SPEAKERS       CONTENTS       INSERTS    
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54–805 l

1999

HEARING ON CHAIRMAN'S DRAFT, H.R.——, ''THE COMMUNITY PROTECTION AND HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION ACT OF 1999,'' TO SAFEGUARD COMMUNITIES, LIVES, AND PROPERTY FROM CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRE BY AUTHORIZING CONTRACTS TO REDUCE HAZARDOUS FUELS BUILDUPS ON FORESTED FEDERAL LANDS IN WILDLAND/URBAN INTERFACE AREAS WHILE ALSO USING SUCH CONTRACTS TO UNDERTAKE FOREST MANAGEMENT PROJECTS TO PROTECT NONCOMMODITY RESOURCES

HEARING

before the

SUBCOMMITTEE ON FOREST AND FOREST HEALTH

of the

COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED SIXTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION

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FEBRUARY 9, 1999, WASHINGTON, DC

Serial No. 106–3

Printed for the use of the Committee on Resources

Available via the World Wide Web: http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/house
or
Committee address: http://www.house.gov/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
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HELEN CHENOWETH, Idaho
GEORGE P. RADANOVICH, California
WALTER B. JONES, Jr., North Carolina
WILLIAM M. (MAC) THORNBERRY, Texas
CHRIS CANNON, Utah
KEVIN BRADY, Texas
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
MARK E. SOUDER, Indiana
GREG WALDEN, Oregon
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina
MIKE SIMPSON, Idaho
THOMAS G. TANCREDO, Colorado

GEORGE MILLER, California
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
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OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
FRANK PALLONE, Jr., New Jersey
CALVIN M. DOOLEY, California
CARLOS A. ROMERO-BARCELÓ, Puerto Rico
ROBERT A. UNDERWOOD, Guam
PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
ADAM SMITH, Washington
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
CHRIS JOHN, Louisiana
DONNA CHRISTIAN-CHRISTENSEN, Virgin Islands
RON KIND, Wisconsin
JAY INSLEE, Washington
GRACE F. NAPOLITANO, California
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
MARK UDALL, Colorado
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York

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

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JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
JOHN T. DOOLITTLE, California
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
JOHN PETERSON, Pennsylvania
RICK HILL, Montana
BOB SCHAFFER, Colorado
DON SHERWOOD, Pennsylvania
ROBIN HAYES, North Carolina

PATRICK J. KENNEDY, Rhode Island
DALE E. KILDEE, Michigan
OWEN B. PICKETT, Virginia
RON KIND, Wisconsin
GRACE F. NAPOLITANO, California
TOM UDALL, New Mexico
MARK UDALL, Colorado

JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
————— —————
————— —————

DOUG CRANDALL, Staff Director
ANNE HEISSENBUTTEL, Legislative Staff
JEFF PETRICH, Minority Chief Counsel

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C O N T E N T S

    Hearing held February 9, 1999

Statements of witnesses:
Coufal, Jim, President, Society of American Foresters
Prepared statement of
Coulombe, Mary, Director, Timber Access and Supply, American Forest and Paper Association
Prepared statement of
Hill, Barry, Associate Director, Resources Community and Economic Development Division, General Accounting Office
Prepared statement of
Payne, Larry, Assistant Deputy, State and Private Forestry, United States Forest Service
Prepared statement of

Additional material supplied:
Text of H.R. ———
Briefing Paper

Communications received:
Forestry, Journal of, ''Where the FOREST Meets the CITY''

HEARING ON CHAIRMAN'S DRAFT, H.R. ——, ''THE COMMUNITY PROTECTION AND HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION ACT OF 1999,'' TO SAFEGUARD COMMUNITIES, LIVES, AND PROPERTY FROM CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRE BY AUTHORIZING CONTRACTS TO REDUCE HAZARDOUS FUELS BUILDUPS ON FORESTED FEDERAL LANDS IN WILDLAND/URBAN INTERFACE AREAS WHILE ALSO USING SUCH CONTRACTS TO UNDERTAKE FOREST MANAGEMENT PROJECTS TO PROTECT NONCOMMODITY RESOURCES
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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1999
House of Representatives,    
Subcommittee on Forests    
and Forest Health,
Committee on Resources,
Washington, DC.
    The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 2 p.m. in Room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Helen Chenoweth [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. The Subcommittee on Forest and Forest Health will come to order.
    Before we formally move any further, I want to introduce to you the new members of this Committee. Mr. Duncan is one of our senior members on the Resources Committee. He's subcommittee chair in charge of aviation on the Transportation Committee, and it is an honor for us to have him sharing his place on the Forests and Forest Health Subcommittee. Mr. Duncan comes from Tennessee.
    Mr. Wayne Gilchrest comes from Maryland, and I have served with Mr. Gilchrest for 4 years now on the Resources Committee. He brings to us some very critical thinking and astuteness that I look forward to working with him on.
    Mr. Hill, from Montana, of course, is one of our members who was with us last year. Welcome back, Rick Hill. And Mr. Sherwood from Pennsylvania. He's been involved in forestry business for a long time. And we're thrilled to have another Pennsylvanian on this Committee. And Mr. Robin Hayes from North Carolina. Again, really thrilled to have Mr. Robin Hayes on the Committee and look forward to all that you will add.
    So I want to welcome all of these new members to the Committee. I look forward to having our Democrat members with us at the next hearing. Likely we will be having a hearing when there will be votes called. We won't be voting today until 6 p.m., so I think that we hopefully will be able to move through this hearing without too many interruptions.
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    The Subcommittee, as you know, is meeting today to hear testimony on the Community Protection and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Act of 1999. Now, under rule 4(g) of the Committee rules, oral opening statements of the hearings are limited to the Chairman and the Ranking Minority Member.
    Since the Ranking Minority Member, Mr. Pat Kennedy, is not here today, the gentleman from Rhode Island, we will accept his opening statement in a written form. But this will allow us to hear from our witnesses sooner and help members keep to their schedules. Therefore, if any other members have statements, we would welcome them to be included in the hearing record under unanimous consent.
    According to the Forest Service, large areas of national forests in the interior West are in very poor health. Symptoms include tree stands that are too dense with crowded small trees, undergrowth and accommodated dead materials on the ground, and also the composition of trees has changed, with an increasing amount of fire intolerant trees replacing the more fire resistant species.
    The incidences of epidemic disease and insect infestation has also dramatically increased. In my district alone, hundreds of thousands of acres of forests have been devastated by a fur beetle outbreak. Aggressive and active forest management is needed at this time immediately to combat this infestation.
    In these dense stands where many small, dead and dying trees often form fuel ladders to the crowns of larger trees, wildfires have become large, intense and catastrophic. Catastrophic wildfires compromise the Forest Service's ability to implement congressional directives to manage national forests for multiple uses and for the sustained yield of renewable resources. These wildfires damage water supplies, adversely affect ambient air quality and destroy fish and wildlife habitat.
    Also, the damage caused by catastrophic wildfires to the soil sustainability reduces the ability of the land to support future stands of trees and greatly increases the potential for massive soil erosion. In addition, catastrophic wildfires pose hazards to human health, safety, and property. At the beginning of the century, a clear delineation existed between the urban centers and what was considered rural America. Now this no longer exists, because over time cities have grown into suburbs and suburbs have blended into what was once considered rural.
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    This complex landscape has come to be known as the wildland/urban interface, forests and grasslands which are intermixed with housing, businesses, farms and other developments, posing new challenges for fire management and suppression.
    From fiscal year 1986 through fiscal year 1994, the 10-year rolling average of and costs for fighting fire grew from $134 million to $335 million, or by 150 percent. It is now approaching $1 billion annually. In 1996, wildfires burned over 6 million acres and cost nearly $1 billion to fight. While not the biggest fire season ever—in 1930 over 52 million acres were scorched—but the 1996 fire season is regarded by many fire experts as the most severely impacting.
    The largest contributing factor to this consensus was the fire intensity caused by the accumulated fuel buildup. According to a GAO report, congressional efforts to reduce these buildups are a race against time, and I quote, ''before damage from uncontrollable wildfires becomes widespread.'' The fires in Florida last year were a reminder of the serious nature of this problem.
    In the 105th Congress I introduced H.R. 2458, the Community Protection and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Act, to address reducing catastrophic wildfires that occur as a result of hazardous fuels buildup. I am not introducing that bill today, but rather a working draft of that bill, as I am interested in getting everyone's input. We have the ability, we have the technology and the obligation to resolve this issue. We simply need the political will, and I believe this legislation is a small, but much needed step in the right direction, and I will look forward to working with interested members from both sides as we move this bill forward.
    Before I move on to introduce the first panel, I do want to notice Ann Bartuska, who is here today with the Forest Service. I would like to recognize Ann and congratulate her for her new appointment as Director of Forest Management. Ann comes to this position with many years of experience, and I have worked with her and have great respect for her, and I look forward to working with Ann to find solutions to many of the problems that we face in our national forests. We welcome you, Ann.
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    Now I would like to introduce the first panel of witnesses. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. Barry Hill, Associate Director of the General Accounting Office. He is Resources Community and Academic Development Division head at the GAO.
    As explained in our first hearing, it is the intention of the chairman to place all outside witnesses under oath, and this is a formality of the Committee that is meant to assure open and honest discussion, and you have been before us so many times, Mr. Hill, you do understand this. It doesn't affect the testimony that is given. And I believe that all of the witnesses were informed of this before appearing here today and they have each been provided a copy of the Committee rules.
    Now, Mr. Hill, please rise. Raise your right hand. I will administer the oath.
    [Witness sworn.]
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. Mr. Hill, will you introduce your associate, please?
    Mr. HILL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. With me today is Chet Joy, who led our work on this project, and we also have to my right Charlie Egan and to my left Ross Campbell, who will be helping us with the charts that we will be showing today.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill, we will direct questions to you, and then you can call on whomever you wish.

