SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
Page 1 TOP OF DOCH.R. 2515, THE FOREST RECOVERY AND PROTECTION ACT OF 1997
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1997
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
The committee met, pursuant to call, at 10:05 a.m., in room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Robert F. (Bob) Smith of Oregon (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Ewing, Doolittle, Smith of Michigan, Everett, Lucas, Lewis, Chenoweth, Hostettler, Chambliss, Emerson, Moran, Blunt, Thune, Cooksey, Stenholm, Peterson, Clayton, Minge, Pomeroy, Holden, Farr, Berry, Goode, McIntyre, Stabenow, Etheridge, Johnson, and Boswell.
Staff present: Paul Unger, majority staff director; Sharla Moffett, Dave Tenny, Monique Brown, Wanda Worsham, clerk; Callista Bisek, Danelle Farmer, and Anne Simmons.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. ROBERT F. (BOB) SMITH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF OREGON
The CHAIRMAN. This hearing will come to order.
Good morning. Welcome, everyone. I have a short opening statement, then I would like to recognize Mr. Stenholm, ranking member, and then we will get immediately to our panels.
Ten months ago, the Committee on Agriculture convened a hearing in Sun River, OR to discuss the deteriorating conditions in the east side forests of Oregon. At that meeting, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon and I reached four important conclusions. First, we agreed that our highest priority is to protect and restore the health of the land; second, that active hands on forest management is essential to restoring the health of the land; third, that we need a plan for how that management should proceed; and, fourth, that any hope of a successful outcome on the ground hinges on good faith cooperation among local communities, the States, the Congress, and the administration.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC At the conclusion of the hearing, I committed to the Governor and the Chief and the people of Oregon that I would dedicate my efforts as chairman of this committee to ensuring that Sun River would not turn out just to be another meeting. This hearing helps to fulfill that promise.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Stenholm, the ranking member of this committee, Mr. Combest, the chairman of our Subcommittee on Forestry, Resource Conservation, and Research, and I introduced H.R. 2515, the Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997. I would like to personally thank Mr. Stenholm and Mr. Combest for their cooperation and support in the development of this important legislation. I would also like to thank Mr. Bishop, Mr. Peterson, Mrs. Emerson, and Mr. Chambliss of the committee for their cosponsorship.
H.R. 2515 continues and expands what began at Sun River. It is a plan for addressing a deteriorating forest condition not only in Oregon but throughout the country in a hopefully timely, organized, scientific, and environmentally responsible way.
We have gone to great lengths to address in this bill the substantive policy recommendations we gathered from six full committee hearings featuring witnesses from all regions of the country and from all areas of concern. I think it reflects valuable input received by the committee from Chief Dombeck and Governor Kitzhaber. To illustrate, Chief Dombeck has stated that he is ''committed to restoring forest health through investment in the land, increasing employee accountability and getting the agency's financial house in order''.
The national program outlined in this bill, particularly those provisions that tie funding to results and that require independent audits of agency performance, achieve all three of these objectives. The Chief has also spoken at length about a management paradigm he calls ''collaborative stewardship.'' This he defines as ''bringing people together without the abrogation of leadership or decisionmaking authority.'' Provisions in this bill that allow citizen input in the decisionmaking process and that bring people together with the expertise of the Federal and State land managers is collaborative stewardship in action.
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Finally, while the Chief has stated that he does not believe that our current environmental laws are broken, he has acknowledged that we must ''streamline our regulations and simplify the way we implement the laws toward the goal of a government that works better and costs less''. This bill provides the framework within which this objective can be achieved.
The bill does not tell the Forest Service exactly what to do to be more efficient or to implement the law. Rather, it provides a time frame for decision making that allows the agency to use its creativity to determine how best to meet that time frame, all within the parameters of the law.
H.R. 2515 also incorporates the principles of forest health restoration upon which Governor Kitzhaber and I agree. The bill, for example, is consistent with the principle that ''ecosystem health may be improved through active management.'' It also acknowledges that active management includes more than cutting trees. Some of the activities authorized in this bill might feature the cutting of trees and some might not. Ultimately, experienced forest managers using the most current science will make that determination.
Furthermore, the bill directly addresses two of the most critical concerns that the Governor and I have identified: first providing adequate funding for forest health management and effectively monitoring on the ground results. The new fund, established by this bill, will provide tens of millions of dollars annually for on-the-ground work. The bill also directs an independent science panel to design a monitoring program to measure the results of this work.
Finally, the bill vastly improves the current system for gathering and analyzing forest data, a critical tool for making sound management decisions.
I want to emphasize that the Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 is not yet a finished product. But it is an excellent start.
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The purpose of this hearing today and committee action on this bill in the future is to fine-tune and improve this legislation. To this end, I sincerely hope that the comments we receive on this bill both today and in the future will be substantive and constructive rather than rhetorical and destructive. The people of Oregon and the people throughout this country deserve the thoughtful dialogue exemplified by Sun River as opposed to the polarized demagoguery seen in past forest policy debates. A cooperative approach, although more arduous, will certainly produce a better policy.
Theodore Roosevelt once stated that good resource management applies ''common sense to common problems for the common good.'' That, in sum, is what H.R. 2515 is all about. It puts the cooperation of Sun River to work in a common sense plan for the future of our forests.
I look forward to working with Mr. Stenholm and the members of the Committee on Agriculture, the administration, Governor Kitzhaber, and others to make sure it succeeds.
Mr. Stenholm. I yield to the gentleman from Texas.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES W. STENHOLM, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF TEXAS
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Chairman, let me begin by commending you for the fair, the thorough, and the open manner in which you have addressed the issue of forest health over the past year. Under your chairmanship, the committee has had several hearings on forest health, and I appreciate the strong leadership you have demonstrated in this regard.
I am pleased to be an original cosponsor of the product of these hearings. The Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997, otherwise known as H.R. 2515, and I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, to move this legislation through the Congress.
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I also look forward to hearing from today's witnesses and would especially like to thank Secretary Glickman and Chief Dombeck for being here today. It will be a pleasure working with the two of you to pass this legislation and get it to the President for his signature of approval.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman for his constant attention to this committee over these long months.
Any Members who wish to offer a statement, I would be happy to accept it for the record and the Chair will insert a copy of H.R. 2515.
[The statement of Mrs. Chenoweth, Mrs. Emerson and H.R. 2515 follow:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
The CHAIRMAN. If Members do not mind, we will go directly to the panel so that we will have time hopefully for all questions from our distinguished panel.
With that, Mr. Secretary, I am delighted to see you as always, a member of this committee for a long time, a contributing member always, and a good friend of this committee and of mine. Mr. Dombeck, Chief of the Forest Service, we are delighted to have you here as always, and Jim Lyons, who with Mr. Glickman and I served on this committee together for some time until they have been all raised in their allegiance to the country.
Mr. Secretary, we would like to hear from you now. Thank you very much for coming.
STATEMENT OF HON. DAN GLICKMAN, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, ACCOMPANIED BY MICHAEL DOMBECK, CHIEF, FOREST SERVICE, AND JAMES LYONS, UNDER SECRETARY FOR NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT
Secretary GLICKMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am delighted to be here.
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC When you wrote me to tell me about this hearing and you invited me and the Chief to testify, I deemed it appropriate that I be here myself for a lot of reasons, but in my judgment, as I have said before on many occasions, the Forest Service is the largest entity within the Department of Agriculture. The largest group of employees in the Department of Agriculture is in the Forest Service. It actually dwarves every other part in terms of numbers of employees. I think that too often over the last several decades it has not had the attention from the secretarial level that it needed to have had.
Frankly, given the controversy surrounding the issues, I am not sure I relish all of that, because being on this committee for 18 years I personally did not give these issues the attention that I gave those issues that affected my home State. As Jerry Moran knows, Kansas has been blessed with many things, but forests are not one of the things that we have been blessed with. But at the same time most of the major watersheds in this country originate in the national forests.
There is about 200 million acres of lands in the forests which are the home of much of the habitat in America and, of course, you have this extraordinary renewable resource which is used in the economy of the United States as well. This is a very critical part of what we do at USDA.
I would also say that we are fortunate to have an able, competent, energetic, and forward thinking Chief of the Forest Service who spent years earlier in his life in the Forest Service and then later years in other things, including land management issues in the Department of the Interior. Mike Dombeck is dedicated to the Forest Service with a vision for the future but at the same time recognizing that we have to work together with Congress on those functions and missions that are necessary.
There is no more function and mission that is necessary than forest health. I have a short statement which I would like to read and then we would open it up for questions. Neither Mr. Dombeck nor Mr. Lyons have a formal statement. But let me just make the following comments.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Millions of acres of the national forests are dead and dying, adversely affecting timber production, employment, forest health, other forest resources such as wildlife habitat and water quality. In recent years, the legacy of aggressive fire suppression and outdated forest management practices have contributed to extensive wildfires that have destroyed homes and endangered the lives of residents across the West. Particularly affected are the urban rural interface near some of the larger cities. The risks of wildfire to life and to property have been compounded by significant population growth that has pushed development right up to the edges of the national forests.
Unnatural fire-prone conditions exist on 39 million acres of our national forests and treatment of them will remain a top priority for the administration and the Forest Service. In 1996, the Forest Service treated over a half-million acres. In 1997, we doubled treatments to 1 million acres. By 2005, we hope to treat 3.5 million acres annually so that by the year 2015 we will have addressed nearly all of the 39 million acres that need fuel management and fire reintroduction.
I want to emphasize, Mr. Chairman, however, that forest health is not simply about fuel treatment and the elimination of dead and dying trees. To the contrary, a complete prescription for improving the health of our forests must incorporate remedies for rehabilitating watersheds, repairing damage caused by excessive roading, restoring water quality and riparian areas, and improving wildlife habitat. To address these issues the administration has sought changes in policies to reduce the number of miles of roads built and instead to increase the miles of roads reconstructed and rehabilitated to reduce their impact on the environment. We have sought additional funds to improve rangelands and protect wildlife habitat. Indeed, the Forest Service is engaged in many activities to improve forest health that I don't even know all of the ramifications of, and Mike Dombeck and Jim Lyons can explain in more detail.
I believe what is needed is a comprehensive coordinated approach to improving all aspects of our forests. I am concerned that the term ''forest health'' has become a red flag for both the environmental community and the timber industry. To some environmentalists, the term ''forest health'' engenders fears of extensive salvage logging, of harvesting to the exclusion of other forest resource values and, given our recent experience with the ''salvage rider,'' logging without concern for environmental and procedural laws in making forest management decisions. On the other hand, to some in the timber industry and certain timber-dependent communities, forest health connotes paralysis and the failure of Congress, the administration, and the Forest Service to address an obvious resource problem.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have a disconnect between some folks in both communities as to what we ought to be doing in terms of managing our resources. That division has, I think, created some of the problems in which policy issues are not being perhaps addressed as forcefully and as aggressively as some on this committee, and certainly I and others around me, would like to see.
This is what really concerns me. With such incredible forest resources and such advanced management abilities, we should be able to carry out state of the art management, science based, with a strong base of public support. But as I look at our day-to-day operations of the agency, this is again day to day, I am a defendant in dozens and dozens of lawsuits. I am struck by the financial and environmental costs and sometimes the day-to-day paralysis we bear because of this controversy, extensive litigation, and lack of public policy harmony that exists on decisions. We ought to be able to get this right.
Controversy about national forest management is not inevitable. At least decisionmaking ought to be possible in the circumstances. We should be able to build enough public support for our management objectives so that we can go out and do the job well, build a reputation for trust, trust among those in the environmental community, trust among those in the resource community, and manage the resource in a way that satisfies the vast majority of Americans who not only live in the resource areas but who live in other parts of this country as well and value those massive resources that we have.
The administration has made significant advances in forest management policy with successes such as the President's forest plan, regional assessments, unparalleled interagency cooperation, and watershed restoration. The leadership and the administration and the agency has turned problems into real success stories and they represent important accomplishments. What is needed now and what is slowly evolving is a clear statement of our forest management objectives through which the American people can get a full understanding and appreciation of how we intend to manage their public forests. The public deserves this.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC On January 6, 1998, Chief Dombeck will have been on the job for exactly 1 year. He still is here, he still has his hair. He has been working hard to resolve some of the fundamental problems within the agency, such as civil rights abuses, financial management problems, accountability and internal organization. He has done an outstanding job on these issues, as I have told him on several occasions.
Now that he has had some time to address some internal functional issues in the agency, it is time to focus more specifically, more directly on the forest resources challenges we face. I have asked Chief Dombeck to develop a clear, broad-based natural resource agenda for the agency that is built on a foundation of science, good science, and is sensitive to the needs of the communities. I have asked him to report back to me with his vision by the end of the year. Once this agenda is articulated, we will all be better equipped to work with the committee to achieve common goals.
Regarding the bill that you have introduced, Mr. Chairman, the Forest Recovery and Protection Act, I cannot tell you today that we support this legislation in its current form because we have concerns about some of its provisions. For instance, some of the procedural requirements could be costly and burdensome given our funding constraints. However, we both share an interest in finding creative ways to fund restoration and recovery objectives. H.R. 2515 reflects some mutually shared concerns about the importance of managing for healthy forests, and we will work with you to find the most appropriate solutions.
In closing, I want to thank you for taking such a keen interest in forestry issues and we will look forward to working with you on them. Again, Mr. Dombeck and Mr. Lyons and I will all be prepared to answer questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Secretary Glickman appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I think I thank you for that statement.
I would hope, Mr. Secretary, that as we have in the past, we might incorporate several recommendations from the Forest Service in this legislation; that we could work together to try to improve this legislation so that you could readily accept it.
The things you talk about in your statement are exactly the concerns of this bill. As you mentioned, we are beginning to do some prevention treatment on the ground, but with the idea that there are 39 or 40 million acres out there subjected to catastrophic fire, we are obviously not putting enough in prevention. Therefore, we are spending too much on catastrophic fires. We spent a billion dollars last year on catastrophic fires. I think we have $50 million in this bill for prevention.
I am interested in helping the Forest Service fund a program that you can be proud of and that we can support you with and I have told Mr. Dombeck that time after time. If we have a system in place, it seems to me, that tells the American people that we, indeed, are going to take care of our responsibility on the ground of the forests that we can convince appropriators here that we ought to move funding from putting out fires to prevention of fires, which, indeed, as we agree, will bring us all these other issues.
You mentioned that fire prevention is not the only issue, but I submit that if we don't take care of the health of the forest, we will have lost rehabilitating watersheds, we will have lost wildlife, we will have lost restoring water quality in riparian areas, et cetera. All the environmental concerns that we all demand with fire, we have lost them all. So it seems to me we need to redirect our efforts, and I know that you would agree with that. And so we want to help you in that direction.
By the way, this bill does exactly as you have suggested. It does bring in a scientific panel to help us ensure that what we are doing on the forest is good for the resource and for wildlife, and for all of those things that we agree. We are eternally grateful to Dr. Oliver, whom we will hear from later, Mr. Secretary, who pulled together a panel of nine scientists across this Nation and gave us some options that we can select from. We are grateful to him for doing that.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But we had to put science into this bill because we felt that, here again, when people don't trust the Forest Service, they don't trust the loggers and they don't trust the environmentalists, maybe we can elevate this to a scientific program that all will accept in the name of restoring the resource.
I thank you very much and I would like your comments.
Secretary. GLICKMAN. I would like to make several points, and then I would ask my colleagues to talk. One is philosophically I think there are two principles that we need to really work on. One is good science, objective science. One of the things we want to work with you on this bill is how this panel is structured because we may have some ideas that are not exactly the same as how that is structured. But the point is to develop good science. The reason for that is because somehow we have got to figure out a way to rebuild trust in these decisions, that people are on the level, that there is not a conspiracy floating around on either side of this equation on every decision that is being made, recognizing there are genuine differences of opinion about how some of these issues ought to be resolved; not every issue is going to be resolved in an amicable way.
As you know, I worked with this committee and other committees on the Quincy Library Group issue because I felt that this was an example of a way, a locally built way to develop trust if it were done in a way that all parties had the appropriate kind of input. Clearly, we have been lacking that trust over the last several years as we have been making a lot of these forest decisions. Anything that we can do to restore that, I think would be positive to the American people.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you for that point. I might just state that the Quincy Library formula was followed quite carefully in this bill.
Mr. Dombeck, do you have any point that I might have raised that you want to answer?
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. I think the conceptual approach, as both you and the Secretary have articulated it from the standpoint of the need to build trust, the need to make investments in the land, is certainly something we need to really focus on.
A couple of points I would like to make from the standpoint of the panel's structure. I think it is important to take a look at the whole watershed. In fact, as I recall, you said in your statement that the forests are more than trees and many of the concerns involve water quality, insect, pest and disease problems, the need to upgrade roads and all those things. So in that respect, what I would offer is the Forest Service has many, many scientists, probably the largest single natural resource research organization in the country, possibly in the world. The thing that I am asking my folks to do is to go ahead and take a look at this. Because as the debate swirls around us, and all of us here know that it is not a lot of fun being in the center of some of these debates, but the leg that we have to stand on in the Forest Service is science, and that is my commitment, to do just that.
The social issues in some way we have got to come together and sort of calm the social environment down, because, as the Secretary mentioned, we are named in numerous lawsuits. We have just got to move out of this mode in this country. I see no reason that the national forests of the richest country in the world with the most technologies in the world shouldn't be a model of forest management.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree with you. I just quickly point out that with all due respect, I think you do have the finest scientists in the world within the Forest Service. However, there is high suspicion there, and that is why I am suggesting that we go outside with scientists from around the country for this panel to help forge a decision that people will accept.
Mr. LYONS. Mr. Chairman, I don't know that I can add much to what the Secretary and Mike said. I would say, I think you and I have been here before many years ago. It is interesting to hear you make the point about scientists because I remember when we put together a scientific panel.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I didn't like them at first.
Mr. LYONS. The Northwest issues, yes. But I think we are all coming to recognize that programs have to be built on a foundation of sound science. Otherwise, they don't have that credibility and, frankly, don't capitalize on the technology and the information that is current and available to guide us.
I would say that as I interpret the legislation you have introduced, it really is intended to send a message that we need to place highest priority on forest health issues, on those 39 million acres as we discussed at your first hearing in eastern Oregon, and I concur with that.
We are attempting to do some of that. We are attempting to do more of that probably than had occurred actually in the previous administration. There are some impediments and funding is one and you have identified a potential source of funds. I think we need to work on that.
I think another need is going to be flexibility so that we can ensure that managers on the ground using the best scientific information available can make prudent management decisions in setting priorities.
I think you have also indicated that the urban wildland interface is a place to start in terms of addressing the most immediate risk to public health and safety. I think in those areas particularly we are in strong agreement, and I think that is a good basis to work from.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Mr. Farr? You are closest to me, so go ahead.
Mr. FARR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. You see what happens when you move.
