tv Senate Hearing Focuses on Forest Wildfire Management CSPAN September 28, 2017 12:42am-2:31am EDT
hear testimony on three bills related to catastrophic wildfires burning across the west. senate 605 relief for forest management projects which would address conflict in circuit court decisions and prevent close the ways in the forest management as a result of duplicate of consultation requirements. the committee will hear testimony on the bill as 1417 the habitat conservation restoration act of 2017 in the opinion in juniper trees that are invasive species that we dod to wildfires had compromised habitat across the west. we also have the senators 1731 t1731the forest management improvement act of 2017 which provides the forest service with a series of tools to address the ever-growing wildfire threats filled with dead and dying trees. each of these addresses a
different but important part of the forest holding fire prevention. decades of fire suppression in rapid decline in active management have lead to overly dead forests susceptible to disease and outbreaks. it leaves dead trees which are poor habitat for iconic species with other wildlife that depend on the ecosystems. the trees affect watersheds as well as there are no longer leaves or needles to hold the snow to build winter snowpack. in addition, these are much more prone to catastrophic fires. these fast moving fire's cause damage to the ecosystem and surrounding communities. they are the obvious impacts from the five years and we have a poster board to show b&b running away from a wildfire with wildlife that is burned, homes and habitat loss and smoke
that rose into the air. smoke triples for miles and challenges as this poster shows a woman and her child walking with masks over their faces because of the impact of the smoke from the fire. it's not uncommon to see them wearing face masks, coughing, sneezing and watery eyes leads people to ask is it damaging my health but on september 11, the national public radio article highlighted these concern concee and labels it a a copy for the record. 2017 alone, the schools in oregon montana and florida canceled classes keep children inside and away from the smoke. while smoke and ash dispersed relatively quickly other impacts remain for years to come. after catastrophic fires extinguished by brave wildfire
were early snow, the forest ecosystems lose their topsoil and sterilized disloyal. without a strong system to hold it back, the landscapes experienced massive erosion. dirt, sand and others quickly accumulate increase in quality municipal water systems. sediment levels raise water temperature and can also be a cause of widespread fish kills. what's most egregious is the land managers could mitigate a significant portion of the risks. fire is a historically part of the ecosystem, both of these large unmatchable catastrophic wildfires are not. in order to address the threat, we need to actively manage forests with access deadwood. large stands of dead trees need to be removed in a timely fashion so we are not facing another 8 million acres of burned land. we must act quickly to address the risk to human health,
infrastructure and valuable ecosystems. this millions in federal land, forest land and by your need off restoration and other attention. last year the service estimated up to 100 million acres are at a risk of wildfire. today we will hear about the bills that address bureaucratic processes that the way the proactive prevention and ecosystem management that can save lives, property and protect a forest diverse wildlife. before we moved to the sponsors and cosponsors of the bill for the remarks i will turn to the ranking member for his remark. >> thank you for putting us allf altogether. welcome to our colleague. delighted to be holding this for all of us whether we are from the great northwest with them the little state on the east coast. increasingly hurricanes catastrophic and these disasters
disrupt people's lives from home, safety and likelihoods and wildfires and hurricanes are in peril wildlife trade i agree with the government accountability office and climate change contributes to making these disasters more severe. they are becoming more common and destructive and more expensive with each passing ye year. we are seeing that across those southwest to the devastation in puerto rico and the iowans in the last week. in the federal budget deficit for this year climbs past
$700 billion is headed higher among other things we need to ensure that we help reduce the risk of future disasters and plan for the response cost. when it comes to planning for severe weather events, and outspoken prevention is worthy of the cure. today i look forward to hearing from our colleagues in the witnesandwitnesses how best to e this. we need to make sure we are taking appropriate steps to prevent wildfires from occurring. i agree with my colleagues to need for preparation and response to these unprecedented wildfires. however, we cannot really than the environmental law are to blame.