STATEMENT OF BARRY HILL, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, RESOURCES COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIVISION, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
    Mr. HILL. Thank you. Thank you. It is a pleasure to appear again before this Subcommittee today to discuss our observations on the threat that national forest catastrophic wildfires pose to nearby communities in the interior West. If I may, I would like to briefly summarize my prepared statement and submit the full text of the statement for the record.
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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection, so ordered.
    Mr. HILL. I would like to begin my statement with a brief clip of a videotape provided to us courtesy of the Learning Channel.
    [Videotape.]
    Madam Chairman, this videotape illustrates what we believe is a very serious problem in the interior West, the dangers that arise when population and catastrophic wildfire exist together. This afternoon we will discuss what the problem is and why it exists, what is being done about it and what are the barriers to effective action. Let me start by discussing what the problem is.
    The Forest Service estimated in 1995 that about 39 million acres or about one-third of these forests are at high risk of catastrophic wildfires. Experts have estimated that the window of opportunity to take action before widespread damage occurs is only about another 10 to 25 years.
    On the basis of the best available information, efforts to resolve this problem by the year 2015, the midpoint of that window, may cost as much as $12 billion or about $725 million per year. However, the Forest Service's current plan to do so may leave as many as 10 million acres still at high risk at that time.
    The interior West region we are talking about is the dry inland portion of the western United States shown on the map to my left. For those of you who may not be able to clearly see these exhibits, they are also included as appendices to my formal statement.
    There are many reasons why national forests in this region are in their current state. Historically the region's lower elevation forests were subject to frequent, low intensity fires. The location of these frequent fires which are generally dominated by ponderosa pine are depicted in the exhibit to the right. Frequent fire generally kept the trees in these forests few in number and their undergrowth sparse, as shown in our next exhibit, which is a 1909 photograph of a ponderosa pine stand in the Bitterroot National Forest in Idaho.
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    Many past human activities, including some prior to Forest Service management, eliminated these frequent fires. As a result, tree stands have become much more dense, as shown by our exhibit here on the right, which is a photograph taken from the identical spot 80 years later in 1989. The most significant contributor to this increase in tree stand density has been the agency's decades old policy of suppressing wildfires.
    Our next exhibit shows the change since 1910 in the number of acres burned annually by wildfires in national forests, over 90 percent of which occurred in the interior West. You will notice that for about 75 years, fire suppression was very successful. However, in 1984, this turned around, and since then the number of acres burned annually has been increasing. The reason for this is because the increased stand density also caused increases in less fire tolerant species of trees, resulting in high accumulation of fuels for fires.
    Because of these accumulated fuels, fires are now much more likely to become large, intense and catastrophic wildfires. The increase in the number of large fires since 1984, and in the number of acres that they burn, which has more than quadrupled, is shown in our next exhibit. Since 1990, 91 percent of these large fires and 96 percent of the acres burned were in the interior West.
    A 1998 estimate of the locations of forests in the interior West that are at medium or high risk of catastrophic wildfires are shown in our next exhibit. Especially troubling are the hazards that these large fires pose to human health, safety and property, especially along the boundaries of forests where population has grown rapidly in recent years.
    Our next exhibit shows the recent population growth in this so-called wildland/urban interface. Areas shown in blue are counties where the population grew at a rate faster than average. You will notice that these areas are often concentrated around the national forests, which are shown in green. In addition, as shown in our next two exhibits, the costs to both prepare for and to fight these increasing numbers of catastrophic wildfires are also increasing rapidly, largely because of the higher costs in interface areas.
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    As these exhibits show, the average annual cost of fighting fire grew from $134 million in 1986 to $335 million in 1994, or by about 150 percent. 95 percent of these costs were incurred in the interior West. Moreover, the costs associated with preparedness increased from $189 million in 1992 to $326 million in 1997.
    It should be clear, Madam Chairman, that many communities adjacent to the national forests in the interior West face serious wildfire threats.
    The Forest Service has taken several steps to address this situation. It has refocused its fire management program to increase the number of acres on which to undertake fuels reduction activities and has restructured its budget to better ensure that funds are available to carry out this important work. The Congress has supported the agency in this task by increasing funds for fuels reduction and authorizing a multiyear interagency program to better assess problems and solutions, as well as demonstration projects to test alternative approaches for reducing fuels.
    However, we believe these efforts may fall short, partly because the agency's current plans will require it to continue devoting substantial resources to maintaining conditions on other forests that are currently at lower risk of fire. Moreover, it appears to us that the Forest Service does not yet have a cohesive strategy for overcoming four major barriers to reducing accumulated fuels.
    The first of these barriers is that all methods for reducing fuels can adversely affect achievement of other agency stewardship objectives. For instance, the use of controlled fires to reduce accumulated fuels is limited by the possibility that such fires often might get out of control and by the effects on air quality and the smoke from these fires. Alternatively, mechanical removal of fuels, including through timber harvesting, is also limited by its adverse effects on watersheds and wildlife.
    Second, both the agency's fuels reduction program and its timber program contains incentives that tend to focus efforts on areas that do not present the greatest fire hazards.
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    Third, the agency's timber sale and other contracting procedures are not designed for removing vast quantities of material with little or no commercial value. The final barrier to be overcome is the high costs of removing accumulated fuels. Fuel reduction activities are expensive and will likely have to continue indefinitely.
    In conclusion, Madam Chairman, the increasing number of uncontrollable and often catastrophic wildfires in the interior West and the growing risks they pose to human health, safety, property and infrastructure present difficult policy decisions for the Forest Service and the Congress.
    Does the agency request and does the Congress appropriate the hundreds of millions of dollars annually that may be required to fund an aggressive fuels reduction program? What priority should be established? How can the need to reinforce fire into these frequent fire forests best be reconciled with air quality standards and other agency stewardship objectives? What changes in incentives and statutorily defined contracting procedures will facilitate the mechanical removal of low value materials?
    These decisions should be based on a sound strategy. That strategy in turn depends on data being gathered under the Forest Service's and the Department of Interior's joint fire science program to be conducted over the next decade and subsequently integrated into individual forest plans and projects. However, many experts argue that the agency and Congress are in a race against time and that the tinderbox that is now the interior West simply cannot wait that long. Taking aggressive, strategic agency actions now would likely cost less than just allowing nature to take its inevitable course.
    Madam Chairman, this concludes my prepared statement. We would be pleased to respond to any questions that you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Hill may be found at end of hearing.]