First of all, I appreciate you introducing this legislation because I think Congress needs to focus on this, but a couple of questions I have.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Regarding forest health, how do these forests get in such bad shape? I thought every time we conditioned timber sales, we condition it on the fact that the timber logger had to restore the forest into good condition? And now we find that there are thousands and thousands of acres that need this special attention. How did we get there?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would say this, technologies change and things change over time. I have got to credit the people thatthey were using state-of-the-art technologies, doing what they thought was right at the time and were doing what Congress was funding us to do at that time. But what has evolved over time is where you had a situation where you may have had, say, 200 stems of ponderosa pine per acre, now because of fire suppression, maybe a combination of some other practices, removing the overstory, for example, we end up with maybe 3,000 stems per acre of first species that are all sort of competing with one another because there is only so much water and so much nutrients there available for all those trees. And then we hit in a situation
Mr. FARR. Whose fault is it there? You had good forest operators indicating how the forests ought to be recovered. Is this just bad science? Or management practice?
Mr. DOMBECK. Part of it I think is the incentive, we have future cost of management on the back of timber.
Mr. FARR. We put the responsibility for toxic cleanup on the people who were the toxic polluters, too, including the military.
Secretary GLICKMAN. You need to explain, I think, what the timber sales is.
Mr. DOMBECK. The timber sales, through the various contributions of funds like KV funds and other things like that, the money then goes back into the land. For example, when I was a new employee working for the Forest Service in Michigan, I was paid as a biologist by timber support dollars. Then we get in the situation, if the values are not there, if the dollars are not there from the large trees, then the Forest Service, in essence, lacks the funding needed to go in there and do the silvicultural work that is necessary. In fact, we are making progress on that front, but, as the Secretary mentioned, increasing the amount of thinning that we have done from half a million acres last year to a million this year with a target of doing up to 3.5 million within the next decade.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. FARR. I thought our emphasis on timber harvesting permits was that the harvester was responsible for restoring and doing the remediation necessary.
Mr. LYONS. Congressman, if you don't mind, to address that point, the issue is not, in my mind at least, that the timber harvesters, the purchasers of the trees didn't do their job in reforesting sites as they are required to do by law, which I think is, in part, what you are alluding to, it is a number of factors. One is the exclusion of fire which the Secretary mentioned in his testimony. The technology of the time and certainly the public fear about wildfire led us to put every fire out. Now we have learned that it is an important part of the process.
Mr. FARR. I understand, we have got some problems. I have limited time. The next is, are any of these areas in wilderness areas, or roadless areas in your estimation of some repair areas?
Mr. DOMBECK. The forest health issues occur across the board.
Mr. FARR. Mr. Chairman, in your bill you exclude wilderness and roadless areas. I think that is for the purposes of not trying to protect those areas because we don't allowthey are wilderness, they are wilderness, they are wilderness and that is it. But it is something you may want to think about.
The CHAIRMAN. If the gentleman will yield on that, please.
Mr. FARR. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. The reason simply that we excluded roadless and wilderness is simply that there is so much suspicion and there is so much to do that we were very concerned that we would have raised the ire of environmentalists to say you are going to intrude into wilderness areas and you are going to build roads, off the edge.
Mr. FARR. I think I totally agree with you. I just want to know if there were areas that needed restoration that were wilderness areas. The bill says it also has to give an economic benefit to the local community in setting priorities. This is an area you may want to discuss as part of your support of the bill, is that we ought to be attacking the problems where they are. And if there is an economic benefit spin, that is fine, but I think more we ought to make sure that the users restore the forests.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, I like your bill, I think it is really in the right direction, and I hope that it will get some support because we need to pay attention. But essentially this Congress has addressed issues where we have had people abuse the land before, Superfund sites and toxic. If people have abused the use of public forests, then maybe they ought to be responsible for helping this restoration.
I have had an issue with you on the Woodford sale because you had conditions on the Woodford sale that I don't think were met and then you are going to go and do phase 2. The problem that your department has is when you put conditions on these timber harvesting permits, you don't enforce them. But it is not you alone. I used to be a county supervisor. I used to put it as a supervisor on buildings and then the planning department, all throughout Government, we lack enforcement on the conditions we place on permits. I think we have got to do a better job in that because if we don't, we end up with a bill that uses taxpayer money to go in and restore what the user should have done in the first place. That is my comment. I think it is a good bill, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Cooksey.
Mr. COOKSEY. No questions, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you. Mr. Chambliss.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. Chairman, I don't have a question. I do have a comment, though.
Mr. Secretary, I hope you will find a way to come around and support the chairman's bill because I think it is a good bill.
Mr. Dombeck, I am interested in your comment where you say that you think we do have the best forest scientists that are available within the Department and maybe we do, but those same scientists have allowed by your own statement our forests to get in a sad situation, at least in some areas of the country. I hope that we will be able to inject some folks from the private sector into the mix, because I know at least in our part of the world, the forestry consultants, and I use that term instead of scientists, I assume we are talking about the same thing there, they are the biggest environmentalists in the world. They make their living off the land. They are concerned about reforestation. They are concerned about the health of the forest. They are concerned from every aspect of what it takes to make a healthy forest. And while they are the biggest environmentalists in the world, they are not the left wing environmentalists that have caused you the problems that you have referred to and have also caused the private landowners the same types of problems from civil litigation standpoint. So I hope that we can inject some of those folks' thoughts into the process.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do hope you will come around to support the chairman and Mr. Stenholm's bill because I think it is a right move in the right direction with respect to the forestry situation.
Secretary GLICKMAN. If I may just, Saxby, comment. Like everything in life, like in species of crops, there is new information that comes up. The fact of the matter is that historically the way you dealt with not so much forest health but the way you dealt with forest issues was with lots of planting, with no prescribed fires. There was a lot of new nonindigenous species that were planted around the country. There was no thinning being done for all practical purposes. That wasn't necessarily the ideological decision that was made. That was what was viewed as the best forest practices, not only in the Government but outside the Government as well.
I think now there is a general feeling that you need more fire, prescribed fire under those circumstances that is safe, that you need natural regeneration. We are not doing clear-cuts the way we used to do them in the past. A lot of this is peoples' views, and science changes. I do agree with you, we have got to make sure that all perspectives are represented in this debate.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
I might make quickly the statement that we had several hearings about and, Mr. Secretary, as you well know, you can't use prescribed fire as a tool when you have 25 tons and beyond on the ground and one-third of your timber standing dead. Because when you infuse fire in those conditions, you burn up everything and you cannot save anything. So we understand that. Thank you.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Stenholm.
Mr. STENHOLM. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chief Dombeck, you have stated publicly, and ''our environmental laws are not broken but there are many opportunities to ensure they are implemented more effectively.'' You have also stated that you intend to work with the regulatory agencies to streamline implementation of environmental laws. Can you further explain what you mean by this?
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Let me just give you a couple of examples of some areas where progress has been made. For example, it wasn't too many years ago that the backlog of consultations in the Pacific Northwest, we had 1,200 projects in backlog. By moving from a process that was a serial process to a parallel process where the agencies' employees worked together right up front, we have been able to reduce the time it takes to do a consultation from sometimes in excess of 400 days to less than 60 days.
What I intend to do and one of my goals in the agency is to look for every opportunity we can to streamline the process within the organization, to meet regularly with my colleagues in the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the National Marine Fisheries Service, and look for every way that we can to work better together.
Mr. STENHOLM. Along a similar line, you have also stated before this committee that litigation is impeding forest ecosystem health restoration on Federal forestlands. Is this right?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't recall that statement. What I typically say is that the money we spend in litigation does not benefit the land.
Mr. STENHOLM. Let me rephrase the question, then. Would you agree that litigation is at least in part then due to conflicting and confusing laws and regulations?
Mr. DOMBECK. I think litigation in large part is due to conflicting opinions between the people at the various ends of the spectrum.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Lyons.
Mr. LYONS. I had to jump on that, Mr. Stenholm. I would agree with Mike, litigation is about conflicting values. As evidence of that, most of our litigation is process litigation. Very seldom do we get challenged on the substance of a decision, but people use process and challenge whether or not we have appropriately and in the right legal sense proceeded with process as a way to stop us from doing things that they have different values about. So that is a cost.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would say, though, that litigation, although we all get sued regularly, is down. In fact, the working relationships that the Chief spoke of between the agencies has helped to foster, I think, an improved working relationship on the ground and that has diminished some of the conflict which spills over to the public. That is why we place so much emphasis on wringing out every bit of efficiency and uniformity in existing laws to better collaboration and coordination before we start tinkering with the legal structure within which we work.
Mr. STENHOLM. Would you or do you agree with the direction of this bill requiring regulations to make decisionmaking more efficient and timely and less susceptible to lawsuits? Mr. Secretary?
Secretary GLICKMAN. Certainly as a matter of concept, I agree with those goals. You have certain basic statutes which I think you have to comply with. Of course Congress is working on the Endangered Species Act and Natural Forest Planning Act. We are also looking at ways that we can make regulations under those statutes more realistic. But the goal is to avoid litigation.
I would say, it is an interesting thing. I have seen some evidence, the number of lawsuits are coming down. One of the reasons why is we have made a conscious, dedicated effort that Federal agencies and State agencies work together in advance of these problems. We can minimize the effect of the lawsuits even under the existing legal structure.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Dombeck, you in particular, I would hope, and by your answer you indicate that that is certainly your desire, too, but to continue to help this committee look for ways in which we can make changes in the law that will help avoid some of these differences of opinion that quite often end up in litigation in which no one wins and the forests lose, quite frankly, and that is true in so many other areas of environmental concerns in which we spend so much time seeking the perfect and overlook doing the maximum amount of good that we can do. That is something that I hope and expect, and that is my opening remarks and the commendation of the chairman in this endeavor, because I see that he has made and this committee is making a sincere effort to find that constructive middle ground. We look forward to working with you. Thank you.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Smith.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Is there more fires per acre on privately owned forestland or Federal forestland?
Mr. DOMBECK. I guess I am not sure of the answer to that. We can check that and provide it. I have the data for the acres of fire on public lands but I don't have it for private lands.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. At least in hearings in Michigan, I was chairman of the Agriculture Committee there, at least 8 years ago there were more fires on Federal public land than there was private. Also, at that time there was a strong suggestion that there was more environmental protection on privately held land as opposed to publicly held land.
I guess we have had a great system, it seems to me, in this country. When there is a personal interest, a marketplace, if you will, interest in maximizing the efficiency and perfection of agricultural producing land, whether it is forestry or whether it is corn or soybeans or cotton or rice or whatever, we have found that the private sector can do a better job.
So I guess my question would be, should we be considering the possibility of selling some of this Federal forestland with provisions of public access to the private sector? I mean, whether you have Weyerhauser or I don't know how much Diamond Match owns anymore, the millions of acres that are held privately, that are looked over privately, it seems to me that private management, where it is a pocketbook concern, has been a better motivator of taking care of that land and protecting it and making sure that the environmental concerns and the erosion, from erosion to fire, are better protected, sometimes the private sector does a much better job than the public sector.
Any comments on that? And with all of our laws including this law that tries to bring common sense to the utilization of public forestlands is an effort to try to bring in some of the private marketplace motivations that motivates the private sector in the holding of those lands to do the best possible job.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary GLICKMAN. It is an interesting question. Let me just make a couple of philosophical comments. One is that it is interesting that our resources devoted to State and private forestry providing those kinds of incentives to help people kind of parallel to what we do on the Conservation Reserve Program, and other kinds of wetlands and equip-type programs are really inadequate to address some of the real problems of conservation problems on private forestlands. I think it is the scenario that the committee may want to work with us on this as a matter of concept.
These are public lands for the entire country. They have many uses. One of them is resources for timber, but others are to protect watersheds and to protect habitat and they are for generations and generations and generations, multigenerations after we are going to be here. I think the country has to ask what policy is going to be looked at for the very long term, not just for tomorrow afternoon.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. I guess, Mr. Secretary, what partially concerns me is the politics that tend to intervene into what otherwise might be some common sense decisions. I take the environmental movement as one, where the politics, in fact, the partisan politics of making friends with some of the environmentalist groups that can make a difference in elections has sometimes been a factor in the decisions based on politics rather than science in trying to decide what is going to happen on public service forestlands sometimes to the detriment of protecting those lands.
Secretary GLICKMAN. You can't remove politics from these decisions. That is public policy debates. There are politics on all sides of this debate.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. That was part of the reason for my question.
Secretary GLICKMAN. I can see it, being right in the middle of it. We are being pulled a hundred different directions by politics. That is just the nature of the game.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think a couple of things. These are ecosystem issues, however. These are large, multiarea, regional area issues that deal with a lot of different things in terms of long-term preservation of forests, in terms of species, in terms of habitat, in terms of water, and so one of the thingsthe reason why I amwhile I think I am at least willing to talk to you about this issue, is I am looking down the road 500 years, 1,000 years, 2,000 years to try to make sure we protect a system of biology and geology and geography that is there, not to say that the private sector doesn't have some good judgment in terms of some of the practices.
I would also say, I understand that our Forest Service indicates that forest health is as much of a problem on private lands as it is on public lands.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. What part of this bill do you object to?
Secretary GLICKMAN. Like I said, the concepts of the bill we think are a pretty good idea. We are concerned about how the processes are done; we are concerned about how the panels are structured. But I am not sure that those can't be worked out. I told Mr. Smith that we would be willing to sit down and work with him on these issues. I think he has structured the bill in a way that hopefully we would be able to reach common ground on.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. And so my original question, should we be looking at, should we be considering looking at what both you and Mr. Dombeck suggest are the dangers and the sickness of our current Federal forestlands? You compare that with private sector holds lands, should we be looking at the possibility of turning some of those lands up for sale to the private sector with provisions that we are going to maintain some of the public access and some of the considerations that we would have for the general public?
Secretary GLICKMAN. I would say as a personal matter, and this is as much me speaking as anything else, I am personally not particularly inclined to turn vast sections of public land over to the private sector.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Do you favor the Federal Government buying more forestland?
Secretary GLICKMAN. I am not saying that.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Are we just at the right place?
Secretary GLICKMAN. I am saying, for example, there are cases where land exchanges are going on right now with private companies. I have experienced one of these, the habitat conservation plans, where we have exchanged some areas of private land for some areas of public land. So I am willing to certainly talk with the private sector. But as a matter of general policy
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Keep everything we have got?
Secretary GLICKMAN. No, what I am saying is I think you have to look at it from an ecosystem perspective, not just from an individual land perspective.
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Johnson.
Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Glickman and Forest Chief Dombeck, I appreciate your coming here today, especially Mr. Dombeck. Having come from Wisconsin, grown up in one of the forests, or near the forest, not exactly in the middle of the forest, but your willingness to appear on this important matter.
I would also like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing and the leadership in addressing the growing problem of the forests and the willingness as we have seen in the list of people who are going to appear before us today represents a divergent, wide viewpoint in a forum that is highly commendable. It is a leadership role that should be more welcomed in all areas of agriculture.
Responsible forest management has been challenging and controversial for more than a hundred years. I want to know, and we have touched on it a little bit in terms of the growing forest fire problem, Mr. Secretary or Chief Dombeck, in terms of the fires in the forests, what do you think has been most effective in curbing these forest fires and insect infestations, two of the problems that are hopefully addressed by this bill?
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I think over the recent past, the typical regime if you have a situation where you have ladder fuels, a lot of biomass on the ground, it would be perhaps thinning followed by prescribed fire maybe some years after. I can give you a variety of examples of different regimes where it would be far different in Wisconsin than it would be, say, in the intermountain west because of the rainfall and species and that sort of thing. But the important thing is that we use all of the tools that we have out there and tailor it for each individual ecosystem watershed.
Mr. JOHNSON. I don't know if they have the problem of gypsy moths out in Oregon, but we have them in Wisconsin. Are there better ways to address this than a quarantine?
Mr. DOMBECK. In fact I think there is some progress, significant progress has been made recently with gypsy moths, with biocontrols of gypsy moth. I don't recall, is it a fungus or a bacteria?
There is some promise on the horizon to control gypsy moths, just as we have developed blister rust resistant western white pine and are reforesting part of the intermountain west with the white pine that were native there, and we are working very hard to isolate disease resistant strains of eastern white pine.
Mr. JOHNSON. Mr. Secretary, you have said in your opening statement what is needed now, what is slowly evolving is a clear statement of our forest management objectives through which the American people get a full understanding and appreciation of how we intend to manage their public forests, the public deserves this.
In your opinion, how does this bill achieve this move toward getting a statement, a clearer statement of our objectives?
Secretary GLICKMAN. The bill is certainly one piece of that, which is forest health. I think it is important, but I think that weone of the things in my statement is I have charged Chief Dombeck over the next 3 months to help to develop a more comprehensive piece, because, quite frankly, I think we have been a little weak on setting out what and how our forests are going to be managed and what our goals are. I think we have an obligation to do that in a more strong, definitive way. So the bill is helpful. It is one part of it but not the entire part.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHNSON. There are some suggestions that perhaps in the wide latitude under this bill that it might give authority to clear-cut under the view of forest health to engage in environmentally destructive logging and road building in ecologically sensitive lands.
Do you think this bill includes this? Would you approve or endorse these activities if the bill becomes law?
Secretary GLICKMAN. I certainly would not approve or endorse the activities and we would not want to provide the kind of management objectives that would lend themselves to those activities or create the opportunity where we could only go down that particular road. I would like Mr. Dombeck, the Chief, to respond to that. But no, obviously that is one of the fears.
Again, we talked about fears of some in the environmental community who see forest health as an opening of the door to just the worst possible option which would be the ones that you have just mentioned. We don't think that you have to do it that way.
Mr. DOMBECK. As a matter of fact, I was on the Ocala National Forest in Florida earlier this year. They were doing a prescribed burn. But also I saw the environmental community, I was with the State forester from Florida and some of our Forest Service employees, the environmental community standing side by side there, doing small clear-cuts for a variety of reasons. They were getting some wood out. They were providing habitat for a sensitive bird species that was in that area.
It is interesting to see that there are areas of agreement around the country where the authorizing environmentwhere the waters are calm and we can move forward with those kinds of management practices without the controversy. That is the challenge that we have, is to be able to articulate this. In those cases where that is happening, as long as the perception is across the country that the driver is to get the wood out, we are going to stay in this sea of controversy that we are in. When we look at the balanced array of watershed practices, the uses of the forest, then we begin to build more agreement. I think that is an area that we need to work in as well as to what are the incentives, the drivers that led us into this debate that we are all struggling with.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. JOHNSON. Thank you. Hopefully that is the objective of the bill, less controversy and fewer lawsuits. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman and that is the purpose of the bill. Mr. Pomeroy.
Mr. POMEROY. I thank the chairman. Representing the Great Plains, you don't grow up with an innate knowledge of forestry issues and so I have tried to find my way along here as a member of the Agriculture Committee in now my third session.
For the most part I agree with your statement, Mr. Secretary, where you say that controversy about national forest management is not inevitable, should not be inevitable, environmentalists want forest health, the lumber industry wants forest health, Americans want forest health. We ought to be able to find a way to do this that represents consensus.
In looking at some of the votes I have cast presuming good faith on behalf of the various perspectives to the forest questions, I am interested with your observation, your testimony on the salvage rider experience, because I have supported the salvage rider and cast the deciding vote in at least one instance in favor of that salvage rider. Being from North Dakota again, we ought not waste. And so if it is going to waste, we ought to get in there and salvage it. That was my thinking as I cast that vote. I am very interested in what the experience has been and your almost cryptic observation that this has been a loophole that has been abused.
