SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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OVERSIGHT HEARING ON U.S. FOREST SERVICE STRATEGIC PLAN UNDER THE GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE AND RESULTS ACT
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FOREST AND FOREST HEALTH
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
JULY 31, 1997, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10547
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Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
DON YOUNG, Alaska, Chairman
W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN, Louisiana
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JIM SAXTON, New Jersey
ELTON GALLEGLY, California
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOEL HEFLEY, Colorado
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
KEN CALVERT, California
RICHARD W. POMBO, California
BARBARA CUBIN, Wyoming
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
LINDA SMITH, Washington
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
JOHN SHADEGG, Arizona
JOHN E. ENSIGN, Nevada
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCROBERT F. SMITH, Oregon
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MICHAEL D. CRAPO, Idaho
GEORGE MILLER, California
EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American Samoa
NEIL ABERCROMBIE, Hawaii
SOLOMON P. ORTIZ, Texas
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
SAM FARR, California
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCPATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-GREEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
LLOYD DOGGETT, Texas
LLOYD A. JONES, Chief of Staff
ELIZABETH MEGGINSON, Chief Counsel
CHRISTINE KENNEDY, Chief Clerk/Administrator
JOHN LAWRENCE, Democratic Staff Director
Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health
HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho, Chairman
JAMES V. HANSEN, Utah
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
MAURICE D. HINCHEY, New York
BRUCE F. VENTO, Minnesota
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCDALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, Am. Samoa
BILL SIMMONS, Staff Director
ANNE HEISSENBUTTEL, Legislative Staff
JEFF PETRICH, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
Hearing held July 31, 1997
Statement of Members:
Chenoweth, Hon. Helen, a Representative in Congress from the State of Idaho
Prepared statement of
Letter to Mr. Lyons with further questions
Hansen, Hon. James V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah, letter to Hon. Dan Glickman
Statement of Witnesses:
Dombeck, Mike, letter to Subcommittee from
Hill, Barry, Associate Director, Energy, Resources and Science Issues, Resources, Community and Economic Development Division, General Accounting Office, Washington, DC
Prepared statement of
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCLyons, James R., Undersecretary, Natural Resources and the Environment, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC
Prepared statement of
Additional material supplied:
Government Accounting Office Report
Koskinen, John A., prepared statement of
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON U.S. FOREST SERVICE STRATEGIC PLAN UNDER THE GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE AND RESULTS ACT
THURSDAY, JULY 31, 1997
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:11 a.m., in room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC, Hon. Helen Chenoweth (chair of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health will come to order. The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the Forest Service's strategic plan under the Government Performance and Results Act.
Under rule 4[g] of the Committee rules, any oral opening statements at hearings are limited to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member, and this will also allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help Members keep to their schedules. Therefore, if other Members have statements, they can be included in the record under unanimous consent.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Today, the Subcommittee will evaluate the Forest Service's draft GPRA strategic plan. This Government Performance and Results Act was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support, and under this act, all Federal agencies must prepare 5-year strategic plans in consultation with Congress and with input from stakeholders and others who are interested in the plan.
This hearing constitutes one important step in the GPRA consultation process. It is my hope that we will have a meaningful dialog today on both the content and the process that the agency used in developing its May, 1997, draft.
I assure you the Subcommittee would like to work closely with the Forest Service as it completes its plan before the September 30 deadline, and I understand the Forest Service's 1995 draft RPA program is the basis for the GPRA strategic plan. The draft program was the subject of oversight by the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Lands in the 104th Congress.
At that time, the Subcommittee and I expressed a number of concerns with the goals outlined in the draft RPA program, yet the agency has retained those same goals without even acknowledging our concerns with the RPA draft.
I have a more complete statement which I would like to submit for the record that further explains my concerns with the Forest Service's draft strategic plan. In addition, I would like to submit two letters for the record which explain my concerns with the agency's goals as they are described in the draft RPA program.
I encourage you to read these letters which are attached to my statement in the Members' folders.
Today, we have two witnesses. I have asked Barry Hill and Jim Lyons to answer several questions regarding the Forest Service's strategic plan. Gentlemen, I greatly appreciate your willingness to testify today so that we may gain a better understanding of the Forest Service's strategic plan. I look forward to your testimony and your answers to our questions.
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Hon. Helen Chenoweth follows:]
STATEMENT OF THE HON. HELEN CHENOWETH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Today the Subcommittee will evaluate the Forest Service's portion of the Department of Agriculture's Draft Strategic Plan, which has been prepared to comply with the Government Performance and Results Act. This act was passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support, before being signed by President Clinton in 1993. Under the Results Act, all Federal agencies are required to prepare five-year strategic plans in consultation with Congress and with input from stakeholders and others who are interested in the plan.
I understand the Forest Service plan is now being rewritten to address concerns that have been raised by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Nonetheless, I have asked Barry Hill with the General Accounting Office and Under Secretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons to join us today to inform the Subcommittee about the Forest Service's plan.
This hearing constitutes one important step in the consultation process required by the Results Act. While the deadline for completion of the final plan is fast approaching, it is my hope that we will have a meaningful dialog today on both the content and the process that the agency used in developing its May 1997 draft. I assure you that the Subcommittee would like to work more closely with the agency as it completes its plan before the statutory September 30 deadline.
During the 104th Congress, the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands held an oversight hearing on the Forest Service's draft 1995 RPA Program. The Forest Service tells us that the RPA Program, which is a long-range strategic plan prepared under the Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, was used as the basis for the current draft GPRA strategic plan.
However, in January 1996 the Chairmen of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands and the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management wrote the Secretary of Agriculture expressing serious concerns with the goals articulated in the draft 1995 Program. They explained that the draft RPA Program represents an abandonment of the agency's longstanding statutory multiple use and sustained yield principles. I agreed with their assessment that they could not endorse the goals outlined in the draft, nor could they ratify any forthcoming statement of policy based on such a Program.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service has yet to issue a new draft or final RPA Program. In May of this year, Chief Dombeck wrote that he is delaying completion of the 1995 program for another 10 months. Instead, the Forest Service is conducting additional analyses related to a number of different issues. Without objection, I would like to submit a copy of both letters for the record.
Given the uncertain nature of the 1995 RPA Program, I am disturbed by the agency's reliance on that draft as the basis for the GPRA strategic plan. Furthermore, it appears that the Forest Service did not consult with us earlier on the GPRA plan because they believe the RPA planning process provided adequate public and Congressional involvement. I disagree with this view, and I hope the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief will take seriously our desire to work with the Forest Service on the continuing development of the GPRA plan.
Today we have two witnesses. I have asked Barry Hill, Associate Director of GAO, to provide us with a brief summary of the Results Act, including the requirements for developing strategic plans. He will then offer GAO's observations on the Forest Service's draft strategic plan. Specifically, I asked him to explain how well the draft plan addresses accounting, financial management, decision making and accountability problems identified previously by the General Accounting Office. A number of these issues have been addressed in some detail in GAO's recent report on Forest Service Decisionmaking.
In addition, I have asked Under Secretary Lyons to explain: (1) how well the Forest Service's draft addresses the six components required by the GPRA; (2) whether the mission and goals described in the draft plan are clearly stated and consistent with the agency's statutory authorities; (3) the strategies proposed for achieving the mission and goals; (4) the resources needed to accomplish each goal; and (5) whether the draft plan provides adequate, quantifiable performance measures.
Gentlemen, I greatly appreciate you both for coming before the Subcommittee today so that we may gain a better understanding of the Forest Service's strategic plan. I look forward to your testimony and to your answers to these six questions and any other questions the Members may have for you.
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Mr. Dan Glickman,
|Hon. James V. Hansen,|
|January 18, 1997.|
Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture,
DEAR SECRETARY GLICKMAN:
Although our Subcommittees have had only a brief opportunity to meet with your staff to discuss the Forest Service's draft 1995 Resources Planning Act (RPA) Program, we would like to offer our own initial comments and concerns with the proposed Program. We expect that additional questions and concerns may come up as a result of yesterday's staff briefing on the draft, and we will encourage Members to submit their additional comments directly to you.
In general, the draft RPA Program represents an abandonment of both the multiple use, sustained yield principles that have guided the Forest Service, and the Agency's commitment to active management of the national forests to maintain and improve the resources that Congress has entrusted to your charge. You should know now that we will neither endorse the goals or program of management contained in the draft, nor ratify any forthcoming statement of policy based on such a Program.
The Executive Summary of the draft 1995 Program indicates that ''The 1995 RPA Program reflects a significant change in the way the Forest Service considers and manages natural resources.'' It also states, ''Ecosystem management is the means by which stewards of America's forests and rangelands can reach the goal of sustainable management by the year 2000.'' Additional information provided in the summary and the draft Program strongly suggests that the change to ''ecosystem management,'' as proposed by the Forest Service, will require Agency managers, planners, and field personnel to abandon the Agency's statutory multiple use goals and long-held sustained yield management practices in favor of new policies which will not meet the requirements of the National Forest Management Act, the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act, and a number of other laws.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We cannot condone this shift in policy. While it is appropriate for the Forest Service to develop practices and policies that better enable the Agency to fulfill its current statutory mandates, it has no authorization to develop entirely new direction for land management. Our reading of the draft Program is that, as a practical matter, it abandons the multiple use and sustained yield philosophy in favor of a custodial management style that will ultimately diminish the ecological integrity of the resources that Congress has entrusted to the Agency.
Equally troubling is the evidence that the Forest Service intends to change its direction for national forest management despite the lengthy and costly efforts that have been made over the past 20 years to implement the RPA and the National Forest Management Act of 1976. In fact, much of the direction described in the draft 1995 Program is in direct conflict with the 123 adopted land management plans that the Agency has developed, approved, and periodically amended with unprecedented public involvement and at unprecedented cost to U.S. citizens.
In addition to the above overall concerns, it appears that the draft 1995 RPA Program will do little to: (1) address the future near- and long-term needs of the Nation for renewable resources despite, for example, the fact that the national forests hold nearly half of the nation's inventory of softwood sawtimber; (2) improve the condition of the national forests, despite declining forest health and increasing risk of catastrophic fire in many areas; or (3) provide new roaded recreation opportunities for the public, even though studies have shown that demand for roaded recreation is increasing at a greater rate than for any other type of recreation on the national forests.
The draft Program clearly indicates in Appendix F that the largest shortages in recreation supply will be in ''dispersed recreation sites for day-hiking, wildlife observation, and sightseeing.'' These are activities that require roaded access. Instead, the draft Program promotes the creation of additional set-asides for unroaded, unmanaged purposes, thereby further reducing opportunities to provide for the responsible production of renewable natural resources, worsening the shortage of roaded recreation opportunities, and preventing management activities needed to improve forest conditions. To take just one renewable resource as an example, we start from a premise that, at a time when the U.S. produces one-fourth of the industrial timber harvested in the world and consumes one-third of the world's production, it is irresponsible for the Forest Service to develop a program that will diminish our capacity to produce our own resource needs with a woefully inadequate justification and without a complete analysis of alternative supply sources.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the U.S. is going to responsibly achieve the President's goal for sustainable management by the year 2000, and meet the needs of our citizens in 2000 and beyond, we must have a Program for management of our forest and rangeland resources that will promote active and sensitive management, not simply passive and custodial protection, on the lands under the responsibility of the U.S. Forest Service. To meet this goal, consistent with current legal requirements, the final 1995 Program will require substantial changes to address the above concerns.