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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill. That was very interesting testimony.
    Mr. HILL. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. And I want to congratulate you again on such a fine presentation.
    The Chair recognizes Mr. Duncan for questioning. And I want to remind members that Committee rule 3(c) imposes a 5-minute limit on questions. So we will be operating the lights. Thank you.
    Mr. Duncan.
    Mr. DUNCAN. Well, Madam Chairman, as you know, I am a little under the weather today, so I am not going to ask a lot of questions or say a lot today, and I don't have any questions at this point. But I do want to take this opportunity to say how pleased I am to be on this Subcommittee. I noticed in the last Congress, with great interest, that you conducted a very active and very interesting Subcommittee in the last Congress, and you and I have been good friends ever since you first got here. So I am very pleased to be serving with you.
    I read a few days ago in the Knoxville News Sentinel that the amount of land in private and commercial forests in Tennessee was now 50 percent; a little over 13 million acres. And that doesn't count where we have in my—I have a mainly urban-suburban district, but I also have the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and the Cherokee National Forest and other areas similar to that in my district.
    So I am very much looking forward to and interested in serving on what I feel is a very, very important Subcommittee, and I thank you very much.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Gilchrest, for questioning.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Madam Chairman, and I, too, appreciate being on the Subcommittee. I don't have a full range of forest acreage like we have seen on these charts and graphs in the State of Maryland, but it seems that every year I deal on at least the House floor with forestry issues, and so this is an attempt to be a more astute observer of these conditions and what Congress is attempting to do with these beautiful lands around the country.
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    So I am here to learn a lot, Madam Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to serve on the Committee. And you come from a rather jewel of a state, Idaho, where I spent a little time in the Boom Mountains between the Moose Creek River and the Lochsa River near Powell Ranger Station, a little place called Elks Summit, and it would be my goal to get back there again before the sun sets on my career in Congress. So maybe we can.
    I just have three quick questions. One is, does GAO have any recommendations—you made a statement in here that one of the problems of dealing with this fire situation between the wildlands and the urban centers is; if you burn it EPA might not allow permits based on Clean Air Act regulations. What is the status of that?
    And your recommendation to the Forest Service, burn when conditions are favorable to burn. You can't burn, I guess, when the forests is filled with 6 feet of snow, but neither do you want to burn in the forest when it is 100 degrees outside and everything is dry. So do you have any recommendations in that area?
    The second question is, it seems that you said that the Forest Service—I think I got this right—has more of a tendency to focus on areas where there is high value commercial timber, rather than real areas that are fire hazards.
    And the third question is, well, you have—you mentioned the fourth barrier that must be overcome in developing a cohesive strategy for undertaking effective fuel reduction efforts is their high costs. And if you could just address that.
    Mr. HILL. Okay. Let's start with the recommendations. We are finishing up work on an ongoing job we have in this issue, and we are planning to issue a report in the spring, probably in the April time frame and at that time we will have recommendations. We don't have any right now, because we are still waiting on some work that the Forest Service is doing regarding their plans for updating their estimate and developing a strategy and a priority in terms of how they are going to go about attacking the problem here.
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    So the recommendations that we will be presenting in that report will be more in the lines of things I think the Forest Service has to consider or factors that have to be incorporated in any plan or strategy they have. And, certainly, paramount to anything that is done here is something that we did see in the draft bill, was basically just getting a handle on where are these high-risk areas, where are the areas of the high-risk forest versus the urban interface, and then having them develop some type of a plan or a strategy for how are we going to focus whatever efforts we do and target the work that they do to clear out some of the undergrowth and the fuel that is on the forest floor in order to mitigate or minimize the problem.
    Mr. JOY. I am just going to say, as Mr. Hill said, that that is probably the critical thing. And although we aren't commenting on the bill per se because it is not a bill yet, nonetheless, that is a critical aspect of it, which the Forest Service I guess later this month will be addressing. And once we have that in hand I think, as Mr. Hill said, we will be able to address that.
    The other point you brought up about the Clean Air Act and the EPA, is that right now the Forest Service and EPA are in sort of a 3-year experiment to look at different ways of handling that issue of smoke, and presumably——
    Mr. GILCHREST. Does there seem to be any flexibility? You have this huge danger of forest fires. One of the ways of getting rid of it is controlled burns, one of the obstacles to control burns is the Clean Air Act. When you burn the forest, smoke goes up, it has got to be different than what is coming out of a back of a car. I mean this stuff, it is particles.
    Mr. JOY. It has smaller particulate matter, which the 2.5 micron thing—as stated earlier, persons in the Forest Service that we have spoken with and visited over the last year and a half in several forests—and they have all indicated that it is going to be very difficult to figure out a way around that or to figure out a way to make the two work together. But, you know, mother nature doesn't file with the EPA, and so that is another issue.
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    With regard to focusing on the high value timber areas, it is true, as I think as our statement says, that one of those barriers is that there are two programs essentially, program areas, that deal with this problem of fuels. One is the timber program for mechanical removing, another is the fuels reduction program, which involves both mechanical removals and is for the controlled burning you mentioned, Congressman Gilchrest.
    Now, the difficulty with both of those is that the Forest Service has a goal for getting a lot of acres done under the appropriated fund for fuels reduction. It is only human nature, as the forest people at the ground level tell us, to go do the easy acres first, as many as you can, and that means doing less expensive ones. The ones around the urban areas are very expensive, so they are not getting to those.
    Under the timber program, there's also an incentive to not focus on the most difficult ones, that is, the most hazardous ones. The timber program has to pretty much try and pay for itself so it has to get larger timber out. That is not often the kind of material involved here.
    The last question about cost is that if you have to get rid of an awfully lot of material that has been accumulating, as carbon on the surface for many, many years, and it is not particularly valuable commercially, then we face a real challenge here of where does the money come from.
    And we have an estimate in our testimony. The CRS made a somewhat different, more limited, type one. We estimated the total. All of those numbers are pretty much in the ballpark. And they are a lot bigger than anybody currently in any form is contemplating spending at either end of the avenue to date, so far as I know.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Gilchrest.
    Mr. Sherwood.
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    Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you, Madam Chairman. I am very delighted to be on this Committee and it is—I know you might be a little interested in the fact that we now have two Pennsylvanians. But Mr. Peterson and I represent the area that grows the finest hardwood saw logs in the world. We have the northern beech, birch, oak, maple, Pennsylvania black cherry. And so my experience has been around people who manage hardwood forests for profit, and they have to pay all the taxes and comply with all the laws, and they try to manage their forests over a long period of time. A hardwood forest is a long cycle, and yet they are able to do that and do their culling and their timber standing improvement with the revenues that are generated from the sale of the timber, and that would be the focus on my question.
    I understand that the material that you need to remove to prevent fire in the urban/wilderness interface area is of very little or of no value. But the Forest Service owns a hugely valuable resource in their timber. And it would—I would like to have someone talk to me about their ability to manage their timber, so that it would bring in enough revenue to also solve the problems that being the largest landowner in the country entails.
    Mr. HILL. That is a difficult question. Let me see if I can provide some meat to it. The problem you have here is exactly as you state, the material we are talking about is of low or no value basically. And the way the timber program is set up, you designate a sale area, you go in there and you harvest the timber, and there are various funds that the Forest Service has for going back and restoring those sale lands. And that seems to work rather well in a sale area.
    Unfortunately, the bulk of—the majority of this problem lies outside of designated sale areas where those funds really can't be used to clear out the undergrowth. That is where the cost comes in. The question always come up, why not use the timber program to help solve the problem, and to some extent that can be done. However, the problem is so large that you cannot rely on the timber program for doing the job.
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    The numbers that we have show that timber sales were used to basically clear about 95,000 acres, which is less than 5 percent of what they would need to do on a yearly basis in order to solve the problem. So although there's an opportunity there for using the timber program to help resolve some of this problem, it is not the sole solution. There's a lot of other things that would need to be done in order to resolve it in the long run.
    Mr. JOY. Congressman, if I might just add, it is not—I think it is agreed and I think we have stated that timber can be a useful mechanism for reducing fuel. One of the difficulties here is, though, that the forests have a number of other required uses by law, for wildlife, fish, et cetera, that limit the amount of timber that can be taken because of effects on them, and that is one aspect of it. And this second aspect of it—that limits how much you can expand it.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. I understand it. I am not for wholesale cutting to the timber, but all healthy forests have to be harvested from time to time. And I would think that there would be so much timber value that we would have money left over. And that is what—as I become a little more involved in this, that is the figure I would like to see addressed for the—or the theory I would like to see addressed.
    Mr. JOY. Noted.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Sherwood.
    I do want to assure the members of the Committee that my bill covers the national forests all over the Nation. And so I am just really thrilled to welcome our eastern members into the Committee, because indeed this bill will affect your—whatever national forests that you have in your state. It is a 5-year pilot program, and we will allow testing in also the eastern states, too.
    Mr. Hill, in your testimony, you said that there was 39 million acres or nearly 40 million acres that are considered very vulnerable to high risk catastrophic wildfires. You also had a display that showed a lot of red, and I noticed, could we see that display again? There was a concentration of the red in Idaho.
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    Mr. HILL. Northern Idaho.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. That had gotten my attention in northern Idaho.
    Mr. HILL. Yes, it does.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes. Is that representive?
    Mr. JOY. Yes, Madam Chairman, that is the area that has been designated as—identified as being a high risk of catastrophic fire.
    But there is, Madam Chairman, one thing I would want to point out. This is not a map prepared by the Forest Service, nor it is by us either, but by in fact an outside organization, a private consultant for foresters. The Forest Service, as you know, is going to be presenting some other maps. I presume they won't look terribly different from this, however.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. All right. For the record would you mind identifying the outside source?
    Mr. JOY. Yes, that was, and I believe he has spoken before this Committee himself for the group, a study which was headed by, among others, Neil Sampson, who had testified here before, Dr. Neil Sampson.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Fine, thank you.
    Mr. Hill, does the agency have a good understanding of where the boundaries of the wildland/urban interface really are, in your opinion?
    Mr. HILL. Not at this time. They are currently studying that situation right now, and they are in the process of defining what the urban interface is and mapping it. And the last we heard they had not even settled on a final approach yet in terms of how they were going to do this. But supposedly they will at least have a proposed approach in place, we expect by this spring.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Good. I look forward to that.
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    Mr. HILL. We do, too.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Hill, the GAO has reported extensively concerning the lack of accountability within the Forest Service. Is this concern just financial in nature, or does it apply to the forest health concerns you testified to as well?
    Mr. HILL. I think it applies to everything. Accountability to us just—I mean, certainly there has been a lot of emphasis and focus placed on the financial management accountability problems that the Forest Service has. But I think there's also a problem that we pointed out in the past in terms of performance accountability. Being held accountable for what funds you are receiving and how you are spending those funds and what you are accomplishing with those funds.
    And I think that is a problem that we documented quite heavily in the past and in numerous Forest Service programs and areas.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. I think I saw a release today where we are in the hole $45 million on our timber funds. And I look forward to being a sustained unit within the Forest Service, the timber fund, once again, hopefully. I am an eternal optimist and I look forward to that happening again.
    Mr. JOY. Madam Chairman, in further response to your question about performance accountability, this is again where I think what Mr. Hill pointed out was so important—to have a good definition of where the wildland/urban interface is and what the hazards are within that so you can prioritize and establish some performance measures for what you are accomplishing; that is, how much are fuels being reduced where.
    Without those kinds of performance measures being very well-defined, then it is very difficult to tell whether progress is being made. And that is why our concern on that point. And there are lots of things you can buy with $45 million besides the value of the timber.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. That is right. Very well stated.
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    I want to ask you, gentlemen, do you have anything else you would like to add for the record?
    Mr. HILL. No, not at this time. But we are certainly looking forward to issuing our final report in early April, and that will paint the complete picture and provide recommendations.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. I was advised by Mr. Crandall, our director on the staff, that it would be available in April and I am really looking forward to it.
    Again, I want to thank you for your very valuable testimony. And at this time, this panel is excused.
    Mr. HILL. Thank you.
    Mr. JOY. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. I will introduce our second panel of witnesses now as we are readying the table.
    Mr. Jim Coufal, President of the Society of American Foresters; Mary Coulombe, director, Timber Access and Supply, American Forest and Paper Association. Welcome.
    Now if the witnesses will please stand and raise your right hand, I will administer the oath.
    [Witnesses sworn.]
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Let me remind the witnesses that under our Committee rules they must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes, but that your entire statements will appear in the record.
    The chairman now recognizes Mr. Coufal to testify.