Secretary GLICKMAN. I would ask Mr. Lyons to comment first.
Mr. LYONS. Let me offer, Congressman, that the salvage rider was good news and bad news obviously to the administration. There was tremendous controversy about the rider, its intent. We sought to mitigate some of that in how we implemented the rider, using the authorities that were afforded us in the legislation. We continued to work in a manner that was consistent with environmental laws and we tried to adopt some new procedures that we thought would expedite our ability to prepare and offer salvage sales which was really the congressional intent, it was to address these forest health concerns, except the rider would have had us skirt the NEPA process and other environmental laws.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We did some of the things that Mike referenced although Mike wasn't there at the time. What we did was we put together what we called ''level 1 teams,'' interagency teams at the ground level who went out and looked at projects together and tried to reach agreement on what should move forward and what shouldn't. That sped things up considerably. That was one of the valuable lessons we learned that we actually are trying to incorporate in current procedures now.
We also learned that there were problems, that in some instances we had individuals, leaders in the organization at the ground level who maybe abused the privilege and offered up salvage sales in places that didn't make sense, where priority didn't exist, where there was no emergency. And Secretary Glickman wisely issued some additional guidance so as to minimize the likelihood that would occur, to keep us out of environmentally sensitive areas and roadless areas and areas where clearly there was not an emergency.
Our performance as an agency, the Forest Service's performance was outstanding in the salvage rider. We dealt with a difficult political situation, a management situation, and we exceeded the goals that we set out and agreed to with the Congress. And I think we learned a little bit of something about how we might be more efficient in our management, and we are trying to use those lessons in the context of all existing law since the rider has now expired to do a better job in dealing with forest health concerns.
Secretary GLICKMAN. Mr. Pomeroy, let me just tell you, this is an interesting thing. This happened right when I got there and you talk about being in the middle of just a giant explosion.
The problem with the salvage rider in hindsight was not that there were not, the forest health problem had to be addressed, but for a lot of reasons what the salvage rider did, because it contained sufficiency language, it prevented people from exercising their preexisting rights to go to court.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Litigation is often a very unpleasant experience. I am a defendant in all these cases. I don't know if I will ever be able to get a home mortgage again as long as I live.
But precluding judicial review and administrative appeals kind of rub salt on the wounds of people who said, what are they doing to me, and I want my right to fight these battles. And people do want the right to question their Government. We may think they are on the wrong side of the issue. We may think they are destroying what I believe in, but they do want the right to question their Government. So the preclusion of various legal remedies I think made the mistrust even greater.
And then you had every sale being challenged and you had the questions about was the Forest Service doing the right thing here. That mistrust is what we don't want to go down that road again. That was a battle that I think didn't help it.
What we need to make sure is to make sure our management is sound, that our science is good. The goals of the Smith bill I think are in that direction so that litigation is either unnecessary or greatly reduced.
Mr. POMEROY. A final observation. I think the Chief told us the last time he was before this committee, something like 161 million acres of forestland is under your supervision?
Mr. DOMBECK. One hundred ninety-one.
Mr. POMEROY. One hundred ninety-one; 3.8 million acres are grasslands, of a distinctly different character than the Nation's forests.
Congressman Thune and I are working on some ideas that might have perhaps a more rational oversight arrangement for the grasslands within the U.S. Department of Agriculture that don't take away from the resources that the Chief already has had to stretch very thin in light of the breadth, extent and complexity of forest issues. You needn't comment, just put that on your radar screen and we will be working with you on that.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I'd just like to add that, of that 191 million acres, there are about 65 million that are rangelands.
Mr. POMEROY. But 3.8 grasslands?
Mr. DOMBECK. Grasslands, yes.
Mr. POMEROY. The bulk of which are in North and South Dakota and have a different character. And so I think that perhaps we can improve your own resource capability to apply to the tremendously complex forestry issues if we find another home for the grasslands within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It's a work-in-progress.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
For the record, one of the problems with the salvage rider was the inclusion of some reactivated, so-called 318 sales, which were green sales. So that there was confusion in the public's mind that, while you were under the guise of salvage, you were actually cutting green trees, which was a direction by the Congress. So we ought to be careful how we present this. There was confusion, and we lost the public relations battle. But there were green trees harvested, and the reason is because simply Congress directed they be harvested. Is that fair?
Mr. LYONS. I think that's fair, Mr. Chairman. I just want to point out, though, I think we had some situations where we had more green trees harvested as a part of salvage sales than ought to have occurred.
The CHAIRMAN. And that was authorized by the Forest Service on the ground?
Mr. LYONS. Well, it was authorized under the legislation. We tried to address that.
The CHAIRMAN. But the judgment was made by on-the-ground forces?
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LYONS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here today.
As Mr. Pomeroy, I come from an area where we really don't have many forests, certainly not Federal forests, and so I would think that possibly a majority of this committee comes from an area with not a lot of expertise about forests, let alone the Members of the Congress. And I think, repeatedly, Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Pomeroy, others are saying: Why can't we have a plan; why can't we work together outside of partisan politics to manage our forests and to have a plan for that management which is worked out and pretty well accepted?
Is there such a plan? Each year does Mr. Dombeck come to the Appropriations Committee with a plan and ask for the funds to carry that plan out? Or is it piecemeal and fractionalized by legislative enactments over the years?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, yes, we do have a program of work that is presented in the President's budget that covers a whole array of programs that are under our jurisdiction.
Mr. EWING. But is it a plan, is it a comprehensive plan? Is it a plan that is worked out with the appropriate committees here in the Congress? Or is it just the administration's plan which may not always be in sync with even this committee?
Mr. DOMBECK. I guess whether it's in sync or not is something I'm not sure I can respond to, but we have a forest planning process that lays out various projects over the long term, and some annualeverything from, as we talked about land acquisition a while ago, the recreation projects, to thinning, to harvest, to salvage, and watershed improvements, road obliteration, and the list goes on and on. However, the plans are not always funded at an even level. Some programs are funded more than others, depending uponmoney's tight every place you go. So, typically, many of the programs that we deal with are underfunded.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I think one of the things that we need to focus on is, as I've said before, is the need to make investments in land over the long haul, because when we're talking about forests, we're talking about decades, centuries sometimes, and we need to make investments in these lands for the future.
Secretary GLICKMAN. If I may just add, Mr. Ewing, one of the positive things about the GPRA, the Government Performance and Results Act, I guess it is, is that it is causing us at every level, including the Forest Service, to sit down and figure out the processes of decisionmaking, and the Forest Service is going through that in a very diligent way as well. So that there is at least a comprehensive review being done on the decisionmaking. It's complicated a bit by the way money is raised to operate the forests, which have historically been cut-driven, timber-driven, provides the money to do the other things, provides the money for the counties. All this kind of things isand, you know, that's part of the conflict and issue we're going through right now, is: What should the long-term financing and funding relationship be, and how do you deal, therefore, with forest health issues and the other? But the GPRA process is working to get us focused.
Mr. EWING. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, because I was just goingthat was going to be my next question. Is that process going to be help in really lay out a plan that many of us in the Congress can understand when we have the debate?
For instance, I'm really tired of the debate over who's paying for roads in the timbers. I don't know that I totally understand it. I've been told that if it isn't in the contract, then the company pays for it, but if the Government builds them, they collect the money somewhere else. So it comes out the same. I don't know if that's the case.
I know it's a very divisive debate that we have every year, and I think we ought to be able to get passed that, into something more meaningful, that there is a plan and not spend a lot of political time in a partisan debate over an issue like that.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I'd like to just comment on the Government Performance and Results Act, because that's one of the issues and priorities that's real high on my radar screen. The accountability loop can be closed by the Government Performance and Results Act, if we do it right and are diligent, and we're all working hard in that direction.
And one of the things we need to focus on in organizations is land-based performance measures. One of the things that is typical in organization is, if your measure is process, it's really not the number of plans we're about; it's about the long-term trends on the land that we're interested in, the trends in water quality and soil stability in forest health, and all those kinds of things. And the more we can focus on the long-term trends on the land, the more energy we can devote in that area, and move away from the process-laden stuff that's taking up so much of our resources right now.
Mr. EWING. Well, my time is up, but I would just say, in closing, that I believe the chairman and the ranking member here have a bill which is a very good-faith effort to try to start that planning process and bring it in, so it's more comprehensible, and one that the Congress can work with your Department and you, Mr. Secretary, and Mr. Dombeck. And I would certainly hope that we'll see that working together to come together on the legislation we need for that proper management.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman for his comments. I might, for the record, add that there was a request of $35 million by the Forest Service for treating natural fuels, and the Congress appropriated $50 million after we interceded and you asked for more money. That still is almost an inept effort, in my opinion. So we must get together in the next budget process, I hope, and determine what we're going to do about funding this whole program. And, of course, if that is the case, and we don't have a comprehensive plan yet, then this bill is certainly at least a formula for gaining a comprehensive plan.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. STABENOW. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, first, to the Chair and ranking member, congratulations; I know you've put a tremendous amount of work in and appreciate the process that we've been using the last several months in looking at this important issue.
Mr. Secretary, it's great to see you again.
I guess, coming from Michigan and wonderful forests and beautiful wilderness areasand we take great pride in our forestland in Michiganso this is a very important issue to us. As we look at bringing people together, and I think that really is the challenge, is to get beyond the concerns and attempt to have people on all sides working together on this. I would like you to expand a little bit more about a couple of areas that are very sensitive, and there is discretion in this bill. And as Mr. Johnson spoke earlier asking about clear-cutting, obviously that's a very controversial issue, the notion of clear-cutting vast areas under the guise of forest health; also, the issue of expanding our roads, logging roads, and so on, into environmentally-sensitive areas.
Could you speak a little bit more about how you view the discretion under this bill in those kinds of issues, and how you would proceed on those?
Secretary GLICKMAN. Why don't I ask Mr. Lyons first?
Ms. STABENOW. Yes, please.
Mr. LYONS. Congresswoman, the bill doesn't mandate that we engage in additional clear-cutting or extensive road-building. I think it leaves that discretion to us. That's not something that we would engage in.
I think, as Chairman Smith indicated, the bill wisely excludes wilderness areas, wilderness study areas. As we've talked about controversy and litigation, it's clear that we have towe're better off staying out of roadless areas because of the controversy that is engendered when we attempt to operate there. There's a high cost and probably low payoff.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I don't have that fear, in particular. I perhaps have some fear that by refocusing on forest health, unless we define forest health in its broadest contextwatershed improvements, dealing with the 380,000 miles of road that we have out there that we have to clean up, improving wildlife habitatunless we look at it in that context, it may be perceived that we are refocusing efforts on timber as our sole priority, and that would send the wrong signalsend the wrong signal within the organization and to the public at large, because we're talking a balanced, scientifically-sound program that addresses all our resource management needs and in their proper context.
Ms. STABENOW. To follow up on that, as you talk about looking as broadly as possible, then the Department is doing what in the context of this legislation in order to make sure that we are looking broadly and not narrowly at the issue of forest health?
Secretary GLICKMAN. Do you want to talk about forest policy?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. Well, in general, we have been moving toward an ecosystem approach for many years. In fact, the amount of clear-cutting done today is minuscule compared to what it was a few decades ago, and a lot of policies that have changed have changed to be more inclusive, to include all of theyou know, many, many of the items that Jim mentioned and the Secretary, from the standpoint of watershed values, recreation values, timber values, wildlife values, endangered species issues, and all those kinds of things that we have to deal with.
And that, in a sense, has been evolving for some time, and we continue to get better at it. The piece, though, of the puzzle that we haven't learned to fix, and if we could fix it, we probably wouldn't even need this hearing, is that building the broad base of public support, because a lot of what we talk about and the debate is really a social debate as much as it is a technical debate, because to get the authorizing environment to be able to move forward.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And, as I said, why is it that the national forests of the United Statesthey should be models of forest management for the world in a country like this.
Ms. STABENOW. Well, I totally agree, and I think you are looking at this from the right perspective, and that we've got a lot of hard work to do to bring around that public consensus.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the lady.
An announcement here. At about 11:30, we are going to have on the floor a suspension, the 15-minute vote, amendments of 15 and a 5, and final passage of 15. Therefore, we will have to recess this committee for a substantial amount of time. I would like to finish up, if possible, with the Secretary prior to that time happening.
I'd like to ask members, who have been very patient, who would like recognition in the short term? Mr. Thune. Mrs. Chenoweth. OK, if we have time, of course, any others, but I don't want to shut off anybody.
You are up next, Mr. Hostettler.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Mr. Chairman, I assume we can submit questions for the panel.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much for reminding me. Questions can be submitted through me to the Secretary.
Mr. HOSTETTLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
All right, Mr. Thune.
Mr. THUNE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And, Secretary Glickman, Chief, welcome. We're glad to have you here today.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I have had the opportunity over the last several months, as this process has unfolded, to visit with a lot of people from the industry in my State of South Dakotaloggers, mill owners, managers, Forest Service personnel, environmental organizations, and concerned citizensand the consensus is pretty clear: that the health of America's forests is in jeopardy. I think what's not clear at least is how we address that, but I believe that this bill moves us in the right direction. I think provides for a rapid, comprehensive, and science-based response to a lot of these issues, and it draws expertise from scientific and forest professionals, while maintaining as a requirement for project selection the consideration of local economic impact. So I would hope that you can find your way to help us move this along.
One questionand I will try to be briefthat has sort of perplexed folks in our State for some time: We've had a lot of complaints with respect to the appeals, and that process associated with decisions of the Forest Service. There is, for example, an area in the Black Hills that has experienced a significant blowdown as a result of a storm in April of this year, and much of that blowdown was salvageable timber. To the best of my knowledge, this timber still lies where it fell, awaiting the resolution of an appeal of a sound, common-sense decision to allow the timber to be economically salvaged.
My question is thisand, again, I would also say that in the course of the last few years we've had, I think, 31 consecutive appeals on timber sale decisions in the Black Hillswhat adjustments, if any, would you recommend to the process of appealing decisions of the Forest Service? Mr. Lyons.
Mr. LYONS. Congressman, I don't know that we have a great deal of latitude in modifying the appeals process. It was actually incorporated in statute in a prior appropriations bill. So we're kind of limited in where we can head. Now what we can do to try to reduce conflict and appeals certainly is work more with the public, trying to engage them more in decisionmaking before decisions are made, so as to try and eliminate conflicts before they become conflicts. But, really, the processes for appeals are established largely by statutory guidelines that we have. So I don't know that we have a great deal of flexibility process-wise.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THUNE. Do you see some solutions available as a result of this bill incorporated in the legislation that's in front of us here? Do they give you more latitude, too?
Mr. LYONS. I don't know that the bill addresses appeals in that sense. It might expedite some process; that is, I think it waives stays while activities are underway, and that can actually cause some conflict with the public. I think the answer really is a simple one, this bill or any other, and that is early involvement of the public in decisions affecting public lands and seeking mechanisms to do that.
I will look into the situation you face in the Black Hills because I know there have been some difficulties there. Perhaps there are some things that the forest supervisor could do better that he's not doing now to try to address some of these concerns.
Mr. THUNE. Who are the principal litigants, I mean of the Forest Service, when it comes to forest health and resource management?
Mr. LYONS. I think it's a pretty broad panoply of people. It may be some local organizations concerned about sales. It may be some within the timber industry are concerned that the sales are inadequate or laid out in a way that makes them uneconomical. It really depends. Sometimes you see recurrent legal challenges from groups that simply don't want to see certain actions occur. We try to work those things through. I think part of working these issues through, though, is to realize at a certain point in time, when you've done all the work you can do to try to bring everybody to the table, if you think you have a correct decision, then you have to seek to proceed.
Mr. THUNE. I appreciate that, and I would welcome your assistance with our particular situation of Black Hills, and simply say that if there is a way in which you can find within the confines of this legislation more flexibility to assist with the appeals processI mean, I understand people want access to the process; they want to have due process, and I think it becomes a question of where that ends and foolishness begins. In our case in South Dakota, I think we've crossed that line.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So I thank the Chair and yield back.
The CHAIRMAN. I thank the gentleman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to say that I think the chairman has done a commendable job in the way he has held numerous hearings on this bill. I do want to say that it has been a source of frustration to me only that the demands of the day require myI had held hearings, too, at exactly the same time, and when I knew about these hearings, it was simply too late to be able to participate. I did when I could, and I just want to thank the chairman again for the kind of work that he has done on this bill, and I just wholeheartedly, enthusiastically endorse it.
This bill is very thoughtful. It establishes an expedited procedure for designation and ranking of recovery areas and for the selection of recovery projects, but it still requires the agency to comply with all applicable Federal laws in planning and implementing these projects, and all projects must comply with applicable forest plans. I think that's very, very well thought out.
The legislation also facilitates the agency's determination of priority needs without reducing the level of scrutiny that is provided for all agency land management decisions. Importantly, the thing that I am most pleased about, and I'm pleased with all of these elements, but most importantly is it would strengthen the public involvement procedures by allowing citizens to petition for the designation of a new recovery area.
In addition, the bill seeks the assistance of a scientific advisory panel to evaluate the performance of the initial projects and to make recommendations for the design and implementation of a monitoring plan. Monitoring plans are so very important, and I know from previous hearings you have that concern, too.
And I think that the chairman has done a marvelous job here, and I think with regard to the public relations battle that has been referred to here in the committee, I sincerely hope that at this level, in this bill, that we're able to bring the public relations battle together, because we're all concerned about the forest health issue.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC My bill, H.R. 2515, I think complements this bill very well, and I sincerely look forward to working with all three of you on my particular part of the bill, and seeing your active working with the chairman on this bill. I think it's an awfully good direction.
I just want to say that my assistant in my committee just went to get a copy of a letter that was, we thought, just signed by Larry Craig, inviting all three of you into Idaho to take a tour with us, the same tour that our leadership took. And I think it's so very important that we see the same thing. I know you gentlemen are all very bright, but until we can see the same problem together, I don't think we can work from the same frame of reference. And so I would like to present this letter to you from my senior Senator and me inviting you to take the same tour we took the leadership in the House on. And I would appreciate your correspondence and your consideration on that.
Mr. Smith also has some forests just adjacent to the forests that you would be seeing, and with his permission, I'd love to be able to include some of his district also.
But I thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for your time and your recognition, and would appreciate your careful consideration of this invitation. Thank you.
The CHAIRMAN. Gentlemen, do you wish to commit to go to Idaho now? [Laughter.]
Mr. DOMBECK. Any time, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Very good. I thank the gentlelady.
Are there other thoughts or questions of this panel?
If not, gentlemen, thank you very much. It's been enlightening. I appreciate your being here, and especially, Mr. Secretary, for taking the time to be with us.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Secretary GLICKMAN. You're welcome.
The CHAIRMAN. Welcome again. We'll begin the hearing. Members will straggle in, as usual.
