SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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OVERSIGHT HEARINGS ON CLINTONGORE ADMINISTRATION'S FOREST SERVICE ROADLESS AREA MORATORIUM
SUBCOMMITTEE ON FOREST AND FOREST HEALTH
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTH CONGRESS
FEBRUARY 25 AND MARCH 17, 1998, WASHINGTON, DC
Serial No. 10572
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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
LIZ BIRNBAUM, Democratic Counsel
C O N T E N T S
February 25, 1988
March 17, 1998
Statements of Members:
Chenoweth, Hon. Helen, a Representative in Congress from the State of Idaho
February 25, 1998
March 17, 1998
Crapo, Hon. Michael D., a Representative in Congress from the State of Idaho
Hansen, Hon. James V., a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah
Herger, Hon. Wally, a Representative in Congress from the State of California
Prepared statement of
Hinchey, Hon. Maurice D., a Representative in Congress from the State of New York
Hutchinson, Hon. Asa, a Representative in Congress from the State of Arkansas
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCOberstar, Hon. James L., a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Peterson, Hon. John E., a Representative in Congress from the State of Pennsylvania, prepared statement of [February 25, 1998]
Statement of [March 17, 1998]
Schaffer, Hon. Bob, a Representative in Congress from the State of Colorado
Taylor, Hon. Charles H., a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina
Prepared statement of
Vento, Hon. Bruce F., a Representative in Congress from the State of Minnesota, prepared statement of
Statements of witnesses:
Atkin, Brent, President, Public Lands Council, St. George, Utah
Prepared statement of
Amador, Don, Recreationist, Blue Ribbon Coalition
Prepared statement of
Banzhaf, Bill, Executive Vice President, Society of American Foresters
Prepared statement of
Coleman, Timothy J., Executive Director, Kettle Range Conservation Group
Prepared statement of
Davidge, Ric, Anchorage, Alaska
Prepared statement of
Dolezal, Larry, Lincoln County Commissioner, Troy, Montana
Prepared statement of
Dombeck, Michael, Chief, U.S. Forest Service
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCContinuation of statement of
Prepared statement of
Prepared statement of
Gerhrke, Craig, Regional Director, The Wilderness Society
Prepared statement of
Hahn, Sharon, Lake County Commissioner, Two Harbors, Minnesota
Prepared statement of
Hamilton, Jerry, Silviculturist, Retired, Forest Service
Prepared statement of
Holmer, Steve, Campaign Coordinator, Western Ancient Forest Campaign, Washington, DC
Prepared statement of
Kiehl, David W., Vice President, North East Hardwoods, Inc., Marienville, Pennsylvania
Prepared statement of
Marlenee, Hon. Ron, Consultant, Government Affairs, Safari Club International
Prepared statement of
Peterson, Max, Executive Vice President, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Prepared statement of
Phelps, Jack, Executive Director, Alaska Forestry Association
Prepared statement of
Powers, Bob, Legislative Advocate, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
Prepared statement of
Stupak, Hon. Bart, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan
Prepared statement of
Page 8 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCAdditional material supplied:
American Petroleum Institute
America's Wildlands at Risk: The Need to End Logging in National Forest Roadless Areas
Leaf, Charles, F., P.E., Platt River Hydrologic Research Center, Colorado
Letters from Mr. Stupak and Mr. Cheney to Mr. Dombeck and Mr. Solomon
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON CLINTONGORE ADMINISTRATION'S FOREST SERVICE ROADLESS AREA MORATORIUM
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 1998
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:09 a.m., in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Helen Chenoweth [chairwoman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [presiding] The Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health will come to order.
STATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on the Clinton-Gore administration's Forest Service roadless area moratorium. I'd like to just say that forests don't take time out for Washington bureaucrats. So why is the ClintonGore administration taking a timeout from sound forest health management practices? The administration claims that its moratorium on roadless area entry is a timeout on timber harvesting, but this is much larger than just timber harvesting. The ripple effect of the timeout affects the health of the national forests, the families and surrounding communities, who rely on the forests for their livelihoods.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This timeout on the national forests is exceedingly harmful. While the country awaits the ClintonGore administration to get its act together and unchain our professionals, a wide range of wildlife, hunting, fishing, conservation, and recreation groups have expressed their concern about the administration's timeout. Under this moratorium everyone loses, except maybe some of the most extreme environmental groups who care little about people.
Recreationalists have expressed their concern that they will lose access to the lands they hunt on. Conservationists have expressed their concern with the damage this poorly thought-out policy will have on the land. And the list of problems with this moratorium goes on and on.
Why, then, is the ClintonGore administration moving forward with a policy that violates current law, has not gone through the NEPA process, and will do nothing to improve the forest environment? The answer is clear: There is nothing more than a political motivation that prompted this decision in order to appease the most radical elements of a single interest group. In developing their policy, they completely shut out the Congress, beyond the ground forest managers, and the American people. The broad-brush moratorium overriding the Forest Service's land management plans will undermine and make meaningless the agency's own procedures for decisionmaking, which were developed to comply with the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and many other laws.
In a second generation of press leaks, the administration has tried to re-spin this story to focus on needed road repairs, and now they say that the maintenance backlog has doubled in the last 5 years to over $10 billion. They recently discovered an additional 60,000 miles of ghost roads that they didn't even know existed. One administration spokesperson likened the maintenance backlog to the crazy aunt in the basement that nobody wants to talk about. Well, we're willing to talk about it, but it seems like the crazy aunt in the administration is too busy giving press briefings.
Page 10 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC More recently, the ClintonGore administration announced its clean water action plan. They explained their initiative is needed in order to deal with the very large backlog of maintenance needs on existing forest roads. Under this new ClintonGore initiative, the Environmental Protection Agency will now require a Federal clean water permit before the Forest Service can conduct any maintenance on the forest roads.
It is patently clear to this Member that any money given to the Forest Service to improve forest roads will be spent on EPA permits. There is no reason for Congress to spend money to support another set of conflicting Federal permit requirements. The administration must get its act together.
We will have many, many questions for Chief Dombeck on his road maintenance needs. I hope he will have some answers, but at this point we are extremely skeptical of his approach. Indeed, by starting the debate on road maintenance with a surprise moratorium on access and by raising public concerns among those who depend upon access to the public lands for their economic well-being and recreational opportunities, the Forest Service has made it less, rather than more, likely that maintenance problems can be addressed.
Their approach so far is akin to starting an Olympics speed-skating event by shooting themselves in both feet. The ClintonGore moratorium violates the two most important things that the Forest Service is charged to do. The first is to protect our forest resources and manage them in a sustainable manner, in order to pass them on to our next generations. The second is to make wise use of taxpayer funding.
This policy, made in the back rooms of Washington, is nothing more than a political payoff to a core constituency. It is both bad for the environment and bad for the people. It is now time for Congress and the American people to stand up and put a stop to the ClintonGore administration's continual assault on environmental law, resource protection, and public participation.
Page 11 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I now recognize Mr. Hinchey for any statement he may have. Mr. Hinchey?
STATEMENT OF HON. MAURICE D. HINCHEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. HINCHEY. Well, thank you very much, Madam Chairman. Let me say that I'm delighted to have this opportunity to participate with you again on these important issues, and I thank you for your continued attention to the issues that come under the jurisdiction of the Subcommittee that you head.
Today's hearing concerns the Forest Service's proposal for an 18-month moratorium on road construction in some current roadless areas of the lands under its jurisdiction. We are not here to consider any specific legislation, but rather to hear from the Forest Service directly about its proposal and to hear comments representing some, though not all, views on that proposal.
We should take note at the outset that the Forest Service has requested public comment on the proposal, in accord with the regulatory process, and I am sure that the comments the Forest Service receives will represent in total an even broader range of views than what we may hear today.
This issue has been debated for years on the House floor, usually in the context of the Interior appropriations bill. As you know, Madam Chairman, the Democratic members of this Subcommittee asked last year that you hold hearings on the subject of forest roads policy, so we welcome this opportunity and thank you very much for doing so.
The Forest Service has a responsibility to manage the lands under its jurisdiction in keeping with its own best judgment and in consideration of the interests of all the different categories of users of the forests, in consideration of all American taxpayers who are contributing to the Forest Service's budget, and ultimately, of all Americans, since we all have an ownership interest in the national forests. I know that my constituents are acutely aware of their stake in the forests, and I'm sure the same is true of all of our colleagues, no matter where they may come from across the country.
Page 12 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Road policy is an important part of that responsibility. The Forest Service acknowledges its inability to maintain the existing system. Its maintenance backlog comes currently to $10.5 billion. Eighty percent of the roads our people use the mostanterior and collector roadsare in need of repair. My question has always been, why we are spending money to build new roads when the Service can't maintain the existing ones.
We have also had ample evidence that new logging roads contribute to environmental problems that harm people who live near the forests, as well as the forest themselves; that they are a factor in flooding, landslides, and destruction of fish and wildlife habitat.
I'm interested in hearing today's testimony, especially from Chief Dombeck. But let me offer my own brief thoughts on the proposed moratorium, based on what I have seen thus far. I believe it is a sound and a sensible plan. Its primary objective is to give the Forest Service time for a thorough review of its roads policy. As I have suggested, such a review is overdue.
The lack of a consistent policy based on current science and empirical evidence of the consequences of road construction is a major problem for the environment, also a major problem for the taxpayer, as well as for many forest users, and for all of us as owners of the national forests. We need a new road policy that will serve the broad public interest. These are among the issues that I hope will be addressed thoroughly during the Forest Service's review and formulation of a new policy.
I can also appreciate the value of imposing a moratorium while the review goes forward. Without a moratorium, there would be a strong possibility that construction could take place during that period which would undermine, or in fact contradict, the goals of the new, emerging policy. A moratorium is the only way to prevent such actions. The moratorium should also better allow the Service to conduct an up-to-date inventory of its roads that would be essential to its decommissioning plans.
Page 13 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Despite my strong support for the goals of the proposal, I do want to raise one important concern about its specifics. I believe that it would be a serious mistake to exempt specific forests and portions of forests from the list of affected areas, as the Forest Service has proposed doing. I understand the rationale that these areas have been recently reviewed. However, they were not reviewed for the specific purpose of developing a road construction policy and were not reviewed with the specific goals of the still undetermined new roads policy in mind.
Among those exempt areas, I am particularly concerned about two. They are the Tongass National Forest and the forest included in the Northwest Forest Plan. The Tongass plan would allow significant development of new roads in currently roadless areas that may not be consistent with the new policy. The Northwest Forest Plan was developed for the purpose of protecting specific endangered species, not for the much broader purpose of the proposed new policy.
In short, I see a pressing need for a new roads policy and agree with the goals enunciated in the proposal. The moratorium is an essential instrument in the developing of a consistent new policy. But the new policy and the moratorium should be genuinely consistent. To achieve that, it is essential that the entire system be considered. The moratorium and the policy should not exempt forests that represent such a substantial share of the Forest Service's acreage and such a substantial share of its most critical and unique resources.
Madam Chairwoman, once again, I thank you for the opportunity to comment in the course of this hearing, and express again my appreciation for your attention to this issue.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hinchey, and I appreciate your very sincere interest in this issue, too, and your trip out to the West was very impressive. Thank you very much.
Mr. HINCHEY. And most enjoyable, I might add.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
I've very pleased that my colleague from Idaho has joined us, and I'm going to go a little bit out of order and ask him if he has an opening statement, Mr. Crapo.
STATEMENT OF HON. MICHAEL D. CRAPO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mr. CRAPO. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. I appreciate the fact that although I don't sit on this Subcommittee, you've allowed me to sit with the Committee today.
I just want to add my comments to yours, expressing significant concern about the moratorium that has been imposed. Without compliance with law, it does not adequately address significant forest health and forest planning concerns.
In my district in Idaho, there is a strong belief that this policy will simply continue and exacerbate further restrictions of access to the public lands that are now causing people from many different quarters, whether it be recreationists or conversationists or those who have legitimate purposes for desiring access to the public landsit is appears that this is just one more, and one more major, effort to further restrict the public from access without justification in any reasonable policy.
For those reasons, I appreciate the fact that you have held this hearing today. I look forward to the information that will come forward and pledge my support to work with this Committee in trying to resolve this very important issue. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Crapo.
And the Chair now recognizes the senior member on this issue, and not necessarily senior in age, but senior in very high respect, Mr. Hansen.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES V. HANSEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF UTAH
Page 15 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HANSEN. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman. I appreciate being with you, and I compliment you for holding this hearing today.
Let me point out, as, yes, one of the old dogs around here, that's true
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Oh, no.
Mr. HANSEN. [continuing] and having sat on this Committee for 18 years, and having had many hearings regarding this issue, I'm somewhat concerned about some of the proposals by the administration. There's a lot of myths that seem to float around about the Forest Service. I really enjoy having people come in front of us, and having the burning in their bosom about having the forest be nice and clean and healthy. That's all well and good. I have a lot more respect for the scientists and the foresters and the people who have spent some time on the ground.
And some of those myths really bother me. If I may say so, the idea that we can't thin and cut the forest is one of the things that kind of amazes me from time to time, because that's where we get a healthy forest.
I compliment Chairman Chenoweth on the idea of keeping a healthy forest out there. I would suggest that every person who has some interest in this should really listen to the gentleman who is past president of Greenpeace. He gave an exceptionally fine presentation, and scientifically based, on why we should keep the forests healthy. He talked of how we do it. Cut out the old growth, thin the forests, better for wildlife and endangered species.
Madam Chairman, if you'll indulge me for a couple more minutes, I would like to mention something about a forest that's in the First Congressional District of Utah that happens to be called the Dixie National Forest. The forest supervisor is a fellow by the name of Hugh Thompson. In that area, years ago when our ancestors went in that areaand I have pictures of the first tintypes, as they're referred to, and there was nothing on those hills, a few scrub oak, and that was about it. And now the thing is absolutely beautiful, a gorgeous forest.
Page 16 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now here comes along this little thing we know as the pine beetle up there by Brianhead, a very famous area. The forest supervisor, Mr. Thompson, said, ''I could go in there and cut out 30 acres of that, and the healthy trees would make it.'' But, no. Why, I asked myself, did the environmental communities want to kill the forest? But they go in there and file an injunction against the Forest Service, and so as that's adjudicated, these little rascals just keep eating.
Now I just challenge anybody on this Committee, or anywhere, to just go into that area from Cedar City, Utah, over that gorgeous area over U.S. 89, where we have all the national parks and some of the red rock, the most beautiful area in America, and you've got a dead forest. You've got hundreds of thousands of acres of dead forest.
Now the scientists come along and they say, well, now what's going to happen is we will give you 100 percent guarantee, Congressman, that you will have a fire. There's just no hope, because you've got this fuel load of dead forest in there. He said, now we'll guarantee that you'll have a bellywasher in there, and there goes your topsoil.
So I ask my friends in the environmental communitydon't get me wrong; I know the environmentalists have done us a great job in many instances, but I think this is a very extreme position they're taking on this. And I feel if we're not going to have roads, or we can't go in and do a little cutting a little timber, we're in trouble.
And in that forest, they've pretty well stopped that. The sawmills, Escalante and Kiobab, are dead, gone, and over. And now when we go in, guess how we do it? We do it by helicopters. Now I don't know if the figure's correct, Madam Chairman, but I hear the figure to do it with helicopters is $500 an hour, and you put them on flatbeds and then you've got to send them to California and Montana to be processed, where before we were processing them within 20 miles.
And now people ask you, well, why is the cost of timber going up? Joe Cannon, the head of Geneva Steel, told me you can build a house out of steel cheaper than you can timber.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So when we start getting into this thing of coming in here and saying, gee, we want a beautiful, green forest, let's use a little science in the idea. Let's talk about the people who have taken care of it for years and years, rather than do it just because we happen to fly over and see a green carpet there.
Thank you for allowing me to get that off my chest.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hansen.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Schaffer.
STATEMENT OF HON. BOB SCHAFFER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF COLORADO
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman. You know, out in my State, in Colorado, this has been just a huge issue with all of those who are concerned and associated with forestry in the State, and that's quite a lot of people in a State like Colorado. Our State legislature has held joint hearings between the State house and the State senate and invited the Forest Service to come and testify.
And I'll tell you why they are concerned. One is because their constituents are directly affected economically, as well as on a basis of having access to national forests on a recreational basis as well. There are a number of existing contracts that are, in fact, betrayed by the actions of the Forest Service, which is unacceptable.
The access to recreation, as I mentioned, is an essential element and part of our economy out in the West. Lots of people come to Colorado and to western States in general to enjoy the great outdoors and to have an opportunity to recreate on public lands, and the Forest Service land specifically, from the perspective of resource management, the experts that we have in the State. I have yet been able to find a single one of them that sees any credibility in the plan put forward by the Forest Service on this moratorium or to explain on any logical basis what the motivation may be with respect to actually helping or preserving the integrity of our environment in the area.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, the experts, the scientists, those who know the most about forest management are completely baffled by the actions of the Forest Service, and there really is more at stake here than just the credibility of the Forest Service. I believe that what credibility they have has been significantly eroded by these latest actions. But the health of the forest in general is of quite concern as well.
Water is critically important in Colorado, being a headwater State. We're one of two States in the Union where no water flows in, no water that's appropriated anyway. All of our water flows out. Incidentally, the other one is Hawaii. So the effect of a balanced forest management system on water supply and water quality is of critical concern, even for people out on the eastern plains of the State who rely on sound forest management for a dependable water supply.
The proposal essentially prohibits access to about 34 million acres of national forest lands and untold millions of acres of special areas to be determined by the Regional Forester. The proposal ignores the role of Congress entirely in designating wilderness areas, or effectively designating them as such, and undermines the critical local input into forest planning. It just really threatens our local economy and the very health of our national forests.
Madam Chairman, Dr. Charles Leaf, one of my constituents who is also a forester and research scientist from the Platt River Hydrologic Research Center, was scheduled to testify today on the hydrologic impacts of roads, timber harvesting, and wildfire. Unfortunately, we had a big snowstorm out in Colorado this morning and yesterday afternoon that prevented him from appearing today. I'd like to summarize what Dr. Leaf would have testified today, with your indulgence. It's just a brief statement.
''Today national forests are efficient producers of excellent quality water. The key to this dependable water supply is the favorable balance that exists between wind, snow, trees, and sunshine. That balance depends upon active management of our national forests. The negative environmental effects of wildfire are much more severe than those from forest roads; a Trendell and Bevinger study in 1996 came to that conclusion. The Yellowstone demonstrated, for example, that water yields, while they increased by 35 percent, actually decreased in quality because of sedimentation.
Page 19 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC ''We've heard much about the negative side of roads and timber-cutting. Bad logging practices can produce hydrologic impacts similar to those resulting from fire. However, research by the U.S. Forest Service has shown that proper harvesting methods and the careful placement of roads to minimize the number of stream crossings, soil disturbances, can greatly reduce erosion and virtually eliminate sediment entry into streams. For example, at the Frasier Experimental Forest in Colorado, removal of 35 to 40 percent of the forest cover in various systems of small openings resulted in 25 percent increase in water yields, with little or no introduction of sediment into streams.
''Finally, the application of today's technology and understanding, based on nearly 100 years of research, can allow road construction and timber harvesting to take place without causing significant negative impacts to forest health. The increased water yields associated with timber and watershed management in the Rocky Mountains should play a vital role in providing solutions to current environmental problems. With responsible timber management and road-building techniques, increased water yields can be produced without a significant decrease in water quality.
''Studies have shown that environmentally sound patch-cutting and other forest-clearing methods designed to enhance stream flow could replenish water supplies from national forest lands without decreases in water quality, and increased water yields could then be used for municipal use, irrigation, or to augment flows for endangered species downstream.''
Madam Chairman, I would ask unanimous consent that Dr. Leaf's full testimony be made part of the record, and the Committee has possession of that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Leaf may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Schaffer.
And the Chair is very pleasedexcuse me, Mr. Hinchey.
Mr. HINCHEY. Madam Chairman, excuse me. I have a statement here from Mr. Vento. He may not be able to make it, and I'd ask unanimous consent that his statement may be entered into the record.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection, so ordered.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Vento follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. BRUCE F. VENTO, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
I am pleased to make a positive statement today in support of the Forest Service's responsible new proposal on National Forest roadless areas. This is a moderate, reasonable proposal, and I commend Forest Service Chief Dombeck for his hard work.
I want to make one thing very clear: I support logging as a multiple use of our National Forests. I chaired the Subcommittee on Parks and Public Lands for a number of years. If I had been opposed to logging on special public lands, I would have done something about it. So let's get that on table right away.
There are 373,000 miles of roads in our National Forests. That's more than the interstate highway system. The current backlog for maintenance of existing roads in National Forests is $10 billion and growing. According to the Forest Service, due to these funding limitations, only around 40 percent of these roads are fully maintained to acceptable safety or environmental standards. Clearly, we have a problem that is growing larger and larger each year. Receipts are down and the cost of forest programs is up. Past practices and remediation was inadequate when the annual sales and harvest were much higher.
Something has to give. Chief Mike Dombeck and the Forest Service are taking a bold, but reasonable step. They decided to take an 18 month time-out on building more roads in roadless areas. Following this 18 month moratorium, the Forest Service will submit for public comment a final proposal that will most likely change current regulations on road construction in roadless areas. This new effort will provide an affordable policy path that matches sustainability and balance. This will cause some hardship, but when a problem is spinning out of control it's best to try and get a handle upon it before you completely lose the forest.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is important to clarify what the proposal is as we discuss and debate it. It will account for areas inventoried in forest plans that are usually 5,000 acres or more, areas over 1,000 acres contiguous to roadless areas of 5,000 acres or more, roadless areas over 1,000 acres that are contiguous to Congressionally designated wilderness or Wild and Scenic Rivers, and, finally, roadless areas, regardless of size, that a regional forester determines has unique ecological or social values. That accounts for roughly 33 million acres of the National Forest System, about 9 million of which are considered suitable for timber harvest. Incidentally, this has everything to do with forest health, watershed restoration, replanting and maintenance aspects. Forest health can't degenerate into just an excuse to make up for a sustainable yield number that doesn't match industry demands through so called salvage.
The Forest Service notably exempted two important areas from this moratorium, the Tongass National Forest and so called ''Option Mine'' National Forests. In a perfect world. perhaps, Mr. Dombeck could have included these areas in the moratorium. And I suppose he still could. But I respect the Forest Services rationale for not including these areas. We in Congress at least should understand the long-term planning and appeals processes that is envisioned. By this process, it is likely that the final policy that the Forest Service adopts after the 18 month moratorium, will apply to all
National Forests. While I respect the concerns of some members of the environmental community about this aspect of the plan, I do not think these concerns should hinder us from achieving the progress this proposal represents.
Just consider the goals of this plan. First, the Forest Service wants fewer and more environmentally sound roads built. Second, they aim for the decommissioning of unused or ecologically harmful roads. And finally, they want the roads that are most heavily used by the public to be safer and more efficient. I have observed the Forest Service for many years. The positive potential that this proposal represents should not be underestimated. This proposal is a big step forward in our effort to professionally improve the management of our National Forests so that we are serving the people based on the resource and sustainability of the forestwithin the budget and within the land use laws.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't deny that this will have an effect on the timber industry. The Forest Service itself notes that we'll see a reduction of as much as 275 million board feet in the volume of timber it will offer for sale. But we do a lot for the timber industry already. The purchaser road credit program alone eats up tens of millions of dollars that we could be using for recreation, research or conservation. Hopefully, in addition to this important roadless area reform policy, we can close the books on that wasteful, irresponsible program for good later this year. Then we'll have made some real progress toward protecting the natural legacy of our children for future generations.
So I thank Forest Service Chief Dombeck for bringing this responsible proposal to us. I offer my support and advice to you as this process continues. And I thank the chairwoman for holding this important hearing. I imagine that this is the first of many discussions we'll have on this topic.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Peterson follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN E. PETERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Chairman Chenoweth, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this important hearing this morning, and I appreciate your strong leadership on this issue and forestry matters in general.
With so many questions left unanswered by the Forest Service's proposal to halt all road activity on national forests for 18 months, I look forward to hearing their testimony. Hopefully, they will be able to offer up an explanation of what I believe is a mix-guided and ill-advised proposal.
The impact on land within the Allegheny National Forest, which is located in my Congressional District, is unknown at this point. Any impactvia a moratorium designationwould be decided by the Regional Forester on a case-by-case basis. Given this uncertainty, it leaves the lives and livelihoods of people living in surrounding communities hanging in the balance. Nationally, the estimated job loss resulting from this moratorium is 12,000 jobs with an estimated loss of timber ranging between 200 and 700 million board feet in Fiscal Year 1998. This comes on top of a proposed reduction in the President's Budget Request for the national timber sale program for Fiscal Year 1999.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC By all indications, the road moratorium appears to be a backdoor approach to halting timber sales on our national forestsdefying the principle of multiple use. What the public is led to believe by national environmental organizations about the state of our national forests is dramatically different than what is actually taking place. It is important to note that not once in the history of the timber sale program has the allowable sale quantity been exceeded. Further, there has been a 60 percent reduction in timber harvesting over the past ten years with timber currently growing three times faster than what is actually being harvested. Clearly, we are inching towards a regretful and ill-advised policy of ''no-cut'' on our public lands.
The road moratorium raises other flags as well, including: the affect on forest management practices and subsequently forest health; the role of national forest plans in the development of these new regulations; the future of the timber sale program; and avenues for public comment and involvement.
Mrs. Chairman, I look forward to hearing the testimony of the Forest Service so that I can provide overdue answers to such questions lingering in the minds of my constituents and colleagues alike.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair now is very pleased to recognize two colleagues who are here with us. We'll be having more colleagues arrive for testimony, and we'll work them in as we can, but I didn't want to delay any more. And so the Chair now recognizes Wally Herger, the gentleman from California. Mr. Herger?
STATEMENT OF HON. WALLY HERGER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Mr. HERGER. Madam Chair, members of the Subcommittee, I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today regarding the United States Forest Service proposed moratorium for road-building in roadless areas on our national forests.
Page 24 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am greatly disappointed that the ClintonGore administration would be willing to sacrifice the health of our national forest system to advance what would appear to be an extreme environmentalist agenda which could lead to no forest thinning on Federal lands. Our forests need the option of building roads as an integral tool in allowing access to restore forest health. Historically, our national forests were filled with stands of large trees. The forest floors were less dense and were often naturally thinned by fires that would clean out dense underbrush and would leave the big trees to grow bigger. However, because of decades of aggressive fire suppression in the West and modern, hands-off management practices like those advocated by the moratorium, these forests have been allowed to grow out of hand, creating an almost overwhelming threat of fire.
The question is not if we will have a fire, but when our forests will burn and how much will be destroyed. According to Forest Service's own estimates, approximately 40 million acres of forest lands are at a high risk of catastrophic fire. The cause of this fire threat is an unnatural accumulation of vegetation and small trees on western forest floors.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates forests are 82 percent denser than in 1928. Dense undergrowth, combined with increasing taller layers of intermediate trees, has turned western forests into deadly fire timebombs. Under proper conditions, fire quickly climbs up dense tree growth like a ladder until it tops out at the uppermost or crown level of the forest and races out of control as a catastrophic fire. Because of its high speed and intense heat, a crown fire has the capability of leaving an almost sterile environment in its wake, with almost no vegetation, wildlife, or habitat left behind. We must then ask ourselves, what habitat do we have left if everything in the forest burns?
Additionally, this moratorium has the potential of limiting access to our national forests. Fires know no boundaries. Without adequate access, it is more difficult and more dangerous for firefighters to battle out-of-control fires. It is appalling that this access, which can be so vital to the preservation of life and property, would be unnecessarily limited. According to fire personnel in my northern California district, the best and most effective way to fight fires is through a direct ground attack. When there are no roads, our fire crews cannot gain ground access to fires. Officials are then left with secondary options of combined air attacks that are increasingly more expensive, less effective, and extremely more dangerous for the firefighters who have to parachute into wild country. Sudden shifts in wind can wreak havoc on air attacks and can threaten the lives of unsupported firefighters. An adequate road system, on the other hand, allows ground crews quick access and allows a more steady support system for fire personnel.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'd like to encourage the Forest Service to proactively implement plans to restore forests to their historic, healthy conditions. Instead of pursuing management options that close down dialog, the Forest Service should pursue programs like the Quincy Library Group solution that includes local communities and promotes active solutions to restore forests to healthier, more fire-resilient conditions. These goals are not achieved under the road moratorium proposed by the ClintonGore administration. If anything, the moratorium makes matters worse by once again polarizing the issue and by excluding key parties from the dialog.
In closing, Madam Chair, the Forest Service should reconsider its proposal to place a moratorium on road-building on all roadless areas of our national forests. The proposal does nothing to promote forest health. As a matter of fact, there is a strong argument that, because of past forest practices, doing nothing can seriously further damage forest health.
Again, thank you for allowing me to speak on this crucially important forest issue.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Herger follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. WALLY HERGER, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
Madame Chairman, Members of the subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to speak today regarding the United States Forest Service's proposed moratorium for road building on roadless areas on our national forests.
I am disappointed that the Clinton/Gore administration would be willing to sacrifice the health of our national forest system to advance an extreme environmentalist agenda which could lead to no harvest on Federal lands. Our forests need the option of building roads as an integral tool in allowing access to restore forest health. Historically, our national forests were filled with stands of large trees. The forest floors were less dense and were often naturally thinned out by fires that would clean out dense underbrush and would leave the big trees to grow bigger. However, because of decades of aggressive fire suppression and modern hands-off management practices like those advocated by the moratorium, these forests have been allowed to grow out of hand creating an almost overwhelming threat of fire. The question isn't if we will have a fire, but when our forests will burn and how much will be destroyed.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC According to the forest service's own estimates approximately 40 million acres of forest lands are at a high risk for catastrophic fire. The cause of this fire threat is an unnatural accumulation of vegetation and small trees on western forest floors. The U.S. Forest Service estimates forests are 82 percent denser than in 1928. Dense undergrowth, combined with increasingly taller layers of intermediate trees has turned western forests into deadly time bombs. Under proper conditions, fire quickly climbs up dense tree growth like a ladder until it tops out at the uppemmost, or crown, level of the forest and races out of control as a catastrophic fire. Because of its high speed and intense heat, a ''crown fire'' has the capability of leaving an almost sterile environment in its wake with almost no vegetation, wildlife, or habitat left behind. We must then ask ourselves, ''what habitat do we have left if everything in the forest burns?''
Additionally, this moratorium has the potential of limiting access to our national forests. Fires know no boundaries. Without adequate access it is more difficult and more dangerous for fire fighters to battle out-of-control fires. It is appalling that this access, which can be so vital to the preservation of life and property, would be unnecessarily limited. According to fire personnel in my district, the best and most effective way to fight fires is through a direct ground attack. When there are no roads our fire crews cannot gain ground access to fires. Officials are then left with secondary options of combined air attacks that are increasingly more expensive, less effective extremely more dangerous for firefighters who have to parachute into wild country. Sudden shifts in wind can wreak havoc on air attacks and can threaten the lives of unsupported firefighters. An adequate roads system, on the other hand, allows ground crews quick access and allows a more steady support system for fire personnel.
I would like to encourage the Forest Service to proactively implement plans to restore forests to their historic, healthy conditions. Instead of pursuing management options that close down dialogue, the Forest Service should pursue programs like the Quincy Library Group solution that includes local communities and promotes active solutions to restore forests to healthier, more fire resilient conditions. These goals are not achieved under the road moratorium proposed by the Clinton/Gore administration. If anything, the moratorium makes matters worse by, once again, polarizing the issue and by excluding key parties from the dialogue.
Page 27 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, Madame Chairman, the Forest Service should reconsider its proposal to place a moratorium on road building on all roadless areas of our national forests. The proposal does nothing to promote forest health. As a matter of fact, there is a strong argument that doing nothing can seriously damage forest health. Again, thank you for allowing me to speak on this important forest issue.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Herger, I want to thank you for your fine testimony, and I know that you have a markup in another committee right now, but as soon as you're finished with markup, we'd love to have you come back and join us on the panel.
Mr. HERGER. Thank you very much, Madam Chair and members.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
And now the Chair recognizes Congress' only professionally certified forester, Representative Charles Taylor.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES H. TAYLOR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. Madam Chairman, if we were testifying this year about a medical
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Can you pull your microphone up closer?
Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. Thank you.
If we were testifying before a health committee about medicine, we would be expected to have doctors and scientists with the best technology in health before us. And yet, when we talk about forestry, which is a profession with 100 years of outstanding history in our best universities and professionals who practice in the public as well as with our experimental stations for both the State and the Federal forests, we throw all that out the window. We do not have a professional forester as our Chief Forester now. We haven't had in the last two times. We are in the process of driving professional foresters out of the Forest Service and replacing them with environmentalists, whatever that is and whatever they know.
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, environmentalism, as practiced here in Washington, brings forth hundreds of millions of dollars, scaring the people of this country, and that then is transferred to politicians that vote the ''right way.'' That's what environmentalism has become in Washington.
Now there are a lot of conservationists throughout the countryin my district, in yours, and all around the countrythat are concerned about real conservation and real environmental questions. You will not find them in Washington, however.
For instance, if we wanted to work with cutting down the number of roads: in my district we went after three companies that could bring in high-line loggers. That way, we could harvest timber in hard-to-get places without any roads at all. The environmentalists attacked those sales just as they did others. Consequently, all those men left the business and we have no high-line logging available in our district, primarily through the excesses of environmentalists, those that we mentioned, here in Washington.
We put together some months ago an emergency timber salvage bill. Testimony showed that it was necessary. It was passed by this Congress, and after a long fight, the administration agreed to sign it, but then sued against it just as quickly, breaking their word as soon as they had signed the bill. But it went forward for almost 2 years.
It was attacked over and over againseven votes in this Congress, as well as ranting and raving all around the country, with the purpose to prove that it might be used to cut a tree that would not be a salvage; that is, timber unaffected by insects or disease or fire. After all those challenges, the Forest Service itself and other reports showed that there was no abuse of the salvage bill. And while we were challenging that meager piece of legislation, we lost tens of millions of trees to fires and insects. If you had real environmentalists, you would have found people concerned about these lost trees, rather than looking for one single healthy tree logged improperly under the salvage legislation.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last year we put togetherand many of you were helpful in putting that group togethera science-based survey. I chaired a panel of scientists in March 1996 to develop an analysis of forest health conditions in the United States and the options and consequences of addressing those conditions. We've just finished a peer review of this report by some of the most outstanding scientists across the country. While there were certain critical opinions about the report, none of them criticized the report for its accuracy or its science. And that report, presented to this Congress last year, pointed outand it's been before several committeesthe need for real science in managing our national forests. I am sorry to say that science is not being carried out by the Forest Service, nor by those who protest every cut of trees.
You know, if this was a sincere effort to analyze the road situation, you would be analyzing roads within the national parks or within the wilderness areas or other areas where timber cutting is not allowed, but administered by the Forest Service in wilderness especially. But we're only attacking areas where timber might be cut. This is primarily a challenge by the so-called environmentalists against any timber cutting in the United States and not a genuine question about forest roads.
Madam Chairman, I'd be happy to answer questions, and I appreciate the work that you're doing in holding this hearing today. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Taylor of North Carolina follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES H. TAYLOR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Madame Chairman, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify before this Subcommittee and to address the issue of the health of our national forests.
This is an issue to which a great deal of attention has been devoted recently, given the U.S. Forest Service's announcement on January 28th that it plans to implement an 18-month moratorium on the construction of new forest roads in the current roadless areas of our national forests. The Forest Service has indicated that the purpose behind this moratorium is to provide a ''time out'' on new construction while it evaluates the present system of forest road construction activities. Because the Forest Service failed completely to involve Congress in this decision-making process, however, it has barreled forward with an approach that is neither economically wise nor scientifically sound.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service estimates that the moratorium will reduce the Federal timber sale program offering by 100 to 275 million board feet in fiscal year 1998. The American Forest and Paper Association estimates that the real impact of the moratorium may be a loss of more than 1 billion board feet, or one-third of the entire Federal timber sale program. The Service is quoted in the Federal Register: ''Although the actual amounts are very difficult to estimate, this reduction in timber volume offered could lead to corresponding reductions in employment and in payments to the states.'' 63 Fed. Reg. 4353 (1998). The Forest Service has certainly mastered the art of understatement, if not the science of forest management. According to the Service's own statistics, 15.8 direct industry jobs are created for every 1,000 board feet of timber harvested; by decreasing the timber yield offered for sale by hundreds of millions of board feet, the moratorium's potentially disastrous economic effect becomes obvious. In Western North Carolina alone, 150,000 to 160,000 acres of roadless forest areas will be affected by this moratorium, and three timber sales amounting to approximately 3 million board feet, which were ready to proceed this year, will have to be postponed or significantly altered.
There has already occurred a steady decrease in the amount of timber harvested within last few years. This moratorium will only result in further reductions in Federal revenues from timber sales, thereby requiring budgetary adjustments; a significant reduction in, or loss of, payments to rural counties whose school systems rely upon timber receipt payments; higher costs for construction materials, leading to higher home prices; and, the loss of thousands of jobs within the timber industry and those commercial areas which depend upon it.
I am equally troubled by the implicit policy embodied in the Forest Service's moratorium, a policy that places wishful environmentalism above sound scientific approaches. The overwhelming need for proper forest management is widely recognized, even, at times, by members of this Administration. Kathleen McGinty, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, has stated that, ''the consequence of stamping out every [forest] fire, including naturally-occuring fires, has been that we now have a tinderbox in many places of the country.'' (Paul Bedard, ''Clinton Supports Burning to Avoid Wildfires in Forests: Plan backed by Sierra Club Leaves Out Logging,'' Washington Times, July 25, 1997, p.A4.) What the Administration now seems unable or unwilling to acknowledge, however, is the potential for similar forest devastation due to closing off millions of acres of our National Forests to sound management practices.
Page 31 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In March 1996 I chartered a panel of scientists to develop an analysis of the forest health conditions in the United States and the options and consequences of addressing those conditions. The results of the studies conducted by these prominent forest scientists were presented in April 1997 through a joint hearing of the House Committees on Agriculture and Resources. In an ongoing effort to further this analytic process, the panel will soon release the collected Peer Reviews of the Forest Health Science Report, so that we, as the forestry policy and decision-makers, might benefit from a scientific, sensible approach to forestry management.
It is this very approachgrounded in science, rather than romantic ideals of natureto which we must now turn. The moratorium proposed by the Forest Service will certainly achieve its primary goal of halting new road construction. Unfortunately, it will further render millions of acres of our national forests completely inaccessible to proper management, thereby increasing the likelihood of devastation by timber disease, insect infestation and forest fire. According to the Forest Service, 40 million acres of its lands are presently at high risk of catastrophic fire. One might think that increasing the potential for such catastrophe would be as unconscionable to the Forest Servicewhich possesses the primary responsibility for the continued vitality and well-being of our national forestsas it is to you and I.
When the specifics of the moratorium are closely examined, however, it becomes clear that forest health is not the goal that the Administration truly seeks to advance. Under the moratorium, all road construction and reconstruction in the following areas will be suspended:
(1) Roadless areas of 5,000 acres or more inventoried in Roadless Area Reviews and Evaluation (RARE II) and other unroaded areas, regardless of size, which are identified in forest plans.
(2) Roadless areas over 1,000 acres that are contiguous to Wilderness areas or lands classified as ''Wild'' in the National Wild and Scenic River System.
Page 32 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC(3) All roadless areas over 1,000 acres that are contiguous to roadless areas of 5,000 acres or more on other Federal lands.
(4) Any National Forest System area of low-density road development or area determined by the Regional Forester to have unique ecological characteristics or social values (''special areas'').
Enumerated exemptions for roadless areas in the Northwest Forest Plan, the Tongass National Forest and those that have a signed Record of Decision and have completed the appeals process, are rendered null by the fourth category of ''special areas:'' despite their exemptions, these areas may be subjected to the moratorium by the unilateral authority of Regional Foresters. Nowhere in the Administration's promulgated materials, further, do there exist specific guidelines to be used by the Regional Foresters in making such a decision.
The question that presents itself is why the moratorium on new road construction applies only to lands under the control of the Forest Service, and not to those within the national park or wilderness systems. The answer? Simply put, timber harvesting is not permitted in such parks or wilderness areas, so it was unnecessary for the Administration to include them in the moratorium. The real motive behind the moratorium is to place additional burdens on the timber industry, which has already suffered tremendous economic disaster, as a token gesture to the Administration's environmentalist support base. Apparently, this Administration places a higher value on cultivating the environmental protectionist vote than on cultivating a healthy national forest system.
I would like to thank you, Madame Chairman, for holding this public forum for discussion of the Forest Service's moratorium on new road construction. It is my hope that the questions which you and the members of this Subcommittee will pose today will, at last, produce some answers as to the real economic and environmental costs of this ill-conceived plan.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Taylor, thank you very much for being here. If time allows in your schedule, we'd like for you to wait because some of the members may want to ask you questions. Do you have time?
Page 33 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson.
STATEMENT OF HON. ASA HUTCHINSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Thank you, Madam Chairwoman and members of the Committee. I'm grateful for this opportunity, and I will try to be brief, but this is an important subject concerning the Forest Service's proposed moratorium on entry into roadless areas. I commend the chairperson for providing this forum.
I represent the third district of Arkansas, an area of the country that contains two national forests, the Ouachita and the OzarkSt. Francis. Lands in the Ozark and the Ouachita cover large portions of half the counties in my district. They allow Arkansans to enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities provided by our national forest systems, and they afford also much-needed revenue for law enforcement, infrastructure, and educational services in those counties.
I am concerned about the proposed moratorium for several reasons. First of all, systematic review of the management plan that governs the Ouachita and Ozark National Forests are already being conducted by the Forest Service professionals who live and work there. Local communities and interest groups are contributing to the review. A top-down, uniform Federal mandate like the proposed moratorium undermines the ability of these local foresters and communities to properly manage these forests based upon local conditions.
Secondly, I am concerned that this moratorium will hamstring the efforts of the Forest Service professionals to properly care for our forest lands. For example, in 1995 and 1996, the Ouachita National Forest faced an epidemic infestation of southern pine beetles, necessitating heavy salvage logging to stop the spread of the insects. Had the proposed moratorium been in place then, local forest professionals could not have built some of the roads necessary to reach the affected areas, and the infestation would have spread unchecked.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Further, the Forest Service professionals who currently care for the Ouachita and OzarkSt. Francis National Forest have stated that the short-term effects of the moratorium might be negligible, but the long-term effects will result in a sharp reduction in the amount of timber that can be put up for sale from these two forests.
Timber growth in our national forests now exceeds timber harvest by a factor of three. Seventy-four percent of our national forest lands are off-limit to all timber harvesting, and only 3 percent of our national forests are used solely for timber harvest. As such, in my view, it would be unconscionable for a mandate from a Washington bureaucracy to be allowed to eliminate this vital source of revenues for our counties.
Madam Chairwoman, the Forest Service has concluded that it must thoroughly review its road management policy and develop a comprehensive science-based policy for the future, and I could not agree more. This is already being done in the two national forests in my district by professionals who have managed those lands successfully for decades. This is already being done with input of the citizen and interest groups who live in those areas and know their needs better than any Washington bureaucracy. This is already being done without the costly restrictions of a federally mandated prohibition on construction of new roads. And, Madam Chairwoman, this can continue to be done. As such, I would urge the Forest Service to reconsider this proposed moratorium and work with the Committee to develop a more reasonable approach to this historically controversial issue.
And I thank the Chair and this Committee for this opportunity to present these views and for indulging me on my time constraints. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.
Mr. Oberstar will be arriving momentarily, but I do want to say, for the record, that Mr. Joe Kennedy has expressed a great deal of concern about this issue, and the Committee invited him to testify and, indeed, we learned today, right before the hearing started, that he would not be able to testify, but we will be accepting his written testimony.
Page 35 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, with that, I would like to open the panel up for questions, beginning with Mr. Hansen, and then I'll recognize Mr. Hinchey.
Mr. HINCHEY. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. I do not have any questions. However, I would like to extend my appreciate to our colleagues, both Mr. Herger, Mr. Taylor, and Mr. Hutchinson, for their very fine testimony. Although we have some very clear and distinct differences on this issue, I appreciate the sincerity of their testimony and the position which it reflects.
I would just like to suggest one thing, however. There has been some intimidation that the roadless proposal is a proposal emanating from the Clinton Administration. Actually, as I understand it, it is a professional proposal coming out of the professional people within the Forest Service, and it is a proposal based upon their very careful and scientific research, and it's not politically motivated; it's motivated out of a, likewise, sincere approach on the part of the Forest Service, in their professional opinion, to do what is best for the public lands under their jurisdiction.
Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hinchey. Mr. Hansen?
Mr. HANSEN. I thank you, Madam Chairman. I appreciate the testimony of our colleagues. I hope people in the room realize that Representative Taylor is a professional forester himself, and he spent many years in this particular area, and I appreciate Mr. Hutchinson and Mr. Herger, and the words that they have said.
I somewhat disagree with my good friend from New York on what things are motivated and what things are not motivated. Something called the National Escalante Staircase was said not to be motivated by politics, until I was able to subpoena the records, and I'd be happy to show those to anybody. That was politically motivated, obviously. I just came out of a very important meeting regarding air logistic centers, and also another politically motivated thing.
Page 36 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Frankly, scientists are kind of like experts; you know, who do you believe? It's fun to go to court occasionally and listen to people testify, and who is the jury going to believe.
I have great respect for Michael Dombeck and his people who are before him. I see many of them here. I'll look forward to their testimony. But, on the other side of the coin, I think the basic, bottom-line issue is the one that you have articulated many times, and that is the idea of forests and forest health, and people should have the opportunity to use the forests, not destroy the forests. I would submit to you that for almost 100-and-something years we've been able to manage the forests and done a rather good job of it. No disrespect to Mother Nature, but She manages rather ruthlessly sometimes with fire, wind, earthquake, and other ways. Man, who's done a very fine job in our western forestsand I think some of these folks who will be appearing before you have been here before, and I have great respect for many of our past Directors of the Forest Service.
Thank you for holding the meeting, Madam Chairman.
Mr. HUTCHINSON. Madam Chairwoman, would it be all right if I be excused? I appreciate this opportunity. I'm going to leave this to Representative Taylor, since he's an expert in this area.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. It certainly is. Thank you, Mr. Hutchinson.
I see that Mr. Oberstar has arrived, and we wouldI would like to turn to Mr. Radanovich and see if he has any questions of Mr. Taylor.
Mr. RADANOVICH. I have no question, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Schaffer?
Mr. SCHAFFER. No questions.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I'd like to ask a question of you.
Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. Certainly.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. You just can't get off that easy, Charlie.
Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. That's all right, no.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. You're the only forester in the Congress, and so we look to you a lot for your opinions. Tell me, how can we properly manage and maintain healthy forests without access?
Mr. TAYLOR OF NORTH CAROLINA. It's impossible. First of all, it would be impossible to carry out the management task, and then, second, it would be cost-prohibitive to do it, if you could. Unless we manage the forests in a proactive way and produce a timber product which is viable, the number of jobs it creates and the fact it furnishes building materials and that sort of thingit's very importantunless we do in a way that we can produce that product, then you have to pay for it with taxes by government action. In other words, every salvage sale would have to be paid for by hiring government employees to go in and administer it, and it would take tens of millions of dollars, or billions of dollars, to manage the forests in that way.
That's why we established a program with the Forest Service last century that is managed in a way that we get the greatest benefits from our timber resources while using the wisest management. We look to our scientific experience in our State and Federal experimental stations, as well as our plethora of schools. Yale, Duke, Clemson in my area, Auburnall over the country we have excellent forest schools that teach scientific silviculture, and yet the Forest Service seems to be ignoring that.
When we put together the scientific panel that produced the report you have before you, that this Committee and others in Congress has had for over a year, we recruited the heads of the departments of forestry and silviculture from schools all over the country. Now if we cannot believe individuals from our best universities, or the science from our experimental forestry stations, then how can we believe someone who comes in with a theory that trees have feelings, or whatever it is?
Page 38 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Last week I held a town meeting, and I had some young people there who were very concerned about the forests, and I sat with them and tried to reason with them. I asked them if they had been to the experimental stations within 10 miles of where we were sitting, and one had not, and one said, ''oh, yes, I've read about that; they're cutting old growth, and all this sort of thing.'' Clearly, he hadn't been anywhere near what was going on there in reality, to see today's science and the type of technology that's being used.
So there's a fear being exploited across the country to raise funds for political purposes, and a gross misunderstanding of this highly technical area. I would urge every Member to educate themselves as much as possible, because there are plenty of forestry resources there in the past 100 years, as Mr. Hansen said. But our management has to be done with the best science that we have available to us.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Taylor. I really appreciate your comments and your thoughts, and I look forward to working very closely with you on this issue.
