[Senate Hearing 110-315]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]
S. Hrg. 110-315
FOREST RESTORATION AND HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION EFFORTS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC LANDS AND FORESTS
ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS
RECEIVE TESTIMONY REGARDING FOREST RESTORATION AND HAZARDOUS FUELS
REDUCTION EFFORTS IN THE FORESTS OF OREGON AND WASHINGTON
DECEMBER 13, 2007
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Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
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COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES
JEFF BINGAMAN, New Mexico, Chairman
DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii PETE V. DOMENICI, New Mexico
BYRON L. DORGAN, North Dakota LARRY E. CRAIG, Idaho
RON WYDEN, Oregon LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
TIM JOHNSON, South Dakota RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
MARY L. LANDRIEU, Louisiana JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington BOB CORKER, Tennessee
KEN SALAZAR, Colorado JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey JEFF SESSIONS, Alabama
BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, Arkansas GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon
BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont JIM BUNNING, Kentucky
JON TESTER, Montana MEL MARTINEZ, Florida
Robert M. Simon, Staff Director
Sam E. Fowler, Chief Counsel
Frank Macchiarola, Republican Staff Director
Judith K. Pensabene, Republican Chief Counsel
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests
RON WYDEN, Oregon, Chairman
DANIEL K. AKAKA, Hawaii LARRY E. CRAIG, Idaho
TIM JOHNSON, South Dakota LISA MURKOWSKI, Alaska
MARY L. LANDRIEU, Louisiana RICHARD BURR, North Carolina
MARIA CANTWELL, Washington JIM DeMINT, South Carolina
KEN SALAZAR, Colorado JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey JEFF SESSIONS, Alabama
BLANCHE L. LINCOLN, Arkansas GORDON H. SMITH, Oregon
BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont JIM BUNNING, Kentucky
Jeff Bingaman and Pete V. Domenici are Ex Officio Members of the
C O N T E N T S
Aune, Philip S., Forester, Former Research Program Manager,
Redding Silviculture Laboratory Pacific Southwest Research
Station, Redding, CA........................................... 32
Barrasso, Hon. John, U.S. Senator From Wyoming................... 7
Britton, Hon. Boyd, County Commissioner, Grant County, OR........ 65
Caswell, Jim, Director, Bureau of Land Management, Department of
the Interior................................................... 15
Craig, Hon. Larry, U.S. Senator From Idaho....................... 3
Donegan, Matthew, Co-President, Forest Capital Partners, LLC,
Portland, OR................................................... 54
Dubrasich, Michael E., Executive Director, Western Institute for
Study of the Environment, Lebanon, OR.......................... 75
Hoeflich, Russell, Vice President and Oregon Director, The Nature
Conservancy, Portland, OR...................................... 59
Johnson, K. Norman, University Distinguished Professor, Oregon
State University, Corvallis, OR................................ 26
Rey, Mark, Undersecretary, Natural Resources and Environment,
Department of Agriculture...................................... 9
Smith, Hon. Gordon, U.S. Senator From Oregon..................... 5
Vaagen, Russell C., Vice President, Vaagen Bros. Lumber Inc.,
Colville, WA................................................... 49
Wyden, Hon. Ron, U.S. Senator From Oregon........................ 1
Responses to additional questions................................ 81
FOREST RESTORATION AND HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION EFFORTS
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2007
Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests,
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 2:35 p.m., in
room SD-366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Ron Wyden
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. RON WYDEN, U.S. SENATOR FROM OREGON
Senator Wyden. The subcommittee will come to order. The
purpose of today's hearing is to receive testimony about forest
restoration and efforts to reduce the amount of hazardous fuels
in the forests of Oregon and Washington.
This is a critical issue for the survival of our forests,
our rural communities and for our economy. This subcommittee
has a long tradition of working in a bipartisan way. I think
with the hectic schedule here in the last few days before
adjournment, we'll have some colleagues coming in and out, but
I'm very glad that Senator Craig has already joined us. As
Senator Craig knows, this subcommittee has played a key role in
the only two major pieces of forestry legislation that had
actually made it through the legislative gauntlet and signed
into law. That's the County Payments Legislation and the
Healthy Forest Restoration Act. It's my intention to go forward
once again in a bipartisan way and deal with this very serious
issue that the committee is looking at today, and that's
reducing the amount of hazardous fuels in our forests.
For too long, the Federal Government's approach to
hazardous fuels has basically been to fiddle while the forests
burn. With different approaches, like thinning of overstocked
second-growth forests, I believe it's possible to restore these
forests to some semblance of diverse, resilient forests to
reduce the risk of fire and to create good family wage
employment. Addressing the forest restoration needs of the
Northwest is an issue I intend to pursue, not only at today's
hearing, but in the near future with legislation. As I
mentioned, a number of us on this committee worked in a
bipartisan way to pass the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, but
it has not allowed the country to get ahead of the problem.
One significant factor in my view has been the inadequate
funding for this. In section 108 of the Healthy Forests
Restoration Act, the Congress specifically authorized $760
million for each fiscal year for hazardous fuels reduction
There, on page 1901 of volume 117 of the Statutes at Large,
is this specific inclusion, because both sides of the aisle
felt it was necessary to have a dramatic increase in funding
for hazardous fuels restoration work.
Now at that time, the Forest Service budget for hazardous
fuels was about $258 million. Four years later, the President's
budget for hazardous fuels reduction is just over $291 million.
At the Interior Department, the President's proposed budget
represents an $18 million increase in hazardous fuels funding.
So at this subcommittee, again and again, we are told that
not enough acres are being treated. In addition, many Oregon
communities tell me that they are simply afraid.
They're afraid the forests are going to go up in flames,
afraid that the infrastructure to restore the forests--both
mills and human capital--is disappearing, and they're afraid
that their communities and the jobs that depend on them will
disappear, as well.
Now, in recent years, the subcommittee has been very active
when it comes to forest thinning and restoration oversight. A
hearing was held, for example, in this subcommittee on
oversight, with respect to the forest restoration legislation.
At that hearing, I pointed out that limited progress
implementing the Healthy Forests Act at that point would take
more than 200 years to thin the 20 million acres called for in
the legislation. We're glad to have the Secretary here,
Secretary Rey. He said that in March 2004, that the essential
work was going to get done in eight to 10 years.
Recent estimates indicate that at the current rate,
conducting hazardous fuels reduction treatments on an average
of 130,000 acres a year in Oregon, it will take three-quarters
of a century to complete a single treatment of just the acres
in the most endangered fire condition class. So clearly,
expectations are not being met.
Today's testimony is designed to build the case for the
urgent need to thin millions of acres of Oregon and Washington
forests now. Previous hearings before the full committee have
demonstrated why it is so important to take action. The fire is
threatening more and more communities in the Wildland Urban
Interface. The danger to these forests only increases as the
Similarly, plantations in the Northwest moist western
forests lack the tree diversity and resiliency that is seen in
natural forests. The State of Oregon has approximately 30.2
million acres of forestlands that cover nearly half the State.
Approximately 60 percent of that land is owned by the
Federal Government. Due to decades of poorly managed plantation
forestry and fire suppression, there is now a breathtaking
backlog, a backlog of millions and millions of acres that needs
to be treated.
As a result, these choked, fire-suppressed forests are at
great risk for naturally catastrophic fires, insect
infestation, and disease. The health threats to the nation's
forests, fire, insects and disease, obviously respect few
geographic boundaries. That means that private landowners and
communities are all at risk.
We're going to have an excellent hearing today with a
diverse range of witnesses, all of whom I'm looking to, to
assist us to try to break the gridlock. Now, before we move to
our colleagues who have joined us, Senator Craig and Senator
Smith, I want to touch on just two other issues that I know the
senators care a great deal about.
Today, the energy bill was voted on. Had it gone forward,
it would have included a 4-year, $1.9 billion reauthorization
for the Secure Rural Schools Program. In my view, it is not
just bipartisan legislation, but it is sensible and responsive,
and I'm very disappointed by the vote that was held earlier
We are not going to give up however. This is the only major
bipartisan multi-year authorization approach that has any
traction at this time. There hasn't even been a vote on it in
the other body. The Administration's approach has not been able
to attract even a single Unites States senator. So we are very
hopeful that we will hear more supportive words from the
Administration in these key hours before the session ends,
because real communities in the West are waiting for this issue
to be resolved in their favor. They've got sharp pencils out
now, they're trying to make budgets for this upcoming year.
It's critical that the Congress move forward. The amendment
that I offered for a multiyear authorization of this program
got 74 votes in the U.S. Senate.
An overwhelming plurality and I'm very hopeful that the
Administration will work with us on it. It is directly relevant
to the work hearing that we're holding today, because in the
energy bill, the legislation we offered would put more than
$170 million out for collaborative forest restoration on
So we hope that the Administration will assist us so that
this can get resolved before the Congress wraps up for this
year. I also want to touch briefly on the definition debate
that has come up with respect to biomass in H.R. 6.
I happen to think that the good folks--Scott Miller,
Michelle Miranda, Frank Gladics--the bipartisan staff of this
committee did very good work when we wrestled with this here in
the Senate Committee. Together, on a bipartisan basis, we came
up with a good definition of biomass that protected old growth.
The old growth that the American people want to see protected,
but would still allow significant biomass to be used from
Federal lands to create renewable energy. So I'm hopeful that
the Senate definition that has been able to generate bipartisan
support can prevail, and I'm sure there will be some colleagues
that will want to discuss it today.
Let me turn to two senators who've worked very closely with
me on all these issue. We have a long history of it, beginning
with Senator Craig.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY CRAIG, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Craig. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much, and thank
you for holding this hearing today. When you include Idaho in
that definition, then you have a partner. We have a few
problems in Idaho. Idaho burned this year at an unprecedented
rate, as many of our States did. Of the 10-plus million acres
of public land burned, we had nearly a quarter of them in our
Last week, a Federal Appeals Court took two steps backward
on that Healthy Forest Initiative that both you and I are very
proud of. I'm disappointed in a three-judge panel of the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals, that they would side with the Sierra
Club and against the Forest Service stating that the agency
improperly used categorical exclusions under the National
Environmental Policy Act.
As you know, we established categorical exclusions to some
degree in healthy forests to be able to effectively streamline
hazardous fuels reduction, primarily in the Urban Wildland
Interface. I think the Sierra Club needs to understand two
realities about hazardous fuels reduction. If they or their
leaders haven't been out West looking at the smoky skies during
the summer months of the hot summers we seem to be having, then
they ought to go out and listen and smell, and their eyes will
blur and their noses will smart.
Forest fuel reductions are not a guise for old-growth
logging. Both the Senators from Oregon and I made sure of that.
But somehow, that lingers on in this Kabuki dance that we're
not in that don't allow us to get at what we need to get at. It
is a necessary land management practice, designed to improve
the health of our National Forest. That's what hazardous fuels
reduction is all about. Just over 100 years ago, this country
decided to take a stand against one of the natural disasters
that we encounter in the West--wildfires.
We have battled and controlled the spread of human-caused
and natural-caused wildfires for over a century. By doing so,
we took the natural process of fire out of many of our
terrestrial ecosystems. To counter this, we harvested timber
and inadvertently reduced fuel loads. Now, we've taken logging
out of the process. What we've ended up with is a National
Forest Land that can aptly be described in many of its
locations as a timberbox. When we look at the rating and the
ranks that we're about today, we're talking well over 100
million acres, 100 and--I guess it's 140, 190-plus, somewhere
in that range. Hazardous fuel treatment aided in a transition
from, I hope, a tinderbox to a healthy forest.
Second, we are already behind the curve on meeting our
goals and treatment acres we need. We don't need to elongate
the time between project design and project implementation as
we sit and watch the Forest Service to reanalyze the Healthy
Forest Initiative, and its environmental effects. More acres
will burn, and much greater intensity--with intensity and a
much higher rate of tree mortality. My guess is that's what
we'll see again next summer, and the summer after, and the
summer after, and the summer after.
Last summer, following the fires and during the climate
change debate, Mr. Chairman, I and my staff did a calculation.
We tried to factor in by approximate acreage and approximate
burn--and that was pre-California scrubland burn of the scrub
oaks that we saw burning out there that wiped out so many homes
in California late in the year this year. We estimated that if
had we have not had the intensity of forest fires that we had,
it would have been equivalent to taking--by that, I mean the
emission of CO2 into the air and carbon--it would
have been equal to taking 12 million automobiles off the road.
Now does anybody want to factor that one in? That's like
taking almost all of California's car fleet off the road for 1
year. Somehow we still play this game that I now call
officially the Kabuki Dance of the environmental community that
thinks it's going to get somewhere by simply attempting to lock
up our forests and not allow the reasonable management that you
and I foresaw and tried to put together in reasonable law,
convinced our colleagues to do so, and did so with limitations,
with side-votes, with categorical definitions. Somehow, we
can't get there.
With that in mind, I appreciate, Mr. Chairman, the effort
to increase the number of acres to be treated; however, I would
also ask that we be mindful that we've got policy that has to
be adjusted, apparently, to make it work. We're going to have
to listen to the Courts to some degree, for they're obviously--
those judges up in the Ninth Circuit--are experts in land-use
management, or so they proclaim by their decisionmaking.
Having said that, I think we're going to have an energy
bill out by late evening. I hope within it, it has obviously
the provisions that you and I have so closely worked on over
the years as relates to timber-dependent school districts, and
that we give them some long-term viability based on that
effort. Thank you.
Senator Wyden. Thank you, Senator Craig. Senator Smith.
STATEMENT OF HON. GORDON SMITH, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Smith. Senator Wyden, Senator Craig, thank you for
today's hearing. I welcome all the Oregonians who are here to
testify. I know how long you've come. Senator Wyden and I make
that trip regularly, and we respect your concern and effort in
being here. I particularly want to welcome Commissioner Boyd
Britton and from Grant County. In September, Commissioner
Britton, and others from eastern Oregon issued a press release
titled ``Enough is Enough.''
It described their frustration as elected officials in
seeing the deplorable conditions of Federal forests and the
ebbing forest products industries in their communities. The
situation in Oregon's timber communities is indeed dire, and
enough is enough. The situation simply must change. It seems no
matter what the Congress or the White House does to help, it's
not enough. The Forest Service budget for hazardous fuels
removal has increased fourfold since 1999.
The green timber sale budget has increased 30 percent since
2000. The Forest Service Plan is finally fully funded. Congress
passed the Healthy Forest Initiative. The Administration
implemented reforms to speed up the process of thinning and
forest restoration. But serial litigants and obliging courts
continued to supplant their judgment for the people's elected
representatives. Good faith efforts to clean up our forests and
get our rural communities back on their feet continued to be
Mills are closing. Forests and habitat are still being
incinerated. In 2000, Congress put into place the County
Payments Safety Net designed to remove counties from the boom
and bust cycles of Federal timber management. That program was
urgently needed as the Courts tightened their turnicate on
Federal timber sales. Ironically, however, the Safety Net
brought along its own uncertainties. Oregon counties are still
in limbo, wondering if the Safety Net will be extended and
where it will leave their budgets 5 years from now.
Reauthorization of the Safety Net has been as much of a
roller coaster as Federal timber sales have ever been. I agree
with my colleague from Oregon that new legislation is now
needed to provide relief to Oregon counties. Relief in the old-
fashioned way, the way used to do it--managing our forests,
creating family waged jobs, providing a tax base for local
services. That relief needs to be in the form of a sustainable,
predictable supply of timber.
Thinning is undeniably a component of that solution--I
emphasize component. A legislative solution can only be
successful if it is formed by the broadest array of interests
in our State. I respect all of the different views on this, but
no view wins with the status quo. The environment loses. The
economy loses. Governor Ted Kulongoski created the Federal
Forest Land Advisory Committee to draft goals, to address the
needs and possibilities of Federal land in Oregon.
I hope that Congress will embrace the recommendations
developed by this diverse working group. Oregon counties, more
than anyone, also need to be at the drawing table for
legislation that addresses forest management in our State.
Western Oregon counties have already been working with the BLM
on the Western Oregon Plan Revision. Northeastern Oregon
counties have been working with the Forest Service on its
planned revisions in the Blue Mountain Forests.
Our counties know best what is happening on the ground, and
they are critical in identifying the solutions best suited for
their local needs. Oregon's Indian tribes also have a direct
interest in the thinning and management of national forests.
First, national forests adjoin some Indian reservations. For
example, the Warm Springs Reservation is bordered on three
sides by national forests. What happens on the national forest
can directly impact their own forest resources and their
Second, the Warm Springs and the Umatilla Tribes have
treaties in which those tribes reserved important hunting,
gathering, and pasturing rights on lands that now comprise
national forests and BLM lands. Forest management obviously
impacts these rights, as well as the Warm Springs and Umatilla
treaty-reserved fishing rights. Third, tribes have a close
government-to-government relationship with the Forest Service
and deal routinely with the Forest Service on a host of issues.
The Warm Springs tribes have entered into a MOU with nine
national forests who memorialized this relationship.
Finally, the Warm Springs is actively developing a Biomass
Electrical Generation Project that will utilize biomass from
national forests. A major purpose of the project is to
facilitate improvement of tribal and adjoining national forest
health. Other tribes have shown an interest in following their
example. For nearly a decade, the Confederated Tribes of the
Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians have been asking the
Oregon Delegation for help along these very same lines. The
tribes have asked Congress to return a portion of their
ancestral homeland, and these lands would be thinned under
guidelines stricter than the Northwest Forest Plan. We've seen
too little help for them in this cause.
Recently, Governor Kulongoski wrote to the Oregon
Congressional Delegation a letter regarding the Confederated
Tribe's proposal. He urged us to work together to restore a
portion of the tribe's homeland and allow them to restore these
forests by thinning. The Confederated Tribes proposal and this
thinning discussion are dovetails. Both aim to improve forest
health, while also creating economic value. It also has support
from both environmentalist and timber interests.
So I believe now is the time for Congress to take up this
proposal. The fundamental point of this hearing is to reinforce
the notion that we can have both healthy forests and healthy
rural economies. We cannot have one without the other. If the
history of the last few decades has taught us anything, it is
that truth. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Wyden. I thank my colleague. We're joined by the
ranking Minority Member Senator Barrasso. We're going to hear
from Senator Barrasso, and then I'm told just now that they'll
be four roll call votes at 3:55, so we're going to all sprint.
That's what I gather, which will allow us to kick it over until
4:10 or something close to it. But Senator Barrasso, welcome,
and we appreciate all your interest in this.
STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN BARRASSO, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Barrasso. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for
holding this hearing on forest restoration and hazardous fuel
reduction. I want to add my welcome to all of the witnesses who
are here with us today. Many of you have traveled a great
distance. You're familiar with that, as you travel that same
distance weekend after weekend, Senator Smith. I also
appreciate Under Secretary of Agriculture Mark Rey being here,
and Bureau of Land Management Director Jim Caswell who's come
to testify. I note that they are both left-handed, and that
probably is why they see eye to eye on so many things. I'll
tell you the entire Wyoming Senate delegation is left-handed,
as well. That says much for great cooperation among us.
Mr. Chairman, I understand how important the issues are of
this hearing--forest restoration and hazardous fuels reduction.
The State of Wyoming faces many of these issues. On our
forests, like Oregon, almost half of Wyoming is entrusted to
Federal Land Managers. We have 18 million acres of Bureau of
Land Management lands, over 9 million acres of national forest
lands. Wyoming has one of the largest national grasslands in
the country--23,000 acres of national wildlife refuge, and
820,000 acres of Bureau of Reclamation lands. The need for
management of forest health and hazardous fuels is very real
and important in Wyoming. Forests in each of the seven national
forests across Wyoming are at risk of being consumed by
insects, by disease, or by fire. We must set resource policy
that addresses these threats in a real, as well as a practical
Today, I've introduced Senate Bill 2468. It's called the
Wyoming Forest and Watershed Restoration Act. That would
provide for the State of Wyoming to cooperate with the U.S.
Forest Service on forest health projects. You may have noticed,
Mr. Chairman, they both picked up the pens in the left hand and
wrote down S. 2468. I'm delighted to see that. Thank you.
Under this authority, the Wyoming State Forester could work
with the U.S. Forest Service to carry out forest health
projects on adjoining private, State, and Federal land. We do
face an urgent problem in Wyoming with bark beetle infestation.
Forests between Interstate 70 in Colorado and Interstate 80 in
Wyoming are being killed by bark beetles. We're very familiar
with that. We have thousands upon thousands of acres that are
dying, and the only way to address threats like these bark
beetles is to take on forest health projects on a landscape
Preventing forest fires, addressing watershed health, and
conserving wildlife habitats require that same big-picture
thinking. Resource issues don't stop at fence lines and neither
should our policy. I'm proud to sponsor this bill, and I will
work with the subcommittee to further this and other
commonsense public land policy. The people of Wyoming, as you
gentlemen know, really are people that demand on-the-ground
results. That's why I'm concerned about policies that are too
restrictive for our Forest Managers. The people of Wyoming want
to see healthy forests and healthy communities, so let's get
down to real business of forest management.
For instance, the definition that we saw just last week in
the House of Representatives Energy Bill set, to me, what was
an impractical standard. The language would prevent almost all
biomass from Federal forests from being used to meet this
country's energy and fuel needs. I can get into that a little
bit later, Mr. Chairman, with some questions. That would
eliminate for me any real potential for tackling the tough
forest health projects that are before us. With that kind of
policy, I think people in Wyoming would just shake their heads.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, the committee has tackled forest
health and other important forestry issues in the past. Our
country and our forests have been improved by your efforts. I
pledge to work with you to find commonsense solutions. This
work is important to set policy for public land managers. The
utmost importance is to the people who live in and around our
Federal forests and lands, the people who make their living off
of the land. So I look forward to working with you, and to
hearing the testimony of these great witnesses. Thank you, Mr.
Senator Wyden. I thank my colleague and appreciate his
excellent statement. Let me also say that the Forest Service
seems to have made sure that William Peter Wyden and Ava Rose
Wyden, now 5 weeks old, will be getting off to a sensible start
with respect to understanding the importance of forestry, and I
want to thank the Forest Service and welcome both of you.
Secretary Rey is here, and also Director Caswell. We'll
make your prepared remarks part of the record. Why don't we
begin with you, Secretary Rey?
STATEMENT OF MARK REY, UNDER SECRETARY, NATURAL RESOURCES AND
ENVIRONMENT, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Mr. Rey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's fortunate you didn't
have triplets, because I only had two of those. Thank you for
the opportunity to testify on the forest restoration and
hazardous fuels reduction efforts of the Forest Service in
Oregon and Washington.
The Administration credits implementation of the Healthy
Forest Initiative and Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003
for much of the progress made today. The act is a significant
legislative tool that allows timely implementation of fuels
treatment and forest restoration projects that are critical to
reducing the risk of severe wildfire. These projects are
beneficial to forest health, as well as supportive of the
regional economy. I want to thank those three of the four of
you who were in service at the time in 2003 for your leadership
in the enactment of that legislation.
My testimony for the record reviews the state of the
forests in Oregon and Washington, as well as the status of the
forest products industry. I'll highlight some of our
achievement in the hazardous fuel reduction area, and then be
happy to respond to your questions. To address dangerous fire
and fuel conditions across the West, we're now treating more
fuels than ever, and we are collaborating with our local State
and tribal partners more than ever before.
From 2000 through 2007, the Forest Service and the
Department of Interior Land Management Agencies have treated
nearly 25 million acres for fuels reduction on Federal lands,
including 18 million acres treated through hazardous fuel
reductions programs, and over 7 million acres of landscape
restoration accomplished through other land management
activities and authorities. The Pacific Northwest region, which
is Oregon and Washington, treated over 940,000 acres of
hazardous fuels from fiscal year 2000 through 2007. The
region's priority is to reduce the risk of damage from wildfire
and municipal watersheds, and in threatened and endangered
species' habitat on national forest lands, and on private
property and infrastructure on adjacent lands.
Over 1 in 32,000 acres treated in the Wildland Urban
Interface, and about an additional 4,000 acres were treated to
reduce risks to threatened or endangered species' habitat in
the region. The Pacific Northwest region focused 94 percent of
its treatments in Fire Regimes I, II, or III in 2007. This was
accomplished by integration of vegetative management treatments
from multiple programs. Five of the 21 national wildfires that
burned in 2007, burned in the fuels treatment areas. The Region
monitored three of these, and found the number of acres that
were burned severely were reduced as a result. The Department
and the Department of the Interior, in collaboration with our
non-Federal partners, continued to increase the community
protection emphasis of the Hazardous Fuels Program. Community
Wildfire Protection Programs are essential for localities to
reduce risks and set priorities. In the Pacific Northwest
Region, 40 Community Wildfire Protection Plans have been
completed in Oregon, covering 291 communities; and 24 plans
have been completed in Washington, covering 62 communities.
Additionally, the Administration supports full
implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan and its timber sale
components to meet the Plan's balanced purposes. The Fiscal
Year 2007 President's Budget Request to Congress reflected this
support, and the region received additional funding in fiscal
year 2007 for the purpose of more fully implementing planned
volume expectations. More than 90 stewardship contracts have
been approved in the region--that is Oregon and Washington--
since the initiation of stewardship contracting provided by
Congress as a new authority in 2003.
All of these projects focus on restoration and/or fuels
reduction, using thinning to accomplish forest health, habitat
improvement, watershed improvement, and fuels reduction. Region
6 of the Forest Service, which encompasses Oregon and
Washington, has issued more stewardship projects since that
authority was provided by Congress in 2003 than any other
Forest Service Region.
I am pleased to hear both Senator Wyden and Senator
Barrasso's commitment to work on the biomass definition in the
current pending energy bill, H.R. 6. Put simply, if the House
language prevails, there will be no fuels reduction work that
will occur on national forests as a result of that authority.
Put even more simply, the Administration supports the language
in the Senate bill that was developed by your staffs after long
and arduous negotiations, and opposes the language in the House
As it relates to progress today, I hear a bipartisan
consensus of frustration associated with how fast we've been
able to move and the funding we've been able to provide. Now,
as far as the funding is concerned, if you look at what is
authorized in HFRA, and compare it to what we're funding in our
budgets, what you will find is that we're funding dollars in
excess of the authorization. We can debate back and forth
whether we're accurately interpreting that authorization. But
there two inalienable realities that we cannot debate. The
first of those is that we have been putting more money in
successive budgets since the enactment of the Healthy Forest
Restoration Act than any president has requested of any
Congress in the history of the Republic. The second reality is
that in 2006 Congress didn't give us as much money for this
purpose as we requested. As a consequence of across-the-board
decisions, the 2006 funding level was actually lower than the
So I point that out as something for further discussion. I
would concede that the progress is not as fast as we'd like it
to be. On the other hand, 25 million of acres, treated since
2001, is an area equivalent to the size of the State of Ohio,
and we are now treating almost five times as many acres on an
annual basis than we did in any year during the decade of the
1990s. That having been said, as we go forward, we often find
ourselves taking two steps forward and one step back. The
recent court decision by the Ninth Circuit Panel reversing a
District Court decision on their use of categorical exclusions
is clearly at least one, if not several steps back.
But if I might close with a simple illustration of what we
mean by progress today, you've already noted that we endured a
firestorm in Southern California this past October. That
firestorm was not dissimilar to a firestorm that we endured in
2003, and that in fact provided much of the inducement to enact
the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. Let me compare 2003 and
2007 in a couple of critical ways. The 2003 event was an event
of 15 days in duration of extended winds; the 2007 event was an
18-day event with higher sustained winds and drier fuels.
During the 2003 event, we had 213 ignitions; during the 2007
event, 271 ignitions. Those resulted in 14 large fires that
escaped initial attack in 2003, and 20 large fires that escaped
initial attack in 2007.
Our success on extinguishing fires on initial attack was
identical in both years--93 percent. But in 2003, we burned
three-quarters of a million acres--750,000 acres in rough
terms. In 2007 we have burned 518,000 acres. In 2003, we lost
5,200 major structures; in 2007 we lost 3,050 major structures.
The biggest difference in those 2 years is that between 2003
and 2007 we treated 275,000 acres of Federal forest and range
lands in that affected region. We know that as a result of
those treatments we saved somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000
homes, because the fires that burned in the treated areas and
were extinguished before they entered at-risk communities.
So there is progress, even if it's not as much as we'd
like. Notwithstanding this progress, there are things that we
can do together to accelerate our work. The Healthy Forest
Partnership Act, which we sent to Congress last year and is
actually strikingly similar to the Wyoming Good Neighbor Act,
is, I think, a good place to start, as well as some of the
ideas that you, Senator Wyden, Senator Craig, Senator Smith,
and I have exchanged on forest thinning. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rey follows:]
Prepared Statement of Mark Rey, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and
Environment, Department of Agriculture
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the
opportunity to testify on the forest restoration and hazardous fuels
reduction efforts in the forests of Oregon and Washington. The U.S.
Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region is dedicated to progress
toward improved forest health and landscape resiliency. In fact, these
are the Region's top resource management priorities. The Region will
continue to use its authorities to strategically implement vegetative
treatments, and to use collaborative approaches with partners and
landowners to accomplish this goal.
The Administration credits implementation of the Healthy Forests
Initiative (HFI) and the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA)
in part for the progress made to date. The Act is a significant
legislative tool that allows timely implementation of fuels treatment
and forest restoration projects critical to reducing the risk of severe
wildfire to communities and to sensitive ecological resources. These
projects are beneficial to forest health as well as supportive of the
THE FORESTS IN OREGON AND WASHINGTON
The Pacific Northwest Region of the USDA Forest Service contains 19
(administered as 16 units) National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a
National Grassland, and 2 National Volcanic Monuments, covering
approximately 25 million acres, all within the States of Oregon and
Forest health conditions are mixed across the Region. Some forest
insects and diseases have declined, while others have taken hold and
expanded. In the last two years, precipitation levels have been at or
above normal in western Oregon and Washington resulting in less
moisture stress and greater resistance to bark beetle attacks. On the
other hand, Mountain Pine Beetle outbreaks have continued to expand
across the eastside of the region as a result of dense stand conditions
and lower precipitation, especially along the east slope of the
Cascades. Drought conditions continue to persist in eastern Oregon and
southeastern Washington. Damage by defoliating insects has increased in
the Region with expansion of western spruce budworm. Climate and
weather patterns continue to influence the start and spread of forest
pests and diseases. If the warmer, dryer trends occurring in the
eastern portion of the region continue, we expect to see increased
damage from bark beetles and defoliators, particularly in overstocked
stands. Mortality related to these infestations and wind events which
blow down trees create conditions for increased fire risk.
Large fires are occurring in the Region with potential negative
affects. The average number of wildfire acres burned across all
ownerships has increased substantially since fiscal year 2000. In
fiscal year 2000, about 1100 fires burned approximately 200,000 acres.
In fiscal year 2006, the number of fires rose to almost 1700 and burned
over 450,000 acres. On average, the length of the fire season appears
to be 7-10 days longer today as compared to 20 years ago. Large fires
impacted watersheds, habitats, trails, and created conditions in which
pest infestation and invasive species could take hold, and resulted in
the loss of economically valuable forest products.
Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) areas are expanding. There are
approximately 16 million acres of Pacific Northwest national forests
within Fire Regimes (FR) I, II, and III. These areas are likely to have
highly altered vegetation as a result of changed fire disturbance
processes (Condition Class 2 and 3), and therefore are at increased
risk from uncharacteristic fire. Approximately 530,000 of these acres
are within the WUI. The land in WUI is growing as development adjacent
to NFS lands expands challenging our ability to treat and maintain all
high priority lands.
The Pacific Northwest Region is striving to increasingly integrate
its vegetation management and fuels reduction programs to improve
treatment cost effectiveness, efficiency and to accomplish multiple
outcomes for forest health, habitat and municipal watershed protection.
All treatments which remove vegetation, including merchantable timber,
are based on restoration oriented prescriptions. Timber volume offered
reached a region-wide low of 335 mmbf in fiscal year 2002 and has
rebounded to 593 mmbf in fiscal year 2007. We will work to maintain
this level into FY 2008 to meet the treatment needs of our forests and
to provide a stable supply of material for regional wood products and
A viable regional timber industry is an important element in
meeting the goal of healthy forests. Currently, the forest products
industry is experiencing difficult times and strained markets. Prices
for timber products have been falling and are expected to fall further
in 2008. Nationally, home sales are at a 5 year low while inventory of
unsold new homes is about double what it was five years ago. Housing
starts are projected to remain weak through 2008. Northeast Oregon has
recently seen the closure of 2 key sawmills, affecting communities
throughout that part of the State. North central Washington has also
seen the closure of 2 mills, affecting projects on the Okanogan-
Wenatchee NF. This loss of industry reduces the opportunity to meet
healthy forest goals and allow the use of materials from forest
On a positive note, two new mills have opened in northwest
Washington providing opportunity for timber sales from the Mt Baker
Snoqualmie, and Olympic forests. Also, several companies have begun to
use innovative and new technologies to utilize small-diameter trees and
woody biomass in the Region. Biomass energy facilities are scheduled to
open within the next couple of years in central and southern Oregon,
and other new biomass starts are being considered that have the
potential to allow more national forest lands to be managed to reduce
fuel loading, protect communities, and improve forest health. Recently,
prices for biomass, coupled with an Oregon tax credit, have allowed
landing slash materials that normally would be burned, to be hauled in
excess of 70 miles from the Fremont-Winema National Forest over the
crest of the Cascade Mountains to White City, near Medford, Oregon.
This example reflects a potential for an improvement in the market for
biomass removal within the region.
HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION
To address dangerous fire and fuels conditions across the west, we
are aggressively treating fuels, and we are increasing our emphasis on
collaborating with our local, State and tribal partners.
Some of our specific accomplishments in reducing hazardous fuels
From 2000 through 2007 the Forest Service and Department of
the Interior (DOI) land management agencies have treated nearly
25 million acres for fuels reduction on federal lands,
including 20 million acres treated through hazardous fuels
reduction programs and over 5 million acres of landscape
restoration accomplished through other land management
Despite a substantial national wildfire suppression
workload, the Forest Service and DOI reduced fuels and improved
ecosystem health on more than 4.8 million acres of land
nationally in 2007, of which over 3 million acres were treated
through hazardous fuels reduction programs and 1.8 million
acres of land restoration accomplished through other land
In 2006, to more adequately demonstrate the benefits of
fuels reduction treatments on fire risk, the Administration has
begun to measure changes in the Condition Class of National
Forest System land and is currently working on metrics for
forest health changes that will help demonstrate the outcomes
of projects that remove fuels.
The Pacific Northwest Region treated over 940,000 acres from
hazardous fuels reduction programs and land restoration
accomplished through other land management activities from
fiscal year 2000 through 2007. The Region's priority is to
reduce risk of damage from wildfire in municipal watersheds and
in T&E habitat on national forest lands and on private property
and infrastructure on adjacent lands. This effort resulted in
over 432,000 acres treated in the WUI on all lands and about
4,000 acres treated to reduce risk to T&E habitat in the
The Pacific Northwest Region focused 94 percent of its
treatments in FR 1, 2, or 3 in 2007. This was accomplished by
integration of vegetative management treatments from multiple
programs. Five of 21 large wildfires burned into fuel
treatments in 2007. The region sent inter-disciplinary teams to
assess three of these fire areas and through their observations
found that the number of acres that were burned severely was
reduced as a result of forest treatments.
USDA and DOI, in collaboration with our non-federal
partners, continue to increase the community protection
emphasis of the hazardous fuels program. Community Wildfire
Protection Plans (CWPPs) assist localities to reduce risk and
set priorities. Over 1,100 CWPPs covering 3,000 communities
have been completed nationally and an additional 450 plans are
progressing toward completion. In the Pacific Northwest Region
40 CWPPs have been completed in Oregon (covering 291
communities) and 24 CWPPs in Washington (covering 62
FOREST RESTORATION IN OREGON AND WASHINGTON
The Pacific Northwest Region is committed to forest restoration and
other management actions to improve landscape resiliency. The Region
seeks to achieve this objective by:
Revising fire management plans to implement wildland fire
Increasing the ability to achieve multiple objectives in
vegetation management and fuels treatment investments:
1. Increase use of HFRA, HFI and stewardship contracting
2. Strategic placement of treatments to change fire behavior
(to increase suppression effectiveness, reduce suppression
costs and protect watersheds).
3. Working with partners and adjacent landowners.
4. Continuing to implement the Northwest Forest Plan.
5. Incorporate climate change considerations in vegetation
Implementing the aquatic restoration strategy with a focus
on watershed function, resiliency, water quality, and salmon
The Region has begun the process of revising fire management plans
to better integrate wildland fire use. The region recognizes that
increasing wildland fire use (WFU) is critical to improving ecosystem
resiliency over the long term. In 2007, we increased our acres
available for WFU by 200,000 acres, to a total of 2,360,892 acres. We
have increased funding for further expansion of wildland fire use in
The LANDFIRE project has now been completed for the western third
of the mainland United States. The data are being used in setting
hazardous fuel treatment priorities. The Forest Service is also testing
methods of modeling fire risk with LANDFIRE data to help better inform
hazardous fuel treatment prioritization. In addition the agency has
begun allocating fuels reduction funds and measuring the effectiveness
of those treatments in terms of wildfire risk reduction.
