[House Hearing, 115 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
EXPLORING SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE RISKS OF CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRE AND
IMPROVE RESILIENCY OF NATIONAL FORESTS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Serial No. 115-23
Printed for the use of the Committee on Natural Resources
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Committee address: http://naturalresources.house.gov
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COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
ROB BISHOP, UT, Chairman
RAUL M. GRIJALVA, AZ, Ranking Democratic Member
Don Young, AK Grace F. Napolitano, CA
Chairman Emeritus Madeleine Z. Bordallo, GU
Louie Gohmert, TX Jim Costa, CA
Vice Chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan,
Doug Lamborn, CO CNMI
Robert J. Wittman, VA Niki Tsongas, MA
Tom McClintock, CA Jared Huffman, CA
Stevan Pearce, NM Vice Ranking Member
Glenn Thompson, PA Alan S. Lowenthal, CA
Paul A. Gosar, AZ Donald S. Beyer, Jr., VA
Raul R. Labrador, ID Norma J. Torres, CA
Scott R. Tipton, CO Ruben Gallego, AZ
Doug LaMalfa, CA Colleen Hanabusa, HI
Jeff Denham, CA Nanette Diaz Barragan, CA
Paul Cook, CA Darren Soto, FL
Bruce Westerman, AR A. Donald McEachin, VA
Garret Graves, LA Anthony G. Brown, MD
Jody B. Hice, GA Wm. Lacy Clay, MO
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, AS Jimmy Gomez, CA
Darin LaHood, IL
Daniel Webster, FL
Jack Bergman, MI
Liz Cheney, WY
Mike Johnson, LA
Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, PR
Greg Gianforte, MT
Cody Stewart, Chief of Staff
Lisa Pittman, Chief Counsel
David Watkins, Democratic Staff Director
SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS
BRUCE WESTERMAN, AR, Chairman
A. DONALD McEACHIN, VA, Ranking Democratic Member
Louie Gohmert, TX Ruben Gallego, AZ
Raul R. Labrador, ID Jared Huffman, CA
Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen, AS Darren Soto, FL
Mike Johnson, LA Wm. Lacy Clay, MO
Vice Chairman Raul M. Grijalva, AZ, ex officio
Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, PR
Rob Bishop, UT, ex officio
Hearing held on Wednesday, September 27, 2017.................... 1
Statement of Members:
McEachin, Hon. A. Donald, a Representative in Congress from
the Commonwealth of Virginia............................... 4
Prepared statement of.................................... 5
Westerman, Hon. Bruce, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Arkansas.......................................... 1
Prepared statement of.................................... 3
Statement of Witnesses:
Chilcott, Hon. Greg, Commissioner, Ravalli County, Montana... 16
Prepared statement of.................................... 18
DellaSala, Dominick A., Chief Scientist, Geos Institute,
Ashland, Oregon............................................ 24
Prepared statement of.................................... 25
Questions submitted for the record....................... 35
Fite, Lawson, General Counsel, American Forest Resource
Council, Portland, Oregon.................................. 51
Prepared statement of.................................... 52
Rigdon, Philip, President, Intertribal Timber Council, Yakama
Nation, Toppenish, Washington.............................. 7
Prepared statement of.................................... 8
Additional Materials Submitted for the Record:
Submissions for the Record by Representative Westerman
Humphries, Rebecca A., Chief Executive Officer, National
Wild Turkey Federation, Letter to Chairman Bishop and
Ranking Member Grijalva, dated June 26, 2017........... 71
Humphries, Rebecca A., Chief Executive Officer, National
Wild Turkey Federation, Letter to Chairman Westerman,
dated September 27, 2017............................... 72
List of documents submitted for the record retained in the
Committee's official files................................. 73
OVERSIGHT HEARING ON EXPLORING SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE RISKS OF
CATASTROPHIC WILDFIRE AND IMPROVE RESILIENCY OF NATIONAL FORESTS
Wednesday, September 27, 2017
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Committee on Natural Resources
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 3:01 p.m., in
room 1334, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Bruce
Westerman [Chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Westerman, Labrador, Radewagen,
Johnson, McEachin, and Clay.
Also Present: Representatives McClintock, Gosar, Gianforte,
Mr. Westerman. The Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations will come to order. The Subcommittee is meeting
today to hear testimony on exploring solutions to reduce risks
of catastrophic wildfire and improve resiliency of national
I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from California,
Mr. McClintock, the gentleman from Arizona, Mr. Gosar, the
gentleman from Montana, Mr. Gianforte, and the gentleman from
California, Mr. Gomez, be allowed to sit with the Subcommittee
and participate in the hearing.
Without objection, so ordered.
Under Committee Rule 4(f), any oral opening statements at
hearings are limited to the Chairman, the Ranking Minority
Member, and the Vice Chair. This will allow us to hear from our
witnesses sooner and help Members keep to their schedules.
Therefore, I ask unanimous consent that all other Members'
opening statements be made part of the hearing record if they
are submitted to the Subcommittee Clerk by 5:00 p.m. today.
Without objection, so ordered.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. BRUCE WESTERMAN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. Westerman. Today, we will discuss one of the most
serious threats currently facing our country--catastrophic
wildfire. At a time when national attention is focused on the
disastrous effects of multiple hurricanes, more than 8\1/2\
million acres of America has been ravaged by almost 49,000
fires this year.
Like the recent hurricanes, these fires have also destroyed
homes, taken lives, threatened treasured sites, and cost our
country billions of dollars. In fact, this will be the most
expensive year on record. Wildfire suppression costs already
exceed $2 billion for the U.S. Forest Service.
The Forest Service has reported that their firefighting
activities already consumed $300 million that they had to
transfer from other accounts for fire suppression. It is
estimated that the Agency will need to borrow up to a
staggering $600 million before the end of the fiscal year.
Simply speaking, the Agency's mission of managing our national
forests is threatened when firefighting consumes so much of its
time and resources.
This problem will only intensify unless we act now. Fifty-
eight million acres of our National Forest System are at a high
risk of ecologically destructive wildland fire. According to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Inspector General,
hazardous fuels are estimated to be accumulating at three times
the rate at which they can be treated.
It is clear that unsafe levels of hazardous fuels have
accumulated in our Federal forests. Many are aware of the dire
need of active management before more catastrophic fires strike
and forest health continues to deteriorate. One Forest Service
ecologist recently warned that forest fuels are at powder keg
Without a change of course, forest fires will continue to
destroy our valuable natural resources, devastate our
communities, and overwhelm our Federal agencies.
Today's hearing will explore solutions to reduce the
wildfire threat. We will discuss ways in which active
management can boost forest health, and how the Forest Service
can effectively partner with other stakeholders who share an
interest in more resilient forest.
Fuels reduction activities, such as thinning, offer
multiple benefits to both our national forests and surrounding
communities. These treatments have proven effective at reducing
excess trees and vegetation and, therefore, minimizing fires
that reach disastrous proportions.
There is also an economic benefit to thinning. Forest
products removed during these projects can generate revenue
through commercial timber sales, which can offset the cost of
other forest management activities and boost local economies.
As wildfire suppression costs over-run the Forest Service's
budget, thinning provides an economically feasible solution to
our wildfire crisis and forest management challenges.
Thinning can also increase the biodiversity of forests. For
example, thinning and controlled burning projects contributed
to successful breeding for red-cockaded woodpeckers in the
southern United States. Thinning can also increase available
surface water, thereby benefiting salmon habitats, reservoirs,
It is imperative that we identify and remove barriers to
implementing critical risk reduction projects, actions that my
bill, H.R. 2936, also known as the Resilient Federal Forests
Act of 2017, seeks to address.
Last, it is important to acknowledge the need for the
Forest Service to engage other stakeholders in combating our
wildfire problem. Today, we will also examine ways to improve
cooperation between the Forest Service and other partners to
promote more efficient and effective forest management. The
Forest Service has several tools at its disposal to facilitate
thinning and fuels reduction activities with the help of
partners such as counties, states, tribes, and the private
sector. These partnerships should be more widely leveraged to
protect the safety and promote the prosperity of all
There is simply no excuse for allowing millions of
Americans to remain in harm's way as our forests become more
overgrown and the destructive impacts of catastrophic fire
continue to spread. Irreplaceable natural resources and human
lives are at stake, and we must focus on immediate solutions
that are available.
I thank our witnesses for their attendance today as we work
together to promote forest health and protect our citizens from
the growing wildfire threat. I look forward to your testimony.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Westerman follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Bruce Westerman, Chairman, Subcommittee
on Oversight and Investigations
Today, we will discuss one of the most serious threats currently
facing our country--catastrophic wildfire. At a time when national
attention has focused on the disastrous effects of multiple hurricanes,
more than 8\1/2\ million acres of America has been ravaged by almost
49,000 fires this year.
Like the recent hurricanes, these fires have also destroyed homes,
taken lives, threatened treasured sites, and cost our country billions
of dollars. In fact, this will be the most expensive year on record.
Wildfire suppression costs already exceed $2 billion for the U.S.
The Forest Service has reported that their firefighting activities
already consumed $300 million that they had to transfer from other
accounts for fire suppression. It is estimated that the agency will
need to borrow up to a staggering $600 million before the end of the
fiscal year. Simply speaking, the agency's mission of managing our
national forests is threatened when fighting fires consumes so much of
its time and resources.
This problem will only intensify unless we act now. Fifty-eight
million acres of our national forest system are at a high risk of
ecologically destructive wildland fire. According to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's Inspector General, hazardous fuels are
estimated to be accumulating at three times the rate at which they can
be treated. It is clear that unsafe levels of hazardous fuels have
accumulated in our Federal forests. Many are aware of the dire need of
active management before more catastrophic fires strike, and forest
health continues to deteriorate. One Forest Service ecologist recently
warned that forest fuels are at ``powder keg levels.''
Without a change of course, forest fires will continue to destroy
our valuable natural resources, devastate our communities, and
overwhelm our Federal agencies.
Today's hearing will explore solutions to reduce the wildfire
threat. We will discuss ways in which active management can boost
forest health, and how the Forest Service can effectively partner with
other stakeholders who share an interest in more resilient forests.
Fuels reduction activities such as thinning offer multiple benefits
to both our national forests and surrounding communities. These
treatments have proven effective at reducing excess trees and
vegetation and therefore, minimize fires reaching disastrous
There is also an economic benefit to thinning. Forest products
removed during these projects can generate revenue through commercial
timber sales which can offset the costs of other forest management
activities and boost local economies. As wildfire suppression costs
over-run the Forest Service's budget, thinning provides an economically
feasible solution to our wildfire crisis and forest management
Thinning can also increase the biodiversity of forests. For
example, thinning and controlled burning projects contributed to
successful breeding for red-cockaded woodpeckers in the southern United
States. Thinning also can increase available surface water, thereby
benefiting salmon habitats, reservoirs, and agriculture.
It is imperative that we identify and remove barriers to
implementing critical risk reduction projects--actions my bill, H.R.
2936, also known as the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, seeks to
Last, it is important to acknowledge the need for the Forest
Service to engage other stakeholders in combating our wildfire problem.
Today, we will also examine ways to improve cooperation between the
Forest Service and other partners to promote more efficient and
effective forest management. The Forest Service has several tools at
its disposal to facilitate thinning and fuels reduction activities with
the help of partners such as, counties, states, tribes, and the private
sector. These partnerships should be more widely leveraged to protect
the safety and promote the prosperity of all stakeholders.
There is simply no excuse for allowing millions of Americans to
remain in harm's way as our forests become more overgrown and the
destructive impacts of catastrophic fire continue to spread.
Irreplaceable natural resources and human lives are at stake, and we
must focus on the immediate solutions available.
I thank our witnesses for their attendance today as we work
together to promote forest health and protect our citizens from the
growing wildfire threat. I look forward to your testimony, and I now
recognize the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Mr. McEachin of
Virginia, for 5 minutes.
Mr. Westerman. I now recognize the Ranking Member of the
Subcommittee, Mr. McEachin of Virginia, for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF THE HON. A. DONALD McEACHIN, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Mr. McEachin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank each of our witnesses for taking the
time to be here today.
Before we get into the substance of today's hearing, I
would like to express my support for our fellow Americans in
the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico after incurring severe
hurricane damage. I have talked with many of my colleagues,
watched the devastation on TV, and read reports that all
indicate the need for major and immediate assistance.
As the committee of jurisdiction over the territories, we
have a responsibility to hasten their recovery. It is
imperative that we work across the aisle to make that happen.
Now, I would like to discuss the topic at hand. This
hearing is more of the same. It is the same topic. This is the
fourth hearing on wildfires and forest management in the past 5
months, and the eighth in the past two Congresses.
It is the same people. Two of the Majority's witnesses have
already testified on this topic. One of them has been kind
enough to testify four times in recent years. I think recycling
is a good idea, but not like this.
Here is the kicker--during all this time we used to discuss
the problem, the Majority simply refuses to talk about the
primary driver of forest fires: climate change.
According to a National Academies of Science report, more
than half of the increase in area burned by wildfire in the
western United States can be attributed to climate change.
Since the 1970s, the average annual temperature in the
western states has increased by 2 degrees. The fire season has
increased by over 2 months. Snow packs are now melting 2 to 4
weeks earlier in the West. Drought has gripped large portions
of the West making conditions drier.
We were warned a long time ago. The Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change predicted that wildfires would increase in
frequency and intensity as the atmosphere warmed. Another major
factor affecting wildfire risks is the growth of American homes
and communities into areas adjacent to forests, known as the
wildland urban interface.
Since 1990, over 60 percent of U.S. homes were built in
these areas. As our communities grow into these areas, the risk
and expense of fighting fires grows. This Committee should be
spending its time trying to reduce the effects of climate
change, and preparing for the atmospheric warming that is
already in the pipeline.
Instead, the answers we hear are to weaken our bedrock
environmental protections, deny our citizens the right to hold
the government accountable when it fails to obey the law, give
the timber industry more unfettered access to public lands, and
let the states, instead of the Federal Government, handle
On the latter point, a new report from the Center for
Western Priorities shows that fire risk is the same on state
and Federal lands overall. In fact, some states have a higher
The idea that citizen-driven accountability for government
is causing wildfires has been thoroughly debunked by this
Committee, including, most recently, in this very Subcommittee.
Unrestricted commercial logging will not curb carbon
pollution or make our communities safe. We cannot log our way
to wildfire control. Catastrophic forest fires can pose a
dangerous threat to the safety of our people and infrastructure
across the country.
It is time to get serious about addressing them. It is time
to talk about climate change. I yield back.
[The prepared statement of Mr. McEachin follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. A. Donald McEachin, Ranking Member,
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to each of our witnesses for
taking the time to be here today.
Before we get into the substance of today's hearing, I would like
to express my support for our fellow Americans in the U.S. Virgin
Islands and Puerto Rico after incurring severe hurricane damage. I have
talked with my colleagues, watched the devastation on TV, and read
reports that all indicate the need for major and immediate assistance.
As the committee of jurisdiction over the territories, we have a
responsibility to hasten their recovery. It is imperative that we work
across the aisle to make that happen.
Now, I would like to discuss the topic at hand. This hearing is
more of the same. It is the same topic. This is the fourth hearing on
wildfires and forest management in the past 5 months, and the eighth in
the past two Congresses.
It is the same people. Two of the Majority's witnesses have already
testified on this topic. One has been kind enough to testify four times
in recent years. I encourage recycling, but NOT LIKE THIS.
Here is the kicker--during all this time used to discuss the
problem, the Majority simply refuses to talk about the primary driver
of forest fires: climate change.
According to a National Academies of Science report, more than half
the increase in area burned by wildfire in the western United States
can be attributed to climate change.
Since the 1970s, the average annual temperature in western states
has increased by 2 degrees. The fire season has increased by over 2
months. Snowpacks are now melting 2 to 4 weeks earlier in the West.
Drought has gripped large portions of the West, making conditions
We were warned a long time ago. The Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change predicted that wildfires would increase in frequency and
intensity as the atmosphere warmed. Another major factor affecting
wildfire risks is the growth of American homes and communities into
areas adjacent to forests, known as the wildland urban interface.