So the Chair now recognizes Mr. Oberstar.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES L. OBERSTAR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, thank you very much, Madam Chair, for holding this hearing and bringing public attention to an issue of prime importance to so many of us in the Congress, and to everybody who owns, or aspires to own, a home or does anything with wood in this country. Thank you for bringing the spotlight of public interest and attention to a subject that's almost been stampeded into a rule of the U.S. Forest Service, although there's been an extension granted. I, among many others, had hoped to be able to comment on the proposed rule, but they were rushing it so fast that we just didn't have time to put together a statement in proper order.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So this Committee, once again, is doing yeoman's service in keeping the docket open, if you will, on subjects of broad public interest.
Roads in our national forest system, as roads everywhere, are the lifeline. I serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and have done for 24 years, and I know the vitality that roads bring to communities of all sizes. I know how important the road system is in our national forest system.
But this is not an issue about maintaining the roads. The underlying issue driving this rulemaking is about whether or not to log in our national forests. The 18-month moratoriumanybody who's familiar with the way the Forest Service goes about its management plans and designating areas for logging, and doing the environmental impact statement, and shooting a site for the roads to access the timber saleit takes 18 months. You've got an 18-month moratorium. The moratorium, should it be suspended in favor of some continued forest products harvesting, is going to mean another 18 months before any of the work gets underway. You're talking about 3 years at a minimum of no timber harvesting in key areas of the national forests system nationwide.
Now in my district, northern Minnesota, we have two national forests, the Superior and the Chippewa. The Superior is a little better known because of the age-old controversy over the boundary waters canoe area, for which, Madam Chair, we thank you again eternally for coming to the district and holding a town meeting, and traversing one of the portages, and witnessing firsthand. You've been a champion, and I appreciate that.
But those forests, plus the State forests and private forestry lands, are the economic base for 61,000 jobs, a $2 billion income, and 55 percent of the total wages paid in the manufacturing sector in my congressional district. It's vital to our economy.
So to the point, there are two concerns I have with this proposed policy. The first is the simple issue of forest health. We need to manage our forests. If we agree on nothing else, let me agree on that fundamental principle. The forests held in public trust should be managed, not left to the vagaries of insect, disease, and forest fire, which can bewhich has been documented in the Superior National Forest back to 1595, the earliest recorded or documented forest by forest researchers, and massive forest fires that have raged throughout that area over the years; until most recently we've kept them under management.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to take this log of red pine that grows in the Superior National Forest. From the core to this outer half-inch is 6 years of growth. The next half inch is 7 years of growth. The reason you have so little growth in the second 7 years is that this was an understory tree; that the region in which this tree grew had not been thinned; there had not been release, as we call it in forestry management, and the growth was stunted. We would have had twicewe would have had a lodgepole twice this size, and in another 5 years something that would be useful for sawtimber harvesting. As it is, if you don't manage the forest, you have stunted growth. Some may call that wilderness; I call it bad management.
The second concern I have is forest planning and management. The proposed policy would exempt forests that recently completed a review of their management plans, but makes no provision for those that are just beginning or in the earliest process, or in some stage of developing their management plans. Now, you know, the law requires that all units of the national forest system every 5 years to redo their management plan, to have public and community input, and now this proposed new policy says, oh, forget it, those of you who haven't done it or haven't completed it, you're out. And as I said at the outset of my remarks, that means in 18 months, if this moratorium is liftedif it is liftedthen they begin the process all over again. There's another 18 months, and you're talking really about maybe another 5 years before you get in to harvest any timber.
This is really a no harvest timber proposed policy. What that means is that this 16-year-old red pine is not going to have any substantial additional growth for another five or more years, and that means that the amount of timber available, whether it's for pulpwood, for pulp and paper manufacturing, or for particle board or for wafer board, or the very little sawtimber that we havewe don't have the large, fast-growing forests that you have on the West Coast with the high rainfall, but the small amount of sawtimber we have sustains small businesses, and that's my final point.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is not, as we saw in the debate last summer over logging roads on national forests, this is not a case of little folks against the corporate giants. There isn't a logger in my district that has more than 10 or 12 employees, and most of the sawmill operations have about 12 to 15 employees at the most. These are small business people.
These are also the first people to respond when there's a forest fire. They're the first ones out there in the woods to save the forest and those who live around, in, or near it from the ravages of forest fire. What you're doing is takingwhat this policy is doing is taking away from them their livelihood.
Throughout the whole country, of all the 174 units of the U.S. Forest Service, 71 percent of the timber sales are purchased by small operators. We're talking about undercutting the core of American entrepreneurship.
I hope that, as you go through this hearing, that you highlight this issue and bring some heat, if not light, to bear upon the departmental decision on the moratorium.
Finally, I went and looked back over the last 20 years to see that we have seen the harvest steadily decline on both the Superior and the Chippewa National Forest. We were at 150 million board feet in 1996, and we're down to about 80, just about 90 million board feet for the current year. That's not because the timber isn't available. That's not because our resource has declined. It's simply because the cut has been reduced.
This is a renewable resource. We have more board feet available, we have more timber available on the Superior and the Chippewa today than we did at the turn of the century. And if we continue to manage it wisely, we won't have little saplings like this; we'll have beautiful forests to enjoy for centuries to come.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Oberstar follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JIM OBERSTAR, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MINNESOTA
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Madam Chairwoman, Members of the Subcommittee, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to testify today. It is a great pleasure to once again appear before this Subcommittee to talk about my district and forest policy.
As Ranking Member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I know all too well the difficult task of maintaining a vast transportation system. I would like to applaud the Forest Service for recognizing and making forest road maintenance a priority. I can certainly appreciate the difficult task of keeping and maintaining an inventory of a system of this magnitude. The importance of forest roads cannot be underestimated. These roads are the life-line of tourists, recreationists and forest service professionals. It is true that the forest road system is in desperate need of repair and upgrade. I hope we can all support increased funding for this effort.
In my district of Northeastern Minnesota, the Superior National Forest and the Chippewa National Forest, are two of the highest producing, lowest-cost forests in the Region. These two young, healthy forests have been managed aggressively for over a century, providing the productive forests that we have today.
The forest products industry is the 3rd largest industry in Minnesota. It generates 14 percent of all dollars in manufacturing. It employs some 61,000 individuals with wages of over $2.0 billion annually. In my district, it represents almost half of the manufacturing jobs in the region and approximately 55 percent of the total wages paid in the manufacturing sector. This is an industry vital to the economy of my district.
I had expected to comment to the Forest Service prior to its promulgation, however, the announcement was so sudden, few Members of Congress had prior input. So, this hearing is extremely important, and I thank the Chairwoman for a forum in which to express our views.
There are two principal concerns that I have with this proposed policy. First, I have concerns with the simple issue of forest health. If we agree on nothing else, let us agree that forests need to be managed. If left unattended, our forests will slowly degenerate: ultimately consumed by insect, disease and fire. Indeed we have a fire history on the Superior National Forest dating back to 1595. Managing forests by sustainable forestry practices will maintain the health and viability of our national forest system. Under the current proposed policy, certain areaspotentially an entire forest, will be subjected to an 18-month-PLUS restriction on road-building. The term ''road-building'' in my state is synonymous with timber sales. If there are no roadsthere are no timber sales.
Page 43 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I bring you today an example of poor management practices and the results its affects have on the resource. I have here an approximately 16-year old red pine from my district in Northern Minnesota. It came from a plantation that was correctly thinned in its early years. By the growth rings you see healthy and normal development. As the plantation continued to grow and thinning practices were not continued, the growth was stunted. By the compacted growth rings you can see the effects poor management has on the development. With the type of policy we are discussing today, it is clear that forests will suffer.
Secondly, I have concerns with the issue of forest planning and management practices. The proposed new policy would exempt those forests that recently completed review of their management plans. The policy makes no provision for those units that are in the process of reviewing their plans as is the case with the Superior and Chippewa Forests in my district. Adoption of this policy would effectively eliminate the ability for communities in my district to participate in any substantive way with the forestry units.
On the Superior National Forest, the proposed moratorium would suspend work over the next three fiscal years on 25 sales involving 50 million board feet. Neither forest will undertake work on a number of other sales because no one can predict what the outcome of this review will be. The already strained pipeline for sales will be squeezed further. The Superior National Forests is presently at 76 percent of its Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ). Clearly, that percentage will decrease during the 18-month moratorium, and very likely another year and a half afterwardand the consequences will be severe and widely felt.
As we saw during the House debate this past summer on the Purchaser Credit program, advocates of this type of policy attempt to portray those affected by this policy as huge corporate giants. Of the timber sales offered, 71.5 percent of all timber sales throughout the country are purchased by small businesses. These loggers and sawmill operators are small businessmen and women, family-owned operations. They have lived in this north country for generations and have volunteered their time to fight the forest fires and plant the seedlings that regenerate the forests, providing long-term health and well-being of our resources. These are small businesses in small towns and they are proud of their heritage.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This moratorium should not be viewed in isolation, but with the backdrop of other policies that have adversely affected the small forest operator: the decrease in Forest Service budgets able to provide sufficient future harvestable timber, increase in costs due to litigation, and the on again off again policies that affect sales adds to the uncertainty and costs of the small operator.
The Department's proposed policy raises other questions that time does not allow us to address here today, such as the section of ''special areas'' that is ill-defined and creates a whole new area of uncertainty and should be should be more carefully explored as should the specter those policy raises creating wilderness type areas without an Act of Congress. I thank the Subcommittee for holding this hearing and allowing a broad discussion of vital issues that affect the long-term health and viability of our national forest system. Thank you for your diligence.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.
I wanted to ask youthe Forest Service is now asking for other Federal funds for road maintenance, while at the same time they are eliminating nearly their entire commodity program that produces the majority of the Service's revenue. What is your reaction to this situation?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, first of all, they include in the base cost of every sale that I know of in northern Minnesota, for each of the timber sales that have been put up, they include in the base cost the cost of road-building. The permanent roads that exist in the Forest Service are covered under a special provision of the surface transportation program, known as public lands highways, which are funded at 100 percent. All they need to do is ask for additional funding for their road programs to maintain their portfolio of roads. We provide the authorization in our Committee on Transportation, and when they look at their overall budget and make tradeoffs, they have to understand that roads provide more thanaccess for more than just timber harvesting. These roads are used in the Chippewa and the Superior and elsewhere, I know in the Chiquamagon in northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan, for small game hunters, grouse, partridge, rabbits, and for deer hunting. They're used by recreationalists who go into fishing holes and fishing lakes. They use these timber haul roads. None of the cost is charged off to those users. It's only the timber producer that pays the cost of that road.
Page 45 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar. I very much appreciate your testimony.
I now recognize the Ranking Minority Member for questioning, Mr. Hinchey.
Mr. HINCHEY. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman. I have no questions of Mr. Oberstar. I just want to express my appreciation for his testimony. It's always a pleasure to hear from him and to listen to his expertise, which he's gained from firsthand experience. Thank you very much.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you. I thank the gentleman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Peterson?
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Yes, I would also like to thank the gentleman from Minnesota. I'm from Pennsylvania, but I was interested in your comments that this 18-month moratoriumand then I think you followed that up; you said there'd be probably an 18-month study. So what we're really seeing here is the rest of the ClintonGore administration saying we're not going to cut timber any more than we can help. Is that your observation?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Or into the next century.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. That's right, but I mean
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes. Exactly.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. But that finishes their tenure of running this country.
Mr. OBERSTAR. No new sales over those that are already in progress.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Yes, but it's their way oftheir next effort of stopping cutting? Would you think that's a fair assessment?
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. That is the result. Whether they intend it that waybut that's clearly the result.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Well, as someone who's been observing this for years yourself, have you heard any logical arguments, any scientific arguments, that this moratorium makes some sense or there's some reason for it? Have you heard anything?
Mr. OBERSTAR. No, I see no valid basis in the presentations by the Secretary or the Forest Service to justify their actions.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Well, when you look at the diversity of this country, I always get nervous at a Federal policy that is the same for Alaska as it is for California, as it is for North Carolina, as it is for Minnesota, as it is for Pennsylvania, when we're so different. I mean, the forests of Minnesota I'm sure are far different than the forests of Pennsylvania, and they're certainly different from the forests on the West Coast.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Exactly. The 100th meridian divides the forestry resources of the country. Those west of the 100th meridian are largely the large sawtimber, fast-growing, huge pine forests, and we're the mix of, as in your district, which was Bill Clinger's district previouslyand I consulted with him many times; we joined forces on these issueslargely hardwood forests.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. That's right.
Mr. OBERSTAR. And it's entirely different management principles that must prevail in the area east of the 100th meridian than west, and different terrain, different management practices. Where you have mountainous country, you manage the land much differently than you do flatlands or uplands.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. It would be like telling the apple growers in Washington that they should raise apples like we raise them on the East Coast, when it's different climate; it's different soils; it's differentor the tomato growers in Florida, that they should do the same practices that New Jersey uses. I mean, it makes no sense to haveif this is about management, managing our forests, I can see no otherI guess the point I want to make very, very clear: This is about, again, stopping as much cutting as possible on our forests. Do you agree with that?
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. I said that at the very outset, Mr. Peterson, and that is that the net effectI don't want to go into motives, because I haven't talked enough to people to know what their real motive or thinking is, but the clear net effectanyone who understands how the forests must lay out their management programs, lay out 5-year plans, there's an 18-month period of time to do the planning for your management plans. We've got an 18-month moratorium, and then if it's lifted after that 18 monthsand I'm not confident that it would bethen you've gotfor those that have just started their plan, they've got to go back and start it all over again. You've got another 18 months. So you're talking a good 3 years, and maybe another year-plus. We're 5 years away from seeing some timber harvesting.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. My district is the home of the very best hardwoods in the world.
Mr. OBERSTAR. That's what Bill Clinger always said.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Yes, well, if you want black cherry, you come to Pennsylvania
Mr. OBERSTAR. Black cherry is right
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. [continuing] and you come to the fifth district, because we have about 70 percent of the veneer in the world in my district. So we are the homebut it's interesting, while the whole world is trying to believe that we are cutting down the forests, in Pennsylvania I've been involved in government for 20 yearsat the State and now here. In that period of time, if my memory is correct, we had 14 million acres of commercial forests in Pennsylvania when I first went into government, and we now have 16 million acres and a forest has to reach a certain quality before it's considered commercial. And the Federal land is probably the most undercut and has the most dying timber. The State land is next, and, of course, the public land is the best managed. And Pennsylvania is another big public State because our State owns about 5 million acres, along with the Federal ownership. So we are a big public ownership State, and that's why it's so important to us that we have an appropriate management policy that can continue on forever, if it's done right.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. A forest is forever, if we manage it well.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. That's right.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair recognizes Mr. Schaffer. Any questions?
Mr. SCHAFFER. I have no questions, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill?
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Oberstar, for your comments.
I presumeand I don't know whether you supported the National Forest Management Act, but I presume that you support the provisions that require the Forest Service to consider local impacts when they make forest management decisions?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Absolutely.
Mr. HILL. Are you aware, in terms of the decision to make this moratorium, did anyone with the Forest Service make inquiries into your district with regard to what those impacts might be on the local forests or on the local economy?
Mr. OBERSTAR. I don't think they were allowed to.
Mr. HILL. So you believe they were denied that opportunity?
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, I don't know if they were denied it. I justbecause we have very good communication with the staff on both the Superior and the Chippewa in my district offices, and all of a sudden this policy came out. They usually talk to us about everything. So I just surmise that they either weren't told or weren't allowed; I don't know which.
Mr. HILL. Are you aware that there was a meeting, I think, in December. The Regional Foresters met with the Chief of the Forest Service to discuss this moratorium. Are you aware at all
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. I didn't know that.
Mr. HILL. Do you haveis there any fire hazard in those forests that's associated with the current El Niño conditions? I know that Minnesota has had a more than mild winter this winter.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Well, we won't know about fire condition untilMarch is usually our heaviest snow year, and we've only had 53 inches of snow so far this year, and our average is 131, and our biggest year was 199596 with 135 inches. March may be the salvage, but we're having a big snowmobile race up in the district, and they're trucking snow in from Canada, would you believe?
Mr. OBERSTAR. So I don't know about fire hazard. That will come this spring. But, I'll tell you, if we're going to haveif this is 16-year-old red pine this year, at the end of this moratorium period and the period that follows, we may not have this pine around because there's going to be disease, death, down timber, and it's going to catch fire and burn. We're going to have to have a very high fire watch.
Mr. HILL. I found your comments interesting about the different forests. I have 10 national forests in my district, and they're all different. As a matter of fact, they all have different species of trees. They have different issues with regard to riparian areas, with regard to watersheds. They all have different tree species, different soil conditions, different moisture conditions.
I'm having a hard time understanding how a policy that is made in Washington can address the differences between those 10 national forests, let alone all the national forests in the Nation. I don't even know how many national forests there are. You probably know the answer to that.
Mr. OBERSTAR. A hundred and seventy-four.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. A hundred and seventy-four. I'm going to write that down, so I remember that, because I have about 8 percent of that, it sounds like.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes.
Mr. HILL. Were there any other groups in Minnesotawere any sportsmen's groups, any multiple-use groups consulted, are you aware of, in the decision to implement this moratoria?
Mr. OBERSTAR. No, they all came and complained to me about it.
Mr. HILL. And I'm just curious, in Montana, in Region 1, which I think all my national forests are there, and I think all but two of them constitute Region 1, about half of now all the logging roads in my district are already closed to public use. Are you experiencing a similar situation in your district with regard to closure of Forest Service roads?
Mr. OBERSTAR. I don't know what number or percentage, but there are roads that are in serious condition, some of which are unusable, and especially this year it's hard to tell which are unusable because of lack of cold weather or because of lack of maintenance, but we have a serious problem on both forests.
Mr. HILL. And the revenues for maintenance or improvement of those roads, of course, come from the proceeds of timber sales, right?
Mr. OBERSTAR. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. And so if there are timber sales that will not occur as a consequence of this moratorium, that will be less revenue to maintain the roads that are there that could be impacting the environment?
Mr. OBERSTAR. With the exception of those that are designated public lands highways and are eligible under the surface transportation program for 100 percent Federal funding out of the Highway Trust Fund.
Mr. HILL. And, generally speaking, those roads are
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. OBERSTAR. They're high-grade roads, yes.
Mr. HILL. [continuing] they're high-grade roads.
Mr. OBERSTAR. They're not gravel roads, no.
Mr. HILL. Thank you. I thank the gentleman. I thank the chairwoman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar. I very much appreciate your contribution to the record and the time that you've spent with us. I do want to say you represent one of the most beautiful areas in the Nation, and, indeed, it was my deep privilege and pleasure to be to go into your district.
Mr. OBERSTAR. They'll be happy to have you back any time.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. There's a lot of Norwegians and Swedes up there working in the timber industry, isn't there?
Mr. OBERSTAR. And also Finns, lots of Finns.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And Finns.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes, they surethe women sure know how to cook, too. Maybe the men do, too, in this day and age; I don't know.
Mr. HILL. Madam Chairman, I would just like to point out that there are a few Irish that were from that district. I was raised in Mr. Oberstar's district.
Mr. OBERSTAR. They're usually the fire chiefs and the bosses in the iron ore mines.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Oberstar, again, thank you. It was a privilege to have you before our Committee.
Page 52 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I will now look to the next panel, Mr. Dombeck.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. But before we continue, I would like to explain that I intend to place all outside witnesses under oath. This is a formality of the Committee that is meant to assure open and honest discussion and should not affect the testimony given by witnesses. I believe all of the witnesses were informed of this before appearing here today, and they have each been provided a copy of the Committee rules.
And now it's my privilege to introduce our next witness, Chief Mike Dombeck, U.S. Forest Service, Washington, DC.
If you will rise, Chief, and raise your right arm?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Under our Committee rules, we will be questioning Mr. Dombeck after his testimony, but our Committee rules limit statements to 5 minutes, but the Chief's entire statement will appear in the record and we'll allow him to summarize his statement. We will also allow the entire panel to testify before questioning the witnesses.
The chairman now recognizes Chief Dombeck to testify.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL DOMBECK, CHIEF, U.S. FOREST SERVICE
Chief DOMBECK. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman and members of the Committee. In fact, I was delighted to see the tone of humor that ended the last panel, as we embark on an issue that has not been very humorous for well over a decade.
I appreciate the opportunity to visit with the panel and answer questions about roads and the roads program, and as has been articulated, I have proposed a timeout in road building in roadless areas for an 18-month period as one part of a strategy. A second part is to develop a science-based forest transportation system that meets the needs of local people while minimizing and reversing the adverse environmental effects associated with roads, particularly poorly maintained roads.
Page 53 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me outline the key objectives of the policy. No. 1 is to provide managers with the best, up-to-date science and analytical tools to make better informed decisions about when, where, and if to construct new roads. A second, once those decisions are made, working with local people, we need to determine what roads are needed and commission those that are not needed, perhaps convert them to trails, whatever the best use, determined with the local community and the State.
Third, we need to improve the roads and be able to take care of the roads in an appropriate manner that we do need. There are changing demands in local communities, changing access needs, and a growing recreation use on national forest systems. The policy review is critical, so we can focus our limited resources on the roads in most need.
Finally, we intend to develop a road policy that allows us to catch up on our enormous backlog in road maintenance and reconstruction, while meeting management objectives and access needs.
The road network of the national forest system is extensive and diverse. Many roads are essential for active management of national forest resources and provide many and various benefits. They are critical to timber harvest, to mineral extraction, to livestock grazing, to recreation access, and many local needs. They provide access for fire control, law enforcement, search and rescue, wildlife habitat projects, research and monitoring. And there is no question that the road network of the national forest system serves, and will continue to serve, as a fundamental component of the delivery system of multiple-use programs.
The simple fact is that the road system we have today is tremendously larger than we can afford. Current funding is not sufficient to maintain all the roads to safety and environmental standards to which they were built. For example, we only maintain 40 percent of the 373,000 miles of road to designated environmental and safety standards. Let me give a few examples.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Building a road requires a short-term investment of revenue. However, maintenance decade after decade is a long-term financial commitment. The cost of delaying timely maintenance and reconstruction increases exponentially over time.
In Idaho, the road to Riverside Campground on the Targhee National Forest could have been chip-sealed a few years ago for $22,000. Today it will cost more than $110,000. To reconstruct five miles of Scout Mountain Road on the Caribou National Forest will cost $1.4 million. Most of that could have been preserved by investing about $100,000 several years ago.
While forest roads provide many benefits, they can also cause serious environmental damage. While new developments in road building technology result in fewer negative environmental impacts, the environmental effects of existing roads, of roads that were designed decades ago to lower standards, and roads that are not appropriately maintained are some of our key problems. They're related to increased frequency of flooding, of landslides, increased stream sedimentation associated with the reductions of aquatic habitat productivity and water quality.
Research indicates that roading may accelerate the invasion of exotic plant species that ultimately displace native species and diminish the productivity of the land. My objective is that, with new policies and procedures firmly established, local managers can decide where and how individual roads should be managed, working with local people. The Forest Service needs to balance scientific information, public needs, and funding level to determine the size, purpose, and extent of the forest road transportation system.
I would also ask, Madam Chairman, that The Federal Register notices be made part of the record. In addition to the two Federal Register notices that are out currently, we are also extending the comment period on the interim, temporary suspension of road building, and that is available, will be available in The Federal Register on Friday, but I would also ask that that be made part of the record.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Chief DOMBECK. Under the interim proposed rule, a limited number of land management projects that depend upon new road construction, such as timber sales, may not be implemented in a timely manner. During the interim period, some projects may proceed in an altered form, and some may be postponed until such a time as road access management is implemented.
I want to emphasize that only new road construction or reconstruction within roadless areas is affected by this proposal. Other needed management activities that do not require road construction will continue.
In summary, Madam Chairman, the Forest Service shares your deep concerns for a transportation system that meets the needs of rural America. The Forest Service recognizes the need for a science-based process that enables us to manage our transportation system in a manner that minimizes or reverses environmental impacts while providing the transportation infrastructure needed by rural America.
I'd be happy to answer any questions, Madam Chairman, to you or any of the Committee members. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Chief Dombeck may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Dombeck.
I see that Mr. Stupak has arrived, and, Mr. Stupak, we've looked forward to your testimony. If you would like to join the Chief at the witness table, we'd look forward to hearing from you, and we will interrupt the panel to hear from Mr. Stupak, the gentleman from Michigan. Mr. Stupak?
STATEMENT OF HON. BART STUPAK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Page 56 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STUPAK. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for accommodating me. My plane just landed, and I appreciate the opportunity to get on immediately.
I think everyone agrees that there's a need for a comprehensive plan of dealing with roads in our national forests. However, I think this moratorium that is being proposed will undermine years of hard work in our national forests, threaten forest health and the forest industry in our local communities.
Madam Chair, in Michigan, two main national forests in my district, the Ottowa and Hiawathafor a number of years we've spent time doing a forest management plan. The forest management plan is agreed by everybody, whether you're an environmentalist, whether you're in the timber industry, or whether you're a recreation enthusiast. We've agreed on how to manage our forests. We've agreed where forest roads should and should not go.
Now we have this proposal from Washington which is basically going to undermine everything we have done for all these years. We have a great working relationship, and now, because Washington, DC, wants to change it in our national forests, I think it is wrong and I think we should allow the local citizens and the forest managers to make those decisions, and not impose this moratorium on the entire Nation, as decreed from Washington, DC.
Second, since 1991, in my district, more trees die and rot than are actually being cut. For every tree that's cut, we've got one-and-two-thirds tree that will probably tumble down and die somewhere in northern Michigan because it's not being properly managed and we're not cutting enough up in my district, and forest products is a big, one of my biggest industries, but still, with all the trees we have in the national forests, we still are not keeping up with the growth in northern Michigan.
Also, the new policy will only increase a trend of promoting the outbreak of diseases in trees, creating fuel for forest fires. I know I don't have to explain to the Chair what a catastrophic event it is when you have wildfires breaking out; you don't have access to it. Roads actually provide you that opportunity. It actually prevents the spread of disease, which may wipe out part of your forests. So it can be used, the roads can actually be used as a very valuable forest management tool to allow you access to this timber.
Page 57 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Third, not only would the roads have a significant impact on the forest industry as an industry in and of itself, the proposed moratorium would put 16 percent of the suitable timber base offlimits for road building. You know, if you don't have a road, you can't harvest the timber. So 16 percent right off the top would come off the base for timber sales.
And then you have this idea of special areas that they propose in this moratorium. I think that's just to put more forests off without having us to put roads in there. You have towithout the roads, you can't cut any timber. It's just a very bad policy.
Finally, I think you'd also have a drastic effect on our local communities. As you know, Madam Chair and members of this Committee, the counties which have national forest lands receive payment, basically 25 percent of the gross Federal timber revenue. This policy, if you do not have the roads, you do not have the timber sales. Based on that 16 percent I mentioned, we could lose as much as $160 million in revenue, and that's a conservative estimate at best. So $160 million in payments to these local communities. That goes for schools; that goes for services provided by local units of government.
So when you take a look at it, this moratorium will not manage our forests. In fact, I think it will be a hinderance to the forests. It has economic ramifications. It has natural resource ramifications. It has trees in my district that we can't even cultivate or manage our forests without it.
But I guess the most striking is, we've asked our Regional Foresters, national forest representatives, to enter into agreement(s) with local units of government, and now we're going to undermine all those years of work, just because Washington has a ''better idea.'' So I would totally oppose this moratorium. A roadless area moratorium is an ill-conceived policy. I don't think it's been thought through. It's going to have detrimental effects on our environment, jobs, our local communities. And, understand, when you do anything in a national forest, we already have a number of protections in therewith the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Protection Act, the National Forest Management Act. These are all designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas, to make sure we don't have roads all over the place.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC These programs have fit well in the past. I don't think we should now embark upon a one-size-fits all program.
Madam Chair, I'm pleased you're having hearings on this. I'm pleased we began the debate on this issue. I think the national forests, at least in my district, have worked fairly well. The Great Lakes Region is a pretty efficient, effectively run national forest area. I would hope we would defer to the good judgment put forth by local individuals.
With that, Madam Chair, I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Stupak follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. BART STUPAK, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today and for allowing me the opportunity to offer my comments on this important issue. I have a number of concerns regarding the Administration's proposed Forest Service roadless area moratorium. While I think everyone agrees that there is a need for a comprehensive plan for dealing with roads in our national forests, this moratorium undermines years of hard work in our national forests and threatens forest health, the forest industry and our local communities.
First of all, the roadless area moratorium undermines the hard work by our local citizens and subverts agreements that have been reached in managing our Federal lands. In Michigan, a number of parties from all sides spent years negotiating a management agreement for two national forests in my district, the Ottawa and Hiawatha. In one of the specific compromises, the Trap Rock Hills Area on the Ottawa National Forest and the Fibre Area on the Hiawatha National Forest were to be returned to management designations upon passage of the Michigan Wilderness Act. The roadless area moratorium would effectively kill this negotiated compromise. Instead of allowing regional foresters and local citizens to determine how their forests should be managed, a bureaucratic decision has been made in Washington, DC to impose this moratorium on the entire nation.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Second, this moratorium could have an adverse effect on forest health. Since 1991, more trees die and rot each year in national forests than is sold for timber. This new policy will only increase this trend, promoting the outbreak of disease and creating fuel for forest fires. The Forest Service itself estimates that 40 million acres of its forest are at great risk of being consumed by catastrophic wildfire, the majority of which are located in roadless areas. Without the ability to conduct proper forest management activities, the risk of disease outbreak and forest fires increases dramatically.
Thirdly, the roadless area moratorium would have a significant impact on the forest industry. According to the Administration, the proposed moratorium would put 16 percent of the suitable timber base off-limits for road building, which is a precursor for timber harvesting. Combined with the vague ''special areas'' that can be placed off-limits by regional foresters, the impact on the forest industry could be serious. In my district, which already suffers from high unemployment, the forest industry is one of my top employers. I am very concerned that this moratorium on road building will also cause a moratorium on jobs in the forest industry.
Finally, the moratorium could also have a drastic effect on our local communities. By law, counties with national forest lands receive payments equaling 25 percent of gross Federal timber revenues. These payments are used by county governments, districts and school boards for education programs and road maintenance. The Forest Service has been reported to have estimated that this policy could result in the loss of $160 million in revenuea conservative estimate at best. At a time when the PILT program remains woefully underfunded, local communities may be the hardest hit by this proposed moratorium.
Mr. Chairman, I am glad that we have begun the debate on a comprehensive road plan for our nation's Federal forest lands. However, I believe that the roadless area moratorium is an ill conceived policy that could have detrimental effects on our environment, jobs and local communities. We already have a number of laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Protection Act, and the National Forest Management Act, that are designed to protect the environmentally sensitive areas of our country. A ''one size fits all'' mandate by the Federal Government is simply not needed.
Page 60 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this hearing on this important issue.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. And we will defer to Mr. Stupak for the moment, so he can get back to his committee.
Mr. Stupak, up there in the upper peninsula of Michigan, what is the average annual income of the average family up there?
Mr. STUPAK. Oh, my average income is, my district, maybe average family income, I'm going to sayI'm thinking family now, maybe two jobsat most, in the twenties, $25,000.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So this would seriously impact families
Mr. STUPAK. Oh, not only the economics. I mean, take my communities. There are some counties in my district, they cannot bond for schools. You know, if you want to build a new school, you have to bond for it, put the bonding out, and we finance and build our schools that way. The Federal Government owns so much of my land up there, some of these schools cannot bond, because they don't have enough of a resource base or a tax base because the Federal Government owns most of the land. The meager PILT paymentsand I know you've joined me in the past in trying to raise the PILT payments, payment in lieu of taxes, we set the standard, I believe, in 1978 and we've never increased it for inflation or anything else, but, yet, we still expect the local communities to provide services to its citizens, and the Federal Government owns all of its land, will not increase PILT payments.
So we do have this idea underneath the timber sales, and actually my forests up there, we're what we call ''above cost.'' Actually, the Federal Government makes money off northern Michigan timber sales. So it's been a very good policy, and now to suddenly shut it down would be ill-conceived.
Page 61 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. In my district in Idaho, some of our schools our having to run on 4-day weeks, and many of the Forest Service employees send their children to those schools.
Mr. STUPAK. Sure.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So it does have a double-whammy. I dread to think that that will spread to other areas like the UP.
Mr. STUPAK. Well, if you take a look at it, Madam Chair, if I can go on, in these agreements I said that we have in the Hiawatha and the Ottowa National Forests, these are agreements that have been long-term negotiated, 50-year agreements. So you ask industry up there to invest in a community, and they based it upon a 50-year agreement that there would be abundant forest supply or timber supply for these mills. Now, after 10 years in the agreement, you're to change? Well, you tell the industries that invested millions to billions of dollars in an industry that, ah, we just decided in Washington, DC to change it, not take into consideration your economic investment in an area, and I think that's where we fall short in our goals to do well by the environment. I think we hurt ourselves and our communities and the trust of the Federal Government, when you enter into an agreement and you do not live up to it.
And one other thing. If you take these forests off the market, because you can't build any roads, there's no more timber sales. That 16 percent I mentioned, what do you do? You put pressure on your State forests; you put pressure on private forests to then provide the wood for these mills, the timber resources for these mills. So you're putting greater pressureit may not be on the Federal land, piece of land, but you're putting pressure, and it can be environmentally damaging to the State forests and to the private forest owner.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Stupak. Well-noted.
Do any members of the Committee have questions of the Congressman?
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Just thank him for his good testimony.
Page 62 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STUPAK. Thanks.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I want to join Mr. Peterson and thank you for your fine testimony. As you know, should you wish to supplement your testimony with any written information, in addition to what you've testified to, the record will remain open.
Mr. STUPAK. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for the time.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much.
CONTINUATION OF THE STATEMENT OF MICHAEL DOMBECK
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Chief Dombeck. I appreciate your indulgence there. These Committee members, Congressmen have committees that they're do markup in, and it's difficult to work them in and out.
As you can see by the many comments I have received here from constituents, this roadless moratorium has not been well-received at all. And I am placing these questionnaires regarding the roadless area as part of the official hearing record, without objection.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. As we all know, this initiative has been long in coming, and the only problem is that the ClintonGore administration has decided that it is better to work in the back rooms than to involve the public and the Congress. I cannot speak for everyone in Congress, but I have personally attempted to work with you, Mr. Dombeck, on several occasions with regard to this issue. As you know, word began to leak out that the Forest Service was working on a roads initiative around the end of August, and in response to this, my staff in Turkey spoke to you about what you had planned. You informed them that you were not working on any kind of roadless policy or a de facto wilderness policy.
Page 63 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Upon hearing more of the administration's roadless initiative, I sent a letter of inquiry to the President, and this letter was sent on December 10, 1997. An answer was requested by January 5th of 1998. But after numerous inquiries, no answer has ever been received to this letter. Five letters from congressional leadership, including three signed by myself, were sent without a reply.
Now there was an article in The New York Times, dated January 10, 1998. The answer to our letter did not come from the administration, but our letters of inquiry were answered by thisan article in The New York Times, dated January 10, and it outlined your initiative. But we didn't hear from you; we heard it through the press.
What it pointed out was something that we knew all along. What this article says is that the Vice President is the one who has been pushing for this. Is this why the Sierra Club sent its letter to Vice President Gore, cc to Katie McGinty? Is this why the Sierra Club sent this letter, dated January 13, from the Sierra Club to Vice President Gore, and a carbon copy to Katie McGinty? Is this why the administration went around this Committee and the Congress?
Chief DOMBECK. I'm not familiar with that letter, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Kathy, would you show the letter to the Chief?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't recall having seen this letter before, and I guess I can't comment on the intent of it, other than a groupI assume the group's stating their position.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Dombeck, is this whole program being initiated out of the Vice President's office or out of Katie McGinty's office? Now let me back up and say, we have reason to be very concerned. As Chairman Hansen referred to the Escalante National Monument issue, this administration was in absolute denial that, No. 1, it was politically motivated, and, No. 2, that it was coming from the highest reaches in the White House, until we turned up information on subpoena, inside documents.
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am utterly baffled as to why, No. 1, my letters and the letters from this Committee, as well as the entire Resources Committee, went unanswered, and yet the communication was going on between the Sierra Club and the Vice President, carbon copy to Katie McGinty.
When we first met and we first started talking together, I never did get the impression that this kind of thing could have happened, but it did. I want to ask you again, after numerous inquiries by myself, Chairman Young, and many others went unanswered by you, about the content and nature of this initiative, and you claimed that you knew nothing about this policy, when personally asked. Is the statement true in The New York Times that this policy is something that the Vice President initiated and pushed, and what percentage of your time since August 1997 have you spent on it personally?
Chief DOMBECK. First of all, let me just give you a little bit of history on this issue. The answer to your first question is, no, it was initiated by the Forest Service. In fact, the first statements that I made on the problems associated with many of the controversial areas was in, I believe it was March 18 testimony in this room before you.
The meeting with the management team of the Forest Service, as now I'm just a little bit over a year in the job, we took a look at what the most challenging, perplexing problems were for the agency, because my objective is to try to move the agency into more of an anticipatory management scheme. The challenges that the agency faces, and that natural resource management faces in general, perplex all of us, and the more time we can spend anticipating problems and issues, I believe the more efficient we can be. As a matter of fact, I just want to say that many of the statements that have been made here, just from the standpoint of overall forest management and challenges that we have, I think you will find broad agreement for.
So we then addressed the issue in more detail at another national leadership meeting of our Regional Foresters and Station Directors that we held in St. Paul in August, and at that time assignments were made to career staff to go ahead and begin an analysis of what we do with the challenge that we have with this roads program. Now it's a program that's been in the emergencyliterally been in the emergency room for a number of years, and in fact, our inability to maintain roads because of maintenance problems and lack of funding is sort of pulling the whole program down.
Page 65 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We then, the professional staff of the agency, looked at options, and we met inI believe it waswas it December 4?again, where I called a special meeting of the management of the Forest Service. It was at that time we began to discuss what our options might be in addressing this issue.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Dombeck, you had a meeting in St. Paul in August and you were in Turkey with my staff in September, when my staff asked you directly if you were involved in this type of program, and you told them no.
Chief DOMBECK. Welland, again, I think about thethe policy addresses road building. It doesn't address land allocation, roadless management. It focuses specifically roads.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, I just want to say, Chief, that when we, either formally or informally, ask you a direct question, we need a direct answer, and this was not a direct answer, and I'm very, very disappointed, to say the least.
The fact that your Service has worked around us, has not worked with us, and this is a major change in policyif the Vice Presidentlet me ask you this, and then I'm going to open this up for questions with the other Committee members. If the Vice President was not directing this policy, then why did he take credit for it in The New York Times? If it was The Washington Times, you know, this is not a newspaper he normally works with, but The New York Times is another story. Why did he take credit for this? And if you are continuing to be in denial, that this was not initiated by the Vice President, then I would appreciate your asking him why he's taking credit for it and getting back to us. We need to know where these policies are being driven from.
Chief DOMBECK. Now tell me the question again?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK, the question is: You denied that the Vice President initiated this program. Yet, the Vice President himself took credit for this program in The New York Times. If he didn't initiate it, then why is he taking credit for it in the press? And I think that if you still want to deny that he initiated it, then you need to ask him, or let this Committee know where the policy is emanating that is driving management on our national forests.
Page 66 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. First of all, let me say thatlet me reaffirm again that, you know, this policy, the needs to address the roads issue on the national forest system came fromcame from me and the staff of the leadership of the Forest Service. Now the other thing to keep in mind is the fact that, as policy is developed, a policy that isan issue that is this intense and has been for so longis of intense interest, and I, my staff and I brief not only the people on our own staff and others onassociated staff directors, and so on, in Washington, which we did, we briefsince we work for the administration and the Executive branch, I briefed the Secretary, the Secretary's staff, various people in the administration, as the policy was nearing completion, because that's my responsibility.
I might alsoany time you have a large number of people involved in developing a policy that's of such high interest, I guess I don't know how you prevent people from talking and leaks and that sort of thing.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The question is: Why did the Vice President take credit for this program in The New York Times, if he had nothing to do with it?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't know that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Pardon me?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't know the answer to that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right. Mr. Hinchey, do you have any questions?
Mr. HINCHEY. Yes, I do, Madam Chairman. Thank you very much.
Mr. Dombeck, I want to express my appreciation for your initiative in proposing the moratorium on road building in the forest preserves. Sometimes I must imagine that you think you're in the road maintenance and road building business rather than the forestry business. The national forest transportation system includes approximately 373,000 miles of authorized roads currently. In contrast, the interstate highway system has less than 48,000 miles of roads. So you're overseeing a road system eight times as long as the Federal interstate highway system.
Page 67 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC For additional perspective, your highways constitute enough mileage to encircle the globe more than 15 timesan extraordinary circumstance, I think. And these roads, by the way, access currently 191 million acres of national forest lands, and all of these 191 million acres of national forest lands are used for a variety of purposes. So I'm sure it must appear to you that you're in the road business rather than the forestry business at some point, and I could fully understand why you're suggesting a moratorium.
Given that you have identified a forest road repair and maintenance backlog now, currently, of $10.5 billion, can you tell me what funds you are requesting in the fiscal year 1999 budget?
Chief DOMBECK. We havethe President's budget is asking for, I believe it's about a 20 percent overall increase in the forest roads program. This is a programjust to exemplify the challenges that I have and the Forest Service has, as it's stuck in this issue, is in 1985 we had an overall forest roads budget of about $228 million; by 1996, that had fallen to about $95 million. And, yet, the backlog continues, and as I explained in some of the examples, road maintenance problems are such that, when not addressed, they increase at a more rapid rate year after year after year, if they're not addressed and become costly problems that contribute to not only safety problems, but environmental problems. We find ourselves having to lower the weight limits on bridges. And one Forest Service employee from Wyoming told me that, you know, it used to be that the school bus could get across the bridge; now it can't, because of load limit restrictions.
We should bewe have about 7,700 bridges that we should be maintaining and improving 300 to 400 a year, and I believe it'sis it about 40?that we have funding for to maintain. So it's an infrastructure problem that we have to face and deal with it. And I understand the tenacity of the issue.
Mr. HINCHEY. I bet you do. And it's also a safety problem, as you point out, because you have private transportation vehicles, including school buses, as you identified, traveling over these bridges. So it's important that you use what money you have, and it's darned little, apparently, to maintain these roads and make sure that they continue to be safe, rather than constructing new ones which would add additionally to the burden and make it impossible to maintain the existing infrastructure.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Have you asked for any money in the present budget which will go to decommission unneeded and environmentally harmful roads?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, the funds requested for decommissioning has increased. Would you hand me that table [speaking to staff]? Or we could provide that information.
Mr. HINCHEY. OK, well, if you could provide, I appreciate that you don't have that right at your fingertips.
[The information referred to follows:]
Chief DOMBECK. I see now thewe're proposing in fiscal year 1999 to decommission about 3,500 miles in roads.
Mr. HINCHEY. The National Forest Service makes a very substantial contribution to the national economy, and it does so because it is employed, used, for a great many purposes. Can you tell me whether there is greater economic value to the country by supporting the recreation industry or from logging? What is the differences there?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, the trends have been changing rapidly, and of course the overriding values that my economists and folks tell me is that the benefits derived from other usesrecreation, and so onfar exceed the values of commodity extraction, but I want to make sure that I underscore that I also understand the importance of jobs in small communities.
I'm one that grew up on a national forest, and also understand the variety of uses, the importance of multiple use, and can appreciate that a job is a job.
Mr. HINCHEY. Well, it's important that someone in your position have that kind of sensitivity, and I very much appreciate that you demonstrate it, and I value it as well, because I grew up in a small community and I know the importance of logging. We have the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Adirondacks in New Yorkvast forests. So I'm very familiar with the importance of forestry and the kinds of jobs and industries that it can create in a variety of industries.
Page 69 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC People use these forests, and I understand that more people are using the national forests, visiting the national forests annually than the national parks. Is that true? And do you have any figures on that?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, that's true. The information I have is that, just to give you an example of the increase in growth in recreation, in 1980, data that we have indicates we had about 560 million visits to national forests; by 1996, that had increased to 865 million. We expect it to exceed a billion soon.
And just to give you an idea, the vehicle traffic on national forest system roads, in 1950, there were about 15,000 vehicles every day on national forest roads associated with logging. That's about the same number as we have today. In fact, the timber harvest is about the same level today as it was in the 1950's. However, we have about 1.7 million vehicles a day associated with recreation and other local uses on national forest system lands. That's a tenfold increase from 1950, and we haven't made the adjustment to the change, and this is why we need to take a look at the underpinning policies. I need to give credit to the timber industry and the forest products industry, and others, because most of those roads were built for those purposes, but today they're being used for very, very different purposes, and we need to make the adjustments.
Mr. HINCHEY. This reflects, obviously, the changes in our society, the changes in economics, the changes in recreational attitudes, and the need for us to recognize the value of the multiple uses that occur within the forestry system. I very much appreciate your sensitivity to that and your carrying out your duties in full recognition that the forests provide great opportunities, not just for logging, although that's very important, but for recreational and for wildlife habitat and for a variety of other uses as well.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. [presiding] I'm Congressman Peterson, sitting in for Congresswoman Chenoweth. We have a vote that we must take momentarily. The meeting will be recess for 30 minutes, and then we will return for extensive questioning.
Page 70 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [presiding] The hearing will come to order.
We'll recognize Mr. Peterson for the next round of questioning.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Before I ask my questions, I would like to submit a statement for the record.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK. Welcome, Mike. It's a pleasure to have you here.
But I do have a lot of questions about this issue. I was surprisedyou have stated quite unequivocally this morning that this policy came from you and your staff. Is that correct?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Was
Chief DOMBECK. Initially, we, as I said, particularly after the debate in the Congress over the issue this year, this past year, we felt it was imperative that we need to move the ball forward, and we need to shift the debate. Because my biggest concern is that the entire program is in jeopardy, and then we're really going to have problems.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Yes, I agree. The issue, though, of a moratorium, that was not suggested to you by someone from Agriculture or even higher up, that this is something you should take a look at?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. So you
Chief DOMBECK. We looked at
Page 71 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. It wasn't suggested from your superiors that you should look at a moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. We looked at
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. No?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. It wasn't suggested to you by somebody?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. So his came from you and your staff?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. [continuing] you looked at the big picture? OK.
I guess the other point that surprises me a little is the diversity of America. Every time we do something unilaterally from Washington, when it impacts Alaska, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, and everything in between, it affects everybody differently. There are probably forests where this is a good idea; there are probably forests where this will cause problems. Do you agree?
Chief DOMBECK. I agree.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Well, I mean, why couldn't it have been a regional approach or a forest-by-forest approach or even your regions, where you have the hardwood forests and the coniferous forests? I mean, there'swhere you have the dry, arid areas and the areas withI mean, there's so much difference in whatwell, the needs are so different. You took away all your own flexibility.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, first of all, let me say that what we have out now is a proposal for public comment. In fact, as I mentioned in my opening statement, is that, as a result of a request from a number of Members of Congress and Senators, we have extended the comment period for another 30 days, and will be holding public meetings to make sure the appropriate information is out there. And this is a proposal that emanated from the Forest Service, and it is now out there for us to talk about, to communicate with Congress, with the American people, with any of those that are interested in the proposals, both the long-term proposal as well as the interim. And I want to point out this is an interim proposal. It's an 18-month proposal, and my commitment is that at 18 months, if we don't have a new proposal out there, we'll go back to the way we're doing business now.
Page 72 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. So it was more political reasons? You saw the political fight that went on on the House floor and in the Senate, and all the rankling that went on, and it was like it was almost a tug-of-war with no big winner on either side. It was kind of an evenly divided issue. So it was better to step around that for a couple of years?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, that's part of it, but, also, we find in studies that unroaded areas or areas of road density are our best strongholds for aquatic species. These are areas where we have fewer problems with invasive noxious weeds and things like that. So there's also a scientific basis to this as well.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. But, in reality, your 200 million acres is a portion of the 700 million acres we own, and that's not the first thing to worry about plant species in the same manner that some of the other areas would. I mean, yours is really multi-use. I guess I'm a little surprised that plant consideration is driving this policy or this issue. I mean, that's a pretty weak argument as far as your mandate for managing the multi-use part of the national reserve, or whatever you want to call it, of 700 million acres.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, again, you know, it's one of the pieces in the entire process, as we looked at the pros and cons of the various options that we had.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Did you run this by the regional people
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. [continuing] prior to announcement?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. They had a chance to react and recommend or oppose.
Page 73 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. How about the managers of the forests?
Chief DOMBECK. To a certain extent, yes. I made, you know, a number of personal calls, as staff and the Regional Foresters and others that were involved in developing the nuts and bolts of the policy did more extensive sensing. Ifor example, I can remember talking to Dave Wilson, who's supervisor of the forests in South Carolina, and he said, well, because of these challenges, I really haven't been going into roadless areas for the last several years. So we talked with people like Bob Storch, the supervisor, one of the supervisors in Colorado, and made a variety of phone calls.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Some of them, but notthey didn't all get included?
