[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
HEARING TO REVIEW THE U.S. FOREST
SERVICE'S PROPOSED FOREST PLANNING RULE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON CONSERVATION, ENERGY,
COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
MAY 5, 2011
Serial No. 112-15
Printed for the use of the Committee on Agriculture
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COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE
FRANK D. LUCAS, Oklahoma, Chairman
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia, COLLIN C. PETERSON, Minnesota,
Vice Chairman Ranking Minority Member
TIMOTHY V. JOHNSON, Illinois TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania
STEVE KING, Iowa MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
RANDY NEUGEBAUER, Texas LEONARD L. BOSWELL, Iowa
K. MICHAEL CONAWAY, Texas JOE BACA, California
JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska DENNIS A. CARDOZA, California
JEAN SCHMIDT, Ohio DAVID SCOTT, Georgia
GLENN THOMPSON, Pennsylvania HENRY CUELLAR, Texas
THOMAS J. ROONEY, Florida JIM COSTA, California
MARLIN A. STUTZMAN, Indiana TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota
BOB GIBBS, Ohio KURT SCHRADER, Oregon
AUSTIN SCOTT, Georgia LARRY KISSELL, North Carolina
STEPHEN LEE FINCHER, Tennessee WILLIAM L. OWENS, New York
SCOTT R. TIPTON, Colorado CHELLIE PINGREE, Maine
STEVE SOUTHERLAND II, Florida JOE COURTNEY, Connecticut
ERIC A. ``RICK'' CRAWFORD, Arkansas PETER WELCH, Vermont
MARTHA ROBY, Alabama MARCIA L. FUDGE, Ohio
TIM HUELSKAMP, Kansas GREGORIO KILILI CAMACHO SABLAN,
SCOTT DesJARLAIS, Tennessee Northern Mariana Islands
RENEE L. ELLMERS, North Carolina TERRI A. SEWELL, Alabama
CHRISTOPHER P. GIBSON, New York JAMES P. McGOVERN, Massachusetts
RANDY HULTGREN, Illinois
VICKY HARTZLER, Missouri
ROBERT T. SCHILLING, Illinois
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin
Nicole Scott, Staff Director
Kevin J. Kramp, Chief Counsel
Tamara Hinton, Communications Director
Robert L. Larew, Minority Staff Director
Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry
GLENN THOMPSON, Pennsylvania, Chairman
BOB GOODLATTE, Virginia TIM HOLDEN, Pennsylvania, Ranking
MARLIN A. STUTZMAN, Indiana Minority Member
BOB GIBBS, Ohio KURT SCHRADER, Oregon
STEPHEN LEE FINCHER, Tennessee WILLIAM L. OWENS, New York
SCOTT R. TIPTON, Colorado MIKE McINTYRE, North Carolina
STEVE SOUTHERLAND II, Florida JIM COSTA, California
MARTHA ROBY, Alabama TIMOTHY J. WALZ, Minnesota
TIM HUELSKAMP, Kansas CHELLIE PINGREE, Maine
RANDY HULTGREN, Illinois MARCIA L. FUDGE, Ohio
REID J. RIBBLE, Wisconsin GREGORIO KILILI CAMACHO SABLAN,
Northern Mariana Islands
Brent Blevins, Subcommittee Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Holden, Hon. Tim, a Representative in Congress from Pennsylvania,
opening statement.............................................. 4
Thompson, Hon. Glenn, a Representative in Congress from
Pennsylvania, opening statement................................ 1
Prepared statement........................................... 3
Submitted letter............................................. 61
Sherman, Hon. Harris, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and
Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C... 5
Prepared statement........................................... 7
Submitted questions.......................................... 62
Bortz, Jr., John R., Commissioner, Warren County, Pennsylvania,
Warren, PA..................................................... 26
Prepared statement........................................... 27
Guthrie, Steve, Woodlands Manager, Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation,
Laona, WI; on behalf of Lakes States Lumber Association;
Hardwood Federation............................................ 37
Prepared statement........................................... 38
Shannon, John T., Vice President, National Association of State
Foresters; Forester, State of Arkansas, Little Rock, AR........ 40
Prepared statement........................................... 41
Terrell, Jack, Senior Project Coordinator, National Off-Highway
Vehicle Conservation Council, Auburndale, FL................... 44
Prepared statement........................................... 45
HEARING TO REVIEW THE U.S. FOREST
SERVICE'S PROPOSED FOREST PLANNING RULE
THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2011
House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry,
Committee on Agriculture,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 9:30 a.m., in
Room 1300, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Glenn Thompson
[Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Members present: Representatives Thompson, Goodlatte,
Tipton, Southerland, Huelskamp, Hultgren, Ribble, Holden,
Schrader, Owens, McIntyre, and Fudge.
Staff present: Brent Blevins, Tamara Hinton, John Konya,
Debbie Smith, Heather Vaughn, Nona S. Darrell, Liz Friedlander,
Lisa Shelton, and Jamie Mitchell.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. GLENN THOMPSON, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM PENNSYLVANIA
The Chairman. Good morning. The Subcommittee on
Conservation, Energy, and Forestry public hearing to review the
U.S. Forest Service's proposed forest planning rule will come
I will take the liberty of offering my opening statement.
I really do want to welcome everybody to this hearing. For
those who don't work in the agriculture community, forestry
perhaps is not recognized as a crucial component of
agriculture, but it certainly is. Forestry and the forest
products industry contribute hundreds of thousands of jobs
across the country, resulting in billions of dollars of
productivity to the economy.
Forestry and timber harvesting also provide significant
environmental benefits, because these activities are critically
important to maintaining the health of the forest lands. Now,
without active management of our National Forests and public
lands, government costs would increase in the long run.
Indeed, forestry is one of the most important economic
engines in Pennsylvania, particularly throughout my district.
My district is heavily forested and contains the Allegheny
National Forest, which consists of more than half a million
acres. Now, the Allegheny operates successfully for multiple
purposes, including recreation, timber harvesting, and oil and
Nationwide, the U.S. Forest Service has 155 National
Forests that consist of 193 million acres in 46 states across
And the purpose of this hearing is to examine the proposed
forest rule. Now, this rule was released in February, and the
comment period ends May 16th. Now, I believe it is critically
important that we now hear from the Administration about what
went into crafting this rule, and to hear from groups who would
be most affected by its implementation.
Now, we are at this point in the process because two
previous attempts to promulgate a rule in the last 6 years were
thrown out by the Federal court. Now, this has resulted in our
National Forests operating under a rule that is 30 years old.
I understand the significant impact that forest action or
inaction, as the case may be, can have on America's rural
population. I am concerned that our National Forests are not
being managed in the best possible manner. I believe our
forests should be actively managed so we are better equipped to
deal with the threats of natural disasters, fires, and invasive
Our National Forests should also be a prime source of
timber, a reason for which the forests were actually formed, a
source of timber that everyone can be assured is harvested in a
responsible manner. Indeed, the rule makes reference to climate
change. If this is an important issue, I can think of nothing
more effective than taking care of our forests and harvesting a
sustainable amount of trees.
Some have embraced the ideology that preventing human
access to these lands is the best way to keep our forests
healthy. I disagree. I think the opposite is true: Maintaining
the land yields forest health. Younger trees can sequester more
carbon, and we can ensure that older trees do not emit carbon
as they rot due to lack of harvesting. Further, the removal of
decaying materials on the forest floor helps generate renewable
People often forget that the Forest Service is part of the
Agriculture Department rather than Department of the Interior.
I believe there are some people who confuse National Forests
with national parks. But now is a good time to remind everyone
that Congress, through legislation over decades, recognized
that our National Forests serve many different functions,
production of our natural resources being one of them and, I
Energy exploration is one of the key issues for forest
management. I see firsthand in northwestern Pennsylvania the
positive impact that the production of our natural resources
within our National Forests can have on a community. In
addition to encouraging oil and natural gas production, we must
do a better job of utilizing woody biomass from our forests.
There is a clean, renewable, and easily utilized source of
energy that can be used in our rural communities.
Now, as we confront high energy prices, it is important
that we explore energy from all types of sources, particularly
where we can on our Federal lands. With that in mind, I am
concerned that this proposed planning rule is complex and will
face the same sort of litigation that has hamstrung previous
attempts to formulate a rule.
Now, I want to thank you for being here, Under Secretary
Sherman. I very much appreciate it. I look forward to hearing
how this rule will be different from previous planning rules
and the process by which it was formulated. I also look forward
to hearing how this rule will improve the health and the well-
being of our National Forests.
And I certainly would welcome our second panel of
witnesses. They will share with us their concerns about the
plan, how it will affect everyday people, and, always, how we
can improve the rule.
And, finally, I certainly want to take the opportunity to
offer a warm welcome to a constituent of mine, John Bortz. Mr.
Bortz is Commissioner from Warren County that contains about
\1/4\ of the land mass of the Allegheny National Forest. And
Mr. Bortz is all too familiar with the importance of the
management of our natural resources in rural areas, and the
great impact that they can have on the livelihoods of these
[The prepared statement of Mr. Thompson follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Glenn Thompson, a Representative in Congress
Good morning. I want to welcome everyone to this hearing to review
the U.S. Forest Service's proposed Forest Planning rule.
For those who don't work in the agriculture community, forestry
perhaps is not as recognized as a crucial component of this field.
Forestry and the forest products industry contribute hundreds of
thousands of jobs across the country resulting in billions of dollars
of productivity to the economy.
Forestry and timber harvesting also provide significant
environmental benefits--because these activities are critically
important to maintaining the health of forest lands.
Without active management of our National Forests and public lands,
government costs would increase in the long run.
Indeed, forestry is one of the most important economic engines in
Pennsylvania, particularly throughout my district.
My district is heavily forested and contains the Allegheny National
Forest, which consists of more than \1/2\ million acres.
The Allegheny operates successfully for multiple purposes including
recreation, timber harvesting, and oil and gas development.
Nationwide, the U.S. Forest Service has 155 National Forests that
consist of 193 million acres, in 46 states across the country.
The purpose of this hearing is to examine the Proposed Forest Rule.
This rule was released in February and the public comment period
ends May 16th.
I believe it is critically important that we now hear from the
Administration about what went into crafting this rule, and to hear
from groups that would be most affected by its implementation.
We are at this point in the process because two previous attempts
to promulgate a rule in the last 6 years have been thrown out by
This has resulted in our National Forests operating under a rule
that is 30 years old.
I understand the significant impact that Forest Service action--or
inaction as the case may be--can have on America's rural population.
I am concerned that our National Forests are not being managed in
the best possible manner.
I believe our forests should be actively managed, so we are better
equipped to deal with the threats of natural disasters, fire and
Our National Forests should also be a prime source of timber, a
source of timber that everyone can be assured is harvested in a
Indeed, the rule makes reference to climate change. If this is an
important issue, I can think of nothing more effective than taking care
of our forests and harvesting a sustainable amount of trees.
Some have embraced the ideology that preventing human access to
these lands is the best way to keep our forests healthy.
However, the opposite is true: maintaining the land yields forest
Younger trees can sequester more carbon, and we can ensure that
older trees do not emit carbon as they rot due to a lack of harvesting.
And further, the removal of decaying materials on the forest floor
helps generate renewable biofuels.
People often forget that the Forest Service is part of the
Agriculture Department--rather the Department of the Interior--because
National Forests were meant for multiple uses.
Now is a good time to remind everyone that Congress, through
legislation over decades recognized that our National Forests serve
many different functions; production of our natural resources being one
Energy exploration is one of the key issues for forest management.
I see firsthand in northwestern Pennsylvania the positive impact that
the production of our natural resources within our National Forests can
have on a community.
In addition to encouraging oil and natural gas production, we must
do a better job of utilizing woody biomass from our forests. This is a
clean, renewable and easily utilized source of energy that can be used
in our rural communities.
As we confront high energy prices, it is important that we explore
energy from all types of sources, particularly where we can on our
With that in mind, I am concerned that this Proposed Planning Rule
is complex and will face the same sort of litigation that has hamstrung
previous attempts to formulate a rule.
Thank you for being here, Under Secretary Sherman. I look forward
to hearing how this rule will be different than previous planning rules
and the process by which it was formulated.
I also look forward to hearing how this rule will improve the
health and well-being of our National Forests.
I welcome our second panel of witnesses. They will share with us
their concerns about the plan, how it will affect everyday people, and
ways we can improve the rule.
Finally, I want to welcome a constituent of mine, John Bortz. Mr.
Bortz is a commissioner in Warren County, which contains about \1/4\ of
the landmass of the Allegheny National Forest.
Mr. Bortz is all too familiar with the importance of the management
of our National Forests on rural areas and the great impact they can
have on the livelihood of these communities.
I now yield to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, Mr. Holden, for his
The Chairman. I now yield to my friend, the gentleman from
Pennsylvania, Mr. Holden, for his opening statement as Ranking
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. TIM HOLDEN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM PENNSYLVANIA
Mr. Holden. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would also like to thank our witnesses and guests for
coming today to discuss the U.S. Forest Service's planning
rule. This hearing not only presents an opportunity for Members
of the Subcommittee to review the proposed rule, but also an
opportunity for many here, myself included, to get better
acquainted with the national framework for forestland
management in the 155 National Forests and the 20 grasslands in
the National Forest system.
As a newly added jurisdiction to this Subcommittee, I look
forward to learning more about forestry from the U.S. Forest
Service and our other distinguished witnesses, as well as
Chairman Thompson and Congressman Schrader and others who
represent Congressional districts that are home to much of our
National Forest land.
The National Forest Management Act established standards
for how the Forest Service is to manage our National Forests
and develop and implement land management practices. The last
major action on the NFMA was nearly 30 years ago in 1982. While
there have been several attempts to update this Act in recent
years, litigation and negative feedback has continually stalled
These false starts are not good for our forests, and the
status quo is not adequate. We need to make sure the Forest
Service and its partners work together to ensure the viability
of our forestland and the forest communities in the 21st
This should be a commonsense rule based on sound science
and void of over-burdensome sustainability requirements. It
needs to take into account the multiple uses of our National
Forest land, including timber production, habitat preservation,
natural resource management, and recreation, and ensure local
economic development and environmental protections work in
harmony instead of in competition with each other.
A new rule must also be flexible and allow for management
decisions based on the specific needs of local communities.
Public input from all involved parties, a few of which are
represented by our panelists today, will be critical to
ensuring a reasonable and workable approach to forestland
I look forward to today's expert testimony and the
opportunity to listen, learn, and question those on the
forefront of this very important issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Holden.
The chair will request that other Members submit their
opening statements for the record so witnesses may begin their
testimony, and ensure that there is ample time for questions.
And it is very much an honor to welcome the witness that
will be on our first panel, the Honorable Harris Sherman, Under
Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
And, Mr. Secretary, we are honored to have you before the
Committee this morning. I look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF HON. HARRIS SHERMAN, UNDER SECRETARY FOR NATURAL
RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT, U.S.
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, WASHINGTON, D.C.
Mr. Sherman. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I am Harris
Sherman, the Under Secretary at USDA for Natural Resources and
the Environment. We appreciate the opportunity to be here today
to explain the proposed national planning rule.
And I must say, your timing could not be better because we
are in the midst of our public comment period, which will end
on May the 16th. And so, this discussion today will be very
useful and very helpful to us as we move toward a final rule.
I thought it would be helpful to put the proposed rule into
context. The Forest Service oversees 193 million acres of land.
That is about eight to nine percent of the land mass of the
United States. It is comprised of 155 National Forests, 20
grasslands, and one national prairie.
Based on the national planning rule, over time, each of
these National Forests will prepare an individual forest plan,
and those forest plans will govern the future actions that can
occur on those National Forests. So the national planning rule
is the template for all future forest plans, which, in turn,
provide direction that occurs on the ground.
What we are attempting to do here is to establish a new
rule that is effective, it addresses the challenges and the
needs of our National Forests, it is modern, it is efficient,
and it will serve the public well.
To that end, over the past 18 months, we have reached out
to our stakeholders, to members of the public, to our agency
professionals, to try to put together a bottom-up new national
planning rule. We have had about 40 meetings before we came out
with a draft rule. Some 3,000 people attended these sessions.
We received 26,000 comments concerning what we should do with
this national rule. And, from that, we formulated the draft
that you have in front of you.*
* The draft planning rule can be accessed at http://www.gpo.gov/
We released that draft, and, since releasing it, we have
had another 27 meetings around the country to explain it to
those who were interested. That has appeared in 75 different
venues by virtue of video streams. And we now are proceeding to
hopefully finalize this before the end of the calendar year.
We believe that the draft rule addresses the most important
issues facing the Forest Service. The draft rule has strong
support from professionals within the Forest Service, including
those who have been working on planning issues for decades. And
we have tried to incorporate the best examples, the best
practices that we have learned over the years.
Our goal is to finalize a rule that will last for several
decades, because we believe strongly that the public and our
stakeholders and the agency deserve a stable, lasting, and
predictable planning rule. And we of course look forward to
hearing from the public as we move now to this final stage.
I want to briefly explain what the overriding goal of the
planning rule is. It is really to principally restore the
health and the resiliency of our National Forests. A
significant portion of the 193 million acres is in serious need
of restoration. Disease and pests are impacting huge swaths of
our National Forests. In the West alone, some 40 million acres
of dead trees are the result of a bark beetle epidemic, and
that number is growing.
We are seeing more frequent, larger, intense fires. The
consequences of fires and unhealthy forests have significant
impacts to our water resources. I think people don't realize
sometimes that 66 million Americans get their water from our
There are many positive benefits that our National Forests
provide and this planning rule needs to address them. We need
to help foster recreation on our National Forests. Last year,
we had 173 million visits. That resulted in 250,000 jobs. These
visits are dependent upon healthy and resilient forests which
are safe to recreate in. And it doesn't matter whether you are
talking about managed recreation, such as ski areas, or you are
talking about cross-country skiing or hiking, these forests
need to be safe to recreate in.
Our forests support a wide variety of multiple uses,
including timber, grazing, renewable and nonrenewable energy
development. These opportunities create jobs and they create
stability and opportunity for our rural communities. Timber
production not only creates jobs and not only provides for
rural stability, but it is essential that we have a healthy
industry to conduct the restoration efforts that we need to do
all over this country.
So we have proposed a plan which we believe is adaptive and
nimble to current conditions, where we will monitor our
results, and, where necessary, we will make appropriate
amendments and adjustments to what we are doing.
We believe this is a 21st century approach. We have built
in a collaborative process where the public and our
stakeholders can fully participate. We believe it is a strong
proposal, and we are anxious to hear from the public through
the May 16th comment deadline so we can move to finalize this
So, Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity of being
here, and I look forward to answering your questions.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Sherman follows:]
Prepared Statement of Hon. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural
Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington,
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the
opportunity to appear before you today to provide the Department's view
on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service's proposed
planning rule, published on February 14, 2011. We appreciate the
Subcommittee's interest in a matter of great import to the agency and
The timing of this hearing could not be better, coming in the midst
of a 90 day public comment period on the proposed planning rule that
runs through May 16, 2011. Our intent is to issue a final planning rule
by the end of this year.
In the 193 million acres of forests, grasslands and prairies that
make up our National Forest System (NFS), the citizens of the United
States are blessed with some of the most diverse, beautiful, and
productive landscapes and watersheds on the planet. As required by the
National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA), land management plans
for each forest and grassland provide a framework for integrated
resource management and guide project and activity decision-making on a
unit. The planning rule provides the overarching framework for
individual NFS units to use in developing, amending, and revising land
management plans to maintain, protect, and restore NFS lands while
providing for sustainable multiple uses.
Planning Rule History
Currently, the agency is using the procedures of a planning rule
developed in 1982, which has guided the creation of every land
management plan, revision or amendment to date. However, over the past
thirty years, much has changed in our understanding of how to create
and implement effective land management plans, and in our understanding
of science and the land management challenges facing Forest
Supervisors. Ecological, social, and economic conditions across the
landscape have altered. New best practices and scientific methods have
evolved. And so has the country's understanding of and vision for the
multiple uses, values, and benefits provided by NFS lands.
Additionally, developing land and resource management plans using
1982 rule procedures is often time consuming, costly and cumbersome.
Because of this, units often wait until circumstances require a
complete overhaul rather than update plans more incrementally as
conditions change. This can result in a drawn-out, difficult, and
costly revision process and has made it challenging for units to keep
plans current and relevant. Of the 127 land management plans for NFS
lands, sixty-eight are past due for revision, meaning that they are
fifteen years old or more.
Beginning as early as 1989, the Department and Forest Service have
made numerous attempts to review, revise and modernize the planning
rule. After two proposals in the 1990s, a final rule was published in
2000 to replace the 1982 regulations, but the 2000 rule was challenged
in court, and an internal review concluded that the number and
specificity of its requirements were beyond the agency's fiscal and
organizational capacity to successfully implement. A new planning rule
was developed and published in 2005, and a revised version in 2008, but
each of those rules was held invalid by a Federal District Court on
grounds that it violated National Environmental Policy Act requirements
for analyzing environmental impacts, among other findings. In 2009, the
court's decision brought the 2000 rule back into effect. The Forest
Service is utilizing the transition provisions from the 2000 rule for
plan revisions and amendments pending finalization of a new rule. These
transition provisions allow for use of the procedures from the 1982
The instability created by the history of the planning rule has had
a significant negative impact on the Forest Service's ability to manage
the NFS and on its relationship with the public. At the same time, the
vastly different context for management and improved understanding of
science and sustainability that has evolved over the past 3 decades
creates an urgent need for a meaningful, durable, and implementable
21st Century planning framework that allows the agency to respond to
new challenges and management objectives for NFS lands.