We'd like to call Mr. Brown, Dr. Oliver, and Mr. Meadows. I welcome you all here. I understand and appreciate you've traveled a long distance. I think this is a very important hearing, and of course your testimony will be a matter of record. I'll ask you, Mr. Brown, to begin, if you will, please.
STATEMENT OF MARVIN D. BROWN, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS
Mr. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to present testimony before you today. The rest of the State foresters and I appreciate the priority you've placed on examining the issue of forest health, and we applaud your attempts to focus the efforts of the Forest Service on improving what I think is widely regarded as deteriorating conditions on many of the lands they manage.
I won't go into a lot of detail about who the National Association of State Foresters are, but I'll tell you that we do represent all 50 State forestry agencies in the country, plus the U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
We reviewed H.R. 2515, and we're happy to report that we do, in fact, endorse the bill. And if Congresswoman Emerson was here, I'd also like to thank you, as a Member from my home State of Missouri, for being one of your cosponsors on the bill. We appreciate that.
By and large, the bill's consistent with two relevant policies of our association, both of them recently adoptedone dealing with Federal land management and one dealing with forest health. Our national forests are a varied and important part of the landscape, and your bill gives the Forest Service the flexibility to identify and treat areas that are not producing values that the American public wants and expects from our public lands.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The focus of our NASF policy on forest health is that forest health can be evaluated based on two important considerations. First, forests should be capable of recovering from human-caused or natural stresses and be able to return to a state where the forest ecosystem is functioning as you might expect it to.
And the second consideration, when you're thinking of forest health, is that the owners of the forest must determine within the ecological limits of the land what their management objectives are and how to achieve them.
In terms of the first consideration, the ability of a forest to recover from disturbance, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the extent of the problems. I think we all know, though, as your bill mentions, about 40 million acres, I think, on Federal lands that have problems that could eventually be impacted by recovery projects. We all know what those problems are in terms of catastrophic fire risk and insect and disease risk, and they are real problems. We agree that they are real problems that need addressing.
In terms of setting management objectives, then, as the second consideration, being able to set and implement management objectives for Federal lands, this bill and the process you've gone through to arrive at its introduction, we think it's an excellent exampleor an excellent complement to existing processes that let the owners of the national foreststhat is, the American publicset management objectives. Congress plays the important role of representing all the people, and passage of this legislation would state clearly that there's a priority on healthy, functioning forests that are not threatened by catastrophic fire.
The process of developing a science panel and allowing the agency to determine where and how to act while complying with existing forest plan standards and guidelines is also, we think, an important part of this whole process.
The bill also avoids two potential problems. First, it doesn't shortcircuit the efforts of a great many citizens to actively participate in and influence the objectives set for the national forest, nor does it preclude appeals. It also provides the opportunity for citizens to petition the agency to address forest health problems. Thus, it even allows greater participation than we currently do on our national forests.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And another important consideration in the bill, we think, is that it reaffirms the commitment to stay out of wilderness areas, out of wilderness study areas, and some other areas determined by the agencies as inappropriate for entry. We do agree with that.
We do very much appreciate the fact that you've chosen to give State foresters such a large role in the scientific advisory panel. I'm sure that many of my colleagues would be happy and able to serve on that panel, if they get asked to. I know they would be more than willing to.
We're a diverse group of resource professionals. We've got backgrounds in agriculture, zoology, biology, as well as forestry; worked in a lot of different settings, and I think we can bring a lot of on-the-ground, hands-on, grassroots kind of perspective to these decisions that would be useful.
I'd also suggest that there's going to be individuals who think that a broader representation on the panel might be appropriate. We in the States work pretty closely with State fish and wildlife agencies. Typically, they get involved in a lot of these same types of decision processes, and it may be appropriate that they be included on the panel as well.
We're very supportive of the proposal to create a Forestry Recovery and Protection Fund. This parallels in important respects the Ecosystem Restoration and Maintenance Fund proposed by the administration this year. We're a little concerned that all $50 million would be transferred out of the fire operations account into this new fund, and it might be appropriate to distribute that over several line items in the budget.
Some concerns we've got, we'll be happy to give those more detail in writing to you as we go along. We share to some extent some of the concerns over some of the reporting requirements. They may be a bit more burdensome than is necessary.
We also like the language that relates to the forestry inventory and analysis. We think that's a goal that we would wholeheartedly support, but maybe there's a place for that in the USDA research bill which this committee is working on at the present time.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The only other thing I would add probably is just the conclusion. It's getting close here. I'd just say that forests and the elements that affect them do not know political boundaries. The owners of those forests do know those boundaries, though, and we know that we expect different things from the different parts of the landscape. But there is a broad consensus that many areas of our public lands are not meeting these expectations. Forests have been pushed beyond the range of historic variation, and this threatens all the values we associate with our forests. As representatives of the owners of these forests, the bill we think would be a really good step toward setting management objectives and taking the steps necessary to get there.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Brown appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Brown. I'm going to get to the other witnesses in just a moment. But while it's fresh in my mind and fresh in yours, let me, first, thank you for endorsing the bill. And, second, I appreciate your reference to the FERM Fund, which the Forest Service was going to bring up here for authorization, and it just didn't happen. That's called the Forest Ecosystem Restoration and Maintenance Fund.
In this bill we call for the Forest Recovery and Protection Fund, which we think is the same thing with different words. And I see no difference with the purpose in those two. Do you?
Mr. BROWN. No. We would basically agree with that, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. OK. Then, you know, it's always a difficulty to find areas, without appropriating new money, to move funding, and you're concerned about the fire operation fund being deprived of funds. I'm not sure that category is not the fund that is merely compensated at the end of the fire season. Do you know? We have a fund here, the fire fund, which you use, and if it's a billion dollars or $2 billion or $10 billion, the Congress merely appropriates money in the next session to restore the money. That's the kind of funding I like.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BROWN. OK, I understand. I'm not probably as familiar with the Federal budgeting part of that
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I'm not sure the fire operations fund is notit may be another category that I'm not familiar with. But, anyway, our idea'sand I guess you agreeour idea is simply that if we put more money in prevention, we should have less catastrophic fires; therefore, moving the funds from the fire operation wouldn't be detrimental, hopefully.
Mr. BROWN. Yes, I agree with that. I think the operations fund, there's some money in there, as that's written now, that would fund some risk-lowering activities, and I guess in either place it would accomplish that.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes. And we'll take your suggestions and look at them carefully on reporting requirements. We don't need to be over-burdensome, but we do want to follow carefully results, so that we can identify results on the ground.
All right. I thank you very much.
Mr. Meadows, we're delighted to have you here. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM H. MEADOWS, PRESIDENT, WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Mr. MEADOWS. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I truly appreciate the Wilderness Society's being invited. My name is William Meadows. I'm president of the Wilderness Society. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to testify on H.R. 2515.
The Wilderness Society opposes H.R. 2515 because it is unnecessary legislation that would likely worsen ecological problems in national forests and marginalize public participation. It's based on assumptions that there is a forest health crisis in the national forests, and the best way to cure a sick forest is to log it. The bill would facilitate environmentally destructive management by forcing hasty decisions and providing easy money to log in sensitive areas.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Wilderness Society supports selective use of active management activities, such as thinning and prescribed burning, to help restore damaged ecosystems. However, such activities should not harm the environment.
Also, the management activities must be economically sound and must be guided by the best available science and by broad, well-informed public input. We believe that sound ecosystem management plans based on these principles can be adopted through existing administrative processes.
H.R. 2515 requires the scientific advisory panel to pay close attention to a document entitled ''Report on Forest Health of the United States.'' This report, we believe, amounts to little more than a prologging advocacy statement. The report is replete with assertions with no basis in scientific facts, inaccurate assumptions, generalizations that obscure fundamental issues, and highly selective use of data. I will highlight some of the problems we have found in the report.
The report ignores the abundance of evidence, including that of the Forest Service, that forests with the highest ecological integrity are the few remaining roadless, unlogged forests. This was the conclusion from the Sierra Nevada, Columbia Basin, and Southern Appalachian scientific assessments. The reports states:
The limited road system and infrastructure make Federal lands in the inland West especially susceptible to catastrophic fires. There's no evidence that roads have reduced the threat of catastrophic fires. In fact, roads increase the risk of ignition from human sources, both intentionally and accidental. The recent Sierra Nevada ecosystem project concluded that fire frequency was highest in well-roaded landscapes.
The report includes some examples of partial presentation of data that leads to inappropriate conclusions. The best example is its treatment of areas burned annually by wildfires. The data presented are from 1940 to 1994, and give the appearance of steady increase in area burned. These data are then used to justify a conclusion that fire is on the rise. In fact, a review of the data all the way back to 1900 shows that 1940 was the lowest point of fire and the peak of fire suppression. Recent area burn is no greater than the levels that burned around the turn of the century.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The science this committee has chosen does not reflect the scientific debate on the issue, Mr. Chairman. The Wilderness Society would be willing to put together a panel of scientists for the committee who would offer a different and varied solutions on the question of health in the national forests. I hope you will accept our invitation.
In closing, the Wilderness Society finds the following specific problems with H.R. 2515. The bill defines recovery projects and recovery areas much too broadly. The only lands that H.R. 2515 declares off limits to recovery projects are congressionally designated wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and places where the projects would be prohibited by law. This does not offer any real protection to roadless areas in the forests. The bill ignores the fact that roadless areas are generally in good ecological condition, due to the absence of past logging activity, roads, and intensive fire suppression.
H.R. 2515 creates a highly centralized decisionmaking process that would replace existing site-specific environmental analysis and local public review of individual projects, thereby reducing citizens' ability to participate. The bill gives the Secretary a 120-day deadline to make a final decision on the annual selection of areas and projects. This is far too little time for meaningful public participation in a Government proposal of this size, scope, and complexity.
And section 7 of the bill establishes an off-budget slush fund to pay for the forest health program. The proposed forest health fund would give Forest Service managers a strong incentive to maximize the receipts they could generate from recovery projects such as by selling large volumes of big, old-growth trees.
In summary, we believe the bill is based more on political science than real science. Therefore, the Wilderness Society must oppose this particular bill. Thank you, sir.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Meadows appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. I thank you, sir.
Dr. Oliver, welcome.
STATEMENT OF CHADWICK D. OLIVER, PROFESSOR OF SILVICULTURE/ECOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, REPRESENTING THE FOREST HEALTH SCIENCE PANEL AND THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
Mr. OLIVER. Thank you very much. I want to make statements from two groups. First of all, the Society of American Foresters prepared a statement, but their annual meeting is in Memphis right now. So I've been asked to read parts of it on behalf of Mr. William Banzhaf, executive vice president. The whole statement is submitted for the record, but there are two parts that I would like to read right here.
The first is, ''We enthusiastically support your bill which, upon enactment, will provide forest managers with yet another tool to improve the health of the national forests.''
Further on it says, ''Our''and that means the SAF''recent report entitled, 'Forest Health and Productivity: A Perspective of the Forest Profession,'' comes to these conclusions... .'' I won't read the conclusions. They are in the statement.
But it says, ''We believe your bill is consistent with these conclusions and support it enthusiastically. The bill identifies a significant problem that exists on some Federal forests, provides land managers the opportunity to address this problem, and allows for a mechanism to pay for associated projects.''
The full statement is, I believe, submitted for the record.
Now I would like to speak representing the Forest Health Science Panel, for which I was the Chair. I feel that H.R. 2515 is a positive, cautious step toward ensuring that the national forests provide the values that people want. It carefully allows, basically, the managers to build on the knowledge gained. It allows expansion of this knowledge as the programs are carried out, but it doesn't try to expand so rapidly in scope that it provokes unintended negative consequences.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We've gained an awful lot of knowledge over the last years, which is included in this bill. One is that forests are naturally dynamic. They don't exist in a steady state. They change through growth and disturbances. They exist in a variety of conditions, and all these conditions are valuable as habitats.
We also know that right now one of our major problems is that we have overcrowded, small-diameter forests. Our problem isn't that we're depleting forests in general. We also have certain management science principles that we are beginning to understand. We begin to realize that, rather than advocating single values which leads to unintended consequences, we need to look at a solution that provides as many values as possible, and there are such possible solutions.
We're also realizing that there are creative techniques for analyzing the risk of different management alternatives in the face of uncertainty. We also realize that we know very much about many of our ecosystems in this country because of a lot of past very good science. We also know very much about various techniques for manipulating them to provide various values, also based on very much science. We also have gained very much administrative knowledge, both in tools and in techniques and organizations, that will allow us to effectively implement various objectivesor achieve various objectives.
The bill concentrates the possibilities of proactive management on areas where very much is known and where the benefits would outweigh the risks. This would be part done through the analysis project.
The scientific team that's proposed is different than many of the scientific teams that were used in other forest resource issues. Rather than its being composed of many specialists, each of which is knowledgeable about a narrow range of values, the team is composed of people who understand both the natural science foundations and the management science that looks at many values and tradeoffs, and incorporates people with experience in management. I would expect these scientists to seek input from specialists as needed.
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now it would be appropriate during the process for both the policymakers and the scientists to recognize the difference in roles here between science and policymaking; that while the scientists would be responsible for very much analysis, they wouldn't be making value judgments. Now such a relationship was successful in the Forest Health Science Panel, which I chaired, and which we reported to you. We were very careful not to make the value judgments at that time.
Now having the panel composed of the people described in this bill, as well as appointed by the people described in the bill, will enfranchise the policymakers by ensuring they have a personal stake in the scientific findings, and it will help strengthen and define the relation between policymaking and science.
The bill also allows for some learning during the management process, and it's designed to get a better understanding of the state of our forest through its inventory system.
I want to compliment you on the bill. I have a couple of suggestions that are in my written statement that I could either respond to in questions or would be available in the record. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statements of Mr. Oliver and Mr. Banzhaf appear at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. I thank you, Dr. Oliver, for your past efforts, having pulled together the Science Panel and studied this issue for a year, and your testimony.
Let me ask you, Dr. Oliver, do you work for the Forest Service?
Mr. OLIVER. I have at various times
The CHAIRMAN. You have?
Mr. OLIVER. Do I work with them or for them?
The CHAIRMAN. For them?
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OLIVER. No, I don't work for them.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you work for the timber industry?
Mr. OLIVER. No, I don't.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, Mr. Meadows, your statement, which indicates that this report of Dr. Oliver'soh, by the way, let me ask you, does any other member of your panel work for the Forest Service?
Mr. OLIVER. No. John Sibelius, who was our congressional liaison, did, but he confined his role to being that of a liaison rather than
The CHAIRMAN. One out of nine?
Mr. OLIVER. I believe he was the tenth.
The CHAIRMAN. The tenth?
Mr. OLIVER. He didn'the just was a liaison and an administrative assistant more than
The CHAIRMAN. Did any of them work for timber companies?
Mr. OLIVER. No.
The CHAIRMAN. Then, Mr. Meadows, your statement suggests that Dr. Oliver's program is pseudo-science and a pro-logging advocacy statement. Tell me how you got there.
Mr. MEADOWS. I think I would debate Dr. Oliver on the point he makes about values. The Wilderness Society does value our national forests, and we value them for a variety of purposes: water, for one; wildlife habitat, for another. We believe that the values that this panel represented are values that come from commodities, and we believe that when you read the report from Dr. Oliver's panel, it is clearly a statement that supports the value of commodity production off of our national forests, and doesn't give the same value to the other purposes we believe are important.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, Mr. Meadows, the report proposes options. It doesn't propose conclusions, and it was carefully drafted so that policymakers could make a choice among options, and I think there are eight of them. So if they're only proposing options, how can they be chastised for not being so all-inclusive, as you indicate?
Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Chairman, it's our belief that while the panel proposes options, this particular bill has utilized that report as the underpinning for the conclusions, and it's written into the bill. There are too many of those value judgments, we believe, that are embedded in this bill, and that's why we oppose it.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, well, then, again, you know, we were very carefully trying to get around that particular criticism because we understood exactly what occurred with the salvage riderit was disparagedduring the last session of Congress. So we are valiantly attempting to pull together a science panel which does not work for the Forest Service, does not work for the timber industry, provides, as Mr. Brown said, some broad-based scientists, some at a local level, one appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, in an attempt to bring some sense and sensibility to decisionmaking without it being lost in the advocacy groups. You're an advocacy group; and let's call some of the timber industry clear-cutters. You're on both ends of the program. We're trying to find a middle ground.
And, frankly, have youI know that we requested that you comment on changes. Do you think that this bill is so far flawed that you can't make recommendations for change?
Mr. MEADOWS. Well, let me make a few other comments about that. The direct answer to the last question is we would be eager to work with you and your staff in trying to identify those places that we are really concerned about, so when the final legislation is introduced, or when it comes back for the next hearing, it can reflect some of our concerns and maybe some adjustments.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Well, I invite you to do that.
Mr. MEADOWS. The second comment is that in my testimony I offered to assemble a group of scientists who I think would bring a different set of values and different opinions to this discussion. I would eagerly suggest that the National Academy of Sciences might appoint that kind of panel as well.
Our concern is that the panel that was appointed was a political panel. It was not simply a scientific panel. It had both values embedded in it
The CHAIRMAN. Well, it does.
Mr. MEADOWS. Correct, and we believe we can offer a different scientific view, and we think a rigorous scientific background from our panel members that we would eagerly present to you and your committee, and others who are interested.
The CHAIRMAN. Dr. Oliver, your work is out for peer review. Where do we stand in that review process?
Mr. OLIVER. We had the second hearing, which had a peer review from four people. We sent it out to a large group of other scientists to have them review it as well. We have in hand three of those peer reviews back. We're going to send a second mailing requesting the other review. When these get in in a sufficient number, we're going to publish it. I could make any of them available now that anyone would like. And the four that came from that second hearing, of course, are a matter of public record already.
The CHAIRMAN. What time period do you expect that to occur?
Mr. OLIVER. I am hopingand it depends on how quickly we can push the people who have been requested to return a reviewI hoping that by the end of November we'll have something published on it. The publication will just include all the reviews, we're not going to annotate the reviews; we'll simply put them together.
The CHAIRMAN. And I understand that you recognizeand in your testimony you recognizethat the scientific panel proposed will likely use specific kinds of scientists, selections, as they move along in their decisionmaking process. That was your testimony; is that right?
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OLIVER. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. So that you may want to have a person that is specifically interested in, let's say, fish or wildlife scientists or specific kinds of people.
Mr. OLIVER. I do want to make one caution
The CHAIRMAN. Please.
Mr. OLIVER. I do want to make one caution, in that sometimes you get what's called the ID team approach, where you get a group of individuals, each of whom is a specialist on one issue, which are basically the biological sciences, but don't have a strong understanding of management science, which is: How do you organize the process? Now that group, bringing a bunch of experts together, was a management system that is now termed, ''group think.'' And, quite frankly, it brought us such consequences as the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Vietnam war. we now understand that rather than having a group of individuals who have individual specialties, the objective of a scientific panel is to bring together scientists who understand the management science, the interplay of disciplines, and how to put together an organized system, and let those people call on the specialists as needed, so that they get the correct individual science correct. But there is a concern that you not end up with a group of individual specialists who feel it's their perspective to advocate their individual specialty.
The CHAIRMAN. This scientific panel is in an advisory position; is that correct?