The Forest Service will continue to strive toward full
implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan Amendments (NWFP).
According to the ``Northwest Forest Plan--The First 10 years (1994-
2003): Synthesis of Monitoring and Research Results'' published in
October 2006, the Plan's success cannot be fully determined in 10
years, but some trends are clear. The most notable successes are
associated with protection of old-growth and riparian forests and
associated species. Approximately 80% of all federal lands in the NWFP
area are in reserves or are congressionally or administratively
withdrawn. Vegetation management occurring on the lands in reserves,
including timber harvest, is allowed to promote the restorative
objectives of those reserves, i.e., riparian or old growth habitat
protection or enhancement. Much has been learned about the distribution
and habitat needs of old growth dependent species and how to use
silvicultural practices to accelerate old-growth structural and
functional development. Watersheds are being restored, roads de-
commissioned, and species protected. Timber harvest has been lower than
planned and budgeted for in the NWFP area and this has significantly
impacted Pacific Northwest communities. Between 1995 and 2007 Region 6
offered on average 307 mmbf per year, Today, the volume offered in the
Region is almost twice that figure.
The Administration supports full implementation of the Northwest
Forest Plan and its timber sale component to meet the Plan's balanced
purposes. The fiscal year 2007 President's Budget request to Congress
reflected this support. The Region has been allocated increasing levels
of funding to implement the NWFP and the NWFP forests have ramped up
the offered volume as a result of this additional funding in fiscal
year 2007, and expect to do so in fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
Climate change has the potential to modify forests in the Pacific
Northwest. Forest management can play a dual role in addressing global
climate change, including: 1) management designed to position forests
to remain healthy and resilient in the face of the environmental
stresses associated with changing climate (adaptation role), and 2)
management to reduce the build-up of atmospheric CO2 to
mitigate the rate of climate change (mitigation role). Our fuels
treatment and ecosystem restoration activities can be important as a
way to achieve adaptation and mitigation objectives. We will apply
forest restoration activities to improve the capacity of forests to
resist the environmental stresses of changing climate while producing,
as a by-product of thinning, materials used for biofuels that also
reduce fossil fuels consumption.
The Region is implementing recommendations of its Aquatic
Restoration Strategy. This strategy identifies the highest priority
restoration areas, outlines specific goals and objectives, and
describes key actions needed to achieve them. Implementation of the
strategy is showing positive initial results. For example, eleven
watershed action plans have been developed for the highest priority
areas. Agency partners strongly support agency restoration projects.
For example, in fiscal year 2007, partners contributed almost $8
million towards restoration projects, enabling the Forest Service to
achieve $3 of restoration work for every $1 of appropriated funds.
COLLABORATION TO TREAT PACIFIC NORTHWEST FORESTS
Collaboration among communities, industry and local Forest Service
staff has resulted in effective and successful hazardous fuels
reduction projects. The Region is working to expand its use of the HFRA
and HFI authorities to expedite strategic restoration efforts and to
utilize stewardship contracting to carry them out. More than 84
stewardship projects have been approved in the Region since the
initiation of Stewardship contracting in 2003. All of these projects
focus on restoration and/or fuels reduction using thinning to
accomplish forest health, habitat improvement, watershed improvement,
and fuels reduction. Stewardship contracting in the Region, from
utilization of retained receipts and non-monetary exchange for goods
for services, is resulting in more acres being treated, improved
relationships and partnerships for forest management projects and
contributions to local economies.
The Lakeview Federal Sustained Yield Unit is a long standing
collaborative effort (more than 10 years) that has focused on
sustainable management and community partnership. The Fremont-Winema
National Forest will have the Region's first 10-year stewardship
contract within the Unit and is working on a second 10 year contract
outside of the Sustained Yield Unit. These Forest and community efforts
have allowed Fremont Sawmill to construct a small sawlog mill, and a
biomass energy plant is planned adjacent to the Fremont sawmill in
Lakeview, Oregon. These new facilities will allow the Fremont-Winema to
manage more lands to improve forest health and reduce fuels by harvest
and removal of small diameter material.
Another example of a community developed collaborative effort that
is benefiting national forest management is on the Colville National
Forest in northeast Washington. This collaborative effort has been
ongoing for several years and has worked hard to facilitate HFRA
projects and stewardship contracting projects. Most of the 12 approved
stewardship contracting projects were designed to reduce fuel loading
in the WUI by removing small diameter material. The Vaagens mill in
Colville is using innovation and new technology to use very small
diameter material for dimensional lumber. In addition, the Colville
National Forest is one of three Model Forest Projects under the Proof
of Concept Program. As a Model Forest, the Region is committed to a ten
year flexible budget to meet objectives of restoration, ecosystem
services, recreation and sustainable forestry with an emphasis on local
social and economic factors.
Within the NWFP area collaboration and the use of stewardship
contracting are producing restoration gains on all forests, and in
particular, the Siuslaw and Mt Hood national forests. Both national
forests have worked with their respective community partnership groups
to improve wildlife habitat by thinning in young stands, predominantly
young managed plantations. In addition, both forests are using thinning
practices to accelerate the development of old growth structure.
Receipts from these thinnings are being used to improve fisheries
habitat, close and/or manage roads to reduce sedimentation, remove
invasive weeds, replace culverts to improve fish passage, and meet many
other restoration objectives. Forests within the fire prone portions of
the NWFP are also using thinning to improve the resiliency of timber
stands as well as provide for the sustainability of northern spotted
owl and other old growth dependent species.
Mr. Chairman, though we have much to do, we are making progress in
Oregon and Washington regarding the health and resilience of Pacific
Northwest forests. We believe the administration's focus on meeting the
principals of the Northwest Forest Plan and use of the tools afforded
through HFI and HFRA are producing positive results for the forest and
I would be happy to answer any questions the subcommittee members
Senator Wyden. Thank you. Director Caswell.
STATEMENT OF JIM CASWELL, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT,
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Mr. Caswell. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is my first
opportunity to testify.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on BLM's
activities for Forest Restoration and Hazardous Fuels. I will
briefly summarize my testimony and ask that the entire
statement be included in the record.
Senator Wyden. Without objection it'll be done.
Mr. Caswell. Of the 69 million acres of forests and
woodlands that BLM manages, approximately 3.5 million are
located in the State of Oregon and Washington. In Western
Oregon, BLM manages about 2.5 million acres. In Eastern Oregon
and in Washington State, it's about 233,000 acres of commercial
forests, with an additional 815,000 acres of woodland. So the
total's about 3.5 million acres in those two states. We
appreciate your interest in pursuing an aggressive new focus on
sustainable forest management, and your concern about thinning
in Oregon's Federal forests. Based on my experience, I
recognize the importance of thinning as a tool in restoring
forest ecosystems, particularly in the Wildland Urban
BLM uses thinnings for several reasons--to reduce wildland
fire risks, to accelerate the development of a structurally
complex forest, and to accelerate growth for attainment of
sustained yield and allowable sale quantity objectives. To
reduce the risk of wildfire, BLM, since 2001, has applied
nearly 674,000 acres of hazardous fuel reduction treatments to
the woodlands and rangelands and forests on the public lands in
Oregon and Washington.
In the area of the Northwest Forest Plan, Western Oregon,
BLM uses thinning, both commercial and pre-commercial, to
accelerate the development of structurally complex forests and
to accelerate growth of younger stands for sustained yield in
the allowable sale quantity. Mr. Chairman, we are aware that
some interest in exploring whether commercial thinning could be
relied upon to a greater extent to provide a higher level of
sustainable receipts for the ONC counties. A key question for
the BLM is whether applying thinning to such a portion of the
forest, specifically trees less than 80 or 120 years old, as a
standalone silvicultural prescription could achieve this goal.
Unfortunately, the answer to that is no. Our preliminary
analysis shows a significant decrease in harvest potential if
limited to commercial thinning of forest stands less than 80 or
120 years old. Both timber volume and timber value would
decline significantly. Thinning alone does not constitute a
sustainable approach to forest management, and if limited to a
portion of the landscape, cannot provide sufficient timber to
generate the level of receipts the counties of rural Oregon
have historically received. Finally, the BLM uses stewardship
contracting in its byproducts of forest restoration and
hazardous fuel reduction treatments to provide economic benefit
to both local communities and to stimulate biomass utilization.
Since receiving this authority in 2003, BLM has used this
tool primarily, though not exclusively, in the public domain
and eastside forest and woodlands. The number of BLM's
contracts has increased steadily from two contracts in 2003 to
30 contracts in fiscal year 2007. Planning is in process in
2008 for an additional 16 contracts. In conclusion, BLM will
continue its efforts to achieve improvements in the health and
productivity of public forests and rangelands. We will also
continue to work in partnership with other Federal agencies, as
well as the State, local, and travel governments, and to
accomplish fuel reduction and forest restoration projects,
including an active thinning program.
We recognize that thinning is one tool in an overall forest
management program to provide for sustainable and functional
forest ecosystems. We appreciate your continued support for our
forest management efforts and I stand for questions. Thank you,
[The prepared statement of Mr. Caswell follows:]
Statement of Jim Caswell, Director, Bureau of Land Management,
Department of the Interior
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Bureau of Land
Management's (BLM) activities for forest restoration and hazardous
fuels reduction on the public lands in the states of Oregon and
Washington. Although rangelands comprise much of the land administered
by the BLM, we also manage substantial forest resources on the public
lands. The BLM manages 69 million acres of forests and woodlands in 11
The President's Healthy Forests Initiative and the Healthy Forests
Restoration Act have provided the BLM with additional tools to ensure
sound forest management practices and to implement hazardous fuels
reduction projects; stewardship contracting authority has allowed for
the productive use of forest products that are the by-product of
Since 2001, the BLM has applied nearly 674,000 acres of hazardous
fuels reduction treatments to woodlands, rangelands, and forests on the
public lands in Oregon and Washington, using the tools of prescribed
burns, chemical, and mechanical fuels treatments.
Of the 69 million acres of forests and woodlands that BLM manages,
more than 3.5 million acres are located in the states of Oregon and
Washington. In these states, the BLM manages forests and woodlands
through two distinct programs:
Western Oregon: Our western Oregon districts manage about 2.5
million acres that contain some of the most productive forest lands in
the world. Of these, about 2.1 million acres are the ``O&C'' lands
designated by Congress in the ``Revested Oregon and California Railroad
and Reconveyed Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937''. The
remaining 400,000 acres are public domain forest lands and are managed
under the principles of multiple use as directed by the Federal Land
Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA).
Eastern Oregon and Washington State: In eastern Oregon and
Washington, the BLM manages about 223,000 acres of commercial forests
(ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, and Douglas-fir) and 815,000 acres of
woodlands (predominantly western juniper). The public domain forests
and woodlands are managed for multiple use under FLPMA.
THINNING AS A TOOL IN HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION, FOREST RESTORATION,
AND ACCELERATED GROWTH
Mr. Chairman, we appreciate your interest in pursuing an
aggressive, new focus on sustainable forest management and your
concerns about thinning in Oregon's Federal forests. Based on my
experience as a professional forester, I recognize the importance of
thinning as a tool in restoring forest ecosystems, particularly in the
wildland urban interface (WUI).
The BLM in Oregon and Washington uses a variety of silvicultural
treatments, including thinning of dense stands of trees, to achieve
to reduce the risk of wildfire;
to restore forest health and reduce the risk of insect and
disease epidemics; and
to accelerate development of a structurally complex forest,
in areas identified for management as habitat for old growth
related species including the Northern spotted owl; and
to accelerate growth for attainment of sustained yield and
allowable sale quantity objectives.
Reducing the risk of wildfire
Since the inception of the National Fire Plan in 2001, the BLM's
hazardous fuels reduction and forest rehabilitation activities have
been guided by the National Fire Plan's goals. These goals include: to
reduce fuels (combustible forest materials) in forests and rangelands
at risk, especially near communities; to rehabilitate and restore fire-
damaged ecosystems; and to work with local residents to reduce fire
risk and improve fire protection.
The National Fire Plan is being successfully implemented under the
leadership of an interagency and intergovernmental group of local,
State, and Federal agencies (including the BLM) working cooperatively
to reduce wildfire risk and restore fire-adapted ecosystems. In Oregon
and Washington states, the emphasis for hazardous fuel treatments
(which may include a thinning component) is in areas east of the
Cascade Mountain Range and in southwestern Oregon where concentrations
of hazardous fuels are greatest and there is a high percent of WUI
adjacent to federally managed land. With a focus in these areas, since
2001, the BLM has applied nearly 674,000 acres of hazardous fuels
reduction treatments to woodlands, rangelands, and forests on the
public lands in Oregon and Washington. Roughly 48 percent of the acres
treated in OR/WA between 2003 and 2007 moved to a better condition
Restoring Forest Health
Thinning is used in forest restoration projects to reduce tree
stocking levels and fuel loading of overstocked stands. A goal of
forest restoration is increased forest resiliency to insect, disease
and stand-replacing wildfire. Treatments are designed to leave in place
species of trees that are more adapted to the forest ecosystem,
including those where periodic ground fire is a normal disturbance.
Many treatments in woodland vegetation have an additional benefit of
improving watershed conditions, wildlife habitat, and species
Accelerating Development of Structurally Complex Forests
Since 1994, the BLM has managed the forested lands in western
Oregon under the guidance of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). BLM-
managed lands (2.5 million acres in Oregon) comprise ten percent of the
NWFP's total area of 24 million acres in Oregon, Washington, and
northern California; the non-BLM lands are managed by the U.S. Forest
Service. The NWFP established land use allocations, which include Late-
Successional Reserve (LSR) [for management as habitat for late-
successional and old growth related species including the Northern
spotted owl], and Matrix (to be managed for multiple uses including
timber harvest). Under the Northwest Forest Plan, BLM's target is 203
million board feet per year of allowable sale quantity and 100 million
board feet of non-sustained yield LSR thinning volume pursuant to the
settlement agreement in AFRC et al. v. Clarke. Each year the BLM comes
closer to achieving the target.
Accelerating growth for sustained yield and allowable sale quantity
BLM uses pre-commercial and commercial thinning to support a
sustainable level of timber sale offering for the long term management
of the public lands in western Oregon. As in accelerating development
for structurally complex ecosystems, thinning for growth enhancement is
based on scientific studies carried out in the forests of the west.
These studies are the basis for the growth and yield modeling that is
used to predict the sustainable levels of harvest for both the NWFP and
the current planning effort.
Late-Successional Reserves: Of the 2.5 million acres managed by BLM
in the area of the Northwest Forest Plan, approximately 847,000 acres
are in LSRs, and are managed exclusively to protect and enhance late-
successional and old-growth forest ecosystems. Under the NWFP, no
treatments are allowed in stands over 80 years except those that will
enhance the development of old growth characteristics.
In LSR stands younger than 80 years of age, we estimate there are
approximately 292,000 acres where thinning could be beneficial. Of
these, 196,000 acres would involve pre-commercial thinning in stands
less than 30 years of age, and 96,000 acres would involve commercial
thinning in stands from 30 to 80 years of age. The objective of
thinning in these areas is to accelerate the development of late-
successional old growth characteristics. The actual thinning treatments
are guided by the standards and guidelines contained within the
Northwest Forest Plan. Thinning in these areas is accomplished based on
scientific peer-reviewed studies that indicate timely treatment can
accelerate and enhance the development of old growth characteristics in
younger forests. Since 2001, BLM has completed such thinning projects
on 46,000 acres in western Oregon, resulting in improved forest
conditions and 564 million board feet of timber volume sold.
Mr. Chairman, we are aware of some interest in exploring whether
commercial thinning could be relied upon to a greater extent to provide
a higher level of sustainable receipts for the O&C counties. A key
question for the BLM is whether applying thinning to just a portion of
the forest, specifically, trees less than 80 or 120 years old, as a
stand-alone silvicultural prescription, could achieve this goal.
Unfortunately, the answer is no. To achieve higher levels of sustained
yield management, we believe that thinning needs to be part of an
overall, integrated, and landscape-wide forest management program.
We estimate there would be a significant decrease in harvest
potential if limited to commercial thinning of forest stands less than
80 or 120 years old. Compared to the Northwest Forest Plan's current
allowable sale quantity, harvest on BLM lands in western Oregon would
decrease 32 percent in the first decade if limited to commercial
thinning on stands less than 80 years old, and would decrease 24
percent in the first decade if limited to commercial thinning on stands
less than 120 years old. These effects vary geographically as well,
with a much greater impact to the rural counties in southwestern Oregon
as compared to our northern districts.
Thinning is one forest management tool that must be used in concert
with other silvicultural practices across the entire spectrum of age
classes to meet desired resource and socio-economic objectives
envisioned in the Northwest Forest Plan and the O&C Act. Thinning alone
does not constitute sustainable forestry and, if limited to a portion
of the landscape, cannot provide sufficient timber to generate that
level of receipts the counties of rural Oregon have historically
BLM is revising six western Oregon Resource Management Plans tied
to the NWFP. A few weeks ago, BLM released a draft plan analyzing four
alternatives for the future management of 2.5 million acres of public
lands in Western Oregon. BLM is currently accepting public comments on
STEWARDSHIP CONTRACTING AND BIOMASS: BY-PRODUCTS OF FOREST RESTORATION
AND HAZARDOUS FUELS REDUCTION TREATMENTS
Congress authorized the BLM to use stewardship contracts, which are
intended to provide economic benefits to local communities, reduce
hazardous fuels, and restore forest and rangeland health, in the FY
2003 Omnibus Appropriations Act (Section 323 of Public Law 108-7). The
BLM in Oregon and Washington has used this tool, primarily, though not
exclusively, in the public domain lands and eastside forests and
woodlands, to accomplish forest, woodland, and range restoration
projects, and to provide substantial amounts of forest products as a
by-product of the restoration treatments. The number of BLM stewardship
contracts has increased steadily from 2 contracts in FY 2003 to 30
contracts in FY 2007.
Stewardship contracting projects have become the BLM's best tool
for promoting biomass utilization, as they allow for contract lengths
of up to 10 years. A few examples include:
Klamath Falls: The 10-year Gerber Stewardship project began
in FY 2004 in south central Oregon. When completed, the project
will result in the treatment of 10,000 acres, improving forest
and woodland health, improving rangeland health, reducing
hazardous fuels in the Wildland Urban Interface, improving
wildlife and fisheries habitat, and enhancing riparian areas.
It is now in its fourth year, with 1,500 acres under contract
and resulting in the sale of 750,000 board feet and 15,000 tons
of biomass for energy development.
Prineville: Through the execution of a Memorandum of
Understanding (MOU) with the Confederated Tribes of Warm
Springs (Tribes) in January of 2006, the BLM and Forest Service
in central Oregon agreed to offer 80,000 bone dry tons (8,000
acres) of woody biomass material annually. This long-term
commitment to provide biomass to the mill at Warm Springs will
provide a stable supply of biomass to expand the market for
biomass energy. With the increased supply of renewable energy,
the Tribes can market energy to power homes, or direct that
energy to new businesses. Thus, woody debris that used to be
discarded will now be converted to heat, light, and economic
development. Based on this MOU, the Tribes are seeking a power
purchase agreement and bank financing to develop a 15.5
megawatt cogeneration plant.
Lakeview: The BLM has participated in the Lakeview Biomass
Project since its inception in 2005. In November of 2007, the
BLM joined its partners in the Lake County Resources Initiative
(U.S. Forest Service, Collins Companies, Marubeni Sustainable
Energy, Town of Lakeview, City of Paisley and Lake County) in a
Memorandum of Understanding for a 20-year supply of woody
materials for biomass for energy. We anticipate that treatments
in the Lakeview District from western juniper cutting and
removal, hazardous fuel reduction, and timber sales will result
in the production of 6,000 to 13,000 ``bone dry tons'' of
biomass per year--representing five to ten percent of the total
annual supply needed for operation of the proposed facility.
The Lakeview District has committed to applying mechanical
treatments to approximately 2,000 acres per year, where biomass
would be one of the natural resource products generated.
The BLM will continue its efforts to achieve significant
improvements in the health and productivity of the public forests and
rangelands. We will also continue to work in partnership with other
Federal agencies, as well as State, local, and Tribal governments, to
accomplish fuels reduction and forest restoration projects, including
an active thinning program. We recognize that thinning is one tool in
an overall forest management program to provide for sustainable and
functional forest ecosystems. We appreciate your continued support of
our forest management efforts. I would be glad to answer any questions.
Senator Wyden. Thank you very much, Director. Secretary
Rey, you and I consistently go through these sort of eye-
glazing discussions about budgets and which account it's coming
from. I think I'm going to spare everybody, because time is
short. The bottom line to me, of course, is that a country
that's going to end up going through a trillion dollars on the
war in Iraq ought to be able to fund adequately the essential
work that needs to be done in our forests. I know my friend,
Boyd Britton, from Grant County--he's going to talk about
inadequate funding. The environmentalists talk about inadequate
Clearly, progress is not being made to the degree it must
be made to meet the needs of the American people. Now, the
environmental folks are going to say again today that our
forests are deteriorating faster than they're being restored.
Do you think that's right?
Mr. Rey. No. I think that we still have serious challenges
to get ahead of, and a ways to go to do that, but I believe
we're at least reaching parity with the seriousness of the
situation that we have today, in terms of the acreage of
treatments that we're putting on the ground. We have focused,
at the request of most major environmental groups, on the
Wildland Urban Interface as a first priority.
Now, we didn't necessarily focus in the Wildland Urban
Interface exclusively because of that request. We focused on it
because that was where the greatest immediate threat to human
life and property was. But I would say to any environmental
group that's complaining that we're not moving fast enough to
deal with a deteriorating situation--sit down with the regional
forester or the forest supervisor, and tell us where you're
willing to agree to work with us to accelerate the work that
needs to be done. We're happy to do that.
The fact is, funding alone will not solve this problem. A
perfect example of that is the Tahoe Basin, where we had a very
difficult fire season and a very bad fire this year. Now, after
we've lost the homes, including the home of the Head of the
Lahontan Regional Water Resources Control Board, that
regulatory agency and the Tahoe Regional Planning Authority is
willing to look at their regulatory restrictions to fuels
treatment work that we're adding $200 an acre, $250 dollars an
acre, to getting that job done. Now, maybe we'll make some
progress, but without that, I'm not sure we would have ever
gotten that level of understanding about the work that needed
to be done, and we would have continued to fight to spend
upwards of $3,000 to $5,000 an acre to do that work in the
So obviously, we need to increase our funding commitment
this area, and we are doing that. But just as obviously in our
judgment, we have to look for ways to do this job smarter and
faster, at a lower unit cost in expense than we have been
experiencing in certain areas.
Senator Wyden. Mr. Caswell, do you want to add anything to
Mr. Caswell. Mr. Chairman, the thing I would add to that is
that, as Under Secretary Rey explained, there's a real issue
here, in my view, with public understanding of the need. When
there's smoke in the air, and the fire is on the ridge,
everybody goes, ``Holy cow, we ought to be doing something
about this, and why didn't we?'' The day it's gone out,
everything's cooled off, everybody's gone back home, they all
become complacent again, and forget about it until the next
time. So, I think one of the things that we really need--``we''
meaning the Federal agencies, along with our partners in the
states--we really need to do a better job in reaching out to
the public and explaining what it is we're trying to do, why
it's important, and what the consequences are if we're not
Senator Wyden. I want to tell you that in every community
meeting--and I go to every one of my rural counties--all I hear
is, ``The policies today aren't getting the job done.'' These
rural communities are falling behind.
Now, Secretary Rey, I am going to hear today from witnesses
that a number of Forest Service policies, from categorical
exclusions for small projects, to acre-treated mandates that
encourage treating the cheapest acres, to the budget cuts, are
favoring scattered, small-scale projects. What people would
like to see is more work done by the land managers to look at
landscape-level kinds of projects. What can be done to
Mr. Rey. The use of stewardship contracts is where we've
had the greatest success in dealing with issues at a landscape
scale, and we're eager to do more of that. One of the
contracting problems that we've run into is one that is
associated with cancellation liability and budgeting for that.
We do believe that there's a fairly simple legislative fix to
that, and that's one that we'd like to proffer to the
subcommittee and work with you on to do. That, more than any
single change, will accelerate our ability to use the
stewardship contracting authority to do landscape-scale
treatments, which I hear a lot of people asking for----
Senator Wyden. We will follow up with you on that, and
that's constructive. One last question for you, Secretary Rey,
Professor Johnson will be here on the second panel. He's going
to assert his testimony that restoration within old growth
forests that are characterized by frequent fire ought to be a
high priority for treatment. How does the Forest Service
incorporate restoration within old growth into the priority
setting efforts to go on at the department?
Mr. Rey. Those would be among the Non-Wildland Urban
Interface stands that would be of our highest priorities. The
way that--I mean, the priorities are set through the community
wildfire protection plans, but in generic terms, the top
priority is where we've got homes and lives at risk in the
Wildland Urban Interface. The next priority down would be where
we have threatened or endangered species' habitat or critical
watersheds at risk. Just below that then would be restoration
work to deal with fire--frequent fire, older stands where we're
trying to maintain that older stand structure.
One of those, quite frankly, is the Sequoia National
Monument in Southern California. We need to remove second
growth white fur from around the Sequoia Groves to save the
Sequoia Groves, and we have been sued at every step of the way.
We will eventually in my judgment lose the Sequoia Groves to a
catastrophic fire, and it will because the fuel ladders that
are represented by second growth white fur remain in place.
Senator Wyden. OK. Senator Craig.
Senator Craig. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Mark, and
Jim. Thank you for your testimony. I'm glad you mentioned the
Tahoe Basin, Mark, because you were staffing this committee
when we sat down with Harry Reid and looked at the situation of
the dead and dying environment there, and funded it.
Put money in a project that would begin to thin and clean
and restore health to that and, of course, as you said, we were
then stopped at every front, and it took a wipeout or a near
wipeout to awaken the public to the reality that we saw a good
number of years ago, and it is really quite tragic when those
kinds of situations occur. I suspect to the homeowners in that
Basin, it was even more tragic, at least those who lost their
homes. What does the ruling of the Court mean to the Forest
Service's ability to implement the Healthy Forest Act? By that,
I mean in the absence of healthy forest CEs, how will it
increase the agency's cost of implementing these projects?
Mr. Rey. What the Court has done is overturned a District
Court decision that sustained our judgment and our compliance
with the National Environmental Policy Act in issuing
Categorical Exclusion 10, which was a categorical exclusion for
more detailed analysis under the National Environmental Policy
Act for certain types of fuels treatment activities with strict
bounds on the size of the treatment and where it could be
In the last couple of years, roughly 14 percent of the
acres that we've been treated have--between both the Department
of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture--have been
treated under the authority of Categorical Exclusion No. 10. An
average sized project under Categorical Exclusion No. 10 takes
about 6 months to develop, at a cost of about $50,000. If we
are now going to have to do an environmental assessment for
that type of project, it will take us upwards of a year at a
cost $250,000. If, as a consequence of further review and
conflict, we end up going to an environmental impact statement,
that will take between two and 3 years, and upwards of a
So, those are the order of magnitude numbers for the
difference between what gets done under the authority of a
categorical exclusion, and what gets done under the authority
of an environmental assessment or an environmental impact
statement. So the short answer to your question is it's going
to slow it down and make it more expensive.
Senator Craig. By a substantial factor. Could your staff
provide us with a list of projects by State that have been
undertaking using--In this case, No. 10, I guess, CE knocked
out by the Court by this action?
Mr. Rey. Yes. We're collecting that from the regions via a
data call right now. I can tell you anecdotally that
Categorical Exclusion 10 resulted in fuels treatments that
allowed us to save Alomar Mountain this past October during the
Southern California firestorm.
Senator Craig. Mr. Chairman, it was also, in a tragic
environment, very pleasing to me to see those numbers earlier
that Secretary Rey talked about in relation to similar fires.
The fire that helped us bring about healthy forest versus the
fire this year when, in fact, homes that were in fuel treated
areas didn't burn or substantially less of them burned. It was
easier for the firefighters to get in, get around them, get the
fires down and under control, and that even during the fire,
got noticed, in some instances, by those who were covering the
I was impressed by that in the reality that I hope there is
a bit of an awakening to that. Could you tell me what will
happen to projects that are currently being implemented, that
were approved using the CEs, that were knocked down by the
Court? Where do we go from here? Would you couple that response
with--Has the Forest Service and BLM looked at any ways that we
might work with the Court to fix this, so that we can stay at
the business without increasing the cost by a factor of five as
it relates to a project, and doubling its time before we can
bring it online?
Senator Wyden. Let us say that any question that gets in
Senator Craig. Oh.
Senator Wyden [continuing]. Five-minute gong goes off is
eligible for an answer.
Senator Craig. OK.
Senator Wyden. Senator Craig's is.
Senator Craig. I doubled that one up. Thank you, Mr.
Chairman. Please, gentlemen.
Mr. Rey. The Circuit Court remanded the decision back to
the District Court.
Senator Craig. OK.
Mr. Rey. An injunction is not yet issued. From the language
of the Circuit Court's opinion, it would appear that they want
an injunction on any project that was approved after October
2004, when the lawsuit was brought. We are issuing direction to
the field shortly that is not yet final. We're still looking at
what the data call tells us, but I think it's reasonable to
suspect that when the time that the pleadings, the motions
practice here clears, we'll be enjoining future work on
anything approved after 2004, unless enjoining that work would
actually create an even bigger fire hazard.
For instance, we've got slash down on the ground that would
have been removed could the project go to completion. So we'll
get you the individual projects that would be affected, but I
think that's going to be the nature of the impact. Then, of
course, any future projects would not be able to go forward,
anything that hasn't already been executed in the form of a
contract. As far as working with the Court, we're assessing our
opportunities for rehearing and appeal as the present time, and
we'll continue in that regard.
Senator Wyden. Thanks. Go to Senator Smith.
Senator Smith. Thanks, Senator Wyden. Mark, on the weekend,
Senator Wyden and I toured the wind and flood damage in Western
Oregon, and I understand that while we saw some blowdown
timber, there was a great deal of blowdown timber in Washington
State on Federal lands. Do you have any--Have you quantified it
at all? Do you have a figure at this point?
Mr. Rey. We're collecting that information now. I would
hazard a guess that the hardest-hit forests would be the
Olympic National Forest in Washington, and the Siuslaw in
Oregon. We'll probably have any initial damage reports in a
week or 10 days, and we'll share them with you.
Senator Smith. Do you have any plans for salvage on that?
Mr. Rey. We would, as a normal course, within the
constraints of the Northwest Forest Plan, try to salvage that
material. What we don't know is, what you always have to look
at carefully when you're looking at wind damages, what kinds of
values you have left, because usually the trees are twisted
before they're snapped off. Depending on how badly that occurs,
it'll affect the value of what's there.
Senator Smith. In 1998, there was a similar storm in Texas
that blew down an awful lot of Federal forest, and the Clinton
Administration used what they had called ``alternative
arrangements'' in order to harvest the blowdown wood. Have you
considered alternative arrangements when it comes to salvage?
Mr. Rey. Whenever we have a natural disaster like this, we
look at all of the available options----
Senator Smith. Did they follow a statutory----
Mr. Rey. It's a--yes----
Senator Smith. Alternative arrangements--is that a
statutory thing that'll permit it?
Mr. Rey. No. The statute references it in a very succinct
way. The procedures for when it's applicable are embodied in
regulations issued by the Council on Environmental Quality.
Senator Smith. It got around NEPA.
Mr. Rey. Alternative arrangements are part of NEPA. So we'd
like to express it that way.
Senator Smith. So, in a sense, it got around NEPA.
Mr. Rey. It's an alternative that NEPA provides for in
situations where there's an imminent risk to human life and
Senator Smith. Is there something different about the
Pacific Northwest and Texas that would make alternative
arrangements appropriate to one and not to the other?
Mr. Rey. Not on the face of things. The question would be
more site-specific. That is, is there an imminent threat to
human life and property such that alternative arrangements are
Senator Smith. Was there in Texas to your recollection?
Mr. Rey. The--Of course, this was----
Senator Smith. I'm just trying to jog your----
Mr. Rey. Yes.
Senator Smith [continuing]. Your creativity here more.
Mr. Rey. This was a decision rendered by my predecessors.
Senator Smith. I'm trying to get some timber to some
Mr. Rey. My recollection is that this was an area where
there was concern about the following spring fire season, and
that's why they wanted to move this stuff off quickly.
Senator Smith. Any concern about the following spring fire
season in the Pacific Northwest?
Mr. Rey. The problem there is that you can likely make a
better case for that on the Siuslaw than you can on the
Olympic, but we'll have to look at it in a more specific way.
Senator Smith. I hope you'll look at it. The Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals, when it invalidated the categorical exclusion
process for certain hazardous fuels projects--my understanding
is that a categorical exclusion has been used by the Forest
Service in projects that successfully protected communities
from wildfire. I think you've stated that. What type of
projects will this decision now stop?
Mr. Rey. This decision will stop relatively small-bore
projects that fit within the categorical exclusion. There's an
acreage cap of this particular categorical exclusion, and in a
minute here I can describe those sideboards to you succinctly.
Senator Smith. Do you have, in that description, do you
have in mind legislation that we could work with you on in
order to meet the Ninth Circuit objection and get this back
online as a vehicle for you to harvest timber?
Mr. Rey. We'd be happy to work with the subcommittee on
that. But basically, for this categorical exclusion to work,
the project has to be located in a Wildland Urban Interface
area or in Condition Classes II or III in Fire Regime Groups I,
II, or III. In other words, areas with high fuel loads and high
fire frequencies. It has to be identified through a
collaborative framework; be consistent with existing land
management plans; not be within wilderness areas or wilderness
study areas; not involve any use of herbicides, pesticides, or
the construction of permanent roads; and be subject to size
limitations that vary depending on the nature of the fuel
reduction activity in question, whether it's mechanical
treatments or prescribed fire.
Senator Smith. I'd like to work with you on some language
that might meet the Court objection and allow this tool to be
available to you still. Mr. Chairman, if I may have one other
Senator Wyden. That'll be fine, but we're going to have to
really hustle to get to our second panel before close.
Senator Smith. Any comment from you, Mark? I keep hearing
that you're focused on cutting all growth, but my understanding
is that you're focused clearly on secondary growth, and not on
old growth. Do you have any comment about that?
Mr. Rey. Since the development of the Northwest Forest Plan
we have harvested 400 acres of old growth in the affected
region, and I think we still have about 5 million acres left,
Senator Smith. OK. I think that----
Mr. Rey [continuing]. Not old growth harvest been
Senator Smith. I think that answers the question. Thank
you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Wyden. Senator----
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Caswell,
earlier Mr. Rey testified about the House Energy Bill and
compared it to the Senate Energy Bill with relation to some of
the language in there about how biomass could be used. Do you
agree with Mr. Rey, or any additional comments you'd like to
Mr. Caswell. Absolutely, Senator. We're in lockstep.
Senator Barrasso. Then Mr. Rey, I think we've recognized as
far as health issues in Wyoming, and as well as around the
country, and when I visit with my constituents and travel
around the State, they ask the question if conservation efforts
are actually overstepping their good intentions and causing
some harm. Any comments you'd like to make on that?
Mr. Rey. I think what I would urge people to focus on is
that, notwithstanding all of the rhetoric that you've heard
about the Healthy Forest Initiative, in the 4.8 million acres
we treat in 2007, we will treat about 300,000 acres that will
involve the utilization of commercial forest products. So about
6 percent of the acres treated are going to generate some sort
of a commercial forest product. If you then compare that to the
rhetoric, to the litigation, to the appeals, you have to
wonder--what's all the sturm and drang about?
Senator Barrasso. Mr. Chairman, just in the interest of
time, I'll allow you to go on to the next panel.
Senator Wyden. I thank my colleague for his courtesy. Let
us do just that. I would certainly continue this debate about
categorical exclusion if we weren't under such time
constraints. Thank you, both. Let's go forward now with
Professor Johnson and Phil Aune from Nine Mile Falls,
Washington. Gentlemen, please come forward.
Professor Johnson, welcome. Always glad to have you and
your long history of expertise here. Mr. Aune, we welcome you,
as well. Professor Johnson, we'll make your prepared remarks
part of the record, and if you can summarize your key views,
that would be helpful.
STATEMENT OF K. NORMAN JOHNSON, UNIVERSITY DISTINGUISHED
PROFESSOR, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, CORVALLIS, OR
Mr. Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It's good to be here,
and good to be on the panel with my friend Phil Aune. I'm Dr.