Collaboration and Public Participation
Because of the planning rule's history and the high degree of
interest in management of the NFS, the Department and Forest Service
decided to take a different approach to developing the 2011 proposed
planning rule. We strongly believe that involving the public through a
participatory, open, and meaningful process is the best way to develop
this new planning rule. Our goal has been to learn from the previous
efforts, and listen to input from the public, agency employees, other
governmental representatives, and internal and external scientists to
develop a proposal for additional public feedback. As a result, the
proposed rule now out for public comment is the product of the most
participatory and transparent planning rule development process in
Forest Service history.
The development of the proposed rule was informed by 26,000 public
comments made on the Notice of Intent (NOI); a Science Forum with panel
discussions from 21 scientists; regional and national roundtables held
in over 35 locations and attended by over 3,000 people; regional and
national roundtables and 16 government-to-government consultations with
Tribes; and over 300 comments on a planning rule blog developed to
reach people online. The agency and Department also reviewed previous
rules and planning reviews, current science, and best practices being
implemented on NFS lands; worked closely with other agencies; and
actively engaged and sought feedback from Forest Service employees.
Since the proposed rule was published in February, we have also
taken the unprecedented step of hosting another series of meetings to
provide stakeholders with information about the proposal in order to
help inform their comments on the proposed rule and the Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). We held 29 national and regional
public forums that were attended by over 1,300 people. Some of these
were presented through video teleconferencing, reaching 74 locations
across the country in all.
The Department and Forest Service believe that our approach and
commitment to meaningful public engagement sets a new standard for
public land management, and we are continually learning as we travel
this path. Above all else, as we see so many people take the time to
come out to workshops on their local units, participate via the
Internet, or submit comments, we are gratified to see once more how
people truly cherish their National Forests and Grasslands and care
deeply about their management.
The Department and Forest Service used the input we received
through our planning process to develop the proposed rule and DEIS now
out for public comment. The proposed rule provides a framework for
planning in order to sustain and restore the health and resilience of
our National Forests. The goal is to guide management of NFS lands so
that they are ecologically sustainable and contribute to social and
economic sustainability, with resilient ecosystems and watersheds,
diverse plant and animal communities, and the capacity to provide
people and communities with a range of social, economic, and ecological
benefits now and for future generations.
The planning framework in the proposed rule will help the agency to
provide clean water, habitat for diverse fish, wildlife, and plant
communities, opportunities for sustainable recreation and access, and a
broad array of other multiple uses of NFS lands, including for timber,
rangeland, minerals and energy as well as hunting and fishing,
wilderness, and cultural uses.
The proposed rule emphasizes integrated resource management so that
all relevant elements of the system are considered as a whole, instead
of as separate resources or uses. The proposed rule includes
requirements to sustain and restore the health and resilience of our
National Forests and watersheds. There is a strong emphasis on
protecting and enhancing water resources, including important sources
of drinking water for downstream communities.
The proposed rule includes requirements to provide for diversity of
plant and animal communities, and is designed to provide habitat to
keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of
threatened and endangered species, conserve candidate species, and
protect species of conservation concern.
The proposed rule includes requirements to contribute to social and
economic sustainability. Plans would be required to provide for
sustainable recreation, and to protect cultural and historic resources.
Planning would consider and provide for a suite of multiple uses,
including ecosystem services, watershed, wildlife and fish, wilderness,
outdoor recreation, energy, minerals, range, and timber, to the extent
relevant to the plan area. Plans would also guide the management of
timber harvest on NFS lands.
The proposed rule creates a framework that would allow adaptive
land management planning in the face of climate change, and each phase
of the framework addresses climate change.
The proposed rule creates a more efficient and effective planning
process through an adaptive framework of land management assessment,
planning and monitoring. This framework would allow Forest Supervisors
to adapt plans to reflect new information and changing conditions.
Information developed in each phase will inform the public and feed
into the next phase, building a strong base of information and public
input that will support a shared understanding of and vision for the
landscape. Responsible officials will then be able to using monitoring
data and other sources of information to amend plans and keep them
current and effective.
The proposed rule strengthens public engagement throughout the
planning process, specifying numerous opportunities for meaningful
dialogue and input. Responsible officials would be required to seek
input from the public, consult with Tribes, encourage participation by
youth, low-income populations, minority groups, and affected private
landowners, and seek input from and coordinate with related planning
efforts by other government entities including Tribes, states,
counties, local governments, and other Federal agencies.
The proposed rule requires taking into account the most accurate,
reliable, and relevant scientific information available in order for
responsible officials to make informed decisions during the planning
process. The appropriate interpretation and application of science
provides the foundation for planning, with other forms of information,
such as local and indigenous knowledge, public input, agency policies,
results of monitoring, and the experience of land managers also taken
into account in determining how to accomplish desired outcomes.
The proposed rule creates a strategy for monitoring at the unit
level and at a broader scale. Monitoring would be a central part of
both plan content and the planning process, allowing responsible
officials to test assumptions, track changing conditions, measure
effectiveness in achieving desired outcomes, and feed new information
back into the planning cycle so that plans and management can be
changed as needed.
The proposed rule also requires that NFS lands be managed in the
context of the broader landscape. While the proposed rule explicitly
reaffirms that the Forest Service does not intend to and cannot direct
management of lands outside the NFS, responsible officials would use
assessments, monitoring and public engagement to create a continually
evolving understanding of conditions, trends, and stressors both on and
off NFS lands, and would work in the planning phase to respond to
changing conditions across the landscape, and coordinate, where
appropriate and practicable, with other land managers and owners to
accomplish shared objectives.
The proposed rule seeks to create framework that will allow the
Department and Forest Service to more effectively restore and protect
our natural resources, support communities, and adapt to changing
conditions. It represents our desire to create a modern planning rule
based on science, public input, and agency experience.
Management of America's 193 million acres of National Forests,
grasslands and prairies is enormously important as we work to win the
future for the next generation. This Administration's goal is to
collaboratively develop a meaningful and enduring planning rule and a
more efficient, effective, and participatory land management planning
The proposed rule and DEIS are currently out for public comment.
The Department and Forest Service are eager to receive feedback from
the public by the end of the comment period, and look forward to
reviewing that input in order to develop a final rule that is
practical, workable, and reflective of our shared values and vision for
America's National Forest System.
This concludes my prepared statement, and I would be pleased to
answer any questions you may have.
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We appreciate it.
The chair would like to remind Members that they will be
recognized for questioning in order of seniority for Members
who were here at the start of the hearing. After that, Members
will be recognized in the order of their arrival. And I
appreciate Members' understanding.
I intend to reserve my time for questions, and I would like
to recognize the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Goodlatte, for 5
minutes for questions.
Mr. Goodlatte. Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I very much
appreciate your holding this hearing. Forestry is a very
important part of the economy of western Virginia, and my
Congressional district contains about 1.2 million acres of
National Forest land, so we are very interested in the topic.
And, Mr. Sherman, we very much appreciate your coming to be
with us today.
I wonder if you could explain why the proposed rule does
not do more to promote timber harvesting on our National
It seems to me it is a win for everyone. It is harvested in
an environmentally sound manner. It promotes forest health by
controlling for fire threats and invasive species. And it not
only benefits but, in many cases, it is vitally important for
these rural economies, the small towns that are dotted in and
around our National Forests that have suffered greatly by the
significant reduction in recent decades in harvesting in our
National Forests. In my opinion, it is good both for the
environment and the economy.
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, we believe the proposed planning
rule does address timber and the importance of timber. Timber
is a key multiple use, and multiple uses are expressly
recognized in this proposed planning rule. Multiple uses are
obviously critical to furthering ecological----
Mr. Goodlatte. Do you anticipate there will be an increased
production of timber off of our National Forest lands as a
result of this rule?
Mr. Sherman. I think that we will continue to see an upward
effort to produce timber on our National Forests.
Mr. Goodlatte. Do you have any projections in terms of how
that will go?
Mr. Sherman. I don't have a specific projection. I know
this past year, in the President's budget, we projected a
slight increase in production of our timber.
But I want to just say that this rule contains sections
that relate to timber production. It identifies how we are
going to identify lands that are suitable for timber
Mr. Goodlatte. I understand that. Let me interrupt because
I have a couple other questions I want to ask. But if you could
provide the Committee with some projections showing where
timber production has been and where you expect it would go, I
think that would be very helpful to all the Members of the
I represent the George Washington National Forest and the
Jefferson National Forest in western Virginia. The George
Washington is currently operating under a plan crafted in 1993.
The process to revise the plan began in 2007 and, when all is
said and done, will have taken about 5 years to complete.
I understand that there was a court ruling that invalidated
the previous rule, but what assurance can you give me that
future rulemaking will not drag on in the same manner?
Mr. Sherman. We are hopeful that the adaptive process that
this rule is based on will result in new revised plans being
done much quicker than the previous rule.
The previous rule, took, on average, 5 to 8 years to
complete forest plans. And some took more than that. We are
hopeful through the process that we have outlined here that new
revised plans can be prepared in 1 to 3 years. That is our
We have studied this greatly. This is a process where we
are going to be doing more frequent amendments rather than
waiting until the end of a 15 year period to revise a forest
Mr. Goodlatte. That would be a good goal and a good
One of the issues that comes up here is litigation, and I
wonder what the Forest Service is doing. Are you taking any
proactive steps to attempt to head off litigation with regard
to this rule?
Mr. Sherman. We have worked carefully with our legal
consultants on the formulation of this rule. We have studied
extensively past litigation, past court decisions. And we
believe that we have structured this rule and phrased this rule
in a way that will withstand litigation. Obviously, you can't
determine whether somebody will sue you or not. But if are
sued, we believe that this is a rule that is defensible and
that, as I said, will withstand challenge.
Mr. Goodlatte. And, finally, one last question: Can you
discuss the decision to catalog invertebrates on National
Forest land, primarily insects? This seems like a burdensome
requirement on Forest Service personnel that has only marginal
Mr. Sherman. The 1976 National Forest Management Act
required us to come up with a forest plan that addressed plants
and animals. It didn't say vertebrates; it said plants and
animals. Animals include, obviously, vertebrates and
We believe it is a much more holistic and responsible way
to look at both invertebrates and vertebrates, because they are
absolutely part of these ecosystems that we are trying to
Mr. Goodlatte. Have you taken a look at what this is going
to cost and what it is going to do to deter limited forest
personnel from being able to do other duties in our National
Mr. Sherman. We have evaluated what it will take to
incorporate our review of invertebrates along with vertebrates.
Again, we are not going out and doing original research or
study on these issues; we are taking information that is
available to us. But when you are looking at these issues, you
need to look at them in a holistic way. Otherwise, we are not
understanding what is really happening to the ecosystem.
So we have reviewed this carefully, we have talked within
the agency about this, and we believe we can perform these
types of reviews efficiently and effectively.
Mr. Goodlatte. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. Thank you.
I now recognize the Ranking Member, Mr. Holden, for 5
minutes of questions.
Mr. Holden. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Schrader has a prior commitment, so I am going to give
my time to him for the first 5 minutes.
Mr. Schrader. Thank you, Ranking Member and Mr. Chairman.
I am very concerned about the proposed forest rules and the
evolution of the Forest Service into a hybrid of the National
Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. I think the original
mission of Forest Service has completely been lost in a lot of
the iterations of rules and regulations that have been written
over the last 20 years.
Unlike Mr. Goodlatte, I don't have a forest industry hardly
anymore, despite the fact that half of my land mass in Oregon
is Federal forest land and BLM. So it is a great concern,
looking at some of these guidelines that are out there.
As a matter of fact, could you comment in a little more
detail about the so-called viability rule? I share the concern
about looking at invertebrates. I mean, basic science would
tell you that if the higher-chain vertebrates are living, that
the invertebrates they depend on and that ecosystem depend on
are probably in good shape.
And you obviously don't have the resources to manage what
you do do now, much less expand your mission. So, given the
fact that the law calls for diversity, not viability, why are
you changing the law?
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, I don't believe we are changing
the law. I think we are following----
Mr. Schrader. Well, you obviously are. You indicated just a
moment ago you are expanding it into invertebrates, when the
law itself calls for plants and animals.
Mr. Sherman. Well, the 1976 Forest Management Act requires
us to provide for animal and plant diversity. And----
Mr. Schrader. So it says diversity, not viability; is that
Mr. Sherman. Well, it says diversity. And----
Mr. Schrader. Okay.
The other thing I am concerned about is the multiple use
standard. You have talked about economic viability, yet you
were unable to give even a remotely close estimate of what is
going to happen to the towns and the timber harvest that a lot
of rural America depends on.
They have been in a depression for almost 20 years. If we
are interested in helping them, how and in what way do you
Mr. Sherman. I think that we need to put together a
planning system that spells out----
Mr. Schrader. But, basically, what you are saying is this
rule doesn't even address that. You are going to have another
set of rules that deal with the planning system to deal with
what the Forest Service was originally set up to do, and that
is to make sure that we have healthy forests.
Mr. Sherman. This proposed planning rule provides for
timber as a recognized multiple use. And it provides----
Mr. Schrader. Multiple use? It is a major use.
Mr. Sherman.--for the method by which----
Mr. Schrader. If I may, I have limited time, unfortunately.
I apologize, Mr. Sherman. But, I mean, it is the major use.
I am very concerned about climate change. I am worried
about the status of our forests. You indicated the bark beetle
infestation, the forest fires. I see the inability of the
Forest Service to deal with those right now with a limited
budget. The President is proposing a cut in the Forest Service
budget. There is no way you are going to be able to do your
holistic approach. I am very concerned about that.
You have listed guidelines. In the past, the guidelines
that the Forest Service has used have provided an outline,
allowed some discretion at the local level, depending on the
particular National Forest that is out there. I am concerned
that the new rule says that the projects must comply with the
guidelines. In other words, you are creating new, hard and
fast, one-size-fits all rules; is that correct?
Mr. Sherman. No, that is not correct, Congressman.
Mr. Schrader. Could you elaborate?
Mr. Sherman. Yes. The standards and the guidelines under
this proposed planning rule will be established by the local
Mr. Schrader. Good. Good.
I would like to talk about the best available science
information. That is a catch word that we all use. And that
science seems to depend on which side of the issue you are on.
Isn't it going to be very, very difficult to come to any
decisions and won't there be lots of litigation over what is,
``the best science,'' at the end of the day? So isn't this rule
actually going to make things worse, not better, in terms of
getting jobs done?
Mr. Sherman. We do not believe so. We do feel it is
important for our local responsible officials to get the most
accurate, reliable information concerning projects, and review
that information. Sometimes, with scientific information, there
is not a unanimous opinion about an issue; it is up to the
local official to review those different pieces of scientific
information and then make a responsible decision about what
needs to be done and document why and how that was decided.
That is our intention about using best available science.
It is not to go out----
Mr. Schrader. Will there be deference given to the local
Forest Service personnel, obviously, based on their particular
situation in that forest?
Mr. Sherman. Absolutely.
Mr. Schrader. Okay. Good to hear.
Last but not least, while the line of questioning is a
little bit harsh--and I apologize for that, but it is an
important part of industry in my state. And, in Oregon, we have
been suffering for a long, long time.
I do want to give you some kudos, though, on the pre-
decisional type of orientation that this forest rule has, that
if you are not at the table to begin with, you don't raise the
objections upfront, you don't have the ability to raise them on
the back end. And any way we can help you to make sure that
stays, I would like to work with you on that.
Mr. Sherman. Thank you.
Mr. Schrader. I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
The next 5 minutes of questioning will be from the
gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Ribble.
Mr. Ribble. Mr. Sherman, thanks for being here today. I
think this is a very important hearing. It certainly is for my
district. I represent Wisconsin's northeast district,
Wisconsin's Eighth District, which has one of the largest and
robust forest lands in the United States.
And I am wondering, the big concern--I will just give you a
little bit of background, and maybe you can help me see through
this. I want to talk a little bit about Laona, Wisconsin.
Laona, Wisconsin, is a small, rural community in the heart
of our Nicolet National Forest who, 20 years ago, had a
thriving and robust school system. Through policies coming out
of the USDA and the decimation of Wisconsin's timber industry--
literally, decimation of Wisconsin timber industry--we are now
at risk of losing our rural schools. Because the timber
industry that was funding those schools has been literally
destroyed by bad policy coming out of this city.
And I am wondering if you can tell me, since Secretary
Vilsack has said a priority of his is revitalizing and
strengthening our rural communities, how will this rule restore
timber harvesting in northeast Wisconsin?
And I would just also add, why in the world should
northeast Wisconsin be importing timber from Canada rather than
harvesting timber that is rotting in our National Forests?
Mr. Sherman. We are very hopeful that this planning rule
and subsequent actions taken by the U.S. Forest Service will
result in responsible development of our timber resources. This
rule provides for it.
We need to set forth a framework, which this does, to
identify lands within our National Forests that are suitable
for timber. We need to streamline our environmental review
processes so that we can have projects ready to go when timber
sales come up. And we need to work hard on the collaboration
side of this because, in the past, litigation has really
complicated our ability to get important work done.
Mr. Ribble. And who are those litigants? Who are filing the
Mr. Sherman. The litigants cover a wide spectrum of
parties. Sometimes they represent environmental parties.
Sometimes they are local parties. Sometimes they are timber
organizations. There have a been a wide number of litigants in
Our hope is that we can bring these parties together, we
can have a collaborative process which leads to a mutual
understanding of what needs to be done. When that happens, I
believe we will be much more effective in getting on with the
business that needs to occur, which is to do good restoration
work in these forests which will allow substantial amounts of
And, this can be a win-win situation, but it is going to
require collaboration. I think a lot of things in this rule are
very helpful to set up a framework so that collaboration can
Mr. Ribble. Okay.
You mentioned in your testimony or maybe in an answer to a
previous questioner, when you were asked about when will timber
harvesting be increased, you used the words, ``Well, we are
hoping to have an upward trend.'' Did I hear that correctly?
Mr. Sherman. I am hopeful that we will have an upward trend
in the production of timber in this country, yes.
Mr. Ribble. How do we change it from hope to reality?
Mr. Sherman. Well, part of that, again, comes back to
moving to a more cooperative environment as opposed to
litigation. And litigation has been the principal reason we
have not seen more timber production, along with the market
forces that are currently occurring.
But if we can establish a framework where there is good
collaboration with the public, and if we have forest plans that
identify areas suitable for timber production, and if we have
an environmental review process that will work hand-in-hand
with this so that it can get done expeditiously and
efficiently, I am hopeful we can increase our timber output in
Mr. Ribble. I can tell you, as a former business owner
myself, I have often heard government agencies talk about
collaboration with business, but I rarely have experienced it
in my lifetime. And to the degree that the USDA and the Forest
Service is actually willing to collaborate, I can tell you that
you could save schoolchildren, you could provide opportunity
for rural communities to expand and improve, without more
I hope this is not just in answer to a Congressional
Committee but it is an actual heartfelt sense at the U.S.
Forest Service and USDA to actually make this happen. We need
action, and we need it very, very quickly, as it relates to the
timber industry in Wisconsin.
And I yield back.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
We are going to try to hold to our 5 minutes just because
our first round of votes will be coming up here, hopefully not
for 15 or 20 minutes. It would be great to get through all of
our questioning with the Secretary. I know he has an
appointment that he has scheduled for a little later this
morning. We want to be respectful of that.
And I yield to Mr. Holden.
Mr. Holden. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just have one question. Mr. Sherman, it is my
understanding that, the last time this rule was done, it was
shelved during the implementation phase because of cost. It is
also my understanding that USDA conducted a cost-benefit
analysis as part of the process for this planning rule.
Can you explain why a rule was shelved in 2000 due to cost
and what the cost-benefit analysis now states? Did it become
less costly over the past decade to do this rule?
Mr. Sherman. The 1982 planning rule has had fits and starts
since it came into existence.
In 1995, and 1998, there were efforts to amend it, and then
the 2000 rule was promulgated; it was then set aside by the
Mr. Holden. Because of cost?
Mr. Sherman. Because of cost issues and complexity issues,
that is my understanding. Then a new planning rule was put
together in 2005. Then it was litigated, and set aside by the
courts, and then another rule was promulgated in 2008, and then
it was set aside by the courts.
So we have looked at this history very carefully, and as
for the rule that we have come up with now, we believe we can
implement it in a cost-effective way. We have reviewed this
very carefully with our professionals in the agency. We have
had a lot of public comment on it, and will continue to have
public comment on it, and we will go through those comments to
see if we can make it more efficient than it is.
But I have to say, one of our major concerns going into
this was: can we come up with a rule that is implementable? And
I believe that this draft is implementable. And we can
demonstrate to you, I believe, if given the opportunity, that
this will be implemented in an effective way.
Mr. Holden. So, in your opinion, it was not cost-efficient
in 2000 but it is cost-efficient now?
Mr. Sherman. This proposed rule is more straightforward,
more simple than what was proposed in 2000.
Mr. Holden. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
And I now recognize the gentleman from Colorado, Mr.
Mr. Tipton. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Mr. Sherman, for being here. I appreciate
seeing you again.
I want to go on maybe a little bit of a different track
here. It is in regards to some of the leasing that we are
having in the Forest Service right now.
Your surface occupancy leases are the gold standard for
environmental protection. They prohibit the lessee from
disturbing essentially even a spoonful of dirt on the surface.
NSO leases are more protective than any past, present, or
future roadless rule, including those like Colorado's roadless
rule. But the Forest Service is still refusing to offer the NSO
leases and offering leases in the most restrictive
environmental process possible.