Since 1990, over 60 percent of U.S. homes were built in these
areas. As our communities grow in these areas, the risk and expense of
fighting fires grows. This Committee should be spending its time trying
to reduce the effects of climate change, and preparing for the
atmospheric warming that is already in the pipeline.
Instead, the answers we hear are to weaken our bedrock
environmental protections, deny our citizens the right to hold the
government accountable when it fails to obey the law, give the timber
industry more unfettered access to public lands, and let the states
instead of the Federal Government handle fires.
On the latter point, a new report from the Center for Western
Priorities shows that fire risk is the same on state and Federal lands
overall. In fact some states have a higher risk.
The idea that citizen-driven accountability for governments is
causing wildfires has been thoroughly debunked by this Committee,
including, most recently, in this very Subcommittee.
Unrestricted commercial logging will not curb carbon pollution or
make our communities safe. We cannot log our way to wildfire control.
Catastrophic forest fires can pose a dangerous threat to the safety of
our people and infrastructure, across the country.
It is time to get serious about addressing them. It is time to talk
about climate change. I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman yields back. I appreciate the
Ranking Member pointing out the importance and the emphasis
that has been put on wildfires, not only in this Committee, but
also I think the Senate had a hearing this morning. And I
believe the Energy and Commerce Committee has a hearing
scheduled on it. It is a major problem facing our country, and
I am glad that we are continuing to focus on that, and that we
have such a fine panel of witnesses with us today.
I will now introduce our witnesses: Mr. Philip Rigdon is
the president of the Intertribal Timber Council of the Yakama
Nation. Glad to have you with us today, Mr. Rigdon.
And I am going to yield 30 seconds to the gentleman from
Montana for a brief introduction of our witness from Montana.
Mr. Gianforte. Great. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking
Member, and members of the Committee. I am pleased to introduce
Commissioner Greg Chilcott. Commissioner Chilcott has been a
member of the Ravalli County Montana Board of Commissioners
Prior to his election as a County Commissioner, he held
positions in both the public and private sector. He has deep
roots in Montana in the Stevensville area that date back to the
In addition to his service in Ravalli County, he currently
serves as the Chairman of the Montana Coalition of Forest
Counties and the Chairman of the Montana Association of Public
I have known Commissioner Chilcott for a number of years. I
have visited forest fires with him, and I can attest personally
to his expertise in this area. I want to thank him for his
Mr. Westerman. Thank you.
Dr. Dominick DellaSala is the chief scientist for the Geos
Institute; and Mr. Lawson Fite is the general counsel for the
American Forest Resource Council.
Let me remind the witnesses that under our Committee Rules,
they must limit their oral statements to 5 minutes, but their
entire written statement will appear in the hearing record.
Our microphones are not automatic. You will need to press
the ``on'' button when you begin your testimony. When you
begin, the timer light will be green for 4 minutes. Then the
yellow light will come on reminding you that you have 1 minute.
Your time will have expired when the red light comes on, and I
will ask you to please complete your statement.
I will also allow the entire panel to testify before
questioning the witnesses.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Rigdon for his testimony.
STATEMENT OF PHILIP RIGDON, PRESIDENT, INTERTRIBAL TIMBER
COUNCIL, YAKAMA NATION, TOPPENISH, WASHINGTON
Mr. Rigdon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the
The Intertribal Timber Council represents more than 60
tribes and organizations across the country. My testimony can
be summarized in one sentence: Indian forests are able to
prepare for and respond to fires better than other Federal
lands, at a fraction of the cost.
Of 334 reservations in 36 states, the United States holds
18.6 million acres of forests and woodlands in trust for the
benefit of tribes. We manage these lands holistically,
sustaining a triple bottom line approach--ecological, economic,
We care for these lands through active management and
aggressively treating problems such as wildfire and disease
before they can reach disastrous proportions. Indian tribes are
neighbors to Federal forests. Many tribes retain and exercise
treaty rights and reserved rights on these lands to hunt and
fish, and gather foods and medicines. Unhealthy forests impact
these activities on Federal lands, as well as on our own lands.
Our national forests are being lost by the failure to
undertake active management. Tribes can offer Federal forest
managers new tools and holistic approaches badly needed to
restore these forests' health.
First, tribes are able to accomplish more in their forests
with far less funding than other Federal land managers. On a
per-acre basis, tribes receive about one-third of the funding
as compared to the Forest Service.
Using my own reservation as an example, the Yakama Nation
is funded for fire preparedness at $0.57 per acre, while the
adjacent Gifford Pinchot National Forest is funded at $1.18 per
acre; the Mount Hood National Forest is $2.11 an acre; and the
Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, which just experienced a
big fire right now, is $2.83 per acre, nearly five times what
the Yakama receive on the reservation. This is not a
sustainable approach, and I thank the House of Representatives
for steadily increasing funding for BIA forestry.
Even with inadequate funding, tribes are more agile than
other Federal managers to prepare our force for fire and
recover after fire. Let's start with the before wildfire.
Tribes are effective in responding to bugs, disease, and
overstocking. I would like to show you exactly what this looks
On the Yakama Reservation, we experienced a budworm
infestation that also affected Forest Service land. The Tribe
was more aggressive than the Forest Service in responding using
timber sales to treat 20,000 acres of the budworm infestation a
year. We also used a biological control agent on another 97,000
acres to control mortality.
Here you can see some of the treatments implemented on our
land. The next slide shows what it looks like after that
On the next slide that we have, here is an example showing
the difference between tribal and Forest Service treatments. On
the left is the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico.
The next slide here is a view of tribal fuel breaks to
protect Mescalero Forest from neighboring Forest Service fire
And the next slide is a closer look at tribal treatments
next to Forest Service lands.
And the final slide is an aerial view of that same area. As
you can see, tribes are on the ground doing the work,
protecting their lands from fire. We need more of this type of
activity across the landscape.
Tribes also respond to fire more effectively. The average
size of a fire on a BIA-managed land is one-third the size of
fires on the Forest Service land. On a per-acre basis,
suppression costs on BIA and BLM lands are one-fifth the cost
of fires in the Forest Service lands.
After a fire, tribes are able to respond much quicker than
other Federal agencies to recover value from the logs and
recover the land. Tribes generally begin the NEPA process while
the fire is still burning so that we are ready to recover
salvageable logs quickly and before they deteriorate.
We have logs in the mill before other agencies have the
drafted NEPA documents completed. We should apply tribal
traditional knowledge and modern forestry to other Federal
lands. The ITC supports the Resilient Federal Forestry Act that
is sponsored by Chairman Westerman. The legislation would give
other Federal land managers new tools to work with tribes and
accomplish more to reduce the threat to wildfire.
Thank you for inviting me to appear today and for including
tribes as a part of this solution.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Rigdon follows:]
Prepared Statement of Phil Rigdon, President, Intertribal Timber
Council, Yakama Nation
I am Phil Rigdon, President of the Intertribal Timber Council (ITC)
and Natural Resource Deputy Director for the Yakama Nation in south-
central Washington State. On the behalf of the ITC and its more than 60
member tribes and organizations, I appreciate the opportunity to
discuss how tribes are actively managing Federal forests to reduce the
risks of wildfire.
My testimony can be summarized in one sentence: Indian forests are
able to prepare for and respond to fires better than other Federal
lands, and at a fraction of the cost.
On a total of 334 reservations in 36 states, 18.6 million acres of
forests and woodlands are held in trust by the United States and
managed for the benefit of Indians. Pursuant to both tribal direction
and Federal law, our forests must be sustainably managed. Indian tribes
work in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and others to
care for the land. We operate modern, innovative and comprehensive
natural resource programs premised on connectedness among the land,
resources, and people. Our approach is holistic--sustaining a ``triple
bottom line'' of economic, ecological, and cultural values. We care for
the land through active management and do our utmost to aggressively
treat problems such as wildfires and insect or disease infestations
before they can reach disastrous proportions.
Indian tribes are neighbors to Federal forests and many tribes
retain and exercise treaty and reserved rights on these lands to hunt
and fish, gather foods and medicines and for other purposes. Unhealthy
forests impact these activities on Federal lands, as well as on our own
Our national forests are being lost by the failure to undertake
active management. Tribes can offer Federal forest managers new tools
and a holistic approach badly needed to restore forest health.
Unlike Forest Service and BLM forests, Indian forests and their
management are reviewed by an independent scientific panel every 10
years. In 2013, the Indian Forest Management Assessment Team (IFMAT)
released its third report to Congress since 1993. On one hand, the
IFMAT report shows that tribes are suffering from chronic underfunding
and challenges created by the loss of leadership and staffing. On the
other, it also shows significant progress being made on tribal forests.
One of the key findings of the IFMAT report is that tribes are able
to accomplish more in their forests with far less funding than other
Federal land managers. On a per acre basis, tribes receive about one-
third the funding for forest and wildfire management as the Forest
Using my own reservation as an example, the Yakama Nation is funded
for fire preparedness at $0.57 per acre per year while the adjacent
Gifford Pinchot National Forest is funded at $1.18 per acre per year;
and the Mount Hood National Forest at $2.11; the Columbia Gorge
National Scenic Area at $2.83--nearly five times what we receive at
Unfortunately, the effect of underfunding has very real results.
Again using the Yakama Nation as an example, we typically have 55 BIA
forestry positions to help manage our forest. Currently 33 of those are
vacant because of an insufficient pool of available manpower, BIA
slowness and budget shortfalls. The tribe has diverted funds from other
tribal functions to help mitigate that loss, but cannot do so in the
long term without a decline in either our tribal services or production
from our forest.
While Indian forests operate on a shoestring budget, that
shoestring is about to break. The ITC continues to work with the
Administration and Congress to increase funding for tribal forest
Wildfire and Recovery
Tribes are better able to use scarce resources to prepare our
forests for fire, recover after fire and ensure the continuity of
forest resources for generations to come.
First, tribes understand that a ``let it burn'' approach is not
always acceptable given the forest health conditions found across our
Nation's landscape. Instead we are effectively responding to and
reversing unnatural conditions in the forest. One such example is the
response to budworm infestation on the Yakama Reservation. Timber sales
were prioritized as a tool to treat areas that were most severely
affected by the budworm. Between 1999 and 2003, silvicultural
treatments were implemented on approximately 20,000 acres of budworm
habitat per year; 97,000 acres were treated with a biological control
agent between 1999 and 2001 to control tree mortality.
The epidemic peaked in 2000 when the budworm defoliated trees on
206,000 acres. As a result of the Yakama Nation's silvicultural
treatments, defoliation decreased dramatically. In 2002, only 1,207
acres were defoliated--a reduction of over 99 percent. Significant
economic value was recovered from dead and dying trees, and forest
density has been reduced, promoting forest health and resiliency. While
such forest health treatments are common on tribal lands, it would be a
challenge to find similar speed, scope and effectiveness on other
In addition to restoring forest resilience, tribes also respond to
fires more effectively. While the comparison is not completely
equivalent, the average size of a fire on BIA-managed lands is one-
third the size of fires on Forest Service land. On a per-acre basis,
suppression costs on BIA and BLM lands are one-fifth the cost of fires
on Forest Service lands.
After fires, tribes are able to respond much quicker than other
Federal agencies to recover economic value and rehabilitate landscapes.
However, salvage can come at a devastating financial and ecological
cost. The 2015 fire season burned 338,110 forest acres on the Colville,
Yakama, Nez Perce, Spokane and Warm Springs Reservations, damaging 1.2
billion board feet of tribal trust timber. Of this area, 126,393 acres
of high and moderate severity burns required reforestation, salvage
activities, road restoration and maintenance, fence repairs, resources
for lost fish and wildlife, and risk for non-native invasive species
and noxious weeds.
The cost of fire suppression on these 2015 fires exceeded $97
million. Rehabilitation costs are generally equal to the suppression
cost, but can be as much as three times higher. The Department of the
Interior has estimated that the cost of rehabilitation for the five
subject reservations at $55 million. Only a fraction of the
rehabilitation costs was made available.
Tribal interests in healthy landscapes goes beyond reservation
boundaries. Many tribes maintain off-reservation treaty rights on ceded
lands that now are National Forests. Catastrophic wildfire on these
forests directly and negatively impact tribes. Many of these fires burn
into tribal forests. Even with effective treatments to our own lands,
severe wildfires from adjacent Federal lands inflict significant damage
and economic costs to tribal forests.
Tribal forests must meet--and often exceed--the same goals as other
Federal lands--all subject to NEPA, ESA and other Federal regulations.
But tribes are able to manage our lands in harmony, because we live
with the consequences of our actions. Our ancestors have cared for this
Nation for thousands of years and will for generations to come. We must
meet the ``triple bottom line.'' If forests are overcut or devastated
by wildfire, we lose revenue and jobs, a myriad of ecological benefits
we rely upon from our forests, and the traditional and cultural
sustenance our forests have provided since time immemorial. The active
management tribes employ to realize the ``triple bottom line'' is
facilitated by three elements:
The fact that our forests held in Federal trust are for
the use and benefit of our tribes and their members and,
within the scope of the trust, are subject to the direction
of our tribal governments,
The Federal law guiding BIA and tribal management of these
trust forests, the National Indian Forest Resource
Management Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-630, Title III), is the
most recent and most flexible Federal forest management
The Indian Self-Determination Act (P.L. 93-638) has
enabled tribes to assume direct and comprehensive
management of our forests.
While IFMAT certainly identifies possible improvements for tribal
forest management, our existing successes offer empirical examples that
can and should be replicated across landscape ownerships, including
National Forest System lands.
The ITC supports the ``Resilient Federal Forests Act'' (H.R. 2936),
sponsored by the Chairman of this Subcommittee, Representative
Westerman. In particular, we believe that the tribal provisions of that
bill would give other Federal land managers new tools to work with
tribes and accomplish more to reduce the threat of wildfire.
Section 701 of H.R. 2936 improves the Tribal Forest Protection Act
(TFPA). The TFPA, authorized by Congress 13 years ago, authorized the
Forest Service and BLM to enter into agreements or contracts with
tribes to address risks and threats originating on nearby Forest
Service and BLM administered lands. Although well-intentioned in
Washington, DC, the TFPA has not met expectations on the ground. Since
2004, only a handful of TFPA projects have been effectively implemented
on Forest Service lands. One project proposed by the Tule River Tribe
took over 10 years to navigate the Forest Service's environmental
Congressman Westerman's bill would improve the TFPA by providing
timelines for review, approval and implementation of projects on
Federal land. The bill would also allow tribes to ``638'' contract the
development and implementation of these projects, much in the way that
states use Good Neighbor Authority.
Section 702 would give the Forest Service and BLM a new ability to
have tribes carry out forest restoration projects in their traditional
homelands. Improvement of forest health and ecological functions are
vital to maintain watersheds and fish and wildlife habitat on lands
that may be subject to federally reserved tribal rights. Acting through
the Bureau of Indian Affairs, tribes would be able to restore lands
using the Federal regulatory structure used on Indian trust lands. As
the Committee has noted on several occasions, tribal forest management
is able to achieve greater results faster and at lower costs than on
Federal land. This provision would help bring that successful
management approach to Federal lands sorely in need of restoration.
We believe the Nation would benefit by looking to Indian forestry
as models of sustainability. We can help move the country forward to
create a healthier, sustainable future for our forests and natural
resources. We invite this Committee to come visit Indian forests for a
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Mr. Westerman. Thank you for your testimony.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Chilcott to testify for 5
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE GREG CHILCOTT, COMMISSIONER, RAVALLI
Mr. Chilcott. Thank you, Congressman Gianforte, for your
And thank you, Chairman Westerman, Ranking Member McEachin,
and Committee members for taking and holding this timely
hearing as catastrophic wildfires continue to devastate forests
and communities across this Nation.
My name is Greg Chilcott, and I have served on the Ravalli
County Board of Commissioners since 2003. Ravalli County has a
population of about 41,000 citizens and is located in western
Montana, bordering Idaho. The Bitterroot National Forest,
including its three wilderness areas, is predominantly located
within my county.
