Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/10/1995 03:38 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SRES - 2/10/95 SJR 12 U.S. FOREST SERVICE PLAN CHAIRMAN LEMAN called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to order at 3:38 p.m. He said they didn't have a quorum yet, but would begin to take testimony on SJR 12. SENATOR TAYLOR, sponsor, said early in December the Forest Service announced its "reinvention plan" which would centralize the decision making in Washington, D.C. This policy flies in the face of President Clinton's Executive Order 12875 calling for "enhancing intergovernmental partnerships." It also goes against Vice President Gore's report on empowering state and local governments and decentralizing the decision making power. Under "reinvention" regional forest supervisors and other front line leaders who now have decision making authority would be replaced with four people in "leadership teams" answerable only to the Chief of the Forest Service and the Secretary of Agriculture. Gone is any pretense of involving local and state governments in U.S. Forest Service decisions. The plan consolidates the regional offices now located in Alaska and Montana to a central office in Oregon. SJR 12 calls for suspension of this plan and true partnership meetings with states, communities and tribal governments. His suggested Committee Substitute adds ANCSA Corporations to that list. SENATOR TAYLOR said the "reinvention scheme" goes far beyond the relocation of regional offices. It will mean Forest Service policy dictated from "on-high" without consulting the people most impacted by those policies. He noted a poll that was taken by the federal government that included less than 15% of respondents living west of the Mississippi River. 85% of the people polled about what to do with our Forest Service live in states that don't have a Forest Service office. The majority of the 15% lived in either Los Angeles or in one of the midwest cities around St. Louis. He said he was contacted by five retired members of the U.S. Forest Service who were very upset with the "reinvention" process. He said all of their comments were completely disregarded in Washington. They received a letter from Jack Ward Thomas telling about the reinvention and one of the primary concerns was that the Forest Service Offices reflect "ecosystem management." He said now they have semi-arid dessert areas of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington connected up with the rain forest environment of Southeast Alaska. This resolution, SENATOR TAYLOR said, calls upon the federal government to listen to the people that are affected. He noted that this community stands to lose a significant portion of its employment base, but the biggest problem is that they will be further diluted in their ability to do effective decision making in the area being regulated. Adding the ANCSA Corporation members to the resolution is very important, he said, because they are the largest private land owners within the Tongass. Number 186 CHUCK ACHBERGER, Director, Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said the history of the Tongass is one of compromise on the part of industry. Out of 17 million acres we are down to 1.7 million acres of harvestable area for timber. The regional mandate of the Forest Service was to create economic growth using federal lands. This has been sacrificed to the current politics of special interest groups who would merge the Forest Service into a Park Service. In closing, he said, the Forest Service cannot be trusted. Washington D.C. continually succumbs to the political pressure of the environmental community. We have one of the largest forests "in the world" and we can't support a mill. Number 214 VERN MILLER, Executive Director, Southeast Conference, said that while many aspects of the Forest Service reinvention plan may have merit, the Southeast Conference is strongly opposed to two specific elements: merging the Alaska region with the Pacific Northwest region and moving the headquarters to Portland. That would take Forest Service people who make decisions that affect Alaskans and move them out of Alaska. And second, regardless of where the headquarters is located, replacing a regional forester with a four- person management team will result in decisions being kicked to higher levels, once again having the net effect of taking the decision making outside of Alaska. Both of these run counter to what the President is trying to do which is decentralize decision making, empower state and local governments and enhance governmental partnerships. The Conference would support a resolution that makes those two points strongly. SENATOR LEMAN asked him if he had seen the Committee Substitute? MR. MILLER answered yes and he supported it. Number 247 DAVID KATZ, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, said he wanted it on the record that of the 17 million acres that nominally comprise the Tongass National Forest only around 15% of those acres are actually acres anyone would want to harvest. Those also turn out to be the acres that are most important for wildlife, fish, subsistence, tourism, and all the other uses that we put this forest to. The Tongass National Forest is a multiple use and sustained yield forest. Conflicts over habitat areas are about all wildlife - supporting wildlife for future generations of Alaskans for hunters, fishermen, and guides, etc.. MR. KATZ said he knew of no one in his organization or anyone else that wants to make this whole area into a park. They want to maintain the integrity of the Tongass as a multiple use and sustained yield forest. Regarding SJR 12, he thought it tried to do too many things and confuses a couple of things. First he thinks it is reasonable to keep management of the forest close to the people who live in it. He did not think management strategy would change by combining offices. On line 10, page 2 it's important to realize that community stability depends on forest ecosystem health. Looking at the long term health of ecosystems helps improve community stability. Secondly, he didn't think reinventing government turns away from providing a continual flow of renewable resources. It doesn't concentrate on just timber, but all uses. He urged the Committee to turn away from this single purpose bill which confuses the idea of reorganizing government with changing the entire mission of the Forest Service - two things which are not connected. He would support a different resolution keeping the regional office here in Juneau for the purposes of managing the forest for multiple use and sustained yield. Number 324 SENATOR TAYLOR said he asked the Forest Service for a number of the total amount of acreage harvested since it became a forest in around 1908. They told him that 450,000 acres had been harvested in that period of time. He asked what number of millions of acres is currently locked up in the single use of Wilderness? MR. KATZ answered around 5 million acres are in Wilderness. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if Wilderness was a multiple use concept. MR. KATZ said his understanding was that you could access Wilderness areas by fixed-wing craft in Alaska. He said a balance had to be reached in the types of land available in the forest. SENATOR TAYLOR said he was only concerned with what percent of the forest could be utilized for people to earn a living on harvesting trees and opening it up for other recreational uses. MR. KATZ said the Forest Service now plans to harvest 1.7 million acres of the forest over 100 years. They believe that will sustain the industry that is here. SENATOR TAYLOR asked him if he thought that was appropriate. MR. KATZ answered he thought that was appropriate if it could be done in a way that balances all the uses in the forest. He said it is important to realize that all acres are not created equal on this forest. The vast amount of harvesting has occurred in the highest value fish and wildlife habitat. Number 399 SARA HANNAN, Alaska Environmental Lobby, said she applauded a couple of the Resolves in Senator Taylor's resolution. She said the communities that depend on our forest resources are complex in their economics and ecosystem. She applauded Senator Taylor for urging government entities to work with local users in resolving resource disputes. She was also very concerned with the loss of jobs to Juneau and other Alaska communities. The other FURTHER RESOLVED she approved of was including tribal governments that are frequently overlooked when the State talks about partnerships and resource use in the "true partnership meetings." Number 430 SENATOR LEMAN officially called the meeting to order saying the Committee had had a quorum for at least the last fifteen minutes. SENATOR TAYLOR moved to adopt the CS to SJR 12. There were no objections and it was so ordered. SENATOR FRANK asked what was the history of fish populations in the Southeastern waters for the last 50 years. Had it been declining? SENATOR TAYLOR answered going back to 1945 fish populations were in the decline. By the early 50's fish levels had declined dramatically. Logging started with some intensity with the building of the pulp mill in 1954. Since about 1962 or 1963 fish runs have been on the increase. Today a normal run in Southeast Alaska has three times the volume of salmon that a run had in the late 50's or early 60's. SENATOR TAYLOR moved to pass CSSJR 12 (Res) from Committee with individual recommendations. There were no objections and it was so ordered.