Skip to main content

tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 22, 2015 9:00pm-11:01pm EDT

9:00 pm
saying please see me about the anatablock issues, when just several weeks earlier the first lady had written to the governor saying about the anatomy clinical studies at uva and bcu. said here's the info from johnny, he has calls in to them and no one returned his calls. then the first lady follows up -- >> time has expired. you can finish your sentence. >> sure, the point is the timing evidence showed an agreement robustly in this case. >> thank you very much. appreciate your argument. >> thank you your honor. a few points. technically accurate instruction, assuming technically accurate can be
9:01 pm
misleading by omission. i point the court to page 295 of that decision where it said cloak of office phrase is not inherently novel or objectional way of describing the action. in this setting to consider criminal conduct both and describes conduct that was not potentially criminal. >> did the trial court there cite the statute explain the statute to the jury or not. >> no your honor. first circuit decision wasn't turning on instruction, it was turning on whether the conduct alleged was illegal. the instruction could encompass lawful action it didn't. here if you instruct the jury as your honor was saying that official action potentially includes everything under the sun, when it in fact does not potentially include everything under the sun. >> that's not what it did. >> you have to tell them what it doesn't include.
9:02 pm
this is an area that's some black official action some white not official and some gray. the district court only instructed on black, didn't instruct on any of the gray. >> gave the good faith instruction which wrapped it up, in good faith no criminal intent and no crime. if he does it in good faith there's no crime. >> and if good faith is what saves him. >> and you called all the character witnesses that he was honest, could be believed. gave you a lot of leeway on that. got instruction that character evidence alone is enough to prove he acted in good faith. >> if good faith saves this it opens up every elected official. >> you all call it crucial defense. >> because we had nothing left. if good faith is what saves it then you truly have given that official acts applies to gra tuts given prosecutors broad license to haul in officials. >> crucial defense came during jury charge conference though
9:03 pm
right? >> and that's what i would like to turn to next. the instructions that we propose were plainly correct in jury conference and in proposed instructions. i would like to address the government's claim they were wrong. first, the government says we categorically excluded meetings. that's false. look at 73 of the joint appendix proposed instruction not at jury conference but written. merely attending a meeting, hosting rhee exception attending are not standing alone official acts even if settled practices of the official. a government official's decision who to invite whether to attend whether to attend snotd official act because mere engrash agency are not corruption. we are not saying about meetings categorically being excluded. judge thacker, if you look at what we proposed, 73040 and 41.
9:04 pm
that is word for word out of this court's opinion on jennings. they say if it doesn't -- they failed a specific instruction and judge spencer said no, presumably because as jennings makes clear, there's no difference between specific type of official act and specific course of official action. jennings uses terms interchangeably. a course of interaction is more than one instance of a specific type of official action. the instruction we requested is word for word from jennings. and it includes the goodwill gift instruction. likewise, the next instruction we proposed page seven 341, and providing near credibility or reputation to another is not an
9:05 pm
official act. define in that act are whether it constitutes settled practice and whether conduct was intended to or did in fact influence a specific official decision the government actually makes. another clearly correct instruction. >> government doesn't have to give you anything. >> has to influence a decision in the government's power, straight out of that circuit -- >> that paragraph is out of jennings but the second paragraph is something else they were two separate limitations. finally, pretrial publicity. if you look at the transcript, it is crystal clear we said we want to be able to question any juror exposed to sub list tee. and the court said no. that's why in the portions of the transcript, they went issue by issue, was a section of hearing we talked about pretrial publicity. that's where he repeatedly said we couldn't question anybody because of exposure.
9:06 pm
instead, conduct a stand up, sit down proceeding, allowed us to call forward only witnesses who raised issues other than their mere exposure to publicity. we were not allowed to question because they were exposed to publicity. judge thacker, you may remember the bailey case, you were assistant united states attorney on that. even in bailey they asked the jury have you formed opinion based on exposure to pretrial publicity. we were denied that basic question. to this day we have no idea whether any of those 12 jurors that sat in that box and convicted stepped into that box having formed opinion against the governor based on their exposure. you have been very patient. governor mcdonnell is a long-standing public servant. he committed no crimes here. we respectfully request the conviction be reversed. >> thank you very much. we appreciate the argument of both counsel and the very good papers on the case. we would like to come down and brief with various lawyers then take a short recess.
9:07 pm
when we take that recess anyone that doesn't want to hear the second and third and fourth can leave. tomorrow night on cspan editorial cartoonists discuss role as sat irists at an event after the event at "charlie hebdo." here is some of what was said. >> i think being dropped from a paper is a form for the audience a form of quality control. still being effective. if they run everything you do, you must be doing something wrong. >> it shows you're still dangerous, a little bit, yes. >> or that you have touched a sore point for that particular community. >> not all my smoking mr. butt strips made it into carolina papers. wrote about frank sinatra i
9:08 pm
went dark in las vegas. jerry brown, same thing in california. there are regional -- the most recently i did something about jeb bush and the dallas paper threw it out because it was too political. too political? the man is running for president! >> molly crab apple participated. she talks about sat irists in the middle east making fun of isis. >> you see the same thing throughout syria and lebanon where activists are having their lives threatened by isis. instead of giving in to despair, they reacted with vicious, hilarious mockery. there's a syrian produced web series of actors dressing up as him. making fun of him. one in beirut about putting bras on cows. there's this incredible
9:09 pm
tradition of parody in the middle east and that's really been turned to great effect toward isis now. the thing is authoritarian bass tards of every stripe religious authoritarian or secular just authorize tarns of every kind they hate humor cartooning, gets under their skin. there's something vis earlily irref rent about it. they're serious puffed up people that's why they're authoritarians. this kills them. when hitler was in power one of the things he made a specific list of was cartoonists in england that had drawn pictures of him. he specifically wanted to kill them because they hurt his feelings just that much. >> watch all of the event on the role of satire tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan.
9:10 pm
the chief of the u.s. forest service presented his wildfire season forecast to snort energy and natural resources committee. the forest service spent average of $1.1 billion suppressing wildfires. fire fighting efforts in wild land areas require different techniques, equipment and training, from the more familiar structure fire fighting found in populated areas. from capitol hill, this is about two hours and ten minutes. good morning. we'll call to order the energy committee hearing this morning. welcome to everyone. we are discussing logistics here because we theoretically have a vote at 10:15.
9:11 pm
it's my intention to offer my opening statements and turn to the ranking member for hers. and if, in fact, they have called it at that point in time, i think what we will do is just take a quick break, go vote, so that we can come back and hear the testimony from our witnesses this morning. obviously, a very important issue to all of us around the country. we are here to examine our wildfire management policies including the impacts of wildfire on communities and our current fire operations. unfortunately, today may be a day where we struggle to find a whole lot that is positive about all of this. over the last 50 years, we've seen a rapid escalation in the size, frequency and severity of wildfires. the most often cited causes are severe drought, a change in climate, hazardous fuel buildups due in part to decades of fire exclusion, insect and disease infestation and an explosion of non-native invasive species. these are big problems.
9:12 pm
they're daunting problems. and they are problems that are not easily going away. we've already seen the consequences unfold firsthand in my home state of alaska. last may we had the funny river fire just about this time, actually, mid-may, burned through the national wildlife refuge, it spread smoke as far away as fairbanks more than 500 miles away. the fire burned nearly 200,000 acres or 300 square miles before it was finally extinguished. it was the second largest ever recorded on the kenai peninsula. it threatened lower skilack lake forcing evacuations. we're all thankful there were no apparent fatalities. the funny river fire was likely started by human activity, but the area has also changed dramatically in the last 20 years due in part to mass spruce bark beetle kill. grasses have replaced forests, and those grasses are simply more susceptible to fire.
9:13 pm
more than half of the peninsula's total forested land, nearly a million acres, has been lost which is, of course, a worrisome sign for the future. already this year, the concern back home is that we will have an aggressive fire season. we've had very low snowfall throughout the state. it's dry. i was in fairbanks this weekend. and i cannot recall a time on the 1st of may when not only the rivers are out, but there is no snow anywhere. no snow pack anywhere. so the same factors that we are seeing up north and in the peninsula that are increasing the size, frequency and severity of wildfires are also driving up wildfire suppression costs both in actual dollars and as a portion of the total budget of the forest service. beyond that, the expansion of the wild urban interface, the wui and fire operation strategies and tactics can't be overlooked.