they address the natural disasters that we've been witnessing in the country in recent years and i ask unanimous consent to enter documents from the concerned stakeholders. we know you have very busy schedules so once you got the chair to chance to share we would welcome you to get into the remainder of your schedule so we would like to start with you. thank you very much mr. chairm
mr. chairman. this particular legislation would streamline the management projects to conserve and restore the habitat in a way that carries them with an added benefit of reducing fuel wireless for catastrophic wildfires. he was eager to join the senator in introducing this legislation because across the west. they share similar is by habitat for the habitat to support for these iconic western species.
as the fish and wildlife service would agree, it provides artificial nesting sites for predators of sage grouse. of this expansion carries widespread ecological benefits intact wildlife managers and the west have worked to convert the opinion and it stands to the stage because doing so increases the soil and water availability which improves wildlife carrying capacity and reduces the risk and benefits the big game populations particularly. fire suppression efforts over the years have allowed expansion to go unchecked and as a result
it's not historically occupied because wildfire which threatens wildlife, private property and human life is no longer a viable option for combating the expansion. it's replicating the benefits of wildfire while avoiding its associated damages to natural habitat. the adjacent property or human neighbors. our legislation has stalled on thbuild on thesuccess by removiy cumbersome and environmental review processes for the vegetation management projects. the benefit of the ecosystems. there is a commonsense priority but found responsible management effort by federal agencies frequently are delayed by the
needless pure graphic in sediments such a health safeguard and reinvigorate it the habitat for the approval of the management projects by giving the bureau of land management expanded tools to aid the efforts. they've come out to support. i'm confident the passage of this legislation will bolster the ecological health and sustainable population of wildlife species that depend on the sagebrush appetite. it also reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfire in accomplishing this goal i believe we can benefit the
communities throughout the west that rely on natural resource development as economic drivers while still sending a clear message then we are serious about sound environmental stewardship. i appreciate the opportunity to speak to this bill and i want to thank the chairman of the members of the committee. thank you mr. chairman, ranking member carper i appreciate him and members of the committee, i appreciate the invitation and opportunity to speak on behalf of the bill introduced in august august 21731, the management improvement act. we've all heard the same. this happened in 64 where for
six days and seven nights they watched helplessly as the city burned. fast forward in 2017 and we have a familiar scene. january 1 of this year through today americans have watched 49,000 fires burn more than 8.4 million acres of forest land. according to the service, wildfires burned in a project 6.9 million acres every single year. after nearly a quarter-century of hands-off management fire suppression costs have grown from 16% in 1995 to 52% of the annual budget in 2015. we must take steps to improve the nation's forest land by being much more aggressive and proactive. because they are occurring on
ththe large-scale across the western united states proactive management to protect the forest must be initiated on the large-scale. they are declining forest health and in short, might build would increase current categorical exclusions from 3,000, 10,000 acres to allow them to take steps to rapidly salvage dead and dying trees after the wildfires ice storms or wind events and expedite the environmental review process before, create a single good neighbor of authority policy, and five, clarified the congressional intent upon the stewardship contracting and final basics, provide greater certainty for the project level discussions or decisions through the litigation release. we must allow expanded use of the 21st century techniques by
land management professionals and not cave to the perfect meal specialists in the litigators whose misguided efforts have resulted in disasters in the forest land. to bring them back to the natural conditions we should waste no time to use this technology to preserve and protect the nation's forest landscape. ..
guarantee it will not be updated again and again as new species are changed for called up while the forest those of managed. the kahn with decision has led to injunctions on five digitation projects in montana along. lines included fire mitigation across regions one, too, and for 80 projects are a risk of this bill has a bipartisan fixed to the court case we need to support the recovery of endangered species that blocking force management does not help us this legislation that you will consider today though litigation relief for forest management act will address those pressing issues for the forest service to cut trees to mitigate though wildfire hazard and
strengthen habitat and maintain a force for pro to assure those plans to make sense if they could get started other projects instead of being stuck in a constant bureaucracy and endless litigation. rollout and to spend more time in the woods and less time in the courtrooms. this will help the forest projects move forward better carefully designed to take input from fish and wildlife in from the public and ideally holed up in court. to get the job done they need the resources to do the analysis. if it spends over half the money in fighting fires that is less money for forest management to create recreational access or watershed projections and the due diligence to succeed .
