Legislature(1995 - 1996)

04/05/1995 08:20 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
 HRES - 04/05/95                                                               
 SJR 12 - U.S. FOREST SERVICE PLAN                                           
                                                                               
 Number 580                                                                    
                                                                               
 JOE AMBROSE, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT, SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, PRIME               
 SPONSOR, stated SJR 12 is not in opposition to the Reinvention of             
 the U.S. Forest Service Plan.  SJR 12 asks for a suspension and               
 review of that plan.  He said early in December, the U.S. Forest              
 Service (USFS) announced its Reinvention Plan.  He told committee             
 members a copy of that half-inch thick document is on file in                 
 Representative Taylor's office and noted the devil is in the                  
 detail.                                                                       
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE explained that the plan would centralize decision                 
 making in Washington, D.C.  He said such a policy flies in the face           
 of President Clinton's Executive Order No. 12875, which calls for             
 enhancing intergovernmental partnerships.  The plan also puts lie             
 to Vice President Gore's "Report on Reinventing Government," with             
 its stated goals of "empowering state and local governments" and              
 "decentralizing decision-making power."  He stated under                      
 reinvention, regional forest supervisors and other front line                 
 leaders, who now have decision making authority, would be replaced            
 with four people leadership teams answerable only to the Chief of             
 the Forest Service and the Secretary of Agriculture.  He noted gone           
 would be any pretense of involving local and state governments in             
 the USFS decisions.  The plan goes so far as to consolidate the               
 regional offices now located in Alaska and Montana to a central               
 office in Oregon.                                                             
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE told committee members that SJR 12 calls for a                    
 suspension of the plan and true partnership meetings with states,             
 communities, and tribal governments.  He noted that a committee               
 substitute has been suggested which would add the Alaska Native               
 Claims Settlement Act corporations to the list.  He said the goal             
 would be the development of a new plan--one that would involve the            
 affected entities up-front.  He stressed the reinvention scheme               
 goes far beyond the relocation of regional offices.  If left to               
 stand, the plan will mean a new era of USFS policy dictated from on           
 high, without consulting the very people most impacted by those               
 policies.                                                                     
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE noted that in committee members folders, there is a               
 memo from John Sandor, the former Regional Forester and former                
 commissioner, which was developed by Mr. Sandor in conjunction with           
 a group of resource professionals from around the country,                    
 including Mike Barton, who is also a Regional Forester.  He                   
 stressed these professionals are very concerned about the direction           
 the reinvention plan takes the USFS in the future and the lack of             
 involvement with the entities most impacted by future decisions.              
                                                                               
 Number 620                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES noted the memo referred to was not very                 
 readable.  He wondered if the original was available.                         
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE said the original is on gray paper and does not                   
 duplicate very well.                                                          
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stated he supports the basic intent of SJR 12           
 but expressed concern about page 2, lines 8-10.  He wondered how              
 moving the Alaska Region Forest Service office is an example of               
 flawed science.                                                               
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE requested committee members to refer to the memo just             
 mentioned.  He said the second paragraph says, "One striking                  
 example of the flawed scientific basis for and definition of                  
 ecosystems and ecological boundaries is illustrated in the proposed           
 realignment of Forest Service Regional Office boundaries.  The                
 strategic plan states that regional boundaries will be realigned to           
 more closely follow natural ecological boundaries.  Incredibly, the           
 strategic plan announces the timetable for incorporating Alaska's             
 diverse and unique forest ecosystems under the direction of a                 
 Forest Service leadership team headquartered in Portland, Oregon.             
 None of Alaska's forest ecosystems are the same as those                      
 represented in the Pacific Northwest.  As a matter of fact, many of           
 Alaska's boreal forests are more closely related to the ecosystems            
 of the Northern Lake states and adjacent Canadian provinces."  He             
 added the stated goals and the plan to carry them out does not make           
 any sense.                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt the premise for the paragraph just read            
 is somewhat strange.  He said it appears the premise of the USFS is           
 to align their administrative boundaries with ecological boundaries           
 which he thought was odd.  He noted usually administrative                    
 boundaries are aligned more closely with political boundaries for             
 operational reasons.  He stated if that is an example of the                  
 science involved, it is flawed science.  He thought good science              
 could be done on ecosystems in Southeast Alaska from New York                 
 State.                                                                        
                                                                               