The 1974 Act requires a specific congressional response to the final RPA Program and Statement of Policy. Specifically, the Act provides the Congress with 90 days in session to either approve, reject, or modify the Statement of Policy. Your current schedule will not afford this Congress such an opportunity, because by the time you issue the final ''1995'' Program in early October (more than a year and a half overdue), Congress will be close to adjournment. This, more than anything else, troubles us greatly. Therefore, we would like to discuss this problem in the very near future. We will contact you shortly to pursue this further.
|James V. Hansen,|
|House Subcommittee on|
|National Parks, Forests and Lands|
|Chairman, Senate Subcommittee on Forests|
|and Public Land Management|
During the past year, we have used your comments and suggestions to develop our strategic plan for the future. I am delaying the completion of this plan. the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) Program, for approximately 10 months to ensure that it fully reflects the most appropriate paths and priorities to take care of the land and to provide its many benefits for the American people. During this period, we will conduct additional analysts related to a number of important issues.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the brief time since my appointment in January, I have expressed my commitment to ''collaborative stewardship'' of the Nation's forests and rangelands. Your involvement in the development of the RPA Program is reflective of exactly what I have in mind. I believe our efforts will lead to wider agreement about the priorities of the Forest Service in managing the 191 million acres of the National Forest System, cooperating with State and private forest owners, developing scientific information, and working with other nations.
Planning for the future is a continuous and important task. Thank you for your interest in the future direction of the Forest Service.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Since the Ranking Minority Member is not here, I would like to ask Mr. Barry Hill, the Associate Director of Energy Resources and Science Issues, Resources, Community and Economic Development Division of the General Accounting Office, to please come forward.
Mr. Lyons, I would like for you to come up also and be on the same panel. We will swear everybody in at once.
Mr. Pandolfi, I understand that you are chief of staff for Mr. Dombeck, right?
Mr. PANDOLFI. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill, you have with you?
Mr. HILL. I have with me to my immediate left, Charlie Cotton, and to his left, Charlie Egan, who both have been intimately involved in the work that GAO has done in this area.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Both you, Mr. Lyons and Mr. Hill, will be relying on these gentlemen for certain answers, right?
Mr. HILL. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I wonder if you could all stand so that we can swear you in. Please raise your right hands.
Do you solemnly swear or affirm under the penalty of perjury that the responses given and statements made will be the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?
Let me remind the witnesses that under our Committee rules, they must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes, but that their entire statement will appear in the record. We will also allow the entire panel to testify before questioning the witnesses.
The chairman now recognizes Barry Hill to testify. Mr. Hill.
STATEMENT OF BARRY HILL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, ENERGY, RESOURCES AND SCIENCE ISSUES, RESOURCES, COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIVISION, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madame Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. We are pleased to be here today to discuss the implementation of the Results Act and the Forest Service, and if I may, I would like to submit my formal statement for the record and briefly summarize its contents.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. HILL. My testimony today is based primarily on two efforts, one dealing with a report we issued earlier this year on the Forest Service decisionmaking process and most recently, our review of the May, 1997, draft plan prepared by the Forest Service under the Results Act.
Let me start by noting that the Results Act is landmark legislation intended to approve Federal program effectiveness and accountability by promoting a new focus on results, service quality, and customer satisfaction.
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If implemented successfully within the Forest Service, it should help break an existing cycle of inefficiency and ineffectiveness of decisionmaking by strengthening accountability for performance and results.
To accomplish its objectives, the Results Act establishes a process to set goals and to measure progress. Specifically, the act requires executive departments and agencies to prepare multi-year strategic plans that include long-term strategic goals for all major functions in operations, annual performance plans that contain measures to gauge performance toward meeting both strategic and annual goals, and annual reports that compare performance against the goals.
To begin the process, the Department of Agriculture submitted a draft strategic plan to the Congress last May. Agriculture's plan includes a department-wide strategic overview as well as 30 component plans including one for the Forest Service.
Our review of the Forest Service's draft plan identified concerns with both the process the agency used to develop the plan as well as its substance. Process concerns included the apparent lack of coordination with other Federal agencies, both within and outside of Agriculture when developing goals and objectives.
In addition, the agency's plan falls short of adequately addressing critical components required by the Results Act, especially in identifying key external factors that could affect achievement of the plan's strategic goals and objectives.
However, the plan's greatest weakness is its failure to articulate the Forest Service's positions on several controversial issues. Specifically, the plan does not address the Forest Service's rationale for emphasizing some more than other legislatively mandated uses of the national forests, the agency's logic underlying its approach to managing natural resources, and the likely effects of its policy choices on the types, levels, and mixes of uses on its lands.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me take a moment to explain why it is important that the agency's final plan addresses these issues.
The strategic goals in the Forest Service's plan form the starting point and foundation for holding the agency accountable for its performance. Consequently, these goals are critical to successfully implementing the act within the agency. However, since agreement has not been reached on the strategic goals in the Forest Service's plan, the agency cannot begin to derive the benefits anticipated from implementing the act.
The lack of agreement on the Forest Service's strategic goals reflects the controversy, both inside and outside the agency, over which uses to emphasize under the agency's broad, multiple-use and sustained yield mandate and which management approach can best ensure the long-term sustainability of legislatively mandated uses of the national forests.
The strategic goals in the Forest Service's plan reflect an ongoing shift in emphasis under the agency's broad multiple-use and sustained yield mandate from consumption to conservation, and a significant change in the way the Forest Service considers and manages natural resources from managing primarily along administrative boundaries to managing ecosystems.
The increasing emphasis on conservation and ecosystem management conflicts with the agency's bolder emphasis on producing timber and other commodities, and will likely constrain future uses, such as recreation, on national forests.
The Forest Service has been aware for some time of the controversy surrounding its increasing emphasis on conservation and ecosystem management and the likely effects of these changes in its management of the types, levels, and mixes of legislatively mandated uses on the national forests.
In fact, these issues surfaced, as you mentioned in your opening statement, immediately after the Forest Service conducted a briefing in January 1996 on a draft strategic plan which included the same strategic goals as the agency's May, 1997, plan.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The day after the briefing, as you mentioned, the chairman of this Subcommittee's predecessor and the chairman of the counterpart Senate subcommittee wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture stating, among other things, that the justification for the plan was ''woefully inadequate,'' and the plan represented an abandonment of the agency's multiple-use and sustained yield principles.
Moreover, the chairmen stated that they would not endorse the goals contained in the draft plan and the final plan would require substantial changes to address their concerns.
However, the May, 1997, plan does less than the prior draft to articulate the rationale for the Forest Service's strategic goals and management approach. Furthermore, the May, 1997, plan is silent on the likely effects of the goals and management approach on the legislatively mandated multiple uses on the national forests.
The May plan captures the Forest Service's broad use and sustained yield mandate, stating that the agency's mission is to ''achieve quality land management under sustainable multiple-use management concepts to meet the diverse needs of the land and people.''
Basically, this mission allows the agency to be all things to all people. However, the reality is that the Forest Service is increasingly unable to avoid, resolve, or mitigate conflicts among competing uses on national forests by separating them among areas and over time.
Consequently, the agency must make hard policy choices concerning which of the competing multiple uses to emphasize and how to resolve conflicts or make choices among these uses on its lands.
The multiple use laws which guide the management of the nation's forests provide little guidance for the Forest Service in resolving conflicts among competing uses. Often, the emphasis that the agency gives to particular uses responds to factors supplementing these acts, such as requirements in planning and environmental laws and their judicial interpretations.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For example, section 7 of the Endangered Species Act represents a congressional design to give greater priority to the protection of endangered and threatened species than to the current primary missions of the Forest Service and other Federal agencies. The strategic goals included in the Forest Service's plan reflect hard policy choices that the agency has made among competing uses. As a result, the goals are controversial.
Had the Forest Service not only made the hard choices but also articulated its rationale for making them and made clear their consequences, it would have better equipped the Congress to understand its decisions and to identify legislative changes that are needed to clarify or modify the Congress' intent and expectations.
We recognize that Agriculture's final plan which will include the Forest Service's plan is not due to the Congress and OMB until the end of September, and that the Results Act anticipates that the final plan will be continually refined as future planning cycles occur.
We also recognize that a strategic plan is dynamic, and that the Forest Service, Agriculture, OMB, and congressional staff are continuing the process to revise the draft.
However, given both the importance of strategic goals to the successful implementation of the act and the disagreement over the goals in the Forest Service's plan, we believe that the agency should have taken the opportunity presented by the act to consult with the Congress to better articulate its positions on these controversial issues.
Specifically, it should have presented clear linkages between its stated goals and objectives and its relevant statutory authorities.
Madame Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement, and may I say that my staff and I look forward to working with you and Members of your Subcommittee as you continue to provide oversight of forests and forest health issues and programs.
We would be more than happy to respond to any questions that you or the members might have.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Circular Number A11 may be found at end of hearing.]
[Statement of John A. Koskinen may be found at end of hearing.]
[Government Accounting Office report may be found at end of hearing.]
[Statement of Barry T. Hill may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. I think now the chair will recognize Mr. Lyons for his testimony.
STATEMENT OF JAMES R. LYONS, UNDERSECRETARY, NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE ENVIRONMENT, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. LYONS. Thank you very much. Thank you, Madame Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you and the Subcommittee today to discuss our GPRA efforts, and as you noted, I am accompanied by Francis Pandolfi, who is acting special assistant to Chief Dombeck of the Forest Service.
As requested in your letter of invitation, I will attempt to describe what GPRA requires, the Forest Service mission and statutory authorities, our strategic goals, and resources needed to accomplish the GPRA plan.
GPRA requires, of course, that Federal agencies submit a strategic plan to Congress and to the Office of Management and Budget by the end of this fiscal year. The strategic plan for the Forest Service, as for other agencies, will cover the major functions of the agency and contain six items, a mission statement; goals and objectives; a description of how the goals and objectives will be achieved; a description of the relationship between the performance, goals, and the annual performance plan and the goals and the objectives of the strategic plan; identification of key factors external to the agency and beyond its control that could significantly affect achievement of goals and objectives; and a description of program evaluations used in the strategic plan and a schedule for future program evaluations.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service mission is to work collaboratively to promote the health of the land and to meet the diverse needs of all Americans. The phrase caring for the land and serving people expresses the spirit of that mission.
Implicit is the agency's collaboration with partners in serving as stewards of the nation's forests and rangelands. The Forest Service provides leadership in the management, protection and use of the nation's forests and rangelands. Its operating philosophy is ecosystem management, where the quality of the environment is maintained and enhanced to meet the current and future needs of all humans.
The agency uses that approach to provide sustained, renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation opportunities.