the forest service authority borrowing $300 million to cover firefighting cost this depletion means they cannot responsibly managed the forest making a harder to mitigate the impact but sadly the senate has a big problem. we may not be able to move decide how to tackle climate change but we should give the forest service the tools they need irresponsibly managed the forest. that is a good start we have to address the funding issues as well. >> senator welcome to the committee. >> thanks for holding today's hearing to increase active force management with a damaging court decision that creates red tape to block projects with no benefit to the species we burned over 1 million acres
this fire season and the ranking member says it was the size of the state of delaware. we also lost to fire fighters fighting those buyers. this legislation codifies that legal position taken by the obama administration department of agriculture and interior undercurrent administration has set up six -- to express support. montana had two of the three most expensive fires in the nation a just saw the report yesterday. we were number one in denver to a number three. furthermore representatives have introduced bipartisan companion legislation in the
house. we have a also supported by dozens of organizations, a sportsman, and conservation groups it has strong bipartisan groups and support. sponsoring the ninth circuit ruling with the cottonwood fire -- and rental center that we have to do with extra level of planning and consultation with fish and wildlife following the designation of critical habitat for the links species so to be clearer vision wildlife were already conducting robust scientific analysis with regard to though links habitat so they were and are fully committed to the cotton would ruling is in contrast to the tenth circuit ruling on a related case in 2007 but
unfortunately in 2016 the supreme court declined the obama administration petition to resolve the conflicting circuit court opinions which uphold the ninth circuit ruling. has highlighted by president obama the card would ruling has the potential to cripple the forest service and land management functions. doj highlighted the decisions to substantially increase paperwork without any conservation benefit that the department of justice noted 850 listed species in a geographical area to emphasize the sheer volume of the volume to the decision. we see this firsthand and montana as it is prioritized consultation with fish and
wildlife service above the grizzly bear consultation so today there are projects in montana that have been blocked to those injunctions' due to the cottonwood decision. they were designed to reduce those critical objectives and to protect water quality several of those is a collaborative process of the stakeholders to improve forest health yet each one was stopped to those capitalizing on the ninth circuit disastrous cotton would ruling. but as senator jester just alluded to the injunction of the stonewall digitation project near lincoln montana this was a joint days before
the work was supposed to begin in one month later guess what happened? fires broke out on the very acres that would have been treated under this project. and i cannot say it would have prevented the fire but the fact that it occurred in areas that could not be treated shows we need to pass bipartisan legislation that refers to this decision . is simply clarifies that the federal agencies do not need to do the extra layer of unnecessary consultation required by congress so to remove this burden will allow agencies to have more time on the ground so together with other management and other firefighters we say we
manage the forest or the forest will manage just. we look forward to working with this committee. >> record you bringing for this bipartisan piece of leadership and now we'll hear from our witnesses. >> i am pleased to first introduced the policy adviser for wyoming's governor. her work for the government -- governor's office and former policy analyst, jessica knows the value of strong coordination among states and federal and local agencies. holding her bachelor's and master's degrees where she studied post fire activity including grazing she is the key member of the task force which concluded jean-marie
2015 if she continues to work closely to develop forestry's solutions for wyoming. she wears many hats offering a unique perspective i appreciate you making the trip to look forward to hearing your suggestions for the next generation and in addition we have the general counsel to the american forest resource council. and also good to see you again mr. president and ceo from the national wildlife federation your whole testimony will be made part of the rehearing please keep your comments at five minutes and we may have time for questions. please begin. >> good morning members of the committee's figure for the opportunity to justify on enhancing forest management to mitigate wildfires.