K. Norman Johnson, and I'm here to give testimony today for
myself and Dr. Jerry Franklin. I'm Professor of Forest
Resources at the College of Forestry at Oregon State. Jerry is
Professor of Ecosystem Sciences in the College of Forest
Resources at the University of Washington.
Our testimony focuses on forest restoration in the national
forests of Oregon and Washington that it turned out when they
added up we have been looking at and admiring for almost a 100
years in our professional life. We've also served on a number
of scientific panels, including the panels that result in the
Northwest Forest Plan, and we just recently completed a plan
for the Klamath Tribes, a comprehensive restoration plan for
their historic tribal lands that are currently part of the
Our definition of restoration is the establishment of
ecological structures and processes on those forests where they
have been degraded, and simultaneously restoration of economic
and other social values on these lands. One product of this
restoration will be substantial reductions and uncharacteristic
fuel loadings. We emphasize here restoration activities in
which ecological, economic, and social goals are compatible.
Our restoration needs and objectives contrast greatly between
forests representative of plant associations historically
characterized by relatively frequent low-to mixed-severity
fires, such as the Ponderosa Pine and the dry mixed-conifer
forest, common east of the Cascade Range; and, on the other
hand, relatively infrequent high severity disturbance regimes,
such as Westside Douglas-fir and western hemlock forests, and
our testimony will reflect these differences.
First, restoration of the forest characterized by frequent
low-and mixed-severity fire regimes--We will lose these forests
to catastrophic disturbance events unless we undertake
aggressive, active management programs. This is simply not only
an issue of fuels and fire, as important as they are. Because
of the density of these forests, there is potential for drought
stress and related insect attacks. Old growth pine and other
trees are at high risk of death from both fire and western pine
beetle. Without action, again, we're at risk of losing these
forests, and this potential for loss is greatly magnified by
expected future climate change, which will result most probably
in more intense summer drought periods, putting additional
stress on the forests.
We know enough to take action. We need to learn as we go,
but we do need to take action now. Furthermore--and Dr. Jerry
Franklin wanted me to emphasize this--it is critical for
stakeholders to understand that active management is necessary
in stands with existing old growth trees in order to reduce the
risk to them. Activities at the stand level need to focus on
restoring ecosystems to sustainable composition and structure,
in addition to reducing fuel level to acceptable amounts. As
part of that, restoring old growth tree populations is an
Action is also needed to restore hardwood species often
overlooked--such as aspen, willows, and alders--which have
declined in the landscape. As mentioned earlier, restoration
programs must be planned and implemented at the landscape level
to be effective. Creating fuel treatment patches and strips is
a useful first step to helping control wildfire, but it's not
sufficient to save these forests and the important array of
values in them. To conserve these forests, we believe we need
to modify stand structure on one-half to two-thirds of the
landscape, creating a matrix of more natural and sustainable
forest interspersed with islands of dense stands, an
environment we believe the northern spotted owl can survive in.
Key elements of actions to restore these forests include:
Conserving old growth trees as a first priority, combining
conservation of old growth trees, stand density targets, and
emphasis on drought and fire tolerance species as an overall
guide to action. As I mentioned before, focusing on areas with
concentrations of old growth structure is a high priority, and
also ensuring the conservation of aquatic systems.
Prescribed fire is a useful tool in forest restoration, but
it's not sufficient alone. Mechanical silvicultural activities
typically will be required. Harvests cannot pay for actions, of
course, and provide useful economic and social benefits,
although it's mentioned here additional funds will be needed.
Then fire or other actions need to follow harvest to reduce
short-term fuel hazards, or better yet, used as residue in
biomass power plants. Finally and most profoundly, policymakers
and managers need to plan for continued active management of
these restored stands.
Now, I want to go on to restoration of forests associated
with infrequent high intensity fire regimes in the Douglas-fir/
western hemlock plant associations that dominate the Westside.
The primary restoration need is for silvicultural activities to
accelerate the development of structural complexity in
plantations created following timber harvest. There are a
number of key elements in this, and there are tens of thousands
of acres of this--hundreds of thousands of acres, really. Key
elements are conserving the remnant old growth trees using
silvicultural prescriptions that would encourage development of
spatial heterogeneity, allowing plantation thinning beyond the
current limit of 80 years of age, and a number of other actions
I discuss here.
Next, I want to briefly discuss a guide to activities
following severe disturbances for restoration activities.
Management goals should be a starting point in determining
appropriate post-disturbent activities, and comparable
structural goals should guide management before and after a
wildfire. As an example of where ecological objections are
primary, proposed salvage operations should retain structures
of the same size and density as those developed for the green
forest. Old growth trees, in that case, would be considered
whether alive or dead. This approach provides a solid reference
for action and can eliminate intense arguments over such issues
of the probabilities where the burned trees will die.
Finally, and important to Jerry and I, is the notion that
third-party review is a key to forest restoration. Successful
restoration of the forest will require large-scale actions over
space and time, and managers need the latitude to adapt general
policies to specific situations. In exchange, we need credible
mechanisms for evaluating whether actions are moving our
forests toward restoration goals, and also how to change when
the actions are not doing that. Monitoring is necessary, but
not sufficient. We think that third-party review is essential
to gain and retain public acceptance.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Johnson follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF K. NORMAN JOHNSON, UNIVERSITY DISTINGUISHED
PROFESSOR, OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, CORVALIS, OR
I am Dr. K. Norman Johnson and I am here today to give testimony
for myself and Dr. Jerry F. Franklin regarding forest restoration and
hazardous fuel reduction efforts in the forests of the Pacific
Northwest. I am a University Distinguished Professor in the College of
Forestry at Oregon State University. Jerry Franklin is Professor of
Ecosystem Sciences in the College of Forest Resources at University of
Washington. These comments represent our view and not those of our
Our testimony focuses on forest restoration in the National Forests
of Oregon and Washington. Collectively, we have been studying these
magnificent forests and the amazing variety of benefits that they
provide for almost 100 years. In addition to research, we have served
on many scientific panels analyzing forest policy issues, including the
Northwest Forest Plan, and recently completed for the Klamath Tribe, a
comprehensive restoration plan for their historic tribal lands, which
are currently a part of the Winema-Fremont National Forest.
Our definition of ``restoration'' is the re-establishment of
ecological structures and processes on these forests where they have
been degraded and, simultaneously, restoration of economic and other
social values on these lands. One product of this restoration will be
substantial reductions in uncharacteristic fuel loadings. We emphasize
restoration activities in which ecological, economic, and other social
goals are compatible.
NORTHWESTERN FORESTS REQUIRE MULTIPLE RESTORATION APPROACHES
Forests of the PNW are very diverse in their characteristic
disturbance regimes and developmental patterns, and therefore
restoration policies and practices must acknowledge and accommodate
these differences. This diversity is obvious when one compares a
typical old-growth forest of Douglas-fir, western hemlock, and western
redcedar on the western slopes of the Cascade Range, with a typical
old-growth ponderosa pine forest found on dry sites on the eastern
slopes of the Cascade Range. The complexity of environmental
conditions, as measured by variation in macroclimate, soils, landform,
elevation, etc., and related differences in disturbance regimes make
simple stratifications of forests, such as into areas either west or
east of the Cascade Range divide, poor bases for policy or management
Plant associations and groupings of similar plant associations
(PAGs) provide a sound scientific basis for stratifying these forests
into different disturbance regimes for purposes of policy development,
management planning, and silvicultural prescription.
Restoration needs and objectives contrast greatly between forests
representative of plant associations historically characterized by (1)
relatively frequent (<100 year interval), low-to mixed-severity fire,
such as the ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer forests common east of
the Cascade Range, or (2) relatively infrequent (>100 year interval),
high-severity disturbance regimes, such as west side Douglas-fir--
western hemlock forests. Although there are many plant associations and
sites that exhibit intermediate behavior, in this presentation we will
focus our discussion on types that are more at one end or the other of
the disturbance gradient.
RESTORATION OF FORESTS CHARACTERIZED BY FREQUENT, LOW- AND MIXED-
SEVERITY FIRE REGIMES
These forests have been grossly modified during the last century by
a variety of management actions including fire suppression, grazing by
domestic livestock, logging, and establishment of plantations.
Consequently, they differ greatly from their historical condition in
having much higher stand densities and basal areas, lower average stand
diameters, much higher percentages of drought-and fire-intolerant
species (such as white or grand fir), and many fewer (or no) old-growth
We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events
unless we undertake aggressive active management programs. This is not
simply an issue of fuels and fire; because of the density of these
forests, there is a high potential for drought stress and related
insect outbreaks. Surviving old-growth pine trees are now at high risk
of death to both fire and western pine beetle, the latter resulting
from drought stress and competition. Many fir-dominated stands are now
at risk of catastrophic outbreaks of insect defoliators, such as the
spruce budworm, as has occurred at many locations on the eastern slopes
of the Cascade Range in both Oregon and Washington.
Without action, we are at high risk of losing these stands--and the
residual old-growth trees that they contain--to fire and insects and
the potential for these losses is greatly magnified by expected future
climate change. Historically, much of the loss of old growth trees and
forests has come during time of drought. The expected longer and more
intense summer drought periods with climate change will put additional
stress on the forests here. The stress on old growth trees will be
especially severe where they are surrounded by dense understories.
We know enough to take action (uncertainties should not paralyze
us). Inaction is a much more risky option for a variety of ecological
values, including preservation of Northern Spotted Owls and other old-
growth related species. We need to learn as we go, but we need to take
action now. Furthermore, it is critical for stakeholders to understand
that active management is necessary in stands with existing old-growth
trees in order to reduce the risk that those trees will be lost.
Activities at the stand level need to focus on restoring ecosystems
to sustainable composition and structure--not simply to acceptable fuel
levels. Objectives of these treatments need to include: Retention of
existing old-growth tree populations; shifting stand densities, basal
areas, diameter distributions, and proportions of drought-and fire-
tolerant species (e.g., ponderosa pine and western larch) toward
historical levels; and development of spatial heterogeneity. Plant
associations provide a good basis for providing site-specific target
goals for stand parameters, such as basal areas. Finally, restoring
old-growth tree populations to, and maintaining them at, historical
levels should be a goal of restoration management.
Action is also needed to restore hardwood species, such as aspen,
willows, and alders, which have declined in these landscapes as a
result of lack of regeneration and overtopping by dense conifers.
Elimination of large predators is probably an additional key factor in
the changes that have occurred in hardwood representation and riparian
Restoration programs must be planned and implemented at the
landscape scale to be effective; management over the last century has
altered entire landscapes and created the potential for very large
wildfires and insect outbreaks. Treating isolated stands within these
landscapes will not be effective.
Creating fuel treatment patches and strips is a useful first step
to help control wildfire, but is not sufficient to save these forests
or the important array of values that they provide, including owls and
old-growth trees. Many of the intervening areas will eventually burn
and, even if they do not, old-growth trees will succumb to insects
during periodic drought, since they are surrounded by dense competing
To conserve these forests, we need to modify stand structure (e.g.,
treat fuels) on one-half to two-thirds of the landscape. This level of
restoration will create a matrix of more natural and sustainable
forest, which has a greatly reduced potential for stand-replacement
fire and insect mortality, interspersed with islands of dense stands.
These interspersed dense stands will provide habitat for species like
the Northern Spotted Owl that utilize such areas. In fact, an approach
that results in restoring conditions on the majority of the dry forest
landscapes is the only way in which sustainable habitat for Northern
Spotted Owls can be provided.
Key elements of actions to restore these forests include:
Conserving old growth trees as a first priority.
Utilizing historical conditions, such as historical densities
and distributions of tree sizes, as an ecological guide,
modified, as needed, by recognition of coming climate change.
Combining conservation of old growth trees, stand density
targets, and emphasis on drought and fire-tolerant species as
an overall guide to action. We suggest moving away from
approaches based on diameter limits. Young, shade-tolerant
trees of substantial size often contribute to the unnaturalness
of many stands, as well as threatening old-growth trees. Also,
old-growth trees may be smaller than a proposed diameter limit
but still should be retained.
Focusing on areas with concentrations of old growth structure
as a high priority for treatment. Recognition that such areas
should receive early attention is recent; there has been a
tendency to think that stands with numerous old-growth trees
should be left alone or, at least, be of much lower priority
for treatment. The reality is the opposite! Forests that still
retain substantial numbers of old-growth trees should be
priorities for treatment because these are irreplaceable
structures that are at great risk from uncharacteristic
wildfire and bark beetle attack. Hence, reducing the potential
for accelerated loss of these old trees should be at the top of
Working to regain complexity--forests have been simplified
through harvest, fire suppression, and grazing--work for
heterogeneity at all spatial scales.
Returning understory community composition and ground fuels
to characteristic composition and structure. Many areas that
characteristically had frequent, low-frequency fire regimes no
longer do, due to the accumulation of branches and dead trees
on the forest floor and the loss of fine fuels (that used to
carry these fires) to grazing. Reversing these effects will be
Giving special attention to the hardwood component of the dry
forest landscapes, both riparian and upland. In many ways,
hardwood species and communities are in as much difficulty as
Ensuring conservation of aquatic systems. Limiting new roads,
closing unneeded roads, improving road systems, revitalizing
aspen and willow forests, and controlling aggregate watershed
effects will all play a role in this effort.
Prescribed fire is a useful tool in forest restoration but is not
sufficient alone--mechanical silvicultural activities typically will be
required. Difficulties exist in safely dealing with the build-up in
fuel; in many cases harvest is required to help reduce fuel loads. In
addition, the uncertainty of a burn program, due both to smoke and
safety issues, makes it difficult to base a forest management program
for a large area solely on prescribed fire.
Harvest can help pay for actions and provide useful economic
and social benefits, but additional funds will be needed.
Significant commercial volumes need to be removed to restore
these forests. They can provide the funds for treatment and
also help maintain milling capacity and communities. Rarely has
there been such a coming together of ecological, economic, and
social considerations. Commercial harvest, though, will not pay
for all that needs to be done.
Fire or other actions must follow harvest to reduce the
short-term fuel hazards generated by mechanical treatment.
Fire, at least to consume activity fuels (debris and small
trees left on site), is an ideal follow-up to harvest where it
can be carried out. Without treatment of activity fuels,
thinning has a significant probability of actually accentuating
the fuel hazards in treated forests for at least a period of
time. Better yet, use this residue in biomass power plants.
Finally and most profoundly, policy makers and managers need to
plan for continued active management of these restored stands. These
activities and others will need to be repeated through time to maintain
the sustainable structure and composition. Sometimes, this may be
accomplished with burning but most of the time repeated silvicultural
treatment of stands and landscapes will be required in the more
productive mixed conifer types.
RESTORATION OF FORESTS ASSOCIATED WITH INFREQUENT, HIGH-INTENSITY
On the west side of the Cascade Range, the primary restoration need
is for silvicultural activities to accelerate the development of
structural complexity in the plantations created following timber
harvest. Tens of thousands of acres of young stands exist which could
benefit from activities that reduce stand densities, favor
biodiversity, and create spatial heterogeneity. There is an immense
opportunity and need for restoration in these plantations that could
result in significant contributions to ecological, economic, and social
Restoration efforts can increase structural complexity in the
plantations created after clearcutting. These plantations usually
contain dense conifers dominated by one or two commercial species. Most
have little or no structural legacy of standing and down trees from
previous stands. Thus, these stands are much simplified from the young
naturally regenerated forests that would have developed historically.
Thinning and other activities can accelerate the development of
complexity within these stands. Also, such thinning can speed the
development of late-successional characteristics.
Key elements of actions to increase structural complexity in
Conserving all remnant old growth trees. There is rarely an
ecological justification for cutting old growth trees as a part
of restoration programs.
Utilizing silvicultural prescriptions that encourage
development of spatial heterogeneity, such as variable density
Allowing plantation thinning beyond 80 years of age.
Ensuring conservation of aquatic systems Limiting new roads,
closing unneeded roads, improving road systems, and controlling
aggregate watershed effects will all play a role in this
USING MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVES AND RESTORATION PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE
ACTIVITIES FOLLOWING SEVERE DISTURBANCES
Management activities following major disturbance events, such as
large intense wildfires, are among the most controversial issues in
national forest management. Such ``restoration'' activities should
follow the same principles previously emphasized with the goal of
restoring structures and ecological processes where they have been
degraded while simultaneously restoring economic and social values on
Management goals should be the starting point in determining
appropriate post-disturbance activities. Hence, if ecological
objectives are primary objectives prior to the disturbance they should
be primary considerations in any post-disturbance restoration process.
Comparable structural goals should guide management before and
after wildfire; these will certainly differ depending upon whether the
management focus is primarily on ecological processes or wood
production. Where ecological objectives are primary, proposed salvage
operations should retain structures of the same size and density as
those developed for the green forest. Old-growth trees should be
conserved, whether alive or dead. This approach provides a solid
reference for action and can eliminate intense arguments over such
issues as the probabilities that burned trees will die.
Similarly, approaches to reforestation should reflect restoration
principles and management objectives For example, attempts to establish
dense conifer plantations on ponderosa pine and dry mixed-conifer sites
are not appropriate; if successful, such efforts simply have created,
at best, stands in need of restoration thinning or, at worst, the next
generation of uncharacteristic stand-replacement fires. Furthermore,
the structurally-rich early successional communities that exist between
a severe disturbance and re-establishment of a closed canopy of trees
are very rich in biological diversity, including species and key
ecological processes. Rapid termination of this successional stage is
inappropriate where management objectives emphasize ecological
TRUST BUT VERIFY; THIRD-PARTY REVIEW AS A KEY TO FOREST RESTORATION
Successful restoration of these forests will require large-scale
actions over space and time, as we have discussed above, and managers
will need the latitude to adapt general policies to specific
situations. Public acceptance and support will be needed and the social
license for these efforts is tenuous in many places. A key component in
gaining public support will be credible evidence that the actions are
moving the forests toward restoration goals and a mechanism for
changing management where the actions are not achieving the desired
Monitoring is necessary but not sufficient. Given the uncertainties
that we face in forest restoration, keeping track of the state of the
forests and the effects of actions is a first principle of forest
management. We believe, though, that people are increasingly skeptical
of an agency keeping score on the effectiveness of its own actions.
Third-party review will be essential to gain and retain public
acceptance. We need mechanisms that provide trusted evaluations of the
linkage between actions and goals along with the ability to suggest
change as needed. Creation of third-party review as a regular part of
forest restoration would go a long way toward this goal. As an example,
a broad group of community leaders and resource managers could
periodically review the results of restoration work and publish a
report on their findings and suggestions for change. Other approaches,
such as certification, could also be used. In sum, third party review
could go a long way toward dispelling distrust in the public about the
purpose and results of forest restoration programs.
Senator Wyden. Professor, thank you. Mr. Aune, welcome.
We're glad you're here from our neighbor State.
STATEMENT OF PHILIP S. AUNE, RETIRED FORESTER, FORMER RESEARCH
PROGRAM MANAGER, REDDING SILVICULTURE LABORATORY, PACIFIC
SOUTHWEST RESEARCH STATION, REDDING, CA
Mr. Aune. Thank you very much. It is indeed a pleasure to
be here. Mr. Chairman, I'm really going to summarize my rather
My background is 45 years as a forester and silviculturist,
primarily working in research and management. In my latter part
of my career, I joined the California Forestry Association. All
of my examples I'm going to use today are principally from
California. So you can get a little bit of that, but they're
very appropriate for especially Eastern Washington, Oregon, and
the area east of the Cascades.
First thing I want to show is a couple of graphs.* Bear
with me. The first one--We oftentimes forget the fundamentals.
I think one time it was a famous saying ``familiarity breeds
contempt.'' It's important to look at some of the fundamentals.
Why do we thin? How do forest stands grow? As an example here
on the axis going across we see a typical per-acre density. As
density increases, what happens to the volume?
* Graphs and charts have been retained in subcommittee files.
Professor Langsaeter, a Swedish scientist back in the
1940s, designed this curve, and it's very appropriate for
today. In Zone I, identified by the Roman numerals, stocking is
light, annual growth rates are extremely high. In Zone II, the
annual growth rate starts to decline as trees compete. In Zone
III, the annual growth rate is rather constant over a wide
range of stocking. Then, as it approaches Zone IV, the inner
tree competition begins and mortality starts. As it goes to
Zone V, substantial amounts of mortality are occurring.
Unfortunately, most of our public lands today are operating in
Zones IV and V. So there's no need to argue about--Do our
stands need to be restored? The historical forest was the
mosaic operating in all of Langsaeter's zones. Somehow, we've
got to get that back. The next chart, please.
Further, if we look at--What have we learned from research
in thinning? What can it do? We have a lot of long-term
research studies that show we can fundamentally change the
characteristics of trees by thinning them. This is one example
from a 30-year measurement, a study of investment in Forest
Service research, and a plot called the Elliott Ranch Levels-
of-Growing Stock Study. To simplify this, in 1970, five levels
of treatment started by thinning a 20-year-old stand--90
percent of the trees were removed all the way down to 20
percent. Thirty years later, look at the gross difference in
diameter from those thinning treatments--25.7 inches for the
widest space versus 16 inches for the narrowest space.
Now, just imagine if one of our restoration goals was to
accelerate the diameter of our trees. We have all of the
knowledge and technology of how to do that. We need to
encourage the willingness to do that. There are studies in the
Douglas fir type throughout the West of these various kinds of
studies. I used to use that as an example. You cannot influence
such variables as the height growth on trees. But you can
conversely influence the amount of mortality. Here we see
diameter growth from the widest space. Guess what? That's the
one with the lowest amount of mortality. As you increase
stocking, guess what? You get more mortality. What does that
mean? All of that mortality leads to the fuels.
Finally, I'd like to--Before I--Just one case study, the
next one, an example of what happens when we thin our forests
when a wildfire comes up to the--and hits the forest. This was
an accident in the long-term research project we initiated on
the Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest, near Susanville,
California. We were trying to study the effects of--How do you
develop a forest with high structural diversity versus one with
low? A simple forest versus a complex forest on 250-acre plots.
We thinned those 250-acre plots. Then, of all of the nice
things, we had a wildfire. I'll say that again--It was actually
a nice thing, because that wildfire burned very aggressively
through the Lassen National Forest where there was no thinning.
A picture is worth 1,000 words.
Look down immediately to the experimental forest. That was
thinned as one of our low structural diversity followed by
broadcast burning. As you go across the Lassen National Forest,
the fire--Again, most of its damage in the experimental plot
right at the edge. It didn't even invade that part of the
treatment. It moved rapidly through the private land. The
private land looked like that area on the forest above us
there, kind of a grass and brush and young plantation. It
burned all the way through that. Notice that some of the small
trees are still living, principally because the fuel loads were
less. Then it came back onto the experimental forest in an
unthinned plot. Notice closely how quickly it developed into a
total stand destruction fire. What we can say unequivocally is
every time that fire hit one of our treatment plots, it went
down, and mortality was down significantly.
So there's a basis of science to what we do. Now, the
modern science has gone beyond growth and yield. What I'd like
to talk about, one recent research publication--I have two
extra copies to leave for the record--the title of this is
``Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: Proceedings of a 2005
Workshop.'' It's interesting, if we look at the 27 papers in
here, they're all addressing forest restoration, the effects of
fuels reduction. There are, of these 27 articles, there's 599
literature citations in there. Two-thirds of those came since
1990. Our knowledge base on this subject has grown
dramatically. The oldest citation is 1664, from England.
Forestry has a long history of studies, and so we've got to
capture and utilize that. OK. Enough is enough. You've heard
enough to science. What are you going to about it? We all are
agreeing to do the restoration.
It's kind of like the eighth-grade dance. The music's
playing, everybody's standing around the music, but nobody is
dancing. We've got to make the music happen. Unfortunately,
there is a bully that comes in periodically and says, ``We're
not going to dance.'' You can imagine what that bully is. It's
the one that says, ``You're going to do it my way or the
highway.'' If the nothing is done by that, you will have son,
daughter, grandson, granddaughter hearings on this very same
subject. So I'm not really pleading too hard, I don't think,
but we've got to do something about this problem. It just can't
just restore the easy stuff, where we get violent agreement
about removing the small trees. We've got a treat whole stands
to restore their components, and I think we just need the will
to do that. Thank you very much.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Aune follows:]
Prepared Statement of Philip S. Aune, Retired Forester, Former Research
Program Manager, Redding Silviculture Laboratory, Pacific Southwest
Research Station, Redding, CA
1. Thinning is one of the key practices necessary to restore
our forests, reduce excessive fuel accumulations, and make
forests sustainable and resilient as we face the uncertainties
surrounding climate change.
2. There is a strong scientific foundation for thinning our
forests supported by centuries of research and forest
3. Within the last decade, a large body of research,
development and application projects has expanded our knowledge
of thinning and its effects on fuels reduction and forest
4. Thinning can play a major role in reducing the adverse
environmental effects of catastrophic events to critical
wildlife habitats, key watersheds, wilderness, parks, private
timberlands and rural communities.
5. Thinning activities can be an expensive undertaking and
therefore projects must consider existing infrastructure,
markets for by-products, future silvicultural activities and
6. Thinning can be sustainable if economic objectives are
substantially improved to meet the goals established for
restoration and fuels reduction priorities. Social
sustainability remains problematic for active forest management
programs that require removal of trees.
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, my
name is Philip S. Aune and I am a retired forester with 37 years of
service in the United States Forest Service. My last assignment was the
Program Manager of the Redding Silviculture Laboratory, a unit of the
Pacific Southwest Research Station. After retiring from the Forest
Service, I served as Vice President of the California Forestry
Association for 5\1/2\ years retiring in 2005. I am currently a
resident of Nine Mile Falls, Washington and I work as a part-time
consulting forester for the American Forest Resource Council.
My testimony today represents my views as a professional forester
with over 45 years of experience in forest management, silviculture
research, and forest policy and government affairs. I am also a member
of the National Association of Forest Service Retirees an organization
that strongly supports the need for thinning, stocking control and
reducing the vulnerability of forests to fire, disease and insects
problems. They clearly recognize that thinning is a valuable and
necessary practice to achieve healthy and productive forests for
The focus of this hearing is on forest restoration and hazardous
fuels reductions in western national forests and public lands managed
by the Bureau of Land Management. The need and foundation for forest
restoration is clearly described as part of the U.S. Department of the
Interior and Forest Service 2001 Cohesive Strategy for Restoring Fire-
Adapted Ecosystems on Federal Lands.\1\ Reducing hazardous fuels by
implementing the National Fire Plan was the major focus area in
previous Senate Energy and Natural Resource hearings in 2001.\2\ By
2002, in the midst of one of the worst fire seasons on record,
President Bush announced the Administration's Healthy Forest Initiative
in Central Point, Oregon.\3\ A bipartisan effort to provide united
leadership concerning these issues came to fruition when the Healthy
Forest Restoration Act HFRA was passed and signed into law on December
3, 2003 by President George W. Bush.
\1\ Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems on Federal Lands . . . A
Cohesive Strategy for Protecting People and Natural Resources. U.S.
department of the Interior. USDA Forest Service. December 2001.
\2\ September 25, 2001 Hearing on Implementing the National Fire
Plan. Senate and Energy and Natural Resource Subcommittee on Public
Lands and Forest.
\3\ President Announces Healthy Forest Initiative. Remarks by the
President on Forest Health and Preservation. The Compton Arena, Central
Point, Oregon. September 13, 2002.
Many have questioned why the pace and scale of federal actions has
been so slow ever since HFRA was passed. The focus of the land
management agencies since then has been primarily to reduce the fuel
accumulations in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) using a variety of
forest practices. Most of the practices utilized require significant
federal appropriations to be successful. In the last few years,
agencies have been working with generally fixed budgets and strong
competition for federal appropriated funding in a highly charged
political environment. Generally, only thinning has the potential to
produce revenues and the ability to help offset costs and the current
reliance on appropriated funding to accomplish HRFA goals and
objectives. Thinning will be the focus of my testimony today.
Science basis for thinning. Thinning of forest stands has a strong
scientific foundation based on centuries of research, observations,
development and application of this fundamental silvicultural practice.
Most of the historic research concentrated on thinning responses
designed to improve the overall health and vigor of forest stands while
improving opportunities for increased growth and yield of forest
products. Some of these thinning principles are:
1. This continual diminution in numbers (of trees) is
primarily the results of a vigorous natural selection and is
the expression of one of the fundamental biological laws of
\4\ Smith, Dvid M. 1062. The Practice of Silviculture. Seventh
Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
2. The struggle for existence in dense, unthinned stands is
so fierce as to reduce the growth and vigor of all trees in the
3. Very few trees ever recover a dominate position after they
have fallen behind in the race for the sky.\6\
\6\ Guillebaud, W.H., and F.C. Hummel. 1949. A note on the movement
of tree classes. Journal of Forestry, Volume 23: 1-14.
4. The total production of cubic volume by a stand of a given
age and composition on a given site is, for all practical
purposes, constant and optimum for a wide range of density of
\7\ Smith, David M. 1962. The Practice of Silviculture. Seventh
Edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York.
The last key principle has led to the following theoretical graph
of growth, development and response to changes in stocking levels on a
per acre basis. This graphical representation is part of the basis of
silviculture and is known as the ``Langsaeter Growth Curve.''\8\
\8\ Langsaeter, A. 1941. Om tynning I enaldret gran- ogfuruskog.
Meddel. f.d. Norske Skogforsoksvesen 8-131-216. In Smith, David M.
1962. The Practice of Silviculture. Seventh Edition. John Wiley & Sons,
Inc., New York.
This graph* is extremely relevant today because helps to provide a
framework for the overall condition of our public land forests today.
The roman numerals represent five major growing and subsequently health
conditions of forested stands. Zone I represents the most rapid period
of annual growth resulting from ample growing space for individual tree
growth. Zone II reflects that point in time when individual trees start
to compete with their neighbors for nutrients, water, and light. Per
acre annual growth rates are still relatively high and constantly
increasing as overall stocking increases. Zone III represent the
highest annual per acre growth rate over a wide range of stocking
levels. Intertree competition accelerates to the point where stand
density approaches levels found in Zone IV. In Zone IV, intertree
competition has developed to the point where significant tree mortality
begins. Annual growth rate declines begin and this is the Zone where
the general forest health begins to decline. Zone V is the point where
the effect of too many trees and severe competition is the dominate
factor and tree mortality is the major event present in the stand.
* All graphs and figures have been retained in subcommittees file.
The optimum time to thin forest stands is in Langsaeter Zone III
with high annual growth conditions. Thinning practices should reduce
the stocking levels to meet whatever the forest management objectives
require. Generally speaking, forest management objectives should be
established to reduce the stocking to levels found in Zone III to the
lower end of Zone III or the high end of Zone II. Determining the
specific quantifiable goals should be based on the best evidence from
Levels of Growing Stock research (discussed later in this testimony)
and objectives, local experience and economic considerations.
The next logical question is, ``How much of our forest land needs
thinning?'' Most of our historic forests were a mosaic of stands in all
five Zones of Langsaeter's growth curve. Today, our public forests are
dominated by stand conditions found in Langsaeter's Zone IV and V.
Regardless of the cause, the facts are that our public forests are
significantly out of balance from their historic ranges of variability.
These overstocked conditions led the General Accounting Office to
conclude in 1999 that 39 million acres of interior western forests have
serious forest health problems.\9\ The national scope of the forest
health problem was expanded and enlarged by 2002 based upon conclusions
from the Healthy Forest Initiative. As an example, the American Forest
and Paper Association concluded that there are 72 million acres of
National Forest System Land at high risk to catastrophic wildfire.
Another 26 million acres are at high risk to insect infestation and
disease.\10\ That is almost 52 percent of all national forest land.
Thinning has been and will continue to be the major silvicultural
practice to balance stocking levels necessary for a wide variety of
forest management objectives that require healthy and sustainable
conditions. Thinning will also aid in achieving a balance of stands in
all of Langsaeter's Zones necessary for healthy and sustainable forest
\9\ Protection People and Sustaining Resources in Fire-Adapted
Ecosystems. A Cohesive Strategy. April 13, 2000. The Forest Service
Management Response to the General Accounting Office Report GAO/RCED-
\10\ American Forest and Paper Association. September 5, 2002.
Healthy forests don't just happen. A news release of the American
Forest and Paper Association. Washington D.C.
Case studies of thinning experiments. Langsaeter developed the
theoretical concepts of growth, competition, and stocking levels that
provide the basis for thinning and other silvicultural practices. His
concept does not, however, provide the kind of information necessary
for specific forest types. Fortunately, such insight is available from
carefully control long term Levels of Growing Stock Studies (LOGS). One
such example is the Interior Ponderosa Pine LOGS study with studies
scattered throughout the Ponderosa pine range from Canada to Mexico.
These study sites balance the range of site productivity variables from
very low to very high productivity. One of the highly productive LOGS
sites is the Elliot Ranch LOGS plots located on the Tahoe National
Forest near Foresthill, California.
At the Elliot Ranch site, five levels of thinning were applied to a
20 year old Ponderosa pine plantation in 1970 that resulted from a 1950
wildfire. Each of the thinning plots had between 500 to 681 trees per
acre before the first thinning with tree diameters between 6.6-7.2
inches. The heaviest initial thinning treatments removed approximately
90% trees, the next treatment 70%, the next 50%, then 30%, and the
lightest thinning removed 20% of the trees to develop the 5 levels of
growing stock. Three additional thinnings were applied 10, 15, and 20
years after the first thinning. All of the trees were measured every
five years for a variety of tree characteristics such as diameter,
height, mortality, live crown ratio, etc. Per acre values for volume in
cubic feet and board feet, growth and mortality were developed from the
basic tree measurements. Summarizing some of the key data results in
the following illustrative graphs.*
After 30 years, the widest spaced treatment yield trees with an
average diameter of 27.5 inches. The narrowest spacing resulted in
trees with an average diameter of 16.8 inches or 10.7 inches smaller
than the widest spacing, a 61.7% reduction in diameter growth. This
could be very critical in meeting restoration objectives especially in
areas devastated by wildfire and lacking the larger diameter trees
necessary for wildlife habitat needs. As an example, California spotted
owl guidelines require leaving trees greater than 30 inches in
diameter. The LOGS plots provide ample evidence that thinning can play
an important role in accelerating diameter growth rates. This does not
mean that you will have California spotted owl habitat once the trees
reach 30 inches in diameter. But what is informative is that the tree
diameter requirements can be substantially influenced by thinning
There are numerous attributes that can be displayed for all of the
measured and calculated variables too numerous for this testimony.
However, mortality is one of the key variables for forest health
discussions. The general rule from research results is that mortality
generally increases as stand density increases. The amount of mortality
varies considerably by species and seasonal factors such as drought
induced stress. The following graph* displays the mortality for the
period 1970 to the measurements in 2000 at the Elliot Ranch LOGS site.
At ages 25, 30 and 35 mortality was minor. However, between the age
of 35 and 40, mortality started to significantly increase in the
highest density plots that only removed to 30% and 20% of the initial
stocking. By age 45, all plots had some mortality with the widest
spaced trees having only 2 square feet basal area \11\/acre of
mortality and the narrowest spaced trees had 20 square feet of basal
area/acre. Translating these results in Langsaeter Zones, all of the
initial thinning treatments were operating in Zones I and II for the
first 15 years. After 20 years, the 90% initial thinning has been in
Zone I and II; the 70% level in Zone II and III, the 50% level in Zone
III and the 30% and 20% in Zone III and IV. It is fairly obvious that
these two light thinning treatments need another thinning to maintain
their health and vigor.
\11\ Basal Area. The sum of the square feet contained in the cross
section of trees generally measured at breast height (41/2 foot above
the ground on the high side of trees). As an example, a tree 16 inches
in diameter at breast height has 1.4 square feet of ``basal area''
which is equal to the area of a circle 16 inches in diameter. If a
stand contained 100, 16 inch trees in one acre, the basal area/acre
would be 140 square feet per acre.
Another excellent example of LOGS studies and benefits from long-
term forest management research is that the results can be used to
evaluate environmental effects of thinning and prescribed burning as
common management practices. This was recently accomplished in a long-
term study in Ponderosa pine forest located near Bend, Oregon.\12\ The
study addresses whether their combined use is required to lower
present-day fire risk and help restore natural ecological function; or
whether fire or thinning alone is sufficient to attain these goals. The
use of thinning as a fire surrogate is not well understood. The draft
manuscript documents the effects of 16 treatments focused on thinning;
a combination of thinning and broadcast burning; broadcast burning
alone and fertilization on stand growth, understory development and
biological diversity. This study is located on the Deschutes National
Forest in the Interior Ponderosa pine forest type in eastern Oregon.
This manuscript documents the observations of a study initiated in 1989
and includes all re-measurements through 2006. The results documented
nearly two decades of thinning and prescribed fire effects and
identified the following five conclusions:
\12\ Busse, M.D. et al. 2007. Is mechanical thinning an ecological
surrogate for fire in Ponderosa pine forests? Peer Review Draft subject
to changes. USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station.