Statutes that provide the legislative mandate for Forest Service programs fall into one of three major categories. The first is specific authority for Forest Service activities contained in statutes like the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act, the International Forest Cooperative Act, the 1990 and 1996 Farm Bills.
Second are more broadly applicable environmental requirements such as NEPA and the Clean Water Act and its amendments to the Endangered Species Act, and then the third category of legislative mandates are statutes that allocate national forest system lands to specific management regimes or purposes, such as the Wilderness Act or the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which of course Congress played a significant role in effecting.
As requested during congressional consultation, the Forest Service is revising its GPRA strategic plan to integrate the programs and authorities established by these laws and to clearly articulate where they apply.
Under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, or RPA, we prepare an assessment of renewable resources on all lands every 10 years and a recommended program for Forest Service activities every 5 years. Since 1974, the Forest Service has prepared the RPA program documents in an annual report of its accomplishments which is called the report of the Forest Service. The update in 1993 of the RPA assessment and the draft 1995 recommended program form the core of the agency's GPRA strategic plan.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The 1993 update of the RPA assessment contains projects of resource use over the next several decades and identifies resource situations that are potentially acceptable, deteriorating, or serious and forms an underpinning for the strategic plan that we have developed.
One of the strengths of using the RPA draft program as the basis for our strategic plan was the significant amount of public involvement that was a part of the development of RPA. Two national focus group meetings were held at the beginning of the process. These meetings provided a forum for the early identification of issues.
In 1995 and again, in 1996, the most recent draft RPA program was available for public comment. The Forest Service held six regional listening sessions during the public comment period as well as a series of briefings for Members of Congress and others in Washington, DC. In fact, we received over 1,500 comments on the draft program.
In addition, the Forest Service participated in two oversight hearings, one which you referenced, Madame Chairman.
The public has had access to the latest version of the draft plan through the Internet, and in addition, the Forest Service has consulted with Members of the House Agriculture Committee, of this Committee, and the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee as well as the relevant committees in the Senate.
The Forest Service has two mission-derived goals and one management goal as a part of our strategic plan. These goals are to ensure sustainable ecosystems, provide multiple benefits for people within the capability of ecosystems, and improve organizational effectiveness through management initiatives. Each of these strategic goals have objectives focused on quantifiable outcomes for a three to 5-year period, and I have a display with me, Madame Chairman, that highlights those specific goals and outcomes. Let me put that up.
It is an ongoing challenge for the Forest Service and land management agencies to develop outcomes which measure the health of the land, and we are actively engaged in efforts to develop those quantifiable measures.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Interagency collaboration is occurring to develop common goals and performance measures. Regional ecosystem assessments that have occurred in the Sierra Nevadas, the Pacific Northwest, and the Columbia River Basin will help to establish baseline data for results. The Natural Resources Performance Measures Forum, which the Forest Service participates in, is another effort underway to try and put together those meaningful measures.
The resource conditions identified in the RPA assessment provided a focus for strategic goals and objectives in the GPRA strategic plan. Although ways of measuring resource needs are still being developed, considerable investments will be needed to ensure sustainable ecosystems and to meet appropriate levels of demand for uses, goods, services, and information.
Financial resources will come from a variety of sources including, of course, appropriations, permanent and trust funds, contributions from partners, fees such as we are collecting now under our recreation fee demo program, and cost savings from new technology and re-engineering of our work processes to reduce redundancy and improve efficiency.
Based on consultation with Congress, the Forest Service is revising its GPRA strategic plan. The final plan will incorporate some changes that Congress has requested, including explicit language linking the laws to the agency's mission; address long-term objectives for the agency's major functions; identification of key tasks and baseline information needed; linkage of strategic goals and objectives to performance goals in the annual performance plan; identification of key factors external to the Forest Service that could have an impact; and last, a description of how program evaluations will be used to refine strategic goals.
Madame Chairman, I would say in summary that we have found the GPRA to be an extremely valuable tool in helping to identify a clear set of goals and objectives to provide us the mechanism to better measure and hold accountable the managers within the Forest Service for achieving those goals and outcomes.
We look forward to working with you and other Members of the Subcommittee as we move forward with the GPRA strategic plan, and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have this morning.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of James R. Lyons may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Lyons. I would like to recognize Mr. Doolittle for opening questions.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you. In the strategic plan for the USDA, it is stated that there are two goals that are of particular importance to the Forest Service stakeholders. The first is to enhance the economic safety net for farmers and ranchers.
I just wondered why loggers or forest product mill owners and others who depend on the national forest system for their livelihood were not included in that strategic goal. Are they second-class citizens or was that just an unintentional oversight, or what is the story there?
Mr. LYONS. I suppose I should answer that. I certainly would emphasize the fact that we are concerned about the incomes and the economic stability of all those that reside in rural communities, including loggers and mill operators, as well as others who realize their economic wellbeing from the national forests or from forests in general, so I would suggest that you not read into that that we meant to exclude them.
We probably should state it more clearly that that is in fact one of our goals.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I think that would be good to amend your plan to reflect that.
It is my understanding that we have annually four times the amount of new product grown on forests than we are harvesting, and we know these forests are choking with dead and dying trees. They are also choking with understory and with trees that are in dire need of being thinned.
I just wonder in light of what the harvest plans are, if you could comment, Mr. Lyons, or the gentlemen that are with you, how do you plan on dealing with this?
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LYONS. As you know, Congressman, from our recent visit this past weekend to Tahoe that we face a tremendous challenge. The challenge is to improve forest health and do so in a way that protects other resources and in essence sustains the production of all the goods and services that come from the national forests.
We attempt to achieve that balance through the work that is done on individual forests and developed through specific forest plans involving the effect on communities and the public in making those decisions.
But the challenge nevertheless exists to try and maintain production across a wide spectrum of goods and services, and although forest growth wood supply may be increasing, we are at the same time trying to ensure that as we produce sustainable timber, we are addressing those other resource conditions and needs.
For example, in the Tahoe Basin, water quality would be a consideration which serves as a constraint in some places, but restoring forest health through increased thinning and reintroduction of prescribed fire becomes a goal that we seek to achieve.
I think that is how we attempt to strive to achieve that balance and also capitalize on the opportunities that exist through things like increased wood production.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. As I understood the comments of even Secretary Babbitt up there at Tahoe last weekend, Tahoe is past the point right now of really being able to use prescribed fire until adequate thinning has been done first. Did I understand his comments correctly?
Mr. LYONS. That is correct. In many places, that is true.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. You have such a terrible fuel load buildup that a prescribed fire would pose too great a risk to the surrounding trees and to the lake ultimately.
What is the timetable, in your mind or as you understand it, for dealing with Tahoe? When would that aggressive thinning operation be completed, do you think?
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LYONS. Being completed is a hard question to answer. I can tell you that we are committed within the next 90 days per the President's comments to put together and announce an aggressive strategy, and the additional funds that we committed to in that particular region would allow us to treat 3,000 acres where we are treating now only a few hundred, but that is a large basin.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I was going to say, what is the total amount of acreage that needs to be treated?
Mr. LYONS. I don't have that figure before me, but I can tell you it is much more than simply 3,000 acres. The challenge there is obtaining the resources to be able to move even more aggressively than we are now.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I understand that much, if not all, of that thinning will be pretty much done with helicopter logging. Is that your understanding?
Mr. LYONS. I don't know if that is necessarily the case, because a lot of mechanical thinning can be done. It is the function of slopes and soil stability, and that will be determined on the ground.
The economics of harvesting the dead and dying material in there could have a big impact on whether or not helicopter logging is a feasible alternative.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. You brought up that issue. It has been a problem getting the dead and dying timber out, not just in Tahoe but in general, while it still has commercial value. That is something that is of concern to me, because then we hear all our friends over here when it comes time to fund the roads program tell us about how we have below-cost timber sales. To me, it is sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There wouldn't be below-cost timber sales if they could be obtained economically and in a timely fashion, and I wonder if you would care to comment about that.
Mr. LYONS. Well, we have below-cost timber sales. We have quite a few below-cost timber sales, but the truth of the matter is that we have forests that are in a deteriorating condition throughout much of the west, not just in California, but in Montana and Idaho and other places.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would, and I know Chief Dombeck agrees, characterize our need as a need to make investments in improving forest health, and in some instances, those investments will not pay off immediately in terms of a return to the treasury, but the payoff may be longer term in terms of improved resource condition, improved production, or reduced wildfire risk.
It is much more prudent to spend $1,000,000 improving the health of several thousand acres of forest than it is $1,000,000 a day to fight a wildfire in that same area, and I think that is the way we view the investments that we are attempting to make in improving resource condition.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Do you have an estimate, Mr. Lyons, for all the forests you have jurisdiction over how much money is needed to accomplish the necessary fuel reduction?
Mr. LYONS. I do not. I would have to provide that information for the record.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I would appreciate if you would do that, and when you do that, give us, if you can, the money, the people involved, the other resources involved in accomplishing that. I would like to see a time line.
We all just came from Tahoe, I realize, this last weekend, but I don't know how many thousands of acres we are talking about there in Tahoe. I assume it is many times 3,000 acres, and yet it appears to me that it would be very difficult to accomplish just that little area in any short amount of time, and the whole Sierra Nevada range is overcrowded like that, and furthermore, not just the Sierra Nevadas, but really throughout, as you observed, much of the west.
I marvel at what is going to happen as we are annually growing four times as much wood product as we are harvesting, and this keeps compounding year after year after year, how we will everif we embarked upon a full scale effort today, a logging effort and ramped up for that, I just don't see how we would ever catch up with it. Am I missing something there? Is it not as dire as that? I just wondered how you perceived this.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LYONS. I think in some situations, it is urgent that we make investments in the short term. It is a mix of treatments that are necessary, as you pointed out, and lots of fuel treatments are necessary to reduce the amount of material on the ground and then prescribed fire needs to be reintroduced.
In other places, it is stabilizing stream banks and improving watersheds because of pasture impacts.
There is a considerable investment that needs to be made in the natural resources estate, if you will, that we are attempting to quantify. However, given budget constraints and other concerns, we are trying to be prudent where we make those investments.
Tahoe would be a good example. The investments we will make in thinning and fuel treatment there will be focused initially on the rural/urban interface, on those areas near population centers so we can create a buffer, not unlike the concepts that have been promoted by the Quincy Library Group and their strategic fuel zones which is part of the legislation that you all helped to move through the House.
If we had unlimited resources, that would be marvelous, but recognizing that we don't, we have to be prudent about where we make those investments, and we will be strategic, but certainly the needs, not only for thinning and fuel treatment but for investments in resource stability, even investments in the recreation estate far exceed our resources at the present time, which is why we are looking for new and innovative ways to finance these projects.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. If I may, Madame Chairman, I will quickly ask this last question, but it sort of relates to Mr. Lyons' last comments.
The draft contends that the Forest Service has supported communities through the maintenance of timber harvest levels, and to me, that is just ludicrous on its face representing areas myself where I have seen what has happened in recent years.
