do in general. I am much more pleased with our State efforts than we are the Federal efforts. I believe we need a redirection in both.
The CHAIRMAN. Further questions of Mr. Herger?
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Following up on that. Does your State Forest Service do anymore sophisticated or different type of forest management than is done on the Federal lands? For example, any thinning done on any kind of as-needed or regular basis, or removal of dead and diseased trees on any kind of regular basis?
Mr. HERGER. I am not an expert on how our State of California manages that, so what I do hear from those people that are on the ground, that perhaps because the bureaucracy is smaller, they are able to move thisI mentioned a paralysis. There is literally a paralysis, particularly in the way our Federal forests are managed, in that there is no sense of direction. There is this fight going on within the Forest Service, should we manage. I think it is recognized, the horrendous situation we have, but yet because of the extreme environmental community on one side saying, don't do anything, basically saying they would prefer to have our forests burn to the ground than go in and manage them, and this feeling that we need to do something, that we are intent to doing nothing.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would say on the State side, they are more aggressive at least in moving in and generally managing them in a more positive way. I don't know if I could be more direct in that, but I do hear this from people that are on the ground. And I think it is more because of the fact of a smaller bureaucracy closer toand this isn't against people, necessarily, we have very highly dedicated people that work with the Forest Service, that work with the State of California, but I think it is more of the feeling that their hands are tied at the Federal level, far more so, to do what needs to be done than, say, the State of California is.
The CHAIRMAN. Further questions of Mr. Herger?
Thank you, Congressman. You are invited to join us at the dais if you choose to.
Mr. HERGER. I appreciate that, Mr. Chairman. And as you know, of course, I served with you several years ago on this committee. Your committee is incredibly popular.
The CHAIRMAN. That is the reason we invited you back.
Mr. HERGER. It is about 50 percent larger, it would appear. I almost need binoculars to look up there and see you up there, but I appreciate the invitation. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Our first panel is Chief of the Forest Service Dombeck; joining him, Mr. Francis Pandolfi, Chief Operations Officer of the U.S. Forest Service.
Mr. DOMBECK. Good morning, Mr. Chairman and committee members.
The CHAIRMAN. Chief, you may want to introduce your group, and I suggest you may need them all before the day is over.
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, that is precisely why I brought them, so we had every possible answer we could give you here today, because I think we share many of the concerns. You know, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman and committee members, I have been in this job now about 17 months
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I'm sorry, Chief, would you mind introducing the panel with you, please.
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me start on my right with Robert Lewis, who is Deputy Chief for Research. Janice McDougle is State and Private Forestry. Robert Joslin, National Forest System; Frances Pandolfi, Chief Operating Officer; Ron Stewart is Programs and Legislation; and Bill Wasley is head of our Law Enforcement Division, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MIKE DOMBECK, CHIEF, FOREST SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. DOMBECK. I realize there are philosophical differences over how to best achieve, I think, common goals that many, many of us share, and I also recognize that many of the issues that we face are issues that are of intense debate in society as well. However, I do want to commit to the entire Congress and particularly you, Mr. Chairman, the importance of maintaining a good positive working relationship and focus on as many of the common objectives as we can as we work through this. I would like to cover about two or three areas in my statement here, and I would ask that my written testimony be submitted for the record.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. DOMBECK. I would first like to talk a little about the President's budget and respond to some of the questions in your letter of invitation to this hearing, and then I would like to move on and talk about financial management and accountability and address some of the points that were brought up by both you and Congressman Herger as well.
Our 1999 request calls for an increase of 2 percent in discretionary funding. We manage about 191 million acres of national forests and grasslands, and we have about a $30 billion infrastructure, and our work force is about 2 percent smaller than it was last year.
We provide services that support approximately 860 million visits on the public lands each year. We have about 373,000 miles of roads, used by about 1.7 million vehicles per day, and we have an overall budget of about $3.3 billion in the Forest Service. The budget also includes about $127 million to provide support for Presidential initiatives of the Clean Water Action Plan; to deal with recreation, road, trail and facility maintenance and research.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, in the Forest Service agenda which I outlined earlier this year, we really cover four emphasis areas: No. 1, watershed health and restoration; No. 2, sustainable forest management; No. 3, the road system; and No. 4, recreation. I would like to hit some high points on some of the increases that I believe go at least in the positive direction in some of the areas that you mentioned, although I understand they are not far enough.
We are calling for about a $12 million increase to provide an additional 12,000 acres of watershed improvements. We are asking for an additional $15 million increase, or a 30 percent increase, for hazardous fuels reduction, a critical tool for restoring forest health, and with that, we hope to do about 1.5 million acres of thinning.
We are asking for a $20 million increase in arranged vegetation management to deal with the restoration of approximately 42,000 acres of range management and about 55,000 acres for noxious weed control.
In the area of sustainable forest management, we are asking for an increase of about $10 million in forest and rangeland research that deals primarily with accelerating annualized inventories, moving forward on forest inventory and analysis.
We are asking for increases in a number of areas in State and private forestry programs to help individual landowners, communities and States capture the benefits of forests through Forest Stewardship Programs, Forest Legacy Programs and Urban and Community Forestry.
We plan to develop a national report on the condition of the Nation's forests, based upon Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Temporal and Boreal Forests. The Criteria and Indicators provide a common understanding of what is meant by sustainable forest management and a common framework for evaluating progress.
The President's budget recognizes the important challenges associated with recreation and proposes a $21 million increase in the Recreation Use Program to deal with the increasing recreational workload on national forests.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I would like to take a few minutes and talk about the issues of accountability in financial management. I certainly agree that the Forest Service finds itself with a tremendous challenge as we deal with the issues of business management and accountability. And I agree with the GAO and the IG reports that were the subject of a hearing held on March 26.
The fact is the Forest Service operates on an accumulation of faulty or outdated information systems. In this agency, we do 75 million transactions a month; we have got 800 data entry points, 40 systems that aren't necessarily connected. And the basic problem we have is that we have a culture in the agency that is a decentralized culture, and I think everyone agrees that natural resource management decisions need to be made on a watershed-by-watershed, State-by-State, decentralized nature. But a credit and a debit is the same if you are in Oregon or Florida or Alaska. The systems that we have from the variety of trust funds that we deal with is virtually a system that we are drowning in in complexity, and I think much of the concern that you have and I have as well, from the standpoint of complexity, is the amount of money it takes to go to overhead, and we need to work as hard as we possibly can with regard to getting more money to the land.
Recognizing these problems, when I came into the job, one of the first things we did is hired a Big 10 accounting firm, Coopers & Lybrand, to come in and take a look at the budget structure, the various accounting practices, and we received that report within the last month, and we are moving very quickly to implement many of the recommendations of that report. In fact, just last week the Secretary and I announced the creation of a chief financial officer position for the agency, with line authority over the business management side of the organization. We brought on Mr. Pandolfi, with many, many years of private sector managerial experience, to assist us with that. We are moving forward on improving our financial systems through the testing and implementation of the foundation financial system. By the end of June, we will have complete information on real and personal properties of the Forest Service, where they are and where they are located.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I want to stress the fact that if the Forest Service were a Fortune 500 company, it would rate 451. The complexities that we deal with are tremendous, and it is going to take the work of all of us, the hard work of all of us, and close working relationships with the oversight groups like GAO and the Inspector General's Office and Congress to make these changes.
It took Jack Welles 10 years with an organization the size of General Electric, and although we all hope that the Forest Service can move much more quickly than that, we have begun to lay out milestones, make progress, and I am prepared to have Mr. Pandolfi talk about the issues of the urgency of business management.
What I would say is that of all the challenges that I face and that we face in the leadership of this organization, this issue of fiscal integrity and accountability is probably the most significant challenge we face, because without having the data systems in place that help us prioritize where the money goes, to find out where the efficiencies and inefficiencies are within the management structure of the organization, the job will be much more difficult, so we have to move forward quickly on this.
And I would like to stop there, and I would be happy to answer any questions, but I realize that Congressman Herger brought up the $215 million question and the concern, and one of the things I asked the staff to do when I first heard about this real or perceived issue, I asked them to look into it very thoroughly, and Mr. Pandolfi is prepared to answer that question at the appropriate time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dombeck appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the Chief.
Mr. Pandolfi, can you answer the question within a reasonable amount of time?
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PANDOLFI. Yes, I can.
Mr. Chairman, it is inaccurate that the Forest Service does not know where $215 million was spent. The Forest Service knows exactly where that $215 million was spent. It is unfortunate that the General Accounting Office has allowed this perception of the fact that we don't know to persist. The fact is that Forest Service accounts for all the money it spends with an accounting system which relies upon management codes. That is something that the Forest Service has been doing for many, many, many years. With respect to the 1995 budget or expenditures in 1995, the Forest Service reported fully in a management code basis where every penny went.
The General Accounting Office has another form of accounting. They use object class codes, which are used throughout the Government. I cannot tell you why the Forest Service was not asked to use object class codes 10 or 15 years ago when they began to use management codes, but they were not. With respect to the fact that the management codes add up to the correct amount, the object class codes do not, and it was not possible to determine the correlation between management codes.
The CHAIRMAN. So it is a technical glitch.
Mr. PANDOLFI. It is strictly technical. We know where every penny went.
The CHAIRMAN. How many airplanes does the Forest Service own, Mr. Pandolfi?
Mr. PANDOLFI. I don't know. I don't have that information, Congressman.
The CHAIRMAN. I see. Well, get it for me, will you?
Mr. PANDOLFI. I would be happy to.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know, Chief?
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. We will have a complete accounting of the personal and real property by June 30. Of the efforts to get the data to do the inventories, that was the first major effort that we initiated, and I am pleased to say we are making good progress on that front.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Mr. Chairman, in 1995, the Forest Service owned 42, and as of 1997, we owned 43, and we are currently in negotiations with some companies in the Justice Department over a number of other planes, so we should have that information shortly.
The CHAIRMAN. And where are they, please?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Where are they?
The CHAIRMAN. Where are they based?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. They are all over the country.
The CHAIRMAN. Are there any overseas?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Not to my knowledge. Now, we do lease planes, and we have no control over where they go.
The CHAIRMAN. Get me the accurate information, where are the airplanes, how many are there, are they domestic or are any overseas, and what kind are they.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. OK.
[The information follows:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
The CHAIRMAN. Chief, I want to ask you several questions that can be answered by yes or no answer, if you don't mind. And I don't mean to restrict you, and if you feel like you must embellish your answer, you may. But in the effort of time, I want to ask you some rather obvious questions quickly.
Is the information that you provide to Congress in your budget accurate and reliable?
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Does your budget request include all of your funding priorities for fiscal year 1999?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I believe it does. What it does not include are all of the projects we would like to do. For example, in the area of thinning, where we asked for a 30 percent increase to get us up to 1.5 million acres, and I want to point out that has doubled since the request of 1997.
Mr. DOMBECK. That is in your budget request?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. We would like to be doing at least 3 million acres of thinning to make faster progress on the backlog.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, why don't you ask for it?
Mr. DOMBECK. It is a matter of balancing the priorities that we have and the constrained budget.
The CHAIRMAN. A constrained budget by whom? The Congress provides the money for your budget.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Mr. Chairman, the Congress was gracious enough to provide the Forest Service in fiscal year 1998 $4 million, to which was added an additional $4 million to the Department of Interior to develop mapping for high-risk fire areas. We expect that mapping to be completed in November of this year and is being conducted by our researchers.
The CHAIRMAN. You have identified high-risk areas, have you?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We have not mapped those areas, and we expect to have those maps in November of this year.
The CHAIRMAN. That is after another fire season, that is handy.
So does your budget, Mr. Chief, fully incorporate the Natural Resource Agenda for the 21st century?
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. It incorporates high-priority projects in all of the areas. There is a lot more to do than money available to do it.
The CHAIRMAN. Has your Natural Resources Agenda been approved by Secretary Glickman?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, it has.
The CHAIRMAN. And by the White House?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe so, although I have not asked for White House approval, nor have I received any objections from them.
The CHAIRMAN. You wouldn't be here without White House approval, surely.
Mr. DOMBECK. There is administration support for it that is reflected in the budget request, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Let's move to questions. My time is up.
Mr. STENHOLM. I am a little curious about this number in the roads section of 33 percent administrative overhead expense. Could you amplify on that?
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me ask Deputy Chief Joslin to get out the briefing sheets on that. The overhead covers a variety of things, and do you want to amplify that, Bob?
Mr. JOSLIN. Yes, sir. The overhead and program management of $31 million in the fiscal 1999 is down $5 million from what it was the previous year here in 1998.
Mr. STENHOLM. Let me stop you right there. When you went down $5 million, what was the $5 million spent on last year that you have determined would not be appropriate for this year?
Mr. JOSLIN. That is based on the fact that we have downsized and reduced a number of people that we have in engineering for the oversight program management in connection with the engineering functions on the National Forest System.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STENHOLM. You probably couldn'twell, let me try, and if you need to present this for the committee, fine. What is the size of the engineering department of the Forest Service?
Mr. JOSLIN. I don't have the numbers. We can get that for you, Congressman.
Mr. STENHOLM. Yes, numbers, people, because it just seems to me, and I will let you finish answering in a moment, but it just seems to me that one-third$1 out of every $3 for administrative overhead just jumps out at me in saying we have a heck of a lot of bureaucracy that we don't need, given the budget we are submitting within the confines of the budget. But go ahead and see if you can amplify a little further on where we are spending that money.
Mr. JOSLIN. That money is in connection with all the engineering programs that we have in connection with roads; not only the construction that we have, the reconstruction, the maintenance, the oversight of all of that, including the planning and carrying out of those programs, and oversight of the actual construction. So it covers a broad group of folks throughout the whole agency where we carry on those programs, and we can provide that information to you on the specific numbers and so forth, and we will.
[The information follows:]
["The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. STENHOLM. Did Coopers & Lybrand get into that, as far as the recommendations they made? Mr. Dombeck, do you have recommendations from them in this report they gave to you that deals in this general area?
Mr. DOMBECK. Not specific to roads, but in the whole area of overhead costs, one of the best ways for us to get a good, credible handle on this is by having good, simplified accounting systems.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I think if there was anything that Coopers & Lybrand told us about this whole area, the Forest Service has one of the most complex budgets. We have 100,000 management codes in the National Finance Center. We have 2 million management codes on the books. Some of these management codes have as little as a $5,000 to $50,000 annual activity level in them, and this is in an organization with a $3 billion budget.
And this complexity is killing us as an organization, and we have to simplify it. It increases the overhead costs, and it also makes it much more difficult for us to be up to date with the proper accounting procedures, and those are the kinds of things Coopers & Lybrand helps us with.
Is there anything else you can add to that, Francis?
Mr. STENHOLM. Well, when could we reasonably expect that you could take the recommendations and, in your management capacity, resubmit a management plan that eliminates all of these codes and things that you have already stated are totally unnecessary, counterproductive? How long do you anticipate it will take you to get a handle on it?
Mr. DOMBECK. I am not saying they all need to be eliminated, but what they need to do is be streamlined. And Francis has been working with Coopers & Lybrand and much of the staff, and let me ask Francis to elaborate on that.
Mr. PANDOLFI. We have already started to make some of the changes that are indicated in their report. It will take, however, a very long time to revamp the business model of the Forest Service because the Forest Service is so large and complex. And it is very difficult to give you a time. I know what you want, I mean, you want to know what is going to happen next month, the month after. I would, too. I would have demanded that in my own business, but it is very hard to do that right now.
Mr. STENHOLM. Let me just put in the proper context my question of you. We have been rather interested in overall efficiencies of operations of USDA since the early 1980's. Chairman Smith and I conducted numerous hearings all over the country in 1982, 1983, of which we have the same answers coming, not from you, but some of you. But I can go in department after department, in which we have had years of answers of the same thing, and I just don't want you to take it personal, but there are too many folks in the bowels of the bureaucracy of Government that do not understand the budget pressures that you are under. Too many Members of Congress do not understand the budget pressures that you are under. But if we are going to deal efficiently in this case with forests, we have got to do a better job of management, and somebody has to yank some bureaucrats down below in saying, your job is no longer necessary, we can't afford you anymore.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I will specifically, Mr. Chairman, use one other example. Mr. Combest is not here, but a year and a half ago, we had a hearing concerning loan applications for farm and ranch loans. A year and a half ago, we were shown that one agency of Government, SBA, had a stackyou can get an application of a guaranteed loan that is that thick. Ours in USDA was that thick. A year and a half later, we haven't addressed it.
I know the frustration you are going at. I am not personally at you, but I am personally to those below you. Something tells me if you have a third overhead in a highway in the road-building, you have a heck of a lot more bureaucracy than we can afford, given the budget for road construction and all the other recreational needs.
If there is anything we can do to help you with that, I am here to help, but you have to get the attention of the folks behind, and you don't have the luxury of saying a month, 2, 3, 4. The budget is going to eat us alive because it is not going up. We have to extract efficiencies within our agencies, and we seem to be just running into a stone wall.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman for a very accurate statement and, I think, the feeling of most of us in Congress.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Dombeck, in response to a question that the chairman asked about the planes, the aircraft that the Forest Service owns, I thought that Ms. McDougle said something to the effect of we have leased planes, and we have no control over where those are. I would like her to expand upon that.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We have contracts with these companies to make those planes available on an as-needed basis, and that varies from season to season, in which part of the country that we need them.
I did say that the Forest Service ownsas of 1997, we owned 43 planes, but available to us is a little over 1,100 planes. So to the extent that we need them and in what capacity we need them, then we determine where each plane should go, and they make them available.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Sometimes the Forest Service is asked to provide technical assistance abroad. That usually doesn't involve equipment, it usually involves people to help out in some way in providing technical assistance.
Mr. POMBO. So when you say that you have no control over where those planes are, you are not saying that a plane that is under the control of the Forest Service, that you have no control over where it is?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. No, no.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Dombeck, according to the USDA Inspector General's Office, in 1997, you estimated your road reconstruction backlog at $5 to $6 billion. The inspector general concluded that this estimate had no reliable statistical basis, was inflated and not readily supported. Most recently, however, you have claimed that there is a $10 billion backlog in road reconstruction needs in the national forests. With 380,000 miles of roads in the National Forest System, that works out to about $26,000 per mile. How can you support such an estimate?
Mr. DOMBECK. The estimate of $10 billion was derived from our more recent work, I believe, that was in the intermountain region, region 4, and the engineers, I am told, did a very detailed analysis there, and that information was then extrapolated.
Is that right, Bob?
Mr. JOSLIN. That is right.
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. POMBO. So you did an estimate from one region, and extrapolated that over the entire system, and you came to a figure of approximately $26,000 per mile for the entire system?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is correct. I might add that this includes 7,700 bridges, of which we would like to be doingto keep up with the backlog on bridges, we would like to be doing about 150 or more bridge replacements a year. Currently we are only funded to do about 40. We are asking for increases in some of those areas.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. So you cannot point out on a map or by forest exactly where this road work is, is needed, because you just extrapolated from one region?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe the detailed data isn't something that we have in the Washington office, and I am not sure it is something we should have from the standpoint of the maps, but the individual forests know where their highest priority projects are in the individual forests, and forest engineers know where the work needs to be done.
Mr. POMBO. Where in your list of Forest Service priorities would you place the road reconstruction backlog problem, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being highest, 10 being lowest? Where would it fall?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would say it is very high. It depends how tough a grader you are. Somewhere in the area of 2 to 3, and that depends. We have arterial and collector roads. We have 86,000 miles of arterial and collector roads which carry about 80 percent of the traffic, and those would typically be paved roads, more expensive roads to maintain. In fact, because of the backlog there, we have had to downgrade. Roads that are arterial and collector roads are typically passable by a family vehicle, a two-wheel drive, by station wagon, a car, but because of the level of deterioration of some of the roads, access has actually been reduced because of the inability to maintain that system.
Mr. POMBO. So the recreational opportunities are being reduced because of your backlog on road reconstruction?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is correct.
Mr. POMBO. Your fiscal year 1999 budget request includes $107 million for road maintenance and $26.5 million for road reconstruction. Combined, this is about 1 percent of your stated backlog. If it is such a high priority, why is the request for 1 percent of the backlog?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, again, it is a matter of balancing programs. We have, I believe, a 26 percent increase in the overall request for roads. It is something thatbut we do need to ratchet that up as quickly as we can in the upcoming years.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. I realize it is a matter of priority, but what would you consider a higher priority than this?
Mr. DOMBECK. As you look at the wide variety of programs we deal with, the urban-wildland interface issue, public safety, water supplies, the list of challenges that we have and the list of programs that we have is very, very long.
Mr. POMBO. In the fiscal year 1999 budget request, you have a total Forest Road Program request of $96 million. Is that $96 million used 100 percent for timber roads and for the removal of timber from national forests?
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me ask Bob Joslin to answer that question.
Mr. JOSLIN. No, it isn't, Congressman.
And if I could go back, when you were talking about reconstruction, also, there are nearly 3,000 miles of reconstruction that will be carried out through the Timber Sale Program, so that the majority of many of those in that reconstruction category would also be to correct environmental problems. So that is in addition to what you mentioned earlier.
Mr. POMBO. And the $96 million, the question was, is that used 100 percent for the Timber Program and the removal of timber from national forests?
Mr. JOSLIN. Not 100 percent, no. Part of that is for general construction.
Mr. POMBO. Do you ever try to quantify the amount of money or the amount of use out of that $96 million that should accurately be portrayed in the Timber Program and which percent should accurately be portrayed toward recreation, fire suppression and other uses of our national forests?
Mr. JOSLIN. Other than the figures Chief Dombeck quoted earlier about the traffic that is generated on those, that that pertains to timber, that pertains to recreation, we do not collect data on all of the roads on a continuous basis.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. My time has expired, Mr. Chairman. Hopefully we will have a second round.
The CHAIRMAN. We will have time for a second round.
Mr. FARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We were in the Resources Committee, and I found the same thing in this committee, everybody here loves the forest. Half the people like them horizontal, half the people like them vertical.
And I noticed that in this panel, you are going to have the recreational element with Dr. Rollin Sparrowe and Derrick Crandall speaking to you. And I was noticing in the budget, essentially your budget is almost equal in the cost of managing the forest management versus the recreational use; that there is about maybe a $40 million difference between the two budgets, the forest management budget being a little bit higher.
See, the way the budgets are presented to us, Mr. Chairman, is we can find out what the cost is of managing these programs, which shows the recreation and the forestland are similar, but we don't know what the incomes are, and I would like to know if we could get some information of comparing incomes of both of the uses, incomes derived from recreational uses and incomes derived from timber sales. I remember the report last year showed the cost of timber sales. I think one of the criticism was that we were spending more money on the Forest Management Program than the income we derived from the sale of our forests.
As an old budget analyst, it seems to me one of the things we ought to have in this committee, because most of the funds, as I understand it, don't go into a special fund, they go into the general fund, and the policy work of this committee then gets kind of lost. Is there a way of being able to give us the incomes, and would you comment for a moment? I know this hearing is concentrating on the forest management practices, but I represent one of those forests where we don't have any timber sales, we don't have any mining, we have very little grazing, essentially we are a recreational forest, and we are the largest forest and land area in California. It is the Los Padres National Forest, the northern section. The southern section may have some oil and gas income.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I get a sense, and I think a lot of other members of this committee, the Agriculture Committee, are from areas that don't have national forests, and their constituents use the forest for recreational purposes, whereas the chairman's committee, Mr. Herger and others, their districts are using the forests for business purposes. And the recreation is a business, too, because you lease out a lot of the concessions in forests and so on.
The CHAIRMAN. If the gentleman will yield.
Mr. FARR. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. The purpose of this hearing, as I announced before you came in, was to review the 1999 President's budget for the United States Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. That includes your questions of recreation, of the total budget, so whatever question you ask is perfectly in line with the agenda.
Mr. FARR. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I am looking at the budget right here, and there is a budget item on recreation, so could you comment on the income from recreation?
Mr. DOMBECK. I might ask Mr. Pandolfi, but let me start by saying the most accurate information we have was what was published in the RPA last year, that the total contribution to the gross domestic product of the National Forest System was somewhere in the neighborhood of $130 billion, and of that, approximately 80 to 85 percent, I believe, I don't have the numbers right in front of me, were associated with amenity values, recreation, hunting, fishing, bird watching, hiking, biking, all those kinds of things.
And let me ask Francis if he can elaborate on that a little bit.
Mr. PANDOLFI. The number that the Chief just indicated that is in the RPA relates to economic impact on communities all over the Nation. That is not income to the Forest Service or to the Federal Government, but it is an accuratewe believe an accurate representation of the value of recreation on national forests.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As for the income that might come to the Forest Service or the Federal Government from recreation, there is a program in place now that you are aware of, I am sure, called the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, and that program is just gearing up. Those dollars, because of the way Congress has structured the program, will come to the Forest Service as opposed to going to the Treasury, and we will be able to use those to offset the costs of providing better recreation opportunities on the forests.
One other thing I should add is that with respect to more general terms to providing more traditional income statements, if you will, where you know the income and the costs will be represented to specific programs, that will eventually be possible, but again, it will take considerable time.