1. Positive responses of ponderosa pine and understory shrubs
to thinning alone;
2. Inconsequential effects of surface-applied thinning
residues on vegetation response;
3. The need for multiple entries of prescribed fire if the
abatement of shrub growth is required;
4. The ineffectiveness of repeated burning to stimulate
herbaceous biomass production or diversity in these nutrient-
poor forests, and
5. That thinning mimicked most ecological functions
attributed to fire and was a key first step to restoring
healthy and firesafe forests.''\13\
Thinning to reduce the effects of wildfire. There is substantial
antidotal evidence that thinning will reduce the adverse effects of
wildfires. Thinning significantly reduced fire severity and stand
damage on the following fires: Hi Meadow, Colorado; Megram, California;
Webb, Montana; Cerro Grande, New Mexico; Tyee, Washington; Cottonwood,
California; Hochderffer, Arizona; Fontainebleau, Mississippi.\14\ These
and other antidotal evidence from recent fires throughout Oregon and
Washington and the interior west provide the best evidence of the
potential of thinning to reduce the adverse effects of wildfire.
\14\ Skinner, Carl N. 2003. Forest Fires and Forest Fuels Power
Point Presentation. Based upon Omi and Martinson 2002 data. USD Forest
Service. Pacific Southwest Research Station, Redding, California.
Carefully control research is lacking in the area and it is almost
impossible to test the hypothesis that thinning will reduce the effects
of wildfires with complete scientific rigor. Placing a statistically
sound research design with replications and a variety of treatments
would have to be done before the wildfire occurred. Even though
wildfires are widespread, the control research problem is exacerbated
by the difficulty of predicting where and when the wildfires would
In spite of these problems, accidents do occur on research plots
that help provide some of the best quantifiable and pictorial evidence
of the effect of thinning on fire behavior and subsequent stand damage.
One such example occurred in 2002 on the Blacks Mountain Experimental
Forest in the Interior Ponderosa pine forest type found throughout
western United States. Three general conditions were present on the
Blacks Mountain Experimental Forest when the Cone Fire occurred. Two
large scale thinning treatments (250 acre replicated plots) and the
unthinned areas between the thinned plots were present. In addition,
substantial areas adjacent to the Experimental Forest were also
unthinned. The Cone fire occurred when fuel moistures levels were
between one and six percent and wind speeds were nine miles per hour
with gusts up to 20 mph. The fire was control after burning through a
full suite of the experimental research conditions and the unthinned
forest. The following pictures* vividly demonstrate the results of the
The area within the generally square white area was experimentally
thinned to create a forest with high structural biological diversity.
The area below and to the right of the red circle was designed and
thinned to achieve low structural diversity. All of the similar
replaced plots were in place before the Cone Fire burned through the
Experimental Forest in September, 2002. The Cone Fire started at the
pointed area outlined in white on the far left of this aerial photo and
burned toward the left side of the photo. The white line delineates the
fire boundary. The fire burned through the square area thinned for high
structural biological diversity. The low structural diversity plot to
the left of the white line and below the red circle did not burn due to
the lack of fuels following implementation of the thinning and
The next photo shows a close up of the area surrounding the red
circle in the above photo. Here the thinning and lack of thinning are
In the upper left quarter of the photo, the area defined by the
white lines is the Lassen National Forest with almost 100 percent
mortality in an area that was not thinned prior to the Cone Fire. The
lower left hand quadrant is the thinned low structural diversity
research plot with less than 1-2 percent overall mortality. Most of
that mortality occurred at the boundary of the unthinned Lassen
National Forest where the fire was very intense heat from the crown-
fie. The crown-fie moved rapidly fire through the unthinned portion of
the Lassen National Forest to the Private Land in the upper right
quadrant of the photo. The private land looked similar to the area
immediately above the private land burned in the Cone Fire. This was a
young planted sapling forest with annual grasses and brush understory
As the fire moved from the private land back on to the Experimental
Forest in the lower right quadrant, it encountered an unthinned portion
of the Experimental Forest. Notice how immediately the fire resulted in
complete killing of patches as it regained its strength. As the fire
continued, it regained full strength as it moved through unthinned
forest until encountering other research plots that had been thinned.
Every time the Cone Fire encountered another thinned research plot, the
crown-fie became a manageable ground fire.
The next two photos show the stark contrast between the unthinned
forest and the thinned forest treatments. The most recent research
publication documenting the five year results of the Cone fire
concluded crown-fire spread and severe tree mortality was significantly
reduced when advancing flames reached research areas that were recently
thinned and underburned.\15\
\15\ Ritchie, Martin R., Skinner, C.N., and Hamilton, T.A. 2007.
Probability of tree survival after wildfire in an interior pine forest
of northern California: Effects of thinning and prescribed fire. Forest
Ecologyn and Manahement 247, 2007, 200-208.
The Cone Fire story is a good example of what can be learned from
having a research quality experiment in place before a wildfire occurs.
Similar observations are being developed from careful analysis of
other recent large scale wildfires. A recently released 2007 study of a
large wildfire's effects in northeastern California describes the
effects of wildfire and suppression efforts on areas with in-place fuel
treatments, areas with no treatments and impacts on protected
areas.\16\ The Wheeler fire was caused by lightning and started on July
5, 2007, burning 23,420 acres of mixed conifer and Interior Ponderosa
pine forest types. The fire burned through areas treated for fuel
hazard reduction, untreated areas, and areas protected for California
spotted owl and goshawk habitat (Protected Activity Centers and home
range core habitat) as well as Riparian Habitat Conservation Areas. Key
findings from Fites et al. research were:
\16\ Fites, JoAnn, et al. August 2007. Fire Behavior and effects
relating to suppression, fuel treatments, and protected areas on the
Antelope Complex Wheeler Fire. USDA Forest Service.
1. Treated areas had significantly reduced fire behavior and
tree and soil impacts compared to untreated areas.
2. Treated areas were utilized during suppression along
several flanks of the fire for both direct attack with dozers
and handcrews, as well as for indirect attack with burn
3. Treated areas that burned during the first two days--when
suppression resources were limited and fire behavior more
uniformly intense--had reduced fire effects compared to
untreated areas. In some areas, these treated sites had
moderate to high severity effects.
4. A Defensible Fuel Profile Zone treated area provided a
safe escape route for firefighters when the column collapsed
and two other escape routes were cut off by the fire.
5. Observations of fire behavior during the first two days
suggest that large untreated areas allowed the fire to build
momentum and contributed to increased fire behavior (rate of
spread and intensity). Thus, the influence of these untreated
areas made it more likely that suppression resources could be
overwhelmed, treated areas could be threatened and their
effectiveness in thwarting fire spread and intensity
6. Satellite imagery reveals that protected areas (owl and
goshawk nest stands) had significantly greater tree severity
compared to untreated or treated areas. A majority of the
larger blocks of untreated areas contained these concentrations
of owl and goshawk habitat protected areas.\17\
\17\ Fites, JoAnn, et al. August 2007. Fire ehavior and effects
relating to suppression, fuel treatments, and protected areas on the
Antelope Complex Wheeler Fire. USDA Forest Service.
Expanding thinning research beyond growth and yield studies. As
mentioned earlier, most the research basis for thinning was designed to
improve opportunities for increased growth and yield of forest
products. Secondary goals included addressing questions on how to
improve the overall health and vigor of forest stands. The concept of
thinning has growth well beyond those earlier growth and yield
objectives especially with the notion that thinning has utility in
meeting a wide variety of forest management objectives such as
restoration and fuels reduction. Modern thinning research, development
and application programs focus on thinning to achieve a wide range of
objectives rather than traditional growth and yield objectives. As an
example, electronically searching the Forest Service Research Web Page
(literature citations sub page) using ``thinning'' as the key word for
a literature search from the period 1988-1997 was conducted during the
week of December 3, 2007.\18\ The electronic literature search listed
106 publications responding to the keyword thinning. Using the same
thinning keyword and changing the date to the last ten years resulted
in 634 publications. That is a 598 percent increase in the number of
publications over the previous decade. The vast majority of the recent
thinning papers addressed restoration, fuels reductions and other
ecological values. An excellent example of this is the publication:
\18\ Forest Service. December 2007. Research Tree Search Web Page
Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: Proceedings of the 2005
National Silviculture Workshop. June 6-10, 2005. United States
Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Pacific Southwest
Research Station General Technical Report PSW-GTR-2003. January
This General Technical Report contains 27 individual papers from
across the nation dealing with research, development and application
projects. Just about all of them address thinning as a tool for
restoring our forests or reducing fuels.
Even though we have this developing body of knowledge, we must keep
in mind that the principles gained from historic thinning experiments
and management results have application to a wide variety of forest
management objectives. Long-term studies demonstrate the natural
ability of forest trees respond within thinned stands and regain full
site occupancy. This fact leaves land managers with valuable options
for current future ecological consideration in thinning operations.
Stands that have been thinned regardless to the original objective,
respond with rapid growth rates on the remaining trees. Depending on
how much has been thinned, the stands fill in the thinned areas in a
relatively short period of time. That is a dramatic opposite of long
time required for stands recovery in stands devastated by the effects
of wildfires or epidemics of diseases or insect infestations. The
results from the LOGS plots and other control research clearly
demonstrate this principle. This resiliency and re-growth will aid land
managers in achieving current and future ecological or environmental
Even if these goals were not specifically addressed in older
thinning operations, most thinnings rarely eliminate future ecological
considerations options. An operational example of this occurred in 1973
when I was a silviculturist on the Mad River Ranger District of the Six
Rivers National Forest. During this time, the Forest Service was
charged by Congress to accelerate our harvest volumes using thinning or
sanitation harvest practices that are generally referred to as
intermediate harvests. Our clear goal was to put additional timber sale
volume in the marketplace. I was given that task for our share on the
Mad River Ranger District. I chose to thin a 200 acre 110 year old
stand of overstocked Douglas-fir. The stand had a basal area 240 square
feet per acre. My prescription cal for thinning the stand to 55% of
normal basal area. The stand was thinned down to 130-140 square feet/
acre utilizing a classic thin from below approach using skyline logging
system to harvest the trees. The sale generated around 10 thousand
board feet/ acre of high value Douglas-fir trees that generated around
$2 million of revenue for the treasury.
Ten years later, Six Rivers National Forest personnel invited me
back to see the results of the thinning and re-measure the stand growth
response. Immediately after thinning, the stand was opened with 30% of
the area open to blue sky when viewed from the ground. By 1983, there
was very little blue sky available since the crowns had completely
filled in all of the open growing space. The basal area per acre was
back to 240 square feet per acre. The amount of live crown ratio on the
trees was between 30-40 percent. Prior to thinning, the trees averaged
around 20% live crown ratio. These results indicated the individual
trees were very healthy and the stand was healthy with very little new
But the most important story was the northern spotted owl story.
Spotted owls were not a special concern in 1973. By 1983 they were the
crucial environmental issue for older forest conditions. In 1973 the
sale area was never surveyed for spotted owls. By 1983, trees in the
sale area were now 120 years old and definitely qualified as nesting
habitat for the northern spotted owl. At that time, the thinned area
was occupied by nesting spotted owls and was one of the best nesting
habitats on the Six Rivers National Forest. Thinning of the entire 200
acre stand ten years earlier did not render the habitat unsuitable for
One of the unintended consequences of ``doing nothing'' in special
areas like spotted owl habitat, streamside buffer zones and old-growth
reserves is the severe consequences from wildfires, insect and disease
problems and other biological risks. Thinning definitely has a place in
special areas and ``doing nothing'' will lead to some unintended
consequences. A good example of this is long-term changes in species
composition. Forests are obviously dynamic ecosystems constantly
changing. Forest health goals could be easily achieved by ``doing
nothing'' if they were static entities without risk. The dynamic nature
of stands is emphasized in research results from ``Methods of Cutting
Trials'' initiated in the late 1930s on the Blacks Mountain
Experimental Forest. These results provide insight into species
composition changes based upon ten year remeasurements data of the
changes that occurred for a period of 50 years.
Five replicated research thinning treatments increasing the volume
removed from a light thinning removing 10-15 of the volume to complete
removal of all merchantable trees was span of the treatments.\19\ For
comparison, a control with no cutting was included in the experimental
design. The research plots were re-measured every 10 years for 50
years. For this testimony, one of the five treatments is displayed
below to demonstrate the effect of thinning contrasted to no thinning.
The thinning treatment selected for this example removed 55 percent of
the volume in 1940. This is compared to no thinning throughout the 50
year period. The graphs* represent the effects on species composition
\19\ Dolph, K.L., Mori, S.R., Oliver, W.W. 1995. Long-term response
of old-growth stands to varying levels of partial cutting in the
eastside pine type. Western Journal of Applied Forestry. 10, 1-1-108.
Notice that the percent of Ponderosa pine remained relatively
constant over the 50 year measurement period. The predominate old-
growth species was Ponderosa pine on this site before the treatment and
Ponderosa pine maintained that dominance 50 years later. White fir
declined from 35% of the species composition in 1940 to 25% in 1990.
Incense cedar increased slightly during this period. The general
conclusion from this data is that overall species composition remained
relatively constant over the 50 year period even though 55% of the
volume was initially thinned in 1940.
Contrast that with ``doing nothing'' from similar data gathered on
the control plots in the following graph.*
Ponderosa pine declined from 50% of the stand composition to 25%
during the 50 year period. Insect mortality was the cause of the
decline in species composition as the old-growth pine trees declined in
health and vigor at the same time shade tolerant white fir began to
occupy and compete for growing space in the unthinned stand. Incense
cedar also increased by almost 10% over the 50 year period. Today, the
control plot continues to have the highest amount of annual mortality.
Unfortunately, most of this mortality is in the remaining old-growth
Ponderosa pine. White fire is rapidly becoming the dominate species on
a site that was once dominated by old-growth Ponderosa pine. These data
indicate that ``doing nothing'' will have consequences. The importance
of these critical changes and consequences is dependent upon the
objectives established for the stand or forest.
Economics of thinning. The classic reason for lack of strong
thinning programs on federal lands is the value--or lack thereof, for
the products removed. This is especially true for the smaller
diameters. Stands with diameters too small to allow commercial thinning
have been thinned with appropriated funding on federal lands. Early
thinning in the life of a stand has historically been classed as
``precommercial thinning.'' Policy established in the 1960s placed
restrictions on precommercially thinning trees greater than eight
inches in diameter. Trees greater than eight inches were considered
close to the meeting most of the minimum diameters for sawlog trees in
those days. Trees less than eight inches limit were routinely
precommercially thinned prior to the 1990s in western national forests.
Most of the effort was in natural or planted stands with very high
densities per acre. The rate of precommercial thinning was determined
by annual federal appropriations and the amount of Knutson-Vandenberg
funding generate for this purpose from timber sale activities.
Today the situation has changed. Stands that were precommercially
thinned before 1990 are now being sold as commercial products if the
local infrastructure is in place. Sawmill technology has been developed
to improve utilization of trees down to six inches in diameter. Some
plywood veneer plants can easily process logs from small diameter trees
and can peel logs to a core of around 2 inches in diameter. In
northeastern California, there is a strong infrastructure in place for
processing biomass into electrical energy. Successful thinning programs
selling a combination of sawlogs and biomass chips can be sold by the
federal agencies. These are all positive steps to help improve
utilization of small diameter trees. It is imperative that national
energy policies recognize the important role woody biomass converted
into electric can place reducing oil imports. In this case, our forest
management policies are directly related to energy policies. Energy
policies that encourage use of excess biomass off of our federal forest
lands should be encouraged and supported in the next round of energy
Unfortunately, this infrastructure is in not in place universally
throughout the western, intermountain and southwestern areas of the
United States where most of the fire risk and thinning opportunities
occur. Establishing a sound energy policy that encourages, rather than
discouraging investments in biomass plants can go a long way in
attracting industry to areas where the forest products industry has
been devastated by the dramatic drop in federal timber sales that began
in the 1000's. Fortunately, small log processing and thinning programs
are less problematic in the Midwest, southern and eastern forests. The
infrastructure is generally in place and small log processing has been
a staple of the forest products industry for decades.
The pace and scale of thinning on federal lands lags far behind
what is necessary to effectively reduce the threats to fire, insects
and diseases. The Stanislaus National Forest adjacent to Yosemite
National Park is fairly representative of a typical western national
forest. The following table indicates fire condition classes on the
Stanislaus National Forest. Fire Condition Class III represents the
worst situation, II the next, and Condition Class I the least overall
risk to fire.\20\
\20\ Stanislaus National Forest Planning File Data. March 5, 2005.
Stanislaus National Forest, Sonora California.
Fire Condition Class Acres Land Base
III 313,566 35.0
II 359,356 40.1
Sub-total 672,922 75.1
I 222,578 24.9
Seventy-five percent of the entire forest is in the higher
condition classes and is a priority for treatment to meet the goals of
the National Fire Plan. Approximately 85% of the class II and III lands
are forested and the remainder is highly flammable brush and grass
areas. How many acres per year would have to be treated to reduce the
Condition Class by at least one level if one wanted to accomplish that
goal in 10 years? Obviously, the answer is 67,292 acres. The forest is
actually accomplishing substantially less than 1/10 of the 67,292
acres. The irony is that near the Stanislaus National Forest a
substantial industry infrastructure exists including sawmills and a 30
megawatt biomass power plant. The biomass plant is capable of burning
240,000 bone dry tons of biomass every year to produce their
electricity. If all of that woody biomass was to come from typical
Class III and II forested acres with two products removed, sawlogs and
biomass chips, the 30 megawatt plant could utilize the chips off of
approximately 17,700 acres per year. Similar relationships are found on
every western national forest. This is an extraordinary opportunity
from one standpoint, and a disaster waiting to happen from another.
Why is the pace and scale so slow? The easy answer is lack of
sufficient federal appropriations but the answer is much more
complicated than simply budget problems. In order to develop some
information on possible causes, I conducted an informal survey of
American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) members and staff. AFRC has a
federal timber sale monitoring system in place that monitors on a
quarterly basis the progress of timber sales and stewardship contracts
on every national forest in Washington, Oregon, California and some
national forests in Idaho. Based upon this informal survey, the
following reasons were identified as delaying progress of thinning
timber sales or stewardship projects designed to reduce fuels. All of
these are related to economics including use of scarce appropriated
1. Appeals and lawsuits.--Dealing with appeals and lawsuits
demands so much time, effort and financial resources from
federal line officer's, staff and specialists. Some forests
appear to just be afraid of the hassle of potential appeals and
litigation that their programs lack a targeted and aggressive
approach focused on minimizing the risk of appeals.
2. Budget.--Forests work with the uncertainty of Continuing
Resolutions, coup with declining resource management budgets.
Fire suppression costs are draining natural resource budgets in
a constrained federal budget perspective. Annual fire
suppression costs are constantly increasing while resource
management funds are constantly decreasing. For more
information on this issue see the National Association of
Forest Service Retiree's Wildland Fire Fighting issue
\21\ National Association of Forest Service Retirees. January 25,
2007. NAFSR ISSUE PAPER Funding Wildland Firefighting. Lincoln,
3. Accountability.--The lack of real accountability in the
system, for meeting targets or taking on difficult priorities,
is hurting the system.
4. Inexperience.--Too many line officers do not have a
reasonable resource and management background. Supervisors and
Rangers whom have never been responsible for meeting targets,
budget preparation and accountability have been weakening the
process. Most new Line Officers at the Ranger level are also
poorly trained in fire fighting management which may correlate
to their lack of understanding of the urgency for fuel
reductions and dealing appropriately with their overstocked
5. Downsizing of the ranks of field foresters.--Preparation
of thinning projects requires highly skilled timber sale and
stewardship contract personal. Personnel with strong
backgrounds in sale layout, silviculture, logging systems, and
contract administration are generally found on successful
thinning projects. Where they are absent, those projects are
the most problematic. The missing skills are often the result
of loss of qualified people to retirement and a lack of
recruiting replacements in the forester ranks for the past 15
years. The agencies have been unable or reluctant to fill these
crucial positions because of constant downsizing to react to
and ever decreasing budget.
Value consideration plus the generally high cost of removal of
smaller diameter logs and high transportation costs require careful
economic considerations throughout the decision process for thinning
programs. Unfortunately, that is not the case on small log sales and
stewardship projects. The following economic considerations are
problematic on the national forests and Bureau of Land Management
programs AFRC has monitored.
1. Low volume per acre.--Marking is too light to achieve
fuels reduction, restoration, silvicultural or economic
objectives. Conservative marking is problematic on just about
every sale offered or sold. Conservative marking also results
in minimally effective fuel reduction efforts and continuation
of fuel ladder problems throughout those stands treated.
2. High cost logging systems.--Poor road location, timber
sale layout and harvest system choices have resulted in
excessive logging costs. This is especially true when
helicopter yarding is selected for thinnings. Opening or
constructing temporary roads could be employed to utilize
conventional logging systems and eliminate or greatly reduce
the need for high cost helicopter logging.
3. Low product value (small diameters).--Most of the higher
value from trees sold as sawlogs comes from clear wood
associated with larger diameter trees. Smaller diameter trees
do not contain large amounts of the high value clear grades.
The lower value sawlogs coup with large amounts of non-sawlog
material such as chips or biomass that must be removed,
chipped, or burned substantially lowers the value of the
products removed. A key solution for improvement is to
increasing the amount of merchantable sawlog to economically
cover the cost of removal, chipping or burning of non-sawlog
4. Product understanding.--Not every sawmill can process the
low end of the small diameter trees. Even with mills that
specialize in small diameter logs, they also need a mixture of
larger diameter trees to balance economics of manufacturing of
small diameter trees.
5. Diameter Limits.--It does not make sense to enact a
diameter limit in a stand that needs to be thinned or is being
attacked by insects or diseases. Forest managers generally
understand the need or objective to achieve a healthy forest
stand condition. Diameter limits, however, are the absolute
wrong limitation to place on thinning prescriptions. The
paramount objective should be leaving healthy individual trees
that meet stand management objectives, overall stocking goals
and economic considerations necessary to achieve the healthy
condition. A classic example of diameter limits that hinders
achieving healthy forest objectives is the 21'' diameter rule
from the ``Eastside Screens'' for eastern Washington and Oregon
6. Standards and guidelines limit effective economic
practices.--Some forests are using outdated standards that are
based on logging equipment used in the `70's and `80's. This
results in severely restricted operating seasons. The most
severe example is using helicopter logging while flying over
roads already in place and serviceable because of the fear of
ground compaction. In addition to outdated standards, a
plethora of new standards have significantly restricted
operating seasons to the point where it is problematic to find
windows where the purchasers can log the sales.
7. Appraisal system.--The current appraisal system does not
do a good job of separating types of sales when they group
sales in large geographic areas to acquire their base sale
values used in transaction evidence appraisals. The appraisal
system does not respond to rapid changes in market conditions
since it is based upon past transactions. Appraisal personnel
have limited understanding of logistics or costs involved in
doing a project because of the reliance of computer based
transaction evidence appraisal.
Most of the economic problems cited can be resolved without
compromising or adversely affecting resource values. National,
regional, and local efforts must be substantially improved in order to
improve the economic viability of federal thinning programs.
Social aspects of thinning.--The public willingness to thin our
forests and reduce the threats from wildfire has greatly changed in the
last decade. During this time, vivid images on television of
catastrophic wildfires have dominated the news concerning national
forests and public lands. Major wildfires have occurred in just about
every State west of the Mississippi. Lives have been lost and property
destroyed. Suppression costs have ballooned into billions of dollars
every year. The most significant impact on threatened and endangered
habitat has been loss to wildfires. Watersheds have yielded tons and
tons of sediments into our nation's rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Calls
for action have been posted in editorials from small town weekly papers
to major city dailies. Western Governors have held numerous conferences
encouraging and demanding action. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act
was passed. Given all of this, it is easy to say the national will to
do something has been established and is there to support our federal
agencies actions--but ``how'' to do this has never received unified
Support for local solutions has been very prevalent in local
communities adjacent to and surrounded by federal forest lands. The
problems of overstocked stands and wildfire threats are universally
understood. This has led to wide acceptance of the need for aggressive
active programs in local communities to deal with the problem.
Realization of the threats from wildfires on the Wildland Urban
Interface has led to the formation of community coalitions and Fire
Safe Councils throughout the West. The need to undertake fuels
reduction efforts is generally well supported by local citizens and
county officials. As a generalization, the closer one is to the problem
of overstocked forests, the greater the support for thinning to reduce
Active citizen coalitions designed to help the federal agencies
develop effective programs are present in just about every location
near federal lands. They are generally focused on improving the pace
and scale of thinning and fuels reduction by providing unified support
for active programs. As a recent example, a coalition of diverse
individuals near Bend, Oregon is working together to develop
prescriptions for encouraging thinning of overstocked stands near the
Black Butte Ranch. Their goal is an attempt to reach common ground and
develop support for thinning programs, reduce conflicts and improve
trust between diverse groups. The Bend Bulletin highlighted this
program in a recent newspaper article:
The 20 or so people from the U.S. Forest Service, timber
industry, conservation groups and some who just live nearby
stood in the ponderosa pine forest next to Black Butte Ranch.
Armed with 11 different colors and patterns of marking tape,
they set out with a goal to flag which trees they would save,
with the other ones left to be cut, if they were making the
\22\ Ramsayer, Kate. November 16, 2007. Field trip helps forge
trust among diverse interests. Bend Bulletin. Bend, Oregon.
Their solution will undoubtedly be relatively consistent for
removing small diameter trees and brush as such actions are relatively
free of conflicts. As the diameter of trees identified for removal
increases, potential conflicts increase. Unfortunately, to be effective
in dealing with current and potential forest health considerations,
trees must be removed from all size classes. The critical problem for
community is how to develop support for this concept. Based upon
personal observations from critical situations, this is the essential
problem in building effective solutions.
As an example, the community of Lake Arrowhead in the mountains
surrounding Los Angeles has been a beautiful and restful place for
thousands of southern California citizens. The residents and visitors
to the community love their trees, their urban forest and the
surrounding mountains. Their love for their urban forest manifested
into City ordinances that made it very difficult to cut any tree within
the city limits. Hence, very few trees were removed over the last two
decades. As early as 1994, some people were predicting that lack of
management in the area surrounding Lake Arrowhead would lead to
potential problems with overstocking, insect mortality and ultimately
severe wildfires.\23\ At a Congressional Subcommittee Hearing Dr.
Thomas Bonnicksen stated that he had, ``been working on restoring
beetle-killed forests in these mountains with Forest Service
professionals almost continuously for most of this year, and I had
warned of a possible tragedy as early as 1994.''\24\ Even though
Bonnicksen's early warning was sounded, little action was taken in
subsequent years by those who had chartered and received his 1994
\23\ Bonnicksen, Thomas M. December 5, 2003. Witness testimony.
Hearing on recovering from the fires: Restoring and protecting
communities, water, wildlife, and forests in Southern California.
Before the Committee on Resources, Subcommittee on Forests and Forests
Health. Lake Arrowhead, California.
Over the last few decades, their once beautiful urban forest (and
most of the San Bernardino National Forest) reached Zone V stocking
conditions found in Langsaeter's growth curve with the predictable
increases in insect caused mortality. By 2000, bark beetle insect
populations began to expand as they thrived in this favorable
environment exacerbated by adverse effects of drought. Within three
years, over 600,000 acres of forest lands surrounding Lake Arrowhead
were suffering severe insect mortality. The local call to finally do
something was loudest in Lake Arrowhead and other mountain communities.
Unfortunately, it was too late--especially for the old-growth pine.
Massive efforts were then undertaken to remove thousands of dead trees
within Lake Arrowhead and other communities. The problem dramatically
changed from insect mortality to wildfire prevention which
unfortunately devastated the Lake Arrowhead and other communities in
2003 and 2007. The social question was, ``which of our forest
communities would be next and how can we develop support to protect our
communities and forests?''
Some of the communities have been listening and have attempted
implementing preventative actions. One of the biggest hindrances to
implementing community based solutions is frustration with the
process--especially the appeal and lawsuit aspects. The best example of
this is the suite of appeals and lawsuits that have been placed in
front of full implementation of the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library
Group Forest Recovery Act (``QLG Act''), P. L. 105-277. Ever since the
law was passed and the Forest Service prepared their draft
Environmental Impact Statement, numerous process delays, appeals and
lawsuits have been put in the path of implementing this classic
community based solution for a large portion of the Plumas, Lassen and
Tahoe National Forests. Most of the projects initiated under the QLG
framework have now been through NEPA three times due to appeals and
lawsuits; some have been through NEPA five times. It is absolutely
amazing that members of the QLG coalition are still aggressively
working to implement reasonable programs supported by the QLG
legislation. The local communities are still willing to support the
federal agencies, but certain segments of society remain obstacles as
they wield one process delay after another.
Conclusion--Sustainability of thinning.--Three major factors are
critical for sustainability of thinning programs. These have been
highlighted in many forums over the last 15 years. They are often
represented by the theoretical blending of social, environmental and
economic considerations in the following manner with sustainable
solutions at the intersection of all three circles.*
With thinning, the environmental need is huge for restoration and
fuels reduction on our national forests and B.L.M. public lands. The
economic opportunities are there if the agencies are willing to cut the
necessary trees to make their efforts economically viable. If not, they
will have to rely on ever increasing federal appropriations in a highly
competitive federal budget. Both the environmental aspects and economic
aspects are bound by substantial time tested realities. There is a
``bottom line'' that these boundaries cannot be crossed in order to
achieve sustainability for these two elements. Fortunately, there is a
broad solution space for sustainability in these two elements.
Unfortunately, the agencies are generally not using the entire solution
The question is, ``Why are the agencies not using more of that
solution space?'' The answer is that the social aspect of
sustainability is the most problematic. Some have been seeking the
elusive consensus that is so easy to talk about, but so difficult to
achieve. People still have vastly differing solutions ranging from
aggressive management to ``doing nothing''. Until people realize there
is a problem--little action will be initiated. Even when actions are
proposed, appeals and lawsuits will inevitably be used by those opposed
to actions. Especially when those actions require removal of trees in a
commercially viable timber sale or stewardship project. Developing
socially acceptable solutions that truly blend with the environmental
and economic considerations will be impossible if those who oppose
actions continue with their ability to use the process, appeals and
courts to override economic and environmentally sustainable solutions.
The Lake Arrowhead example and others indicates that local socially
acceptable solutions can be achieved. However, it usually takes a
potential or real crisis to achieve local actions. Those who support
early aggressive actions are usually over-ruled until the crisis
actually occurs. People will come together to help develop socially
acceptable solutions only at the time of crisis. Once they realize
there is or will be a significant problem, they will cooperate and work
with the agencies to develop solutions. They may still have vastly
different views of the range of possible sustainable solutions.
Generally, the closer they are to the problem and more likely to
receive benefits from the solution, the quicker they will agree on
socially sustainable solutions. Once they unite on a solution, they
will aggressively support the action similar to the Quincy Library
However, there is a relatively narrow window in time of when this
local support will continue. If the communities do not see meaningful
results and aggressive cost effective programs from their federal land
managers, their support will disappear. That is the case in many of the
western communities because of a relatively tepid agency approach in
dealing with the problems. There are many in local communities who
honestly question the relevancy of the Forest Service and to some
extent the BLM to local communities. Agency leaders and political
entities must step forward and provide the leadership and programs
where their actions truly speak louder than words.
Senator Wyden. Well said. Professor Johnson, you've been at
this for years and years, and we all read your reports
devoutly. Once again, you come full of sensible suggestions. I
think, particularly, getting these restoration programs off the
ground at the landscape level is so logical. I want to start by
posing a question to you, and getting your response to it.
Secretary Rey said to me--I asked the Secretary whether our
forests were deteriorating faster than they were being
restored. I'm looking at what the nature of conservancy says,
and each conservancy says that the Forest Service treated about
188,000 acres in Oregon. Based on their analysis, the country
would need to treat at least 550,000 acres annually. Do you
agree with Secretary Rey's answer to me that we are staying
equal to the number of forests that are deteriorating?
Mr. Johnson. This is how I'd answer it. There's a lot of--
the Forest Service is diligently trying to do a number of
things. Many of them are in so what I would call low-
controversial areas. In the areas where our old growth trees
are, as Secretary Rey alluded to, down in the Sequoia, or in
Eastern Oregon and Washington, where our really valuable forest
is, not a lot is being done. It's much more in the areas of low
controversy, where significant--or near Wildland Urban
Interface areas--where activity is being done. Under broader
landscape, the parts of our forests that are of critical value
to us are still deteriorating.
Senator Wyden. So are we still falling behind, because
every single community meeting--and boy, Britton will say it
again--and, by the way, I think there are a variety of reasons
for this. I happen to think that people ought to have a right
to go to the judicial system when they disagree with something
in the forestry area. I don't think they have a constitutional
right to a 5-year delay strategy. I don't. So there are a
variety of reasons for it, but----
Mr. Johnson. I----
Senator Wyden. I'm not going to clobber you over the head
here, but it just seems to me by any calculus--the county
commissioners in rural Oregon, some of the environmental folks
and others--we're not keeping up. I want to give you one more
Mr. Johnson. If you were to ask me yes or no, as you now
are, what would Dr. Franklin and I say? We'd say we are falling
Senator Wyden. OK. Thank you. Let me ask you, on this
question of old growth, where you and Dr. Franklin have done so
much good work, the public doesn't want old growth cut. In
other words, any time you take a survey, they don't want it
done. They do want forests thinned, and that's what I'm
committed to doing. I'm committed to cutting through the
frivolous litigation, doing exactly what we did on the forest
health legislation on the county payments legislation, where I
had pickets all over the place in efforts to try to pull people
So your point about getting it done is everything. I think,
Professor Johnson, is it correct in saying that some of the
characteristics of old growth, such as being resistant to fire,
that's exactly what we ought to be trying to do as part of our
whole restoration effort. Is that right?
Mr. Johnson. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, those
forests are much more both resistant and resilient to fire.
Senator Wyden. The reason I'm asking is that it seems to
me, instead of a lose-lose strategy, which is to go after the
old growth, these treasured trees which the public wants to
protect, and getting all this, you know, litigation, we've got
a chance to say there's not going to be a fight in the area
that the public wants to support. We'd get on with the kind of
work that you and Professor Franklin are talking about, which
is, you know, landscape-type projects and the like. So----
Mr. Johnson. Yes. As a matter of fact, this is the most
significant coming together of values I've seen since I started
work 40 years ago on how to manage our forests and what ought
to be done, and whether it's the Malheur National Forest or the
Winema National Forest. No. I think that's true, and it's a
puzzle, and Phil Aune just said as to why we can't move
forward. But could I just say one thing about it----
Senator Wyden. Of course.
Mr. Johnson [continuing]. Which is that there still is
concern, and I think legitimate concern, about will we in fact
undertake these treatments in a way that conserves these
forests, and conserves the old growth, we need to get beyond
that. We need to find some mechanisms to get beyond that, and
prove out what we're doing.
Senator Wyden. I'm violating my rule, because I think I'm
two seconds over, just so we can get you on this. Mr. Aune,
your point about political will is absolutely key. I mean, this
is about making sure that we protect our treasurers, and do
sensible, commonsense ideas in the forestry area. Do you need
additional research work at this point? I've noted that you've
talked about, in the past, diminished research capacity on the
part of the Forest Services. Is that also an area that you feel
is important to this?
Mr. Aune. One of the strengths of the United States Forest
Service research is its ability to monitor long-term datasets.
Universities historically have not been able to do that. I
would say that there is a priority for the kinds of research.
I'll give you one quick example. It's in my paper. Blacks
Mountain Experimental Forest, 193940, five methods of cutting--
thinning at light, medium, and heavy. We monitored that every
10 years for the last 50 years. What we can say unequivocally
about that, by thinning the old growth forest back in 1940 to
55 percent of the volume was removed, compared to doing
nothing, there is more old growth attributes left on that one
stand that was thinned, the stand that was thinned in
So doing nothing doesn't help the situation. Do we have to
cut all the old growth trees? No. Do we need to restrict the
cutting and old growth trees? No. We need to say what is
essential is to maintain those old growth trees, and provide
them with an environment to grow and thrive. If we can do that,
then it makes our problem much more easy. So I would add that
to that. Beef up the strength of long-term research plots. The
Forest Service can do that with all of the things. Universities
are great at turning out grad students, Ph.D. candidates, as
well. They're not--Forest Service isn't competing with that.