I care deeply about my county, and I want to see it thrive
and survive, but wildfires severely limit that opportunity.
This year, over 1 million acres burned across the state of
Montana at an outrageous cost of $284 million. Tragically, two
brave firefighters lost their lives combating fires in western
Montana this season.
In July, the Meyers fire was started by a lightning strike
and merged with the Whetstone fire, burning through portions of
both the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge and the Bitterroot National
Forest, scorching over 62,000 acres.
Since then, the Lolo Peak fire has burned nearly 54,000
acres in the Bitterroot Valley. It has devastated our
landscape, destroyed wildfire habitat, emitted dense smoke, and
jeopardized the health and safety of our citizens.
Our late summer air quality is commonly in the unhealthy or
hazardous range. Active forest management will help us achieve
the healthy forests that are essential to clean air and clean
water. By improving forest health and reducing the dead and
dying timber, we can re-establish a thriving ecosystem that
improves the economy and the environment.
Local, state, and national economies all enjoy the benefits
of responsible resource use and recreation. Nobody loses when
our forests are healthy and resilient. Today, as you examine
Federal policies to help address catastrophic wildfires, I
would like to offer a few recommendations for your
First, we need Federal policy that promotes a local
collaborative consensus-driven decision-making process.
Counties know that forests can be actively managed in a
sustainable manner ensuring the health of our Federal lands and
our local communities.
Second, NEPA must be reformed. The time frame and process
for forest management projects should be streamlined and
inclusive of local government. It often takes years to get
through a NEPA analysis. At some point, we choose either to
maintain healthy forests, or risk catastrophic wildfires like
those we are currently seeing.
Third, we must address the chronic litigation that is
hindering our resource management professionals, and remove the
financial incentives to litigate projects. The legal system is
being abused by its special interest groups that sue to stop
any sort of management project.
These suits can stop a project even if they are
unsuccessful. And instead of managing resources, many agencies
are managing paperwork and litigation. Congress can help by
reforming the Equal Access to Justice Act, to ensure litigants
are not able to exploit the law or avoid caps on attorneys'
And finally, we need more stewardship contracting to
improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk. Stewardship
contracting demonstrates that a market-driven approach to
forest management projects can achieve land management goals
and increase production, county support, and our active
partners in stewardship contracting initiatives.
Forest revenue sharing payments support critical county
services such as transportation, infrastructure, and education.
With the uncertainty surrounding the future of PILT and SRS,
strengthening our forest revenue-sharing payments with
counties, including stewardship contracts, is essential for
promoting forest health and supporting services our citizens
In closing, while the causes of catastrophic wildfire are
complex, maintaining the status quo has exacerbated the present
forest condition which presents a great risk to both our
communities and the environment.
In the entire 20th century, fires in my county burned
approximately 300,000 acres. However, in only the first 15
years of this century, almost 900,000 acres were lost to fire.
Our once vibrant timber economy has been left in shambles, our
infrastructure decimated, and our scenic beauty scarred for
decades to come. These trends will continue unless Congress
We can manage our forests in a sound, scientific manner
that benefits our economy and the environment. We urge you to
craft viable legislation that can be enacted as soon as
possible to help address the threat of wildfire.
Thank you for inviting me.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Chilcott follows:]
Prepared Statement of the Hon. Greg Chilcott, Commissioner, Ravalli
Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member McEachin, thank you for
holding this hearing to explore solutions to reduce the risk of
catastrophic wildfire and improve the resiliency of our national
My name is Greg Chilcott, and I have been a member of the Ravalli
County, Montana Board of Commissioners since 2003. I am a past
president of the Montana Association of Counties, and currently serve
as the Chairman of the Montana Coalition of Forest Counties and the
Vice Chairman of the National Association of Counties' Public Lands
Steering Committee. My family roots in Ravalli County date back to the
1860s. Three of my grandchildren currently attend school in Ravalli
County. I care deeply about my community, and want to see it thrive
with greater access to recreation on public lands, safe and healthy
forests, clean and healthy air, and clean water supplies.
Unfortunately, as we have seen this year, the threat of wildfires in
the West is a ticking time bomb that will negatively affect the economy
and environment of places like Ravalli County.
Counties believe that active forest management will reduce the
threat of wildfire to our citizens and local communities in the West.
By reducing the fuel loads on our national forests we can re-establish
a healthy, thriving ecosystem that improves the economy and the
environment. Healthy forests are essential to clean water supplies and
clean air. Biodiversity increases when we manage our forests with
practical, sound, and scientific practices. Local, state and national
economies enjoy the benefits of both responsible resource use and
recreation. Nobody loses when our forests are healthy and resilient.
We can achieve these goals by increasing commercial timber harvests
from our national forests, reducing fuel loads through more mechanical
thinning and controlled burns, reducing the red tape to get through the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, and combating
frivolous special interest lawsuits that serve only to delay much
needed management of our National Forest System. Counties urge Members
of Congress to reach across the aisle, and find common ground to reduce
the threat catastrophic wildfire to our communities and environment.
About Ravalli County, Montana
Ravalli County is located in western Montana, bordering Idaho.
Ravalli County is a rural county with a population of approximately
41,000, of which 3.9 percent are unemployed. Our poverty rate is higher
than the state average at 16.8 percent, while the median income is
nearly $8,000 per year lower than the median income statewide. The
county makes up approximately 2,400 square miles, and contains the
majority of the Bitterroot National Forest. The Bitterroot National
Forest is home to three large wilderness areas: the Anaconda Pintler
Wilderness, Selway Bitterroot Wilderness, and the Frank Church River of
No Return Wilderness, which is the second largest wilderness area
within the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Ravalli County's government operates under the economic constraint
that nearly 75 percent of the land within our jurisdictional boundaries
is exempt from local taxation because it is under Federal management.
We are caught in limbo when it comes to financing essential county
government services because the Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT)
program is subject to the annual discretionary appropriations process.
Additionally, the Secure Rural Schools program has not been
reauthorized for the past 2 years, leaving counties shortchanged while
we try to provide important emergency services, like search and rescue
operations, to visitors to our Nation's public lands. We respectfully
request that Congress act on both of these vital programs to ensure
continuity in county budgets in the long term.
Ravalli County is not only required to provide a broad range of
local government services with a limited tax base, we must also deal
with the complications presented by the land management decisions made
by Federal land management agencies. While we work closely with the
U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to better manage the resources under their
control, we are severely constrained in our ability to influence
Ravalli County understands the need to protect our natural
resources. Public lands recreation and tourism contributes to our
service economy. However, tourism alone will not provide us with the
diverse economy that is necessary for the long term.
Fire Threat and Impacts on Public Health and the Economy
The landscape-scale catastrophic wildfires in the national forests
in Montana and other western states have had a disproportionately large
impact on the ecological, social and economic life of the County and
our neighbors. Fire seasons last an average of 78 days longer compared
to 40 years ago. As the USFS wrote in its 2015 fire budget report,
``The agency is at a tipping point.'' Every year, wildfire suppression
eats up a greater share of the USFS budget. This, coupled with the
approximately $350 million a year the USFS spends complying with
Federal law, ultimately reduces funding for other forest management
In 1995, 16 percent of the USFS's annual budget went to fire
suppression. Today, that number is well north of 50 percent, and by
2025 will likely amount to two-thirds of their annual budget. Nature
and poor policy decisions have forced the agency to change its focus.
In the past, the USFS spent the bulk of its dollars on forest
management, such as commercial timber harvests and mechanical thinning,
whereas today, suppression has become its major priority. Today, more
staff is devoted to fighting fires than managing the forests.
One major driver of this change in the USFS is abuse of the legal
system by special interest groups who sue to stop any sort of
management project on public lands. Litigation can halt a forest
management project, even if the lawsuit is not successful. Agency
employees must know not only the laws and regulations themselves, but
must also understand past judicial precedent that governs the
implementation of these laws and regulations. This nightmare of red
tape and regulation forces agencies to create long ``bullet proof''
NEPA analyses that can still be held up by frivolous litigation. Rather
than managing resources, the agency is forced to manage paperwork and
litigation. This contributes to the unsustainable growth in fuel loads,
leading to the explosion in catastrophic fires over the past few
Furthermore, the USFS has to pull money from management accounts to
help combat catastrophic fires, a process known as fire borrowing. This
further delays much needed timber harvests, mechanical thinning, and
controlled burns, leaving the USFS with fewer resources to meet its
management objectives. Solving the problem of fire borrowing must also
be a component of any action taken by Congress to improve forest
Data indicates that in the last century (from 1900-1999), fires
directly impacting Ravalli County, Montana totaled approximately
295,340 acres in comparison to the first 15 years of this century
(2000-2015) when we catastrophically burned 897,208 acres. Our once
vibrant timber economy has been left in shambles, its infrastructure
decimated and our scenic beauty scarred for decades to come. Our
citizens live with severely diminished air quality for weeks or months
at a time. Both our human and wildlife habitat have been, and will
continue to be, negatively impacted unless Congress acts to address the
This year, 8.5 million acres have burned nationwide, costing $2.5
billion to suppress. Over 1 million acres burned in the state of
Montana alone, with a cost of $284 million to fight these fires. The
vast majority of the acres burned were caused by lightning strikes.
Tragically, two firefighters lost their lives in western Montana this
On July 14, the Meyers fire was started by a lightning strike, and
merged with the Whetstone fire, burning through portions of both the
Beaverhead-Deer Lodge and the Bitterroot National Forests in Ravalli,
Granite, Beaverhead, and Deer Lodge Counties. The fire is currently 90
percent contained after scorching 62,000 acres of Federal and private
On July 15, the Lolo Peak fire was ignited by a lightning strike.
Now 90 percent contained, the fire burned nearly 54,000 acres of land,
primarily within the Bitterroot National Forest. This fire has
devastated the landscape--destroying wildlife habitat, emitting smoke
into the air, and jeopardizing the safety of residents.
Included with this testimony is a set of photographs from
properties adjacent to the Lolo Peak fire. The photographs are an
example of how an actively managed forest can stop a catastrophic fire
in its tracks. The fire spread to these properties, one parcel owned by
a private citizen and another owned by the state of Montana, where it
burned out quickly without destroying the strong, healthy trees or
spreading to the nearby community of Florence. These properties were
logged, mechanically thinned or had prescribed burns 10-15 years ago.
This created a lighter fuel load on the ground, and helped the fire to
burn out before it could reach residents.
Fires like the Lolo Peak have had a detrimental effect on local
public health. Thick clouds of smoke billow into the air, and citizens
breathe it in. This particularly impacts our children, sick people, and
the elderly. Air quality is commonly in the ``unhealthy'' or
``hazardous'' range during July and August. Warm air in the daytime
sometimes helps to lift smoke higher into the atmosphere, but when
cooler weather sets in at night, the smoke descends back into our
communities. Unfortunately, being indoors does not help the situation,
especially when many residents sleep with their windows open in the
cool mountain air. Montana's Constitution guarantees our citizens a
right to clean air and clean water--a right taken away by current
forest management practices. We must address the impacts of
catastrophic wildfire to guarantee the state constitutional right to
clean air and clean water.
Opportunities to Address Wildfire Threats
For the 26 percent of counties across the United States that are
home to Federal forest lands, the health of our national forests has a
direct impact on the health and safety of county residents. Healthy
forests are less prone to disease, insect infestation, and wildfire.
While the causes of catastrophic wildfire are complex, the status quo
of inaction has exacerbated present forest conditions, which now
present a great risk to both communities and the environment. The good
news is we can manage our forests in a sound, scientific manner that
benefits our economy and environment. This is not a binary choice.
There are many recommendations that can help guide more effective
Federal land management and best practices, including:
Counties believe that active management of Federal lands
and forests must be done in a sustainable manner that
ensures the health of our Federal lands for generations to
come. One way to help ensure a balanced approach to address
natural resource management challenges is by promoting
locally driven collaborative processes that promote
consensus driven decision making.
Counties across the United States have engaged in collaborative
efforts to address their natural resources challenges. By
bringing a broad cross-section of local stakeholders into
collaborative processes, counties, industry, recreation
groups, conservationists and Federal and state land
managers have built consensus on some of the most complex
natural resource management challenges. Authorizing limited
and reasonable categorical exclusions for projects that
improve forest health, and have been developed through
consensus-based collaborative processes, will increase the
number of acres treated and help to reduce the threat of
NEPA must be reformed as well. Streamlining the process
for projects with strong local support, collaborative
support and support of local land management professionals
should be categorically excluded from litigation. We need
to allow our professional land management agencies to get
back to managing the land rather than managing litigation.
Congress should require the costs and benefits of a proposed
forest project be weighed against the costs and benefits of
doing nothing to address wildfire threats, disease and
insect infestation, and their impacts on local water
supply, air quality and wildlife habitat. The choice not to
manage the forest is a management decision that directly
impacts public health. Additionally, the USFS should
expedite regulatory analyses for timber salvage after major
wildfires and other natural disasters. This will provide
the USFS with some of the revenue it needs to execute
critical and time-sensitive post-fire reforestation work.
In addition to improving forest health and reducing
wildfire risk, increased active management will generate
more revenue for the Federal Treasury and the critical
services provided by counties, and promote job creation and
economic growth in counties across the Nation. The growth
in stewardship contracting in recent years has shown that a
market-driven approach to forest management projects can
work to achieve both forest management goals and increased
forest production. Counties support and are active partners
in stewardship contracting initiatives across the United
States. Forest revenue sharing payments support critical
county services such as transportation infrastructure and
education. America's counties look forward to working with
Congress to further strengthen forest revenue sharing
between counties and the Federal Government.
Partnering with private sector commercial foresters to more
efficiently provide vegetation management and commercial
thinning is a win/win proposition for taxpayers, as well.
Not only do commercial projects fulfill vegetation
management objectives and priorities, they generate revenue
for Federal agencies and local governments, while providing
good-paying jobs in predominantly rural parts of the
We must address the chronic litigation that hinders our
resource/land management professionals and provides
financial incentives to litigate projects. The Equal Access
to Justice Act (EAJA) must be reformed to ensure litigants
are not able to exploit the law, and avoid legal caps on
attorney's fees. EAJA's original intention was to
compensate small business and individuals who do not have
the financial means to challenge Federal actions in court.
While individuals with a net worth greater than $2 million
and organizations with a net worth above $7 million are not
eligible for reimbursement of legal fees, nonprofit
organizations are not subject to these limitations.
Additionally, some litigants suing to stop land management
projects have successfully argued their expertise is
specialized, and therefore not subject to the cap. EAJA
should be reformed to prevent this abuse of a system
designed to protect the vulnerable.
Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member McEachin, thank you for the
invitation to testify. I urge Congress to work together across the
aisle and craft viable legislation that can be enacted as soon as
possible to help to slow the threat to Federal lands, neighboring
private lands, and public health.
Thank you again for the opportunity to tell you Ravalli County's
story and to share some of our ideas for improving the health of our
Federal forest lands.
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Mr. Westerman. Thank you, Mr. Chilcott, for your testimony.
The Chair now recognizes Dr. DellaSala to testify for 5
STATEMENT OF DOMINICK A. DELLASALA, CHIEF SCIENTIST, GEOS
INSTITUTE, ASHLAND, OREGON
Dr. DellaSala. Chairman Westerman, Ranking Member McEachin,
and Subcommittee members, thank you for the honor to testify
today on the ecological importance of wildfires.
I am the chief scientist for the nonprofit organization
Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon. We work on climate change. I
also am on the Oregon Global Warming Commission, Task Force on
Forest Carbon, have served on the Spotted Owl Recovery Team,
and have written numerous publications on fire-dependent
I want to make two main points in my testimony today:
One, proposals that call for increased logging and
decreased environmental review are not science-based, and, in
many cases, will make the problem you want to solve worse.
Two, the recent spat of wildfires and insect outbreaks in
the West is mainly the result of climate change triggering more
extreme fire weather. No amount of logging or suppression will
stop weather-driven fire events.