Can you explain why?
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, I am not intimately familiar with
this situation, and I have had to recuse myself from
implementation of the Colorado rule since I was one of the
authors of it prior to coming to Washington. But my
understanding is that the Forest Service and the Department of
Agriculture have released a proposed Colorado roadless rule,
which is out for public comment now. And, the comment period
ends in July, whereupon a final Colorado roadless rule will be
It is my understanding that the Administration did not want
to do anything relative to these particular leases until there
had been final action with the Colorado roadless rule. But I
have not been involved in that, and I have had to recuse myself
from that particular issue.
Mr. Tipton. Okay. I guess just as a little bit of follow-up
on that in terms of the policy of the Forest Service, we had
received a letter from Deputy Secretary Jensen, who wrote me
and said that the Forest Service was not going to offer any NSO
leases in the Colorado roadless area, which you were just
speaking to, because it wasn't finalized. And the Forest
Service has concerns with consistency between the NSO oil and
gas leases and the proposed rule.
That position actually seems to be basically irrational
because an NSO lease doesn't allow any disturbance in a
roadless area at all. So any development of an NSO lease must
be done from the direction of a well-drilling pad somewhere
Where is the consistency in terms of the problem when there
is no way that an NSO lease can disturb the roadless area?
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, if you would permit us, I would
like to ask Deputy Under Secretary Jensen to get in touch with
you directly and to go over the specifics of this. And I am
sure we can get you an answer as soon as possible.
Mr. Tipton. You know, I would really appreciate that. You
know, a lot of the issue--and I know you are well aware of
this--in Colorado, and particularly the Third Congressional
District, we have reported unemployment in double digits. Mesa
County, as an example, had the highest unemployment rate per
capita in the entire United States at one point last year. A
lot of our public lands on the western slope of Colorado, 70
percent of our lands are public BLM/Forest Service lands,
native lands as well.
And the Forest Service and the BLM used to have that policy
of, ``land of many uses, yours to enjoy.'' And it seems that we
are getting incredibly restrictive in terms of responsible
development of these resources. And I would really appreciate
the follow-up on that. We have to be able to get our people
back to work. And we are going to play a critical role in our
nation's future with the development of these resources.
You know, when we are talking a little bit about some of
the bark beetle damage that is out there, can you maybe give us
an idea what the Forest Service is doing very proactively to
allow private-sector people to be able to get in and harvest
the downed timber and the dying timber?
Mr. Sherman. The Forest Service is working with a wide
variety of people, companies, to come into bark beetle-infested
areas and to harvest this wood, where possible.
One of our problems, quite frankly, as you well know, is to
ensure that we have a viable timber industry that can process
this material. I know the Montrose mill in Colorado is
extremely important to the future restorations of Colorado----
Mr. Tipton. Right. And that is in receivership right now.
One of the issues that we have had--and if you could maybe let
us know on this, as well--are some of the contracts for being
able to harvest that timber. The contracts were based on prices
when the economy was moving. And we now need to be able to
address that because, simply, particularly with fuel costs now
skyrocketing as well, the ability to be able to deliver that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Sherman. If I could just quickly respond, Mr. Chairman?
The Chairman. Please.
Mr. Sherman. We have been working very diligently with the
receiver to review all of their contracts to see where we can
modify those contracts. In fact, we have made a number of
But it is our hope that we can provide a stable, long-term
supply of timber to that mill and keep that mill going.
Because, again, it is important for that community, and
Colorado cannot effectively restore its forests without having
mills in operation.
Mr. Tipton. Thank you.
The Chairman. Very good. Thank you.
I now recognize the gentleman from New York, Mr. Owens.
Mr. Owens. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Sherman, there has been some commentary in your
testimony and also Mr. Schrader asked you about the question of
best science. And I would like to get from you your description
of what you believe that to be.
My view is that oftentimes we suffer from what I would call
``proponent science,'' where each side brings in experts who
provide information that may be questionable. So I would like
to see how you are going to shape up a best-science program.
Mr. Sherman. Our hope is that we will be able to get the
most accurate, reliable information, going forward, with the
development of these forest plans throughout the country, and
then the actions that we take under those forest plans.
This is not a call for original research or Ph.D. theses on
the various issues we are dealing with at all. It is to go to
available, reliable information. And we will turn to
stakeholders, the public, universities, our research centers,
and other institutions, where necessary, to get information
that can be helpful to these decisions that we need to make.
There may well be competing science on a given issue. And
it is up to our local responsible official to review these
different materials and to explain how he handled the material.
In other words, these materials don't dictate any particular
decisions, but we want to be transparent, we want to explain
what we do with this information.
This is a standard that is, in fact, used with other
agencies in the U.S. Government. It is not novel or unique. But
we think it is important that we do get good information, good
scientific information, before we make decisions.
Mr. Owens. Thank you.
When you say the local responsible official will make that
decision, can you describe for me the typical position of that
The reason I am asking the question is, if this is
scientific information, then the person who would parse it and
make a decision about it clearly would have to have the
background to be able to do it. And that is why I would like to
know who those persons might be, not individual names, but just
Mr. Sherman. Sure. Typically, the local responsible
official would be a Forest Supervisor, the individual
overseeing that particular unit of a National Forest. Now, this
individual is not operating in a vacuum when he receives this
information. He will have access, again, to our research
centers. His decisions will be reviewed by a Regional Forester
or perhaps others. As I say, this individual will get a lot of
information from the public, from stakeholders and others.
So there will be a lot of information coming to this
individual, and we believe our Forest Supervisors are trained
to handle these types of issues. And they ultimately will be
able to make appropriate decisions.
Mr. Owens. Will there be any, if you will, national,
independent review by individuals who have the appropriate
expertise but also are not in any way connected to either or
any of the proponents or stakeholders?
Mr. Sherman. I think it would depend on the issue. For
example, with the national planning rule that we are working on
now, we have brought in scientists from all over the country to
assist us in the formulation of the draft rule. And since the
draft rule has been out, we have had further review internally
by Forest Service scientists and by an external science panel.
So, on a major rule such as this, yes, science is brought
to bear. And with individual forest plans, depending on the
issue, the Forest Supervisor will seek outside assistance to
assist him in understanding the issues.
So, again, I think it depends on the complexity of the
issue we are facing, but science should be part of our
Mr. Owens. Thank you very much.
I yield back.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
I now recognize the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Hultgren.
Mr. Hultgren. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Under Secretary Sherman.
A couple quick question. One, I understand that many
stakeholders--I think I saw that 65 different stakeholders had
signed a letter and have asked your agency to extend the
comment period for the proposed rule by 90 days.
Given the persistent questions regarding the rule's impact
on jobs and the regional economy, I wonder why the Department
of Agriculture declined to grant this extension.
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, thank you for that question. Let
me explain why we have declined this request.
We front-loaded this process by working with the public and
working with stakeholders for a year and a half to come up with
the proposed draft rule. And this may have been before you
arrived, but I explained we had some 40 meetings around the
country, we had more than 3,000 people who participated in
those meetings, we had 26,000 comment letters on the draft
rule. Since the draft rule came out, we have had another 29
meetings around the country. We have Web-streamed this to 74
sites. There has been as bottom-up a process as I have seen in
my government experience.
We originally were going to provide 60 days of public
review. Internally, we decided we would stretch that to 90
days. I am apprised that, apparently, in the previous planning
rules, there was usually 60 to 90 days provided.
And, at some point, we just have to get on with completing
our review of this rule. We feel we have really extended
ourselves to the public. We have given lots of opportunities,
and we feel now we have to move on and bring this to closure.
Mr. Hultgren. I think, with the impact that it is having
and the significance of this, to me, it doesn't seem like
another 90 days, from what I hear, would be that detrimental
for the agency but really could be significantly beneficial for
the number of stakeholders. You know, maybe it is too late, but
I wish that would have been reconsidered. I think this is
important, and, clearly, we are seeing that.
A couple other questions real quick. What does the proposed
Forest Service planning rule do to relieve the agency's
``analysis paralysis,'' as described by former Forest Service
Chief Dale Bosworth?
Mr. Sherman. I think we feel that this planning rule will,
in fact, reduce the time to prepare new forest plans. The
previous forest plans took 5 to 8 years, on average, to do. We
think the new, revised plans will be capable of being completed
in 1 to 3 years.
We believe the collaboration that is encouraged in this
rule is going to reduce litigation. And we believe this
adaptive framework will allow us to be much more nimble and
flexible and focused, doing small amendments as we go along
rather than waiting and waiting and waiting for a major change
or revision of the planning rules.
In our discussions with our professionals in the agency, we
have asked this question over and over and over: Will this be
more efficient? And the answer we have gotten back from the
people who are very experienced is, ``Yes, this is a much more
focused, nimble, flexible rule, and it should work much more
effectively than the previous rule.''
Mr. Hultgren. One more question, if I may. Why does the
proposed Forest Service planning rule frame its standards for
species conservation in terms of maintaining viable
populations, when the National Forest Management Act never
mentions population viability but, rather, frames statutory
direction in terms of maintaining plant and animal community
Mr. Sherman. The 1982 planning rule that we are operating
under does have a viability standard. And it was a standard
which was in certain ways very difficult for us to meet, with
respect to native vertebrates, because the Forest Service has
control over certain things that we handle, but we don't have
control over everything. And so, this particular rule does have
a population viability standard as it applies to species of
conservation concern. But that is actually, in some ways, a
reaction to what was required under the 1982 rule.
Our goal here is to keep common species common. And our
goal is, where we have threatened and endangered species, we
want to contribute to their recovery. Where we have candidate
species, which may go on the endangered species list, we want
to conserve these species so they don't go on the endangered
species list. And where we have species of conservation
concern, in these cases, we want to move forward in a way which
contributes to keeping their populations viable.
I think this is a reasonable approach. It is, in some ways,
a limitation of what was done under the 1982 rule, but it is
one that we think we can properly implement.
Mr. Hultgren. I yield back. Thank you.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
I now recognize my friend from Florida, Mr. Southerland.
Mr. Southerland. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am, as the Chairman duly noted, from Florida, Florida's
Second Congressional District. And we are, obviously, proud of
the Apalachicola National Forest. And I had some questions
regarding the forestry plan there in Apalachicola, if we could
discuss that for just a few moments.
Obviously, in our area, we are home to longleaf pine, which
is a huge production. We harvest much timber pine in north
Florida. And I want to ask you, what is--well, let me just read
According to the USDA's website, ``The Apalachicola,
Osceola, and Ocala National Forests are public lands that
protect more than 1.2 million acres in north and north-central
Please elaborate on why the term protect is used solely and
why there is no stated purpose of timber economic activity if
one of the stated purposes under the plan is to strengthen jobs
and rural communities?
Mr. Sherman. Congressman, I had earlier explained that
timber production is an important multiple use, as provided for
in this proposed national planning rule. There are several
sections of the rule that do deal with timber and the
importance of timber. And we believe that this planning rule
sets out a framework where we will identify areas that are
suitable for timber production, areas that are not suitable for
timber production. We will be identifying expected levels of
timber production in individual National Forests.
We think it is an important part of the economic
sustainability that this plan provides, and we think it is an
important part of the restoration efforts that are going on
around the country.
Mr. Southerland. Let me say this, if I could. If your
statement is, in fact, true, if you believe that it is
important to the communities that surround the National
Forests--I know in the Apalachicola National Forest, 10 years
ago they were harvesting 24 million board feet out of the
Apalachicola National Forest. That was drawn down to zero--
zero--zero harvesting annually. Okay? And now we are back to 6
million board feet. So we are still 75 percent below where we
were 10 years ago.
If your statement is correct, that the Department believes
that harvesting out of the National Forest is critical and it
has an economic component that is critical to the neighborhoods
and the communities around the National Forests, then why,
then, what you just said is not factual as to what has been
Mr. Sherman. I think, at least as a general statement,
market forces have been an important factor here. Litigation
that has shut down our efforts to produce timber in certain
areas has been a factor. Sometimes our planning efforts have
not been as nimble and focused as they should be. It is a
variety of things that have caused the reduction in the levels
of timber production in this country.
It is our hope here that we are going to provide a
framework which will be responsive to the needs of the public,
the needs of these communities, and that can be done in a way
that is environmentally sound. I think you can do both.
Mr. Southerland. Is there currently a harvest date, crop
rotation schedule, that when you know you are going to plant,
for example, longleaf pine, is there a set schedule that you
know that in X amount of years that particular quadrant of the
forest will be harvested?
Mr. Sherman. I think that there will, in a given forest
plan, be certain long-term projections about how long it will
take to re-establish a forest and whether there will be certain
portions of that forest which will be amenable to timber
Mr. Southerland. But isn't that really the purpose of a
National Forest? I mean, we are not talking about national
parks. And there is a difference between the two. And so,
therefore, when you distinguish and you say in a National
Forest that this area is going to be wilderness, you might as
well say that inside that National Forest that you are making
that particular area a national park.
Mr. Sherman. Well, under our authorizing legislation, there
are multiple purposes that are attached to National Forests.
Mr. Southerland. And one of those is economic vibrance to
assist the communities.
Mr. Sherman. That is correct, but there is also ecological
Mr. Southerland. But that is what national parks are for.
Mr. Sherman. No. National Forests, Congressman, also
provide for ecological sustainability. It is our job to figure
out how we can have both ecological sustainability and economic
Mr. Southerland. I would agree. But for you not to have a
harvest date crop rotation schedule tells me that you are
utilizing a park mind-set in National Forest areas, and I think
that that is a disservice to the American people, especially in
Florida when we are staring at 12 percent unemployment.
Mr. Chairman, I yield back my time.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman. And I am going to take
the opportunity for the last 5 minutes.
First of all, Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here.
Frankly, this Committee, I hope you get a sense, shares your
passion for our forests. We chose to serve on the Agriculture
Committee, many of us. A primary reason was the fact that trees
are cropped. And I hope you also sense our frustration that
what we are seeing--and I don't pretend to speak on behalf of
every Member of the Committee--and there are some that would
agree based on some of the line of questioning--that we are
concerned with what I would call ``mission creep'' within the
United States Forest Service. Trees are cropped. That is why
U.S. forests are not under the Interior Department, as my good
friend referenced; it is under the Department of Agriculture.
I know there are a lot of pressures, certainly a lot of
pressures in Washington on agencies, and I have a lot of
respect for folks within the USDA and the Forest Service, but
these pressures are out there. I think we are pretty clear
about where we stand, at least from my perspective, with our
forests, providing resources. Resources have made the country
strong and will make it strong in the future.
I have numerous concerns--well, first of all, there are
just so many questions and so little time. So I am going--I
will formally do this for Secretary Vilsack and yourself--
request an extension on this so we have an opportunity for at
least one more hearing to be able to have some good discussion
and allow all key stakeholders to come to the table and
encourage folks to weigh in from different communities.
I do have concerns with expanding scope of mission, what I
would call mission creep, within this proposed rule, things
that are in there, such as climate change. I mean, you want to
put a controversial thing in Washington that will be challenged
from all sides. Why would you do that? Because you are going to
create enemies, you are going to create friends. It is one of
those terms that, frankly, will never be agreed upon. That is
just reality. Things adding mission creep, like invertebrates,
into this. Just language, vague definitions and terms. And that
is an area of specific concern that I do have because in the
Forest Service, there are good scientists and certainly good
forest technicians that try to do work, but much of the changes
that come, come through the court system. And we got to figure
out how we stop reimbursing, frankly, what I consider to be
special interest groups that are fundraising through filing
lawsuits against the Forest Service. They are having more
influence on the Forest Service public policy than what Members
of Congress are and certainly what local communities are that
agreed in a collaborative way a century ago to give up their
private lands to have them become public lands. We have to
figure out how we stop that, how we stop at least rewarding
them by paying their court costs.
So there is a lot of concerns out there, and all kinds of
different ways to go. Obviously energy is very important in my
National Forest. I am very proud it is a profitable National
Forest. In your written testimony you said that the planning
framework in the proposed rule would help the Forest Service
provide, among other things, access to minerals and energy.
How, specifically, does the proposal treat energy
production on Forest Service lands?
Mr. Sherman. The draft planning rule recognizes both
renewable and nonrenewable energy as multiple uses that will
occur on National Forest lands.
As I stated earlier, part of our mission here is to
contribute to economic sustainability. So there is activity now
going on on many of our National Forests concerning energy
development, both renewable and nonrenewable, and this plan
provides a framework for how that will continue.
The Chairman. Well, the Forest Service essentially and the
Administration laid off a whole bunch of folks in January of
2009, shortly after I was sworn into Congress for the first
time, by putting a moratorium on the drilling permits for oil
and natural gas. And actually, interestingly enough, 93 percent
of the subsurface rights in the Allegheny National Forest are
privately held, so it was such an infringement on private
property rights. In fact, a Federal judge in Erie, Pennsylvania
found, not once, but twice against the Forest Service. But the
Forest Service, with the Sierra Club, a partnership, imposed
that moratorium. So I think that to me it emphasizes how we
need very specific terms and definitions because when you start
saying invertebrates--I can see people that own subsurface
rights, I can see the Forest Service, which I think has a
fiduciary responsibility to produce timber--that is good for
our communities, it is good for America--with vague terms, that
is all the more opportunity to be sued and allow some of these
groups to do their fundraising by filing these lawsuits. They
are going to shut down timber because of invertebrates, because
of a snail someplace, we are not going to allow the folks who
own subsurface rights to be able to exercise those private
property rights. So I really would encourage a little more
thoughtful process in terms of defining terms very
I want to ask a little bit about the public participation
and how engaged they were. In section 219.4, there was a
request for public participation. As I was reading through it,
I found it interesting--and you talked about a fairly
comprehensive approach to different folks you reached out to, I
didn't hear you talk about--and maybe it was there, and I
certainly didn't read it in the text--much reference to the
people who gave up their land to form these National Forests,
the counties. And we are going to hear from a County
Commissioner in the next panel, the school districts, the
boroughs, the townships, the folks whose very economy they
said, you know what, we will allow these. These were my
predecessors in Pennsylvania about 87 years ago who were at the
table with these folks and said we are going to allow these
private lands to be taken off the tax rolls and put on the
public rolls with the United States Forest Service to manage
them through USDA. I am sure it was with an assurance that
there would always be a strong and vibrant economy. And we just
haven't seen that.
And I know there are different market influences at play,
but that just means that I think the Forest Service has to be
overly aggressive with its production of resources. There are
some market influences we are not going to control, preferences
for different types of wood, a depressed housing industry,
those types of things. But the fact is that the Allegheny
National Forest, which the current forest plan, management plan
says it can harvest 90 million board feet, we are doing much
better than Florida, my friend in Florida, we have been doing
20 million board feet out of that 90. Most recently--and I
appreciate it, actually, since I have come to Washington--and I
like a very collaborative process for the Forest Service, it is
going to 40 million board feet.
But describe for me, how has the Forest Service engaged
what I think are the very key stakeholders, the local
communities who gave up their private grounds to have them
become public grounds and public trusts as a National Forest?
Are you satisfied with the specific things that were done in
terms of communicating directly with them, other than saying
you have 90 days to get back to us?
Mr. Sherman. As I say, we did reach out, and as part of our
effort of reaching out we have worked with counties, we have
worked with state governments, we have worked with local
landowners. This proposed planning rule does encourage local
governments to work closely with us on the formulation of
forest plans. And Congressman, we have a provision here which
offers both local governments and state governments cooperating
agency status as we move forward with these individual forest
We think it is very important to work with the counties, to
look at their current plans for what they want to do with
surrounding communities and surrounding areas, and we will do
that. And I might also say that at every stage of this process,
whether it is the assessment process or the amendment
processes, or the monitoring or the environmental review
processes, we are hopeful that local governments and local
landowners will work with us.
I might also just say that when you look at the types of
issues the Forest Service is dealing with, many of these issues
we have to look at on an all-lands basis. We can't just look at
where the Federal property line ends. When you have fire
issues, water issues, invasive species type issues, wildlife
issues, it covers a wide swath of land and we need to have a
cooperative relationship with our neighbors.
The Chairman. And I appreciate that approach. I think that
land rolls up not just to those specific types of land you
talked about, it rolls up to the steps of the county
courthouse, it rolls up to the classrooms, it rolls up to the
business and industries and the township and the borough.
So I appreciate the opportunity to work with you, and I
look forward to doing that. I think that we are all on the same
page in terms of having a passion for our National Forests. We
are committed in the Agriculture Committee that trees are a
crop, and that we have a responsibility back to our rural
communities and to this nation to make sure we are providing
the sustainable resources certainly for business, for industry,
for construction, for energy, which is kind of an exciting new
opportunity that our National Forests can help us meet our
domestic energy needs.
I really appreciate your time. I know that you are very
busy and you have a busy schedule today. So thank you so much
for taking time and being with us.
And I will be sending something formal over to Secretary
Vilsack and to you. We just have a lot of questions. We just
want to make sure this is an exhaustive process. I know there
are times, having worked around the Forest Service for a while,
there are times where comment periods, when our local
communities are waiting for something, those tend to get
expanded when it is in the best interests of the Forest
Service. I think there is probably nothing more important than
these plans, proposed rules, and so we will be requesting an
extension so we can take at least one more opportunity like
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I appreciate it.
Mr. Sherman. Thank you. And we look forward to further
discussions with you.
The Chairman. I look forward to it, Mr. Secretary.