The Forest Service is in a position where it has very poor financial information. You have all said that, we understand that. This situation developed over 20 years, and it simply isn't going to be fixed overnight. We have a plan to fix it, we believe that can be done, and we hope it will be done as soon as possible.
Mr. FARR. Will it be able to compare the recreational incomes versus other sources of income?
Mr. PANDOLFI. You will be able to compare them. However, you are going to have to do more general economic analysis at that time to determine the value of the programs, because the economic impact of the programs is not solely the income we get from the Rec Fee Demo Program, but it is also the economic impact on the local communities all around the Nation. The value of the program goes far beyond just the income that we collect from it.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to thank you for holding these hearings.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My district in Virginia includes more than 1 million acres of national forestland. About a third of all the lands in my congressional district is owned by the Federal Government, so the economy of large portions of my district is dependent upon the management and use of those lands, both public and private, related to forestry.
The forest lands in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests are suffering greatly from lack of resources to properly manage them. I have heard Congressman Herger describe the problems he is having in California. Eastern forests are quite different than forests in California, yet we are suffering some of the same types of problems from lack of proper management of the forests, and I suspect that is primarily because of lack of resources.
So when I see these figures regarding what is being spent on general overhead and what is being spent here in Washington, knowing of the limitations that your good peopleand they are good people who work on the ground in my district haveit is truly amazing to me.
Let me ask you, Mr. Dombeck, you have reduced your fiscal year 1999 request for general administration line item of your budget by about $3.3 million. Is the $259 million or 8 percent of the forest budget adequate to cover your general administration costs?
Mr. DOMBECK. It is, as the general administration line item covers a variety of things. In fact, I have a list here of the thingsline management, salaries. We have got procurement, policy analysis, property management, the National Finance Center, the data processing that we talked about, fiscal and accounting, and a wide variety of things.
One of the trends that is a problem for us, as well a problem for you, in this whole area is our budget structure; and many of our systems were put in place in an era when the agency was harvesting and selling 10, 11, or 12 million board feet of timber. Many members of the committee were on this subcommittee at that time. We find ourselves in a situation today where we are talking about a 3 1/2 to 4 billion board foot program.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Do you think that should be increased? What you are saying is that would reflect higher revenues to the Forest Service that would help to justify some of your higher overhead costs, is that right?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is part of it. We come from a system that was built around the ability to put the cost of management on the back of timber. That is no longer the case.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me ask you this. Is the demand for forest products in the United States declining?
Mr. DOMBECK. The demand for forest products in the United States is increasing at about 1 percent per year.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Why would we cut the production in our national forests, which renders them more unhealthy because of the fact that we have the problems that Congressman Herger described, and they exist in other parts of the country as well? Why would we pursue a policy of cutting by two-thirds the harvesting of timber under circumstances that reduces the justification for the massive overhead that you still have? You were very quick to cut the production of timber but woefully slow about following up with cutting the cost of overhead in the department.
Why would you see that as a justification for that type of a policy and continuing that type of an overhead cost?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would be happy to discuss some of the forest health and some of the silvicultural issues that your question relates to. But let me say that the bulk of the reduction in timber harvest was a result of court action and litigation that we were involved in the spotted owl issue, and I know the chairman knows many of these issues very, very well, as do many people at the table here.
I would ask Ron
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Let me cut you off a little bit there. Because what concerns me about that is that legislation that has been proposed in this Congress, including legislation offered by the chairman, would have cured some of those litigation ills that you cited here. Yet we had woefully little support from the administration in our efforts to do that.
The CHAIRMAN. None. Zero. Thank you.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me get to some of the specifics here. You have, as I understand it, a $10 billion backlog in road, not construction, here. Let's not talk about building new roads, which is a whole other issue, but road reconstruction costs. You have $96.1 million total for that.
Dividing that into $10 billion, that is 100 years. It will take 100 years, at your current costs, to reconstruct the roads that currently need reconstruction, to say nothing of the fact that I think maybe in 10, 20, 30 years some other roads are going to need reconstruction.
How can you justify watershed of that, or $31 million, going not for work on the ground, reconstructing those roads, but for overhead?
Mr. DOMBECK. I, too, am concerned about the overhead, as we stated before. But it is also important to realize that the Forest Service Roads Program is a program that has had very little support, which is one of the key reasons that we moved to take a look at the overall road policies of the Forest Service.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I support giving you more money for it but not if watershed is going to go to bureaucracy rather than actually helping for recreation, as the gentleman from California pointed out, and for timber harvesting, which is needed for the health of the forest, and for wildlife management and protection of the environment and a whole host of other multiple uses. Our forests are not being served by wasting that money on bureaucracy outside of the forest.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I couldn't agree with you more. The more aggressively we move forward and streamline our systems and get our business and accountability systems in order, the quicker we will be able to move more of the precious resources to the ground.
I also would like to state that in 1996 the Forest Service came within one vote in the House of Representatives of losing 80 percent of our roads' budget. It is a program that has been controversial. It is a program that has been tough to deal with. It is a program that I felt it was important that we take some significant steps to take a look at, the underpinning policies and where the problems and controversies really lie.
Mr. GOODLATTE. What support has the administration given you in fighting against that type of tide from people who live in urban areas and suburban areas and have no real appreciation for the importance of these forests in fighting against eliminating our road budget the way that theyI saw very little of it.
Mr. DOMBECK. I think you will see that increase. People have to understand that a good portion of the Forest Service Roads Program is part of the rural transportation infrastructure. I was raised on a Forest Service road, 164 in the Chequamegon National Forest, that is blacktopped today. It is a bus route and a school route. And yet, in the eyes of too many people, Forest Service roads equal logging equal sedimentation equal bad.
I believe we have to work together to redefine what the road system really is and to link it to the rural needs and work closely with counties, their growth projections, zoning, whatever, to look at the underpinning policies of the road system. That is what we hope to accomplish.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I would ask the committee for unanimous consent to address one question to the Chief before we go forward. Is there objection to that?
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If not, Chief, let me say to you that that last testimony on roads is almost preposterous. Does the Secretary support your budget?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. I am going to refer to you a letter dated September 11, 1997, from Secretary Glickman to Senator Bryan. I am going to quote one sentence to you. This is Glickman to the Senator: ''As we discussed on the phone last night, the administration strongly supports the amendment you plan to offer in the fiscal 1998 Interior appropriations bill to eliminate the Forest Service Purchaser Road Credit Program and to reduce funding for road construction in national forests.''
Now, which Secretary is it?
Mr. DOMBECK. In fact, the debate that occurred in 1997 for the 1998 appropriation is again another reason that we felt it was important to address the roads program.
The CHAIRMAN. Is the Secretary going to oppose reduction when it comes to the floor in the House of Representatives and the Senate? Are you going to oppose cuts in the roads program?
Mr. DOMBECK. Both Jim Lyons and I testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that we would support the President's budget for the roads program.
The CHAIRMAN. But the Secretary has already endorsed your budget, right? That is to increase money for roads, correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. How can we have a Secretary opposing money for roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe that letter refers to last year's appropriations.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Of course it does. That is what I am trying to say to you. We have the same Secretary and the same Chief. Which is it going to be? Are you going to support the roads program or not?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Goode from Virginia.
Mr. GOODE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
How many employees, full-time employees, were with the National Forest Service on October 1, 1997?
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me ask if someone has the list.
The data that I have here, the ceiling that we had in 1993 was 43,000. What we have for fiscal year 1999 is approximately 35,000.
Mr. GOODE. You said ''ceiling''. Is that how many you have?
Mr. DOMBECK. Again, from the standpoint of permanent full-time, there are fewer than that. I think we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 28,000 to 29,000. I can get you that data for the record. Then we also have temporaries, seasonals, additional firefighters, additional kinds of employment categories.
Mr. GOODE. If you had a little chart showing how many W2s you mailed out in January of each year, it would show a steady decline from 1995?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe so, yes. In fact, I think we have had a 12 percent reduction from 1993 to the present in employees in the agency.
Mr. GOODE. To deal with the amount of administration and the number of employees you havebecause other questions and responses have been disturbing to me about how much personnel you have and what a large part of your budget that ishow do you deal with reducing force? Do you just have a policy of making no new hires? I know it is tough to lay off people.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. We have used a variety of techniques. We have had our early-out authority. I believe that since 1993 the Forest Service has done three or four buy-outs. I know since I have been chief we offered one buyout option where approximately 1,400 employees left the organization.
What this presents, it does present an unevenness from the standpoint of skill mix in the organization. Sometimes we have the right people and they are not quite in the right places, so we have a significant amount of adjustment to work through in that whole issue of skill mix.
Mr. GOODE. How many employees do you have in Virginia, offhand, do you know?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have the data of what we have on the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests and in research, State and private, but we could provide that for you for the record, if you wish.
Mr. JOSLIN. Congressman, one thing I would add to that is that, as you know, one of the other tools that we used in your State, for example, was putting a combination of both the G.W. and Jefferson under one administration. One forest supervisor and staff now handles the administration and management there, where previously we had two groups of people. So there has been a substantial number of folks reduced in connection with that.
Mr. GOODE. You mentioned your thinning policy. How much does that cost? How much do you think that will cost this coming year?
Mr. JOSLIN. Congressman, those figures' costs vary, depending on the location, whether you are down in the coastal plains or up here in the mountains, and the species. There is a big variance in the cost per acre of that, so you would have to go to the site-specific. The figures we have in the budget there are based on the average of all of those.
Mr. GOODE. Obviously you do, but do you think it is more efficient, more economical, to do the thinning than to allow select cutting? Do you say that is the same thing?
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOSLIN. No, there is a difference. I think, there again, you have to go to the particular stand that you are working on, what is there and what you are going to do; whether you want to thin below, for example, whether that could be select cutting, or whether it would be a noncommercial thinning. That would vary by the stands and the species involved.
Mr. GOODE. Over the last 5 years, have your thinning costs on a total basisnot getting into the different kinds of forests and where they are located, have those costs gone down or increased?
Mr. JOSLIN. Those costs have gone up slightly over that period of time that you are talking about on a per acre basis.
Mr. GOODE. The same way with your burn costs, have they gone up or gone down?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. In looking at a case-by-case basis, it is hard to say. What our western fire directors are telling us is that, in order to get in and treat acres with prescribed fire, we have to do something to between 60 to 80 percent of those acres in order to get the job done. So that is an east-west kind of situation, and it varies. But I think it has gone up slightly.
Mr. GOODE. We will just pick an arbitraryhere, from 1993 to 1998, it has gone up slightly each year, your burning costs, regardless of where it is?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Yes. And the President's budget includes a 30 percent increase in that piece of our business to accomplish an acceleration of that program.
Mr. GOODE. How much extra is it? How much does the President's budget increase it, on thinning?
Mr. JOSLIN. That number is down.
Mr. GOODE. OK. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Blunt from Missouri.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Joslin, why would you prefer to do thinning as opposed to commercial select cutting?
Mr. JOSLIN. As I mentioned earlier, some of the stands that you go into to reduce those fuels have material that has no commercial value, so you would have to look at each individual situation to make that determination.
Mr. BLUNT. When you do thinning do you then have to remove all the trees from the area and dispose of them in some way?
Mr. JOSLIN. Not necessarily. That would depend on what you have there, the amount of fuel. If you could get that down on the ground so you could then apply prescribed fire to it, there would be situations like that.
Mr. BLUNT. Chief Dombeck, I think in the natural resources agenda for the 21st century you said that your top priority is watershed and forest health restoration. Is that still accurate?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is correct. The four major elements are watershed restoration, sustainable forest management, roads, and recreation.
Mr. BLUNT. And in the watershed area, there are the 40 million acres currently of unacceptable risk of catastrophic fire, is that right?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is right. Let me explain what that 40 million is based on.
Mr. BLUNT. I only have 5 minutes, so explain it quickly.
Mr. DOMBECK. The 40 million is based upon the number of acres of pine type, with basic fires that might range from every 7 to, say, about 25 years.
Mr. BLUNT. How many total acres do you manage in the Forest Service?
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. One hundred ninety-one million.
Mr. BLUNT. So of 191 million, 40 million are in the potential catastrophic fire hazard
Mr. DOMBECK. It is at some level of risk. Again, that might go from extreme risk to minimal risk, ranging from the urban wildland interface issues to insect problems to disease problems to overcrowding problems.
Mr. BLUNT. But any level of risk would be unacceptable? I think that is the phrase used, maybe, in your study, ''unacceptable risk''?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe an objective and a goal that we share is we want forests in good shape.
Mr. BLUNT. In dealing with that 40 million acres, you are proposing to look at 1.5 million acres to reduce the fuels, a 1 1/2 million acres, double the thinning amount? What does that mean, double the thinning amount?
Mr. DOMBECK. What we have targeted, and I believe it was in 1997, was 750,000 acres of thinning. In fact, what we did is we exceeded that target. Because of the natureknowing that we had to move as fast as we had the resources to move, we did 1.1 million acres.
The proposal for the 1999 budget is to continue to increase that and increase that to 1.5 million. However, we would like to be able to do 3 million acres a year.
Mr. BLUNT. If you do 1.5so thinning is the way you are going to deal with the catastrophic
Mr. DOMBECK. It is one of the ways, yes.
Mr. BLUNT. Do you have any amount of acres planned to do things other than thinning then?
Mr. DOMBECK. I might ask Janice to talk about the specific acres regarding prescribed burning and some of the other tools.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCDOUGLE. As I said earlier, and this is primarily a western estimate, that our fire director's estimate that for pretreatment for these acres, that between 60 and 80 percent will need some kind of pretreatment, mechanical pretreatment, in order to get in there.
What they have done for budgeting purposes is, by region, report the number of acres they intend to treat. We can get that number by forest, and we are working on that right now. But they report by region the number of acres that they intend to treat, which could vary depending on weather conditions and other things that we have no control over.
Once we get this map that we are expecting in November, I think we can be a lot clearer on how we go about it and which acres are most at risk. Even though the 3 million acres that we are proposing by the year 2005 is pretty ambitious for us at this point in time, it appears that it will take forever to reach that 40 million acre goal, but we may not have to treat all 40 million acres to reduce the risk or the severity of the risk. There may be mechanical operations that we can do at points within those acres that will extremely reduce the risk for catastrophic fires. So it is a very much site-specific kind of approach that we are taking on this at this time.
What we intend to do when we get that map later on this year is overlay it with the map that we already have that indicates those locations throughout the country, across ownership, that currently are at risk for insect and disease. That will better help us refine where we intend to focus and prioritize our programs.
Mr. BLUNT. What is your estimate on how many acres are being added every year into that catastrophic category?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. That are being added?
Mr. BLUNT. Yes. You have 40 million this year. How many new acres are going to come into that category in the next 12 months to 24 months?
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCDOUGLE. We will be in a better position to answer that question once our mapping is completed, sir.
Mr. BLUNT. Is it possible that as many as 1 1/2 million acres might come into that category in this next year?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We may, after we get the map, see that our estimate is too high; and we may, after we get our maps, determine that our estimate is too low. Right now, we are unable to respond to that.
Mr. BLUNT. How long have you been working on this mapping project?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We got funding for it in fiscal year 1998.
Mr. BLUNT. You are going to have a map when, again? I know you have said that once already.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. November of this year is what we are told.
Mr. BLUNT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. It is possible, I might say to the gentleman, that if we have another catastrophic fire season, as we did in 1996 where we lost 4 million acres of forestland, we may not have a problem shortly, because there won't be any undercuts or threats of fire left.
Dr. COOKSEY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Pandolfi, is that correct, you are the accountant?
Mr. PANDOLFI. I do not have a degree in accounting. I am Chief Operating Officer of the Forest Service.
Dr. COOKSEY. You mentioned that GAO uses class codes and the Forest Service uses management codes. Do you use accrual accounting or cost accounting in your
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PANDOLFI. We use cash accounting.
Dr. COOKSEY. I want to see if this is correct. You receive $130 billion in revenues that are primarily from trees that are cut in the national forests, is that correct?
Mr. PANDOLFI. No, it is not, sir.
Dr. COOKSEY. What is that number?
Mr. PANDOLFI. Does anyone know? Hang on. $130 billion is when the Chief was referring to the economic value created by recreation. That is not an income figure. That is economic value.
Dr. COOKSEY. You don't know what it is for the timber that is cut?
Mr. JOSLIN. I can give you that for fiscal 1996. The timber was just over $186 million. In 1997, it was just over $194 million. That was in fiscal year
Mr. STEWART. If I may jump in for a minute, those are apples and oranges figures. I think you are talking about the revenue generated by the Timber Program. The other one talks about value-added; in other words, the multiplier effect within the economy of an activity.
The Timber Program, we usually count that by how much revenue it generates to the Federal Treasury and payments to States and so forth. In the Recreation Program, we don't collect fees for every activity. In fact, probably the largest activities in the national forest we don't charge anything for. But, nevertheless, people who buy gas, buy food, buy backpacks, hiking shoes, are generating revenue. So that is where the difference is.
Dr. COOKSEY. That is the $130 billion?
Mr. STEWART. Yes.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. COOKSEY. I have a question, Ms. McDougle. You are supposedly the expert on mapping. How are you mapping this? Are you using satellite maps? Are you using airplanes, or aerial mapping?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. As I understand it, we are using both; and we are also ground-truthing it.
Dr. COOKSEY. Our F4 squadron, which is a fighter plane, we had cameras and we flew over and took pictures. Those planes are mothballed at Davis Air Force Base. They are basically outmoded. Can't you do all of your mapping with satellite maps? Can't you just go out there and pick those up and have an instant resource of mapping, without spending money to do additional mapping?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We get considerable support from the Defense Department in much of our imagery, and some of it we do ourselves. It is depending on how specific we need it and what they make available to us.
Dr. COOKSEY. My point is that it seems if you go out and pay someone to have a plane and they fly over and take a photograph, like we did 30 years ago, that is redundant, because it should be available through satellite imagery. That is what the military is doing now. They can get a photograph of your license plate, I understand. And I got this not from any secret intelligence sources but from some newspaper or magazine. To me, that looks like it would be a more efficient way to do it.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. It is not, because of what they charge us.
Dr. COOKSEY. I see.
Another question. How many of you at this table grew up either in a national forest or in a forest, as opposed to an urban area or a suburban area?
Mr. Dombeck, I gather you did. Did anyone else?
Mr. JOSLIN. I grew up on a farm.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. COOKSEY. Are you like Mr. Moran? He just told me he doesn't have a tree in the State of Kansas.
Mr. JOSLIN. I was born and raised on a farm in southern Arizona, and we had trees there, even though it is in the desert.
Dr. COOKSEY. Good. I told Mr. Moran, there is a tree nursery close to my home, and I am going to bring him a tree so Kansas will have a forest.
So really, just the two of you grew up
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, I grew up in the Mississippi delta, and my dad had a 50-acre farm, and we had about 12 acres of woods.
Dr. COOKSEY. That is good. My district is just across the river from your delta area. I have an area where we have national forests in the State of Louisiana, and we have a lot of private land, too. My grandfather moved from Missouri to Louisiana in the timber industry. We have, I feel, done a good job of managing the private lands and the public lands. There have been some things that I have disagreed with in both.
I feel very strongly that we have a better idea about what can be done in our area than having someone from some faraway bureaucracy in Washington making that decision. I know there are a lot of bright people here in this city, but there are also a lot of very average people with very average minds. And I question the wisdom, and really the arrogance, of people that come to Washington, because they are either elected to office, like I am, or they are part of the bureaucracy or appointed by someone at the White House, and they think they know more about the local area than the people in that local area.
A case in point, the Mississippi delta. We have some people in my poorest parish in my district, which is the poorest parish in the State, which is the fourth poorest in the Nation. It is mostly Democrat, and I did not carry it, never will carry it, but there are wonderful people there.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They had a levee that was about to break, a Mississippi River levee. We had real high water the year before last. Some people from San Francisco who had never been to my district, never been to that parish, where there are a lot of predominant African-Americans, were under the threat of a flood. These people from San Francisco filed a suit that said they couldn't cut some cottonwood treescottonwood trees are really not very good, they are kind of trash treesto move the dirt up to increase the levee.
This is the kind of arrogance that we get from Washington, and we get from this group in San Francisco. They were willing to sacrifice these people in this poor parish, and they are primarily African-Americans, primarily Democrats, and they are good friends of mine. I did mission work in East Africa for about 6 years, so I have a good relationship up there.
But I don't have a good relationship with people that come in, or that never came in from San Francisco but filed a suit from San Francisco, and Lord knows why, to delay the elevation of the levee, or people from up here to tell us how to run our forests.
That is just a basic problem we have. Even though I am a freshman, it is my understanding that, as Members of Congress, we have an oversight responsibility. That is the reason for some of the questions that have been asked today and some of the seeming hostility that is felt. We have walked in the shoes of the people who have lived in these lands, whose livelihood is dependent on these lands and this timber, and we want to do the right thing, too.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. We will come back, if the panel can stay, as soon as we vote. This is a motion to instruct conferees.
The CHAIRMAN. If the hearing will come to order, I am pleased to recognize Mrs. Emerson from the great State of Missouri.
Mrs. EMERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate your holding this hearing, and thanks to Chief Dombeck and the other panelists who have come today.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC First, let me just say that I am pleased that the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program was discussed prior to my being here, but I am glad that you all talked about it, because I think it is a very critical program and ought to be improved by going to a 5-year cycle. I think that the program provides the hard data used by a lot of organizations, both public and private, and I just believe that a 5-year cycle would provide for better data and collection and perhaps allow you all to make better land management decisions at the same time.
Chief, I want to ask you a couple of questions having to do with Mark Twain National Forest, which is in Missouri, in my district. The majority of it is in my district.
The Mark Twain receives an extremely low dollar per thousand board foot budget from the Forest Service. In fact, it is my understanding that this is one of the reasons that the harvest levels in the Mark Twain are consistently below harvest capability. Can you give me an explanation as to why we have such a small allocation as compared to other forests?
Mr. DOMBECK. One of the concerns that I have and a concern that has been surfacing more lately is the allocation, and a couple of years ago new allocation criteria were established for those various budget line items. I might ask Bob Joslin if he can elaborate on that.
Mr. JOSLIN. Yes. In regard to the rates, that is based on the average cost of timber sale preparation, administration, and those kinds of things all across the country. And in your instance there in Missouri, as a part of region 9, those costs are collected, and then the allocation based on the amount of timber that is going to be offered for sale that year is sent back out on that same basis.
Mrs. EMERSON. So, for example, your officeand in correspondence from your office, I think that you stated a target of 55 million board feet for the Mark Twain. However, only 45 million is going to be harvested. You all have consistently harvested below your capacity or for what your targets are.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I guess I want to go back to what Mr. Pombo said, that when your budget request calls for a reduction in the timber sales management account, it is clear, at least in the Mark Twain, that we need to have an increase, rather than a decrease. This is a big problem.
Is there any other explanation that you all can provide about why the Mark Twain would be below harvest capability? In correspondence, you have said litigation costs have made less money available for timber sale preparation. In this particular case, for example, what would you do to compensate for these increased costs and still maintain an appropriate level of harvest?
Mr. JOSLIN. I can't speak specifically to what they did or did not receive.
Mrs. EMERSON. Could you get back to us on that?
Mr. JOSLIN. Yes, ma'am.
Mrs. EMERSON. I would be very grateful if you could do that, because it does provide, obviously, revenues to our communities; and it is very harmful to those communities, which are very poor, anyway, to not even be able to harvest what our capacity is.
[The Department responded:]
The Mark Twain National Forest submitted a request for fiscal year 1998 timber sales management funding stating that they were capable of offering a regular program of 52 million board feet (MMBF) at a unit cost of $44 per thousand board feet (MBF). In addition the forest also submitted a salvage timber volume capability of 3 MMBF. The eastern region's request for fiscal year 1998 regular timber sales management funding was submitted to the Washington Office at an average regional cost of $57.90 per MBF. For fiscal year 1998 the region received regular timber sales management funding at $56.46 per MBF to produce 436.5 MMBF. In turn, the Mark Twain received $42.84 per MBF to produce 50 MMBF under the regular program. Thus, for fiscal year 1998 the Mark Twain National Forest received nearly what it stated it was capable of producing, at nearly the unit cost it requested. Once the timber is offered by the Forest Service, it is the decision of the companies receiving the sale awards to decide when is the best time to harvest the timber within the timing flexibility provided in the contract. Thus, the amount of timber harvested in any year is not indicative of the work completed by the Forest Service in meeting its timber sale commitments.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All of the forests in the eastern region are experiencing increasing unit costs in their timber sales management programs due to a variety of factors. Although, nationwide, the regular timber sales management funding increased in fiscal year 1998 over fiscal year 1997, the fiscal year 1999 President's Budget proposes a decrease. Earmarks and special funding initiatives that emphasize timber programs in specific geographical areas can also reduce funding available for other parts of the country. When all these factors are taken into consideration, all forests, including the eastern region and the Mark Twain National Forest, are impacted.