My testimony is aided by the charts in front of you,
supported by peer-reviewed scientific publications that
illustrate the importance of wildfires as an ecosystem benefit.
And the main drivers of diminished forest resilience are
climate change and an expansive logging footprint.
I will close with some top-line recommendations.
First, what do we know about recent forest fire increases?
Chart 1 of my testimony shows that fires were burning over
large landscapes in the early 1900s during extended regional
drought cycles governed mainly by global climatic forces.
By the middle of the 20th century, that shifted to a
cooling trend with reduced acres burning, and it is shifting
back now as a result of human-caused climate impacts. A change
in climate means more extreme fire weather--hot, dry winds and
low fuel moisture that will overtake suppression efforts
regardless of how much we spend, or whether those areas have
been thinned or logged.
Without measures to curtail greenhouse gas emissions,
suppression costs and impacts to ecosystems will only rise. We
cannot log our way out of an emerging novel fire climate era,
as climate, not fuels, will increasingly be the main driver of
Another reason for wildfires that are increasing is
development, as you heard from the opening remarks. We now have
a human-caused fire season, which is three times longer than
the lightning-caused fire season, adding 40,000 new wildfire
ignitions on average per year across the United States.
This will only worsen with expansion into the wildland
urban interface (WUI). There are already 46 million homes. It
is only going to get worse as homes continue to get built into
What do we know about fire and active management? First, at
the scale of land-use categories, wilderness and other
protected areas are not the problem. Chart 2 of my testimony is
a summary of the most extensive peer-reviewed analyses ever
done on this subject. It shows how logged areas burn are
naturally intense in forest fires compared to protected areas,
thus removing environmental protections to increase logging
will not lessen fire intensity.
Second, regarding pre-fire treatments, thinning from below
of small diameter trees followed by prescribed fire in certain
forest types can reduce severity. However, there are numerous
limitations to consider. First, fires occurring during extreme
fire weather will burn over large landscapes regardless of
thinning, sometimes racing through hundreds of thousands of
acres thinned and unthinned as a matter of weather, not fuels.
There is a low probability of intersecting a thin site when
a fire is occurring, about 3 to 8 percent chance. Logging of
large fire resistant trees can increase the rate of spread and
reduce resiliency, and thinning also requires an extensive and
impactful road network.
And third, regarding post-fire treatments, post-disturbance
logging can intensify all of those impacts by degrading forest
resilience and reducing the ability of forest to rejuvenate
after forest fires.
In closing, rather than policies to increase logging and
curtail science review of harm from these projects, policies
are needed to discourage continued growth in the WUI as
suppression costs will only increase with more development.
Allocating funds for creating defensible space in already-
developed areas should be a priority.
Any new development must include defensible space and
construction using nonflammable materials. That is the only way
to save homes from fire risks. No amount of logging or
suppression can stop or slow large fires under extreme fire
weather. Logging may, in fact, make the amount of unnatural
disturbances even more so, and effective policies are needed to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Finally, public lands are what remains of America's
dwindling natural inheritance to provide us with clean water,
habitat for fish and wildlife populations, outdoor recreation,
and carbon sequestration. Increasing logging will not maintain
[The prepared statement of Dr. DellaSala follows:]
Prepared Statement of Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos
Institute, Ashland, Oregon
Chairman Westerman, Ranking Member McEachin, and Subcommittee
members, thank you for the opportunity to discuss wildfires on national
forests. I am the Chief Scientist of the nonprofit organization, Geos
Institute in Ashland, Oregon. Geos Institute works with agencies,
landowners, and decision makers in applying the best science to climate
change planning and forest management. As a scientist, I have published
in peer-reviewed journals on fire ecology and climate change, I am on
the editorial board of several leading journals and encyclopedias, and
I have been on the faculty of Oregon State University and Southern
Oregon University. A recent book I co-authored with 28 other scientists
outlined the ecological importance of mixed-severity fires in
maintaining fire-resilient ecosystems, including ways to co-exist with
wildfire (DellaSala and Hanson 2015).
Wildfires are necessary natural disturbance processes that forests
need to rejuvenate. Most wildfires in pine and mixed-conifer forests of
the West burn in mixed fire intensities at the landscape scale that
produce large and small patches of low to high tree mortality. This
tapestry of burned patches is associated with extraordinary plant and
wildlife diversity, including habitat for many big game and bird
species that thrive in the newly established forests. From an ecosystem
perspective, natural disturbances like wildfires are not an ecological
catastrophe. However, given there are now 46 million homes in naturally
fire-prone areas (Rasker 2015), and no end in sight for new
development, we must find ways to co-exist with natural disturbance
processes as they are increasing in places due to climate change.
In my testimony today, I will discuss how proposals that call for
increased logging and decreased environmental review in response to
wildfires and insect outbreaks are not science driven, in many cases
may make problems worse, and will not stem rising wildfire suppression
costs. I will also discuss what we know about forest fires and beetle
outbreaks in relation to climate change, limitations of thinning and
other forms of logging in relation to wildfire and insect management,
and I will conclude with recommendations for moving forward based on
best available science.
what we know about recent forest fire increases
Recent Increases in Acres Burned of Forests are Mainly due to a
Changing Climate--Scientists have known for sometime that fire activity
tracks regional weather patterns, which in turn, are governed by global
climatic forces such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO--a
recurring long-lived El Nino-like pattern of Pacific climate
variability--see Chart 1). For instance, the very active fire seasons
of the 1910-1930s, occurred during prolonged drought cycles determined
by the PDO that resulted in much larger areas burning historically than
today (Powell et al. 1994; Interagency Federal Wildland Fire Policy
Review Working Group 2001; Egan 2010) (Chart 1). In fact, compared to
the historic warm PDO phase of the early 1900s, most of the West is
actually experiencing a fire deficit (Littell et al. 2009, Parks et al.
2012). However, with warming temperatures, early spring snowmelt, and
longer fire seasons over the past few decades more acres are burning
each year (Westerling et al. 2006; Littell et al. 2009) (Chart 1).
For instance, wildfire season in the West has lengthened from an
average of 5 to 7 months, and the number of large wildfires (>1,000
acres) has increased since the 1980s (Dennison et al. 2014) from 140 to
250 per year (UCS 2017). This is occurring as average annual
temperature in the West has risen by nearly 2 degrees F since 1970s and
winter snow pack has declined (UCS 2017). If measures are not taken to
stem greenhouse gas emissions, wildfire acres are projected to increase
further in dry areas as annual temperatures are expected to rise
another 2.5 to 6.5 degrees F by mid century (UCS 2017). Some
researchers estimate more than half of the increase in acres burned
over the past several decades is related to climate change (Abatzoglou
and Williams 2016). This increase is expected to continue with
additional warming leading to even greater suppression costs if the
agencies continue to suppress fires across the landscape (Schoennagel
et al. 2017).
Increasing Human Development is Lengthening Wildfire Seasons and
Adding to Fire Ignitions--The direct role of human-access via roads and
development in the Wildlands Urban Interface (WUI) is increasing
wildfire activity. Scientists recently evaluated over 1.5 million
government records of wildfires nationwide from 1992 to 2012 (Balch et
al. 2015). During that time, human-caused fire ignitions have vastly
expanded the spatial and seasonal occurrence of fire, accounting for 84
percent of all wildfire starts and 44 percent of the total area burned
nationally. We now have the phenomenon of a human-caused fire season,
which was three times longer than the lightning-caused fire season and
added an average of 40,000 wildfires per year across the United States
over this 20-year period of time. Ignitions caused by people--whether
accidental or arson--have substantial economic costs. This will only
worsen with continued development of the WUI adding to the 46 million
homes (Rasker 2015) already in these fire-prone areas.
Thus, given expansion of homes in the WUI, the best way to limit
damage to homes is to reduce fire risks by working from the home-
outward instead of the wildlands-inward (Syphard et al. 2013). For
instance, if a fire-brand travels miles ahead and lands on a flammable
roof that home is very likely to burn compared to a home that has a
fire-resistant roof and cleared vegetation within a narrow defensible
space of 100-200 feet immediately surrounding the home (Cohen 2000).
Logging outside of this narrow zone does not change home ignition
what we know about fire and forest management
Wilderness and Other Protected Areas are not Especially Prone to
Forest Fires--Proposals to remove environmental protections to increase
logging for wildfire concerns based on the assumption that unmanaged--
or protected areas--burn more intensely are misplaced. For instance,
scientists (Bradley et al. 2016 of which I was a co-author) recently
examined the intensity of 1,500 forest fires affecting over 23 million
acres during the past four decades in 11 western states. We tested the
common perception that forest fires burn hottest (most intensely) in
wilderness and national parks while burning cooler (less intensely) or
not at all in areas where logging had occurred. What we found was the
opposite--fires burned most intense in previously logged areas, while
they burned in natural fire mosaic patterns in wilderness, parks, and
roadless areas, thereby, maintaining resilient forests (see Chart 2).
Consequently, there is no reason for reducing environmental
State Lands are not at Lower Wildfire Risks Compared to Federal
Lands--There is much discussion about whether state lands are being
managed in a way that reduces fire occurrence and intensity. However,
in a recent report of wildfire risk (that included acres likely to
burn), scientists (Zimmerman and Livesay 2017) used the West Wide
Wildfire Risk Assessment model, an important assessment tool of the
Council of Western State Foresters and Western Forestry Leadership
Coalition. They evaluated risk for western states based on historical
fire data, topography, vegetation, tree cover, climate, and other
factors. According to the Center for Western Priorities analysis, state
(22 percent) and Federal (23 percent) lands have approximately
equivalent levels of fire risks in the West, and for some states, risks
were higher than Federal lands. Notably, allegations of higher fire
risk based solely on the number of Federal acres burned in a fire
season are misleading as there are over seven times as many Federal
lands (362 million acres) in 11 western states as compared to state-
owned lands (49 million acres) (Zimmerman and Livesay 2017).
Thinning is Ineffective in Extreme Fire Weather--Thinning/logging
is most often proposed to reduce fire risk and lower fire intensity.
Thinning-from-below of small diameter trees followed by prescribed fire
in certain forest types can reduce fire severity (Brown et al. 2004,
Kalies and Kent 2016) but only when there is not extreme fire weather
(Moritz et al. 2014, Schoennagel et al. 2017). Fires occurring during
extreme fire-weather (high winds, high temperatures, low humidity, low
fuel moisture) will burn over large landscapes, regardless of thinning,
and in some cases can burn hundreds or thousands of acres in just a few
days (Stephens et al. 2015, Schoennagel et al. 2017). Fires driven by
fire weather are unstoppable and are unsafe for firefighters to attempt
putting them out, and, as discussed, are more likely under a changing
Further, there is a very low probability of a thinned site actually
encountering a fire during the narrow window when tree density is
lowest. For example, the probability of a fire hitting an area that has
been thinned is about 3-8 percent on average, and thinning would need
to be repeated every 10-15 years (depending on site productivity) to
keep fuels at a minimum (Rhodes and Baker 2008).
Thinning too much of the overstory trees in a stand, especially
removal of large fire-resistant trees, can increase the rate of fire
spread by opening tree canopies and letting in more wind, can damage
soils, introduce invasive species that increase flammable understory
fuels, and impact wildlife habitat (Brown et al. 2004). Thinning also
requires an extensive and expensive roads network that can degrade
water quality by altering hydrological functions, including chronic
Post-Disturbance Salvage Logging Reduces Forest Resilience and can
Raise Fire Hazards--Commonly practiced after natural disturbances like
fires or insect outbreaks, post-disturbance logging hinders forest
resilience by compacting soils, killing natural regeneration of conifer
seedlings and shrubs associated with forest renewal, increasing fine
fuels from slash left on the ground that aids the spread of fire,
removing the most fire-resistant large live and dead trees, and
degrading fish and wildlife habitat. Further roads that increase
sediment flow to streams triggering widespread water quality problems
(Lindenmayer et al. 2008).
what we know about beetle-killed forests and forest management
Beetle Killed Forests are Not More Susceptible to Forest Fires--
Forests in the West are being affected by the largest outbreaks of bark
beetles in decades, which has caused concern about forest resilience
and wildfire risk and led to proposals for widespread tree removals.
Such proposals stem in part from the rationale that bark beetle
outbreaks increase wildfire risks due to dead trees and that logging in
beetle-affected forests would therefore lower such risks. However,
beetle-killed forests are not more susceptible to forest fires (Bond et
al. 2009, Hart et al. 2015, Meigs et al. 2016). This is mainly because
when conifers die due to drought or native bark beetles, the
combustible oils in the needles quickly begin to dissipate, needles and
small twigs begin to fall to the ground. Without the fine fuels that
facilitate fire spread, potential crown fires are actually lowered in
forests with beetle mortality (Donato et al. 2013). The beetle-killed
standing dead trees (snags) are the least flammable part of the forest
and act more like a large log in a campfire, rather than kindling which
is what causes fire spread.
In fact, studies of beetle-killed forests in the West found that
when fires occurred during or immediately after the pulse of snag
recruitment from beetle kill, fire severity consistently declined in
the stands with high snag densities in the following decades (Meigs et
al. 2016). In pine and mixed-conifer forests of the San Bernardino
National Forest (CA), fires occurred immediately after a large pulse of
snag recruitment from drought and beetles. However, scientists (Bond et
al. 2009) found ``no evidence that pre-fire tree mortality influenced
fire severity.'' In studies of beetles and wildfires across the western
United States, scientists (Hart et al. 2015) stated ``contrary to the
expectation of increased wildfire activity in recently infested red-
stage stands, we found no difference between observed area and expected
area burned in red-stage or subsequent gray-stage stands during 3 peak
years of wildfire activity, which account for 46 percent of area burned
during the 2002-2013 period.'' And finally, in a comprehensive review
of fire-beetle relations in mixed-conifer and ponderosa pine forests of
the Pacific Northwest, scientists (Meigs et al. 2016) found: ``in
contrast to common assumptions of positive feedbacks, we find that
insects generally reduce the severity of subsequent wildfires. Specific
effects vary with insect type and timing, but insects decrease the
abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time
lags. By dampening subsequent burn severity, native insects could
buffer rather than exacerbate fire regime changes expected due to land
use and climate change.''
Most importantly, climate change is allowing more insects to
survive the winter, triggering the rash of recent outbreaks (Meigs et
Thinning Cannot Limit or Contain Beetle Outbreaks--Once beetle
populations reach widespread epidemic levels, thinning treatments aimed
at stopping them do not reduce outbreak susceptibility as beetles over-
run natural forest defenses with or without thinning (Black et al.
closing remarks and recommendations
Recent increases in wildfires and insect outbreaks are a
result of a changing climate coupled with human-activities
including expansion of homes and roads into the WUI that
will only continue to drive up fire suppression costs.
Policies should be examined that discourage continued
growth in the WUI; any new development must include
defensible space and construction from non-flammable
The most effective way to protect homes is to create
defensible space in the immediate 100 feet of a structure
and use of non-flammable materials. Wildland fire policy
should fund defensible space, not more logging and thinning
miles away from communities.
No amount of logging can stop insect outbreaks or large
fires under extreme fire weather. Logging may, in fact,
increase the amount of unnatural disturbances by
homogenizing landscapes with more even aged trees, residual
slash left on the ground, and compounding cumulative
impacts to ecosystems.
Thinning of small trees in certain forest types,
maintaining canopy closure and in combination with
prescribed fire can reduce fire intensity but treatment
efficacy is limited in extreme fire weather, and by the
small chance that a thinned site will encounter a fire
during a very narrow window when fuels are lowest.
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wildfires expand the fire niche across the United States. PNAS
Black, S.H., D. Kulakowski, B.R. Noon, and D.A. DellaSala. 2013. Do
bark beetle outbreaks increase wildfire risks in the Central U.S. Rocky
Mountains: Implications from Recent Research. Natural Areas Journal
Bond, M.L., D.E. Lee, C.M. Bradley, and C.T. Hanson. 2009. Influence of
pre-fire tree mortality on fire severity in conifer forests of the San
Bernardino Mountains, California. The Open Forest Science Journal 2:41-
Bradley, C.M., C.T. Hanson, and D.A. DellaSala. 2016. Does increased
forest protection correspond to higher fire severity in frequent-fire
forests of the western United States? Ecosphere 7:1-13.