As I understand it, and if you disagree with this, please tell me or provide for the record, the Forest Service has not maintained offers for sale or harvest levels at all.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, since 1990, I understand the levels have dropped by 65 percent, and over 300 mills have closed in the northwest. I guess my question in addition to raising those points is, why does the Forest Service continue to cause undue hardship on hundreds of rural communities by only offering 50 percent of what could be sustainably harvested?
Mr. LYONS. I think the key question there is what is sustainable, and unfortunately, prior harvest levels are not sustainable when one takes into consideration our multiple-use mandate and the requirement we have under existing law to sustain the production of all goods and services from the national forest. That is one of the reasons harvest levels have declined in various parts of the country.
One of the issues we faced early on in this Administration was the uncertainty associated with harvest levels, and the Pacific Northwest was the first area where we had to tackle that question. We had injunctions that shut down harvests because of concern about impacts on certain habitats and fish and wildlife species.
We put together a plan that provides certainty, provides a sustainable level of harvest, and we have moved forward aggressively to ensure that we can sustain production at that level and protect those other resources.
That is the balance and the tradeoff we seek to strike in putting together plans, and as we will move forward with new forest plans, of course, we will have to do this all over again in terms of looking at the specific needs for communities.
You recognize, I know, Congressman, because I have been in your part of the country, that community needs are changing as well. Communities are becoming less dependent on one forest product, if you will, timber, and more dependent on multiple products. We see that in communities throughout the west where other needs and other issues are being addressed, whether it is scenic quality that serves as an incentive for a company to come into a community, or it is recreation and tourism as another base to support the economy of a community, and it is that diversity that we need to achieve.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are no longer focused just on one outcome, timber, in putting communities in a position where they are going to respond to the ups and downs of the markets and demands and international markets and other things we can't affect, but we are trying to respond to all the needs that communities are identifying, and more and more, it is that diverse mix, and we see it across the landscape.
Our role is basically to ensure that we can help communities realize whatever their goals are economically, and we are not making a predetermined outcome that timber is what every community needs to be involved in.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I don't want to argue with you about this, but in fact, you are making predetermined outcomes when you force the 65-percent reduction in the harvest levels.
Sure, they are going to turn to tourism and recreation. That doesn't amount to anything compared to the high-paying jobs in manufacturing.
Tourism and recreation is great if that is all you have, but it shouldn't be the mainstay of communities, and Madame Chair, maybe you will bring this out later on in the hearing, but it just seems to me that we are choking with overcrowding of the forests and at the same time, we have had dramatic reductions in the levels of harvests.
I don't see how we would ever catch up if we had a full-scale effort to ramp up again that we have let it get so far ahead of us.
I am trying to understand, Mr. Lyons. You in your own testimony indicate that these are problems, but to me, the solutions being offered don't begin to address the severity of the problem or offer any hope of ever catching up.
Even for as high a priority area as Lake Tahoe which is at high risk for catastrophic fire, which when that happens, that will much more severely impact the lake than the threats presently posed from existing sources, and I just wonder if even Lake Tahoe, we can only talk about addressing 3,000 acres, what are we going to do with the hundreds of millions of acres of national forest lands that aren't getting that level of attention?
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. LYONS. I would only reiterate that we are going to do everything we can with the resources we have to identify those priority needs and again, it is a matter of striking a balance in terms of the investments we make.
It is a matter of making prudent use of the dollars we need to treat 3,000 acres in Tahoe while at the same time dealing with erosion from an existing road network, much of which is no longer used, to trying to deal with watershed improvements that are critical, to trying to maintain campgrounds and trails which are critical to the economy of that region.
That is what we attempt to do on a forest-by-forest basis, to strike that balance and make sure we make investments that are going to help protect those resources.
Again, we do not have unlimited resources, so we have to make prudent use of what we have, make the best investments we can to try and protect the integrity of those resources.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Doolittle. We will return for another round of questioning, if you desire.
The chair now recognizes Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Thank you, Madame Chairman. Mr. Lyons, the GAO report was particularly critical of the decisionmaking process that the Forest Service uses and the decentralized management structure within the Forest Service, and certainly, I think any person who lives in a State with national forests, just a casual observer would notice that it doesn't seem that you can get decisions made and that you can get them made in a timely fashion and make those decisions stick.
The criticism is that you can't even get together on what your goals ought to be. My observation would be, and I found it astounding that in your strategic plan, you are setting as a benchmark, as a goal, that you will establish a benchmark for the condition of the forest for the year 2001.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Aside from that, tell me what you are going to do to streamline the decisionmaking process within the Forest Service.
Mr. LYONS. Congressman, let meI am going to ask Francis to address some of the management decisionmaking process improvements that we need to make, and I concur with that part of the GAO report, that we certainly need to improve mechanisms by which we make decisions.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. That is not identified, though, as a goal in the strategic plan in any fashion.
Mr. LYONS. Well, I think it is part of our increasing organizational effectiveness, but I want to address the issue you just raised in passing, which was that you said we have difficulty identifying or agreeing our goals and objectives, and we don't even have baseline data.
Truth be told, we don't have adequate baseline data for many of the management activities we undertake in the national forests, and we are scrambling to gather those baseline data so that we have a framework within which we can measure our managers' performance.
In many respects, what we have done is, we have taken the resources we have over time and we have invested them in producing goods and services, primarily timber, and we haven't invested a great deal in the basic data bases we need to ensure that we can understand how what we are doing is changing resource conditions and trends and improving or impacting our ability to meet public demand for those goods and services over time.
That is the reason we have done ecosystem assessments, regional assessments like the Columbia River Basin assessment, so we have those baseline data.
I am sure you would agree if you were managing a business, the first thing you would need to know is the status of the business and the health of the business. You need to know what your demand is, you need to know supplies, you need to know the quality of the goods and services you are producing. You need to understand your customers' impressions of those goods and supplies.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would agree with you, and that is some of the baseline data we are trying to put together right now. It is ironic that we are doing it now.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. But it is 2 years now. We started this process 2 years ago, trying to develop a plan, and frankly, I think that is a fair length of time.
The question I really want you to address is the question about streamlining the process, because even bring a timber sale forward or developing a modification to a management plan on oil and gas production, I don't care what it is, the time it takes for you to go through the process isin many instances, we have resources that are deteriorating while you are trying to go through the process.
Mr. LYONS. Let me answer that quickly, and I am going to let Francis get into the details, but having those baseline data will improve our efficiency and time limits, because every time we have to make a decision like that, we have to go out and gather new data, and that is why it is so critical that we have the baseline data to start from.
Let me let Francis talk about the process question that you raised.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Thank you.
Mr. PANDOLFI. Thank you. Congressman Hill, I would address your question about streamlining the process by talking about accountability in the Forest Service and the lack of it.
This is brand new to me. I have been in the private sector for 30 years, and if it ever took me 2 years to accomplish something in the corporations I have run, much less 2 months, probably I wouldn't be here today. I would have another job.
The problem, as I see it, is that we simply don't have good accountability, and that is why projects take so long and people change and then they start all up again, and so on and so forth.
The question is, how are we going to achieve accountability.
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. In essence, what you are saying is that you are reinventing the wheel every time you are trying to do a project?
Mr. PANDOLFI. Yes, sure. I will give you a perfect example of something I ran into this week where we have been working with a consultant for 4 years to determine what kind of a computer system we ought to have in one of our departments, and it has cost us $800,000 thus far to do this.
I asked the consultant, I said, you know, you can get a full education at Harvard University and have the summers off to boot in this period of time, and still you haven't got an answer for us, and he said, well, the problem is that we have gone throughfive people have sat in the director's chair in this department in the period I have been here, and there have been five contracting officers and so on and so forth.
There is always an excuse. There is always a reason why we can't get it done, because who is in charge? The problem is that we tend to work in teams in the Forest Service, and I suppose that is true throughout a lot of the government, and oftentimes, for example, we don't put somebody in charge of the team, so who do you go and ask the question to?
There are a lot of very fundamental things that can be done here to improve accountability. I will just run through two or three quickly for you.
First of all, we define tasks in the Forest Service using a five-page performance description. Now, if it takes five pages to describe the work you are supposed to do, the chances are that at the end of the day, you don't even remember what is on the five pages.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. So this organization is task-oriented instead of result-oriented is what you are saying?
Mr. PANDOLFI. Yes, and what, Congressman, we have prepared now, which we are going to start to discuss with our senior managers, within the next couple of weeks, is task descriptions which consist of five or six bullet points.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You should be able to explain what a person does in five or six simple sentences. We are starting with that.
If you do that, then the next thing that happens is you can avoid duplication between people. If you can avoid duplication, then someone is accountable.
Right now, it is not clear who is accountable, because the job descriptions are all overlapping.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Would you say that that is purposeful? I have had some experience within the private sector in trying to bring planning to the public sector, and one of the things I discovered was is that many times the structure of the organization is intended to defuse accountability rather than to focus accountability. In that way, people don't have to feel responsible.
Do you think that that has been part of the focus, the culture of this organization?
Mr. PANDOLFI. I don't think it is any different in the Forest Service than it is any other place in government would be my guess, but the fact is that that is the way it is, and people accept that in government.
I have read performance evaluations of people that I know are not doing a good job, and you would think they walked on water because there is always something in a five-page performance description that you can comment on that they did and probably did OK on.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. I would like Mr. Hill to comment on that question and on the Forest Service's response.
Mr. HILL. Well, there were a lot of questions that were raised. Let me try to sort through this.
First of all, accountability certainly is a key problem that the agency has. The report that we issued earlier pointed out that there were some additional major problems that the Service was having that would have to be fixed in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of it.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have talked about the lack of agreement on the missions and priorities. There is also the problem of interagency issues that basically transcend the Forest Service boundaries, Federal land management agencies and the State agencies working together to resolve problems on a broader area.
There is also the problem of right now what seems to be reconciling differences among many different laws and statutes that the Forest Service is subject to.
Let me get back to the
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Are those irreconcilable or is it just that the Forest Service hasn't been able to do it, in your opinion?
Mr. HILL. I would hope that they are reconcilable, but I think they are going to take a lot of work on the Forest Service's part and the other Federal land management agencies, and it may even require some congressional action once they sort through it, but it does need to be sorted through, and I think, hopefully, what I heard today in Mr. Lyons' statement is that that is part of what they are going to build into their revised plan that should be coming in a few months.
I would like to talk a little bit about the accountability issue, because that is really a key one, and that is the one that you seem to be focusing on. That really is a problem in the Forest Service, and it is a cultural problem in the organization.
There is just a general indifference toward accountability and I like to describe it as there is almost a dangerous formula here.
You have an organization that is highly decentralized and it needs to be highly decentralized. I think each of these forests have to be managed based upon their unique circumstances and needs of each forest.
You also have what recently occurred, an increase in the flexibility to shift funds within the Forest Service when the Congress revised their budgeting process and condensed some of their accounts, giving them greater flexibility in terms of shifting funds within the agency toward different efforts.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You have what we see as a lack of sufficient accountability for expenditures and performance.