Mrs. EMERSON. On a totally separate question, Chief, there is $3 million in your fiscal year 1999 budget proposal that has to do with global climate change. Can you tell me exactly what that is going to be used for?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think Robert Lewis knows a lot more of the details of the Global Climate Change Program, if he will address that, please.
Mr. LEWIS. Thank you. I will be very pleased to answer that.
We have a $3 million increase in our 1999 budget in not the global change program but in global change technologies. The research that we plan to conduct with this amount of money would focus on applied sciences. $1 million would go to the forest products lab, where we are diligently working to develop markets and uses of small diameter trees, primary out in the interior West.
We are also working on developing new biotechnology methods, biopulping, that will reduce the amount of pollution and allow industry to apply more efficient processing at the plant.
Also, we have $2 million, the remaining $2 million, which would focus primarily on managing short rotation, focused on carbon sequestration through effective management of resources on private lands as well as public lands. So this $3 million would be focused entirely on applied research and toward developing new technologies and better uses of materials that we have.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. EMERSON. And that is a separate office, for example? Is there an office for the climate change initiative technology?
Mr. LEWIS. The research dollars would be administered through three research branches of the research organization. One would be the forest products lab, located in Madison, Wisconsin. The other would be the southern research station, which is located in Asheville, North Carolina. The other one would be the northeastern station out of Pennsylvania. So these would be allocated directly to research units and also university cooperatives.
Mrs. EMERSON. But you have overall responsibility for that?
Mr. LEWIS. Right. I have overall responsibility for that.
Mrs. EMERSON. And then you coordinated with the other agencies that also have their own global climate change initiatives?
Mr. LEWIS. Right. We coordinated with other agencies.
For example, earlier we talked about forest health and the fuel buildup. The Department of Energy is looking at it in oil production, but our focus is primarily on woody materialshow can we utilize the thin trees, for example, to improve forest health. One of the real problems we have, and we have had for some time, is that we don't have a good market for the small diameter materials.
Mrs. EMERSON. Another question. On the American Heritage initiative, how much of your fiscal year 1999 budget is devoted to that?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. I don't have the exact figure, Congresswoman, but my understanding is that the efforts to date, because no rivers have been nominated, has been within our normal costs. We have donated some time of a few of our people to coordinate it nationally, and the forests have worked with the communities to come up with nominations. But, until those rivers are designated, we cannot come up with an estimate of what it will cost us to work with those communities and implement it.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. EMERSON. What exactly would you all be doing with those communities to implement it?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. It would vary from community to community. As I understand it, the forests that have been involved in this have worked very closely with those communities and are very comfortable with where they came out in those nominations. Given what we have done so far with them and with the other agencies that are involved in this, we estimate about $300,000 has been spent. But most of that has been towards salaries of those people.
Mrs. EMERSON. Administrative work?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Yes.
Mrs. EMERSON. So you don't anticipate any programmatic costs?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. It depends on which of those nominated rivers are selected, and the communitiesit is the desire of the communities that will be honored when these rivers are named, and it varies from community to community what kind of activities will occur.
Mrs. EMERSON. So then you just have a pot of money that you would draw from which would be for special projects like
Ms. MCDOUGLE. No, we do not.
Mrs. EMERSON. In other words, if, in fact, you don't have a line item for it and 10 rivers are going to get nominated in the next month by Kathleen McGinty, then how would you allocate resources if you don't have
Ms. MCDOUGLE. It would depend on how activities are scheduled, you know, what would be done and in what fiscal year. It would depend on how we would be able to work that in out-years.
Mrs. EMERSON. So if you just had money in one account that you were not going to use, you might just shift it over, something like that?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCDOUGLE. Possibly.
Mrs. EMERSON. Thank you.
That is all I have, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentlewoman.
Chief, where is the 1.5 million acres you plan to treat with natural fuels reduction?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that project list with me, that information. I don't know if the National Forest System has it here, but that is information based upon the requeststhe priorities of the national forests and the regions. I would assume that is focused on the intermountain Westeastern Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Mr. Chairman, we are currently working on getting that information by forest; and if you would desire that information, we would be happy to provide it to you.
The CHAIRMAN. I would like to have it, of course, but if you don't have it by forest, how did you come up with 1.5 million acres?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. The regions provide us their estimates of the total number of acres; and, for our purposes, that is adequate. However, if you would like a forest-by-forest account of those acres, I think we can get that for you.
The CHAIRMAN. I would appreciate that.
[The information follows:]
The President's budget includes $65 million for Hazardous Fuels Reduction on the National Forest System lands. The level of Funding is expected to allow treatment of hazardous fuels on 1,470,000 acres. The following summarizes the number of acres of planned fuels reduction work by region:
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCREGION ACRES
Region 1 93,000
Region 2 56,000
Region 3 118,000
Region 4 76,000
Region 5 78,700
Region 6 128,000
Region 8 905,000
Region 9 15,000
Region 10 300
The Washington office does not require each region to report the number of acres to be treated by each national forest since changing weather conditions, fire conditions, and air quality issues require flexibility to manage resources to address the most critical hazardous fuels reduction projects, both regionally and locally.
Mr. DOMBECK. I want to make sure that I don't leave any doubt in your mind that that information is not available. Each district ranger, each forest supervisor, knows where the hot spots are, where the trouble spots are. What we don't do, though, is we don't accumulate that level of detail at the Washington level. But if you desire that, we can get that information for you.
The CHAIRMAN. Are these in forests that have possible catastrophic fire dangers?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and I believe the priority is associated with the urban wildland interface issue, the forest health issues, the fire issues.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. You are using man-caused fire, in some cases?
Mr. DOMBECK. Prescribed fire, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. During fire season?
Mr. DOMBECK. The prescribed fire, of course, that gives us an opportunity to burn at the most desirable time. But we have to be very careful that we don't do anything to deplete our firefighting capability. So the time of the year that we have the most serious fires would not be the time of the year that we would be prescribed burning.
The CHAIRMAN. That makes good sense, doesn't it? We went through this before, and there were some mistakes in judgment during a fire season, and prescribed fires got away from us. It seems that is only reasonable to use prescribed fire when it is not any danger to larger catastrophic fires, obviously.
The Secretary sent me a letter on February 27, Chief, urging me to devote money from the Roads and Trails Fund to the Watershed Restoration Program. Was that approved by the White House?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't know that, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Did they support that?
Mr. DOMBECK. Has anyone on the staff worked on the details of that issue?
The CHAIRMAN. Do you support that?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would like just a little more detail on that.
Bob, do you know the details on that?
Mr. JOSLIN. Is this the 10 percent fund?
The CHAIRMAN. This is the Roads and Trails Fund. It has never been used. It has been returned to the Treasury, that we had in my bill, that the Secretary urged me to use to transfer to the watershed restoration activity, which I did. Then you opposed it. Go ahead.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOSLIN. What we have with the 10 percent funds, we have gone out and collected all of the information. All of the regions have come in with that, just so that we could make sure that it meets the intent of that law.
The CHAIRMAN. There is about $25 to $26 million in that fund. Would you support the Secretary's request?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I believe so.
The CHAIRMAN. Chief, you said in your natural resources agenda for the 21st century that treatment of the 40 million acres is critical to watershed health. Is that what you said?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe so, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Then wouldn't it be appropriate, as you have said, to use the roads and trails fund if that helps you increase funds for the treatment of more of those acres?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I believe so.
The CHAIRMAN. Would you oppose my efforts trying to move roads and trails funds into watershed improvement?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think what we look at with watershed improvement is improving roads, improving trails, and all these issues sort of interact. If we have sedimentation problems, other kinds of problems, forest health, the conditions of roads and trails, is as important a watershed restoration practice as it is a forest restoration practice.
The CHAIRMAN. I will remind you again, the roads and trails fund has not been used. It is the fund that has been inactive. The Secretary urged me by letter to move it to an active fund, which I did in my bill. I am asking you if you would support that kind of movement, as the Secretary has asked me to do, in a budget process?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I think we would support that.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Would you support using the roads and trails fund for additional acres to be treated, as you have 1.5 million, which you have requested funding for?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe so, if it is within theI am not sure of the details of the guidelines or constraints that we have on that 10 percent fund.
The CHAIRMAN. I am suggesting moving it, Chief. I am not in my angry mode here, and I am still trying to help you. I hope you recognize that
Mr. JOSLIN. Mr. Chairman, we are using those funds now, as I talked about earlier, within the context now ofI believe what you are talking about is the proposal that you have to expand that use. Is that correct?
The CHAIRMAN. I am talking about the $27 million that was never used that goes to the Treasury for whatever purpose, that was never used, that the Secretary asked me to move, that I had in my bill. That was the funding mechanism in my bill. That is why we didn't have to appropriate more money, you understand.
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe we are in agreement on that.
What I would like to do is I would like to take just a little bit closer look at that issue, and we would be happy to provide a detailed answer for the record.
[The information follows:]
Under the act of March 4, 1913 (16 U.S.C. 501), 10 percent of national forest receipts are made available to build and maintain roads and trails within the national forests in the States where the receipts were collected. Prior to fiscal year 1996, appropriation language required that these funds be transferred to the General Fund. Beginning in fiscal year 1996, this appropriation language has been omitted. The first use of this fund is in fiscal year 1998 from receipts collected in fiscal year 1996 and fiscal year 1997, a total of about $50 million. An estimated $28 million will be available for expenditure in fiscal year 1999 from fiscal year 1998 receipts.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Funds must be accounted for by state and can only be spent to the level generated within the State.
The administration proposes to use these funds to augment regular appropriations for road and trail maintenance and reconstruction. This will aid public use of the NFS lands and significantly enhance environmentally sensitive areas, especially along riparian areas and streams. The current level of funding for road and trail maintenance is insufficient to overcome an increasing backlog of deferred reconstruction and maintenance. Deferred maintenance work may result in unacceptable resource damage or unsafe road and trail conditions in the short term, and will likely increase reconstruction cost and environmental risk in the long term. This additional source of funding will aid in the reduction of this backlog.
Siltation and runoff from roads and trails have been cited as the No. 1 contributor to loss of water quality and degradation of fisheries habitat. In order to help address this problem the Forest Service is directing these funds to fix road and trail problems that are adversely affecting ecosystems thus helping to heal National Forest land watershed by watershed.
Of the funds available in fiscal year 1999 the administration proposes to use $17 million from this fund for specific allocation to road and trail reconstruction and construction as follows: $2 million for roads in support of recreation and $15 million for trails. The $11 million remaining after the specific allocation will be available to fund those road and trail problems which are adversely affecting ecosystems.
Examples of work being accomplished with these funds include:
Placing aggregate surfacing on travel ways to reduce sediment production and runoff
Reconstructing road and trail cross sections to improve drainage
Moving roads and trails near creeks to locations outside riparian zones
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Revegetating cut and fill slopes
Replacing culverts to improve fish passage
Replacing or modifying culverts to pass 100 year storm flows.
Replacing damaged or depleted surfacing materials
Repairing and replacing bridges and other structures
Surface grading for erosion control
With respect to other types of watershed or forest health related activities, 16 U.S.C. 501 would need to be changed to allow their use for purposes other than road and trail reconstruction, construction, and maintenance in the States in which the receipts were collected.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Doolittle.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Chief Dombeck, I understand that the plan will call in the budget this year for reducing hazardous fuels of about 1.5 million acres, is that right?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. If that were to be the general rate of treatment projected out over the future, it would be aboutit would take about 30 years, I guess, then, or less than 30 years to completely address the 40 million acres that needs to be dealt with, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Do you think that is an acceptable time frame in which to perform that work?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, I don't. Our plan is to ratchet that up over the course of the next few years, to do up to 3 million acres.
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. So it would go to 3 million acres. But do you have that actually sketched out as a plan, it would move up to 3 million acres?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe we have those plans ready to go. It is a program that has doubled. In fact, this is one of our fastest growing programs, from the standpoint of where we have put money.
I might ask Janice to add any details to that.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. The plan, Congressman, is to increase the number of acres 30 percent a year until we reach an estimate of 3 million acres by the year 2005. As we said before you arrived, as a result of funding that we received from the Congress in fiscal year 1998, we should have a map completed by November of this year which will help us considerably in focusing our priorities on where those high-risk areas are. We will overlay that with maps that we currently have on risks to the forests from insects and disease, and we will be in a better position to determine what areas that we need to tackle first.
As we also said earlier, even though the current estimate is 40 million, our mapping may show it is more; our mapping may show it is less. We may not have to treat all 40 million acres in order to substantially reduce the risk.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. You are taking money, are you not, Chief, out of your firefighting budget to do some of this work, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. If Janice is aware of the details of the suppression and presuppression effortbut one of the things, for example, we did in California last year is, because it was an easy fire season, many of the fire crews did thinning and other kinds of work to reduce the overall backlog that we have and reduce the risk, where we had that capability.
But, again, we do that very carefully, so as not to reduce the overall capability to be able to respond to an emergency when we have one.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. In wet years like we have had, say, in California, doesn't that result in much higher vegetation growth?
Mr. DOMBECK. Particularly in the lower elevation areas, in the grasslands. In fact, in a wet year, the BLM usually has a tougher fire season than we do in the national forests, because of the vigor of the grasses and that sort of thing, yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I guess, if you are not going to be to 3 million acres a year until 2005, why isn't the administration putting this on more of a fast track? If you came here and told us our forests are in grave danger and we need a supplemental appropriation or somethingwhy are they not doing that? Because even if you got to 3 million acres a year immediately, it would still be roughly 15 years, and you are not going to get to that until 2005, and then you will have a number of years left to go. It just strikes me that you are responding to what is a very serious situation with quite a slow-paced response.
Mr. DOMBECK. Again, this has been one of our fastest growth areas from the standpoint of where the program is going. But we face the situation of overall program balance with 23,000 facilities on the National Forest System lands, like campgrounds, trails, various recreation facilities. We have 7,700 bridges. We have the roads issue to deal with. I have this whole array of things that we work to achieve a balance at.
I certainly agree that the forest health issue and this high-risk issue is one that needs our top attention.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Another thing, Congressman, in that regard what the Forest Service is doing within its budget constraints to fight fires. As a result of the Federal fire policy with other Interior agencies, we are doing our planning, our budgeting together. We are training State and local fire departments. It is not just the Forest Service's issue. As we focus better together in terms of how we spend our money and direct our plans, I think that we can be a lot more effective at it.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Chairman, I see my time is up. Could I just ask one additional question?
What is the costI don't even know what fire to mention. Give me the cost to fight a large forest fire.
Mr. DOMBECK. The high end, including mop-up, could be as high as $4,000 an acre. In fact, the one around Bend, Mr. Chairman, where there were some homes burned, that was one of those fires.
This is why, somehow, as a society we can react to emergencies very, very well. In fact, at the high end in 1996, a tough year, I think the total Federal firefighting bill was somewhere in the neighborhood of $850 million.
The more of that money that we can invest up front to chip away at this backlog of risk, that is the place we need to be making the investment, rather than making the investment in the emergency situation.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I guess that is the point I am trying to make. It seems to me ludicrous to spend unlimited amounts of money, whatever it costs, to fight a fire, when a stitch in time would save nine, so to speak.
Ms. MCDOUGLE. We also have air quality considerations that we are working through with EPA. I understand that they are coming out with their smoke guidelines this summer, and we have been working with them, so that will help us determine how much faster we can accelerate our prescribed fire program.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So you are saying the air quality guidelines might retard the controlled fire burnings?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. I can't say that, and I don't know.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Wait a minute. You can say they might retard them?
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. MCDOUGLE. Yes, they might, but it is based on, you know, weather conditions and a whole lot of other factors that we can't predict.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. That is the issue you are raising is that there might be some restriction of controlled fire burnings by the EPA?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. At least site-specific, yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. But the EPA's regulations don't seem to stop the forests from burning, I guess, do they?
Ms. MCDOUGLE. Nothing does.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So it would seem logical that we should have a more aggressive program, wouldn't it?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, definitely.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Thune.
Mr. THUNE. Chief Dombeck, you have spoken of the incredible backlog of road construction and maintenance requirements. In a recent letter from John Twiss, who was the forest supervisor for the Black Hills National Forest, to the Black Hills Forest Resource Association, he states ''because the Black Hills National Forest has a strong timber program, our roads are in better condition than those on many other forests.''
The letter goes on to state, ''during fiscal year 1996 and fiscal year 1997, timber sale purchasers did more than 90 percent of the road reconstruction and approximately 40 to 50 percent of the road maintenance on Black Hills National Forest roads.''
Now, given the declining state of forest health in many areas, couldn't we kill two birds with one stone, and by that I mean wouldn't an active timber sale program that implemented the vegetative management objectives for forest health reduce risks from fire and insect infestation and at the same time provide a very cost-effective mechanism to rebuild and maintain the national forest roads?
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. The Timber Program certainly has made a tremendous contribution in not only building many of the roads that we have, but in providing some maintenance dollars. The point with the forest health issue, though, is much of the material harvested to deal with the forest health issues is of low value, so we are talking about a value situation where, as Bob mentioned, when we discussed thinning and the research, one of the reasons we are focusing on the research to find markets and more utilization of low-value woods is to increase the economic values that might be out there. So the answer is partly yes, but we are into a value situation, largely dealing with low-value woods.
Mr. THUNE. One follow-up on that, and, again, coming back to Black Hills National Forest, you know, the previous allowable sale quantity there was 118 million board feet, and the allowable sale quantity in the 1996 Revised Land and Resource Management Plan for the Black Hills National Forest was set at 83.8 million board feet, and yet the fiscal year 1998 saw timber target calls for an ASQ of only 65 million board feet.
And I guess the question I would have is, given all the time and money spent by the Forest Service on the forest plan and the involvement of local communities, businesses and concerned citizens, shouldn't the Forest Service be committed to a higher level of implementation than that 78 percent?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't know the details of that specific plan, but I am assuming that when you talk about 65 million of saw timber, I assume there is a significant amount of lower grade, with this being harvested as well.
Would you assume that, Bob?
Mr. JOSLIN. Yes, there would be some.
Mr. THUNE. Some lower grade timber?
Mr. JOSLIN. Yes. The Black Hills, last year their program was increased in the last fiscal year, and the information that we have, there are additional capabilities on several different forests across the country.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THUNE. And I guess whether it is low grade or not, and I don't know, when you said it has been increased from the numbers I just quoted, it sounds like it has been going down, and it is, in fact, less thanit is substantially less than what the plan calls for?
Mr. JOSLIN. That is correct, but what I said is based on the additional financing. It received additional financing to take that up because they had the capability to do that. They had material sales that were through the process that were not under lawsuit and those kind of things that they could go ahead and offer for sale.
Mr. THUNE. If there is additional capability there, are you in a position then to adjust those levels proportionately or according to what the capability is? I think that is the case.
Mr. JOSLIN. Oftentimes, we look across the entire program and make those kinds of adjustments, based on what is available, what is through that, and what isn't through it. So, yes, there is some flexibility within that.
Mr. THUNE. I would again hope that in this particular case, as I am sure is the case elsewhere around the country, that you would exercise that flexibility. I think there was a great deal of input and collective involvement in this whole process, and I can only speak for the Black Hills National Forest, but it certainly seems to me that we have a lot of room for improvement in improving forest health, and, if Mr. Twiss is accurate in his assessment here in his letter, that we could kill two birds with one stone.
Mr. DOMBECK. And we continue to look for those efficiencies. I think what this dialogue points out is that we talk aboutI don't believe there is a single national forest that is funded fully, to their full capability, for hardly any program, and we talked about the backlog in roads and the maintenance and the bridge backlog that we deal with, so there is this competition for funds all across programs. Whether it is recreation, roads or forest management, you never have enough money to do what you would like to do.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THUNE. I hope we can put the money in the right places, I guess is what I am saying.
So I see my time has expired. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
The Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, as you well know, is very important to determine tree growth and mortality and other critical data to support sound management decisions. The committee has heard from every corridor that it is essential to move this to a 5-year program, rather than a 15-year program. What priority do you place for the FIA in your priorities of budget items, let's say from 1 to 10?
Mr. DOMBECK. Very high. As you mentioned, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, of all the programs we manage, and as you know, there is much controversy around some of them, and we are continually searching for areas of agreement, this is certainly one where there is a solid support from the private sector, from the State foresters and a need for this, and we are adding capability in the area of forest inventory and analysis. I think the increase we are asking for is $10 million for fiscal year 1999, and we are also moving toward a 5-year cycle, and I would ask Robert Lewis to elaborate on that.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me correct you. The increase you asked for in the budget is $4.5 million, and the reason I ask you these questions is simply because a recent statement by administrative capability states that you need $17 million in addition to put you on a 5-year cycle, and you are not there, you are not going to get there.
Go ahead, Mr. Lewis.
Mr. LEWIS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank chief Dombeck. Yes, the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program is an extremely important one to us as an agency and to the country in total. To bring you up to date on what we are doing, we know that the committee is working toward reauthorizing the research part of the farm bill, and in that bill, you call for a strategic plan for inventory and analysis. And I am happy to tell you that even before that bill was passed, we were already under way in developing that strategic plan, and the whole idea is to move us toward that 5-year cycle, and also, to take under consideration and use many of the recommendations made. And I might point out that they are recommending some of the same items that are in the bill, in the farm bill, the reauthorization.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In 1999, we have a $4.5 million increase in the Inventory and Analysis Program. We also maintain the increases that Congress gave us last year. To show the importance of this particular item to us, and it is true that we had capability statements saying that we needed a $25 million increase, as you pointed out
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Lewis, you are not going to get there with $4.5 million is my point. I wonder where the agriculture research issue came from. Any idea? You are looking at it.
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, I understand that.
The CHAIRMAN. That authorizes another $18 million. I suppose you would support that in a budget fight, or would you?
Mr. LEWIS. Yes, I would.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Dombeck, your budget is $4.5 million. I am trying to get you $18 million more. Would you fight that, or would you support it?
Mr. DOMBECK. I certainly would support increases. We always end up with where it comes from and how we arrive in the balance, but I certainly support
The CHAIRMAN. It is a gift that can be withdrawn, so you either support it, or you don't.
Mr. DOMBECK. We support it.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. DOMBECK. I would like to correct my previous statement. The $10 million increase I mentioned, as I look at my notes, was the entire Forest and Rangeland Research Program, of which Forest Inventory and Analysis is a component.
The CHAIRMAN. And your budget has a $4.5 million request?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Which is inadequate.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Dombeck, in your prepared testimony, you state that today the road system in the Forest Service accommodates 1.7 million vehicles per day being driven for recreational purposes. That compares to 15,000 vehicles per day for timber-related activities. You also go on to state that today there are 7,600 less miles of road available to passenger-type vehicles.
Our inability to fully maintain the roads we have has resulted in the gradual degradation of the road system. You are saying that the lack of funding to maintain the current road system, which you estimate would be $10 billion, has decreased the amount of roads that are available and the amount of trips that are available for people for recreational purposes; is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. POMBO. In response to questions that the chairman asked, you stated that you would support your budget request. I would like to ask you directly, will you oppose efforts to cut funding for the roads programs; will the Department of Agriculture oppose the effort to cut this funding in this year's budget?
Mr. DOMBECK. I can't speak for the Secretary, but my recommendation will be to oppose it, yes.
Mr. POMBO. Would you venture to say that the effortbecause, obviously, 1.7 million vehicles per day is considerably more than 15,000 vehicles per day. Would you venture to say that the effort to cut this funding is an effort to cut the recreational benefits that are available in the Forest Service?
Mr. DOMBECK. I guess I am not sure. I could answer that the perception that I have is the perception I mentioned earlier, and that is the part of the controversy associated with the Forest Service Roads Program is that it is equivalent to logging, and we have to change that.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. I know that's the perception, I am asking you the reality. 1.7 million vehicles per day use your roads for recreational purposes, compared to 15,000 vehicles per day for timber-related activities. Any effort to cut the funding to reconstruct the roads is a direct attack on the recreational possibilities of our Forest Service lands.
Mr. DOMBECK. It certainly has an impact, yes.
Mr. POMBO. I understand you are trying to qualify this, but I can tell you, sir, that the vast majority of the people who use those roads, I mean, it is not even in the same ballpark. We are talking 15,000 a day versus 1.7 million vehicles a day. It is not even in the same ballpark. The effort that is being made in past Congresses to cut that funding is a direct attack on the recreational possibilities that my constituents have in visiting Sierra Nevada and in visiting their public lands, because they are going after the very access to their public lands. You state in your statement that today there are 7,600 less miles of road available to people from my district to drive into our national forests, and that is a direct result of less funds being available for you to maintain those roads.
Mr. DOMBECK. That is correct.
Mr. POMBO. You say that there is a huge backlog on roads, and you place it as a very high priority to maintain those roads. In fact, according to your budget, about 55 percent of the roads are unsafe or in substandard condition, and I would take it that that is an unacceptable situation to you and to the Forest Service?
Mr. DOMBECK. That is correct.