Votes have been called. We have two votes. And so I
apologize to the second panel; there is going to be a bit of a
delay. The first vote will last probably another 15 minutes, we
hope--until we get to the floor--and then there will be one
vote right after that we can vote immediately and we will be
back. So we will recess just for a short period of time, and
then the Subcommittee looks forward to being back and convening
with the second panel.
The Chairman. We reconvene this Subcommittee hearing for
the Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and
Forestry. I would like to welcome our second panel of witnesses
to the table. First, we will introduce all four of the
witnesses, and then we will get started.
The first of our witnesses, as I referenced in my opening
statement, is Commissioner John Bortz from Warren County.
Commissioner Bortz, thanks for being here.
Now I am going to yield to my good friend from Wisconsin to
introduce a constituent of his who is our second witness.
Mr. Ribble. Good morning, everybody. I want to welcome
Steve Guthrie to the panel this morning. Steve is a constituent
of mine from Laona, Wisconsin. He is a professional forester
and has done this for a very long time. And Mr. Guthrie, I
understand it is your birthday today, so happy 39th birthday.
It is very good to have you, and thanks for coming.
The Chairman. We are also joined on the panel by Mr. John
Shannon, Vice President of the National Association of State
Foresters in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mr. Shannon, thank you for
And our fourth witness is Mr. Jack Terrell, Senior Project
Coordinator, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council,
from Auburndale, Florida. Thank you. I appreciate all of your
Before you are three lights. When you get to 1 minute
remaining, the yellow light will come on. When it hits the red,
I will give you a little audible signal for that as well. I
don't like to cut anybody off midstream, so take a sentence or
two to complete whatever thoughts you want. Be assured that all
Members of the Committee have your written testimony. We very
much appreciate the time that went into preparing that and
providing it for us, and we look forward to your verbal
Mr. Bortz, please begin when you are ready.
STATEMENT OF JOHN R. BORTZ, Jr., COMMISSIONER, WARREN COUNTY,
PENNSYLVANIA, WARREN, PA
Mr. Bortz. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning to you and
to the ladies and gentlemen of the Committee.
My name is John Bortz, Jr., and I am currently serving in
my fourth year of my second term in office as a Country
Commissioner within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The body
of three Commissioners is statutorily charged by the
Commonwealth with both executive and legislative authority in
order to administrate the affairs at the county level.
Pennsylvania has a history steeped in forestry. Its name,
literally translated, means Penn's woods, a distinction earned
by our founder, William Penn, and the dominant characteristic
of our landscape.
Within our boundaries is over a half million acres of
federally owned property called the Allegheny National Forest.
My county, Warren, makes up over \1/4\ of the total acreage of
the ANF and it is a sizeable presence within my county. I know
that many of my colleagues throughout the United States share
in this distinction.
My professional experience with the National Forests are
varied. Since 2003, I have actively participated in the latest
revision of the forest plan, allocated financial resources from
Secure Rural Schools funding under title III, appointed members
of my communities to serve on resource advisory committees, and
testified in Federal court concerning litigation between the
Allegheny National Forest and members of the oil and gas
In both my capacity as a County Commissioner and as a
concerned citizen, I am very interested in the proceedings that
will modify the forest planning rules. I have submitted a White
Paper for your consideration as part of my testimony, and in it
are outlines of my experiences while working through the latest
revision of the Allegheny National Forest forest plan.
By my observation, the forest planning process touches on
three critical areas--resource management, economic impact, and
government-to-government relations. Our National Forests are a
renewable resource that can bring a tremendous economic
stimulus to our nation's communities. The best strategies for
assuring forestry conservation and community revitalization
occur when local governments are made a part of the forest
planning and management process.
While the forest planning rules provide the framework for
the planning process, they haven't been implemented in a manner
that consistently welcomes local government involvement, and
consistently is the key word. Too much is left up to the
sentiments of the forest officials' interpretation.
Furthermore, no planning provision should directly or
indirectly interfere with personal property rights. I have seen
on many occasions where intrusiveness is imposed as authority.
Over 90 percent of the subsurface holdings underneath the
Allegheny National Forest are owned by others. They have claim
to this property, and must not be prohibited by the service
holder from accessing it.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Bortz follows:]
Prepared Statement of John R. Bortz, Jr., Commissioner, Warren County,
Pennsylvania, Warren, PA
A Strategy for Bringing the Allegheny National Forest Administration
and County Governments Toward a More Effective Relationship
(1.0) Executive Summary
Until recently, Federal and county governments have had an arm's
length relationship pertaining to the Allegheny National Forest.
However, a number of eroding influences impacting the county level are
forcing Commissioners to address the performance of the Allegheny
National Forest and to coordinate with the management of that asset
toward the highest and best use for their communities.
To be clear, the ultimate authority for managing the Allegheny
National Forest rests with the Federal Government. The Department of
Agriculture's Forest Service is responsible for administrating all
vegetative management and land use, but they must do so within the
context of a number of Federal regulations. Within those regulations,
specific involvement is allocated to county governments, and it is the
purpose of this document to utilize these regulations so the four
counties of the Allegheny National Forest can coordinate with the
Elk, Forest, McKean, and Warren Counties must take a strong
leadership role at the Commissioner level on this issue. This may best
be accomplished through the formation of a four-county coalition
responsible for formulating consensus based positions. In addition,
this coalition could provide coordinating planning activities with the
ANF administration as permitted by Federal regulations. The end result
of county leadership will be more effective and efficient communication
between local officials and the Federal administrators.
Warren County is one of four contiguous subdivisions of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania whose relationship with the Federal
Government includes a National Forest. Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren
Counties serve as a collective host for a Federal asset that measures
over a half-million acres.
Counties Acreage ANF Acreage Owned
Elk 530,336 111,846 21.09%
Forest 275,840 119,116 43.18%
McKean 628,205 135,346 21.54%
Warren 565,120 147,018 26.02%
By virtue of its geographic size alone, the Allegheny National
Forest (ANF) deserves the attention of the Commissioners; more than \1/
4\ of the total acreage of the four counties is controlled through the
ownership of the United States Government and this through the
Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. When the monetary impact of
the affiliated industries is considered, the Commissioners can easily
justify giving the ANF priority status in their executive and
legislative decision-making, but county government abilities are
quickly challenged whenever they face the task of interfacing with a
multi-billion-dollar Federal bureaucracy that abides by a myriad of
strident regulations. Ultimately, the question before us is how can
county government be assured that its local issues are being considered
or accommodated by this monolithic agency? To date, no formally adopted
position pertaining to the interplay of local interests against Federal
management has been received by the ANF administration, nor is there a
protocol for interfacing with those Federal administrators. The
challenge in rectifying these deficiencies lies on two levels: (1.) any
formally adopted position reflecting the local needs vis-a-vis the
Allegheny National Forest must be inclusive regarding the various items
of local concern, and it must be specific in detailing those issues;
and, (2) to be effective, communication protocols must be created and
administrated in a manner consistent with local, state, and Federal
(2.0) Recent History of the ANF Administration and County Governments
The need for an official local position is beyond question, and
that was never more apparent than during the development of the recent
forest plan. As a forest plan is in process, Federal regulations
require the Forest Supervisor to solicit input, on an early and
frequent basis, from local officials who have jurisdictional authority
within a National Forest. The language in the Code of Federal
Regulations is very clear on this matter. 36 CFR 219.14 reads as
Involvement of state and local governments
The responsible official must provide early and frequent
opportunities for state and local governments to:
(a) Participate in the planning process, including
the identification ofissues; and
(b) Contribute to the streamlined coordination of
resource management plans or programs.
In spite of the ``early and frequent'' requirement, the ANF
planning team developed a scope of issues as they formulated their
Notice of Intent without the strategic involvement of local officials.
The Notice of Intent, the document submitted to the Federal
Register to initiate the forest planning process, was filed on
September 23, 2003. One of the objectives of creating a Notice of
Intent is to identify the preliminary issues which need addressed, and,
in accordance with 36 CFR 219.14(a), the input of local governments is
required to identify them. However, nowhere in the ``Government
Participation'' section of the Notice of Intent is local government
involvement identified; only state and Federal agencies are
After the Notice of Intent was filed, numerous concerned citizens
and elected officials repeatedly asked then Forest Supervisor Kevin
Elliot about the role of local governments in the forest planning
process. He publicly directed their efforts toward the Collaborative
Learning Approach, and on numerous occasions he upheld that same
process as the method through which input would be received. Many of
the same individuals chastised Mr. Elliot regarding the ineffectiveness
of the Collaborative Learning Approach as they strongly felt it was an
inappropriate forum for elected officials to communicate with the ANF
administration. In fact, they asked him if their communication efforts
were placed on equal footing with those who maintained ``fringe''
positions of a micro-minority. He affirmatively answered this question,
and he indicated that if the local leadership did not participate in
the Collaborative Learning Approach, that was their choice to do so. He
did not offer any other alternative modes for local governments to
participate in the planning process.
Mr. Geoff Chandler followed Mr. Elliot in an interim appointment to
the Forest Supervisor's position. The same questions were posed to him
relative to local leadership involvement, and he responded in a much
different fashion. He referenced his experiences at other National
Forests where local officials had a greater participatory role. He also
provided specific regulations which mandated the U. S. Forest Service's
embracing local governments at the earliest opportunity during the
planning cycle. This new position by ANF top-level management signaled
an opportunity for local government involvement, but local officials
also expressed an underlying concern that it may already be too late.
Even still, local leaders were conservatively encouraged, and they
became more directly involved.
Kathleen Morse picked up on the initiative of Mr. Chandler during
the Summer of 2005 as she assumed her role as Forest Supervisor. County
Commissioners, County planners, township supervisors, school board
members, and others were provided an opportunity to outline their
standing to the ANF planning team. One of the earliest meetings for
this purpose was held on September 19, 2005, almost 2 years after the
initial filing of the Notice of Intent. My notes taken at that meeting
read as follows:
``The largest procedural issue I have with the current planning
process is timing: the counties are strategically disadvantaged
due to our recent involvement. At this point, the counties
should be asserting our preferred alternative. Instead, the
counties are playing catch-up to the ANF regarding our
engagement and dialogue.
Their timeline continues while the counties become educated.
Until a correctingmeasure is affected onto their timeline, the
counties will be unable to present theirpreferred
By that time, the public sector's lacking of an opportunity to
prepare for this issue became glaringly obvious. While the vast
majority of local government officials shared consensus-based
positions, our ability to contribute to the planning activities was
compromised, because a codified public position at the local level was
not in existence. Furthermore, even if a position were available, the
framework by which we could effectively participate in the planning
process was limited due to the ANF planning team not involving local
officials on an ``early and frequent'' basis as required by law. We
were forced to communicate to the planning team through means largely
designed by the local ANF administration resulting in a dialogue that
was reactionary rather than participative in nature. In short, we
didn't know what to say, nor did we know how to say it.
The most furtive attempt to officially communicate a local position
to the ANF planning team came in the form of a twelve-point resolution.
The efforts leading up to the creation of the resolution involved
numerous township supervisors, County Commissioners, school board
members, industry groups, planning agencies and others, and a sizeable
number of those involved formally approved the twelve-point resolution
at their regular public meetings.
Of particular note are the activities of the local development
districts (LDD's) surrounding the ANF in their handling of the twelve-
point resolution. LDD's are the regional agencies within the
Appalachian Regional Commission. This multi-state, federally chartered
organization is located within the Eastern United States ranging from
Southern New York to Alabama, and its fundamental charge is planning.
Within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, county officials maintain
seats on the boards of LDD's, and they use the planning and development
resources of these organizations to communicate local concerns to any
number of government agencies. Southern Tier West (three counties, New
York), the Northwest Commission (eight counties, Pennsylvania), and the
North Central Commission (six counties, Pennsylvania) encompass the
perimeter boundaries of the Allegheny National Forest as well as a man-
made lake within the ANF, the Kinzua Reservoir. All three of these
LDD's formally considered the twelve-point resolution at separate,
respective board meetings. The Northwest and Southern Tier West
Commissions both unanimously adopted the resolution; North Central
Commission formally adopted the resolution as their official position
with only one dissenting vote.
The lack of coordination between the LDD's and the ANF planning
team is another topic worth mentioning. As stated earlier, the
Appalachian Regional Commission is a federally funded, multi-state
agency that is charged with planning. The three LDD's that encompass
the perimeter of the ANF are fully engaged with their respective
counties and municipalities, and the Northwest, North Central, and
Southern Tier West Commissions could have played a much greater role
throughout the entire forest planning process. In fact, 36 CFR
219.14(b) specifically charges local governments to be involved in the
planning process in an effort to ``streamline coordination of resource
management plans or programs''. These respective LDD's could have
significantly bolstered the forest planning efforts with their
resources, but they were not mentioned in the Notice of Intent nor were
they brought into the planning discussions until much later; one
federally funded agency, the ANF, did not significantly involve another
federally-funded agency, the ARC, in order to make them an ``early and
frequent'' contributor even though the latter agency's core charge is
Warren County acted as the repository for those who approved the
twelve-point resolution, and the collated documents were then forwarded
to the ANF for their consideration. In spite of these regional efforts,
the ANF administration gave the submitted twelve-point resolutions not
much more than a cursory acknowledgement in their draft release of the
new forest plan.
In May of 2006, a Draft Environmental Impact Statement of the
forest plan was released. In the summary documentation under the
``Alternatives Considered But Eliminated'' section, the ANF planning
team acknowledged receiving the twelve-point resolution. In their
comments, they stated some points are responsive to several of the
points recommended, other points simply are not feasible, and some are
outside of the scope of the plan revision. The final comment pertaining
to ``outside the scope'' issues begs the question: if local governments
were involved at the earliest opportunity, as clearly stated in 36 CFR
219.14, then is it beyond reasoning that the original scope of issues
of the 2003 Notice of Intent could have been more inclusive of local
The forest plan, the comprehensive guiding document which will
serve as the basis for land use plans on the ANF for the next decade or
more, was put into effect Spring 2007, but, to date, discussions
pertaining to communication mechanisms between county officials and ANF
administration are on going. Due to this arrangement, while decisions
by ANF administration pertaining to the forest plan or any other
significant activity on the ANF may be communicated to local officials,
no coordinated efforts between the two parties have been officially
established. They are currently performed on an ``ad hoc'' basis, and
this was evidenced as the planning activities of the ANF administration
addressed their recreation plan.
Among the multiple-use nature of the Allegheny National Forest is
recreation. Primitive and developed campsites, hiking trails, hunting,
scenic overlook areas, and designated motorized trails are only some of
the many activities that are enjoyed on the Allegheny National Forest,
and the U.S. Forest Service maintains authority over these uses and the
development of them. No small amount of local benefit is realized as
visitors patronize our communities while they pursue their pastimes,
and with that in mind, the counties have a vested interest in seeing
that the ANF is successful in managing desirable recreational venues.
Similar to the overall forest planning process, the ANF
administration is required to create a recreational plan with the
specific purpose of setting objectives for recreational use on the
forest. The ANF administration initiated their efforts with an ``open-
to-the-public'' forum on January 29, 2008. No formal pre-planning was
performed with the counties prior to this meeting as required by 36 CFR
ANF officials met with the counties throughout the recreational
planning process, and they appeared to be more sensitive to county
issues. However, the quality of the planning procedure was severely
undermined due to an accelerated timeline. The recreational planning
process in other National Forests has taken up to 3 years to perform;
however, the County Commissioners were made aware by the ANF
administration that they were required to have the recreational plan
completed in less than 1 year. Their explanation for this mandated
timeline was that due to the protracted cycle of the forest plan, the
recreational plan was delayed.
Further complicating the ability of the Counties to interface with
the ANF administration is the rapid turnover of personnel in the top-
levels of the ANF management. For example, from 2003 until present day,
no less than six individuals have held the Forest Supervisor's position
on a permanent or interim basis. Similar staff positions within their
organization have also experienced turnover exacerbating local
officials in their attempts to communicate with the ANF administration.
In the absence of a recognized Memorandum of Understanding which would
detail communication protocols between the U.S. Forest service and
local governments, the engagement between the two parties is heavily
favored to the arbitrary sentiments of the local Forest Supervisor.
The churning of upper-management staff creates additional
complexities aside from lack of continuity: it calls into question
their ability to render benevolent decisions at the local level due to
their lack of ``not knowing the neighborhood''. A Forest Supervisor,
within the U.S. Forest Service, may come from anywhere in the country.
While that individual may understand the bureaucracy and the national-
level issues, s/he will have limited knowledge of current local issues.
The Allegheny National Forest is a forest that is as plentiful in
complexity as it is rich in resources, and someone from outside of the
area, absent a tie to leadership at the most intimate jurisdiction, is
affected by a learning curve as s/he determines the sentiment and
priorities of local concerns. A common theme expressed among local
leadership is ANF administrators--who make sweeping policy decisions--
do not have any ``skin in the game''; they make their decisions and
move on while the citizenry within their jurisdiction must deal with
The preceding issues are examples of how the existing relationship
between local and county government quickly becomes strained whenever
the two parties enter into strategic discussions. The dynamics creating
the dysfunction are many and varied, but if we fail to learn from the
past we are destined to repeat it. We can be assured that the ANF
administration will be required to perform planning activities in the
future; how will county governments prepare themselves to effectively
and efficiently interface with the ANF administration when that time
Until the four counties of the Allegheny National Forest organize
themselves into a consensus based unit, our individual efforts will be
sub-optimized. The Commissioners must regularly meet and discuss to
assess the current issues of the ANF within their respective counties,
and then support each other as they forward their positions to the ANF.
An emphasis must be placed on pro-active, forward thinking solutions
which are coordinated between county governments and the Federal
(3.0) Proposed Strategy
Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Warren
Within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Resolution Asserting Legal Standing and Formally Requesting
Coordination With All Federal Agencies Maintaining Jurisdiction
Over Lands and/or Resources Located Within Warren County
Whereas, Warren County is a public unit of local government within
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a three-member elected Board of
Commissioners serves as its chief governing authority; and
Whereas, Warren County Board of Commissioners is charged with
supervising and protecting the tax base of the county and establishing
comprehensive land use plans (including, but not limited to the County
Comprehensive Plan) outlining present and future authorized uses for
all lands and resources situated within the county; and
Whereas, the Warren County Commissioners have designated the Warren
County Planning and Zoning Commission as the lead agency for land use
planning within Warren County, and the Planning Director serves as the
chief point of contact and facilitator for those functions; and
Whereas, Warren County is engaged in the land use planning process
for future land uses to serve the welfare of all the citizens of Warren
Whereas, Warren County is comprised of approximately twenty-six
percent (26%) federally held lands that are in the jurisdiction of the
U.S. Forest Service; and
Whereas, many citizens of Warren County historically earn their
livelihood from activities reliant upon natural resources, and land
which produces natural resources is critical to the economy of Warren
Whereas, the economic base and stability of Warren County is
dependent upon commercial and business activities operated on federally
owned, managed, and/or regulated lands that include, but are not
limited to recreation, tourism, timber harvesting, oil, gas and mineral
extraction, and other commercial pursuits; and
Whereas, Warren County desires Federal agencies to inform the Board
of Commissioners of all pending or proposed actions affecting local
communities and citizens within Warren County and coordinate with the
Board of Commissioners in the planning and implementation of those
Whereas, coordination of planning and management actions is
mandated by Federal laws governing land management including the
Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 43 U.S.C. 1712, regarding the
coordinate status of a county engaging in the land use planning
process, and requires that the ``Secretary of the Interior [Secretary]
shall . . . coordinate the land use inventory, planning, and management
activities . . . with the land use planning, and management programs of
other Federal departments and agencies and of the state and local
governments within which the lands are located''; and
Whereas, the coordination requirements of Section 1712 provide for
special involvement by government officials who are engaged in the land
use planning process; and
Whereas, Section 1712 sets forth the nature of the coordination
required with planning efforts by government officials and subsection
(f) of Section 1712 sets forth an additional requirement that the
Secretary ``shall allow an opportunity for public involvement''
(including local government without limiting the coordination
requirement of Section 1712 allowing land or resource management or
regulatory agencies to simply lump local government in with special
interest groups of citizens or members of the public in general); and
Whereas, Section 1712 also provides that the ``Secretary shall . .
. assist in resolving, to the extent practical, inconsistencies between
Federal and non-Federal Government plans'' and gives preference to
those counties which are engaging in the planning process over the
general public, special interest groups of citizens, and even counties
not engaging in a land use planning program; and
Whereas, the requirement that the Secretary ``coordinate'' land use
inventory, planning, and management activities with local governments,
requires that assisting in resolving inconsistencies to mean that the
resolution process takes place during the planning cycle instead of at
the end of the planning cycle when the draft Federal plan or proposed
action is released for public review; and
Whereas, Section 1712 further requires that the ``Secretary shall .