When you add all those together, you have accountability problems, and you have waste, and you have situations where the managers out there are not being held accountable for bringing home projects on time, within cost, and in fact are rewarded for not doing so because when they overrun a budget or overspill a timeframe, they go to Congress and basically ask for additional time or authorizations to make a timber sale happen or to make something happen like in the Tahoe situation.
It is basically not a pretty picture, and it is going to be a difficult one to overcome. We are somewhat optimistic that the Results Act really is the latest tool and a really good tool, by the way, for breaking this cycle and instilling a greater degree of accountability within the agency.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Madame Chair, could I just follow along with one additional question?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes, please do.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. In order for a strategic plan to be successful, they really have to be bottom-up in my view. In other words, if you are going to build a plan for the whole Forest Service, it ought to be built forest-by-forest.
Did that occur in the development of this plan, in your judgment, or was this a top-down plan?
Mr. HILL. Are you asking that question of me?
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Yes, I am.
Mr. HILL. I don't know. Obviously, there was information from both ways. I think Mr. Lyons would be in a better position to really describe how the process worked in terms of pulling the plan together.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Certainly, you need input from the bottom up, but you need direction from the top down. Accountability comes from the top down, so hopefully, they are getting information from both directions, from the bottom up and the top down, and I think that would be the key to a successful plan.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill, we will return for another round of questioning, if you wish.
The chair recognizes Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. Good morning to the panel. Mr. Lyons, in your discussion with Congressman Doolittle, you made a statement that not only the Tahoe area but much of the forest in the west is in serious need of help.
I am from the east, and I am going out to tour the forests in the west so that I become more knowledgeable of the western forests. I have been there a couple times, but not in any kind of a capacity that I was given the information.
Would you explain why you are having such deteriorating health in the forests in so much of the west?
Mr. LYONS. Let me start out by saying that I am from the east, too. I would suggest that one of the reasons is changes in management over time, decisions that were made decades ago that impacted how those western forests were managed.
When we began to exclude fire from many of the forests in the west, a number of changes in the growth and development of those forests occurred.
Mr. PETERSON. When did that happen?
Mr. LYONS. It probably began happening earlier this century. It is a decades-old decision and reflects some of the effectiveness of the Smoky the Bear campaign frankly, which was 50 years old just a couple of years ago.
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But fire, of course, was the nemesis of many communities for a while, and if you look back into history, you can see many communities that had to deal with fire, so there was a great fear of fire and a lack of understanding of the role fire played in western forest ecosystems.
As fire was excluded, the species mix changed. For example, in the California region we were just talking about, as opposed to sugar pine and ponderosa pine which tended to dominate the landscape, the landscape that was affected by lesser intensity fire every 15 to 20 years, the exclusion of fire allowed species like white fir and others to in essence invade those sites.
Those are more tolerant species of shade. They grow up, and since they are not, if you will, the dominant species, they were subject to stress, and when drought, insects, and disease came into an area, there was high mortality of the fir.
The end result is that these trees then and the understory in essence create a ladder for fire to run up into the canopy, and when conditions are ripe, the fire occurs and we have catastrophic fire.
Ordinarily, what would have happened is fire would have run through those systems taking that fir out on a periodic basis, and the landscapes would have been dominated by those larger and what I would characterize as dominant tree species.
That hasn't been the case for decades, and we are dealing with that now. In essence, what we are trying to do is reintroduce something akin to those natural processes on the landscape so that management more mimics what would have happened if we had not interceded and excluded fire.
Mr. PETERSON. Is it a fair statement to say that in general most of the western forests have not been overcut?
Mr. LYONS. I would say generally that is probably the case. Now, I would add as a caveat, there are places where we have overcut certain species, and probably accelerated this decline.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is why, for example, in eastern Washington and Oregon, we are trying to protect ponderosa pine and other dominant species as a seed source to bring that into the system.
But I think as a general rule, that has not been a problem.
Mr. PETERSON. In your goals and objectives, you talk about the goals to ensure sustainable ecosystems and multiple benefits for people and on and on, but that doesn't tell me anything.
I know ''ecosystem'' is the new word and we are all supposed to use it and reverently, but why don't you talk about what the future on that forest of recreation is, wildlife habitat is, and why don't you talk about your goals in timber, grazing, and mining?
Those are the uses of the forest that are outlined in law. Why don't we talk about the specific things that should be done there and if the communities are going to have a plan for their future, they need to know if you are not going to cut timber. They need to know if you are going to shut down grazing there. They need to know if recreation is going to be curtailed there.
Those are all parts of life in rural America, and so often, you talk so nebulously that your plans don't give us any idea of what is really going to happen there.
Mr. LYONS. I would suggest, Mr. Peterson, that you are right.
At this level, what we have stated as outcomes, maintaining vital communities, sustaining levels of products and services, healthy ecosystems, are rather nebulous terms.
Those then are, if you will, the framework within which we have defined specific goals and some of those are laid out on the chart here, but then down at the specific ground level, we expect our managers within this framework to develop specific measurable outcomes which would define, for example, the quantity of rangeland improvement we expect them to generate, how much improvement in watershed is expected, commodity production goals based on their sustainable management objectives, and all those would be incorporated in the specific forest plans, which as Congressman Hill suggested, would then build from the ground up and help to define what our capacities are and help us understand what our capability is to meet projected demand for all those goods and services, so that specificity would occur, for example, on the Allegheny National Forest where we talk about how much cherry wood is harvested, what our prescriptions and goals are for achieving certain management outcomes.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. I know that as an agency, you are pulled in a lot of directions, and you have an audience that does not agree on how you should be utilized.
In my area, we know that if we don't fight, we don't think you will offer timber for sale because there is a lot of pressure not to do that. Right or wrong, that is a separate argument.
It seems to me as an agency you have been overly sensitive to groups that speak loudly whether they are big or small. You are very timid about standing up for what you do, and I mean that sincerely. You have become a very sensitive agency that is kind of afraid of your own shadow.
If you have a plan and this is what you are going to do and you are following the laws, I think it is your God-given job to speak up for it, but it seems to me that you bend and twist real easily to whatever the current criticism is, and there will always be criticism. You will be criticized from all sides, but that is part of serving in government.
I think you are an agency that needs to get a spine, and I mean that sincerely, and have a plan, that plan publicly debated, and then carry it out, and there will always be people on different sides taking a whack at you, but that is the public policy arena.
Mr. LYONS. Well, it may surprise you to know that I don't disagree with that. I think it is important for us to place a stake in the ground and be clear about what we seek to achieve, and then engage in a broader public debate.
I think as an organization we have suffered in the court of public opinion, in part because of a lack of understanding, and in part, because of mistakes made in the past, and in part, because of court cases that didn't go our way.
It is critically important, and I hope this whole GPRA process will allow us then to define those specific goals and objectives we set as Francis indicated, and I think you can see that Mr. Pandolfi is a breath of fresh air in the organization.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Then we want to hold our managers accountable for those specific outcomes, measure their performance by whether or not they achieve what they have committed to achieve in terms of all the management goals and objectives that are set.
I think this is the only way to get the job done. If not, then we will be, as Mr. Hill suggested, process-oriented. We have lots of process. We have a difficult time getting product out, and by that, I don't just mean timber. I mean all the other things we produce.
You are absolutely right. We are misleading communities, we are offering a promise as opposed to a specific outcome, and that is not the appropriate role for the organization to play.
I am optimistic though that we are going to get there and get there quickly because we have the capacity now to lay out those specific goals and objectives, and hopefully develop measures of outcomes by which we can hold our managers accountable.
Mr. PETERSON. One issue I just wanted to mention was that you highly underestimated is the potential of exotic pests. I know the Allegheny Forest wasone piece of land you didn't want to own during the period of years when the gypsy moth and other insectswe had three or four in a row there that just hammered that region of Pennsylvania, the land you didn't want to own was next to the forest because you almost knew it wasn't going to be sprayed, and you could spray yours to protect your timber, but the blowover of insects from the forest would wipe you right out again.
Those who owned land next to the forest were the ones who really suffered because the forestagain, a public criticism of spraying, did not spray, and now we are having mortality, heavy mortality. Now, we are trying to harvest some of that and we have the same public protests for even cutting down the dead trees.
You are not going to get away from criticism, but there again, it is an area that I thought we were notthe Forest Service was too sensitive again. I think they knew what to do, but they were afraid to do it.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you for coming before us.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. We will return for another round of questioning.
I have some questions. I first want to say that it is very interesting as I sit here and listen and observe and feel the frustration on both sides. My own frustration, of course, has peaked out quite some time ago coming from a State that has many communities that are timber-based.
As I sat here and thought as I pictured the forest, this understory and this problem that we are having now didn't start with the Clinton Administration. It really started back in the 1960's. It really started when we had a Democratic president, not because of him. It just started evolving through Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and now you men have the problem of fixing the critical mass.
There is a lot on your shoulders, and I recognize that, but I know that we have increased funding every year for our Forest Service, and I think that as long as we can keep the goals so that we understand it and they are in sync with the existing law that we can begin to resolve the problem together.
What we need are men to match our mountains. I will tell you, this is not an easy solution, but it must be resolved. I think we all sit here and breathe a sigh of relief, and thank you, Mr. Lyons, and thanks to Mr. Dombeck for bringing somebody like Mr. Pandolfi in that has a focus we haven't seen for a very, very long time in the agency. I know that it is always good to have people in your administrative level who can do that.
I thank you for luring him out of the private sector and into the Forest Service, because the problems are not easy to resolve, and I recognize that. Our concern, my direct questions, my questions that may at times be uncomfortable, are because I want us to come together on the goals, and I think the goals have been clearly laid out in statutory authority, and I blanch and get very irritated when I think of an agency trying to redefine the goals from those that Congress has clearly laid out in the forest and rangeland existing laws, under the national forest system land and resource management plans, under the Forest Resource Planning Act, section 1604, item [m], where it lays out clearly what the Secretary shall establish, and it is pretty clear.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It sets standards to ensure the prior-to-harvest stands of trees throughout the national forest system shall generally have reached the culmination of mean annual incremental growth. That is for harvest, but it also provides that these standards shall not preclude the use of sound, silvicultural practices, such as thinning or other stand improvement measures, and it provides further that the standards shall not preclude the Secretary from salvage or sanitization harvesting of timber stands which are substantially damaged by fire, wind, or other catastrophe or which are in imminent danger from insect or disease attack.
That is so very clear, and I guess I get frustrated because we see through various focus groups and so forth we are moving away from that. Congress hasn't changed that goal, and to have the Forest Service re-establish goals other than the goals that the Congress has established is a source of frustration, and I think, Mr. Lyons, this is the frustration you are feeling from some of our Members.
I want to ask the GAO some questions. Mr. Pandolfi has given us some indication of the focus that we will be seeing in the Forest Service, but you say that the Forest Service's lack of accountability has caused excessively lengthy and costly decisionmaking.
What exactly is the link here, and are these problems or this lack of accountability something so widespread in the agency that we cannot apply general accounting and business practices and decisionmaking practices to resolve this issue? Generally, how long are we going to have to wait, do you think?
Mr. HILL. I don't have an answer to that question, Madame Chairman, unfortunately. I would like to give Mr. Egan perhaps a chance to respond to this as well.