Mr. POMBO. So it would seem to me that you would fight vigorously, unless you have taken on an antirecreation stance at the Forest Servicethat you would fight vigorously against any effort to go after the roads that provide access for my constituents to visit those public lands. What priority would you place on land acquisition, new properties, in land acquisition to the Forest Service as compared to maintaining the current Forest Service lands and the assets that you are entrusted with?
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, certainly, being able to take care of what we have is most important. However, we are players in the Land and Water Conservation Fund and continue to move forward with land adjustment, consolidation of lands dealing with all the projects associated with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Mr. POMBO. Your budget request has a request for approximately $56 million to add an additional 12,000 acres. It works out to a cost of somewhere around $5,000 an acre for the purchase of that land. You also stated previously in answering the questions of Mr. Doolittle that it cost between 4- and $5,000 an acre for fire fighting. Would that money not be a higher priority to maintain your current land that you had the responsibility of taking care of; would that not be a higher priority to the Forest Service?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, we look at the priorities on a local basis, but I think an important part of that question is I am not sure thatI don't believe the Land and Water Conservation Fund's purpose is to acquire land and
Mr. POMBO. The purpose of the Land and Water Conservation Fund was to purchase land, and we don't spend anywhere near the amount of money that goes into that. The vast majority of the money that has gone into it over the past several years has gone into the general fund, into the Treasury and has been spent on other priorities.
I believe that the acquisition of new lands is a much lower priority than maintaining the current lands that you have, and I think that the majority of the Members of Congress would agree that it is much more important for you to maintain what you already have in not a substandard and unsafe condition, but in a condition that the American people would expect, versus going out and adding an additional 12,000 acres of land at a cost of $56 million. I think that is a question of priorities, and I would really question the need for continually adding on to the number of acres that you have.
And just in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, the Federal Government currently owns over 700 million acres of land, and there is little or no effort made for the disposal of lands which are nonenvironmentally sensitive, that are excess lands, that are in the hands of the property agencies, the Forest Service, BLM, disposing of those lands, so that you can take care of what you have. We have seen little or no effort in the 6 years that I have been in Congress toward achieving that. And that is something that is a big concern to me, that we do not have enough money to maintain the current properties that we own by a far stretch, and every single budget year there is a budget request for additional properties to be added. I think that is wrong-headed and exactly the wrong direction that we ought to be going.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Farr.
Mr. FARR. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just want to rebut my colleague. I think the Land and Water Conservation Fund is much needed. We are buying land from willing sellers in holding, and it enhances the recreational opportunities, and I would hope you will encourage Congress to continue to use funds from that. It is a $900 million fund a year, and we spend very little of it.
But I really want to get to the point I think a lot of the discussion today has been about roads and planes, and we haven't yet discussed boats and trains, but the issue here is the recreational forces that are upon you that I think led to the defeat of the chairman's bill, which is essentially that the recreational forces are very critical of your responsibility for managing what we do sell as Forest Service products; I mean, not only the timber, but you list that you sell house logs, posts and poles, cedar bolts for shingles, Christmas trees, mushrooms, bear grass, pinon nuts, ferns, and on and on.
There are a lot of products that come out of the forest, and I think the recreational users more and more in the population of America is increasing, and the populations are migrating to where your forests are. So the recreational users and the passive users are putting pressure on not wanting to see the forest products being used, and we get in this conflict.
There are a couple things I would like to ask. First of all, the administration wrote a letter to all of us and to the chairman saying they were opposing the bill because the existing authorities to implement a Forest-Watershed Health Program were already there; however, you needed the money. Is there a way that we could go through the chairman's bill and find out what you were doing, not in this hearing, but were doing to use the existing programs to implement what the policies are in his bill?
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I think there is, and I think the dialogue we have had in the last several lines of questioning really talked about priorities, the number of things that are priorities. How do we fund the Road Program, how do we fund the Recreation Program, how do we fund the backlog dealing with fire and the forest health issues and the challenge as a matter of balance.
Mr. FARR. I don't think we got to the specifics on that. I don't think that all of the Road Program is a recreational program. I don't think every road that is built for a truck to harvest timber becomes necessarily an important recreational road, but the watershed protection, the forest health, I mean, that is what it is all about, regardless of where you come down. If the forests aren't healthy, we are all in trouble. You have a huge responsibility.
And in ending on that, I just wanted to say I know of Mr. Pandolfi's background, and I think you are a remarkable, capable person in putting together your financial affairs. Is there any thought, as we move into the future of these sort of recreational pressures that are going to be on the forests and our need to manage that better, do we begin a burden-sharing program?
I mean, you indicated there is $130 billion gross GNP to the communities that have the national forests in them. There are other programs where we are downsizing, because, frankly, I think what you are going to do is more recreation is in the forest, and you are going to need more personnel, not less, and yet your budget is going to shrink the number of people. We do burden-sharing in the military, where we require where our bases are overseas, that those countries help pay for them. We are doingfrankly, the biggest burden-sharing bill in the Congress this year is the highway bill. We have very few national highways. Most of the highways are all in partnership.
Is there any way as we move through this demand for recreation, and demand for forest management and to use the products of the forest, which I support in a best management practices, that we do more smart thinking about burden-sharing and more collaboration with State forests and counties and cities and groups that could beI mean, they are benefiting from it all. We do the PILT funds, and they will argue that is not enough; but take away the forests, and they would be screaming even louder because that land may not generate as much revenue. So the question here is, is the Department moving towards more of a holistic approach to moving your recreational and timber management practices, forest management practices into a better revenue position?
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I think that started on several fronts. One front is the Recreation Fee Demonstration Program, where the fees collected, 80 percent of those fees go right back to the specific site where they were collected to enhance the services there, to deal with everything from garbage collection and so on, and that is a start.
Another area where we are moving forward on the front is partnerships with BLM to co-locate offices, to share personnel. It is a program we call the Trading Post, and in fact, there are a couple of examples in the chairman's district that are working very, very well. The State of Colorado has also been a leader in working with that front.
The whole arena of wildland fire, where we are dealing with cooperative arrangements with counties, with States, so we have a plan developed in advance, so we know how we are going to respond, so we can respond most efficiently, and there are a variety of examples where those kinds of efficiencies are being sought out. In fact, the whole concept of cooperative resource management programs really started in the 1950's in the State of California, associated with the Fire Program, where the various municipalities and agencies interact to work together with what is the most efficient and makes the most sense.
Mr. FARR. In fact, in a National Forest Service fire in my district, the incident commander was from a local county fire service, fire service area. He was a county employee, but he became the incident command for the Wildcat fire, which wasI think it was Wildcat.
Mr. Chairman, I would be interested in going through your bill, if the administration thinks they can defend all the proposals in your bill that we have set aside today to do that.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, Mr. Farr, you had your chance, you voted against the bill, so it isn't coming back.
Mr. FARR. No, but they indicated that they were going to veto the bill because they could do the work.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Right. Now they indicate they support transferring roads and trails funds to another part of the budget, which I was trying to do to help them. Now you tell me.
By the way, Mr. Pombo, from my point of view, I would ask you never to use the Land and Water Conservation Fund in my district. The Federal Government owns 75 percent of it now. We only pay taxes on 25 percent, and we can't afford any more good luck.
Further questions? Mr. Cooksey.
Dr. COOKSEY. Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Dombeck, I understand your background or your previous position was with the Bureau of Land Management?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I spent 6 years working for the Bureau of Land Management.
Dr. COOKSEY. If there were a national forest that had some revenue resource in it, around it, or beneath it, your primary function is to manage the timber in the ground, and above the ground what would you do with those revenues that could be derived from that land without disturbing the surface or the trees and maybe even it would enhance the trees; specifically, if we had a national forest somewhere that had mineral production, oil, gas? Gas is a clean-burning fuel, does not pollute the air, and we have a lot of it in Louisiana. Where would the revenues from that mineral come from, that oil or gas; where would it go; would it go to the Federal Government, or could it be used in that specific national forest to further manage, further enhance the timber resources, the recreation resources, water resources? If it cannot, why not; and what would we have to do to achieve that?
Mr. DOMBECK. Twenty-five percent of the revenues go back to the local communities from which they were extracted, and in some places they might go to the township, but usually they go to the county, and they are used for schools and roads.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Minerals Management Service manages the royalty collection from both on-shore and offshore, from the oil and gas side of things, and I think that has typically been somewhere in the neighborhood of about $4 billion a year; and, of course, the royalties from coal, of which some States are big benefactors of that money and it is used for a variety of purposes. So as exists now, funds do go back. In the O&C counties, Oregon, Washington and northern California, 50 percent of the revenues go back.
Dr. COOKSEY. So you are saying the chairman's State gets more than my State?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, in one specific instance the proportion is different, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. If the gentleman will yield. Fifty percent of zero is how much?
Dr. COOKSEY. Thank you for clarifying that, Mr. Chairman.
Well, in my State, our forests that Mr. Joslin used to be the manager of, and a good friend of mine has succeeded him, Danny Brittwhat would we have to do to get 50 percent of the revenues that are coming in from the Austin Chalkthey are developed in the Austin Chalk, which is a unique formation of wells that produce oil for a short period of time, but do bring significant revenues in. Why can't we bring some more of that in to benefit our forests, and, really everyone would benefit from it. Why do we have to send it all to this great wide sucking place in Washington and never get any of it back for our forests?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well I believe that would require legislation to do that.
Dr. COOKSEY. Mr. Chairman, do you think that would be fair legislation; do you think we should have to share our oil and gas revenues?
The CHAIRMAN. I think it would be fair, but we can't pass it, Congressman.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Dr. COOKSEY. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Further questions?
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, I have one additional question.
Chief Dombeck, we have heard that the way the Forest Service values timber and recreation is like comparing apples and oranges. The Timber Program is valued only by the amount of revenue returned to the national Treasury; however, the multiplier effect and an elaborate willingness to pay analysis are used to value recreation. Are there not important multiplier effects to the Forest Service Timber Sale Program and ecological benefits, at least to some of the timber sales, on the national forests?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, let me correct that misperception. When we are talking about the RPA, the Resources Planning Act, values, when we talked about the contribution to National Forest System lands of $130 billion to the gross domestic product, we are talking about those multipliers.
Mr. POMBO. On recreation?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and the entire spectrum of programs, I believe. When we are talking about revenue generated for the Treasury, then we are talking about timber receipts.
Mr. POMBO. What is the multiplier effect on timber sales, what is the number? Is it 100 billion, 200 billion? What is the number?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would assume that it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 to 5, but I would have to ask an economist how they calculate the value added.
Mr. JOSLIN. One of the things we do have is a Timber Sale Program Information Reporting System, TSPIRS for short, that we put out each year. And in that we do certainly address the receipts, our costs and so forth, but we also produce information there of the direct and indirect and induced benefits that occur as a result of that Timber Management Program. Oftentimes when people talk about that, they only look at the first part, which has to do with the revenues and the cost, and not all of these other benefits.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I can't quote you the exact figures, I would have to look at the last TSPIRS report, but it is a tremendous amount of money when you look at the other benefits that are derived from the program, not only in those direct, indirect and induced, but the benefits that result to other uses, other resources, wildlife habitat, fish habitat and all of those others.
Mr. POMBO. Could you provide that for the committee for the record, as well as providing the difference between, say, 10 years ago, the benefit to the economy of the Timber Program 10 years ago, versus the benefit to the economy of the Timber Program today?
Mr. JOSLIN. We can show you the TSPIRS report from 1988, which was the first year that it was required by Congress, from there through the last fiscal year. We can provide you that, yes, sir, and we will.
[The information follows:]
["The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Stewart, did you have something to say?
Mr. STEWART. I was just going to start off by saying I am not an economist, but I do remember a number of years ago what was calledI think it is called an input/output study, where you look at multiplier effect in the community of every dollar generated, and the extraction industries thatthose that generate first source of revenue out of the ground. Things like agriculture, mining and forestry, which create the original wealth, have multiplier effects on the community of somewhere around 1:5 to 1:7, meaning for every dollar generated, it multiplies through the community and adds an additional $5 to $7, somewhere in that range.
And the particular study I remember was done quite a number of years ago in Douglas County, OR, which at the time was considered to be the timber capital of the Nation. I lived in that community, and I remember how dependent it was.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, again, the problem with those kinds of multipliers is they talk about the effect in the local community, as opposed to the number we were using, I keep coming back to that, for the Recreation Program, which was a multiplier through the entire national economy. You could probably do the same thing for mining and agriculture and the timber industry. I don't know that TSPIRS goes that far. It probably only goes to the multiplier within the local community. So again, you have to keep in mind about what you are comparing, whether it is a national level or a local level.
Mr. POMBO. If you come up with $130 billion figure on the recreational benefits of the national forest, would it not also be helpful to know what the benefit would be of the Timber Program?
Mr. DOMBECK. That $130 billion does include timber. That is the complete contribution from mining, recreation, timber. And of that, somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 85 percent is derived from the hunting, fishing, recreation valuesI believe about 12 to 15 percent from hunting and fishing and wildlife-associated resources, and the remainder from recreation, and I would be happy to send you that information.
Mr. POMBO. I would appreciate it if you could provide that to the committee for the record as well.
[The material appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
To further clarify the pointand I think, Mr. Stewart, you were making the point that we don't want to compare apples and oranges. I agree. So for the answer to Mr. Pombo's question, apply the same standards as created the number for recreation to timber, and let's see what the number is. I mean, after all, this is still the Forest Service. I would be shocked that you don't have that.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I believe that that is the case in the RPA estimates. When we are talking about the revenues, the return to the Treasury, then we are talking about the sale of timber.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not talking about revenues alone. I am talking about the same exercise as we applied to recreation creates the same numbers that apply to the forest.
Mr. DOMBECK. That is the way it is done.
The CHAIRMAN. What are the numbers?
Mr. STEWART. When we published the 1995 draft RPA Assessment Program originally that had those numbers in it, there were a number of critiques from internal and external reviews, and there was, based on that, some reanalysis, and I do believe we have some updated numbers, so what we would propose to provide to you are the updated numbers.
[The information follows:]
The new analysis will be available in August. We have updated procedures for estimating national economic impacts across all resources outputs. The updated numbers will be applied to Forest Service outputs in 1993, so that the results can be compared to the 1993 results from the draft program analysis.
The CHAIRMAN. You understand what we are saying, Mr. Stewart?
Mr. STEWART. Exactly.
The CHAIRMAN. Further questions?
Let me just give you my thoughts about this hearing. From the forest health point of view, this hearing revealed that we are going to treat 1.5 million acres, when we have 40 million acres in danger of catastrophic fire. That is inadequate.
We talk about a Road Program that has a $10 billion backlog, and the budget asks for a 2 percent increase while trying to defend a 33 percent overhead administrative cost. That is an inadequate.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have talked about the accounting procedures, and we understand that it is a big agency, and you are making hopefully some progress, but the accounting practices in the Forest Service are atrocious by anybody's standards.
The FIA program you consider to be high priority, and yet you only ask for $4.5 million, and we have to jab you to get you to support an $18 million increase, which would give us a 5-year program for FIA. Your budget process is inadequate.
So from the most important areas, in my opinion, of this budget, the Forest Service shows a lot of discussion, a lot of rhetoric, a lot of what ought to be done, but it hasn't matched that rhetoric with the budget.
Thank you very much for being here.
We are going to recess for an hour. Are there members of the next two panels who are crammed for time or who have to catch an airplane out of town that we might be invading your time schedule? If not, we will recess until 2 o'clock. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I think we will begin; and members who are not really late, I hope, will join us.
I would like to welcome Mr. Banzhaf, Mr. Marvin Brown, Dr. Prisley.
Gentlemen, welcome. Thank you very much. I apologize for the delay. You may choose the order, please, in which you would like to testify.
STATEMENT OF STEPHEN P. PRISLEY, FOREST RESOURCES INFORMATION MANAGER, WESTVACO CORPORATION
Mr. PRISLEY. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to present my testimony today on the importance of the U.S. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis, or FIA Program, and to highlight the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My name is Steve Prisley, and I am forest resources information manager with the Westvaco Corporation. It is a major manufacturer of paper, packaging and specialty chemicals. We own about 1.3 million acres of forestland in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland, with primary pulp and paper manufacturing facilities in Luke, MD; Covington, VA; Wyckliffe, KY; Charleston, SC; and a smaller recycle mill in Tyrone, PA.
In addition to coordinating the inventory of forest resources on our land, I am involved in the analysis of resource information in those States in which we operate. For this, Westvaco relies on the only source of information that is national in coverage, broad in scope, and focused on the forest resource; that is, the FIA Program. FIA periodically collects a wide variety of data on forested ecosystems and performs the analysis that turns that data into useful information.
As users of this data, we find ourselves joining forces with academia, State forestry groups, Federal agencies, State agencies, landowners' associations, forestry consultants, even environmental organizations, all of us interested in seeing that we have the most current, reliable information on this Nation's forests.
If I may, I would like to share with you a short story about inventory. Down the road from where I live is a small country store. They have a little bit of everything and not a lot of anything. There is not much shelf space, so they would only have a few of each item that they sell on display.
They operate on the theory that if there is only one left on the shelf, then it must be time to take some more out of the back room or reorder. The problem is, nobody knows what is in the back room, how many they have, until they run out.
They know, for example, they have 20 bags of scratch feed delivered last week, but nobody knows if there was any in the store when it arrived or how many they have sold since then. It seems whatever you want they have either just run out of it or they only have one left and you need two. You might call this the ''damn near in time'' theory of inventory control.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That analogy is very relevant to our current situation with FIA. We don't know precisely how much we have got, how much we are using or losing, or how much we might be adding to our inventory. The information we do have may be different, depending on which State or region you are in.
Even seemingly simple information can be hard to come by. You would be amazed at how much easier it is to find out how many acres of which species are planted in Chile than to get that comparable information for the United States.
To make matters worse, the incomplete information we do have is based on inventories that average 12 years between cycles, 12 years. Just 12 years ago, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 1,775, a fifth of what it is now. Twelve years ago today a bill was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, the 99th Congress, concerning cattle shipments to countries affected by the recent nuclear disaster at Chernobyl; and 12 years ago, FIA personnel were measuring trees in Kentucky, compiling an inventory that we are still using today because it is the most current information we have. Based on that information, we are asked to make strategic decisions about investments, new directions, growth potential and future utilization.
Regardless of whether your interest is in wise forest use, as ours is, or forest preservation, it seems we should all be able to agree on the need for an accurate accounting of what exists on our private and public forestland today. A current and accurate forest inventory is essential to allow us to address issues such as sustainability, policy alternatives, carbon sequestration, changes in growth and productivity, changes in land uses and demographics, ecosystem health, economic impacts, and especially if we are going to effectively participate in international discussions about forest resources, global environmental policies and, certainly, the current discussion about the importance of trees for carbon sequestration.
So how is the FIA doing? In 1991, a group of people representing the diverse users of FIA data met several times to discuss the status of the program. In 1992, this first Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA submitted a report to the Chief of the Forest Service presenting eight general recommendations to improve the program. Five years later, the second panel, Blue Ribbon Panel II, was convened to evaluate their accomplishments, identify needs, outline improvements and suggest a vision for the future.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last October, over 60 representatives from Federal and State agencies, private nonindustrial forestry organizations, academia, environmental groups like the Wilderness Society and the forest industry met for 2 days to discuss the FIA progress. There were some specific areas we all agreed showed improvements since the first report was issued, but the overall progress was rated unsatisfactory.
This group identified five key findings or recommendations, many of which have been addressed in the research title of the farm bill, which provisions we wholeheartedly support.
For many people and organizations in this country, the most important and valuable service that the Forest Service performs is the collection and analysis of our forest and ecosystem inventory data. Given this importance and wide use, it is shocking to find that about one-half of 1 percent of the annual Forest Service budget is devoted to this program.
The current budget allocates about $20 million, and there is an increase asked. However, the industry believes that a 1999 budget of at least $35 million for FIA is necessary to begin to accomplish the recommendations identified by the BRPII.
In conclusion, there is a great deal of synergy and opportunity at the present time to make the case that forest inventory information, delivered on a timely basis, is critical to the long-term health and vitality of the resource and the forestry community. It is not glamorous; it is not exciting; it is just essential.
In order to achieve these goals, the FIA programs needs funding commensurate with its importance, its relevance and its broad clientele. We in the industry will continue to look forward to working with the committee to monitor the Forest Service progress in implementing the program and to continue to highlight the importance of forestry resource data collection.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to present my remarks. I will be glad to respond to any questions.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Prisley appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Doctor. Who would like to be next?
Mr. Brown, may I introduce you? Mr. Brown is president of the National Association of State Foresters. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF MARVIN D. BROWN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS
Mr. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a pleasure to be here.
I appreciate being asked to testify on behalf of the National Association of State Foresters. A lot of ground has already been covered this morning, and we have submitted written testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. It will be included in the record, as will all of your texts. Thank you.
Mr. BROWN. We also attached to that the testimony that we gave to the House Interior Appropriations Committee on the 1999 budget, so I am going to just to be real brief and highlight a few things on that.
The first thing, in terms of funding for 1999, we would also go on record strongly supporting FIA. Dr. Prisley's speech outlined the importance of that.
The only thing I would add to what he said was that I don't know really know of any segment of the forestry community that does not feel similarly about the FIA. It is pretty broadly supported across the spectrum. We all think it is important to know what the resources are doing. That is kind of the foundation for making good decisions. As I say, I don't know anybody that would disagree with the priority that needs to be placed on FIA.
A second funding area that was covered in quite a bit of detail this morning was the wildland fuel hazard reduction on forestlands. Again, most of the things that we would say about that have already been said. It is a very important need.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The one thing I might add to that discussion is, obviously, fires don't stop at borders. All of usthe State forestry agencies, the Federal agencies and the local fire departmentstry to deal with fire issues as a single entity, because we all get involved. We all have to go together to be efficient and provide a good, effective level of fire protection, so we all have a stake in that program.
I would just highlight that as an important issue, whether or not you are a Federal firefighter.
The third funding area is one that really wasn't discussed, so I might spend most of my time talking about that. That is the State and private forestry portion of the Forest Service budget. This year that budget is about $161 million. The President's budget calls for $162 million in 1999.
Our testimony to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee was in the neighborhood of $182 million for 1999, but one of the things we highlighted in that testimony is that there is a recently completed study by the National Research Council on private lands in the United States. It talks about their importance, it talks about how critical they are to achieving sustainable forestry in the United States, and it points out that, at this point in time, those lands are very severely underinvested in. There is a great deal more that needs to be done to those lands if they are to meet the needs that the Nation has for forests in this country.
Private lands are extremely important. We have begun to rough out what it would take to address the issues identified in the NRC report. At this point, we feel like an annual support of the program of over $250 million, which is a substantial increase over the current level, that that would just barely begin to start addressing the issues identified in the NRC report. So we feel like private lands in this country and the Federal investment in those is very important. It is an area that needs a substantial increase.
So those are the three budget areas we came to testify on. Two have been well covered. If you would just take note of the third. We appreciate being here.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Brown appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Brown, very much. Mr. William Banzhaf is the executive vice president, Society of American Foresters. Welcome, sir.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM H. BANZHAF, EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
Mr. BANZHAF. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is a real pleasure to be here.
I, too, have submitted written testimony but would like to take this opportunity to briefly review some of that. Many of our concerns were fully fleshed out this morning during the very rigorous questioning period by the committee.
Certainly analyzing the administration's fiscal year 1999 budget for the Forest Service was, to us, a challenge. However, we really applaud the Chief and the Forest Service for recognizing the difficulties they are in and, frankly, your committee, Mr. Chairman, for making certain that there is appropriate oversight and moving forward towards an accounting system that will more reliably and accurately reflect the programs and activities of this agency.
Let me restate that we understand that the Chief has inherited this problem; and, based on my listening to his remarks this morning, I certainly am convinced that he will move along very quickly with Mr. Pandolfi in trying to address this.
In addition to the testimony today, we would like to submit the testimony we provided before the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies for the Record. That identified clearly our funding priorities, which include research in international forestry and road maintenance.
Let me also repeat the comments that were made prior to my testimony regarding the forest inventory analysis.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We in the Society of American Foresters believe this is an incredibly important program. So much of the monitoring of needs regarding data on birds, mammals, amphibians, water and other characteristics of the forestry ecosystem are more complex than they ever have been in the past; and the fact that we have a proposed budget which doesn't fully address that complexity or the need for a more effective 5-year turnaround is truly unfortunate.
Something that really hasn't been mentioned regarding FIA and is an intangible that I believe is of equal importance, I think, Mr. Chairman, you and the committee have seen the effect of the lack of public trust in the Forest Service. Much of these data developed through FIA could enhance public trust and make that agency more effective.
A brief conversation about overhead and administration.
We examined the Forest Service's budget and could only wonder how much money was truly spent on overhead or administrative costs. We note that there is a true need for the allocation of overhead. My own organization that I have fiscal responsibility for has a minute budget compared to the Forest Service, but in our $4 million budget I still am responsible for the appropriate allocation of overhead, so I don't view overhead as bureaucratic red tape. I believe that overhead is an appropriate use of funds that produces programs. However, you have to know where they are allocated and how they are determined. That is where we found our frustrations.