. . provide for meaningful public involvement of state and local
government officials . . . in the development of land use programs,
land use regulations, and land use decisions for public lands''; and,
when read in light of the ``coordinate'' requirement of Section 1712,
reasonably contemplates ``meaningful involvement'' as referring to on-
going consultations and involvement throughout the planning cycle, not
merely at the end of the planning cycle; and
Whereas, Section 1712 further provides that the Secretary must
assure that the Federal agency's land use plan be ``consistent with
state and local plans'' to the maximum extent possible under Federal
law and the purpose of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act and
distinguishes local government officials from members of the general
public or special interest groups of citizens; and
Whereas, the Environmental Protection Agency, charged with
administration and implementation of the National Environmental
Protection Act (NEPA), has issued regulations which require that
Federal agencies consider the economic impact of their actions and
plans on local government such as Warren County; and
Whereas, Since NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the
impact of their actions on the customs of the people as shown by their
Federal beliefs, social forms, and ``material traits,'' it reasonably
follows that NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the impact of
their actions on the rural, land and resource-oriented citizens of
Warren County who depend on the ``material traits'' including
recreation, tourism, timber harvesting, oil, gas and mineral
extraction, and other commercial pursuits for their economic
Whereas, NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider the impact of
their actions on the customs, beliefs, and social forms, as well as the
``material traits'' of the people; and
Whereas, it is reasonable to interpret NEPA as requiring Federal
agencies to consider the impacts of their actions on those traditional
and historical and economic practices, including commercial and
business activities, which are performed or operated on federally
managed lands (including, but not limited to recreation, tourism,
timber harvesting, oil, gas and mineral extraction, and other
commercial pursuits); and
Whereas, 42 U.S.C. 4331 places upon Federal agencies the
``continuing responsibility . . . to use all practicable means,
consistent with other considerations of national policy to . . .
preserve important historic, culture, and natural aspects of our
national heritage''; and
Whereas, Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (at 277, 1975) defines
``culture'' as ``customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits
of a group; the integrated pattern of human behavior passed to
succeeding generations''; and
Whereas, in 16 U.S.C. 1604, the National Forest Management Act,
requires the U.S. Forest Service to coordinate its planning processes
with local government units such as Warren County; and
Whereas, Federal agencies implementing the Endangered Species Act,
the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Outdoor Recreation
Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 460I-1(c) and (d)) are required by
Congress to consider local plans and to coordinate and cooperate
directly with plans of local government such as Warren County; and
Whereas, the coordinating provisions referred in this resolution
require the Secretary of Interior to work directly with local
government to resolve recreation, tourism, timber harvesting, oil, gas
and mineral extraction, and other commercial pursuits with regard to
uses of the Federal lands; and
Whereas, the regulations issued by the Federal agencies in this
resolution are consistent with statutory requirements of coordination
and direct cooperation and provide implementation processes for such
coordination and direct consideration and communication; and
Now Therefore Be It Resolved that the Warren County Commissioners
do hereby assert legal standing and formally requests coordination
status with all Federal agencies maintaining jurisdiction over lands
and/or resources located within Warren County.
Be It Further Resolved that the Warren County Commissioners shall
cause a copy of this Resolution to be transmitted to local, regional,
state and/or national offices of all Federal and state agencies
maintaining jurisdiction over lands and/or resources located within
Warren County and to all Federal and state elected representatives
serving Warren County.
Be It Further Resolved that the Warren County Commissioners are
authorized and hereby directed to publish a copy of this Resolution in
the Warren Times Observer, a newspaper of general circulation printed
and published in the County of Warren, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Adopted By The Board of Commissioners of the County of Warren on
John E. Eggleston, Terry L. Hawk, John R. Bortz, Jr.,
Chairman; Vice Chairman; Secretary.
Protocol for Coordination Between Allegheny National Forest and
Allegheny County Coalition
The Allegheny National Forest, (ANF) and the Allegheny National
Forest County Coalition (herein referred to as Coalition) have engaged
in discussions regarding governmental interaction between ANF and
Coalition. However, there had previously been no official protocol
setting forth the process by which Coalition and ANF will engage in
timely and meaningful process to work on issues of mutual concern.
Both parties believe that it is important to execute a protocol
documenting their commitment to an open, effective, government-to-
government relationship. In addition to fulfilling the coordination of
requirements set forth under Federal statutes, the two entities hope to
make better decisions, achieve efficiencies, enhance understanding and
facilitate trust. It is their hope that this protocol will establish a
means by which the two entities can work productively over time, as
players and issues change and evolve.
This protocol sets forth the process by which the Coalition and ANF
expect to coordinate on issues of mutual interest and concern. It
provides a venue for the Coalition and ANF to have direct
communications and interactions. It also sets forth the process for
making future adjustments to the protocol that is needed and mutually
This protocol has been established to provide a forum for
accomplishment of the USFS-to-local government coordination
requirements of a variety of Federal laws, regulations and Executive
Federal coordination requirements can be found in several Federal
laws including the National Forest Management Act, Rangeland Renewable
Resources Act, FLPMA and others, and in regulation.
NFMA, 43 U.S.C. sec 1712(c)(9) provides that the preparation of
forest plans will be ``coordinated with the land and resource
management planning processes of State and Local Governments''
40 CFR, 1502.16(c), 1506.2 requires the Forest Service to revise
the Forest Plan not less than every 15 years and goes on to say.
(a) The responsible line officer shall coordinate regional
and forest planning with the equivalent and related planning
efforts of other Federal Agencies, State and Local Governments
and Indian Tribes.
(b) The responsible line officer shall review the planning
and land use policies of other Federal Agencies, Local
Governments, and Indian Tribes. The results of this review
shall be displayed in the environmental impact statement for
the Plan. The review shall include:
(1) Consideration for the objective of other Federal,
State, Local Governments and Indian Tribes as expressed
in their plans and policies.
(2) An assessment of the interrelated impacts of
these plans and policies:
(3) A determination of how each Forest Plan should
deal with the impacts identified and;
(4) Where conflicts with forest planning are
identified, consideration of alternatives for their
(c) In developing land and resource management plans, the
responsible line officer shall meet with designated State
Official (or Designee) and representatives of other Federal
Agencies, Local Governments and Indian Tribal Governments at
the beginning of the planning process to develop procedures for
coordination. At a minimum, such conferences shall also be held
after public issues and management concerns have been
identified and prior to recommending the preferred alternative.
A program of monitoring and evaluation shall be conducted that
includes consideration of the effects upon National Forest management
of activities on nearby land managed by other Federal or other
Government Agencies or under the jurisdiction of Local Governments.
The Coalition and ANF also recognize that there may be occasions
when the plans, studies, or management activities of ANF also invoke
Federal Laws that also require coordination with the Coalition.
Congress most clearly defined it's will for coordination between
agencies and local governments at 43 U.S.C. 1712. It mandated that
agencies ``shall . . . coordinate the land use inventory, planning, and
management activities'' with local government. The definition requires
the agencies, to the extent practical, keep apprised of all local land
use plans (i.e., County Comprehensive Plans), assure consideration is
given to the local plans, assist in resolving inconsistencies between
local and agency plans, and provide for meaningful public involvement
of local governments in the development of land use programs, land use
regulations, and land use decisions including early public notice of
proposed decisions. Federal land use plans shall be consistent with
local plans to the maximum extent found consistent with the law.
Purpose of the Protocol
The purpose of this protocol is to aid the implementation of the
coordination required by law, regulation and executive orders currently
in effect or yet to be enacted. It is designed as an upper level
coordination effort, where management and policy level work is
discussed and coordinated directly among the Commission and USFS
Managers. This does not limit or preclude the Commission or USFS from
communicating via other means, or activities, e.g., formal
correspondence, comment or legal means if necessary; it is intended to
address and coordinate issues early and in as simple a manner as
Within this forum, protocol participants include:
1. County Commissioners comprising the ANF County Coalition.
2. Representatives of the Commission.
3. Legal or other Consultants designated as representatives of the
4. Supervisor, Allegheny National Forest.
5. District Rangers and Planners from Allegheny National Forest.
Forum Decision-makers are the presiding Chairman of the Coalition,
speaking the decision of the Coalition, and the Supervisor of ANF,
speaking for the Allegheny National Forest.
Decision-makers will work to reach agreement on matters of
discussion. However, participants recognize that within the Coalition
and ANF lay decision-making authorities and responsibilities to which
they must be individually accountable. To that end, this forum will be
used for coordination of the extent possible; however, the Coalition
must make its decisions in a manner that complies with all requirements
of Pennsylvania Code and the respective County Comprehensive Plans.
Similarly, USFS may take potential decisions to the Regional Forester,
where those decisions will be subject to that review for approval.
Staff & Consultants Role
The Coalitions's consultants and ANF's staff will participate
freely in discussion and presentation as determined by the Chairman of
the Coalition and the Supervisor of the ANF, who each control the
participation of their consultants and staff personnel.
Decision-makers recognize that both entities have consultants and
staff that work for them, advise them on specific issues, study issues
and recommend action. Consultants and staff of both entities will
communicate, coordinate and work together on a regular basis on issues
of concern to both parties, but shall not make any decisions binding
upon either entity.
1. Pre-planning Sessions
Pre-planning sessions will be normally scheduled on the first
Wednesday of each calendar-year quarter (January, April, July, October)
between the ANF County Coalition and the ANF administration. These
sessions shall last 2 hours or until an agenda of issues has been
developed. Meetings will be open, in accordance with the requirements
of Pennsylvania Code, and the participants will conduct meeting work.
Invited consultants and staff will participate per agenda/issue
requirements. Others are free to observe.
2. Agenda Development
The Executive Committee of the ANF County Coalition and the ANF
administration will develop the agenda for each meeting. They will
design the meeting agenda based on the proposed and prioritized agenda
items and in consideration of the available meeting time. Agendas will
be finalized and distributed to participants no less than 1 week before
the upcoming meeting. At each meeting, by mutual agreement, forum
participants may add agenda topics and prioritize future agenda items.
3. Meeting Management and Facilitation
The ANF County Coalition will maintain a meeting record that
a. Meeting date, time, location and participants.
b. Topic discussed, list of concerns & outcome, including areas of
c. Agenda topics for the next meeting.
d. Action items.
The notes of record will be reviewed as the first agenda item at
the subsequent meeting for potential revision and approval.
4. Briefing Sheets
A briefing sheet will be prepared by the ANF administration and/or
ANF County Coalition (and/or staff) when (1) they are presenting and
discussing a proposed action by either of the parties. (2) They bring a
proposal to this group for discussion by this group, and/or (3) They
are presenting and discussing a topic for which feedback is requested.
Briefing sheets may include description of issues, background,
alternatives, resolutions, etc. Briefing sheets will be provided before
the meeting along with the agenda to forum participants. On issues that
are complex or may be controversial a briefing sheet will be provided
no less than 1 week prior to the meeting to allow for adequate staffing
of the issue.
5. Issue Identification and Resolution
The forum will work collectively on agenda items to define issues
and concerns, consider alternatives, and strive for agreement on issue
resolution and follow-up actions. Considering that a wide range of
issues will be included in the process, different methods may be
appropriate to resolve issues of differing degrees of complexity or
concern. Communication and information sharing between meetings is
necessary to keep all parties informed, minimize misunderstandings,
avoid surprises and resolve potential conflicts as quickly as possible.
Therefore, any of the following options, or others as mutually agreed
to by the forum, may be used to coordinate a given proposal or issue:
a. Participants will always have the option of responding
immediately to proposals or issues that do not require further
evaluation. This option will help to avoid unnecessary
deferring simple or non-controversial topics.
b. Where mutually acceptable to Coalition and ANF, coordination may
be completed and documented by staff-to-staff communications
before the next meeting, but final decisions rest with
c. Where further evaluation is needed, continuing discussion and
resolution may be scheduled for the next meeting.
d. Issues may be referred to staff for review and recommendation
and addressed again at a later meeting.
e. For an issue of special concern to either party, a special added
meeting of the interested parties, a telephone conference call
or a field tour may be scheduled to complete the process, on
mutually agreed upon terms.
f. For a very sensitive/confidential issue, an executive session
may be scheduled for the Coalition and ANF and any necessary
consultants or staff of the respective parties to discuss the
issue as long as Pennsylvania Code allows such executive
g. As to any issue, resolution of which requires formal approval by
the Coalition, a decision will have to await a regular
Coalition meeting or specifically noticed meeting of the
6. Unresolved issue
In the event participants cannot articulate a clear consensus of
agreement on a given topic, the Coalition and the ANF will prepare a
one-page paper outlining the issue; any potential areas of agreement,
and the reasons for the lack of resolution in a manner that is
equitable (in tone and space) to both entities. Both entities will
confirm that the document accurately reflects its perspectives.
7. Action items
For discussion requiring more than one meeting, participants will
articulate and implement follow-up action items by identifying action,
responsible person and deadline. Those action items will be reviewed
and confirmed by the group before adjourning a given meeting. Absent
highly sensitive or significant issues or concerns, follow-up will not
exceed 1 month from the time it is initiated, unless mutual agreement
is reached that a field tour or other action is needed that would
require additional time.
The process will continue to evolve, but the basic premise will
remain as expressed in this protocol. The process will be reviewed for
potential revision on an annual basis.
As Indicated by the Signature Affixed Below, This Protocol Is Mutually
Acceptable to the Warren County Commission and Allegheny National
Chairman, Warren County Commission
Vice Chairman, Warren County Date
Secretary, Warren County Commission Date
Allegheny National Forest Date
Warren County Chief Clerk
The Chairman. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF STEVE GUTHRIE, WOODLANDS MANAGER, NICOLET
HARDWOODS CORPORATION, LAONA, WI; ON
BEHALF OF LAKE STATES LUMBER ASSOCIATION;
Mr. Guthrie. Chairman Thompson, Honorable Congressman
Holden, and Honorable Congressman Ribble, I just want to thank
you for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you this
morning. I am humbled by the opportunity because I am not only
representing Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation, Lake States Lumber
Association, and the Hardwood Federation, but in a very real
way I feel more largely I am representing the hardworking
people in the forest industry of Wisconsin, Michigan, and
Minnesota that make up the Great Lakes States. It is humbling
to have the opportunity to address you on this issue. It is one
that has been near and dear to my heart for about 20 years as I
have tried to work with the Forest Service in northwestern
Wisconsin and upper Michigan in my 34 years as a professional
I think the host helpful thing I can do this morning is to
try and give you a boots-on-the-ground picture of how the
Forest Service is affecting not only our economy and our local
businesses, but our industry at large. I really believe that
the best example I can give of my experience this morning is in
giving a little background on the forest that I now manage for
We have about a 35,000 acre hardwood forest that has a 100
year management plan on it. It has been thinned up to eight
times per stand, and it is growing the most beautiful northern
hardwood saw timber that can be grown on the property. It has a
climax tree, the sugar maple, making up about 50 percent of the
forest volume, and that is our high-value species for veneer
logs and saw logs.
And just something I will get to later as a reason, but on
our hardwood logs, veneer logs sell for approximately $1,200
per thousand board feet, while saw logs only sell for about
$400 per thousand board feet. So three times the value is in
these high-value-grade logs that we are trying to produce
through select management on our hardwood stands.
Currently, my company is managing two mills, one in
Michigan, one in Laona, Wisconsin. Between the two, we are
using about 22 million board feet a year. Currently, we are
having to import 20 percent of those needs from Canada because
we cannot get enough domestic saw timber.
Right next door to this 35,000 acre forest that we manage
is the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. And unfortunately,
they have hardwood saw timber the same age that we have but is
not being managed, and there is a night and day difference in
the quality. A hard maple tree, when it reaches maturity,
starts to get a bigger and bigger heart until after 50 percent
heart that tree is no longer valuable for veneer log timber. So
the Forest Service, by not managing that timber, is allowing
the value to just deplete down and down and down. And there is
no reason for that. We have all kinds of people in the area
that are in the logging business, in the forest products
business that can produce this wood for us, and they are not
being given the chance.
And if that sounds overstated, let me just give some
numbers on what the Chequamegon-Nicolet is producing and
harvesting. Annual growth, 251 million feet a year, annual
mortality, 122 million feet a year; annual harvest, 72 million.
So the mortality is almost double harvest and almost half of
the annual growth. That is a terrible waste of a beautiful
resource. And the low harvest volume leaves nearly 60 million
feet of timber unharvested every year. That could create a huge
revenue benefit to the Treasury, it could create thousands of
jobs and thousands and thousands and millions of dollars of
economic value-added opportunity.
Currently, that 60 million feet at a saw log value would
bring about $18 million of additional timber revenue from the
Chequamegon-Nicolet, would produce $748 million in value-added
economic activity and 3,000 new jobs. That is sustainable every
A recent Minnesota DNR study showed that $1 of timber
revenue produces $41.60 of value-added economic activity. Now
just imagine if we took that $18 million off the Nicolet and
multiplied it times our over 100 National Forests--how many
jobs and billions of dollars could be created from harvesting
I would just like to conclude by saying, in my experience,
it is possible to do both good, intensive timber harvesting and
good ecological sustainable management for the protection of
our resources. I know that for a fact. And that is what we need
to do this morning is find out a way that we can all work
together to make this plan accomplish that.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Guthrie follows:]
Prepared Statement of Steve Guthrie, Woodlands Manager, Nicolet
Hardwoods Corporation, Laona, WI; on Behalf of Lakes States Lumber
Association; Hardwood Federation
Good morning, my name is Steve Guthrie. I am here this morning
representing the Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation, the Lakes States Lumber
Association, and the Hardwood Federation. I have spent my entire career
as a professional forester in the Forest Products Industry in Northern
Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Our northern forest has possibly the broadest variety of tree
species in the country, including nine coniferous species climaxing in
the majestic White Pine, 16 deciduous hardwood species climaxing in
Sugar Maple, and even one species that is both coniferous and
deciduous, the Eastern Larch or Tamarack.
My company, Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation, owns and manages a
35,000 acre hardwood forest in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. As part of
a fifth generation family-owned business, the company forest has been
managed to produce high-quality northern hardwood timber through
single-tree selection cutting for nearly 100 years. Some of our
hardwood stands have been cut on a 10 year cycle eight times.
Through the intensive forestry practices I have helped to implement
on Nicolet's lands, and over 250,000 acres of other industrial forest,
I have learned that intensive timber harvesting and ecological
sustainability are not mutually exclusive. To the contrary, over 53,000
acres of these same forestlands have been maintained in such excellent
condition that they have attracted conservation easements through the
Federal Forest Legacy Program and the Wisconsin Stewardship Fund.
Unfortunately, the Proposed Rule under consideration today seeks to
take the National Forest System further down the road where timber
harvesting takes a back seat to landscape concerns, forest restoration,
and nearly every current scientific concern except timber management.
If that sounds over-stated, I would refer to page 8509 under Analysis
and Decisions where ``Less prescriptive descriptions of timber
harvests, sale schedules, and management practices under the proposed
rule may provide greater flexibility for units to develop more adaptive
plans capable of responding to uncertain vegetation management and
restoration needs''. With agency budgets declining, this proposed Rule
actually imposes a number of costly processes and procedures on the
Forest Service: a new planning layer of assessments (Sec. 219.6), more
monitoring (Sec. 219.12), and the almost impossible requirement to
demonstrate that a forest plan will ``maintain viable populations of
Much of the proposed assessment and monitoring is directed toward
climate change. Isn't it ironic that carbon sequestration is most
effective in younger thrifty stands of trees, but the Forest Service is
continuing to manage older and older stands of decadent trees through
lack of harvest? These older trees actually give off net emissions of
CO2 into the atmosphere. In contrast, a University of
Wisconsin study found that sustainably-managed northern hardwood
forests are sequestering 1.5 tons per acre per year of CO2,
while returning oxygen to the atmosphere and making a significant
contribution to the economy.
There is one thing I am certain of: If we do not set out specific,
prescriptive timber harvest criteria in the proposed rule, we will not
improve the current failure of the Forest Service to manage their
Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ). In Wisconsin our local forest, the
Chequamegon-Nicolet, is one of the more active forests in the system,
and it harvests only about 50% of its ASQ. Unfortunately, this harvest
consists predominantly of low quality red pine plantation wood, while
over 600,000 acres of northern hardwood forestland is being neglected
and allowed to rot. This lack of timber production is having a high
cost in lost jobs and revenues in the local economy, but it is also
exporting our demand for wood to other public and private forestland,
and even to other countries less capable of managing that demand. Our
company is currently importing 22% of our wood supply, while U.S.
Forest Service lands are off limits.
The juxtaposition of purposes on page 8509 is quite revealing,
because the very next sentence after being less prescriptive regarding
timber harvests, outlines the new plan's direction away from timber
management: ``Slight cost increases for science support may occur under
the proposed rule due in part to more prescriptive language to take
into account the best available scientific information when preparing
assessment reports, plan decision documents, and monitoring evaluation
reports''. So while pursuing the latest scientific information on
climate change, forest restoration, or the latest vogue in ecology, the
Forest Service proposes to be less prescriptive regarding this most
fundamental scientific fact: Every forest has an annual growth and
mortality rate. By keeping a healthy balance between growth and annual
harvest (the purpose of the ASQ) the mortality rate is minimized.
Shamefully, today many of our National Forests have a higher rate of
mortality than harvest. The Chequamegon-Nicolet in Wisconsin has
251MMBF of annual growth, 122MMBF of annual mortality, and only 72MMBF
of annual harvest. This is an extravagant waste of a precious renewable
Further evidence of the plan's trend away from timber management is
found on page 8510 under Monitoring where ``Monitoring under the
proposed rule focuses to a greater extent on ecosystems, habitat
diversity, and small numbers of focal species.'' Again, where is any
emphasis given to meeting timber outputs, monitoring timber mortality,
or assessing the economic impacts of under-harvesting the ASQ?
To the contrary, under ``Distributional Impacts'' on the same page,
8510, the proposed plan states ``Due to the programmatic nature of this
rule, it is not feasible to assess distributional impacts (e.g.,
changes in jobs, income, or other measures for socioeconomic conditions
across demographics to economic sectors) in detail.'' In other words,
don't bother the agency with the burden of assessing the negative
economic impacts of under harvesting, because they will be too busy
accomplishing the following objective from the same section: ``The
proposed rule is more prescriptive about considering and facilitating
restoration of damaged resources as well as improving resource capacity
to withstand environmental risks and stressors.''