Mr. OLIVER. I think that would be the appropriate role of science. It shouldn't be policy or value judgment.
The CHAIRMAN. And we're still recommending to the Secretary and to the Chief and to the Forest Service the kind of directions and advice that a scientific panel would give them?
Mr. OLIVER. I think that rather than even recommending a direction, it would put the alternatives, the tradeoffs, and let them see the consequences of
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. It would help them identify the most difficult areas, the most areas in stress, I'm sure?
Mr. OLIVER. Yes. Yes, definitely.
The CHAIRMAN. So while you might think that the scientific panel makeup is important, and we all do, to say that it's tilted is to say that the scientific panel wouldn't give options; they'd give advice, and the Forest Service would take it and therefore tilt the result. I think that's far-fetched. What do you think about that, Mr. Meadows?
Mr. MEADOWS. It's curious that there has been a significant amount of scientific research as part of the Southern Appalachian assessment, the Interior Columbia River Basin Project, the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project, for example, that come to findings that are 180 degrees from the scientific panel that Dr. Oliver represents. I don't quite understand why we would have that debate.
In due respect to Dr. Oliver, I think our country has succeeded in part because of group think. We have a Declaration of Independence that was an outcome of that, for one. I think a lot of the discussion that we heard this morning about trying to bring public participation and local groups together to discuss options is an important aspect of our work. We're fearful that we'll be frozen out of that process by a lack of public participation or marginalizing our opportunities.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, of course, Mr. Meadows, you know, we followthis bill follows every existing law, continues to give everybody an opportunity for appeal. No one is shut out of the courthouse. You know, your organization has been extremely successful, let's say
Mr. MEADOWS. Active.
The CHAIRMAN. Activethank you[Laughter]in appeals for one purpose or another. So that option is certainly left to you.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEADOWS. I would comment that there are a lot of decisions made about forest plans or timber sales.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. MEADOWS. And 80 percent of those we don't challenge; 20 percent we appeal.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I don't blame you because you've shut down 80 percent of the forests already, Mr. Meadows.
Mr. MEADOWS. No
The CHAIRMAN. You have, by the way, in region 6; 85 percent of the forests are down. I mean, we're operating on 15 percent of the forests.
I wanted to clear up this issue with you. The Interior Columbia Basin Scientific Assessment, which you quoted, does state that, in general, stand fires have increased by 20 percent in the last 15 years. Didn't you make a statement that we don't have as many catastrophic fires?
Mr. MEADOWS. Sir, if you look at the data back to 1900, it is the same as it was at the beginning of the century. It has clearly increased since 1940 but that's because
The CHAIRMAN. That's when we started fighting fires.
Mr. MEADOWS. That's when we started suppressing fires.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, suppressing; thank you. And I think you mentioned fire as a tool. You're familiar with the West, I assume?
Mr. MEADOWS. Yes, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. You're familiar with the fact that every person I know that knows about the forests in the West, with heavy fuel loading on the floor and with standing dead timber, would never suggest a prescribed fire as a tool. You don't recommend prescribed fires as a tool, do you?
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. MEADOWS. Let me suggest two variations here. One is that we're very much concerned, as you are, and I think everyone who has testified, about the urban/forest interface and the way we manage that. That's very critical. I think we need to be able to make those decisions on a place-by-place basis. It could be that prescribed fire could be used in some cases. I don't want to unilaterally discard it as a management tool in those locations.
I think our major concern, however, is the way this bill is drafted and written and introduced offers that option for roadless areas, where we think there has been less fire because there's been less management. The more intensive the management, the more intense the fire.
The CHAIRMAN. You see, that's interesting because there's a very gorgeous place in my State that is wilderness, and, unfortunately, a lightning fire struck it; we couldn't go in to fight. So we lost half of the wilderness that we preserved for all its purposes, that we all enjoy. But we have lost it for 250 years. No one can advocate that sort of thing, surely, the loss of the resource, and that's exactly what this bill is intended to do. We're trying to preserve the Wilderness Society's interests by preserving our forests.
Mr. MEADOWS. Well, we would like to work with you in adjusting the language in your bill that we think would help us do that.
The CHAIRMAN. All right, we accept that.
Any other comments by either one of you?
Thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Mr. MEADOWS. Thank you very much.
The CHAIRMAN. Now the third panel. Mr. Jim Crouch, Mr. Bob Powers, and Mr. Dave Schmidt.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Gentlemen, I apologize for the lateness. I would hope that we could go through this methodically, but thank you for your patience, and I appreciate your comingand some of you a long way.
Mr. Crouch, please, we'd like to hear from you.
STATEMENT OF JIM CROUCH, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL TIMBER PURCHASERS COMMITTEE; PRIVATE CONSULTANT, AMERICAN FOREST AND PAPER ASSOCIATION
Mr. CROUCH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I personally appreciate, and our industry appreciates, the opportunity to present testimony here today.
Today I'm representing a number of national, regional, State, and local forest industry associations and groups, including the American Forest and Paper Association, the Federal Timber Purchasers Committee, and a host of other regional, State, and local groups.
For the record, I would like to mention that although forest industry owns only 14 percent of our Nation's forestlands, it produces 50 percent of the national fiber needs. On the other hand, our national forests contain 50 percent of the Nation's softwood volume, but produces less than 5 percent of the Nation's softwood harvest. On the average, these Federal lands grow 23 billion board feet each year, Mr. Chairman, and 6 billion feet of that die. Net growth exceeds both the harvest and the mortality by 12 billion board feet each year.
With the agency's anemic program and a lack of management in many areas, an additional 21 billion board feet of dead timber has accumulated on Forest Service lands in the previous 5 years. During 1996 fire season, over 6 million acres burned.
In the southern United States, your bill could be very helpful in improving the health of our national forests. The first round of our forest plans called for a harvest of 1.475 billion board feet. Sales have since dropped from 1.3 billion in 1986 to 741 million board feet in 1996. This is half of the ASQ. We find this a particular disturbing trend since the long-term sustained yield for these lands is calculated at more than 2.9 billion board feet.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC What does all this mean? Simply put, without management, the density of live trees and fuel loads continue to increase; forest health continues to go downhill, and the risk to homes and other structures from catastrophic fire increases significantly.
We now import over a third of our softwood lumber to meet the American demand. With two-thirds of our national forests earmarked for nontimber uses, the remaining one-third could be, should be, must be managed to help meet our Nation's wood needs.
Now for some thoughts on the bill. We think that H.R. 2515 is a first step, and it's a moderate step, in promoting forest health on our Federal forests. We think the bill is scientifically-based. Section 5 allows the Secretary to draw up independent expertise and experience of the country's foremost forest scientists and managers. The bill requires that the projects be consistent with environmental laws and with the applicable forest land management plans.
We believe the bill is results-oriented. Section 9 restores accountability through reporting to Congress and through independent audits.
We think the bill creates incentives for the agency to be more efficient by tying the funding to the performance. We think that section 7 provides funding for the forest health projects without requiring new spending. We think that's significant.
In conclusion, we support your bill. We greatly appreciate the dedication of your committee, your personal dedication to this process of restoring common sense to the management of our forests, and we believe that for too long our national forests have fallen prey to a polarized gridlock that has left many of our forests unmanaged and unhealthy.
There is no better time than now for this moderate, bipartisan effort, and we would like to help you any way we can with it, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Crouch appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Crouch.
STATEMENT OF BOB POWERS, LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA
Mr. POWERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for granting me the opportunity to testify before you today concerning the importance of comprehensive legislation to improve and maintain the health of our national forests. I believe that the Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 would be successful in that regard, and I'd like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Representatives Stenholm, Combest, Bishop, and Emerson for introducing H.R. 2515.
On behalf of our half a million members, tens of thousands of whom work directly in timber-dependent industries, I commend the committee for its efforts on this bill. I offer our support, both in ensuring that it is enacted and later in helping restore good health to our national forests.
The health of our national forests and the economic health of timber-dependent communities are suffering due to legislative, judicial, and administrative actions and inactions which place severe restraints on forest management activities. Meanwhile, current national strategies for improving and preserving forest health are not working.
Contrary to what some people may tell you, laissez faire management is unhealthy and shortsighted. High levels of moisture this past year allowed our forests to enjoy a reprieve from record-breaking wild fires of 1995 and 1996. These conditions, however, create a great potential for even worst wild fires in years to come. Thick, new growth flourishes in certain high-moisture areas, poising a wild fire risk which threatens the lives of firefighters and poses great danger to local residents, including many of our members and damage to their homes and property.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the risk of catastrophic wild fires is not enough cause for concern, crowded forests are a breeding ground for damaging insects and tree diseases, creating even more kindling for future uncontrolled burns. Without preventative forest management activities, our forests will continue to become increasingly crowded with major accumulations of wild fire fuel, including brush, grasses, and dead and dying trees. We face a dangerous situation. The timing for this legislation could not be better.
The Forest Recovery and Protection Act would manage active, yet ecosystem-sensitive, forest management practices, as well as provide much-needed direction to the Forest Service to address critical forest health problems. Consequently, such activities would have far-reaching effects benefiting forests, workers, and communities.
Our union has long believed that preserving forest health and preserving the economic health of timber communities are mutually compatible goals. Active forest management aimed at preserving forest health, such as thinning and salvaging can also provide a supply of raw material for production. To that end, we are extremely pleased that section 4(c)(2) of the act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to select forest recovery and protection projects that will ''***both improve forest health and provide economic benefits to local communities.''
If members of the committee have any doubts about the economic and social effects of constraints on forest management activities, I would invite them to visit some of the rural timber-dependent communities that I've seen, especially in the Pacific Northwest. In that region alone, approximately 20,000 workers, thousands of whom are our members, have lost their jobs since 1990. Unemployed are men and women who were on the ground thinning overstocked forests, sawmill workers who processed raw timber into building supplies, and pulp and paper workers who helped manufacture specialty papers. Families and entire communities are reeling from inconsistent policies and far-reaching restraints which can stop forest management activities overnight.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Forests and communities surrounding them have a long, mutually-supportive history of maintaining forest health and providing a consistent supply of timber. For generations, many of our members have lived in the rural areas near national forests, and many more arrived to lay down their roots in these areas. They build houses, have kids, and settle down. All of them, though, rely on the local mills and the forests to sustain their livelihoods. At the same time, our members are on the front lines encouraging reasonable, responsible environmental protections and forest management activities, so that our children and grandchildren and all future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty, recreation, and economic opportunities that forests provide.
The Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 recognizes the unique relationships between forests and those who live near and work in them. Section 4(f), for example, provides an opportunity for those closest to the problems in our forests to have a say in identifying critical areas in need of active management by requiring the Secretary to consider citizen petitions for the designation of recovery areas.
Further complementing recovery projects is oversight by a prestigious scientific advisory panel. We know that sound forest management decisions are made when guided by the best possible science. Such a panel will ensure that superior science will be utilized when analyzing recovery areas that are at the greatest risk of catastrophic forest fires, insect infestation, and disease. Our members are ready to roll up our shirtsleeves and tackle chronic forest conditions. We are concerned that prescriptive approaches described in this bill won't achieve healthier forests if sufficient funding isn't provided to complete necessary, on-the-ground prevention measures.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to thank you for this committee's attention to the serious national forest health problem and the manner in which you are approaching it. We look forward to working with you in this effort and assisting forest managers on the ground and in the forests for preserving our forests, wildlife, and timber communities. Thank you.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Powers appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Powers.
Mr. Schmidt from Linn County. Wherever that is.
STATEMENT OF DAVE SCHMIDT, CHAIRMAN, LINN COUNTY, OR, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, AND PAST PRESIDENT, INTERSTATE REGION OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES
Mr. SCHMIDT. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.
That's in Oregon.
The CHAIRMAN. Oh, thank you. [Laughter.]
Mr. SCHMIDT. And it's raining.
Well, I, too, would like to extend my appreciation to you and Mr. Stenholm for giving your attention to H.R. 2515 to address this very tough problem of forest health. Forest health has been one of the two top priorities on National Association of Counties' legislative list to address, and we certainly appreciate your showing the recognition to this problem.
Some general comments on H.R. 2515. I believe it recognizes the real problems; that this is based on improper stand densities, fuel loading, and species compositiondifferent from the historic variation over time. This bill creates national policy with local flexibility and implementation, and it certainly has a sense of urgencythat's very clear in the billwith a need to take immediate action. We appreciate that.
I believe that successful forest health legislation should have active management and flexibility for local land managers. It should address the needs of the communities, not just economics, but all the values and outputs from the forest, including amenity and environmental. It should provide consideration to a broad definition of forest resourcesriparian, wildlife, water, soil, air, scenic, as well as timberand it should provide funding commensurate with the problem.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Likewise, it should have community involvement. I'd like to talk to you just a little bit about my ideas on that. There are quite varied models of community-based conservation. A couple of them in the West that I believe you're familiar withthe Quincy Library Group, the Applegate Partnershiphave been effective in bringing people and ideas together, and bringing projects along.
Watershed councils have been formed in Oregon and I believe other States that are having some productive effect on meeting all the needs, and we in the owl counties of Washington, Oregon, and California have also the more formal, provincial advisory committees. I say, ''formal''; this has standing federally, but I think the really good thing about this processand it has worked with various successbut the very good thing that this process brings on is that the regulatory agencies are at the table together with the land management agencies, State, county, and advocacy groups, and that has, at least in the PAC that I serve on, has proved to be very beneficial.
Some specific comments on the scientific committee. With the scientists and, what I would call, land managers very close to applied scientists, this is a small team drawing of scientist specialists, I believe. This has been talked about earlier on the two panels, and I think also it was described that State foresters are not all just foresters, but certainly they are managers and know what works.
Another specific comment. Funding for fire suppression is appropriate, for this bill, it is appropriate to come from fire suppression money, I believe. This is very similar to the decisions we get to make at the county level: How much money do you take out of treatment for social programs, for instance, to go into prevention, and how do you make that work? This is an opportunity to do the same thing with our forest health situation.
There are also some other nontraditional sources that I think should be considered. When it comes to improving wildlife habitat, certainly Fish and Wildlife Service money might be considered budgetarily for some of the forest health projects, EPA for water-related projects, and I'd like to put another idea on the table, if it hasn't been put there before, and that is those who use or are beneficiaries of water provided from Federal forests, Federal lands in the uplands that are used from containment dams and then taken on down to urban areas, perhaps it's time for a user tax, a user fee to be placed on that to be funding forest health improvements and certainly improvements that would also increase water production.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC While this bill speaks to a need to address region-specific needs, there is no provision for consultation with affected State and local governments regarding implications of recovery projects. Once good science ranks sites under the national program and the Secretary makes the decision about which projects are to go forward, there should be some sort of community advisory board established to address the offsite effects of such projects and to help develop innovative and cost-effective treatments.
In section 4(c), requirements for a recovery project selection, under 1, ''Compliance with Land Management Plans,'' H.R. 2515 says, ''The Secretary shall ensure that each recovery plan is applicable to the recovery area.'' It is not clear if that applies to any plan other than the Federal land management plan. What about local and State land management plans affecting adjacent areas? H.R. 2515 I believe should indicate some attention to this issue.
Section 4(f), the petition process clause, is historically reminiscent of the petition provisions of the old ESA, which have been roundly criticized for providing profound opportunities for mischief. The legislation needs clarification as to the weight the scientific committee must place on such petitions and the level and formality of the review required before acceptance or rejection. I'm concerned that an unintended consequence of such a process could be protracted litigation and delay.
I believe H.R. 2515 needs to provide greater flexibility for the local Federal land managers to proceed. Decisionmakers must be empowered to actively manage to an effective solution. Both traditional land managers and the environmental community have, until recently, pursued a strategy on our forests that has created a significant problem for today's stewards of the forests. We must break this paradigm and try a new approach. We believe this initiative, along with those of others, can address, and more importantly solve, over a period of years the disastrous situation we find ourselves facing in America's forests.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to testify on this, what I consider to be, very important legislation.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Schmidt appears at the conclusion of the hearing.]
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Schmidt, very much for a long trip. I just came yesterday; I remember how long it is. [Laughter.]
I want to visit with you for a minute about the community advisory boards. And as you know, we were very interested in trying to propose broad-based entry through petitions and through local people to identify problems on the forest, wherever it may be in this country. On the one hand, the Wilderness Society criticizes the bill for being noninclusive, and I hear you saying, if we pay too much attention to these petitions, that could not be good either. So I wanted to ask you, what role would you have the community advisory boards play and who would appoint them?
Mr. SCHMIDT. Well, I think the community advisory boards could be anywhere from those who showed up at a publicly-advertised meeting
The CHAIRMAN. That's what happened with Quincy Library, by the way, as we know. Whoever showed up, that's a part of the committee.
Mr. SCHMIDT. Right. Those stakeholders that have an interest in the process are free to voice their opinions. As to the initiative process, I meant to be clear about the point that I think the initiative process is appropriate, but that it ought to be clear in the context of the final draft or the final bill as to what legal standing those petitions might have.
The CHAIRMAN. Oh, I don'tI think they're recommendations, as we tried to craft the bill, so that the final decision will be made by the Secretary, and we're trying to bring thatwe're trying to help him make those decisions by providing local input to start
Mr. SCHMIDT. Right.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. This ought to be a ground-up process. That's what we're trying to do, rather than what we've had: zero management for the last five years, and as the Forest Service says itself, gridlock and a mishmash of management, which meant no management. The result is, and as Dr. Oliver so carefully enunciated, if you do not manage your forests, the question is not if they will burn, when they will burn, and that's been proven to us over the last 200 years.
So we are trying to create a system by which we have total local input, but not take away from the Secretary's position. So petitions, advisory boards are just those; they're requests, and I think that's the way we had tried to couch this thing.
Mr. SCHMIDT. I guess, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest that, as a minimum, it be requested in the legislation that forest supervisors do publicly make the opportunity available for anybody in the area.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes, and, you know, if they don't, that's why we have congressional oversight and that's why we have performance standards here. So if they don't perform, there's nothing worse that can happen to a bureaucrat than you turn the light on and let the light of day shine on what they did or didn't do. So that's the real purpose of oversight, is to make sure that they perform, rather than just discuss it.
By the way, Mr. Powers, do you know Mike Draper, by any chance?
Mr. POWERS. Yes, I do.
The CHAIRMAN. I'm sure you do.
Mr. POWERS. He's one of our vice presidents.
The CHAIRMAN. Right, the Carpenters.
Mr. POWERS. I answer to him, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. I just wanted to recall for you, in Sun River, Mike Draper, whom I've known a long time, we would kid each other by saying thatI'd suggest to him that he not publicly support me as a Republican, since it might not be good for me, and he would also say, ''Please don't endorse the Carpenters Union or I could be under great suspicion.'' And, you know, we'd go back and forth. [Laughter.]
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the facts are that we've been on the same side of this issue for 25 years, and there's no doubt about it. And Mike Draper did a great job, as you did today, in Sun River, and said, that of the 20 years that he has been in this business, that that was the best hearing he ever held or heard on forest health, and he was excited about it, as we all were, but, you know, we can be happy about words, but we have to have deeds. And I promised him, as I did others, that we can be excited about a hearing, but until we see it fulfilled on the ground, it's not fulfilling at all.