9:14 pm
according to a recent usda inspector general report, 50 to the 95% of forest service suppression costs were attributable to the defense of private property much of which is located in the urban interface. it is looking more and more like the forest service is morphing into an emergency fire service that throws everything that it has as every wildfire whether effective or not. last year was a good example there. the forest service spent $200 million more on suppression than it spent on average over the last ten years despite there being less than half the number of fires. less than half the number of acres burned and less than half the number of homes burned. we need to see a paradigm shift from fire control at all costs to actual fire management. so it's my hope that we can implement a wildfire policy that responsibly funds wildfire suppression needs, ends the unsustainable practice of fire borrowing, helps firewise our community, and makes the necessary investments in a full suite of fuel treatments. these will be my policy goals
9:15 pm
here in the committee. it won't be easy to achieve them, but if we do, i think we create fire-resilient landscapes in which wildfires can occur without such devastating consequences for our lands, our communities, and for our budgets. so i look forward to the testimony of our witnesses here this morning. thank you all and senator cantwell we'll now turn to you for your comments. >> thank you, madam chair, and thanks for calling this important hearing. and i, too, want to thank the witnesses for joining us today. fire season is upon us. and we're looking to you as experts to tell us how we can better prepare for this year's fire season. for some time now, the committee has heard time and again that our fires are getting noticeably worse. we have extreme weather conditions. the amount of hazardous fuel in our forests, suboptimal management schemes and an increasing inner urban wildland interface, as the chair was saying, are combining to produce more lethal fires. so the people in my state are all too familiar with this and want to know what we can do to better prepare. throughout the country, we saw fires, but i think washington --
9:16 pm
the state of washington probably was most hard hit. i see chief tidwell nodding his head. more than twice the average of number of acres burned across the northwest. last july, washington suffered the carlton complex fire. and we spent many time talking to people in the community. this fire alone burned 149,000 acres in a single day. it burned an average of five acres per second for 24 hours straight. so the combination of extreme weather combined with this fire over 353 homes were lost. so despite many efforts for people to coordinate and resources, the people in those towns lacked the power of communication for weeks because of downed telephone lines, homeowners were not able to call to warn about the continued encroaching fires, and instead police had to drive around from town to town, calling for evacuation from their vehicles using a megaphone.
9:17 pm
so one thing that i will be calling for is better coordination between the forest service and fema on communication responses during these natural disasters. if they are becoming worse, we need better memorandums of understanding that require communications be set up right away so that our communities can continue to deal with these disasters. i know that we can get ahead of these issues. and as the chair mentioned, we need more hazardous fuel reduction in the wildland inner urban -- the wildland urban interface, and we need to figure out how to use resulting biomass to offset these costs. i know we're going to hear some testimony about that today, and i look forward to it. i'm also eager to hear from the witnesses on more prescribed fire burns also. we need to address fresh ideas on how to fund forest service efforts to protect our communities. senator wyden, as we know, has introduced legislation on this. and i'm happy to be a co-sponsor and look forward to discussing that.
9:18 pm
the science is clearly telling us that wildfires are not behaving the same way they have in the past decades. the witnesses will talk more about why this is, but i want to make sure that we discuss today what our response is going to be to this evolving problem. researchers from the forest service just last week published a major scientific report. the report made it clear that if we are ever going to get ahead of the problem, the forest service needs to respond to wildfires in a fundamentally different way. to quote the report, our modern wildfire problems derive themselves from self-reinforcing cycle of countereffective actions. end quote. we cannot keep using the same tired approaches that we have for the last 100 years. we need to make sure we're focusing on getting different results. common sense tells us that a response needs to be modified now that the problem is different. the forest service report does a great job of summing up what the
9:19 pm
forest service needs to do. the report says that altering the current trajectory will require a total system transformation. the report bluntly states that maintaining the status quo will actually increase wildland fires, increases the losses we suffer from wildfires, and significantly affect the forest service's ability to meet its core mission. so we need new solutions. i'm certainly going to work with the chair and my colleagues here on the committee over the next few months to find some of those solutions. i see four areas ripe for us to work on. first we need to do what we can to reduce the probability of catastrophic fires, and we need to see that at least that we are doubling the amount of hazardous fuel treatments and double the amount of prescribed fire burn. second, we need to fight large wildland fires which are becoming very expensive. since 2000, the federal government has spent nearly $24 billion just fighting the large
9:20 pm
wildfires. so we need to ensure that federal agencies have the money necessary to protect our communities. and we need to treat large wildfires differently in our budget. third, we need to make sure that these fires are are -- and the management on the ground is being done to assure accountability. we've seen questions about spending practices in the media. and we need to make sure that we are incentivizing the right kind of cost savings in the budget. and finally, but most importantly, as i mentioned earlier, the assistance communities receive after the wildfire has started needs to be different. the assistance needs to show up quicker. the assistance needs to be tailored to these issues that are being raised. the federal government is responding to a new type of disaster where these events are blowing up in greater degree and reaching communities in unbelievable lightning speed. so we need to have a more proactive, up-front coordination
9:21 pm
with our federal agencies. the forest service and fema. for example, just in delivering realtime communications and making sure that the resources -- and i know the chief will address this -- are actually on the ground. the fire season forecast came out last week, and it's particularly troubling for our state. i hope people are ready to help, and i hope fema will work to stage things like generators and assistance equipment and things that are closer to these areas so they can respond more quickly. again, madam chair, thank you so much for this hearing. i look forward to the witnesses, and i look forward to working with our committee to try to institute some new approaches. >> thank you, senator cantwell. let's go ahead and get started with our witnesses. and depending on what happens with the vote, we may just keep powering through. i may take a pause in the hearing. but i'd like to welcome all of our witnesses before the committee, particularly you, chief tidwell. i appreciate your leadership at
9:22 pm
the u.s. forest service there. next to chief tidwell, we have dr. steven pine. he is a regents professor at the school of life sciences at arizona state university. dr. sharon hood is with us this morning, a postdoctoral researcher at college of forestry and conservation at university of montana. we have mr. bob izelle. am i pronouncing that correct? eisele. he is the watershed and fire analyst at the county of san diego, california. i understand you're retired. great to have you with us. and finally, mr. bruce hallen, who is the director of water rights and contracts at the salt river project. so chief, if we can begin with you for your five-minute comments, and to each of the witnesses, we'd ask that you try to limit your testimony to five minutes. your full -- your full statement will be included as part of the record. but we look forward to your comments and the opportunity to ask questions afterwards. chief, good morning.
9:23 pm
>> good morning. madam chair, ranking member, members of the committee, thank you for giving us the opportunity to be here and especially with the other panel members today to be able to talk about not only our upcoming fire season, but the things that we're currently doing and the things that we need to continue to do to address this issue. as you both have already shared, the predictions for this coming fire season are similar to what we had last year with definitely a much more -- more than active fire season primarily out in the west. and as the summer develops, that's going to just continue to expand up through the northwest and then over into parts of utah, idaho and even into montana. you know, that being said, i can't stress enough that the fire seasons we're seeing today, these are the normal fire seasons. and so we can look at and say yeah, they're more active than they were a decade ago, but it's important for us to understand that today this is the fire seasons we're going to continue
9:24 pm
seasons we're going to continue to have. once again, we have the resources. we made sure that we're going to have an adequate number of large air tankers to respond to these fires. the helicopters that we have, we already have 100 exclusive use and with our call, when needed, we can bring up another 200 helicopters if we need that. we'll have our firefighters, our type one crews, over 900 engines just from the forest service. and then, as always, we have the airplanes from the air national guard and air force reserve that are ready to come on when we hit those surge times of the year. we are making a difference with the fuel treatments. when i look at the past, the millions of acres that we've been treating, in a combination of managing natural fire in the back country, using prescribed fire, and then our fields treatments primarily in the
9:25 pm
wildland inner urban interface, we make a difference. this year we plan to treat 1.5 million acres of hazardous fuels and our budget is calling for that same level. and every year -- and i can point back to the slide fire from just last year -- where these field treatments are making a significant difference to allow our firefighters to more safely be able to suppress these fires. it reduces the severity, has less impact on the watershed and less impact on our communities. our challenge remains to be able to find more ways so that we can continue to increase the pace and scale of this work. i want to thank the committee for your support for our budget this year with that considerable increase in hazardous fields funding. if we can maintain that going forward, i think it will allow us to continue to increase its pace and scale along with the new authorities that we have
9:26 pm
with the farm bill, as we move forward to be able to work closer and increase our coordination with the states and other partners to be able to get additional work accomplished. the other thing i need to stress -- and it was pointed out already -- the wildland urban interface. not only are our fire seasons longer, hotter and drier, there are another 60 to 80 days longer than what they were just 15 years ago, we have over 50 million acres of wildland urban interface that we have to deal with. and madam chair, as you pointed out in your statement, often this is the first thing we have to do with every fire is take the actions to be able to protect that community before we can even take on really suppressing these large wildfires. now, we continue to suppress 98% of the fires that we take initial attack on. that doesn't include the ones that we manage in the back country for the benefits.