Chief DOMBECK. That's right.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK.
Chief DOMBECK. The other point we did, though, is we did gather data from all the forests, and letters went outI'm not sure whenBob, in December [speaking to staff]?in October, asking for information on impacts and things like that.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK. I know my time's up, but if I could ask one concluding questionnow you talk about there's going to be input or hearings in this report period. Where, Region 9?
Chief DOMBECK. Do you recall, Rhey, where the locations [speaking to staff]? I haveI think I might have that list here some place. Does someone have it? At any rate, we'll provide that information for you.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 74 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. I'm told Boston and Minneapolis, but, boy, that leaves a lot of us out in the coldunless we want to travel long distances.
Chief DOMBECK. I'llwe're also going to have a public meeting here in Washington, DC as well.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. But, still, for input, now that leaves a lot of forests a long ways from any chance of public input or public discussion. I mean, that's disappointing.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, we'd certainly be happy to visit with you and take a look at that.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK.
Chief DOMBECK. The important thing to me is that people understand the ramifications of the proposals in a clear fashion, and have a basis
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. But that's why the hearing process is important, I think. People on the ANF and peoplethe citizens, not your people, but the citizens have absolutely no idea how that's going to impact them. We've already been impacted in a huge way in the last few years, and they're scared.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Vento.
Mr. VENTO. Thanks, Madam Chair, and thanks for holding the hearing. I have an opening statement which I'll place in the record.
And I want to quickly point out the news release here from the Forest Service, where it points out thatI don't know what the informationI misunderstand, but it's a public meeting for interim roadless rule and long-term transportation policy and development, and it indicates meetings, numerous meetings, in Alaska, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idahotwo meetings in Idaho, and Minnesota is only having one meeting, I guess. Montana is having three; New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Washington, DC, and Wyoming. So I don't know that this is adequate. I don't think I'll be able to make it to all those meetings, incidentally, but I'd ask unanimous consent to place that in the record.
Page 75 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. VENTO. Mr. Dombeck, Chief Dombeck, I think the policy's on the right track. I don't know what, after the hearing process or this rulemaking process, but I hope that you will make an effort to pursue it. And I would like to take a little credit for it, too, even though I didn't haveyou didn't talk to me before you did this policy, did you?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't recall.
Mr. VENTO. I supposed I'm in the same category as Al Gore.
Well, not quite the same category.
Mr. VENTO. But, in any case, I'm glad that you paid attention to what happened on the House floor when we trimmed back the dollars for road building. I think the message is that low-cost forests, have low-cost type of sales, and I think that probably a lot of that has to be reckoned with, and I think that the public is not going to stand still for subsidizing the road building and the cutting of the national forests. At the same time, we're going to lose the taxpayer dollars and we lose the forest. And I just think we need to have a policy.
Now I don't stand and I've not sponsored and haven't pursued bills that would ban timber harvest from the national forests. I don't agree with that. I think the multiple-use role is the right role. I mean, there's a lot of enthusiasm today I think for that, because I think it comes out of frustration with the ability of the Forest Service and land managers to do it, and they said, if this is going to be the bottom line, then we're going to go for a proposal that I think is more harsh.
And I think that this particular proposalthese proposals, but one of the problems here is that someone was talking about science, but isn't it a case here where most of the forest management plans have been eclipsed by a lot of new information with regard to what's happening in these various ecosystems?
Page 76 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Yes, sir, that's correct. In fact, that was one of the reasons that sort of the second-generation plans were exempt, because they havethey're based on more up-to-date science. The forest, the remainder of the forest plans are from the eighties, the early eighties, and some of that information that they're based on may even be 1970's information. Is that correct [referring to staff]?
Mr. VENTO. I mean, so the point is here, you're saying give uswe're saying give us a breather in terms of building roads, but you're not stopping harvest in those forests. In fact, you may rearrange or do some things to, in fact, augment the harvest in other areas. Is that accurate?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes. In fact, I, as many of the witnesses here or many of the statements reflect, I'm certainly a proponent of active management. For example, if we don't continue with active management, up to 60 percent of the aspen in the intermountain West will be lost, you know, the very symbol of the State of Colorado. So we need to be able to move forward in these areas and do the appropriate work that's needed.
The serious question to ask is, do we need a permanent road to do the work that we're going to have to fund year after year after year to maintain for decade after decade after decade, or are there other ways to do the work? Should we be looking for other technologies? We ought to be doing other kinds of things as we move forward, because with 373,000 miles of roads currently on the books that are an issue that we have to fund year after year, or try to
Mr. VENTO. Plus 60,000, apparently, that are notthat are ad hoc type of roads that are there.
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, yes. And I'd say that's a low estimate.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I think the real problem here is that we're running into an issue, unfortunately, where the revenues from the harvest don't sustain the type of activities, either in terms of maintenance of existing roads, much less these roads that are illegal roads really, ad hoc roads, nor do they sustain the type of effort. So with decline, we really have a crunch here. Maybe we can get someI notice that my ranking member from Minnesota of the Transportation Committee was in; I didn't know if he offered any highway funding moneys to help us with these roads or not. I know that I'll have to talk to him about that. I'm going to a meeting right now.
Page 77 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But I don't think you can do anything about the weather in northern Minnesota. They've had closure in terms of the Superior Forest and others because they depend upon the swamps and the other areas being frozen. Unfortunately, it's not this year; it's warming up pretty good, and that's another problem that we face, and that causes more damage.
But, you know, if you're interested in forest health, it seems to me that this is exactly what this is aimed at. One of the biggest problems in terms of the forest, in terms of watersheds, in terms of road restorationthese are some of the biggest problems in terms of the health of the forests, and the slumping and the damage that's being done to these forests, the erosion, and so forth, with roads is key.
I think that we should really, in a sense, I think, take a look, a new look, at this and reinforce what roads we can, and find out what the backbone of the system is, rather than to just keep cutting new roads. As you point out, it's a lot cheaper to cut a new road than it is for the long-term maintenance of it. The reconstruction of it, and the other costs that are associated with it need to be dealt with, but there's no revenue stream to deal with that today. That's one of the major problems.
So taking a look and finding out where we're going to get the revenue to deal with this is absolutely essential. I think you're doing the right thing. I hope that it would get the support of those that are advocates of forest health, because that's what this is really about. This is one of the key elements in terms of forest health. To hear some talk about it, the only aspect of forest health that seems to interest them is salvage, and I think there's a little more to it than that. Unfortunately, it adds up to making commitments in terms of dollars and cents, rather than rhetorical speeches.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Rhetorical speeches? Duly noted.
Page 78 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill? Mr. Hill?
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mr. Dombeck, I want to spend a little more time on the process here, just to make sure that I'm fully clear of how we got to this point and who recommended that we adopt this policy. You've been Forest Chief now for about a year; is that correct?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. At the time that you were interviewed for the job as Forest Chief, did the idea of a moratorium come up in any of the discussions with the White House, the Vice President, and other people, the Secretary of Agriculture?
Chief DOMBECK. Not that I recall.
Mr. HILL. OK, so there was no discussion of it at that time or any
Chief DOMBECK. In fact, I did not, you knowI have never had a personal private conversation with the Vice President. I've shaken his hands a couple of times at meetings and things like that, but, beyond that, that's the extent of our conversation.
Mr. HILL. And you've indicated that no indication or direction, no recommendation, came from either the White House or the Council on Environmental Quality?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. And at the time that you made the decision to implement the moratorium, did you consult with the White House, the Vice President, the Vice President's staff, or the Council on Environmental Quality?
Chief DOMBECK. I consulted with the various members of the administration, as I pointed out, you know, like all agencies, we work for the Executive Branch. I've consulted with various leaders in the Department, and also briefed CEQ.
Page 79 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. But you just briefed them? You didn't seek their consent to move forward?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. OK. Did you meet with any outside interest groups during this period from August through the time that you announced this moratorium with regard to their input?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, we've gotten a lot of mail and a variety of meetings with people from both industry, the recreation community, the conservation community
Mr. HILL. But I'm asking, did you meet with them? Did you meet with any outside groups? Or did any of the people that were helping you prepare this moratorium or with whom you sought counsel?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. And can you give us a list of what those organizations, who those organizations were?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes. I canwe'd be happy to do that.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HILL. Let me just ask you a few questions about a couple of organizations just at the present time. Included in those organizations, was the National Cattlemen's Association one of those?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't recall.
Mr. HILL. How about the Safari Club?
Chief DOMBECK. I'm not sure.
Mr. HILL. How about the American Forest and Paper Association?
Page 80 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. How about the National Mining Association?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't believe so.
Mr. HILL. How about the Society of American Foresters?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. And the National Association of Counties?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. American Farm Bureau?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. National Farmers Union?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. Resource Providers Coalition?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't believe so, no.
Mr. HILL. Pulp and Paper Workers Resource Council?
Chief DOMBECK. I've met with various members of the pulp and paper industry, the unions; I'm not sure-
Mr. HILL. About this issue?
Chief DOMBECK. [continuing] which segment of them. Not necessarilyI don't recall about this issue, but we meet and talk about a variety of issues when we meet.
Mr. HILL. If you would, I have a list of organizations. I would just ask if you would note on that which groups you might have met with.
Chief DOMBECK. I'd be happy to.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 81 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. How about Forest Service employees in Montana? Did you consult with any Forest Service employees in Montana about this moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, theyou know, the Regional Forester participated in all theI believe in the management committee meetings, although Dale Bosworth, as I recall, may have been absent from the December 4th meeting, because I think he was moving at that time.
Mr. HILL. I guess, separate from the meetings that you conducted, did you seek his counsel with regard to any impacts on Montana?
Chief DOMBECK. Did he seeksay
Mr. HILL. Dale Bosworth's counsel on the impacts that this might have on Montana?
Chief DOMBECK. The groups that workedthe employees that worked on this issue didwe gathered input fromI believe the letters went to every national forestis that right, Bob [speaking to staff]?asking for information through the Regional Forester, through the typical chain of command.
Mr. HILL. But separate from asking for data, did you ask for their counsel on whether they should or shouldn't do itwhether you should or should not implement the moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I primarily consulted with the Regional Foresters, and my staff
Mr. HILL. The question is, didwas Dale Bosworth one of those that you consulted with?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. And did he recommend favorably or unfavorably that you move forward with the moratorium? Do you recall that?
Page 82 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. I'm not sure I specifically asked him that question. Do you remember, Bob [speaking to staff]?
Mr. HILL. So you didn't ask him whether he favored it or he didn't favor it? So in what fashion did you seek his counsel, then? If you didn't ask him whether he favored it or he didn't favor it, what kind of counsel did you suggest, did you ask him for? Did you ask him what the impacts would be on Montana?
Chief DOMBECK. I personally did not specifically ask him that question, but as the policies, the internal policies were reviewed, each Regional Foresterand I assume they vetted this with their staffshad an opportunity to comment on the policy to provide input as the policy was developed.
Mr. HILL. So you don't know whether he favored or opposed it. You didn't seek his counsel on whether he favored or opposed it. All you sought from him was data, and that data didI'm just characterizing what you've said nowand that data did not contain any information that would allow you to identify what the impacts would be in Montana. Is that what you're saying?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't believe that's quite right. The process is, as one individual, you know, I do not personally talk with, you know, over 120 forest supervisors. I sample
Mr. HILL. But we're talking about regionals. We're talking about regional forests hereforesters here now. I mean, what you said is that you made this decision on your own. And what I'm just trying to find out is who you consulted, what information you had at your disposal to make that decision, and I'm specifically interested in whether or not you sought the counsel of the Regional Forester in Region 1, which includes Montana, with regard to the impacts it would have on Montana, and whether he suggested that you move forward or not move forward with this moratorium.
Page 83 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. No. 1 is I did discuss this issue at length with most of the Regional Foresters, including Dale Bosworth. They provided information that wethat the staff requested on impacts. So that was taken into consideration. And if the question is, did I personally ask him what the impacts in Montana would be, I believe the answer to that is no. However, the data provided by him was reviewed and was taken under consideration.
Mr. HILL. So you are in possession of data that would identify the impacts in Montana?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill.
The Chair recognizes Mr. Schaffer.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Chief, in your opening comments you mention that you suggested that you had mentioned the issue of the problem with respect to road construction and road maintenance in previous hearings and meetings with this Committee. Do you recall whether you ever suggested to us that you were considering a moratorium at any point in time?
Chief DOMBECK. No, I did notI don't believe I did.
Mr. SCHAFFER. At what point were you considering a moratorium? When did you begin to come to the conclusion that this was in the best interest of the people of the country?
Chief DOMBECK. I believe probably nearing the 4th of December, the national leadership meeting we had. Is that about the way you recall, Bob [referring to staff]? Yes.
Mr. SCHAFFER. What is that? What's a national leadership
Page 84 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. That's all the regional foresters and station directors from around the country.
Mr. SCHAFFER. The 4th of December? The assurance that the Council on Environmental Quality or anybody at the White House had some role in proposing the moratorium, and you suggest they did not, is that right? Does this moratorium fit in with the overall goals and objectives that are managed under the Council of Environmental Quality, Katie McGinty's outfit?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I guess I'myou know, I guess I'm not sure of the question. I'm not sure what their specific goals and objectives would
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, the stated goal of the Council on Environmental Quality is to coordinate all agencies and make sure that all environmental activities in the country are somehow coordinated and are consistent, and so on. And so I'm curious as to whether you have any idea whether the moratorium is consistent or fits within the overall goals and objectives of the Council on Environmental Quality.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, they were briefed, and did not object, and I'm assuming that would be part of their decision process.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Did they provide any input, any suggestion one way or another, positive, negative at all? Or is no objection the basis of their concluding that there is some support there?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, in my view, I believe about two briefings that I personally participated in, they did notthey did not attempt to influence the decision.
Mr. SCHAFFER. How about Secretary Glickman? What has been the nature of his input and involvement in this decision?
Chief DOMBECK. The Secretary and I, and the Secretary's staff and my staff, had several meetings, reviewing the pros and cons of the decision, talking about the impacts and the data that we had at that time at length.
Page 85 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCHAFFER. Does the Secretary support the moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. SCHAFFER. How about the Secretary of the Department of Interior? Has he been briefed or knowledgeable about the decision at any point in time?
Chief DOMBECK. I don't know whether he's been briefed. I did not brief him. I assume that heyou know, I don't know what knowledge he has, since I did not brief him on the issue, and I don't believe any of my staff did.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Could you talk about
Chief DOMBECK. That interaction would typically occur at the Secretary's level.
Mr. SCHAFFER. With respect to existing contracts, I've mentioned that before; that has been one of the biggest concerns raised in my State, that there are logging contracts, mining patent rights, and so on, thator patents that already exist and are predicated on new road construction and in many cases grazing permits of all sorts, all kinds of contracts that have been predicated on a matter ofa level of consistency with respect to roads. Have you given any thought to the impact of your moratorium on these existing contracts?
Chief DOMBECK. All of the existing contracts, any personal property rights, will move forward. In fact, we have 6.5 billion board feet of timber under contract now in the pipeline.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Any existing contracts in the whole country?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. SCHAFFER. How many of those exist? What are wewhat does that mean in terms of, I don't know, proportion, dollar amount, road miles? I don't know. What is the extent of that?
Page 86 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. To give you an example, was it 1997 wethe actual harvest, we believe, off the National Forest System lands was about 3.was it 3.3 billion? So at the current harvest rate, today there's about a 2-year timber supply in the pipeline that will not be affected by the suspension of road building for the 18-month period.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Mr. Stupak mentioned the payment in lieu of taxes that communities receive from the Forest Service lands, and that is something I'm concerned about, too. What kind of assessment have you made with respect to that? What kind of impact do you expect the moratorium will have on payments to counties and school districts?
Chief DOMBECK. The current data that I have shows that it would range anywhere from $1 to $4 million, depending upon the range, the progress of a particular sale that sold. Part of this, much of this is aside from the moratorium itself because market conditions and other things like that basically determine when an operator harvests, does the actual harvest, and typically, in the contract they would have a 3-year period, a 3-year window in which to take advantage of the markets or whatever factors they figure into their profit margins, and so on.
Mr. SCHAFFER. I see my time has expired, Madam Chairman. Is therewill there be further questioning?
Chairwoman CHENOWETH. Yes, we're going to have at least one more round.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. Mr. Dombeck, I have another round of questioning for you.
As we understand it, the moratorium has not been enacted yet. Is that true?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Page 87 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. Have you given direction to the field to stop work on any timber sales?
Chief DOMBECK. We have not. I'd better ask Bob. But I'll introduce Bob Joslin, the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, and with Bob is Rhey Solomon, who's our Deputy Director of Ecosystem Planning.
The answer is no.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So you have not given any direction to any field members to stop work on any timber sales?
Chief DOMBECK. That's right.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. Well, I have a letter in my hand from the Forest Service canceling the South Babione timber sale because, quote, ''it is located in a RARE II roadless area.'' How do youthis was signed by Craig Yancey, dated February 13. How do you justify canceling sales before the moratorium is enacted?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I would only say I assume that's the decision ofis that the forest supervisor, Bob [speaking to staff]? What was the name of the person that signed the letter?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. He's the District Ranger.
Chief DOMBECK. The District Ranger. I would assume that's a decision, then, that's made at the local level.
One of the things to keep in mind on this issue, when we particularly talk about activities in roadless areas, these are the most contentious areas that our employees deal in. In fact, if we would go to the most extreme, one of the more extreme cases is the CoveMallard series of sales on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. In fact, what the forest supervisor and the staff there tell me is that virtually all of the organizational energy goes into that effort, into the CoveMallard effort, because of the level of controversy associated with it, and so on. And from the standpoint of efficiency, if that energy and that funding could be applied to other areas that will not be repeatedly appealed and litigated and protested, it's certainly a much more efficient way and a more effective way for us to utilize the forestry expertise that we have throughout the Forest Service.
Page 88 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Chief Dombeck, this is not in the CoveMallard. This is in Sheridan, Wyoming, the office
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] comes out ofthat's located in Sheridan, Wyoming. And we've got a District Ranger making decisions contrary to what you have testified to this Committee you have directed them to do or not to do. And, in fact, in Craig Yancey's letter, he says, ''The Forest Service has proposed to suspend temporary road construction and reconstruction in most roadless areas. The Forest Service is also proposing to revise regulations concerning management of the transportation systems.''
So the suspending of this timber sale is directly the result of this moratorium that has not yet been enacted, and to which you've testified no timber sales have been suspended.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I should have qualified that to my knowledge. However, I think the important point there is that decision was made, I assumeI'd better not speak for the District Rangerand correct me if I'm wrong, Bob [speaking to staff], but I would assume that decision was made by the District Ranger, based on the information that he has. There is nohas been no directive that has come from me saying stop anything. What we've got is the proposal out there for public comment. We've extended that comment period 30 days, as we go through the appropriate NEPA and legal requirements, and at some point it will be brought to conclusion.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Chief Dombeck, somehow people who rely on the forest have got to somebody who's calling the shots. I mean, a District Ranger enacted the suspension of a sale contrary to what you have testified here. Now the buck has got to stop with you. I mean, either you get your District Rangers to comply with what you're issuing, so that there will be some order in this country, and we're able to anticipate, or there is absolutely no leadership. And that doesn't comport with my idea of you. It just doesn't. And it is utter confusion.
Page 89 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And let me proceed.
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I appreciate the compliment
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you want to answer that?
Chief DOMBECK. [continuing] because I know on this issue we don't have many compliments floating around. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, yes, but will you assure me that no other timber sales, including this Babione timber sale, the cancellation issued out of Sheridan, Wyomingwill you reassure this Committee that no other timber sales will be canceled, including this one, until the moratorium is truly enacted, to be consistent with your testimony?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, again, first of all, let me say that what we have out there is a proposal, and field managers make decisions on a variety of things, and I have not, and will not, direct a field manager to stop a sale on a policy that is not in place, that's in development.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So you will not direct a field manager to stop a sale that you have testified to this Committee you are not stopping sales on because of the proposed moratorium? I mean, they have got to be accountable to you. Please answer the question, sir. Yes or no?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes, they are accountable to me, and my objective is to hold them accountable.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So your statement, then, as you stated to this Committee, was that this is a proposed moratorium and no sales have been canceled because of the proposal?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK. It's pretty clear Craig Yancey's decision and his cancellation is contrary to what you've testified here. I would like very much for you to either assure this Committee that all of your people under your jurisdiction, and under your supposedly direction, will abide by what you have told this Committee. So you're telling me that, in spite of what you're testifying here, the buck does not stop with you? Everybody is on their own?
Page 90 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. We can providewe can check and provide you withif there's additional information to that, associated with that specific sale, but our objective is to hold our managers accountable, and my commitment to you is that I intend to do that.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Hold them accountable to you and what you've testified to this Committee?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right. Do you think it's appropriate to stop a sale which has been under litigation and then released by a judge, stating that the Forest Service has done their job correctly, and then only to be stopped by a roadless moratoria because you decided to include 20-year-old boundaries under RAR II?
Let me be specific. The Lone Pine timber sale in Idaho is a 10-million-board-foot sale originally planned as part of the CoveMallard environmental analysis. Now Lone Pine sale is only the fourth sale to be sold, or ready to be sold, under the CoveMallard EISa process that began back in 1980. Now this sale made its way all the way through the ninth circuit court of appeals, and we got a positive decision out of the court of appeals. And this is only the latest of many court decision approving the Lone Pine and the EIS work the Forest Service did.
Now a memo from Regional Forester Bosworth, February 5, to forest supervisors directing them not to spend any funds on planning or preparation work associated with possible future roads or roadless areas occurred. The Lone Pine sale was ready to advertise and sell, but the moratorium was announced before the judge's decision was issued. Now, because of the RF, of Bosworth's memo, the Forest Service is not advertising the sale.
Page 91 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Again, this is contrary to the fact that you said that the moratorium is only a proposal. So I would also like for you to look into that, too. It's not often that the ninth circuit agrees with us and the Forest Service, and I just really need to have you take charge.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Chief Dombeck, you've been formally petitioned, I guess, by the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign to take certain measures, including, I think, a ban on logging in riparian areas and in roadless areas and in old growth in the Sierras. Is that correct?
Chief DOMBECK. I have not seen the petition itself. Have you seen that, Bob [speaking to staff]?
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Actually, that petition, I believe, went to a region, the Region 5. I think you got a copy of it, though. So does your staff acknowledge that you've gotten it?
Chief DOMBECK. Theythe people here haven't seen it, but that doesn't mean we
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I understand.
Chief DOMBECK. We'll check.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK. Just maybe you can confirm that in subsequent communication with the Committee.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. DOOLITTLE. But it does list your name, along with a number of other prominent officials at the bottom of the letter that got it.
Page 92 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Are you aware of any efforts going on within the region to discuss having the moratorium on areas where fur-bearers are found?
Chief DOMBECK. No, I'm not. I have heard concerns about fur-bearers, but I have not heard it expressed in terms of a moratorium.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I think if they were to have a moratorium, I believe the fur-bearer habitat would go the entire length of the Sierras. Is that your belief?
Chief DOMBECK. Possibly.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So that potentially a moratorium on areas where we have fur-bearer habitat could effectively lock up the entire forest? Is that also your belief?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I'm not sure. Is thatthat's something we'd have to check on, and I don't have that. I haven't had the pleasure of spending enough personal time in the Sierras myself to know the answer to that.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, I'm concerned about that. Of course, those CASPO guidelines have been utterly disastrous, and whenever something responsible has been attempted, why, the administration has reopened the issue and called for further study, and so forth. So we're still operating under the so-called interim guidelines, which were never intended to be a permanent managementmaybe they were intended to be a permanent management policy, but that was clearly not their expressed intent.
You and I have talked privately about Mr. Sprague and the allegations that I had received, the Committee has received, about efforts to remove him. I just wanted to ask you, while you're before the Committee, that ifit's been alleged that a coalition of prominent environmental groups have met with you and other representativesor maybe I should say ''or other representatives''from the administration for the purposes of urging the reassignment of Lynn Sprague as a Regional Forester in Region 5. Is it true or false?
Chief DOMBECK. I have met with a variety of groups. No one hasfrom the environmental community that I'mthat I recall has personally asked me to remove Lynn Sprague. In fact, I recently met with Lynn Sprague to reassure him that I want him to stay in California. California, as you know, has been a very tough, tough State for ourall of our employees and our regional people, given the population growth, the level of intensity of many of the issues, and maintaining continuity is important.
Page 93 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And what I did mention to Lynn is the fact that, you know, let me know what you need from the standpoint of support and help from me as you move forward.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Are you familiar with a man by the name of Robert Nelson, former Director of the Forest Service's Fish and Wildlife staff?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes. I worked for Mr. Nelson many years ago.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. It's my understandingand, again, I appreciate your being here because you're clarifying some of these issues, but supposedly the Department recently contracted with Mr. Nelson, or otherwise entered into some understanding with him to recruit a replacement for Mr. Sprague, and that Mr. Nelson has been in the process of contacting forest supervisors in Region 5 to gauge their interest in serving as Regional Forester. Is that true or false?
Chief DOMBECK. I believe that's false.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK.
Chief DOMBECK. At least to my knowledge.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. What isdoes Mr. Nelson presentlyor what are his job duties for the Forest Service?
Chief DOMBECK. He's retired, and
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Retired? OK. So he doesn't really have any formal relationship at this point?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct. Does he do any volunteer work [speaking to staff]?
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So no volunteer work? I thinkwas that
Chief DOMBECK. As far as
Mr. DOOLITTLE. As far as you know?
Page 94 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. [continuing] I'm aware of at this point.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK.
Chief DOMBECK. But it is typical for retirees and others with expertise to be involved or be consulted on issues. It's not an atypical situation.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. When you find out about this Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign petition, could you let us know what the status of their petition is, and your office's response to that request?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK. Well, as you know, a number of us are very concerned about Mr. Sprague. Mr. Sprague does not represent the ideal forest policy, from my standpoint, I must share with you, but I think he's a man of integrity who's trying to do a good job. And I would hate to see him replaced because of the attacks by the other side. California is a difficult place, because there are people that feel like I do, that we still believe in the old-fashioned, and apparently outdated, concept of multiple use of the national forest and public lands, and then there's the opposition who comes from the trendy, upscale areas who believe basically, and have stated positions, that we should have no logging whatsoever in the national forests. And they will becomeI don't knowurban welfare preserves for those to visit who can afford to do so.
I'm very frustrated with the policy, to say the least. Mr. Stupak expressed a lot of these sentiments, and he's from the other side of the aisle, that I might express. I represent a lot of these districts that are heavily dependent for jobs in these areas, and it's been an utter disaster, especially with the California spotted owl. It's not evenI mean one sham is the northern spotted owl, and those disastrous policies continue in effect to this day, despite the fact that it does very well outside of the multi-canopied, old-growth forests, including dwelling in K-Mart signs, apparently with good results. Now, however, in this part of California, the California spotted owl is not even endangered, not even threatened, but we're afflicted with the so-called interim CASPO guidelines, and now more demands by these groups for yet further restrictions.
Page 95 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And now the administration is expanding or changing its policy on roadless areas, et cetera, and I really wonder when we're going to get back to forestry. It seems like it's becoming something else. We already have an EPA and a Fish and Wildlife Service. If this is what the Forest Service is becoming, why do we need them? You don't have to answer that. But I feel a great deal of frustration about it, and I think it's been a disastrous policy that's been pursued, and apparently we're going to struggle with this for another 2 or 3 years at least.
So I guess my time is up, and I thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Doolittle.
The Chair recognizes Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Thank you.
We were chatting before about the input locally, and I think that's vital. I came to Washington to help decisions be made back home, and to have less of a Washington domination, and this is a perfect example.
Let me ask you a question. Why couldn't every forest have a hearing on how this is going to impact, and to inform the people locally? I mean, I think that's the least you can do, is to have a hearing in each forest. You don't have to be involved. They're very capable of doing that. You can give them a format. Is that a fair request?
Chief DOMBECK. I think it is.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Will you support that?
Chief DOMBECK. If you would like to have a hearingand, obviously, with 100andwhat?54 or 55 national forests, about 120 units, I believe what staff did, when they looked at sites, is to respond to requests and take a look at local recommendations. And we'd be happy to do that.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. You'll do one in the ANF? But I'd like to ask it on a broader scale. I think every forest that wants one, where the local input is requested by the legislator or by public opinionpeople ought to know if it's going toit may turn out to be that the impact's minimal in some forests. They need to know that. I just think that's fair, and it wouldn'tit shouldn't be a Washington problem, because your people out there are very capable of holding on one evening orone evening hearing. I mean, that's not a big deal, as far as effort. It takes a day or two of planning, inviting the public, and some format described, someone to moderate. And is that a fair request?
Page 96 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK. I guess I'd like to talk a little bit on the bigger picture. I want to show you a chart. I think you can see it. The gray areas are the conservative allowable cut; the black lines are the cut. And I guessand I might use the new popular termthe left-wing conspiracy wants no timber cut. I mean, there's no doubt about that. The left-wing conspirators want us to not take resources off the public land; all 700 million acres to be looked at. They're not to be utilized, even though the 200 million you manage are multi-use, were purchased and set aside for multi-use, and for multiple reasons.
So it just seems like each and every thing that happensnow anotherin looking at the big picture, another part of your system is now offlimits to timber, and it just went from 12 billion board feet to about 3, on an average now, billion board feet. That's a huge cut in cutting. It's had a huge impact in this country. And with the fact that more timber is burning and dying than we're cutting on Federal landI mean, it's an issue that we ought to argue about; we ought to discuss. But it seems like every move by the Department or the administration brings the number down, locks another so many acres up that's not a part of it. I think it's that big picture that scares us all, because we know the left-wing conspirators want no cutting, and I guess we think they're winning, and they are winning.
We think it's bad public policy. We don't think it's good for the health of America. We don't think it's good for the health of the forest. We know it's not.
And so the foresters in my district, people who have spent their whole life managing a resourceand I mean, some of the ones I know are just very, very thoughtfulthey're just utterly amazed at what we're doing. They have absolutely no understanding why we are locking up the most renewable resource we have in this country that's so much a part of our economy and so much a part of a lifestyle. The hunters don't like the forest locked up because it doesn't bring about good hunting. I mean, there's a lot of people that don't. There's so many arguments why it's bad policy, but, yet, everything we do seems to move us closer to that direction.
Page 97 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Would you like to comment to that?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes. First of all, let me say that the nationwide effect of the roadlessor, rather, the temporary suspension of road building affects about 8 million acres which is in the timber basenow, of the 191 million acres in the national forest system. Now there's also a reason that these areas are roadedare not roaded, and typically either timber values have been lower orthe easy stuff is taken first.
But the issue that you bring up is really something that we could spend a whole day on, and I'm sure we will at future hearings, but I often ask myself question, why is it that we have 40 million acres at high risk of fire or insect, disease infestation? And there are a variety of reasons associated with that. Management practices have changed. Fire suppression was articulated very clearly by one of the earlier panel members, but it's also lack of investments, because we're coming from a budget structure in a time where we were able to put the cost of management on the back of timber, but oneyou've got an exception in Pennsylvania with the wonderful hardwoods you have
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. Sure.
Chief DOMBECK. [continuing] but the fact is that we need to make continual investments; we need to do the thinning, the prescribed burn, the mechanical treatments, the other kinds of things to deal with situations where we historically have, say, 200 and 400 stems of Ponderosa pine and now we have 3,000 of a fir species that's a fire hazard; that the trees are all competing for the same amount of moisture, of nutrient, and that sort of thing there, and we need to get in there and deal with those situations. But we have put the cost of management on the back of timber, and when the timber may not be there to harvest, for whatever reasons, what do we do then? And this is part of the dialogue that I hope to have with this Committee and others in the future because the urban/wildland interface and other areas are big challenges for us in this country.
Page 98 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. What is the timber base now? Of the couple hundred million you manage, how much of that's really forestry practices, timber cutting going on?
Chief DOMBECK. I believe it's 43 million acres.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. After the roadless area?
Chief DOMBECK. Forty-three million acres are in the suitable timber base. Ofthe interim policy and the RARE II areas would include 8 million of that 43.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. So 43 minus 8 really?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. OK. Well, that's what I wantedso we're down to 35
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON OF PENNSYLVANIA. [continuing] million acres, out of 200. That's a pretty small percentage that we're now practicing forestry on. And though we're getting all this publicity that cutting timber costs money, and why do we do it, when you've got the cuts so low, and they're so small, they don't make money any more. I mean, you know, part of the problem that it's notthe cost to do a small sale is just as good as a large sale. I mean, so you've got the sales down so small, the board feet so low, it's like it's been designed to fail. I'm a businessman. I know how you can design a business to fail. It's like this economically has been designed to fail, so the left-wing conspirators can say, ''It doesn't make any sense. We're losing money.'' And, yet, they don't count the money that goes out to the communities. That's not a partand that shouldn't be part of the cost. That's a benefit to those communities. That builds schools and that builds roads and thatyou know, it's fire protection to those people, and all of the things that we allow them to use that money for; yet, that's considered cost and not a benefit. That's a benefit to those communities that's being taken away. So, I mean, it's a bigger issue.
Page 99 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I want to thank you for your candor.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Schaffer?
Mr. SCHAFFER. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Let me followup on Mr. Peterson's comments, if I could, and your answers. So there's 191 million acres managed by the Forest Service?
Chief DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Of the open management category that we're talking about that can bethat is relevant to the discussions, you said 43 million acres, and this moratorium effectively locks up 8 million?
Chief DOMBECK. What the proposed temporary suspension does is prevents only building and reconstruction of new roads.
Mr. SCHAFFER. So do you anticipate there would be an increase in helicopter removal, or what's going to happen?
Chief DOMBECK. I expect people will be looking at other options. Some of the NEPA work that's on these areas considers other options.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, considers other options? Do you expect thisit's going to be viable removal? Is there going to be people lining up for these sales, or whatand so what if you can call a helicopter. That may sound great, but can anybody really afford to do that?
Chief DOMBECK. I wouldn't want to be overly optimistic and say in some places maybe, but probably not a lot, but I also want to point out that, this whole issue set aside, there are sales that don't sell.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Right. But we're talking about 8 million acres, basically, out of the 43. So what, that's 18, 20 percent, somewhere along that line is affected by the moratorium. Your press release indicated that between 100 and 275 million ofthat this moratoriumso you predicted an impact of between 100 and 275 million board feet in fiscal year 1998. There are other Forest Service documents that say the volume could be as high as 436.1 million board feet in fiscal year 1998. So there's a lot of speculation, I suppose, as to what the real impact is going to be.
Page 100 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I would like to just ask what relevance you think Congress has in all of this. Why is it that we read about the moratorium in the newspaper when it has such a significant impact on economics, on local government funds, on recreation, and so on? Why is it that you've decided to move forward on this without talking to any of us?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, first of all, keep in mind that this is a proposal, and the objective of the comment period, of the dialog that we're having, is to gather input, to double-check our data, to make sure that outside sources, all sources have an opportunity to comment on the proposal, and
Mr. SCHAFFER. So when do you expect to commit on moving forward with this proposal or abandoning it?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, the
Mr. SCHAFFER. What's the point of no return?
Chief DOMBECK. The comment period closes on March 30and what are you assuming the timeframe would be to finalize [speaking to staff]? At least 30 days beyond that. I'd say the
Mr. SCHAFFER. You know, the whole science, the study, the research on roads and roadless areas isseems to me to be pretty complete, but pretty intensely studied, at any rate. What is it about the money that this CongressAmerican taxpayers have already expended studying the effects of roads on erosion. Whatwhere is it that we have insufficient data and evidence right now? What are we lacking right now that causes the need for this moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. The
Mr. SCHAFFER. What's missing in ourin all of our research?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I guess not being the technical expert myself on roads and road-building, I don't quite follow the connection between what's missing and the suspension. The
Page 101 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, let melet me give you
Chief DOMBECK. The science
Mr. SCHAFFER. [continuing] a good example. My State, your Forest Service has studied part of the National Forest near Frasier, Colorado, concluded that timbering and road-building can be accomplished without adverse impacts on water quality, and there are other studies to that effect that have occurred that we know that it's not new constructionor that it's not maintenance. You mentioned that this $10 million or $10 billion backlog in maintenance is somehow the issue, but it's notthe researchit's not maintenance so much that is cause for any kind of sedimentation, and so on. That typically occurs immediately after new construction, but then seems to beseems to be dealt with effectively shortly thereafter. And there's a lot of research that has been done that suggests that there are specific strategies that could be employed to reduce any kind of sedimentation or water quality problems, or any other issues affecting roadless areas or new road construction. Why a moratorium across the whole country? Why don't we just implement these studies that we have on a case-by-case basis in specific areas where a problem is known to exist?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, in fact, those new studies, that type of information is the information base that will be used in the development of the new long-term policy.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, well, but why do you need an 18-month moratorium? This research has gone on for years. It'sthis is nothing new. Do you expect you're going to discover something in the next 18 months that you could not or should not have discovered in the last 18 months or the last 18 years, for that matter?
Chief DOMBECK. The focus of the 18-month effort on a long-term policy is basically to obtain comment, to synthesize and gather the information, not necessarily start new research projects, although in the recent years, especially as a result of El Niño, the increased concern over land slides, things like that, has heightened the level of awareness and has generated more interest in this, and investments have been made in additional research in those areas over the last few years.
Page 102 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCHAFFER. The local foresters and the forest experts in my State can't think of a single example of why we need a moratorium in Colorado, for example. Are you aware of any specific reasons a moratorium ought to impact Colorado?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, again, the challenge is to get people to understand the importance of the infrastructure and the road system, and I oftentimes think, how do I square building new roads, especially when in many cases, almost 50 percent of the time, these projects are appealed and litigated, when, on the other hand, I'm dealing with one $10-plus billion backlog in reconstruction
Mr. SCHAFFER. Why hasn't all the research led to this understanding that you explain is desirable?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I believe that's where we're headed. I hope that's where we're headed.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, what about all the money that we spent studying roadless areas and studying the impacts of roads? Why have these studies not lent themselves or helped you come to a conclusion about the impacts of them and what ought to be done, or some kind of plan? Why don't we move forward on a reasonable plan? Why do all these studies only suggest we need a moratorium to study more?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, again, the 18-month period will be used to develop a long-term policy, based upon the most up-to-date science
Mr. SCHAFFER. Why can't you come up with a long-term policy without an 18-month moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. I think you probably could.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Why don't we?
Chief DOMBECK. But the other challenge is, in the eyes of the American public, Forest Service roads equal logging. Now the challenge that we have is to make sure that peopleand I think some of the dialogue that you have had in the Congress and other places has really focused on that over the last decade, and particularly, especially the last couple of years since I've been watching this more closely. And we've got to consider Forest Service roads as part of the needed infrastructure of rural America, and then fund it appropriately.
Page 103 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SCHAFFER. So you're in agreement with me, it sounds like, that we could move forward on a long-term plan without an 18-month moratorium? Just to restate that, we do agree on that point, do we not?
Chief DOMBECK. It would be possible, yes.
Mr. SCHAFFER. So the stated purpose early on that the reason for the moratorium was for further study, further information gathering, and so on, iswell, let me just ask: Is there more to it than that? Is the only reason you propose an 18-month moratorium for the purpose of establishing a long-term plan?
Chief DOMBECK. Informationand I'll refer back to the most up-to-date information we have that I'm aware ofhas come out of the Columbia Basin assessment that talks about, refers to exotic species, and I'd be happy to share a copy of that with you.
Mr. SCHAFFER. So is the application of this moratorium on a nationwide basis motivated by the Columbia Basin study?
Chief DOMBECK. Only in part.
Mr. SCHAFFER. Can you still think of any example in Colorado that wouldthat has initiated the need for a moratorium that applies to Colorado?
Chief DOMBECK. I somewhere have a list here of the more recent studies and synthesis of information, and I would check to see if there's anythingI could check and see if there is anything specific to Colorado and provide an answer.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. SCHAFFER. Well, if it's not there, why don't you exempt Colorado? Why don't you exempt States where you have no real compelling reason to include them in a moratorium? Maybe it's Montana; maybe it's Idaho; maybe it's Wyoming. It could be most of the country, when it comes right down to it. But the forest supervisors, the foresters in my State, they come to the State legislature and they say, ''Look, we're baffled by this. We have no idea what these folks in Washington are doing or why. You know, they had a meeting, told us what they were going to do, but we have no compelling reason in our State.'' And they point the finger back here. You know, I'm back here. I'm kind of trying to find out some answers, too. From what I can tell, Colorado is not part of this equation, other than we're affected economically by a moratorium. If that's the case, why don't you exempt States like mine, focus on where the problem exists?
Page 104 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. We willthis is what we're here for, is to have this dialogue and
Mr. SCHAFFER. You will what?
Chief DOMBECK. [continuing] to be challenged.
Mr. SCHAFFER. You said, ''We will. . . .''?
Chief DOMBECK. Will consider all the input that we get from this Committee, from each of the members.
Mr. SCHAFFER. You know, I really think the burden ought to be on you to establish a legitimate reason for pulling a significant portion of our economy out from under us before you do it. You've already decided to move forward on making a proposal without the consent of Congress. You say that you've not made any final decisions, that that's still open, and you'll consider our input, and so on. But if that really is the caseyou know, the burden oughtyou ought to take upon yourself to consider the real financial impact that this has on communities, and if there's no compelling environmental benefit to be gained in a State like mine or the next State down the road, then you shouldn't even be talking about moratoriums in these areas. You ought to zero it down to where you have a real need, where your local experts tell you there's a real need. I mean, this notion that you're going to blanket the whole country as if every forest is the same is laughable, when it comes right down to it, and it suggests to me that you're not all that serious about considering the economic impacts of local communities. Maybe I'm wrong; maybe you'll prove me wrong. I hope you do.
Thanks, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Schaffer.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Chief, I do want to compliment you on one thing, and that is that you extend the comment period another 30 days, and I do appreciate that. I know the people in Montanaand I would like to have you give us an assurance here today, and that is, before you have those meetings in Montana, you will have available for the people in Montana what the impacts are going to be on the forests of Montana. Will you give us that assurance today?
Page 105 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. I believe the information that we have will be part of the announcement that will appear in The Federal Register on Friday.
Mr. HILL. Will that include impacts in terms of individual forest sales, how they'll impact individual forests, how they'll be impacted, number of acres that will be impacted?
Chief DOMBECK. I believe it will bethe information we have will be by individual forest. I believe it will be the number of sales, perhaps not the number of acres, but, more importantly, the board feet effects.
Mr. HILL. I mean, there are more impacts than just timber harvest, and not that timber harvest isn't important. I guess my point is, how can you solicit public input when you haven't given the public the facts so that they can comment on them? I would just urge you to extend this comment period beyond that, until at least a point in which you've given the people the information that they need in order to make an appropriate assessment, so that they can provide you valued input. Does that seem unreasonable?
Chief DOMBECK. No. And I believe that's the intent.
Mr. HILL. Then I would urge you toyou brought up the Columbia Basin, the Interior Columbia Basin EIS, and I'd like to ask a couple of questions about that, because you chose not to exclude that area that is currently under study, and as you know, we're moving through that process right now. Why did you choose not to exclude that area?
Chief DOMBECK. Thebecause it's notthe areas that were excluded were the areas, what I'm basically referring to as the second-generation forest plans, the plans that are more recent, that are based on more recent information, recent public involvement process, and those include the areas of the Pacific Northwest. The Tongass is under appeal, which is basically still in process, sort of a semi-quasi-judicial process, and the other areas were not excluded because the information their forest plans are based on is sometimes up tocould be up to 15 or 20 years old.
Page 106 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. So what you cited earlier was that the reason that you implemented or you want to implement this moratorium is that you were in possession of science that the individual forests were not in possession of. Substantially, that came from the Columbia Basin study. I believe that that's what you said to Mr. Schaffer.
And, yet, we are fairly well along with regard to the Interior Columbia Basin study. I guess I would just say to you, are you aware of the potential impacts that this decision will have on the collaborative effort that has gone into the Interior Columbia Basin study?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes. I have met with numerous county commissioners in Idaho, county commissioners from Oregon
Mr. HILL. I hope you stay around following your testimony because there's a county commissioner from Montana that has been a strong advocate, Larry Dolezal, for trying to work within this collaborative stewardship that you talk about, who I think will express to you that he feels as though he was blindsided by this decision.
And, specifically, I want to just make reference to a project that is in his district. As you know, the Lincoln County, where he comes from, has been particularly adversely impacted. In fact, I think it's listed under one of the top 10 endangered communities in America. Where they're trying tothe Economic Development Administration has provided some funding to try to develop a new ski area. Are you familiar with that?
Chief DOMBECK. I'm not familiar with the ski area itself.
Mr. HILL. So you're not aware of the fact that the local forest superintendent has been working to try to complete an EIS on that by September of this year, with the goal being that we could develop this ski area, and that that project will be imperiled by your moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. Not that specific issue.
Page 107 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. So when you said earlier that you solicited data on impacts, the individual forests didn't provide you any data with regard to any specific timber sales, with regard to any specific other projects that might be impacted by this moratorium?
Chief DOMBECK. They provided information on timber sales. Did theypardon [speaking to staff]? OK, we've got datasets that we will have for all other activities, and I assume we will make that available during theas the comment period proceeds. So people can
Mr. HILL. When do you think that that information will be available in Montana with regard to the forests in Montana?
Chief DOMBECK. Within 2 weeks.
Mr. HILL. I'm sure you're aware of the fact in the Interior Columbia Basin study, one of the things it suggests that would be good for forest management would be to manage the roadless areas, some intrusion into the roadless areas, some mechanical harvest, other things. Are you aware of that?
Chief DOMBECK. Then you're talking about the need for active management? Yes.
Mr. HILL. Wouldn't you say that your moratorium is in conflict with what the science is telling you from the Interior Columbia Basin study?
Chief DOMBECK. Not necessarily. I think we have a mindset that we have to build a permanent, fairly expensive road to maintain, and we've got the backlog to deal with. And one of the things that
Mr. HILL. Are you suggesting that your moratorium would not apply to temporary roads in these roadless areas?
Chief DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. It does apply to temporary roads?
Page 108 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. It does apply to temporary roads. However, the new policy will address more broadly when and where and what types of roads to build, based upon the most up-to-date science. For example, you know, we're doing, in facta timber director, a forest management director who recently retired said, he said, 10 years ago we never thought we'd be doing the amount of helicopter logging that we are today. Someone from California was recently telling me that one of the forest engineers indicated that we could probably do the same forest management job we're doing today with a significantly less intensive road network. And it's directions like that that I want us to be looking at. Again, as we talk about the other activities and the impacts, I just want to make sure that you understandNo. 1, we've talked about the fact that this is proposal, but also, No. 2, the fact that what we're talking about is road construction and reconstruction only. We're not talking about other activities.
The intent is not to stop forest management. In fact, the intent is towe've got to look for new
Mr. HILL. It's to delay, though. You're going to delay. You're going to delay forest management in those areas. By limiting access to those areas and intrusion into those areas, you're going to be delaying forest management, which I have great concern about.
There are two points I want to make, if I might, Madam Chairman, beforeI know my time has expired here. And that is that you talked about the impacts of El Niño on some of the coastal areas with regard to landslides and that sort of thing. We've got the reverse impact in Montana. Post-El Niño periods are extraordinarily dry periods in Montana. They're periods with high incidence of fire. We have got a tremendous exposure to catastrophic fire. If you delay any management of that problem in the roadless areas in Montana, you are compounding the potential hazard to Montana, to Montana communities, and to those forests to fire.
Page 109 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Interior Columbia Basin study will point out to youand I know that you're familiar with itthat we have a serious problem in Montana with respect to that. And I would just urge you to consider exempting this area that's part of the Interior Columbia Basin study from this moratoriumto allow that process to go forward.
As you know, the goal there is to develop the science that can be incorporated into those forest plans, whether they be transportation or other aspects of those forest plans, so that we can get them updated. What, in essence, you're going to propose doingI can tell you right now that if you move forward with this, it's going to erode anyanycooperation, any collaborative effort that you've going to have to move forward with the Interior Columbia Basin study and in an effort to implement it. You're going to create more conflict, less collaboration in Montana if you do that. So I would just urge you to, at least if you're going to implement this moratorium, you allow people to do it on a forest-by-forest basis.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill.
Mr. Dombeck, under the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act and the Alaska Lands Act, Native corporations were entitled to select and own lands for traditional use and economic benefit as settlement of Alaskan Native aboriginal land claims. Access to the lands also was guaranteed under these laws, and many of these lands are located within the national forests in Alaska. Is it not true that roads needed for access to Alaska Native aboriginal lands would be exempt from the administration's roadless policy?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, the Tongass National Forest is exempt from the policy now.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. In every case it's exempt, including the special areas?
Page 110 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. Of the current temporary suspension of road building, yes, the Tongass is exempt. The Tongass record of decision was signed in May, and the appeals process for that decision on the entire forest plan is currently in progress.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. With regard to the new roadless moratorium, or the moratorium on roads, under roadless area and under future special designation of special areas, designation by the Regional Forester, are you telling me that Alaska, the Tongass is exempt from both of those?