 Number 665                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES referring to page 3, lines 7-8, of SJR 12,              
 stated he does not understand the intent.                                     
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE said Senator Taylor's intent with this language was               
 that the compensation level, cost of living, etc., for USFS                   
 employees be more reflective of the productivity of the USFS.                 
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked if that means Senator Taylor does not             
 want the USFS employees to be paid at all.                                    
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE replied no.                                                       
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stressed he really does not understand the              
 intent of this language.                                                      
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE responded it is Senator Taylor's belief that one of the           
 primary functions of the USFS in its management of the national               
 forests is timber production.  Senator Taylor feels the USFS                  
 employee compensation should be reflective of their productivity              
 level.                                                                        
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES clarified if the USFS employees are not                 
 producing timber, they should not be compensated.                             
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE replied it is Senator Taylor's position that if the               
 USFS is not producing timber, they should probably be a part of the           
 National Park Service.                                                        
                                                                               
 TAPE 95-46, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 000                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stressed he cannot support that kind of                 
 statement.  He felt the Resolves in resolutions need to be directed           
 at issues the legislature can attempt to influence.  He seriously             
 doubted the legislature would be able to impact the federal                   
 compensation policies in a manner such as SJR 12.                             
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES made a MOTION to AMEND SJR 12, on page 3,               
 lines 7-8, delete the entire FURTHER RESOLVED.                                
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN OBJECTED.                                                 
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS wondered how this Resolve pertains to the real           
 intent of the resolution.                                                     
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE stated a similar motion for amending SJR 12 was made              
 when the resolution was debated in the Senate.  He said Senator               
 Taylor felt this Further Resolved was in keeping with the general             
 tone of the entire resolution in regard to asking that the entire             
 process be reassessed.  He noted this language was the subject of             
 a debate in Sitka.  The Sitka Borough Assembly passed a resolution            
 supporting SJR 12 and were called to question by members of the               
 community.  They revisited the issue including a briefing by USFS             
 on ecosystem management, and did not withdraw their support for SJR           
 12.                                                                           
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said the reason he moved the amendment was              
 because he supports the basic notion in SJR 12, but does not feel             
 it furthers the legislature's position in asking for things to                
 happen by putting things in resolutions which can be taken as                 
 insulting.  He stated unless the language can be removed, he cannot           
 support the resolution.  If the language is removed, he would                 
 support SJR 12.                                                               
                                                                               
 Number 082                                                                    
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS agreed with Senator Taylor's position on this            
 Further Resolved.  He noted he comes from an area which is                    
 basically run by the USFS.  He stressed the USFS is not making                
 enough timber available to keep the mills working and described the           
 situation in the Ketchikan area.  He noted the USFS is making                 
 timber available but it is not possible to get the timber because             
 of the weather.  He felt it was important to keep this Further                
 Resolved in SJR 12, as it will send a strong message.  He did not             
 feel it was embarrassing but felt shutting down an entire industry            
 is embarrassing.                                                              
                                                                               
 MR. AMBROSE stated this is one of the issues Senator Murkowski                
 raised with the new Secretary of Agriculture and he has made a                
 commitment to reassess the USFS role.  He noted the Senate did not            
 feel the language in SJR 12 was too strong and added that the                 
 Senator who proposed the same amendment as Representative Davies,             
 ended up voting for the resolution.                                           
                                                                               
 Number 145                                                                    
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt what happens in the Senate is irrelevant           
 to this committee.  He stated the issue is whether or not timber is           
 available for the mills in Southeast Alaska.  He said he did not              
 believe that Senator Murkowski discussed USFS employee compensation           
 with the Secretary.  He thought it would be more appropriate for              
 this Further Resolved to consider the Secretary's compensation or             
 the Regional Administrator's compensation rather than USFS                    
 employees in general, because USFS employees are carrying out                 
 policies set by their supervisors.                                            
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES pointed out there are USFS employees just as            
 frustrated as others about the rate at which timber is being made             
 available.  However, those employees are required to work at the              
 direction of their supervisors and their supervisors are required,            
 by law, to operate under the laws of the U.S.  He said if there is            
 a desire to change how that fundamentally is done, then there is a            
 need to change those laws.  He said it is not fair to single out              
 one class of federal employees and reduce their pay because of a              
 frustration with the law they are working under.                              
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote on the amendment.             
 Voting in favor of the amendment was Representative Davies.  Voting           
 against the amendment were Representatives Austerman, Kott, Ogan,             
 and Williams.  The MOTION FAILED 4-1.                                         
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE OGAN made a MOTION to MOVE CSSJR 12(RES) with                  
 attached fiscal note out of committee with individual                         
 recommendations.                                                              
                                                                               
 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES OBJECTED.                                               
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote.  Voting against              
 the motion was Representative Davies.  Voting in favor of the                 
 amendment were Representatives Kott, Ogan...                                  
                                                                               
 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced SJR 12 would be held until a later             
 date.                                                                         

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