Regarding forest health, clearly, this morning, we talked about the fact that the Chief has stated there were 40 million acres of national forestland in an unacceptable risk of catastrophic wildfire. After the testimony this morning, I have a better understanding that we are now talking about that 40 million acres as having some level of risk, and it makes my commentsI am not sure where to go, based on those two comments. But, clearly, that is something the Society of American Foresters will try to get a stronger handle on in terms of whether we are talking about a high level or just some level.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC No doubt we have a problem with regard to a number of millions of acres that have high risk for wildfire. As was stated this morning, the bottom line is that the administration budget to address this problem is not sufficient to meet the goals of the Forest Service. That is what we heard time and time again this morning, which was, in my view, outstanding goals, professional goals, an understanding of the realities, but budgets that didn't meet those goals or understandings.
Finally, I will state quickly that in the roads situation we have the same situation, a desire to do the right thing without the appropriate funding to achieve the goals.
In closing, I would like to say that the committee needs to also pay attention to research, and FIA is a part of that, as a very important part of the success of this agency in the future. Perhaps I have been critical in the last 5 minutes, but I will say that my sincere belief is that the Forest Service is made up of some very dedicated, professional and qualified individuals.
Thank you, very much. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Banzhaf appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I want to respond to that point.
I agree with you totally. There are fine people, dedicated servants in the Forest Service. I suppose my frustration simply is not exactly personally with those people on the ground at all, but my frustration is that in this town there is a philosophy that is now overshadowing Forest Service decisions that has little to do, in my opinion, with either the forest health of this Nation or forestry practices.
We have trained people for 50 years to manage a resource which we cherish in this country, and they are not allowed to manage it. That is my frustration. I appreciate each of you enumerating and underlining FIA.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me ask each of you, the Forest Service budget, as I recall, has a $4.5 billion increase. We assumed in the research title of the agriculture research bill, which I sat on and was a part of the construction of, as well as the conference committee, that another $18 million authorized was sufficient to get us to 5 years.
Dr. Prisley, I notice that in your testimony you thought there were an additionala total of $35 million, I believe?
Mr. PRISLEY. That is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it wrong to assume that an additional $18 million is not enough? I think that the total is $10 million, as I recall.
Mr. PRISLEY. I was going from a starting point of 19.9, so an additional 15 to 18 would bring us in that.
The CHAIRMAN. So what we are assuming would fall within your recommendations?
Mr. PRISLEY. That is correct. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. I assume each of you gentlemen would agree?
Mr. BANZHAF. Yes.
Mr. BROWN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. You agree with that number.
Mr. Pombo, do you have any questions of these gentlemen?
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Banzhaf, you talked about priorities within the Forest Service and stressed what you believe at this point. In terms of forest health, do you believe it is rated a high-enough priority within the structure of the budgetnot necessarily what the people have testified to, what they say, but in looking at the budget request, do you believe that forest health is a high-enough priority by the way the request looks?
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BANZHAF. Congressman, I think I would answer that question by stating that, if the management goals as articulated by the Forest Service reflect the level or the high priority that is necessary in addressing forest health, and I think they do, then one can say very quickly that the funds necessary to meet their goals are not adequate. Therefore, the funds don't meet the level of priority that the Forest Service has set itself in terms of programmatic intent.
Mr. POMBO. What about the operation, maintenance, reconstruction of the access roads to our national forests?
Mr. BANZHAF. Once again, and this was stated this morning, the money that has been allocated for this is a fraction of the $10 billion backlog that has been alluded to, if, indeed, that is an accurate figure. That is another issue that goes back to the whole matter of accounting. It is a fraction of what is needed.
The Society of American Foresters has testified before other committees that we believe that the moratorium, in addition to not really focusing the monies that are needed in the backlog, takes away the philosophical energy and focus that is needed by people to address the issue and focuses it in another fashion.
Mr. POMBO. Let me also ask you about land acquisitions.
For every year that I have been in Congress for the past six budgets there has been a request for additional land acquisitions from the Forest Service, a substantial amount of money and a substantial amount of land. Given that we do not have the funding in the budget and the request to maintain the current forest, what priority do you believe there should be placed on adding to the National Forest System by the purchase of additional lands?
Mr. BANZHAF. That is not as easy a question to answer as you might think. Clearly, the management of the Forest Service's existing system has to have top priority. But in terms of land acquisition, there may be some purposes or goals at the local level that may be of equal importance.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Although I would be able to say on a general basis, nationally, that we have to be very certain that we have the funds allocated to manage the National Forest System and other programs, there may be, on a case-by-case basis at the local level, a need to acquire land for some other purpose.
Mr. POMBO. Let me put it to you this way.
I won't question the environmental need or the benefit of any of the land purchases that they have requested in this year's budget, because I can't tell you precisely which ones are important and which ones are not. But given the fact that there is not enough money to take care of the properties they already have within their control, would it not make sense, if you found something that was important for one reason or another, to purchasewould it not make sense to divest yourself of other assets, other properties, that may not be environmentally sensitive at the same time that you are adding to the National Forest System?
Mr. BANZHAF. Once again, on a macro basis, that might make sense. If you can find the appropriate holding that no longer meets the objectives of the National Forest System of the Forest Service, that may be possible, if there are markets for those parcels. Certainly the Forest Service does go through exchange programs where they trade lands or divest lands in order to get something that meets their goals more appropriately.
Mr. POMBO. Trading lands is a program that I support wholeheartedly. Several pieces of legislation have been passed and signed into law that dealt with the trading of lands. I think it is important.
But, at the same time, when you have a country that one-third of the land is owned by the Federal Government, I would argue that there was no intention at any point in any piece of legislation that would say that the Federal Government has a reason to hold onto one-third of the land within that country.
The Chairman made a statement earlier that 75 percent of his district was within Federal lands. Mr. Goodlatte made a statement earlier that watershed of his district was Federal lands. I will venture to say that either gentlemen could easily, within a couple of days, give the Forest Service a list of properties within their districts that could be sold and turned back into private property or turned into private property, and that that money could be used to purchase lands or to maintain existing lands that they have.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BANZHAF. Let me see if I can answer your question this way, because I need to be careful that I don't make generalizations that clearly are not the case at the local level.
I will just tell you this, that for my own relatively small organization, before expanding programs for the Society of American Foresters we make certain that our current programs, if they are still deemed high priority, are financed. I think that gives you my opinion, but I cannot tell you whether or not in a particular district or on a particular forest that is appropriate. I will certainly indicate that there are probably opportunities that that could happen, but I just can't say that, yes, in this district that is going to happen.
I will agree with you that one needs to have one's own programs of high priority well-financed before one begins to stretch again, whether you are in the private sector or the public sector.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, I realize my time is up. I will just conclude by saying that, if money were no object, each and every one of us would own homes in several places throughout the world, would make an argument for why we would continue to own those pieces of property and why they were important to us and our families to own that. But money is an object, so we don't do that.
It is about time that the Federal Government, the Forest Service, realizes that money is an object and is part of the equation and that they made the tough decision to divest themselves of properties that no longer meet the needs of the National Forest Service, made those decisions and say, these properties are not environmentally sensitive; they are not critical to be held in Federal ownership; they divest themselves of those properties; and they take care of what they have.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. We are, unfortunately, called to vote.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Chairman, I wonder if I might have a minute or two.
The CHAIRMAN. Please, Mr. Goodlatte.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First, let me say to the gentleman from California that this committee actually passed just 2 weeks ago, and the President signed into law a bill that sold about 20-some parcels of land from the national forest in my district, authorized the sale of them for economic development and other purposes.
These are pieces of land that are disconnected from the main parts of the forest. They are not suitable for forestland. They are more suitable for other purposes, including one will be a major new business park that will attract new jobs to an area in my district.
So I agree with the gentleman that we need to constantly be assessing that; and, under the right circumstances, the Forest Service will go along with that because, with some pushing and pulling, we got them to agree to those transfers.
I would like to welcome Dr. Prisley here. He represents Westvaco Corporation, I understand, which has the largest paper mill of its kind in the world in my district, so I imagine he is very concerned about the availability of resources to serve that facility. I know I am. There are thousands and thousands of trucks and railcars every month that go in to support that enormous facility.
Do you know what percentage of the wood fiber that goes into that plant comes from Federal lands and what percentage comes from privately owned lands?
Mr. PRISLEY. I don't have those figures available right now. I know, company-wide, less than half of our mill furnish is from our own private lands. The rest is either from National Forest lands or other private landowners.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. GOODLATTE. I would venture to guess that is primarily other private landowners.
Mr. PRISLEY. That would be right.
Mr. GOODLATTE. My understanding is that one-third of my district, as I indicated earlierand I am pleased that the gentleman from California remembered thatis owned by the Federal Government in national forestland; and the other is held in privately owned forestland. And I would venture to guess that 85 percent of the resources for that paper mill and four other paper mills in the area that are served comes off of the privately-owned land and about 15 percent off the federally-owned land.
What relative impact does that have on the national forest compared to the privately-owned land? Does it put too much pressure on privately-owned land? Does it cause problems with the health of the national forest if they don't harvest enough timber off of it?
Mr. PRISLEY. It puts pressure on the private landowners. It generates some incentive at least for them to do proper things in forest management. It may be unfortunate that the Forest Service cannot do some of those same things through a timberactive timber management program. I would imagine there are many opportunities lost there, in that area.
When we compare, using the FIA data, growth and productivity on private lands versus National Forest lands, we consistently find younger, vigorous, fast-growing stands in the private sector when compared to Forest Service land.
Mr. GOODLATTE. And for probably a lot less cost per acre, too, would you say?
Mr. PRISLEY. I would venture that.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Do you think those privately-owned lands are environmentally soundly managed?
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PRISLEY. To our knowledge they are. And through actions like the American Forest and Paper Association's Sustainable Forestry Initiative, there is some teeth behind that that encourages us to encourage not only our people but all the contractors we work with to do the absolute best, follow the best management practices, to ensure that those lands are very well managed.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Are any of those lands, would you say, in such a situation that one-third of the cost of managing the lands is in overhead and expenses, underlaid with the direct support of the land?
Mr. PRISLEY. I don't think we could continue in business if that were the case.
Mr. GOODLATTE. I don't think so, either.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. We will recess until we vote.
The CHAIRMAN. We will resume the hearing.
Mr. Brown, what State do you come from, please?
Mr. BROWN. I am from Missouri.
The CHAIRMAN. I am going to ask the committee to respond to your request for an additional $20 million in the State and Private Forestry Program. Maybe we can help some and ask this committee to send a letter to the appropriators in support of that request.
Mr. BROWN. That is very much appreciated.
The CHAIRMAN. Just a side line, I am of the opinion that State foresters could do a hell of a lot better job managing Federal timber than we have seen here. We will never get there likely, but the facts are that State foresters I am familiar with do an outstanding job. And I agree, they may not have the broad responsibilities that the Federal Government does. However, your forest, State forests in Missouri have to accommodate recreation, fish and wildlife, water quality, I assume.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BROWN. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. You have the same broad responsibilities to your State as do Federal managers, I assume.
Mr. BROWN. In Missouri, they are pretty similar. It varies across the States.
The CHAIRMAN. I want to explore with you, Mr. Banzhaf, this question that I posed to the Chief regarding the Roads and Trails Funds, which I think you are familiar with, as a budget item that we were attempting in my bill to transfer it to watershed restoration activities or the general health and welfare of forests. Is that something that you would support?
Mr. BANZHAF. Absolutely. As we indicated before, clearly there is a need for innovative solutions during this time. And that suggestion, though it would not have addressed the full situation, certainly would have played a role in alleviating the real distance between goals and funds.
The CHAIRMAN. We are all frustrated with this overhead and administrative cost issue that you identified. The idea ofthe fact the Forest Service was reporting 33 percent overhead for the roads program is just unbelievable. Frankly, the frustration is, how do you get to that question if you don't do it through the budget, I suppose?
Mr. BANZHAF. Well, Mr. Chairman, I certainly share your concern about the overhead issue. As I mentioned in my initial remarks, I think sometimes overhead gets a bad name because if one translates it as in terms of buildings and telephones and management personnel that need to get the job done, then it is appropriate.
The real concern I have with the Forest Service is that you can't find how they allocate it or how it truly is determined. So that, as an independent organization trying to provide some useful analysis for Congress, we can't do the job we would like to do.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I will add that I was very concernedand this may just reflect my own naivete with regard to agency accounting practiceswhen Mr. Pandolfi indicated that they account on a cash basis.
My opinion is that the only way you can really understand whether a program has an operating margin or a deficit in programs as complex as the Forest Service or even an association of our size, 18,000 members, is through accrual accounting. Where you simply don't, for instance, expense roads all in one year. You amortize those roads. You don't count all the cash in one year. Accrued revenue you take when it is earned, not simply received.
So it may, once again, be an area of naivete from my point of view, but it seems to me that that is something that, hopefully, the Forest Service is looking at through their recent outside study on accounting principles.
The CHAIRMAN. As you know, for the first time in the history of the Forest Service's existence, every region is below cost. And part of that is simply, as you well know, in the west, region 6, we are operating on 15 percent of the public lands for one reason or another, but there has certainly not been an 85 percent reduction in cost. So, of course, every sale is below cost.
But one day someone is going to ask, how can we continue a Forest Service or a forest policy when it is being ''subsidized'' by the Federal Government? And, frankly, if I were a member of the Sierra Club, I would applaud that. That is perfect. Because then you could advocate why harvest timber if it is going to cost the government money.
So the question I have and continually have to them isand to ushow can we counsel them to manage this forest in a reasonable way, these various forests, so that they are not continually being adjudged as below cost, susceptible to all these arguments?
Mr. BANZHAF. I think reasonable accounting principles and standards would go a long way in achieving that.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Yes, it would help. That is right.
Mr. Pombo, any further questions?
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the panel very much. Thank you gentlemen for coming.
I would like to call Dr. Sparrowe and Mr. Crandall, please, gentlemen.
Dr. Sparrowe is president of the Wildlife Management Institute. Mr. Crandall is president of the American Recreation Coalition.
Glad to have you both here. Thank you for your patience.
STATEMENT OF ROLLIN D. SPARROWE, PRESIDENT, THE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT INSTITUTE
Mr. SPARROWE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am Rollin Sparrowe, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. We are a nonprofit organization dedicated to improved management of wildlife and habitats.
We maintain a Washington office and five regional field representatives who track the activities of the land management agencies, including the Forest Service. We have a long history of professional interaction with the Forest Service.
We have done two national reviews at requests of two different chiefs of their Fish and Wildlife Programs, and we have participated in a number of internal evaluations of Forest Service wildlife programs, including budget accountability and tracking and other things.
We, in recent years, have maintained a high level of activity in looking at wildlife programs, while the Forest Service has been under a substantial period of great change in its directions and under a lot of pressures. Working with other wildlife organizations, we have taken some of our concerns directly to the Chief and all the way up to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, basically being concerned about some Fish and Wildlife funding being lost in the shuffle of the much larger programs of the Forest Service.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To their credit, the Forest Service has been responsive to a number of these issues. Chief Dombeck has personally intervened in the last year or so and reemphasized the importance of partnerships and the role of wildlife in meeting agency objectives.
We strongly support Chief Dombeck's recent statement of a natural resources agenda and think that use of resources such as timber, wildlife and recreation should be the dividends of sound stewardship.
We are continually concerned that funding for wildlife work on the ground is a problem. Each time a new national program thrust or regional thrust develops, such as large-scale ecosystem planning, often in response to pressure from the Congress or the administration, money is redirected from the ground level to fund these broad-scale programs.
I have listed some examples in my testimony that indicate that we find that less money is getting to the field to do actual wildlife work, that wildlife biologists are spending 80 percent of their time on paperwork and that partner dollars potentially to go for work on the land are not able to be used by the Forest Service.
Mr. Chairman, I have extensive personal experience with the long-term effects of progressive reductions in budget and priorities on national forestsin fact, on several of them.
The one of interestI have just spent 9 days in the last 2 weeks on the Mark Twain in Missouri and 1 day on the George Washington near here. On the Mark Twain, I have included some information in my testimony on how the combination of budget reductions, reinvention changes by the current administration and shifts in priorities have resulted in a situation which reduces the quality of the recreational experience and really does not protect the fish and wildlife habitats and resources of a particular area of the Mark Twain that I have a lot of experience with. This is an example of the impact of some of what has been happening over the past 5 or 6 years.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Road management is a significant aspect of this and has a lot of biological ramifications that haven't been discussed at this hearing, and may not be able to be, but should be in the future. Wildlife management is greatly dependent upon roads and access by people.
A lot of good things are happening out on the forests. But our main concern is that the reduced staff are overwhelmed and being required to do multiple tasks for which they were not necessarily trained.
On a larger scale, I want to bring to your attention that a nationwide coalition of environmental, recreation and conservation groups has assessed the needs of the Federal agencies, including the Forest Service, and found that programs of interest to us are severely underfunded. I have included with my testimony the Forest Service portion of the Public Lands Funding Initiative. The data for this were collected through direct contact with agency people and reveal a dire need for funding for many programs.
The issue is the function 300 funding allocation, which is the main point of that Public Lands Funding Initiative. We have met recently with Mr. Regula and also Mr. Kasich about concerns that, because of the Balanced Budget Agreement, the decline in function 300 limits the capability of the committee to deal with the issues of need for the agency.
Mr. Chairman, members of this committee certainly could help with that internally within the Congress.
We feel that, in terms of accountability, the Chief's Natural Resources Agenda should be linked eventually to a step-down approach that couples national and regional objectives with specific objectives in each forest plan. We are going into a second round of many of the forest plans across the country. There needs to be more public interaction between the Forest Service, its partners and the Congress about how to reach those objectives and more accountability specifically in how budget money is used for staff and operations to carry out those tasks.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In response to some of the polarized public dialogue recently, a diverse group of professional societies and recreation and conservation organizations have developed a document called, The Statement of Principles for Managing the National Forests. I have also attached that to my testimony.
These organizations feel that there are very broad values from the national forests that they support, and they have committed to working to support a broad approach to management which includes human use and protection where necessary but not exclusively one or the other.
The Forest Service is a large and complex agency. We are a strong supporter of the agency, but we have been consistently also a critic of how some of the wildlife programs are handled. They have been responsive when we have brought issues to them, but it has been difficult for us, as closely as we have paid attention to those individual programs, to track them; and we look for more improvement in the future.
We want to see a strong professional agency capable of and allowed by law and procedure to actively manage the national forests and grasslands to meet the wide needs of society.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Sparrowe appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you. Mr. Crandall, welcome.
STATEMENT OF DERRICK CRANDALL, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN RECREATION COALITION
Mr. CRANDALL. Thank you. I am delighted to be here representing the American Recreation Coalition, which is a national federation of more than 100 organizations involved in meeting the recreation needs of Americans.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our industry each year generates some $400 billion in sales and touches the lives of nearly every American. In fact, our data shows that 57 percent of all Americans engage in outdoor recreation at least monthly; and upwards of one in three Americans regularly recreate on our Federal lands.
We certainly applaud the committee initiative in looking at the fiscal year 1999 budget and going beyond the budget, looking at some of the broader issues before you here today, including the oft-cited backlogs facing the agency in recreation and roads and a seriously wrong trend in the agency's budget.
While recreation visits are climbing, the appropriated resources for recreation programs at the district levels are shrinking rapidly. Visitors' services and satisfaction appear to compete poorly against internal priorities and end up with mere scraps.
As the committee knows, the time is near when the national forests will reach 1 billion recreation visits annually. These visits are by people seeking many different kinds of experiences but they have a common purpose: to enjoy time in an attractive and natural setting apart from the tensions of our urbanized society.
Their three core needs are good access, visitor facilities and services designed to meet the needs of Americans living in increasingly urban communities, and good management of the resources.
Let me first address recreation infrastructure. The recreation facilities in our national forests are not in good shape. While estimates of the recreation facility backlog vary, the immediate need for capital investments in campgrounds and trails, day use sites and visitors centers, interpretive kiosks and other recreation facilities appears to be between $1 billion and $2 billion. This does not include investment in new facilities designed to meet higher levels of use today and expected higher levels in the future. In fact, current levels of appropriations are exacerbating, not eradicating this backlog.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The goal set forth in the draft RPA program document 2 years ago was for 55 percent of all recreation visits in the national forests to occur at sites that meet agency quality standards, and that will prove very optimistic at the current rate.
Let me just digress by saying that any recreation company which set a goal of 55 percent of its products working right or 55 percent of its restrooms being clean and operational would not make to it to the new millennium. Disney emphasizes that it takes 31 magic moments to undo the damage of a single tragic moment. The Forest Service, too, needs to set its focus on 100 percent satisfaction of guest expectations and, with good partners, that goal can be achieved.
A first step is a very different attitude towards capital budget needs. For reconstruction of worn-out campgrounds and boat ramps, beaches and trail heads, we urge the Congress to direct the agency to look at the private sector. Through an extension of the term of permits, the agency can persuade current and future recreation service partners to invest in water systems and restrooms, parking areas and much more just as is done today at ski areas.
The agency has investigated this opportunity for years. It is now time to move on the concept, and we call upon the Congress to authorize a concession demonstration program in the spirit of the now under way recreation fee demonstration program.
Yet investments by concessionaires and permittees is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Forest Service recreation program backlog. The agency must address a dearth of business expertise in its operations. Efficient use of capital must be an agency goal in project design, construction and operation.
Let me turn to road infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the recreation backlog is dwarfed by the magnitude of the forest road system backlog. The backlog for needed reconstruction of arterial and collector roads alone, some 85,000 miles out of a system of some 400,000 miles, is reported as $10.5 billion. The agency is responsible for 7,000 bridges, of which 940 are currently rated as deficient; and only 40 of these bridges are being replaced annually. The lack of investment is already creating a loss of access to forest roads and posing significant safety issues.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I express concern regarding a plan that would target a goal of 55 percent compliance with agency quality standards for recreation. That goal is a shining star compared to the goal for the future of the road program. The agency projects meeting just 40 percent of its maintenance needs for arterial and collector roads, and that is simply unacceptable.
In the last 3 fiscal years, as you heard the Chief testify, the agency reports a drop in its arterial and corridor mileage of nearly 10 percent. This drop is not because these roads no longer lead to trail heads and campgrounds, lakes and other recreation destinations. It is a reflection of the reclassification of these routes as now requiring the use of high-clearance vehicles for safe passage. This closure of routes by default and not by design cannot continue.
Today's forest roads are largely the product of the agency's past timber production history. The Congress and the administration have yet to look at the long-range road needs of the forests. What is clear is that total forest road spending is declining, going from some $600 million annually in the mid1980s to less than $250 million in 1998.
We believe that a forest transportation strategy is essential, and we urge that a portion of the receipts of the Highway Trust Fund be earmarked to forest roads. In part, this logic arises from the national responsibility that we bear for providing access to the forest, but it is also based on the fact that millions of dollars in Federal fuel taxes are paid by those 1.7 million vehicles per day using the forest roads.
We are aware that the administration envisions an aggressive decommissioning of roads in the forests based upon environmental and fiscal costs. The recreation community does not necessarily oppose some road closures, provided that access to recreation sites in the forests are not significantly impaired.
What we have called for, instead, is to emphasize an ambitious Roads to Trails Initiative funded in part through recreation fees and through cooperative agreements with States like California's Green Sticker Program and a Road Banking Program. Under road banking, local routes might be obliterated visually but retained legally, recognizing that the routes might once again become important for recreation, timber or other purposes at a later time.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, let me address the Recreation Program budget.
I have attached as Attachment A some numbers that show what has happened in the recreation field over the last 11 years. The Forest Service Recreation Program has not fared well in recent years. As the recreation task of the agency has grown in size and complexity, the agency's appropriated revenues for recreation have declined in current dollars and are now well below levels provided in the early 1990s.
Even removing the capital budget component boosted under the Bush administration's Great Outdoors Initiative with the help of this committee, the O&M budget in fiscal year 1993 was just $261 million versus $218 million in the current fiscal year.
The impact on the ground has been dramatic. We spot-checked 10 key recreation-heavy districts across the Nation, and we found that many reported a decline in Recreation Program budgets of 50 percent or more between fiscal year 1991 and today. None of the districts we contacted reported an increase in appropriated funding for recreation. It appears that 50 percent or less of the funds appropriated by Congress actually reach the forest district level.
Where is the money appropriated by Congress for recreation programs actually being spent and how can a quality recreation program exist under these conditions?
We find that a substantially higher portion of congressional appropriations for recreation appear to be vanishing before hitting the ground today than ever before. Our attempts to investigate don't give us a clear picture as to where that money is going.
We also believe that the Recreation Program is shouldering an unfair higher share of general administrative costs at the regional and forest levels based upon the time actually invested in recreation programs by individuals at the regional and forest level.