9:27 pm
so i need to dress that. but even with 98%, there's that 1% to 2% that escape, the ones that we see on the news, the ones that create the large costs. so once again, i appreciate the support for members of this committee to find a solution to deal with the cost of fire suppression. once again this year, we're predicting, there's a 90% chance that we will not have enough money and we'll have to look at transferring funds. it is really past time, and i know some of you are tired of listening to me talk about this. but it's really past time for us to find a solution and to be able to move on and to stop this disruptive practice of shutting down operations in the fall to be able to transfer money. i think that it's no question that 1%, this concept of 1% of our fires should be considered natural disasters. and again, last year, the ten largest fires, the ten most costly fires, equaled about over
9:28 pm
$320 million which really tracks with what we've been talking about, 1%, 30% of the costs. so thank you again for having the opportunity to be here, and thank you again for the support you're providing us not only to increase the work we're getting done, but also to find a solution to dealing with the cost of fire suppression. thank you. >> thank you, chief. i think if there is one thing that we would agree on as members of this committee is that we've got to figure out a way to stop the fire borrowing because as we talk about all of the other things that go on within the forest service and the missions, it comes back to the fact that you don't have the funds if you're using all of your budget here to deal with these catastrophic fires. i think what i'd like to do in deference to the other members of the panel so that we can all hear your important testimony is just take a quick, like, three minutes. we're going to go vote. a minute and a half there and back. we stand adjourned for three
9:29 pm
minutes. three minutes. hurry. as curt see to you, we made you hold over a little longer. dr. pine let's turn to you for your comments. and again, thank you for your indulgence on time. >> well, good morning. and thank you for the opportunity to speak.
9:30 pm
after the great fires of 1910, we spent 50 years trying to remove fire from the land. call it a strategy of resistance. that sought to eliminate threats before they could become serious. that doctrine failed because it excluded good fires as well as bad ones. we then tried to put good fire back in. call this a strategy of restoration. well, this strategy has now run its over 50-year course. and the prospects and problems of its foundational doctrine, fire by prescription, are better understood. which leads to a consideration of what might the next 50 years hold. the strategy seems to be congealing in the west that we might label resilience. it seeks to make the best of the hand we are being dealt. so let me consider these strategies in turn. resistance. there remains an old guard who would like to return to the former order. and there are more progressive thinkers who want to upgrade that tradition into an all-hazard emergency service model. effectively, urban fire departments in the woods. or in a national sense, a kind of coast guard for the interior.
9:31 pm
well, this makes sense in your primary land use is urban or ex-urban, but it's expensive, and it has not shown it can manage fires. if it retains the strengths of fire suppression, it also magnifies suppression's weaknesses. restoration. restoration, too, has upgraded its mission from the simple hope that prescribed fire might substitute for wildfire. we now embrace as complex collaborations, supplements prescribed burning with other treatments, and tries to operate on the scale of landscapes. the determination endures, however, to get ahead of the problem. yet the vision has proved costly not only in money but in political and social capital. there is little reason to believe that the country will muster the will to rehabilitate at the rate or the scale required the tens of millions of acres believed out of whack. resilience. in the west, a strategy is
9:32 pm
emerging that accepts that we are unlikely to get ahead of the problems coming at us. instead, it allows for the management of wildland fires to shift where feasible from attempts at direct control to more indirect reliance on confining and containing outbreaks. of course, there are some fires that simply bolt away from the moment of ignition, and there are some that threaten people or critical sites right from the onset. but many fires offer opportunities to back off and burn out. these are not let burns. rather fire officers concentrate their efforts at point protection where assets are most valuable. elsewhere, they will try to pick places, draw boxes which they can hold with minimum expenses, risks and damages. well, this strategy is compatible with federal policy and in many respects moves in directions long urged by critics, though it can look like a mash-up. and the outcomes will be mixed because the fires are patchy. some patches will burn more
9:33 pm
severely than we would like. some patches may hardly burn at all. but the rest will likely burn within a range of tolerance. such burnouts may well be the future of prescribed fire in the west. so without wishing to push an analogy too closely, we might liken the resistance strategy to iraq. the restoration strategy to scissors and the resilience strategy to paper. at any given time and place, one trumps another and is, in turn, trumped. we need all three. we need rocks around our prized assets and communities when they are threatened by going fires. we need scissors to buffer against bad burns and nudge toward good ones. and we need paper because the ideal can be the enemy of the good and a mixed strategy that includes boxing and burning may be the best that we can hope for. thank you.
9:34 pm
>> thank you, dr. pine. dr. hood. welcome. >> good morning, senator murkowski and other members of the committee. thank you for inviting me here today. my name is sharon hood. i'm a post-doctoral researcher at the university of montana. previously i worked as a forest service ecologist prior to earning my ph.d. at the university of montana in 2014. fire and native bark beetles have huge impacts on conifer forests across the country. my testimony focuses on fire and thinning can reese ponderosa pine resistance to mount pine beetle, but also that thinning is not a substitute for fire. ponderosa pine is adapted to survive frequent low-severity fire, a type of fire that burns through the forest's understory but generally causes little mortality to larger trees. however, lack of fire since the late 1800s has increased tree density and changed species' composition in many areas. we continue to actively suppress
9:35 pm
the majority of wildfires today. however, there is recent acknowledgment such as the 2014 national action plan for the national cohesive wildland fire management strategy that we must allow more fires to burn to promote healthy forests restill yant to wildfire, insects, disease and drought. to achieve the goal of allowing more fires to burn, we must accept the critical role of fire as a natural ecological process. my research supports the need for frequent low-severity fire and ponderosa pine forest in three ways. one, low-severity fire increases resin ducts. these ducts are used by trees to make resin or pitch that helps resist bark beetle attacks. and trees with more ducts are more likely to survive attack. two, when frequent low-severity fires remove from ponderosa pine forests, resin duct defenses decline over time. and three, low-severity fire acts as a natural thinning agent to reduce forest density. this also promotes an increase
9:36 pm
in resin duct defenses that increases resistance to mountain pine beetle. i examined the facts of thinning and fire on resistance to a mountain pine beetle outbreak at a long-term study site in western montana. these treatments were originally designed to study how to effectively restore ponderosa pine forests and increase resilience to wildfire. they were implemented five years before the outbreak began. resin ducts increased after thinning with and without burning and remained higher than the control and burn-only treatments throughout the length of the study. mortality differed markedly and in the control 50% of the ponderosa pine was killed in the outbreak compared with 20% in the burn only and almost no mortality and the thin only and thin burn combination treatments. high levels of douglas fir in both the control and burn only treatments due to over 100 years of fire exclusion coupled with a high pine mortality has reduced
9:37 pm
stand resilience beyond the ability to return to a ponderosa pine dominated facility. a forest type where there is strong scientific support that frequent low and mix severity fires were once common. further research is needed to determine types throughout the u.s. i found thinning with and without prescribed fire increased resistance greatly reducing tree mortality. in the long term, however, thinning with prescribed fire created the most resilient forest by stimulating tree defenses and through the beneficial effects of killing understory vegetation. these and other critical ecological effects cannot be replicated by thinning alone. but thinning is a useful and oftentimes necessary restoration and management tool. fire is crucial for long term
9:38 pm
maintenance of low to mid elevation fire. of ponder owes a pine forest. through both impacts on forest structure and composition and by stimulating defenses that can bartkbeetle attacks. there is no one size fix all approach. proactive restoration treatments should aim to increase forest resilience to a multitude of stressors and foster conditions that allow wildfires to burn under more natural tendencies. these findings are supported in other literature. thank you again for the opportunity to testify here today. >> thank you, dr. hood. mr. eisley, welcome. >> it's an honor for me to be here today.