Given the current high unemployment rate in our country, it is very
important that we assess the value of our available forest resources
and the number of jobs those resources can provide. A recent analysis
by the Minnesota DNR found that $1 of timber value produced $41.60 of
value-added economic activity. By one rule of thumb, every 20,000 board
feet of timber harvested provides enough raw material to support one
job in the forest products industry. At those rates, the Chequamegon-
Nicolet's unharvested Allowable Sale Quantity (ASQ) of 60MMBF could
produce $18 million of additional timber revenue, $748.8 million of
value-added economic activity, and 3,000 additional jobs every year!
Whatever happened to common sense where the physical needs of
society and the wise use of our natural resources were given at least
equal importance with our desire to maintain a healthy environment?
Again, in my experience the two are not mutually exclusive. We must
find a way to strike a balance in this proposed rule that will
accomplish both. The future of our National Forests and the health of
our country depend on it.
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.
Mr. Shannon, I look forward to your testimony.
STATEMENT OF JOHN T. SHANNON, VICE PRESIDENT,
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF STATE FORESTERS; FORESTER, STATE OF
ARKANSAS, LITTLE ROCK, AR
Mr. Shannon. Good morning, Mr. Chairman. How are you today?
I am the State Forester of Arkansas, and this planning rule
is really important. So I want you to know how much we
appreciate you just making time for this hearing today. Thank
And even though I am from Arkansas, I did want the chair
and the Ranking Member to know that my mom and dad lived in
Lewistown for years and years. Is that one of your districts?
The Chairman. I spotted you as a quality individual.
Mr. Shannon. That would be my mom and dad who were quality.
Mom taught at a Catholic grade school there for years and dad
worked at the steel mill in Lewistown. So I like Pennsylvania.
And I want to thank the Forest Service. They have been
really open in this rulemaking process. They have not just
accepted comments from the State Foresters, they have really
solicited our comments. And Forest Service officials have been
briefing us on the status of the rulemaking. So we have a great
relationship with the Forest Service, and I appreciate them
keeping us in the loop here.
There are three recommendations that the State Foresters
have. The first one is coordination. And I have heard some of
the Members already say that wildfires and bark beetles ignore
property boundaries. So it is really smart for forest-owning
neighbors to work together on addressing forestry issues.
The farm bill directed State Foresters to identify the
primary forestry issues in our states, and we have all done
that work. So as the National Forests prepare their new plans,
I think it is really important that they understand the issues
that we have already identified under the farm bill and let us
coordinate our efforts to meet those priority issues.
The second recommendation deals with the role of science.
We all accept how essential it is to use sound science in
forest management. We also know that the science evolves, the
science has developed over the decades, and you can have two
really smart forest scientists who disagree on an issue. I
think it is important to remember that the forester or the
technician who has been working on the ground, who has a really
good knowledge of his ranger district, we need to give some
deference to the professional opinions of those local Forest
Service employees. I understand that there will be a new
standard if this rule is adopted, and it is the best available
science standard, which includes a very heavy documentation
Right now the courts give a lot of discretion to the
technical decisions of the Forest Service, and that is
appropriate because there are very technical scientific issues
and the courts recognize that special knowledge. If we shift to
a best available science, I think that places at risk the
deference that the courts have given to the Forest Service. So
the State Foresters would caution the Forest Service to be
really careful what you ask for here. You don't want to lose
that deference from the courts.
And the last issue pertains to sustainability, and I have
heard Members raise this issue, too, and my colleagues on this
panel. I think everybody agrees there is ecological
sustainability and social and economic, and I understand that
the Forest Service is really focusing on the ecological
sustainability. I understand that because if you screw up the
integrity of a forest, those other benefits will not flow. You
have to have environmental, ecological soundness.
I really hope, however, that the Forest Service gives equal
credit to economic sustainability. And if I were writing this
plan, I would use the word ``jobs'' 100 times and I wouldn't be
embarrassed about it. I live and work in a rural state. The
National Forests in Arkansas are drivers for jobs in rural
America. We have sort of figured out how to get that done in
Arkansas; it sounds like we need to do that a little bit more
in other parts of the country. So ecological sustainability is
the threshold; we need to have that, but boy, I would really
push for economic sustainability, too, not just because we are
in a tough time now, but you can really sustain whole
communities for generations through the work of National
Mr. Chairman, I sure appreciate your time today. Thank you,
[The prepared statement of Mr. Shannon follows:]
Prepared Statement of John T. Shannon, Vice President, National
Association of State Foresters; Forester, State of Arkansas, Little
The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) appreciates the
opportunity to submit written public testimony to the House Committee
on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry
regarding the USDA Forest Service Proposed Rulemaking for a new
National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule. NASF represents
the directors of the state forestry agencies in all fifty states, eight
territories and associated states, and the District of Columbia. State
Foresters manage and protect state and private forests across the U.S.,
which encompass \2/3\ of the nation's forests and enjoy a longstanding
working relationship with the USDA Forest Service. We offer the
following general comments on the planning rule as well as state
perspectives on coordinating planning decisions with non-Federal
ownerships, the role of science in planning and decision-making, the
interdependent elements of sustainability, and monitoring and adaptive
The Forest Service manages 155 National Forests and 20 grasslands
encompassing an area of 193 million acres that comprise the National
Forest System (NFS). State Foresters have a strong interest in the
planning rule given the threat of wildfire and insect and disease
outbreaks that face the National Forest system also pose risks to
adjacent forest land owned and managed by states, tribes, forest
industry, families and other owners. A coordinated approach that spans
across ownerships is necessary to ensure these challenges do not
further impair the ability of the nation's forests to deliver clean and
abundant water, clean air, wildlife habitat, wood products, recreation
and other important values that all Americans appreciate. State
Foresters stand ready to work with the USFS to help ensure management
activities within the NFS are coordinated with other non-Federal
The ultimate measure of success of any planning rule will be on-
the-ground accomplishments that improve forest health and the economic
well-being of local communities. To be successful, a planning rule must
afford enough flexibility for regions and each National Forest to
address their unique set of issues while providing a solid framework
for management activities needed to ensure ecological, social and
economic sustainability. We believe that State Foresters should play a
unique role in the USFS planning process. As outlined below, we have
several suggestions as the Forest Service finalizes a new planning rule
that will help the agency take advantage of local expertise while
implementing Secretary Vilsack's ``All-lands'' vision.
Coordinating Planning Decisions with Non-Federal Ownerships
The threat of wildfire and insect and disease outbreaks that face
the National Forest system also pose risks to adjacent forest land
owned and managed by states, tribes, forest industry, families and
other owners. A coordinated approach that spans across ownerships is
necessary to ensure these challenges do not further impair the ability
of the nation's forests to deliver clean and abundant water, clean air,
wildlife habitat, wood products, recreation and other important values
that all Americans appreciate.
An important outcome of the 2008 Farm Bill called for state
forestry agencies to complete Statewide Forest Resource Assessments and
Strategies (Forest Action Plans). The assessments provide an analysis
of forest conditions and trends in the state (regardless of ownership)
and delineate priority rural and urban forest landscape issues and
areas. The strategies provide long-term plans for investing state,
Federal, and other resources to where they can most effectively
stimulate or leverage desired action and engage multiple partners.
These Forest Action Plans were developed through a collaborative
process involving other Federal agencies (including responsible
officials from the NFS), state and local government, Indian tribes,
citizens and interest groups and will be updated periodically.
Addressing priority issues related to impairments to forest watersheds;
fire, fuel loads and the wildland-urban interface; and forest health,
resilience, and sustainability will take a coordinated effort across
ownerships and landscapes. We strongly believe that activities on the
NFS should be coordinated with those outside of NFS boundaries in a way
that responds to these (and other) priority issues identified in the
Forest Action Plans.
NASF supports language found in the 1982 planning rule which states
that ``[t]he responsible line officer shall coordinate regional and
forest planning with the equivalent and related planning efforts of
other Federal agencies, state and local governments, and Indian
tribes.'' We also believe the Resource Management Planning regulations
for the Bureau of Land Management (43 CFR 1610.3-1) provide an
example of stronger language relative to coordination and collaboration
with other Federal, state and local governments and Indian tribes. The
BLM planning regulations provide flexibility to address inconsistencies
between Federal and non-Federal Government plans, to develop management
plans in collaboration with cooperating agencies, and further mandates
that plan developers invite outside agencies to participate as
cooperating agencies and that other Federal, state and local and Indian
tribes are provided ``opportunity for review, advice, and suggestion on
issues and topics which may affect or influence other agency or other
Role of Science in Planning
Forestry has been defined as the science, art and practice of
creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated
resources for human benefit and in a sustainable manner to meet desired
goals, needs, and values.\1\ Science provides the essential foundation
in forest planning; yet, our understanding of the ecological, economic
and social components of forestry is continually evolving as conditions
change across the landscape. We fully endorse the use of science by
responsible officials on the NFS and believe the planning rule should
not discount the experience and training of professional resource
managers to deal with changing conditions in light of incomplete
\1\ Helms. J.A. (Ed.) 1998. Dictionary of Forestry. Bethesda, MD:
Society of American Foresters.
The proposed rule introduces a new standard that requires the
responsible official to consider the best available scientific
information in decision-making. Responsible officials are to document
the process, sources and type of information considered in reaching the
determination as to what constitutes the most accurate, reliable and
relevant scientific information. While the acknowledgment of the
important role of science in preparing forest plans is laudable, we
have concerns that the best available science standard will introduce
legal challenges that will stand in the way of improving the management
of NFS lands and create a new and substantial workload for the
Disputes over competing science have significant potential to
further delay the planning process. These disputes will often be driven
by uncertainty in the extrapolation and application of science to large
landscapes such as the National Forests. There is often more than one
divergent scientific viewpoint that can be used to inform management
decisions. While we agree that scientific debate is healthy in trying
to determine a measure of certainty in management planning, we hold
concerns that these disputes will be settled through litigation while
further delaying needed action to improve the health of the NFS.
The best available science standard also has the potential to place
the responsible official in a difficult position of having to marshal a
large number of discrete studies into a planning document to support
management decisions. The standard creates a new and substantial
workload for the responsible official to document each and every
scientific study considered at least every 2 years when compiling the
monitoring and evaluation report and during any forest plan revision,
amendment or assessment process. The proposed rule calls on the
responsible official to demonstrate that the most accurate, reliable
and relevant information for any given decision was appropriately
considered in reaching planning decisions. We are concerned that the
duty to demonstrate that the best available science was considered in
planning decisions could prove costly and result in the agency having
Given the possible complications with the best available science
standard that we have outlined, we are concerned that this standard may
ultimately cause additional expense in both agency time to meet the
documentation standards, in defending against possible attacks to the
sufficiency of the documentation itself, and in meeting a new burden of
proof in court. We support the greatest deference afforded to Federal
agencies to make decisions involving scientific determinations afforded
under the Administrative Procedures Act. We recommend that the planning
rule rely on standards covering the use and dissemination of scientific
information found in the Federal Data Quality Act (P.L. 106-554 515)
and subsequent guidelines from the Office of Management and Budget.\2\
The Federal Data Quality Act provides protections and assurances for
the quality of scientific information used and distributed by Federal
agencies and we believe that reliance on the provisions of the Federal
Data Quality Act would alleviate the concerns over the potentially
costly and controversial standard included in the proposed rule.
Interdependent Elements of Sustainability
The decline in a healthy forest-based industry throughout much of
the country is a factor contributing to the decline in the social and
economic benefits flowing from NFS lands. The growing threats to the
ecological sustainability commonly associated with a lack of active
management on Federal lands include fires outside the historical range
of variability and spread of native and invasive pest species at
The NASF supports a planning rule that considers the economic,
ecological and social elements of sustainability as interdependent
systems. These three factors cannot be ranked in order of importance
and elevating one consideration will result in the disparate treatment
of others. We believe the agency is not limited to influencing the
ecological sustainability of NFS lands and has significant potential to
provide for the economic and social well-being of forest-based
communities. For instance, there are significant opportunities to enter
into long-term stewardship contracts (and other contracting
authorities) that provide jobs and help restore the health and
productivity of the National Forests.
The NASF continues to be supportive of adequate monitoring to
support the adaptive management framework necessary on the National
Forest system. Monitoring frameworks should provide for assessing
forests across all ownerships and should take advantage of the Forest
Action Plans completed by state forestry agencies. We hold concerns
that broader-scale monitoring strategies that may incorporate data from
the Forest Inventory and Analysis program will be unable to adequately
monitor for changes to forest species composition, forest growth rates,
wildfire risk, wildlife habitat, and other relevant trends across all
ownerships. At the funding levels proposed in the President's FY12
budget, the FIA program would be eliminated in several states, and
others would see their FIA program scaled back through longer time
intervals between successive inventories or elimination of higher
resolution monitoring projects. We support efforts by the agency to
leverage the monitoring being conducted by other government and non-
governmental entities and believe this is an opportunity for State
Foresters and Forest Action Plans to play an important role in forest
planning efforts. We strongly believe that collaboration is an
important part of continuing to improve the efficient and effective use
of limited monitoring resources.
The groundwork to accomplish Secretary Vilsack's ``All-lands''
vision has been laid through the development of the Forest Action
Plans. We look forward to the agency's next steps to operationalize--
through the planning rule--the Secretary's vision by coordinating
activities on the National Forest system with those on adjacent
ownerships to address priorities identified in the Forest Action Plans.
We greatly appreciate the invitation from the Subcommittee to submit
written testimony on the new planning rule and would also like to
recognize the hard work that the planning rule team at the USFS.
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Shannon.
STATEMENT OF JACK TERRELL, SENIOR PROJECT
COORDINATOR, NATIONAL OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE
CONSERVATION COUNCIL, AUBURNDALE, FL
Mr. Terrell. Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Holden,
Congressman Ribble, thanks for the opportunity to allow me to
testify about the concerns of the motorized recreation
community regarding the Forest Service Proposed Land Management
Planning Rule. As indicated in the introduction, I am Senior
Project Coordinator for the National Off-Highway Vehicle
Conservation Council, which is a real mouthful. We are a
national organization, a 501(c)(3) education foundation, and we
develop a wide spectrum of educational programs and materials
that are available for individuals, clubs, associations, and
government agencies in order to further a positive future for
responsible OHV recreation.
As we know, the forest plans provide broad guidance for
planning specific projects and activities, including both
motorized and non-motorized recreation. As a result, the
planning rule and its subsequent implementation can have a
dramatic effect on the number and quality of OHV recreation
opportunities. We are concerned that this will inhibit
motorized recreation, it will be very difficult to implement,
and it will also be burdensome and very costly to implement. We
see an awful lot of words and verbiage in the proposed rule
that we feel are going to lead to just exhaustive legal
challenges to the rule.
As a citizen who has personally invested hundreds, if not
thousands, of volunteer hours participating in many Forest
Service planning processes to identify and manage trail
systems, I must tell you that the recreation public is
frustrated by what seems to be a never-ending series of new
plans that constantly change the ground rules and leave the
impression that public input is ignored or discounted. It seems
that each new process is formulated to restrict OHV trail
opportunities and totally ignore the resultant negative impact
on jobs and economic development in rural communities. I have
heard a lot of testimony about the importance of timber
production. Recreation opportunities produce revenue to the
local rural communities, and recreation needs to be considered
on an equal level with the other elements of the plan.
As I have noted in my written testimony, when the initial
Notice of Intent was issued, recreation was barely mentioned in
it and we and many other recreation groups banded together and
submitted comments on that. And we are encouraged that
recreation now is at least mentioned in the planning rule, but
we are concerned that the proposed rule includes provisions
that minimize the importance of recreation and allows
preservation to override recreation and economic factors. And
this is definitely in contradiction to the Multiple-Use
Sustained-Yield Act, which directs that the National Forest be
managed under the principles of multiple use, including
We are concerned that the draft includes many undefined or
ill-defined terms that are ambiguous at best and will be a
magnet for litigation. We have heard earlier testimony about
the term sustainable recreation and socially sustainable. We
see those terms as being terms that will be litigated another
30 years into the future. We also see terms like aesthetic
value; spiritual, educational and cultural sustenance; and
spatial mosaic which also are indefinable in the context of
After decades of litigation and numerous attempts to
develop a workable planning rule, the Forest Service should
focus on producing a rule that is clear and relies on
recognized defined terms, not creating vague terminology that
will result in anti-access advocates asking courts to limit
recreation based on their own interpretation of these terms.
Also mentioned earlier is the costly and burdensome element
of the requirement to utilize best available science, and I am
not going to delve into that because we have heard that from
the other members that have been testifying.
We are extremely concerned about the inclusion of the
viable population provision in the rule. The Forest Service
acknowledged that it didn't work in the 1982 rule, and it seems
like they are making it more ambiguous and more difficult to
And I would also urge the Subcommittee to urge the Forest
Service to extend the comment period for the draft rule beyond
May 16. The rule is extremely complex. And although issued in
February, the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the rule
was not issued until April 21, less than 3 weeks ago, and it is
impossible to do a complete analysis of that EIS in such a
I will close by noting that the OHV community, NOHVCC, my
family, and myself as a long-term rider, have a vested interest
in the implementation of a successful planning rule, and we
hope that the final rule resolves the issues that I have
identified that will unnecessarily restrict recreation or
otherwise make the rule unworkable or unenforceable.
Thank you for your time.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Terrell follows:]
Prepared Statement of Jack Terrell, Senior Project Coordinator,
National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, Auburndale, FL
Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Holden, and distinguished Members
of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry, thank you for
the opportunity to testify about the concerns that the motorized
recreation community has with the Forest Service's proposed Land
Management Planning Rule. I am Jack Terrell, Senior Project Coordinator
for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, a national
body of off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation enthusiasts, that develops
and provides a wide spectrum of programs, materials and information, or
``tools,'' to individuals, clubs, associations and agencies in order to
further a positive future for responsible OHV recreation.
Forest Plans provide broad guidance for planning of specific
projects and activities, including both motorized and non-motorized
recreation. As a result, the Land Management Planning Rule and its
subsequent implementation can have a dramatic effect on the number and
quality of sustainable OHV recreation opportunities. NOHVCC and the OHV
community at large are concerned that the Forest Service's current
proposed rule will lead to the development of Forest Plans that will
inhibit motorized and other forms of recreation, be difficult,
burdensome and costly to implement, and most likely will lead to
exhaustive legal challenges. As a citizen who has invested hundreds, if
not thousands, of volunteer hours participating in Forest Service
planning processes to identify and manage trail systems, I must tell
you that the recreation public is frustrated by what seems to be a
never-ending series of ``new'' plans that constantly change the ground
rules and leave the definite impression that public input is either
ignored or downgraded. It seems that each new process or rule is
formulated to further restrict OHV trail opportunities, and totally
ignore the negative economic impact of such decisions on jobs or
economic development in rural communities.
An initial concern of both the OHV community and the recreation
community at large was that the Notice of Intent to develop the rule
scarcely mentioned recreation. As a result, NOHVCC joined with other
recreation groups to encourage the Forest Service to more meaningfully
address recreation in the proposed rule, and we appreciate that the
draft rule does, in fact, recognize that recreation plays a role on
National Forests. We are disappointed, however, that the proposed rule
clearly provides that preservation trumps social and economic factors,
including recreation, contradicting the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield
Act (MUSYA), which directs that the National Forests be managed under
principles of multiple use and to produce a sustained yield of products
and services. We are concerned that this will mean that Forest Plans
will heavily favor locking out recreation instead of maintaining and
creating sustainable recreation opportunities that support the economy
of local communities.
We are also concerned that the draft includes many undefined or
ill-defined terms that are ambiguous at best and will be a magnet for
litigation. For example, the draft repeatedly refers to ``sustainable
recreation.'' NOHVCC believes that all recreation should be
``sustainable'' and frequently uses the term when we discuss recreation
opportunities that are manageable and maintainable; however, the
definition of sustainable recreation in the draft rule introduces new
Sustainable Recreation--The set of recreational opportunities, uses
and access that, individually and combined, are ecologically,
economically, and socially sustainable, allowing the responsible
official to offer recreation opportunities now and into the future.
What does ``socially sustainable'' mean? We are confident that the
courts will have to decide if this is left in the final rule. What is
socially sustainable to one interest may not be to another.
Other terms like ``aesthetic values,'' ``spiritual, educational,
and cultural sustenance,'' and ``spatial mosaic,'' among many others,
are undefined and perhaps, undefinable in the context of regulation.
After decades of litigation and several different attempts at
developing a workable planning rule the Forest Service should focus on
producing a rule that is clear and relies on long-standing and defined
terms, like those found in the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, not
creating vague new terminology that will almost certainly result in
anti-access advocates asking courts to limit recreation based on their
interpretation of these terms.
Another factor of the proposed rule that will make it costly and
burdensome is its reliance on ``best available science.'' While sound
science certainly should have a role in planning activities we are
concerned about what constitutes ``best'' science and who gets to make
that determination. There is growing recognition that expending
resources to determine what is the ``best available science'' will be
not only time and resource consuming, but unnecessary. Again, it will
almost inevitably be brought to the courts to decide what constitutes
the ``best available science.''
The last specific concern with the draft I will mention is the
inclusion of the ``viable population'' provisions. The Forest Service
itself acknowledges in the summary of the draft that similar provisions
in the 1982 rule, ``at times proved to be unattainable because of
factors outside the control of the agency.'' These factors still
exist--species ranging on and off of Forest lands, activities outside
the plan area, failure of the species to occupy suitable habitat,
climate change--only the draft rule would expand the current provisions
to include invertebrate as well as vertebrate species. The ``viable
species'' provisions of the 1982 rule are frequently used as the basis
for litigation and the draft rule expands upon them instead of
substantially revising or eliminating them all together.