Senator Wyden. Professor Johnson has graded just about
everything, but your point is a good one, and we thank you.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Professor
Johnson, I'm glad you're here. I'd like to pick your brain
about what's happening in Colorado and Wyoming. I know it's a
bipartisan issue, because Senator Salazar has some significant
concerns, as well, as we have about 70 percent of our trees
with mortality in certain parts of Northern Colorado and
Southern Wyoming with the bark beetle. At least my
understanding from talking to our foresters is that the beetle
can get in under the bark of the older trees, and then go up
and down, and there's not enough sap to kill them off, and it's
the older trees that they're able to reap the destruction, and
in some of the younger trees, there is enough resistance and
enough sap that it prevents that. So it's the older trees that
seem to be dying.
Any recommendations that you have for us in terms of how to
handle this problem? We have pictures of what things looked
like 2 years ago, and then what they look like now, and the
discoloration is significant in what'shappening to these
Mr. Johnson. Much of my testimony here is on Eastern Oregon
and Washington, where it's pretty clear that conditions have
developed that we didn't have historically. In the case of
especially the Lodgepole Pine Forests of Colorado and Wyoming,
it's a little more difficult. They've gone through natural
cycles, historically, of insect kill that's undoubtedly
accentuated now, and made more difficult, by the buildup of
fuels, and the buildup of understories.
So it's a complicated--If, in fact, we're trying to restore
the natural processes of those stands, it's a complicated
issue. Certainly, thinning can help in some ways, but mortality
has been part of those stands for a long time. Now, when I go
there and look at those forests, and I've just recently done
that, it's very disturbing. Certainly, harvest can help. But I
would say that a really important part of this is to develop
sort of a landscape framework for what sort of processes do we
want to work in those landscapes and where as a starting point?
Senator Barrasso. Mr. Aune, do you have any suggestions or
recommendations of things we ought to be thinking about there?
Mr. Aune. I think you've got to go back again to Professor
Langsaeter's curve. In the historic forest, there was a set of
conditions, in the Lodgepole Pine Forest, all the way from the
forests that were relatively unstocked, not growing very well,
to very well-stocked forests. The problem is, they're all up at
that Zone IV and V. When you do get an insect outbreak, it just
gets atrocious and it magnifies itself like we've never seen
before. All you've got to do is look north to your neighbors in
British Columbia--our neighbors in British Columbia. Bark
beetle epidemics, similar to what's going on in Colorado, now
infest 26 million acres of British Columbia. Dynamic, dramatic
effects. We can build a situation like that here in the United
States if we don't actively manage our stands.
I'd also like to point out that forests in Southern
California, valued for their recreation, and while the most
significant deleterious effect to the old growth forests that
are down there has been a bark beetle attack. After decades of
trying to save those very trees, 600,000 acres of forestland
there have been devastated. Then you confound that with fire
problems, and it's a situation for disaster. Commonsense tells
us it's the time to really aggressively thin our stands. That's
the only one of our economically viable treatments that can do
something. Everything else relies on huge Federal
appropriations. Thank you.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Wyden. Gentlemen, thank you both. I'm sorry things
are so hectic, and we'll look forward to working very closely
with you in the days ahead. Let's see if we can start our next
panel. It seems that both are being held up for a few minutes.
We'll get as far as we can. Russ Vaagen, Vice President of
Vaagen Brothers Lumber Company in Colville, Washington is here.
Matthew Donegan, Co-President of Forest Capital Partners in my
hometown is here. Russ Hoeflech, Vice President of the Nature
Conservancy in Oregon, is also here. The Honorable Blake
Britton, one of my friends from Grant County.
Welcome to all of you, and we're going to get as far down
the road as we can. Why don't we begin with you, Mr. Vaagen.
STATEMENT OF RUSSELL C. VAAGEN, VICE PRESIDENT, VAAGEN BROS.
LUMBER INC., NORTHEAST WASHINGTON FORESTRY COALITION, COLVILLE,
Mr. Vaagen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm Russ Vaagen. I'm
Vice President of Vaagen Brothers Lumber, and I'm also Vice
President of Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition. My family
has been in the forest products industries since the 1920s. Our
company is based in Colville, Washington, and we're focused on
maximum responsible utilization of our forest resources. We
have transformed our company from a traditional sawmill to one
focused on small-diameter logs. We produce building products
from logs as small as four-and-a-half inches.
We think there is a critical need to treat millions of
acres of national forestland that is currently in poor
condition, as discussed earlier. Something very important is
happening in our area and many other areas throughout the
Western states. Environmentalists and members of the timber
industry have been coming together to solve current forest
health problems, and things have changed. The conservation
groups have come to the table to solve problems, instead of
trying to fight with the timber industry. The industry has
started to look to the conservation groups as potential allies
rather than the evil opposition.
Much of the timber industry has also moved to technology
that allows the use of smaller logs. Due to these changes,
conservation and timber management advocates have common
interests, including healthy forests, quality wildlife habitat,
and clean water, with safe, stable, rural economies--I mean,
rural communities. Excuse me. In our area, we have created the
Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition. It's a nonprofit
organization, made up of members from conservation groups, the
local sawmill companies, consulting foresters, other business
leaders, and community members.
It's open to the public, and we encourage others to attend
our meetings and join our coalitions if they have interest in
the stuff that we're working on. Specifically, we were formed
to work with the Colville National Forest in order to influence
and help the local forest management staff manage the just over
1 million acre forest in Northeast Washington, comprising the
three northeast counties. We have been very successful in that
we have not had any appeals or litigation in over 4 years, and
we have been able to secure funding to launch new forest
restoration projects in the Wildland Urban Interface. Our
agreement on projects is documented and ongoing.
The unfortunate thing is that just because we may now agree
doesn't mean the Forest Service is poised to act on it. The
budget is one reason, but more importantly, it's an attitude
and a culture that does not readily accept or respond to
change. It takes entirely too long to complete the NEPA
document required to move forward on projects. The staff also
has a real fear of doing things wrong or doing things too fast.
Caution is fine, but when we're talking about areas of critical
need that has the necessary road system in place, conservation
groups and timber industries agree on what needs to happen,
it's very costly and frustrating.
The Forest Service budget has also seen great changes in
recent years. One particular change that's more than troubling,
and that is the amount spent on fire suppression and
preparedness. It's out of control. It's moved from consuming 13
percent of the budget to almost half, and is now squeezing
every other non-fire program. This is a disaster of epic
proportions, which I believe is a major conflict of interest
for the agency. The same people that are responsible for the
management of our national forestlands are the same people who
are spending countless hours training for fires in the off-
season, and fighting them in the summer months. This makes
completing the necessary forest management projects very
It's clear that our agency is only treating the symptom of
the problem rather than addressing the root cause. Thinning the
forest is the best way to prevent massive-scale wildfires. This
trend needs to be addressed and reversed. Maybe funding for
fires should be handled another way, possibly a FEMA-like
approach for funding emergencies. Without any action, we're
going to continue to spin out of control at the expense of
other important needs. We are wasting more time and money each
year, and the problem keeps getting worse. The solution is
restoring forests to a healthy condition through large-scale
Thinning and forest restoration projects using the new
stewardship authority is starting to gain a foothold as a
primary tool of forest management in the national forests of
the intermountain west. Designed stewardship projects can be
beneficial both to the forests and the economy. There's a
spectrum of activities that make up thinning. Thinning can be
very intensive, with small amounts of commercially valuable
material, or it could be done efficiently, with high-tech
machines that create valuable forest products. In Northeast
Washington, we have a great market for small-diameter logs, for
both the production of lumber and chips. This is critical to
the success of thinning.
It is very important to have a fully functional wood-use
market. Keeping our infrastructure in place and healthy is
critical to the restoration treatments needed in our forests.
Many projects that are currently being proposed are too small
in size and they don't----
Senator Wyden. There we go on the votes, folks. So I'm
going to have wrap you up. But can you just finish up real
quick, Mr. Vaagen.
Mr. Vaagen. I can certainly do that. Yes. The projects that
are being proposed currently are too small in size and too
short in duration. I guess I can just hold it right there.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Vaagen follows:]
Prepared Statement of Russell C. Vaagen, Vice President, Vaagen Bros.
Lumber Inc., Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, Colville, WA
My family has been in the forest products industry since the 1920s.
Our company, Vaagen Bros. Lumber, Inc based in Colville, Washington is
focused on maximum and responsible utilization of our forest resources.
We have transformed our company from a traditional sawmill to one
focused on small diameter logs. We produce building products (2x4's to
2x10's) from logs as small as 4\1/2\'' small end diameter. This puts us
in a position to utilize small diameter material from forest thinning
and forest restoration activities. We think there is a critical need to
treat millions of acres of National Forest land that is currently in
poor condition. The following testimony is only a snap shot of the
issues facing our forests and the forest products industry of the
Intermountain West. I want to touch on collaboration, thinning and
other opportunities that can result from better management of our
COLLABORATION AND THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE
Something very important is happening in our area and many other
areas throughout the western states. Environmentalists and members of
the timber industry have been coming together to discuss how to solve
our current forest health problems. Things have changed in that the
conservation groups have come to the table to solve problems rather
than trying to fight with the timber industry and the industry has
started to look at the conservation groups as potential allies rather
than the evil opposition. Much of the timber industry has also moved to
technology that allows the mills to use smaller logs. Due to these
changes, conservation and timber management advocates have common
interests, including healthy forests, quality wildlife habitat, and
clean water with safe and stable rural communities.
In our area we have created the Northeast Washington Forestry
Coalition. It is a non-profit organization made up of members of
conservation groups, the local sawmill companies, consulting foresters,
other business leaders and community members. It is open to the public
and we encourage others to attend our meetings and join the coalition
if they have an interest in what we are working on. Specifically we
were formed to work with the Colville National Forest in order to
influence and help the local Forest Service staff manage the just over
1 million acre National Forest located in the three northeast counties
of Washington State. We have been very successful in that we have not
had an appeal or litigation in four years. We have even been able to
secure funding to launch new forest restoration projects in the
Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Our agreement on projects is documented
The unfortunate thing is that just because we may agree now doesn't
mean the Forest Service (USFS) is poised to act on it. There are many
reasons the USFS has not been able to respond in a manner consistent
with our urgent forest health needs. The budget is one reason, but more
importantly it is an attitude and a culture that does not readily
accept or respond to change. We need to change the way we have done
things in the past. It takes entirely too long to complete the NEPA
documentation required to move forward on projects. It would be helpful
if Congress would work to ensure that the agency is using the tools it
has at its disposal, such as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act.
The staff also has a real fear of doing things wrong or doing them
too fast. Caution is fine, but when we are talking about areas of
critical need that already has the necessary road system in place and
the conservation groups and the timber industry agree on what needs to
take place, delays are very costly and frustrating. It is my opinion
that if we do not start treating these areas very soon on a large
scale, the fires that we have seen are only going to get larger and
The Forest Service's budget has also seen great changes in recent
years. One change in particular is more than troubling. The amount that
is spent on fire suppression and preparedness is out of control. It has
moved from consuming 13% of their budget to almost half, and is now
squeezing every other non-fire program. This is a disaster of epic
proportions which I believe is a major conflict of interest for the
Agency. The same people that are responsible for the management of our
National Forest lands are the same people who are spending countless
hours training for fires in the off-season and then fighting them in
the summer months. More money and time are being spent on fire
suppression at the expense of non-fire programs. This makes completing
the necessary forest management projects very difficult.
It is clear that the agency is only treating the symptom of the
problem rather than addressing the root cause. Thinning the forest is
best way to prevent massive scale wildfires. This trend needs to be
addressed and reversed. Maybe funding for fire fighting should be
handled in another way, possibly a FEMA-like approach for funding
emergencies. It appears like the system is very wasteful with very
little incentive given to keeping costs under control. Without any
action this is going to continue to spin out of control at the expense
of other important needs. We are wasting more time and money each year
and the problem keeps getting worse. There is a solution. The solution
is in restoring forests to a healthy condition through large scale
Thinning and forest restoration projects using the relatively new
stewardship authority is starting to gain a foothold as the primary
tool for forest management in the National Forests of the Intermountain
West. Many private landowners and State forests have been undertaking
similar projects for years with great success. Well designed
stewardship projects can be beneficial to both the forest and the
economy. There is a spectrum of activities that make up thinning.
Thinning can be very intensive with small amounts of commercially
valuable material or it can be done efficiently with high tech machines
and create many valuable forest products. In northeast Washington we
have a great market for small diameter logs for both the production of
lumber and chips. This is critical to the success of thinning. It is
very important to have a fully functional wood use market. There are
good markets in our area for chips, bark, sawdust, and shavings. Many
areas of the Intermountain West do not have that luxury. This
underscores the need to have large projects where the cost of doing the
intensive work with low material value can be offset by larger volumes
of higher value material. Keeping infrastructure in place and healthy
is critical to the restoration treatments needed in our forests.
Many projects that are currently being proposed are too small in
size and they don't include enough areas with marketable material.
Projects need to be large and they need to spread out over years so the
mills and the contractors doing the work on the ground can count on the
logs and the work. With millions of acres in need of thinning, projects
that are small in size and short in duration make very little sense. In
many cases, it would take the same amount of time and funding for the
Forest Service to prepare a larger project. Many communities just like
ours have Community Wildfire Protection Plans in place. Those should be
used as templates for large scale projects. It only makes sense to tie
these Community Wildfire Protection Plans and thinning projects
together. In northeast Washington our three counties, Ferry, Stevens
and Pend Oreille all have completed plans. The USFS should propose and
sell a major project in each county. They need to be between 30,000 and
40,000 acres each and should be 10 year contracts. This would focus the
effort in the places of the most need in terms of safety and forest
health as well as provide certainty for the local businesses and
workforce. By having larger projects it also expands opportunity to add
value to the material by investing in new uses. We currently use
biomass to create green energy, but we are only scratching the surface
of what's possible. There is so much material in the woods that can be
used to create power, heat, and bio-fuels. Making the material
available will spark innovation and investment while restoring forests
and reducing the costs of fighting fires.
OPPORTUNITIES AND OBSERVATIONS
We have an incredible opportunity to take this real problem and
challenge ourselves to create economic and social benefit for years to
come. It is already being done in other parts of the World. In Europe,
some of the most socially conscious nations are managing their forests
much better than we are. They don't have wildfires and don't use
prescribed fire nearly as much as our National Forest managers do. They
use wood residuals to make power in the place of coal. Their milling
infrastructure is still in place and there no social disconnect between
responsible resource management and conservation, they are nearly one
in the same. Doing a better job of managing our forests is a great way
to reduce the effects of climate change and CO2 emissions.
Making a forest healthier improves its ability to take in Carbon
Dioxide and replace it with Oxygen. When a forest burns it releases
much of the CO2 that was stored as well as the massive
release of heat. By making the forests resilient to fire we are taking
steps to improve carbon storage and reduce carbon emissions.
There is a need for new technologies to be introduced to add value
to the forest residuals. In areas where mills have never or no longer
exist, financial assistance from the government makes sense. The
government should assist private industry in the development of new
technologies or in the use of effective proven technologies. Grant
money is currently being used to assist some businesses, but there is a
need to be cautious. Grant money should be used to stimulate
infrastructure in areas where it is missing and avoid undermining the
competitiveness of any existing infrastructure. Supporting our current
wood product facilities is critical to restoring healthy forests.
Although collaboration is taking place in many areas, not all
companies are taking part in the collaborative process. Collaboration
takes time, energy, and a great deal of effort. Some companies wait for
companies such as ours do the work to get the projects put together,
and then show up at the bid table. These projects should be a best
value bid, and firms that invest heavily in the collaborative process
should earn a competitive edge in the bidding process. We welcome
companies to join in the efforts, but if a company chooses to focus
their efforts in other areas, they should not get the same opportunity
to purchase sales or projects when others worked very hard to bring
them to market. It undermines the entire process and frustrates all who
work collaboratively to help restore our nation's forests.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk to you today. If
you have any questions today or in the future please do not hesitate to
contact me. The issue of thinning our Nation's Forests is common sense
backed by common ground. Leaders in our communities have the
wherewithal and talent to show the way. Now we need your help in
getting the Forest Service to follow our lead.
Addendum to Statement of Russell C. Vaagen
A SHORT LETTER AUTHORED BY MIKE BEYE, INFORMATION OFFICER,
VAAGEN BROS. LUMBER INC.
Twenty-thirty years ago we realized that the seemingly unlimited
bounty of the forest lands in the U.S. was in fact limited. A movement
within the conservation community made clear that the forests were
being over cut and were in danger of being lost. They were right. The
reaction to that belief was to stop managing our forests completely or
manage them in a very limited way. The reaction by the forest products
industry was not in line with this belief and caused a stalemate with
regard to how forests should be managed. The result has been a forest
that is now in greater danger of being lost through catastrophic fire
and disease. The pendulum, as is so often he case in a democracy, has
started to swing the other way. There is a need to more actively manage
our forests to ensure their value and survival.
During this same period of time Duane Vaagen (President, Vaagen
Bros. Lumber, Inc.) realized that there was a business opportunity in
the manufacture of lumber products from small diameter timber. This is
the same type of timber that is choking our forests thus creating the
fuels that result in fire and the conditions that result in disease.
The common wisdom in the forest products industry was that Duane would
not survive, that small timber did not make quality lumber products and
the economics would cause failure. The common wisdom was wrong. Vaagen
Bros. Lumber has succeeded. They have embraced technologies,
efficiencies and a philosophy of total fiber utilization that creates
value where there was none. The lumber and bio-mass products we
manufacture are the industry standard for quality.
We found that when we create value from the forest, the greatest
recipient of that value is the land owner. We have been returning value
to the private, institutional, and government land owners from timber
that was held to contain no value at all. As a direct result of this
utilization of small timber, we have developed the strategies and
practices that remove this fiber from the forest through thinning. The
land owners demand not only a revenue form their timber stands but an
esthetically pleasing, healthy stand that in itself contains value. We
are experts at managing this need.The new generation at Vaagen Bros.
realizes that there is a need to actively and appropriately manage our
forest with the help of the conservation community. Collaboration on
the Colville forest was born of this need.
The first conversations that this group of differing interests
discovered was that in reality everyone wanted the same things for the
forests. The differences were not that great and could be worked out.
All the groups together could achieve real change and return real value
to the land owners of our national forests. Vaagen Bros. Lumber has
been a great supporter of this process and its possibilities.
We are through the transition period from unlimited forest bounty
to understanding the limitations of this great national resource and
the real value that the owners of this forest place upon it. We are in
a position to return to the forest the value that the owners expect. We
are only looking for an opportunity to set the standard of what has to
follow, to return our national forests to health, beauty, and
sustainability. Removal of fuel hazards, creating value in the process
and retuning it to the landowner is what we have already proven can be
*Note: Mike Beye did not grow up in the Timber Industry, so his
insights are from his ten years with our company.
Senator Wyden. Great. We've got 15 minutes. Let me see if I
can get most of you in. Mr. Donegan, welcome, and Forest
Capital Partners, and important contributor. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF MATT DONEGAN, CO-PRESIDENT, FOREST CAPITAL
PARTNERS, LLC, PORTLAND, OR
Mr. Donegan. Thank you. My name is Matt Donegan. I am Co-
President of Forest Capital Partners, one of America's largest
private forestland owners and leading producers of sustainably
grown forest products. I'm honored to have this opportunity
today to present a private landowner's perspective on Federal
forest policy. Today, I hope to convey three basic messages.
First, management practices on public forests do directly
affect the health of private forests. Second, the health of
private forests is under threat from deforestation,
fragmentation, and conversion to development. Third, thinnings
aimed at public forest restoration can also play a prominent
role in restoring private forest health, while also
fundamentally transforming the debate over America's
forestlands. I would like to briefly expand upon these
The first, public policies directly affect private forest
health, is perhaps intuitive. Even for landowners like Forest
Capital Partners, who do not purchase Federal timber, or have
any direct financial interest in Federal harvests, there exists
an interdependence with all of our fellow landowners, private
and public alike. We share property lines, as all neighbors do,
and as the risks from fire, insects, and disease grown on
Federal ownerships, so do the risks to adjacent forest
landowners, like Forest Capital. A Federal thinning program
could substantially reduce the risks to private forests.
Public policies also directly affect the health of our mill
customers. With further loss of mills in the Inland West,
private landowners will have no market for our product. Such is
already the case in several western regions, while other
regions are barely hanging on to the remaining mills. This
creates a sense of urgency to initiate thinnings now, before
the remaining mills are irreversibly lost.
The second message, private forests are being lost to
development, is perhaps intuitive, as well. Forest loss is
directly driven by economics. With mills closing, development
can become the only option facing the landowners. Since 1991,
89 mills have permanently closed in Eastern Washington, Eastern
Oregon, and Idaho, representing 40 percent of regional lumber
capacity. In the wake of these closures, landowners must now
truck their products to faraway destinations, increasing
freight costs and eroding revenues. New mill investment is
needed to reverse this trend and to improve the viability of
private working forests.
Which brings me to my third message. A restoration thinning
initiative could advance conservation on private forests, as
well as public forests. The key to saving private forests is to
provide economic incentives that reward forestland use. By
revitalizing forest communities, inviting investment, growing
new markets--including woody biomass energy--encouraging work
force development, igniting new research and development, and
otherwise replacing the prevailing pessimism in Western
communities with renewed optimism, a Federal thinning program
would encourage private landowners to retain their working
forests as opposed to selling or developing them. Perhaps most
importantly, by rising to the challenges we face today, an
updated forest policy could be the catalyst for a much-needed
new chapter of America's forests.
Far removed from the timber wars that pitted commercial
interests against conservationists, a responsibly administered
thinning program would protect old growth and spotted owls from
unnatural fires and insect infestations, and demonstrate
leadership in tackling some of the greatest environmental
challenges of our generation, namely, habitat loss, climate
change, and deforestation of private lands. A thinning program
rooted in ecosystem restoration, while providing renewable
energy via woody biomass, could serve to fundamentally redirect
the forest debate in the Northwest, aligning business,
community, and conservation interests in a long-overdue
fashion. Such a vision is certainly worthy of all of our best
efforts, and it has been my distinct privilege to contribute
today to a discussion that holds such promise. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Donegan follows:]
Prepared Statement of Matt Donegan, Co-President, Forest Capital
Partners, LLC, Portland, OR
Forest Capital Partners, LLC (FCP) is a private forestland owner
and operator with stewardship over 2.1 million acres of American
forests. Our land is located in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Louisiana,
Texas and Minnesota, where our resource professionals apply the latest
advances in sustainable forest management to generate long-term
investment returns. Stewardship and resource conservation are deeply-
held company values, as evidenced by our commitment to third-party
forest certification on all FCP lands.
Pertinent to this testimony, we own no manufacturing facilities,
purchase no federal timber, and otherwise derive no direct financial
benefit from federal timber harvests. We are in fact competitors with
federal agencies in every region where we operate, frequently selling
logs within common markets. Viewed narrowly through this competitive
lens, our short-term interests would be advanced by continued
restrictions to federal timber supply. We nonetheless view the current
state of federal forest policy as detrimental to the long-term
environmental, social and economic sustainability of western forest
communities and therefore support changes in federal policy, including
restoration thinnings, which would increase federal timber supply.
On a national scale, and most dramatically within the western U.S.,
the environmental and social impact of federal forest policy can hardly
be overstated. As the largest single landowner in most western states,
the federal government is the driving force behind landscape-level
ecosystem health, carbon emissions and sequestration, watershed
enhancement, and a myriad of program funding ranging from local schools
to environmental research. Based on our personal and company values, we
are strongly committed to federal forest policies that restore natural
habitat, sequester atmospheric carbon, improve water quality and
revitalize local communities. Within the context of this hearing, we
will defer to the more qualified panelists addressing these
environmental and social issues, and will thus confine our remarks to
issues specifically affecting the sustainability of private forests.
As with all communities, the principle of interdependence is
central to the forest community. As neighbors sharing property lines,
landowners mutually depend on one another to manage their respective
ownerships in a responsible manner, or otherwise subject one another to
risks from fire, disease and insect outbreak. Further, as fellow
community members, landowners share the basic operational
infrastructure in a region. We mutually depend on one another to invest
in our institutions, research and development, and human capital, or
otherwise collectively contend with long-term declines within a
fiercely competitive global marketplace. This testimony will first
present three pressing trends related to the interdependence between
federal and private landowners: 1) increased natural hazard risks for
landowners abutting federal ownerships; 2) basic infrastructure decay
stemming from current federal policies; and 3) private forest
conversion to non-forest use resulting from this decay of
infrastructure. We will then share a vision for revitalizing the
western forest community, and conclude by conveying a sense of urgency
to stem the decay of forest communities before they reach a ``tipping
point'' beyond which revitalization will become extremely difficult.
INCREASES IN NATURAL HAZARD RISKS
Nationwide, FCP neighbors 21 National Forests administered by the
U.S. Forest Service and six federal ownerships managed by the Bureau of
Land Management. Our properties abut federal forestlands in every
region in which we operate and, in many locations, our properties are
literally embedded within federal lands. The management policies on
federal lands have very real and direct implications for the health and
safety of our own forests. We are very concerned about the increased
fire risk associated with the excessive build-up of fuels in western
federal forests. While fire is a normal part of forest ecosystems, a
century of fire suppression combined with a lack of thinning operations
and drought conditions, have resulted in an increasing number of large,
severe fires and insect infestations in recent years. Global climate
change will exacerbate this situation. The substantial curtailment of
timber production on federal lands over the past fifteen years has also
resulted in a less well maintained network of logging roads that are
needed for fire control; and, a reduced pool of forest workers
available to fight fires. This increased fire hazard is reflected in
the rising cost of fire protection and suppression that is the shared
responsibility of private and federal landowners.
The consequences of a catastrophic fire originating on federal
forests are chillingly illustrated by the Timbered Rock fire in
southwestern Oregon that occurred in 2002. This fire began as a series
of lightning strikes on U.S. Forest Service land. By the time it was
extinguished three weeks later, the fire had burned 13,000 acres of
Bureau of Land Management-U.S. Forest Service land and 9,100 acres of
adjacent private land now owned by FCP. The value of timber lost to the
fire on what are now our lands was in excess of $10 million (adjusted
for revenue generated through sale of salvaged material), and the costs
of restoration and replanting were over $3 million. In addition to lost
private timber values, the fire caused significant damage to threatened
and endangered species habitat. Within the fire perimeter, 23 Northern
Spotted Owl sites were affected, and three miles of riparian zones
providing protection for Coho Salmon core areas were burned.
To protect ourselves from the possibilities of future disasters
like the Timbered Rock fire, private landowners will have to shoulder
the costs of more intensive fire suppression and protection. These
higher fire related costs will divert funds that could otherwise be
directed to research and development, and gaining operational
efficiencies that would allow landowners to better compete in global
markets. Of note, large diversified landowners like FCP face far less
exposure to single-event natural hazards than smaller landowners whose
woodlots often comprise a comparatively high portion of total family
DECLINES IN FOREST COMMUNITY INFRASTRUCTURE
Another area of concern driven by federal forest policy is the
continued viability of the forest products sector in the inland west.
Changes in federal forest policy have resulted in substantially lower
timber production, which has triggered mill closures and lost
production. The inland west is the only major producing region in the
U.S. that has experienced net disinvestment in softwood lumber
capacity. Softwood lumber capacity in the inland west dropped from 12.0
BBF in 1990 to 8.0 BBF in 2000, and then to 7.3 BBF in 2007. Between
1991 and 2007, 89 wood product mills permanently closed their doors in
Idaho, eastern Oregon and eastern Washington, with an associated loss
of over 7,600 jobs. The loss of mill capacity and employment in the
inland west continues today as lumber and plywood manufacturers contend
with the current collapse in residential construction activity.
The concentration of mills in some areas of the inland west has
fallen to the point that the supporting infrastructure necessary for
conducting business is in jeopardy (indeed, many locations have already
passed this point). Fewer mills equate to longer hauling distances and
greater freight costs. For private and public landowners alike, added
freight costs erode revenues and limit the suite of economically viable
silviculture options at a forester's disposal. Responding to shrinking
markets, the level of rail service has been cut back, forcing
businesses to depend more heavily on expensive trucking; the labor pool
shrinks as workers succumb to prevailing pessimism and migrate to urban
areas; and local suppliers also pull up stakes.
Besides the dire social consequences imposed upon the region's
communities by the decay of forest industry infrastructure, the
potential environmental consequences to the vast expanse of public
lands are equally alarming. In the future, should federal managers seek
to thin overstocked forests for ecosystem health or to promote carbon
sequestration, a viable market will be essential to pay for such
prescriptions. Likewise, a skilled workforce will be needed to conduct
such treatments, and the absence of an existing forest industry cluster
would make it more difficult to motivate the investment needed to
develop wood based energy or bio-fuel production in the region. From
this perspective, maintaining the remaining industrial infrastructure
will be critical to the long-term ecosystem health of federal forests
and underscores the interdependence that exists between private and
public landowners. Maintaining the remaining industrial infrastructure
will also be critical to the long-term ecosystem health of private
forests, as presented in the following section.
INFRASTRUCTURE DECAY INVITES DEFORESTATION, FRAGMENTATION
Across the West, the loss of private forests and farmlands to
development has emerged as a public policy priority. Recent State
ballot initiatives--Measures 37 and 49 in Oregon, Initiative 933 in
Washington, and Proposition 2 in Idaho, to name a few--illustrate
public anxiety about the rate and extent of forest loss. The
accelerated rate of development, deforestation and fragmentation is
symptomatic of economic trends that reward real estate land use over
the continued retention of working forests. At present, policymakers in
most, if not all, western states are pursuing ambitious agendas to
protect private working forests. We believe a federal thinning program
could play a vital role in support of these objectives.
Faced with shrinking forest products markets in the inland west,
private landowners find it increasingly difficult to justify the long-
term investments required to sustain working forests. Without improved
market prospects for timber markets in the inland west, a growing share
of these private forestlands will continue to be converted to
residential and recreational uses. Central Oregon provides a number of
examples of how these shifts in land-use are already occurring. In
Jefferson County over 60% of the industrial forestland has changed
hands since 1990. Lands previously managed for sustainable timber
production are now closed to public access, and subdivided into
residential lots and built into destination resorts. Such incidents are
growing in frequency across the inland west.
This movement away from the management of large contiguous blocks
of forestland for long-term sustained timber production towards greater
development will lead to a more fragmented landscape, a greatly
increased urban/wild-land interface and a loss of wildlife habitat. As
more development projects are located in close proximity to federal
lands with a high fire risk, the potential liability of public agencies
grows. Adding more homes and resorts in the forest landscape increases
the value of assets at risk from catastrophic forest fire, expanding
costs and complications for the already strained public agencies
mandated to control these fires.
The key to protecting private forests and slowing conversion is to
increase the relative profitability of working forests compared to
alternative land uses. A large-scale federal thinning program could
reverse the decay of western forest communities; ensure a critical mass
of supply to invite investment, modernize and diversify forest markets
including wood based energy; reinvigorate skilled workforce and
infrastructure development; and, in sum, increase economic incentives
to maintain private working forests. A federal thinning regime would
thereby leverage the interdependence of western forest communities for
the mutual benefit of private as well as public forests.
OPPORTUNITIES TO REVITALIZE THE WESTERN FOREST COMMUNITY
Given the enormity of its western land base, the federal government
is without question the most important forest community member in the
western U.S., and its natural leader. Federal agencies have a unique
leadership opportunity with regard to wood-based energy development and
capturing the potential far-reaching benefits both regionally and
globally of this emerging industry. A large-scale federal thinning
program could catalyze the development of woody biomass and bio-fuel
energy in the western U.S., offering numerous advantages:
Creating new sources of renewable energy
Increasing the capacity of federal forests to sequester
Restoring natural habitat
Recruiting new investment and revitalizing western
Diversifying and modernizing timber markets for both public
and private landowners
An encouraging step in this direction has been the development of
the Lakeview Biomass Project, a 15 megawatt biomass energy facility
being built by Marubeni Sustainable Energy in conjunction with The
Collins Companies' Fremont Sawmill in Lakeview, Oregon. An agreement to
secure a stable long-term supply of woody biomass fuel from federal
lands was an essential element for moving the project forward. The
Collins Companies will also be building a new small-log sawmill to take
advantage of the increased harvest of small diameter logs from federal
ownerships. The Lakeview Biomass Project is being hailed for its
innovation and collaboration, and new woody biomass energy plants are
now under development in several other sites in Oregon, including Cave
Junction, Lyons, Tillamook and Warm Springs.
A prerequisite for the continued development of these new wood-
based industries in the West will be a commitment from federal forests
to generate an adequate and stable supply of wood fiber to fuel these
energy-related projects. Recognizing the environmental and social
opportunities associated with the development of forest-based energy
projects, Forest Service Chief, Gail Kimbell, has proposed a national
effort to reach two forest-related goals:
Sustaining and strengthening the role of America's forests
as a net carbon sink, and
Increasing the amount of America's energy that comes from
We feel that landowner interests are closely aligned with these
goals set by Chief Kimball. We welcome the opportunity to support these
efforts, but recognize the difficult environment in which the Forest
Service operates, particularly in the western U.S., dealing with the
ceaseless threat of litigation or appeals, which hobbles their ability
to confidently make and implement decisions and at times, to most
effectively work with their neighbors.
Assuring a dependable supply of woody biomass from federal forests
will be made more difficult in the wake of the recent ruling by the 9th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals nullifying a central provision of the
Healthy Forest Initiative that exempts from environmental review any
logging project involving up to 1,000 acres and any prescribed burns up
to 4,500 acres. Building a secure supply chain for an emerging bio-
energy industry dependent on woody biomass sourced from federal forests
may require affording the agencies responsible for managing the forests
some form of statutory protection from legal challenges and appeals.
Chief Kimbell has highlighted the valuable role that federal
forests can play in both boosting atmospheric carbon sequestration
through increased forest productivity and reducing carbon emissions
through improved fire management. With a more widespread recognition of
the importance of federal forests in balancing atmospheric carbon,
additional funding support for federal thinning programs may be
available from emerging carbon offset markets. At present, the Western
Climate Initiative is considering the viability of federal thinning
programs as legitimate carbon offsets and we view the prospects of
carbon-related funding of restoration thinnings on federal land very
Such efforts are worthy of due consideration, as the potential
linkage of wood based energy and federal thinnings offers perhaps the
greatest hope to western forest communities in a generation.
CONCLUSION--THINNING OF FEDERAL FORESTS WOULD BRING LANDSCAPE-LEVEL
BENEFITS TO BOTH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LANDS
Private and public ownerships do not exist in a vacuum, but rather
cohabitate within interconnected forest communities. Within the western
forest community, the recent performance of the federal government, a
natural leader, has not yet risen to the challenges that we now face.
This is not to criticize the shift in public priorities on America's
public lands--deemphasizing commodity production in favor of broader
ecosystem and community objectives. Nor is this an admonishment of
federal managers who face the Herculean task of reconciling the
diverse, competing interests of numerous constituencies and constantly
defending their actions in both the public and judicial arenas. Rather,
it is a recognition that structural obstacles undermine our
government's capacity to act as a steward of both public and private
Current federal policies create undue risks to private ownerships
from fire, insects and disease. Further, nearly two decades of
community decay has imperiled the critical forest infrastructure needed
to equip stewards of public and private forests alike. A large-scale
thinning program, afforded adequate statutory protection, may reverse
these trends by restoring federal forest health and modernizing western
forest communities. The alternative to pursuing the goal of healthier
forests and a renewed western forest economy is to accept the ongoing
degradation of the federal forests accompanied by the continuing
erosion of forest-related businesses, infrastructure and human capital
in the rural forest-dependent communities. Given the consequences to
global climate change, natural habitat and watershed health, and
private forest sustainability, the importance of the Senate's oversight
hearing on federal forests, and the need for meaningful change in the
near-term, could hardly be greater.
Senator Wyden. Thank you very much. Avoiding those past
timber wars, that is music to everybody. I saw nods all around.
Let's see if we can get Mr. Hoeflech in, and I may have to come
back and just start with Boyd, but we'll kind of go from here.
Let's see what we can do now.
STATEMENT OF RUSSELL HOEFLICH, VICE PRESIDENT AND OREGON
DIRECTOR, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY, PORTLAND, OR
Mr. Hoeflich. Senator, I'll get right to the point. Thank
you, and I ask that my testimony be placed into the record of
Senator Wyden. Without objection.
Mr. Hoeflich. Due to decades of fire suppression in Oregon
and Washington, and elsewhere in the West, our nation's forests
are in a crisis. You've heard that today. Roughly, 128 million
acres of public forests nationwide, including over 13 million
acres in Oregon, are at risk of unnaturally severe fire unless
we take immediate action. Stands that historically have had 10
to 100 trees per acre now have as many as 1,000 to 1,500 trees
per acre. The current condition of our national forests is not
only impacting fish, wildlife, and water quality, it is
compounding the challenges we face from climate change.
Beyond the ecological impacts, this is a budgetary issue.