Chief DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. You testified that this moratorium only applies to roadless areas. In the lower 48, what about the special areas that are in multiple-use areas now?
Chief DOMBECK. The proposal on that is that that would be under the discretion of the Regional Forester?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So, actually, contrary to your original testimony, it does extend to far more than the roadless areas? It does extend into the multiple-use areas? And you are giving the Regional Forester the authority, through this policy, to designate special areas, and they will become, in essence, de facto wilderness, right?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, thisagain, keep in mind the policy applies only to roads, not to other activities, and the specific kinds of areasand we are looking for comment on thisis areas like municipal watersheds where communities get drinking water supplies from, other areas very similar to that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So it does apply to more than roads? It does apply to watersheds, right?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, the policy applies to roads only, but
Page 111 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. It will impact entire watersheds, right?
Chief DOMBECK. In certain situations it could.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I wonder if you can explain to the Committee, and for the record, the exact degree that the Columbia River ecosystem planning process predicated or precipitated this roadless moratorium policy.
Chief DOMBECK. It's a nationwide problem that we're dealing with, with the whole roads issue. It's certainly not limited to the Columbia Basin. What I can say, though, is that some of the information gathered in the Columbia Basin assessment is probably some of the newest and best information that we have.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. How did that precipitatehow did that information precipitate this action? How did the Columbia ecosystem planning process precipitate this action?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, I would say it didn't precipitate this action. The whole debate that we've been in for more than a decade over the roads and road funding issue is something that is part of the larger issue. What I face and what the Forest Service faces is a continually declining roads program that lacks support, and the support for the roads program continues to erode. Somehow we've got to reframe the issue so the roads program is viewed as part of the transportation network, the infrastructure of local America. I mean, it'sI grew up on Forest Road 164 in the Chequamegon National Forest in northern Wisconsin, and today it's a blacktop road. A bus goes down it every day, and a mailer-out, and, yes, a few logging trucks, and lots of tourists. It's important that we be able to maintain this infrastructure that's needed by local communities. I hardly go to a county or talk to a county commissioner when he says to me, ''How come you're not taking better care of your forest roads?''
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Chief Dombeck, you stated in your testimony that you worked with the American Forest and Paper Association, AF&PA, on developing this policy. Did you work with themto what extent did you work with AF&PA on developing this policy?
Page 112 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Chief DOMBECK. I guess I'm not sure I wouldif I did couch it as though worked with themas a matter of fact, theywe discussed the whole issue of roads with a variety of people. In fact, the whole roads issue is an issue that wasyou know, has been hotly debated and talked about for the past decade or more withinnot only within the Forest Service, but others that are interested in roads.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Did AF&PA take an official position on this and then work with you or to what degree did you work with AF&PA?
Chief DOMBECK. Well, to my knowledge, from the standpoint of discussing the issue, and as we have with many people over the years, it's, you know, how do we get beyond the issue, as we looked at thewhat in 1996 we were, you know, very close to losing almost 80 percent of the program. Another debate ensued in 1997, and it's a program that is in the intensive care unit, and the responsibility that we have is to try to come up with ways and options of resuscitating that program.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I just want to say, before we have to recess temporarily, that when I first came to the Congress, it was my decided opinion that the Forest Service was so broken that we may not be able to recover. I gave everything I had to give, as chairman of this Committee, to try to stay very open to you and to work with you. You're a gentleman, and you're an impressive person. But the way I see this moving, I'm convinced now the Forest Service is too broken. I mean, there's no accountability from the top. District Rangers are stopping sales. We have a sale, the George Washington National Forest in Virginia has also been canceled. We've had, because of this roadless policyand yet it's only proposed.
The entire public process has been made a mockery of by the very fact that sales have been canceled while this is still a proposal, Chief, and yet then we reach out to the people with hearings. It truly is a mockery, and it's disappointing.
I guess in my heart of hearts I'd still like to see us recover from that in terms of making the American people and communities that are affected a part of the process again. I don't see that happening. I hope I can be surprised. I still look for that. But I don'tI hope that I don't have to get used to being so utterly disappointed, and that disappointment is not just shared here in this Committee; it's shared by our Resources chairman and members of the Committee on the House side, and certainly on the Senate side, too. I think that the envelope has been pushed way too far on this one, and as with the Tucson Rod and Gun Club, we learned that policy was implemented based on unwritten policy. And I was hoping that you would be able to turn that around. I don't see it happening.
Page 113 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have been called for a vote. It's a 15-minute vote, and there is 5 minutes left.
Chief Dombeck, we have a lot more questions, but we will submit the questions to you in writing and would expect that you respond to them within 10 days.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I know that you have a meeting with Senator Hutchinson, and you will be gladly excused from the Committee for that meeting. I would appreciate if your staff would stay and listen to the rest of the testimony.
Thank you for the long period of time that you have spent with us. And I really hope that some fruit will be born from this in terms of making the American people part of the process again, and that is done first through Congress and then through the NEPA process.
Right now this hearing will be recessed for 20 minutes. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Committee will come to order.
We will begin with the third panel: Max Peterson, executive vice president of International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; Larry Dolezal from Lincoln County, and Mr. Dolezal is a commissioner from Troy, Montana; Bob Powers, legislation advocate, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America; Bill Banzhaf, executive vice president, Society of American Foresters in Bethesda.
And I wonder, gentlemen, if you would mind standing and take the oath. Raise your right hand.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Please be seated.
And we will open with Mr. Peterson.
Page 114 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF MAX PETERSON, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FISH AND WILDLIFE AGENCIES
Mr. MAX PETERSON. Thank you, Madam Chairman. You have my statement, which is rather long. If you'd accept it for the record, I'll try to save you some time and brief it.
What I've attempted to do, at the request of staff, is to provide a brief historical overview of the saga of roadless area reviews and evaluation, which really began in the 1910's, and then there have been other reviews done since.
The major reviews that have been done in recent history began after the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act, which required a review of the primitive areas.
Then in 1972, Forest Service Chief McGuire was concerned about agitation both inside and outside the Forest Service as to what to do with roadless areas, particularly those that were next to primitive areas. He ordered a nationwide review of roadless areas, which became known as RARE I. And I've given you some data on RARE 1.
Because of the difference in national forests in the East, and the imprint of man on national forests in the East, there were very few areas in the East that were included in that inventory. Partially because of that, and the question, incidentally, of what constituted a road, and what was a road in a roadless area, there was a second roadless area review undertaken beginning in 1977. That was a huge review. As you know, that resulted in a very large environmental statement, whth more than 300,000 comments on that environmental statementI think the largest number of comments ever received on any environmental statement in the history of any organization.
As a result of that, review, commonly called RARE 2, recommendations were made, signed off on by President Carter, that said, so many acres should be wilderness, so many areas should be used for multiple use other than wilderness, and so many areas should be subject to further planning. It was the hope of many that those recommendations would sort of settle the roadless area question; that Congress, then, would look at those nationwide recommendation and that Congress would decide which areas would be wilderness, which areas would be multiple use other than wilderness, which areas would be further planning.
Page 115 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, that didn't happened. Congress instead started action on a State-by-State basis, and as you know, except for Idaho and Montana, the roadless area legislation has essentially been enacted in all those States.
One of the issues, though, that came up then that bedevils us, I think, today on the issue that's before us is, what happens after you get through the first generation of forest plans? I remember sitting in a hearing and hearing Senator Hubert Humphrey and Congressman Foley say at that time, we want to pass an Act of Congress, which was the National Forest Management Act, that will set forth a planning process that will include: interdisciplinary analysis; it will include input from people, public involvement, and then a decision will be made on how to manage an area of land, and that plan will remain in effect for 10 to 15 years. And plans will be revised from time to time with public involvement and by looking at, what is new, what do we know today.
So I admit to being somewhat perplexed at this proposed Interim Directive because I don't really see how it fits into the laws involving management of national forests, which envisions that there will be a plan for an area of land and it will stay in place until it's revised or amended. There's nothing in the law or in the regulations that, as far as I know, contemplate something called an interim directive that, again, puts the roadless area in some kind of a limbo.
You might ask yourselves this question: Suppose somebody came along and decided they wanted to develop all those roadless areas in the next year, in spite of the fact that was not in accordance with plans? We would hardly believe that such action would be appropriate. Somebody just to say we're going to go into all those areas next year, in spite of the fact that would be contrary to land management plans.
It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. You either have to say the areas are governed by plans or they're not. So I guess one of the disappointments to me, regardless of the merits of this proposal, is the question of process.
Page 116 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I guess the only other comment I'd makeand let me make it very clear that at this point in my current role as Executive Vice President of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. I am not taking a position. I expect that in some States they think that a moratorium is a good idea, and it may well be in that State for some roadless areas. In some other areas there will be concern that if it concentrates development on already-developed areas, which may be a much higher value for fish and wildlife than some of the roadless areas, that there will be concern about it.
Let me also point out that I don't see much association between a roadless mandate and a review of the road system. A review of the road system I think probably is a good idea, because the road system has grown and use has changed. The proposal mentions ghost roads. That's the first time I've heard that expression. You can still see the tracks of the Donner Party as they went across parts of the Nevada desert and into California. So in some parts of the country, if anybody ever made a road track, it's still there, and if the terrain allows it, some people will follow that road track. And some people will follow that road track to their favorite fishing hole, and sometimes that's not a good idea. It may cause damage.
So a review of the road system, particularly as large and complicated as it isand I was a little curious at the comments about it being 10 times as long as the interstate system; the State of New York has a road system that's several times as long as the interstate, and so does the State of Virginia, both of which are a whole lot smaller than the national forest system. So sometimes these comparisons don't make a whole lot of sense.
Anyway, I think there is a case for review of the road system, looking at, what do we know about management and lumber use of these roads. The use has expanded exponentially. There's very little proportional use of these roads by timber hauling anymore. In many cases, 95 percent of the use is recreation, including fishing and hunting. So the use has changed. So there is a need to review the system; I think that's true.
Page 117 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm not at all sure, though, what that has to do with a moratorium on roadless areas, because very few roads are being built in those areas anyway. It stops activities indefinitely that are in accordance with forest plan. Some of them, as you know, have been under consideration for many, many years. Some of them have gone through administrative appeals and court challenges and everything else, and now we have something else called a moratorium on top of it, which to me, particularly being done without what I would consider due process. I think this is not a good idea. That's just my horseback opinion. I have been involved in the development of the policy or implementation of it. Those are just sort of off-the-top-of-my-head opinions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Max Peterson may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Those are pretty good horseback thoughts. Thank you, Mr. Peterson.
For our next witness, I'd like to yield to Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Madam Chairman, I am very pleased to introduce a distinguished witness and a friend of mine from Montana, Larry Dolezal. I have found him to be a very thoughtful, compassionate, committed, open-minded person, a problem-solver. He's a Lincoln County commissioner in Montana. He's worked extensively on forest issues.
Lincoln County depends heavily on forest products and receipts from the Kootenai National Forest. Its residents also depend on the nearby forest for their recreation. And as you'll hear from Larry's testimony, he's witnessed how dwindling forest receipts have hurt his county's economic development, schools, recreational access, and how this moratorium will make a bad situation even worse.
Page 118 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, we are fortunate to have the chance to hear Larry's firsthand expertise on the moratorium and the impact on the communities there in Troy and Eureka, Montana.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Commissioner, would you please proceed?
STATEMENT OF LARRY DOLEZAL, LINCOLN COUNTY COMMISSIONER, TROY, MONTANA
Mr. DOLEZAL. Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Representative Hill from Montana, for giving me this opportunity to appear before you today.
I've been serving as a county commissioner in Lincoln County, Montana for the past 12 years, and am currently the Chair of our board. As you may be aware, Lincoln County has been very active regionally and nationally in public lands issues. I've testified before Congress on PILT and other legislation, and am currently one of two county commissioners representing the Montana Association of Counties on the East Side Ecosystem Coalition of Counties, actively involved on reviewing the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project.
I'm here to tell this Committee firsthand that the conditions described and the economic data contained in the material released in support of the proposed interim rule is inaccurate. We within the EECC, the Coalition of Counties, certainly understand the position Chief Dombeck outlined before us recently at Boise, Idaho. He opened the meeting by apologizing for proceeding with the proposal without first having involved the counties in the Basin. He termed it a serious mistake. He agreed in blood that the moratorium would end 18 months or sooner after its adoption.
Commissioners commented that Basin counties which have carried the ICBEMP were blindsided by the moratorium, and that what the ICBEMP science has shown is the need for active management to prevent wildfires. This moratorium represents a serious breach of trust between governments.
Page 119 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Chief acknowledged this damage to trust and encouraged the counties to offer a way during the 30-day comment period to repair that trust. The EECC has identified additional concerns with this proposed interim policy that severely jeopardize our continued involvement in the ICBEMP. These reasons are straightforward.
First, the ICBEMP cannot succeed if it is overridden by a piecemeal approach toward Federal land management in direct violation of an ecosystemwide plan. Second, the ICBEMP is science-based, supposedly. The EECC fully supports having sound and direct scientific results coupled with adaptive management. This policy is not based on science, but rather on politics. If ICBEMP is to succeed, politics cannot be elevated over science.
Third, we've been assured throughout this project that the results will be a regional solution based on regional ecosystems and collaboration. This policy, however, is a national one-size-fits-all edict that violates the promise and integrity of a regional ecosystem-based solution.
Fourth, the administration has emphasized collaboration of all stakeholders as the most sound approach to difficult Federal land management policy issues. County officials have absorbed tremendous political heat, holding to the process, seeking the very best outcome for the Basin and its communities.
With this reported policy, we wonder if we are, indeed, partners. We've not been invited to consult about it. Our opinion has not been requested in any way. Can we trust that collaboration is, in fact, important to Federal leaders and the administration? We've been seriously compromised by the administration with its proposed interim rule.
The current position of the EECC is somewhat precarious. Following a lengthy, complicated discussion and deep soul-searching, the Coalition of Counties decided to withhold a decision on whether to stay with the project until a final decision is made on the USFS roadless area moratorium. The EECC decided to work with the Federal team to find language based upon the ICBEMP science and the DEIS to create special flexibility or a full or partial exemption for national forests within the Basin. The Federal team has agreed to work with us to this end, under the authorization of Chief Dombeck.
Page 120 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Shifting to a local perspective, over 90 percent of Lincoln County households identified logging as the most important economic activity in our local communities, and these same people are employed, over 90 percent, in forest management. These are the working families that form the backbone of our communities. The management of our national resources here is simply indisputably the foundation upon which the rest of our economy is built. We must not forget that trees are a renewable resource. There are such things as tree farms.
Incidentally, the nonresident travel or tourism component of our basic economy ranges from 1 to 3 percent. For this reason, we strongly dispute the social-economic data within the ICBEMP regarding the overstatement of recreation. On the Kootenai National Forest, almost 60 percent of the Forest Service system roads are closed, and within my home district 75 percent are closed, primarily due to transportation system management dictated by grizzly bear recovery.
Our people say that two huge problems that affect their harvest of wild resources, picking huckleberries, gathering firewood, fishing and hunting, et cetera, are national forest road closures and public land access. We want a working national forest. Our people don't want welfare. We want work. How can we when we are shut out of 60 to 70 percent of our public lands?
A combination of these foregoing concerns is faced by an effort to diversify our local economic base. The Treasure Mountain Ski Area adjacent to our Cabinet Mountains Wilderness would also help us stabilize our local economy. The proposed roadless moratorium presents some very real obstacles that could cause this project to be aborted.
Will provisions be made for exemptions for projects such as this? The U.S. Forest Service has placed a priority on recreation. It seems like Federal hypocrisy for the Forest Service to delay, and possibly impede, an economic diversification effort that has merit and funding from other Federal agencies.
Page 121 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Many of you may be unaware that the United States and four other countries comprise 10 percent of the world's population and about 50 percent of global consumption. The United States is now a net importer of wood and wood products, and other construction materials, as well as most metals and plastics.
In Montana, the Forest Service has reduced timber harvest by more than 50 percent since 1950. Yet, consumption is never discussed when decisions are being made that reduce harvests. We need to rethink the commonly held notion that the answers to many of the world's environmental problems is to simply designate ever-larger resource-rich areas as parks and preserves.
Decisions are being made on a daily basis and at all levels of government to restrict raw materials extraction almost always on environmental grounds. No one is addressing our global responsibility. Few are asking what the environmental impacts are when our raw materials are imported from somewhere else.
A new process for determining where and how we build roads must be based upon sound science. It must not duplicate or add to processes that are already mandated by current laws in order to eliminate further delays in planning. And most of all, any new process must be firmly embedded in collaboration and consultation with local affected communities. There must also be incorporated into this collaborative process a vehicle for local affected community involvement in deciding which roads need to be maintained, which roads need to be upgraded, or those that need to be decommissioned.
As I end my testimony before you today, I would like to summarize what I feel the most important issue is for you to consider. It is not the issue of road building moratorium. It is the constant barrage of Federal edicts enacted from above that are threatening our custom, our culture, our traditional way of life in rural communities out West. We have been encouraged to come to the table to negotiate and review forest management practices through the ICBEMP process. We have kept our promise. We've stayed active in this process under tremendous political adversity. Our constituents tell us: You can't trust the Federal Government anymore. They tell us to look at the effects of the grizzly bear protection and other endangered species management. They see forests that are in dire need of help and could catastrophically burn this summer. They attend public meetings to voice their opinions, but feel as if their input falls on deaf ears.
Page 122 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I used to tell them that we still need to try to work for a common goal, work out our differences in a managed plan that can benefit all interests. I constantly appeal to them to attend one more meeting, write one more letter, that will hopefully influence decisions. I'm not sure that I can tell them that any longer.
Every effort we have made to work together with the Federal agencies to solve the important management decisions with words of reason have been ignored by this administration, which continues to impose additional regulations with no understanding of the effects on rural America. We're being backed further and further into a corner. We are fighting for our survival.
We want the simple rights of Americans to pursue life, liberty, and happinessall of which are being denied us by current public land management decisions, our very own country. This time it may be the straw that broke the camel's back. Trouble is brewing in the West. People are tired of not being heard. The common-sense, practical approach of rural people living on the land continues to fall on deaf ears. Special interest groups now seem to be the managers of our national forests. What they list as valuable and endangered does not include the vanishing rural American lifestyle out West.
It's time that we placed this management back under sound, scientific means and remove politics from it. It is time to listen to the people. It is time to manage our land responsibly. You may very well hold the keys to the future of rural life in the West. You must prevent this looming disaster.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dolezal may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Commissioner. That was outstanding testimony.
Page 123 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We are being pushed by three votes that have been called, three 15-minute votes, and we're about at the end of the first 15-minute vote. There will be two others following that, and then a 5-minute vote. I am so sorry to tell you, but we need to recess the Committee for 45 minutes to get these votes in.
And, Mr. Peterson, I realize you may need to catch a plane, and if you're not here when we come back, we understand, but I do have a page of questions that I will be submitting to you.
Mr. MAX PETERSON. Thank you. I do have to go, but I have a meeting with Congressman Hansen at 3:30. I might swing by here about 3 o'clock or something; I don't know.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right.
Mr. MAX PETERSON. Thank you.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And so the Committee is recessed for 45 minutes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Committee will be in order.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair recognizes Bill Banzhaf for his testimony. Bill is the executive vice president of the Society of American Foresters here in Bethesda, Maryland. Mr. Banzhaf?
STATEMENT OF BILL BANZHAF, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
Mr. BANZHAF. Thank you, Madam Chairman. My name is Bill Banzhaf, and I represent the 18,000 members of the profession of forestry, including those in research, education, and practitioners both in the public and private sector.
Page 124 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We really appreciate the opportunity to give the professional view this afternoon. I would say that, by and large, we are very supportive of the Chief's goals to improve his agency's ability to do a better jobbetter onsite decisions as to where and when roads should be built, and establish a sound approach to upgrade roads when appropriate, and to identify a sustainable funding source for future road building.
We simply don't understand what the moratorium has to do with any of those goals. The Forest Service could develop a set of regulations at any time without a roads moratorium. I think former Forest Service Chief Max Peterson indicated that every institution needs to continually re-evaluate and improve how it does its work, but you don't stop your core area while you're looking at that.
Additionally, the policy, the proposed moratorium, really undermines the years of hard work that the forest profession, the scientific community, and the public at large have put into making some very difficult land management allocation decisions through the NFMA process and through the RARE I and RARE II processes.
Now in discussing the Tongass National Forest, Chief Dombeck stated, and I quote, ''It is important to people that we retain the integrity of the planning process and the appeals processes.'' Now it's our view that we do need to honor that commitment to the integrity of the planning process, and that, therefore, every unit of the national forest system should be exempt from this moratorium, since they have gone through a sound forest planning process.
I'd like to briefly summarize some of our concerns with regard to the possible effects of this proposed moratorium. First, it will undermine or limit the ability of forest managers and citizens at the local level to address some critical needs in forested areas. The agency itself has talked about the fact that they have 40 million acres that are at severe risk for catastrophic fire. Clearly, if we have a moratorium on road building, this could very well limit the opportunity for professional natural resource managers to do fire prevention techniques, whether it's thinning, prescribed burning. So we have some real difficulties in that area.
Page 125 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Another example just really occurred several weeks ago with the very tragic ice storm in the Northeast. The White Mountain National Forest may very well not be able to go through and correct some of the difficulties that they sustained during that very, very severe ice storm.
Another concern with the policyand, Madam Chairman, you brought this up yourselfis the vague and subjective criteria for the special lands, the inclusion of lands, quote, ''because of their unique ecological or social values.'' This sets the stage for more acrimony, and we certainly had enough of that over the last 10 years, more legal entanglements. We're very concerned that, based on that approach, we're going to go from an issue that needs to be addressed addressing roads to an issue that addresses land allocation, and I don't think we want to go there.
I guess I would have to express my puzzlement in hearing the testimony this morning that the Regional Foresters have the discretion to identify the special lands, but do not have the discretion to identify the need to handle roadless areas on a site-by-site basis. To me, this doesn't make sense. We in the Society of American Foresters truly support and trust local discretion. We're very proud of the professionals that work in the Forest Service at the local level and the regional level, and we believe giving them discretion in one area and withholding in the other is not sending sound management signals.
The real issue the Forest Service should be addressingand I give Chief Dombeck credit for underlining thisis the backload in maintenance and reconstruction needs of the existing road system. He has stated that he will work on this serious problem, and we commend him for that. We commend the Forest Service for that.
However, as I've stated before, we fail to see how the moratorium does anything to address the maintenance and reconstruction backlog. In fact, I think it does just what it's done today, and that is, misdirect needed focus and energy onto a wholly different issue.
Page 126 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We very much appreciate the ability to provide testimony and would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Banzhaf may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Banzhaf. I appreciate that very interesting testimony, and we will be back to you with questions.
Mr. Amador, you've come a very long way. It's been a long day, and I thank you for your patience.
STATEMENT OF DON AMADOR, RECREATIONIST, BLUE RIBBON COALITION
Mr. AMADOR. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and before I start my testimony, I did want to comment on Representative Oberstar's comments today about whereif multiple-use recreation groups were consulted, and it was his opinion that they were not, and our organization was not consulted on this policy, either.
As a native of California who has, quite literally, grown up in the forest of the Pacific Northwest
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Amador
Mr. AMADOR. Yes?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] for the record, would you state what
Mr. AMADOR. Oh, yes, my name is Don Amador, California-Nevada representative for the Blue Ribbon Coalition.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right, thank you.
Mr. AMADOR. OK. As a native of California who has, quite literally, grown up in the forest of the Pacific Northwest, where my wife, two teenage boys, and I enjoy exploring using forest roads, our timber lands, where we have learned much about such natural treasures as wild trillium, salmon berries, blacktail deer, thrushes, et cetera, I must say that as an outdoor recreationist my family and I are greatly troubled by the administration's roadless area policy.
Page 127 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC After carefully studying this policy, the Coalition has concluded that this proposal is nothing but a de facto wilderness grab designed to thwart the will of Congress, as outlined in the National Forest Management Act. Never before in my many years of working with the Forest Service, either in my capacity with the Coalition or as chairman of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission at the California Department of Parks and Recreation, have I ever witnessed a more anti-access or anti-recreation policy.
What the Forest Service fails to recognize is that the road obliteration process is as, if not more, intrusive than the actual road building. As a heavy equipment operator and former operating engineer, I find no environmental documentation on how the Forest Service expects to mitigate the disastrous environmental impact of increased sedimentation caused by this program. And if any of you would like to see an example of that, you come out to California; I'll take you to Jacoby Creek on the Six Rivers and show you the impact that a road rehab program has on the environment.
If this program is implemented on a national level, the consequences to fish habitat will be incalculable. As road engineers will tell you, the most serious environmental impacts to habitat occurs within the first 4 to 6 years post-construction. By proposing a national road rehabilitation program, the Forest Service will be actually causing far more environmental damage than if the old road and trail systems were left as is and maintained with volunteer partnerships between recreation organizations and the agency.
The Forest Service fails to recognize that the unimproved road system is the product and the reason why many families travel to the forests. Without a large and viable unimproved road system that provides public access for fishermen, hunters, mountain bikers, sightseers, disabled Americans, senior citizens, off-highway recreationists, equestrians, and rock-hounders, the forest, as a recreation or tourist attraction, ceases to exist.
While that may be an attractive prospect or goal for many of the national green advocacy groups or their law firms, the Forest Service must fulfill its mandate to serve all of the people and not succumb to the desires of an elitist few.
Page 128 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Needless to say, I am skeptical when the Forest Service claims that this policy is not anti-access or anti-recreational. For example, the Forest Service in Region 5, while claiming to be focusing on recreational opportunity for all Americans, has been quietly implementing many of the road-closing aspects of the draft Resources Planning Act of 1995, a plan that is yet to be approved by Congress.
Expressing my current distrust and frustration with the Forest Service's new proposed roadless policyand I think they have it aptly named, for it is, indeed, a true ''roadless'' policyis something I take no pleasure in. However, considering its lack of outreach to the multiple-use community with no apparent language guaranteeing a viable roads-to-trails or roads-to-four-wheel-driveways, I hereby state the Blue Ribbon Coalition's opposition to this policy as written, and urge this Committee to direct the Forest Service to follow its multiple-use mandate.
Thank you again for allowing me the privilege to testify today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Amador may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Amador.
The Chair recognizes Jack Phelps, who is the director of thethe executive director of the Alaska Forestry Association from Ketchikan, Alaska. You have come a long ways.
STATEMENT OF JACK PHELPS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA FORESTRY ASSOCIATION
Mr. PHELPS. Yes, ma'am.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Phelps?
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the Subcommittee. For the record, my name is Jack Phelps, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, and I do thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony before your Subcommittee today.
Page 129 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The association represents or consists of 100 member companies who are directly involved in the Alaska forest products industry and account for more than 1,400 direct year-round equivalent employees. As an aside, I'd mention that a mere 6 years ago that job force was around 4,600, and that loss is directly attributable to the Forest Service failure and refusal to put timber on the street.
As you know, we have the largest national forest in the country, the Tongass. We also have the second largest national forest in the country, which is the Chugach, and I'll talk more about those in a moment.
The AFA also represents an additional 200 associate member companies who provide goods and services to Alaska's timber industry. The livelihoods of AFA's members, their workers, their families, and the timber-dependent communities in which they live depend upon the availability of timber from the Tongass and Chugach National Forests and are directly affected by Forest Service decisions pertaining to those forests.
I'm also here today on behalf of the forest products industry nationwide. The actions that Chief Dombeck and the Forest Service are taking, or proposing to take, regarding roadless areas in the national forests are in violation of the Federal laws and regulations which govern the responsibility of the agency and its management of those forests. The unilateral moratorium imposed by the Forest Service on the majority of our national forests will suspend road construction on millions of acres of roadless areas and significantly affect pending and future access to those for future use. In fact, it will delay, as you've heard today, offerings of badly needed timber, both in my region and in others.
I have in my written testimony provided detailed specifications of the violations of law and regulation. I won't belabor those today, but I would like to move directly to some comments on how these proposed policies will affect our region.
Although the Tongass National Forest in Alaska is allegedly exempted from the nationwide moratorium, we are extremely concerned about a backdoor imposition of this moratorium on the Tongass. The agency proposes to deal with the Tongass roadless areas when appropriate, they say, during its review of appeals filed in the recently revised Tongass Land Management Plan. We are concerned that the Forest Service will impose the moratorium by characterizing a change in the land management plan as ameliorating or addressing appeal points raised by environmental groups. And I would hasten to point out that in these appeals the environmental groups have identified a myriad so-called roadless areas not in the Tongass at large, but in the mere 676,000 acres of the 17-million acre Tongass that are still available for timber harvest. So this is a direct attack on the minutial amount of land that's still available for the one of the many multiple uses that actually produces revenue for the Forest Service, and I think it would behoove this Subcommittee to look very, very carefully into that issue, not only in the Tongass, but in other areas as well. As was pointed out this morning by Congressman Taylor, this is not an attack on anything but the land base that is still available for harvest, which in our case is very, very small relative to the overall size of the forest.
Page 130 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the plan appeal process, the Forest Service should be reminded that it can only move to correct legal errors which occurred during the forest planning process. It cannot make new policy as part of an alleged plan amendment under the appeal.
I believe that if there are plan amendmentsand this, again, could affect any and all of the forests across the countryif there are plan amendments which significantly affect the forest plan, they have to be done through the proper amendment process which is set forth in the National Forest Management Act, including public input and including amendments to the environmental impact statements.
Now moving to the Chugach, which is the second largest national forest, similar concerns arise. In the case of the Chugach, the Forest Service has just begun the process of revising the Chugach Land Management Plan. The scoping process period ended on December 31, 1997, and a draft revised plan and its accompanying draft environmental impact statement are expected during the period of this moratorium. It appears to us that the Forest Service may be unilaterally foreclosing, by implementation of the moratorium, the multiple-use options which would otherwise be available for consideration during the public planning process, and that is absolutely unacceptable under our democratic system and under the NFMA. The problem is especially acute on the Chugach, where more than 98 percent of that forest is inventoried roadless.
In addition to the above, as you, yourself, mentioned this morning, ANILCA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, prohibits the establishment of new areas of wilderness or even the study of forest lands for such purposes in Alaska. I've provided for you a briefing paper which details that.
In conclusion, Madam Chairman, the proposed rulemaking on roadless areas, both in its interim form via moratorium and in its more permanent form, runs contrary to all the laws by which public lands, particularly the national forest system lands, are to be managed. Because of the paucity of roads in our State, Alaska will be disproportionately harmed by this administrative policy. The rest of the country will be adversely and unjustly punished as well. It not only hurts the industries that work in the forests, but every American who wants to be able to drive into the national forests which belong to all of us.
Page 131 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Congress must do all in its power to stop implementation of this unacceptable policy and to insist that the Clinton Administration follow the law when it proposes to make changes in the management of national forest system lands.
That concludes my formal comments, and I'd be more than happy to answer your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Phelps may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Phelps. I know that you had to leave at 4 o'clock.
Mr. PHELPS. I have a plane pushing me pretty hard.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes. And if you can stay for questions, I'd appreciate it.
Mr. PHELPS. I could do that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right. The Chair yields to Mr. Hill for his questions.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Larry, I just have a few questions for you, and, incidentally, again, I want to thank you for coming and appearing and providing your testimony. And I want to thank you, Madam Chairman, for having this hearing.
Could you give us some sense of what the impacts have been on the citizens of Lincoln County as a result of the Forest Service, the current Forest Service practices?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Well, I think the first thing is the roads were built and maintained with timber revenues, and with reduced harvest, we now have less revenues to maintain the roads. A lot of people don't realize that these roads are accessing a major drainage, say, and they'll have cutting units scattered along, and then in rotation they'll treat other areas. So they have like a 5- or a 10-year or a 15-year plan to treat an area, and the only reason they're not able to generate the revenue to maintain the road is they're not actively managing that area for a length of time.
Page 132 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The impacts to our citizens as a result of current Forest Service management basically are three main areas: jobs, employment, access, and revenues to support local county roads and schools. When you're only treating less than 40 percent of the land base, as many other people have stated that have testified, on the Kootenia over 60 percent of the land base is already being managed for other uses. So the only productive timber base is already reduced to under 40 percent. So our harvest level is about one-fourth of the annual growth. So people need to ask the question, what's happening to that other 75 percent that's growing every year? When you're not treating it, it's building up in fuel loads. So probably one of the major impacts it has on the local people is the threat and the danger of fire.
Three-fourths of our people live in rural areas. They don't live in the municipal city limits. So those people are out there interspersed in the wildland interface with their residences. So when there's a threat of wildfire, it has a real impact potentially on people that live in those rural areas.
The other things, the jobs, we have been impacted by a loss of about, oh, a thousand-plus basic industry jobs. Our basic economy is 90-plus percent built upon the natural resources, and so when you see that kind of a loss and we're still 90-percent-plus basic industry, wood products, and Forest Service, Federal civilian, if we see those basic industries cut back even further, it's going to have dire impacts.
The access is probably the thing that makes people's blood boil the most, because when you're only able to access a fraction of the forest, your huckleberry pickers, your firewood gatherers, your fishermen and hunters, hikers, et cetera, their ability now to access to trailheads, they've got to walk several miles up gated roads, and there's no flexibility to keep those roads open seasonally, so you can get your firewood. I don't know how many people would consider packing firewood out on your back.
Page 133 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOLEZAL. Then, of course, the last one is revenues. When you're not harvesting at even approaching a sustainable level, your revenues are in decline. Ours are 50 percent of what they were just 4 years ago for forest receipts. So when your revenues are in decline, you have to look for other sources to finance your schools and your roads; we're just up against it from all those angles.
Mr. HILL. What's the unemployment rate in Lincoln County?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Double digits.
Mr. HILL. The 15 percent area, something like that?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Sixteen. In fact, our unemployment's been as high as 20 to 25 percent.
Mr. HILL. When's the last time that that area was really threatened by wildfire? Was that in the 1988 season?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Actually, 1994 is when we had our last big fire season, and they predict, with El Niño, that we could see the very same thing occur this year.
Mr. HILL. And the fuel loads are getting worse all the time, because we have more mortality in the forest than we're harvesting, too, right?
Mr. DOLEZAL. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. You've worked with the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. And I know that you've taken a lot of criticism for hanging in there with this project, because you really want to bring an end to this management by conflict.
I would just ask you, how do you react to this moratorium, in light of the work that you've done and your experience working on that project?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Well, to be as brief as possible, our 4 years of collaboration are basically totally undermined by this moratorium, or this proposed moratorium, and I could expand on our concerns. They're expanded on more in detail in my written testimony that I have submitted.
Page 134 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Basin, if it doesn't receive some flexibility or exemption, the Coalition of Counties will not only withdraw from our collaborative effort on this Columbia River Basin Project, but I would expect that we will as a group join forces in actively lobbying our Governors and our State legislatures and also our congressional delegation to oppose ICBEMP from going to FEIS, from going to ROD, and from receiving any further funding. It's that dire.
Mr. HILL. Can I ask one more question? How manydo you know how many miles of roads there are in the Kootenai Forest?
Mr. DOLEZAL. I don't know how many Forest Service
Mr. HILL. Yes, I meant Forest Service roads. You don't know? Could youdo you know what percentage of it is currently restricted?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Forestwide, 60 percent of the forest system roads are closed, and in my home district, where we are dealing with grizzly bear recovery, 75 percent of our forest system roads are closed. That has a lot of people up in arms.
In fact, just recently, we had meetings in Troy, Libby, and Eureka. We had about 100 people attend each of those meetings, in excess of three-and-a-half hours of testimony and interaction with the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, State Fish and Wildlife and Parks. So we had a total of over 10 hours of testimony just in our county alone over the possibility of increased restrictions on access management for grizzly bear. And people are very upset and just basically said in no uncertain terms that they will not accept any more restrictions to public land access.
Mr. HILL. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Mr. Hill.
Mr. Phelps, your comments about the legalities of this process are exceedingly interesting to me. Is there anything that you would like to add to your testimony with regard to the legality of the process?
Page 135 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PHELPS. Only that the National Forest Management Act is very clear that if major changes are going to be made in a forest plan, it's essential that the process of making those significant amendments follow the same process as was used in drafting the plan in the first place. That includes an environmental impact statement. Under NEPA, it requires an analysis of the socio-economic effects of such change. It requires a significant period of public comment and a significant review of those public comments and incorporation of them. It includes a requirement that the agency work with the elected officials of the local community. In that, all of those, we saw given short shrift in the Tongass Land Management Plan revision as it was, and to see, then, after going through that very painful process in which our available harvest base in the Tongass was reduced by 60 percent, to have them come along and unilaterally withdraw a significantimpose a significant additional withdrawal of those lands is not only appalling, but, in our opinion, grossly illegal.
Interestingly, not only do these actions violate the law itself, they violate the regulations which have been promulgated by this very agency based upon those laws. And, again, the details of that and the specific citations are included in my written testimony.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you think that the Forest Service is vulnerable to a successful lawsuit restraining them from this action?
Mr. PHELPS. I think they very much are. The problem is we've spent so much money in litigation over the last 10 years, trying to defend our industry, our pockets are getting pretty empty. Unfortunately, every time they do try to put timber on the street, these public interest lawsuits that are funded by the taxpayers are brought to bear and stop those harvests. We end up trying to intervene on behalf of the Forest Service because we can show harm, and the Forest Service can't. So it's a never-ending drain on the pockets of the very people who are trying to produce revenue for the country and jobs for the people.
I think they are vulnerable, Madam Chairman, but the ability to bring such a lawsuit has a pretty high price tag on it.
Page 136 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. It's a shame that we've gotten to the point where we're so drained we can't even defend our rights.
I know that you have to leave, Mr. Phelps. I do have other questions for you. If you don't mind, I'd like to submit them in writing.
Mr. PHELPS. Absolutely. We'd be happy to respond to them in writing.
If I could be permitted one other comment
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes.
Mr. PHELPS. There was some talk today about helicopter logging as an alternative. I would point out that helicopter logging is exceptionally expensiveexceptionally expensive relative to more, you know, more traditional, mechanized approachescable or ground-skidding. But what's especially important about that is that the cost of harvesting, as well as the cost of sale administration on the part of the Forest Service, has risen astronomically, and it's to the place now where, when they talk about sales going without bids, it's because basically they've designed these sales in such ways that a person can't make any money buying, and you lose money if you buy themand to throw a significant amount of that into the much more expensive, exceptionally much more expensive helicopter system, it would just be another way of ending the harvest altogether, plus it's inherently more dangerous as well.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Phelps. I very much appreciate your coming all the way from Alaska and
Mr. PHELPS. Well, we appreciate the opportunity to have a voice in these things.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. PHELPS. Thank you.
Page 137 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill, you wanted another round?
Mr. HILL. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Larry, I just have a couple more questions for you. You've spent, as we mentioned earlier, a lot of work on the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project. That study looked in considerable detail at the fire threat really to the whole Intermountain Northwest Region. And you've spent a lot of time, I know, with that. Could you just describe for us what the impacts on the environmental, the soils, and watershed would be from these catastrophic fires?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Well, if you go to an area that has been burned intensively with intense heat, many times the soils are destroyed right down to the bare mineral element, and it creates a situation where the potential for invasion of noxious weeds or exotic plant disease is greatly enhanced. In fact, some of the areas that we have our greatest weed problems now are where there were fires.
In the 1994 fires, if we would have had more wind, we would have had much more catastrophic events. As it turned out, there were many rural areas that were cautioned that they may have to be removed from their homes, and we were very fortunate that the winds didn't come up. So those people were able to stay in their homes.
Mr. HILL. Kind of changing the subject here, have you had a chance to look at the administration's new initiative on decoupling the forest payments from the forest revenues, and what do you think about that as a local government representative?
Mr. DOLEZAL. I have had really very little exposure to that. One thing that's interesting, it appears to be an effort to remove counties from the debate. We think the most equitable way to formulate this, if it is pursued, would be to average over the last, say, five to 7 years, rather than pick going back to, say, last year or this year, because we've experienced ourselves a 5-year decline. So it's kind of an insult when they suggest, well, we'll go back to this last year's allocation. It seems like it would be much more fair to local governments, to schools and counties, if they would use an average that would at least capture some of those years when we had more favorable revenues.
Page 138 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But counties would still be very involved in the debate about roads and revenues because the biggest picture, the biggest issues that we face are employment, the viability of our communities, and access to public lands. We still have to serve our people and represent them at the table to fight for public access and to fight for viable communities, viable economy.
Mr. HILL. What percentage of the people who live in Lincoln County use the public lands for camping or berry picking or hunting or fishing, or do you have any indication of that? I know you did some surveying on that.
Mr. DOLEZAL. Actually, it was a recent survey, completed in fact just a year ago by a sociology assistant professor named Rebecca Templen-Richards out of the University of Montana Sociology Department. The results of that survey indicated that between 60 and 84 percent of the households surveyedand they almost a 90 percent response rateused public lands for such things as picking huckleberries, fishing, hunting, and gathering firewood.
Mr. HILL. So it's a way of life? I mean
Mr. DOLEZAL. Oh, very.
Mr. HILL. Use of these public lands is a way of life for people in Lincoln County?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Very much so, and I would inviteI wish some of the other Members were here, because I would like to invite them to Montana and see how they like hiking three or four miles up a gated road to go pick huckleberries when they used to be able to drive to the huckleberry patch.
Mr. HILL. I guess, in essence, we've added insult to injury. We've taken away people's jobs. We've eroded the community and the ability of the community to sustain itself, and then we've taken away the people's recreation.
Page 139 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOLEZAL. And there's one other point on this recreation emphasis that doesn't seem to be addressed, and that is, if we're going to shut down timber and wood products, then what's going to replace the revenues to support our counties and our schools? The county road systems are what tie the forest system roads to the primary and secondary highway system. Without that vital link that the county maintains, people wouldn't have access to the forest system roads and access to the public lands.
But, beyond that, what would our permit cost be and what would the fees be to replace the millions of dollars that go to counties for roads and schools generated from timber receipts? If we had to go totally to recreation fees to support our counties and our schools, how much would it cost us to get to that trailhead to go hiking? How much would we have to pay to fish or to hunt? How much would I have to pay for a huckleberry permit? Or for a firewood permit? A thousand dollars? I mean, we're talking some hard money here if we're going to replace forest receipts for our public infrastructure.
Mr. HILL. So instead of contributing to the income of the community, it would drain money from the community?
Mr. DOLEZAL. Right. And one other aspect, most of the recreation traffic on our forests is from people that live there and work there. Apart from hunting season, which is 5 weeks, and seasonal fishing, those are the only activities that are guided and outfitted primarily in our area, though the greatest share of that recreational traffic are people that live and work there. Well, when over 90 percent of your basic economy is built on wood products, if you take wood products out of there, you're not going to have anybody out there because they're not going to be there.
Mr. HILL. Thank you very much. Thanks for being here, Larry. We really appreciate it.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the hearing.
Page 140 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Dolezal, that was outstanding testimony, and I thank you very much.
Mr. DOLEZAL. Thank you for having me.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And you are excused now, and we'll call the next panel: Bob Powers, legislative advocate, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of Americafor the second time, we call you up, Bob. Jerry Hamilton, silviculturist, retired, Forest Service, Salmon, Idaho; Craig Gerhrke, regional director of the Wilderness Society in Idaho; Brent Atkin, president, Public Lands Council, St. George, Utah, and Tim Coleman, executive director, Kettle Range Conservation Group in Republic, Washington.
Thank you. I wonder if the members would stand and take the oath.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I'm going to open the testimony up by hearing from Craig Gerhrke. I want to just say a word about Mr. Gerhrke, because I am his Congresswoman; he may not always want to admit that, but I am.
Mr. Gerhrke does outstanding work in Idaho and is one of the most sought-after and highly regarded individuals in outcomes and impacts of management decisions on our public lands. While Mr. Gerhrke and I don't always see eye to eye, I'm very pleased that you could join us today and bring your testimony as a part of the record. Thank you very much for being here, Craig, and I'm so sorry that you've had to wait all day, but we look forward to hearing from you now.
STATEMENT OF CRAIG GERHRKE, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
Mr. GERHRKE. Well, thank you, Congressman Chenoweth. I appreciate that.
I'd like to thank you and the Committee for inviting the Wilderness Society to testify today on the Forest Service's initiative to develop a transportation policy. My name is Craig Gerhrke. I'm the regional director for the Wilderness Society in the Idaho office.
Page 141 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Wilderness Society welcomes the Forest Service attention to the wilderness area issue and also to its need to address its existing road network. We're supportive of their initiative, but we do believe it has significantly deficiencies. We regret the exemption of the national forest in Alaska and on the Pacific Coast and in place like on the Targhee, which already have their land management plan in place.
We hope that during the comment period the Forest Service will consider strengthening the proposal because one goal we think that badly needs to be addressed is the legitimate protection of the roadless areas. We think that putting a moratorium on road construction is a good first step, but from our standpoint, we would work to see that roadless areas are maintained and are protected in the indefinite future.
For example, I think we're looking at probably the Deadwood roadless area timber sale going forward with about 20 million board feet harvesting by helicopter. If we had our druthers on it, we'd like to see the Deadwood area and all other ones protected from further timber harvesting. So that will be something we certainly will be urging during the comment period.
I'm going to focus most of my testimony that I talk about today on the State of Idaho, on the issues I'm familiar with out there. As you know, Idaho is a very unique place. Outside of Alaska, we have more wild and protected forestland than any other State in the Nation. We have, in addition to the 4 million acres of designated wilderness, there are more than 8 million acres of national forest roadless lands that qualify for wilderness protection, and some of the very cleanest waters in our State come from those areas, and some of actually the Nation's rarest wildlife and fish species, like the caribou, chinook salmon, grizzly bears, owe their continued existence in the lower 48 in part to Idaho's roadless lands.
These roadless lands, as you know, they're roadless for a reason. The more accessible country has long been accessed for timber harvesting, and the steepness, the ruggedness of this area has up until now made them basically what you call second-bestharder to get to, more expensive to get to. But even having said that for the last decade, the Wilderness Society looked at the wilderness area inventory in Idaho and found that we've lost about a million acres since the mid-1980's when the forest plans were developed and put into place. At that point we had about 9 million acres of wilderness land. Since then, we've lost, like I said, about a million acres of land, of roadless land, to roading and log-building efforts, and that amounts to about 11 acres per hour every day.
Page 142 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The lands of those national forests have a network of forestry roads of about 30,000 miles in Idaho, six times the length of the State's State highway system. And last year, the Idaho Panhandle Forest said they only had enough money to perform about 25 percent of its road maintenance needs. So I think a step back is very important at this step, to look at, what are we going to do with these roads that are in place, and how are we going to look at the wilderness lands, and how do they come into play?
We believe very strongly that maintaining the roadless areas in their current undeveloped condition has many environmental advantages. There's been a lot of talk today about the Interior Columbia Environmental Ecosystem Management Project. I think it hasn't been mentioned, though, that that report has found that, by and large, the wilderness parts of the forest are in much better ecologic condition than the parts that have been managed for other uses. We have found that some of Idaho's best Chinook salmon habitat, steelhead, bull trout, and the cutthroat trout habitat remain in what are called these aquatic strongholds, the high forests and watersheds that have not been developed, and that those strongholds are going to be key, if we're going to recover the species beyond those strongholds back into areas where they once existed.
One of the basic tenets I think of conservation biology is to identify the best of what you've got, protect that, and then go out and rehabilitate and restore what has been damaged from past activities. So we're going to be very strongly urging that those aquatic strongholds, those best habitat areas are left alone, and that the primary function of ICBEMP should be, how do we restore our forests where we have managed and we've impacted the land to the point where we have declining fish species all across the Columbia Basin?
I mentioned that the wilderness inventory that the Wilderness Society performed last year, we compared that wilderness inventory to the information on ecologic integrity coming from ICBEMP, the Interior Columbia Project, and found that the designated wilderness areas are in the best ecologic condition of much of the land in the entire Basin. More than 90 percent of our wilderness have a high ecologic integrity, and one-half of the roadless areas have a high ecologic integrity.
Page 143 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It really became clear 2 years ago, when we had the mudslides on the Clearwater National Forest, what happens when you put roads into places where they maybe should not have been put. We had over 1,000 landslides that winter, when we had a rain-on-snow event after the land had been supersaturated from extensively rainfall in November.
An independent survey of landslides in the upper Lochsa found a correlation of about 95 percent of those slides were associated to the logging roads and harvest units, and the Forest Service themselves found on the Powell district that 93 percent of all those slides were associated with roads and timber harvests.
Now the forestwide assessment on the Clearwater found that about 70 percent of the landslides were associated with some activity like
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Seventy?
Mr. GERHRKE. Seventy percent.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Seventeen?
Mr. GERHRKE. Seventy, 70, were associated with roads and timber harvests. I suspect that that might be an underestimate because much of that survey was done from aerial photography, and I think that if they had went on the ground in more of the forest, they would have found that that percentage was probably higher.