STATEMENT OF JIM COUFAL, PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
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    Mr. COUFAL. Thank you, Madam Chairman. My name is Jim Coufal, and I am President of the Society of American Foresters. With your permission I will summarize our statement and then hand in a written statement.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
    Mr. COUFAL. Your opening statement and then the statement from Mr. Hill have very well painted the picture of the situation, the steps that had been taken, some of the problems that still exist, and so my comments will be relatively brief, because that has been so well done before me.
    I just want to say, first that the Society of American Foresters is a membership organization of nearly 18,000, and it constitutes the scientific and educational association representing the broad profession of forestry in the United States. SAF's primary objective is to advance the science, technology, education and practice of professional forestry for the benefit of society. Our preamble and code of ethics says that stewardship of the land is the cornerstone of our profession. So we are concerned with the biological situation.
    We also have a cannon that says we are ethically bound to advocate and practice land management consistent with ecologically sound principles, and this is all in the context of service to society, which I will probably mention again.
    I am especially pleased to be here today and I thank the Subcommittee for its continued support for the profession of forestry, and thank you, Madam Chairman, for this opportunity.
    I will make four brief points. And I think another reason for being brief will be apparent in the first point. The first point is this; that in September of 1997 the SAF provided comments on an earlier version of this bill. You and your staff have addressed our concerns and have produced a bill that SAF supports. Working together we believe has produced an improved bill, and again we thank you for that opportunity and look forward to future work together.
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    The forests and communities that are the focus of the bill are too important to be embroiled in partisan politics. We believe this bill is a good faith effort to address a very serious problem and hope that it will attract bipartisan support.
    The second point, the Forest Service estimates that from 39 to 40 million acres of forestland are at risk from catastrophic events, as we have earlier heard. We know that the agency is producing risk maps of the sort we have seen to describe the location of these areas and we eagerly await having that material in our hands so we can further analyze the situation.
    We believe that the current proposed bill provides an important tool to address some of those problems. The legislation provides an innovative funding mechanism, one that allows using the proceeds from harvesting activities solely designed to reduce hazardous fuels to perform other forest management activities that often cannot pay for themselves, the kind we also heard about earlier.
    We also believe the bill allows the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management the flexibility to make long-term investments in the forest while reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire. And long-term investments is a very important point. Forests are not 1-year ventures or 2-year ventures but 80 or 100 or 200 years.
    Additionally we believe the bill focuses on the wildland/urban interface, recognizing all the other areas, but we think this an area that deserves great attention since human lives and human property are at risk.
    Point three, the bill also seems consistent with aspects of SAF's upcoming report on the national forests and public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, a scholarly report that will be available in approximately 5 or 6 weeks, which we would be happy to share with you, Madam Chairman, and the Committee.
    While this report will address a range of issues surrounding the management of national forests, public lands, it will very likely recommend that Congress set clear and appropriate goals for these agencies, but the land managers be given appropriate decision, discretion, to implement those goals, and that Congress ought to find innovative funding mechanisms to support these kinds of activities.
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    We believe this bill addresses all three of those issues appropriately, even if it is a pilot bill, and perhaps the first step towards greater things.
    Fourth, the bill is one tool to address the problem. The Forest Service and the BLM will need other tools and significant funding over a sustained period to address the hazardous fuels buildup in the national forests and public lands. Although this legislation is a welcome step in the right direction, the proceeds from these hazardous fuels reduction sales will not be enough to address all aspects of a very serious issue.
    The Congressional Research Service study estimated that the costs of reducing these fuel loads would be about $3.5 billion. The cost of reducing hazardous fuels and investing in these lands are quite high. The costs of doing nothing can be much higher.
    Thank you for the opportunity to testify, and we will also be providing a—and have provided copies of the October 1997 issue of the Journal of Forestry, which addresses wildland/urban fire issues, and I would be pleased to answer any questions. Thank you.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Coufal may be found at the end of the hearing.]
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Coufal.
    Madam, Mrs. Coulombe. We welcome your testimony.