Brown, R.T., J.K. Agee, and J.F. Franklin. 2004. Forest restoration and
fire: principles in the context of place. Conservation Biology 18:903-
Cohen, J.D. 2000. Preventing disaster: home ignitability in the
wildland-urban interface. Journal of Forestry 98:15-21.
DellaSala, D.A. and C.T. Hanson. 2015. The ecological importance of
mixed-severity fires: nature's phoenix. Elsevier: Boston, MA.
Dennison, P., S. Brewer, J. Arnold, and M. Moritz. 2014. Large wildfire
trends in the western United States, 1984-2011. Geophysics Research
Donato, D.C., B.J. Harvey, W.H. Romme, et al. 2013. Bark beetle effects
on fuel profiles across a range of stand structures in Douglas-fir
forests of Greater Yellowstone. Ecological Applications 23:3-20.
Egan, T. 2010. The Big burn. Huffman Mifflin Harcourt: Boston.
Hart, S.J., T.T. Veblen, N. Mietkiewicz, and D. Kulakowski. 2015.
Negative feedbacks on bark beetle outbreaks: widespread and severe
spruce beetle infestation restricts subsequent infestation. PlosOne:
Kalies, E.I. and L.L. Yocom Kent. 2016. Tamm Review: Are fuel
treatments effective at achieving ecological and social objectives? A
systematic review. Forest Ecology and Management 375-84-95.
Lindenmayer, D.B., P.J. Burton, and J.F. Franklin. 2008. Salvage
logging and its ecological consequences. Island Press: Washington, DC.
Littell, J.S., D. McKenzie, D.L. Peterson, and A.L. Westerling. 2009.
Climate and wildfire area burned in western U.S. ecoprovinces, 1916-
2003. Ecological Applications 19:1003-1021.
Meigs, G.W., H.S.J. Zald, J. L. Campbell, et al. 2016. Do insect
outbreaks reduce the severity of subsequent forest fires? Environmental
Research Letters 11 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/045008.
Moritz, M.A., E. Batllori, R.A. Bradstock, et al. 2014. Learning to
coexist with wildfire. Nature 515:58-66.
Parks, S.A., C. Miller, M.A. Parisien, et al. 2012. Wildland fire
deficit and surplus in the western United States, 1984-2012.
Powell, D.S., J.L. Faulkner, D.R. Darr, et al. Forest resources of the
United States, 1992. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RM-
Rasker, R. 2015. Resolving the increasing risk from wildfires in the
American West. www.thesolutionsjournal.org; March-April 2015 p. 55-62.
Rhodes, J.J. and W.L. Baker. 2008. Fire probability, fuel treatment
effectiveness and ecological tradeoffs in western U.S. public forests.
The Open Forest Science Journal 1:1-7.
Schoennagel, T., J.K. Balch, H. Brenkert-Smith, et al. 2017. Adapt to
more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes.
Stephens, S.L., M. P. North, and B.M. Collins. 2015. Large wildfires in
forests: What can be done? ActionBioscience April 15.
Syphard, A.D., A. Bar Massada, V. Butsic, and J. E. Keeley. 2013. Land
use planning and wildfire: development policies influence future
probability of housing loss. PLoS ONE 8(8):e71708.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). 2017. Western wildfires and
climate change. http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/
Westerling, A.L., H.G. Hidalgo, D.R. Cayan, and T.W. Swetnam. 2006.
Warming and earlier spring increase western U.S. forest wildfire
activity. Science 313:940-943.
Zimmerman, G. and L. Livesay. 2017. Fire lines: comparing wildfire risk
on state and U.S. public lands. Center for Western Priorities. http://
Chart 1. Fires track regional climatic variations governed by global
processes such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO is
recurring pattern of ocean-atmosphere (El Nino-like) climate
interactions centered over the mid-latitude Pacific basin. When the PDO
is warm, fire activity is high and vice-versa (modified from Littell et
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Chart 2. Burn severity (cool to hot fires) classes arranged by
land-use categories from maximum protection (parks, wilderness) to
minimal (private lands). Fire severity was assessed from the Monitoring
Trends in Burn Severity project (http://www.mtbs.gov) managed by USDA
and USDI. Fire severity data in acres burned and severity classes were
available from 1984 to 2014 and analyzed for 1,500 fires affecting 24
million acres burning in mixed-conifer and pine forests of 11 western
states using GIS and robust statistical analyses (Bradley et al. 2016).
The chart reflects average burn severities for land categories.
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Chart 3(A). Google Earth image of the Douglas-fire complex,
southwest Oregon showing the burn perimeter in red. This 2014 fire
burned mostly on private lands and in high fire intensities when it
encountered densely stocked tree plantations and logging slash that
acted as kindling. A similar fire nearby in 2012, Oregon Gulch fire
(not shown), blew up when it encountered slash piles on private lands
the height of three story buildings. The Google image is illustrative
of the general pattern of uncharacteristic fire intensity observed in
``actively managed'' forests by Bradley et al. 2016. The area was also
extensively post-fire salvage logged leading to chronic impacts to
forests and streams that accumulate in space and time and predispose
fire-rejuvenating forests to the next uncharacteristic high intensity
burn (i.e., a perpetual intense fire-logging-intense fire feedback
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Chart 3(B). The so-called ``checkerboard'' of private and Bureau of
Land Management (BLM) lands, southwest Oregon, showing extensive
fragmentation by roads and clearcuts. Flammable tree plantations on
private lands have replaced most of the fire-resistant/resilient older
forests that once dominated the Pacific Northwest. Remaining older
forests are mainly on public lands and provide myriad ecosystem
benefits in the form of outdoor recreation, carbon sequestration and
storage, clean water, aquatic strongholds for salmon, and unique
habitat for species that are reduced in intensively/actively managed
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Both landscapes have been extensively damaged by decades of
clearcutting and road building. High road densities fragment wildlife
habitat and cause chronic water quality and invasive species problems.
Increasing logging on Federal lands, where the last intact forests and
watersheds remain, will make forests and aquatic systems less resilient
to natural disturbances especially when coupled with the emergence of a
new fire-climate era and an increase in human-caused wildfire
ignitions. Unprecedented cumulative impacts from logging and climate
change will likely trigger the onset of a wave of species extinctions
in terrestrial and aquatic systems.
Chart 4. Post-fire logging within a late-successional reserve (LSR)
managed for spotted owls and other old forest species (under the
Northwest Forest Plan) in the Biscuit fire area 2002 (upper left) vs.
the same LSR 10 years later (upper right). Upper right panel shows lack
of conifer establishment mainly when loggers dragged logs up steep
slopes killing most of the naturally regenerating seedlings (Donato et
al. 2006). Bottom photo just upslope of the logged LSR was from an
unlogged botanical area with abundant ``biological legacies'' (large
snags) that protected soils, shaded conifer seedlings from intense
sunlight, and provided soil nutrients and moisture for the developing
forest. Notice the difference in forest establishment. A detailed study
was conducted in the Biscuit burn area (Donato et al. 2006) and
documented statistically significant losses of conifer establishment
due to logging and higher fuel accumulations in post-fire logged plots
from slash. Thus, these photos are illustrative of the general negative
impact of post-fire logging on forest resilience.
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Citation: Donato, D.C. et al. 2006. Post-wildfire logging
hinders regeneration and increases fire risks. Science Brevia 5 January
Chart 5. Wildfires in western pine and mixed-conifer forests produce
mixed fire effects on the vegetation (known as fire severity). This
pattern of large and small patches consists of unburned/low (U/L),
moderate (M), and high (H) burn severity patches (``pyrodiversity'')
associated with extraordinary levels of plant and wildlife richness,
including habitat for rare plants, songbirds, woodpeckers, big game,
small mammals, and spotted owls. Alpha (number of species at stand
level), beta (number of species summed across burn patches), and gamma
diversity (number of species at regional scales) are ways to measure
diversity at different spatial scales. Burned areas are rich in these
diversity metrics and are not ecological ``catastrophes.''
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Chart 6. A tale of two connected forests. The old-growth forest
(left), rich in plant and wildlife diversity, eventually burned
(right). The burned forest is known as ``complex early seral forest''
with the dead standing trees (snags) acting as ``biological legacies''
that connect the various stages of forest succession through time. Soon
after the fire in the old growth, colonizing plants and wildlife occupy
the site and richness of species accumulates, quickly rivaling that of
an old-growth forest. A forest fire is not an ecological
``catastrophe'' but is a resetting of nature's successional clock that
forests have been resilient and uniquely adapted to for millennia
(DellaSala and Hanson 2015). Logging in these forests degrades forest
resilence and is not restoration.
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Questions Submitted for the Record by Rep. McEachin to Dominick A.
DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute
Question 1. Please elaborate on Southwest forest ecosystems with
regard to fire and active management.
Answer. In low-mid elevation ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer
forests of the Southwest, natural historical fire regimes were
typically dominated by low/moderate-severity fire, but included the
occasional high-severity fire patches as well. Because of this
heterogeneity in fire effects, forests historically were quite variable
in tree density, ranging from open to dense. This characterization is
based on fire-regime reconstructions using historical field data (Odion
et al. 2014, Williams and Baker 2014), fire-scar records from tree
rings (Roos and Swetnam 2011), and paleoecological research using
charcoal deposits (Jenkins et al. 2011). During warm, dry periods,
especially following wet years, ``large crown fires'' occurred
periodically in these forests historically (Roos and Swetnam 2011).
Although there is currently considerably less fire in southwestern
forests than historically, similar to other western U.S. conifer
forests (Roos and Swetnam 2011, Odion et al. 2014), annual area burned
has increased from the 1970s through 1980s. Importantly, high-severity
fire in the Southwest, as in most other western conifer forests (Roos
and Swetnam 2011, Odion et al. 2014), has not increased in total acres
or percentage of fire acres from 1984 to present, the period during
which we have good satellite data (Baker 2015a, Keyser and Westerling
Though some southwestern forests have high densities of very small,
the largest recent fires in southwestern forests, such as Horseshoe2
fire of 2011 (226,000 acres), Wallow fire of 2011 (564,000 acres), and
Whitewater-Baldy fire of 2012 (307,000) have nevertheless been
comprised mostly of low/moderate-severity fire effects (www.mtbs.gov).
In the high-severity fire patches, post-fire forest regeneration has
occurred naturally. Conifer establishment occurs in more dense
concentrations closest to low/moderate-severity areas, and in more open
patterns in the interior areas of larger high-severity patches (Haire
and McGarigal 2010). In general, these mixed-severity fires in this and
other fire-dependent forests support high levels of biodiversity
(DellaSala and Hanson 2015). Mexican spotted owls, for example,
preferentially hunt in such fire areas, due to increased small mammal
Contrary to Representative Gosar's false assertion during the
hearing about the lack of pine regeneration in high intensity burns in
the Southwest, a new study was covered on October 5 in the Arizona
Daily Sun that shows this is clearly not the case for these forests:
Finally, active management is defined and discussed in detail in
the following sections.
Question 2. Please further explain the graph about warm and cool
phases to address the claim that the lower levels of fire correspond
with periods of most active management.
Answer. Scientists have known for sometime that wildfire activity
tracks regional droughts and high temperatures (Whitlock et al. 2015)
influenced mainly by climatic forces such as the Pacific Decadal
Oscillation (PDO), the El Nino-like pattern of alternating warm and
cool phases in the Pacific region.
Congressman Westerman contended that the period when fewer acres
burned in the cool mid-20th century PDO (Chart 1) was due to higher
levels of logging or active management. If increased logging was the
driver of fewer acres burned, then that pattern would have continued
through the height of logging in the 1970s-1980s (Chart 2). Indeed that
is the premise of the Westerman bill--that more logging will reduce
fire risk. However, as active management ramped up in the 1970s through
the early 1980s, fire activity increased, not decreased. And this trend
of increasing fire continued despite mechanized fire suppression. The
period of time that Congressman Westerman referred to included the near
wholesale liquidation of mature and old-growth forests, decimation of
steams and watersheds, sediment loading of streams and loss of native
fish runs. In the Pacific Northwest, 2 square-miles per week were
being clearcut on national forests during this time (DellaSala et al.
2015). Logging also increased on private lands (Law and Waring 2015)
yet acres burned continued to rise.
Chart 1. Area in western forests from 1900s through 2000s (J. Littell,
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Chart 2. Timber sold and harvested over roughly the same period in
Chart 1. Note an unprecedented increase in logging was taking place
during the cool PDO (1950s-1980s) when fire activity was low.
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It is much more likely that regional climate--governed by top-
down global climate forces--is mainly responsible for contemporary
increases in acres burning (Little et al. 2009, Schoennagel et al.
2017). Additionally, recent increases in human-caused fires has made
the length of fire season three times longer than the lightning caused
season, contributing to an average of 40,000 fire starts each year as
more and more homes are built in the wildland urban interface (Balch et
Question 3. What is your definition of and approach to active
management and its role in wildfire management? What is your definition
of ``catastrophic'' and how does it relate to fire management?
Active management--Witnesses or congressional members never defined
this term at the hearing; however, H.R. 2936 would expand hazardous
fuels (thinning) treatments and Categorical Exclusions for post-fire
logging that have nothing to do with forest resilience as follows.
Post-disturbance clearcut (``salvage'') logging--
Clearcutting of large swaths of live and dead trees after a
natural fire or other natural disturbance. Post-fire
logging is often followed by herbicides to reduce
competition from naturally regenerating shrubs and other
plants, and to allow for subsequent planting of nursery
stock trees. Logging and replanting, rather than letting
the forest naturally regenerate, can create a dangerous
feedback loop where fires burn initially and naturally in
fire-resilient native forests that are then logged and
planted in dense rows only to burn hot and to be logged and
planted again, and so on (Odion et al. 2004, Thompson et
al. 2007). Logging after a disturbance also removes the
most ecologically valuable components of a forest--dead
still standing trees (``snags'') and fallen, downed logs.
These legacy trees anchor soils, provide shade for
developing seedlings, ``nurse logs'' for new plant growth
and soil moisture retention, habitat for aquatic species
when snags fall in streams. Importantly these legacies
store vast amounts of carbon, decay and some release of
carbon occurs slowly from decades to centuries. They also
provide habitat for scores of insect eating bats, birds,
and other small mammals that help keep native insect
populations in check.
Forest thinning--Partial removal of trees used for a
variety of silvicultural purposes, including reducing
competition among tree stems, increasing tree vigor, and
accelerating tree growth for so-called ``forest health''
(typically undefined or based on timber harvest
definitions) purposes, including reducing ``hazardous
fuels.'' Thinning small diameter trees from below while
maintaining appropriate canopy cover can in certain
circumstances change fire behavior. However, there are some
significant drawbacks to relying on landscape-scale
thinning to address increased fire activity in a warming
period. These are: (1) there is a very low probability (2-8
percent) that a thinned site will encounter a fire during
the narrow period of 10-15 years of reduced ``fuels;'' (2)
excessive thinning can increase wind speeds in a stand that
consequently increases rates of fire spread; (3) opening up
a stand to greater light penetration results in rapid
understory growth that in turn contributes to future fire
spread; (4) thinning needs to be followed by prescribed
fire; and (5) thinning can damage wildlife habitat because
it often removes medium and large diameter trees. When
extreme fire-weather (high temperatures, low fuel moisture,
low humidity, high winds) encounters a thinned stand there
can be little to no reduced fire intensity (Schoennagel et
al. 2017). In a warming climate, thinning will become
increasingly less effective.
Road building--Thinning and post disturbance logging
require an expansive and expensive to maintain road system.
Roads are associated with water quality degradation,
aquatic species declines (e.g., salmon), spread of invasive
weeds, human-caused fire ignitions, and loss of wildlife
habitat (Ibisch et al. 2017).