I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to encourage the
Subcommittee to urge the Forest Service to extend the comment period,
which is set to end on May 16. The draft rule is extremely complex and
it is difficult to fully digest in any amount of time, and May 16th is
fast approaching. The Forest Service has been trying to produce a
workable rule for nearly 30 years, so providing an additional 90 days
to the public to formulate extensive and well thought out comments
should not prove to be too much of a delay. In addition, the Forest
Service asked a third party to conduct an external science review of
the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that accompanies the
proposed rule. The review was released to the public on April 21.
Stakeholders simply need more time to review the draft rule, the DEIS
and the science review to make informed comments and recommendations.
I will close by noting that the OHV community, NOHVCC, my family,
and myself as a rider have a vested interest in the implementation of a
successful planning rule. We hope the final rule resolves all the
issues I mentioned above as well as any others that will unnecessarily
restrict recreation or otherwise make the rule unworkable.
The Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Terrell. Thank you to all the
witnesses on the second panel. We really appreciate you
bringing your experiences and your expertise on this very
I yield myself the first 5 minutes here. And if there are
questions beyond as we go around, it looks like we will have an
opportunity for a second round.
Commissioner Bortz, once again, welcome. Good to see you. I
look forward to seeing you tomorrow as well. I will be in
Warren tomorrow. Always good to be in Warren.
My first question is to you, Mr. Bortz, Commissioner, how
would you encourage more coordination between the local
development districts and the Forest Service planning team?
Obviously for you, specifically in the context of the Allegheny
National Forest, but I think those are lessons that may be
generalized, obviously, to other forests and LDDs.
Mr. Bortz. Well, in my documentation I make specific
reference to the local development districts. They are part of
the Appalachian Regional Commission which extends from the
southern tier of New York State, all the way down to Alabama,
so it represents a considerable amount of real estate, and
there is no shortage of National Forests found within there.
The charge of the local development districts is primarily
planning. It is a federally funded agency which has a direct
relationship with their representative counties. Warren County
is a part of the Northwest Commission, I believe we have eight
counties within that local development district. So they have a
tremendous repository of local knowledge.
What I found very interesting, as I went through the last
planning process, is that here we have a federally funded
agency which is clearly charged with the local interests and
local economy, and they weren't at the table with regard to the
forest plan that went through the Allegheny National Forest. In
fact, it wasn't until later, through some admonitions of myself
and other Commissioners, that we were able to get a degree of
participation within that process. I think we have to take a
look at those agencies within our respective communities that
have strong local knowledge that can lend a tremendous benefit
to the planning process.
With respect to the National Forests, they are not the only
ones out there that are doing planning, and they are not the
only ones out there that have a vested interest with regard to
what should be happening within our forests, within our
communities. They can be a very significant player as a forest
plan unfolds. Unfortunately, while the forest planning rule
does provide a background and a framework, I don't see a degree
of specificity that is needed in order to bring a coordinated
effort of planning together. And as I have stated within my
White Paper, that too often I see that we have arbitrary
sentiments that are left over by the local official.
I was listening to the comments that were put forth by the
Under Secretary, and what really amazed me is his emphasis on
the local official. Well, I have to share something with you,
in Warren County we have had six Forest Supervisors within the
last 5 or 6 years. I mean, it has been a revolving door. So how
do you establish, how do you bring a Forest Supervisor up to
speed with regard to local issues--if there is a true and
sincere effort on behalf of the National Forest to understand
those issues--when you form a relationship, you are
transferring information and they are out the door. So it
presents a tremendous challenge.
I suppose this is a way to get around to, when you make a
specific reference to local development districts, we need to
have some sort of stipulated framework which says this is how
planning is going to happen at the local level. Right now we
don't have that.
The Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. Guthrie, you mentioned in your written statement the
requirement to demonstrate that a forest plan will maintain
viable populations of species. Can you elaborate on your
concern with this?
Mr. Guthrie. It is a very open-ended statement. As we
discussed earlier with Mr. Sherman's testimony, he wants to
include invertebrates into that monitoring and assessment,
which is a whole panoply of species that really is opening, I
feel, the Forest Service up to further litigation, and it is
just too open-ended of a statement. Viable, what is viable? And
what is a sustainable population? Those are open to quite a bit
of scientific interpretation, and I think just much too
ambiguous for a proposed rule.
The Chairman. Would you agree that because of the ambiguity
with the term, it is just very apparent to me that is kind of
ripe for a lawsuit as well. When you are not specific, when you
allow that kind of flexibility for interpretation, it doesn't
seem like it serves anyone well.
Mr. Guthrie. Right, right. Those words jumped off the page
at me, as did the ones that insisted on more assessment and
monitoring and the role of science. We have so much of that
under the current rule that we have paralysis by analysis. And
we are not getting past that to get any real work done on the
forest. There are just hundreds and thousands of people
depending on that to happen, and it is just simply not
happening. And there are different reasons through the
different regions of the country, but the bottom line is that
timber is not being produced, it is not being made available to
our industry and to the public that needs it. And as a
consequence, we are not only having to import wood from other
countries, but we are exporting that demand to those countries
that are least capable of sustaining good ecological practices.
South America is a perfect example.
The Chairman. Thank you, sir. My time has expired.
I yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Holden.
Mr. Holden. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Guthrie, I assume from your comments that you would
rather have a new rule as opposed to operating under the 1982
provisions; you would just like changes to the proposed rule?
Mr. Guthrie. I honestly don't believe the 1982 rule is a
viable alternative with the pressure to see something new
happen. I certainly think that the terms of the 1982 rule that
try to bring forth an emphasis on ASQ should be brought into
this rule and not be over-dominated by the monitoring and
assessment of ecological factors.
And the 1982 rule is not being implemented today. That is
one of the biggest problems we have. In fact, I wasn't going to
bring this issue up, but the Forest Service has had an audit
for FSC, Forest Stewardship Council, and they couldn't pass the
audit because they have failed to implement their current plan.
That is just not acceptable under the FSC rules.
Mr. Holden. I wonder how our other three panelists feel
about the 1982 provisions as opposed to the new proposal and
what changes--Mr. Terrell, you already mentioned some of the
changes you would make, but anyone else have any comments on
the 1982 provisions versus the new proposal, and what changes
would you like to see?
Mr. Shannon. Thank you. I do understand that under the
current rule it can take years and years and years to get a
plan simply amended, and we can't continue to conduct business
that way. That has to change. So it is time for a new rule, in
my opinion. And I hope the Under Secretary is correct that it
will shrink down the amount of time required to write a new
rule or amend a rule.
Mr. Holden. Commissioner Bortz, my father was a County
Commissioner for 16 years, so I know the work that you do.
Mr. Bortz. Yes. It is all over the place, you bet.
If I could add something to that, and I would like to
address, in brief, the allowable sale quantity. And it seems as
if there may be an emphasis moving off of the annual allowable
sale quantity and looking more towards a lifetime approach with
regard to that plan. The forest plans last practically 10 to 15
years. A great deal of science goes into what should be the
annual vegetative management plan, the allowable sale quantity.
Oftentimes, what we see is we are looking at this thing on
an annual basis, so if you have a 55 million board feet
allocation, which I believe is the current, in the 2007 plan of
the Allegheny National Forest, we have 54 million board feet as
an ASQ. If you come up short that year to, like I see a 20
million board feet harvest, where does that other 30 to 34
million board feet go? Are we banking that? Are we going to
say, okay, next year we should harvest 80 million board feet?
This is the type of thing, I think, needs to be looked at.
Again, when you start taking a look at an ASQ, the impact
it can have on the ecology of the forest. And while we do talk
about jobs--and no one is a stronger advocate on economic
development jobs--I want to take a look at this thing and spin
it on its ear with regard to what is healthy for the forest. We
have forest plans that are being submitted to our communities
saying, ``Hey, if 54 million board feet is healthy for the
forest, that is what we need to sustain good forest health.''
And when we are harvesting 15, 20, 25 million board feet and
effectively letting half of our allowable sale quantity rot, it
has a tremendous impact with regard to sustainability of that
forest. And that is to say, if we just implement the plan as
submitted, we could have a tremendous impact with regard to our
So, we have to take a look at the allowable sale quantity
on the life of the plan as opposed to just an annual basis, for
And the second thing, too, I don't think enough emphasis
has been put on the current rules relative to local government
involvement. The local governments are the repositories for
these forests. And broad-sweeping decisions can be made in a
disconnected fashion at the national and regional level, which
can have serious consequences to those of us at the local,
municipal, school district level.
Again, something should be implemented within the sections
of the rule plan to encourage, in a very definitive way, how
involvement should be at the local level and not just give a
I have to take some exception to the comments that I heard
earlier relative to the Forest Service saying that they are
involved with municipalities and so forth. It has not been my
experience nor the experience of a number of municipal
officials that this has taken place on any sincere level. We
are in the same room, we are talking about subject matter, but
decisions are being made, in my mind, that are completely out
of the step with the framework of what is happening, what needs
to happen at the local level. That needs to be addressed.
And if I could just say one final thing, and that is with
regard to personal property rights; you heard some things said
today relative to the activities with the oil and gas activity.
Ninety-three percent of the holdings within the ANF at least
are--the subsurface holdings in the ANF are owned by others. I
don't think this is altogether too dissimilar with other
National Forests. They represent a tremendous resource to our
communities. Imposing surface analysis onto subsurface holders
basically shuts down industries, and we have seen that within
Warren County and the counties of the Allegheny National
Forest. Some provision has to be made that, where analysis is
being considered, that it should have a stopgap measure
implemented that would prevent that analysis from moving
forward if it would adversely intrude itself onto subsurface
holders or the private property rights of others.
Mr. Holden. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman. And I now recognize
the gentleman from Wisconsin, Mr. Ribble, for 5 minutes.
Mr. Ribble. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have a bunch of questions, so maybe if there is time for
a second round, that would be great. But particularly I will
start with Mr. Guthrie.
I have heard a lot today about--and heard from you and
members of this panel--that the rule could be improved. What
specifically would you do to improve the proposed rule?
Mr. Guthrie. I would introduce specific language that would
force the Forest Service to follow their ASQ that is in the
current plan and in future plans. That is our best tool for
getting the forest properly managed. Harvesting is a tool we
have to have in place, and the ASQ is the measure of that tool.
When we have this high a rate of mortality--almost 50 percent
in the Chequamegon-Nicolet in Wisconsin--we are out of balance.
That is an unhealthy forest. A good managed, healthy forest
should have in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent mortality,
and we are almost at 50 percent. So we are way out of balance
in that area.
So the ASQ needs to be followed initially. And year after
year, as that performance has improved, you will see that
mortality go down. Right now on the Chequamegon-Nicolet there
is 131 million foot ASQ and they are harvesting 72. If we could
implement that 131, within 4 or 5 years you could easily see
that number ratchet up into the 200s just by improved forest
Mr. Ribble. Is that the primary benefit of getting us back
Mr. Guthrie. That would be the initial benefit because you
would see increased timber revenue to the Forest Service and to
the U.S. Treasury. When I first started in this career, the
U.S. Forest Service did actually return a profit to the U.S.
Treasury, and it has been a long time since that has happened.
If we could even get back on these current allowable cuts, we
would be profitable. So that would be step one.
And the benefits that come out of that are really the most
important step two, is then, once you start having this flow of
value-added products from the forest--veneer logs and saw logs
and high-value timber--you are going to see the industry
respond. The Congressman from Colorado this morning stated his
wafer board plant in Montrose is under receivership. Well, that
mill could be brought back if we started harvesting our
allowable cuts. And all the infrastructure that goes with those
mills would come back, and that adds thousands upon thousands
I didn't mention in my testimony earlier, but last evening
I was talking with our State Forester, Paul DeLong, and he had
some new figures that just came out of our Wisconsin County
forest system on some of their productivity and value. They are
currently harvesting, on Wisconsin's county forest system,
$27.5 million a year in timber revenue. It is creating 16,000
jobs and $4.6 billion in shipments of products. So now do the
math on the Chequamegon-Nicolet, 60 million feet, that would
translate to about at least $18 million. So \2/3\ of this
amount from the county forest, that would yield approximately
11,000 jobs and probably $3 billion in shipments. That could be
achieved almost overnight.
We have still have, fortunately, in Wisconsin
infrastructure to produce timber and the mills to process it,
both the paper and hardwood saw logs and softwood. Wisconsin is
probably one of the most well-rounded states in the country in
Mr. Ribble. Thanks for that.
Mr. Bortz, how would that economic impact affect a county?
We talked about kind of on the big national scale, but what
would be the impact on a county if you could do something like
Mr. Bortz. It would be significant, as I take a look at the
allowable sale quantity and how that would translate down to
the economic backdrop of my county. Again, job creation is
taking place. A healthy forest is a desirable forest to see, so
I would imagine that you would see some increases in tourism,
although I don't have any specific data to substantiate that.
But what would happen in a very real way? I appreciate the
analysis that I am hearing from Mr. Guthrie on that as far as
the economic impact and how it would trickle down through our
community. It would be significant. It would help my
municipalities, it would help my school districts specifically.
Again, we have some employment issues within my county; it
would certainly have a tremendous benefit with that.
Mr. Ribble. Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I will yield back. If I get a chance later, I
would like to ask Mr. Terrell a couple of questions.
The Chairman. I am sure you will get that opportunity at
I now recognize the gentleman from Florida, Mr.
Southerland, for 5 minutes.
Mr. Southerland. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you for being here today. I am encouraged
by your very simple, easy-to-understand approach to managing
our natural resources. This city could learn much from you. It
amazes me how we have within our ability the ability to solve
so many of the challenges we face, both at a local, state and
Federal level, but we seem to be going around the world just to
get across the street. And so right now, when the American
people need the practice of common sense more than perhaps any
time in my lifetime, we seem to be evading the common sense
that I have heard you express just in the few minutes that I
have sat here.
Let me ask you, Mr. Bortz, I am trying to get a feel of
your county because I certainly have some counties in my
district that seem to be similar to yours. We have National
Forests in our district. I am assuming you have a National
Forest in your county.
Mr. Bortz. Correct.
Mr. Southerland. What is the percentage of that, as far as
Mr. Bortz. Approximately 26 percent of the land mass within
Warren County is owned by the National Forest, the Federal
Government. I think it compromises somewhere in the
neighborhood of about 140,000 acres. The National Forest
itself, the ANF, would be about 535,000 acres, I believe.
Mr. Southerland. So if I could, in understanding your
county, what is your unemployment rate there right now?
Mr. Bortz. We are hovering somewhere around eight percent.
Mr. Southerland. Okay. But it sounds to me that you believe
that if the Federal Government is going to have lands in your
county, that obviously they have a responsibility. You haven't
made that statement, but I think that is your sentiment.
Mr. Bortz. It is my holding that anyone, regardless of the
owner, if you have an asset, you should be responsible using
it, Federal Government, private citizen.
Mr. Southerland. You pay your civic rent. You give back.
Mr. Bortz. Correct.
Mr. Southerland. And it sounds to me, in Mr. Guthrie's
testimony, that the Federal Government is perhaps failing in
their responsibility to give back.
Mr. Bortz. I don't think that is too strong of a statement.
I would agree with you.
Mr. Southerland. And it doesn't sound like you are wanting
something for free, you are just wanting the ability to work
hard, to be honest, and for your people in your counties and
your cities to have something to show for the forest that they
are ownership of. It is their resource. Because if they have 26
percent of the land in your county, you have to have something
to replace that, because if it is not bringing something to the
table, then it is just taking from the table and it is not
putting groceries on it.
Mr. Bortz. In my White Paper I talk a little bit about
that. If you have something that is 140,000 acres within your
community that has the direct and indirect opportunity to
create both great ecological activity as well as economic
activity, as an elected official you are going to be concerned
about: you want to see that thing happen and you want to see it
What is it giving back to my community? There is a presence
there. People do enjoy the forest. There are some people that
are making a living. But is it living up to its potential? Not
even close. We heard testimony by Mr. Guthrie today how you
have private forests that are being managed that are just out-
producing the National Forests considerably.
Mr. Southerland. I know we have a challenge down in our
area of understanding the difference between a park and a
National Forest. One has somewhat of a preservationist mind-
set, the other, in order to do the work of the people and be
truly responsible requires a conservationist mind-set.
There are parts of our National Forest that are designated
wilderness areas, basically making a National Forest a park.
Because I am not familiar with your area, are you facing the
Mr. Bortz. We are facing that issue to a degree. We have
some people that are strongly advocating for study areas of the
wilderness to be imposed upon areas of the forest. And what
concerns me greatly is that if a study area, if a wilderness
area is considered for designation, it goes into administrative
consideration and in fact is a wilderness just by
administrative edict. So without the formal designation it
becomes wilderness; it goes out of production and a whole host
of issues then are imposed upon it. So, yes, we do have that
Mr. Southerland. All right. Thank you, I yield back.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
The issue of wilderness is kind of an interesting one--and
I certainly agree with the Commissioner's perspectives.
Frankly, wilderness areas, when they are designated, should
come frankly as Acts of Congress within those Federal lands.
And yet, using backdoor administrative processes, we
essentially impose wilderness designation on areas. We take it
out of production, which was the original purpose of those
lands, and frankly, based on my observations, we create
unhealthy forests. It really lends itself, I believe--now I am
going to rely on Mr. Guthrie and Mr. Shannon's expertise here.
My next question really ties nicely into that in terms of the
health of the forest.
You gentlemen, with your expertise, do you believe that the
proposed rule presents a framework for adequately dealing with
potential invasive species threats, and also a question of
Mr. Guthrie. Currently, the invasive species threats in
Wisconsin are being addressed by the state DNR. So that would
be my experience on the Wisconsin State level. As far as across
the country, each area, each region has different species of
In the experience of Wisconsin and Michigan, I know their
state people are quite adept at staying on top of those. I feel
that the Forest Service does need to have a landscape level
idea of what is going on with those issues, but I don't think
it should take the precedent that they are trying to implement
with this plan.
The three-legged stool of economy, social issues and
ecology, the ecology leg is a lot longer on their stool and it
is just not going to be supportable. They are going to be open
for lawsuits on all of these invasive issues, on the
sustainability of all of these invertebrate species. We already
have a lot of that in the current plan. We have dealt with
timber wolf in Wisconsin, which is now out of control even to
the agreement of the Fish and Wildlife Service that has tried
to get them delisted three times. And we are hopeful of getting
that done this year.
So these types of issues, once they are in the rule and
have the force of law, are very difficult to overcome. And with
all due respect to Mr. Sherman this morning, I think he
understated just how critical that can be. And I would like to
be optimistic and think that we are going to put this chapter
of heavy litigation behind us in regard to our forest plan, but
20 years of experience tells me otherwise.
The Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. Shannon, any thought on management of invasive species,
wildfires within the current proposed rule?
Mr. Shannon. Yes, sir. And those issues that you identify
require rapid response, not a whole long period of analysis.
And sir, I am not sure if the proposed planning rule provides
that flexibility so that the professionals on the ground can
rapidly respond to invasive species. I think for fires people
get that, although in wilderness areas that is another issue.
But for invasives, I am not sure if the Forest Service has that
ability to respond rapidly.
So I guess in response, I hope for the Forest Service
officials who I guess are still sitting behind us, perhaps they
ought to make note of that and be sure they provide that
flexibility for quick action when invasives are identified.
Thank you, sir.
The Chairman. Thank you. And I certainly believe the Forest
Service needs the resources to do that. It is one of the
reasons I provided, as a witness, testimony at a recent
Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in terms of the
importance of proper resources for the Forest Service to deal
with invasive species, certainly also in forest research. I
think they are incredible tools in terms of managing healthy
Mr. Terrell, do you believe that the planning rule treats
motorized recreation fairly?
Mr. Terrell. I don't believe so. And one of the things that
I find objectionable in the proposed rule is I believe that it
relegates recreation in general, not only motorized recreation,
to minor league status.
It is getting to the point where, if you go back and look
at the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act, recreation was stated
as a primary purpose for management of the forests. And, with
each succession of rules that comes out, the importance of
recreation has been minimized and minimized and minimized. And
I think that this proposed rule takes it one step farther. And
if we use the analogy that was used earlier about a three-
legged stool, recreation has had their leg amputated.
And we hear a lot of discussion about the economy and jobs.
A lot of it is lip service, and it does not accept or recognize
the significant positive impact of recreation on the economy.
We can provide numerous reputable studies that have been done
across the country that indicate the number of jobs that have
been created because of off-highway vehicle recreation and the
number of dollars that have gone into the local economy, the
number of dollars that have gone into local sales and use taxes
that go directly into the local community or directly into that
And I have to give you a disclaimer: I am not an attorney,
and I don't claim to be one. But I have worked with a lot of
organizations across the United States that have been trying to
get trail plans approved and have been just hung up by
I see so many buzz words that are in this planning
document, that the one thing that you are going to create a
positive economic impact about, and that is to the attorneys
out there. Because while there is a lot wrong with the present
rule and the present rules needs to be changed, I am not
willing to say that what is being presented as the new rule
makes things better. And, in fact, I think it is going to make
The Chairman. Thank you, sir.
And, by the way, not being an attorney in this town adds to
I yield to Mr. Ribble for an additional 5 minutes of
Mr. Ribble. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Terrell, thanks for being here. I would invite you to
come up to Wisconsin's Northwoods. It is an especially
beautiful place in the middle of winter. It can be a little bit
cold. I know you have spent some time in Florida, but it might
be good for you.