STATEMENT OF MARY COULOMBE, DIRECTOR, TIMBER ACCESS AND SUPPLY, AMERICAN FOREST AND PAPER ASSOCIATION
    Ms. COULOMBE. Good afternoon, Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for this opportunity to provide the views of the American Forest and Paper Association on this working draft of the Community Protection and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Act.
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    I am Mary Coulombe, Director of Timber Access and Supply for the American Forest and Paper Association. I am presenting my testimony today on behalf of the association's members, companies and allied groups. AF&PA members include forest land owners, manufacturers of solid wood products and producers of pulp and paper products. Our members own about 14 percent of the forest land in the United States, some of which is in the wildland/urban interface or abuts it.
    Chairman Chenoweth, we are very pleased to see your continued commitment to addressing the wildland/urban interface fuels issue through the consideration of this working draft. This bill addresses a part of the very serious situation of hazardous fuels buildup on the national forests due to a variety of factors, as we have heard. The wildland/urban interface area is part of a much larger area of forest land that is at risk of tree mortality from insects and disease and catastrophic wildfires. As we have heard, the Forest Service has previously testified that they believe over 40 million acres of national forest lands are at such serious risk.
    We believe that is a conservative estimate, and the number of acres at significant risk will continue to climb because of a lack of appropriate forest management on Federal lands. By appropriate forest management I mean the ability of the Forest Service to plan and conduct forest management projects in a timely and efficient manner in order to deal with serious forest health situations.
    The gridlock that has brought the Forest Service timber program to a standstill now affects its ability to adequately manage the national forest and insure healthy vigorous forests for future generations. There are many examples in our history when we as individuals or as a society have ignored serious situations, only to ultimately endure a catastrophic event before we are willing to take action. That is the situation in our view today.
    The buildup of hazardous fuels in the wildland/urban interface threatens lives, homes, commercial properties, as well as water, wildlife, recreational opportunities and scenic qualities. And as we saw with the catastrophic fires in Florida, it is not just a problem in the West. The AF&PA is very supportive of the Chief of Forest Service's direction as he has outlined in words regarding restoring and maintaining the health of forest lands managed by the Forest Service.
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    We are concerned, though, that the programs of the Forest Service are not matching these words. If we knew what the fuels and fire conditions are in these interface areas and what the threats are to private and public properties and values, why can't the Forest Service do the necessary forest management activities to reduce the risks and threats of wildfire?
    Our association believes that it is irresponsible to follow the course of the zero cut timber extremists who would rather risk peoples lives, their homes and the forest, instead of managing forests for healthy conditions. This is akin to those who insist to let other countries destroy the environment rather than possibly managing our own human resources.
    Chairman Chenoweth, we are pleased that this legislation includes some innovative ways to finance products needed in the interface area. One feature of the legislation we think is particularly attractive is the opportunity for the Forest Service to share in the costs of the forest management project using funds from the program that most benefit the project. With innovation and will, these projects can represent a win-win situation, a win for the environment and a win for local communities who waive benefit from opportunities this legislation will provide.
    We also believe that this legislation is complementary to the pilot stewardship contracting projects authorized in the 1999 omnibus appropriations bill. Your bill will add to the tool kit for vegetation management to meet multiple objectives. We do have one concern, not with the legislation as you are considering, but with the capacity of the Forest Service to implement this legislation.
    The Forest Services lost a great deal of forestry and contracting expertise through retirements and downsizing. We are concerned that the Forest Service would spend a considerable amount of time in writing regulations, training Forest Service people, planning projects, doing the environmental analyses and meanwhile the risk will continue to grow. We are not suggesting the Forest Service shortcut any required processes, but the Forest Service must make these projects the highest priority at all levels of the organization or they simply will not happen.
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    Thank you for taking the leadership on this important issue, Chairman Chenoweth. I will be happy to answer any further questions by you or the members of the Subcommittee.
    [The prepared statement of Ms. Coulombe may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Ms. Coulombe.
    The Chair recognizes Mr. Gilchrest.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    I guess I can address this question to either one or both, two quick questions, in your opinion, what do you believe is the cause for the gridlock—I think those are your words, the cause for the gridlock in the Forest Service to prevent or not act on these potential catastrophic conditions? And the other question is, there's going to be some recommendations I guess that you have seen that are contained in the draft bill of the chairman, and there will certainly be some recommendation on the part of GAO. GAO's testimony, as I read it, says that it is potentially 20 years in the time frame that the Forest Service uses to implement a strategy or a program that will eliminate these catastrophic conditions in the wildlands/urban interface.
    Do you have a recommended time frame for implementing the program that is either suggested in the chairman's bill or what might be suggested in GAO?
    Ms. COULOMBE. I'll take a first shot at answering that, Mr. Gilchrest. In my opinion, the cause of the gridlock—actually there are many causes to the gridlock. I think I would point to two particular things; one of them is the lack of connecting the various programs in the Forest Service, including the timber program, to the work that needs to be done here.
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    Perhaps I might share that I spent 26 years with the Forest Service before I moved to the American Forest and Paper Association. I was a district ranger and a forest supervisor on the Plymouth's National Forest in California, and what I saw there was at the highest levels there needs to be a recognition that this is truly the catastrophic problem that it is, and that the funding must be requested from the Forest Service to the administration and then on to Congress.
    Mr. GILCHREST. So you are saying from your experience with the Forest Service could Secretary Glickman say these are our priorities, implement those priorities, would it be that simple? I mean nothing is simple, that could be a step in the right direction?
    Ms. COULOMBE. I think that could be a step in the right direction, absolutely. I think that there also needs to be, as this bill does and as some of the other things do, innovative mechanisms for accomplishing the projects.
    I think the third thing that is in this case one of the most serious things is the amount of time and planning that it takes to actually accomplish anything on the ground in the Forest Service, and that is a result of people, it is a result of regulations and the planning requirements.
    It is just as if things are tied into knots. It is very hard to get from the conception of a problem to the implementation of doing something about it on the ground.
    I will pass the mike to Mr. Coufal. He make want to address this issue particularly.
    Mr. GILCHREST. If my time has not run out.
    Mr. COUFAL. I am not sure that I will be adding anything to what Ms. Coulombe has said, but perhaps rephrasing it and perhaps being a little more blunt.
    First let me say that I think the men and women of the Forest Service are the among the finest forestry professionals in the world. They have great integrity and devotion to the resources and the people. But I have observed them for 40 years now as buffeted and turned around by conflicting laws and regulations, by administrative rules and regulations that are conflicting, by public values that are in great conflict as any I have ever seen or experienced. They are working in a fish bowl where people shoot at them from every direction. I cannot blame them for the level of detail that they need to work with for occasionally making a mistake or going slow. I think that is something that needs to be recognized and rectified.
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    The second point I would make is that I have taken to saying forestry isn't rocket science, it is much more complex. It is a moving target of biology, physical environment, people, the spread of urban interface. There is nothing that you can say is fixed in time, in place; it just changes time after time. So it is not going to be an easy task, but it is one that we must get at immediately.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Gilchrest, are you through?
    Mr. GILCHREST. First of all, that is a great quote. It is not rocket science, it is more complex. That is very good.
    Quickly, do you have any sense for the appropriate time frame for the implementation of this strategy to help prevent these wildfires, urban interface things?
    Ms. COULOMBE. I would say what I don't think is an appropriate time frame, and that is if there is 40 million acres, and if the current funding levels are only going to allow a million acres at the most a year, that is 40 years. That is unacceptable.
    And I think if we are looking at some of the information that we have seen about the insect and disease potential mortality over the next 15 years, that we ought to be looking at a 15-year horizon. We really ought to be hearkening to what it is going to take, and let me go beyond the urban interface here, but in much of northern Idaho and other places, like the map showed, we will see the collapse of the forest.
    So it is that serious, in my view, and that means we can't wait 40 years.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Gilchrest.
    Mr. Hill.
    Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. I thank you, Madam Chairman.
    I think Mr. Gilchrest has certainly zeroed in on the problem. In essence, my understanding of this is that there is some conflict whether or not the Forest Service needs to have some specific authorizing language for it to move forward to put an emphasis on dealing with the fire hazard.
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    In the last year's appropriation bill, we gave authority, I think, for 29 stewardship projects. This is in essence what one of the appropriate uses of the stewardship contracts should be. I know in Montana it has become politicized. They are trying to involve a large citizens' group rather than saying what does the science tell us.
    Do you believe that the Forest Service has the authority currently to undertake the steps that it needs to address the magnitude of the problem in the interior West without a separate authority that the Chairman would propose? I would ask either of you to respond to that.
    Ms. COULOMBE. I believe that the Forest Service has a large extent of the authorities, plural, that it needs to do this. I think what is missing here, though, is some of the contract—the innovative contracting mechanisms that are embedded in this bill that allows the trading of goods or services. The 29 stewardship projects may or may not test the real needs to get at the problem we are talking about. Our understanding is they are small. They are boutique projects in many cases, and yet we are talking about thousands of acres that may need to be treated over long periods of time.
    We wholeheartedly support the stewardship pilot projects, and we have been encouraging the Forest Service to think beyond the small boutique projects and look at some projects which test large extensive areas over 5 to 10 years of time so we can really get a handle on whether or not those contracting authorities are going to be the assistance that we think that they are in helping getting this job done. So there is that.
    I think this bill in addition, as I said, creates another tool in the tool kit that is necessary in order to focus some attention and to allow a special fund, for instance, a special mechanism for the Forest Service to be encouraged, if you will, to go forward with these.
    Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. I was not here during the questioning of Mr. Hill, but in the report he indicated that the 39 million acres that are in need of treatment would require about $700 million per year of commitment. In your view does the Forest Service have the authority to move forward with the——
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    Ms. COULOMBE. No.
    Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Anything close to that?
    Ms. COULOMBE. No.
    Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. Do you know how much they proposed in fiscal year 1999 to spend on this issue?
    Ms. COULOMBE. No.
    Mr. HILL OF MONTANA. I believe it was about $65 million, about 9 percent of what the annual commitment is that is necessary, and that would be to resolve the problem by the year 2015.
    Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Hill.
    Mr. Sherwood.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you.
    I am becoming overwhelmed by the size of the problem. You use the term ''the collapse of the forest.'' I wanted to ask you if you meant by that that the urban wilderness interface problem was a start on the fire situation, or that the forest generally was cluttered with underbrush and debris, because I see them as different problems a little bit. If that is true in urban areas, I could see possibly cleaning out mechanically, but if you are talking about 40 million acres, the cost and the scope of the mechanical cleaning of this debris to me would be of a magnitude that even the Federal Government can't do that.
    And I go back then to the fire situation, the set fires, and I wondered how—if that fire—I realize we have EPA problems, but if it is done in the wintertime when there is snow cover, isn't it a lot easier to control, but does it destroy your ladder, which is the objective? I realize that was a little rambling, but I have a couple of questions there.
    Mr. COUFAL. Ms. Coulombe was the one who used the term ''collapse of the forest,'' I believe, but I can take a quick crack at it. I think collapse of the forest is something that we need to think about in the sense that I can clearly imagine the world having forests long after I can imagine the world having people. The forest will go on. But the kind of forest that can provide the goods and services and values and aesthetics that we want, will it happen on all 40 million acres? Probably not. Will it happen in a given locality? Probably yes. If I am a citizen in that given locality, I want to know that my government is interested in taking care of my needs, not 40 years from now, but now, because the likelihood is probably just about equal in one spot as the other. So collapse of the forest, forest health is kind of part of the idea that it is much more complex. They are not easily defined, but there is a big problem that we have to start working on, even if we can't define it exactly, and that is a quick response, sir.
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    May I take a moment for a little levity, I hope. I happen to be from New York. I thought we had the finest hardwoods in the world, sir.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. I take exception.
    Mr. COUFAL. But the point is that ecological and political boundaries are different.
    Ms. COULOMBE. I would like to address a couple of the points that you made.
    I don't think that when we talk about the urban/wildland interface that we are just talking about areas around big urban areas. We are not necessarily just talking about Santa Barbara, Oakland, Lake Tahoe, Boise, Boulder, those kinds of places.
    There are many, many places in our national forests that are being subdivided for residential use and for vacation homes. On the Plymouth National Forest where I was forest supervisor, there are huge tracts of private land within the forest that had been subdivided for residential homes, and very much surrounding those subdivisions did we have a situation with the urban/wildland interface where it represented serious problems with fuels buildup. It represented serious problems with being able to do anything about those fuels, and even more serious problems about having people understand that they were living in a situation in which they might lose their homes.
    So think beyond your traditional view of urban. I think this is very important. I think we are talking about areas all over the West that have subdivisions within them where we have property, homes, and people are living.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you.
    And the fire issue, is that a controlled scientific forestry technique today?
    Ms. COULOMBE. Well, I can tell you it has been a long time since I worked out in the woods, but I think there are real experts when it comes to doing prescribed burning. I think I worked with some of those people. I think the situation, again, of having forest landscapes fragmented with dwellings and with people living there, as well as the smoke and air quality concerns, makes the idea of doing large, broad prescribed burning very, very difficult if not impossible in many areas.
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    Mr. COUFAL. I agree.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Sherwood.
    I do want to say with regards to the bill that is the subject of this hearing, we heard some very interesting testimony from both of you. There isn't 40 years to take care of this problem, if we cleaned up a million acres a year. $3.5 billion is a startling number. But we hope to get a start with this bill to prioritize those areas that are the worst and to be able soon, much sooner than later, to be able to go in and protect private property and begin to protect not only private property, but also the integrity of the forest itself, hopefully being able to build fuel breaks and create fuel breaks and so forth.
    The 40 years that you have testified to, you know, it is not hard to calibrate that out at a million acres a year, and it is an overwhelming problem.
    I want to congratulate both of you on outstanding testimony, and I want to thank you for your help in the bill.
    I do want to ask Mr. Coufal, there are many reports, especially the GAO report, that questioned the accountability of the Forest Service. Do you worry about the agency's ability to administer these projects?
    Mr. COUFAL. I do in the very same sense that I expressed earlier, Madam Chairman. That is that as an observer of the Forest Service, a professional observer of the Forest Service, I see them operating with an awful heavy load of conflicting laws, rules, regulations, things that have happened by accretion without necessarily clarifying what went on before, just an added burden. And in that sense I really think that they have a difficult time administering any of their problems because they have to answer to so many people, and Congress, which is natural, but also very difficult.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mrs. Coulombe, what are your thoughts on that?
    Ms. COULOMBE. As I testified, I am very concerned about—from a number of different perspectives on the agency's ability to do these projects. I really want to underscore the fact that my experience tells me that unless the agency at the highest levels decides that this is one of its highest priorities and that is communicated up and down the organization through a variety of mechanisms, that it will be very difficult to see these projects really come to fruition and test the kinds of things and pilot the kinds of things that you are hoping will happen.
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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. You testified to the fact that we don't have 40 years to wait. You have also confirmed in your testimony that we have 40 million acres that are in critical condition, seriously critical condition. If we continue at the pace that we have for the last few years, how do you see those numbers of acres increasing over the next 2 or 4 years if we don't begin, Ms. Coulombe?
    Ms. COULOMBE. I am at a bit of a loss to answer that because we have been waiting for the information that Mr. Hill mentioned in terms of the acres of risk potential, both from catastrophic fire and from insect and disease, and I want to underscore that those are two aspects of this problem, not just the fuels buildup.
    My sense is that in the area of insect and disease, we are going to continue to see that problem grow, and we can—I think they can chart out pretty well what effects that has. In the case of the wildland/urban interface, any time we have got drought, any time we have got a lack of active management, you just continue to see it, to see the problem escalate. Again, the other aspect of this is we continue to see the urban growth boundaries grow. We continue to see subdivisions within national or adjacent to national forests. So the problem grows on that side as well as the problem within the Forest Service itself, so it has two dimensions.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. It does.
    Mr. Coufal.
    Mr. COUFAL. Thank you.
    The 40 million acres at risk are, I am sure, not a homogeneous mass, and even within that group can be prioritized. We have talked about the wildland/urban interface, but more truthfully it is the wildland/rural interface. We talked about the problems with insects and diseases, and in making such prioritization I would think we want to look at where human lives and human property are at risk and give them the first attention.
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    Secondly, I think we all recognize the allowable cut on our national forests have gone down significantly over the last 10 years. Some don't need programs of this sort, they need recognition that there is honest opportunity for higher allowable cuts on the national forests.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you very much. I want to thank you both for your very valuable testimony, and we welcome any further addition that you would like to make within 10 days, and the staff may be asking you additional questions by mail.
    [The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you.
    Ms. COULOMBE. Thank you.
    Mr. COUFAL. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Now I will introduce our final witness, Mr. Larry Payne, who is the Assistant Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry of the United States Forest Service.
    Mr. Payne, if you will please stand and raise your right hand.
    [Witness sworn.]
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Please proceed.