Excluding the above ``active management'' provisions that are
incompatible with forest resilience, there are plenty of approaches
that would be supportive of resilience, including:
Removal of human-caused stressors to ecosystems that
compound in space and time (e.g., livestock grazing, Off-
Removing damaging roads and re-contouring the road prism
to natural features to reduce sediments to streams and to
improve hydrological function.
Reintroduction and management of viable populations of
endangered species and their habitats.
Removal of invasive species.
Managing wildfires for ecosystem benefits with prescribed
fire in appropriate forest types.
Thinning and girdling of small trees in young plantations
created by prior clearcuts to accelerate development of
older forest structures.
Replacing ineffective culverts (especially important in
areas where climate change will trigger more floods).
Restoring floodplains so they can naturally store more
water (e.g., by reintroducing beavers) and attenuate
Catastrophe--A natural disturbance that wreaks havoc on human
communities is a catastrophe that needs to be avoided. However, the
term ``catastrophe,'' as repeated by witnesses and congressional
members throughout the hearing has no scientific basis; it is value-
laden and inconsistent with how ecosystems function.
Wildfires do not ``destroy'' fire-dependent ecosystems, rather,
they are natural disturbance agents that have been shaping the ecology
of forest ecosystems for millennia. Many forest ecosystems are uniquely
adapted to reoccurring fires that rejuvenate them. For instance,
certain lodgepole pine populations in the Rockies require intense heat
to open their pinecones (serotinous) and release the seeds. The real
ecological calamity is the wanton destruction of mature and old-growth
forest ecosystems (2 percent remains in the lower 48 states with most
concentrated in the Pacific Northwest where >80 percent were destroyed
by logging--Strittholt et al. 2006), and logging of irreplaceable post-
fire habitats that would expand under H.R. 2936. Those catastrophes are
human-caused and have triggered widespread declines of hundreds of
plants and wildlife, including the culturally iconic Pacific salmon
(FEMAT 1993). Thus, the term catastrophe should be reserved for only
the affects of natural disturbances on people, not ecosystems.
Question 4. Please expand on your statement that logging, not fire,
is the real threat to spotted owls.
Answer. In 2006-2008, I served on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
recovery team for the threatened northern spotted owl. I also have
conducted independent field research and published on the habitat needs
of the owl in scientific journals (e.g., see DellaSala et al. 2013).
During the oversight hearing, I responded to erroneous claims made by
Mr. Fite that forest fires--not logging--were the main threats to owls
and that to save the owl we needed to reduce fires by ``active
management'' (i.e., more logging). I was surprised to hear Mr. Fite was
concerned about the owl given that the timber industry has been
responsible for liquidating most of the old-growth forests within the
owls' range. Rather than acknowledge that logging has been the major
reason for habitat loss, Mr. Fite blames wildfire. To begin, the owl
would not have been historically present in dry forest regions of the
Pacific Northwest unless it could co-exist with forest fires that
periodically maintained owl habitat (see Baker 2015b).
When I was on the northern spotted owl recovery team, there was
considerable debate among recovery team members about whether wildfire
was a significant threat to owls. In fact, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife
Service was criticized by scientific societies such as The Wildlife
Society and Society for Conservation Biology in peer review for
overstating fire risks to owls. Most recent studies show that spotted
owls in the dry forest portion of their geographic range (e.g.,
southwest Oregon) are quite resilient to forest fires, but only if owl
territories are not logged post-fire (e.g., Clark et al. 2013).
Wildfires of mixed intensities produce what is commonly referred to as
the ``bedroom'' and ``kitchen'' effect with the bedroom being low-
moderate severity patches where most large trees (nest sites) survive
and the kitchen being the high severity burn patches (most trees
killed) that provide owl-prey habitat for small rodents and woodrats
that readily populate burn patches after fire (e.g., Bond et al. 2013).
Mr. Fite also mentioned a recent study in the King fire area of
California where spotted owls abandoned territories post-fire. What he
failed to include is that owl populations in that area were already
declining from extensive pre-fire logging. In fact, most of the owl
territories that were erroneously claimed by the Forest Service to have
been rendered ``extinct'' by the King fire had actually lost occupancy
prior to the fire's occurrence due to extensive logging (Hanson et al.
in peer review). Owls also abandoned nest sites following substantial
post-fire logging in their home ranges. Mr. Fite also failed to mention
another published study in the Sierra that examined spotted owl
occupancy after the Rim fire of 2013 on the Stanislaus National Forest.
This study found that occupancy of spotted owls after the Rim fire (but
before post-fire logging) was the highest of any location studied in
the Sierra (Lee and Bond 2015). Thus, large fires can potentially
benefit spotted owls, not harm them, so long as post-fire logging does
not occur in the owl habitat. Fire is not the main problem for spotted
owls (Baker 2015b), but rather post-fire logging causes territory
Question 5. Please elaborate on the emissions associated with fire
and forest fire and how carbon sequestration operates after a forest
Answer. For the past 2 years, I have served on the Oregon Global
Warming Commission's Task Force on Forest Carbon that reports to
Governor Kate Brown. The Task Force is about to release a new report--
based on the latest emissions data--showing that emissions from
wildfires typically represent only 1-3 percent of the state's annual
greenhouse gas releases.
Contrary to assertions at the hearing, the vegetation killed by
forest fires does not completely volatilize or release most of its
carbon to the atmosphere. Most of the carbon remains on-site and is
stored in the stem wood, branches, and logs unconsumed even by high-
severity wildfires (Meigs et al. 2009, Mitchell 2015). A relatively
small percent, from 5 to 35 percent (averaging 10 percent) combusts in
mixed severity fires typical of the northwestern United States. Most of
the combusted material is from burning of the duff layer, forest
litter, small branches and small vegetation. About half of the burned
carbon is stored in soils for 90 years; the other half persists for
over a thousand years (millennia) as charcoal. Importantly, large dead
trees are not ``consumed'' by fire, rather, carbon remains stored in
tree boles for decades to centuries at the same time new plant growth
is rapidly sequestering carbon (Meigs et al. 2009, Law and Waring
2015). The claim made at the hearing, that the Rim fire resulted in
emissions of over 12 million tons of CO2 is wildly
exaggerated. It was presumably based on an unsubstantiated assumption
that 85 percent of the above-ground biomass is consumed in high-
severity fires (see Garcia et al. 2017). However, actual studies of
forest fires, based on field data, show considerably less consumption
(10 percent average). Additionally, even severely burned forests
rapidly begin sequestering carbon during new forest growth (Chart 3).
Chart 3. Natural post-fire regeneration in the Rim fire area 4 years
post-fire. Note: extensive plant growth that corresponds to carbon
uptake (photos: C. Hanson).
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
.epsIn contrast, tree removal via forest thinning and post-fire
logging reduces carbon storage (e.g., Chart 4). Further, because
managers end up thinning much more area than actually would have burned
during the period of treatment efficacy, there is much more carbon
emitted from thinning and wood processing compared to what would have
been emitted during a forest fire (Meigs et al 2009). In contrast,
restrictions on Federal lands logging in the Pacific Northwest, as a
result of the Northwest Forest Plan protections, switched public
forests from a source of emissions in the 1980s (the height of Federal
timber harvest) to a forest carbon sink that is now storing vast
amounts of the region's global warming emissions (Krankina et al.
Chart 4. A human-caused catastrophic disturbance, post-fire logging, on
Stanislaus National Forest in the Rim fire area, Sierra Nevada. Nearly
all of the natural post-fire conifer regeneration was killed by post-
fire logging. This activity would be expanded under H.R. 2936 with
minimal environmental review (C. Hanson).
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
.epsThus, if this Subcommittee is truly concerned about global
warming emissions, then storing more carbon in forest ecosystems by
increasing, not decreasing, protection of older carbon-dense forests
and post-fire forests would more than make up for the small
contribution of wildfire emissions (Krankina et al. 2012, Law and
Question 6. Please discuss carbon storage and sequestration when it
comes to forests, forest management and forest fires.
Answer. Carbon sequestration in relation to forest fires was
discussed in #5 above.
Accurate assessment of whether a particular forest practice yields
carbon benefits requires managers to conduct a full life-cycle analysis
of carbon losses and gains. While this is beyond the scope of this
question, I will elaborate in general on the movement of carbon into
and out of a forest due to natural and human-caused disturbances. I
will also provide an example of carbon flux from logging vs. protection
of the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska where I have
conducted such analyses. In sum, the simple answer can be boiled down
to what Dr. Beverly Law (carbon scientist at Oregon State University)
refers to as ``slow-in'' and ``fast-out.''
In general, forests are a critical part of the global atmospheric
carbon cycle that overtime contribute to climate stabilization by
absorbing (sequestering) and storing vast amounts of carbon dioxide
(CO2) in trees (live and dead), soils, and understory
foliage (i.e. ``slow-in''). As a forest matures, it continues to
accumulate and store carbon, functioning as a net carbon ``sink'' for
centuries as long as there are no major disturbances. Ongoing carbon
accumulation and storage have been measured in forests >800 years old
(Luyssaert et al. 2008).
When an old-growth forest is cut down, up to two-thirds of its
stored carbon (after accounting for carbon stored in wood products) is
released as CO2 switching it from a sink to a net ``source''
or ``emitter'' of CO2 (i.e., ``fast-out''). Carbon is
quickly released via decomposition of logging slash, fossil-fuel
emissions from transport and processing of wood products, and decay of
short-lived wood products in landfills (Harmon et al. 1990). Planting
or growing young trees does not make up for these losses. Indeed, after
a forest is clearcut, it remains a net CO2 emitter for its
first 13 years and even if not cut down again will not reach the levels
of carbon stored in an old forest for centuries (Turner et al. 2004)
Globally, deforestation (8-15 percent of emissions) and forest
degradation (6-13 percent of emissions) contribute significantly to the
world's annual greenhouse gas pollutants,\1\ more than the entire
global transportation network, which is why many countries are seeking
ways to reduce emissions by protecting their forest sinks via the Paris
Climate Change Agreement. Thus, protecting carbon sinks and lengthening
timber rotations would contribute to climate stabilization as well as
other co-benefits such as clean water, climate refugia, fish and
wildlife habitat, pollination, and outdoor recreation (Brandt et al.
\1\These estimates are conservative as they were mainly derived for
the tropics where the majority of forest losses occur--boreal and
temperate forest losses and degradation also contribute significant
emissions but are not included in these estimates. Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Synthesis report. An assessment of the
IPCC on climate change. Houghton, R.A., B. Byers, and A.A. Nassikas.
2012. A role for tropical forests in stabilizing atmospheric
CO2. Nature Climate Change 5:1022-1023.
As an example, I would like to refer the Subcommittee to proposed
logging alternatives on the Tongass National Forest (2016 forest plan
amendment), the Nation's largest forest carbon sink that annually
sequesters about 8 percent of total U.S. emissions. The agencies'
preferred alternative would log 43,167 acres of old growth and 261,850
acres of young growth in the next 100 years, resulting in the
equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually on Alaska roads.
These estimates account for carbon stored in wood products and capture
of carbon by forest regrowth. Tongass logging would release 175 times
more emissions than the ``reference point'' for project emissions
recommended by the White House's Council of Environmental Quality
(CEQ). Emissions would also result in a ``social cost of carbon''
estimated at >$100 million in global warming damages by the end of the
century. These costs are 10 times the projected timber revenues on the
Tongass. In contrast, an alternative proposed by conservation groups
(but dismissed by the Forest Service) would rely predominately on
76,000 acres of low controversy young growth timber to support the
industry's transition out of old-growth logging. This alternative would
yield a tenth of the emissions compared to the agencies' preferred
This kind of carbon analysis is completely lacking from H.R. 2936
that would instead greatly increase logging on national forests through
the use of Categorical Exclusions (CEs) resulting in post-fire
Question 7. Please explain the science and efficacy of home
ignition zone treatments.
Answer. Some 46 million homes now exist within the Wildland-Urban
Interface (WUI) as development continues to push into fire-unsafe
terrain (Rasker 2015). Ex-urban sprawl is now combining with human-
caused fire ignitions associated with high road densities and
development that is causing much of the escalating demand for and costs
of suppressing wildfires. Passing these costs on to FEMA will not solve
the problem of forest fire damage to structures as climate change and
develop trigger more fire. What's needed are effective policies to
address global warming pollution (e.g., U.S. participation in the Paris
Climate Agreement), land-use zoning to limit ex-urban sprawl in unsafe
areas, and reducing fire risks to existing structures using proven
methods (Chart 5 below). Logging outside this zone will not improve the
chance that a home will be safe in a forest or grassland fire (Cohen
2000, Syphard et al. 2012).
Chart 5. Homeowners' firesafe guide for Montana (2009).
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
As a homeowner myself, I participated in a community fire-wise
project that concentrated vegetation treatments nearest home
structures. Individual homes were retrofit with fire-resistant roofs,
open vents were screened off to prevent entry points for firebrands,
lower limbs of tree branches were pruned and removed from touching any
structures, and flammable materials cleared from decking. In studies by
scientists and insurance companies, homes treated this way would stand
at least a 90 percent chance of surviving a wildland fire (DellaSala et
In sum, many scientists are increasingly recognizing that getting
to co-existence with fire is a must (e.g., Moritz et al. 2012,
Schoennagel et al. 2017). This means concentrating treatments within
the WUI closest to homes, so that wildfire can be reintroduced safely
in the backcountry away from homes.
Question 8. Why do you believe that it is important for the public,
and independent scientists such as yourself, to be involved in forest
management decisions on Federal lands through the full NEPA process?
Answer. As a scientist and citizen, I strongly support public and
scientist involvement in forest planning decisions as vital to our
democracy and to disclose a project's impacts negative or positive so
that the public is well informed and can then weigh in to make those
Notably, it is not just environmental groups that use the public
involvement opportunities that NEPA affords; the forest products
industry (e.g., AFRC) also participates, including objecting and
First, with respect to the assertion that there is too much NEPA
litigation, according to a GAO (2010) report on projects promoted as
fuel reduction (2006-2008), only 2 percent of those projects were
litigated. The few projects litigated were because the Forest Service
did not obey the laws passed by Congress or did not use the best
For example, conservation groups on the Siuslaw National Forest in
Oregon have not filed an appeal since the Northwest Forest Plan (1993)
shifted logging out of old growth and into thinning prior clearcuts.
Similarly, there have been virtually no appeals or litigation in over a
decade in Colville and Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forests due to a
shift away from old growth logging.
Provisions in the H.R. 2936 that would severely limit science-based
review and public input in forest management, would create more not
less controversy. Below are a few examples where the NEPA process has
improved project design and implementation and others where irreparably
harm to the environment was disclosed due to citizen involvement.
Lost Creek Boulder Creek Project and Middle Fork Weiser River
Project, Payette National Forest, Idaho--Two landscape scale projects
were developed in partnership with the Payette Forest Collaborative
(PFC). For each, the agency developed alternatives based on ``fuel''
treatments, wildlife habitat, and fisheries. The collaborative
recommended combining the best of each alternative emphasizing
watershed restoration and fuel treatments. The agency's final decision
was a combination of the best parts of alternatives that was more
responsive to community concerns than a ``one-size-fits-all'' single
alternative that would otherwise occur under a CE.
Crystal Clear Timber Sale EA, Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon--
This was a straight-forward timber sale of 12,725 acres presented to
the Wasco Collaborative Group with a reoccurring theme of ``if the area
was left unlogged, the trees might die from insects, disease or fire''
(emphasis added). The project lacked a proper environmental and
economic analysis, most notably, it would impact spotted owl habitat,
degrade naturally dense wet forests though wholly inappropriate
logging, and increase fire risks resulting from the proposed removal of
fire-resistant trees while leaving logging slash on the ground. The
project is still in comment phase as the Forest Service considers
appropriate changes suggested. If this project had been conducted under
a CE, stakeholders in this national forest would not have had the most
basic understanding of the details, or precise location of treatments,
to be able to comment and require the Forest Service to properly
disclose harm to the forest and wildlife.