If you look at a map of those landslides on the Clearwater, you'll find that there was a denser concentration in places like the upper Lochsa, Orogrande Creek, Pete King Creek, and the Moose Creek/Deception Basin. These are places that have been some of the most heavily roaded and logged forests on the Clearwater. In contrast, there were relatively few landslides in the roadless lands extending from Kelly Creek over to Fish and Hungery Creeks and on the south side of the Lochsa River.
I think I'm running out of my 5 minutes, so I guess, just in conclusion, I would say that this timeout I think makes a sense from our standpoint. I believe that, frankly, one of the best things the Forest Service could do would be to look at their roadless lands and ask, why are these lands in such good ecologic condition, and then take those lessons and apply them to the managed forest base. I think there's a continued real problem with maintaining the roads that they have now, and we certainly supported the Forest Service's efforts to rehabilitate and obliterate roads that they don't need any more, because contrary to what's been said, people are right that there's a big pulse of settlement where roads are constructed, but if the maintenance needs aren't met, those roads will start to fall apart, and you'll get the further water quality impacts where you'll have culverts wash out or you can't just walk away from them after they're built; you have to maintain them, and that's going to be a big drain, I think, on the funds the Forest Service has, if it has to go to maintaining the extensive network they have in place right now.
Page 144 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Gerhrke may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Gerhrke, and the Chair now recognizes Brent Atkin, president of the Public Lands Council. Mr. Atkin?
STATEMENT OF BRENT ATKIN, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL, ST. GEORGE, UTAH
Mr. ATKIN. Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today. I am Brent Atkin from St. George, Utah, presently serving as president of the Public Lands Council.
The U.S. Forest Service's January 28th proposal to suspend road construction activities in all roadless and other special areas while it spends 18 months analyzing and revising the national forest system transportation regulations looks to me like a thinly veiled attempt to essentially create de facto wilderness areas outside of the process that Congress has established.
By law, roadless area decisions are dealt with in the forest planning process and wilderness area designations have been clearly spelled-out by Congress. Many States have reached agreements and established wilderness areas under the existing framework. There will be no incentives for local people to try to work through the existing processes to deal with local roadless area issues when this one-size-fits-all policy from Washington becomes effective.
Unfortunately, this proposal seems to be the latest example of this administration's lack of interest in adhering to the statutory boundaries established by Congress. In my 2 years of service as president of the Public Lands Council, I have witnessed this administrative overreach several times.
The Interior Department's 1994 rangeland reform regulations, several parts of which were enjoined by the Federal district court as a result of a lawsuit by the PLC; the uproar caused by the President's creation of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, and now this road building proposal.
Page 145 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As a rancher who utilizes forage from Federal lands as part of my family's ranching operation, I find it difficult to understand how a top-down approach to Forest Service road building is going to benefit either the resources or the local people whose jobs depend on industries that use resources from Forest Service lands. What I do see happening for sure is that this action is going to generate more questions than answers, which in turn will continue to add to the economic instability that we already have enough of.
Until the Forest Service completes its review on issues, new regulations about roads, I guess all we can do is speculate about how this will affect grazing, timber, mining, and recreation on Forest Service lands. I wonder how ranchers with Forest Service grazing permits in these designated roadless areas are going to explain this proposal to their bankers?
I can understand the desire of the Forest Service to ensure that its process for building and maintaining roads is based on the best science, to ensure that road building is done in the least-damaging way, but their proposal seems to be putting the cart before the horse. If the Forest Service intends on evaluating all its lands to determine which lands should even have roads, it is turning the whole notion of multiple use on its head. Many multiple-use activities, such as timber, grazing, recreation, hunting, and camping, are just going to require a certain amount of roads in order to facilitate the activitya very common-sense conclusion. However, if roads are deemed to be inappropriate in a given area, then many multiple-use activities will just not be able to take place. This is not the process that Congress has established for the Forest Service to make multiple-use decisions. The decision to build or not build roads should be based on the multiple-use needs of the specific location.
As it currently exists, this road building moratorium seems likely to have several negative impacts. Roadless areas with unnaturally high fuel loads will continue to be highly susceptible to fires; watershed restoration activities requiring access will not be able to occur; local economies dependent on access to forest resources will suffer more job losses, and it will undermine the ability of local foresters and communities to properly manage forest based on local conditions.
Page 146 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Forest Service should withdraw its interim rule that places a moratorium on road building. It is not a necessary prerequisite for the Forest Service to be able to revise its road building regulations and seems clearly designed to circumvent not only the multiple-use decisionmaking process, but also the wilderness area designation process established by Congress. If it does not withdraw the interim rule, at a minimum the Forest Service should eliminate the special areas category. This special areas authority would essentially allow Regional Foresters to prevent road building on every acre, not just roadless, of the national forest system that has unique ecological characteristics or social values, which would result in yet more acres being offlimits to multiple-use activities.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Atkin may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Atkin. I appreciate your being here.
Mr. ATKIN. My pleasure.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. You certainly have your hands full with the PLC.
Mr. ATKIN. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Bob Powers?
STATEMENT OF BOB POWERS, LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE, UNITED BROTHERHOOD OF CARPENTERS AND JOINERS OF AMERICA
Mr. POWERS. Thank you, Madam Chairman. On behalf of the 500,000 members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, all of whom are impacted by restrictions on access to Federal lands, we are pleased to address this Subcommittee to express our opposition to the proposed new policy on roadless areas recently unveiled by the Clinton Administration.
Page 147 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Subcommittee may be interested to know that representatives of the Carpenters' Union met with Forest Service Chief Michael Dombeck earlier this month to voice our concerns over the moratorium. My remarks before the Subcommittee today reflect many of the same topics raised at that meeting.
Union forest product workers are concerned about protecting our environment and our public lands. Our members have long supported responsible forest management practices and sustainable forestry. Through the years, we have worked closely with our employees to push for advancements in forestry and forest practices that reflect the best science and a heightened concern for forest ecosystems. That is why we often support efforts to help the Forest Service better respond to forest health issues.
Although a close examination of current policies governing roadless areas may be necessary to address environmental concerns, we are concerned that through the moratorium the Forest Service is circumventing thorough public debate and input from scientists and stakeholders. With so much at risk, an open public process is the only appropriate course of action before any new roadless area policy or revised approach to forest roads construction is implemented. Our union is eager to participate in such a process.
Year after year the now-familiar political blood-letting over forest roads policies causes extreme uncertainty for forest workers, sawmill owners, and timber-dependent communities. Instead of short-term, politically motivated policies such as the moratorium, the administration should work with Congress to develop a comprehensive, long-term plan for forest roads construction that is based on the best available science and addresses the environmental and forest health concerns surrounding roadless areas.
Incredibly, notably absent from the proposed rule is any reference to a scientific rationale behind a moratorium. It seems as though the intent of the policy is to set aside roadless areas permanently as wildlife habitat or wilderness recreation areas under the guise of addressing environmental concerns.
Page 148 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Even the Forest Service admits that the moratorium would conflict with environmental responsibility by preventing the implementation of ecosystem maintenance and enhancement activities. Indeed, the moratorium will unduly add to the Forest Service's huge backlog of such activities. As a result, wildfire fuel loads will be allowed to accumulate in the critical habitat areas that the moratorium aims to protect.
According to the International Association of Firefighters, lack of active forest management activities has resulted in hotter and more intense forest fires, placing the lives of forest firefighters at risk and devastating millions of acres of wildlife habitat. In 1994, for example, the cost of fighting the record number of wildfires approached a billion dollars. With recent El Niño rainstorms soaking the West, it is likely that wildfire fuel, such as thick low growth and grasses, will buildup, providing the ingredients for yet another year of record-breaking wildfires. Without well-maintained forest roads providing firefighters with safe access to remote areas, the cost of fighting fires could far exceed a billion and include extensive wildlife habitat and property damage. Ultimately, poorly maintained roads threaten the lives of firefighters.
The Forest Service recently acknowledged that there are thousands of miles of ghosts or nonsystem forest roads in roaded and roadless areas of the national forest causing extensive environmental damage. If ghost roads in roadless areas lie in disrepair during the moratorium, 18 months of environmental damage could occur due to runoff and siltation of rivers. Given the opportunity, our workers could assist the Forest Service in addressing the backlog of forest management activities as well as other environmental concerns.
Most troubling perhaps is that the proposed rule goes beyond just applying a moratorium on roadless areas. The special areas loophole effectively leaves the door wide open for Regional Foresters to end all construction of forest roads in roaded areas as well. The broadly defined provision, section 21213, subsection (a)(4), suspends road construction in, quote, ''any national forest system area on which the Regional Forester subsequently determines that road construction or deconstruction should not proceed because of the area's special and unique ecological characteristics or social values.'' This alarming provision constitutes an unprecedented expansion of roadless areas and spells an even greater danger for the health of our national forests.
Page 149 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As it is, the moratorium would place a minimum of 33 million acres offlimits to forest road construction activities. The economic repercussions of such an unprecedented land grab are enormous and would be tantamount to an economic timebomb for timber-dependent workers, communities, and families.
In 1995 alone, harvesting and processing of timber on national forests supported more than 63,600 jobs, generating some $2.2 billion in employment income. Additionally, $257 million, or 25 percent of the gross receipts of the Federal timber sale program, were returned to States and counties to support local schools and other essential public services as payments in lieu of taxes. A moratorium will likely end Federal payments to many timber-dependent communities and at the same time jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of forest workers nationwide.
Our conservative estimates indicate that at least 12,000 jobs will be lost as a result of the proposed moratorium. The special areas provision could force many more mills to close, resulting in thousands more unemployed workers. Sadly, our members have already felt the ill effects of land base restrictions in national forests throughout the Pacific Northwest and now northern California, where more than 20,000 men and women, thousands of whom are our members, have been tossed to the unemployment line as more than 200 mills have closed in the last 7 years due to restrictions on timber harvesting.
The Carpenters' Union supports the Subcommittee's efforts to scrutinize the proposed moratorium. The moratorium is economically unsound and environmentally risky. The administration should withdraw this proposal and, instead, work with Congress in taking a broad look at land use policies, with the goal of developing a long-term, balanced approach to land use.
For too long, the livelihoods of timber-dependent workers and communities have been held hostage by inconsistent Forest Service policies, unbalanced judicial decisions, and frivolous timber sale appeals. We urge Congress and the administration to set aside the partisan battles and develop a balanced approach to land management aimed at preserving ecosystems while minimizing job loss and economic disruption. We suggest that a new Federal land management policy might include mechanisms to streamline the timber sales appeal process, require the Forest Service to obliterate more road miles than are constructed, allow the Forest Service to contract construction and reconstruction of forest roads, replace the purchaser road credit program with a system of environmental credits, where timber is traded for environmental restoration, and critically, provide a safety net for displaced workers and communities impacted by legal or administrative restrictions on access to Federal lands.
Page 150 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Instead of pursuing an unwise, harmful moratorium, the administration should address the many concerns surrounding land management the right way, through an open public process that aims to develop a balanced, long-term policy. We are eager to provide assistance toward developing such a policy and to provide the insight of timber-dependent workers into these important issues.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Powers may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Powers, thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. POWERS. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair recognizes Tim Coleman. Mr. Coleman is the executive director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group in Republic, Washington.
STATEMENT OF TIMOTHY J. COLEMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, KETTLE RANGE CONSERVATION GROUP
Mr. COLEMAN. Thank you, Madam Chairman, for an opportunity to speak today. My name is Timothy J. Coleman, and I am director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group in Republic, Washington. That's in northeastern Washington State. Basically, the forest where I live is very similar to north Idaho and western Montana.
My wife and I live in a log home that we built out in the rural area, northeastern Washington, we built out of logs from our place, and I have 120 acres of forestland. So what happens on the Federal forest directly affects the value of my forestland. So I bring that concern to you today as well as my concerns for conservation of the resource.
For the past 16 years, I have worked as a forest conservationist with the national forest, learning relevant law, on-the-ground, site-specific forest conditions, and I base my knowledge on that 16 years of empirical evidence-gathering.
Page 151 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC With regard to the Forest Service interim directive on road construction in roadless areas of the national forest, I feel that it is both scientifically and economically justified. However, the policy doesn't go far enough. The policy still allows for logging in these roadless areas, and it doesn't address uninventoried roadless areas, such as the roadless area East Deer Creek, which is the sole source of water for the town of Orient, Washington. There is no other source of water for that town. It gets it off the national forest. There are many communities, rural communities, in the West that are in the same situation.
The interim directive also doesn't apply to the Northwest Forest Plan forests; it doesn't apply to the Tongass, where 38,000 acres of the 14 million inventoried roadless acres will be logged each year, at a huge loss to the taxpayer, impacts to fisheries, recreation, and water quality, costing the taxpayers well beyond the direct economic subsidies from Congress, and we're talking about recreation here. Well, certainly fishing in Alaska and hunting in Alaska is one of the biggest things, and the blacktail deer in Alaska depend on those old forests, and so do the salmon depend on healthy watersheds.
In Washington State, nearly a million acres of uninventoried roadless lands are not part of this moratorium. They were never inventoried during RARE II, including areas such as 16,000-acre Owl Mountain, where it's loaded with old-growth timber. Now I don't know why they didn't inventory that area, but my guess is it's because it's loaded with old-growth timber.
In December, a letter signed by over 100 scientists and university professors from Idaho, Washington, Oregon, throughout the country, sent a letter to the President stating, in our view, a scientifically based policy for roadless areas on public lands, at a minimum, to protect from development all roadless areas larger than a thousand acres and those smaller areas that have special ecological significance because of their contributions to the regional landscapes. The scientists didn't say anything about logging in roadless areas with helicopters being economically justified.
Page 152 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Interior Columbia Basin Project found that the remaining healthy fish populations in the Basin, an area the size of France, tend to be in the areas with the fewest roads, and they stated that, unequivocally, those undeveloped areas are critically important to sustaining native fishes and water resources. They also stated that those areas have tremendous economic value to society and are in relatively good ecological condition, and therefore, have little need for active restoration. That's from the scientific assessment, page 68, 82, and 108.
The Basin study also found that roadless areas constitute the highest value that public in the Basin have for public lands. The Basin study also foundthe Interior Columbia Basin Project also found there is a high risk to watershed capabilities from further road development, and that, in general, the effects of wildfires in those areas are much lower and do not result in chronic sediment delivery hazards exhibited in areas that have already been roaded.
An economic letter froma letter from 32 economists from across the country, including members of Washington State University, University of Idaho, Idaho State University, and elsewhere in the Northwest, sent a letter to the President saying that pristine forest science provide economic value that is independent of direct use. A growing body of empirical work in this area suggests that such values constitute a large portion of the total economic value of public forest lands. The public highly values these areas. People move into the Columbia Basin primarily because of the quality of life there. They don't move there because people log on the national forests. Some of them, I should say, but not very many.
According to the Basin study 108,000 jobs are associated with recreation in the Basin; 3,105 jobs are associated with logging. That's quite a difference. That's eastern Oregon and Washington at 3,105 jobs there.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Excuse me, Mr. Coleman. That comparison was 108,000?
Page 153 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. COLEMAN. A hundred and eight thousand. It's in the draft environmental impact statement.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Compared to?
Mr. COLEMAN. To 3,105 jobs for eastern Oregon and Washington.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. OK.
Mr. COLEMAN. So I'm comparing larger regions there, but the point was that it's 2.5 percent of the jobs in the Basin are associated with logging; 14.6 are associated with recreation.
According to Forest Service research, by the year 2000, there will be a public demand for roadless recreation in the Northwest that exceeds 8 million acres, and presentlyand this is a study by Swanson and Loomis that was done by the Pacific Northwest Research Station in 1996it found that there currently is an 8-million-acre excessin other words, a supply over demand of roaded recreationand that we could save somewhere around $960 million a year by not building new roads and by closing additional roads.
Now I'm a hunter and a fisher. I've hunted all my life and have fished all my life. And I'll tell you where I find the biggest deer during hunting season, and that is in those roadless areas, because on the fringes they're being hunted like crazy, because the roaded access you can drive down the road with your truck and shoot them out of the window. Even though that's illegal, people do it.
Forest Service data shows clearly that 30 percent of the roads are used by the majority of the public. As owners of private forestlands, my wife and I are economically affected by the management of Federal forests. When the prices went down during the salvage rider, I wanted to sell trees off my land; I couldn't give them awayfor the chip market went in the toilet, and it's been there since, and it's like I'm trying to do timber stand improvement on my 120 acres, and the Federal forest management is affecting my property values.
Page 154 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Roadless areas are for the most part unroaded and unlogged because they contain the most marginal forest-growing sites. In the Kettle River Range, where I am from, they're Class 5 sites. I mean, you can't grow trees economically and sustainably in those higher elevation sites. They're also extremely expensive to log, and they're located on unstable soils.
According to the Wilderness Society, in total, the roadless areas in the lower 48 comprise about 16 percent of the suitable timber base, and that's not everything here, as the Forest Service has noted; it's basically 8 percent of this proposal.
It is not prudent from an ecological and economic standpoint to protect roadless areas. It is the morally right thingor it is not only prudentexcuse mefrom an ecological and economic standpoint to protect roadless areas, it is morally the right thing to do. We have absolutely nothing to fear from erring, if error we make, on the side of conservation of roadless areas. This is not irreversible. You know, if we do nothing to roadless areas in the next 50 years, 50 years from now that could all change and they could go in log and we haven't lost anything. This idea that somehow these areas are going to burn up and go awayit's like, didn't these forests exist before modern forestry practices came into practice? How did they get there in the first place? How did all those critters and those fish get there?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Coleman, will you be able to conclude?
Mr. COLEMAN. Yes, I'll conclude. Thank you.
I brought with me a selection of water from my creek which I gathered last spring. This is right out of my creek. Would you want to drink that? I don't think so. That's spring runoff water, and the reason is because the road density in my watershed exceeds aboutor ECA is equivalent clear-cut acresexceeds 25 percent. So at high spring runoff, runoff snow, that's what my water looks like, and that's a major tributary to Kerilou Lake, the Kettle River, and so on. This water costs a dollar. It cost me a buck. Water hasclean water has value. This water costs the American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in endangered species, recovery of fisheries, and purifying polluted water.
Page 155 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So, in closing, Madam Chairman, thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to speak here today. I want to reiterate something that's been touched on several times today, and that is, the forest plans did not have agreement. Many, many people disagreed with the way they were laid out, and there's a tremendous amount of science that's come out since then.
And the other thing that seems to be lost in this whole discussion is that the population of the country is growing. In Washington State, it's projected to double in the next 50 years. Where are these people going to go to recreate? Is everything going to be by permit in the future? I hope not. I hope that the Federal forests remain open and free, just like our spirit used to be.
Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Coleman may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Coleman.
The Chair recognizes Jerry Hamilton. We've had an awful lot of good testimony, and quite by accident, we saved one of the best to last. So, Mr. Hamilton?
STATEMENT OF JERRY HAMILTON, SILVICULTURIST, RETIRED, FOREST SERVICE
Mr. HAMILTON. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I'm Jerry Hamilton, a retired Region 4 silviculturist, and I now live in Salmon, Idaho. I work for a mineral exploration company.
The Forest Service states that the intent of their proposed moratorium on road construction within roadless areas is to protect their values. Please keep in mind that the Forest Service has been in a continuous cycle of environmental evaluation and land management planning since 1969. Consideration of roadless area values and protective requirements have been part of the Forest Service action since RARE I was initiated over 25 years ago. If the agency hasn't figured out how to do the job in over 25 years, what sort of miracle is going to occur in the next 18 months?
Page 156 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Reducing the revenue-generating capacity of national forests would provide no support for managing the forestsor for State and local governments, let alone the transportation systems proposed. The Roads and Trails Fund allows the collection of 10 percent of the gross receipts from such things as timber sales, recreation, mineral leases, and so on. This is trust fund money to be used for construction and maintenance of roads and trails. This is a source of money that is based on the economic capabilities of managed forests.
Various cooperative efforts, like riparian conservation agreements, county land use plans, and others have been developed over many years of hard work at the local and agency level. These were developed with the best social and environmental science available, and they were developed according to accepted legal process at the time under existing laws, rules, and regulations, and in conjunction with current national forest land management plans.
So what are the real problems then that even the proposed moratorium won't solve and may even make worse? First is the perennial shortfall between the programs the Forest Service is responsible for conducting and the budget available. The moratorium can only result in further reduction of revenue available for road maintenance. Even worse will be the additional economic hardships for rural communities already hard hit by previous access restrictions. A significant credibility gap already exists between Federal land management agencies and local communities surrounded by Federal holdings. This proposal will severely damage the ability of the Forest Service to carry out the mission assigned by Congress. Those of us that live in rural communities will no longer be partners in shaping our futures. The partnerships and collaborative process developed in the past will be dissolved or be severely damaged.
Second, the proposed policy language is open-ended regarding statutory rights of access. It doesn't provide any guidance for Forest Service managers, and I ask the Subcommittee to make it crystal clear to the Forest Service that nondiscretionary access not be impaired. The policy would preempt all State and local laws and regulations in conflict with road access. It would reduce school funding. Unemployment rates could rise as much as 33 percent in seven States in the West and some eastern and southern States. The policy would reduce dispersed recreation opportunities and would invalidate existing forest land management plans. It could close public access by up to 47 percent of the land base outside wilderness, and I think that it would create multiple economic losses that would far exceed the $100 million limit set by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act.
Page 157 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The policy is intended to improve road construction techniques and decrease road density, but it will channelize increased visitor traffic into areas with existing high road density, where the potential for stream sedimentation is greater and has its most immediate effect on water quality and species habitat. In addition, county road maintenance funds will be reduced and county roads are usually the primary access routes to the national forest system. A policy analysis does not address these effects with regard to the Clean Water Act, and it attempts to bypass the NEPA process for addressing environmental standards.
In his memoirs in 1947, Gifford Pinchot wrote that, ''The Service had a clear understanding of where it was going. It was determined to get there, and it was never afraid to fight for what was right. Every man and woman in the Service believed in it and in its work, and took great pride in belonging to it.''
Something drastically has changed from that observation. Walk into any Forest Service office these days and tell me if you see that same devotion. Morale is down; people in mid-career can't wait to retire. Their hard field work, their budgets, their professional expertise, their genuine desire to do the best professional job usually gets undermined by a last 32-cent appeal or a top-down Washington office notice of intent that becomes arbitrary policy. The service provided to the American public is down, and so is the respective public opinion of Forest Service ability to manage the land.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hamilton may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hamilton, thank you very much.
I have a question for you. We'd like to see some examples of the effects this moratorium would have on the ground.
Mr. HAMILTON. Madam Chairman, if I may
Page 158 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes.
Mr. HAMILTON. The best example, of course, that I could come up with is where I live, Salmon National Forest.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hamilton, we're going to need to ask you to hold your mike for the record.
Mr. HAMILTON. OK. This area here is the Frank Church Wilderness. It comprises about 24 percent of the land base, total land base, of the Salmon National Forest, which is 1,770-some-odd million acres. The other colored areas that you see here are all RARE II areas, and the balance here in white within these little inked lines are what's left of the Salmon National Forest from the RARE II, OK. Forty-seven percent other than the Frank Church of the remaining balance of the Salmon Forest is in these old RARE II areas, which are covered in the National Forest Land Management Plan. They are not all roadless, but quite a few of them are. They're managed under multiple-use concepts for different uses, according to that plan. They represent 47 percent. What's left in the little white scattered areas represents aboutthat is it?-29 percent, and if you tack on the thousand-acre-plus that they want to hold back, and any other area that's not roaded on the Salmon Forest, I think it's illustrated here, we have nothing, nothing left.
The other Federal ownership in Lemhi County is by the BLM. So you add together the BLM and the Forest Service; that's 92 percent Federal ownership in Lemhi County, Idaho.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Mr. Hamilton. That's very interesting.
I do have to say the leadership called me into a meeting at 5 p.m., and I've kept them waiting for 7 minutes now, and they don't seem to understand that I think this is far more important than my being in a meeting with them, but that's the way it is around here. And so what I'm going to do is to ask you if it would be all right if I submitted my questions to you in writing. And I do want you to know that this record will remain open for 10 days for you to supplement the record, should you desire to do so. And your answers, of course, to my questions will become part of the record.
Page 159 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And I also want you to know that this hearing will be printed, and should you wish to receive a copy of the hearing transcript, you're welcome to notify us and let us know, and you will receive a copy.
So I wish everybody could have heard your testimony, and you had to wait for so long, and I very, very much appreciate that. Some of you have come a long ways.
But I will be submitting the questions to you tomorrow and would appreciate your answers back in 10 days. So we can be sure to get them into the permanent record.
So, with that, I want to submit for the record, without objection, a statement from the American Petroleum Institute, the Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Association, and three other major petroleum industry associations. I will be submitting their record also to be made a part of our record.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So, with that, I want to say thank you very, very much for the investment of your time and effort into this very, very important hearing.
Senator Craig will also be holding similar hearings in the Senate, and we can certainly keep you posted on the days that he will be hearing on this issue.
So, with that, I would like to say that this hearing is adjourned. Thank you very much.
[Whereupon, at 5:09 p.m., the Subcommittee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
Page 160 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
HEARING ON H.R. 3297, TO SUSPEND THE CONTINUED DEVELOPMENT OF A ROADLESS AREA POLICY ON PUBLIC DOMAIN UNITS AND OTHER UNITS OF THE NATIONAL FOREST SYSTEM PENDING ADEQUATE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND DETERMINATION THAT A ROADLESS AREA POLICY WILL NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT FOREST HEALTH AND FOLLOW-UP ON THE CLINTONGORE FOREST SERVICE ROADLESS AREA MORATORIUM
TUESDAY, MARCH 17, 1998
House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, Committee on Resources, Washington, DC.
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Helen Chenoweth [chairwoman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
STATEMENT OF HON. HELEN CHENOWETH, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRSS FROM THE STATE OF IDAHO
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Subcommittee on Forests and Forests Health will come to order.
The Subcommittee is meeting today to hear testimony on H.R. 3297, as well as the Clinton-Gore Administration's Forest Service Roadless Area Moratorium.
A lot has happened since our last hearing on the Clinton-Gore Administration's Forest Service Roadless Area Moratorium on February 24. The first important development is that Congressman John Peterson introduced H.R. 3297 in response to the preponderance of information that public involvement with regards to the moratorium would fall far short of what is required by law under the National Environmental Policy Act.
I applaud Mr. Peterson for introducing this bill which will require that before the Clinton-Gore administration can implement any portion of the roadless moratorium, the Forest Service must conduct proper public hearings in each unit of the national forest system to allow affected citizens the opportunity to express their concerns.
Page 161 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It's clear that the administration did not analyze the environmental, economic, and recreational impacts before proposing this moratorium. The administration still has no idea of the full extent of impacts upon the environment, upon rural employment and recreational opportunities. To propose such a broad, top-down plan without even a cursory review of the impact is alarming. This roadless proposal violates the trust we put in the Forest Service professionalism. It is both bad for the environment and bad for people.
The ''open houses'' that the Forest Service are conducting are too little too late. They don't provide the public with an adequate forum to provide meaningful input. Instead, they are simply a forum for the administration to put their spin on the proposed policy. Chief Dombeck might call that ''adequate public comment'' and ''collaboration,'' but I call it wholly unacceptable.
I strongly support H.R. 3297 which will require this Clinton-Gore Roadless Area back-room deal to be aired publicly, and allow for public participation by those most affected by this destructive proposal.
Last Friday, the editorial board of The Washington Post wrote that we in Congress should let Chief Dombeck alone to see what he can do. And this editorial position was flanked by an article titled, ''Watershed in Communications,'' which details the Forest Service's PR program designed to ''manipulate the media and everyone else to support the administration's policies over the next 8 months.''
While Chief Dombeck was able to use The Washington Post editors to sell his destructive agenda, what he and The Washington Post editors ignore is the fact that our forests are in dire condition. Our forests, under the Clinton-Gore administration's stewardship, are dying and rotting due to mismanagementand this is when the Forest Service's own budget continues to grow.
We now have seen a copy of Chief Dombeck's PR plan which was reported in the press. After reading it, I am left to question, ''Where does the Forest Service get the legislative authority to manipulate the press and others to promote their agenda by traveling to fires receiving high media coverage?''
Page 162 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am also left to wonder where Chief Dombeck gets the legislative authority to use this once proud agencyand I stress, once proud agencyto take ''every opportunity to tie with the Vice President's Clean Water Initiative, and indeed provide a media event for the Vice President.''
Section 303 of Public Law 10583, which is last year's appropriations bill for the Forest Service states, ''No part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be available for any activity or the publication or distribution of literature that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal on which congressional action is not complete.''
Additionally, section 624 of the fiscal year 1998 Treasury-Postal Appropriations Act states, ''No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself.''
The Forest Service Communication Plan I have before me is clearly a violation of the public laws listed above that outlaw propagandizing the public on matters presently before the Congress. The Forest Service Communications Plan expressly acknowledges that Congress must approve much of the agenda. And this detailed account provides a strategy that the Forest Service plans to use to lobby Congress as The Washington Post puts it, ''manipulate the media and everyone else to get support for the administration policies.''
The Forest Service was created by President Teddy Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot to protect our forests and allow for their wise use. And now, rather than protect the forest environment, Chief Dombeck has allowed the Forest Service to be used as a tool of the Clinton-Gore Administration to gain partisan political advantage and to promote Vice President Gore's Presidential aspirations.
Page 163 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC As I can see from the press reports of Chief Dombeck's recent trip to Utah, he is sticking right on his PR schedule. And reflecting back to The Washington Post editorial which asked Congress to leave Chief Dombeck alone to see what he could do, the answer to this request is clearChief Dombeck, we have already seen too much.
This blatant use of the Forest Service for strictly partisan political purposes will not be tolerated. It is unthinkable to utilize catastrophic fire and the resulting devastation to human life, and to the animal life, and the environment for partisan political gain, and to promote Vice President's Gore's Presidential aspirations.
The Forest Service used to be run by professionals, and now it is being run professionally by the White House political operatives for purely partisan purposes. Mr. Dombeck, I don't think you realize how much distrust Congress and the American public have for the Clinton-Gore Administration. This administration's pattern of conduct leaves us no choice but to wonder when, why, and even where natural resources destruction [sic] are even made.
The Chairman would recognize the Ranking Minority Member for any statements he might have, but unfortunately he isn't present. When he does arrive, we will interrupt the proceedings for his statement. Now I will introduce our first witness. Do any, oh, Mr. Peterson, do you have a statement please?
[The prepared statement of Mrs. Chenoweth follows:]
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN E. PETERSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. PETERSON. Yes, I have a short statement I'd like to share with the record.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Please proceed.
Mr. PETERSON. Madam Chairman, and members of the Subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to hear testimony from several witnesses on legislation that I proposed just a few weeks ago. H.R. 3297first, I'd like to thank the Chairman for her willingness to conduct a hearing on this bill, and her cooperation in pursuing the issue of public involvement in the development of policy by the Federal Government.
Page 164 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC By the way of background, H.R. 3297 was introduced as a result of the Subcommittee's hearing on the Clinton-Gore Administration's interim road moratorium policy. During that hearing, I inquired of Forest Service Chief Dombeck what process was in place to solicit public comment on the road moratorium proposal. While the Forest Service devised a so-called public input process consisting of 25 open houses, it became obvious to me from the format of those meetings that open and free discussion would not be the result. The format was designed so that a collective body of people attending the meeting would never gather in one place for long. In addition, I was deeply disappointed to learn last week that the Forest Service also prepared answers to anticipated questions about the level of public involvement in these meetings. From all indication it appears to me that the Forest Service has been working around the people this policy would undoubtedly affect.
Accordingly, I believe H.R. 3297 is vital to ensuring a place for all Americans in the creation of policy by the Federal Government. The proposed interim policy leaves too many questions unanswered. We are left in the dark concerning its impact on forest health, recreation and general access issues, funding for education, emergency services, as well as jobs. Until the time that specific answers can be given to the people living in and around our national forests, I believe the implementation of the 18 month moratorium should be halted. That's what H.R. 3297 sets out to accomplish.
And I'd like to say to Chief Dombeck, who I personally like, Chief Dombeck, you will never go wrong when you let the sun shine into the process of making public policy. When we have an ideagood or badand we all have good ones and bad ones, we never make a mistake when we let the public participate and refine that idea and concept until it's a good tempered piece of steel and is right. That's all we're really asking, is that policies that affect forest health, policies that affect the economics of communities, and policies that affect the lives of those who use our forests, should not come from the top down. They should, the idea can come from the top down, but then they should percolate back up through the system.
Page 165 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I was most disappointed last week when you shared that you had not discussed this policy with one forest manager and only one regional manager that you could remember. That's not how it should work. I think you've erred. I urge you to correct that error, the sooner you correct it the better it will be. Madam Chairman, I'd like to, again, I appreciate your willingness to hold this hearing today, and I look forward to working with you to ensure fairness for our constituents as debate on this misguided and ill-advised policy unfolds. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Peterson follows:]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Mr. Doolittle, do you have statement for the record?
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I have no statement.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill?
Mr. HILL. No, I haven't.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Peterson, I want to say that I fully agree, especially with all of your statement, but especially the last part of your statement. I feel that much of what has come up is being driven above Mr. Dombeck, and he is a gentleman, and I appreciate him personally very much. But the policy is exceedingly unfortunate. At this time, I do want to say that Mr. Bob Schaffer from Colorado is unable to be with us. So without objection, I do want to read part of his statement, a letter to, a statement to Chief Dombeck. I have here a bipartisan letter which was introduced by Mr. Schaffer and Mr. Stupak, Mr. Bart Stupak of Michigan, of which I am also a signatory, requesting that you work with us in a bipartisan manner on forest roads policy.
During the last hearing on the proposed transportation policy, Mr. Dombeck, you were asked by Mr. Schaffer if you could come up with a long-term policy without an 18 month moratorium and your response, and I quote for the record was, ''I think you probably could.'' When Mr. Schaffer asked if we could move forward on a long-term plan without an 18 month moratorium, your response was, ''It would be possible. Yes.'' I would like to place in the record this letter signed by 23 Members of Congress requesting that you withdraw the 18 month moratorium so that we can move forward equitably and efficiently on a forest transportation policy. You will receive this request in writing shortly.
Page 166 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Without objection I'd like to enter that into the record.
[The information referred to follows:]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. And then also we continue to have public comments come in in opposition to the roadless moratorium.
So without objection these too would be entered into the record.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Now I'd like to introduce Mr. Mike Dombeck, Chief of the Forest Service, in Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.
Before we continue, I would like to explain that I intend to place all the witnesses under oath, and this is a formality of the Committee that is meant to assure open and honest discussion, and should not affect the testimony given by witnesses. I believe all of the witnesses were informed of this before appearing here today, and they have each been provided with the Committee rules.
If, Mr. Dombeck, if you will rise and raise your right hand to the square. Do you solemnly swear, under the penalty of perjury, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?
Mr. DOMBECK. I do.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Under the Committee rules, witnesses must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes but their entire statement will appear in the record, and we also allow the entire panel to testify before questioning the witnesses. The chairman now recognizes Chief Michael Dombeck.
STATEMENT OF MICHAEL DOMBECK, CHIEF, UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Page 167 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman and Committee members. Thank you again for the opportunity to discuss this important topic in front of this Subcommittee.
I want to start out by reiterating some of my key points from the hearing we had a couple of weeks ago. And that wasI had proposed to essentially call a time-out on road building in roadless areas during which the Congress, the administration, and the American people can engage in a dialog about when, where and if to build new roads on national forests.
During that hearing, the Subcommittee was concerned about the urgency that would cause me to take such action. And I want to reaffirm that I do not take this lightly. I want to assure the Subcommittee, Madam Chairman, that there are numerous strong reasons for taking such action.
First of all, on the economic front. We have a $10 billion backlog in road construction and maintenance. We have in our arterial and collector roads, 93we had 93,600 miles in 1991 that were passable to passenger cars. Because of lack of funding and maintenance, today that number is 86,000. From the standpoint of economics and proposing projects in a roadless area, there's a very high failure rate. The rate of appeal, the rate of litigation, it's costly for the agency to propose these projects when we can divertwe could possibly divert this energy and resources into areas of less controversy to carry out the appropriate forest management and produce many of the products that local communities depend upon. So just from the standpoint of economics, how can I justify more roads when I have 380,000 miles of roads in the national forest system, and only 40 percent are maintained to an environmental standard?
The scientific reasons, and I will state a few, largely scientific information from the Columbia Basin, but also from other areas. Eighty percent of the sub-basins with the highest forest integrity are comprised of areas that are 50 percent roadless or wilderness areas. Conversely, those sub-basins with the lowest forest integrity were comprised of less than 25 percent roadless and wilderness. Only 7 percent of the degraded watersheds in the basin are found within roadless areas. About 60 percent of the best aquatic habitats are found in roadless or very low road density areas. Conversely, 87 percent of the areas with high potential for fires, crown fires, insect and disease mortality on forest service and BLM lands are outside of roadless areas.
Page 168 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And we know that roads contribute to the degradation of water quality, the disbursal of noxious weeds, and facilitate human-caused fires. There are many, many scientific reasons from other parts of the country that also prompted me to make this decision, and this proposal, rather.
Let me say that tochoosing to build roads in areas is currently a divisive issue nationally. In fact, this has been a controversial issue for at least 30 years, intensely controversial for the Forest Service for the last 10 to 15 years; and we came within one vote of losing 80 percent of the program in 1996 in this body. In 1985, we had a $228 million roads budget, by 1996 that road budget has fallen to $95 million, indicating the loss of support for our present policies and the level of controversy associated with it.
This is a decision that I take very seriously. I chose to pull the controversy off the shoulders of the forest supervisors, and I've got to say that I'm a very strong proponent, as you know, of local decisionmaking. But when I see an issue that is so divisive and so challenging for an agency that the issue is literally in the emergency room from the standpoint of the jeopardy of the entire program, I believe that action needs to be taken. And I also take very seriously our professional obligation to advance proposals that are based upon the best science and professional resource management expertise.
I would also like to comment on the Communications Plan in response for your letter of Thursday. Let me say that I hope that my explanation today will suffice to ameliorate your concerns. The Forest Service develops and uses communication plans when dealing with complex issues involving numerous government agencies, Congress, the media and numerous interest groups. Communication plans are used by our agency and employees to provide the coordination and direction necessary that the many stake-holders of the Forest Service are provided, timely, accurate and understandable information about an issue, an initiative, a program or a proposal so that they may develop an informed opinion about the issue. Because the majority of Forest Service communication activities occur at the local level, we have found plans helpful in providing coordination activities.
Page 169 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The Communication Plan can also identify support material that will provide Forest Service people information that they may not have in the field. Support material commonly includes key messages, talking points, questions and answers and other items. Some plans will also identify opportunities to highlight or showcase agency efforts with the media, local officials, interest groups, individuals, Members of the Congress, and their staff, or officials from the executive branch.
Madam Chairman, it is the firm policy of the Forest Service not to engage in lobbying, not to engage in partisan political activities, and I believe that a very careful reading of the Forest Service National Resource Agenda Communication Plan will reveal that we have strictly adhered to that policy. At no time during the development of this Communication Plan was there any attempt by any member of the administration or Congress to insert or craft activities for partisan advantage. I assure, Madam Chairman, that I will not tolerate lobbying or partisan political activities as part of any Forest Service employee's involvement in the implementation of our Communication Plan. On this point, I believe it's important that there is no confusion.
With that, Madam Chairman, Committee members, I'd be happy to respond to any questions that you might have, and I'd also ask that my full written statement be entered into the record. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Dombeck may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Dombeck, and certainly your entire statement will be entered into the record. But I've just got to say that if this Communications Plan doesn't lay out a heavy lobbying effort, then we don't read words with the same meaning. And I guess all of the Committee membersI just want to say this personallyall of the Committee members have somehow set you apart from what has gone on in recent times. But the double-speak that I see in your statement is not so much what I've been used to hearing from you, but what we've been hearing come out of the administration lately. And it saddens me to see this happen.
Page 170 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I'm going to begin my questions with a question that has bothered me for weeks. Why has there been little or no public involvement in development of this proposal involving the public? But before you answer, I believe I have the answer as written on page 21 of the Communications Plan, which statesand remember this hearing is not as much about roads, but the first focus of this hearing is about public involvementand that's why Mr. Peterson has brought forth his bill, because he feels, as we all do, that it's so important that the public be involved as required under NEPA and APA. But based on page 21 of the Communications Plan, it states, ''Based upon comments from thousands of people from all parts of the country, and in consultation with scientists and natural resources professionals, the agenda represents the best effort in identifying where the Forest Service needs to be focusing its energies over the next several years.''
I think The Washington Post put it best on Friday when they said that this answer is just slightly better than saying, ''that you don't care about involvement.'' ''Comments received during discussions of the agenda that are not of a fatal nature will be shared at the fall leadership meeting.'' And in response to the question as to why there was no public involvement, or very little public involvement, and this is the Communications Plan, ''in development of the agenda, the following answer may best be used.'' And then when asked if there will be public involvement during the period from now until the new fiscal year, leadership can state, this is what the Plan is telling you to state, ''we will be listening carefully to what people are saying about the agenda. If there is a fatal flaw in our proposal, yes it will be changed. Lacking a fatal flaw, parts of the agenda will be implemented immediately. Other parts needing congressional approval and funding will be deferred until such time as concurrence has been achieved.''
Now that's the pat answer, but it doesn't allow for public involvement and public comment with regards to the impact of this major Federal decision on every single forest, and the communities involved. Mr. Dombeck.
Page 171 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, let me say first that the components of the agenda are four basic components: No. 1 is watershed health and restoration; No. 2, sustainable forest management; No. 3, dealing with the recreation issues that we face and the increasing recreation demand and how we fund those; and No. 4, the forest road policy. These issues have been in public debates, have been topics of dialog like the Seventh American Forest Congress for many, many years. These issues are also proposals of the administration's budget, and that areI don't believe there is much that is new in the agenda.
The key change in policy that I believe needs to be made, and that we need to move dialog forward on, is the fact that, in the balanced use of national forests, we need to consider forest management and all resource uses pretty much on a equal plane with not one dominant over another. And I wouldI believe that the forest management debate that we're having today is the perception that timber harvest is driving everything we do in the Forest Service. And the fact is timber harvest is very important, and I stated very clearly in the agenda that I'm a strong supporter of active management, but what we have to do is we have to integrate timber harvest and forest management better into the needs we have to deal with the urban wild land interface, the forest health issues, the issues of the risk for catastrophic fire in a more balanced way. So I will say that the items in the agenda are basically not new.
Also the thingon the last page of my agenda speechthe direction to the employees was that this then needs to be implemented at a local level and they are to go out and work with the local publics as they design projects and so on to move forward within the framework of that agenda.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Dombeck, that's an interesting answer but it isn't an answer to my question. This hearing is about public involvement, not about timber harvest, not about the specifics of the agenda, but why hasn't the public been involved in a major Federal action in which NEPA requires public involvement? Our reports from Anchorage, from all over the Nation, that we're getting in indicate that your public involvement involves open houses in which people will be allowed to come in and hear and see what you're doing. But should they wish to have any input at all on their part, they must go one-on-one to a separate area with a Forest Service person and with a tape recorder present, express their concern. Now that is very intimidating. That is a torquing of the hearing process, and that is what Mr. Peterson's bill is trying to deal with, that we all understand what an open public hearing is. It's not being present and putting forth a lot of propaganda. It's not lobbying as section 303 and the other section in the LaborTreasury-Postal bill stated you shouldn't be doing.
Page 172 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact, what your agenda allows for is in direct violation to what these recent laws that have been passed and enacted require of you. And so, again, I would ask that, you know, we stay on the focus of what this hearing is about. And that is about open public comment. The ability of the American people to let you know, the decisionmakers, and let us know the impact of these major Federal decisions. Mr. Doolittle.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Mr. Dombeck, what percentage reduction do you believe we've experienced in the total timber harvest say since 1990?
Mr. DOMBECK. Nationwide, and I'm not sure of the specific 1990 number is, that we've gone from a high of almost $12 billion in the late 1980's to currently about $3.7, $3.8 billion.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So then the representation $12 billion to $3 billion. So that's more like an almost 75 percent reduction then?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. And what has that reduction in timber harvest cost the Federal Government in lost revenue?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that number in front of me but it certainly is significant.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Would it beI realize you don't have the number in front of you and I would appreciate your providing that for the record at a later pointbut just if you had, are we talking tens of millions, hundreds of millions, what's the, you know, the rough dollar sum we would berealizing you don't know the exact figure, and that you'll provide it later on.
Mr. DOMBECK. Certainly tens, perhaps hundreds.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK. I just asked that because, did our taxpayer organizations express any concern about that, that you're aware of? They seem so concerned to save the government money. I don't recall hearing the so-called ''taxpayer organizations,'' making any statement whatsoever about that, do you?
Page 173 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I'm sorry I don't recall, I don't know if the Forest Service has received, you know, specific complaints or statements from taxpayer organizations.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I just, that's in your testimony, where you note, you know, the fundamental taxpayer perspective. I always thought I had a fundamental taxpayer perspective, but I find myself completely at odds with these so-called ''taxpayer organizations,'' which basically are advancing the extreme environmentalist agenda cloaked in the mantle of ''fiscal conservatism.'' They're an embarrassment, and I find it interesting that you cite that in your testimony, at least your written testimony, where they're indeed, they're quoted. ''Look, don't spend any more of our money building something you may not need, and that you definitely can't afford to maintain.'' These so-called experts and self-professed stewards of the public purse have ignored the dramatic loss to the Treasury, that has been just fine with them.
You testified that could be up to hundreds of millions of dollars but because we can save $10 million, due to this temporary road moratorium, you know, that's great. I just think that's very disingenuous to ignore the huge cost to the United States Treasury, directly, but then to cite these so-called ''experts,'' because we're going to save $10 million in a temporary road moratorium.
Mr. DOMBECK. To answer your earlier questionI'm, with, the specific respects to our road-building and road maintenance, yes, we have received comments from people on that.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. You cited, and I didn't find this in your written testimony, but I heard you say it here, that you cited as evidence of how controversial the road program is, and how much, you know, support is rapidly declining in Congress, that the appropriation for road-building has declinedI'm sorry I don't remember the figures you usedbut any ways, dramatically declined, but when I talk to appropriators they say, well look there's been a three-fourths reduction in the timber harvest, so obviously if we're having this dramatic reduction in timber harvest, then we should be scaling back the money available for the roads. So then to hear you sit here and use just the opposite argument based on those figures, which is, look, Congress doesn't support the roads because they've cut back the road funding. I mean it's just ludicrous. Can you appreciate the consternation I feel hearing that used in that fashion?
Page 174 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, perhaps. But an important point is that the use of the road system has changed significantly over time, which is one of the reasons the framework of the policy needs to be looked at. We had about 15,000 vehicles per day associated with the timber harvest in the 1950's. And we have about that same number on national forest system roads today. However, we have 1.7 million vehicles per day associated with recreation tourism and other kinds of uses which is a tenfold increase from what we had in the 1950's, and yet the source of funding and support for that program is still tied to timber harvest activities.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, I see my time is up, but let me just, you know, we're talking about saving money. Now I read, someplace I read in here, in your answers I guess to the last questions, propounded in the last hearing a couple of weeks ago, that you're not going toif I read this correctlyyou're not going to allow logging, using those, using roads in those roadless areas, but where there's a fire threat or something, then you will allow helicopter logging, and that you justify that by, you know, the grave risk that is posed. Well, how many times more expensive is helicopter logging than logging using forest roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. It's significantly more expensive.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Like is it four times or five times more expensive?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would have to venture a guess, maybe three. And it's contingent upon the value of the timber.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, I mean, how much is, do you have any idea what the amount of helicopter logging you're likely to be doing, and what the potential cost of that are during this time we have this moratorium?
Mr. DOMBECK. In some cases the sales that are up now have helicopter logging alternatives in them with an economic breakdown of that, and I'd be happy to provide you with examples of that kind of information.
Page 175 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, would you please, you can do that? And I'd appreciate that, but even more importantly for our taxpayer friends who are excited about the $10 million in road construction costs that we're going to save during this temporary moratorium, could you also juxtapose with that the estimated additional cost due to having to use helicopter logging, or some form of logging other than using the roads? I mean, I'd just like to know how much we're saving. I'd like to talk to my taxpayer friends and see how, if they're aware of the net savings as opposed to what the gross savings of $10 million are projected to be. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Doolittle. Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. Thank you. Mike, you talked about the reason for having this moratorium, that we were in this heated controversy here in Congress, and we were within one vote last time. I guess this is my first year in Congressor my second year in Congress, first term in Congressbut it's not my first year in public policy. I served in local government 8 years, state government 19 years and had a business for 26 years, so I think I've had a little experience in public policy, what works and what doesn't. But I was amazedthat was the first time I participated in that debateand I was one of the debaters, and the two people that led the fight didn't even understand what we do. And I'd say that if they were here. One was from Massachusetts and one was from Illinois, did not understand the issue in any detail at all. Their staffs did not understand this issue in any detail at all. We talked to their staff, my staff talked to their staff. They were carrying water for a national organization whose against all cutting, and they will take whatever measures will slow up cutting timber in forests because they're against that.