welling makes up more than 11 million acres and over 60 percent is administered by the forest service and bureau of land management to negatively affect wyoming's economy in natural resources in private property and human health billions demand immediate action governor mead thinks he can do better to created task
>> >> increasing negative acreage under exclusion would be beneficial to take management on a larger school scale than recent years to decrease while fire risk second wyoming has worked with partnerships and the plm in the farm bill is more important to get work done on the ground. in this would decrease the potential for fire however does that allow permanent roads to be constructed and they are often necessary we recommend removing this provision and to discuss the national environmental policy act it is a procedural statute to assist federal agencies to make decisions which has involved
-- seibald and to a cumbersome of process to contain the necessary information. through legislative action is necessary the written testimony contain suggestions slow analysis does not provide process with as ever changing conditions on the ground. that will require leadership in this committee is qualified to undertake and accomplish the goal. the governor appreciates your interest to find an answer to the crisis we're facing. thank you for allowing us to share wyomings perspective. >> thank you chairman and ranking member and members of the committee from the thank you for the opportunity to address you today. this is a timely and
constructive step toward common-sense reforms the american forest resource council represents the industry in washington or again ohio -- idaho and california. those rural communities is on the steady and predictable supply of timber in one of the only sources of jobs in these areas that is the linchpin of many rural economies. that infrastructure also makes forest restoration efforts possible. we take pride in our stewardship and reinvested to sustain this renewable resource for future generations protecting our community and ensuring the health of our forest to offer its benefits to the many users.
right now a swath of our forest is overstocked and unhealthy and at high risk of catastrophic well fire that this season in the west was one of the worst on record with over 8 million acres burned. the effect is not mere statistics but human suffering, hubbard homes with wildlife habitats and when the forest burns valuable timber resources are lost leading to job loss and closure. many of these risks were in a dramatic fashion it took weeks to contain into gravely treasure worthy
angels rest trail is then covered the entire portland area with a thick blanket of smoke. and have the worst air quality in the entire country earlier this summer. they canceled the first day of kindergarten is your and my daughter's preschool had gone outside every day for 30 years this year they had to stay inside for over three days because of poor air quality. so the legislation before you today some make great strides for force management so the of litigation for forest management project act which is a bipartisan bill so that is the disaster
is cotton would decision which is a wide range of needed projects the bill would fix the decision by adopting the position by the obama administration abutting cottonwood so that critical habitat designated it is not enough to consult for a process of grayback before service had to go back. even with of course, plan that 20 or more years old of the northwest where we're operating under a series of forest plan adopted in 1994.
so that include a broader level of six of double impact that could be spread over many projects. a buffer is more likely to be incorporated to be in sure they do not adversely affect the species. got what has had a dramatic effect of region one and that is only the beginning. in addition to be worthy of your consideration currently too many roadblocks and too much analysis paralysis going on to manage our forest so to these problems can be achieved and we urge the committees to act. >> thanks for your testimony
>> thank you for the opportunity to be with you i'm so thank you -- thank full view holding this hearing and a thing getting the attention that it should delicate 8.5 million acres is a big number there is 1 million acres burning right now. but of the worst years have been the last 15. and there are solutions but the last few congresses haven't got it to the yen dobro -- the end zone there are prescribed burns that is not what we're talking about today these mega fires are i'd like we have seen before and they're more intense and frequent that this year we had people go back so after
that without precipitation was not enough and that we still had massive fires. but there are things we can do about it in right now the four services between 65 million acres of the 193 of the national forest restoration the requires restoration so i think this conversation is imperative. the vegetable the tools in the world on the ground to restore these forest otherwise it'll be for nothing. so without bipartisan path forward there was a bill introduced a few days ago it is a huge bipartisan coalition but we really
encourage it is tied to that conversation because if you don't fix the funding crisis then these rules are for naught. also the budget going to fire fighters is almost 60% this year at the same time we can improve so some things we can do to push innovation focus on habitat restoration and make sure that the four stand watershed health is considered with the wave day have public input and collaboration. in those two bills is a good start that is targeted to a very specific problem with the encroachment and
requires say habitat and it has incredible bipartisan support but it is from almost all the conservation groups, some people think he invasive is much more but it is a great bipartisan bill. again it bipartisan support of faults with a few small pieces a few want to talk about. but i also agree that the concerns he has raised it think it goes a little too far we want to ration back and i know where she would
have more collaboration and that frankly could be kept in place be morey efficient but these are conversations did you did have a massive bipartisan victory use these bills. so for me at the end of the day but then they're doing good work if we can reduce these redundant environmental reviews that protects and reword collaboration. to find good common sense non-partisan solutions for go in and expanding and improving the provision we could have a home run and
address a major problem of the landscape. eighty-four working on this issue because this is an opportunity to be governed if we put our heads together. >> i appreciate the testimony so according to the federal land management agency's humans are intentionally or unintentionally responsible for wildfires in the united states. is reported the most expensive fire in the united states was in california exceeding $200 million caused by an illegal camp fire western rail link the ban caused a residential home to burn 19 square miles near national parks.