STATEMENT OF LARRY PAYNE, ASSISTANT DEPUTY, STATE AND PRIVATE FORESTRY, UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE
    Mr. PAYNE. Madam Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, I appreciate being asked to come here today to testify on this draft bill for the administration. I would—as the others have done before me, I would like to request that my written testimony go into the record, and for the sake of time, I will just summarize it briefly.
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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Without objection, thank you.
    Mr. PAYNE. As you said in your introduction, my name is Larry Payne, I am the Assistant Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry.
    It is my understanding that we had some comment and some input on the previous draft bill back in September of 1997 in the 105th Congress, and we appreciate the work that you have done to address those concerns in the new revised version of the draft bill.
    We also want to make clear that there is implications in that for the Bureau of Land Management in your draft legislation, and I wouldn't want anything I say here today to be construed as speaking for the Bureau. This is just Forest Service and administration.
    We appreciate the modifications that you made in the past on this bill. We continue to have concerns on certain elements of the draft legislation, and I would like to summarize those if I could now and then explain to you, to the Madam Chairman and the Subcommittee, some efforts that we have under way that we think are quite helpful.
    We have four major points that I would like to cover. The first point is that we believe at the Forest Service that we have sufficient authority, both existing authority and some of the new expanded authorities, that we have to do a better job of meeting the objectives that you have in your draft legislation.
    We have what we consider substantive concerns on the cost effectiveness and the special funds provision of the draft legislation.
    In addition, we have some concerns on the definition of certain terms, like what exactly is wildland/urban interface, that is an area, and other witnesses talked about that earlier.
    And also we believe that the appropriations that are available to the Forest Service in different forms and different methods and the expanded authorities that we have been given or we expect to be given are adequate and sufficient to help us meet this need in fuel reduction.
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    The conclusion of those concerns is that we believe that the bill, the draft legislation, is unnecessary at this time, and I would like to talk about some of the efforts that we have under way that we think are going to take us in a positive direction. One of those has already been mentioned today, and that is the forest risk health mapping that we are now doing where we are going to have on a map the high-priority, the high-risk areas mapped out for fire, insect and disease, wildland/urban interface areas, and threatened and endangered species. It is our effort to set priorities and focus efforts on where to meet the highest priority needs.
    Other efforts that we have under way, you could call current authorities with the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act and with the Knutson–Vandenberg Act and the Brush Disposal Act. Among the three of those, they give us quite broad authorities, depending on, of course, the funding and the focus and prioritization of the agency. Those give us, we believe, sufficient authority to move on this.
    In addition, it has been mentioned here before we have stewardship contracting as a major investment in the Forest Service with some special authorities in 22 pilot projects that we will be trying in this coming year. In addition, we have six new stewardship projects that will be added in northern Idaho and Montana. It is our belief and our hope that we are going to learn a lot from these, and that to do anything on a broad basis now would be a bit premature.
    One other item. We have a new budget line item of $15 million planned for the year 2000 for forest health treatment that will happen outside of the timber production areas, and we believe that will be helpful.
    In conclusion, Madam Chairman and Subcommittee members, we agree with the priority that your draft legislation gets at and the importance of it. Although we have serious concerns, we certainly support that priority. We think that there needs to be more analysis and more discussion; and for the reasons I mentioned earlier, we think that the bill is unnecessary at this time.
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    I would be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Payne.
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Payne may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Gilchrest?
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Mr. Payne, the 22 stewardship contracting pilot projects, they deal specifically or in part with the draft legislation for the fuels reduction?
    Mr. PAYNE. They are a wide range of projects that deal with several treatments and several conditions that we are trying to address.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Are there some specifically for fire?
    Mr. PAYNE. Yes.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Does it deal with this vague term, depending on where you come from, I guess, urban/suburban/wildlands interface areas? Does it have anything to do with a few houses at risk because of forest fire or a whole new community that has recently been built?
    Mr. PAYNE. We have those in all kinds of conditions where we are testing those. Of the 28, there will be some in that urban/rural interface arena.
    Mr. GILCHREST. And some in that urban/rural interface arena that test how to deal with it?
    Mr. PAYNE. Yes.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Has that started yet, that pilot program?
    Mr. PAYNE. We will be ready to go on the bulk of those beginning this spring.
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    Mr. GILCHREST. How long is a pilot project supposed to run?
    Mr. PAYNE. Depending on the projects, 3 to 5 years. We hope within the first 2 years we will learn a lot about how to work those and what new authorities we need above and beyond.
    Mr. GILCHREST. And that can be applied to the 30-40 million acres where there is a potential problem?
    Mr. PAYNE. That is one tool, so to speak, for that.
    Mr. GILCHREST. The forest risk mapping where you will get a lot of the data to help to prioritize the areas most at risk for the catastrophic fire, when will that be done?
    Mr. PAYNE. We are in the process of validating that information right now, and I would say from what I am hearing it will be a matter of weeks to a month. We are in the process of validating that.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Can you comment, Ms. Coulombe, and also Mr. Coufal, and also, I think, GAO made comments about your basic strategy to resolve—you never resolve the problem. We will always have this problem. But people who testified today are talking that it can take the Forest Service 40 years to do this. It can take the Forest Service 20 years before they come up with a strategy, test the strategy and implement the strategy. Can you comment on the Forest Service's ability to adequately complete the task at hand without using the GAO report because you feel you don't need it or without using the Chairman's bill? Does the Forest Service have gridlock, and can you get past that gridlock and implement a program?
    Mr. PAYNE. Let me attempt to answer that, and I will do so with all due respect for the panelists that spoke before me. We all have opinions.
    I believe that it is an immense problem nationally that we face, far more in the West than we do in the East. I have faith and I have quite a bit of confidence that we, the Forest Service, we, the Department of Agriculture, and other agencies and counties and States, there are many more of us that have to resolve this than just the Forest Service, but I believe we have the authority and the wherewithal, and when we get the commitment and the priority and the focus on this, I believe that it is manageable and resolvable, but it is much more than just the Forest Service. We do a lot of work with cities, towns and landowners.
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    Mr. GILCHREST. I will close with this question. Do you see part of the problem as homes being built, permanent homes or second homes, on private land within a national forest? Is that a problem from your perspective as far as where they build and droughts and catastrophic fires, and is there any way to prevent that?
    Mr. PAYNE. It is definitely part of the problem, and I don't know if prevention is the answer, but working with the landowner is. My brother has a place in Spokane that is the wildland/urban interface; and my sister is in Coeur d'Alene and my parents in Missoula, and all three of them are in that environment you describe. It is part of working with the landowner and their responsibility to manage some of their own lands, though, and that is what we try to work with, landowner education in those areas. It is definitely a problem.
    Mr. GILCHREST. We will have lunch sometime in Lolo Pass.
    Thank you, Madam Chairman.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Gilchrest.
    Mr. Sherwood.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Good afternoon.
    Do you basically agree or not with the statement of the three people that were on before you about what a serious problem we have here?
    Mr. PAYNE. I agree that it is a serious problem. I use the word immense, too. It is a large and complex problem also, yes. I agree with that.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Well, I was paying attention before, I think, but it doesn't appear to me that it is a problem that the Forest Service has a particularly active role in trying to do something about. Now, if I oversimplified that, you can help me with it.
    Mr. PAYNE. I think perhaps you might have oversimplified it a bit. It is also a matter of opinion as to how fast we are going to resolve the issue. The Forest Service is in the process of targeting units of measure like acres burned and trying to focus our attention on the outcomes that we are really after. It isn't enough anymore to go burn 10,000 acres, it is more important to burn that 30, so we are developing performance measures that are going to shift our priorities away from some of the traditional measurements and towards some of those things that are really high priority, very sensitive areas.
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    Back to what I said earlier, I have some faith in some of the things that we are doing right now to refocus our efforts.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. And you used the term ''burn''?
    Mr. PAYNE. That is part of my upbringing in the Forest Service. There are many ways to treat hazardous fuels mechanically. There is prescribed fire, small forest products sales. I use ''burn'' sometimes as the first one when I talk, but there are a variety of methods.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. It seems to me that we all agree that we have a very serious problem, but I am hearing that you don't think you need help in solving the problem, but I haven't heard enough from you as to what you are doing about it for me to agree with you.
    Mr. PAYNE. Okay. Let me—I am not sure I can address that in the short time I have, but we do need help. We need help from the Congress, from the States, from other Federal agencies like EPA. We are not in it alone. It is too big of a job. If we have support in our funding and in our pilot tests for these projects that we are implementing, we get continued support for our budget line item of $15 million in the 2000, and many of those things that we are trying to push forward to get ahead using the existing authorities that we have, we think that the legislation that is drafted, what we are here today for, is unnecessary at this time.
    We would like some more time to put into practice what I am saying here today.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. What specifically do you think you could accomplish with that $15 million?
    Mr. PAYNE. That is going to give us—that is not the total answer. Again, it is one more tool, but it will allow us to do some forest health treatments. It could be thinning to doing some watershed restoration work, to removal of material, and there will be probably several treatments that we can use that for.
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    Mr. SHERWOOD. But if we have a problem of the magnitude that we have been told earlier, what percentage of that problem would that get us on the road to?
    Mr. PAYNE. From a percentage standpoint it is not actually that large. We are still counting on, and as you look at this over the long term, we are probably doing probably close to 1.5, 1.4 million areas a year in fuel treatment. In the outer years we need to be doing about 3 million acres a year. When we plan it out over that length of time, that is where the significant impact will come from.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. One final question. How effective do you see the link between timber sales and timber sale revenues and the mechanics of your timber contracting to help solve this problem? In other words, A, you either have the revenue from the timber sales; or, B, we get the people when they harvest a block in this area to treat a block in this area. What do you think of that? In the East when you sell a piece of timber, they leave you with the roads.
    Mr. PAYNE. The Knutson–Vandenberg Act and Brush Disposal Act gives us the authority and funding to treat those areas connected to timber sales, so I would quickly say that they do help. The timber sale program, of course, is going down.
    Mr. SHERWOOD. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Sherwood.
    Mr. Payne, I want to recall back 4 years ago in this Committee when we heard the Forest Service testify that there was a forest health plan called the Western Forest Health Initiative, and that that plan would take care of this problem. We haven't seen any on the groundwork to speak of at all, and what has happened in that 4 years is that it appears the problem has grown exponentially. So we are hearing today testimony from Mr. Coufal and Ms. Coulombe and from your own chief that say there are 40 million acres of high-risk forest. I hear you testify to the fact that you are moving ahead with another plan now.
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    You know, I feel like the Chairman is on the horns of a dilemma. I don't know whether to ask for more funding for the Federal Forest Service or less funding. If we give you more funding, what are you going to do with it? If we give you less and try to get you to focus more on the States to take care of their own forests, maybe that is a better way to go. I am asking for the rubber to meet the road. I want to see a plan. I am hearing you testify that you are moving on it, but is your mapping done, for instance?
    Mr. PAYNE. Very close. We are validating the data right now. It is my understanding that we have a hearing before you on the 24th, I believe.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Will the mapping be finished by the 24th?
    Mr. PAYNE. It is my understanding that it will be.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. It is your understanding?
    Mr. PAYNE. The last I heard it would be.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. The buck stops with you. Will you have it ready on the 24th?
    Mr. PAYNE. I will say yes.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. We gave you expanded authority on only 28 pilot projects. This bill covers much more than that. Can you give me the total acres that are covered by the pilot projects, the 28 pilot projects?
    Mr. PAYNE. I can't off the top of my head right now. If you give me a moment, I can ask one of my assistants.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. I will.
    Mr. PAYNE. Thank you.
    I am told that we don't have the acreage numbers with us. We will provide that, but whatever number we do provide, it is not a large amount of acres. They are just tests so we can learn what changes we might need to pursue in contracting. We will provide that.
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    [The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mrs. CHENOWETH. So you do recognize that this bill gives you authority far beyond the 28 pilot projects we gave you in the appropriations bill?
    Mr. PAYNE. Oh, yes, Madam Chairman.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. So based on the fact that we heard testimony on the record today that some of our forests are in near collapse, and I know in northern Idaho we are truly there, I am very alarmed. I would hope that you would welcome this new authority, and I hope that in time as we mature the bill, that you will welcome it, because we need an active, on-the-ground managing Forest Service to bring us out of the swamp that we really are in with our national forests, and it is being widely recognized now. So I look forward to your cooperation in working with you.
    Mr. Payne, in your testimony you did state that your current budget sufficiently funds the agency's ability to cover these high-priority areas that this bill would provide for you? Can you give us a list of the high-priority areas, including those six projects in northern Idaho that the Chairman is particularly interested in, as well as all of them? Can you do that?
    Mr. PAYNE. I can do that, but not at this time.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. The GAO did suggest that you cannot do it now. Will you have it ready for the next hearing?
    Mr. PAYNE. On the 24th?
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes.
    Mr. PAYNE. To have the specific pilot project lists?
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Yes.
    Mr. PAYNE. I will do that.
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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. That is good, because the appropriations bill was passed quite a while ago.
    Now, Chief Dombeck continues to say that 39 million acres are at high risk for catastrophic fire, and this 39 million acres constitutes one-third of all of the forested acres managed by the Forest Service. One-third of your jurisdiction is now considered in a catastrophic situation. In your testimony you stated the administration's fiscal year 2000 budget adequately funds restoration activities on these lands by adding $15 million to those activities, yet the Chief has stated that hundreds of millions of dollars will be needed to go into restoration activities. We heard today testified to that it would take no less than $3.5 billion. That just about knocked me off my chair; $3.5 billion to restore our forests in adequate time to save our forests. How do you reckon with the conflict in your testimony compared with the statements by your Chief compared with what we heard today?
    Mr. PAYNE. Let me back up, Madam Chairman. I don't want to leave the impression that what we got this year will fix the problem. My point is that over time, with the authorities and the appropriations that are available to us, they are sufficient for us to make adequate progress on the problems. I would not say that for this year alone.
    I am saying if we refocus our priorities in the agency, and fully utilize the authorities that we have, and get support from all of those many people that we talk about, that we—it is unnecessary for us to get the bill that you suggest. So it is not a 1-year statement, it is over time.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Payne, I have many, many more questions to ask you, but I see that I have the red light on, too, and I will just close with one more question and submit the other questions to you in writing. You may want to address some of the questions on the 24th, otherwise you may answer them in writing, as you know.
    [The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]
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    Mrs. CHENOWETH. My final question is: You stated that our definitions of wildland/urban interface and hazardous fuels buildup are too broad. This bill is still only in a draft state, so I would appreciate your suggestions in defining these terms better. Would you mind submitting your definitions for these terms soon so we can begin to work on them?
    I believe that if we are going to have a functioning Forest Service, you are going to need broader authority. You will need to be funded, but I want to know that the Forest Service is ready to handle it. So would you commit to me to have those definitions ready for us by the 24th or even sooner, let's say within 7 working days?
    Mr. PAYNE. I can certainly share with you in a general sense or in writing at a later date our best current research to date on what that urban interface is.
    [The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Payne, and I do want to welcome you in the Committee. If you sense a bit of urgency from the Chairman and other members of the Committee, I think you can understand that when we are faced with testimony and on-site, on-the-ground observations on my part, that there is a real sense of urgency, much more so than there ever has been before. So I look forward to working with you, and welcome.
    Mr. PAYNE. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Mr. Gilchrest, do you have any other questions?
    Mr. GILCHREST. I had a question about the fires in Florida. Was the main cause of that fire drought or forest management or a combination? What was the ratio between Federal, State and private land?
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    Mr. PAYNE. I am going to have to ask for some help on that question, Mr. Gilchrest.
    The answer I was given was 12 percent Federal lands; and yes, indeed, it was a combination of drought and the vast vegetation and urban interface in Florida. That was quite an event.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
    That is not one of the pilot areas, Florida? You said Idaho and Montana.
    Mr. PAYNE. We have six new ones in northern Idaho and Montana. The other 22 are various places around the West.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. We will be holding a hearing in Florida in the middle of March on those fires, so it will be very interesting.
    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you. The Chairman gave me this time, and I really appreciate it, Helen.
    The issue about the 3-year—is it a 3-year study with EPA to determine the impact of controlled burns on the emissions that will help determine how to do that as a tool, use it as a tool?
    Mr. PAYNE. Let me ask for some assistance on that one. I am not personally familiar with the specifics.
    We are not sure of the exact time frame, but the study is to look at the impacts of an increased prescribed burning program and the impacts on the social side for towns and communities. We would be happy to answer that question more thoroughly in writing.
    [The information may be found at the end of the hearing.]