And I have no problem with someone having that view or that belief, but I know you don't agree with that, but it shows that those groups have been winning because we went from 12 billion board feet to 3 billion board feet, and the bulk of that was not good forestry practice. Most of it was salvaged. Just doingI know in the ANFit was cutting gypsy moth damage, and other things. We weren't able with the allotment of cut to practice forestry, we were just taking care of problems, and that's been happening all over America. So we've stopped, you know, you talked about the forest is more than cutting down trees. Absolutely. It's a fourth as much of cutting down trees as it used to be, so it's one fourth of what it used to be. And we're very supportive of tourism and recreation, but they all go together. And it seems to me that every policy that comes down, prior to you, now with you, squeezes the amount of forest that can be managed until it's smaller and smaller. And we know the ultimate goal of those who are proposing that, zero, which is not good public policy.
Page 176 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Though we did have a close vote on the floor, I'm here to say most people didn't know what they were voting for and against. They were voting because a certain organization said, ''Vote for this, it will help your green scorecard.'' Well, whether they're right or whether they're wrong, this issue should be decided with good public debate. And that moves me on to the open house concept.
I've held hearings at the local level. I've been part of hearings at the state level and I've been a part of hearings here. When you really have inputin your statement, you say, ''H.R. 3297 would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from adopting a suspension of road construction rule unless we hold public meetings on every national forest system unit and regional foresters would be required to participate in each of those meetings in order to adopt a final rule. These requirements are excessive, and they would require 120 meetings, stretching out the rulemaking timetable from at least 6 to 12 months at a significant cost of taxpayers.''
I would think, without any doubt, your regional foresters would understand the forests that they manage, and what people think of them, a whole lot better than they do today if you go through that process. And I mean that sincerely. Over and above this issue, this property is owned by the taxpayers of America, not you and I, not the Forest Service, but the taxpayers of America, and they have a right to have a part in the decisionmaking process. And I believe the open house concept is not a process for public discussion, for decisionmaking. It's just PR and I mean that sincerely. That's what I would do if I just wanted to PR what I wanted to do, I'd have open houses.
This issue deserves people giving both sides of the issue, their concerns, what they believe, what their philosophy is, with press there, people talking about it and reporting. The sunshine should be a part of that process. And I guess I'd be interested in why you think that is inappropriate?
Page 177 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. With response to your point about public meetings and the regional foresters, and even more importantly the forest supervisors knowing what's going on locally, and I would include the district rangers in that, these are people that live in the communities that interact with people in local communities. They go to the same churches and their kids go to the same schools and it's their responsibility to know the stake-holders, to know what the issues are on a routine basis, not only the issue of roads, but on the whole panoply of issues that we deal with.
From the standpoint of the public comments associated with this, the temporary suspension of road-building, I checked yesterday with the Washington office, and we have received about 20,000 comments in the Washington office, alone. The public meeting process that was established by our planning people that know the laws and the regulations regarding NEPA, that follow the Administrative Procedures Act regulations, this is how I've instructed them, and this is how these meetings have been set up. The fact is that every individual that wants to participate, that wants to speak with someone, that wants to record a statement, or that wants to provide a written statement is fully free and encouraged to do so.
Mr. PETERSON. But I, if I were a citizen, not a Congressman, would not have the chance in a public forum to tell your regional foresters what I think in the public where I can be quoted, and my answer can be quoted in the press. That's ''open public forum.'' Open houses are notthe sunshine isn't there. Nobody reports what people say. There's a huge difference. Do you think Congress should start passing laws by having that process that you're going to use? Would you like that? Would you like to have to enforce laws that we devise in the same format?
And I want to tell you, rules and regulations effect our lives just as much as laws do. And you're making rules and regulations in a process that is totally different than the process of making law, and it shouldn't be the same. In fact, I think we're more impacted by lawor rules and regulations in this country than we are by law. Because we don't have a regulatory review process that does anything to give people input. And you're subverting the public process totally. Would you like us to make laws with the open house process where we would, no press, nobody being quoted?
Page 178 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, the
Mr. PETERSON. Would you like that?
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] press is not barred from the public meetings. I would assume the press is attending these public meetings, that people comment freely, that people make statements that, we respond to the comments as part of the NEPA process, we enumerate the comments on the various issues and respond as part of the NEPA process, publicly.
Mr. PETERSON. Well, yes but the average citizen is never going to see that, the averagebut if you're in a town meeting concept, where the press reports, the whole town then is part of the discussion. Everybody knows what's going on, that's what America's about: the public knowing what's going on, how it's going to impact them, not just those who have the ability that day to take a day off and go in and talk to somebody because lots of people would be very interested who can't do that. But if it's in the media, they can listen to the radio, and they can open the newspaper the next day, and they can know what the debate was, and then they can respond to you whether they agree with you, or whether they agree with those who are opposed to what you're doing. That's public process.
I don't hold a town meeting and tell people I'll send them secret answers. I answer them in front of the press and they're in the paper the next day. That's public process. That's the format upon which we make good laws, and when we under-debate laws, we usually pass bad laws. And we don't let the sun shine into regulations, we'll have regulations that in time will have a far more detrimental impact than we ever meant them to have, because there's always somebody there smart enough to realize what some of the long-term implications are going to be.
And you're subverting that whole process. You're allowing yourself, you may get lucky, you may be formulating a policy that will have a very negative impact on some forests, and you're taking a kind of a shot in the dark, I think, and that's not how we should make laws, and it's not how we should make regulations, and it's not how we should make rules.
Page 179 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and thank you Chief Dombeck. Chief Dombeck, how big is the current road maintenance in this year's fiscal year 1998 budget?
Mr. DOMBECK. I can find my budget sheet here in just a minute. Randy, is it$109 million.
Mr. HILL. $109 million, does that include any funding that comes out of the Transportation budget for Federal highways that are on U.S. Forest Service land?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, it doesn't.
Mr. HILL. This is just within your budget?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. $109 million. And how many miles of road will be maintained with that budget?
Mr. DOMBECK. We'll have that very soon. About 380 miles.
Mr. HILL. 380 miles?
Mr. DOMBECK. About 40 percent of the 380,000 miles.
Mr. HILL. About 40 percent of the 380,000 miles.
Mr. HILL. Some level of maintenance.
Mr. DOMBECK. And to, as I stated, we're able to maintain about 40 percent of the roads to standards today.
Mr. HILL. With the $109 million. You made a statement earlier, and this is a statement that is often repeated by the Forest Service, and that is that we have $10 billion worth of backlog of maintenance on Forest Service roads, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. That comes to about $26,500 per mile of U.S. Forest Service roads, are you aware of that?
Page 180 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I had not personally done that calculation.
Mr. HILL. I just did it for you. I guess I would ask you, how much does it cost a typical Forest Service road that was built for logging purposes that now primarily provides access to recreationists?
Mr. DOMBECK. The Forest roads
Mr. HILL. Does it cost $26,500 per mile to maintain roads like that?
Mr. DOMBECK. The high cost roads to maintain are the 86,000 miles of arterial and collector roads that are paved, that black-top that
Mr. HILL. And I would agree with you, and you don't really anticipate, as part of the development of a new road management plan, closing those roads, do you?
Mr. DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. I didn't think so. Could you provide an inventory for me of how you get $10 billion, making note of how much of that is highways and how much of that is recreational roads, and how much of that is logging access roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, as a matter of fact that information was collected from the Inter-Mountain Region through a detailed inventory and analysis by the engineering and road staff there, and then was extrapolated with a smaller sampling of other parts of the country.
Mr. HILL. The problem is the way this is presented, as you know, Mr. Dombeck, is that it is used to argue that we should close gravel roads in National Forests because we can't afford to maintain them. Point in fact, the real maintenance backlog is on arterial roads, paved roads. And the reason I raise that question is simply to make that point because I think it often goes unnoted. The plan of this moratorium is to update road management plans in the forest, is that correct? That's the statement you made earlier, that's what you intend to do in this 18 month period of time?
Page 181 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, the development of the long-term policy, and I'd like to say with that, that when we talk about the gravel roads that you mentioned earlier, the most important thing for us to do is to work with, develop a framework based upon science and then work with the counties and the local communities to make sure the transportation systems mesh and compliment one another.
Mr. HILL. And you don't believe the Forest Service is doing that today? You don't believe the local forest supervisors are working with local transportation officials in terms of evaluating road management plans?
Mr. DOMBECK. To a certain extent, but given the backlog that we have and given the expense of the maintenance, I think we need to really sharpen our focus on that.
Mr. HILL. Well, I don't disagree with you about that, but the problem is that you're putting a moratorium on one kind of roads when the real problem is a different kind of roads. I'd like to go on because I'd like to ask a couple of questions with regard to this moratorium. Does this moratorium also apply to road closures? Are you going to put a moratorium on the closure of any additional roads in the forest?
Mr. DOMBECK. No it only, it only applies
Mr. HILL. And how about road reclamation? Is there going to be a moratorium on the reclamation of any roads, the removal of any roads, the obliteration of any roads in the forests?
Mr. DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. And how about the erection of new barricades on forests to restrict access to any forest roads, is there a moratorium on the erection of any additional barricades on any Forest Service road?
Mr. DOMBECK. No.
Page 182 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. And how about the removal of culverts, is there going to be moratorium on the removal of culverts on any Forest Service roads during this moratorium?
Mr. DOMBECK. No.
Mr. HILL. I see, so the moratorium doesn't apply to some decisions with regard to the transportation management, only the construction of the new roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. OK, thank you Madam Chairman.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill, and we will return for another round of questioning. In regards to that, I want to ask you Chief Dombeck now, I have mentioned in my opening statements about what I feel is a problem with section 303 of last year's appropriations bill, and section 624 of the Treasury-Postal appropriations bill which so clearly indicates that in that Act and all other Acts, it prohibits lobbying and distribution of materials and so there are congressional actions which have not been completed, that impact this Communications Plan that has been used. Are you aware that Congress is currently considering Ice-T legislation?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Your staff is circulating a modification to the formula funding Federal lands highways that would benefit the Forest Service at the expense of the Park Service. This alternative formula is being advanced by the American Recreation Coalition, are you aware of this activity?
Mr. DOMBECK. There has been a variety of dialog concerning potential sources of funding.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So you are aware of the activity then?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Page 183 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. The portions of your agenda that deals with increase in forest road maintenance and watershed funding are presently before the Congress in the context of the administration's budget request, is that not the case?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. You will shortly be sending a legislative proposal to Congress to modify the formula used to pay counties separating receipts from timber sales from county payments, is that not correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Is the National Association of Counties supportive of your proposal to decouple county payments?
Mr. DOMBECK. The support from counties, I believe, is variable. Some counties have requested that we look into ways to stabilize payments to counties, I'd say that's highly variable.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Included in funding requests currently before the Congress are funds needed to support the Vice President's Clean Water Act initiative, is this not correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So in general terms there are at least four separate issues in which congressional action is not complete that are relevant to your national resources agenda, is that not correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, however, I'd like to add that membersI have aI've had counsel check on activities that are forbidden, and activities that are acceptable. And the acceptable activities include advocating policies or positions of the executive branch, several of those that you listed
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I would love to see their opinion, and so if they could present it to the Committee in writing, I would appreciate it.
Page 184 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Let's talk about your fiscal year 1998 Interior appropriations bill, Public Law 10583, did the President sign this legislation, Chief? Last year's appropriations
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] bill effecting 1998. Since the President signed the legislation, is that now the law of the land? Isn't that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Since it's the law of the land, aren't you bound by those provisions?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you believe that one of your responsibilities is to obey the law?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you know that section 303 of the Act provides, as I stated earlier, that no part of any appropriation contained in this Act shall be available for any activities or the publication or distribution of literature that in any way tends to promote public support, or opposition to any legislative proposal in which congressional action is not complete. You are aware of that section, right?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Let's talk about H.R. 2378 fiscal year 1998 Department of Treasury and Postal Services appropriations bill, did the President sign this legislation?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have specific knowledge, I would assume he did.
Page 185 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, I can guarantee you he did. Since the President signed the legislation, is it now the law of the land, is that not correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Since it is the law of the land, are you bound by these provisions?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you believe that one of your responsibilities is to obey the law?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you think that section 624 of the Act provides that ''no part of any funds appropriated in this, or any other Act, shall be used by an Agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized executive legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television, or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress except in presentation to the Congress itself.'' So there are two additional statutes which seem to limit your activities in this area, is that not correct, Chief?
Mr. DOMBECK. I'm not, I would rely on my counsel for the interpretations on that. What we have been dealing with, and as the Communication Plan indicates, that what we're doing is communicating and advocating policies of the executive branch.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Let me re-ask the question. Section 303 of the Appropriations Act, section 624 of the Postal-Treasury Appropriations Act clearly indicate that no pamphlets, booklets, any kind of relationships can be established, except with the Congress itself, on any legislation that's pending before the Congress. Is that not correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. I'm not personally familiar with that piece but I
Page 186 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. If that is correct, wouldn't that seem to limit your activities with regards to what your Communications Plan lays out?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, not being the personal expert on this issue, I would rely on, you know, the interpretations of Office of General Counsel and my experts in Public Affairs on that issue.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Dombeck, you're the Chief, and you're the guy that they have in front, if you're not the expert, than who is?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, my policy is certainly that we work within the law, that we do not lobby, that we do not engage in partisan politics, and I strongly, in the most strongest terms, the policy is that the Forest Service remain within those guidelines.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Let's look at, let's look at section 303 and section 624, and I appreciate your comment, but we'll first focus on the publication and distribution of literature, even though that is only part of the prescription of these statutes. On page one of your Communications Plan, you talk about distributing editorials, articles and features to key media outlets and publications that use and reflect the tone of key messages in this Plan, would you call that ''the publication and distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and it's the communications of administration executive branch proposals and positions.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Also, on page one of the agenda, you talk about ''distributing to key stake-holder groups'' your agenda, in your mind, does that involve ''distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Also, on page one you indicate that by October 1st your Office of Communications will distribute a brochure to all of your employees for public distribution, does that suggest ''distribution of literature?''
Page 187 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. On page three of the agenda, you talk about establishing a new web-site that will contain speech materials, new releases and questions and answers, is that ''the publication or distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. On page four of the document, you talk about keeping employees and retirees informed by providing them with facts sheets, briefing papers, questions and answers, and speeches, you also talk about sending a letter to every Forest Service employee, is that ''the publication or distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. On page five of the agenda, in describing contacts with external audiences, you note that ''in the days ahead, the Office of Communications will produce extensive briefing materials for distribution,'' the document indicates that this will include brochures, videos, radio interviews and assorted other fact sheets and supporting materials, does this sound like ''the publication or distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Also, on page five you direct your unit leaders in the field to make contact with local media, providing them with your national press release as well as a local segment on how your agenda will affect the local area, does that involve ''the publication or distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. On page five, you talk about developing planning newsletters that will be used to explain the impacts of the agenda, the impacts will have on local unit activities, does this involve ''the publication or distribution of literature?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Page 188 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Therefore, Chief, even using the narrowest construction of the narrower section of 303 prohibition, which reaches ''any activity or the publication or distribution of literature,'' we have just identified eight violations of that statute. Can you really say that you were complying with section 303?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I believe we are based on the information that I've gotten, the information or literature that is being distributed is, varies from scientific analyses to mechanisms for individuals to promote watershed health, sustainable forest management, appropriate management of forests to reduce fire risks, a broad spectrum of information that it's the Forest Service's responsibility, from the standpoint of conservation education, from the standpoint of providing the public the information that they need to make reasoned decisions, and understand the interactions. In fact, much of the challenge that we have is educating the public, to make sure there is a support base, for active forest management, and a whole variety of issues that we could discuss like that.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, Chief Dombeck, you talked about your watershed concerns, and in light of your answer just now, that what you are sending out is benign scientific data, on page 17, with regards to, it states, ''emphasis placed on the watershed aspects of the agenda,''it states in here, ''we will take every opportunity to tie with the Vice President's Clean Water initiative, and, indeed, provide a media event for the Vice President to showcase the initiative on national forest lands.'' I think that goes far beyond sending benign scientific data.
Now let's look a little more at section 303 which prohibits any activity that in any way tends to promote public support or opposition to any legislative proposal on which congressional action is not complete. This involves a rather broad restriction on agency actions, but on page 16 of your Communications Plan, as you talk about media relations, you indicate that, ''we will take every opportunity to meet with reporters and editorial boards when visiting the field on agency business to discuss the agenda,'' as you just recently did in Utah, does that involve a section 303?
Page 189 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. No, I don't believe it does.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Further, you state, ''we will place speeches, op-ed pieces, by-line stories, and feature articles in target markets in periodicals.'' Does that involve a sectiona violation of section 303?
Mr. DOMBECK. I do not believe it does.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Did your meeting in Utah with the editorial board involve discussion of any items that are before the Congress right now?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't recall specifically; we talked in general about the agenda, as it's put out in the speech that I delivered to all employees. We talked about the increasing recreation activities on the Wasatch front. We talked about forest health issues. We talked about a wide variety of issues. I do not recall discussing a specific piece of legislation.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Do you recall discussing the roads moratorium with the editorial board members?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe it wasit was a question was brought up, yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Doolittle, do you have some questions?
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Chief, you mentioned in our last round of questions, the huge increase in the use of the forest for recreation. My question to you is, doesn't a lot of that recreation involve the use of forest roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, it does.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. And do those recreational users pay a fee to help construct and maintain the forest roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, they don't.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So then who does pay for the construction and maintenance of the forest roads that we use?
Page 190 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. The construction and maintenancethe construction of most of the Forest Service roads has been paid for by timber sales over the decades.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. See, what I find intriguing, I had a chance to use some of those roads for recreation, I was very grateful that timber companies we had the roads available, we were watching out for the logging trucks as we were racing around, but how do you, you sound like you're talking about imposing this road moratorium somehow to advance the interests of recreationists but since the effect is to reduce the number of roads available, doesn't that work in exactly the opposite direction, against the interests of people who would use those roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, sir I don't think it does. The objective is to make sure that we have a process in place to determine when and where we build new roads that's in close concert with the needs of local communities, the management activities on the land, to reduce the number of roads that we build, because when we build a road, we're also making a long-term commitment to provide the funding to maintain that road, and that's part of what's missing in the dilemma that we find ourselves in today. And, in fact
Mr. DOOLITTLE. But let me just, if I may interject, the Forest Service isn't honoring that commitment because you've allowed a $10-plus billion backlog of road maintenance to buildup. I mean is that, have I misinterpreted that, or is that in fact the case?
Mr. DOMBECK. Certainly the backlog is there, but also, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that there is not support for the Forest Service roads program is again part of a misperception on the part of the public, that the Forest Service roads program, equal logging, equal subsidy, equal sedimentation, equal bad, and therefore, we're not going to support it, and what I hope we can do together is make sure that we all understand that the roads on national forests are an important part of the infrastructure of America that need to be maintained.
Page 191 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. But what led you to the conclusion that there's not support for the Forest Service road program amongst the public?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, the fact that we have a declining budget in the roads program, the fact that we have not been able to maintain the support we need, the fact that we have drifted into a, the significant backlog that we have.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, I already explained to you the reason we've had a declining budget in the roads program is because you had a three-fourths reduction in the amount of timber. You'd have to be deemed incompetent if you kept funding a bureaucracy whose job is to oversee the management of the forests, they've had a three-fourths reduction in the program, there should of course be some corresponding reduction in the roads program. So I don't take that as a valid basis for the conclusion that there's not public support for the program. So now give me the other reasons again, let's go through those, that you believe that there's not public support for this program?
Mr. DOMBECK. Public support for the road and maintenance
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Yes, just the roads program in general. You know, you made the statement, well, this is, the public doesn't support it, well, OK, tell me why you think the public doesn't support it?
Mr. DOMBECK. We came within one vote in the House of losing 80 percent of the program in 1996, it's been a program that's been debated
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK let me go back to that. Now you're not talking ''public,'' you're talking Members of Congress?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. When you come to that vote on the floor of the House, right?
Page 192 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Mr. DOMBECK. OK.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So we can deal with Members of Congress but I never interpreted that to mean necessarily the public, frankly, I don't think the public has much of a clue about the Forest Service roads program, or cares for that matter. The ones who care are the ones who live near the forests and whose jobs depend upon it. They really care and they really support it. Now you talk about maintaining an adequate base of support for active forest management, well, what are you doing to maintain that?
Mr. DOMBECK. The
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I'd just like to hear some things that you're doing to work on that.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] support for the roads program, specifically?
Mr. DOOLITTLE. No, well, I think your statement was active support in general for active forest management.
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe the many of the communications issues that we've been talking about, the fact that there's a need for forest management overall, we need to better integrate our timber harvest and forest management activities at the urban wild land interface, particularly the places where there are overstocked stands, offsite species, there's a lot of work that needs to be done on the forest, and part of the challenge that we're talking about, and this is a very, very complex issue, that requires lots of dialog, is the reward system has been tied to the value of timber, and as I have testified before this Committee in the past, once the large saw logs are gone, the values aren't there. And the effort then
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, let me ask you, are the large saw logs gone?
Page 193 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. In a large proportion of the area, yes they are.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. But where did they go?
Mr. DOMBECK. They were harvested.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. So you're telling me that we have a lack of large saw logs?
Mr. DOMBECK. What I'm telling you is that we have areas where the stand densities, the species composition is not what is ideally suited for the sites that have led to a variety of forest health issues that will not require us to make investments in the land. And then we get into thewhich leads us into the whole dialog of the low-cost timber sales, which is something we really probably shouldn't be talking about, we should be talking about the desired future condition that we want in the watersheds on the land, and the products will flow, the fiber, the water, the recreation opportunities in a balanced fashion.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, it looks to me that the Clinton Administration has worked overtime to finally produce a below-cost timber sale year. We had, we never had one. Your predecessor testified before this Committee there was never a year in which we lost money on the Forest Service timber program until last year. And what happened last year?
Mr. DOMBECK. The trend over time and over about the last 10 years, we have decreased the amount of clear-cutting by about 84 percent, we're increasing the number of sales that are tied to other objectives, to improving forest health, a variety of those kinds of activities.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Let me ask you this, just, I realize you don't have the figures in front of you, but roughly, how much timber was harvested last year throughout the country on a national forest?
Mr. DOMBECK. About 3.4 billion board feet.
Page 194 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. Three point four billion board feet, and how much timber do we add to the national forest, how much did we add last year, approximately?
Mr. DOMBECK. We're not certain as to a specific number, but significantly more than that.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I've heard in other testimony before this Committee that it averages between 4 and 5 times of what we're taking off. Do you dispute that?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, I don't.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK, let me ask you, let me ask you the next question. If you were to rate the condition of our national forests, and give them an excellent condition, good, fair, poor or failing, what grade would you give them as the Chief of the Forest Service?
Mr. DOMBECK. It's highly variable from one part of the country to the next. The most, I believe, the most significant forest health problems we have are in the inner-mountain west where we have overstocked stands, the forest health issues that you know very well in California, and some of those areas.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. OK, well give a grade to those areas. What grade do you give them, ''A,'' ''B,'' ''C,'' ''D,'' or ''F?''
Mr. DOMBECK. Again, it's highly variable from one watershed to the next.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Well, I understand it's variable, now we're going to make an overall assessment.
Mr. DOMBECK. Maybe, it depends if you're a tough grader, or what your curve is, I would certainly say
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Be a tough grader.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] maybe a ''B'' to a ''C,'' a ''C.''
Page 195 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOOLITTLE. A ''C'' or a ''D?''
Mr. DOMBECK. ''C.''
Mr. DOOLITTLE. ''C,'' OK, average. But isn't it indeed the condition far below what we've known to be the average? Isn't it the worst in fact that it has ever been in the 20th century.
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and it will continue to get worse until we make the investments and deal with the over-stocked stands, deal with the offsite species where we had initial stand densities of 200 to 300 stems per acre perhaps of Ponderosa pine today, we have maybe 3,000 stems per acre of fir species that are creating problems from the standpoint of catastrophic fire, increased densities, lower vigor in trees, more susceptibility to insect disease infestations, and these require investments, these require active management, these require work, and these are areas where we need to better integrate timber harvest to the overall objectives of the condition that I think we're very much in agreement on.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Then why aren't you doing that? Are you doing that, I don't think you are. Am I missing something?
Mr. DOMBECK. The trends in thinning has been increased significantly. I believe last year we were budgeted to do, help me, Randy, somewhere in the neighborhood of 750,000 acres, and we did about over a million, we'd like to be doing 3 million acres a year in thinning and fuel-reductions and those kind of activities, to begin to close the gap in our backlog.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Wouldn't you have to, Chief, and I'm way over my time, and I apologize to the chairman of the Committee, I'll try to make this my last question. If you were growing annually four to five times the number of board feet of timber that you're annually harvesting, are we talking about geometric progressions in the size of the problem from year to year? I mean, wouldn't you in fact, if you were really going to take care of these forests say over a 10 year period, wouldn't that require a dramatic increase in the amount of timber being treated over what you're proposing to be done from year to year?
Page 196 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I mean
Mr. DOOLITTLE. Go ahead, I don't, go ahead
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and we'd like to do more and we'd like to work with Congress to do more, the proposed 1999 budget talks about significant increases in these areas, but we need to further accelerate that.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. I mean it sounds to me like to deal with this problem, you need, I don't know, penicillin, the most advanced antibiotics you can apply, and it sounds like that the Forest Service is giving the patient a couple of baby aspirin. I mean, is that, am I missing something? It seems to me as I confront this issue, you know, when I try to get right down to it, we're doing so very little compared to what you've identified as the problem. Am I misperceiving that, or is that your feeling as well?
Mr. DOMBECK. I certainly agree that we need to be doing a lot more than we have, and again, I want to say that this is why I believe active management is important and I believe that we've got to make sure that our incentive system, that our budget structure, allows us to, as aggressively as we can afford to, to move and to do the job that we need to do, whether it's, as I said, integration of timber sales and timber harvest activities into areas where we need to deal with forest health issues.
In many cases, a lot of the wood associated with these overstocked stands are very low value wood. In fact, the Forest Service in the forest products lab has been working with industry to develop uses for lower value woods. In fact, today we're getting the same amount of, from the same volume of wood we're probably getting twice the volume of dimension lumber, we've got the wide variety of technologies that industry has developed and much, some of it, with the contribution of Forest Service scientists, in the chip-board plants, the wide variety of uses that we have for wood.
Page 197 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In fact we're using it much more efficiently but we still got to do more because there's a lot of work that needs to be done on the land. And I think this is an area of common agreement that we all share, that we need do a tremendous amount of work in the urban wild land interface, with an acceptable way that reduces risks. And a lot of this is light on the land work with an individual with a chain saw and some light equipment, and a wide variety of things, and encourage the, further development of technologies to deal and, of course, then move forward with the appropriate level of prescribed burning. Much of the area, particularly of the inner-mountain west, we cannot burn today because of the high fuel levels, and those stands need to be treated prior to burning.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. If I may just
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much.
Mr. DOOLITTLE. [continuing] impose, Madam Chairman, this observation. I believe you support active forest management but the policies coming out of the administration, which you represent, are moving us in exactly the opposite direction.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Doolittle. I do want to state the Chair has noted some outbursts of laughter and this cannot be tolerated in the hearing room. I think we all need to afford the witness the courtesy of providing a climate for concentration that is needed when he is before, or in this situation. I apologize to the witness, and I would also want to say if there is any further demonstration as such, that the staff will note that and parties will have to be removed from the hearing room. I also want to mention to the Committee, the Chair would sincerely appreciate that we stay on focus on Mr. Peterson's bill. Thank you, very much. Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. I just want to followup on one more question here that deals with the road budgets. You requested a $190 million, is that
Page 198 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. $109 million.
Mr. PETERSON. Oh, $109 million, OK. As the manager of the forests, and all that's in them, how do you, I mean, I've been a manager. It's a manager's job to ask for what he needs. How do you rationalize asking for $109 million when you have a $10 billion backlog? I mean, how do you
Mr. DOMBECK. Of course, we work in, within the constraints that we're given from the standpoint of, you know, of the whole budget process, and we have to balance priorities, and there are many, many issues that we have to deal with, as the issues that Congressman Doolittle and I were discussing, a wide variety of things. I've, as we stated though the budget is, for service roads, the budget is vastly under-funded.
Mr. PETERSON. But if the Forest Service doesn't publicly, clearly, distinctly say that, how does the debate begin? How do we win the debate in Congress if you don't even ask?
Mr. DOMBECK. I believe we're engaged in that process now.
Mr. PETERSON. But you asked for $109 million, and you need, I mean, I guess that's the frustrating part. I want to look at this, just for a moment, from a rural perspective, $109 million for Forest Service roads that millions of Americans use for tourism, and for recreation and so forth. I mean, that's peanuts in the American budget scheme of trillions, and I guess it, then you look at the Pelt program, it's not fully funded. I mean rural America is taking it in the neck, but I guess I would hope your agency would be a louder voice saying, and those of us who are here to support you.
That, but the problem I think we face is those who oppose roads, and I'm just going to bring this in the debate we had last year. I had a running debate with one of the players, and I told him, I said, ''You're cutting the budget and I need $2 million.'' And he said, ''Oh no, I'm cutting it $42.5'' Because he considered the $50 million road credit and the $42.5 to be one in the same and that $50 million was an authorization and $42.5 is what we were actually going to spend. And we argued about that the whole time, that was a month or two. And when it was all done, and we had some arguments over that, when it was all done, he walked up to me and he said, ''You're wrong, I was trying to cut your budget $92.5 because I was rounding the figures.'' But he didn't know that. So here we had this whole public policy debate in the halls of Congress and those that--who were trying to cut the budget didn't think they were cutting it half as much as they were. But they were told to run that amendment by somebody. They didn't even understand the issue, and I guess that's the part that I find frustrating because it didn't effect their districts, they're all suburbanites.
Page 199 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Everybody we were arguing with is from suburban America who were carrying the banner for groups who No. 1, don't want trees cut; and No. 2, don't want the recreators out there in the forests any more than they want the roads. That's the bottom line. That's their next agenda.
Back to the issue, how many acres will be effected by your 100,000 and 500,000 acre plots that will be in the moratorium?
Mr. DOMBECK. The temporary suspension of road building only deals with the specific activity of building or reconstructing roads. Many of the activities that occur do not require roads. In fact, some of the new data, the more up-to-date data that we have, in fact I have a list of sales as the newer data came in, that they are able to move forward without road building. Some are able to move forward because they had a helicopter logging alternative as part of the process that they're able to select, even though the profit--the margin of profitability is different--but then we're not saddled with a long-term deal of having to maintain that road for decade after decade.
So there's a wide variety of variability tied to this. In addition to that, we've got 6.5 billion board feet of timber in the pipeline that's sold, that's waiting to be harvested and that determination will be made by the operator, which is contingent upon market conditions and other things like that. They typically have about a 3-year timeframe once they buy a sale.
Mr. PETERSON. Now you're into my second question, but you didn't answer my first one. The second question was how many timber sales will be canceled or not moved forward or implemented because of this policy? Are there some?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes. The data that we have here, in the roadless areas is 104 sales in 1998. And it's likely that, possible, that some of those still may go forward.
Page 200 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. But 104 could be stopped?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and that
Mr. PETERSON. How many sales are all together, what's your total number of sales?
Mr. DOMBECK. It would be well over 1,000. It would be easier to give you the data and volume of, harvest volume, what we're
Mr. PETERSON. OK.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] expecting is a reduction in about 99.6 million board feet and that's out of about 3.8, that's 99 million out of a 3.8 billion board foot program.
Mr. PETERSON. 98 million would be lost?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON. OK. But you don't have a figure of how many acres are not going to allow harvesting?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, not specifically.
Mr. PETERSON. So how does the public know, if you don't? I mean, I guess that's the part that bothers me. I mean, I guess that's part of the discussion of this policy is that I'm not sure your people know the total impact, let alone the public, and I think that's unfortunate.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Going back to this question of roads, I just did a calculation, incidentally, Chief, and it's about $500 per road is what your budget is now for maintaining about half of the roads. The $10 billion figure which you used just again in your conversation with Mr. Doolittle at $26,000 a road is a disingenuous argument when you're talking about constructing roads in forest areas where there will be for sales. You know that and I know that. What is the cost per mile for obliterating a Forest Service road?
Page 201 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. I would say that's highly variable depending upon the
Mr. HILL. Give me a range.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] the typography. I'd have to give you a, respond in writing to that. We don't have a roads engineer here with us today, but also I want to point out that we're responsible for 7,700 bridges that we'd like to do.
Mr. HILL. How many of those bridges, and what portion of that bridge budget, is associated with Forest Service roads that are gravel roads that are used for access for logging and other recreation purposes, or how many of them are arterial roads? Can you provide that information to me?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that information with me.
Mr. HILL. But you will provide that to me?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, I assume we can.
Mr. HILL. There are about 8 million acres that are effected by this moratorium, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. There are about 8 million acres in the RARE II category that are in the timber base, yes.
Mr. HILL. And what percent, how many acres are in Montana?
Mr. DOMBECK. I'd have to, I don't have that information.
Mr. HILL. How many acres are in region one?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't believe we have that information here either, do we? No, but we can give you the regional breakdown of that. I can get that very quickly.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Dombeck, when we had a hearing a week or so ago, I asked you if you'd provide some data to the people of Montana so that they would be informed at the time of the public meetings, you can't tell me how many acres are in Montana, and yet you had three public meetings in Montana?
Page 202 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. The employees in Montana, I'm sure have that data.
Mr. HILL. You don't have that data?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that data with me by state.
Mr. HILL. Would you, the Forest Service makes an assessment of fire hazards, puts it on a sign every day in all the forests, do you recall what those assessments are, high fire hazard, low fire hazard?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. HILL. What are those different levels, do you recall?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well there's low, moderate and high.
Mr. HILL. Moderate and high. Would you tell me what your assessment of the fire hazard is in the areas that are impacted by this moratorium in Montana, are they high, moderate or low?
Mr. DOMBECK. Low.
Mr. HILL. So you believe that the fire hazard in Montana is low in these roadless areas?
Mr. DOMBECK. Keep in mind that the fire, I'm sorry
Mr. HILL. That's not consistent with the Interior Columbia Basin Study.
Mr. DOMBECK. The Interiorthis is not to say that some areas, roadless areas are not, do not have forest hills problems but the Columbia Basin Study does indicate that about 80 percent, 87 percent of the areas that are in the high risk category are in roaded areas.
Mr. HILL. You made a statement at the time you announced this moratorium that one of your concerns was, is that roads and access ''increase the pressure on wildlife species from hunters and fishers,'' do you recall making that statement?
Page 203 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Certainly habitat fragmentation and things like that are issues.
Mr. HILL. But what your statement was was ''increased pressure on wildlife species from hunters and fishers.'' I guess, do you believe that that is a concern with regard to building and constructing new roads and maintaining existing roads?
Mr. DOMBECK. Habitat fragmentation certainly is.
Mr. HILL. But that's not what, what you said was, ''increased pressure on wildlife species from hunters and fishers,'' not ''fragmentation.'' You were talking about ''pressure.'' Do you now, you don't believe that that is an appropriate concern, or is no longer your concern?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, I believe it certainly, it could be a concern, but again, those kinds of things need to be evaluated and looked at on a local case by case basis in concert with the responsibilities that the state fish and game agencies have in regulating animal populations.
Mr. HILL. This was your statement, not my statement. Do you recall making that statement?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't remember the specific context of the statement.
Mr. HILL. Well, one of the concerns that I have is, first of all, in our region about half of the roads now have restricted access, many of them are closed, more are being obliterated, and one of the principal social values in Montana is opportunity to recreate in a public land, including hunting and fishing and camping, and I do believe that your effort here is an effort at further restricting public access to the lands of Montana. Can you give me an assurance today that the people in Montana, at the end of this moratorium, are not going to be faced with further restrictions of access to the public lands?
Page 204 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Those further, if there are further restrictions, they will be made eitherthe decisions will be madeeither at the local level by our forest supervisors in the planning process or they will be made through acts of Congress with regard to additional wilderness designations, or other things at this level.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Dombeck, I would just say that I think it's duplicitous for you to suggest that you're going to make this moratorium decision in your office, and then you're going to allow those other decisions to be made somewhere else. I don't believe that to be true, but, let me just go on to one last thing. Do you believe that this moratorium is, that this is covered by the SBRFA bill, the Small Business Regulatory Flexibility Act?
Mr. DOMBECK. That assessment will be made, or is being made now, as we go through the NEPA process. The analysis that we have to date indicates that it will not be, likely will not.
Mr. HILL. And why is that?
Mr. DOMBECK. Because of the thresholds that SBRFA requires, but I will be consulting on that issue with staff, and follow their recommendations.
Mr. HILL. One last question is, how much time went into the development of the Communications Plan?
Mr. DOMBECK. I guess I can't specifically answer that, I would say maybe the two staff people that worked on it, perhaps three or 4 days, that might be an overestimate.
Mr. HILL. So you didn't solicit input from the individual regional foresters, or individual supervisors to develop this plan? This was a plan developed solely within your office with a couple of staff people?
Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I am, the Washington office was responsible for the development of the plan, I guess I would have to ask the staff the breadth of input that they got. I assume that they're in constant communication with their counterparts in the field.
Page 205 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. The reason I ask that is that just a few months ago, you were here and others, talking about the inability of the Forest Service to meet the deadlines with regards to the Results Act and the development of a strategic plan for the management of the Forest Service. Are you telling me you think it was an appropriate thing for you to take the resources that should be committed to developing a strategic plan for the management of the Forest Service, and put those resources in development of this Communications Plan?
Mr. DOMBECK. I would say that the same, the communications staff works on a wide variety of issues. The efforts with regard to the strategic plan in the Government Performance and Results Act is also a very high priority, in fact is a significantly higher priority.
Mr. HILL. Sell the sizzle.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill. The Chair welcomes Mrs. Cubin.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you, Madam Chairman. Mr. Dombeck, you stated earlier, and I believe you, that you think active management is important, so it brings a question to my mind, then why are you taking a time-out from an active management in placing this moratorium on the forest road program? And then that leads me to another thing that I wonder about, as you know, until his recent legal problems, Secretary Babbitt had an aggressive schedule that allowed him to promote the administration's natural resources agenda, if you will, and based on all the news that I read and see, it appears to me that you have replaced the Secretary in his role as you travel extensively selling the administration's agenda. My question to you is that since you are not a political appointeea political appointee appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senateand have never held public office, are you comfortable with this new political role that you have?
Mr. DOMBECK. The agenda is, the Forest Service agenda, it was developed by the leadership of the Forest Service. The agenda is based upon, on science, on technology, the years of resource professionalism within the Forest Service
Page 206 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. I don't like to interrupt but I don't have a lot of time, and the quote, ''we will take every opportunity to tie with the Vice President's Clean Water initiative, and indeed provide a media event for the VP to showcase the initiative on national forest lands,'' that doesn't sound like science to me, that sounds real political. And that's what I'm asking you. Are you comfortable with your political role? I'm not asking you if you're comfortable supporting whatever science may be involved here, but are you comfortable with this political role?
Mr. DOMBECK. I see the role as promoting what's good for national resource management and forest management, sustainable forestry, watershed health and restoration across the country.
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you. Because this bill is about having hearings before this sort of thing can happen again, and the fact that hearings weren't held, and there wasn't public input, I want to bring up some public input that you might have received, in fact, that you would have received, had the opportunity been available.
As you know, the Wyoming Wilderness Act accomplished three things within the state of Wyoming: it designated wilderness areas to certain specified lands; it designated certain areas for wilderness study, to be considered by Congress for final wilderness designation; and finally it released all other Forest Service lands to multiple use. Congress, and Congress alone, can designate wilderness lands as wilderness in Wyoming, or any other designation that is not for multiple use. There's no provision in the Wyoming Wilderness Act for the designation of de facto wilderness. By virtue of the moratorium, future timber harvest will be rendered impossible, oil and gas exploration will be stopped, recreation opportunities will be severely curtailed, and so doesn't, or can, do you think that the moratorium could equate itself in Wyoming to a de facto wilderness since these other multiple use activities will have to stop?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, and let me reaffirm that we're speaking about a proposal that is out for public comment and
Page 207 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. Wait a minute, speaking about a proposal, so in other words, I'm learning something new right here. You're not going to impose the moratorium until after you take public comment?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct, the proposal was made several weeks ago. The public comment period on the proposal ends March 30th, and at that time the comments will be analyzed and moved forward.
Mrs. CUBIN. And you think that's adequate time? I just want to, I said that I would give you some information regarding public comment that you haven't had the opportunity to get. I have a letter here from Dick Cheney who is the, was the author of the Wyoming Wilderness bill, and while I don't have it in my possession, I soon will, a letter from Senator Malcolm Wallop and Senator Al Simpson, who were the Senate sponsors for this, and I would like to enter this letter into the record.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection, so ordered.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CUBIN. Thank you, Madam Chairman. ''The current effort to impose an 18 month moratorium on USFS roadless areas within the State of Wyoming prompts me to write this letter. This letter is clearly outside the legal bounds for the Wyoming Wilderness Act of 1998. The State of Wyoming is entitled to exemption from this proposed plan. No where in the Federal Register's Proposed Interim Rule, RINAB680095, Temporary Suspension of Road Construction in Roadless Areas, is the language that the Wyoming Wilderness Act recognized.
Having cosponsored this historic legislation when I was Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Wyoming, I now feel compelled to bring this to your attention. Roadless areas no longer exist within the State of Wyoming. Attempts to reinterpret the intent of this legislation, or its language, would move the USFS's efforts outside all legal bounds, and compromise the agency's integrity. The congressionally approved legislation designated specific wilderness, wilderness-study areas, and released for multiple use all other RARE II forest lands. This action legally eliminated the roadless category within Wyoming state boundaries.'' It goes on.
Page 208 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is just what you hazard when you don't offer enough time for public input, and when you move forward, or take public input at such a level but already have your mind made up, not you, Chief Dombeck, but the administration. I think the tragedy of this administration may not be so much in the personal flaws of the President, but I think the real tragedy is that many in the administration can't be trusted to provide the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because for you to sit there and say to me, Chief Dombeck, that this is based on science and not on Al Gore's political agenda, and attempts to be elected President, it's sort of astonishing.
And I think that you are a good scientist, and I think you are a capable man to manage the forests and to know what to do, and I am very sad to see that you are in this political position now where it appears that politics have, for whatever reason, become higher in what you have to do than managing the forest for good forest health. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Mr. DOMBECK. Could I respond to
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] could I respond to one, I think, one important point you made, and from the standpoint of the perception that the temporary suspension of road-building does not change land use allocations. It, we're talking specifically about the act of building
Mrs. CUBIN. But if they can't
Mr. DOMBECK. [cotinuing] a road, and in many cases there are other alternatives, other ways to accomplish the land management objectives on the land, and we're talking about an 18 month period, only, until other, the entire framework of the long-term policy that there's complete agreement that we need to develop is moving forward. So we're only talking, first of all it's a proposal, and we're only talking about the act of building a road. There are other ways
Page 209 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CUBIN. But without
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] to get into these areas, other mechanisms to do the work, we encourage that.
Mrs. CUBIN. But you know and I know, you know and I know very well that we're not going to have hunters and fishermen parachuting in.
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you
Mr. DOMBECK. It also does not close any roads in this specific policy of the interim. It maintains the access that we have unless there are other mechanisms in place. We're talking about construction of roads only.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Dombeck. Thank you, Mrs. Cubin. I have promised the members a third round of questioning, and I just have a very, I have two very short questions. Mr. Dombeck, on page 14 of your initiative in the Communications Plan, you talk about round tables with stake-holder groups to discuss and clarify what the agenda is, and what it will mean to them. Now this is in the context of the fact that this committee, and Mr. Peterson's bill is asking for open public comment, open public hearings, and what you propose is to meet with individuals, as indicated on page 14, and they are as follows, your targeted groups for the Chief to meet with will be: wildlife partners; ten organizations representing non-DC based wildlife organizations; fishnet and fisheries interests; the green groups; 31 environmental organizations; the American Recreation Roundtable headed up by Derrick Crandle, 30 organizations; private forestry counsels; and the luncheon at the press club hosted by the Natural Resources Council of America, which is 70 conservation wildlife, environmental and professional organizations.
My question is, why are there no commodity groups, such as cattlemen, timber men, miners, organized labors, labor representatives, school board representatives, county commissioners, people who will be effected on the ground by these, economically, by this organization? Why is, why are they not included if, from your frame of reference, you believe this is the right way to go?
Page 210 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Well, I, let me say last night, or about 4:30 yesterday, I did meet with the Public Lands Council, I've met with a wide variety of groups, and will continue to meet with a wide variety of groups, and certainly do not see myself limited by the suggestions that the Plan proposes. I believe that industry, that the entire array of stake-holders that I deal with, in fact, it's my responsibility to meet with as many people as I possibly can knowing that as one individual, I cannot meet with them all, and the staff, the Deputy Chief, the regional foresters, the forest supervisors, meet with a wide variety of people.
With respect to the point on the National Press Club, so far in my career I have spoken at the National Press Club twice, am invited to speak at a wide variety of forums, some I can make, and some I can't. I'll be speaking at the Forest Products Industry in Orlando on Friday, and then Saturday I go to the, is it the North American Wildlife, Fish and Wildlife Conference, where I'll be meeting with state directors. I routinely meet and visit with the National Association of State Foresters.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I think, Mr. Dombeck, our concern that you need, rather than meet with certain conservation groups or certain environmental groups to meet and discuss things with them, you talk about speaking about here, speaking to the National Association of Counties, that's entirely different than listening to these people who would be impacted, and that's what Mr. Peterson's bill is all about, requiring that you do just what is required of you under the law, no more, no less, and listening to the people who will be impacted by this very major Federal decision.
On another matter, earlier I placed into a record, into this record, a bipartisan letter sent to you by Congressman Schaffer and Congressman Stupak. In that letter to you, the two Congressmen who wrote it, and all the Congressmen, including myself, stated that the Congress intends to remain willing to work with you on your transportation plan if you are willing to withdraw your moratorium. Do you want to work with us?
Page 211 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Are you willing to withdraw your moratorium?
Mr. DOMBECK. That will be based upon the comments and the analysis as part of the process that we're involved in now. What I will do is, I will work with you as proposals are further developed, and be very open about discussing alternatives and options and suggestions that we may have as we go through the process.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Are you willing to withdraw the moratorium?
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have an answer to that at this time.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. Yes, if I could be a little more, we've talked pretty much in general here today I, of course, I represent the eastern forests, the Allegheny National Forest, and you were talking earlier about the, that all the big, large saw, high-quality saw logs are gone, I mean, I know you're speaking of virgin timber, but I mean, you know, there's lots of good timber stands that have been cut numerous times and the big high-quality saw logs there, they may never equal some of the virgin timber, but you know and I know, that the perception you left with that statement was that all the good stuff is gone.
Mr. DOMBECK. Let me correct that, I was mainly using that in the context of the inner mountain west, and some of the forest health issues. You're certainly right, the condition of the watersheds in the east today are far superior to what they were at the turn of the century in the area where I grew up in northern Wisconsin, is that forests are better condition today than they were when my grandfather lived, was a kid there.
Mr. PETERSON. But would you describe the Allegheny National Forest as one of the most mature, high-quality, hardwood forests in America?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON. That's what everybody in Pennsylvania thinks, that it's the best of the best, and it's mature. It appears that a category of special consideration will probably impact the ANF more than the other categories, but do you have any data on what the impact will be on the ANF?
Page 212 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. We do not have complete estimates on that. We're getting comments on that. What I can tell you is the major areas of concern are associated with municipal watersheds. We have a significant amount of controversy associated with activities in watersheds that provide drinking water supplies.
Mr. PETERSON. On ANF? On the ANF?
Mr. DOMBECK. On the Allegheny National Forest?
Mr. PETERSON. Yes.
Mr. DOMBECK. I don't have that.
Mr. PETERSON. I don't think that's a common problem on the ANF. I mean, there might be one, I can't even think of one, but there may be one or two, but I, that's not a controversy on the ANF. I mean, there's no communities within it, it's, you know, it's pretty
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. PETERSON. Back to the road issue, did I hear you say something about the moratorium also includes reconstruction? You said, I hadn't, you said, ''construction and reconstruction,'' in one of your statements a little while ago?
Mr. DOMBECK. It could, depending upon the specific situation where you might have a very old trail or something that's not part of a formal road system.
Mr. PETERSON. So reconstruction could also be impacted if the moratorium carries forward as is? So it's not just building of new, it's maintaining of old?