We ask the help of this committee to engage in further investigation of this issue and invite the Forest Service leadership to commit to sustaining in the field recreation efforts that reflect congressional appropriations.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second question I would ask is why we don't come before this body to proclaim a crisis is at hand. The answer is that countless men and women of the Forest Service and allies who share their love of the national forests have responded to declining appropriated funds creatively through the challenge cost share program and concessions campgrounds and with agreements with State and local agencies which have literally generated millions of dollars in funds to be spent on national forests. And through the effective utilization of volunteers, the Recreation Program in some forest districts is today outstanding.
We have now become a fan of programs which deliver maximum new resources to grass-roots level Forest Service officials. The recreation fee demonstration program is important and correctly designed in this regard. Eighty percent of all receipts are retained locally at the collection site. We think the fee demonstration program encourages agency staff to look to partners and customers to pay for recreation services.
As an industry, we believe that Americans are willing to pay for quality in their recreation. Our companiesDisney, Coleman, L.L. Beanhave learned that lesson for generations.
Mr. Chairman, the recreation community loves America's national forests and looks to the Forest Service as a friend. It deserves the support of the American public and of this committee. We ask your help in three areas:
First, we ask you to urge support for Recreation Program spending for operations and maintenance at or above fiscal year 1993 levels in constant dollars.
Second, we support appropriations for the National Forest Road Program of at least $300 million, minus any timber purchase or credits.
And, third, we support a concessions demonstration program which we believe can make a significant impact on the recreation facility backlog.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Crandall appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Crandall.
Let me ask both of you, Doctor, how do you separate a forest road from a wildlife road and a recreation road?
Mr. SPARROWE. Well, all of the roads on a forest have some impact on wildlife in one way or another, either directly on the wildlife themselves or on their security based on access by people. So what we think is needed for the national forest is a hard look at the overall management of roads so that we can accommodate recreational use and timber extraction where needed and wildlife needs.
A lot could be done by direct management for seasonal use of roads for recreation. Roads don't all have to be open all year to be useful to people for the primary seasons, and during some key periods they could help wildlife in a number of ways. But that requires an appropriate number of people at the local level to do that management and carry that out.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Crandall?
Mr. CRANDALL. There are certainly a number of roads on the national forests that are primarily recreation routes. In fact, the Forest Service has a program called
The CHAIRMAN. I am sorry. What I am trying to ask you is, is there a forest road that has ever been constructed that somehow did not enhance recreation?
Mr. CRANDALL. I am sure there must be some, but certainly we would say that the access provided by the roads in the national forests has generally been very supportive of recreation.
The CHAIRMAN. So then it gets to my next question. How do we get so disconnected in the system when Mr. Pombo and I and others are attempting to defend the roads program, which as you heard today is a mixed metaphor even with the administration, but every year we fight on the floor of the House of Representatives against those who say they are environmentalists. I hear you folks under certain strategies asking for financing roads. We are asking for financing of roads. And we get hit on the floor by environmentalists who are realists and who advocate wildlife programs, Dr. Sparrowe, as you well know, as their No. 1 program. How would you assist us in this program? I assume we are speaking from the same page.
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. CRANDALL. Mr. Chairman, we have been involved in the appropriations process every year arguing for the importance of roads for recreation. We will continue to do that. I think the Forest Service has been its own worst enemy in several regards.
First of all, it has not regarded its roads as public roads but rather has treated them as administrative roads and, therefore, has not qualified for funding out of the Highway Trust Fund.
Second, it has no strategy for identifying which roads truly are important and, therefore, can't report where it spends its money so it can't make its own case very effectively or hand you the tools to make the case effectively when the issue comes before the Congress.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Sparrowe.
Mr. SPARROWE. Mr. Chairman, it is a little more complex than that. There are, in fact, some roads constructed on national forests that are not positive for wildlife. A lot of them aren't real roads. They are roads that are used to extract timber or to get somewhere and then are not closed or not managed as a road, but just left to the devices of people to use or not, that are very damaging both to wildlife and to the wildlife recreational experienceif you are going to hunt, for example.
In fact, this year I had to leaveafter spending 5 days on the national forest, I had to go to a State area where RVs and other things are managed in order to kill a turkey to get away from the pressure of people running around with 4-wheelers and other things on all these secondary and tertiary roads.
What I am calling for, and I think a lot of the wildlife community would support, is a reasoned look at the management of roads. We certainly realize that some of the major roads, the arterials and ones that are for recreational access need themselves to be managed and kept up. But there are quite a few, let us call them roadways, not necessarily designated roads, that are very damaging to wildlife interests.
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I understand that. I am from the West, as you may know, and I have 11 national forests in my district. And Oregon and Washington, as you well know, historically produced half the softwoods for this Nation. It doesn't do so anymore.
But I am hunter. I am a fisherman. I am a recreationalist. Every road in the forest that I see is multipurpose. I agree with you. There are some roads that do not enhance wildlife, certainly, or water quality, for that matter, roads up streams that could be moved to another spot, if they were indeed necessary at all.
But I am frustrated because we have this annual fight, as you know about, on the floor trying to protect the Forest Service, trying to protect the roads program. And there are those from the other side who say, if you get rid of roads, you enhance the environment. And I hear you all saying, under proper conditions, roads enhance wildlife, and they enhance recreation. Is that fair?
Mr. CRANDALL. Mr. Chairman, the No. 1 recreation activity in the national forests is driving for pleasure.
But I would reemphasize what Rolly said. Largely, our interest is in the arterial and collector roads which are used by 84 percent of all of the traffic. Certainly some of the local roads are very important to recreation, but we can't at this point tell you which roads those are. Our fight is
The CHAIRMAN. I do not expect you to. That is not your job.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Sparrowe, first off, I just want to tell you that I found your testimony very interesting and very useful. I read your entire written testimony. There is a lot of what I believe good information that you have provided for the committee.
The wildlife values that we have in our national forests I think are extremely important for a number of reasons, including the recreational use of our national forests. If it was not for the wildlife that is present, I would venture to say that there would be a lot fewer people recreating in our national forests. That is a big part of it.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC One of the things that concerns me about this budget request that has been given to us is that the priority that the administration has placed within the budget does not seem to me to be placed on protecting wildlife, protecting access, allowing people the multiuse of our forests, but instead seems to be placed on the idea that we are going to have a hands-off approach to management of our forests.
I know that that is something that just did not happen this year. It has been ongoing for a number of years. But I think that you see the frustration on the committee, you see the frustration among the American people that that is what is happening.
The CHAIRMAN. I would like you to comment on the work that they are able to do. I notice in your testimony that you say that wildlife biologists were spending up to 80 percent of their time processing appeals, litigation and consulting with nonwildlife programs. I don't think that is what any of us want. I would like you to expand upon that somewhat.
Mr. SPARROWE. Well, that is not what we want or think would be advisable for the best use of those resources. Some of that is out of the control ofcertainly of the Forest Service; and for various of the interest groups. Litigation, the requirements of documentation for environmental assessments of various types, all have taken more time. I think the agencies have all become sensitized because of all of this and sometimes perhaps spend more time at it than they need.
We made that suggestion when we did the review of the Ouachita National Forest in an area where an entire watershed had eight timber compartments. It seemed to us that one document could be written for the whole watershed, when in fact eight were being written. The response back was that the attorneys tell us that we have to do that to deal with the kind of challenges we are going to get.
I think some aspects of the whole process of dealing with planning and executing management on national forests, we have supported streamlining in order to help this process go through. But that is a difficult thing to do when you have views that range from we want no cutting on any kind of national forest to others who feel threatened then and perhaps push too hard for a continuation. We are in a very polarized environment.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. There is no question about that. I think anyone who deals with this on an ongoing basis realizes that.
I think that, in many cases, I don't necessarily blame the Forest Service for this, but they have become paralyzed in their management of our national forests because they begin to manage in a way to avoid litigation versus what is actually the best thing for forest health, the best thing for wildlife, the best thing for economic recovery from the forests. And I don't think that is necessarily their fault that that is what happens. But with a continuum of lawsuits that continue to be filed every time a timber sale goes through, it just makes it impossible for them to move.
In terms of access, and I would like to ask both of you this question, one of the things that I have noticed in the past several years is that there are currently approximately 300 million acres of land that the Federal Government owns that has a conservation easement on that and the resulting limited access to it as a result of that conservation easement. Does it concern either one of you that we are so-called locking up public lands and limiting access to those public lands?
Mr. SPARROWE. I am confused by the reference to conservation easements, the 300 million acres. Are you referring to 300 million acres of land that are in some sort of protected category?
Mr. POMBO. Correct.
Mr. SPARROWE. I am a lover of wildlands. I do a lot of hiking and walking and climbing into such places. So far I haven't run across too many of them from that standpoint.
I realize the controversies over how much additional wilderness should be designated. I think the dialogue should be engaged on those, and decisions made to get us off the dilemma that we have. It depends on specific situations as to whether I would view it as a lockup or not.
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. But the question specifically is, does it concern you in terms of limiting access to those? I am glad that you are physically able to do what you do; and, in reading your testimony, I realize you do it quite often. But, in my experience, there are a number of people who would enjoy the opportunity to see some of the things that you have seen who physically or because of time constraints don't have the ability to get in and see some of those areas.
I can relate to you one specific story. I was in one of our national forests in northern California recently and had the opportunity to visit probably one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, a waterfall area up in Wally Herger's district. And I was informed, upon leaving, that the road that we used to access that was going to be shut off and that the nearest vehicle access to that point would then be 5 miles away and that if anybody wanted to see that particular spot that I had seen, they would have to hike 10 miles in mountains to have the chance to see that.
That concerns me. That concerns me that people won't have access to those areas.
Mr. CRANDALL. If I could respond, I guess what I would say is that we see great value in protecting areas as wilderness or as parks or wildlife refugees, and we support that. We do believe that the Congress in general over the last 20 years has focused much more on protective classifications of lands rather than on meeting the recreation needs of the American public. We have not looked adequately at the needs to convert abandoned railroads and other corridors into green ways that serve many purposes, whether it is for wildlife or recreation to lead people from where they live to where they go.
I had the opportunity to serve on the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, and our recommendation emphasized that vehicles like the Land and Water Conservation Funds and other programs should really be aimed primarily at America's suburban and urban areas where the needs are so great to keep people connected with the great outdoors.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I guess it is more a question of focus. I think on issues such as the one you are raising, there needs to be a balance. And, in fact, I think we need to assess whether that kind of an obliteration of a road is essential to maintain the character of the area and making sure that there is an A class recreation experience for everyone, whether they are in wheelchairs or whether they are 70 years old or whether, in most cases, they are part of a group in which at least somebody has a permanent or a temporary physical challenge that minimizes what they can do in the way of a 10-mile hike.
We have to provide those groups opportunities for first-class recreational access to the outdoors as well.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Chairman, if I may, I realize that my time has expired. I would like to ask the panel, particularly starting with Dr. Sparrowe, do you believe that there are Forest Service lands currently in their inventory that could be sold and/or traded to purchase other privately-held, environmentally-sensitive lands? And can you give me an idea of what priority you think that should be in the current budget state that we are in?
Mr. SPARROWE. I am not aware of specific lands that should be sold. Conceptually, I can certainly agree that there might be lands included in the forest system that a trade or some other change in status might improve it.
I am more familiar with some of thosewell, those are problems actually on the Mark Twain Forest that I mentioned spending a lot of time on. The Mark Twain is a forest that is about half-developed. It has in-holdings and a tremendous number of areas that are not yet and may never become part of the forest because they are privately owned. So there can be certainly some great efficiencies in management and a better shake for wildlife and for recreational use by consolidating and firming up these lands. I would certainly not oppose those kinds of trades on an individual basis.
On a blanket basis, I think a lot of us have been concerned about taking the major step to begin selling off public lands just as a general principle in order to pay for the ones we have. Without knowing which lands and how priorities would be set, that is a frightening proposition, frankly.
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I understand where it comes from. It is just a difference of opinion about how we ought to proceed for the future.
Mr. POMBO. I don't think it is necessarily a difference of opinion. I think that if you personally served on a commission that was tasked with the ability to give us a list of lands and consolidations, that you could actually sit down, especially with your experience and hands-on experience being in the forest, that you could give us a list of areas and consolidations and things we should buy and things we should sell.
And if you sat down on a forest-by-forest basis, I think you could probably do that. And things that would enhance wildlife, that would enhance habitat, that would enhance recreational opportunities, I think you would have the ability to do that.
It is not necessarily a difference of opinion in terms of protecting what is environmentally sensitive or what should be held in public hands versus what should not be, but I think it is a budget reality that we face that every single year. We add literally tens of thousands of acres to what exists within the Federal land holdings, and we never look at things that may not necessarily be important to be held in public ownership anymore.
Mr. SPARROWE. This is not a new concept. I spent 22 years with the Fish and Wildlife Service before moving to the Institute 7 years ago, and I am familiar with this concerning wildlife refugees and other lands. It is a difficult thing to do because it arouses an emotional response out of a lot of people. And yet I would agree that there are some substantial things that could be done with the public lands to make the situation better, by some trades and other things.
Mr. POMBO. Would you agree to do that if you knew that the end result would be that the lands that are being held were being taken care of, maintained properly, that it enhanced the wildlife abilities, it enhanced the recreational opportunities? Would you not agree to go along with that?
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPARROWE. There have been such things concerning national forests and the Bureau of Land Management already in which there have been exchanges with some of the States and others for management. In fact, there is an area right in the middle of the area I hunted in Missouri that was transferred from the State to the forest about 10 years ago, simply because it made more sense for about a 12-square-mile area right in the middle of the forest to become an integral part of a national forest.
I would have to say in that case it suffered from going under the national forest because they haven't had as much money and wherewithal to manage it as the State did prior to that. So each situation has to be looked at, but there are some possibilities that could be reasonably done, I think.
Mr. POMBO. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Doctor, can you tell me for the record which environmental groups and professional organizations support the Public Lands Funding Initiative, please?
Mr. SPARROWE. I am sorry. I don't have the list right here at the table, but I can provide it to you for the record.
I provided two statements, and we neglected to put the list for the Public Lands Funding Initiative. But I will.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you recall how much the initiative recommended for increases in road funding?
Mr. SPARROWE. Minimum increase of $100 million a year to obliterate or repair environmentally damaged and unsafe and unneeded roads and bridges.
Let's see. It discusses the estimates of the larger need from the Forest Service and the tremendous size of the backlog and generally supports a $100 million increase in annual appropriations in the road maintenance budget to enhance their ability to deal with things.
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would acknowledge that the Public Lands Funding Initiative reference to roads is reflective of the diversity of the groups involved. There are some who want to see road obliteration as the objective and some others who want to see road management. This is a compromise language in the Public Lands Funding Initiative.
The CHAIRMAN. Would that language allow you to defend the road request of the current Forest Service budget?
Mr. SPARROWE. In general, the Forest Service's case for the need for road money seems reasonable to me, but its size is daunting. I am not really capable of saying exactly how much they need right now.
The CHAIRMAN. I am not talking about what they say, the need of $10 million. I have no idea whether that is right or wrong. I am asking a direct question regarding this request in this budget.
Mr. SPARROWE. I don't have the specific dollar amount for roads. Roads, at the time we commented on the Forest Service budget it was not a major issue.
The CHAIRMAN. I think the total is about $200 million. It is roughly a 2 percent increase, hardly adequate.
Mr. SPARROWE. It doesn't seem enough.
The CHAIRMAN. But, as minimal as it is, could your organization support that request?
Mr. SPARROWE. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Crandall?
Mr. CRANDALL. As you will see in our testimony, we call for an appropriation of $300 million for the Forest Road Programs.
The CHAIRMAN. I am interested, Dr. Sparrowe, in your comment, and I want to make sure that I have it correctly, although I could review your testimony. I thought you told me that wildlife management depended upon roads. Is that what you said?
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPARROWE. It is greatly affected by roads, yes. And some wildlife management practices certainly depend on roads. Where a timber harvest is a major part of it, which it is on the national forests, it certainly depends on road access and subsequent management of roads that are put in.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Crandall, of the three imperatives at the end of your statement that you requested, the last one was good management of resources. Tell me what you mean by that.
Mr. CRANDALL. The recreation attraction of the national forests clearly are clean air, clean water, beautiful settings; and we believe that those need to be high on the list of the Forest Service in terms of its priority for management. So I guess, again I repeat, it is clean air, clean water and attractive natural surroundings.
The CHAIRMAN. Does that include harvesting timber?
Mr. CRANDALL. We think the harvest of timber is actually an interesting part of a recreation experience. Certainly there are areas of this country that, because of their untouched virginal nature, are interesting from a visual aspect and others.
But, again, going back to some of the things that Dr. Sparrowe was talking about, a big part of the recreation attraction to the national forests would be wildlife; and to the extent that wildlife species are dependent upon open areas for vegetation, for habitat, or for other kinds of things.
For example, when Dale Robertson announced the creation of the National Forest Scenic Byway Program, one of his visions was to allow the American public to use the scenic byways to see areas that have been reforested to convince them that, in fact, it was possible for use of renewable resources on the national forests to occur and for the area to be returned to both an ecologically viable and a visually attractive resource.
So, in fact, I think that is a commendable kind of a use of the Scenic Byway Program.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I was interested in your discussion of the lack of funding for facilities. Did I understand you to say that you would advocate private contracting for some of these programs?
Mr. CRANDALL. Absolutely. As the chairman knows well, some 60 percent of all downhill skiing in this country occurs on national forests. Not a single dollar of Federal money goes into the construction of the lift towers, to the lodge facilities and to the otherthe parking lots that are used by those ski areas.
Currently, we have gone to a system where a large portion of the developed recreation complex is now managed under concessions by the Forest Service. That has been driven in part by FTE pressures and dollar pressures, but we think there are actually some benefits accruing.
The next step would be to lengthen in some cases the concessions contract on campgrounds and make as a prerequisite of that extension that lengthening of the time period, a need to go in and invest in rehabilitation of the campgrounds.
The CHAIRMAN. And lengthen it sufficiently so that it would attract private investment, obviously.
Mr. CRANDALL. Absolutely.
The CHAIRMAN. And you should know that Mr. Pombo and I annually defend concessionaires in the West, especially in our national parks, on this very basis because they are always attacked because they are private concessionaires on public lands. And as you well know, we are billions of dollars behind regarding taking care of our national parks, and if we can't do it with public money, it makes all kinds of sense to me to offer it to the private enterprise and make it attractive enough so they spend their own money. I think it is an excellent idea.
Mr. Pombo, do you have anything else?
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. POMBO. No.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, gentlemen, thank you very much. It has been very constructive, and we appreciate you being here and your patience. This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:49 p.m., the committee was adjourned, subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Statement of Mike Dombeck
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Stenholm, and members of the committee:
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to talk about the President's fiscal year 1999 budget for the Forest Service.
I have had the honor of serving as Chief of the Forest Service for the past 17 months. During that time I have worked hard to focus our direction toward these broad goals:
Restoring and maintaining the health of the land;
Ensuring accountability for what we do on the land, our financial resources and business systems, and the civil rights of our employees; and,
Promoting collaborative stewardship, partnerships, and decisions based on the best science.
I realize philosophical differences exist over how best to achieve these goals, and perhaps over the goals themselves. None the less as we recognize these differences, I believe it is important to maintain good working relationships.
Mr. Chairman, in my testimony, I want to concentrate on the important elements of the President's budget that relate to the Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda, and also discuss steps we are taking to improve accountability and financial management in the agency. First, let me provide a brief thumbnail sketch of the overall budget.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The President's budget for the Forest Service proposes an increase of 2 percent in discretionary funds. At the same time, we will manage the 191.6 million acres of forests and grasslands and a $30 billion infrastructure with a work force 2 percent smaller than in fiscal year 1998.
We will provide services in support of approximately 860 million visits annually by the public. We will manage a road system consisting of 373,000 miles used by 1.7 million vehicles daily for the purpose of recreation. With the total Forest Service budget of $3.3 billion, we will provide conservation leadership that emphasizes watershed health and sustainability of services and products that come from the national forests.
The budget includes Presidential Initiatives that provide $127.3 million for support of such priorities as: the Clean Water Action Plan; recreation; road, trail, and facility maintenance; and research. In addition, there are funding increases in other important areas, such as hazardous fuels reduction, and wildlife and fisheries habitat management.
Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda
With that brief overview, let me talk about the budget in the context of the Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda. The agenda is tiered to the goals and objectives described in our Strategic Plan prepared under the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA). The agenda identifies and prioritizes areas of emphasis within the objectives of our strategic plan. The strategic plan at the national level, and the forest plans at the local level, set land management direction for the Forest Service. Fulfilling the Agenda will help strengthen the confidence of our constituents in the Forest Service's ability to manage our public land.
The four key emphasis areas of the Natural Resource Agenda are:
1. Watershed Health and Restoration; (2) Sustainable Forest Management; (3) National Forest Road System; (4)Recreation
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Watershed Health and Restoration
Let me start by discussing watershed health and restoration, which is one of the primary reasons for creation of the national forests. For many years, our nation's approach to conservation was based on the premise that we must protect the best of what remains as exemplified by progressive laws which created wilderness areas and wild and scenic rivers. Healthy watersheds are the foundation for sustainable multiple use management, including providing clean water for people and other outputs. Sustaining the health of the land must be our overriding priority. Compared to fiscal year 1998, the President's budget contains important funding increases to accelerate this part of the agenda, such as:
A $12.6 million increase to provide an additional 12,000 acres of watershed improvements, and expand clean-up of hazardous substances sites that impact natural resources and public health and safety,
A $15 million (or 30 percent) increase for hazardous fuels reduction, a critical tool for restoring forest health, (This will result in a reduction of fuels on almost 1.5 million acres. The proposed fiscal year 1999 program builds on strong support Congress shows in the fiscal year 1998 Appropriations Act for hazardous fuels reduction.)
A $20 million increase in Rangeland Vegetation Management, (The increase would allow the Forest Service, in partnership with other USDA and Interior agencies, to begin the first year of a multi-year cooperative effort to address both the status and the restoration of rangelands. It would provide for the restoration of approximately 42,000 acres of range vegetation through non-structural improvements in the Western States, and the control of noxious weeds on 55,000 acres.) and
Increases for both the Road Maintenance Program and the Road Reconstruction and Construction program focused on improving watershed health and public safety. I will discuss these important programs in more detail later in this testimony.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Only by accepting our responsibility for maintaining watershed health can we move forward with a more balanced approach to watershed protection and the provision of grazing, timber, and other outputs. I have often said that on a national scale our nation's forests and grasslands are basically healthy. But there are areas where deterioration is of great concern. We take this responsibility seriously, and we are taking action. For example, on the Clearwater National Forest, the winter storms of 1995 and 1996 produced erosion on old logging roads that caused considerable watershed damage. The Forest is working with the Northwest Power Planning Council, the Nez Perce Tribe, and local agencies to plan and identify funding for the obliteration of 200 miles of these roads over the next 2 years.
Sustainable Forest Management
The second point I want to address in the Natural Resource Agenda is Sustainable Forest Management. Two thirds of the nation's forest land is managed by owners other than the Federal Government. Sustainable forest management cannot be achieved in the U.S. without full engagement by all forest landowners. Only by forming coalitions among communities, conservationists, industry, and all levels of government can we address the complexity of achieving sustainability across the landscape.
The President's fiscal year 1999 budget supports the effort to achieve sustainable forest management in a number of areas, such as:
An increase of $10 million for Forest and Rangeland Research with primary emphasis given to: accelerating annualized inventories and improving analytical capability under the Forest Inventory Analysis program (FIA); expanding the forest health monitoring program and accelerating integration with FIA; and, increasing research critical to better understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change as it relates to forests and rangelands;
Funding increases for a number of State and Private Forestry programs to help individual landowners, communities, and States capture the benefits of trees and forests through planning and stewardship. These programs include the Forest Stewardship Program, Stewardship Incentives Program, Forest Legacy Program, and the Urban and Community Forestry Program.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, using our own inventory and monitoring data, and collaborating with other land management agencies and organizations, we plan to develop a national report on the condition of the Nation's forests based on the Criteria and Indicators for Sustainable Management of Temperate and Boreal Forests. These non-legally binding criteria and indicators (C&I) are endorsed by a number of countriessuch as the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Russia, and othersthat contain 90 percent of the world's temperate and boreal forests and 60 percent of all forests on the globe. The C&I provide a common understanding of what is meant by sustainable forest management and a common framework for evaluating progress toward achieving sustainability. A broad array of U.S. stakeholders, including State Foresters, and environmental and industry groups support use of the C&I.
National Forest Road System
Mr. Chairman, now let me turn to the third area of the Natural Resource Agenda. That area is the National Forest Road System. Needless to say this issue has received extensive attention since I announced development of a new road management policy in January 1998. The majority of this attention has focused on the proposed interim policy for road construction in roadless areas. Mr. Chairman, this proposed interim rule is only one of several important aspects of this forest roads proposal. The broader issue of managing overall road access, in my view, is the central issue. Because our forest road system is, in many places, the best of the rural transportation system. We must do a better job of meeting local needs, protecting these roads, and surrounding resources.