Today, nearly $1.5 billion is spent every year to fight
wildfires. Firefighting costs do consume close to 50 percent of
the U.S. Forest Service budget today, making it more difficult
each year to proactively manage our forests and to address the
problems people have been describing throughout the beginning
of this hearing. To restore our forests back to health,
scientists at the Nature Conservancy estimate that in Oregon
and Washington alone over the next 25 years, we need to treat
by thinning and reintroduction to fire at least 550,000 acres
per year in each State. This is on an annual basis. This is
well over three times the current rate of treatments.
There are a number of barriers to increasing forest
management treatments to the necessary scale. First is the
longstanding disagreement over the management of our public
forests. We have eroded trust, and it has led to extensive
legal battles over the past three decades. Second, the
controversy surrounding forest management compel Federal
agencies to plan only small-scale restoration projects, rather
than the larger ones that are truly needed, as Norm Johnson and
Jerry Franklin make reference to.
One point that I want to make reference to, the Ninth
Circuit Court of Appeals record of decision to enjoin U.S.
Forest Service for engaging in practices for exercising
categorical exclusions to facilitate the removal of potential
fuel loads, that is an issue that is basically one that we feel
we need to put behind us. That is primarily an issue of small-
scale habitat manipulation. We have to get to landscape scale
and the effective treatments. We cannot be fighting over 1,000-
acre treatments. We have to pull communities together and focus
on a scale of dialog of a quarter-million acres to a half-
million acres, and in some cases, even larger than that. Let's
not waste our energy on categorical exclusion sites of 1,000
acres here and there. We need to be ramping up community
conversations at a scale that is meaningful to our society.
Finally, the lack of sufficient funding for forest
treatment blocks progress on all fronts. Despite these
challenges, there is truly a growing consensus among
stakeholders about fire-prone forests that need active
management to restore the health and resiliency. So we have
both an enormous challenge, and we truly have an enormous
opportunity. The Nature Conservancy would like to give you the
One, put the ecological needs of the forest first. While
it's true that the forest restorations will provide jobs and
businesses, and opportunities to the communities, the only way
stakeholders will achieve consensus on forest treatments will
be through rigorous scientific restoration design. Two, we have
to plan and begin implementing large-scale restoration efforts.
Unless we begin the treatments at the watershed or larger
landscape scale, we're simply going to fall further and further
and further behind. Third, we need to bring the full diversity
of stakeholders into the conversation. The diverging interests
and values of the stakeholders is really key to the success. As
they work together to define a common vision for the future for
our forests, consensus tends to replace conflict and
litigation. We must facilitate these conversations.
Four, create incentives to spur private investments and new
technology and infrastructure. The byproducts of forestry offer
a tremendous resource for commercial products and renewable
energy. A forest restoration economy will tap the ingenuity of
the business sector, so long as the right incentives are in
place. Working together, I believe we can bring the nation's
forests back to health for the benefit of present and future
generations. I'm here today to underscore the commitment of the
Nature Conservancy to realize this vision.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hoeflich follows:]
Prepared Statement of Russell Hoeflich, Vice President and Oregon
Director, The Nature Conservancy, Portland OR
My name is Russell Hoeflich, and I am Vice President and Oregon
Director of The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is an
international, nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of
biological diversity. Our mission is to preserve the plants, animals
and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth
by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. Our on-the-
ground conservation work is carried out in all 50 states and in more
than 30 foreign countries and is supported by approximately one million
individual members. The Nature Conservancy has protected more than 117
million acres of land and 5,000 miles of river around the world.
The Conservancy owns and manages approximately 1,400 preserves
throughout the United States--the largest private system of nature
sanctuaries in the world. We recognize, however, that our mission
cannot be achieved by establishing and maintaining protected areas
alone. Therefore, we increasingly form partnerships with individuals,
businesses, and governments to seek compatible human uses over large
landscapes that benefit both biological diversity and sustain human
well-being in a changing world.
I'm honored to testify before the committee about the health of
federal forest lands in Washington and Oregon. My testimony focuses on
a specific aspect of public forest management--namely, the challenges
coming from changes in forest structure, fuel loads, and fire regimes.
The Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Rapid
Assessment (LANDFIRE) tells us that 80% of the lower 48 states have
vegetation that is moderately to highly departed from reference
conditions. In forests, this means they are overly-dense, have lost old
growth structure, lack diversity of age classes, and are in danger of
losing key ecological components to wildfire, insects, or lack of
Northwest forest management stands at a crossroads. After decades
of controversy over management of forests in the Pacific Northwest, a
consensus is emerging that offers an unprecedented opportunity to meet
the challenge with strategies that restore habitats while improving
local economic conditions at the same time. We believe it is time to
move beyond this controversy by building a restoration economy around
Oregon and Washington forests. Conservation-based treatments, and the
reintroduction of fire where it is needed, will build an economy that
will not only create jobs, but will also benefit fish, wildlife, and
water quality and could be part of the solution to mitigating the
impacts of climate change.
CONDITION OF DRY-SITE PACIFIC NORTHWESTERN FORESTS
While we believe this new restoration economy can be applied across
the State today, I am going to focus on the challenges and
opportunities in the dry public land forest in eastern Washington,
Oregon, and portions of southwestern Oregon. Here, past management
practices, including timber harvest, livestock grazing, and fire
suppression have helped to create unnaturally dense forests, spurred
the removal of large dead and live old structures, changed the
composition of forest species, and caused a decrease in landscape
resiliency. Dry, fire-prone forest stands which historically had 50 to
100 large trees per acre now have as many as 500 or 1,000 small trees
per acre. Fire-sensitive species such as Douglas-, grand and white fir
have encroached into ponderosa pine and mixed conifer forests, changing
species composition. Similarly, high-elevation stands of whitebark pine
are being replaced by subalpine fir and spruce due to fire exclusion.
Subsequent high tree mortality and fuels build-ups have altered how
wildfire, insects, disease and invasive species interact with forests,
ultimately modifying forest resiliency. These overly-dense forest
stands are more susceptible to damage from insects. Crowded trees lack
the water and vigor to fend off insects such as bark beetles. During
drought conditions in the late 1990s and from 2002 through 2005,
Eastern Oregon insect activity was at epidemic levels. In 2004, the
unusual abundance of mountain pine beetle affected over 415,000 acres
in Eastern Washington, resulting in mortality to over four million pine
trees, about 20 times the average mortality rate for the previous 20
years. Aerial detection surveys show an almost eight-fold epidemic
increase in tree death along the eastern slopes of the Cascade
Mountains during 2004.\1\
\1\ Elaine O'Neil, Bruce Lippke, Larry Mason. July 2007, Eatside
Climate Change, Forest Health, Fire and Carbon Accounting Initial
Report: The Future of Washington's Forests and Forestry Industries.
College of Forest Resources, University of Washington.
When fires ignite in these overly-dense stands, they are much more
likely to develop into uncharacteristic stand-replacing crown fires.
Historically, fires in these stands maintained healthy forests by
thinning the forest from below and removing fuels that accumulated on
the forest floor. The current forest conditions constitute an extremely
large problem that continues to get worse with time.
Besides promoting uncharacteristically severe fires, the changes to
forest structure and composition outlined above also affect wildlife
species composition and distribution by altering hiding and thermal
cover and impeding movement. The Oregon Conservation Strategy and
Washington's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy identify
altered fire regimes as one of the six (Oregon) and nine (Washington)
key statewide issues that present the greatest threats to fish and
wildlife populations and their habitat. Too much, too little, or the
wrong kind of fire in these fire-prone forests was identified as a
limiting factor or threat to a number of species, including golden
eagles and the northern spotted owl. The Washington strategy described
suppression of natural fires as one of the most severe long-term
problems for wildlife and habitat in Eastern Washington forests on
public and private lands.\2\
\2\ Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2006. Washington's
Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Washington Department of
Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington. Oregon Department of Fish and
Wildlife. 2006. Oregon Conservation Strategy. Oregon Department of Fish
and Wildlife, Salem, Oregon.
To assess the scope of this problem in Oregon, we analyzed the
LANDFIRE 2006 Rapid Assessment data to map the forest and woodlands
with low and mixed severity fire regimes (Fire Regime Condition Class I
and III).\3\ Of Oregon's 34.1 million acres of forests and woodlands,
21.1 million acres are moderately or highly modified from historic
conditions due to fire suppression, grazing, logging, and other land
uses. Thirteen million four hundred thousand acres are on Bureau of
Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands. While we did not conduct
a similar analysis for Washington, we anticipate a similar result for
that State. Using National LANDFIRE data for both Oregon and
Washington, we are updating this analysis; upon completion, we will
submit our findings as supplemental testimony.
\3\ Catherine Macdonald, Steven Buttrick, and Michael Schindel.
March 2006. The Condition of Oregon's Forests and Woodlands:
Implications for the Effective Conservation of Biodiversity. The Nature
Conservancy in Oregon white paper. For copies, please go to http://
CURRENT TREATMENTS ARE NOT ENOUGH
Federal forest management officials are aware of this crisis and
are trying to respond. Forest restoration projects are underway
throughout the West, and the people doing this work should be proud.
But the problem is growing at a rate faster than federal agencies can
respond. Instead of getting ahead of the problem, we're falling further
In 2007, the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau
of Land Management treated about 188,000 acres in Oregon and 44,000 in
Washington. Based on our analysis, over the next 25 years we will need
to treat at least 550,000 acres annually in Oregon--more than three
times previous levels of treatments.
Today, nearly 46 percent of the Forest Service's budget is spent on
fire suppression, compared to 13 percent in 1991. Funding needed to put
fires out takes away from funding needed for other programs, including
restoration, recreation, wildlife management, and facilities. It is
essential to find a way to put more resources into forest restoration
and agency budgets now so we can save money on fire suppression in the
years to come.
No matter what values or interests we defend personally or in our
affiliations, the crisis facing federal forests described above demands
immediate attention. I am convinced we all share a strong enough
desire--and even a passion--to pass on a legacy of healthy forests to
future generations. But we must act now to save forests from continued
deterioration and loss from unnaturally severe and frequent fire.
IDENTIFYING THE OBSTACLES PREVENTING PROGRESS
There are a number of barriers to increasing forest management
treatments to address this problem.
1. Longstanding disagreements over the management of our
public forest lands have eroded trust and led to extensive
legal battles over the past three decades. Trust between the
various stakeholders is an essential element in any effort to
restore health to our federal forests.
2. Controversies surrounding forest management compel federal
agencies to plan restoration projects at very small scales. To
meet their action goals, federal agencies have to consider what
is doable in addition to considering what is most important. As
a result, they often propose relatively small and narrowly-
focused management actions. On the other hand, ecosystems and
the species they support interact in complex ways and at
relatively large scales on the landscape. The magnitude of the
forest health problem demands working at vastly larger scales
if we are to get ahead of the problem.
3. Successful restoration efforts link protection and
restoration. Sound forest management practices, such as the
restoration program underway in the Colville National Forest in
Washington and the Lakeview Stewardship Unit in Oregon define
both the forests in need of restoration and those portions of
the forest that require protection. Efforts that solve only a
part of the problem make collaboration among stakeholders more
difficult, time-consuming and costly.
4. Lack of sufficient funding for forest restoration
treatments is a huge barrier to success. The 2007 fuels
treatment budget for Region 6 was approximately $25.3 million;
when applied to the more than 13 million acres in Oregon alone
in need of treatment, the budget falls well short of meeting
the needs of the entire region. Inadequate funding for
treatments and the growing number of people living within 30
miles of federal forest land affects what and how treatments
are proposed. We need to revisit how and where money is
currently spent in the agencies, increase agency budgets, and
find outside sources of funding, while ensuring that the wood
products industry has sufficient incentives to invest in new
equipment and infrastructure.
Despite the problems outlined above, there is growing consensus
among stakeholders that our fire-prone forests need active management
to restore stand structure and composition and improve resilience to
natural disturbance and climate change. We appreciate your efforts to
seek solutions that would expand protections for older trees while
simultaneously promoting a new forest restoration economy across the
West. This approach holds promise for increasing the certainty of
supply while achieving desired future ecological conditions. In our
opinion, the ideal solution for Oregon and Washington would balance
increased legislative protections for mature and old-growth stands with
efficient planning and management flexibility to address the diversity
of conditions in our forests, the effects of climate change, and an
improving knowledge base.
In Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski has created the Federal
Forestland Advisory Committee to draft goals that highlight the
following roles for federal forest lands: protecting and restoring
ecosystems, providing predictable, sustainable supply of the full suite
of goods and services, and contributing to the creation of jobs and
economic well-being for local communities. One of the pressing problems
identified by the committee is the alteration of natural processes in
our native forests. To address this problem, legislation should
consider 20-30 year timeframes, and focus on the following:
Put the ecological needs of the forest first
While we believe forest restoration should be a source of jobs and
opportunity, scientifically credible ecological restoration goals must
provide the foundation on which these jobs are created. We must be
honest with ourselves; there's a residue of mistrust among stakeholders
based on the fact that ecological health hasn't always been the prime
objective of federal forest policy or management. We need to rebuild
that trust, and scientific credibility is the way to do it. That means
all the pieces of this complex puzzle--including the technologies of
biomass utilization, mill retooling, harvest equipment design and
minimum-impact road building--must to be guided by what the science
says these forests need to be healthy.
As our goal is to return these forests to a healthy state, we must
agree to a number of science-based ``environmental sideboards'' to
guide our work. First, we target all timber management on restoration
of late-successional and old-growth characteristics at the tree level
and the landscape level. Except under extraordinary circumstances, we
should eliminate post-fire or insect salvage logging, except in areas
previously designated for thinning. As a general policy, dry-site trees
in excess of 125 years should be protected and encouraged to mature
into stands reflecting traditional forest characteristics.\4\ It also
means restoring fire as an integral part of forest management. Thinning
may reduce stocking density, but by itself doesn't restore ecosystem
function; restoring fire in dry forest types is typically necessary to
restore forest function.
\4\ Our recommendation sits well with public opinion; according to
research conducted in 2002 by Davis, Hibbits, & McCaig, over seventy
percent of Oregonians and Washingtonians believe that trees over 100
years are ``old growth.'' Polling was done on behalf of The Northwest
Old Growth Campaign, World Wildlife Fund, and the Wilderness Society.
This approach is essential to ensure that restoration projects are
not undermined or delayed by being linked to controversial mature and
old-growth timber sales. In conversations with conservationists across
the West, we are beginning to find common ground for scientifically-
driven forest restoration efforts. But, without considerations for some
protections, many projects will become mired in contention and
litigation, and our forests will continue to suffer.
Plan for restoration at a significantly larger scale
Currently, conflicting direction from senior federal officials and
the threat of litigation makes it risky for land managers to spend
limited planning budgets on large-scale restoration. If a large-scale
plan is litigated, our federal partners are less likely to meet their
performance targets than if they focus on a few small projects.
As a result, most of the restoration planning is being done at a
scale of a few hundred to a few thousand acres at a time. These
treatments aren't achieving restoration at scale, and they aren't large
enough to support biomass utilization businesses. Unless we begin
planning at the watershed, landscape or larger scale, the problems
facing the dry forests of the Pacific Northwest forests will not be
Not only is planning across larger scales better for addressing
biodiversity issues, it's also critical to ensuring a predictable
supply of local materials to stimulate business investments. So, it's
critical that we find ways to allow the agencies to take the risk to
invest in large-scale planning. To achieve large scale restoration,
federal agencies must be given the direction and resources necessary to
carry out their objectives. As a start, this could mean increasing
agency budgets, updating forest plans, modifying performance targets,
and creating incentives for identifying large landscapes as restoration
Bring the full diversity of stakeholders into the conversation and give
them a seat at the table
In communities throughout the West, stakeholders are coming
together and creating consensus around forest management. Examples of
effective collaboration include the Front Range Roundtable in Colorado,
the Ashland Forest Resiliency Project and Lakeview Stewardship
Collaboration in Oregon, and the Tapash Sustainable Forests
Collaborative in Washington.
The divergent interests and values of stakeholders are not barriers
to progress. Actually, this diversity is key to success. In our view,
the best way to avoid litigation and conflict over forest management is
through collaboration. Successful collaboration begins by asking
stakeholders to develop a shared vision of the desired future
conditions for the forest in question. With grounding in good science
about past and present ecological conditions, these groups can, and
are, creating consensus around the best steps to restoring healthy
We aren't naive. While early engagement with diverse stakeholders
can't eliminate the risk of a lawsuit, we have seen it reduce the odds.
And while the process takes time, it builds trust. And that's what's
needed to take active forest restoration to larger scales.
Incentivize private investment
Finally, we need to examine policies and programs to make sure the
appropriate incentives are in place to spur private investments in new
equipment and infrastructure.
For this conservation approach to work, local industries must be
able to utilize woody biomass to produce merchantable products and
services. But while market forces have begun to signal a transition
away from reliance upon large diameter trees for commercial timber
production, investment in new technology logging and small diameter
milling equipment is costly. Electricity produced from woody biomass is
approximately double the price of electricity produced with coal, so to
operate within an acceptable cost range biomass generation facilities
must locate close to woody biomass supply; most experts recommend
sourcing biomass no more than 50 miles from the facility. To make the
forest restoration economy work, policymakers should consider offering
incentives to help bring woody biomass to the mills for conversion into
commercial products and clean energy, incentives designed to facilitate
ecological restoration on federal public forestlands while creating a
restoration economy.\5\ Additionally, Congress should address federal
contracting barriers that hinder private investment, for example the
contingent liability coupled to service contracts.
\5\ The Oregon Forest Resource Institute (OFRI) offers a set of
policy recommendations designed to promote biomass energy development
and forest restoration. See Chapter 6 of their report, Biomass Energy
and Biofuels from Oregon's Forests. June 30, 2006.
I don't want to oversimplify. There are plenty of complex
scientific, technical, economic and political challenges that lie
ahead. To realize the goals I've outlined in my testimony will require
a commitment from all of us to agree to set aside our differences and
work together to realize the vision we share--a legacy of healthy
forests, understood and managed at the landscape scale, and well-
stewarded by thriving local communities.
At The Nature Conservancy, we're passionate about joining with you
to meet the challenge of a generation. We look forward to working with
Senator Wyden. Thank you very much. Let's do this. We've
only got a couple of minutes before the vote expires. What I'd
like to do is break now for the votes. There are going to be, I
think, four. Then we'll come back. We'll begin with you, Boyd,
when we come back. So I think that's kind of fitting that we
hear from Grant County to wrap this up, and people see what
this really means on the ground. Then we'll go to questions. Is
that acceptable to everybody? Do people have planes to catch
and the like? OK. We're going to break for the four votes, and
then I'm going to be back. Thanks.
Senator Wyden. The subcommittee will come back to order,
and let me apologize to all our witness. This is life at the
end of the session, and I feel badly, and didn't want you to
feel that you we're going to stay for cornflakes or breakfast
or something by the time we got started again.
So Boyd, great of you to journey from Grant County. As you
know, one of things I like most about this job is coming over
for community meetings and getting into that community hall and
just kind of listening. So you've taken some time here now and
you've come a long way. Tell me, having listened to all this
testimony, and all the experts and, like, tell me what it
really means to folks in the community and on the ground in a
place where the Federal Government owns most of the land. So
STATEMENT OF BOYD BRITTON, COUNTY COMMISSIONER, GRANT COUNTY,
Mr. Britton. OK, sir, you'll have to excuse me. I like to
stand up when I'm speaking, and everybody at your staff has
told me I can't do that. I've got to compliment you right off
the get-go on your staff. Scott and Michelle and Rachel have
been excellent to work with.
Senator Wyden. Thank you. They are.
Mr. Britton. Thank you. Senator, thank you for inviting me,
and I would like to put this as part of the record.
Senator Wyden. Without objection, it will be done.
Mr. Britton. Thank you, sir. I am the guy in Eastern Oregon
that has the rose-colored glasses. I see hope and I want to
thank you, Senator Wyden, for having the courage to hold these
hearings and bring us all in here. We've heard from the rest of
the testimony, everybody agrees. We've got to do something, and
we've got to do it quickly. What's happening in our community,
if I could, we're decreasing in population by 2 percent a year.
Our schools went down the last 5 years, decreased 15 percent.
We're getting poorer and poorer, but I must tell you about our
When 9/11 happened, the tragedy, we raised enough money
that it averaged $6 for every man, woman and child there. Even
in Katrina, $5 in average for every man, woman, and child in
Grant County. So we are poor, but we are a very, very giving
community. It tears us up to see our infrastructure going away.
I disagree with some folks. I do not think that the Forest
Service is the enemy. I humbly, respectfully disagree with
Secretary Rey. Not enough is being done. It is burning up and
dying before our eyes. Michelle came out and got to see part of
it. The environmental community has come out and hasgot to see
it. Everybody agrees. It's the radical element.
I won't call them environmentalists, sir, because I'll call
them deconstructionists. Because if I could describe a real,
true environmentalist--Turner York. He's a lifelong logger in
Grant County. His family was there, and his parents were there,
and he was there. Sir, if you can say that, he's a big man, and
a strong man. If you can see him looking up at Summit Fire,
where that happened, and see that fire afterwards, and you see
tears in his eyes--Nobody is going to tell me that man doesn't
love the environment as much as anybody.
Walt Guinness, four generations of family there in Grant
County and he's telling us stories that--Up in a fire where
Indian Creek runs now. Never in his whole family's history has
it run anything but clear. After that fire, Senator Wyden, I'm
sorry, it doesn't run clear anymore. We talk about the
Endangered Species Act. Great. Meaning. But if we're going to
devastate our forest, these endangered creatures--Where are
they going to hang out? I mean, Benjamin Franklin, he made a
sense that--made a comment that the only bad thing about
commonsense is that it's not very common.
In these catastrophic fires, with all this fuel buildup, it
just builds and builds and builds, and they're not being able
to adequately treat it. With a good thinning bill, sir, you
folks have the power to make it happen, to get it out there.
Sir, we can turn it around--Not only for the resources, but the
communities, because we work hand-in-hand. I was talking to one
of your staffers, Scott. He mentioned that he read some
statistics about Oregon 40 years ago. Eastern Oregon had the
highest per-capita income. Our forests were healthier back
then. Now, it's not great, sir. We're the poorest. So, Senator
Wyden, you've been courageous about calling this hearing,
calling the witnesses, and I thank you for inviting me.
But, sir, this committee is going to have to be courageous
and stand up and say, ``This is what's right.'' One of the ways
in county government that we're a little bit kind of like you,
except on a lot smaller scale. We have to balance budget. One
of the ways I suggest is maybe take some of the funding from
the upper echelons of the Forest Service and put it down on the
ground where the work is actually being done. Down here,
national forests, their personnel has reduced by 46 percent in
the last 10 years. If we start cleaning up the forests like you
want to, sir, you know what? There'd be some economic benefit
that maybe we can start putting money back into the treasury
like we used to.
The collaboration, sir? We're trying. We're busting our--
we're trying hard to get that done. I mean, we go to--I've
met--Judge Webb and I have gone and met with Russ. Susan Jane
Brown from the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center--We've had
her right here on tour. We've gone around and looked at the
forests. Emily Platt, from the Gifford Pinchot. We've engaged
those folks. We took them on one tour, sir--and I'll make this
Senator Wyden. No----
Mr. Britton. Excuse me. I get wound up.
Senator Wyden. You're saying it well, and you've come a
long way to say it.
Mr. Britton. But we took them out on a tour and we got to
see various parts of the forest. On one particular trip, we
went--the private land was on the West and the Forest Service
land was on the east. It was remarkable the difference. We
drove out to a private ranch that had been logged 3 years
before. Susan Jane, God bless her, and Emily made the comment
that, ``Gee, I wish the rest of the forest looked this good.''
It doesn't, sir. But our guys are trying. We've got a
forest supervisor that has changed attitudes. He's got them
excited. If they could just help him out with a little bit more
personnel, a little bit of money, and it would change things.
One quick little, brief, primitive analogy, and I'll get out of
Senator, imagine if you and your mates, if you went home
and your toilet was plugged, and your kitchen sink was plugged,
and you had to wait for a need for analysis, and go through
collaboration, and then you had to get the approval from the
Washington office, and then the regional office. When you got
all that done, then you'd have to go to the Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals and ask them to review whether or not your sink and
toilet were really plugged. Probably wouldn't get fixed. Sir,
our sink is plugged. Please help us out with some legislation
to let the Forest Service do the kind of work that they can do,
and they want to do. Thank you.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Britton follows:]
Prepared Statement of Boyd Britton, County Commissioner,
Grant County, OR
I would like to thank the distinguished members of this committee
especially Senator Wyden for allowing me the privilege to testify
before you and attempt to answer any questions you may have.
I am a County Commissioner from Grant County in Eastern Oregon. The
citizens I represent love and cherish our land and I know my fellow
commissioners and citizens in neighboring Wallowa, Union, Baker and
Harney counties feel the same way about their portion of the Iron
All of us across the West are scared because we can see our
precious natural resources, forests, range, water and wildlife being
destroyed by unnatural catastrophic wildfire. Grant and Harney counties
share the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the nation. This summer the
Emigrant Creek Ranger District of the Malheur National Forest in Harney
County lost 25% of its district to wildfire. Two years ago the Forest
Service spent 14 million dollars in 13 days on a 14,000-acre fire in
Grant County. That same area, which burned precious old growth,
destroyed wildlife habitat and negatively impacted salmon was scheduled
for treatment in the early 1990s but was stopped due to litigation.
Senator Wyden correctly pointed out to me a few years ago that we
couldn't close the courthouse doors to litigation; however this body
I'm addressing today has the ability with legislation to limit
frivolous appeals especially ones of a procedural nature. The citizens
in the West are frustrated that a radical environmental individual can,
with a 41-cent stamp, stop, delay or weaken a project that can
significantly reduce the possibility of a catastrophic fire. As an
elected county official, when a citizen or group brings forward a
problem I like to have them propose a solution. I would like to propose
a few ideas.
The United States Government spent 2 billion dollars last year on
fire suppression, which is just treating a symptom of the real problem
that is unhealthy forests. The Forest Service spent 47% of their budget
last year putting out fires which left little money or manpower to do
other work that they have the desire, training and expertise to do.
Forest management should be done by the local, on the ground managers
not by activist judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; nor
should it be done by radical environmental obstructionists or by
regional or national offices of the Forest Service.
I would ask you to put in place legislation that would limit
appeals and increase the percentage of funding to the local land
managers. In the last ten years staffing on the Malheur National Forest
has decreased by 46%. When the Forest Service began downsizing some of
the first positions to go were the timber and brush disposal crews. Now
with the established targets of fuel reduction the Forest Service is
forced to burn ``cheap'' acres to meet their targets. The needed
mechanical thinning that needs to be done before the under burning is
four times more expensive. The Forest Service is in a death spiral and
I would suggest that increasing the funding of local land managers and
not administrative offices such as at the regional or national levels
would begin to slow down this spiral. The local communities are poised
to help. The thinning and fuel removal that needs to be done will put
our citizens back to work, preserve the infrastructure within the
community and most of all preserve our natural resources for our
Senator Wyden and my friend, Congressman Walden successfully put
forward the Healthy Forests Restoration Act which has helped to start
reducing fuels within the Wildland Urban Interface and we thank you for
that, but for lack of funding, lack of personnel, litigation, and the
threat of litigation it is moving too slowly. We are fortunate on the
Malheur NF to have a current Forest Supervisor that has a vision and
the energy to push forward. For years, the Malheur's employees have
been beat down and frustrated by litigation delays, the cumbersome
planning process and lack of support from the regional level but the
Supervisor is changing the atmosphere of the local Forest Service
employees and the community. One of the silviculturists is a neighbor
of mine and for many years when asked, ``How are you doing?'' he would
invariably reply, ``I've got 4 years, 3 months and 2 days until I
retire.'' Now Eric's excited about having proactive leadership, he just
needs your help.
The Iron Triangle forests, Malheur, Wallowa Whitman and Umatilla
cover an area larger than the state of Massachusetts. The health of
these forests is reflected in the health and well being of our
communities. Wallowa County's mill has shut down and 54 good family
wage jobs along with their health care are gone. Harney County lost its
only mill and 92 family wage jobs are going away. Here in Grant County,
Grant Western Lumber Co.'s mill shut down and we lost 56 family wage
jobs along with their health care benefits. If you were to compare this
loss of jobs on a percentage basis to Portland Oregon it would amount
to 22,000 lost jobs. The state has come in with assistance from the
Federal Government and offered retraining. That's well and good but
guess what? Those people are going to have to leave our counties to
find a place for those new skills. Grant County has been decreasing in
population at the rate of 2% a year. We are losing not only the
resources of our federal lands but also the precious resource of our
The HFRA legislation requires collaboration. We joined in the
process a little over 3 years ago by inviting the scariest thing known
to a Grant County citizen--an environmental lawyer from the Pacific
Environmental Advocacy Center. Old time foresters like Walt Gentis,
logger Charley O'Rorke, the County Court and Forest Service got on a
bus and toured parts of the forest. We all observed the same things and
came up with a similar conclusion--the Forest needs help. One of the
areas we visited has since burned. We were able to drive up Highway 395
and see to the west Forest Service managed lands and to the east
private lands. There was total agreement that Forest Service lands were
significantly more fire prone than the privately managed lands.
Attorney Susan Jane Brown and Emily Platt from the Gifford Pinchot Task
Force even made the comment at a private ranch that had been logged 3
years earlier she wished the Forest Service lands looked this good.
I understand here in Washington DC the talk about progress being
made in Oregon in the West. I respectfully disagree. In the years 2005
through 2007 our country has lost 27.2 million acres due to wildfire at
a cost of billions. That's an area larger than the state of Virginia.
We are in dire need of immediate action.
If I could provide a primitive analogy: Would the members of this
committee if having a bathroom toilet and kitchen sink backed up want
to go through a NEPA analysis, collaboration, and review by the
Washington Office and Regional Office before you started fixing the
problem. Then, by the way, you would have to get the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals to rule whether or not the toilet and sink were really
backed up. Our sink is plugged. With proper legislation, the endless
appeals won't stall needed projects. Increasing budgets to the ground
level will help restore our resources and communities to a healthy
condition which will be good for the West and good for the country, and
perhaps when we talk to our grandchildren we can say we did a good
thing and not hang our heads in shame and say I'm sorry we let you
Thank you and I would welcome your questions.
Senator Wyden. Boyd, very, very well said. That's exactly
where we're going to be going next. I just want to get on the
record, because I think it's going to be important as we wrap
this up, we had Professor Johnson say that he disagreed with
Secretary Rey. We had Boyd Britton say that he disagreed with
Secretary Rey. Mr. Hoeflech, do you disagree with Secretary
Mr. Hoeflich. I do.
Senator Wyden. Mr. Donegan, do you disagree with Secretary
Mr. Donegan. I do.
Senator Wyden. OK. If nothing else comes out of today's
hearing, I hope that will help to show that what we're trying
to do, as Mr. Donegan said--really, all of you have said--is to
try bring together parties that have disagreed to get serious
about thinning and forest restoration in the days ahead. I can
tell you I feel just as strongly about this as I did about the
County Payments Effort and the Forest Health Legislation, which
as I said many hours ago was those were the only two pieces of
legislation actually that have gotten passed in the forestry
area in the last 15 years. So this has been very helpful.
So let me start by asking each of you, starting with you,
Boyd. Given the fact that we have a difference of opinion, that
we're losing more than we're restoring, if you had to apportion
it, how much is due to funding? How much is due to staffing?
How much of it is due to appeals and litigation? How would you
break it out in terms of the problem? I think that'll be
helpful, too, because as you can see, to get the solution we're
going to have to say, ``Look, everybody is going to have to do
something.'' Tell me your take on how much, at least in those
three areas, how much is that contributing to the problem?
Mr. Britton. That's a tough one, sir. I will try. One of
the most frustrating words I hear from the Forest Service is
``process.'' If I died tomorrow and never heard that word
``process'' again, I'd die a happy man. But funding has a bunch
to do with it. The structure, the way Forest Service does
business, is a big part of it. On the fuel reduction, sir,
they've given these targets they have to meet. If they don't
meet them, they're castigated, they get bad reviews, whatever.
So they have to go out and treat these tree bakers, I'll call
them, that really aren't in that bad a need, and then they're
treating two and three different entries, when the real
treatment needs to be done going in and doing the mechanical
thinning first, at least that should be done before the under-
But that costs four times as much. But because of the way
they're set up, sir, they can't meet their targets going that
way. So part of it is bureaucratic. Part of it is just the way
the Forest Service does business. Part of it is legislative. If
you folks could twist that legislation, do whatever you do--I
don't know how you do it, but you guys have got the power and
you know what you're doing. But if you could change that
legislation, sir, in such a way that it reduces those
bureaucratic pratfalls that they fall through, lessen the
opportunities--and I said in my statements, sir, and you
pointed out to me very strongly one time a few years ago, and
you were right, that we can't close courthouse doors. You're
But we shouldn't have to open them wide and invite the nut
cases in to say, ``Hey, put this off for 5 years. Kill the
project.'' That's what's happening now. The true environmental
community wants to work with the industry, I think. I could be
Senator Wyden. I think that's a good way to put it.
Mr. Britton. Did I answer you?
Senator Wyden. Yes, you did, and very well. You shouldn't
have a constitutional right to five, 10-year, whatever delays.
I think there's a lot of common ground there. Mr. Hoeflech, in
terms of your assessment, how much of it is due to funding? How
much of it is due to needless appeals? How much is due to
staffing? There may be other factors that you want to outline,
so feel free to incorporate other ones. But as you break down
the problems, since we now have unanimity--professors,
environmental folks, rural communities, timber industry
people--that, you know, we're falling behind, let's get out the
sense of what the factors are in terms of proportion. You next.
Mr. Hoeflich. Let me try to address it this way. I think
that Boyd hit on the most critical issue, and that has to do
with the motivation of the employees in the field. If they are
continually promoted and encouraged, based upon small-scale
actions, and they are not given incentives to take risks and
plan at the scale that it really needs to be done, that is the
No. 1 problem for us. When, in fact, I was sitting on a project
in the Klamath Basin where there were 19 very hard working
people in that Basin who were asked by the Forest Service to do
a planning exercise on a few thousand acres.
When I asked the person in charge of that project for the
Forest Service, I said, ``You really need to be working at
212,000 acres for the entire watershed,'' they said they
couldn't afford to do it, and the fact of the matter is they
wouldn't hit their performance standards because they'd be tied
up in court. So it's just a vivid example of the same 19 people
were being forced to plan at a scale that was meaningless to
the long-term health and viability of the community, let alone
the ecological needs of the forest. It's under your control to
be able to switch the incentives for the employees in the
Forest Service to be able to take the risks to plan at the
scale. The issue of resources really pertains to a reallocation
of the resources.
We need to be able to get the best and the brightest of
scientists from around the Federal agencies, as well as the
State agencies, to come to the table and support these
hardworking people in the community to frame a desired future
condition of their forest. If the resources are put out there
up front to help have a conversation about a--to help develop a
consensus over that desired future condition, and the Forest
Service then is empowered to work in lockstep to develop the
need for documents at scale that's meaningful, then, in fact, I
think we can avoid the litigation.
I'm just trying to put this positive energy and the
resources in the right place. Let's try to develop a model
where we avoid that litigation. At least reasonable people can
agree and can reason prevail in the end. I think that if we
marginalize those on the end that are really not with the
conservation community, and not with the community overall,
understand where they're coming from--we've invited them to the
table but they haven't offered pragmatic solutions--that, in
fact, we should be able to prevail, not only in the Court of
reason but hopefully in the Court of law.
Senator Wyden. OK, Mr. Donegan. Your assessment of--because
what I'm going to do is--You sort of tried to identify the
problem, and next you go to cure. I think your colleagues there
have sort have been touching on both. Go ahead and take a crack
at this question of how you'd apportion the problem, and then
some of your remedies.
Mr. Donegan. I should start by saying I'm not the most
qualified panelist, with regard to Federal processes and
decisionmaking. What I can share is that I think that, with
regard to problem-solving, part of the problem-solving is going
to have to include funding, obviously, going forward. If we're
going to try to accomplish something at the scale that my
fellow panelists are describing, I think funding is going to be
a big part of that. Part of that solution can very well be
qualifying Federal forests and thinnings for carbon offsets,
and within the emerging carbon markets and recognizing the role
of that Forest Plan Carbon Sequestration.
That could establish a long-running source of funding, and
stable and sustainable source of funding. I think, you know,
the other point that I'd like to make is that emerging biomass
markets could play a role here, as well. Again, you know, I
think they'd need to be nearby. You don't want to have long
trucking distances. You'd probably want a number of smaller
mills as opposed to a few larger mills. I think that market
development is going to take public and private capital.
I think for it to attract private capital, I think the
biggest obstacle at this point is just going to be stability.