Mr. DOMBECK. Not maintaining, reconstructing. And I understand there is, and this is why things like this, those kind of decisions need to be made at the local level.
Mr. PETERSON. Another part that I guess is veering a little bit from the issue, but we talked about having the timber sale being an actual loss, you actually lost money last year. But that's assuming that the 25 percent that pays for education, that pays for local issues, is a throw away, and it's not. That 25 percent is the vital lifeblood of many of our communities, so for people to say that it was a loss in your system is really playing numbers game, because it's not a loss to those communities unless they lose it. I mean that's their lifeblood, that's how they educate kids, that's how they operate local services. Because, you know, the plight, and I'm going to conclude with this, the plight that real America feels, and some of you that are very opposed on the other side, the plight that real America has is, you know, 700 million acres, not in the Forest Service, but all total have been taken out of public ownership.
Page 213 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And in Pennsylvania state government, one of the last things I did was get the in-lieu of tax payment doubled. Now there were lots of people against that but when you take that land away from local use, you owe something back to those communities. And we have not done that very well at the Federal level. I mean, we pay a pittance, which is not being fully funded. And each of these proposals take away the right to use the resources, whether it's timber, or oil, or gas, or whatever, making it far more difficult. And that's really a part of the lifeblood of rural America. I mean rural America we dig coal, in rural America, we drill for oil, in rural America, we harvest timber. And we have suburban people and urban people who are not impacted saying we shouldn't do that, and yet it may be 25 or 30 percent of our economic base. It's how we live. We provide those resources and in many cases we're importing those resources from far off countries, balance of trade, it's not very good American economics in the whole scheme of things.
And should we argue about how it's done, you bet. Should it be done with the best practices, you bet. Should we protect our watersheds, you bet. But the pendulum went way out of whack. We went from 12 billion board feet to 3 billion board feet, and a lot of people look at this as one more way to slow up and put off limits, you may not have meant that, but put off limits another so many million acres to where we're down, and some say it's 14 percent, and some say it's 18 percent, and I don't know which number is accurate, that's actually available in the Forest Service land for forestry practices. That's a pretty small piece, whether 18 is right or 14 is right, we're down to a nub of the original. And yet everybody sees the push to make it less, and that's the concern I think you're facing. And I guess my frustration
Mr. DOMBECK. Can I respond to
Mr. PETERSON. Sure.
Mr. DOMBECK. [continuing] a couple of your points. Well, I'm glad we found an area of agreement in the funding that you mentioned, because I am one that believes we shouldn't even be talking about the low cost timber sales, we should be talking about maintaining the long-term health of the land, and working within the limits of the land, the products will flow. I think that is a basic premise that I want to continue to work for as long as I'm in this job and beyond.
Page 214 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The second thing I want to mention is the point about the 25 percent fund has been perplexing for the Forest Service because we have, as we have injunctions we put counties into, not only the downturn and the trends that you mentioned, and I don't, I haven't had anyone tell me that they want to go back to 10 or 12 billion board feet because there is, I believe, agreement that that was too high, and the pendulum is now swinging back the other way.
But the, also the proposal that's before the Congress that the administration has made, is that to stabilize the 25 percent fund at either the 1997 level or the average of the 1986 to 1990 level because we have, I can give you an example of a worst case scenario where $26 million worth of timber sales we're enjoying that means that those counties won't get $5 to $6 million, and I believe in this case it was five counties, so how do they pay their teachers? Well, there's got to be some mechanism to reduce this amplitude and stabilize the payments that counties get so a superintendent of schools or a county commissioner can plan better, and that's also a proposal that we'll be discussing.
Mr. PETERSON. But I think the President did propose that but, if my memory is correct, there was no money allocated toward it, and so that's the process goes on. You know Pelt was an agreement to the rural areas, will pay you this in lieu of, and we don't even get full payment in that, and it's a pittance. So I mean we don't even get the full pittance. I guess that's the frustration level that's out there. Rural America is really, really being put upon, locked up our resources, locked up our land, that's where we live.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. The Chair recognizes Mr. Vento.
Mr. VENTO. Thanks, Mr. Dombeck. Madam Chair, thanks for recognizing me. I just got off the plane a little bit ago, and I understand that this is a, I hadn't seen the bill before that is being heard this morning, but it's kind of tough trying to be green even on St. Patrick's Day, I guess, Mr. Dombeck.
Page 215 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [Laughter.]
Mr. VENTO. But I wish you a happy St. Patrick's Day, and my colleagues. I, you know, generally have supported the idea that you have to take a pause, I guess, a time-out, in terms of looking at the resources. Obviously, we excluded much of the timber production west of the Cascades because there had been more thorough plans in place with regards that.
Now this authority is being exercised under the administrative authority of the Forest Service, and so you have to go through the Administrative Procedures Act, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. And that mandates itself public hearings, does it not?
Mr. DOMBECK. There are procedures that are required that we are following.
Mr. VENTO. The issue here is I had talked about glasses, that the case here, where information or some of the science and basically eclipsed the existing Forest Service, plans, is that your judgment, Chief?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. And so the idea is to try to proceed, especially with regards to these roadless areas, to in fact attempt to reassess what the impact is because we're not maintaining the existing official roads, much less the unofficial roads that exist, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. The bill I received, looking at the bill here, says ''except and after public participation, this mandates public hearings in the interim for final rule in which the national forest is located''is in attendance, the Forest Service is in attendance, the Forest Chief, you have to be in attendance, are you going to be in attendance at each of these 25 meetings you've established?
Page 216 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. No, I won't. I assume some are going on today.
Mr. VENTO. ''In each public domain or other unit of the national forest,'' so there are issues that you have other responsibilities besides just these hearings, is there any reason to, will you follow and monitor what the outcome of those hearings are based on the testimony and the advice of your associates and professionals?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. This goes on, though, to say that, ''the report has to be based on record of each hearing included under prior''''which concludes the interim final will not,'' it says ''diminish the forest health in such public domain or other unit of the national forest system.'' Do you expect that the report that you come forth would, in fact, diminish the forest health?
Mr. DOMBECK. The point that I want to make on that particular section of that is that that basically requires, as I read the bill, it would require us to not to diminish forest health, not adversely affect multiple use activities, and not to affect county, state, local government, economically or otherwise, and the fact is that we have to balance these issues and it's very difficult to maximize everything.
Mr. VENTO. It's my understanding that no matter what the public says, these, under No. 2, would dominate, that no matter what the public views with regards to these issues, which includes interim final report ''will not,'' no matter what the public views are with regard toso this bill is inconsistent, to say the least, the way I read it, exception after public participation, the public participation is going, as long as it effects these three things, if it affects forest health, if it affects the payments back to the county, if it affects multiple use, in other words, I guess, multiple use being, if it affects timber harvest, that's one of the multiple uses, and so if anything of those are adversely effected by what the public thinks, then the reportyou can just throw out the public participation.
Page 217 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. Now when public participation comes in, you get 100 witnesses at a hearing or 2,500 at 25 hearings, you can't obviously do what everyone asks you do, is that right? Everyone has their say, not everybody has their way.
Mr. DOMBECK. If we could, we probably wouldn't be here.
Mr. VENTO. So what really guides you is not these three elements in terms of forest health, or multiple use activities or adverse, I mean, in fact, I don't know how you could maintain all the multiple use activities. One of the principle functions under the 1897 Organic Health Act of the Forest Service is protection of the watershed, isn't it?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. Is that any less important than providing the opportunity for the use of wood fibre from the national forest?
Mr. DOMBECK. No, in fact, that's also one of the mandates of the Organic Act.
Mr. VENTO. It's one of the mandates of the Organic Act, so isn't it possible very, under the multiple use, that there are in fact inherent conflicts?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. And so, I mean, this particular report couldn't talk about watershed and timber, I mean, one of them are going to have to be effected, isn't it, I mean, one of the principal concerns you have in this roadless policy has the effect in terms of what's happening with watersheds, and the lack of maintenance of roads, the intrusions into the forests, the spreading of weed. Somebody said it provided us a way to pick the weeds, well the weeds probably wouldn't be there if the road wasn't there.
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, that's correct.
Mr. VENTO. And so there is an inherent conflict, a contradiction in this particular, so why are we re-writing, this basically would guide the entire Forest System, these three phrases would guide the entire decision with regards to this?
Page 218 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. You will have a frame of reference, will these issues be considered in the 25 meetings that you have?
Mr. DOMBECK. These issues will be considered along with many, many other issues that a wide variety of people will bring forward.
Mr. VENTO. I mean, one would say, one of the things they'd say is, well, if it adversely effects motor recreation, then you can go forward with that policy. That would be wrong to do, I think. But in other words, you have to balance these out in terms of trying to come up with the best possible solution for the most people, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. VENTO. And, of course, maintaining the lot, in other words, changing the basic, following the basic Organic Act. Do you believe in some instances that that has not been followed with regards to road policy in the recent past?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, we need to greatly increase the emphasis on water and watersheds and the flow of water in the west, and all parts of the country, and that needs to be balanced with all the forests.
Mr. VENTO. I'd like to think that the professionals at the Forest Service did their best in terms of following it, but the fact is, that today that new information, new science, new forestry, has indicated that there's a significant number of changes. In fact, forest health, in my definition doesn't just include eliminating salvage, or eliminating problems for insect infestation, it deals with watersheds, it deals with reforestation, it deals with a whole host of different activities, does it not?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. So, I mean, unfortunately, there's too many conflicts and contradictions in a proposal like this. I don't see, do you believe that there would be aisn't it the effortand I talked in the last session that we had that I was present at with you, Chief, we talked about the fact that it's your intention to try to deal with, and to try to overcome, whatever limits would be in terms of timber harvest by providing opportunities on existing roaded areas, is that correct?
Page 219 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. VENTO. Do you think that there is, there will probably be a shortfall in some forests with regard to this, but in many others, you think that you can accommodate the need to have a continuous supply of wood fibre as product?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, in fact, we have to significantly increase our management activities in areas like urban wild land interface, areas where we have significant forest health problems, and integrate all the management practices, and some fibre will be produced, and there are some low-value woods there that are of no value, and we've got to look at soil stability and noxious weeds and the whole panoply of issues, depending upon the watershed or the part of the country that we're in.
Mr. VENTO. My staff points out to me that the estimate that you now have in terms of reduction over this period is 100 million board feet, is that, that's what's offered for sale, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's the 1998 volume, yes. And we have about, I want to also point out that we've got 6.5 billion board feet under contract that's ready and waiting to be harvested.
Mr. VENTO. It's ready to be cut, but, in other words, folks are waiting for the price to go up, or waiting for other reasons, they may not perform on those contracts, as a matter of fact, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. VENTO. You're assuming, I suppose, that some of those will not be performed on and then that timber would, or could be offered for resale or rebid again, is that correct?
Mr. DOMBECK. That's correct.
Mr. VENTO. So some of this could in fact belie, I think the issue here is to try to work it out. I don't think, you know, I obviously had my concerns about, you know, continuing the road construction program, and I'm frankly pleased because I voted to take out the road subsidy. I know you didn't agree with that, Chief, but we did so because I think that was the avenue available. And if that's the only avenue available, I guess, we can raise this issue again on the floor in terms of trying to knock out the complete subsidy, but I'd much rather try to get a rational policy. And I appreciate the fact that you are trying to do that to try to build, find some middle ground between those of us in Congress that want to see that forest health, a good policy followed with regard to roads and the damage to these forests, and those that share a different view of what is a good policy. So I think that that's the only reason that this amendment was defeated last year was because they came up with a different amount of money and then in conference it got lost, so that is still there, so I appreciate the fact that you're trying to respond to it.
Page 220 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It seems to me that the difference of whether it's 200 or 100 is not so great as to completely distort the opportunity to use wood fibre from the national forests. There are other sentiments, of course, that want to ban any type of harvest, even on a select basis from the forests. Up to this point, we've always thought it was workable, but perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps it isn't workable, perhaps it has to be one way or the other. But I appreciate the effort that you're trying to make despite the fact that you're receiving this much heat for it. I suppose some of that is to be expected, and obviously emotions run pretty high with regards to this, and I understand, and afford everyone their own feelings with regardsbut not their own facts. Thank you, Chief.
Mr. DOMBECK. Thank you.
Mr. VENTO. Thank you, Madam Chair, for allowing me to continuing for longer than my allotted time.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. You're certainly welcome. I thank the gentleman for being here and being able to arrive in time, and Mr. ''O'Vento,'' I thank you for spreading your Irish cheer too into this hearing room.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Chief, you have been a real trooper. You've been on the stand for nearly 2.5 hours. I do want to close simply by saying and entering this into the record, that our focus has been, and I know that Mr. Peterson is trying to again restate that which has been stated in the Administrative Procedures Act with regards to this particular issue, and my concern arises out of the kind of hearings that will be heard.
Mr. Jerry Hamilton from Salmon, Idaho, just called this morning apparently and one of my staff members in the committee just brought this telephone message into me, and it states that he attended the Forest Service public hearing last Saturday in Missoula. ''It was very loosely structured,'' he said, ''the Forest Service asked people to watch a video, and submit comments on a postcard.'' Mr. Hamilton had testimony prepared to turn in or give orally. He was told he could use a tape recorder but then the Forest Service would have to transcribe it, so they preferred that he fill out a card. He left his written testimony, and then left the meeting.
Page 221 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This is our concern, Chief. This is how this is being handled in the field, and so we just hope that this legislation gives us the opportunity to get back on track, and to be able to hear from the public.
I want to thank you very much. I would ask that you remain until after the next panel of witnesses testify. We may have further questions.
Mr. VENTO. Madam Chair, I do have one question if I could be permitted to?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Vento.
Mr. VENTO. Yes, I appreciate your trying to conclude this and the Chief has been here for a long time. But I wasn't looking at the backlog question, and I always thought that the $10 billion backlog applied to the entire 475-373,000 miles of road. But according to what the testimony is, it looks to me that it does not apply to the entire 373,000, much less, I guess, the 60,000 miles of illegal roads. Can you comment on that, Chief? Is it my understanding that it does not apply?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, and the important part to understand there is that the most expensive part of the backlog has to do with the arterial and collector roads, the cost of maintenance and reconstruction of these hard-surface roads and bridges.
Mr. VENTO. So this is the smaller portion, the $10 billion only applies only to the arterial roads, is that what you're saying?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, but I would say it's certainly by far the larger portion of the cost.
Mr. VENTO. And so, OK, well, and they're the ones used by the recreationists, they tell me?
Mr. DOMBECK. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. Ten billion for just the 86,000?
Page 222 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DOMBECK. Yes, school buses, mail routes. I grew up on one.
Mr. VENTO. I think this is an important problem because it seems to me to go beyond what the forests are going to be able to support based on the revenue, so it is a pertinent fact. I don't think it really has any, I don't know what it, I think there's a couple of issues here that I would just make an observation in my chairperson, you know, with regard to this in terms of how this is going to be maintained, and what's going to be done with it. You know, you might, you know, we should be looking at that issue in terms of trying to get some dollars. I mean, this is one of the biggest backlogs. We also have the Forest Service, or the Park Service, when we talked about backlogs, much of it was for the roads going in and out of the park.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. I thank the gentleman, and thank you again, Mr. Dombeck. The Chair now recognizes the second panel. We welcome the Honorable Ron Marlenee, Consultant, Government Affairs, Safari Club International, Fairfax, Virginia; Sharon Hahn, Lake County Commissioner, Two Harbors, Minnesota; Ric Davidge, Anchorage, Alaska; David Kiehl, Vice President, North East Hardwoods, Inc., Pennsylvania; and Steve Holmer, Campaign Coordinator, Western Ancient Forest Campaign, Washington, D.C.
I would like to, again, as you know, we would like to swear all the witnesses so I wonder if you would stand and raise your right hand to the square.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair recognizes the Honorable Ron Marlenee. Welcome.
STATEMENT OF HON. RON MARLENEE, CONSULTANT, GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS, SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL
Mr. MARLENEE. Thank you, Madam Chairman and I appreciate your tacking ''The Honorable,'' on the front of that. I want to thank you for having the hearings, and I want to congratulate the author of the bill, Congressman Pete Peterson.
Page 223 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Safari Club International has an organization representing a broad spectrum of sportsmen, supports without reservation the legislation that you have introduced.
I appear here today as the consultant for Governmental Affairs for Safari Club International. In my 16 years in Congress, I served on the committees responsible for forest management, in both the Agriculture Committee and the Resources Committee. I have seen good management, and I've seen bad management. I have seen good proposals and bad proposals. The proposal to unilaterally, and I emphasize ''unilaterally,'' close roads is a bad proposal for sportsmen, and other recreational users. The proposal is so bad that it must have, and it does have, dedicated professionals in the field of the Forest Service shaking their head.
Madam Chairman, if the Forest Service does not have the money to maintain 23 percent of their roads, which are not primitive roads, where in the world are they going to get the money to decommission, rehabilitate and restore even a small portion of existing roads which they propose to do? It's an expensive proposition, because access on public lands is important to good game management, and to sportsmen, we have to question if the proposal to eliminate access on public land is a political decision.
We have to question what happened, what happened to the validity of Forest Management Plans that everyone participated in, and that the taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on. We have been there, and we have done that in previous congresses and through the administration, we've looked at those roads.
We have to ask if the Forest Service is repudiating the credibility and credentials of its personnel and the validity of its own findings. These were the professionals who evaluated watersheds, wildlife sensitive areas, recreational needs, the validity of wilderness designation. The Forest Service does all of that prior to a timber sale, or building road, or even establishing a trail.
We as sportsmen question the intent of a suddenly conceived or politically instigated concept that the bureaucracy must invoke a moratorium and involve themselves in a new round of evaluation of existing access to property owned by the general public.
Page 224 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If the Forest Service must persist in this duplicative hearingsefforts, duplicative efforts, then sportsmen should have the opportunity to participate in hearings on every forest, just as H.R. 3297 calls for. To allege that regional hearings will suffice is a fraud. When ill-feelings already exist about being denied access, to deny the opportunity for input is an insult to sportsmen, the elderly, the handicapped and family oriented recreationist. We want to ensure that this new effort does not further erode an already diminishing access to recreational opportunity on public land.
Increasingly, sportsmen are coming up against pole gates and barriers, ''no motorized vehicle,'' signs when they arrive at the edge of public property. They deserve to know how many miles have already been closed or lost before the Forest Service closes more.
We would suggest that this Committee amend the bill to require the Forest Service to provide data at the local level on how many miles of roads have been closed in the past 10 years and how many pole gates and barriers have been put up in the last 10 years.
In an effort to justify further road closures, the Forest Service implies that hunting in the forest system is having a negative impact on wildlife. They contend that access has led to ''increased pressure on wildlife species from hunters and fishers.'' Madam Chairman, in my years of experience, it has been that the Forest Service consults extensively with state wildlife agencies and that the jurisdiction of wildlife and hunting is primarily a state right and responsibility. Because the Forest Service allegation appears in their public document, because it impugns the role of hunting in conservation, and because it denigrates the capability of state wildlife management, I would suggest that this committee require the Forest Service to name even one state agency that his not fulfilling their obligations. We, as an organization, know of none and resent the fact that this ill-thought out statement is used to justify closure considerations that could be harmful to sportsmen and wildlife management.
In closing, the reason SCI is alarmed is that the public lands of the Forest Service are a destination for our hunters in our country. Over 16 million days of hunting occur annually in the national forest. For many of these hunters and sportsmen, the only opportunity to hunt is on public land. Safari Club International is committed to ensuring access in the forest for this group of sportsmen. We are gratified to have worked with both Federal public land managers and state fish and game officials, and we hope we can do so again in attempting to find reasonable solutions for the young generation of hunters, and for outdoor recreationists on our public lands.
Page 225 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC [The prepared statement of Mr. Marlenee may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Marlenee. The Chair is very happy to welcome Sharon Hahn. The last time I saw you, Mrs. Hahn, we were at the Boundary Waters, we flew from Eli around the Boundary Waters, the lakes, and it was a very interesting and educational flight. I thank you very much.
STATEMENT OF SHARON HAHN, LAKE COUNTY COMMISSIONER, TWO HARBORS, MINNESOTA
Ms. HAHN. And we thank you for coming up there. It was very nice of you do, and I hope that you have a better understanding of the lay of our land.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Well, I want to welcome you to the Committee and we look forward to your testimony. Please proceed.
Ms. HAHN. Thank you, Madam Chair. I am pleased to have the opportunity to address you and the committee on an issue that is critically important to the communities I represent.
My name is Sharon Hahn, I'm an elected Lake County Commissioner from Minnesota, also representing Arrowhead Counties Association, which covers seven northeastern Minnesota counties. I am here to support H.R. 3297 and urge its passage.
As a lifelong resident of the region, I find that we are continuously assailed by one ill-conceived regulation or another which directly effects our livelihood, economy, and welfare. Once again, we find a Federal agency unilaterally making an unfounded decision without input from citizenry and without understanding its effect.
My associates have been trying for several weeks to determine the known extent of these regulations on our national forests, and cannot get definitive information or maps, showing the effected regions. The Forest Service cannot, or will not, tell us the possible extent of their regulation resulting from ''wilderness boundary'' or ''Special Areas.''
Page 226 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I find the proposed rules on road-building to be ambiguous, at best, and threatening to local businesses, other land managers, and individuals.
The Federal Government has been studying roadless areas for over 70 years on the Superior National Forest. It began with the Forest Plan in 1926. We have gone through wilderness designation twice, RARE I, RARE II, and are currently involved in Forest Plan revision. Wilderness or roadless area review is a mandatory requirement for Forest Plan revisions. This process has no end. Forest Service decisionmaking is inefficient and not effective, particularly in regard to roadless areas. Something may need to be done, but this, in my opinion, is not it.
Rule 2, which deals with areas adjacent to wilderness, has profound potential for wilderness expansion by fiat in several Minnesota counties. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of acres could be added by a de facto process to the existing wilderness areas since the existing boundary has 396 miles of adjacent lands.
I am not sure what ''other Federal lands,'' means, but the Superior National Forest adjoins Indian reservations and Voyageurs National Park. Again, thousands of acres could be effected by this policy.
There are in the proposed regulations no hint of what low-road density development could be. ''Low'' compared to what? This could include most national forest land. Certainly there are roads in national forests, but compared to urban, rural, agricultural, and industrial lands, forest lands are areas of low-road density. There is no size requirement. The only areas exempted from the proposed rule are a few acres with a road or other facility sitting on top. Without some definitions, guidelines or criteria, it is impossible to estimate effects and comment constructively. How the national forests intend to implement this requirement is a complete mystery.
Special and unique ecological characteristics or social values is the most puzzling and potentially most dangerous part of the proposed regulations.
Page 227 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC If one turns the statement around, and asks, ''What lands are there that do not have special, unique or social value?'' it becomes more clear. A judicial interpretation of this regulation could shut down the national forests. Who and how will the Forest Service determine the values that dictate to other social values?
It is clear that decisionmaking, at least in this instance, is being centralized to the regional and Washington offices. Projects planned and designed at district level need to be decided by the region. It is another example of top-down government that is insensitive to local needs and concerns.
Although private lands are expressly exempt from these regulations, the regulations are silent in regard to other intermingled public ownership. In the eastern region, where national forest lands were acquired, as opposed to land provided through public domain, there is a large amount of state and county land intermingled with national forest land. Within the forest boundaries of the Superior National Forest, and outside of the existing wilderness area, there are over 1 million, 700 thousand acres of non-Federal ownership. State and county forest lands make up the bulk of these acres. We are deeply concerned about the consequences of other public ownership. We fully intend to access and manage our forest lands and waters. This leads to an interesting dilemma. If other public land and water is not exempt, how does the Forest Service intend to deal with the consequences?
The meeting places suggested for public input are simply not acceptable. We are invited to travel 300 miles to listen to staff tell us what they don't know. The meetings are all in large cities where the bulk of the citizens are not adversely effected, or even care about these regulations. It is estimated that 50 to 55 million board feet of planned timber sales would be effected by these proposed regulations on the Superior National Forest alone. Jobs, family, businesses and communities within my region will be severely impacted by these proposed regulations. Meetings with northern Minnesota citizens that will be adversely impacted, and will need to live with the consequences, must have a real opportunity to be heard. This can only be done by having meetings in each national forest, as described in H.R. 3297.
Page 228 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In summary, as proposed, these regulations will not result in better land management. Roadless area issues are not going to be resolved by interim roadless regulation.
Madam Chair, I thank you for the opportunity to carry our message to this Congress and to point out the shortcomings of the proposed Forest Service roadless area regulations. H.R. 3297 would at least begin to restore sanity to this proposal. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Hahn may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mrs. Hahn. The Chair welcomes Ric Davidge all the way from Anchorage, Alaska. Mr. Davidge.
STATEMENT OF RIC DAVIDGE, ANCHORAGE, ALASKA
Mr. DAVIDGE. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I have provided the Committee a written statement, as well as appropriate attachments, and I would just highlight a couple of specific points in that.
In the capacity as Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks during the Reagan administration, I also served as the chairman of the Land Policy Group between 1981 and 1983. This group oversees the public policy and allocation of Land and Water Conservation Funds to the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service.
In 1982, the Land Policy Group formally promulgated the Land Protection Policy, which required unit-specific resource and fiscal allocation strategies that fully integrated local communities, and landowners in the process, while fully complying with NEPA and APA. Land acquisition, other than emergencies, was effectively halted in the process of these plans. I believe protection policy approach does have some application that you're facing before this Committee.
Page 229 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We make five key points: The legislation should immediately stop road closures and the interruption of approved new roads for at least the 18 month process, or until each unit-specific plan is completed, reviewed and approved.
Two, the Committee should require unit-specific plans with integrated participation, specifically, with local government officials and landowners who clearly have a high degree of impact other than general citizens at large. In the land protection program, unit managers were specifically directed to send notice each individual who owned land, or interest in land, within those areas.
No. 3, the Committee should require full compliance with NEPA, specifically, in the area of secondary impact assessments. A lot of land managers do not understand the need to do secondary impact assessments which look at not just the social and economic, but also the cultural impacts of public policy, which is really one of the fundamental concepts of the passage of NEPA as a statute. The Committee should require full compliance with the Administrative Procedures Act. I have run open houses. They're effective in a scoping process, but not in the gathering of public testimony.
And also, the Committee should require full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I look at a road as a public facility, and I think ADA would have some application there.
In addition, and finally, I think the Committee should maintain its aggressive oversight of the implementation of the statute and require reports on a regular basis, as well as look at representative plans for each of the unit areas that the Committee members are interested in to see if they do comply with the statute.
Thank you for the invitation, Madam Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Davidge may be found at end of hearing.]
Page 230 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much, Mr. Davidge, for your very interesting testimony. The Chair recognizes Mr. Peterson to introduce the next witness.
Mr. PETERSON. It's my pleasure to introduce David Kiehl, a resident of the Fifth District in Pennsylvania, who has come to testify on behalf of H.R. 3297. I'd like to welcome him and thank him for making the trip here, and giving us, given the stringent timeframe.
As Dave will explain, he is Vice President of North East Hardwoods located in Marienville, Pennsylvania. It's a 10 year old company. He comes today, however, as a member of the Allegheny Forest Alliance. The Alliance is a broad coalition of individuals and groups who are interested in the management of our public lands. As David will describe, the coalition reflects views of its members who support environmental stewardship, and active and multiple use management of our public lands, including the Allegheny National Forest. Again, I want to thank Dave for coming to Washington today to share his views, or the views of the Alliance with us.
STATEMENT OF DAVID W. KIEHL, VICE PRESIDENT, NORTH EAST HARDWOODS, INC., MARIENVILLE, PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. KIEHL. Thank you, Congressman, and thank you, Madam Chairman for this opportunity, and members of the Subcommittee. As the Congressman stated, I'm Dave Kiehl, Vice President and one of the owners of North East Hardwoods of Marienville, Pennsylvania.
North East Hardwoods, as he stated, is a small, privately owned producer of high-quality, and I underline that, Allegheny hardwood lumber. We also buy and sell veneer logs. We started our business in 1988. At that time, there were just my two partners, my wife, Jody, and myself. During the last decade, we have grown slowly, but steadily. Nearly all the timber that we use in our business comes from the Allegheny National Forest, 90 to 95 percent to be exact. For our company, and many others, this National Forest is literally the mainstay of rural way of life.
Page 231 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I am testifying today on behalf of the Allegheny Forest Alliance, a coalition of individual school districts, townships and boroughs, hardwood lumber and veneer manufacturers, trade associations, and sporting and wildlife conservation organizations. The Alliance supports sustainable forestry, environmental stewardship, and multiple use management of the Allegheny National Forest, and other public forest lands. We oppose the proposed moratorium on the construction of roads into national forest roadless areas. If such a moratorium is necessary, then Congress should enact H.R. 3297, legislation sponsored by Congressman Peterson and others, required to give extensive local hearings beforehand.
The 513,000 acre Allegheny National Forest is located in northwestern Pennsylvania. It is a model of well-managed, multiple use forest. Like other national forests east of the Mississippi, the ANF was almost completely cut-over around the turn of the century. During the 1920's and 1930's, the Federal Government acquired these cut-over lands, and established the Allegheny National Forest. Through pro-active forest management, this second growth forest has slowly matured. Now the forest is at peak economic and biological condition. The ANF is extremely well-stocked with black cherry, maple, ash and other valuable hardwood species. In fact, about one-third of the world's commercial supply of black cherry timber, used in fine furniture and veneers, comes from the Allegheny National Forest.
Most of the unique roadless areas within the ANF have already been set aside under a variety of designations. And the road system within the forest is essentially complete. These roads are used primarily for recreationI might say 90 percent for recreationresource protection and resource management. Obviously, the proposed roadless area moratorium will have a different effect on the use and management of the ANF than on other national forests, for the roadless acreage is much greater. Certain national forests would be exempt from the moratorium. However, the ANF does not qualify for any of the exemptions. According to the ANF officials, there are roadless areas within the forest that would be effected by the moratorium.
Page 232 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC To help citizens in our area to comment on the moratorium proposal, we made several inquiries with staff of the ANF. In each case, we asked the Forest Service officials to tell us precisely how the moratorium would effect the ANF. To date, we have received information of what is proposed by the administration, but no information about how our forest would be effected. I don't think you need any other justification for the forest-by-forest hearings proposed in H.R. 3297 than the complete absence of any meaningful site-specific information about the local effects of the proposed national moratorium.
I ask you, how can anyone be against this bill? All it does is require the agency to do what it should have done in the first place. Start at the bottom, and it works its way up.
The Forest Service, at least in our part of the country, has not even prepared a map showing which portions of the ANF remain roadless. A national roadless moratorium poses risks for companies that rely upon national forest timber sales, as I do, and school districts and local governments that receive a portion of national forest receipts. But the greater risk is to the forest itself. An 18 month moratorium on road building in national forest roadless areas will tie the hands of those who we have been entrusted to manage our forest.
Of particular concern to us, and to the sponsors of H.R. 3297, is how forest health could be impacted. There are many situations where building a road is necessary to fight wild fire or otherwise protect the forest ecosystem. Therefore, we ought to assess the forest health implications of a road building moratorium before such a moratorium is adopted.
The Allegheny Forest Alliance will continue to oppose the proposed roadless moratorium. However, if such a moratorium is inevitable, then top-level Forest Service officials should receive testimony from local citizens at hearings in, or near, every national forest. We urge the subcommittee to promptly approve H.R. 3297 to ensure that such hearings take place.
Page 233 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you for this opportunity to voice our concerns.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kiehl may be found at end of hearing.]
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Kiehl, and thank you for traveling into Washington for this testimony. And last, but certainly not least, the Chair recognizes the Campaign Coordinator for the Western Ancient Forest Campaign, Steve Holmer.
STATEMENT OF STEVE HOLMER, CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, WESTERN ANCIENT FOREST CAMPAIGN, WASHINGTON, DC
Mr. HOLMER. Thank you, Chairman Chenoweth, for this opportunity to testify. The Forest Service's proposed road building moratorium is a good first step toward improving management of National Forest roadless areas, but if falls short of President Clinton's statement that ''these unspoiled areas must be managed through science, not politics.''
Roadless areas are critically important, both to people and wildlife. They provide clean drinking water, opportunities for recreation, wildlife habitat and spawning grounds for fish. Many communities depend on the clean water, as well as the recreation and tourism from unroaded forest areas. Recent studies in the northwest, the Sierra Nevada, Columbia Basin and Southern Appalachians have documented the ecological importance of these pristine areas, and the need for their protection.
Taxpayer subsidies for timber roads facilitate the logging of roadless areas which otherwise would be uneconomical to log, thus adding to the red ink of the national forest timber sale program. These losses totaled $502 million in 1996, according to independent economist, Randall O'Toole, using Forest Service data. The Congressional Research Service noted that $790 million was appropriated for timber sales in 1996, and yet not one dollar was returned to the Treasury for the 3.8 billion board feet of timber that was supposedly sold, and I would say given away from our national forest.
Page 234 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We cannot continue to expand these subsidies which are harming the environment, and we have a system that we can't even maintain so it simply doesn't make sense to expand this network. You're creating a liability for the taxpayers in the process, a liability now estimated at least $10.5 billion.
According to DOA Under Secretary Jim Lyons, ''Roads are the No. 1 threat to water quality on the National Forests.'' In addition, roads and logging are linked to increased landslides and flooding, threatening lives and property. The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project concluded that logging has actually increased fire risk by leaving flammable brush and changing the microclimate.
I'd like to share with you a quote, another quote from the Columbia Basin Project, ''Fires in unroaded areas are not as severe as in roaded areas because of less surface fuel, and fires that leave some of the large trees survive to produce seed that regenerates the areas.'' Many of the fires in unroaded areas produce a forest structure that is consistent with the fire regime, while the fires in roaded areas commonly produce a forest structure that in not in sync with the fire regime. Fires in roaded areas are commonly more intense due to dryer conditions, wind zones on the foothill valley interface, high-surface fuel loading and dense stands. This suggests that the problems are not in the roadless areas, the problems are in the managed areas.
Would the moratorium deny access to our forests? No, there's already an extensive network of 433,000 miles, plus another 25-29,000 miles of road that aren't talked about. These are county, state and Federal highways that criss-cross the national forest system. Right now, the Forest Service indicates that only about 80 percent of all traffic is on 20 percent of the roads. And just to get back to the point of hunting, this moratorium would not limit any existing hunting access.
Would the moratorium invalidate the forest planning process? Regrettably, forest plan revisions have so far not adequately protected roadless areas. Two recently revised forest plans on the Black Hills and the Rio Grande did not propose to protect any roadless areas. A recent poll showed that 77 percent of northwest voters believe that protecting pristine forests as wilderness is an effective means of safeguarding clean drinking water, salmon habitat and ancient forests. The roads moratorium is a step in the right direction, but the proposed Forest Service rule would exempt the Tongas National Forest, the forests under the Northwest Forest Plan, forests that have revised their forest plans, and many roadless areas that are less than 5,000 acres.
Page 235 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC A policy for roadless area management should end logging and end road building in all inventoried roadless areas, as well as in roadless areas of smaller size identified through an independent scientific assessment. Good stewardship of our national forests requires that these last remaining wild places should be fully and permanently protected.
And I'd like to comment on H.R. 3297. Our Campaign opposes the bill because it would unnecessarily delay the implementation of the proposed moratorium. The bill requires 120-156 public hearings attended by the Chief or forester, plus 156 separate analyses. This delay will cause substantial environmental harm from numerous timber sales now planned in national forest roadless areas. I'd like to enter America's Wildlands at Risk, a report that we produced that documents 50 timber sales now pending in roadless areas that threaten our heritage. Will that be allowed in the record?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Is there any objection?
Mr. HOLMER. Thank you.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Chair will take that under advisement. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Holmer may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HOLMER. We were satisfied with the moratorium's original 30-day public comment period because extensive public debate has taken place on the issue of timber roads over the last 2 years. And our position of roadless area protection is well-established. I'd like to also submit for the record over 25 editorials that appeared in the newspapers in every region of the country in support of any destructive subsidies for building new logging roads. If you'd accept these comments, I'd be appreciative.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Holmer, you are entering those as part of your testimony, right?
Page 236 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLMER. For the record, yes.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right, thank you. They are accepted.
[The information referred to may be found at end of hearing.]
Mr. HOLMER. The additional 30-day comment period and the 25 open houses around the Nation are giving interested citizens more than sufficient opportunity to register their concerns. At a recent open house in Anchorage, 60 citizens chose to participate and submit comments. The agency allowed those present to overview the comments received and 59 of those comments were in favor of the proposed moratorium. I would contend that there is strong public support for this moratorium.
H.R. 3297 requires the Forest Service to determine that the moratorium will not effect forest health. The best available science indicates that the moratorium will help improve forest health by eliminating an activity, road building, that has been demonstrated to degrade watersheds with erosion and sediment, fragment wildlife habitat, and increase fire risks. Past forest management that emphasized road building, logging, fire suppression, and grazing has caused substantial degradation to managed areas. And it is in these areas that genuine restoration efforts should be undertaken, not in the roadless areas.
Chief Dombeck stated in the recent testimony, and today, that 87 percent of the areas at high risk of wildfire are in the managed areas
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Holmer, let me say that
Mr. HOLMER. [continuing] not the roadless areas.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] all witnesses with the exception of Chief Dombeck have been held to 5 minutes.
Mr. HOLMER. Sure. That's fine.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. So I'd appreciate your
Page 237 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLMER. May I close my testimony?
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] wrapping it up
Mr. HOLMER. Sure.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. [continuing] in 15 seconds.
Mr. HOLMER. OK, well in closing, while the stated intent of this legislation to increase public participation is laudable, the bill's provisions are excessive in this case. I will say it's encouraging that many of the bill's sponsors, who supported the Salvage Logging rider, which suspended public participation, have now reversed course and are endorsing the right of the public to have an input in public forest management. Thank you for this opportunity.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Holmer. The Chair recognizes for questioning, Mr. Peterson.
Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Holmer, how many of the forests have you visited?
Mr. HOLMER. I've been to 16 or 17 different national forests.
Mr. PETERSON. What part of the country?
Mr. HOLMER. In every region but the southwest.
Mr. PETERSON. You've been in the northeast?
Mr. HOLMER. Yes, up in Vermont.
Mr. PETERSON. In Vermont, OK. Do you think people from Pennsylvania who have a concern with this policy, the original plan called for them to go Minnesota or New Hampshire, you think that's
Mr. HOLMER. Well, I personally felt that the public comment period where people could send their comments in writing through the mail was sufficient, and that would allow any person, in any part of the country to submit their comments. And that's an open opportunity that will be open until March 30th, I believe.
Page 238 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. OK, you don't think that people who are proposing regulations from Washington should have to stand in a public forum and defend those when local people have concerns, with the press there?
Mr. HOLMER. Well, I think that in some cases that might be appropriate. In our view, this proposal does not have the kind of impact that the legislation that you put forward would suggest.
Mr. PETERSON. You said, that's your opinion, OK. But I notice you have a good job. You're not impacted economically in anyway, you're not part of a rural economic economy, you don't depend on local recreation to make your living, you don't depend on any kind of resources from rural America to make your living, you're pretty cozy here, and it's easy for people from urban suburban America, who have their view, and they have a right to that, that most of rural America should be off-limits. You know, we have 700 million acres of public land here in America that we own, 700 million. Do you think we should timber any of it?
Mr. HOLMER. I believe that logging on the national forest is not the question before us today.
Mr. PETERSON. I'm asking you a question.
Mr. HOLMER. I don't have any problem with logging on national forests or on private or state lands. The question is where's the logging place, and what kind of logging are we talking about? You know, the fact is that these roadless areas are worth more protected, than they're worth logged, just for the clean water, just for the recreation, just for the fish and wildlife values. They're worth more protected, than they are logged.
Mr. PETERSON. Well, about 82 percent of the Forest Service land, which is not the set-asides, 82 percent of it, which is land for multiple use, we have lots of areas that are not for multiple use, but we're down to 18 percent that's now that you can practice forestry. It's been squeezed and squeezed and the squeeze is at a couple 3 more percent.
Page 239 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC How does that make good public policy, that this land was put in public trust for multiple reasons, recreation, tourism, resources, and individuals and groups like yourself, want to lock up the resources? You don't want that to be a part of the multiple use. And that's your bottom line, I know that as well as you know that.
Mr. HOLMER. Well, that is not our stated position. Our position is to protect old growth and roadless areas, municipal watersheds, riparian areas, and we have an ecological basis for these protections, but I think if you wanted to look at them through an economic prism, and you look at the timber sale program through an economic prism, it doesn't make sense the way we're conducting logging on the national forest right now. The program needs to be massively scaled back, if not completely eliminated, until they can show that they can do the job right.
Mr. PETERSON. Well, it's one-fourth of what it used to be, and I'm sure you'll be happier when it's one-fifth of what it used to be, or when it's one-sixth
Mr. HOLMER. I think it should be noted why the harvest came down. Judge William Dwyer cited a systematic and deliberate failure by the Forest Service to comply with laws effecting wildlife. Now do you think it's OK for the government to ignore these laws? I disagree, the public disagrees and most certainly, the court disagrees.
Mr. PETERSON. But I think your argument just makes the point. What works in Alaska has no relevance to what works in Pennsylvania. What works in California has no relevance to what works in Vermont and New Hampshire or New England. We're a diverse country, we're a diverse forest and a ''one-fits-all'' policyif I come to Washington for reason, is to give government back to the people, not to have government at the Washington level, at the administrative level, to set rules and regulations which I fear more than law, under any issue, not just this issue, that's the worst government you can have, when rules and regulations are promulgated without any sunshine.
Page 240 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The basis of government, good government, is the people having a chance to share their views. Only the elite organizations of America had a chance to share their views on this issue, on both sides of the issue. The citizens that grub out a living, that carry a lunch bucket, that are fighting to feed their families, and want to have a quality of life in rural America, have not been heard and they deserve to be heard.
Mr. HOLMER. I would agree that public participation and sunshine is extremely important. I think in this case the provisions in your bill go a little too far, and I think based on the 20,000 comments the Forest Service has received, there are a lot of people in this country who are paying attention, and who have submitted comments.
Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Peterson. The Chair recognizes Mr. Vento.
Mr. VENTO. Well, thank you, Madam Chairman, I just want to say that I think that the purpose of public participation is good. I think the effect of this bill would be to obviously to completely frustrate exercise of this new policy, whether you agree or disagree with it, that's the effect of what this legislation does.
I'm pleased to see a Minnesota witness here, Commissioner Hahn. Do you have, how would you characterize the roads in the Superior Forest, I guess that's, in the Superior National Forest, are they in good repair, or not?
Ms. HAHN. I would say that that would depend on who owned the roads.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I'm talking about the Forest Service roads.
Ms. HAHN. Of the Forest Service roads, OK, because the State of Minnesota roads, we have an argument with. Again it would depend on what area you go to, I would like to point out that in the Superior National Forest, there's already 1.3 million acres set aside for wilderness where there are no roads, that's already roadless area.
Page 241 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VENTO. Well, I don't think there ever have been very many roads in those areas, and the few that there were, we're still fighting about.
Ms. HAHN. I'm sorry but we had a train route, there is still railroad
Mr. VENTO. Yes, but what about the roads in the Superior National Forest, how many miles of roads are there in the Superior National Forest today?
Ms. HAHN. I'm sorry I don't have that figure with me.
Mr. VENTO. Do you know anything about the condition of them?
Ms. HAHN. I do just from driving on them on a daily basis.
Mr. VENTO. You don't have any official information on those roads in the Superior National Forest?
Ms. HAHN. I would be more than happy to get it out here for you.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I think we can get it from the Forest Service. I was just interested in, you know, whether you had knowledge about the issue with regards to the moratorium? Do you have any information on the Chippewa National Forest?
Ms. HAHN. No, and I am concentrating on the Superior. However, Koochiching County and Itasca are part of the counties that sent me out here. I guess our largest concern about this roadless area is the fact that our county is also on roads on those, in the national forest.
Mr. VENTO. Are they maintaining them?
Ms. HAHN. The counties do maintain the roads, and we are building new roads for logging jobs. Our part of Minnesota is dependent on the three T's, timber, tourism and taconite.
Mr. VENTO. Well, tourism is a big part of the Forest Service budget, and the Forest Service, we actually have about three times the number of visitor days in the forest as tourists, for instance, in the National Park System. Something like between 800 and 900 million visitor days, or visits to the national forest. And it's pointed out here that they actually result in a contribution of $100 billion in dollars, that's 2.5 million jobs, just in terms of recreation, in terms of the forest, so it's changing. If you looked that 25 years ago, 50 years ago, it was much different. Don't you think that our policies need to adjust to deal with that?
Page 242 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HAHN. I'm sorry to disagree with you but 25 years ago
Mr. VENTO. I didn't hear what you said.
Ms. HAHN. I'm sorry to disagree with you but 25 years ago tourism was as big as it is now.
Mr. VENTO. Yes.
Ms. HAHN. In our area of Minnesota.
Mr. VENTO. Well, that's all right, you can disagree with it, but you can't disagree with the facts in terms of the overall forests, and maybe that the areas in Superior is a different circumstance, and in other areas, I don't know, but we do, I know that there have been more visitor days in the Boundary waters and has increased since 1978 by 60 percent.
Ms. HAHN. And those visitor days are not having an impact of people outside the Boundary waters.
Mr. VENTO. Well, there is more people using it, I don't know if, you know, what the effect is.
Ms. HAHN. If you cut the roads by a one-third in the Superior National Forest, it will not only have an effect on our forest industry but in fact will have an effect on our tourism industry.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I think that that's something to be looked at. I guess that's why we're having hearings. We're talking about a moratorium on road construction for a short period of time, and I think that there is a question of maintenance.
Now, part of the Chief's, Service's, testimony is that 80 percent of the people use about 20 percent of the roads. You disagree with that? Do you have any numbers that, you don't disagree with that?
Page 243 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Ms. HAHN. I do not disagree with that
Mr. VENTO. Maybe the Superior is a-typical or maybe Chippewa National Forest is a-typical.
Ms. HAHN. I think that we have more hunters and fishermen up there than in some of the other areas. However, it still comes down to the basic fact that one of our main reasons for sending me here is the fact that there are county lands and state lands inside the Superior National Forest
Mr. VENTO. I read your testimony with regards to that, and you know, as far as I know I don't know what that impact is, but I do not think there is an impact. Incidentally, you suggested that some people in Minnesota were going to have to travel 300 miles to get to St. Paul?
Ms. HAHN. That is in fact true.
Mr. VENTO. Well, I don't know it isn't, Two Harbors isn't 300 miles, is it?
Ms. HAHN. I am one of the lucky ones. However, when you happen to be living in Hovland, Minnesota or by Grand Portage, Minnesota, you do have a 300 mile trip.
Mr. VENTO. Well, you could, I don't know, I think it's, I think that for most it's a lot closer than that.
I appreciated your testimony, Mr. Holmer. You pointed out that, in fact that the roaded areas are more likely to be associated with fires, is that correct?
Mr. HOLMER. That's right. Chief Dombeck has indicated
Mr. VENTO. Well, there are two points, my time is up, but two points: one is that the roaded areas are more likely to be an intrusion into forest health and to cause a decline in forest health, in and around the roaded areas; and second, they are more likely to be associated with fire. Now, of course, there is some suggestion that if this moratorium would interfere with fire-fighting, I think that is not correct. But the fact is that we do get more fires in and around roads, you get more noxious weeds, you get more problems with forest health. That's the testimony of the Chief
Page 244 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLMER. That's correct.
Mr. VENTO. [continuing] and that's the documentation of the scientists. You know, this isn't something that I have created to be contrary with some of the witnesses, or with the bill. That is the scientific information, that's the statistics, that's what they tell you. Just like the statistics on recreation and tourism. I thank you for your testimony, Mr. Holmer, you've
Mr. HOLMER. Thank you.
Mr. VENTO. [continuing] been helpful, and others I've taken into consideration the questions that you've raised, Ms. Hahn, with regards with state and county lands, how they'll be effected by this moratorium, the short moratorium.
Mr. PETERSON. Recognize the gentleman from Montana, Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Congressman Marlenee, thank you for coming. I appreciate it very much. How do you respond to the Forest Service claim that it is allowing public input by having these regional hearings?
Mr. MARLENEE. It's a fraud, Congressman. To allow true public hearings, you've got to have them in the area where they are effected in every regional forests. In the State of Montana, for instance, Region 1, there are 10 national forests, 10 of them. The furthest forest district office is in South Dakota, some 700 miles away from the regional forest. Now it's easy to gather elitist in a center like Minneapolis or in a center like Mazula. They're the ones that will come down there from the organizations in an organized effort, and testify, and be at these hearings. But what about the wage-earner, the guy that's the shoe clerk, the mechanic, the fellow that's maybe a bank teller, and his hunting is affected in Montana, and the far eastern edge in South Dakota, or in Idaho, where there are two national forests that belong to Region 1. Is he going to be able to take the time and give his input? Of course not. And so they must have the hearings the Peterson bill provides.