9:39 pm
i've been involved with fire my entire life. started as a volunteer firefighter. on a management team 15 years. i'd like to think of myself as a student of fire. i've learned in southern california that we will always have extreme fire weather, we will always have a drought, but there will always be ignitions and they are plentiful and random. so the driver of the entire system is fuel. young fuel does not burn very well or very fast even under extreme conditions. old fuel conversely burns extremely hot and extremely well and extremely fast. for example, the origin -- age of the origin of fires in san diego county the past -- since 1950, the average age of the fuel where the big fires start was 71 years. we don't find any fire starting in fuels less than 20 years old
9:40 pm
that go to become major fires. next page. the fire problem in san diego county has gotten worse and it's kind of leading the nation again. california is not a good spot to be in the lead, but what we've seen in california in the past 50 years is becoming the norm in the western united states. so i see two main issues with the fire. fire and cost. we recognize that the fire problem is the fuels. we're now treating close to 2% of the hazardous fuels which is a 50 year rotation cycle which means that as we're doing a great job, we're not even getting close. we need to be doubling at least our fuel treatment. and it has to be mechanical and fire because it is the force of overgrown to the point that the
9:41 pm
fire will not thin them. it has to be thinned and then maintained thin with the fire. we need projects picked by forest service multi-disciplinary teams, not just fire, but forest health people, sociologists, risk assessments. pick the ones with the biggest bang for the buck. we need to use our dollars wisely. san bernardino national forest is on the fourth year of proposal for the 20,000 acre eis document. people are gaming the system on nepa. it's a good idea. we need to be doing it. but we're not building a shopping center. or a freeway. we're mitigating the damage to the forests. the budget process, i point out
9:42 pm
that there is a fema does a plan for state and local and tribal governments when the fires meet a certain criteria. fema picks up 75% of the cost. seems like they could do that for the federal agencies, also, or somewhat similar. we can reduce the cost of fires by managing them better and i think there is a technological asset here. we need to be able to have the guy on the ground with the laptop computer that can predict where the fire is going and then measure the results of what they're doing based on that. we need to know where the fire is. hard to believe we don't know where the fire is on some of these fires because we can't see them through the smoke and we can't map them. and they need to map them in the first day, not three days later. so that kind of technology i believe, it is going to go a long way to managing fire and
9:43 pm
air assets. we can model where aircraft are good and effective and where they're not so good. we can then let the fire managers make those kinds of decisions based on sound science. and a safety issue with our firefighters, every so often, we wind up having a disaster like yarnell hill. we need to know where the fire is, we need to know where the firefighters are and the people that are supervising those firefighters need to have an app in their hand that shows them where everybody is on the ground. that's totally doable, it would have to be satellite based. but just knowing where they are doesn't help. it's the guy in charge needs to know where they are. so i've put a bunch of other suggestions inside my testimony and i appreciate the opportunity to comment today.
9:44 pm
>> thank you. and last we'll question to mr. helen. welcome to the committee. >> members, thank you for the opportunity to testify. my name is bruce hallin. director of water rights and contracts for srp. for over 100 years, salt river project has provided a reliable water supply to metropolitan phoenix. to fulfill this responsibility, srp rating 7 dams, 1300 miles of canals and numerous ground water wells. importantly we're also dependent on the health of a 13,000 mile watershed to provide a renewable water supply, and protecting these head waters has been a priority. around the turn of the 20th century, watershed protection efforts focused onseting aside
9:45 pm
lands to ensure development in timber harvests were conducted in a way that reserved water supply for arizona. today it's causing catastrophic water fires that threaten the sustain ability and quality of drinking water for millions of arizona. this situation is not unique to arizona. we're working closely with the national water resources association and others who are facing similar threats to their head waters. catastrophic fire has severe and long term impacts to watersheds which are felt far beyond the area directly impacted by the fire. unlike the low intensity fire seen in healthy forests, the aftermath we're experiencing as a result of the unnatural forest conditions increased sediment loads and debris that reduced storage capacity at our reservoirs and affect the
9:46 pm
predictability of runoff. water quality is deteriorate as a result of fire activity. increased organics have led to increased capital and operational costs at city water treatment plants. these treatment facilities have been upgraded to handle the increased levels at cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. we know from science and experience exactly what needs to be done to mitigate these impacts. we know that we need to act quickly to thin overcrowded and unhealthy forests. we know we need to re-establish a forest products industry to carry out treatments and create an economy around forest restoration. and we know we need public policy at all levels of government to facilitate and invest in forest restoration. srp is actively involved in efforts in all of these areas through our engagement in public/private partnerships. for example, we have started a forest fund in partnership with the national forest foundation
9:47 pm
to raise funds and invest in forest restoration projects that protect our watershed. we're also involved in a project with the forest service, bureau of reclamation, city and national forest foundation to treat the 634,000 acre watershed that drains into the cc cragin reservoir. the projects we're currently involved with highlight the need to improve federal policy to more efficiently make progress in restoring our forests and protecting our watersheds. specifically there is a need to improve both fire suppression budgeting and the planning and compliance process for restoration projects. the cc cragin project is a perfect example of why we need to address both issues at the same time. we appreciate the priority of the tore rest service and department of interior have placed on this project, however, despite the significance funding and staff dedicated, it is expected to take at least two if
9:48 pm
not three years before any thinning can be done on the ground. this is too long to simply hope that a fire doesn't destroy the cragin watershed. we must find a way to move forward more quickly by utilizing the significant data and knowledge that already exists within the forest service. my written testimony includes some additional policy suggestions, but i wanted to highlight one issue related to fire borrowing. as the committee continues to address fire suppression budgets, it is also important that the provisions include a dedicated and secure funding stream for forest restoration in order to promote the certainty needed to encourage private sector investment. the greatest risk to our are forest is catastrophic wildfire and we need to rebalance the requirements placed on these types of projects to reflect that reality. the problems, the solutions and the consequences of inaction are clear, and i look forward to working together with this
9:49 pm
committee on our shared goals of protecting the forests and watersheds our communities rely on and enjoy. thank you again and i look forward to answering any questions you may have. >> thank you to all of our witnesses here this morning. as i mentioned after the chief's testimony, i think we would all agree we have to figure out how we stop this fire borrowing because when we're talking about how we deal with treatment, how we work to mitigate the risk here, it takes dollars and when you've spent all of your dollars on the suppression, it doesn't leave you much room for further opportunity there. the concern here is that the suppression costs are out of control. and, chief, i know you are very supportive of a wildfire cap adjustment, but from what would
9:50 pm
adjustment, but from what would e have heard this morning, it's not necessarily the silver bullet to address the skyrocketing costs of wildfire suppression spending. so how we deal with that is something i'd like to focus on this morning. both you mr. helen and mr. eisley, to a certain extent, have described the hazardous fuel reduction projects that are critical to protecting whether it is the watersheds that you've noted, the cragin watershed or just other areas there. the comment that you make, mr. hallin, that we know what it is we need to and yet we can't get to that point, two to possibly three years to implement. we talk a lot about this analysis paralysis around here where we have endless process.
9:51 pm
and, again, a policy of we hope that there will not be a lightning strike that is going to bring about disaster here. so chief, can you speak to this? are we in a situation where we're more worried about kind of checking the boxes here and making sure that we've gone through a critical process or are we acting with the level of urgency that i think you've heard from everybody here at this table with regards to these critical projects that will help us from the preventive perspective? because i think we would agree that if we can he prevent these in the first place, we can get a better handle on these suppression costs. what's our problem here with the process that seems to be slowing things up when we're dealing with treatment of hazardous fuels? >> one of the issues we've dealt
9:52 pm
with in the past is needing to do a large enough project where it actually makes a difference. and that's where we've moved to taking a more landscape scale approach. in the past the healthy forest restoration act which you passed a few years ago which gave us a streamlined process was a very good tool. the problem with that is that it was limited to certain criteria. when we looked at larger landscapes, we could use that authority on a piece of the project, but it wouldn't apply to these tens of thousands of acres. now with the farm bill authorities, with insect and disease, it gives us some more flexibility to be able to use that approach looking at just one action alternative and a no-action. so we can streamline the process. >> let me ask you on that -- >> the key is larger landscapes. >> as we were going to the vote, senator stabenow who is not able to return back to the committee raised just this issue with me saying in the farm bill there were additional authorities that
9:53 pm
were given to do just exactly as you have said. are these additional authorities being utilized at this point, are they making a difference? >> we're beginning to utilize them. especially the ce authority in the form bill. we have projects going forward with that.arm bill. we have projects going forward with that. in fy 16, many of our projects will be using these new authorities. but we often take a year of planning and going through the nepa before we implement. 7 >> and i think this is the concern, that we have this process that we have to go through. is this what you were speaking to? is there any way to expedite that, in your view? you know that you've got to do. >> one of the difficulties that we do have with the cragin watershed, we do appreciate the opportunity to utilize the healthy scale restoration act.
9:54 pm
we would prefer full-scale restoration but at this point, we decided to move forward. we have 25 years in understanding the types of fires, where the endangered species are located and the extent of the watershed itself on those areas that are highly susceptible to wildfire risk. the problem is they have to go through an entire eis process that essentially is designed from what i gather and watching staff is designed to essentially avoid litigation. we know what the issue is. we know that these forests need to be thinned. we know that the greatest threat to those species that the eis is designed to protect is catastrophic wildfire, but unfortunately, we have to go through the same process another two years before we can ultimately get in there and thin those forests. >> we hear this so often, that what we're attempting to do is
9:55 pm
avoid litigation and in the meantime lightning strikes and we're paying the cost. senator cantwell. >> thank you madam chair. thank you to the witnesses. thank you for your testimony and work in this area. it's very important. your key point about the fact that thinning and prescribed fire created the most long term resilient forests to future disturbances. so i want to drill down on that because i think that is a culmination of your conclusions, which is very important in looking at all these options. and chief tidwell, your testimony stated the forest service has identified 12 million acres that need hazardous fuel reduction, but the budget year after year only requests about $300 million for those treatments. so is that sufficient funding needed for those highest priority areas and so what do we need to do to get a more realistic number.