But I do have a question. If you were going to improve the
law, from your industry's perspective and from off-road use--
not the law--the rule that is proposed, what specific
improvements would you put in it?
Mr. Terrell. Well, I think that there needs to be a much
stronger statement about the importance of recreation in the
proposed rule. I don't see that there. I think, as I say, it
gets some mention, but it is not strong enough. And I think
that that is something that needs to be rectified before that
rule would be adopted. I think it is extremely important. I
think that recreation needs to be recognized as an economic
generator, and that it is extremely important to the
communities involved. So that would be one of the things.
I also feel that, as I have indicated in the testimony,
that there are an awful lot of what I feel are ill-defined
terms stated in that rule, that there is going to be so much
litigation over it, the Forest Service will continue to be just
tied up in litigation.
And the other thing that the threat of litigation does, it
really puts a damper on the local authority, meaning the local
ranger district or the Forest Supervisor, because they are
making a lot of decisions and those decisions are being driven
by, am I going to get sued over this thing? And I don't know
how to solve that problem, but the language that I see in
there, and the terms that I see in there, now give me pause.
Mr. Ribble. Yes. Well, thank you.
Mr. Shannon, could you talk to the Committee a little bit
about the role of tourism, like what Mr. Terrell is speaking
of, the use of off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, I would assume
even jet-skis and things like that in the lakes, how that
impacts the states and how you might see the rule improved as
it relates to that?
Mr. Shannon. And I will certainly defer to people in the
outdoor recreation business, but I will tell you what I have
seen in Arkansas, on the Ouachita National Forest, especially
people from Texas, seem to like to come to the forests of
Arkansas and bring their off-road vehicles. And I know because
I have seen this, there are Arkansans who have invested in
small motels that are constructed on public highways just
outside the boundaries of the National Forests. They are
located so that these visitors to Arkansas can ride their four-
wheelers across this little two-lane road to the trailhead on
the Ouachita National Forest and enjoy a day of off-road
And it is just a tremendous opportunity and really
excellent use of the National Forest. I can't tell you what the
dollar value is, but I do know it is jobs and it is private
investment at the border of the National Forests. So there is
certainly a balance of uses. And sometimes that creates some
stress, of course. But there is absolutely room for a really
robust timber program and an outdoor recreation program. They
can work together.
Mr. Ribble. Well, thank you very much.
Mr. Guthrie, do you agree?
Mr. Guthrie. I agree. I see a lot of recreational use on
the Chequamegon-Nicolet in Wisconsin and the Ottawa National
Forest up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and, also, quite a
bit of other trail use: snowmobiling in the wintertime,
horseback riding, a lot of just good hiking.
And that is an important part of the economy. Tourism in
Wisconsin would be the number two industry to forest products,
in terms of northern Wisconsin. I think that needs to be part
of this rule, that that needs to be respected. And there is
certainly a balance there that needs to be maintained.
And I guess, in speaking to the overall management of the
forest, we are not advocating any kind of a backseat to
sustainability or good stewardship of the land and the forest.
And, again, in my experience, that can be accomplished at the
same time as good, healthy maintenance of the timber harvest.
Mr. Ribble. Okay. Thank you very much.
And I yield back, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
And I recognize Mr. Southerland, from Florida, for an
additional 5 minutes.
Mr. Southerland. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know that the Chairman was making comments about the
wilderness, about how when an area in the National Forest is
designated a wilderness area, that obviously that is done
without Congressional oversight or Congressional authority.
How significant in the forests that you have alluded to
today, how--are they quick on the trigger?
And in light of your stool example, the three-legged stool,
that we have to make sure that all three of those components
work together, are you concerned at all that the decision that
is made in designation of the wilderness determination,
implementation, that all three of those areas are taken into
consideration? And, if not, that that ability should be taken
away and only done through Congressional oversight?
Mr. Guthrie. That is an excellent question. Thank you.
On the Chequamegon-Nicolet that is our Wisconsin forest
that I am most familiar with, we currently have 446,000 acres
of designated wilderness. The Nicolet is 1.5 million acres, of
which 1.3 million is productive timberland; the other 200,000
acres are wetlands. So, of that 1.3 million of usable
timberland, fully \1/3\ is designated wilderness. And those
forest areas are just falling over.
A lot of this was designated back in the 1970s. And, at the
time, they were recreational-type areas, like Blackjack Springs
Wilderness Area up by Eagle River was just a pristine,
beautiful area with a spring in it. That is fine. That type of
area should be protected. But do we need hundreds of thousands
of acres around it and take it totally out of timber
production? That is where, as you stated earlier, we have kind
of lost our common sense. These things can be protected and
managed very appropriately without negating the opportunity to
harvest timber and manage timber and keep the forest healthy.
Nature is a brutal manager sometimes. When you get these
pockets of infestation or you get these western fires, you are
devastating literally millions of acres at a time that could
have been prevented by proper harvesting. We can mimic almost
everything in nature by proper harvesting when we want to. That
is what we need to give ourselves more ability to do.
So, to answer your question, yes, I would like to see
Congressional oversight on that type of designation.
Mr. Southerland. You made another interesting point when
you talked about fires. You know, it is my understanding that,
after a fire--walk me through, if you would, your opinion, as I
consider you an expert in your field. Obviously, when a fire
occurs, there certainly is an opportunity to maximize the
effects of that fire by being able to go in and clean up
properly and harvest. Grade the Service on their application of
common sense when it comes to going in after a fire.
Mr. Guthrie. Well, I don't have personal experience with
the western fires, being from Wisconsin. We are kind of known
as the asbestos forest. But I do know what goes on out there
from our state DNR who lends a hand out there with our
personnel when they need it. And what is happening out West is
I would grade a D to F in terms of the quickness of response.
Again, getting back to this issue of invasive species, it
is the same issue. You have these vectors on the ground that
are causing a problem in forest health, and if you don't jump
on them quickly, they multiply quickly. And you are getting
that pine beetle out West just infesting millions of acres,
killing that timber, and it is a dynamite box sitting there
waiting for a lightning strike to set it off. And when you
don't harvest that dead and dying timber, you are just
promoting more and more of that opportunity. And that is
happening in similar areas in Region 9, the eastern forest,
with insect and storm damage problems.
You know, a few years ago, we passed that Healthy Forest
Initiative so the Forest Service would have the ability for a
quick response, and, quite frankly, they are not using it very
Mr. Southerland. Yes.
Mr. Chairman, I just want to commend you and your wisdom in
having this hearing today.
I am a new Member, and I have found your testimony, as well
as the testimony of our first panel, to really shed light on
how the American people are not getting the maximization of the
resources that they own, that they should have access to. And I
just would encourage us to really try to have more on this same
topic, because I think that this is certainly an area where the
action of Congress can go a long way to be a good steward of
the American people's resources.
And so I commend you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
The Chairman. I thank the gentleman.
Now, before we adjourn, I would invite the Ranking Member
to make any closing remarks he has.
Mr. Holden. That is okay. Thank you.
The Chairman. Okay. I thank the Ranking Member. He is a
good partner in terms of serving what I think is a very good
Subcommittee, committed to the areas of jurisdiction that we
I want to thank everybody for your participation, Members
and, most especially, the witnesses who came here on your own
time and expense and sacrifice. We very, very much appreciate
I thought it was a very good hearing. Both the testimony
and the line of questions and the response to questions were
very helpful to kind of shed light. And, one of the most
powerful, influential resources, frankly, in Washington, D.C.,
is information, it is the facts. And I think we received lots
of that today.
You know, we are here talking about forest management, the
forest management plan, but, as somebody, very appropriately
said, ``We are talking about jobs, because our National Forests
were set up to provide sustainable resources for a strong
economy in this country. And that is all about jobs.''
It is an important issue, I think you would agree, worthy
of at least one additional hearing, so we will pursue that.
And I want to thank everyone for their attendance and their
Under the rules of the Committee, the record of today's
hearing will remain open for 10 calendar days to receive
additional material and supplementary written responses from
the witnesses to any question posed by a Member.
This hearing of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy,
and Forestry is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12:19 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[Material submitted for inclusion in the record follows:]
Submitted Letter by Hon. Glenn Thompson, a Representative in Congress
May 11, 2011
Hon. Thomas J. Vilsack,
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Dear Secretary Vilsack:
The House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and
Forestry held a hearing Thursday, May 5th to review the U.S. Forest
Service's proposed planning rule, currently in a public comment period.
During the course of this hearing, Members of the Subcommittee heard
concerns from a diverse group of stakeholders regarding the content of
the rule and its implications on silvicultural and other activities on
Forest Service lands. In light of these numerous concerns, we
respectfully request your extension of the public comment period by an
additional 90 days.
At the hearing, witnesses testified about their concerns that this
rule does not do enough to promote or assure active management of our
National Forests. Timber harvesting, as you know, is essential for
providing jobs in these rural areas and is a key component of keeping
our forests healthy because it helps to mitigate natural threats, such
as wildfires and invasive species. We were also concerned by testimony
that this rule may negatively affect rural communities who rely on
National Forests for timber, mineral production, and recreational
purposes to help support their economies. For your convenience and
review, we have also included copies of the witnesses' testimonies.
We are aware that a similar request to extend the current comment
period by a group of 65 multiple use organizations was recently denied
by U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell just last week. In his response,
Chief Tidwell cited the extensive work by the Forest Service at the
beginning of the process which warrants the 90 day period. While we
appreciate the Forest Service's outreach on the proposed rule and Under
Secretary Sherman's participation in the hearing, we do not believe
that 90 days is adequate for all interested groups to have enough time
to properly analyze the proposed language and evaluate its implications
on our 155 National Forests and 20 grasslands.
Therefore, we respectfully request an additional 90 days of the
comment period, to provide for optimal input, in order to ensure a
viable planning rule for years to come. We appreciate your
consideration and look forward to your response.
Hon. Glenn Thompson, Hon. Tim Holden,
Chairman, Ranking Minority Member,
Subcommittee on Conservation, Subcommittee on Conservation,
Energy, and Forestry, Energy, and Forestry,
House Committee on Agriculture; House Committee on Agriculture;
Hon. Bob Goodlatte, Hon. Kurt Schrader,
Member of Congress; Member of Congress;
Hon. Marlin A. Stutzman, Hon. William L. Owens,
Member of Congress; Member of Congress;
Hon. Bob Gibbs, Hon. Jim Costa,
Member of Congress; Member of Congress;
Hon. Stephen Lee Fincher, Hon. Steve Southerland II,
Member of Congress; Member of Congress.
Hon. Reid J. Ribble,
Member of Congress;CC:Hon. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and
Environment;Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service.
Response from Hon. Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural
Resources and Environment, U.S. Department of Agriculture *
* Note from respondent: The Department received nearly 300,000
comments on the Proposed National Forest Planning Rule, and is
carefully considering those comments at this time. The Department has
not yet reached a decision on the content of the final rule, and so
does not yet have answers about how the final rule will address the
questions presented. The questions below and related comments are being
given serious consideration in the development of the final rule and
The responses below relate to the proposed rule published in the
Federal Register on February 14, 2011 (76 FR 8480), and the DEIS for
the proposed rule.
Questions Submitted by Hon. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, a Delegate
in Congress from Northern Mariana Islands
Question 1. While on its face the proposed rule seems promising,
statements of lofty ambition in the document do not translate into
meaningful and binding standards. As written, the draft rule would
significantly impair wildlife conservation on National Forests by
replacing the longstanding approach to wildlife conservation found in
current regulations with discretionary measures that depart from
scientific recommendations and render species protection largely
optional. Moreover, when agency officials summarize the proposal, they
sometimes confuse their intentions with what is actually required by
the wording in the draft.
Under the current planning rule, the Forest Service is required to
manage habitat to maintain viable populations of native wildlife in the
planning area. For most species on the National Forests, the proposed
rule replaces this clear requirement with vague instructions to manage
for ecosystem health. How will this ensure that the Forest Service is
able to ``keep common species common'' and maintain viable populations
of all wildlife?
Answer. The proposed rule presents a more holistic, consistent, and
achievable approach to maintaining native fish, wildlife, and plant
species on national forests and grasslands than provided under the 1982
rule, and incorporates the considerable advances in scientific
understanding that have occurred over the past three decades related to
biological diversity concepts and principles, as well as in
conservation design and practice.
The proposed rule incorporates a coarse-filter, fine-filter
approach to managing ecological conditions to support the diversity of
plant and animal communities and the persistence of native species in
the plan area. Requiring plan components for ecosystem health and
resilience, coupled with requirements for specific species, is intended
to provide the habitat and other ecological conditions needed to keep
common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened
and endangered species, conserve candidate species, and maintain viable
population species of conservation concern. At the same time, the
proposed rule recognizes inherent limits to the agency's ability to
ensure results, and provides direction for those circumstances, which
would arise under the current rule as well.
Question 2. The proposed rule limits the viability requirement only
to ``species of conservation concern,'' and then lets local forest
officials decide which those are. It also allows the agency to absolve
itself from the responsibility for protecting the species it does
identify by claiming impossibility. Yet at the same time, the Forest
Service claims the proposed rule gives ``equal or greater levels of
protection'' than the existing rule. How can the Forest Service assert
that unlimited discretion to exempt species from protection results in
``equal or greater protections''?
Answer. The proposed planning rule does not provide for unlimited
discretion. The viability of the majority of species would be
maintained by the proposed rule through the coarse filter of
maintaining and restoring ecological health and resilience, including
structure, function, composition and connectivity. For those species,
other than federally listed threatened or endangered species or
candidate species, for which there is evidence demonstrating
significant concern about their capability to persist over the long-
term in the plan area (species of conservation concern), the proposed
rule would require that the plan components provide for the maintenance
or restoration of ecological conditions in the plan area to maintain
viable populations of species of conservation concern within the plan
area. But, the proposed rule realistically recognizes that there may be
circumstances beyond the agency's authority and control that prevent it
from maintaining the long-term persistence of some species within the
plan area. Such circumstances could occur under any rule; this rule
explicitly acknowledges them. Under the proposed rule, where the Forest
Service cannot provide ecological conditions to maintain a viable
population of species of conservation concern within the plan area, the
agency still has an obligation to include plan components that would
provide within the plan area ecological conditions that would
contribute to viability of the species within its range, in
coordination with other land managers with the ability to influence the
persistence of that species.
Question 3. The proposal is extremely vague on how wildlife
monitoring will be used to inform management. The proposed rule
requires that each forest provide for viable populations of ``species
of conservation concern'' selected by the responsible officials, BUT
the rule doesn't require that those species be monitored. How will the
public know if the viability standard is being met when species of
conservation concern aren't monitored? Additionally, what is the role
of focal species in the monitoring program, and what happens if the
status of focal species is ``not good''?
Answer. 219.9 of the proposed planning rule requires plan
components that incorporate a coarse-filter/fine-filter approach to
maintaining plant and animal species diversity and persistence in the
plan area. 219.12 provides for the monitoring of ecological
conditions, watershed conditions, and focal species (defined as a small
number of species selected for monitoring whose status is likely to be
responsive to changes in ecological conditions and effects of
management) under the proposed rule, which is intended to gauge
progress under implementation of the plan towards meeting the desired
conditions, including those ecological conditions to support species of
conservation concern. Should these monitoring elements show that the
intended rate of progress is not being met, a need for change in plan
direction would be considered. Reliable information obtained from
monitoring would be expected to identify the need to change either a
plan or management activities in a timelier manner than under the 1982
Question 4. The proposal appears to allow the agency to absolve
itself from the responsibility of protecting all wildlife on the
National Forests if ``the inherent capability of the land'' prohibits
it, but this key term is never defined. How can the public be confident
that this determination won't be used to avoid species protection
measures when there is no basis for determining the ``inherent
capability of the land?''
Answer. The agency is not trying to absolve itself from its
responsibilities with regard to wildlife protection. The proposed rule
requires that best available scientific information be used in the
development of each plan, the basis for decisions must be documented
and supported, and that decisions cannot be arbitrary and capricious.
There may be circumstances beyond the agency's authority or control
that prevent it from maintaining viable populations of some species
within the plan area. In such cases, the proposed rule would require
plan components to provide within the plan area ecological conditions
that would contribute to viability of the species within its range, in
coordination with other land managers having the ability to influence
the persistence of that species.
Question 5. Under the current forest rule, the public can hold the
Forest Service accountable when it fails to uphold the requirements of
the rule. The proposed rule seems to be much more focused on what the
Forest Service ``wants to'' or ``intends to'' rather than what the
American public says it ``must'' do to manage the National Forests. The
practical result is a sharp curb on public accountability. What are the
wildlife and water standards in the rule that the public can use to
hold the agency accountable?
Answer. There is a great deal of accountability built into the
proposed rule. The proposed rule includes requirements related to the
conservation and protection of ecological health and resilience,
wildlife and water resources, along with the provision of multiple
uses. These are required plan components in every national forest and
grassland land management plan, which the agency can be held
accountable for including.
The proposed rule also requires that the responsible official use
the best available scientific information throughout the planning
process. In addition, the assessment and monitoring requirements in the
proposed rule require using adaptive management techniques to
understand conditions and trends before plan revision, and to use
monitoring data to assess progress towards achieving desired conditions
and whether there is a need to change the plan based on new
The proposed rule requires increased public participation in the
assessment of plans as well as the revision or amendments of plans.
Plan creation or revision will require an environmental impact
statement. Consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and
National Marine Fisheries will also be provided where appropriate. Plan
amendments will also require the appropriate level of NEPA analysis and
ESA consultation. Further public engagement and environmental analysis
will occur at the project level as plans are implemented.
Question 6. The Forest Service has said that the rule explains
``what'' the Forest Service should do with planning on the National
Forests, but that the ``how to'' will be reserved for the Forest
Service directive system. As such, it will not be subject to the same
level of environmental analysis and public participation, and it will
be easier to change. How can the Service justify leaving fundamental
aspects of the rule--including criteria for selecting ``species of
conservation concern''--to be decided without full environmental review
and public participation?
Answer. Under the proposed rule, all land management plans,
including the determination of species of conservation concern for each
unit, would be subject to full environmental review and public
participation. In addition, the agency will provide opportunities for
public review of new directives or changes to existing directives
related to land management planning.
Best Available Science
Question 7. The proposed rule requires forest managers to consider
the best available science, but does not require them to base their
decisions on it. They are simply required to write a description of the
science that is available and describe why they decided to go a
different way. By not requiring managers to base their decisions on
science, what assurances are there that political pressure won't trump
sound science and that wildlife, water quality and healthy forests
won't pay the price as various special interests put pressure on forest
Answer. The objective of this proposed rule is to guide the
collaborative and science-based development, amendment, and revision of
land management plans that promote healthy, resilient, diverse, and
productive National Forests and grasslands.
The proposed rule requires the use of science as an important
source of information for decision-making. The appropriate
interpretation and application of the best available scientific
information provides the foundation for planning. In addition, the
agency recognizes that other forms of information, such as local and
indigenous knowledge, public concerns and values, agency policies,
results of monitoring and the experience of land managers must also be
taken into account.
Question 8. Under the proposed rule, a forest plan could actually
be wholly inconsistent with the best available science and so long as a
forest manager documents what science he considered before making his
decision, it would stand. Is that correct? Should we not at least have
a standard that ensures that management decisions are not inconsistent
Answer. This proposed rule requires that responsible officials use
the best available science when designing plan components to provide
ecological sustainability and contribute to social and economic
sustainability. The rationale that supports plan decision must be
documented and must be consistent with law and policy, and decisions
cannot be arbitrary and capricious.
Question 9. Even if the best available science finds that a species
is imperiled, a forest official is not required to recognize the animal
as a ``species of conservation concern.'' This enables the agency to
ignore best available science indicating that a species should be
considered a species of conservation concern. What recourse exists for
the public when poor decision-making leaves out a species that the best
available science identifies as a species of conservation concern?
Answer. The proposed rule requires the responsible official to
identify a species as being of conservation concern where there is
evidence demonstrating significant concern about its capability to
persist in the plan area. We would therefore expect that if the best
available scientific information indicates a species should be
identified as a species of conservation concern, the responsible
official would do so. The identification of the species of conservation
concern will be subject to public review and comment as part of the
In the event that any member of the public believed that a species
not identified as a species of conservation concern should have been so
identified, the matter can be raised to a higher-level Forest Service
official for resolution. The proposed rule includes a pre-decisional
administrative review process called an objection process. This process
allows interested individuals to voice objections and point out
potential errors or violations of law, regulations, or agency policy
prior to approval of a decision. An objection prompts an independent
administrative review by an official at a level above the deciding
official and a process for resolution of issues.
A Changing Climate
Question 10. For the first time, the proposed rule addresses the
threat of climate change on our National Forests. There are references
to climate change in the rule's three main components: assessment, plan
revision, and monitoring. However, all of the language is
discretionary. There is no mandatory program to analyze the effects of
climate change or to develop strategies to address those threats. Given
the profound changes we are already seeing in forest ecosystems due to
a changing climate, why aren't the requirements for addressing these
changes more explicit?
Answer. The proposed rule is based on a planning framework to
create a responsive and agile planning process that informs integrated
resource management and allows the Forest Service to adapt to changing
conditions, including climate change, and improve management based on
new information and monitoring. There are specific requirements for
addressing climate change in each phase (assess, revise or amend, and
monitor) of the planning framework. The agency's implementation of the
Climate Change Roadmap and Scorecard will also support the requirements
in the proposed rule.