I talked about this earlier, but I will say that the accountability problem has been a longstanding problem, and it will be a difficult one to resolve because of the culture of the organization.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Interestingly enough, it is a problem that the agency has recognized for many years dating backit has been recognized by a number of agencies including GAO as early as 1981, and the Forest Service itself studied the issue in the early 1990's with an accountability task force and have studied it numerous times since, and has come up with specific recommendations that they feel could fix it.
One of the concerns we have is their lack of following through on those studies and implementing those recommendations, so I think a good starting point would be to look within their own task force results and see from there what they can pull out and use as a foundation to buildupon.
With that, I would like Mr. Egan to say a few words.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. EGAN. I would just like to add an example, and it kind of goes on what Congressman Hill was discussing.
One of the problems that they always have when they go to make a decision is a lack of data. The point is, that they have not just had 2 years to fix that problem.
When they were developing their first set of forest plans back in the late 1970's, we came up with a report and testified on the fact that the agency didn't have the information it needed to make informed decisions, and then ten to fifteen years later they go to redo their plans, when they go to prepare the strategic plan, they say, lo and behold, we still don't have the data that we need to make informed decisions.
The efforts that they have undertaken to re-engineer themselves have run into a roadblock because they don't have data on inventory. When they tried to use it in one forest in California, the forest didn't know where its streams were, much less the conditions of the streams, and that is an example to me of why it is so important that the agency take advantage of the new leadership and advantage of the new law and address those problems that have been identified as deficiencies for a decade or longer.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Mr. Pandolfi, did you wish to contribute?
Mr. PANDOLFI. Yes, I would. Thank you, Madame Chairman.
I would like to answer your question specifically, the one that you asked about when you can assume the Forest Service will have better data and greater accountability. It will easily take several years.
This is nothing that we are going to be able to solve overnight. What took 20 years to create cannot be fixed in 20 months, and I would point out an interesting comparison actually of a very effective private sector example of an organization that had to do very much the same things that we have to do, and that is General Electric, where Jack Welch, the CEO, is universally regarded as one of the most effective CEOs in the country, and it took him 10 years to get General Electric where he wanted to get it and to achieve the kinds of things that today make that corporation recognized as one of the most outstanding in our country.
Now, that is not, however, to say that we should all feel depressed about this, because if we make progress, I think we can feel good, but we need to understand the problems and we need to have tough actions to fix them.
I am going to give you just a couple of examples of things that we have to recognize. Decentralization, that I believe Barry Hill mentioned a few minutes ago.
The Forest Service takes enormous price in decentralizationwe have managers in the field who can do what has to be done and we can count on them to do it.
Decentralization is just fine when it comes to resource management, providing we have some overall direction and policy. Decentralization is killing the Forest Service when it comes to administration.
We cannot have every forest region measuring trees differently which today is the case. We cannot have every forest region handling its accounts receivable and its accounts payable according to different standards, which is the case today.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are in the process of installing a new general ledger, a new accounting system that we hope will go into place October 1 of this year that will begin to remedy these problems. You should take some comfort in the fact that things are ongoing now to remedy the problems that the GAO has brought up.
But I would say that the problem in the Forest Service is not a data base that has better information with respect to the size of the trees or a general ledger or a list of tasks as I indicated earlier. The problem in the Forest Service from a management point of view is in my estimation the most interesting and challenging problem any manager could have, and that is to change the culture.
In the Forest Service, the people say we are the Forest Service, we take care of the land, and that is that. That has been the way it has been for many, many years, and we have to show people that there is an incentive to pay better attention to how to run the business, and if they pay better attention to how to run the business, we will be far more effective managers.
Our unit costs have gone out of control in region one in MontanaI believe you are in region one alsoand the unit costs have gone out of control which creates enormous inefficiency in how we spend the money that we can barely get our hands on, because for example, doing a timber sale today is far different, I understand, than doing it 10 years ago. There are so many legal challenges now, our employees try to bullet-proof every sale, they work and work and work to create the sale, and by the time they get the decision done, there may be other factors impinging upon the sale that mean we should cancel it anyway.
These are some of the serious problems that have to be overcome. So the question is, what is the incentive? Why should anyone want to change in the Forest Service? After all, we won't have financial statements this fall, and Congress still gave us the money. You still gave us $2,500,000,000 to spend even though we don't have this information.
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC They see that they can continue to get money even though we don't have the systems and procedures that we need to run the business effectively. The incentive, however, I think is very clear.
I have been on 20 forests since I have come here, and I love to fish and hunt, and I love to ski, and I find the forests enormously beautiful. Very fortunately, and I think you all three know, the young people, the people that we have out there in the forests, they care a great deal. They care an enormous amount about what goes on, and we are darned lucky to have them out there.
Now, what incentivizes then? It is not the stock option plan. What it is is to put more money onto the land to do a better job, to see that the fish are healthier, to see that the riparian area is healthy, and so on, so that if we can provide for them the money to do that by being more efficient, which we can do with better data, we will incentivize them to change in a way that has never been done before.
No one has ever pointed that out, and that is a very powerful incentive.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Pandolfi, I used to teach what is it that motivates employees, and it isn't just more money.
Mr. PANDOLFI. No.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And I know that you know that, too, from your background. It is the ability to know that there isn't a moving target out there as far as the goals. That is why I think it is so important that our goals should focus on the statutory authority, the statutory law.
If we don't have moving goals, then we don't have plans that change as much as they do. Unfortunately, there has been case law that has come down that has interrupted this whole process. I do understand that.
It is incumbent upon us to help straighten that out, but the fact is that we do have moving goals, and these young people out there who love the forest as much as you and I do don't know where to light, and plans are developed and then they are shelved, and nobody can see the footprints in the sand of the results that they invested a whole lot of their life in, trying to bring a plan forth.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I do understand their frustration, but I do see the problem as twofold, a moving goalpost as far as the goals, and the continued interruption of litigation that has caused these goals to move in large part, plus I think whatever reason they might have, but I do think we need to go back to statutory law.
Mr. Hill, do you have any other questions?
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Thank you, Madame Chair. Following up on that very subject, one of the concerns I do have is that the people who are out there on the land may very well have a different vision in mind with regard to what the goals and the performance ought to be than what Congress has instructed.
I think that is part of the dilemma that we are having here, and I think that there is some sense that maybe gridlock is working to one advantage or the other, and I would just caution you about that.
Let me ask you a question, and I know this is going to difficult for you, Mr. Pandolfi, but on a scale of one to ten, ten being a high performance organization and one being a low performance organization, where would you put the U.S. Forest Service?
Mr. PANDOLFI. One.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. And where do you think it
Mr. PANDOLFI. Excuse me. I should clarify that. There is a lot of very effective stuff that goes on out in the field. When you addressed the question to me, I assumed perhaps you were referring to the administrative ends of the business and how we keep our records. One.
I think there are a lot of people in the field that have to get tens, because they do real good work.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Where do you think it will be in the year 2000?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PANDOLFI. My guess is that we certainly will have made improvements. We will be no GE.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. How long will we wait before we have an eight to ten organization?
Mr. PANDOLFI. As I said a minute ago, the fact is that the challenge in the Forest Service is not to put in a better accounting system. The challenge is to get people to think differently, and to get people to think differently, as the chairman has just said, you need to find incentives to motivate them, and the incentive clearly is not a bonus in their wallet.
We have to begin to put some successes together. You build brick by brick. That is why this is so hard. Brick by brick, nail by nail. There is no magic for what has to be done.
In fact, it is exciting that the management tools that are needed here have been in place for years. We have had debits and credits for 250 years. All we have to do is use them correctly.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. The fact is that the Forest Service does have the ability to generate resources. They can generate revenue.
Mr. PANDOLFI. Absolutely.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Mr. Lyons, let me ask you the same question. Where would you rate the organization today on a scale of one to ten?
Mr. LYONS. I am not going to comment on our administrative effectiveness, because I think Francis has hammered that home.
I would give us a little better rating in terms of our resource management performance, although I think we are going through a transition. I would give us up around a four or five.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are certainly not where we want to be.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. And where will we be in the year 2000?
Mr. LYONS. Again, I think we will be making some improvement, but that is going to take some time.
I want to comment on Francis' point about culture, because I have been at this now for 4 years, and I have run headlong into the culture on a number of occasions.
It is a fascinating situation. I don't have the business experience that Francis has. I worked on Capitol Hill for 6 years, so I don't know what that qualifies me for, Congressman, but anyway
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Probably not a high performance organization.
Mr. LYONS. Maybe the two of us could sit down and work on it together.
I can assure you that dealing with the Forest Service which has a proud and long history which helps to define its culture and effecting change in that culture is a rather difficult task.
One way is to identify and incentivize the organization, determine what it is that motivates people. Another way, frankly, to effect change is simply through changes in leadership, and we are going through a number of changes and have been over the last year or two merely by virtue of the demographics of the organization where we have a lot of people who are at the senior level of performance and will be moving on.
I suggest that only to note that that affords us an opportunity perhaps to effect some change as well, as new leaders come up who have a different understanding of what needs to be accomplished and more focused on efficiency and business practice, and perhaps more motivated than people who have been there for a long time, who frankly are more concerned about protecting the culture than effecting change in the organization.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC All organizations go through change. It is remarkable to me that the Forest Service has been able to resist change for as long as it has.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. It is also important that these new leaders make sure their vision of the Forest Service is consistent with Congress', and I have some concern about that.
Obviously, you have a mixed mandate here, and leaders can choose to put emphasis on one mandate over another, and I think it is very, very important that if this is going to be a healthy organization that is going to sustain that health over the long term, it has to make sure that the leaders are compatible, that their vision is compatible with the policymakers, and I think Chairwoman Chenoweth alluded to that in her questioning.
Mr. Hill, I would ask you to make your comment about the performance of the Forest Service.
Mr. HILL. I would agree with Mr. Lyons and Mr. Pandolfi that the Forest Service is on the low end of that scale currently. If you also ask me where they are likely to be in the year 2000
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. With this plan. Is this plan that they have presented in draft form, is this going to take them to a high performance organization in your judgment?
Mr. HILL. The plan as currently written will not, and I think it will be a slowly evolving process.
What I was going to say that if you look historically, my projection by the year 2000 is, they are likely still to be on the low end of the scale based on their history of studying problems and making recommendations but not following through and putting things in place and holding their managers accountable.
On the optimistic side, with the Results Act requirements, I think there is a new opportunity here to break that cycle, and with Mr. Lyons' testimony this morning in terms of the changes that he is planning to make to the draft plan I think are all really good, strong steps in the right direction. If those changes are made, I am optimistic that the plan will be much better than is currently laid out.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But the Results Act process is going to be a long-term effort. It is going to take years for all Federal agencies to see really positive results there, and I think that is particularly true of the Forest Service where you have a lot of complex issues and controversies that have to be sifted through, but the important thing is, if we are going to make progress, we have to get off on a good foot, we have to start on a good foundation, and so I think it is important that the changes they make to their draft plan be in accordance with the changes that Mr. Lyons suggested they were going to make.