Roseburg BLM District White Castle Project, Douglas County,
Oregon--A pilot project was proposed to implement an ``ecological
restoration'' approach using clearcuts in mature moist forests. The
Court found BLM violated NEPA by not issuing an EIS, failing to
consider a reasonable range of alternatives, and did not take the
required hard look at the project's environmental impacts caused by
clearcuts. If the project had gone through a CE, old-growth forests
would have been clearcut and fuel hazards elevated with the public shut
out of the process.
Jazz Thin, Clackamas River Watershed, Oregon--This project called
for restoration of plantations through thinning 2,000 acres in moist
mixed conifer to lower tree density. Conservation groups commented,
appealed and litigated because most of the logging was within Riparian
Reserves and Late Successional Reserves, and required building 12 miles
of roads to ``restore'' this part of the forest. Additionally, because
the project was analyzed through the NEPA process, local citizens were
provided with location of the 82 thinning units as well as new roads
that were being proposed. This enabled them to ground-truth the sale
before logging commenced. Without this, citizens would not have been
able to report to the Forest Service that many miles of roads were not
being proposed for decommissioning, and culverts were not being removed
as required. The Forest Service relied on this post-project monitoring
to correct the problems and ensure the appropriate work was followed.
Sunny South, Tahoe National Forest, California--This logging
project was conducted through a CE authorized the 2014 Farm Bill.
Because it was categorically excluded from public involvement and
analysis of harmful impacts including a range of alternatives to limit
harm, the public did not find out until after the project's public
notice was released that the project included intensive logging within
five occupied California spotted owl territories. The Forest Service
claimed to satisfy its obligation to ``collaborate'' under the 2014
Farm Bill CE provision by simply consulting the local logging industry.
Given the magnitude of impacts, a CE was clearly inappropriate to
properly assess environmental damages and inform the public of trade-
The stated purpose of NEPA is ``to declare a national policy which
will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his
environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage
to the environment and biosphere and stimulate the health and welfare
of man . . .. NEPA requires Federal agencies to assess whether certain
actions significantly affect ``the quality of the human environment.''
It was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Richard
Nixon principally because the environment was being polluted,
destroyed, and degraded by widespread industrial activities. NEPA
includes CEs, defined as ``a category of actions which do not
individually or cumulative have a significant effect on the human
environment.'' It was meant for small-scale projects, such as
campground modifications and installation of toilets, not large-scale
logging projects that harm the environment as currently proposed by
H.R. 2936. In sum:
The NEPA process, including the opportunity to object, is
an important avenue for public participation--it works to
ensure the agency takes input from the public in managing
public lands, and does not ignore or dismiss that input
arbitrarily. Under a CE, there is very little or no
opportunity for meaningful input from the public.
NEPA alternatives provide a critical tool for the Forest
Service to design a project and evaluate its effects on the
environment so that the public can be properly informed
about how decisions are made and whether changes are needed
to minimize harm to the environment.
Collaboratives do not replace the importance of NEPA. Only
NEPA requires agencies to incorporate public comment and/or
respond to it. Moreover, some collaboratives have failed
because of the agency's unwillingness to meaningfully
incorporate input from the public in structuring
The vast majority of projects are not litigated and are
benefited from public and scientific input. A minority of
projects is litigated because the agency is not following
Thus, in reducing the decision-making authorities of NEPA to a
binary response--action vs. no action--H.R. 2936 is inconsistent with
the principals of a democratic society, shuts the door on public and
scientist input, obscures otherwise transparent decision making in
safeguarding the environment, and puts the Nation on an dangerous
downward spiral of environmental destruction not unlike the time before
Congress passed the Nation's landmark environmental laws (NEPA, ESA,
Clean Water Act) that ensure our public lands continue to provide clean
water, carbon sequestration, hunting and fishing and other outdoor
recreation opportunities that the public strongly supports. Unless of
course shutting the public out is precisely the goal of the sponsors
and supporters of H.R. 2936.
Question 9. Do wilderness restrictions prevent firefighters from
aggressively fighting fires and protect communities?
Answer. The short answer is no, absolutely not. This false
statement was repeated at the hearing by witnesses and lacks a factual
basis. There are no restrictions on fighting fires in wilderness except
for provisions that require a Regional Forester's written permission to
allow bulldozers. Wilderness fire management is about philosophy and
guidelines, there are no laws, regulations, or other rules that I know
of that restrict managers from deploying crews in wilderness. It all
depends on each Forest Plan and the personal discretion of individual
managers what will or will not happen in wilderness. Also, there is
rarely any need to go into a wilderness to fight a fire because these
areas provide opportunities to manage fire for ecosystems benefits
consistent with the intent of the Wilderness Act. They are also
generally far removed from human communities, and mainly in unsafe
areas for firefighters because of steep terrain.
I also want to discount Mr. Fite's erroneous testimony about the
Chetco Bar fire in southwest Oregon as his account of the fire
contradicts the incident commander's informative reports of how fire
was being handled. The reason the Chetco Bar was allowed to burn in the
Kalmiopsis Wilderness is because the benefits of fire in maintaining
ecological values, and the benefits of limiting firefighter exposure to
the safety hazards of firefighting in the remote and rugged terrain of
wilderness, outweighed the risk of fire spreading outside the
wilderness and threatening other values. It was completely unsafe to
place firefighters in harm's way in some of the most remote and steep
country in the Nation. The access points in and out, due to steep
canyon country are limited, and dangerous to firefighters especially
when fire was burning under 115 degree temperatures and 45 mile-per-
hour winds, as was the case during periods when the fire was spreading.
Question 10. The Chairman introduced a study into the record called
``Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation With Wood and
Forests'' in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry. Please respond to the
study's assertion and compare its findings to the bulk of the
Answer. I am a member of the Oregon Global Warming Commission's
Task Force on Carbon (although these are my views only), and based on
my understanding of the forest carbon life cycle analysis literature,
the cited study is not supported by the wide body of scientific
literature and uses unsubstantiated claims and calculations to reach
bizarre conclusions that seem to defy the laws of physics. I cannot
tell if it even went through peer review as no reviewers are
acknowledged, which is customary practice for most journals. I
recommend that the Subcommittee dismiss this study.
One of the main reasons why this study is suspect is the authors
appear to assume there are no carbon losses associated with the product
life span of buildings by substituting wood for steel (that is--
buildings store carbon indefinitely!). However, the general assumption
for many modern buildings is that they will outlive their usefulness
and be replaced within several decades. For instance Architecture 2030
cites the current average life span of buildings is 80 years, and
suggests that over the next 20 years globally, we will build, tear down
and rebuild 900,000 billion square feet of buildings in urban areas
(e.g., see http://architecture2030.org/buildings_problem_why/). That is
a lot of carbon decomposing and being emitted to the atmosphere, as a
building's ``life span'' is typically less than the carbon stored in an
unlogged forest and carbon is emitted every step of the way through the
wood processing chain. If the authors were to acknowledge the carbon
emitted when buildings ``decay,'' they would find that the product
substitution benefit does not increase forever.
Question 11. Do Federal conservation designations like wilderness
increase wildfire risk?
Answer. The short answer is no, absolutely not, and the reverse in
fact is true given that fires burn hottest in intensively managed
areas. During the hearing, there was a great deal of anecdotal
information presented by witnesses about how active management can stop
or slow down fires and how wilderness areas intensify fires. Some of
that evidence was presented as photos on one side of the road
(unthinned) vs. the other side (thinned) with claims made that thinning
reduced fire intensity when in fact the forest type (lodgepole pine)
was actually in a stand where forests are adapted to high intensity
burns. Mr. Fite's testimony did not acknowledge the ecologically
appropriate fire regime was indeed high intensity, not low intensity.
He presented no data or scientific studies to back his assertions, just
unsubstantiated claims about thinning based on two photos.
As a scientist, I deal with data, statistically representative
sample sizes, robust analyses, and peer-reviewed science to guide my
views on fire and forest management. The study that I cited by Bradley
et al. (2016, I am a co-author) was the most comprehensive analysis
ever done to address the management vs. protection question around
fires and it went through rigorous peer review. To reiterate, we
examined 1,500 fires using four decades of government fire records and
conducted a massive computer (GIS) analysis of 23 million acres of
burned areas to test the assumption that fires burn more intense in
``unmanaged'' areas (e.g., wilderness, national parks, roadless areas)
compared to ``actively managed'' areas. What we found was the
opposite--fires burned unnaturally intense in areas of intense
management. This was most likely because logging slash and densely
packed tree plantations promote intense burning (e.g., Odion et al.
In addition to the peer-reviewed studies, I presented Google Earth
images to illustrate general findings about how heavily logged areas
burn intensely while nearby remote areas burned less intensely during
the same fire weather. To reiterate, logging does not stop or slow
large forest fires burning under extreme fire weather but may, in fact,
Question 12. Does public review of Federal land management
decisions increase wildfire risk?
Answer. No, absolutely not and please see my answer to the NEPA
question #8. Public review of ``hazardous fuels projects'' has improved
many projects while objections to projects are often because the
projects would increase fire risks to communities, particularly those
that reduce overstory canopy closure to unnaturally low levels (e.g.,
30-40 percent), leave logging slash on the ground, do not follow
thinning with prescribed burning, and remove large-fire resistant
trees. Those project conditions are known to raise fire risks and are
often included in fuel reduction projects by Federal agencies. Under
H.R. 2936, I would expect to see many more of these projects go through
with minimal public input and environmental review.
Question 13. Generally, younger trees grow faster than older trees.
Does that mean we should cut down as many trees as possible to deal
with climate change?
Answer. No, absolutely not, and this would result in increasing
fire risks while emitting more carbon to the atmosphere via logging
(also see Question 6). For example, in a peer-reviewed study, Law and
Waring (2015) state:
``While some suggest that shorter rotations would provide more
effective carbon sequestration (e.g. changing from current 80-
90 year rotations to 40-50 years), research in the PNW [Pacific
Northwest] shows that the total carbon accumulated from longer
rotations is superior to that from e.g. 40- to 50-year
rotations. When trees are harvested, the carbon released to the
atmosphere from increased decomposition, and in the product
chain needs to be accounted for when assessing carbon
sequestration potential. There is considerable potential for
increasing carbon sequestration in PNW forests by using longer
rotations, particularly in those forests dominated by Douglas
fir in climatically buffered areas, because they can continue,
if undisturbed, to accumulate carbon for centuries.''
The authors go on to state ``If rotations in managed forests were
extended to 100+ years, the benefit would be significant in terms of
carbon stocks per unit ground area.''
Generally, higher levels of forest protection are associated with
higher carbon storage (e.g., Mitchell et al. 2009), while logging
reduces carbon storage. For instance, older forests globally store 30-
70 percent more carbon than previously logged forests (Mackey et al.
2016). Thus, only a no-harvest approach would continue to sequester and
store carbon long-term in forested ecosystems (Leighty et al. 2006,
Krankina et al. 2012).
Question 14. In his recent review of National Monuments, Secretary
Zinke has proposed commercial logging in some National Monuments
managed by the National Park Service. Will logging in National Parks
decrease the occurrence or intensity of wildfires?
Answer. This is completely false for the reasons already stated. In
my testimony (and Question 11), I cited a peer-reviewed study by
Bradley et al. (2016) that examined this question using the largest
dataset ever. As mentioned, national parks/monuments, roadless areas,
and wilderness were characterized by fires that burned in lower
intensities compared to intensively managed areas. This is corroborated
by studies of fires in Yosemite National Park that burned in natural
mixed intensity patterns compared to outside the park where fires
burned more intensely (e.g., Miller et al. 2012). Secretary Zinke's
call for commercial logging is clearly misplaced and will come with
stiff opposition from the public that cherishes the few areas remaining
in America where one does not have to view stump fields or large
clearcuts. Again, the parks and protected areas are not the problem.
Logged areas are the problem.
Question 15. A `snag forest,' which is created by patches of high-
intensity fire, is important wildlife habitat. Can that habitat be
recreated by clearcutting, as proposed in H.R. 2936?
Answer. As a scientist, I base my understanding of ecosystems on
fieldwork, rigorous experimental design and statistical analyses of
observations in nature. I submit my work to peer review to ensure that
my assumptions are based on the best available science (peer review is
the gold standard in science). My published work from the Sierra and
Pacific Northwest regions shows that snag forests have comparable
levels of biodiversity to the more heralded old-growth forests, yet
snag forests are even rarer because they are frequently logged after a
fire (Swanson et al. 2011, DellaSala et al. 2014, DellaSala et al.
2017). Snag forests with the highest ecological values are called
``complex early seral forests'' because, in part, they have abundant
large ``biological legacy'' trees--live and dead trees remaining post-
fire that ``lifeboat'' a forest through successional stages from young
to old-growth forest. There is only one ecological pathway to a complex
early seral forest--a severe natural disturbance in an older forest
that kills most of the trees (Swanson et al. 2011).
Clearcuts before or after fire in no way resemble the complexity of
a complex early seral forest because they lack the very structural
elements--biological legacies--that a young forest needs to become
established (DellaSala et al. 2014) (e.g., compare Chart 3 vs. 4).
Clearcutting after fire (which would accelerate under H.R. 2936),
damages soil horizons, requires an extensive roads network that
delivers chronic sediment to streams and degrades water quality while
killing fish spawning beds, can introduce exotic species to a site, and
is often followed by herbicides, livestock grazing, and burning of
slash piles (see Lindenmayer et al. 2008, DellaSala et al. 2015).
Studies have shown that such logging activities after fire also kill
most of the natural conifer establishment (Donato et al. 2006; also see
Chart 4). Dense tree planting from small trees grown in tree nurseries
then set the site up for the intense fire-logging-intense fire feedback
system I discussed in Question 3. This type of logging produces
biologically impoverished plantations and is inconsistent with the
science of forest resilience.
Question 16. Can you please tell us more about the ecological value
of mixed-intensity fires, including large fires, for native
Answer. For over a decade, I worked on rain forest ecosystems
internationally and in old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest,
British Columbia, and Alaska. Naturally, I trained myself to view
forests as green and verdant. It was not until my 8-year-old daughter
and I took a hike in a large burn patch near my home in Ashland, Oregon
that I began to question my own assumptions on what makes a forest, a
forest. During our hike, she was excited to see how full of life the
snag forest was because it included colorful flowering plants, small
trees and shrubs, prolific butterflies, dragonflies, songbirds, bats,
and woodpeckers--this was not an end but rather a beginning--a
resetting of nature's successional clock. As a scientist and father, I
then began to look more closely at the complexity and beauty of nature
after a large disturbance and decided to team with other scientists
also studying post-disturbance landscapes to see if this phenomenon was
consistent in other regions. What I found was surprising and exciting.
Large forest fires are not ``catastrophes'' of nature but rather
produce a living tapestry of patch severities (fire effects on
vegetation) that provide habitat for scores of wildlife across the full
successional gradient--everything from woodpeckers that require severe
burn patches and deer that live off the bounty of newly establishing
plants to spotted owls that nest in the low-moderate burn patches and
forage in severe patches (DellaSala and Hanson 2015). It turned out
that my daughter was correct and I have been publishing on the
importance of these forests in peer-reviewed journals since, including
a book that I co-edited/co-authored and collaborated on with 27
scientists from around the world (DellaSala and Hanson 2015). In sum,
the biodiversity after large forest fires is extraordinary and was
found repeatedly in fire-adapted ecosystems of the American West,
Canada, Australia, Africa, and Europe. And it was true for aquatic
ecosystems as well, where intense fires produced a pulse of nutrients
delivered to streams that within 1-3 years after fire was associated
with increased productivity of aquatic invertebrates and fish, provided
those areas were not logged as stated in Question #15.
I would invite any member of this Subcommittee to take a walk with
me in a burned forest before pre-judging that these areas are
ecological catastrophes. I will also bring my daughter along for
further explanation as a budding scientist in training!
Question 17. Some advocates for increased logging in national
forests claim that there is scientific consensus that active management
decreases forest fire extent, severity and impacts. As a scientist,
would you agree that there is scientific consensus in this area?