9:56 pm
and i also wanted to ask you about -- sorry to put all this out there, but that's the best way to get all the answers we need. some you can give me in writing, too. but secondly, just this whole issue of do we have the best communication that we need for communities during these fires? do we need more coordination with fema, should fema be part of the command team? it if the communication infrastructure doesn't exist anymore, how are we making sure that we don't have to wait two weeks to communicate about the ongoing crisis given the level of, you though, huge fires increases that we're seeing.
9:57 pm
and does your agency have a permanent agreement with the faa on an application with them on drones? i would like to see this not be an issue where every state that has a fire and then wants to know whether the drones can be deployed to get a better understanding or mapping or what have you, i'd like to be a natural course between the forest service so that we don't have delays. because i think they are providing us very vital information about these fires. >> i'll start with the last question here. we are working very closely with the faa to be able to use the unmanned aircraft to be able to collect the information. and we have a team that has been put into place to be able to explore. the challenge for us is to be able to understand what information we need and when we need it so that because the potential there is there is so many data that is available, but we have to be able to prioritize it so we can quickly be able to use it. so we'll be moving forward this year, we'll be working with faa
9:58 pm
and also the states to be able to start to use the information, probably simply mapping is one of the simple and looking for hot spots especially outside the line where we've had success in the past. >> but you'll do a permanent application so you won't have to keep going back and forth all the time? >> we'll be working in that direction so that it's automatic and that under these conditions we can use the aircraft. your question about what happened with the aftermath or even did have the carlton fire, it really stresses how we need to do a better job with our pre-planning. and we do a good job working with communities so they're ready for the fire. but based on that experience, we need do a better job dealing with things like communications. we need to make sure communities have an emergency communication system in place. so that when this happens, whatever it takes, that we're
9:59 pm
able to maintain communications. when i was up there visiting with the homeowners they stressed they dbtsidn't know what was going on. i can't imagine that level of stress that would come from that situation. so it's one of the things that we've learned we need to get that in place. we need to actually do a better job than we have been with utility companies. they're always great to step right in and ready to roll. but we need to include them also in our pre-planning meetings so that when the next karl top happens, yeah, we'll have the fire to deal with, but he same time, we can provide a higher and better level of support to those communities to be able to eliminate some of the impact and get your services restored faster. >> so does fema need to be a permanent part? >> yes, definitely. and they are part of the solution. and we'll continue to work with them. >> i just want to point out for
10:00 pm
my colleagues because this is after 149,000 acres burned the winthrop twist valley area was without communication, and yet fires were still all around them. no one had any way to communicate with people other than as i said trying to go through the town. so it taught me -- communities need to be able to get a mobile broadband unit to be able to be deployed instead of waiting two or three weeks. this is all about who is going to pay for this in the end and we're hesitating. our constituents are without vital communications in a disaster. and if this is what we're seeing because of the impacts of these drastic events because of weather, i just position we need to look at these events and say we need a better communication response in the aftermath and figuring out how do that for
10:01 pm
these communities. thank you. >> thank you, madame chair. chief tidwell, i share your support for a solution to the wildfire funding challenge. i've spent a lot of time traveling across montana hearing from groups. i think we have great broad spectrum agreement something has to change in the way wildfire fighting is funded. and i'm hoping we resolve this year and i'll do everything i can to make that happen. your office provided me information indicating that over 7 million federal acres in montana are at high or very high risk of wildfire. most of which are managed by the forest service. that's approximately 1 in 4 federally controlled acres in montana. i was further told that nearly 2 million of these acres are most in need of treatment because they are near populated communities or the watersheds. unfortunately, i was informed
10:02 pm
that the forest service did hazardous fuel treatment on only about 52,000 of those acres in the last fiscal year. of the 2 million that are needed. i've got no doubt that the work that was done there was important. but the current pace of treatment is simply not acceptable. certainly our communities, our watersheds, our wild life habitat, access to recreation and all of sthees are at real risk to wildfire. more than 10 years ago, congress provided enhanced authorities to the forest service to reduce hazardous fuels through the healthy forest recreation act. you mentioned that. but as noted, these authorities are clearly not adequate and the hfra clearly has shortfalls. what in your view are the barriers to getting more done there? >> as i shared earlier, the healthy forest restoration act continues to be a good authority for us. but it is limited to certain areas based on the criteria that
10:03 pm
is required. you need to have a hazardous fuel components. and we really need to be looking at the entire landscapes, the full restoration work. what we need to do in the entire watershed it's been pointed out from some of the witnesses, that is a much better approach. so we look at healthy forest restoration act, and now with the new farm bill authorities that allow us to be able to use the similar type of nepa approach, but also address where we have insect and disease, by putting those together, it will allow us to take a more total landscape approach and to be able to look at not thousands of acres, we just have to be looking at tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of acres at a time and to be able to have the nepa in
10:04 pm
place for the next ten years we can be able to get in there and do the work that needs to be done. those are the things that will make a difference. >> i truly appreciate your commitment to finding solutions that will improve forest health and also increase responsible timber harvest in montana. we look forward to further discussions to achieve that goal. i want to ask dr. hood a question. first of all, welcome to our nation's capital. good to have another montanan the room and someone who intimately knows the challenges. your testimony focused largely on the role of fire. i remember seeing this when i was a kid back in the 70s and now we're seeing it again. my children are seeing it, as well. and notice he know your research was primarily focused in the rocky mountain region, but montana has millions of acres that are damaged by beetle killing. i'm pleased that congress recently gave the forest service new authorities to tackle this huge challenge in montana, but
10:05 pm
based on your research, how could increased management including thinning and prudently removing dead timber be used to improve the health of forests and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire? >> so in order to increase the health of our forest, thinning is definitely a -- should be a valid -- or a good management tool. my research also showed that having prescribed fires and low severity naturally occurring wildfires stimulates tree defenses.
10:06 pm
so having that combination of thinning and prescribed burning and then areas that we have treated to allow naturally -- to consider allowing ignitions to -- allow fires to burn further perpetuates a healthy forest that could be resistant to bark beetles. i think we'll always have some level of bark beetles. they're native insects to our forests. but doing treatments and promoting a patchy landscape can certainly help reduce the severity of those outbreaks. >> thanks, doctor. >> chief tidwell, you and i have talked before about the role of climate change in all of this. and we've talked about removal
10:07 pm
of hazardous fuel as we've been talking about today in different ways. and one of the ways that i think that we could possibly, and i want to ask anybody about this, to remove more hazardous fuel and be able to do it in a way that costs less is by monetizing that biomass. by monetizing it, using it, burning it and create electricity, combine heat and power, which is something that the chair and i have talked about. there is a lot of obviously areas in alaska where this hazardous fuel after all biomass you can argue zero carbon
10:08 pm
footprint, we can solve a lot of things at the same time. there is obviously a lot of challenges to this in terms of remoteness and moving this stuff and using it. but we're talking about the wild land urban interface, so there is obviously areas where this is near a populated area. how can we -- what are some of the challenges standing in the way of more utilization of this tremendous resource? and this is for anyone. and what are your recommendations for overcoming these challenges or is there a there there is what i'm saying? >> well, i'll start, senator. the challenge is to be able to demonstrate that it's economically viable. and so to be able to create these markets. and we need to continue to make
10:09 pm
investments to help people to do the business case analysis before they make the investment, we need to continue to use our authorities like the b cap authority where we can subsidize transportation of this biomass material to a facility, and to be able to get more and more demonstration projects. at the same time, we need to continue our research not only to increase the efficiency of these systems, but also for things like with pellet production, to be able to find a more efficient way to develop a pellet to increase the btus to increase the economics on it. i think we also need to just factor in the consequences if we don't. what is this cost avoidance. if we could ever capture a way to really consider that, i think it would really help with the economics of this. if we think about by thinning out these forests the reduction of risk that's occurred and then by being able to use the material for either to use it
10:10 pm
into a wood product material or for energy consumption, if we could factor in the cost avoidance benefit on that, i think that the economics would sell itself on this. but we'll have to continue with our research, continue with demonstration projects and to be able to also have a guaranteed supply of biomass. if you're going to make an investment, you'd need to have the bank loan money. so we need to show that there is a ten year contract. use more of our stewardship authority. you can take that to the bank that without any question materials will be there. so those are some of the things we need to continue to work on. >> i agree with you and i think there is a cost to not doing this. so are we doing the pilot projects, are we exploring this enough? do we need to do anything here
10:11 pm
in this committee, and in congress, to facilitate overcoming this challenge so that we can do something especially with energy storage and the more use of distributed energy, how we can make this a piece so that you will have the ability to do -- to remove hazardous fuel because it's monetized so we can do more of it and make it make sense. anybody? yes, mr. hallin. >> thank you for the question, senator. at salt river project, there is a biomass plant that we actually buy half of the power at that facility. and one of the challenges as chief tidwell mentioned was the fact of to ensure that you have material at that plant. so we don't need any undue delays to ensure that there is material available at the biomass plant. i think secondly there is another added value benefit by
10:12 pm
going in and thinning these forests, there is essentially an avoided release of carbon. when you have these catastrophic wildfires, there is a major release of carbon into the air. >> better to release it as energy that we use it as electricity rather than just go up into the aet steer. atmosphere. >> yes. >> thank you, madame chair.. atmosphere. >> yes. >> thank you, madame chair. i really want to continue -- >> yes. >> thank you, madame chair. i really want to continue -- every time you testify, i bring this a little bit further. but i really want to keep exploring that especially with the chair. >> thank you for the testimony. nice to have a couple of arizonians here. bruce, good to see you. we've talked on a number of occasions. i appreciate the testimony from those who know so much on this. i appreciate the work of chief tidwell.