Private investors need stability. They abhor risk. I think that
speaks to the litigation risks that all the fellow panelists
have brought up today. So I think anything you can do to
address this litigation risk, I think, can in turn address the
Senator Wyden. I can tell you there is going to be a part
of my legislation that is going to get at that. I mean, I
think--and Boyd put his hands on it, and we talk about it every
time I'm in John Day or Canyon City or any of our meetings--
there is something in between cutting off the rights of people
to be able to express their views about the forestry policy.
That was the whole sufficiency debate and talk about timber
wars, as Mr. Donegan did. That was about as acrimonious a
discussion as I've ever seen.
There's something in between cutting off the right of
people to be heard, and what I for shorthand call the
Constitutional Right to Five-Year Delay. And We're going to be
working with all three of you to try to figure out what that is
that is between those two points, and I think we can get it
done. You know, we tried, as part of the Healthy Forest
Legislation, to try to expedite some of the processes. We can
look to that and other kinds of approaches and we will involve
all of you.
Now, the only other area that I was really interested in
some input is what are the ramifications of technology in this
area? I saw something that indicated that the new mill in
Lakeview that folks are very excited about is going to cut
trees up to 7'' dbh. This, I think, is called diameter at
breast height is the technical lingo. This has helped the mill
significantly increase their capacity to generate profits. I
gather that now they want to know whether this is going to get
the agency to start redefining, you know, what constitutes
commercial and non-commercial, you know, timber. But what do
the three of you think about the technology questions here? I
mean, are there areas for the record that we need to be looking
at as we examine technology? Boyd, or any three, or all three
of you can feel free to weigh in.
Mr. Britton. I'd love to give a shot at it, sir.
Senator Wyden. Yes.
Mr. Britton. The two mills that are left up there in Grant
County, they've already done a whole lot of upgrading on their
mills. They're going to smaller and smaller top--don't quote me
on this, sir, but I think they can go down to a four-inch top,
and still make something happen. But what they lack to keep
going and keep doing that kind of technology is sustainability.
They have to have a guarantee somehow or another that
they're going to have, you know, 10 years of product. That's
especially true of the Forest Service. They've done some good
work trying to get biomass to come in. We've had some
demonstration projects out there, where they can go out and do
the slash removal and take it out of the woods. But we've got
people that are interested in it, but they're not going to
come, sir, until they have that guarantee of a product. That's
Senator Wyden. Very good. Mr. Hoeflech.
Mr. Hoeflich. I've gotten into this issue a bit with the
Federal Forest Land Advisory Committee and the Oregon Biomass
Workgroup that I've been one. To Boyd's point, if in fact we
have the certainty of the volume, I'm finding that the
incentives will be there, and if the assurity of the product is
there, the creativity, the energy infrastructure is there,
people will be able to find the technology to be able to pull
the wood out of the forest. There already is a lot of
experimentation to cost effectively remove the product. There's
experimentation on how to get a chip truck out, and get the
product in because or traditional chip trucks will not get into
these remote locations.
But there are people who are trying to break through those
issues. They're using European designs to be able to test their
effectiveness and light entry into the system. Creating some
incentive to expedite that experimentation, I think, is going
to be helpful from what I'm hearing from the industry, and Matt
may know more about that element of it.
Mr. Donegan. Yes, I can speak to this. I actually wish my
friend Russ was here, because this is really his specialty.
Unfortunately, he had to fly back home. But I will say that,
yes, small log technology has made tremendous advancements in
recent years, and has allowed sawmills to much more efficiently
process smaller diameter or dbh timber. That again is an area
especially for Vaagen Brothers. It's really what makes them a
very unique partner in this regard.
I think, equally, the other element of technology mentioned
just previously is just the whole takeoff on woody biomass. I
think that's particularly exciting, is that as we would
envision a thinning program--a large-scale thinning program--
revitalizing Western forest communities, I think a very
exciting part of that would be inviting new technology, woody-
based or woody biomass-based technology, and perhaps cellulosic
ethanol. So there's a lot of work to be done there. That would
have far-reaching ramifications in regard to renewable energy
and addressing our dependence on foreign oil. I think that
would have diverse and far-reaching implications.
Senator Wyden. You all have been very helpful. The biomass
issue, I think, sort of highlights once again how you tackle
these issues in a responsible kind of way. You three probably
wouldn't know all the history, but Mr. Gladics, and Mr. Miller,
and Ms. Miranda will recall vividly in the course of the
energy, you know, debate, we tried to offer originally
something that we thought would strike a responsible approach
in terms of protecting old growth, but at the same time would
make sure that we would have a good quantity of material for
As the three of them can attest, we had people who said
they'd never heard anything about it, and they were fighting,
and it was going to end the ability to get biomass. The three
of them basically went out, and with considerable passion from
all sides, basically got our committee, which was pretty much
ready to wrap up the energy title bill to hold off until we
talked to people about merits of the issue. These three came up
with a very large book, as it related to the definitions and
the like, and essentially stayed with it until they found a
reasonable position that would allow us to get significant
amount material for the kinds of projects Mr. Donegan's talking
about, and investors want, and then folks in Grant County would
like to see get off the ground, Boyd.
We got it done. That was because people worked together. It
would have been real easy to take potshots and start putting
out press releases and say, ``So-and-so didn't care about old
growth. So-and-so didn't care about biomass and rural
communities and getting a fresh start for rural areas.'' That
would have been a piece of cake to just go to the ramparts and
just start cranking up your press releases. But we took a
different route. I hope that eventually that position is going
to prevail. So you all have given us a lot of good counsel, and
we got there on county payments.
We're still waiting for the final news for this session,
but we're going to stay at until we get it done. I can assure
you of that. The Forest Health Legislation was of certainly
some value, but now it is time--given the seriousness, and
given the fact that we've got--just as you've told me Boyd--all
these communities fearful. They're fearful of fires. They're
fearful of losing everything. They just see little action and,
you know, the prospect of their community going up in flames.
We've got to make sure that the same kind of bipartisan efforts
are made to build the kind of coalition, you know, that you're
We've had business, Professor Johnson, so well-respected,
environmental folks, rural communities all make it clear to
me--and we'll have it, you know, for the record--after you've
journeyed a long way to come to Washington, that there's a lot
of common sense out there that can mobilized to solve the next
challenge in forestry. I am committed to doing it. I always
like to give the witnesses, you know, the last word here. So we
can go right down the row. Boyd, and then Mr. Hoeflech, Mr.
Donegan. You've all been very patient. Would you like to add
anything else at this time?
Mr. Britton. Sir, if you don't mind, I could add a few more
things. I'm a politician, so you know we can always add
something. I don't know how everybody shakes out on this global
warming. OK? I don't know. I'm not going to address that.
However, by treating the forests, it will reduce the carbon
emissions. Absolutely. There's no question about it. By making
our forests healthier, they're going to have places for those
carbon sinks. Instead of our forests being emitters, they'll
become places for them to sink.
You're probably wondering about this. I brought it for a
visual aid. This is a Canyon Creek Woody Fuels Reduction
Project. It's the EA. You're looking at, by the time it's said
and done, sir, 5 years of work, $1 million worth of labor, and
it's going to treat 7,000 acres. You've got to help the Forest
Service. The Senate and the House have got to help them so they
can do a better job. They want to. They have the desire. But
they ain't going to get it cut. That's not going to cut it,
sir. Excuse me for stuttering, but it kind of--I get wrapped up
about it. Going at that rate, and God bless you and Congressman
Walden for getting that Healthy Forest Restoration Act done.
It's very good. But they need more tools with it. More money,
more tools, more people. Thank you for doing that, sir.
Senator Wyden. Well said. Mr. Hoeflech.
Mr. Hoeflich. I guess I want to say that time is of the
essence for some of these rural communities. I'm honored to be
working with the members of--the leadership of Grant and Harney
County. But truly, time is not on their side. I shudder to
think about what will happen to us if we struggle over the next
two or 3 years. We will have dead and dying trees. We'll have a
community that's probably cut in half that doesn't have the
expertise to be able to harvest the trees. The mills will have
shut down. Then we'll be sitting in front of you asking for
emergency appropriations to retrain and to bring back a mill
infrastructure that meets the needs of the community.
If there is some way for us to expedite a process to be
able to take care of the biological needs, so we don't hit the
next catastrophic fire, that we can preserve the integrity of
this community, the heart and soul of this community, before it
is lost--I spent time earlier this week with John Shulk from
Ochoco Lumber. He is hanging on by a thread, and we've already
lost others in the community. It is just--I don't want to be
standing in front of you like my counterparts in Arizona and
New Mexico, where they have to start all over again. They have
now come to consensus in the community of a desired future
vision, but there's no infrastructure. So that's our challenge.
Senator Wyden. Very good. Mr. Donegan.
Mr. Donegan. I will just add an additional perspective to
what Russ just said, with regard to timing. That is, you know,
I think as a professional forester and as somebody who works
not only in the private forest, but I also serve on the
National Council of National Park Conservation Association, and
I'm very familiar with land ownerships, public and private, I
think all resource professionals need tools at their disposal
in order to conduct management activities that meet their
Almost always, the limiting factor is funding. I would
just--to add urgency to what Russ just said--without mills and
without some existing remaining infrastructure that will put
place dramatic funding limitations on the Federal Government in
years to come. If the remaining mills are lost, I hate to think
that we will wake up 5 years from now and say, ``Jeez, we've
got to introduce an aggressive thinning program to better
sequester carbon, to better restore habitat, and, oh man, we
realized this too late, and our mills are now gone.''
Likewise, from a private landowner's perspective, the need
for mills is equally dire. You can definitely look across the
Inland west at sub-regions where the mills are already gone.
These are the regions that are experiencing the greatest levels
of development, land conversion, fragmentation, because
literally, the landowners were left without any economic
options. So I would say you can look at Eastern Washington,
Eastern Oregon, parts of Idaho, and say, if these few remaining
mills are lost, you're going to see tremendous advancement of
deforestation and fragmentation in those areas. So I would just
echo the sense of urgency that we don't have much remaining
time. We applaud your leadership for our home State, and ask
for all your diligence on this.
Senator Wyden. The last word has been delivered by three
very thoughtful advocates from the State of Oregon, and with
that, the subcommittee is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 6:03 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.]
[The following statement was received for the record.]
Statement of Michael E. Dubrasich, Executive Director, Western
Institute for Study of the Environment, Lebanon, OR
My name is Michael E. Dubrasich. I reside in Linn County, Oregon. I
am a professional consulting forester with 26 years experience in
private practice, and am currently Executive Director of the Western
Institute for Study of the Environment [http://westinstenv.org]. I am
knowledgeable about and have professional expertise in restoration
I am in strong and substantial agreement with the testimony of Drs.
K. Norman Johnson and Jerry F. Franklin regarding the pressing need to
undertake immediate restoration forestry action in National Forests of
Oregon. I quote for emphasis:
We will lose these forests to catastrophic disturbance events
unless we undertake aggressive active management programs.
Johnson and Franklin
National Forests in Oregon are at extreme risk from catastrophic
fire. The Biscuit Fire of 2002 destroyed nearly 500,000 acres of
heritage forests, principally in the Siskiyou N.F. The B&B Fire of 2003
and adjacent fires of the last ten years have destroyed nearly 150,000
acres of the Deschutes N.F.
These and numerous other fires of the past 15 years have decimated
old-growth stands and converted priceless, heritage forests to
brushfields. Multi-cohort old-growth stands are the preferred habitat
of northern spotted owls and other old-growth associated species.
Catastrophic fires destroy old-growth habitat and they have been
implicated in the continuing decline of Threatened and Endangered
species populations in Oregon--plant and animal, vertebrate and
The fire hazard is increasing with each passing year, as new growth
adds to burgeoning fuel loads. Catastrophic fire acreage, fire
suppression costs, and resource losses to fires have been increasing
The 2006 fire season was the worst in over fifty years. Nearly
10,000,000 acres burned in wildfires with suppression costs approaching
With nearly 9.3 million acres burned nationally, the 2007 fire
season was the second worst fire season in over fifty years and the
fourth record-setter in eight years. Seven of the worst ten fire
seasons since the 1950s have occurred in the last 12 years.
Fires that start in untended, fuel-laden federal forests
occasionally escape beyond federal property lines. Such, often very
large or megafires, threaten and burn private property. Thousands of
homes are lost to escaped federal fires each year. Urban as well as
rural homes are burned.
If we continue on the present course, we will lose many more
millions of acres of heritage, old-growth forests and the habitat they
provide to important wildlife species. We will continue to lose
thousands of private homes each year to escaped federal fires.
National Forests across the state of Oregon are in a condition of
unnatural density. Fires in forests overburdened by dense fuels tend to
become stand-replacing. That is, most trees are killed by such fires,
including old-growth trees.
Historical analyses based on pioneer journals, oral histories, and
empirical investigations of stand age structures provide strong
evidence that most forests in Oregon were open and park-like in prior
centuries. Frequent, regular, seasonal fires maintained trees at wide
spacing, overtopping grassy understories.
Historically, fires in such stands were NOT stand-replacing.
Instead, regular, frequent, seasonal fires gave rise to conditions that
allowed trees to grow to great ages. Without frequent light fires,
trees do not grow very old. The actual historical development pathways
for many (if not most) of our forests involved frequent light fires,
not stand-replacing fire.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Biscuit Burn and in other
burns of the last two decades in Oregon. Typically the forests that
have been destroyed by catastrophic fire were strongly multi-cohort
with older cohort trees of 150 to 600 years of age. Also typically, the
vegetation that arises after the fires is sclerophyllous brush with a
few, even-aged conifer germinants.
It is clear that the new forests will be nothing like the old
forests. In fact, it is probable that the new forests will burn again
after 15 to 50 years of new fuel development. We know from reburned
areas such as the Silver Burn (1987) within the Biscuit Burn (2002)
that the new ``forest'' is loaded with highly flammable brush. The few
conifer germinants grow slowly and are killed in the subsequent fire.
After reburns no conifer seed sources are left, and the new ``forest''
becomes a permanent, catastrophic fire-type shrubfield.
Historical analyses also provide strong evidence that the regular,
frequent, seasonal fires of the past that sustained old-growth forests
were anthropogenic (human-set). Indian burning for a variety of
subsistence purposes gave rise to and maintained open, park-like forest
structures. In the absence of Indian burning, or modern equivalents
thereof, our forest structures have deviated from historically
Today's forest fires in dense fuels are catastrophic and stand-
replacing. The historical forest development pathways of the past were
different. They must have been different because they gave rise to
open, park-like forests with old trees, not permanent fire-type brush.
In addition to inviting extreme, ecosystem-altering fires, overly
dense stands are more prone to insect infestations and fungal
epidemics. From the testimony of Drs. Johnson and Franklin:
This is not simply an issue of fuels and fire; because of the
density of these forests, there is a high potential for drought
stress and related insect outbreaks. Surviving old-growth pine
trees are now at high risk of death to both fire and western
pine beetle, the latter resulting from drought stress and
Johnson and Franklin
The solution is restoration forestry. Dr. Thomas M. Bonnicksen, the
Father of Restoration Forestry, defines it thusly
Restoration forestry is a vision for the future rooted in
respect for the past. Thus, restoration forestry uses the
historic forest as a model for the future forest.
Restoration forestry aims to recover our nation's forest
heritage while also restoring the productive and harmonious
relationship between people and forests that existed in
Restoration forestry is defined as restoring ecologically and
economically sustainable forests that are representative of
landscapes significant in America's history and culture.
The goal of restoration forestry is to restore and sustain,
to the extent practical, a forest to a condition that
resembles, but does not attempt to duplicate, the structure and
function of a reference historic forest. The term ``reference
historic forest'' means the way a whole forest appeared
spreading over a landscape, with all of its diversity, at or
about the time it was first seen by European explorers.
A reference historic forest does not represent a particular
point in time. It represents a period and the variations in
forest structure that characterized that period.
Bonnicksen, Restoration Forestry
The practice of preparing forests to accept fire without total
incineration MUST include positive, scientific forestry goals of
protecting heritage trees, meadows, and other ancient cultural
landscape features by restoring historically-accurate and proven-to-be-
sustainable open, park-like stand structures.
Trees have to be spaced fairly far apart to prevent crown-to-crown
propagation of fire. Canopy fires plume into firestorms and do the most
damage. Breaking up the continuity of the canopy is absolutely
necessary to preclude crown-to-crown propagation and canopy fires.
We need more than ``fuels management'' however. We need
silviculture that recreates historical development pathways leading to
open, park-like forests, savannas, and meadows at their historically-
accurate geographic locations within our National Forests. That means
thinnings, clearings, and other aggressive active management actions,
and maintaining the restored landscape conditions with anthropogenic
Historically and ecologically, human beings administered the key
partial disturbances that maintained sustainable forests: frequent,
regular, seasonal, human-set fire. Human stewardship of the land was an
important component in the development of our old-growth stands. We
need human stewardship again, to protect and restore them.
History is a key element of restoration forestry. From the
testimony of Drs. Johnson and Franklin:
Activities at the stand level need to focus on restoring
ecosystems to sustainable composition and structure--not simply
to acceptable fuel levels. Objectives of these treatments need
to include: retention of existing old-growth tree populations;
shifting stand densities, basal areas, diameter distributions,
and proportions of drought-and fire-tolerant species (e.g.,
ponderosa pine and western larch) toward historical levels . .
. Finally, restoring old-growth tree populations to, and
maintaining them at, historical levels should be a goal of
Johnson and Franklin
One-half to two-thirds (at least) of our public forests require
restoration forestry to protect, maintain, and perpetuate old-growth
forests. That means the Northwest Forest Plan must be revisited and a
modified Plan developed. The NWFP set-aside 85 percent of the landscape
in No Touch Zones. The NWFP is thus not compatible with old-growth
forest protection, maintenance, and perpetuation, according to the
experts who drafted it. Again, from the testimony of Drs. Johnson and
Restoration programs must be planned and implemented at the
landscape scale to be effective; management over the last
century has altered entire landscapes and created the potential
for very large wildfires and insect outbreaks. Treating
isolated stands within these landscapes will not be effective .
Creating fuel treatment patches and strips is a useful first
step to help control wildfire, but is not sufficient to save
these forests or the important array of values that they
provide, including owls and old-growth trees. Many of the
intervening areas will eventually burn and, even if they do
not, old-growth trees will succumb to insects during periodic
drought, since they are surrounded by dense competing
To conserve these forests, we need to modify stand structure
(e.g., treat fuels) on one-half to two-thirds of the landscape.
Johnson and Franklin
The benefits of restoration forestry include:
Prevention of megafires and reduction in emergency fire
Prevention of ecosystem conversion to high hazard brush
Prevention of catastrophic fire damage to watersheds
Preservation of historic features of our shared, heritage
Sustaining old-growth trees and old-growth development
Sustaining wildlife habitat, including T&E species
Reinvigoration of rural economies
In fact, across much of the publicly-owned landscape in Oregon (and
other Western states as well), restoration forestry is the ONLY way to
capture those benefits.
The need for restoration forestry on a landscape scale is well-
recognized by the experts. The public demand for restoration forestry
is also strong. Surveys of public attitudes have shown that as many as
85 percent of urban residents favor active management to prevent
catastrophic forest fires. The percentage of rural residents in favor
is undoubtedly higher.
Restoration forestry is more than ``active management'' just as it
is more than ``fuels management.'' Our forests are living systems with
numerous values to society. They are complex, they are precious, and
they are at risk. That combination of factors demands intensive
science-based stewardship to fulfill our shared responsibilities.
Past efforts to institute restoration forestry, including the
Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-148) (HFRA) are
laudable but have not achieved the landscape scale necessary to either
prevent catastrophic megafires, or to protect, maintain, and perpetuate
Lack of action on restoration forestry also endangers the capacity
of our National Forests to provide clean water in steady quantities.
Catastrophic fires damage soils, decrease absorption and deep
percolation, increase erosion, increase sedimentation, and debilitate
watershed hydrologic functions.
An untenable economic burden has been imposed on rural counties and
residents by the lack of restoration forestry. Congress is perennially
asked to provide payments in lieu of timber receipts to economically
distress counties in the West. Restoration forestry is self-funding and
can provide the jobs and receipts, relieving the need for Congress to
provide addition emergency allocations.
The US Forest Service does, however, need additional funds to
employ professional forestry expertise. Congress must engage in
rebuilding the agency's professional ability to manage our forests,
which has diminished significantly in the past 15 years.
Much more must be done and soon. I offer the following specific
recommendations for your evaluation and adoption.
1. Conduct a US Forest Service mission review
The US Forest Service has not had a mission review since the
Organic Act of 1897. The fundamental purposes of the USFS have changed
since then. Landscape-scale forest restoration cannot be accomplished
if the land management agency has lost its legal bearings.
The mission review should be followed by review of the governing
laws and regulations to ensure that the restated mission can be met.
Funding and staffing must also be appropriate to the restated mission.
And most especially, restoration forestry must be made central to
the restated mission of the USFS. The scale of the problem, and of the
solution set, require conformance to purpose in the agency and
2. Revisit the Northwest Forest Plan
The Northwest Forest Plan is also out of accord with the pressing
need to apply restoration forestry on a landscape-scale.
The NWFP has failed in all its goals: spotted owl populations have
declined as much as 40 percent since inception of the NWFP; millions of
acres of multi-cohort spotted owl habitat have been incinerated; the
geographic continuity of owl habitat has been shredded, and regional
economies, and especially rural economies, have suffered enormously.
The NWFP is an impediment to restoration forestry, and thus an
impediment to saving owls, saving owl habitat, and protecting rural
economies. After nearly 14 years of failure, the time has come to
review the NWFP and to alter it so as to better achieve the original
objectives, and to enable landscape-scale forest restoration.
3. Fund research and teaching in restoration forestry
The goal of restoration forestry is to recover and sustain the
structure and function of historical forests. To do that we must first
investigate historical forests and landscapes. We must understand
history to envision the future. Second we must study the efficacy and
efficiency of restoration forestry treatment options. New research and
teaching is needed in:
Forest and landscape history
Traditional ecosystem management
Historical landscape geography
Historical forest development
Restoration forestry principles and practices
Emphasis should be placed on empirical studies within those fields.
4. Conduct a forest-by-forest natural/cultural historical analysis
The US Forests must initiate a program to investigate, analyze, and
report on the actual forest and landscape histories every National
Forest and BLM District in Oregon, and preferably throughout the West.
The histories should look back at least 10,000 calendar years Before
Present, and must include analysis of the (reconstructed) historical
forest and landscape development pathways.
The histories must refer to substantial evidence collected in the
field, as well as ethnographic and anthropological research specific to
each area. Forest-by-forest, empirical studies of pre-Columbian, pre-
Contact, and pre-Euro-American settlement forests and landscapes will
also provide a set of reference conditions for restoration forestry in
each local landscape or watershed.
5. Apply landscape-scale restoration forestry treatments
The US Forests must initiate a program to plan and undertake
landscape-scale restoration forestry treatments on every National
Forest in Oregon to prevent catastrophic fires and protect, maintain,
and perpetuate old-growth forests.
Locally designed forest-by-forest restoration plans must be
created. Plans should based on reference conditions but not be limited
to exacting replications. The goal of restoration forestry is to
enhance sustainable conditions that protect old-growth trees and old-
growth development pathways, as well as to protect historical natural/
cultural landscape features.
The process should include open, public, juried reviews of each
plan at the local level. Publicly-empanelled juries should be made up
of local experts who are familiar with the specific forest or
landscape. Public participation should be encouraged in plan
development as well as evaluation.
Approved plans should be implemented without delay. Landscape-scale
restoration forestry treatments are needed now. The sooner treatments
are applied the more acres of heritage forests will be saved from
incineration by stand-replacement fires. As many have pointed out,
restoration forestry treatments are self-funding through sales of
removed fuels in various forms.
6. Utilize local private and public sector resources
The task before us is immense. Both public and private sector
expertise and capabilities must be utilized in all phases of
restoration forestry, including historical analyses, treatment planning
and evaluation, and application of restoration forestry to every
National Forest in Oregon.
Private/public partnerships, contracted arrangements, and community
participation are required for restoration forestry to be successful.
Wide application at landscape scales is necessary, and thus wide
participation is too.
Local stewardship, the management of local forests, watersheds, and
landscapes by local communities, is the best social strategy. Also,
locally is where all the local knowledge, expertise, and management
skills reside. Local residents bear the brunt of local forest
management outcomes, and so wish to assume authority and responsibility
for local stewardship practices.
I am in strong agreement with a broad spectrum of forest experts
and expertise in America. I too call upon Congress to initiate
landscape-scale restoration forestry in at-risk old-growth forests and
natural/cultural landscapes within the National Forests of Oregon.
I have explained the problem and the solution, and given six
specific recommendations for Congressional action, oversight, and
leadership in restoration forestry.
Thank you for your consideration of these issues.
Responses to Additional Questions
Responses of Philip S. Aune to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Mr. Aune I understand that you have spent a career implementing the
research concepts that folks like Professor Johnson developed, as well
as managing federal forests and research forests. I also understand
that you were involved in examining a variety of thinning prescriptions
that were burned in a later fire.
Question 1. You mentioned the Lake Arrowhead situation in your
testimony, are there any commercial sawmills on that forest?
Answer. Big Bear Timber Company operated a sawmill located in the
Santa Ana wash near San Bernardino prior to 1979. In 1979, that mill
was sold to Golden Bear Timber Company who operated the mill for a
couple of years. Timber supply off of the southern California national
forests was drastically reduced due to land management planning
decisions in the 1980s and the mill folded. The small amount of federal
timber that has been offered since then has generally been purchased by
Sierra Forest Products in Terra Bella, California. Sierra Forest
Products is approximately 220 miles north of the Lake Arrowhead area.
The insect devastation of the Lake Arrowhead and San Bernardino
Mtn. area provide an opportunity to remove substantial volumes of
timber beginning in 2002. I will describe who was involved with the
role of the forest products and biomass industries in my response to
question 2 below.
Question 2. What did they do with the material they removed from
Answer. Several saw mills in California and Oregon processed
sawlogs from the southern California area insect epidemic. Mills
Company Name Location Lake Arrowhead
Sierra Forest Products Terra Bella, CA 220 miles
Sierra Pacific Industries Sonora, CA 420 miles
Sierra Cedar Marysville, CA 500 miles
Collins Pine Chester, CA 615 miles
All of these companies purchased logs from the southern California
area with Sierra Forest Products purchasing the largest amount of the
volume. Almost all of the wood purchased was from private land and
right-of-way for transmission lines of Southern California Edison and
Bear Valley Electric. Very little federal timber was sold to these
firms with the exception of Sierra Cedar who processed a small amount
of federal timber. The shorter haul distance was accomplished by truck
transportation. Longer distance log hauling to the mills was
accomplished with a combination of truck and rail transportation. Some
of the companies used their lumber trucks to haul logs back to their
sawmills after delivering lumber to Southern California market areas.
Over 70 million board feet has been processed in lumber mills since
2002. Keep in mind that the actual volume removed was a very small
percentage of the total volume killed in the 611,000 acre
infestation.\1\ The following sawlog volume was delivered by individual
mills listed below:
\1\ As of September 2003, the infestation was on 429,700 acres of
federal land, 39,800 acres of State of California, 116 acres of local
government land and 141,300 acres of private land. Source: California
Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Volume in million board feet
Company Name 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 Total
Sierra Forest Products 5.2 16.7 8.4 4.4 0.8 35.5
Sierra Pacific Industries 0 0.1 11.7 5.5 0.1 18.3
Collins Pine 0 1.1 9.3 0 0 10.3
Sierra Cedar Unknown, Company Closed 2007
All of these mills produced pine boards from the logs that were
delivered. The biggest problem with the wood delivered to the mill was
``blue stain'' associated with insect killed timber. ``Blue stain''
does not cause structural problems with the finished boards. But it
does cause a stain of the generally whiter boards produced from
ponderosa and sugar pine logs. Logs with blue stain are generally worth
about 55% less than those without the blue stain for typical logs
delivered to the mills from the southern California area.
In addition to the volume processed by these established forest
products mills, Mr. Matt Allen and others set up small portable
sawmills right in the Lake Arrowhead area in 2004. They were able to
process a small amount of volume for pallet stock and other rough cut
uses. Some of this volume was exported to Mexico.
Biomass Electrical Energy.--San Bernardino County operated a land
fill and accepted wood waste from the surrounding mountain area free of
charge until 2003. Because of the large amount of material coming off
the mountain areas, a tipping fee of $30/ton was established by San
Bernardino County. This action helped to force removal and use of some
of the material for biomass electrical energy.
The area is fortunate to have Colmac Energy, Inc. located in Mecca,
California. The plant is located on land leased from the Cabazon Band
Mission Indians south of Palm Springs and is right in the heart of the
southern California bark beetle problem. Colmac Energy is a 50 megawatt
power plant that uses 325,000 green tons (250,000 bond dry tons) of
biomass per year to generate the power they produce. Prior to January
2004, Colmac Energy produced all of their electrical energy from
contracts for wood waste in the southern California area, especially
Since January 2004, Colmac Energy has been receiving about 1,500
tons of wood from private land and utility clearing. About 500 tons per
day comes from the northern portion (Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear area) and
1,000 tons per day from the southern area (Idyllwild area). Colmac
Energy is willing to pay for the transportation cost for chips
delivered to the plant and the cost of chipping plus delivery for logs
delivered to the plant. So far, the vast majority of the volume has
been in the form of chips delivered to the energy plant.\2\ None of
this volume has come from federal lands. They could easily take and
store more volume given the dry desert climate that is very favorable
for short-and long-term storage of logs or chips used for biomass
\2\ Personal communication with Phil Reese, Colmac Energy.
Question 3. If you just put it in a land fill or burn it, what
about air pollution and the carbon dioxide emitted? How can that be
helpful to the Los Angeles air-shed?
Answer. The southern California wildfires of 2003 provided vivid
examples of what happens to pollution levels surrounding the southern
California area. With the Santa Ana winds blowing off the desert,
almost all of southern California was covered with smoke from the fires
past Catalina Island as can be seen in the right hand photo* below.
* All photos have been retained in subcommittee files.
When the winds shifted to their ``normal'' flow pattern, the smoke
and pollution effect covered most of the southwest as can be seen in
In a high fire year, roughly 900,000 to 1 million tons of
particulate matter is emitted into the air. Compare this with the
approximately 2.2 million tons per year of particulates that all other
combustion sources (fuel combustion, industrial processes,
transportation sources) produce. Additionally, with the large number of
homes, structures, and other materials going up in flames, many
materials (such as plastics, metals, etc.) were not properly disposed
of emitting several harmful organic contaminants into the air.\3\
\3\ Source: Environmental Protection Agency.
The real question is what needs to be done to reduce the potential
health and air pollution effects of smoke and associated pollutants
from wildfires. One alternative is to burn the material in the field as
part of a prescribed fire strategy. Another alternative is to burn the
excess biomass as fuel for electrical energy production. Common air
pollutants resulting from field burning is compared to burning woody
biomass fuel in a biomass boiler in the following table:
Field Biomass for
Pollutant Burning\4\ Boiler\5\ Biomass
(lbs/ton) (lbs/ton) Boiler
Sulfur Oxides 1.7 0.04 97.6
Nitrogen Oxides 4.6 0.70 84.8
Carbon Monoxide 70.3 0.40 99.4
Particulates 4.4 0.26 94.1
Hydrocarbons 6.3 0.00 100.0
Total............................ 87.3 1.40 98.4
\4\ Emission factors from ``Hydrocarbon Characterization of Agricultural
Waste Burning.'' CAL/ARB Project A-7-068-30, University of California
Riverside, E.F. Darley, April, 1979.
\5\ Based on actual emissions. California Biomass Energy Alliance.
In addition to the positive reduction of specific pollutants
described above, converting excess woody biomass into electrical energy
will help to reduce our needs on imported oil. As an example, the
annual woody biomass burned in the Colmac Energy plant will save the
equivalent of 21,000,000 barrels of oil over the lifetime of the plant.
Question 4. Mr. Aune you heard my question for Dr. Johnson on old-
growth; based on your experience, what do you think the implications of
changing the Forest Service and BLM's mission to old growth restoration
would mean to rural communities, wildlife, watersheds, recreations and
other values or uses?
Answer. Changing the Forest Service and BLM's mission to old growth
restoration will undoubtedly be just as unwise as changing the mission
to young growth establishment. Managing national forests for either
extreme will not achieve the sustainable conditions described in my
original testimony. Healthy forest conditions will require a balance of
old, middle-aged and young forest conditions. These considerations have
to be balanced with social and economic considerations to truly
While it is relatively easy to say our goal is to restore the
forests to some sort of pre-European condition, this ignores the fact
that we are a nation of 303,164,528 people as of January 3, 2008.\6\
The demands we place on our resources are so vastly different than
demands placed on the resources at the time of pre-European conditions.
Information is available comparing conditions around the year 2000 and
1900 on the demands we place on our forests to provide wood for the
citizens of the United States. For comparison purposes, the US
population in 1900 was 76,094,000 or 27.9 percent of the population in
1999. US lumber consumption for 1999 and 1900 provides an interesting
comparison of the total volume consumed and the per capita consumption.
\6\ US Popclock. http://www/census.gov/main/www/popclock.html.
In 1999, lumber consumption in the United States for all uses
totaled 68.3 billion board feet, continuing records set through
the decade. Consumption in 1999 also exceeded levels in the
early 1900s, when lumber was the most important raw material
used in the United States for construction, manufactured
products, and shipping. Per capita consumption in 1999 was 250
board feet, almost equal to the record high of 251 board feet
in 1987, but nevertheless greater than per capita use in the
1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s. However, per capita consumption
was below averages for most years prior to 1965 and
dramatically below that in the early 1900s when consumption
exceeded 500 board feet per person.\7\
\7\ Howard James. L. 2001. U.S. timber production, trade
consumption, and prce statistics 1965 to 1999. Res. Pap. FPL-RP-595.
Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest
Products Laboratory. 90 p.
Per capita consumption was cut in half between 1900 and 1999. This
drop was offset by the huge increase in population over the last 100
years. We consumed 30 billion more board feet than we consumed in 1900.
Almost none of the wood consumed in 1900 came from the national
forests. Any strategy that does not consider consumptive demands such
as wood products, water consumption, meat consumption, minerals
consumption, etc. and all of the supply relationships is doomed for
failure. We could develop a single-minded focus for the national
forests based on providing a large share of the forest products
consumed by Americans. This single focus would be just as unwise as
restoring our forest to some highly debatable pre-European condition.
A similar view was expressed in the USDA Forest Service General
Technical Report I submitted for the record.\8\ In the Introduction to
the General Technical Report, Powers and Landrum stated:
\8\ USDA Forest Service. 2005. Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems:
Proceedings of the 2005 National Silviculture Workshop. General
Technical Report PSW-GTR-203. Pacific Southwest Research Station.
Albany, California 305 p.
From the perspective of human life spans, North American
forests seem unchanging. But change is certain. Climate,
seemingly immutable to our parents, is changing. And while the
exact causes of climatic change remain arguable, evidence
compels us to believe that the future will be different from
the past and that we must be ready. Managers must develop
strategies for coping with change. One expected change is the
nature of wildfire. Our forests--particularly those of the
West--are threatened. Each successive year seems marked by a
rise in wildfire frequency, extent, and severity. Well-meant
policies of decades of fire suppression plus shifts in forest
management practices have led to changes in forest structure
and diversity, physiological stress, and fuel accumulation. And
a mantra is heard that our public forests should be managed
toward conditions typifying pre-European settlement. But this
is a vain hope akin to putting the genie back into the bottle,
because our forests have a new complexion (emphasis added).
Many of our forests are urbanized--some as traffic corridors,
others as semimanaged interstices in a patchwork of community
development. This has produced a mosaic of ownerships and a
complexity of management challenges. Yet, as we fret with the
bustle of everyday life, forests continue to grow. Change
marches inexorably. The threat of catastrophic fire looms
\9\ USDA Forest Service 2005. Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems:
Proceedings of the 2005 National Silviculture Workshop. General
Technical Report PSW-GTR-203. Pacific Southwest Research Station.
Albany, California. 305 p.
What should be done? The general concept of restoring the health of
our forests without the nonsense of some form of pre-European condition
should be the focus of forest management strategies. The focus on
restoring the health of our forests provides an opportunity to develop
short-term as well as long-term strategies specific to the existing
local conditions. When developing restoration strategies focused on
forest health conditions, the key component will be developing forest
conditions that are resilient to the wide variety of specific site
factors, physiological and biological stress relationships, and forest
fuels conditions. In order to accomplish the task at hand, most of our
western national forests will require substantial thinning programs for
the next few decades. Building resiliency into our overstocked forests
will require thinning in all size classes!