I am very concerned about the condition of the forest road system. Today, our road system accommodates 1.7 million vehicles per day that are being driven for recreational purposes. This is 10 times the traffic experienced in 1950. This compares to 15,000 vehicles per day for timber related activities, which is about the same as the 1950 level. While recreation related vehicle use has increased, today there are 7,600 less miles of road available to passenger type vehicles than in 1991. Our inability to fully maintain the roads we have has resulted in the gradual degradation of the road system. The Forest Service has a road maintenance and reconstruction backlog of over $10 billion. It is a plain and simple fact that we do not have the funds to care for these roads, and poorly maintained roads can seriously degrade watersheds and pose a threat to public safety. We are proposing to begin to reverse this trend through improved management policies, and through our budget priorities.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service has sought public input on the scope and nature of a proposed revision of the national forest system road management policy. In proposing this, we asked for feedback on three expected outcomes. First, as fewer forest roads are built today, we will ensure they are built to minimize adverse environmental effects. Second, existing roads that are no longer needed or that cause significant environmental damage will be removed. Third, roads that are most heavily used by the public will be made safer, and any adverse impacts on water quality, aquatic habitat, and fisheries, will be reduced.
We have also sought public input on our interim roadless proposal to halt temporarily road construction in most areas of the national forest system that do not presently have roads. This proposal recognizes that we cannot afford to manage our existing road system. We will use this time to engage the Congress and the American people in a constructive dialogue on the broader issue of where and when new roads should be built on national forests.
The President's budget supports the need to improve management and of the road system we currently have and need to maintain. For example, the budget proposes:
An increase in the Roads Reconstruction and Construction Program of $8 million (or 9 percent). The increase will be focused on road reconstruction to protect and restore watersheds, improve safety, and provide appropriate access for utilization of forest resources.
A $22 million (or 26 percent) increase in the Road Maintenance program that would fund the decommissioning of 3,500 miles of roads, which is less than 10 percent of the total need identified by the Agency. It would also increase the percent of system roads maintained to standard from 38 percent in fiscal year 1998 to 45 percent in fiscal year 1999.
Mr. Chairman, the fourth emphasis item in the Natural Resource Agenda is Recreation. The President's budget provides strong support for the recreation program and contains important proposals to permanently implement the many successes we have found with new recreation initiatives. The national forests and grasslands are the largest supplier of outdoor recreation opportunities in America. With the majority of Americans easily able to access National Forest System land from practically anywhere in the country, it is clear the national forests are America's backyard for recreation. The national forests had more than 800 million visits in fiscal year 1997, and we expect this demand to increase to 1.2 billion visits over the next 50 years.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The President's budget recognizes the important challenges represented by this increasing demand for recreation, and has proposed a $21.1 million increase in the Recreation Use Program over the enacted amount in fiscal year 1998. A priority emphasis for these funds is the maintenance of recreation sites, such as restoration and replacement of water and sanitation facilities, as well as high priority for trail maintenance in wilderness and non-wilderness areas. We are using appropriated funds, fees generated from the Recreation Fee Demonstration program, support from partnerships, and other measures to address our critical recreation program needs. For example, funds generated under the Recreation Fee Demonstration program on the Siuslaw National Forest were used to rehabilitate resource damage to meadows around Mary's Peak Recreation Area, upgrade garbage collection services and add restrooms at the Sandlake Recreation Area, and complete resource restoration work and maintain facilities at the Oregon Dunes.
I want to briefly discuss the Recreation Fee Demonstration program. In fiscal year 1997, approximately 35 million visits occurred on the 40 sites currently operating under the program. An additional 43 sites will be added in fiscal year 1998. In fiscal year 1997 the Forest Service collected over $7 million of which $3.7 million will be expended for maintenance work. The remainder will be used for enhanced services. We expect collections to increase in fiscal year 1998 to approximately $18 million. These collections are critical for helping us provide the services American's expect from the national forests. However, let me emphasize that America's recreational use of the national forests is highly dispersed. Those 35 million visits to Recreation Fee Demonstration sites represent only 4 percent of the total recreation visits on the national forests. American's expect a lot from us in terms of the quality of their recreation experience, for both dispersed use and at fee sites. The President's budget recognizes those expectations. The budget proposes increased appropriations for recreation and assumes that the Recreation Fee Demonstration Project receipts will be used in addition to appropriated funds as the authorizing statute intended; otherwise, the backlog will continue to grow.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Also in the fiscal year 1999 budget is a proposal to permanently authorize Forest Service retention and use of receipts from recreation sites, including that portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund receipts outside of the Recreation Fee Demonstration pilot program. We estimate that beginning in fiscal year 2000, total resources generated under this proposal will be about $26 million.
Payments to States Proposal
We are very aware of the importance of revenues to county governments and the effects upon the local economies when their sources of revenues diminish. As timber production on the national forests has declined in recent years, the payments generated by the forests have dropped, in some cases precipitously. The Congress recognized this in 1993 by enacting special legislation for the ''spotted owl'' forests which provided an annually declining percentage of average 19861990 receipt-sharing payments for the affected areas. In 1997 that guarantee dropped to 76 percent, and it will decline to 70 percent in 1999 under the current legislation.
In order to provide all county governments with a predictable level of payments from the national forests, the administration is proposing legislation to stabilize the payments. Our fiscal year 1999 proposal will fix payments at $270 million, which is $37 million above the amount paid based on 1997 receipts. This figure of $270 million is based on providing each county with the guarantee currently extended to the ''owl forests'' of 76 percent of the 19861990 average payment. For those counties where the 1997 payment was greater than that amount, the payment would be frozen at the 1997 level. The program will continue to be funded by a permanent appropriation to ensure that payments will not decline in future years. I understand that some counties located in the Eastside project area of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project have written to the Office of Management and Budget asking for stability in their 25 percent payments. We would like to work with you to design a fair system for these and all counties.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Accountability and Financial Management
As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals is to improve our financial management and business systems.
On April 28, I announced some steps the Forest Service is taking to address the Agency's accountability and financial problems. These problems have existed for many years and have recently been the subject of Congressional hearings, which followed reports from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the Office of Inspector General (OIG), and by a private contractor working for the Forest Service.
I agree with the audit findings of the General Accounting Office (GAO) and the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG). The Agency's financial systems and administrative processes must be improved. The complexity of the processes and the interrelationships of the activities we manage require a systematic and comprehensive approach. We have worked extensively with these groups in the past and are currently working with OIG to address a number of fiscal and audit issues. We welcome their advice and input into improving our Agency business management practices.
The Forest Service operates on an accumulation of faulty or outdated information systemssome more than 20 years oldthat are not integrated to perform the analysis to make sound decisions, and verify accountability. All of our corporate processes and information must be linked in an integrated, performance-based framework.
The first action we are taking is clarifying the chain of command between Washington and the field to strengthen accountability and business management functions of the agency. Under this plan, the Forest Service will now have an associate chief for natural resources who will have direct authority over the program delivery activities of the agency in both Washington and the field and a chief operating officer who will have responsibility for the business management of the agency. In addition, we will have a chief financial officer with responsibility for all of the financial affairs of the agency including budget, fiscal, and accounting activities and who will report to the chief operating officer.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, to help us strengthen our business management function, we will be recruiting a limited number of highly-qualified management personnel, particularly in the areas of financial management, who will assist our efforts to address the management problems of the agency. The Forest Service has been a leader in downsizing over the past several years. However, we must have an infusion of additional management talent to address the problems I have just described. This is a temporary measure, taken with the understanding that the Forest Service will continue its longer-term effort to reduce overhead.
Many of the accountability issues we face were yearseven decadesin the making. We have already made some progress in addressing concerns regarding the Agency's management and financial condition. But we still have a very long way to go. It will take time before we can address effectively the full range of fiscal and management accountability issues. Major changes take time. It will take several years to turn this situation around and we urge the Congress and the Federal audit branches to recognize these major shifts and work with us as we strive to meet the mandate of improving the financial health of the Agency. Combined with the complexity of the interrelationships among our programs and the migration to new information systems, we face a great task, and we look forward to the reward.
That concludes my prepared remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Statement of William H. Banzhaf
Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to appear before you today. I am Bill Banzhaf, Executive Vice President of the Society of American Foresters (SAF). The more than 18,000 members of the Society constitute the scientific and educational association representing the profession of forestry in the United States. SAF's primary objective is to advance the science, technology, education, and practice of professional forestry for the benefit of society. We are ethically bound to advocate and practice land management consistent with ecologically sound principles. I am especially pleased to provide testimony today, and I thank the Chairman and the Committee for their continued support of forestry.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, thoroughly analyzing the administration's fiscal year 1999 budget request for the Forest Service was a challenge. We applaud Chief Dombeck's commitment to get the Forest Service's financial house in order, an action that is long overdue. If that plan was fully implemented I suspect we would have had an easier time reviewing their proposal. In general the budget request has little consistency from program to program, the requests for funding do not meet stated goals, and guesswork is used to project costs as opposed to real data. Let me restate that the Chief inherited this problem, that the Chief is trying to remedy this situation, and that the Chief has shown real leadership in starting the Forest Service on a path toward fiscal accountability. As the Forest Service started on this path rather recently, we should give the Agency time to resolve these issues. Obviously, we believe continued congressional oversight of the Forest Service's progress is warranted. There has been inadequate congressional oversight in the past, which has contributed to the declining accountability at the Forest Service. We are glad to see that your leadership, and the leadership of your colleagues, has improved Forest Service oversight in the last few years.
In addition to our testimony today I would like to submit the testimony we presented to the Appropriations subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies for the Record, and refer you to our comments on the State and Private Forestry Programs.
Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA)
The Forest Service has made a real commitment to improving the FIA program. The needs for inventory and monitoring are far more complex than ever before as we must begin to provide data on birds, mammals, amphibians, water, and numerous other ecosystem components to conduct management consistent with ecologically sound principles. Inventory and monitoring are also important in improving credibility and public trust in Forest Service decisionmaking.
The Forest Service research staff is ready to implement a shortened inventory cycle even though the positive legislation your Committee included in the Agriculture Research Title has not yet been signed. Unfortunately, the administration appears to be budgeting on an 11-year cycle as opposed to an improved five-year cycle. The Forest Service has the strategic vision to produce a greatly improved FIA program, but the increases sought by the administration will likely be inadequate to achieve the goals of shortened inventory cycles and uniform inventory and monitoring protocols by all Federal agencies.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Failure to adequately fund FIA and monitoring efforts on all forestlands is also a missed opportunity. The Montreal Process, Criteria and Indicators are internationally agreed upon measures that enjoy domestic support. We hope the Forest Service will take a leadership role in using Criteria and Indicators to assess our forest resources.
General Administration and Overhead
When examining the Forest Service's budget proposal, one can only wonder how much money is truly spent on overhead and administrative costs. Within each program, certain amounts of overhead are charged to certain accounts. But there is rarely a notation in the budget as to how much is spent on overhead, and where it is noted, it varies from program to program. There is no doubt that overhead costs are incurred when administering programs that get work done on the ground; however, the Forest Service should make those numbers known so that we can get a picture of what is being spent on overhead and what is being spent on the ground.
Overhead costs and accountability are particularly troubling when it comes to the off-budget trust funds and special accounts for which the Forest Service is responsible. There is no doubt that there are advantages to these off-budget accounts, but there is little accountability in their administration. The Forest Service should better report on how these monies are spent. Again, it is reasonable that these programs should be charged some overhead, but the Forest Service does not report on how much and in what form. In some of these programs there is little incentive to put as much money as possible on the ground, there is little consistency across the agency for how these off-budget accounts are administered, and there are situations where these accounts are being used to subsidize other program activities. The Forest Service needs a set of standardized rules for these programs that encourage accountability, fiscal responsibility, and incentives for conservation, not incentives for siphoning funds for overhead elsewhere. It will take a lot of work to simplify accounting practices for these off-budget accounts, ensure their accountability, and develop consistency from region to region, but the SAF believes the results will be worth the effort.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Forest Health
SAF has been involved in maintaining the health and productivity of American forests since Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, founded the organization in 1900. As a diverse organization encompassing all facets of forest management, we have struggled with the concept of forest health in recent years. Our report entitled Forest Health and Productivity: A Perspective of the Forestry Profession comes to these conclusions:
Forest health is an informal and technically inexact term. It means different things to different people.
Professional foresters believe there are serious forest health and productivity questions in many parts of the country.
Assessment of forest health and forest productivity requires an understanding of both the condition of the forest and the objectives for the management of that forest; recognizing that objectives are set by landowners, be they private, public, tribal or trust, and also by society through policy and regulation.
Forest health is determined at the local level; therefore, a single national prescription to achieve healthy forests is inappropriate.
The Chief has stated that 40 million acres of national forestland is at an unacceptable risk of catastrophic wildfire. We do not doubt this is true. But we are concerned that these estimates are not based on the highest-quality data, which is of course indicative of a larger problem. As I mentioned a moment ago, we need better inventory and monitoring efforts on all ownerships so that forest management decisions are based on accurate, timely, and consistent data.
Poor forest health affects the Federal lands but also significantly impacts adjacent state lands, county lands, tribal lands, private lands, wildlife, and water users hundreds of miles downstream. It is time that we address this problem, and we applaud the Committee for its leadership in addressing this critical issue. The Forest Service, however, has not reported on the location of these 40 million acres and has not devised a strategy for prioritizing work on this acreage. It is unclear how this work will be funded in this year's budget request, or where and how it will be accomplished. For example, the Chief stated in his natural resources agenda that prescribed fire and mechanical treatments will increase from 1.1 million acres in 1997 to 1.5 million acres in 1999, and has suggested the agency will double the amount of thinning of unnaturally dense stands over the next 5 years. We believe this is on the right track, although it probably should be accelerated. The administration's budget request for these programs, however, does not appear to be consistent with these goals. The fiscal year 1999 line item request for Forestland Vegetative Management is down by $7.5 million. We understand that the Forest Service is trying to become more efficient and more effective, but we doubt they can increase their productivity this much in such a short time.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to direct appropriations, the Forest Service should find innovative ways to use timber sale contracts, and experiment with stewardship arrangements to address this issue.
The Forest Service has claimed a $10 billion backlog in maintenance and reconstruction needs in the road network on the National Forest System. It is unclear how the Forest Service came up with this figure, or if the figure is accurate. In 1997, the USDA Inspector General's office reported that the Forest Service claimed their road reconstruction backlog was $5 billion to $6 billion, and that their estimate was inaccurate. The SAF believes there is a maintenance backlog, whatever the dollar amount, and that the Forest Service needs to address this backlog soon. Again, the Forest Service budget request falls short of the need by a significant margin. The President's budget requests $133.5 million for road maintenance and reconstruction. That request represents less than 2 percent of the $10 billion backlog. The Forest Service estimates that this $133.5 million will bring an additional 5 percent of its road system up to standard, still leaving 55 percent of it roads below standard. Based on these figures, and assuming all things remain constant, it will take 12 years to complete work on the backlog. These figures seem inconsistent with a $10 billion backlog.
We have no idea what the backlog really is, and the Forest Service can only provide a best guess. The Forest Service should propose a realistic work plan and budget to address its road system backlog. At that point, Congress should seriously consider the proposal and fund the appropriate maintenance, reconstruction, or obliteration needs of roads in the National Forest System. This does not mean Congress should not increase funding for reconstruction and maintenance.
The Forest Service research program's budgetary allocations have steadily declined over recent years. This is a grave concern for the Society of American Foresters. Whether it is the Mandate for Change, or the results of the Seventh American Forest Congress, report after report tells us that we need more research. The forestry profession as a whole is struggling with how to acquire the vast amount of new information needed to manage forests in the manner people are demanding. The need for information to guide sound science-based decisionmaking has increased exponentially in the last decade. We often do not have all the research information necessary to support proper management decisions about wildlife populations, watershed health, forest restoration techniques, ecosystem health, etc. This is not to say that the Forest Service has not been working on collecting those data, but limited funding has severely hampered their efforts.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We could point to several research success stories such as the Madison Forest Products Lab, the new strategic vision for FIA, leading edge ecosystem management research, etc. But none of this research will be useful unless we invest in it for the long term. The Forest Service is often criticized for performing ''fluffy'' research; however, when one looks at the actual expenditures, this is far from the case. The top five research programs in order are: FIA; plant science; insects, diseases and exotic weeds; forest products; and silvicultural applications. We know this Committee is sympathetic to the need to invest in research, but the SAF, and we hope others in the forestry community, is trying to make all of Congress aware of this need.
Mr. Chairman, we have been very critical of the Forest Service today. While the criticism is warranted, I want to reiterate SAF's support for the Chief's efforts to reform the Forest Service's financial affairs. I also feel it is important to remind the Committee that the men and women who work for the Forest Service are some of the finest natural resource managers and researchers in the world. The problems the Forest Service is facing today stem from years of neglect and a serious lack of congressional oversight, which you and your Committee are attempting to rectify. This Committee and this Chief are working to fix these problems. We hope the Forest Service and the Committee continue to work together, and consult SAF and other groups that have some ideas on how we can improve the land, and make the Forest Service more accountable to the people of the United States.
Statement of Stephen P. Prisley
Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to present my testimony today on the importance of the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Inventory and Analysis Program, and to highlight the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA.
My name is Steve Prisley and I am Forest Resources Information Manager with Westvaco Corporation. Westvaco is a major manufacturer of paper, packaging, and specialty chemicals. We own over 1.3 million acres of forestland in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, with primary pulp and paper manufacturing facilities in Luke, MD; Covington, VA; Wickliffe, KY; Charleston, SC; and a smaller recycle mill in Tyrone, PA.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to coordinating the inventory of forest resources on our land, I'm involved in the analysis of resource information in the states in which we operate. For this, Westvaco relies on the only source of information that is national in coverage, broad in scope, and focused on the forest resource - the FIA program. FIA periodically collects a wide variety of data on forested ecosystems, and performs the analysis that turns this data into useful information. As users of this data, we find ourselves joining voices with academia, state forestry groups, Federal agencies, landowner associations, forestry consultants, and environmental organizations; all interested in seeing that we have more current, reliable information on this nation's forests.
I'd like to share a short story with you about inventory. Down the road from where I live is a small country store. They've got a little of everything, and not a lot of anything. There is not much shelf space, so they have only a few of each item they sell on display. They operate on the theory that if there's only one left on the shelf, it must be time to reorder or get some more out of the back storage room. The problem is nobody knows what is in the back room, or how much of it is there, until they run out. They know they got 20 bags of scratch feed delivered last week, but nobody knows if there was any in the back room when that came in, or how many they have sold since then. So whatever you want, they have either just run out of it or they only have one left and you need two. You might call this the ''damn near in time'' theory of inventory control.
The last time they had an accurate inventory was when they stocked the store originally, sometime around the turn of the century. I doubt the store-owner will ever become the Sam Walton of South Carolina, because operating without an understanding of what you've got in inventory, what you've sold, and what you need to reorder, is not exactly a recipe for business success.
This analogy is very relevant to our current situation with the FIA. We don't know precisely how much of anything we've got, how much we're using or losing, or how much we might be adding to our inventory. The information we do have may be different depending on which state or region you're in. Forests routinely cross state boundaries, but FIA information may differ by a decade from one side of a state line to the next. Even seemingly simple information can be hard to come by: you'd be amazed at how much easier it is to find out how many acres of which tree species are planted in Chile than it is to get comparable information in the U.S. And to make matters worse, the incomplete information we do have is based on inventories that average 12 years between cycles. In some western States the cycles are as long as 17 years and don't even include data on much of the significant Federal land ownership.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Twelve years! Why, just 12 years ago today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 1775, a fifth of what it is now. Twelve years ago today, a bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee of the 99th Congress concerning cattle shipments to countries affected by the recent nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. And 12 years ago, FIA personnel were measuring trees in Kentucky, compiling an inventory that we're still using today because it's the most current information we have. And based on that information, we're asked to make strategic decisions about investments, new directions, growth potential, and future utilization.
Regardless of whether your interest is in forest preservation or forest use, we should all be able to agree on the need for an accurate accounting of what exists on our private and public forest land today. A current and accurate forest and ecosystem inventory is essential to allow us to address issues like sustainability, policy alternatives, carbon sequestration, changes in growth and productivity, changes in land use and demographics, ecosystem health, and economic impacts. We also need accurate and current inventory data if we are going to effectively participate in international discussions about forest resources, global environmental policies, and certainly current discussions about the importance of trees for carbon sequestration.
In 1978, in the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act, Congress issued a clear mandate to the Forest Service for undertaking resource inventories: inventory the nation's public and private forest resources on a continuous basis, in sufficient detail to describe the forest condition from an economic, ecological, commodity and non-commodity vantage point. How well has this been done?
In 1991, a group of people representing the diverse users of FIA data met several times to discuss the status of the program. In 1992, this first Blue Ribbon Panel on FIA submitted a report to the Chief of the Forest Service, presenting eight general recommendations to improve the FIA Program. Five years later, a second panel, BRPII, was convened to evaluate accomplishments, identify critical needs, outline necessary improvements and suggest a vision for the future. Last October, over 60 representatives from Federal and state agencies, private non-industrial forestry organizations, academia, environmental groups and forest industry met for two days to discuss the FIA progress. There were specific areas that we all agreed showed improvement since the first report was issued; but the overall progress was rated unsatisfactory. This group identified five key findings or recommendations:
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 1. Elevate the priority of FIA in the USFS program objectives; 2. Move to an annual inventory and analysis as quickly as possible; 3. Fulfill the congressional mandate of reporting on all lands; Concentrate on the collection of ''core'' data until the annual inventory system is fully operational; 5. Develop a strategic plan that will accomplish all of the above with a date certain target for completion.
For many people and organizations in this country, the most important and valuable service the USFS performs is the collection and analysis of our forest and ecosystem inventory data. It is a vital function and is relied upon by many users. Given this importance and wide use, it is shocking to find that it receives about one-half of one percent of the annual Forest Service budget. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, the funding for this vital service has actually declined during the past 7 years by almost 12 percent. The current budget allocates $19.9 million to FIA. The good news is that the administration's proposed budget for 1999 calls for a $4.5 million increase in FIA funding. However, the industry believes that an 1999 FIA budget of at least $35 million is necessary to begin to accomplish the major recommendations identified by the BRPII. Contrast this existing $19.9 million funding to the $149 million given to the National Forest System Integrated Inventory and Monitoring Program, or the $129 million in the 1996 budget for the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, or a hundred other projects we could name, and I think you will agree, there is a need to re-examine our resource allocation priorities.
Finally, many of the recommendations contained in the BRPII Report are included in the research title of the farm bill which Westvaco and the forest products industry wholeheartedly endorses and supports. As called for in the bill, a strategic plan must be developed to describe how the FIA program will implement annualized inventory updates, construct a core set of data, make efficient use of advanced remote sensing technologies, initiate cooperative agreements among state foresters, industry and other users including the Forest Service's own State & Private Forestry and National Forest Systems, and then report to the House Agriculture Committee on its progress.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, there is a great deal of synergy and opportunity at the present time to make the case that forest inventory information, delivered on a timely basis, is critical to the long-term health and vitality of the resource and the forestry community. In order to achieve these goals, the FIA program needs funding commensurate with its importance, its relevance, and its broad clientele. We in the industry will continue to look forward to working with the Committee to monitor the USFS progress in implementing the program and to continue to highlight the importance of forest resource data collection.
Again, I thank you for the opportunity to present these remarks, and I'd be glad to respond to any questions.
Statement of Rollin D. Sparrowe
I am Rollin D. Sparrowe, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. The Institute is a non-profit organization staffed by experienced resource management professionals dedicated to improving management of wildlife and wildlife habitat. We maintain five regional field representatives who track the wildlife and habitat programs of state, Federal, and provincial wildlife management agencies, including the USDA Forest Service (Forest Service).
The Institute has a long history of working professionally with the Forest Service. We have conducted nationwide reviews of wildlife and fish management programs of the Forest Service at the request of two previous chiefs: Max Peterson in 1979 and Dale Robertson in 1989. In both cases the Institute conducted extensive field visits and interviews across the country and filed a report with specific recommendations for improvementsincluding needs for staff and funding. In both cases, the respective chiefs prepared written action plans to carry out tasks designed to improve wildlife programs.
Since that second program review, the Institute evaluated wildlife and fish programs on the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas and Oklahoma and followed up with a progress evaluation 4 years later. The Ouachita became a model forest for a practical approach to ecosystem management under Chief Robertson.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition, Wildlife Management Institute staff have served on Forest Service task forces concerning program and budget accountability for the Fish, Wildlife, and Rare Plants program. During the past 3 years, Institute staff in the field and in Washington have documented concerns about wildlife programs and the budgets for these programs. Working with other fish and wildlife organizations, we have taken our concerns to members of the administration, two chiefs of the U.S. Forest Service, and to Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Rominger.
The Wildlife Management Institute documented to the Forest Service and the Deputy Secretary that wildlife and fish budgets had decreased 27 percent and that a combination of congressional budget reductions and shifting funds within the Forest Service were responsible.
We noted the following:Less money was reaching the field to do wildlife work.
Wildlife biologists were spending up to 80 percent of their time processing appeals, litigation, and consulting with non-wildlife programs.