    Mr. GILCHREST. We will follow up.
    Mr. PAYNE. Please do.
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    Mr. GILCHREST. Thank you.
    Mrs. CHENOWETH. Thank you, Mr. Gilchrest.
    I want to thank the witnesses for their testimony and the members for their questions. If there are no further questions, the Chairman again thanks the witnesses and the members, and this Subcommittee stands adjourned.
    [Whereupon, at 3:51 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
    [Additional material submitted for the record follows.]

STATEMENT OF JAMES E. COUFAL, PRESIDENT, SOCIETY OF AMERICAN FORESTERS
    Madam Chairman, my name is Jim Coufal, President of the Society of American Foresters (SAF). The almost 18,000 members of the Society constitute the scientific and educational association representing the profession of forestry in the United States. SAF's primary objective is to advance the science, technology, education, and practice of professional forestry for the benefit of society. We are ethically bound to advocate and practice land management consistent with ecologically sound principles. I am especially pleased to be here today and I thank the Subcommittee for its continued support of professional forestry. I thank the Chair for the opportunity.
    In September of 1997, we provided comments on an earlier version of this bill. You and your staff, have addressed our concerns and have produced a bill that SAF supports. Working together has produced an improved bill.
    The forests and communities that are the focus of this bill are too important to be embroiled in partisan politics. We believe this bill is a good faith effort to address a very serious problem, and hope that it will attract bipartisan support.
    The Forest Service estimates that 40 million acres of forestland are at risk from catastrophic events. The agency is currently producing risk maps to describe the location of these areas, and we eagerly anticipate the release of that information. This bill provides an important tool to address some of those problems. The legislation provides an innovative funding mechanism of using the proceeds from harvesting activities solely designed to reduce hazardous fuels to perform other forest management activities that cannot pay for themselves. The bill allows the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) the flexibility to make long-term investments in the forest while reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfire. Additionally, the bill focuses on the wildland urban interface, an area that deserves great attention as human lives are at risk.
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    The bill also seems consistent with aspects of our upcoming report on the national forests and the public lands administered by the BLM. While this report will address a range of issues surrounding the management of national forests and public lands it will likely recommend that Congress set clear and appropriate goals for these agencies, that land-managers are given appropriate discretion to implement those goals, and that Congress ought to find innovative funding mechanisms to support those activities. This bill addresses all three of those issues appropriately.
    This bill is one tool to address this problem. The Forest Service and the BLM will need other tools and significant funding over a sustained period to address the hazardous fuel buildup on the national forests and public lands. Although this legislation is a welcome step in the right direction, the proceeds from these hazardous fuels reduction sales will not be enough to address all aspects of this very serious issue. A Congressional Research Service study estimated the cost of reducing these fuel loads at $3.5 billion. The cost of reducing hazardous fuels and investing in these lands are quite high, but the cost of doing nothing is higher still.
    Thank you for the opportunity to testify. I am also providing copies of the October 1997 issue of the Journal of Forestry which addresses wildland urban fire issues. If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them.
   