10:13 pm
i think it's important to acknowledge some of the positive developments that we've seen recently related to forest management. last month i think all of us were encouraged to learn phase one the record of decision was signed that will allow as chief talked about large scale management rather than just a couple of thousand acres here or there. the paltry 3,000 acres that have so far been treated is emblematic that it is too slow. we have to do it on a much larger scale. you've noted 58 million acres at high or very high risk. we have to move on a larger scale. so we all recognize achieving reduction in hazardous fuels is critical. and we've got to find a way to solve this fire borrowing issue. i like some of the proposals that have been put forward. myself and other senators have
10:14 pm
put forward, as well. by way of disrupting these activity, in terms of suppression, we're putting hazardous fuels reduction on hold, we're also putting communities and firefighters at risk as we know all too well in arizona. and as bruce talked about today, we're also increasing challenges for maintaining a healthy watershed and for what that does to drinking water supplies. and for all these reasons, i'm obviously supportive of efforts to restore or -- i'm sorry, resolve the fire borrowing issue by allowing a limited adjustment to statutory budget caps under
10:15 pm
specific circumstances or scenarios. for example, when the forest service and doi exceed anticipatable or those that we forecast, they are not doubt impactful on water quality and wildlife, but we condition let the disastrous nature of wildfire make us lose sight of the costs of fighting fires. many of the costs both preventing and as well as fighting fires can be anticipated like municipal fire departments that budget for expected personnel and incident response costs. i believe that we can do of the same here. i would agree that on the significance of the problems that wildfires present, but where there is some disagreement is dealing with these so-called anticipatable costs. i would support efforts and
10:16 pm
recognize that in some years there will be large fires that drive the wildfire suppression costs well above those that were anticipated in those years, that the agencies have been appropriated 100% of the anticipated cost, i think that limited budget cap adjustments to allow the agencies to fight fire without borrowing from other sources would make sense. but again, if they have been fully budgeted for what is easily anticipated as a realistic cost of suppression, then that would apply. frankly, i would like to see sufficient funds on the front end. i think we all would like to see that. to be put into suppression activities, as well. sound budgeting requires dealing with both preventable symptoms as well as resulting disasters. what i disagree with is the
10:17 pm
notion that we should simply move 30% of those anticipated costs off the budget because it's convenient or because it creates additional flexibility for increases spending under the statutory budget caps, paying for one disaster while furthering our current fiscal disaster doesn't make sense. and we need to be realistic about what we can do, we need to deal with the house, as well, and be realistic about what we can budget for and what we can't. there is a solution to be found on the issue i believe that involves flexibility, but only after 100% of those anticipatable suppression costs have been expended. let's not confuse disasters with unanticipated costs. we need to plan for what is likely to occur to take steps necessary to prevent those disasters from occurring. and then use flexibility in
10:18 pm
those rare years where we go over those costs. i hope that high colleagues and the administration will come together and find a solution, a long term solution, on this issue. i didn't want to use all my time speaking here, but i believe i have. so thank you, madame chair. >> senator flake, i think this is a keep part of what this committee will be grappling with. i too hope we is k. find that agreement. we have to be realistic in terms of what we're facing and it has to be a solution that is more lasting than what year dealing with rights now, which is interim stopgap and again borrowing that hurts everybody. we'll be working with you on this. >> chief, at the beginning i think you apologized for bringing up fire borrowing once again. i think most of us up here would say don't apologize and keep
10:19 pm
bringing it up until we find a workable way forward on this. because it is sort of the elephant in the room here. and we have to fix that piece of all of this one way or the other to be able to really scale these projects up to the kind of landscape levels that you were talking about. mr. hallin, i wanted to ask you to go into more detail about the kinds of projects you're doing and the partnerships. i know in new mexico, we've started to look at this and we have a couple of different things going, one in the santa fe watershed, the santa fe water fund which use as contributions from water uses to match up with forest service funding and treat the watershed above santa fe.
10:20 pm
in addition the rio grande water fund is now doing a similar partnership on a much larger geographic area south of colorado and north of new mexico. so if you would, just tell us a little bit more about those partnerships and how we might be able to learn from those things, scale them to other regions to get some of those benefits that we see when we're able to connect downstream water users effectively to the health of their watershed which may be hundreds and hundreds of miles away. >> thank you, senator, for the question. we found very quickly that there was a definite disconnect with many of the businesses and water users in the valley. and when i'm talking about the valley, phoenix metropolitan area, disconnects between a healthy forest and healthy watershed. and to begin getting the subject matter to a broader base group of individuals, we decided to work together with some of our larger power customers and other
10:21 pm
customers that receive energy frch s from srp and many of those organizations have green om srp and many of those organizations have green initiatives and other initiatives that they're looking at spending money to improve not only their product that they're delivering but also their image. so we sat down and found there were opportunities to link it to link this issue with end users and so we established this fund together welterweight national forest foundation. now, the national forest foundation is congressionally authorized to use private funds as a 501-c 3 organization. we didn't want end users to think there was something in this for the salt river project
10:22 pm
respect it's actually for the watershed. so this northern arizona forest fund essentially we identified projects in partnership with the tore rest service that are outside of these large full scale restoration projects, but they're smaller projects that have a begin date and an end date so that when you invest your money, you know specifically what you're investing in. >> i think that's really key. connecting up these users who don't or haven't in the past had an intuitive connection to where their water comes from. in santa fe's case, they can actually see their watershed. but for someone say in albuquerque or phoenix, that watershed may be a long way away and connecting those things together is a pretty powerful tool. chief, i want to just ask you a quick question with my remaining time. we heard from dr. hood about using these treatments together, prescribed low intensity fire, but using them in combination having by far the best results. are you able to do that as you scale up these landscape level fuel treatments, are you able to
10:23 pm
plan both the prescribed and natural fire piece and the mechanical fitting piece together in concert? >> yes. a lot of places it's necessary for us to have at least two entries into these areas. so first year we'll come in and do the thinning to reduce the total biomass and then follow it up with prescribed fire. and that is the right approaches specially in our dry forest types.
10:24 pm
and then once you have that thinning done, then you can continue to run that fire through there. either prescribed fire or with our natural fire. but often we need to do that meg cal treatment first it reduce the stand down to a level of biomass that we can then handle when we do have a fire. >> and probably a more historical level, at least within the ponderosa pine in the west. >> yes. >> thank you, madame chair. >> thank you. chief tidwell, as a doctor, i appreciate the adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. i'm concerned with the ever increasing need to fire borrow money from fire prevention activities and the declining health of our national forests. the administration seems intent wanting more without engaging in land management reform. the administration is set on maintaining failed status quo policies and culture of litigation. and as i said last month, forest service has i believe lost its direction and purpose. the forest service has become a bureaucracy emphasizing internal processes over real results and improvements on the ground. so in my view, if we're going to increase fire prevention activities, then congress needs
10:25 pm
to direct and mandate results and outcomes. so does either the administration proposal of s-235 contain language guaranteeing that it goes towards activities and provide language providing legislative reforms aimed at streamlining active management and reducing litigation? >> no, it only eliminates the they'd to transfer and eliminates the stoppage of work in the fall. >> so i look at this and say we must prevent the practice of fire borrowing and prioritize funding for treatment activities to reduce future wildlife suppression costs about than's i didn't co-sponsored s-508 of 2015. i think we also have to
10:26 pm
streamline the way forest management activities are approved, make meaningful policy reforms. it also includes innovative ideas like arbitration. we need to solve the challenges facing us. is the forest service willing to find ways to find solutions? >> we're of course very interested in working with the committee. as we've discussed in the past, this concept of arbitration, it's something that i'm interested in trying. i'd like to see us take on a pilot approach on to that. and part of that is that i need to see that it's a better solution. it sounds good in concept, but i really think we need to move into that, do some pilot approaches. and just to see where that can
10:27 pm
take us. but i think it's one of the things we want to continue to work with you on. >> so often those who oppose active management, hazardous fuel projects, thinning activity, they will destroy wildlife habitat. your testimony paints a different picture. in your view, what are the primary road blocks to improving watershed health and wildlife habitat? >> in our experience, it's been partially the process associated with nepa. we can find opportunities to accelerate nepa, we see that as an opportunity to move more rapidly forward. i think secondly, too, there is -- and we're seeing this begin to change when it comes to the attitude of the forest service that to be in the project management business, to manage those forests, and to refocus their efforts on the reason why many of those forest reserves were created, essentially to protect the water supply. >> and thinking about your
10:28 pm
professional career, one of your responsibilities was to protect and improve watersheds. you described national environmental policy act as a weapon in hands of a few. in your testimony, you talk about the amount of time it's taking to complete the santa ana watershed environmental impact statement, i think you said over three years to undertake an action that is prudent and a misapplication of the intent of the law. how often to you see nepa being used as a weapon or barrier to actually improving watershed health? >> i think it's common. it's a long process and the whole deal is to avoid litigation from people that are obstructionists in my view. >> so if we do nothing, what are the consequences of what is happening with fires?