The Forest Service was unable to accept partner funding from private and state sources to improve fish and wildlife habitat through Challenge Cost-Share programs.
Shifting of funds into broad planning categories like ecosystem management or Planning Inventory and Monitoring was not producing visible outputs for wildlife and fish.
''Reinvention'' changes in organizational structure and staffing were retreating from progress in placing appropriately trained staff in decision-making positions.
Loss of staff and funds was reducing the ability of the agency to monitor wildlife and fish resources as required by law.
The overall quality of wildlife and fish programs was declining to the point that resource management objectives were not being met.
To their credit, the Forest Service has been responsive to some of these concerns. Some funds have been restored both to the range and wildlife programs, and budget requests have been elevated to further restore wildlife capabilities. Chief Dombeck personally has provided direct guidance to his senior staff on the importance of partnership funding and the role of wildlife in meeting agency objectives.
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCThe Wildlife Management Institute strongly supports Chief Dombeck's recent statement of a Natural Resource Agenda for the future management of National Forests. The underlying principles of sound land stewardship should guide the Congress and the Forest Service in decisions about our forests and rangelands. Use of resources, such as timber, wildlife, and recreation, should be dividends of sound stewardship, expendable only through careful and responsible management of the whole forest and on a sustainable basis. There are examples to fall back on like the Ouachita National Forest, now being managed from a practical ecosystem-based approach. On this Forest, there is not too much timber harvest, nor is timber harvest prohibited.
A significant problem is the continuing controversy about Forest Plans. There needs to be a clear link between the forest plans and annual budgets and a way to account for specific achievements of wildlife and fish habitat objectives. Congress has regularly funded timber programs well in the past, but wildlife programs have been funded at a much lower level. This has ensured that wildlife objectives were secondary products of timber programs and most often were not met.
The achievement of Forest Plan objectives is strongly linked to forest service personnel transfer policy. In both the 1979 and 1989 program reviews, the Wildlife Management Institute clearly identified frequent transfer of personnel as a major obstacle impeding Forest Service programs. While experience in more than one location has value, there needs to be continuity of expertise on the National Forests so that plan objectives can be achieved and professionals can learn from the results of their and others activities and programs. Adaptive management cannot occur without the continuity and learning associated with staying on a Forest long enough to know it thoroughly.
Funding for wildlife work on the ground continues to be a problem. Each time a ''new'' program thrust develops (such as, large-scale ecosystem planning), often in response to pressure from either Congress or the administration, money is redirected from the ground level to fund planning or broad-scale programs at a higher administrative level. For example, region 9 Forests (Midwest and Northeast) have the largest number of big- and small-game and fishing activity days of any Forest Service region. Yet, the total Wildlife Habitat budget and Threatened and Endangered Species budget for that region are down 30 percent. Changes in criteria used to prioritize budget allocations seem to favor western forests. As important as the Northwest Forest Plan or Columbia River Basin Plan may be, heavily used eastern National Forests are of equal priority.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This situation is further compounded by the agency's use of ''benefitting function.'' Under benefitting function, for example, the range and timber programs pay for the services of staff from the Fish, Wildlife, and Rare Plants program. This policy creates competition between programs for funds and places emphasis on the amount of dollars spent rather than a professional assessment of what needs to be done. Furthermore, because of reductions in the timber program, dollars to fund biologists to perform habitat improvement or restoration work also decline. To offset these losses, the administration's request in fiscal year 1999 for the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program was increased by $4 million. This amount only maintains the status quo, making up losses of funds from other functions that paid for wildlife biologists. Programs need to be funded according to those program needs. Furthermore, benefitting function obscures the amounts allocated in congressional appropriations bills, making it almost impossible to tell where the funds went.
Mr. Chairman, I have personal experience with the long term effects of progressive reductions in budget and priorities on National Forests. Each year, I spend approximately a week on the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, a week or more on the George Washington National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia, and a week or more on the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. While I am hunting, fishing, or hiking to look at wildflowers, I also observe management conditions and regularly talk to agency staff.
The combination of budget reductions, ''reinvention'' changes by the current administration, and shifts in priorities within the Forest Service are revealed on the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. About 5 years ago, the Willow Springs District office became a satellite office when three Districts were consolidated into a combined District office some distance away. This area of the Mark Twain Forest has extensive inholdings and a very large number of adjacent small land holdings. With downsizing, Forest Service contact with the public is greatly reduced. The professional staff in Willow Springs is a third or less of what it was as a full District. No biologist is on site, and the limited staff shares duties dealing with wildlife, fisheries, grazing, timber, recreation, fire, and maintenance of roads and facilities.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On such a District, there should be a greater investment in personnel to deal with the many landowners and growing public usenot less. Outlaw use of off-road vehicles is rampant in the District, and enforcement is impossible. There has been illegal expansion of timber-sale boundaries. There is inadequate attention to maintaining roads, particularly gates and road-closure structures. There are not enough personnel to physically visit and ensure that even regular travel and public use restrictions are maintained. Twice in one week, I walked two miles into areas where motorized vehicles were not allowed and found vehicles there. Direct evidence of damage to streams and terrestrial habitats is widespread.
Such activities threaten wildlife and habitat resources and require hands-on management. Off-road vehicle use problems can only be solved through maintaining close relationships with the local community, as well as enforcement. The wildlife, fish, and habitat resources of the Mark Twain National Forest on what was the Willow Springs District are not being effectively protected on behalf of the American people because the investment level has been reduced.
Similar concerns are documented by my staff for the Forest Service's region 3 (New Mexico and Arizona). With a growing workload caused by litigation over Endangered and Threatened species, grazing allotments, and timber management, wildlife programs have suffered. Staff time is largely used up in working on appeals, preparing NEPA documents, planning, and other reactive functions. There needs to be a serious look at the allocation of resources in region 3.
Many good things are happening on the Mark Twain and on other National Forests, but the staff are overwhelmed. Within the past 3 years, I have specific personal experiences on the Bridger-Teton, Shoshone, Bighorn, and Medicine Bow National Forests in Wyoming that offer similar insights. Of most concern is that staff are being required to do multiple activities beyond their training and experience. Widespread concerns are voiced by other resource agencies, such as state wildlife agencies, about loss of staff with biological expertise on these Forests.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On a larger scale, a nation-wide coalition of environmental, recreation, and conservation groups has assessed the needs of Federal land management agenciesincluding the National Forests and Grasslands managed by the Forest Service. We found that Forest Service programs of interest to these groups are severely under funded, by as much as $618 million dollars annually. I would like to enter the Public Land Funding Initiative into the record. This is the second year of the Initiative, and the first year that my organization and other conservation organizations have agreed to become cosigners.
The data for this Initiative were collected primarily in informal interviews with agency program leaders. For the Forest Service part of the Initiative, two sets of questions were asked: What staff and funding level is needed to meet a minimum professional standard for your program? What is also needed to meet the maximum standard, which is defined as managing the land according to the full professional standard? The interviews were conducted by representatives of the environmental and conservation communities. The $618 million increase in the Initiative is based on the amount needed to meet the minimum professional standard.
The section on Roads for the Forest Service is based on Forest Service information and reflects the concerns of interest groups that have widely differing attitudes toward the Forest Service and its roads. This and other sections of the Initiative present a compromise position between the many interest groups who have cosigned this document.
According to my staff person, who was present at most of these interviews, most of the program leaders had no formal assessment of personnel or financial needs to meet either standard and no plan to correct the deficiencies in their programs to bring management of their resources to a minimum professional standard. In all fairness to the program directors, for the last 5 years, most of these programs have been under severe staffing and budget cuts as the result of the administration's Reinvention of Government, a restructuring of agency priorities to the then called ''Inventory Monitoring and Planning Program'', and balancing the budget, which has reduced the funding going to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee under Function 300.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Function 300 funding allocation is the main point of the Public Lands Funding Initiative. Because of the Balanced Budget Agreement, the decline in Function 300 will likely continue to reduce the overall allocation to Natural Resources and the Environment. This Initiative is a proposal based on the assumption that a continuing healthy economy should make it possible to invest additional funds into maintaining the resource values on our public landsincluding those managed by the Forest Service.
The Public Lands Funding Initiative illustrates that the priorities of this large community of interest groups are not being met for a wide variety of reasons. Furthermore, the Forest Service has not involved this community of constituents in identifying its priorities. When my staff tried to alert the Wildlife Partners Network of future opportunities for comment on the U.S. Forest Service strategic plan (Government Performance and Results Act), she was told that there was to be no further public comment because the strategic plan would be built on the Resources Planning Act Program document prepared in 1995, which provided opportunity for public comment.
If the Chief's Natural Resources Agenda is to be linked to a step-down approach that couples national and regional objectives with specific objectives in each Forest Plan, as it must to reach those objectives, there needs to be more public interaction between the Forest Service, its partners, and Congress on how to reach broad objectives. Otherwise polarized views will continue to lead the public debate.
A diverse group of professional societies and recreation and conservation organizations have recently developed a document called the ''Statement of Principles for Managing the National Forests.'' The organizations that signed onto this document state that they are ''committed to conservation and sound land stewardship on the National Forests and Grasslandsgoals that have consistently been supported by a broad cross-section of the American people.'' They further pledge their support and active involvement in the management of our National Forests and Grasslands for a full array of all resource values and benefits. I would like to enter this document into the record as well.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service is a large and complex agency, and the most honorable plans for change can only be met through greater accountability for programs and use of funds. A combination of clear plans linked directly to more detailed, broad accounting of how dollars and staff are used, is necessary to evaluate progress toward achieving goals, such as those laid out by Chief Dombeck.
During the past several years our institute has been working with a diverse group of organizations to help restore needed staffing and funding to operate National Wildlife Refuges. Congress responded positively to greater accountability for planned and actual use of funds with the largest increase for refuges in two decades. A similar effort in accountability by the Forest Servicewhich Chief Dombeck has promisedwould seem appropriate.
The Forest Service is under fire from almost every direction. Congress proposes legislation that attempts to ''fix'' perceived or real problems that would not be present if members themselves, commodity interest groups, administration officials, litigation-prone environmental groups and others would allow processes and laws to be followed. The Forest Service and timber industry earned the public's mistrust over the debacle of decades of timber harvest in the Northwest. Recently, the agency has made honest efforts to make meaningful change.
National Forests and Grasslands are for more than timber or grazing and should be managed toward an ecosystem approach as three successive Chiefs have proposed. Current laws, and the will of the American people do not support National Forests and Grasslands as either parks or tree farms, nor do they support no management as a solution. Polarization about the future of National Forests and Grasslands has reached new heights over the proposed moratorium on roads in roadless areas, the need to take a hard look at the whole forest road system, repeated threats from the Congress, constant meddling by the administration, downsizing by an administration that has no clue whether the agency can still do the job out on the Forests and Grasslands, and litigation that attempts to enforce narrow views of the purpose of these lands.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, our Institute is a strong supporter of the Forest Service and its mission. It's wildlife and habitat resources are important to our country. These resources can support the level of diverse uses that Americans ask of them. The Forest Service is staffed with well-trained, dedicated professionals that need time and support to carry out their jobs. We want to see a strong professional agency, capable of and allowed by law and procedure to actively manage the National Forests and Grasslands to meet the wide needs of society.
Statement of Derrick Crandall
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members, I am Derrick Crandall and I serve as President of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC). ARC is a national federation of more than 100 organizations actively involved in meeting the recreation needs of Americans. Our members produce recreational products ranging from canoes to motorhomes to tents, provide services ranging from campsites to downhill skiing and represent the interests of tens of millions of enthusiasts belonging to individual membership groups such as the Good Sam Club, BOAT/U.S. and the National Off- Road Bicycle Association. The industry represented by our member associations and companies is large and pervasive, representing in excess of $400 billion in sales annually and touching the lives of nearly every American. Our research indicates that 57 percent of all Americans engage in outdoor recreation at least monthly.
We applaud the committee's initiative in looking at the fiscal year 1999 budget request for the Forest Service and seeking comments on broader issues, including the oft-cited backlogs facing the agency in the recreation and roads areas. We are also pleased to share with you some thoughts for addressing these significant challenges. Finally, we ask your help in correcting a seriously wrong trend in the agency's budget: while recreation visits are climbing, the appropriated resources for recreation programs at the district level are shrinking! Visitor services and satisfaction appear to compete poorly against internal priorities from funding the salaries of regional staffs and forest supervisors to paying for communications system upgrades and Northwest Forests Plan initiatives and end up with scraps. The situation is a perfect illustration of what political scientist David Lindblum labeled ''disjointed incrementalism,'' and runs the risk of antagonizing the tens of millions of Americans for whom the forests are special places.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As the committee knows, the time is near when the national forests will reach one billion recreation visits annually. These visits are for many different activities but one common purpose: to enjoy time in an attractive and natural setting, apart from the tensions of our urbanized society. Many visitors require very little infrastructure for quality experiences; others depend upon facilities involving millions of dollars in investment such as a ski area. The core needs are:
1) good access, and particularly a safe and well-maintained network of roads and trails; (2) visitor facilities and services designed to meet the needs of an increasingly urban society, including interpretive programs and law enforcement, rescue services and effective signage; and (3) good management of the resources, to protect the beauty and productivity of the areas.
The Recreation Infrastructure
Recreation facilities in our forests are not in good shape. Although estimates of the recreation facility backlog vary and even the definition of backlog is interpreted differently it appears that the immediate need for capital investments in campgrounds and trails, day use sites and visitor centers, interpretive kiosks and other recreation facilities is between $1 billion and $2 billion. This does not include investment in new facilities designed to meet higher levels of use. It is also clear that current levels of appropriations are exacerbating, not eradicating, this backlog. What this means is that the goal set forth in the draft RPA program document 55 percent of all recreation visits occurring at sites that meet agency quality standards will prove optimistic. Unfortunately, even expressing that goal underscores the differing attitudes of the private sector and a Federal agency. Any recreation company which set a goal of 55 percent of its products working right, or 55 percent of its restrooms being clean and operational, would not make it to the next millennium. Disney emphasizes a very different standard to its ''cast members'': it takes 31 ''Magic Moments'' to undo the damage of a single ''Tragic Moment.'' The Forest Service, too, needs to focus on 100 percent satisfaction of guests. And with good partners, that goal can be achieved.
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A first step is to adopt a very different attitude toward capital budget needs. In general, we support placing a priority on operations and maintenance for use of appropriated funds, with capital funding continuing to decline. For reconstruction of worn-out campgrounds and boat ramps, beaches and trailheads, we urge the Congress to direct the agency to look at the private sector. Through an extension of the term of permits, the agency can persuade current and future recreation service partners to invest in water systems and restrooms, parking areas and much more just as companies invest in ski lifts and related facilities on public lands.
The agency has investigated this opportunity for years under the name of PPV Private/Public Ventures. It is time to move on this concept, and the Congress can and should help by authorizing a concession demonstration program in the spirit of the successful fee demonstration program now underway. Properly structured, the PPV program can reduce the recreation backlog significantly by hundreds of millions of dollars and can help to prevent its re-emergence. We have called upon the Appropriations Committee to provide this direction and urge the Agriculture Committee to lend its voice to this concept.
Yet investment by concessioners and permittees is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Forest Service recreation program backlog. The agency must address a dearth of business expertise in its operations. Efficient use of capital must be an agency goal in project design, construction and operation. After addressing a parallel lack of expertise in the National Park Service, the Office of Management and Budget recommended the appointment of an agency provost, modeled after the role of that post in a university setting. We recognize recent management changes at the Forest
Service separating natural resource stewardship from financial stewardship at the Associate Chief level. We applaud this action and urge the committee to encourage the agency to systematically address stewardship of capital in its decision-making. This will require substantial retraining of current agency employees or acquiring this expertise through additions to staff at the local, regional and national levels.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We feel obligated to make clear that ARC does not favor opening national forests to the full range of recreation facilities or prefer recreation facilities that are readily made ''profitable.'' Recreation in the national forests can and should be focused on specific portions of the recreation spectrum although we hasten to add that recreation facilities not generally sited on the forests may be appropriate based on local situations.
The Forest Road Infrastructure
Unfortunately, the recreation backlog is dwarfed by the magnitude of the forest roads system backlog. The backlog for needed reconstruction of the arterial and collector roads alone some 85,000 miles out of a system totaling 400,000 miles is reported as $10.5 billion. In a report entitled ''The Road to Recovery,'' the Forest Service provides clear evidence of the challenge it faces. The agency is responsible for over 7,000 bridges on its system. Of these, 940 are deficient and need immediate attention. Yet at the current level of funding, only 40 bridges are being replaced annually. The lack of investment is already creating a loss of access to forest lands areas which should be employed to disperse growing levels of use now become unavailable. Needless to say, there are also significant safety issues.
In addressing the recreation visitor experiences earlier in my testimony, I expressed great concern regarding a plan that would target achieving a goal of 55 percent compliance with agency quality standards. That goal is a shining star compared to the future of the road program. The agency projects meeting just 40 percent of its maintenance needs for arterial and collector roads, which receive 84 percent of all traffic, and actions on a very small portion of its local road system essentially only to mitigate major environmental and safety impacts or where a timber sale generates the need and the funding for the roadwork. The consequence is disturbing. In the last 3 fiscal years, the agency reports a drop in its arterial and corridor mileage of nearly 10 percent. This drop is not because these roads no longer lead to trailheads and campgrounds, lakes and other recreation sites. It is a reflection of the reclassification of these routes as now requiring use of high clearance vehicles for safe passage. This closure of routes by default, not by design, cannot continue.
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The route by which we arrived at this crisis is well understood by this committee. Today's forest road system is largely the product of the agency's past timber production. Recreationists unquestionably are now the principal users of these routes, with an estimated 1.8 million vehicles daily on the system today and a rapid growth rate.
By contrast, timber-related usage is less than 10,000 vehicles daily and declining. Yet neither the administration nor the Congress has looked at the long-range implications of this change. What is clear is that total forest road spending has declined from in excess of $600 million annually in the mid1980's to less than $250 million in 1998.
We believe that the forest road system is vital to the multiple use mission of the agency, as well as to rural transportation in America. Sustaining this network cannot rely solely, or even principally, upon timber sales for funding. We therefore applaud the less-noted action of the agency in January the development of a Forest Transportation Strategy. As the committee knows well, this announcement was overshadowed by the proposed temporary moratorium on new road construction in roadless areas. We would hope that this strategy would underscore the logic for earmarking a portion of the receipts of the Highway Trust Fund to forest roads. In part, the logic arises from the national responsibility we bear for providing public access to the forests; it is also based upon the reality that millions of dollars in Federal fuel taxes are paid by those who drive on the forest roads.
We are aware that the administration envisions an aggressive ''decommissioning'' of roads in the forests based upon environmental and fiscal costs. The recreation community does not necessarily oppose some road closures provided that access to recreation sites on the forests is not significantly impaired. In comments to the agency, we urged the Forest Service to revise its focus regarding local roads to emphasize an ambitious ''roads to trails'' initiative, funded in part through recreation fees and cooperative agreements with states, and a ''road-banking program.'' Under ''road-banking,'' local routes might be obliterated visually but retained legally, recognizing that the routes might again become important for recreation, timber or other purposes at a later time and thus be re-established.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Recreation Program Budget
A final topic we wish to address is the use of funds appropriated by the Congress for the Forest Service recreation program. As Attachment A displays, the Forest Service recreation program has not fared well in recent years. As the recreation task of the agency has grown in size and complexity, the agency's appropriated revenues for recreation have declined in current dollars and are now well below levels provided in the early 1990's. Total funding in fiscal year 1993, for example, was nearly $362,000,000; in fiscal year 1998, funding was about $276,000,000. Even removing the capital budget component, boosted under the Bush administration's America's Great Outdoors initiative, the O&M budget in fiscal year 1993 was $261,000,000 versus $218,000,000 in fiscal year 1998.
In the face of this decline, recreation visitor days have been growing rapidly from 242,000,000 in fiscal year 1988 to more than 341,000,000 in fiscal year 1996.
The impact on the ground has been dramatic. As we spot-checked key recreation-heavy districts across the nation, we found that many reported a decline in recreation program budgets of 50 percent or more between fiscal year 1991 and today. None of the districts we contacted reported an increase in appropriated funding for recreation. It further appears that 50 percent or less of the funds appropriated by Congress actually reach the forest district level.
This information prompts two questions from us. The first is: where is the money appropriated by Congress for recreation programs actually being spent? The second is: how can a quality recreation program exist under these conditions?
The best information we have on the first question is that a substantially higher portion of Congressional appropriations for recreation vanish before hitting the ground today than ever before although not because of blatantly discriminatory actions. It appears that the Forest Service budget line items are assessed a variety of charges to pay for national policy decisions, including the evolution of the agency communications/ information and data processing system from the infamous ''DG'' system to the current PC-based system and the Northwest Forests Plan. In addition, we are told that declining timber and engineering programs result in the recreation program shouldering a far higher share of general administrative costs at the regional and forest levels even though the focus of most of the individuals paid for by this allocation have not shifted. In short, recreation tends to receive limited time and attention from a large number of line officials in the agency, who continue to focus on planning and other processes focused on timber and other commodity-related activities, despite paying the tab.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We ask the help of this committee to engage in further investigation of this issue and invite the Forest Service leadership to commit to sustaining in-the-field recreation efforts that reflect Congressional appropriations.
The second question is why we don't come before this body, and every other committee with jurisdiction over the Forest Service, to proclaim a crisis is at hand. The answer is that countless men and women of the Forest Service and allies who share their love of the national forests have responded to declining appropriated funds creatively. They have capitalized on programs arising from the National Recreation Strategy of 19861988, including the Challenge Cost Share Program, concessions campgrounds and agreements with state and local agencies. Today, more than 70 percent of all camping at developed sites in national forests occurs at areas operated by concessioners versus virtually none in 1985. Forests in many states have worked with state fish and wildlife, transportation and parks agencies to obtain millions of dollars in funds under ISTEA, Wallop-Breaux, the National Recreational Trail Fund and state ORV programs. They have effectively utilized volunteers to build and maintain trails and provide interpretation.
We now favor programs which deliver maximum new resources to the grass- roots level. It is for that reason that we believe the recreation fee demonstration program is important and correctly designed: 80 percent of all receipts are retained locally at the collection site, and the remaining 20 percent are available for deployment at the discretion of the agency head to cover difficulties at other fee collection sites. Besides the advantage of skirting seemingly onerous overhead deductions, the fee demonstration program encourages agency staff to look to partners and customers to pay for recreation services. As an industry, we believe that Americans are willing to pay for quality in their recreation. We believe that the Forest Service will find that fees levied for quality experiences will be accepted widely.
Mr. Chairman, the recreation community loves America's national forests and looks at the Forest Service as a friend. The work of the agency deserves the support of this committee and the appropriations committees of the Congress. We urge you to do the following: (1) support recreation program spending for operations and maintenance at or above fiscal year 1993 levels in constant dollars; (2) support appropriations for the national forest road program of at least $300 million minus timber purchaser credits, if any; and (3) support a concessions demonstration program for the Forest Service.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you for your interest and actions.
Answers to Submitted Questions from Hon. Jo Ann Emerson
Looking at the question of why harvest levels in the Mark Twain are consistently below harvest capability levels determined by the Forest Service, what other explanation can you provide? In correspondence with me, you have indicated that increased litigation costs have made less money available for timber sale preparation. If that is the case, what are you doing to compensate for these increased costs and maintain an appropriate level of harvests?
Once the timber is offered by the Forest Service, it is the decision of the companies receiving the sale awards to decide when is the best time to harvest timber within the timing flexibility provided in the contract. Thus the amopunt of timber harvested in any year is not indicative of the work completed by the Forest Service in meeting its timber sale commitments.
All of the forests in the eastern regions are experiencing increasing unit costs in their timber sales management programs due to a variety of factors including litigation costs. The Forest Service is compensating by examining new ways to do business, such as the work in the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project and on the Wenatchee National Forest in Washington.
It is my understanding that part of the administration's Clean Water Action Plan calls for the decommissioning and obliteration of 5,000 miles of U.S. Forest Service roads per year through the year 2002. I am gravely concerned about the negative impact such an effort would have on our timber harvests, fire suppression, and public access to our forests. I would like to know what the Forest Service intends to do to carry out this program and what timeline is under consideration.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service is in the process of developing a long-term roads policy to guide the analysis and evaluation of long-term road needs for our national Forests. The goal of this policy is to assure that long-term needs for public access, and for forest resource management and protection of such things as water quality and habitat will be met while allowing for the decommissioning of unneeded roads that are causing environmental damage. Fire roads and roads used to harvest timber will remain as needed.
The road decommissioning program has been underway for a number of years with accomplishment of about 1,500 miles a year in recent years. The fiscal year 1999 President's budget target is a total of 3,500 miles of uninventoried roads and system roads that are no longer needed for public access, forest resource management, or protection of forest resources. It is anticipated that once the long-term roads policy has been finalized, the Clean Water Action Plan goal of 5,000 miles of road decommissioning and obliteration per year may be possible.
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