STATEMENT OF MARY J. COULOMBE, AMERICAN FOREST & PAPER ASSOCIATION
    Madam Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
    Thank you for the opportunity to provide the views of the American Forest & Paper Association on the Community Protection and Hazardous Fuels Reduction Act. I am Mary J. Coulombe, Director of Timber Access and Supply for the Association. I am presenting my testimony today on behalf of the Association's member companies, associations, and allied groups. AF&PA members include forest land owners, manufacturers of solid wood products, and producers of pulp and paper products. Our members own about 14 percent of the forest land in the United States, some of which is in the wildland/urban interface or abuts it.
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    Chairman Chenoweth, we are pleased to see your continued commitment to addressing the wildland/urban interface fuels issue through reintroduction of this bill in the 106th Congress. This bill addresses a part of the very serious situation of hazardous fuels buildup on national forest lands due to a variety of factors. The wildland/urban interface area is part of a much larger area of forestland that is at risk of tree mortality from insects and disease and catastrophic wildfires. The Forest Service has previously testified that they believe over 40 million acres of national forest lands are at such serious risk. We believe that this is a conservative estimate and the number of acres at significant risk will continue to climb because of a lack of appropriate forest management on Federal lands. By appropriate management, I mean the ability of the Forest Service to plan and conduct forest management projects in a timely and efficient manner in order to deal with serious forest health situations. The gridlock that has brought the Forest Service timber program to a standstill now affects its ability to adequately manage the national forests and ensure healthy, vigorous forests for future generations.
    There are many examples in our history when we as individuals or as a society have ignored serious situations, only to ultimately endure a catastrophic event before we are willing to take action. That is the situation today. The buildup of hazardous fuels in the wildland/urban interface threatens lives, homes, commercial properties, as well as water, wildlife, recreation opportunities and scenic qualities. And, as we saw with the catastrophic fires in Florida last year, this is not just a problem in the West.
    The American Forest & Paper Association is very supportive of direction that the Chief of the Forest Service has outlined in words regarding restoring and maintaining the health of the forest lands managed by the Forest Service. We are concerned though, that the programs of the Forest Service are not matching these words.
    If we know what the fuels and fire conditions are in these interface areas and what the threats are to private and public properties and values, why can't the Forest Service do the necessary forest management activities to reduce the risks and threats of wildfire? Our Association believes that it is irresponsible to follow the course of zero-cut extremists who would rather risk people's lives, their homes and the forest, instead of managing forests for healthy conditions. This is akin to those who insist that its better to let other countries spoil the environment rather than responsibly managing our own renewable resources.
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    Chairman Chenoweth, we are pleased that this legislation includes some innovative ways to finance the projects needed in the wildland/urban interface area. One feature of this legislation that we think is particularly attractive is the opportunity for the Forest Service to share in the costs of a forest management project, using funds from the programs that most benefit from the project. With innovation and will, these projects can represent a win-win situation. A win for the environment and a win for local communities who may benefit from the opportunities this legislation will provide.
    We also believe that this legislation is complementary to the pilot stewardship contracting projects authorized in the 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill. Its language authorizing the expansion of contracting authorities will add to the ''tool kit'' for vegetation management to meet multiple objectives and obtain desired future conditions.
    We do have one concern, not with the Legislation, but with the capacity of the Forest Service to implement this legislation. The Forest Service has lost a great deal of forestry and contracting expertise, through retirements and downsizing. We are concerned that the Forest Service would spend a considerable amount of time in writing regulations, training forest service people, planning the projects, doing the environmental analyses and meanwhile the wildfire risk on the interface lands will continue to grow. We are not suggesting that the Forest Service short-cut any required processes, but the Forest Service must make these projects the highest priority at all levels of the organization, or they will not happen.
    Thank you for taking the leadership on this important issue, Chariman Chenoweth. I'll be happy to answer any questions from you or other members of the Subcommittee.
   

STATEMENT OF LARRY PAYNE, ASSISTANT DEPUTY CHIEF FOR STATE AND PRIVATE FORESTRY, FOREST SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
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    MADAM CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE SUBCOMMITTEE:
    Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss draft legislation for community protection and hazardous fuels reduction. I am Larry Payne, Assistant Deputy Chief for State and Private Forestry. The Forest Service testified for the Administration on a similar bill, H.R. 2458, at a hearing before this Subcommittee on September 23, 1997 during the 105th Congress.
    I preface my remarks by saying that the Administration has not had sufficient time to analyze fully the most recent draft of this bill, thus my testimony reflects only our initial reaction. Also, we understand that this draft bill affects the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and today's remarks should not be interpreted as a representation of BLM's concerns.
    In summary, we appreciate the modifications reflected in the draft bill which address some of our previous concerns. However, we continue to have concerns about certain elements of the draft bill.
    Our four major points of concern:

We believe that we currently have sufficient authority to accomplish most of the objectives of this draft bill;
We have substantive concerns about the cost-effectiveness and special funds' provisions in the draft bill;
We continue to be concerned about the definitions for certain terms, and;
Appropriations are already available to address fuels treatment priorities in the wildland/urban interface, including expanded authority for use of the roads and trails fund for forest health-related work, if needed.

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    We believe that in combination these factors make the proposed draft bill unnecessary.

BACKGROUND

    The Forest Service has a number of efforts currently underway that place a priority on forest and ecological health. An ongoing forest health risk mapping effort has provided preliminary information on forest health risk factors related to fire, insect and disease, wildland/urban interface, and threatened and endangered species. This information, at a broad scale, will help identify areas of the country that are in a high risk category.
    Current authorities such as the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978 provide the Administration with significant means to address the conditions of public lands as part of the urban interface issue. The Knutson–Vandenberg Act and the Brush Disposal Act of 1916 allow for forest protection, reforestation and restoration inside timber sale area boundaries and the abatement of fuels generated by harvest activities.
    The Forest Service has a national strategy for stewardship contracting. Pursuant to section 347 of the Department of Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1999, we are currently examining a variety of new tools for addressing forest and ecological health and other ecosystem concerns through vegetative management. Twenty-two stewardship contracting pilot projects have been identified, and consistent with the terms of this legislation we will be adding up to 6 new pilot projects in Region 1 (Montana and northern Idaho) of the Forest Service. A number of these projects are primarily designed to address hazardous fuels problems.
    For example, in the interior mountain West, the Upper Swan–Condon project on the Flathead National Forest is designed to improve forest conditions, reduce forest fuels, and create stand conditions where prescribed fire can be used as a long-term management tool. Another pilot project on the Lolo National Forest is utilizing an end-results contract to sell and harvest timber in a manner that will more closely approximate natural occurrences like wildfires.
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    Some of the pilot projects explicitly address the hazardous fuels issue within a wildland/urban interface context. Illustrative are the Winiger Ridge and Mt. Evans projects in the Colorado front range. These projects are being carried out in cooperation with the Colorado State Forest Service.
    We expect to have these projects underway beginning this spring and will be monitoring and reporting the results with the public and Congress as we proceed. Until we have had an opportunity to complete and evaluate the results of these tests, and collaborate with the public on them, we feel it would be premature to propose broadly applicable solutions.
    Appropriations for fiscal year 1999 will provide sufficient funding in fire and forest health to address high priority areas of immediate concern, specifically wildland/urban interface areas. Also, the 1999 Appropriations Act authorized the use of the roads and trails fund for forest projects, if needed.
    Another potential solution to deal with flexibility in addressing forest stewardship needs is the new forest ecosystem restoration and improvement line item of $15,000,000 proposed in the fiscal year 2000 budget. This would enable the Forest Service to implement treatments such as thinning, partial cutting and other vegetative treatments to restore or maintain watershed health. This money would give managers flexibility in planning and integrating projects that are outside timber production areas and are in need of money to fund.

CONCERNS

    We have substantive concerns related to the draft bill that merit more analysis and discussion. The section that addresses contracting is vague as to how the cost efficiency determination is to be made. This section also would authorize using the receipts derived from the sale of forest products to offset some or all of the costs incurred by the purchaser in carrying out a required forest management project—in essence the trading of goods for services. It is likely that the draft bill would bear a PAYGO cost. The existing stewardship pilots are testing this concept with specific sideboards and improved performance-based contracting procedures in place, and will provide a basis for evaluating what new authorities, if any, are needed.
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    Another section deals with the establishment and initial funding for ''Special Funds.'' The draft bill would require both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to establish and maintain a special fund for planning, offering, and managing eligible forest products sales. The Special Funds would be funded in part by transfers of $10,000,000 from amounts available to the Seretaries for the reduction of hazardous fuels. We believe this is unnecessary. Funds within the appropriated budget for forest and ecological health protection, forest management, and fuels management are currently used for these types of projects. The creation of this special fund is unnecessary and would increase the work load and complexity in terms of budget and accounting by creating a new line item to manage and track. In a broader context, the creation of a new special fund or ''trust fund'' would raise the highly contentious incentives issue. For example, some will be concerned that unnecessary timber harvesting would be proposed in order to add to, or perpetuate, the fund. Other questions include: (1) whether payments to states are reduced; (2) if these new accounts would merely siphon funds away from the existing K–V Fund and other accounts; and (3) whether it is wise to initially reduce scarce appropriated funding for hazardous fuels reduction.
    Finally, the concerns raised in previous testimony regarding definition of terms remain unresolved. While some of the definitions, such as ''wildland/urban interface'' and ''hazardous fuels buildup'' have been modified from previous versions, they are still vague and too broad to be practical. For example, the definition of wildland/urban interface is so broad that it would include anything from a single dwelling adjacent to forest lands to a high density urban housing development adjacent to or within forest lands. The agency strongly believes that broadening the definition would stretch our resources to areas that are simply not at risk of human and property losses, thereby jeopardizing our efforts in areas that are truly in danger.

CLOSING
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    Madam Chairman, while we agree that protection of communities, lives, and property in wildland/urban interface areas is a national priority, and agree with the need to continue our efforts to reduce threats of high intensity wildfires to human life and property, we have serious concerns about some of the aspects of the draft bill. The budget does authorize the use of the K–V Fund from open sales for priority hazardous fuels reduction projects, regardless of the site where the funds were collected. This change will enable the Forest Service to begin addressing this urgent need. In addition, we believe that the 28 stewardship pilots that we are undertaking, and the public participation we will undertake as we implement them, will assess the need for changing any of our existing authorities. We also believe that existing appropriations adequately address our high priority needs, and that existing authorities are adequate to address forest and watershed health needs. For these reasons, we feel this draft legislation is unnecessary.
    This concludes my statement. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may have.

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