Programs that establish diameter limits or focus on such vague
concepts as only removing small diameter trees lack any basis in
science and will not accomplish the goals of leaving resilient healthy
stand conditions. Most of the effort will require thinning from below
and the focus should be on leaving individual trees with ample growing
space on at least three sides. There is very little meaningful debate
on that one simple concept. Combining thinning with removal of ladder
fuels \10\ and surface fuels will provide the best strategy to leave
healthy and resilient stand conditions. Given the uncertainties of
climate changes, forests that are resilient will be our meaningful
legacy to current and future generations. Finally, these forest
strategies must be developed in a truly sustainable manner that is
based upon strongly integrated economic and social considerations.
\10\ Live and dead vegetaion that provide a pathway for a ground
fire to move upward into the forest canopy leading to the potential of
a crown fire.
Question 5. I am wondering if you think the forest health issues on
federal lands can be dealt with in the absence of a vibrant biomass and
renewable fuels industry that is encouraged to take materials from
Answer. This time my answer will be brief--NO! See following
Question 6. Can you talk about what it will cost to accomplish this
thinning in the absence of a viable timber and biofuels or energy
industry in an area?
Answer. Two examples provide some insight into this question. In a
2003 field review of a Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit project
northeast of South Lake Tahoe, the Forest Service presented one of
their forest health projects.\11\ The project involved removing trees
and forest fuels that was offered unsuccessfully as a timber sale. No
bids were received. The Forest Service then offered the project under a
Service Contract and paid the successful bidder approximately $6,000/
acre to accomplish the work. The second example is the entire
vegetation management program on the San Bernardino National Forest.
Their unit costs are the highest in the nation. I do not have access to
the recent figures, but they should be readily available to your
Subcommittee. Without a viable forest products industry and developing
economically viable projects, federal appropriations will be saddled
with very expensive programs. Currently, the national forests are
generally using their appropriated funds on relatively easy projects
with questionable utility in reducing hazardous fuels and preventing
catastrophic wildfire. The more expensive forest health projects that
rely exclusively on federal appropriations are being postponed into the
\11\ Forest Resource Association Western Region Annual Meeting
Field Tour. May 2003. South Lake Tahoe, California.
Rather than dwelling on the negative aspects and well known
examples of high cost projects, the Subcommittee should look closely at
success stories that actually have demonstrated cost reductions and
revenue enhancements with economically sound thinning programs. These
programs should be emulated. The key to every successful project is the
availability of a viable forest products industry. The thinning
programs on the Eagle Lake Ranger District of the Lassen National
Forest near Susanville, California are classic examples of this
success. The forest products industry is a vital part of their success.
The entire Lassen National Forest area is blessed with both a
traditional competitive forest products industry plus a viable and
competitive electrical biomass generating industry. Given this mix,
here are two examples of forest health projects on the Eagle Lake
The Signal Thinning project was designed to improve overall forest
health conditions on 1,189 acres of national forest land. The 2002
project removed 28.5 green tons/acre including 17.1 tons/acre of
biomass chips and 11.4 tons/acre of sawlogs. The net revenue from this
project was $74,183 or $124.67/acre. Before and after pictures document
the results in a very meaningful manner. The top photo is before
thinning and the bottom is after the thinning was accomplished.
The second example is also from the Eagle Lake Ranger District.
This year 2000 project did not have enough revenue generating
capability as the Signal Thinning project. The Mower Goshawk Management
Area thinning was designed to enhance old growth-goshawk objectives as
developed by a Forest Service wildlife biologist. The project reduced
the surface and ladder fuels and removed 18 green tons of material per
acre including 11.7 tons/acre of biomass chips and 6.3 tons/acre of
sawlogs. The Forest Service used a Service Contract to accomplish the
project objectives. The Service Contract price was $197/acre. Selling
the products removed from the 108 acre project generated $3.76/green
ton. The revenues helped to offset the Service Contract price and the
net cost to the Forest Service was $129.32/acre or a savings of $67.98/
acre. This project was accomplished before the advent of the
stewardship contract authorization. The new authorizations for
stewardship contracting make this type of project relatively easy to
accomplish. The pictures below demonstrate the before and after aspects
of this project.
These two projects demonstrate what can be accomplished with the
help of a viable and vibrant forest products industry. In order to
accomplish most of the goals of restoring healthy forest conditions,
industry must be present and capable of handling all of the products
that need to be removed. The biggest need is to make sure that existing
forest products industry remains an active partner with the federal
land management agencies. Second, federal energy policies must be
improved to encourage development of the biomass electrical industry or
biomass fuels utilization. We must alter the dynamic of having fuel
reduction and thinning as a liability or high cost item to our forests
and change them into an asset for forest management programs. The
examples cited from the Lassen National Forest provide insight into how
this can be accomplished.
Responses of Russ Hoeflich to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Mr. Hoeflich in your testimony you said: ``We believe it is time to
. . . build . . . a restoration economy around Oregon and Washington
forests. Conservation-based treatments, and the reintroduction of fire
where it is needed, will build an economy that will not only create
jobs, but will also benefit fish, wildlife, and water quality and could
be part of the solution to mitigating the impacts of climate change.''
Question 1. In your estimation is there any hope of developing an
economy to deal with the materials from the treatments you speak of on
federal lands in Oregon, if those materials can't be utilized by a
biomass fuels or energy industry?
Answer. Given the current state of federal forests, we believe
sound, conservation based, forest restoration plans will require the
removal of non-merchantable woody biomass to improve forest health and
reduce the risks from fires caused by decades of stored fuels. However,
there is insufficient funding to pay for all of the restoration needed
to restore forest health on our federal forestlands. Recognizing this
funding shortfall, The Nature Conservancy supports broad consideration
of an array of uses for woody biomass, including biomass to energy and
Unfortunately, despite some federal and state incentives, producing
biomass energy using woody biomass taken from federal forestlands
remains economically marginal. The costs of removal of woody biomass,
transporting these materials, developing and/or securing transmission
capacity, capital costs of energy or ethanol production infrastructure,
etc. are too high at this time to compete with (for example) energy
generated from coal or wind or ethanol produced from coal. A case in
point is the Lakeview, OR biomass facility; at this time most of the
feedstock planned for use at the biomass to energy plant will be
supplied from waste material generated by the adjacent sawmill. The
sawmill will use a significant portion of the energy produced, and the
facility is near major electricity transmission lines. Without these
attributes, it is unlikely this project would be economically viable.
In our view, a key to the successful, economically viable use of
woody biomass taken from federal forest restoration projects is value-
added processing of small logs, coupled with appropriately sized
biomass to energy/ethanol to use mill and restoration by-products. At
this time, wood products have a higher value than wood for energy.
Using the Lakeview project again as my example, the Collins Companies
uses state-of-the-art small log processing equipment, allowing the mill
to produce dimensional lumber and other products using smaller logs. As
an added benefit, the milling of these small logs produces enough waste
material to supply the energy plant with nearly 60% of its fuel.
In essence, the answer to your question is a cautious yes. We
strongly believe that there are creative, innovative, economically-
viable opportunities to use restoration byproducts from restoration of
our federal forests, but that we need every tool available, e.g.
biomass to energy, to ensure economic viability given changing demand
and markets for wood products over time.
To this end, The Nature Conservancy was disappointed that the
definition for renewable biomass for ethanol production excluded
biomass generated from restoration of our federal forest lands. We look
forward to working with the Committee to address this issue.
Mr. Hoeflich, you also said we need to treat up to 550,000 acres
annually in Oregon for each of the next 25 years to deal with our
Then you said: ``We aren't naive. While early engagement with
diverse stakeholders can't eliminate the risk of a lawsuit, we have
seen it reduce the odds. And while the process takes time, it builds
trust. And that's what's needed to take active forest restoration to
Question 2. Given the size of the problem and the reality that
there seems to always be someone willing to legally challenge these
projects, do we have the time needed to wait for the local trust
Answer. There is no alternative to but to build trust; and
experience shows that once trust is established the implementation
timeline will accelerate rapidly. For example, building trust among
stakeholders is has resulted in substantial restoration progress on the
Siuslaw National Forest in Oregon where there has not been a timber
sale in litigation since the early 1990s. Trust building is paying off
on the Fremont National Forest in Oregon where the Collins Company just
invested $7 million in a new state-of-the-art small log facility. It is
working on the Colville National Forest in Washington. You'll recall
that Russ Vaagen of Vaagen Brothers Lumber Company also testified on
behalf of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, which includes
Conservation Northwest. Trust building efforts have begun laying the
foundation for forest restoration work on the Malheur National Forest.
Other regions of the country are also seeing payoffs from
collaborative processes that build trust. The Southwest region was a
hotspot of legal challenges to public lands forestry but the appeals
and litigation has declined as collaboration has increased. The Apache-
Sitgreaves National Forest has had no appeals of projects that are part
of a 150,000 acre stewardship contract, a success attributed to the
collaboration required for such contracts.
Federal public forests lands belong to all Americans, and it is
important to maintain the right of American's to become involved in
public resource management decisions. Democracy may not be the most
efficient way to make decisions, but over time we believe it produces
the most equitable outcomes.
Responses of Matt Donegan to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Question 1. Mr. Donegan, would I be correct to summarize your
testimony by saying: you think your federal neighbor's inability to
manage their lands is negatively impacting the forest industry
infrastructure you need to manage your lands, as well as your markets?
Question 2. If the federal land problems do not improve and your
neighbor's inactions dry up your markets, what are your other options
for the lands that you own?
Answer. Should market opportunities for growing timber continue to
dry up, landowners should be expected to pursue those market
opportunities that remain, or emerge. The primary non-timber market
opportunity in the Inland West is real estate development.
Question 3. If Congress and the agencies continue to restrict
access to the federal lands and continue to close roads, do you see the
fire situation on the federal lands getting any better?
Answer. A well-maintained road infrastructure is very important for
Question 4. Final question, if your company continues to experience
fires that start on federal land and then burn your land; how long
before you sell off your at-risk lands?
Answer. At present we have no plans to sell lands due to fire risk,
though a meaningful increase in fire risk could cause us to sell lands
that we would otherwise own and manage for sustainable timber
Responses of Russ Vaagen to Questions From Senator Wyden
Question 1. I congratulate you on the successes of your
collaborative efforts. You mentioned that you have not had appeals or
litigation in four years as a result of your collaboration. In your
experience, does the Forest Service ever take a history of successful
collaboration into account when making contracting decisions?
Answer. The Forest Service does not adequately understand what it
means to have successful collaboration in terms of getting more things
done on the ground or in the project planning process. If there is
successful collaboration, a project can be larger and can move faster
because questions are answered ahead of time and while the process is
taking place. Our projects are still very similar in size as they
always have been. The Forest Service employees are so trained to do
more work, especially as it pertains to NEPA, than they have to. They
don't seem to realize that if they work with an acceptable
collaborative group, that they can move faster and make projects
larger. Shifting their thinking has been very difficult.
Question 2. I understand that the new mill that opened in the
community of Lakeview in my State can now cut trees with a 7'' dbh
(diameter at breast height). I understand this equipment has truly
increased the capacity of the mill to make profits. Do you think this
small diameter technology will change the agency's assessment of
``commercial'' and ``non commercial'' timber?
Answer. To be completely honest, I don't think that the agency has
a clue what is commercially viable and what is not. They do a very poor
job of understanding their customers and what products they can and
should provide. I would hope that they would get better at it, in the
last four or five years we have had only two USFS employees come to our
place of business to ask us questions on what we do so they could
better understand what they should provide. We spend millions of
dollars buying logs from National Forest lands, you would think it
would be a higher priority.
I would also ask you to caution your thinking when it comes to the
commercial value of small diameter logs from small trees. They need to
be priced significantly less than larger sawlogs in order to be
profitable. The Collins Companies should be applauded for their efforts
and should be able to buy smaller logs at a discount to larger logs in
order to maintain profitable operations, especially in very difficult
lumber markets such as the one we find currently.
Lastly, not all trees are created equal. A tree with a 7'' DBH is
not well defined in terms of value. Some trees are short and have high
taper, while others are tall and slender. Each of these trees of the
same specie can have very different values. We (as the timber industry)
are now using trees smaller than ever before. The value of these
capabilities go far beyond the value of the small logs, but more so to
the land that we can provide better stewardship than ever before.
Question 3. As you know, there have been many mills in the Pacific
Northwest (and around the country) that have closed. What do you
attribute your company's persistence to?
Answer. First and foremost, our persistence is due to the vision
and drive of my father, Duane Vaagen, to always strive for the best
possible. Best possible in all areas. That drive led us to adopt
Scandinavian equipment and stewardship principles when many, if not all
were doing much of the same things that they had always done. Many
people thought we were crazy, but here we are, doing better work than
ever before and providing leadership to a new, better way of doing work
in the forests. We have only scratched the surface of the vision, and
we are no where near best possible when it comes to responsible
resource management and environmental stewardship.
Responses of Russ Vaagen to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Mr. Vaagen you said in your testimony: ``It is very important to
have a fully functional wood use market. There are good markets in our
area for chips, bark, sawdust, and shavings.''
Question 4. What would happen to your company's ability to do the
work it is doing if your markets for chips, bark, sawdust, and shavings
Answer. Small log sales retrieve $1,200 per acre not only because
we can make lumber out of those logs, but also due to the fact that we
can sell the by-products from those activities for good prices. Not
having good markets for the by-products means that you have to make up
for that loss of revenue in some other way. Operating a sawmill in an
area with little to no value being placed on those by products means
you have to pay less for logs. This impacts the distance you can haul
the products and the overall value that is placed on a timber sale or
stewardship project. Less value for the goods means less service work
on the ground. It is very possible to operate this way, but it puts
more pressure on the resource value making it more difficult than an
area that has a fully functional wood use market. The areas that have a
fully functional wood use market should be the target area for projects
so those markets can continue to thrive because it takes a very long
time to develop markets such as ours.
Question 5. I understand you have looked at other regions of the
country to see if you might replicate your efforts in Colville
elsewhere, what has kept you from opening additional mills in other
Answer. There have been many reasons why we have not expanded at
this point. Some have been internal, but most have to do with the
ability to confidently acquire raw material at a price and volume that
would make economical sense. We are still searching and evaluating. We
know very well about the bark beetle epidemic that faces Colorado and
Wyoming. I have been there. The Forest Service needs to put together
larger projects that can attract the kind of investment and interest
needed to build a mill. We are working on mobile technology that will
allow us to move into areas in a R&D mode to test an area out. By
developing that technology and working with local collaborative groups
we are hoping to put enough pressure on the Forest Service to help them
put together very large, economically viable projects.
We want to be certain that the Forest Service gets it right in our
area (Colville National Forest) before we make promises to move on to
other area of the country.
If your office wanted to provide us with any information on areas
of emphasis within the State of Wyoming we would certain look to work
with those that want to find solutions to these forest health problems.
You also said: ``Keeping infrastructure in place and healthy is
critical to the restoration treatments needed in our forests.''
Question 6. In my state of Wyoming we are down to a small handful
of sawmills compared to just a decade ago, what would you recommend
Congress do to re-establish the forestry infrastructure needed to
undertake what you seem to be succeeding at in Northeast Washington?
Answer. We talk to the remaining sawmill operators in your state
regularly. Their issues continue to be very similar to ours. They need
more wood available at a reasonable price. Providing large, landscape
level projects that can operate year over year is one of the best ways
to address this. Filling the needs of the existing sawmills first is
critical. Once that is done, offering more volume is the best way to
entice investment and expansion.
Helping expand biomass power generation would also be helpful. In
your state there are little to no markets for wood chips that I know
of. Burning that wood waste in a clean boiler system is a great way to
use the residual wood waste. Not only can the steam pressure be used to
turn turbines to create power, the steam can be used to dry lumber and
to heat buildings or even entire municipal areas. Continuing emphasis
on tax credits for biomass power as green energy is helpful. The only
caution is that providing incentives and funding for some new projects
that directly compete with existing infrastructure can have a negative
affect overall by putting an otherwise healthy company out of business.
Finally you said about the northern European Counties: ``They don't
have wildfires and don't use prescribed fire nearly as much as our
National Forest managers do. They use wood residuals to make power in
the place of coal. Their milling infrastructure is still in place and
there no social disconnect between responsible resource management and
conservation, they are nearly one in the same.''
Question 7. So what is different, do they have the environmental
documentation laws, appeals regulations, and litigation that we have
when it comes to federal lands?
Answer. I don't pretend to know the laws of other nations, so I can
only share my perceptions from seeing our land management and knowing
our process, with what I have seen in other countries. I think they
have a completely different view about responsible management. Many of
the countries are smaller, so they have more common thinking when in
comes to their lands. In Finland for instance, the land mass is roughly
the size of a Canadian province. Most of the public understand what
resources they have and accept how the government and the private
landowners manage their land. In the US there is very little
understanding of what resources we have from region to region. Very few
know how those lands are managed. I believe this is the reason we have
create so many laws and regulations that make very little sense on a
local level yet have a great deal of impact. We have built a system for
the lowest common denominator that puts us in the unenviable position
we find ourselves in today.
Question 8. What would we have to change in this country to
replicate their success?
Answer. We need to focus on doing a few projects right and
showcasing them. We need to build confidence in the public as a whole
and the local communities that we are doing the right thing and that we
are going to continue to do the right thing. We should probably start
sending delegations from the US to other countries in order to learn
from what is bring done there so we can borrow their techniques and
systems here. No one that I know in the Forest Service knows anything
about forestry in any other country. They don't even seem to know about
successful forestry on private, state, and other lands.
The USFS spends $1.8 Billion annually on fighting fires, yet less
than 2% of the burned areas are reclaimed economically. European
nations don't have these costs. They reduce fire danger by thinning
aggressively. At the same time they have the World's healthiest forests
with the benefits going back to the local communities and their people.
If we commissioned some studies of forestry and forest products in
Germany, Austria, France, Finland, Sweden, and Canada our government
and industry could learn a great deal.
Responses of K. Norman Johnson to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Question 1. If I understand your testimony, you support additional
removal of both commercial and pre-commercial trees and slash from
federal land to improve forest health and to restore these ecosystems.
Answer. Yes, of course.
Question 2. Do you believe there is currently an adequate demand
for this type of material to facilitate its economic removal from the
federal lands you believe should be managed?
Answer. There is demand for these products. The demand would be
greater if there was a stable supply of products and better markets for
the energy that can be produced from forest biomass. This would also
encourage investment in such facilities where plants capable of
utilizing this material are absent.
Question 3. If not, what markets need to be encouraged, and should
material from federal lands be allowed to participate in those markets?
Answer. Please see the answer to question #2.
Question 4. Your testimony has some very specific views about the
treatment of old-growth forests. Given that in some areas in Wyoming
and Colorado we have 70% mortality, and your statements about what
parts of forests should and shouldn't be managed and if I understood
you answer to my question you suggested that these stands suffered
these fires historically and there wasn't much we could or should do
about the older dead and dying trees at high elevation in the
What would you recommend be done to restore our intermountain
forests that are being killed by the insects?
What would you have us do about the dead old-growth?
Answer. Appropriate management differs with forest type and
management history. We were distinguishing between the disturbance
processes in the forests of Oregon and Washington and those in the
Intermountain forests. For advice on the management of Intermountain
forests, we suggest that you contact the forestry/natural resource
experts at such institutions as Colorado State University, University
of Idaho, Montana State University, and the University of Montana.
Question 5. Congress has a long history of supporting a broad set
of multiple use objectives for the Forest Service and BLM, so are you
proposing that this position should change? If that is the case, what
are the implications to rural communities, wildlife, watersheds
recreations and other values or uses?
Answer. We were not proposing that we change the multiple-use
objectives for federal lands. In fact, we strongly support involvement
of stakeholders representing all interests as a part of management
planning and decision making.
Question 6. In your answer to my question during the hearing are
you suggesting that these unfortunate events do occur and there is
nothing that we should do about these situations?
Answer. We were not suggesting that nothing could be done. In fact,
our testimony suggests what we might do to reduce the change of
uncharacteristic disturbances. Again, relative to Intermountain
forests, we suggest you contact experts from the states where those
Question 7. What about the damage to the soil and wildlife and
fisheries that could occur if one of these areas burns? Are you
suggesting those are acceptable consequences of saving all old-growth
dead or alive?
Answer. We were suggesting that the ecological function of old
growth trees continues for many decades and sometimes centuries after
they die. Furthermore, replacing old-growth forests with dense young
stands, including plantations, will not reduce the risk of intense fire
with resultant damage to other resources; indeed, it sometimes
Question 8. If we burn these areas and seriously damage the
reproductive nature of these thin soils and delay a future forest for
decades, is that an acceptable consequence to you of having not cut
dead old growth trees?
Answer. We are not sure we understand this question. Our
suggestions were aimed at preventing the uncharacteristic fires that
can cause the effects you mention. Again, as noted in our response to
question 7, getting rid of the old growth is not going to eliminate the
risk of fire.
Responses of Jim Caswell to Questions From Senator Wyden
Question 1. What is the largest stewardship contract that you have
Answer. By project area, the Gerber Stew Project, implemented by
the BLM's Lakeview (Oregon) District Office, is the agency's largest
stewardship contract. The Gerber Stew Project, with a 7-year contract
term, covers a gross planned area of 10,000 acres. The Project is in
its fourth year and has 7,500 acres under contract for a variety of
treatments, with some acres receiving multiple treatments.
Question 2. Do you feel it is possible to use this tool for large
Answer. Yes, stewardship contracting could be a very effective tool
for landscape-sized projects (10,000 to 50,000 acres). Treating larger
areas presents the opportunit to apply a diversity of vegetative
treatments, which may result in an increase in the amount and types of
by-products available to the contractor.
Question 3. What is the longest timeframe for a stewardship
contract that you have issued?
Answer. Public Law 108-7 authorizes the BLM to enter into
stewardship contracts of up to 10 years in length. BLM has entered into
10 contracts with the maximum 10-year timeframe. The average length of
our stewardship contacts is 3.5 years. Nearly 70 percent of the BLM's
stewardship contracts have contract terms of one to three years; 17
percent have terms of four to seven years; 14 percent have terms of
eight to 10 years.
Question 4. Do you think it is an option for longer timeframe
Answer. A recent interagency stewardship survey suggested that five
10-year contracts may be more beneficial when building community-scale
wood processing or bioenergy facilities. The BLM has used stewardship
contracting authority primarily with small to mid-size contractors for
an average contract length of 3.5 years. We have not encountered a
notable demand for contracts exceeding the currently-authorized 10-year
term. Some informal conversations between land managers and larger
woodfiber processors have indicated that larger, landscape-level
treatments could potentially beneft their long-term busines strategy
due to the increased assurance of access to the product over the life
of their investments (generally 20 years).
However, other factors also need to be taken into consideration in
assessing whether the appropriate length of stewardship contracts
should be increased above the 10-year duration set in Public Law 108-7,
which alredy reflects an extension of time periods for procurement and
service contract periods generally available to the Government. These
factors include the risks to the taxpayer if circumstances on-the-
ground chane over a longer time horizon, the risks to contractors if
economic and market conditions change dramatically, and potential loss
of revenues to the Treasury. We believe the current 10-year authority
Congress provided for stewardship contracts provides a reasonable
balance in meeting the objectives of stewardship contracts.
Question 5. What are the barriers to doing larger or longer
Answer. The specific barriers to implementing larger or longer
stewardship contracts are highly dependent upon local conditions. In
general, however, the absence of any of the following factors would
raise significant barriers to the development and implementation of
larger, landscape-scale stewardship contract projects:
established infrastructure such as permanent roads;
local industry capability to process increased volume of
local workforce ready, willing, and possessing the skils
needed to complete the service requird by the contract;
local communication infrastructure to enable the BLM to
contact all local entrepreneurs who may be interested in and
able to bid on a given contract statement of work; and
a plan to promote effective cooperation and coordination of
vegetative treatments acros ownership/management jurisdictions.
Responses of Mark Rey to Questions From Senator Wyden
Question 1. You stated in the hearing that the Forest Service had
logged only 400 acres of old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest
since the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect. However, the
satellite-based late-successional old-growth monitoring report prepared
by Moeur et al indicates that 17,300 acres of old forest were destroyed
by clearcutting within the range of the spotted owl. See Moeur, M, T.
A. Spies, M. Hemstrom, J. Alegria, J. Browning, J. Cissel, W. B. Cohen,
T. E. Demeo, S. Healy and R. Warbington. In review. Northwest Forest
Plan-The First Ten Years (1994-2000): Status and Trends of Late-
Successional and Old-Growth Forests. USDA Forest Service General
Technical Report. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/publications/pnw_gtr646/
The recent spotted owl status review found that 156,000 acres of
suitable habitat for the spotted owl on federal lands has been lost to
both clearcutting (as well as thinning that would not be visible from
space so was excluded by the Moeur et al study). See U.S. Department of
the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2004. Estimated Trends in
Suitable Habitat for The Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis
caurina) on Federal Lands from 1994 to 2003. For Use By: Sustainable
Ecosystems Institute for the Northern Spotted Owl 5-year Review. USDI
Fish and Wildlife Serv. Can you reconcile the discrepancy in your
statement and that from the cite?
Answer. Information from broad-scale remote-sensing vegetation
classification was used to estimate the amount of older forest present
near the start of the Northwest Forest Plan (Plan) (in Oregon the
approximate date is 1996). In 1996, the amount of older Forest Plan-
wide was 7,867,900 acres.
In our report, Northwest Forest Plan--The first 10 years (1994-
2003): status and trend of late-successional and old-growth forest.
Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-646. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station,
information from broad-scale remote-sensing disturbance-mapping
projects was used to assess loss of older forest to harvest in the
first decade after the Plan. Between 1996 and 2002, 16,900 acres of
older forest were estimated to be clearcut. The remote-sensing approach
used for this time frame was only sensitive to land cover changes
resulting from regeneration harvest (clearcutting), land use conversion
(e.g., forested land cleared for nonforest use), and wildfire severe
enough to remove the forest canopy. It was not sufficiently sensitive
to detect less severe disturbances that did not remove the canopy, such
as partial harvest, thinnings, or groundfires. Therefore, our reported
acres of older forest removed by harvest are an underestimate of the
actual amount lost.
The total of 16,900 acres is the older forest mapped as removed by
stand replacing harvest across all of the federal lands in the
Northwest Forest Plan area, as of October 2002. These management
actions were consistent with the definitions and prescriptions of the
Northwest Forest Plan. Approximately 400 acres has been harvested on
National Forest lands in the Region 6 portion of the Northwest Forest
Plan area since October of 2002.
Question 2. Russ Vaagen--who testified on the third panel at the
hearing--makes a point in his testimony that echoes many others'
frustration with the agencies' failure to take full advantage of best-
value contracting. Mr. Vaagen suggests that if a mill owner develops
broad support among all interested stakeholders through collaboration,
then that should be factored into the bidding process. Does the Forest
Service do that, and, if not, why not?
Answer. The Forest Service evaluates a number of factors as part of
the bidding process, including:
B. Technical Approach
Plan of Operation
Contract Manager and On-the-Ground Supervisor(s)
C. Capability and Past Performance
D. Utilization of Local Work Force
The evaluation of these factors is done for each contractor's
proposal and is based on Forest Service Handbook 2409.19 Chapter 63.2,
which states: ``To ensure that there is opportunity for use of local
small business sawmills, ensure that the request for proposals for
stewardship contracting projects considers technical evaluation
criteria that give weight for use of local small businesses, including
small business sawlog mills. During the evaluation and award process,
give additional weight to those proposals that are responsive to the
local community needs.''
Collaboration is a part of stewardship project development and
implementation. To the degree that collaboration is used in the
contractor's proposal to be responsive to the evaluation factors, the
Forest Service does consider it.
Question 3. What is the largest stewardship contract that you have
issued? Do you feel it is possible to use this tool for large acreage?
What is the longest timeframe for a stewardship contract that you have
issued? Do you think it is an option for longer timeframe contracts?
What are the barriers to doing larger or longer stewardship contracts?
Answer. The White Mountain Contract on the Apache-Sitgreaves
National Forest in Arizona is the largest stewardship contract in the
nation at this time. It is a multi-year Integrated Resource Service
Contract with a ten-year term expected to treat an average of 10,000
acres per year for a total of approximately 150,000 acres. Currently,
we issue stewardship contracts for a maximum of ten year terms as
provided under the stewardship contracting authority, which already
reflects an extension of time periods for procurement and service
contract periods generally available to the Government. This is based,
primarily, on the length of time that can be reasonably planned. While
we recognize that terms of greater than ten years could increase local
market and economic stability, there is a concern that time frames
beyond this can lead to elevated levels of uncertainty of management
need and product flow while increasing the potential loss of revenues
to the Treasury.
The Forest Service is strongly in favor of expanding the use of
stewardship contracts to accomplish forest restoration work in
collaboration with local communities, non-governmental organizations,
tribal, state, and local governments. There are factors which challenge
our ability to expand the scope and scale of contracts. Some
constraints that could limit our success of providing guaranteed long-
term contracts include, but are not limited to:
Land management horizon limitations--changed circumstances
and new information, such as catastrophic events and discovery
of new sensitive, threatened, and endangered species; changes
in land management in response to resource needs and
environmental bio-energy, carbon sequestration, and climate
Market uncertainty--long range estimates of product volume
and service work acreage; new markets and new technology
Regulatory constraints--lack of implementable NEPA
documentation for extended terms;
Responses of Mark Rey to Questions From Senator Barrasso
Question 4. How important to the Forest Service's efforts to
restore forest health are federal grant programs or tax credits that
allow material from your lands to be utilized for renewable fuel or
renewable electricity programs?
Answer. Programs that provide incentives to public--private
partnership are essential to accelerate success. The Forest Service is
committed to management activity that helps to restore forest health on
the National Forests and to assist on all of the Nation's forests. One
program, the Forest Service Woody Biomass Utilization Grant program was
authorized 2005. The objectives of this grant program are to:
Help reduce forest management costs by increasing value of
biomass and other forest products generated from forest
Create incentives and/or reduce business risk for increased
use of biomass from National Forest System lands;
Institute projects that target and help remove economic and
market barriers to using small-diameter trees and woody
In fiscal year 2005, twenty proposals were funded at $4.3 million
and matched with approximately $16 million in non-federal dollars. In
fiscal year 2006, eighteen proposals were funded at almost $4.2 million
and matched with approximately $9 million in non-federal dollars. In
fiscal year 2007, twenty-six proposals were funded at $6.2 million and
matched with approximately $12 million in non-federal dollars. The 2008
program is underway with 92 applications under review, totaling $23
million in requested funding.
Your office recently sent a letter to Senator Domenici expressing
grave concerns about the definitions of renewable biomass in Title Two
and Title Fourteen of the recently passed House Energy Bill.
That letter said: Title Two of the House passed Energy Bill
``excludes all material from Federal Forests, with the exception of
those obtained from the immediate vicinity of buildings or public
infrastructure at risk to wildfire. This would presume that the
majority of materials produced on federal lands would not be available
for use in the creation of bio-fuels.''
Question 5. How much would it cost the Forest Service to restore
the at-risk-forest lands in Oregon and Washington if the material can't
be utilized by the biomass industry?
Answer. There are several factors that lead to National Forest
System lands being regarded as ``at risk,'' including hazardous levels
of fuel accumulation, insect infestations, and restoring habitat for
threatened and endangered species. Decisions on project purpose,
design, and parameters are made at the individual national forest. For
projects where the design criteria include removal of small diameter
woody vegetation, the price to the Forest Service of conducting such
treatment can be reduced if the woody biomass has value and can be
considered a product. Therefore, in areas where there is a viable fuels
market, the ability to sell woody biomass can significantly reduce the
cost of vegetation treatments.
Question 6. Can you provide my staff with an estimate of the
anticipated total cost of treating the other at-risk federal forest
lands nationwide, with and without available bio-fuels and/or bio-
energy markets for material off federal lands?
Answer. Fuels treatments are designed and implemented to fit the
needs of a particular landscape. Therefore, there is no standard
prescription for treating federal lands at-risk from catastrophic
wildfire and no way to provide a meaningful cost estimates. In
addition, not all areas are accessible for biomass utilization (due to
a combination of factors, including local industry, haul distances,
etc). However, in areas that currently have a viable biomass market,
the Forest Service saves money on contracting the cutting and piling of
the small diameter woody material, plus, by using the material, the
Forest Service does not have to have crews burn the fuel piles, saving
additional expense and avoiding the release of CO2 into the atmosphere
from the burning piles.
Question 7. Would you have your staff develop an estimate for me of
how much biomass material could be removed from Forest Service lands in
Oregon and Washington and nationwide over the next 10 years and the
amount of tons of carbon that could be released if these areas burned
rather than are treated?
Answer. Individual national forests make decisions on how to design
and when to undertake treatments on at-risk lands. Within a forest
service region there is a large variation in ecosystems, the treatments
used to restore those ecosystems, and the amount of small-diameter
woody material produced by each treatment. However, the Forest Service
treats a significant amount of acreage each year that produces woody
material. Since, wildfires currently release over 10 tons/km of
CO2 annually in the Northwest, treatments to reduce the
carbon release associated with wildfires can have an important impact
on decreasing the greenhouse gas effect. In contrast, mechanical
treatment with associated prescribed burning releases much less
CO2 into the atmosphere, while mechanical treatment with
biomass utilization reduces the CO2 emissions from the
treatment area even further.
Responses of Mark Rey to Questions From Senator Smith
Question 8. Can you provide a breakdown of direct costs associated
with fighting fires on national forests in each of the last five years,
along with an estimate of the economic impact of the lost timber?
Answer. In FY 2007 the Forest Service modified coding for the
fiscal system to associate direct suppression expenditures to the unit
(e.g., Forest) where the incident occurred, or the incident ``host''
unit. Prior to FY 2007 the system associated suppression expenditures
with the resources' host unit, or the sending unit. To compile
suppression expenditures on a Forest basis prior to FY 2007 would
require significant analysis. The Forest Service will continue to make
modifications to enhance accountability and provide appropriate data.
Below is a chart with FY 2007 expenditures by Forest, however, please
note that it does not include FS expenditures on other federal or
cooperator incidents. The agency is currently discussing options for
displaying those costs to the State, and possibly the Forest level next
Expenditures by Activity--
FS Region 06--FY 2007 Suppression Costs directly charged to 1,000 $'s Total
Incidents ----------------------------- Expenditures
BAER Suppression 1,000 $'s
0602: Fremont 1,877.4 1,877.4
0603: Gifford Pinchot 183.3 183.3
0604: Malheur 567.8 25,590.3 26,158.1
0605: Mt Baker-Snoqualmie 88.9 88.9
0606: Mt Hood 355.4 3,315.5 3,670.9
0607: Ochoco 243.7 1,402.9 1,646.6
0609: Olympic 95.0 304.4 399.4
0610: Rogue River/Siskiyou 2,293.0 2,293.0
0611: Siskiyou 1.6 1.6
0612: Siuslaw 12.5 12.5
0614: Umatill 334.6 26,941.1 27,275.7
0615: Umpqua 1,979.0 1,979.0
0616: Wallowa Whitman 242.9 23,734.1 23,976.9
0617: Wenatchee 13,357.4 14,418.9 27,776.3
0618: Willamette 66.4 299.7 366.1
0620: Winema 11.2 11.2
0621: Colville 6,519.4 6,519.4
0622: Columbia River Gorge Natural Area 138.6 138.6
Totals $15,457.1 $120,016.5 $135,473.6
** Does not include FS expenditures for other federal agencies & non-federal fires.
We do not calculate economic loss from fire killed trees for all
fires or areas of fires. We do calculate economic values for the fire
areas that we analyze for salvage sale projects. During the NEPA
analysis for each salvage project we calculate the value of volume
being included in each alternative, as well as the values forgone with
the no action alternative. The percent of fire killed trees that
actually get included in a salvage project is dependent on many
factors. Example of these factors include, where the fires burned in
relation to Wilderness, Inventories Roadless Areas, and Forest Plan
Land Use Allocations that do not allow for salvage, road accessibility,
logging system costs, species and sizes of dead trees, and resource
issues and concerns.
The charring caused by fire does not immediately reduce the value
of the wood, but value loss occurs quickly as a result of subsequent
deterioration caused by several factors including decreasing moisture
content of the wood, causing checking and splitting, attacks by
beetles, decay fungi and stains.
Question 9. Biomass cogeneration is seen as an essential component
of any financially feasible stewardship projects, yet there is little
financial aid to add such capacity so that a mill can financially
succeed and generate positive cash flow. Given that most mills cannot
finance the cost of adding such capacity, do you believe that it is in
the country's best interest for the government to help finance the
addition of biomass capacity, particularly in the West?
Answer. Congress and the Administration have worked together to
support financial assistance and incentives to help expand biomass
capacity. Hazardous fuels on both federal and private lands, combined
with extended drought across much of the west, expanding wildland urban
interface (WUI), and managerial decisions made during fire incidents,
have contributed to escalating cost of fire suppression. We believe
that it is important to find ways to economically remove this woody
biomass and utilize it in order to help reduce wildland fire severity,
protect property and other important values, and progress in restoring
the health of our National Forest.