10:29 pm
>> well, do nothing is catastrophic fires, continuing catastrophic fires and having unhealthy forests and all the other things we've talked about today. >> thank you. >> thank you, madame chair and thank you all for testifying. i wanted to note for the record that hawaii has a fire problem, also. and it is estimated that 0.5% of land in hawaii burns each year, a percentage that is equal to or higher than what is experienced in western states. given that hawaii's native ecosystems are not fire adapted, we are losing an alarming amount of native flora and fauna to wildfires. the nonnative glasses cover some 24% of hawaii's land creating landscapes that are flammable and highly susceptible to wildfire. so clearly this issue touches every single state.
10:30 pm
chief tidwell, you talked about healthy forest restoration act. it sounded as though you have thought about making some -- or asking for some amendments to this law that would enable the forest service to as you put it take a total landscape approach, not just looking at thousands of acres, but to be able to look at tens of thousands of acres. so do you have some suggested language that would provide more flexibility for the forest service to deal with this problem? >> with the passage of the farm bill, and thank you again, it did expand the use of the healthy forest restoration act. so if you combine that authority and the original, if does really expand on the ability to use in a information efficient nepa process on much larger landscapes.
10:31 pm
one thing that may be helpful is if we just had one authority instead of the two so that it would be a little easier for folks, our communities to understand. the reason we're able to get more and more work done each year is the level of support we have through these collaborative efforts. and it's been mentioned by the panelists here, we need to be looking at not just the hazardous fuel issue, but also the total restoration projects, work that needs to be done to restore the overall watershed, reduce the hazardous fuels and create this resilient system. so it's essential that we always recognize that needs to be able to have the engagement with our communities, but being able to really reduce the number of alternatives that we need to address definitely speeds up the process and it keeps everybody at the table and allows us to get the work done sooner. >> so are you saying that with
10:32 pm
the combination of the farm bill provisions and the healthy forest restoration act, that you have enough authority but it would be clearer if we could put it all in one -- >> one way just to simplify it and make it easier for the public to understand and that now we can use it on a larger landscape. so it's one thing that we're thinking about if that's something that would really help us, but we've had some discussion on it. >> you talked about the need for collaborating with communities across the board. so do you have a state by state program or plan that would enable communities and fire departments and state and counties to work collaboratively with the forest service to prevent the wildfires? do you have something for hawaii? >> in the past, we've done it more community by community, with communities that developed a community wildfire protection
10:33 pm
plan. and now with the cohesive strategy that we just put out, it allows us to take more of a much larger landscape approach. so it recognizes not only to we need to have fire adaptive communities, but we also need have fire adapted human communities. so we're taking the action so that we're working together to reduce this threat. and these two efforts then along with the immediate to keep the suppression resources we have is really going to be i think very helpful for us to be able to move forward and address this problem that goes way beyond just the federal land. >> i'm sorry, i'm running out of time. but you said you work community by community. are you working with any particular communities in hawaii? you -- >> i'll have to get back to you. the point you raised about the
10:34 pm
invasives dealing with in hawaii, that's what we're doing in so many states. it's what comes in after these fires. so i appreciate you bringing that forward that your state also deals with that issue. we'll get back to you with the list of the communities. >> thank you, madame chair. thank you to the witnesses for being here. it's a timely hearing we're having. on saturday, senator bennett and i are hosting a summit. in coll springs, a fire summit. over two dozen wildfire experts, community experts, mitigation experts will be joining us. so i'll ask you about that. but i wanted to follow up on some of the testimony that you've made in your testimony, you talked about progress in
10:35 pm
retro fitting the hc-138 aircraft of that the service acquired from the u.s. coast guard. how many of these will be ready to perform suppression missions this summer? >> we'll have one of those aircraft in the latter part of the fire season that we're going to be putting a mass tank in to be able to start it use that this year. and then by the end of the year, we expect to see the second one. and then by it will be 2019 before we'll have probably all seven of them with the tanks built into the planes. >> and the time line for completing the work required to bring them into service 2019? >> yes, we'll have all seven in operation by them. >> what is the status of the forest ground water rule? >> we've withdrawn our initial proposed rule to allow us more time to continue to work with the states and the stakeholders to it really address this issue.
10:36 pm
our concern about making sure that we're not impacting, you know, groundwater. we're also -- i'm working with our regional foresters to ensure that as we have to address these issues especially on large mines and oil and gas leases, that the lack of having a systemic consistent process doesn't we're going to tip to work with the states to be able to some time in the future to have a solution to this issue so that we do not become the barrier to implementing some of these projects.
10:37 pm
if you could draft litigation that's stopping or upholding forest management litigation, what would it be? . to be able to do these projects any way we can continue to encourage that. i also think this concept of arbitration is something that i'm interested in exploring in a pilot facialelot fashion. whether we talk about our using the farm bill authorities to be able to reduce the amount of analysis we have to do instead of looking at sometime five and
10:38 pm
six certainalternatives, we look at two, two. >> are you aware of some of the challenges we have after a fire when it comes to fema declarations themselves? >> we work very closely with the states during the fire on those to be able to make sure that they're getting -- send those in as quickly as they possibly can and to be able to provide our -- >> i guess i'm talking about after the fire has been -- long after the fire is out we have the ongoing flooding, landslide issues fema can sometimes leave the scene though that creates secondary emergencies that have
10:39 pm
to receive their own designation. has the forest service weighed in on changing our process to change the regulatory hurdles that occur after a fire? >> i think it is another area that we need to work together to be able to find a way to be able to rec fiz that there's the fire, and then there's the recovery afterwards. often that's more detrimental more impacting than after the fire itself. i think it is an opportunity where i think we can look at taking a different approach so we can have a timely response that goes way beyond what we're currently doing with our emergency area rehab work. >> i was on the western slope this past weekend talking to an
10:40 pm
individual to manages a narrow gauge railroad. he lass his own firefighting fleet because there is a fire started by the railroad creates liability and substantial damage to his community. as a result some conflict between forever service regulations he is regulated to where he can send that fleet out. i would love to work with you in terms of finding a way to partner with this forest service and this fleet. we get regulations flu place where we're able to put gir out without finger pointing. >> we'll be glad to work with you and the individual on that.