and 1.42 fight the fire. given the costs are there measures we should be taking to make our forest more resistant?. >> yes. there are steps we should be taken because that is important and in wyoming that is the prevention efforts to educate the public on the impact their actions may have on citizens to help homeowners and communities to mitigate that risks are important hazardous fuel reduction projects are important and is an opportunity to mitigate wild fire hazard it is an opportunity to reduce
surface fuels in these fire assistance programs provide to a bill gore maintain capacity which becomes important and of course, i believe proactive management is necessary as well. >> some parties are advocating a complete hands-off approach you have expressed skepticism specifically june of this year you were quoted to say this approach leads to conditions that are quite an unhealthy and dangerous for good you feel there is a way to have healthy interactions and to make a forced more resilient?
two planning activities for go for example, the forest service figures we have seen 40 percent of their time and resources spent on paper work and planning. that is not how we should manage the forest so when fire comes through the impact is not catastrophic like you have seen. >> the star tribune said the epa quality over parts of
several western states was very unhealthy because of the fires. also the position of the so as the wyoming official what inspect - - impacted and help to the people of the west?. >> human health is a concern with a wildfires and wyoming has been bad as the particular matter in the air really do cause damage. the department of health has put out several warnings and announcements warning them to stay inside and close their windows to see and that is concerning also
visitors to visit with the great and also the municipal watersheds that buyers may have from sedimentation. >> peas are health concerns and wyoming. >> senator?. >> first of all, welcome. it is great for you had a chance to hear his testimony so do you agree with anything. >> mr. chairman and the sender fighting is a natural
process so we have to look at management as a large scale that needs to occur now. there are several pools that we need to put - - tools of the box and we need to use those immediately so that testimony showing that they are of concern is absolutely true and i do believe that collaboration is an important part of the process we have seen that move forward the forest service leave these cooperatives to put the management activity but we also need to move quickly and time is of the essence. >> you agree with anything of that testimony?. >> yes.
so to discuss the koch would build and how that is a way to ensure that we it needed forest management projects in the northern rockies and upper regions where they are held for paperwork reasons that is not having a conservation benefit of the collaboration aspect we support those collaborative efforts we have a project where i have represented in court that has held up under the kahn would decision. that is holding a collaborative projects and why we need that fixed. >>. >> get your testimony, regarding the of litigation you mention that other members of the
conservation committee that our concerned that it could be broader than necessary to achieve the goals with unintended consequences. and how we might address these concerns?. >> if you compare this to the house bill and there are some concern that if you were looking at that project level that there could be information that could have a cumulative impact across the entire plan. we support the bill as it is the year very grateful for the work done and we think it is a strategic approach. they're supposed to be done every 10 years and it has been 25.