And I thank you for your very good testimony and your support.
Mr. POWERS. Well, thank you, and we don't have a better spokesman on these issues than Mike Draper who's been involved in this from the beginning.
And you mentioned Quincy Library.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. POWERS. We've been involved in Quincy Library since its inception, too, and for all of the opposition that the bill received previously and the talk, the fear, about local advisory boards, community advisory boards, that's a bill that I think passed the House nearly unanimously and with one dissenting vote, I think.
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. POWERS. And we're looking forward to getting that underway and also working closely with you on getting this bill passed, and implementing it, once it's passed.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I appreciate that. We used Quincy Library as kind of a format for this bill as well.
Mr. Crouch, thank you for coming. You know, this bill is attacked as an excuse to cut trees. You've heard all this.
Mr. CROUCH. Sure.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The CHAIRMAN. Will you comment on that? Is this really a shield for you all to go in there and harvest timber?
Mr. CROUCH. I guess my reaction to that is, as you know, I spent a lot of years with the U.S. Forest Service, including years as forest supervisor before I started a consulting business about 10 years, and have been involved in this issue for a long time with a lot of different groups. But I can't see how that could be concluded. I think you could talk about it almost any way you wanted to, and if you just wanted to manage for wildlife or you just wanted to keep your trees growing or you just wanted to reduce fire, nearly any way you look at it, when you start going operational with it and you start asking how's the best way to do that, probably the best way is to offer it for sale and see if somebody will buy it on a competitive basis. Then, if that happens and we get it, well, then, it would help us with our wood supply. But I certainly see this as nothing about particularly helping the forest industry; I see it about helping the health of our country's forests.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I appreciate that statement.
Besides the Northwest, which this bill certainly approaches, but is not exclusive to the Northwest, tell me about some of the other parts of the country that a bill like this enacted could assist.
Mr. CROUCH. OK. As I mentioned in my statement, we believe that a bill like this would be very, very beneficial to the South. I know that the biggest horror stories, if you will, of catastrophic fire and things like that have occurred in the West, but if you look at what happens in the South, we have forests that are 80, 90 years old. They really have been extensively managed at best in recent years. The canopies are very tight. They're beginning to close. We're beginning to build fuel loads. We have southern pine beetles that's hitting many of our southern pine stands, and in some cases decimating wilderness areas, as well as other lands. We've got gypsy moth beginning to move into some of our oak stands. In the Ozarks, we've got certain species of oaks that's beginning to decline. So we have a host of insect/disease problems as well as a fire problem, and we would certainly want you to reiterate that this bill really is nationwide and does provide some help for us, too.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC There's another thing that I think is probably worthy of some serious thought. You know, if you look at our national forests on a nationwide basis, basically two-thirds of the acreage has been pretty much set aside, in many cases called unsuitable as far as any type of timber production is concerned. There's roughly a third of it that's classified as suitable for timber, and I can't help but think that this particular bill has done a very good job of essentially saying we're not going to do much in that two-thirds; we're not going to do anything if it's legislated wilderness or something like that. And so you're really beginning just to talk about working on a very small part of it, which is maybe that third. So I can't see that could be misinterpreted as somehow going in and desiccating wilderness areas or roadless areas or that type of thing.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, I appreciate that point, and I guess I have an innate prejudice after personally going into those areas that were burned, over a million acres in Oregon and parts of Idaho and Washington last year alone.
Mr. CROUCH. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And to see the destructionI can't believe those people who call themselves environmentalistswe're all conservationists, but the purists, environmentalists, could walk onto a devastation like that and say, ''This is what we want from our resources.'' I can't believe they would do that. And as you know, there are those that never want to harvest another tree and believe in zero management, and I think Dr. Oliver's options were excellent. One of them suggests that there bewhat happens when you don't have any management? Well, the point is the resource will burn. And what have you lost when it burns? You've lost all the things you're trying to protect in the wilderness. You've lost the resource; you've lost the jobs; you've lost the wildlife; you've lost the water quality; you've lost the stream bank protection. It's a waste, it seems to me, a horrible waste. It's as though you planted a garden and then never touched it, and walked back in and tried to harvest the fruit. Nobody would do that.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But, anyway, we'll struggle through this. And, gentlemen, thank you for your contribution, and I look forward to your support throughout this effort. We, together, I think will make an improvement. Thank you very much.
This hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 3:23 p.m., the committee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."
TESTIMONY OF MARVIN D. BROWN, MISSOURI STATE FORESTER, PRESIDENT, NASF
Good morning Mr. Chairman and thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony before you today. I and the rest of the State Foresters appreciate the priority you and this committee have placed on examining the issue of forest health, and we applaud your attempts to focus the efforts of the Forest Service on improving what are widely regarded as deteriorating conditions on many of the lands they manage. This is a very timely effort, and we believe your bill will help provide the Forest Service another valuable tool to effectively address some of these conditions and reduce the risks of wildland fire.
The National Association of State Foresters represents the Directors of the State forestry agencies from all 50 States and 7 U.S. Territories, as well as the District of Columbia. Our members work with the Nation's 9 million forest landowners, delivering a variety of management assistance and forest protection programs. At the National level, NASF supports non-regulatory, incentive based approaches to working with private landowners, and supports sound, multiple use management of the national forests.
We have reviewed H.R. 2515 and are happy to report that we endorse the bill. By and large, the bill is consistent with two relevant policies of the Association; our policy on Federal land management and our forest health policy which we just adopted at our annual meeting last month.
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our National Forests are a varied and important part of the landscape, and your bill gives the Forest Service the flexibility to identify and treat areas that are not producing the values that the American public wants and expects from our public lands. The focus of the NASF's new forest health policy is that forest health can be evaluated based on two considerations: First, a forest should be capable of recovering from human-caused or natural stressors, and to return to a state where the forest ecosystem is functioning as expected. Second, the owners of the forest must determine, within the ecological limits of the land, what their management objectives are and how to achieve them.
I. Ability of the Forest to Recover from Human and Natural Stressors:
As you know, in many areas, particularly in the inland West, forest conditions have deteriorated due to large scale fire suppression and past management practices. This is most striking where large areas of lodgepole pine have died. While insect outbreaks and tree mortality are expected in aging lodgepole stands, the forest stand structure vulnerable to this type of mortality is more widespread than would be expected under natural conditions. The landscape is the result of past management decisions that did not foresee the results; instead of a mosaic of stand ages, we have many acres of land in a similar age class, creating epidemics of insect outbreaks and tree mortality.
In other stands, predominantly ponderosa pine, invading species of shade tolerant trees have crowded in on older pines, reducing available moisture and creating dangerous fuel structures that cause fires to burn hotter and faster than they would have had a program of thinning and prescribed fire been applied. Wildlife habitat is compromised even before catastrophic fire, and critical watersheds can be impaired for long periods following one. In many cases there are opportunities to capture substantial value from this understory growth.
In other parts of the country on national forests, hardwood stands have developed on sites that were acquired when the cut and run era of timber harvest ended in this country. While the Forest Service is to be commended for restoring these Eastern and Southern lands to forest cover, many of them have reached complete canopy closure and are not providing optimum wildlife habitat. In addition, other areas have been severely impacted by gypsy moth and other forest pests, leaving large areas of dead trees. Silvicultural treatments are needed to improve these stands, restore habitat, and reduce fuel loads. More vexing are emergent pest and disease problems such as dogwood anthracnose and hemlock woolly adelgid. These problems will take extended efforts including pesticides, biological controls, silvicultural prescriptions, and research.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These are just few examples. In some areas of the national forests where tree health is acceptable, disturbance is needed to provide habitat for threatened or endangered species. The fact is, forest and other resource managers are increasingly convinced that more active management is needed to ensure our forests will be resilient, productive, and healthy.
II. Setting Management Objectives:
This bill, and the process you have gone through to arrive at it's introduction, is an excellent compliment to the existing processes that let the owners of the national forests, the American public, set management objectives. Congress plays the important role of representing all the people, and passage of this legislation would state clearly that there is a priority on healthy, functioning forests that are not threatened by catastrophic fire. The process of developing a science panel and allowing the agency to determine where and how to act, while complying with existing forest plan standards and guidelines, is also an important part of this approach.
The bill also avoids two potential problems. First, it does not short-circuit the efforts of a great many citizens to actively participate in and influence the objectives set for their National Forests, nor does it preclude appeals of proposed actions. It also provides the opportunity for citizens to petition the agency to address forest health problems, thus allowing greater public participation in the management of our national forests. It is also reaffirms a commitment to stay out of Wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and other areas determined by the agency as inappropriate for entry. Experience has proven that the public wants us to stay out of these areas because of other forest values they provide.
We appreciate the fact that you've chosen to give State Foresters such a large role in the Scientific Advisory Panel. I am sure that many of my colleagues would be happy and able to serve on such a panel. State Foresters are a diverse group of resource professionals with technical backgrounds in subjects ranging from agriculture to zoology, while all have extensive, hands on practical experience in dealing with forest management questions. I might suggest, however, that broader representation on this panel will be sought and would be appropriate. For instance, State Fish and Wildlife agencies have legal jurisdiction for all wildlife and all ownerships, including Federal lands. We would not object to such an expansion of the panel, which would allow stronger representation of wildlife expertise, a value most Americans would agree needs to be accounted for as they set their forest management objectives.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are very supportive of the proposal to create a Forest Recovery and Protection Fund. This parallels in important respects the Forest Ecosystem Restoration and Maintenance Fund (FERM) proposed by the Administration this year. This fund appears to have appropriate safeguards and management practices built in to ensure accountability. However, we would caution you not to transfer the entire $50 million from fire operations to this account. Assuming these funds are appropriated, this could actually interfere with expeditious action on some projects in the near term. Contributions from several budget line items would be more appropriate.
III. Some Concerns:
We do have some concerns about the bill, and we would be happy to share the specifics with you in writing. Primarily, there are some wording changes necessary to maximize management flexibility. We share to some extent the concerns expressed by the Society of American Foresters in their written statement on the bill's reporting requirements, which would represent yet another set of stringent reporting requirements on an agency fairly well overburdened by them.
Also, although we appreciate the inclusion of Section 10, which recognizes the need to reduce inventory cycles on all forest ownerships, we feel that this issue may be more adequately addressed in the USDA research bill which this committee is also working on. As you are aware, the Forest Service already has the authority to conduct forest inventory and monitoring efforts. The language proposed here would help send a clear signal that a reduced cycle, achieved by sampling some inventory plots annually, is necessary for accurate data to base forest management decisions on. If such language is included, however, at least an increase in authorization above the current $10 million for improving survey methods will be needed. We applaud the emphasis on all ownership inventory, which will help give forest managers and the public a more complete picture of the status and trends of our forests. We would also like to work with you to ensure that this inventory effort would assist the Forest Service in gathering data that are compatible with widely accepted criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC IV. Other Efforts Needed to Ensure Forest Health Nationwide:
We would be remiss if we did not mention the parallel efforts to protect forest health and achieve forest management objectives that the State Foresters and the Forest Service are involved in on other lands. The partnership between the State Foresters and the Forest Service dates back over 77 years and includes numerous successes. When the objectives are clear, the partnership has delivered high quality forestry to the public at very low costs to the Federal Government.
The State Foresters deliver a variety of programs intended to protect forest health and meet landowner objectives using a non-regulatory, incentive based approach. As many of my colleagues told you at hearings over the past several months, these programs leverage funding from both States and landowners, and address forest health concerns either by preventing their development or counteracting them with a cooperative approach. The Stewardship, SIP, and Cooperative Forest Health programs are all examples of Forest Service programs delivered through State Foresters to private landowners using this approach.
We also would note, and we know you understand, Mr. Chairman, the critical issue we are dealing with in many areas is wildfire. While an approach such as the one suggested by this bill has the potential to reduce fire risk, it is not realistic to expect this to be a quick process. The fire threat in this nation has developed over a long period of time, and while remedial forest management actions are underway, an extraordinary effort will be needed to ensure that wildfires that do occur are fought quickly and cost-effectively. We have appreciated your attention to these issues, and hope for your support as we seek funding to work with local fire departments who are increasingly called upon to defend homes, property, natural resources, and lives from these fires. The Federal agencies have produced strong budget requests for some of these activities. We look forward to working with you, this committee, and the Forest Service to do more for communities facing these threats.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Conclusion:
Forests and the ailments that affect them do not know political boundaries. The owners of those forests do know those boundaries, and we know that we expect different things from different parts of the landscape. But there is broad consensus that many areas of our public lands are not meeting these reasonable expectations. Forests have been pushed beyond the range of historic variation, and this threatens all the values we associate with our forests. As representatives of the owners of these forests, this bill would be a good step towards setting management objectives and taking steps to reach them.
STATEMENT OF CHADWICK D. OLIVER, PROFESSOR OF SILVICULTURE, AND FOREST ECOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON, COLLEGE OF FOREST RESOURCES
H.R. 2515 is a positive, cautious step toward ensuring the National Forests provide the values people want. It carefully builds on the knowledge gained, allows expansion of this knowledge as the programs are carried out, but does not try to expand so rapidly in scope that it risks provoking unintended, negative consequences.
THE KNOWLEDGE GAINED
The issue of how to address our National Forests has been bogged down in both scientific and administrative areas. H.R. 2515 builds on the knowledge that has been gained in both of these areas.
Scientific Knowledge Gained
I shall first discuss the scientific knowledge gained, and how H.R. 2515 uses it.
Our basic understanding of ecology has changed from thinking that ''natural'' forests were always in the ''old growth'' or ''climax'' condition to appreciating that forests were and are always changingthrough growth, large and small natural disturbances, species migrations, and climate change. The realization that forests are dynamic, and do not remain in the same condition, is a departure from classical ecological idea that ''Nature'' was a stable force. The now outdated idea that ''Nature'' was stable''Nature knows best''was long reinforced by the back-to-nature philosophy of people like Rousseau, who convinced Marie Antoinette build a farmyard behind the Versailles Palace so she could play the simple, ''natural'' milkmaid.
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Although ''Nature'' is beautiful, it is also dynamic. It maintained forests in many conditions, often through very large natural disturbances which destroyed many values people presently hold.
The many conditionsopen areas, savannas, dense forests, and complex structuresare each homes to many species. Without all of these conditions, some species become extinct; therefore, it is not just ''old growth'' that is important for biodiversity, it is all forest conditions.
Our inventory shows that the United States'' problem is not that it is depleting its forests, rather that they are generally overcrowded with small diameter trees. For many years, people were concerned about the United States being deforested, as shall be discussed. Although a real possibility at one time, presently the forest area is stable and the tree volume is increasing in most areas; however, the forests are generally overly crowded with small diameter trees. These crowded forests do not provide the diversity of habitats to sustain all species, nor the high quality timber. Instead, they are highly susceptible to insect epidemics and catastrophic fires.
We also are beginning to apply management science principles to the forest. The principles allow us to build on natural science research and assessment to help decide when and where proactive management is more effective than delay or inaction.
We appreciate that people now hold biodiversity very highlyas well as other values. For many centuries, people were concerned about a timber shortagethe forest being depleted through deforestation. Where such deforestation has occurredin parts of the United States and other countriesthe impacts to the environment and people are very ugly. Consequently, foresters strived to maximize wood for societyto avoid the shortage. They cut down old growth forests before they rotted more, and planted vigorous young forests.
The efforts of foresters, other technology, substitute products, and global trade have made such a drastic timber shortage less impendingand people are focusing on other valuessuch as biodiversityfrom the forest, which means having a variety of forest conditions in the forestold growth, openings, savannas, dense forestsnot just those conducive to timber maximization.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Wood is still an environmentally sound substitute for these other products, but we can decide how much tradeoffs in values we should havehow much forest we should not actively manage in one area at the tradeoff of harvesting forests elsewhere in the world or using more polluting (and fossil fuel-consuming) substitute productssteel, concrete, aluminum, brick, etc.
We realize there are many values provided by forests, and advocating a single value often leads to unintended consequences. The values sometimes appear incompatible; therefore, we realize that we may have to forego some values in order to achieve others. For example, forests best keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by using timber products as substitutes for steel, aluminum, concrete, or brickand so keep fossil fuels from being consumed and adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Most people would agree that not managing timber in our National Parks and Wilderness Areas is worth the tradeoff of more atmospheric pollution; however, we need to decide how much more areas in each region we want to put off limits to timber management, with the consequences of more harvest in other countries, more fossil fuel consumption and pollutionand the realization at some point that we are ''environmental imperialists.''
We realize that the solution is not to argue about polarized management approaches to provide a single value. Instead, the solution is to find the most creative approach which will provide the most values with the fewest negative consequences. There are other alternatives besides the two extremes of preservation or maximizing financial efficiency for timber production. These alternativesintegrated managementcan provide many values-biodiversity, timber products, and protection of the global environment.
We are also realizing there are creative techniques for analyzing the risk of different management alternatives in the face of uncertainty. Since we now appreciate that forests are dynamic, not static, we realize that avoiding all management may not always be the safest way to provide even such values as biodiversity and sustainabilityespecially if there is a risk of fires or insects or if the forest does not contain an appropriate mix of habitats. There are scientific ways to determine when avoiding all management is and is not the safest way to achieve certain values.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The objective, then is to determine where and when each type of management is suitable for providing as many of the values people want as possible.
The many efforts of scientists over the past years has also increased our knowledge of the dynamics of ecosystemsand how to conduct silvicultural operations which enhance a variety of values.
We recognize that a diversity of silvicultural operations can enhance the values provided by non-tree vegetation, logs, snags, water, soils, and riparian habitat. Trees strongly influence the other living and non-living entities in forests by shading, root binding, and other means. We have learned to manage and protect these other values as well as the trees. Knowledge, techniques, and tools have been advancing and converging so that now we are better able to protect, provide, and enhance values better than ever before.
The many research and assessment projects have also given us much insight into the functioning of ecosystems in many places. In many places, we have enough knowledge to assess whether proactive or passive management is less risky in achieving the values people want from forests.
Administrative Knowledge Gained
Gains in scientific knowledge are only part of the key to providing values. In addition, understanding how to administer the Forest Service requires experience as well as understanding certain principles of management science. Research and development have made great advances both in the management science basis for administration and in the technology and techniques for administration. We now have:
satellite imagery, field lasers, radio telemetry, Global positioning systems, and hand computers to collect information rapidly;
fast computers, geographic information systems, data storage systems, and computer network linkages to process the information;
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC decision support systems to help analyze the systems; and
global electronic communication networks (i.e., internet) both to rapidly gain public input and to make the intended management visible to the public.
It is possible to develop management plans on National Forests by projecting the future, expected conditions under different management alternatives as visual images of what the forest will look like at different times in the future, posting these on the internet, and letting the public comment on them. The future conditions of the decided-upon management approach can then be permanently displayed on the internet as visual images of what the forest will look like at different decades in the future. Public trust will increase as managers show they are achieving the publicly displayed future conditionsand knowledge will increase as managers compare their intended and actual outcomes.