In terms of making progress and resolving their issues, I think the term that we are using now is that this is where accountability begins. It is time to stop talking about it and use the Results Act and the strategic plan that is going to be finalized at the end of this fiscal year to start the accountability process.
Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. I just want to thank all of the members of the panel for their candidness and their testimony here, and I just want to let all of you know that a healthy Forest Service matters a great deal to me and to the people who are my constituents for obvious reasons.
I have a lot of national forest land. Montanans use the national forest not only to make a living but also extensive to recreate. It is a wonderful resource that we have, and we want to do everything that we can, and I will do everything that I can to work with all of you to achieve that.
I would just further say to you that I would urge you to be very careful, and I am making reference to the forest chief's comments that would tend to put emphasis on one or the other of the many mandates that you have.
If you really want to have an organization that is going to be able to put into place a consistent plan, it will have to be consistent with Congress' mandates, and without an over-emphasis on one or the other of the multiple-use goals.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And if you don't, the next administration that comes in is going to have a different vision, and whoever that is or the next Congress, and that is going to make it difficult to have an organization that is healthy over the long term.
Thank you very much for being here. I appreciate it very much. Thank you, Madame Chairman, for this hearing.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill. I have so many questions, I don't know where to begin, and this may not be quick and easy.
I have just sent my staff out, Mr. Lyons, for a response that we received from the Panhandle Forest in northern Idaho, and as you may know, last November, we suffered a severe ice storm there, and about one-third of the timber broke about 30 feet up, and it is lying on the forest floor.
This is the kind of accountability forest by forest we need to work on, because I had asked last December, asked the forest supervisor to keep me posted as to what his plans were to pick that timber up off the forest floor.
I know that that particular region had to go through a 30-percent cut in employees because there wasn't any more money in the timber trust fund, and yet all we have to do is go out and pick those logs or those broken portions up off the ground, and of course, take care, as you know, of the broken stumps, because they are a wonderful habitat for bugs and all kinds of diseases and problems. They will all die, and they are nearly dead now, and fire could come in there very easily.
I never did hear from the forest supervisor. Finally, I had the Committee staff call the regional supervisor who I have a lot of respect for; we all do in the northwest for all of those regional supervisors that you have placed there. He assured us that we would receive a report and a telephone call. I didn't even ask for the call to come to me. I asked for it to come to my staff, because it is easier to find my staff.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is the report that we had faxed through. Of all of that downed timber, this is the report that we had faxed through.
So when we ask for accountability, I have reached the end of my rope, so I am going to you with it before going public with it in Idaho. I think accountability to not only me but to you, the chief, and Mr. Pandolfi as he is trying to get information retrieval banks set up in each forest. We also need to know how ongoing projects are progressing.
This is pitiful, and of course, as was just testified to, that has the highest unit of cost of any of the regions, along with one of the regions in Montana.
I would appreciate your personal focus on that. I would like to be able to build up the timber trust fund just from taking care of this salvage.
Do you have any response? I don't want to just lay this on you without response, and if you don't care to respond, that is fine.
Mr. LYONS. Let me apologize for the fact that you didn't get a response as you should have, and I will assure you that you will have a response before the close of business today.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Lyons. I want the response as I know you do, too, to show progress, and I want us to build up that timber trust account again.
Mr. LYONS. I will talk to your staff to get the specific information that you need.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much. You mentioned that you are legislatively mandated to manage for six renewable natural surface uses which, as we know, are already in the statutes, none of which are ecosystems. I personally believe ecosystem management is a value rather than a tool that we can use to achieve a goal.
Your first strategic goal is to restore and protect ecosystems. It seems that we have moved away from the six renewable natural surface uses into a harder to define goal of ecosystem management, so the basis for your first goal and multiple use or the basis of these six goals and multiple use seem to have been set aside.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Isn't restoring and protecting ecosystems really a management approach or a strategy to achieve a goal rather than a goal in and of itself? How do you feel about that?
Mr. LYONS. Well, I think managing to protect healthy ecosystems is a mechanism to ensure that we meet our legal mandates under the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act.
I think it is defined as a goal because we have a great deal of work to do to address issues associated with the health of ecosystems as a mechanism for ensuring that we can sustain production of the multiple benefits which you mentioned, and that work runs the gamut from restoring deteriorated watersheds to dealing with the backlog of road maintenance to ensuring we meet our goals and objectives in terms of protecting and repairing resources to threatened and endangered species and the like.
The two certainly are linked, but the concept of ecosystem management is in my mind a tool we use to ensure that we consider all those pieces in an integrated fashion and understand the relationship between management to achieve one goal and impacts on another.
I think it is important that we highlight that, and one of the reasons that it became one of our goals. We are not only in the business of production, but we are in the business of restoration these days; restoring fire to fire-adapted ecosystems would be a good example, and it is for that reason that we have identified that as one of the goals that we seek to achieve.
I think by focusing on that goal and specific outcomes, we have identifiedI should say, focusing on that outcome and specific goals as identified, we can better ensure that we are going to be able to sustain production of wood fiber and recreation and water flows, healthy rangelands and the like. That is really what we are seeking to achieve.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I am now quoting from the GAO report on Forest Service decisionmaking, page 68, which I have studied very carefully. ''Both the Forest Service Chief and Agriculture's Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment have testified that the national forest systems management now emphasizes the maintenance of ecosystem health to sustain the production of all goods and services derived from the national forests. According to them, management activities such as timber sales serve as tools for improving the forest health.''
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I ask you, when did timber stop being a legislatively mandated use and become only a tool to accomplish another use?
Mr. LYONS. Timber, of course, is one of those multi-use products that are identified in statute, and by saying that we intend to use timbering or timber sales policy as a tool is not to imply that timber, wood products aren't in essence one of the items we seek to produce, not by any means.
There are a limited number of tools we have to effect improvements in the landscape, such as improving forest health, and vegetative management or timbering is one way in which we seek to achieve that.
That objective has multiple benefits. It gets at our concern for sustaining ecosystems and ecosystem health. It produces wood products which provide employment, and it helps reduce wildfire risk which is also a concern for communities throughout the west.
Timbering is a tool. It is a very important tool, and the reason that I made that comment was to emphasize the fact that that is a mechanism that we need to use to achieve multiple goals so that we didn't simply focus on that as one objective and lose sight of the relationship between what we do in terms of timbering and how it affects water quality or wildlife habitat or other concerns that we have as a part of our multiple-use mission.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. But I believeand wouldn't you agreethat that really is an example of your emphasizing conservation over the active management of national forests?
Mr. LYONS. That is an interesting comment. I heard Mr. Hill draw a distinction between consumption and conservation, I guess, and as I was taught the concepts of conservation, they embodied wise use of natural resources, so there is a consumption element as well as, if you will, a resource protection element. The two go hand in hand, so I don't understand that distinction, quite honestly.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Conservation is what we are about, and that ensures, if we are in fact good land stewards practicing good conservation, that we can sustain production of the goods and services that we seek to produce.
I must admit, I don't see the distinction.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill, do you have any comments with regard to the Secretary's comment?
Mr. HILL. I will defer to Mr. Cotton.
Mr. COTTON. What we were laying out in this report what is behind the issue of consumption versus conservation is the fact that they do have a multiple-use mandate to sustain over time six surface uses.
As Mr. Lyons had pointed out earlier today, in some areas of the country in the past, they have indeed emphasized timber production to the detriment of sustaining another one of those uses being fish and wildlife and the habitats that they rely on.
To correct that deficiency and to respond to laws other than their multiple-use mandate in the Endangered Species Act, the diversity provisions of NFMA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, what they have done in their new plan, in their draft RPA, is to shift that emphasis within that multiple-use mandate from emphasizing timber production to emphasizing sustaining wildlife and fish, and the approach, and I think you are absolutely right, Madame Chairman, the approach that they have chosen to do that is to recognize the fact that this use is dependent upon ecological boundaries and not administrative boundaries. That is why they are moving toward managing for ecosystems as opposed to managing purely forest or other administrative boundaries.
The point, and in the report, it is explained in more detail the reasoning for or the factors that have led them to make this shift in emphasizing timber to sustaining wildlife and fish and the approach that they have chosen to do it. In the end, since in many places these uses compete with each other, the agency has had to make a tough decision and said, OK, right now in this area, we are going to stop cutting green timber, and we are going to emphasize more sustaining the habitats of fish and wildlife.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That is where we came from as far as what is behind our observation in that report that there is this shift in emphasis within the multiple-use mandate from consumption to conservation.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. That is very good. The competing uses, I believe, have caused the Forest Service, just under the sheer weight of the pressure, to try to change the culture.
Mr. COTTON. I agree. I think you had a good point early on in the fact that I think what is missing now in the strategic plan and what I heard in the testimony today is the fact that the Forest Service is going to do a better job of explaining the link between their multiple-use mandate and their management approach to managing these resources and uses on the national forests.
If they do that, I think there will be a better understanding that when they have to make these hard choices, they don't to their broad multiple-use mandate, but they look to other laws, and as you pointed out, the judicial interpretations of those laws that tell them what they can or can't do.
I think if they just laid that out and made that link, made that connection between mission and strategic goals and objectives for each of the multiple uses, I think it would go a long way to helping you decide if you need to make legislative changes to make your expectations and desires known.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Lyons.
Mr. LYONS. If I could just comment on that, and I don't want to split hairs, but on this issue of conservation policy, I just want to make one point.
I don't thinkthere tends to be a misperception within the broader public as to what multiple use is. The term multiple use has become code, if you will, for timber production.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC You and I have seen that in how people have challenged some of the things we do on the ground, so there tends to be this presumption on the part of some that multiple use means commodity production, and then our other activities are consistent with protecting and preserving natural resources.
I think the truth is that to ensure the sustained yield which is our mandate under the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act for all the goods and services that come from the national forests, one has to practice good conservation. One has to consider to ensure water flows, that we are cognizant of the management activities we engage in timber harvesting upstream. To sustain wildlife habitat, we certainly have to be cognizant of how we manage forested landscapes. To protect recreation opportunities, we have to take into account scenic values and the relationship between water flows and timber harvesting.
All those pieces are inextricably linked. Ecosystem management is the way we achieve that. I don't know that I am disagreeing with anything that the gentleman from GAO has said, except that I want to be clear that at least in my mind, to achieve our multiple-use mandate, we do have to take into account the competing uses, if you will, on the national forests and balance those out over time, and we do so by taking into account what impact a given action will have on a certain part of the landscape on other activities.
It is critically important that we view things in that way. I guess what I am trying to say is that it is not the Endangered Species Act that drives us there, it is not NEPA; it is the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act that mandates that we take those values and those concerns into account.
In fact, there was a landmark case sometime ago in Idaho which some forest plans were challenged because we failed to take into account cumulative effects. This was some time ago when I was on the staff of the committee, but I recall that was the first step, if you will, that required us to look across administrative boundaries beyond one national forest to another to consider the impacts that they were having.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC That was actually part of the genesis that led us to looking at these larger ecosystems, and I think it is critically important that we do in fact do that so that we understand the linkage between one resource outcome and another, if we are going to achieve those management goals and meet our legal mandate.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I would like to stay here and have more of a dialog, because this is very interesting, but I do want to move on.