to the biggest thing is to make sure there is no unintended consequences. >> what is your brief reaction?. >> yes i a do believe that these projects need to have been borer project management of does allow for consultation and we don't want to harm that in any way so i too agree it is an important step forward. >> i think this is very carefully drawn and is not undo existing law as to how you consult when you prepare a new forest plan so working very carefully to make this
a narrow fix that will not benefit. >> i have been listening and this is about forest fires but we have purifiers not really a record setter but assuming going up to southern kansas so it's very tragic and in your testimony you say all regions of the early stage of government would be key to reducing the
time that it takes so during got highway bills we have learned from experience we can do that i introduced a bill to the permitting for all federal, state, and local regulatory agencies to come to the table early to coordinate the participation it sounds like this is needed across government. can you detail why did it is important to do this earlier rather them later?. >> i have extensive experience working on an environmental policy to put it this document together those projects and they
engage them to move faster purpose of for example, of the state agency has wildlife data that is a useful for the federal agency then they can bring that forward instead of waiting until the last minute. >> which is normally the case. >> often. yes. >> we successfully did this with the previous transportation bill. was a joint effort very bipartisan and successful. there seems to have been there was a system at a more local level that the forest service and other agencies
are responsible for forest management for litigation even when backed by a science and beneficial to the ecosystem a problem that needs to be solved to create uncertainty and then when the circuit court splits what are your thoughts? but on the other bill do you have any other thoughts?. >> 84 the question so on the of litigation as a real problem if you have the project where stakeholders get involved or at the table the vlsi group comes in at
the very end to undo the whole process will put everything into litigation so that arbitration provision is a good step with the pilot project with ways to streamline the of litigation process right now that can take years and years and we need to fix that. >> 1736 would help?. >> yes. >> there are some ways to have what can they do that are not addressed in this legislation?. >> you're a very effective fast talker and my wife tells me to talk slow and now i realize there are great benefits.
>> is said joke from syracuse if you don't talk fast your mouth would freeze shut. [laughter] there is sufficient resources so that they have more tools to transform forest management so putting these together. >> there are a number of measures proposed on the house side that can streamline the planning process. >> soho by the way this is another reminder between the two committees that only
seem to meet at the same time and one of these days we will get that fixed. >> thanks for your presentations oregon has been burning with 20 major forest fires at 1.there were over 80 fires burning. i was up at eagle creek trail just before we had the of fireworks that set off that pacific gorge of flameout was phenomenal what it did. oregon has had more success than any stage with
stewardship projects. that effort came from, we have a war going on in the forest industry manages to get them to the old growth state to be fire resistive and don't mess with mother nature everybody says the solution is to clear cut. that war was unproductive ending in a court battle so out keenness to reject efforts. we have hundreds of thousands that are good for so there was a potential to win so that is what
has become a roadblock as but to build a new blade at the airport. >> there has not been any here in the idea is to get together before he and say you don't battle it out in your court but that is the essential for management. one of the challenges with the pending projects they are not commercially viable.
off form bills. why would be taken out and then tries to make the "forbes" so that is the sort of approach that destroys all the efforts to bring together the two communities to create health because it is like here is an excuse so i just wanted to express that concern and say we really need to focus on not increasing those timber wars but expanding on the foundation we have how we
could state that according to the u.s. forest service now they are approximately two 1/2 months longer than in 1970. rapid city south dakota has cited over 20 wildfires in the black hills national forest. in my opinion it is a crisis. looking at the most needed change to federal management policy what is that and why? >> the most needed change is
a focus to actively managing our landscape to make sure that the forest service and blm that is the number one priority. wildfires have to be fought and it certainly caused a lot of money but so then to get those catastrophic effects. >> can you talk about of the desired manager practice?. >> i appreciate you asking as one of the comments there
this is what leads to those interests conditions. '08 do have that plane so you basically sterilized the -- the ground so what example is the federal government doing wrong with active force management? period is the day care rendered but the agency's hands are tied by a number of repetitive process and so
>> in your recent testimony but there is a type of restoration with the alarming gap of what needs to be dead than fest -- duryea protested to the 30 what we need is a permanent funding without legislative effort but it is not needed if they can provide that. day you agree that mission is primary lack of funding and resources and what level should they be providing?. >> during my testimony earlier you can have all the
management tools but if otherwise they are all for naught so saving $2 million between the forest service and blm to fight them that does not include the way the state agencies are spending. there is good work with the appropriations process but that just puts a band-aid on the problem. and was so many others that is the perfect path to have the funding necessary i believe we should have a separate fund because of there is another hurricane that hits the and that is a separate funding source but if we could move that quickly would solve a lot of problems to give those folks more tools are right now
this restoration deficit if you take all the money in the world you could restore 80 million acres with the current rate of funding. >> if we do get a vote i will offer an amendment. in your written testimony is you raise concerns what are the of consequences as that assessment ended that would but that was the solutions