10:41 pm
it may be just making sure we have everything in place. we always have the concern for safety to make sure that whoever is responding to a fire has the equipment, knowledge an skills so they can do it safely. >> chief tidwell, we spoke about some correspondence that you received from the state land board. having lived in idaho you are well familiar with the state land board. they oversee state forest holdings and other holdings. they're concerned as we have discussed on some optimism hopefully around provisions in the farm bill that will give us opportunity do some of these treatment projects. there is a lot of frustration
10:42 pm
out there that it isn't moving as fast as we'd like. maybe people had expectations raised beyond what is reality when you deal with the federal government, unfortunately. but i would urge you to continue. i think this is still untested. we are making some progress on it but i'd urge you put one foot in front of the other and try to mature this pro-jess as rapidly as we can. >> senator, i'd be glad to provide to you and your staff the list of all the projects we have planned in idaho using the farm bill authorities. he lartd this summer we'll finish the paperwork reduction act requirements so we can move forward with the good flab authority. we have worked with the state
10:43 pm
foresters to create templates. weaver's made significant changes to the template that the feedback i'm getting from the state foresters they feel that will be a much better tool. so faeg a little more time will help us in the long run. >> i've spoken with mr. schultz who heads our state land board. he's very anksxious to see this move forward. i appreciate your efforts in that regard. mr. eisley i was surprised to hear you say you were short on the ground of overhead photography in a fire. when i was governor we had a summer that there was a lot of
10:44 pm
fire. every morning before it got light i had in hand a map of what the fire had done from satellite imagery and some other overheaddad imagery. i'm surprised to lear thathear that isn't available to you in san diego. what can you tell me about that? >> the process you're referring to is where the forest service flies an infrared plane over where all the fires are burning in the western united states. the issue is that fires change during the day. we now know where the fire was last night and the night before. we don't have real time information. the forest service research has an airplane with a fire mapper
10:45 pm
program that can fly above the altitude of the air tankers and helicopters and now can continuously map that fire and send real time data down. but it is -- >> you're looking for hour by hour as opposed to what happened -- >> certainly. or at least more than once every 24 hours. >> certainly. would not seem to be that difficult to do with today's technology. thank you. >> senator. >> thank you, chief, thank you for your recent visit to north dakota. like to follow up on that. first question goes to the environmental i alal assessment pandand
10:46 pm
allotment plan. can you give me a status report? >> senator, follow-up of that meeting our staff were going to continue to work with the gracing association members to be able to address their concerns. i want to thank you for hosting that meeting because i think it helped clarify a few issues to be able to move forward and address their concerns. >> you think you will be able to working with your state director be able to make adjustments that should work for the grazing associations and the ranchers? >> i was optimistic from listening, from the work done by the university i think to provide a slightly different approach i think that will work for both ranchers and address our needs.
10:47 pm
that little different approach being proposed there that could help once i think and for all settle that issue. >> woulding with ndsu range scientists, i think not only are they knowledgeable and focus on science but they also have credibility with the ranchers in that area. i emphasize that you work closely with ndsu and their range scientists. particularly on the 3 1/2-inch visual obstruction reading, i think they can help get to a solution that ranchers feel is common sense and workable. >> that's something that the university and doctor -- to come up with wisconsin areas have the capability to produce that stubble height. from the discussions at your
10:48 pm
meeting and a xwlit of followlittle bit of follow-up discussion, i left feeling this is enough for be to able to answer of whether those areas are capable or not. mappingers can manage their life live livestock produce the stubble height needed. just understand which areas are capable and which are not. once we can come to agreement on that i'm optimistic we can put this issue behind us and move forward. >> does that require legislation or is that something you can do without legislation? >> we can continue to work under that demonstration project. at this point we don't need additional legislation. >> let me switch to the fire piece.
10:49 pm
it looks like we're drier this year -- we are certainly drier this year than we have been the last several. address for a minute your approach to the grasslands in terms of steps you're taking to be prepared for fires this season. obviously you're very focused on the forests but the grasslands have fire issues as well. >> grasslands are part of thenational forests. what we're doing in the state is to be working with our cooperators, with volunteer fire departments so that we're readydady to go for the fire season which in your case has already started. people in your state were spainingspain ing explaining to me they never see
10:50 pm
this level of fire behavior this early in the year. so making sure we have the resources we need people are ready and if there is flig toanything to departments that are a big part of the initial attack resources and they are responsible for being able to get their quickly be able to suppress the fires, and so like in your state, the rest of the country, it takes us all working together. the federal government, the state, counties, and local fire to be able to deal with this. >> and then address the controlled burn issue for a minute too. obviously, particularly because of this year because it's dry and, you know, we really want you working with the people on the ground not just the land owners, but, obviously, volunteer fire departments and everyone else and so touch on controlled burn for a minute. is that -- staying away from it this year because it's dry, or what's the plan? >> well, definitely.
10:51 pm
when we have the conditions that we have up there we often are not going to get a prescription to begin with but we're only going to be doing prescribed burns where we have, you know, the agreement and the support from the grazing associations where in part of the state it's wetter, but that association is very supportive of fire and parts that are drier we don't have the agreement at this point. we're not going to use a lot of prescribed fire in the areas until we have the right conditions and i level of agreements so that everyone's together on what's the value of this. and make sure that we're factoring in the risk to avoid the situation we had a couple years ago. >> thanks again, chief. appreciate it. >> thank you, senator. discussing about how we get the accurate images of the fire.
10:52 pm
during the funny river fire we had last year on the peninsula the state was able to use drones to determine where that hot spot was, and found it very effective because it was one of those situations where the smoke was so thick you didn't know what was happening and there was no real way to pinpoint it at the time. the technologies out there i think, can kwleerly help to make a difference as we try to battle these fires and you mentioned just the significance of having an app where people know who is where and from a safety perspective, making sure those who are fighting our fires have some tools that perhaps we have not had in the past. we have not really had much discussion this morning about
10:53 pm
the urban interface and the fact that 50 to 95% of forest services, fire suppression costs are incured protecting private property. we all know about the fire wise program. we certainly see the benefits of when a homeowner takes very proactive steps to ensure a level of safety through clearing around their areas. i remember flying over the peninsula some years ago after horrible fires, and you would see just nothing but charred blackness and then there would be this little island of green where they had created defensible space. just the education that goes on with the fire wise program i
10:54 pm
think we recognize that we can reduce the cost of suppression if the homeowners as well take an active role in management. chief, can you speak to what we are doing to encourage that end of it? again, it's preventative but are we using sufficient resources to allow for an understanding and a training and education for folks so that they, too, are making a difference? >> madam chair we're making, i think, even more and more progress each year and especially with our cohesive strategy that we put together working very closely with the states, counties burrows and, you know, cities, to come up with an understanding of what it's going to take, and then the tools to be able to create that level of awareness, especially with the private land owners. and then to be able to set up
10:55 pm
demonstration projects around the country to be able to show the difference that we're making and we're also prioritizing some of our fields money so that it's going to the areas where the state, the private land owner is doing the work on their land, and so that we can make a more effective treatment area. so those are the things that we're continuing to do, and i think that there's nothing -- i think that encourages more people to maybe do the right thing with their private land than to have those demonstration projects where they can see the difference that it makes and what it really takes as -- some folks think they have to like completely clear all their land of all trees and brush. we don't need to do anything to that level, and so those demonstration projects are really helping the private land ordinary persons to be able to see, okay, this is what i need to do. working closely with the state foresters foresters, state fire programs
10:56 pm
and provide funding to do the work not only on the national forests, but also on the private land together. this will help us to move forward in a bigger way than we have in the past. i've never seen this level of support and understanding, you know, from our partners and cohesive strategies. >> if you're looking for projects, put people in the plane and fie fly over the areas where you see blue tarps that. one question to include in the record but i will ask it right
10:57 pm
now. i was up in the territory for the arctic ministerial meeting with secretary kerry. one of the frame works that was discussed there at the arctic counsel was focus on an effort to reduce black carbon emissions in the arctic. the council's action is probably more focused on manmade black carbon but the reality is that the largest critter to black carbon is really the wildfire. i guess i would just ask if the forest service is going to have any role at all in this black carbon niche five with the counsel. if you don't know, you can get back to me or just submit for the record, but i want to put that on your radar screen because it is something that i
10:58 pm
think we have not talked about, talking about the manmade, but, again, the issue of wildfire is where we see the vast majority of the black carbon. >> madam chair, i'll follow up, but i know we have a couple research scientists working with the group. the appointment you bring up about the carbon released from the fires, we can make a difference if we can reduce the level of severity and the catastrophic size of some of these fires as far as the total release versus doing it as far as severity. as we look at the problem, we have to factor all benefits that come in from having an approach that restore the forest, and at the same time, take suppression where we need to take suppression to protect the communities. >> one last question very
10:59 pm
quickly. in the fire potential outlook, alaska's highest risk of significant wildfire potential is in the may time period, and it's my understanding that we are seeing fire season earlier and earlier. i mentioned to you my own personal view flying into the interior this weekend -- do we track that so we can identify that the fire season has started in places like alaska, even earlier than traditionally seen? >> yes. we've tracked the changing conditions to make sure that we need to bring on resources earlier than what we normally would do that we bring those -- we have the resources available.
11:00 pm
>> well that was specifically what i was going to ask because you basically budget for this have assets on standby but if in fact, we are seeing our fires start earlier do we have them co-located in areas that we can be responsive or wait until the calendar says fire season begins in alaska? >> we do not wait. >> okay. that's what i need to know. >> reposition resources where nay are needed. >> okay. >> senator cantwell. >> thank you. i wanted to go back to the question i asked before. we did not get a chance to get to that and that is the amount of funding available versus, you know, the amount of need that we have on the -- in the urban -- inter -- urban interface. sorry. so what -- where do you think we need to go in getting resources

34 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on