These tools are only helpful when the organizational system allows them to be used appropriately. The management science challenge of the past century has been to develop management approaches which can coordinate among many, local activities but avoid the inefficiencies of central planning. (The collapse of the Soviet Union has showed us that central planning does not work.) Approaches are being developed which allow decisions to be made locally and rapidly on based on site-specific conditions but which contribute to meeting broader objectives.
H.R. 2515 turns over the application of new administrative knowledge to the Forest Service professionals, for them to provide the leadership in developing rules of timely and efficient procedures. Their challenge will be to creatively integrate the latest management science knowledge and technical tools in such a way that they can meet the objectives of H.R. 2515 and the other laws and plans without becoming bogged down or delayed. H.R. 2515 also provides funding mechanisms and timelines which should enhance the ability of administrators to accomplish their duties.
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC APPLYING THE KNOWLEDGE
H.R. 2515 applies the knowledge gained in two ways:
it concentrates the proactive management in areas where benefits clearly outweigh risks;
it has a scientific team to aid in the application.
Concentrating Proactive Management in Areas where Benefits outweigh Risks
H.R. 2515 describes scientific ways to identify areas where projects are to be undertaken with least risk and greatest gain. Although the standards and criteria will need to be developed in detail, management science suggests the project areas will be where much is known and the risks of inaction are greater than the risks of action. The specific activities of the projects would also be those designed with the least risk and greatest gain.
By concentrating on such areas, H.R. 2515 moves cautiously to provide the values people want.
The Scientific Team
The scientific team proposed in H.R. 2515 is different from many scientific teams used in other forest resource issues. Rather than being composed of many specialists, each of whom is knowledgeable about (and often becomes an inadvertent advocate of) a narrow range of values, the team will be composed of people who understand the natural sciences foundations for the many values of forests and the management science processes. I expect the scientists will seek input from specialists as needed in their work. The scientific team will also contain people highly experienced and qualified in administration and managementto ensure that the scientific team provides information which is practical.
This composition of the scientific team recognizes the need for management sciences and experience to integrate the many values and areas of natural sciences and to make the results applicable. The charge of the science team will allow science to be used in its most effective rolesthe creative roles of developing and analyzing alternatives, rather than making value judgments, which is the role of policymakers. It is appropriate that the National Academy of Science appoint one member of the panel; however, it is also appropriate that the other members be appointed by the policymakers. Both the policymakers and scientists will need to ensure that the policymakers do not influence the analysis and that the scientists do not make value judgmentswhile working with mutual trust and association. Such a relation was successful in the Forest Health Science panel which I chaired, and which was reported this Committee earlier this year. Congressman Charles Taylor chartered us, enfranchised us, and encouraged us, but did not try to influence the outcomes of our findings. At the same time, we were careful not to make value judgments in our report. If this approach can be used in the scientific team proposed by H.R. 2515, it will enfranchise the policymakers by ensuring that they have a personal stake in the scientific findings; and it will strengthen, and help define, the relation between policymaking and science.
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC LEARNING FROM THE MANAGEMENT PROCESS
H.R. 2515 is designed to provide more information about management as the projects proceed. This will be done in two ways:
First, the scientists and managers will learn ways to make their work more effective and efficient with experience.
Second, there is a monitoring and feedback component intended to link the scientific team with the managers. This monitoring and feedback will help determine if the management is accomplishing its job. The monitoring and feedback approach will give forest managers experience with the management science concepts of ''continuous quality improvement'' and ''adaptive management,'' whereby the monitoring and feedback are used to improve the management of forest ecosystems.
THE INVENTORY SYSTEM
H.R. 2515 is also designed to gain a better understanding of the United States' forests through a more thorough inventory system. This will help dramatically in understanding the condition of the forest and deciding if, when, and where different forms of managementboth passive and proactivewould be effective to achieve the many values people want from the forest.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING THE BILL
My three primary suggestions for improving H.R. 2515 are:
1. Include in Section 3, part 6B, last line the term ''habitat loss.'' There may be cases where the Secretary may feel it appropriate to designate a recovery area where the existing forest does not contain a specific habitat or a sufficient diversity of habitats. Adding this wording would allow this to be a designation.
2. Change the wording in Section 3, part 6B from ''and'' to ''and/or'', so that it reads, in part: ''...or disease in the area and/or the consequent risks...'' There may be instances where the risk of damage of loss of valuable resources are not the result of fires, insects, or disease. By changing the wording, the science panel and the Secretary would not be restricted from considering them.
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 3. Include in both Section 3, part 6A and 6B, last line, include the possibility of considering other values as well. For example, there may be specific instances and areas where other values (such as those listed in the Forest Health Science Report chartered by Congressman Taylor) are especially relevant. By listing the term ''other values'', the science panel will not be restricted from considering standards and criteria relative to them and the Secretary will not be restricted from considering them when considering recovery areas.
Specifically, in part (A), the last line would be adjusted to read: ''...damage to other resources or values of the area; or''
in part (B), the last line would be adjusted to read: ''...from wildlife, insect infestation, disease, habitat loss, or loss of other values.''
STATEMENT OF JIM CROUCH, JIM CROUCH & ASSOCIATES
Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee:
I want to thank you for the opportunity to present testimony today concerning severe forest health problems that exists on many acres of our national forests and to discuss this timely and positive piece of forest health legislation. We support you in your commitment to improve the health and increase the responsible use of our national forests. However, as you would expect, I have a few suggestions that I would like to share with you.
But first a few words about whom I am and the folks I represent. My name is Jim Crouch. I am a professional forester, accountant, and manager. Since 1987, I have owned and operated Jim Crouch & Associates, a small consulting firm that specializes in forest industry governmental affairs. I hold a BS degree in Forest Management from Mississippi State University and an MS degree in Accounting from Harding University. I have 28 years experience with the U.S. Forest Service as a natural resource specialist and manager. For 8 years I was Forest Supervisor of the Ozark-St. Francis National Forests.
Today, I am representing a number of national, regional, state, and local forest industry associations and groups. They include:
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC -American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA)
-Federal Timber Purchasers Committee (FTPC)
-Southern Timber Purchasers Council (STPC)
-Arkansas Forestry Association (AFA)
-Missouri Forest Products Association (MFPA)
-Ouachita National Forest Timber Purchasers Group (OTPG)
-Ozark-St. Francis Renewable Resource Council (OSFRRC)
-Mark Twain Timber Purchasers Group (MTTPG).
The AF&PA is the national trade association of the forest, pulp, paperboard, and wood products industry. AF&PA members make an important contribution to the U.S. economy, employing 1.6 million people, enjoying annual sales in excess of $200 billion, and with facilities in all 50 states. AF&PA members account for over 7 percent of the U.S. manufacturing output, producing goods and nurturing a resource which enhances the daily lives of all Americans. The association is also the umbrella for more that 60 affiliate member associations that reach out to more than 10,000 companies.
The Federal Timber Purchasers Committee is made up of timber companies from across the United States who buy Federal timber sales from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. I chair this committee.
The Southern Timber Purchasers Council is a regional association of Southern purchasers who buy Federal timber.
The Arkansas Forestry Association and the Missouri Forest Products Association are state associations that represent forest industry on issues of importance to our industry.
The Ouachita National Forest Timber Purchasers Group, the Ozark-St. Francis Renewable Resource Council, and the Mark Twain Timber Purchasers Group, are local groups of timber purchasers whose individual members buy timber from their local national forests. I am the executive director for each of these individual groups.
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Background on the Issue: I would like to mention for the record, that although forest industry owns only 14 percent of the Nation's forestlands, it produces 50 percent of the national fiber needs, through active, intensive management. On the other hand, our national forests contain nearly 50 percent of the Nation's softwood volume, but produces less than 5 percent of the Nation's softwood harvest.
These Federal lands grow, on the average, 23 billion board feet per year, and 6 billion board feet dies. With annual harvests averaging less than 5 billion board feet in recent years, net growth exceeds harvest plus mortality by at least 12 billion board feet each year. With the agency's salvage program averaging only 1.8 billion board feet in recent years, the fuel loads continue to build rapidly on many of our national forests. With an anemic salvage program and a lack of management, an additional 21 billion board feet of dead timber has accumulated on Forest Service lands in the last five years. During the 1996 fire season, over six million acres of land burned.
In the Southern United States, this bill could be very helpful in improving the health of our national forests. Having worked in the south most of my lifer, I am personally very familiar with the conditions our Southern national forests and their rapidly deteriorating health.
In the expanded south (traditional south plus West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri), the national forests account for 6 percent of the timberland, 8 percent of the inventory, but less than 4 percent of the removals. The allowable sale quantities (ASQ) in the first round of forest plans totaled 1.475 billion board feet. By 1992, sales had dropped from 1.3 billion board feet in 1986 to 994 million board feet and in 1996 the forests only sold 741 million board feet just half of the ASQ. This is a particularly disturbing trend, since the U.S. Forest Service calculates the long-term sustained yield for these lands at 2.913 billion board feet. The most recent forest inventory analysis data which is now a number of years old shows the growth removal ratio to be 1.7 to 1 but the recent reductions in the timber sale program suggest that this is an understatement. For example, the growth-removal ratio for the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas and the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri is currently about 3:1. On some of the Appalachian forests where timber harvest has ceased for all practical purposes the growth-removal ratioHR 2515 -s are even higher.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Forest health problems increase as the inventory builds. For example, older stands in the national forests are hosts to a variety of forest pests that sometimes infect adjacent landowners, as well as the national forests. Aging overstocked stands are prime candidates for catastrophic wildfire.
What does all this mean? Simply put, without management the density of live trees and fuel loads continue to increase on many national forests, forest health continues to ''go rapidly downhill,'' and the risk to homes and other structures from catastrophic fire increases.
We now import over one-third of our softwood lumber to meet the American demand. With two-thirds of our national forests earmarked for nontimber uses, the remaining one-third could be and should be managed to help meet the Nation's timber needs.
With proactive forest management on the Federal forests, forest health would improve and softwood imports and damages from wildland fires would decrease.
Now for some thoughts on the bill!
1. Forest health on our Federal lands is important to wood products companies across the country for several reasons:
First, many of our members own forestlands which are near or border national forests. Because many of these Federal lands are poorly managed, insect and disease epidemics and large fires frequently spread to the private lands. This makes private land ownership and management more difficult, costly, and risky.
Second, in many parts of the country, the forest products industry relies on the national forests for their timber supplies. The long-term health and productivity of these forests are essential to ensure the long-term health of these companies, and the communities where they are located.
Third, as professional foresters, we understand and appreciate the basic management needs of forests if they are to remain healthy and provide wood, high quality water, habitat for wildlife, recreation, etc. The only way to improve and sustain these values is through careful, but active management. The Chief of the Forest Service recently noted that there are about 40 million acres of national forest lands in America that are at extreme risk of burning from catastrophic wildfire. From 1991 through 1996, wildfires have burned an average of over 3 million acres annually in the nation. However, under the administration's existing policies, only one million acres are being treated each year to reduce fuel loads and lessen the wildfire hazard. The Forest Service must increase the pace of treatment, or resource values will be needlessly damaged and large areas of productive forestland will be lost.
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC 2. H.R. 2515 Is A Moderate Bill
H.R. 2515 is a first and moderate step in promoting forest health on our Federal forests. In the long run, however, Congress will need to make some changes in environmental laws to facilitate prompt, proactive forest management on these lands. This is unlikely to occur at this time because forest management on Federal lands is portrayed by some environmentalists as the forestry of 100 years ago. Fortunately, they are wrong. Unfortunately, they have been successful to a large extent in convincing a large part of the public and the media that forestry is destructive to the environment. We must get beyond this rhetoric for the sake of our forests, and this bill will help us get there.
The bill is scientifically based. Section 5 will allow the Secretary of Agriculture to draw upon the independent expertise and experience of the country's foremost forest scientists and managers
The bill requires projects to be consistent with environmental laws, and section 4 also requires each project to be consistent with the applicable land management plan.
The bill is results-oriented. Section 9 will restore accountability through reporting to Congress and independent audits of agency fiscal efficiency by the Inspector General and the General Accounting Office. Section 6 directs the Forest Service to conduct advance
Recovery projects on Federal forestlands thorough forest health assessments and inventories have already been completed.
The bill creates incentives for agency efficiency by tying funding to performance. Section 7 requires final selection of recovery projects within 120 days after the date of publication of the proposed decision in the Federal Register or the money in the Forest Recovery and Protection Fund cannot be used.
H.R. 2515 is fiscally responsible. Section 7 provides funding for forest health projects without requiring new spending.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In conclusion, we in the forest products industry greatly appreciate the dedication of this committee and its chairman to begin the process of returning common sense to the management of our Federal forests. For too long our national forests have fallen prey to a polarized gridlock that has left many of our forests unmanaged and unhealthy. There is no better time than now for this moderate, bipartisan effort to begin the healing process, not just in our forests, but in our communities and among us.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM H. MEADOWS, PRESIDENT OF THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
The Wilderness Society appreciates this opportunity to testify on H.R. 2515, legislation addressing forest health concerns in our national forests. Since 1935, The Wilderness Society has worked for the protection and wise management of America's national forests and other public lands. Recently we have been deeply involved in the regional ecosystem assessments in the interior Columbia River Basin, Sierra Nevada, and Southern Appalachians, as well as in the debate over salvage logging and other national forest management issues.
The Wilderness Society opposes H.R. 2515 because it is unnecessary legislation that would likely worsen ecological problems in the national forests and marginalize public participation. The bill would facilitate environmentally destructive management by forcing hasty decisions and providing easy money to log in sensitive areas.
We support selective use of active management activities such as thinning and prescribed burning to help restore damaged forest ecosystems, provided that such activities do not harm the environment, are economically sound, and are guided by the best available science and by broad, well-informed public input. With respect to restoring forest ecosystem health in eastern Oregon, we generally endorse the ecosystem management concepts proposed by Governor Kitzhaber, including protection for roadless areas, old-growth forests, sensitive fish habitat, and other controversial areas.
We believe that sound ecosystem management plans based on these principles can be adopted through existing administrative processes. However, for the reasons discussed below, we do not believe that H.R. 2515 provides a sound blueprint for restoring and protecting national forest ecosystems.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Bill Is Based on a Mythical ''Forest Health Crisis''
The basic objective of H.R. 2515 is to establish a national program aimed at restoring ''forest health'' in the national forests. It is the latest of several bills, including the ''Salvage Rider'' in the 1995 Rescissions Act, that have been based on the shaky assumptions that there is a forest health ''crisis'' in the national forests and that the best way to cure a sick forest is to log it. To the contrary, there is little scientific evidence that the national forests are suffering from excessive amounts of dead or diseased trees. In fact, annual tree mortality has remained well below one percent of live tree volume in all regions of the country for the last 40 years, and the extent of recent wildfires is consistent with fires that occurred in the era prior to intensive fire suppression. Salvage Logging in the National Forests: An Ecological, Economic, and Legal Assessment, p. 13-21 (The Wilderness Society and National Audubon Society, 1996).
Moreover, as scientists with the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP) concluded, logging has increased fire severity more than any other human activity, due to increased fuel accumulation and changes in local microclimate. Summary of the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, p. 4 (Davis: Univ. of California, Centers for Water and Wildland Resources, 1996).
Likewise, the scientific assessment by the Federal Government's Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project (ICBEMP) found that current salvage logging practices are ''not compatible with contemporary ecosystem-based management. Integrated Scientific Assessment for Ecosystem Management in the Interior Columbia Basin, p. 178 (USDA Forest Service and USDI Bureau of Land Management, 1996).
While thinning of small-diameter trees near existing roads, coupled with prescribed burning, can play a legitimate role in restoring forest ecosystems, the types and amount of logging promoted by this legislation could seriously damage the ecological integrity of the national forests.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All Types of Logging Are Allowed Almost Anywhere
The bill defines recovery projects and recovery areas very broadly. Recovery projects could include ''stand thinning, salvage, and other harvesting activities'' (Sec. 3(7)). This open-ended definition places no limitations on the types of logging that the Forest Service could authorize in recovery areas. The agency could clearcut vast areas under the guise of restoring forest health, as was the case in 1995 when two salvage sales in Montana included clearcuts in excess of 200 acres. Salvage Logging in the National Forests, op. cit., p. 39.
Recovery areas could be designated anywhere ''that has experienced disturbances from wildfires, insect infestations, disease, or other causes'' or ''in which the forest structure, function, or composition has been altered so as to increase substantially the likelihood of wildfire, insect infestation, or disease'' (Sec. 3(3)). Again, this definition is so broad that almost any part of the National Forest System with trees could be designated a recovery area.
Logging Is Permitted in Controversial Areas, Ignoring the Recommendation of Oregon's Governor
The only lands that H.R. 2515 declares off-limits to recovery projects are congressionally designated wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, and places where the projects would be prohibited by law, court order, or applicable Forest Service management plan (Sec. 4(e)(5)). The bill thereby ignores a key element of an ecosystem restoration proposal that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber presented at a House Agriculture Committee field hearing in January 1997. Governor Kitzhaber specifically proposed that ''active management should avoid areas of potential controversy, such as roadless areas, old growth stands, and sensitive fish habitat. Letter from John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon, to the Honorable Robert Smith, Jan. 29, 1997.
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Kitzhaber's recommendation is consistent with recent scientific findings by the Interior Columbia Basin Project. According to the ICBEMP scientists, roadless areas are generally in good ecological condition due to the absence of past logging activity, roads, and intensive fire suppression. Millions of acres of already-disturbed forest lands are better candidates for active management. Unfortunately, H.R. 2515 would place no limits on activities in controversial areas, leaving these ecologically sensitive lands vulnerable to environmentally destructive logging and road building.
The Bill Would Establish a Centralized, Expedited Decisionmaking Process that Circumvents Site-Specific Environmental and Public Review
H.R. 2515 creates a highly centralized decisionmaking process that would replace existing site-specific environmental analysis and local public review of individual projects. The bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture (acting through the Chief of the Forest Service) to ''render a decision for each fiscal year'' regarding the designation and ranking of recovery areas and the selection of recovery projects for inclusion in the national program'' (Sec. 4(c)(1)). This apparently means that Forest Service decisions to conduct timber sales and other activities within a proposed or designated recovery area would be consolidated into a single annual decision covering all such activities in all recovery areas nationwide. Similarly, advance recovery projects would be selected by the Forest Service's nine regional foresters, rather than by local forest supervisors or district rangers (Sec. 6(a)), thereby reducing citizens' ability to participate in and influence public land management decisions at the local level.
In addition, the bill directs the Secretary to adopt ''expedited procedures'' to complete the environmental analysis and public review of proposed recovery areas and projects (Sec. 4(i)). The bill gives the Secretary a 120-day deadline to make a final decision on the annual selection of areas and projects (Sec. 4(c)(3)). For ''advance recovery projects,'' regional foresters would have just 90 days to make their decisions (Sec. 6(c)). This is far too little time for meaningful public participation in a Government proposal of this size, scope, and complexity. It would also leave insufficient time for endangered species consultations and other environmental analyses, which ordinarily take five to 11 months to complete. However, the bill gives the Forest Service a compelling incentive to hurry: any project that did not comply with these time deadlines would be ineligible for funding as part of the national program (Sec. 7(d)).