Page 245 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. You heard Mr. Holmer comment that this moratorium is not going to reduce sportsmen access in any way. Would you agree with that statement, or would you disagree with that statement?
Mr. MARLENEE. I need to catch that again, I apologize.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Holmer says that this moratorium is not going to reduce sportsmen access in any way, do you agree or disagree with that comment?
Mr. MARLENEE. Well, all you have to do is read their No. 1 objective in their proposal, rulemaking objectives, ''roads will be removed where they are no longer needed and ecological values will be rehabilitated and restored in formerly roaded areas. These outcomes will be accomplished by aggressively decommissioning unneeded roads.'' Now first of all, the sportsmen have to have some input into what roads are going to be ''decommissioned,'' and that's a very innovate word developed within the bureaucracy. Somebody will get a merit-pay raise because of that innovation and that creativity, I'm sure. But the point is that the decommissioning of these roads and the rehabilitation that will take place is bound to have an impact on sportsmen and their access, there's no question about it.
Mr. HILL. And they ought to have the right to comment on that, don't you think?
Mr. MARLENEE. They what?
Mr. HILL. They ought to have the right to make comments?
Mr. MARLENEE. Right, they have every right to make comments.
Mr. HILL. You mentioned in your testimony about pole gate barriers and other ways to close roads, what has been your personal experience with regard to that in Montana, or elsewhere?
Mr. MARLENEE. In one of the forests, I made the comment because already a vast number of miles of roads have been closed on national forests, maybe it's good, maybe it's bad, but nonetheless when you add that to new proposals, and additional closures, the public deserves the right to know how many miles have already been closed. Now my experience has been that forest, or that sportsmen, recreationists, berry pickers are running up against pole gates, barriers, ''No motorized vehicle,'' signs, and when they do, they're asking, ''What's going on here?'' Well the Forest Service has erected these.
Page 246 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I asked one forester for the information. I went to a Senator, and said give me this information. The Forest Service said, ''Who wants to know?'' The Senator said, ''We do.'' It took them forever to come up with the information, but on that one forest, hundreds of miles of roads had been closed and well over 100, I'm thinking like a 120 pole gates and barriers had been put up in the last 10 years.
Mr. HILL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETERSON. The gentleman from Alaska, that was an issue you raised too wasn't it, would you like to again review in a little more detail what you would like to have added to the legislation?
Mr. DAVIDGE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I don't recall specifically raising that issue, but the point that I was making is the effectiveness of the Land Protection program, was that, a moratorium, if you will, in activity and acquisition while the planning process was taking place, until the unit plan was done, in this case, until you've completed your public participation, status quo is maintained.
One of the things that I again want to highlight, in the implementation of the Land Protection program, we found that most agencies did not have a reasonable understanding of how to do secondary impact assessments, looking at social, economic, and particularly cultural impacts. The General Accounting Office has done a number of investigations and published reports on the cultural impacts of public policy without these kinds of unit-specific considerations.
One of the criticisms that we received on the implementation of this program was that we were not given adequate notice. We directed that every landowner was given specific and individual notice. Certainly, in national forests, any national forest manager knows who the people are that are directly effected by these policies, and they should be given direct and individual notice as well. That's what I mean by full compliance with NEPA, and full compliance with APA, rather than just performing the minimum requirements which, I would say, the open house approach is doing.
Page 247 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. As a public policy person had to make decisions, are you surprised with the, you know, the difference in all of our forests in America, I mean from Alaska to Maine, and from California to Pennsylvania, to have a national, aren't you surprised that we've come up with this sort of a national change or policy with not even a discussion with the regional foresters?
Mr. DAVIDGE. Mr. Chairman, I'm not surprised.
Mr. PETERSON. OK.
Mr. DAVIDGE. I've faced that challenge when I was with the Department of Interior, but one of the things that I've found, I'm probably one of the few people on this planet that has read every enabling act of every unit of the National Park System. One of the things that people don't remember is that most of these areas were created for specific purposes, or have specific amendments that allow acquisitions for specific purposes. With the implementation of the Land Protection program, the enabling acts, or the individual unit management plans had to be used as a guide in the implementation of these plans. That's why each unit plan was individual, but still had to meet some basic characteristics, which included participation, direct notice, those kinds of things. I'm not surprised of the diversity of the forests, certainly, I was never surprised at the diversity of the National Park System, or the Fish and Wildlife Service, but that's why it's so difficult to apply a broad-brush national policy, without unit-specific planning. That's why you have unit-specific planning in the forest, every unit of the Federal estate has some level of management planning that are reviewed on a 5-year basis, that's why you do it, because you can't manage it from Washington, DC, you can't manage it from Seattle.
Mr. PETERSON. But too often we try to, don't we?
Mr. DAVIDGE. Yes, Mr. Chairman, because we're under pressure from our superiors to find a way to implement national strategies, but not only do they not work in natural resource management, they don't work in welfare programs, they don't work in housing programs. I visited 52 villages in Alaska, and I can tell you the history of Indian housing is terrible up there because the programs that are crafted in Washington, DC just don't work there.
Page 248 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. PETERSON. I've been in public policy for quite a few years, and I know those who have resources and like to set public policy in whether it be education, or whatever the issue is, they much prefer dealing with one Federal Government and win one battle, than to win 50 battles with 50 states, and maybe hundreds or thousands of battles with all the individual counties or regions. But this is a very diverse country and I thank you for your testimony from Alaska.
The gentleman from Pennsylvania, what have you learned, you said a little bit in your testimony, but what have you learned on how this will impact the ANF?
Mr. KIEHL. The problem we have, we don't know how it's going to effect us. And to gotheir meeting is clear up in Massachusetts I'm told. I mean, it's far enough to come down here and take time off for what I need to do. That's a problem, they don't even have a map of the roadless areas on the Allegheny National Forest. And the other thing is, you know, the Allegheny National Forest is very unique. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it is the most valuable national forest in the whole United States, it's one of the smallest, but it is the most valuable. But it is in very good shape, and contrary to what may be in other areas of the U.S. I know because my grandfather helped log it at the turn of the century. I can show pictures that all the hills were clear-cut. And now they're beautiful, very high-quality timber stands.
And I beg to differ with Mr. Holmer here. The Allegheny National Forest has generated $105 million profit in the last 7 years, 1990 to 1997. And of that, $26 million-plus has went to the local counties and school districts. We have returned that much money to the Treasury, OK. But we are being curtailed. We have an approved forest plan. We went through all the hurdles and all the input in 1986, it's scientifically based, the ASQ (Allowable Sale Quantity) of 94.5 million feet, they're not even going to get 16 million feet this year, you know. And I remember in 1986, the industry was roughly consuming 60 to 70 million board feet. The Forest Service told us as an industry, ''You need to get the industry to consume this 94.5 million feet.'' So we did, we geared up, myself and my two partners, there in 1988. We spent millions of dollars, were were in hock to our ears, OK.
Page 249 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And to utilize this, I feel betrayed, not only as a citizennot as a business-owner, but as a citizen, as a taxpayer, and this moratorium is saying 18 months isn't very long, it very much is. It is. We need to be harvesting timber to manage it properly, and the Forest Service has done a tremendous job. That's why we have the quality timber stands that we have in our area, because they've done a tremendous job, but they need to be allowed to do their job. But they can't take a broad-brush to it. What works out in California, does not work in Pennsylvania.
Mr. PETERSON. Thank you. Mr. Vento.
Mr. VENTO. Well, thanks, Mr. Chairman. I, you know, the issue is what is the road condition in the Mahogany or the other forest that you have
Mr. KIEHL. Allegheny.
Mr. VENTO. Allegheny in your area, what is the road, do you have any ghost roads there?
Mr. KIEHL. Sure.
Mr. VENTO. When I was listening to my colleague talk about, my former colleague actually acknowledge Mr. Marlenee on the Committee, I'm from St. Paul incidentally, is that what you were referring to, people from St. Paul. In any case, sometimes we know as much as people from Medota Heights that are in the Sahara Club, or it's the Safari Club, well, pardon me.
Mr. MARLENEE. I'll excuse you once.
Mr. VENTO. OK, OK. Or even some of the Sierra Club, probably more in the Sierra Club than in the Safari Club, I might say.
In any case, the issue of illegal roads and closing roads, you know, I remember my former staff member talking about, Dale Crane, talking about he tried when he was working for the Bureau, and how he tried to close some roads, and, you know, he eventually put up steel, he put up wood, they'd blow, finally it was dynamite that was used to keep it open. So there's a very determined group in terms of roads that are not legal.
Page 250 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And I think one of the issues here, I mean, we're all talking about what the Forest Service do. The question is nobody's offering any solutions in terms of maintaining those roads. Nobody's talked about where's the revenue is going to come to do it. Obviously, the Forest Service is looking at, I mean, as the forester Chief said, he said, ''When you're in a hole and you want to get out,'' he said, ''put down the shovel.'' At least for, I understand the concern. I mean I think there are differences in terms of soil types. I was reading an article here where it found that the slump and slide rate is four times higher where you have a harvested forest, or managed forest, as opposed to where it's not being directly managed for forest harvest.
I note that one of our witnesses referred today, said, ''Roads are the No. 1 threat to water quality on the national forests. In addition, roads and logging are linked to increased landslides and flooding, threatening lives and property.'' I don't think anyone can deny that they, in other words, when roads aren't properly maintained and so forth, that you're going to have a lot more intrusion. I mean, everyone talks about it as if it's being done ideally, but here we've got a situation where the forest harvest is down. Local governments obviously want the 25 percent set-aside, and we got, we don't have the revenue to maintain the forest coming into the KV or any other funds to maintain the roads. They're built, they're put in and after that it's up to the Forest Service to maintain, 373,000, plus 60,000 of illegal roads, which are maybe even tougher to maintain.
And of course, all within the forest but you've got this backlog of billions of dollars in terms of road maintenance and I don't see a solution that anyone's offering. I don't think anyone is talking about specifics, about how much road in the Allegheny is, what's the condition of the roads in the Allegheny, Mr. Kiehl.
Mr. PETERSON. Would the gentleman yield?
Mr. VENTO. I would yield to my colleague, sure.
Mr. PETERSON. Yes, well, we were talking about solutions and I was wondering if the gentleman from Minnesota would join me in this year's budget process to try to double the budget, instead of $109 million, make $218 million available to the Forest Service?
Page 251 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VENTO. Well, I think that I would be interested in increasing it if I thought that it was going to be for ''reconstruction'' is the word that they sometimes use for closure, Mr. Marlenee, not ''decommissioning,'' that would be more direct. But reconstruction obviously is, in terms of trying to get in and solve some of the problems, or at least using a balance in terms of construction of new roads, and what we're going to do in terms of decommissioning. And I think that's the concern that many of us have, is that not going in to decommissioning in areas and having, rather than simply adding to the problem. But I think the problem that we have is that there's great reluctance to that.
And the other question in terms of the 18 months, if that's too long, and the Allegheny, as I said, what's in the pipeline in terms of what's available that is not, there's not much in the pipeline in the Allegheny so you got a more, he's shaking his head no, let the record know, we don't have a visual presentation.
Mr. KIEHL. No, there isn't in the pipeline
Mr. VENTO. Yes, so there isn't enough in the pipeline to, so you have a special concern along those lines. And so it looks like, you know, there has to be some redress in terms of trying to deal with that if in fact there is going to be a hardship worked in that. Do you know what the condition of the road is in the Allegheny, in terms of how the Forest Service has rated them?
Mr. KIEHL. I don't know their rating, no.
Mr. VENTO. Oh, but it seems to me that that's essential if you're going to come and talk, I mean to me, that's essential information.
Mr. KIEHL. I know
Mr. VENTO. Do you understand why I want that, why I asked that question, Mr. Kiehl?
Mr. KIEHL. Yes.
Page 252 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VENTO. It's a reasonable question I think, and you really should know the answer to that because that's your forest, that's what your depending upon, that is the forest you're testifying to, isn't it principally?
Mr. KIEHL. Yes.
Mr. VENTO. And so, I mean, it's absolutely essential to understand that. So, I mean, unless there's some understanding in terms of what that is, or if you disagree with their assessment, I mean that's possible, but I think most of this is done on an objective basis.
Mr. KIEHL. I can tell you from a personal standpoint
Mr. VENTO. Well, I think we got a little of that from Lake County, but you go ahead.
Mr. KIEHL. OK. I can tell you when I buy a timber sale, OK, I have to pay to build the roads.
Mr. VENTO. Yes.
Mr. KIEHL. All right, and I do it to the Forest Service specifications and I do it, and if I don't do it within what they feel that it can be done for, I burden the costs. So in other words, to give you an example, if they feel that it costs $100,000 to reconstruct, which is mostly all that we do in our area, our area is all roaded, OK, and if it costs me $120,000 to do it, OK, I get tree credits for $100,000, but that $20,000 I pay for.
Mr. VENTO. Yes.
Mr. KIEHL. All right, now. Now listen, on top of that for every load of material, whether it's pulp wood or saw timber, I pay the Forest Service road maintenance, a dollar per thousand mile, and 50 cents a cord per mile for every load of material that I haul over the roads that I just paid to fix up. There's no subsidy. You know there's a misconception down here
Page 253 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. VENTO. Well
Mr. KIEHL. [continuing] let me finish
Mr. VENTO. Yes.
Mr. KIEHL. [continuing] there is a misconception, OK, there is no subsidy, all right at all. And the key is, for the Forest Service standpoint, I stand behind it. They get the roads the way they want them done, all right, and they get them done properly, all right.
Mr. VENTO. But anyway just reclaim my time, I understand that we could argue a long time on whether there's a subsidy but the issue is, at least at this point, what we're dealing with today is not that aspect of it
Mr. KIEHL. [continuing] you asked.
Mr. VENTO. [continuing] I think is another, but we're dealing with once the road is in and you've done your part. You harvested your timber. There's probably less revenue coming from the road at that point because you've done your hauling over it in terms of the allowable sales, and it's been, it's not in the pipeline now, it's cut, it's out. Now we got the road and it's, you know, 5 years after there's no revenue coming from the Congress to maintain it, to in fact, or to close it, which is important, who pays for that?
In other words, there's a consideration here in terms of other values, in terms of recreation and other values that come into play, but the fact is that's why we got 433,000or 373,000, any way, that are legal that are not being made, the others ones obviously is just a matter of having adequate monitoring and policing activities is what it gets down to and that's tough enough. That's where we get into our guys with the bad attitude.
But, I mean, that's where the issue here is, nobody is saying, ''Well, this is the solution, we're going to solve this,'' because this is wrecking, you know, this is actually causing economic devastation. When we had that problems with trails, we had it. We built a lot of trails through the 1930's with the CCC's, and a lot of those trails are not being maintained today, and what we've done is had volunteers come in and try to take over but it's not adequate.
Page 254 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC So it's just another case, it isn't just timber activity that has an infrastructure that's deteriorating. It's other aspects, but one closely related is, trails, and I'm sure there's statistics for that which obviously are a good concern. But this is the issue, you're all, it's easy to come in here and beat up on the Forest Service but nobody's presenting any solutions, that's got an answer to the question.
Mr. PETERSON. I will assure, though I'm only acting Chairman for the moment, I will assure the gentleman from Minnesota that I will give him an offer before this season is out, this budget season to measurably increase the Forest Service road budget and he can vote with me and help me get it passed.
Mr. VENTO. For maintenance and for closure and for reasonable
Mr. PETERSON. We'll work it out, the Representative from Montana, Mr. Hill.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Kiehl, I just want to stay with this point, because I think you were making a valid point. I think the gentleman from Minnesota kind of misses it, and that is that timber harvest subsidizes road maintenance, not just road construction. It does subsidize road construction, but it also subsidizes the road maintenance because you pay to maintain all of the roads that you use, both prior to being able to use those roads, as well as during the period of time that you use them, is that correct?
Mr. KIEHL. That is very much correct.
Mr. HILL. And so the fact that we're reducing timber sales is reducing the amount of money of that is available for road maintenance, is that correct?
Mr. KIEHL. That's correct.
Mr. HILL. And the Chief earlier pointed out that with $109 million we're able to maintain half of the Forest Service roads, that if we maintained a reasonable level of timber sales, we could increase that from half to perhaps, and we don't know the number, because they don't know the number, they're telling us that they can maintain roads for $500 mile with a $109 million budget, but they're saying they need $26,000 a mile for the rest. Does it cost you $26,000 a mile to maintain Forest Service roads?
Page 255 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. KIEHL. I can build new roads for that.
Mr. HILL. You can build a road for that, it doesn't take that kind of money, what does it cost you to maintain those roads would you say while you're using those roads for your logging purposes?
Mr. KIEHL. In my previous job, I used to manage 29,000 acres for Hammermill Paper Company, OK, and my budgeted, and this has been 10 years ago, but even so, if I graded the main roads once a year and kept the ditches open and kept the culverts open, it would cost $500 per mile, that's all the maintenance that I need to do in order to be able to come back. Now if you have constant use at all times a year, of course, the cost goes up but it no way goes near $26,000 per mile.
Mr. HILL. Doesn't get to $26,500, does it?
Mr. KIEHL. No way.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Holmer, I'm just curious, has your group ever filed a formal statement with regard to a timber sale in support of it?
Mr. HOLMER. I don't recall that we have, we don't usually litigate or appeal timber sales, we tend to
Mr. HILL. Mr. Holmer, do you believe that the NEPA process requirements with regard to social and economic impacts are an important part of the process?
Mr. HOLMER. Yes.
Mr. HILL. And do you believe that the process that is being implemented now with the moratorium, where we're having open houses complies with the provisions that require an evaluation of social and economic impacts?
Mr. HOLMER. I'm probably not the best person to judge that.
Mr. HILL. OK, have you ever been in a Montana forest?
Mr. HOLMER. Yes, I have.
Page 256 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HILL. Which one?
Mr. HOLMER. I've been to the Highlight Canyon on the Gallatan National Forest and also the Crazy Horse Mountains.
Mr. HILL. Good. Can you identify for me in either of those two forests where flooding or landslides were directly associated with forest road constructions.
Mr. HOLMER. I don't have any instances to report from those forests, I know that
Mr. HILL. That's the one's I'm interested in. What percentage of the roads, of the 373,000 roads that are closed, what percentage of them, of the 373,000 miles of Forest Service roads, what percentage of those are closed today?
Mr. HOLMER. Well, at a Forest Service briefing I was told roughly 20 percent of the roads are closed at any one time, but it's not always the same 20 percent.
Mr. HILL. And do you know approximately how many acres are impacted by that?
Mr. HOLMER. I don't.
Mr. HILL. Mr. Dombeck in earlier testimony with regard to this, identified the Interior Columbia Basin Study as the principal area with which they obtained new science with regard to making the determination for the road moratorium, would you agree that that science has been valuable in this exercise?
Mr. HOLMER. Well, I really think it is and there is science from other regions of the country that also basically support the broad conclusion that roadless areas should be protected.
Mr. HILL. Are you aware of the fact that in the Interior Columbia that it calls for mechanical management, aggressive mechanical management in areas that are now considered roadless?
Page 257 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLMER. Well I think we would disagree with that. I think in terms of priorities it would make more sense to focus on the managed areas
Mr. HILL. No, I'm just asking if you were aware of the fact that that is identified in the science
Mr. HOLMER. Is that in the scientific assessment or is that in the draft alternative?
Mr. HILL. It's in the scientific assessment.
Mr. HOLMER. I'd have to review that.
Mr. HILL. Do you know what it costs per mile to maintain gravel Forest Service roads?
Mr. HOLMER. I've heard $500 per mile.
Mr. HILL. OK, and do you know what it costs per mile to obliterate a Forest Service road?
Mr. HOLMER. I've heard that that can vary tremendously depending on the landscape, if it's a steep slope, and how far the closures going to go, if it's just a gate
Mr. HILL. Do you have any idea of the range?
Mr. HOLMER. I've heard anywhere from, you know, $1,000 put a gate, to $12,000.
Mr. HILL. No, to obliterate the road?
Mr. HOLMER. Up to $12,000 a mile, I think.
Mr. HILL. $12,000 per mile.
Mr. HOLMER. Again, I'm not a Forest Service road engineer, I'm just relaying what I had a briefing by a Forest Service road engineer.
Mr. HILL. Can you identify any of the 104 sales that will be canceled as a consequence of this moratorium that were uneconomic, below-cost sales?
Page 258 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HOLMER. I have not seen the list.
Mr. HILL. OK, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. PETERSON. Any further questions. I would like to thank the panel members for their traveling here and their good testimony, and their, just being a good sport to take the good and easy and tough questions together, so thank all of you for part of process today, and God speed.
[Whereupon, at 1:35 p.m., the Committee adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.]
[Additional material submitted for the record follows.]
STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE DOMBECK, CHIEF, USDA FOREST SERVICE
Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to join you today to discuss the National Forest transportation system. What I have proposed is essentially a ''time-out'' on road building in roadless areas during which Congress, the Administration, and the American people can engage in a dialog about when and where roads will be built in our National Forests. We are going to develop a science-based forest transportation system that meets the needs of local people while minimizing, and reversing the adverse environmental effects erosion, landslides, and degradation of wildlife habitat and water quality roads often cause.
Let me outline my key objectives in developing this new policy. My first objective is to provide Forest Service managers with new scientific and analytical tools to make better, more informed decisions about when, where, and if new roads should be constructed. Second, we need to move quickly to decommission unnecessary and unused roads, as well as unplanned and unauthorized ''ghost roads.'' Third, we intend to improve forest roads, where appropriate, to respond to changing demands, local communities' access needs, and the growing recreation use of the National Forest System.
Page 259 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC This policy review is critical so we can focus our limited resources on the roads most in need. Finally, we intend to develop a road policy that allows us to ''catch up'' on our enormous backlog in road maintenance and reconstruction while meeting management objectives and access needs.
Roads Leave a Lasting Impact
The road network on the National Forest System is extensive and diverse. Many roads are essential for the active management of National Forest resources and provide many and varied benefits. They are critical to timber harvest, mineral extraction, livestock grazing and recreation access. They provide important access for fire control, law enforcement, search and rescue, wildlife habitat improvement, and research and monitoring. There is no question that the road network on our National Forest System serves, and will continue to serve, as a fundamental component for delivery of multiple use programs.
The simple fact is that the road system we have today is tremendously larger than what we can afford. Current funding is not sufficient to maintain all roads to the safety and environmental standards to which they were built. For example, we can only maintain 40 percent of the 373,000 miles to designated standards.
Building a road requires a short-term investment of revenue. Its maintenance over time, however, is a long-term financial commitment. The cost of delaying timely maintenance and reconstruction increases exponentially over time. For example, in Idaho, the road to Riverside Campground on the Targhee National Forest could have been chip-sealed a few years ago for about $22,000. Today it will cost more than $110,000. To reconstruct about five miles of Scout Mountain Road on the Caribou National Forest will cost $1.4 million. We could have preserved most of our investment by spending $100,000 five years ago.
Page 260 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In addition to the 373,000 miles of inventoried forest system roads, the Forest Service estimates that there are approximately 60,000 miles of roads that have been created by repeated usewe call them ''ghost roads''that are not managed or maintained by the agency as part of the forest road system.
While forest roads provide many benefits, they can also cause serious environmental damage. While new developments in road building technology result in fewer negative environmental effects, the environmental effects from existing roads are more extensive than previously thought. Road construction may cause increased frequency of flooding and landslides, and increased stream sedimentation, with associated reductions in aquatic habitat productivity and water quality. Roads may also fragment and degrade habitat for some wildlife species. Research indicates that reading may begin or accelerate the invasion of exotic plant species that ultimately displace native species and diminish the productivity of the land.
Public use of and demands on national forest resources have shifted considerably during the past 10 years. While there has been a decrease in timber harvesting and other commodity uses we have seen steadily increasing growth in the amount and type of recreation uses. Currently, more than 90 percent of the traffic using Forest Service roads is recreation-related. With this shift in public use has come changes in user expectations and access needs, requiring new approaches to decide which roads to close or leave open, and the appropriate standard and configuration of these roads.
Shifts in Resource Demands
The Forest Service must thoroughly review its road management policy and develop a comprehensive science-based policy for the future. This policy must be based on the changing resource demands and public use, coupled with the need to ensure that decisions on road building and maintenance are grounded in the best scientific information available. With these policies and procedures firmly established, local managers can decide where and how individual roads should be managed working with local people. The Forest Service needs to balance scientific information, public needs, and funding levels when determining the size, purpose, and extent of the future forest road transportation system.
Page 261 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC An essential element of this comprehensive overhaul of forest road policy is to develop improved analytical tools for land managers and resource specialists. To that end, agency researchers and specialists will develop an improved analysis process based on science and public involvement that ensures the ecological, social, and economic impacts of proposed construction and reconstruction of National Forest System roads are objectively evaluated, and that public demand on National Forest System roads is fully considered in the context of current scientific information. This analytical process will undergo an independent technical and scientific peer review before adoption.
This analytical process will not directly result in any land use changes that require amendments to land use plans for the National Forests. However, this process will be applied locally to determine where, when, and how roads will be constructed, reconstructed, or decommissioned.
Making Better Use with Limited Funds
In the last two decades, public interest in, and scrutiny of, the forest road system have increased dramatically. At the same time, resource uses on the national forests have shifted. It is our obligation as stewards of the public trust to consider adjustments in the management of the forest road system to respond to these changes and to better serve present and future management objectives in a more efficient manner. The existing road system on National Forest System lands was largely funded through the timber program and constructed to develop areas for timber harvesting and, to a lesser extent, for the development of other resources. Over the last decade, the timber program has been reduced significantly, resulting in less money being generated for road reconstruction and maintenance. We do not expect timber harvest levels to return to pre-1990 levels because of our more broad-based approach to forest management. Therefore, the Forest Service must identify sustainable funding sources for maintaining the forest road system in an environmentally sensitive manner that best meets the needs of local communities, other users, and visitors to the National Forest System. In the President's fiscal year 1999 budget we have begun to direct more funding to maintain and decommission roads. We will do so in a public forum where all interests can be heard.
Page 262 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In the Federal Register of January 28, 1998, the Forest Service provided advance notice of its intention to overhaul its road policies, and to change how the road system is developed, used, maintained, and funded. As part of this notice, the Forest Service proposed to temporarily suspend road construction and reconstruction in most unroaded areas of the National Forest System. This proposed temporary suspension would expire upon the application of the new and improved analysis tools or 18 months, whichever is sooner. The Forest Service is seeking public comment on both the proposed interim rule to temporarily suspend road construction/reconstruction in unroaded areas and the way the Forest Service road system is developed, used, and funded.
The deadline for public comment on the proposed interim rule was February 27, 1998. As a result of early public and Congressional comment, we intend to extend the comment period on the interim rule another 30 days. We also will hold a series of public forums across the nation to assure full public participation in the roads policy revision. As of February 20, 1998, we have received 2,450 comments on both the interim rule and the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, as well as opinions on road management. I ask that copies of the two Federal Register notices be placed in the record along with my statement.
Effects of the Proposed Road Policy
Under the proposed interim rule, a limited number of planned land management projects that depend on new road construction, such as timber sales, may not be implemented in the timeframe currently planned. During the interim period, some projects may proceed in an altered form, and some may be postponed until such time as the road assessment process is implemented. I want to emphasize that only new road construction or reconstruction within roadless areas is affected by our proposal. Other needed forest management activities, such as thinning, helicopter logging, and prescribed fire could continue so long as they do not require new road construction.
Page 263 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It is difficult to estimate with precision the costs and benefits associated with deferring projects due to considerable variation in site-specific factors. For instance; some projects are in various stages of development and planning and analysis often take longer to complete than originally anticipated. Some project work can be shifted to other sites outside unroaded areas.
Although the precise amounts are difficult to estimate, our initial analysis indicates that a minimal amount of timber volume offered would be affected, which may lead to a small reduction in payments to states. It is expected that timber sales in the Intermountain and Northern Regions of the National Forest System be affected more from the suspension than other geographic regions of the country, such as California, because of a higher reliance on unroaded areas for timber production in these regions.
While the delay in some projects may have some adverse economic impact in the short term, these impacts are offset by the benefits gained from the temporary suspension of road construction and reconstruction in the long term. The environmental benefits gained will assure critically important water quality in the headwater streams that are found in many of the unroaded areas. The development of a new road analysis process also would allow proposed and future projects requiring road construction to reflect current scientific information and resource use trends. This will help managers and the public better understand the consequences of locating and building roads in unroaded areas.
As to how this proposal can affect the payments to states program, you should be aware that in its 1999 budget, the Administration has proposed providing predictable, reliable payments to states based on a formula similar to one now used for counties under the Pacific Northwest Forest Plan. We believe it is far more preferable for counties to have predictable payments rather than being affected by fluctuations in timber demand and supply from our National Forests.
Page 264 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC
Madam Chairman, the Forest Service shares your concern for a transportation system that meets the needs of rural American. The Forest Service recognizes the need for a science-based process that enables us to manage our transportation system in a manner that minimizesand in some cases reversesenvironmental impacts that degrade wildlife habitat and water quality. Roads leave a lasting imprint on the landscape. What I have proposed is essentially a ''time-out'' on road building in many unroaded areas until Congress, the Administration, and the American people can engage in a constructive dialogue about when and where roads will be built in our National Forests. This hearing, together with the public comments on the proposed regulatory changes, is part of that dialogue.
That concludes my testimony Madam Chairman. I will be pleased to answer any questions the Subcommittee may have.
STATEMENT OF BRENT ATKIN, PRESIDENT, PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today.
The U.S. Forest Service's January 28th proposal to suspend road construction activities in all roadless and other ''special'' areas, while it spends 18 months analyzing and revising the National Forest System transportation regulations, looks to me like a thinly-veiled attempt to essentially create de facto wilderness areas outside of the process that Congress has established.
By law, roadless area decisions are dealt with in the forest planning process and wilderness area designations have been clearly spelled out by Congress. Many states have reached agreements and established wilderness areas under the existing framework. There will be no incentives for local people to try and work through the existing processes to deal with local roadless area issues when this ''one size fits all'' policy from Washington becomes effective.
Page 265 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Unfortunately, this proposal seems to be the latest example of this Administration's lack of interest in adhering to the statutory boundaries established by Congress. In my two years of service as President of the Public Lands Council, I have witnessed this ''administrative overreach'' several times: the Interior Department's 1994 Rangeland Reform regulations (several parts of which were enjoined by a Federal District Court as a result of a lawsuit by the Public Lands Council); the uproar caused by the President's creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and now this roadbuilding proposal.
As a rancher who utilizes forage from Federal lands as part of my family's ranching operation, I find it difficult to understand how a top-down approach to Forest Service roadbuilding is going to benefit either the resources or the local people whose jobs depend on industries that use resources from Forest Service lands.
What I do see happening for sure is that this action is going to generate more questions than answers which, in turn, will continue to add to the economic instability that we already have enough of. Until the Forest Service completes its review and issues new regulations about roads, I guess all we can do is speculate about how this will affect grazing, timber, mining and recreation Forest Service lands. I wonder how ranchers with Forest Service grazing permits in these new designated roadless areas are going to explain this proposal to their bankers?
I can understand the desire of the Forest Service to ensure that its process for building and maintaining roads is based on the best science to ensure that roadbuilding is done in the least-damaging way, but their proposal seems to be putting the cart before the horse. If the Forest Service intends on evaluating all its lands to determine which lands should even have roads, it is turning the whole notion of multiple use on its head. Many multiple use activities, such as timber, grazing, recreation, hunting, and camping, are just going to require a certain amount of roads in order to facilitate the activity, a very common sense conclusion.
Page 266 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC However, if roads are deemed to be ''inappropriate'' in a given area, then many multiple use activities will just not be able to take place. This is not the process that Congress has established for the Forest Service to make multiple use decisions. The decision to build, or not build, roads should be based on the multiple use needs of the specific location.
As it currently exists, this roadbuilding moratorium seems likely to have several negative impacts. Roadless areas with unnaturally high fuel loads will continue to be highly susceptible to fires; watershed restoration activities requiring access will not be able to occur; local economies dependent on access to forest resources will suffer more job losses; and it will undermine the ability of local foresters and communities to properly manage forests based on local conditions.
The Forest Service should withdraw its interim rule that places a moratorium on roadbuilding. It is not a necessary prerequisite for the Forest Service to be able to revise its roadbuilding regulations, and seems clearly designed to circumvent not only the multiple use decisionmaking process, but also the wilderness area designation process established by Congress.
If it does not withdraw the interim rule, at a minimum the Forest Service should eliminate the ''Special Areas'' categories (new 36 C.F.R. 212.13(a)(4) and (5)). This ''special areas'' authority would essentially allow Regional Foresters to prevent roadbuilding on every acre, not just roadless, of the National Forest System that has ''unique ecological characteristics or social values,'' which would result in yet more acres being off-limits to multiple use activities.
Thank you, Madam Chairman, for the opportunity to testify today.
STATEMENT OF HON. MIKE DOMBECK, CHIEF, USDA FOREST SERVICE
Page 267 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCMadam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for the opportunity to continue the discussion of the National Forest transportation system, and specifically, the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on H.R. 3297, a bill suspending the development of a ''roadless area policy'' on the National Forest System. The Department of Agriculture cannot support H.R. 3297.
This bill is clearly a response to my proposed interim rule which, if adopted, would suspend temporarily road construction in National Forest System roadless areas. To reiterate my testimony two weeks ago before this Subcommittee, what I have proposed is essentially a ''time-out'' on road building in roadless areas during which Congress, the Administration, and the American people can engage in a dialogue about when, where and if new roads will or should be built in our National Forests.
During the last hearing, the Subcommittee was concerned about the urgency which would cause me to take such a strong action, knowing that the action would be controversial.
I do not make such decisions lightly. I want to assure the Subcommittee, Madam Chairman, that I have several very strong reasons for proposing the suspension. The first was basic common sense. Recently, a citizen wrote, ''Chief, when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is put down the shovel.'' We presently have over a $10 billion backlog in maintenance and reconstruction on our arterial and collector roads. That's a $10 billion hole. These roads are the most heavily used and represent only about 20 percent of our forest road system. We can only guess at what our maintenance and reconstruction needs are on the other 80 percent of the system!
In addition, we are only presently maintaining about 40 percent of our roads to the safety and environmental standards to which they were built. In 1991, we rated 93,600 miles of roads as driveable by passenger cars. By last year, that number had fallen to 86,000 miles. I state these facts because they represent the ''hole'' that we find ourselves in.
Page 268 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Given the current situation, it simply does not make sense to construct new roads in roadless areas when we cannot take care of the road system we already have. Our proposal is designed to give us the time to develop new scientific tools that our managers can use to make more informed local decisions about when, and if, to construct new roads. So, we are putting down the new road shovel.
In addition to the common sense reasons, there are compelling scientific reasons to call for a timeout of road construction in roadless areas. There is strong scientific evidence that demonstrates the social and environmental values of roadless areas. Recent information from the Columbia River Basin demonstrate these values.
Only 7 percent of the degraded watersheds in the basin are found within roadless areas.
About 60 percent of the best aquatic habitats were found in roadless or very low road density areas.
Beyond common sense and sound science, there is also a fundamental taxpayer perspective which is important to me. Many people, including some taxpayer organizations, have said, ''look, don't spend any more of our money building something you may not need and that you definitely can't afford to maintain.'' Our fiscal year 1999 budget proposes a $10 million savings in road construction costs by temporarily taking a time out to just figure out how to best maintain and manage access on national forests within our limited budgets can save taxpayer dollars over the long term.
Choosing to build roads in areas not currently roaded is a dividing issue in many communities. I chose to pull that controversy in from the field and off the shoulders of the Forest Supervisors. While I support local decisionmaking, when I see an issue dividing the local public from community to community throughout the nation it deserves a national approach. I take very seriously our commitment to work in a collaborative manner with others. I also take very seriously our professional obligation to advance proposals based on the best available science.
Page 269 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me again outline my key objectives in developing this new policy. My first objective is to provide Forest Service managers with new scientific and analytical tools to make better, more informed decisions about when, where, and if new roads should be constructed. Second, we need to move quickly to decommission unnecessary and unused roads, as well as ''ghost roads.'' Third, we intend to improve forest roads, where appropriate, to respond to changing demands, local communities' access needs, and the growing recreation use of the National Forest System. While there may be some disagreement about how to achieve these goals, I believe that these objectives enjoy broad-based support.
Finally, I strongly believe that common sense, science, public accountability and fiscal responsibility all strongly support my decision to take a time out. This ''time-out'' is both logical and necessary.
At the last hearing, I committed to share the data the Forest Service has generated on the effects of the suspension. I asked each Forest to provide data on projects requiring road construction and reconstruction on certain lands in the National Forest System. We have received the requested data from each Forest and this information is included in the attached.
This data is a refinement of the previous data which appeared in the Federal Register. It shows that the planned timber sales within inventoried roadless areas affected by the suspension went down from a total of about 200 million board feet to about 100 million board feet. A 50 percent decrease from what we earlier assumed. In addition, we are still looking at other impacts of the suspension as to access the minerals and recreation. These numbers are still being validated with the regions.
Madam Chairman, I am well aware that my proposal to provide this road construction ''time-out'' has engendered adverse response on the part of some elected officials, organizations and individuals, mostly because of the possible reductions in timber harvesting and the reductions in more roadbuilding that the harvests would require. However, it has also gained much support from the broader public which sees their wildlands, wildlife and water quality jeopardized by more road building. To give everyone more of a chance to comment, we have extended the public comment period on the proposed draft Interim Rule. We also have scheduled public meetings all across the country to allow more opportunity for people to provide us their comments in writing or orally on both the proposed interim rule and in response to the advance notice of proposed rulemaking for revising our National Forest System transportation policy.
Page 270 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Between March 10 and March 26, the Forest Service is holding 25 meetings in the nine Forest Service regions. Regional Foresters will attend some of these meetings, but given the short time frame and the number of meetings, they may not be able to attend all of these. However, Forest Supervisors and other key staff will be present to listen to public comments. These comments will be recorded and included in the public comment review. In addition, a small number of public meetings are being added to respond to requests by Members of Congress, such as a meeting in Missoula, Montana, Pennsylvania and the Southeastern United States.
Madam Chairman, Representative Peterson and Members of the Subcommittee, to the extent that H.R. 3297 is intended to ensure full opportunities for the public participation in developing a short-term and long-term roads policy and in determining whether we should temporarily suspend road construction in National Forest roadless areas, we are in agreement. My approach to resolving this does include a lot of public participation. The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) governs rulemaking. Subsequent to publication of the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) and the draft Interim Rule, we have responded to the high level of interest in the proposal and to suggestions by you and other Members of Congress by extending the public comment period for the draft Interim Rule and by scheduling the public meetings for both the ANPR and draft Interim Rule. By following the requirements of APA, we have ensured public participation from the outset, especially by our choosing to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking rather than proceeding to a proposed rule that would comprehensively revise our roads policy.
H.R. 3297 would prohibit the Department of Agriculture from adopting a suspension of road construction rule unless we hold public meetings on every National Forest System unit and Regional Foresters would be required to participate in each of these meetings in order to adopt a final rule. These requirements are excessive in that they would require 120 meetings, stretching out the rule making timetable for at least 6-12 months, and add a significant cost to the taxpayer. The APA rulemaking process provides a structured process for public comment and we are following this process carefully to allow people to voice fully all of their concerns.
Page 271 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We do not believe that a public meeting on every National Forest is appropriate. The roads proposal is not an issue of great local public concern everywhere in the country. We do not believe it would be productive and cost effective to have that level of discussion everywhere. Again, we are holding 25 meetings to begin with and as the long-term roads policy develops, we will most likely hold more.
The bill directs the Forest Service to suspend the continued development of a roadless area policy on public domain units and other units of the National Forest System pending adequate public participation and determinations that a roadless area policy will not adversely affect forest health. While we fully support forest health, we find that the conditions in the bill for final approval of an interim roads policy are not consistent with the requirements for any other resource management decision. For example, if section (2)(B) were requisite for all decisions it might prohibit a wide array of activities (timber harvests, road construction, campgrounds, special use permits) that at some point preclude other activities. We have strongly supported the multiple use concept in our management of the public lands, but multiple use does not mean all uses on all lands at the same time. There is no reason these unique standards, which are different from the criteria on which we must base all other decisions, should be applied to this one decision.
We also find apparent inconsistencies between the stated goals of improving forest management and the conditions in this legislation. The road policy under this legislation would depend upon a Forest Service conclusion that the policy won't ''adversely affect (economically or otherwise)'' timber users, recreational users, State, county or local governments. This conclusion would have to be based solely on the public hearing, a practice which is contrary to all established practice and would likely require conclusions to match those of the most vocal minority or those who fear they have the most to lose by changing the status quo, rather than conclusions which reflect a balanced consideration of the facts and the interests of the taxpayers. We are also concerned that the conditions stated in section (2) are in conflict, which would hereafter permanently prevent any attempt to improve Forest Management.
Page 272 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In light of these concerns, the Department of Agriculture cannot support H.R. 3297. The APA provides adequate flexibility to address public participation, we have moved to broaden the public participation opportunities. I would ask you to allow us to follow existing law in determining whether we will proceed to adopt a temporary road construction suspension in roadless areas. I pledge that we will seriously consider all comments in deciding how to proceed.
Madam Chairman, that concludes my remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
STATEMENT OF HON. RON MARLENEE, CONSULTANT, GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS, SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL
Chairman Chenoweth and members of the Subcommittee:
Safari Club International, as an organization representing a broad spectrum of sportsmen, supports the intent on Congressman Peterson's bill.
I appear here today as the consultant for Governmental Affairs for Safari Club International. In my 16 years in Congress I served on the committees responsible for forest management in both the Agriculture Committee and the Resources Committee. I have seen good management and I have observed bad management. I have seen good proposals and bad proposals. The proposal to unilaterally close roads is a bad proposal for sportsmen and other recreational users. The proposal is so bad that it must have the dedicated professionals in the Forest Service shaking their head.
Because access on public lands is important to good game management and to sportsmen, we have to question if the proposal to eliminate access on public land is a political decision.
We have to question what happened to validity of the Forest Management Plans that everyone participated in and that the taxpayers spent hundreds of millions of dollars on.
Page 273 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC We have to ask if the Forest Service is repudiating the credibility and credentials of its personnel and the validity of its own findings. These were the professionals who evaluated watersheds, wildlife sensitive areas, recreational needs and validity of roadless and wilderness designations. The Forest Service does all of this prior to building a road or even establishing a trail.
We as sportsmen question the intent of a suddenly conceived or politically instigated concept that the bureaucracy must invoke a moratorium and involve themselves in a new round of evaluations of existing access to property owned by the general public.
If the Forest Service must persist in this duplicative effort, then sportsmen should have the opportunity to participate in hearings on every forest, just H.R. 3297 calls for. When ill feelings already exists about being defined access, to deny the opportunity for input is an insult to sportsmen, the elderly, the handicapped and the family oriented recreationist. We want to insure that this new effort does not further erode an already diminishing access to recreational opportunity on public lands.
Increasingly sportsmen are coming up against pole gates, gates, barriers and no motorized vehicles signs when they arrive at the edge of public property. They deserve to know how many miles have already been closed or lost before the Forest Service closes more.
We would suggest that this Committee amend the bill to require the Forest Service to provide data the local level on how many miles of roads have been closed in the past ten years and how many poles gates and barriers have been put up in the past ten years.
In an effort to justify further road closures the Forest Service implies that hunting in the forest system is having negative impact on wildlife. They contend that access has led to ''increased pressure on wildlife species from hunters and fishers.'' My experience has been that the Forest Service consults extensively with state wildlife agencies and that the jurisdiction of wildlife and hunting is primarily a state right and responsibility. Because the Forest Service allegation appears in their public document, because it impugns the role of hunting in conservation and because it denigrates the capability of state wildlife management, I would suggest this Committee require the Forest Service to name even one state wildlife agency that is not fulfilling their obligations. We know none and resent the fact that this ill thought out statement is being used to justify closures considerations that could be harmful to sportsmen and to wildlife management.
Page 274 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC The reason SCI is alarmed is that the public lands of the Forest Service are a destination for hunters in our country. Over 16 million days of hunting occurs annually in the National Forest. For many of these hunters and sportsmen the only opportunity to hunt is on public land. Safari Club International is committed to insuring access in the forest for this group of sportsmen. We are gratified to have worked with both Federal public land managers and State Fish and Game officials. We hope we can do so again in an attempt to find reasonable solutions.
STATEMENT OF STEVE HOLMER, CAMPAIGN COORDINATOR, WESTERN ANCIENT FOREST CAMPAIGN
The USDA Forest Service's proposed roadbuilding moratorium is a good first step towards improving management of National Forest roadless areas, but it falls short of President Clinton's statement that ''These unspoiled places must be managed through science, not politics.''
Roadless areas are critically important bow to people and wildlife. They provide clean drinking water, opportunities for recreation, wildlife habitat, and spawning grounds for fish. Many communities depend on the clean water as well as the recreation and tourism from unroaded forest areas. Recent studies in the Northwest, Sierra Nevada, Columbia Basin and Southern Appalachians have documented the ecological importance of these pristine areas. and the need for their protection.
Taxpayer subsidies for timber roads facilitate the logging of roadless areas which would otherwise be uneconomical to log, thus adding to the red ink from National Forest timber sales. Those losses totalled $502 million in 1996, according to economist Randall O'Toole. And with a $10.5 billion backlog of needed repairs and maintenance on the 433,000 mile forest road system, only 40 percent of the roads are being properly maintained. It doesn't make sense to continue expanding a road system that we cannot currently maintain.
Page 275 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Would the roads moratorium prohibit forest health treatments? Recent scientific studies to do not support either the need for treating roadless areas or the effectiveness of logging to reduce fire risk. The Columbia Basin Scientific Assessment concluded that roadless areas, not managed areas, are of the highest ecological integrity. According to Undersecretary of Agriculture Jim Lyons, ''Roads are the #1 threat to water quality on the National Forests.'' In addition, roads and logging are linked to increased landslides and flooding threatening lives and property. The Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project concluded that logging has actually increased fire risk by leaving flammable brush and changing the microclimate.
Would the moratorium deny access to our forests No. There is already an
extensive network of 433,000 miles of roads plus another 29,000 miles of county, state and Federal highways crisscrossing the National Forests. The Forest Service has indicated that 80 percent of all National Forest traffic is on 20 percent of the road system.
Would the moratorium invalidate the Forest Planning process? Regrettably, forest plan revisions have so far not adequately protected roadless areas. Two recently revised Forest Plans on the Black Hills NF and Rio Grande NF did not propose to protect any roadless lands.
A recent poll showed that 77 percent of Northwest voters believe that protecting pristine forest as wilderness is an effective means for safeguarding clean drinking water, salmon habitat and Ancient Forests. The roads moratorium is a step in the right direction, but the proposed Forest Service rule would exempt the Tongass National Forest, the forests under the Northwest Forest Plan, forests that have revised their plans, and many roadless areas of less than 5,000 acres.
A policy for roadless area management should end logging and roadbuilding in all inventoried roadless areas as well as in roadless areas of smaller size identified through an independent scientific assessment. Good stewardship of our National Forests requires that these last remaining wild places should be fully and permanently protected.
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Comments on H.R. 3297
The Western Ancient Forest Campaign opposes H.R. 3297 because it would unnecessarily delay the implementation of the proposed roadbuilding moratorium. The bill requires 156 public hearings attended by the Chief or Regional Forester plus the creation of 156 separate analysis. This delay will cause substantial environmental harm from numerous timber sales now planned in National Forest roadless areas. I would like to enter America's Wildlands at Risk, which documents fifty timber sales now threatening roadless areas, into the official hearing record.
We were satisfied with the moratorium's original 30-day public comment period because extensive public debate has taken place on the issue of timber roads over the past two years and our position of roadless area protection is well established. The additional 30 day comment period and twenty-five open houses around the nation are giving interested citizens more than sufficient opportunity to register their concerns. At the recent open house in Anchorage Alaska, sixty citizens chose to participate and submit comments. The agency allowed those present an overview of the comments received and fifty-nine of those comments were in favor of the proposed moratorium.
H.R. 3297 requires the Forest Service to determine that the moratorium will not adversely affect forest health. The best available science indicates the moratorium will help improve forest health by eliminating an activity that has been demonstrated to degrade watersheds with erosion and sediment, fragment wildlife habitat, and increase fire risks.
Past forest management that emphasized roadbuilding, logging, fire-suppression and grazing has caused substantial degradation of managed areas and it is in these areas that genuine restoration efforts should be undertaken, not in the roadless areas. According to Chief Dombeck, 87 percent of the areas at high risk of wildfire are in the managed areas, not the roadless areas.
Page 277 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC In closing, while the stated intent of this legislation to increase public participation is laudable, the bill's provisions are excessive in this case. It is encouraging that the original co-sponsors of this bill, who universally supported the Salvage Logging Rider which suspended the public's right of appeal and judicial review, have reversed course and are now supporting public involvement in forest management.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify.
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