I would have to agree with GAO that you need to spend the time between now and September 30 revising your draft plan to better articulate your rationale for emphasizing some legislatively mandated uses more than others and your ecosystem approach to managing natural resources. I also believe that you need to explain the likely effects of these policy changes on other uses.
Can I count on the Forest Service's final plan to clearly link your goals to relevant statutory authorities?
Mr. LYONS. Hopefully, you can, Madame Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Can I count on the Forest Service's final plan to separate strategic goals based on legislative mandates from your preferred approach to managing natural resources so that we can have an informed discussion on mission-related priorities without muddying the waters with other issues?
Mr. LYONS. Yes, I believe you can.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Can I count on the Forest Service's final plan to discuss the likely effects of these policy choices on other uses?
Mr. LYONS. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Lyons. I want to thank all of you, Mr. Hill, Mr. Pandolfi, and both of you gentlemen for your contribution.
Mr. Lyons, in our invitation letter to Secretary Glickman, I asked six questions which were not completely answered. They were hardly touched on, and you know how I feel about that.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to ask that you provide a more detailed answer to each of these questions for the record, and I will send these questions to you along with any other questions that I have not asked today, but which mean a lot to me and that may have not been asked, so that you can take more time for a thorough reply.
This record will mean a lot to me, a lot to the Committee, and I am sure a lot to you as you move through this. I do not want to single out one forest or one forest supervisor unduly. I don't think I did unduly, but it is this kind of response that creates almostwell, it is more than irritating to us, and I appreciate your attention to this matter.
I don't want to just see a ten-page explanation of what we have on a half-page. If we don't get any more information than we did on the half-page, that is what I want to receive, but I want to see progress in that particular area, because of the serious condition of the forest because of that downed timber.
Mr. Pandolfi, I think that your likening the problems in the Forest Service, and I recognize the genesis of the problems. I just think that rather than setting forests on fire, we need to get in there with human energy and some of these sophisticated machines that we have and take care of that understory.
I was in California, and there had been an experimental project with regard to fire, and actually what happened was that the understory now resulted in a condition of it being more in a tinder-like situation and more likely to explode in fire.
I do want to see us look at other alternatives, besides fire alternatives, that I think were wisely put down here in the National Forest Management Act by people with a lot of wisdom who were here long before I was.
I do want to say that your likening this project to what GE had to go through is realistic, but I don't want to see us back down from seeing a 20-percent improvement, marked improvement that we can all understand every single term so that in 10 years, hopefully, we can be at a place where having a decentralized agency, which I think we all agree is better; having a decentralized agency nevertheless can be accountable to the secretaries and to us.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I was on a task force last year, for instance, and it was last term, 2 years ago. I realized that this agency and the whole administration was in shock from the Congress changing leadership and the majority, and we wanted to make a lot of changes quickly. I realize the shock factor. I realize that now, but nevertheless, on our task force hearing tour, we consistently received the answer from forest supervisors that I am not able to give you the allotted board feet of annual cut this year because the question is in the Justice Department for what my response should be. It had not only gone from the forest supervisor, where he should be able to give a very simple fact like that. It went through the secretaries and landed in the Justice Department and we couldn't get an answer.
I feel now that things have eased off and that a lot of that problem is just beginning to take care of itself, but we are seeing a centralization, not even just necessarily in the Forest Service, but a centralization back here in Washington on Forest Service sales and a lot of those problems that we can't move through because there has to be a decision made here in Washington, DC.
I hope, Mr. Secretary, that we can see truly the decentralization, that those men that I have learned to regard with respect can make the decisions out there in their own regions and on their own forests.
I appreciate your time. We have taken a lot of time on this today, and I would appreciate and look forward to your responses to our questions.
Thank you all very much. This has been very interesting. Thank you, and of course, the hearing remains open for any further comments you would like to make for the record, and we will keep it open for your responses.
With that, this hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
STATEMENT OF JAMES R. LYONS, UNDERSECRETARY, NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee: I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee today to discuss the implementation of the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 (GPRA) in the USDA Forest Service. I am accompanied by Francis Pandolfi, Chief of Staff, Forest Service.
As requested in your letter of invitation, I will describe what GPRA requires, the Forest Service mission and statutory authorities, GPRA strategic goals, and the resources needed to accomplish the GPRA plan.
What GPRA Requires
GPRA requires that Federal agencies submit a strategic plan to Congress and the Office of Management and Budget by September 30, 1997. The strategic plan for the Forest Service, as for other Federal agencies, will cover the major functions of the agency and contain 6 items:
a mission statement
goals and objectives
a description of how the goals and objectives will be achieved
a description of the relationship between performance goals in the annual performance plan and the goals and objectives in the strategic plan
identification of key factors, external to the agency and beyond its control, that could significantly affect achievement of goals and objectives
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC a description of program evaluations used in the strategic plan, and a schedule for future program evaluations.
The strategic plan spans a minimum 6 year periodthe fiscal year it is submitted and at least five fiscal years forward from that fiscal year. A strategic plan is to be revised and updated at least once every 3 years. These plans set the agency's strategic course, its overall programmatic and policy goals, indicate how these goals will be achieved, and are the foundation and framework for implementing all other parts of GPRA.
Mission and Statutory Authorities
The Forest Service mission is to work collaboratively to promote the health of the land and meet the diverse needs of people. The phrase ''Caring for the Land and Serving People'' expresses the spirit of that mission. Implicit is the agency's collaboration with partners in serving as stewards of the Nation's forests and rangelands. The Forest Service provides leadership in the management, protection, and use of the Nation's forests and rangelands. Its operating philosophy is ecosystem management where the quality of the environment is maintained and enhanced to meet current and future ecological and human needs. The agency uses that approach to provide sustained renewable resources, such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation.
The Forest Service has a long tradition of land management, scientific research, and technical assistance. From the Organic Act of 1897 to the environmental legislation of the last thirty years, the laws that direct the agency are many. Legislation has mandated new directions for the Forest Service and has created opportunities for public participation in agency decision making. In recent years, changes in the law have reflected increased public interest in the management of National Forests and National Grasslands. These laws have also established the role of the Forest Service in providing technical, financial, and economic assistance to State and private forestland owners and in providing leadership in international forestry issues.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Statutes that provide the legislative mandate for Forest Service programs fall into one of three major categories: 1) specific authority for Forest Service activities (for example, the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Research Act, the International Forestry Cooperative Act, and the 1990 and 1996 Farm Bills); 2) more broadly applicable environmental requirements (for example, the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Amendments Act, and the Endangered Species Act); and, 3) statutes that allocate National Forest System lands to specific management regimes (for example, the Wilderness Act and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act). As requested during Congressional consultation, the Forest Service is revising the GPRA strategic plan to integrate the programs and authorities established by these laws.
Under the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (RPA), we prepare an assessment of renewable resources on all lands every 10 years and a recommended program for Forest Service activities every 5 years. Since 1974, the Forest Service has prepared RPA program documents and an annual report of accomplishments (Report of the Forest Service). The update in 1993 of the RPA assessment and the draft 1995 recommended program form the core of the agency's GPRA strategic plan.
The 1993 update of the RPA Assessment contains projections of resource use over the next several decades and identifies resource situations that are potentially acceptable, deteriorating, or serious. For example, the most recent RPA draft program projects that, by the year 2000, over 75 percent of the contribution of the National Forests to the Gross Domestic Product will come from recreation. The RPA draft also pointed out some potentially deteriorating resource conditions such as ecological integrity, forest health, loss of biological diversity, and the decreasing amount of wetland and riparian acreage.
One of the strengths of using the RPA draft program as the basis for the GPRA strategic plan was the significant amount of public involvement in the development of RPA. Two national focus group meetings were held at the beginning of the process. These meetings provided a forum for the early identification of issues. In 1995 and 1996, the most recent draft RPA program was available for public comment. The Forest Service held six regional listening sessions during the public comment period as well as a series of briefings for members of Congress and others in Washington DC and received over 1,500 comments. In addition, the Forest Service participated in two congressional oversight hearings.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The public has had access to the latest version of the draft plan through the Internet. In addition, the Forest Service has consulted with Members of Congress through briefings with the House Committee on Agriculture, House Committee on Resources, House Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, the Senate Agriculture Committee, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and with the General Accounting Office.
Goals, Objectives, and Outcomes
Forest Service has two mission-derived goals and one management goal. These goals are to ensure sustainable ecosystems, provide multiple benefits for people within the capabilities of ecosystems, and improve organizational effectiveness through management initiatives. Each of the three strategic goals have objectives focused on quantifiable ''outcomes'' for a 3-5 year period.
It is an ongoing challenge for the Forest Service, a land management agency, to develop outcomes which measure the health of the land. One of the principal issues is the need to shift the focus from commodity production to ecosystem management. Other difficulties include:
Qualitative long-term measures of resource conditions and trends are currently lacking.
The Forest Service needs to improve consistency and reliability of its data.
Several years are needed to identify measurable changes to natural resource conditions in order to assess ''outcomes'' from management practices and research.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Interagency collaboration is occurring to develop common goals and performance measures. Regional ecosystem assessments will help to establish baseline data for results. The natural resources performance measures forumwhich the Forest Service participates inis another effort underway.
The Forest Service expects that these efforts will eventually result in performance measures that can be consistently applied by all of the Federal agencies that manage programs to conserve ecosystems and their resources. As a result, the Forest Service GPRA performance measures will evolve over the next several years to more closely measure outcomes from our programs.
The resource conditions identified in the RPA assessment provided a focus for the strategic goals and objectives in the GPRA strategic plan. Although ways of measuring resource needs are still being developed, considerable investments will be needed to ensure sustainable ecosystems and to meet appropriate levels of demand for uses, goods, services, and information. Financial resources will come from a variety of sources, including appropriated funds, permanent and trust funds, contributions from partners, fees, and cost savings from new technology and re-engineering of work processes. A redirection of funds within the current budget may be needed as well as some changes in how the agency approaches its mission.
Based on consultation with Congress, the Forest Service is revising its GPRA strategic plan. The final plan will incorporate some changes that Congress had requested, including explicit language linking the laws to the agency's mission, address long-term objectives for the agency's major functions, identification of key tasks and baseline information needed, linkage of strategic goals and objectives to performance goals in the annual performance plan, identification of key factors external to the Forest Service that could have an impact, and last, a description of how program evaluations will be used to refine strategic goals.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As the agency formulates its fiscal year 1999 budget request, Chief Dombeck is involved in his first opportunity to establish his priorities and evaluate trade-offs. The budget process and the development of the agency's operating plan for fiscal year 1999 is expected to provide further insights to the agency's strategic goals and objectives and additional refinement of both performance measures and the linkages between the operating and strategic plans. Because of this, the Forest Service expects to further refine its strategic plan during the fiscal year 1999 budget process and will issue a new draft for additional Congressional consultation early next year.
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