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Scientific Advisors Would Be Chosen by Politicians
Section 5 of the bill establishes a seven-member Scientific Advisory Panel to recommend criteria for selecting and ranking recovery areas and to develop a monitoring plan. While greater independent scientific input is certainly needed in national forest management, H.R. 2515's process for selecting the panel members would instantly politicize the advisory panel. Of the seven members, four would be chosen by the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that share jurisdiction over the Forest Service. Only one scientist, selected by the National Academy of Sciences, would be a non-political appointee.
A more objective, credible process would rely on the National Academy of Sciences or National Science Board to select candidates which meet the generic criteria of the legislation. This would help ensure that the selection of panelists was based on scientific and technical accomplishments, not on ideology.
The Bill Gives Credence to a Pseudo-Scientific Report on Forest Health
H.R. 2515 requires the Scientific Advisory Panel to pay close attention to a document entitled, ''Report on Forest Health of the United States'' (Sec. 5(g)). This report amounts to little more than a pro-logging advocacy statement. It was prepared by a group of academic and timber industry foresters selected by Rep. Charles Taylor, author of the 1995 Salvage Rider. The report is replete with assertions with no basis in scientific facts, inaccurate assumptions, generalizations that obscure fundamental issues, and highly selective use of data.
While giving unwarranted credence to the Taylor forest health report, the bill ignores many other, far more credible scientific analyses of the national forests. The SNEP, ICBEMP, Forest Ecosystem Management Assessment Team (FEMAT), and Southern Appalachian Assessment all provide much more scientifically valid and useful information.
The Bill Provides More Corporate Welfare to the Timber Industry
Section 7 of the bill establishes an off-budget slush fund called the ''Forest Recovery and Protection Fund'' to pay for the forest health program. The bill would funnel to the Fund $50 million appropriated by Congress for wildfire control in 1998, as well as roughly $30 million of receipts that would ordinarily be used to build and maintain roads and trails (Sec. 7(b)). In addition, any revenue generated by timber sales and other ''recovery projects'' would be deposited in the Fund.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Like the existing Salvage Sale Fund, the proposed forest health fund would give Forest Service managers a strong incentive to maximize the receipts they could generate from recovery projects, such as by selling large volumes of big, old-growth trees. Indeed, H.R. 2515 encourages using the Fund for timber production purposes by directing the agency to select recovery projects that ''improve forest health while also providing economic benefits to local communities'' (Sec. 4(e)(2)).
Inventories Focus on Timber, While Ignoring Ecosystems
The final section of the bill requires more frequent and standardized inventories of public and private forests through the Forest Service's existing forest inventory and analysis program (Sec. 10(a)). While better information about the Nation's forests is always needed, the inventories are primarily geared toward measuring tree growth and timber volume and predicting future timber supply. The bill does nothing to improve woefully inadequate inventory and monitoring programs for the nontimber resources of the forest ecosystems.
The Wilderness Society believes that the Forest Service needs to take a science-based approach to solving the ecological problems on the national forests. They need to begin by honestly addressing the impacts of logging, grazing, and other traditional management activities on ecosystem health. The agency's decisionmaking process must be accessible to interested citizens and cognizant of the experimental nature of ecosystem management.
The Forest Service already has adequate legal authority to undertake restoration programs. The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups are willing to work with the agency and Congress to adopt and implement bona fide ecological restoration projects. We believe there are opportunities to develop broad-based public support of restoration work in specific areas, despite the deep distrust of ''forest health'' initiatives engendered by the 1995 Salvage Rider. For example, the Natural Fuels Treatment funding initiative in California is supported by environmentalists, the timber industry, county supervisors, the governor, and most of the state's congressional delegation. It has increased funding for prescribed burning and other forest restoration activities in California from $1.3 million to $8 million in the past four years. This program does not grab headlines, but it provides a successful model for building trust, achieving consensus, andmost importantmaking solid, steady progress on the ground.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTESTIMONY OF BOB POWERS, LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE FOR THE UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA
Thank you, Chairman Smith, and members of the Agriculture Committee for granting me the privilege to testify before you today concerning the importance of comprehensive legislation to improve and maintain the health of our national forests. I believe that the Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 would be successful in that regard and I'd like to thank you Mr. Chairman and Representative Stenholm, Representative Combest, Representative Bishop, and Representative Emerson for introducing this legislation.
On behalf of our half a million members, tens of thousands of whom work directly in timber-dependent industries, I commend the Committee for its efforts on this bill. I offer our support both in ensuring that it is enacted and later in helping restore good health to our national forests.
The health of our national forests and the economic health of timber-dependent communities are suffering due to legislative, judicial and administrative actions, and inactions, which place severe restraints on forest management activities. Meanwhile, current national strategies for improving and preserving forest health are not working. Contrary to what some people may tell you, laissez-faire forest management is unhealthy and short-sighted.
High levels of moisture this past year allowed our forests to enjoy a reprieve from record-breaking wildfires of 1995 and 1996. These conditions, however, create a great potential for even worse wildfires in years to come. Thick new growth flourishes in certain high moisture areas, posing a wildfire risk which threatens the lives of firefighters and poses great danger to local residents, including many of our members, and damage to their homes and property. If the risk of catastrophic wildfires is not enough cause for concern, crowded forests are a breeding ground for damaging insects and tree disease creating even more kindling for future uncontrolled burns. Without preventative forest management activities, our forests will continue to become increasingly crowded with major accumulations of wildfire fuel including brush, grasses, and dead and dying trees. We face a dangerous situation; the timing for this legislation could not be better.
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Recovery and Protection Act would mandate active yet ecosystem-sensitive forest management practices as well as provide much needed direction to the Forest Service to address critical forest health problems. Consequently, such activities would have far-reaching effects, benefiting forests, workers and communities.
Our union has long believed that preserving forest health and preserving the economic health of timber communities are mutually compatible goals. Active forest management aimed at preserving forest healthsuch as thinning and salvagingcan also provide a supply of raw material for production. To that end, we are extremely pleased that Section 4(c)(2) of the Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture to select forest recovery and protection projects that, ''will both improve forest health and provide economic benefits to local communities.''
If members of the Committee have any doubt about the economic and social effects of restraints on forest management activities, I would invite you to visit some of the rural timber-dependent communities that I've seen, especially in the Pacific Northwest. In that region, approximately 20,000 workers, thousands of whom are our members, have lost their jobs since 1990. Unemployed are: men and women who were on-the-ground thinning overstocked forests; saw-mill workers who processed raw timber into building supplies; and pulp and paper workers who helped manufacture specialty papers. Families and entire communities are reeling from inconsistent policies and far-reaching restraints which can stop forest management activities overnight.
Forests, and communities surrounding them, have a long mutually supportive history of maintaining forest health and providing a consistent supply of timber. For generations, many of our members have lived in the rural areas near national forests and many more arrive to lay their roots in these areasthey build houses, have kids and settle down. All of them, though, rely on the local mills and the forests to sustain their livelihoods. At the same time, our members are on the front lines encouraging reasonable, responsible environmental protections and forest management activities so that our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty, recreation and economic opportunities that forests provide.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Recovery and Protection Act of 1997 recognizes the unique relationships between forests and those who live near and work in them. Section 4(f), for example, provides an opportunity for those closest to the problems in our forests to have a say in identifying critical areas in need of active management by requiring the Secretary to consider citizen petitions for the designation of recovery areas.
Further complementing recovery projects is oversight by a prestigious Scientific Advisory Panel. We know that sound forest management decisions are made when guided by the best possible science. Such a panel will ensure that superior science will be utilized when analyzing recovery areas that are at the greatest risk of catastrophic forest fires, insect infestation and disease.
Our members are ready to roll up our shirtsleeves and tackle chronic forest conditions, but we are concerned that the mechanisms described in this bill won't achieve healthier forests if sufficient funding isn't provided to complete necessary on-the-ground prevention measures.
In closing, I'd like to once again commend this committee's attention to the serious national forest health problem and the manner in which you are approaching it. We look forward to working with you in this effort and assisting forest managers on the ground and in the forests toward preserving our forests, wildlife and timber communities. Thank you.
TESTIMONY OF DAVE SCHMIDT, LINN COUNTY, OREGON, COMMISSIONER
Mr. Chairman, My name is Dave Schmidt, County Commissioner from Linn County, OR. I am a professional forester, and own several small tree farms in the foothills above the Willamette Valley. I spent 28 years as the president of a consulting company solving forestry problems across the west. I am the former President of the National Association of Counties' (NACo) Western Interstate Region and served as their Public Lands Steering Committee Chair for two years. I am also the past chair of the state's chapter of the Society of American Foresters. Needless to say, I care deeply about the health of America's national forests.
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As background, over the past 4 years, NACo and its Western Interstate Region (WIR) pursued an information campaign to learn more about the needs of America's forest land, its watersheds, its wildlife habitat, and the challenges that face continued sustainability of the forests. We have heard from professional foresters, silviculturalists, academics, environmentalists and professional land managers, that today's forest, while robust in many ways, is at the brink of disaster from many sources, including fire, disease and questionable management practices. This appears to be a common understanding, and the reason H.R. 2515 has been introduced.
Over the past several years, western counties have been hard hit by wildfires spreading out across the forests and grasslands like a cancer. As reported in the media three years ago, counties in Idaho, California, Colorado, and other western states were severely burned in the drought-fed fires, but 1996 was the worst fire season firefighters have seen in forty years. The average acreage burned over the past five years was slightly over 2 million acres. Last year, over 6 million acresthe most in nearly 20 years.
To put the magnitude of these fires into perspective, 6 million acres translates to over 9,375 square milesan area almost equal to the State of Vermont! The loss of timber and grassland resources has devastating effects on the economies of counties where these fires occur. Not only are natural and other resources lost and damaged, the Federal Government will spend over a billion dollars this year fighting these wildfires. What is of particular concern to western county leaders is that each year it is only going to get worse.
Those ideas are echoed by fire ecologist Leon F. Neuenschwander of the University of Idaho, ''It's going to get worse. It will get worse until wildfires have burned to the point where they are converting much of the forest to scrub lands.'' And his thoughts are supported by foresters, academics, ecologists and Government resource specialists, and as former U.S. Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas warned, ''There is no quick easy solution to this. It took us 50 to 60 years to get to this point, and its not something we are going to get out of in three or four years.''
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Counties and local community interest in the ''forest health'' debate is centered on the need to maintain healthy sustainable communities in the broadest sense of the concept. Forest health does not just mean fiber production. It means watershed protection, non-commercial thinning and other adaptive management techniques, riparian restoration, habitat protection and other values. Jobs are an important part of the equation as well, and cannot be discounted as a part of any initiative. To be successful, NACo sees the need to approach its ''forest health'' initiative with a holistic, community-based paradigm, one based on acres ''treated'' and repaired rather than on the amount of ''board feet'' taken from a particular area. This appears to be the approach taken in H.R. 2515.
To the non-ecologist, forest health has been defined more by the physical characteristics of the forest than the specific scientific measures used by forest ecologists. In 1910, more than 3 million acres were burned and 78 firefighters were killed in what was considered one of the worst fire years ever recorded to that time. Since then, it has been the policy of local, state and Federal land managers that fires should be fought and suppressed. It has been policy that even the smallest fires pose a threat to resources and structures built in the urban/wildland interface.
What has occurred in the intervening years has been the dramatic increase in ''fuel loading'', small trees, dead and decaying trees on the forest floor, and the growth of medium height understory trees providing ''fuel ladders'' to the green crowns of the mature forest. Perhaps most importantly, stand density, and species composition has changed over time to dramatically increase stand stress and the result has been an increased susceptibility to disease, insect infestation and fire. This disastrous combination of factors have led to a doubling in size and intensity of forest fires each decade since 1950. Resource managers were doing what the public demanded, and what they felt was a correct strategy. However, our understanding of forest ecosystems and what they need is changing rapidly, and resource managers are struggling to catch up. Watershed planning has become much more important in the debate, and the need to protect endangered species habitat has become paramount in many areas. H.R. 2515 touches on these matters, but could be strengthened.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We now know, that in many forests, particularly ponderosa pine forests, firesmall, low intensity firethat periodically burns off the brush, the dead and decaying wood on the forest floor, and the less fire resistant understory trees actually supports a healthy forest and substantially reduces overall fire danger. The old saying ''fighting fire with fire'' is explicitly true in this instance. Native Americans, centuries before, burned off the brush to improve hunting and access to the forest, and actively managed the ecosystem at the same time.
We now believe we know what needs to be donereduce the quantity of the fuel load by fire, machine or by hand, and improve the overall watershed area. Unfortunately, in this modern era, small man-made fires, ''prescribed burns'' as they are known, can only be used on a limited number of acres across the west. First, not all vegetation types need fire to enhance their ecosystem. Air quality rules, difficult terrain, limited manpower and the increase in exurban structures make prescribed burns difficult, if not impossible to execute on many sites. This leaves resource managers with limited options, with the most promising being mechanical removal of the fuel loading factors. This requires man and equipment moving into the forest, using forest harvest-like practices to remove the brush, wood and trees necessary to reduce the stand densities and the fire potential. This means jobs for otherwise unemployed timber workers, heavy machinery operators and general laborers. This is good for the local county economies. But at what cost?
The environmental community is very sensitive to what constitutes ''forest health'' activities. They are fearful that, under the guise of forest health activities, resource companies contracted to assist land managers with the mammoth task ahead will overstep the purposes of the effort. They use the controversial timber salvage rider as an example. Although the law defines trees eligible for harvest under the rider as dead or damaged trees, the law also includes ''associated trees'' in its definition. In fact, it includes any tree that is ''imminently susceptible to fire or insect attack.'' Some environmental groups feel ''forest health'' is just a ruse to get at the controversial old growth timber resource. Communities seek to expand the definition of forest health and identify the true needs of today's forest.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We believe a successful forest health proposal must focus on forest health from a holistic perspective, taking into account all the factors supporting a sustainable forest rather than the model of past efforts where the performance measure was the quantity of fiber taken from a given acreage. We feel a successful approach looks at trees, plants, air, water, soil, animals, jobs, fiber, natural amenities, and other values in a community-based, goal-oriented process.
For this legislative initiative to be successful, it must rely on national goals, administered in concert with local community-based efforts, with creativity, using technologically-innovative techniques and good, solid, science-based planning. Without these factors, there cannot be sufficient ''buy-in'' by all the stakeholders, and the effort is doomed to failure. The framework must also take into account the other management imperatives of the Federal land managers.
Funding is where the rubber meets the road.... Traditionally, money for forest health activities have come from a small appropriation intended to demonstrate new techniques in forest management and prescribed fire use. However, the amount that has been set aside for this purpose is so small, that no significant reduction in the causes of the decline of today's forest are evident. A significant infusion of financial resources will be necessary to begin the process of addressing this pressing need.
H.R. 2515 attempts to address this problem by establishing the Forest Recovery and Protection Fund administered by the Chief of the Forest Service. The Fund would supply needed ''seed money'' for a forest health program, but we believe more funds should be made available, such as unused fire suppression funds (in those fiscal years when these funds have not been exhausted). In years without catastrophic fire, the money that Congress wisely appropriated could be used for very similar purposesprevention, rather than suppressionwhich would have even more positive consequences than our current suppression efforts.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We would recommend that Congress look at ''non-traditional'' sources of financial supportprograms and resources used to address other environmental problems that are coincidental to the effects of fire and lost timber from disease and insect infestation, as it continues its work on H.R.2515. I am talking about sources used for riparian and watershed restoration, clean air and water programs, economic development and rural development funds, and other governmental and private sector dollars available for addressing these kinds of environmental mitigation projects, and that enhance forest health and community stability.
You asked me to comment on the specifics of H.R. 2515. First, while the bill speaks to a need to address ''region-specific needs'', there is no provision for consultation with affected state and local governments regarding implications of recovery projects. Once good science ranks sites under the national program, and the Secretary makes the decision about which projects are to go forward, there should be a community advisory board established to address the offsite effects of such projects and to help develop innovative and cost effective treatments. H.R. 2515 assumes the Federal land managers already ''know the community needs and concerns, and that Federal Register Notice''s will provide sufficient comment to proceed. I am afraid without meaningful community support, any actions undertaken pursuant to a ''national'' recovery plan would be subject to strong protests and objections similar to the salvage rider debate. The community advisory board must include representation of affected local governments and the communities they represent.
Second, in Section 4(c) ''Requirements for Recovery Project Selection'', under (1) ''Compliance with Land Management Plans'', H.R. 2515 says ''the Secretary shall ensure that each recovery plan is applicable to the recovery area...''. It is not clear if that applies to any plan other than the Federal land management plan. What about local or state land management plans affecting adjacent areas? H.R. 2515 should address this interface issue.
Third, Section 4(f), the ''Petition Process'' clause is starkly reminiscent of the petition provisions of the old Endangered Species Act , which have been roundly criticized for providing profound opportunities for mischiefif nothing more than using valuable staff resources ''tilting at windmills''. A preferred way to assess needs within a forest is the establishment of the community advisory boards I mentioned earlier. I am concerned that an unintended consequence of such a process could be protracted litigation and delay.
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Fourth, I believe H.R. 2515 needs to provide greater flexibility for the Federal land managers to proceed. As we become more experienced in effective forest health management and as unanticipated variables surface as these projects go forward, regional foresters need to have sufficient authority to accomplish the goals of each forest recovery project. Decision-makers must be empowered to actively manage to an effective solution. For too long, Federal land managers have been reticent to show initiative because of more senior manager intervention, or the threat of litigation. While we cannot shield managers completely from these negatives, they must feel they have the resources, and the authority to make proper decisions within the framework of the program envisioned by this legislation.
Lastly, while I understand this Committee's jurisdiction, this initiative must include forest resources managed by other Federal agenciesthe Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Defense and the Corps of Engineers. If this is to be a truly ''national'' program, it cannot exclude these agencies because without forest health treatment on their forest acreage, all the hard work of the Forest Service could be put at risk.
Forest Health is not just the ''cause celebre'' for the moment. It is a critical environmental problem that has been exacerbated by benign neglect in the mistaken belief, by some, that leaving the forests alone is the best method for managing these complex ecosystems.
As a representative of local communities, I believe successful forest health legislation needs to include the following principles:
There should be community-based involvement in problem solving and implementation
There should be active, flexible management at the forest level
Solutions should be goal-orientedmore acres treated rather than boardfeet extracted
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Solutions should be watershed-based, not just acres on a map
We should focus on fire prevention instead of suppression
Incorporates activities to promote clean air and clean water
Solutions need to provide for riparian restoration and maintenance
Habitat identification and management must be part of the scientific review
Natural amenities are important to many in our communities
Any program should provide funding commensurate with the problem.
Both traditional land managers and the environmental community have, until recently, pursued a strategy in our forests that has created a significant problem for today's stewards of the forest. We must break the paradigm, and try a new approach. We believe this initiative, along with those of others, can address and more importantly solve, over a period of years, the disastrous situation we find ourselves facing in America's forests.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on this important legislation.
"The Official Committee record contains additional material here."