Answer. Certain types of active management (e.g., thinning-from-
below of small trees) may lower fire intensity but only under very
narrow conditions and not during extreme fire weather (see Question 3).
Other types of active management (pre- and post-fire clearcutting)
compound disturbances to ecosystems for the reasons stated. In general,
industrial-scale logging practiced in different regions of the country
over different time periods has liquidated nearly all the Nation's old-
growth forests and is now poised to do the same for complex early seral
forests, if logging proposals such as H.R. 2936 are passed. To
reiterate, it is important to first define what active management
Notably, the claim about consensus was actually made by a non-
scientist during the hearing--Mr. Fite. Instead, Bradley et al. (2016),
using the largest analysis of data on this question ever conducted by
scientists, found higher amounts of intense fire in actively managed
Question 18. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Answer. Public lands are the Nation's best chance at maintaining
intact and fully functional forests and watersheds that support clean
water, carbon sequestration, habitat for fish and wildlife (huntable,
fishable, endangered), pollination services, and outdoor recreation
opportunities among other benefits. H.R. 2936 would turn much of the
Nation's forests into fiber farms populated by post-fire clearcuts,
artificially planted trees, and heavily roaded and damaged ecosystems
that will burn more intensely in fires, compounding disturbances in
space and time. H.R. 2936 is based on unfounded assumptions, has no
scientific basis, and would prevent the public from having a say in how
their public lands are to be managed. This QFA is an addendum to my
testimony and a supplemental rebuttal to much of the misinformation
presented by members of this Subcommittee and the witnesses during the
hearing that lacked any science credibility.
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Mr. Westerman. Thank you for your testimony.
The Chair now recognizes Mr. Fite for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF LAWSON FITE, GENERAL COUNSEL, AMERICAN FOREST
RESOURCE COUNCIL, PORTLAND, OREGON
Mr. Fite. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I offer my thanks to
Chairman Westerman and Ranking Member McEachin for the
opportunity to address you today.
Speedy action by Congress to enable active forest
management is the best way to reduce risks of catastrophic
wildfire and improve the resiliency of our Federal forests.
I am with the American Forest Resource Council, and we are
a nonprofit trade association that represents manufacturers,
mill workers, loggers, and private forest landowners in
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California. Our members
care deeply about the health and sustainability of public
forestlands. These are the lands on which their businesses and
Our Federal forests, managed both by the Forest Service and
the Bureau of Land Management, urgently need active management
to reduce the risk of severe wildfire. At least 58 million
acres of national forests are at high or very high risk of
Over 4.5 million homes in this country are at risk from
wildfire. Over 1.1 million acres of national forest need
reforestation. But last year, the U.S. Forest Service treated
less than 204,000 acres, a small fraction of what is needed.
This is largely because it takes too long to move projects
through the administrative and legal process.
Active management works. Thinning overstock stands,
reducing understory fuels, and other similar techniques reduces
the fuel base for any subsequent fire. Students learn in
elementary school that there are three elements to fire: heat,
fuel, and oxygen--of these three, fuel is the one that we have
the most ability to manage over the medium to short term.
I brought some photographs with me to demonstrate how
thinning and well-designed forest management projects can
improve resilience of forests. Both this photograph and the
subsequent photograph were taken from the same spot just facing
In the first photograph, you can see the green overstory
there. The fire swept through, took out some of the understory.
But the larger and more resilient trees went through the fire
in fairly good shape.
The next photograph, though, shows you an area where no
thinning occurred, blackened forests, dead trees, and likely
sterilized soil. That is the difference that active management
can make. It makes the difference between a living forest and a
The extent, behavior, and impacts of recent megafires are
without precedent. Warmer climate combines with overstressed
kindling-like forests to create firestorms that outpace
anything we have seen.
It is no coincidence, for example, that over 90 percent of
the burned acres in Oregon were on Forest Service lands, which
comprised just over 50 percent of Oregon's forestland, and
where active management is nearly at a standstill. Again, that
is only about 50 percent of the forestland, but over 90 percent
of the fires.
Science continues to recognize the dangers of these severe
fires to ecological resources as well. It is not simply the
timber resources or recreational uses, but ecological
In one 2014 fire, for example, nearly 20,000 acres of high-
quality spotted owl habitat were destroyed. Wildfire is now the
number one source of loss of habitat for the northern spotted
owl, 10 times as much as any other source, including timber
And a recent study showed that the probability of
extirpation of a California spotted owl increased by seven
times in areas that had been burned by severe fire.
We in the Forest Products Industry are ready to partner
with interested parties, including government, nonprofits, and
other entities in order to make our forests more resilient,
more resistant to fire, and to support the jobs and communities
that these resources can bring.
I thank the Chairman for his leadership in bringing forth
H.R. 2936, which has a tremendous array of useful tools that
are worthy of this Committee's consideration.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Fite follows:]
Prepared Statement of Lawson Fite, General Counsel, American Forest
Resource Council, Portland, Oregon
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Subcommittee on
Oversight and Investigations regarding urgently needed reforms to allow
for effective management of our Federal forests. Speedy action by
Congress to enable active forest management is the best way to reduce
risks of catastrophic wildfire and improve the resiliency of our
The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) is a nonprofit trade
association that represents manufacturers, mill workers, loggers, and
private forest landowners in five western states: Montana, Idaho,
Washington, Oregon, and California. Our members care deeply about the
health and sustainability of public forestlands, on which their
businesses and communities depend. The forest products industry is the
lifeblood of many rural communities throughout the West. In many of
these areas, logging or milling is the only plentiful source of family
wage jobs, particularly for workers without college degrees. These
blue-collar middle-class jobs bring the American dream to rural
My remarks will focus on the need to conduct more robust active
management of Federal forests to address the wildfire crisis and ensure
stability of rural communities. With active management as a tool, we
can have Federal forests that are resilient, diverse, productive and
which serve the multiple uses for which they are designated.
federal forests urgently need active management
Our Federal forests, managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of
Land Management (BLM), urgently need active management to reduce the
risk of severe wildfire. At least 58 million acres of national forest
are at high or very high risk of severe wildfire, and over 4.5 million
homes are at risk. Over 1.1 million acres of national forest need
reforestation. But last year the U.S. Forest Service treated less than
204,000 acres, a small fraction of what's needed. A significant part of
the problem is process and paperwork. It typically takes 18 months to 4
years for Federal agencies to develop and implement forest projects.
Forest Service employees typically spend 40 percent of their time doing
paperwork instead of managing forests.
In the West, this year's wildfire season has been one of the worst
on record. It started earlier and fire activity is far above average.
Nearly 9 million acres have already burned. Portland and Seattle have
both been covered in smoke for days on end, with ash falling in the
streets, schools canceled, children huddled inside, and health-
sensitive individuals suffering distress. The more than 40,000-acre
Eagle Creek Fire devastated many treasured recreational sites in the
Columbia River Gorge and closed a key Interstate highway for weeks.
Across the country, nearly 4.5 million homes are at risk from wildfire.
Near Brookings, Oregon, the Chetco Bar Fire burned nearly 190,000
acres--an area four times the size of the District of Columbia. This
fire started in a Wilderness Area where active management is
prohibited, so the Forest Service did not immediately move to suppress
it. The fire grew and spread to nearby Federal lands. After burning for
over 2 months, it was only 53 percent contained as of mid-September, at
a cost to taxpayers of over $57 million. This fire caused the ash
clouds and haze to cover the coastal town of Brookings.
Catastrophic fires are the result of decades of fire suppression,
coupled with unprecedented fuel buildups due to a lack of forest
management activity. These catastrophic fires destroy valuable timber
resources but also degrade many of the other uses of healthy forests.
In one 2014 fire, nearly 20,000 acres of high-quality northern spotted
owl habitat burned. In fact, over the past two decades, wildfire has
become the greatest source of habitat loss for the northern spotted
owl. Between 1995 and 2015, according to the Forest Service, habitat
impact attributed to wildfire was ten times the impact from timber
harvest. Since 2015, wildfire impacts have only worsened. One recent
study showed that probability of extirpation of California spotted owls
increases by a factor of seven after a severe fire.
There is scientific consensus that active management decreases
forest fire extent, severity, and impacts. An actively managed forest
will exhibit fire behavior more consistent with the historic role of
fire in forested ecosystems. Owing to this scientific consensus, many
groups--including environmental organizations--have changed their
positions on active management, at least in the roaded ``front-
country.'' At AFRC, we are deeply involved in collaborative efforts
with such groups, and our attorneys are representing collaborative
groups in litigation throughout the West. Following the science,
projects developed in collaboration between industry, environmental
groups, recreational users, local government, and others have made
significant strides in forest restoration. But more is needed.
Some deny the fire science because it conflicts with their
ideology. They deny that these fires are actually catastrophic, or they
point to climate change to deny that fuel buildup plays any role in
fire intensification. Climate change is certainly a factor, but it is
not working alone. It is not an either/or question. Warmer climate
combines with overstocked, stressed, kindling-like forests to create
firestorms that outpace anything the country has seen in living memory.
It is no coincidence that over 90 percent of the burned acres in Oregon
this year were on Forest Service lands which comprise just over 50
percent of Oregon's forestland and where active management is nearly at
a standstill. The state and Federal Government have about equal amounts
of land in Oregon, and experience equal numbers of fire starts. But
burned areas are overwhelmingly concentrated on Forest Service lands.
Active management will make these Federal forests more resilient to
these extreme events.
Attached to this testimony are two photographs demonstrating how
active management can work. The photographs were taken in the same
spot, facing different directions, by AFRC's field forester. Both areas
were affected by the National Fire on the Umpqua and Rogue-Siskiyou
National Forests in southern Oregon. The first photograph shows where
thinning occurred in the ``D-Bug'' project. There, the fire crept on
the ground and left the overstory intact. The fire crews were able to
hold the fire south of Oregon Highway 230 in these thinning units. The
second photograph, taken from the same spot in the other direction, is
100 percent black in the overstory and understory--this is where
thinning did not occur. This is a stark demonstration of how active
management can restore the historic role of fire.
Unfortunately, there are too many bureaucratic and legislative
roadblocks tying land managers' hands. Because of these roadblocks,
forests have been burning before they have been treated. At least three
major projects have been planned in recent years which burned before
implementation. The 2014 Johnson Bar Fire in Idaho burned the area of
an in-progress collaborative restoration project; when the Forest
Service attempted to build on that work to conduct post-fire work. Yet
a fringe group sued and obtained an injunction--resulting in the
closure of a sawmill in Orofino, Idaho. In 2016, the Pioneer Fire
destroyed the area of the Becker Project on the Boise National Forest,
putting a whole year's timber volume for southern Idaho at risk and
resulting in severe environmental and recreational impacts. To its
credit, the Forest Service used all available tools and put two post-
fire projects together in only 9 months. However, those projects are
the subject of threatened litigation under the Ninth Circuit's mistaken
The Stonewall project on the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest
is a true cautionary tale. After a fringe group sued, the district
court, acting under the Cottonwood decision, issued an injunction. The
court noted that an injunction would be a ``wise course'' because ``the
risk of fire is not imminent.'' This was despite the fire history in
the area of two fire starts every year for the past 10 years. Mere
months later, the project began burning in the 18,000-acre Park Creek
Fire, which was contained only after expenditures of over $10 million
in suppression costs.
We need common-sense reforms to lighten the burden of redundant
administrative process and continuous litigation. Forestry is
traditionally an area of bipartisan progress, and it still can be.
There are a number of measures with support from Republicans and
Democrats, environmentalists and industry. The Committee should take
quick action to advance forestry reform legislation to give us the best
chance to mitigate future wildfire seasons.
the resilient federal forests act offers comprehensive solutions to the
forest health crisis
H.R. 2936, the Resilient Federal Forests Act (RFFA), offers the
management agencies the tools they need to address the forest health
crisis. The Act would give additional tools to remove dead trees after
wildfires, creating new revenue to replant and rehabilitate burned
forests. It would also enhance the ability to create young and mixed-
age forest habitat to support wildlife. It would incentivize and fast-
track forest projects developed by local collaboratives, usually
consisting of conservationists, timber industry and elected officials.
And it would provide an alternative to costly and obstructive
litigation from special interest groups. In sum, the Act would reduce
project planning times and lower costs to American taxpayers. The RFFA
was reported favorably out of the Natural Resources Committee in June.
Several of these provisions, if enacted into law, would give the
agencies tools they need.
The Act contains provisions that would fix the disastrous
Cottonwood decision from the Ninth Circuit. This echoes bi-partisan
legislation in both chambers (S. 605 and H.R. 1483). In brief, fixing
Cottonwood will allow projects to move forward under existing forest
plans if an appropriate plan-level ESA consultation is completed. It
will eliminate any requirement for the Forest Service or Bureau of Land
Management to reinitiate consultation due to new ESA listings or
critical habitat at the plan level--and only at the plan level. The
bill does not change existing law regarding applicable requirements to
consult on individual projects, new forest plans or plan revisions. The
Ninth Circuit requires consultation on new plans, while the Tenth
Circuit does not. The Act would leave this circuit split in place.
The RFFA provides Categorical Exclusions (CEs) under the National
Environmental Policy Act will allow needed forest management projects
to be more quickly prepared, analyzed, and implemented. Specifically,
it authorizes a CE to remove hazard trees and salvage timber to protect
public safety, water supply or public infrastructure where forest
management activities are permitted. The Act will also allow forest
recovery projects to proceed more quickly, addressing a dire need
created by recent wildfire seasons. The Forest Service has long
experience with management techniques to reduce forest pests, thin
hazardous fuels, create and maintain habitat for species, recover
damaged timber and protect water quality. These projects mitigate risk
and help create early successional forest habitat which is good for
H.R. 2936 addresses both the excessive analysis requirements
imposed on even modest forest management projects, as well as the
dysfunctional system of funding suppression costs out of forest
management program accounts. Provisions in the bill limit the acreage
of Categorical Exclusions, and prohibits their use in sensitive areas.
The legislation provides access to the disaster relief fund for
wildfire suppression expenses in excess of the 10-year average.
The Act contains provisions to improve the ESA consultation
process. It allows the Forest Service and BLM to make Not Likely to
Adversely Affect determinations for listed species. This makes use of
the extensive biological expertise at both agencies and allows the
consulting agencies (Fish & Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries) to
concentrate their resources and expertise on projects where adverse
impact is anticipated. The RFFA also establishes a 90-day deadline for
projects conducted under a CE for which formal ESA consultation is
Another provision that is crucial to forest health is the
``Eastside Screens'' fix in section 905 of the RFFA. The ``Eastside
Screens'' were put in place administratively in 1995 to forbid harvest
of trees above 21 inches in diameter in six National Forests in eastern
Washington and Oregon. After more than 20 years, these screens have
become a hindrance to effective forest management. Many forests in
these areas have too little Ponderosa pine, the historically dominant
and most resilient species. Instead, younger larger lodgepole pine is
crowding them out. Good forestry and wildfire protection weighs in
favor of selectively removing these lodgepoles, but the screens' blunt
instrument prevents that. Courts have blocked efforts to relax the
screens even in the context of well-designed forest management. As a
result, congressional action is needed to ensure the health of these
The legislative solutions before you can mitigate the horrific
effects of catastrophic fire and restore the health of forests and
rural communities. Now is the time for Congress to make effective
active management a reality.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Mr. Westerman. I thank the gentleman for his testimony.
I thank all the witnesses for your testimony today.
As we have heard concerns expressed during the testimony
about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, I would like
to enter into the record this study published in the Journal of
Sustainable Forestry recently. It is called, ``Carbon, Fossil
Fuel, and Biodiversity Mitigation With Wood and Forests.'' It
is by scientists from the University of Washington and Yale
University. And it identifies how forest management and the
efficient use of wood products contributes the most to carbon
We have already heard from some of our witnesses about the
benefits of thoughtful use of our forest resources, and I am
looking forward to continuing that discussion during the
question-and-answer portion of the hearing.
I will remind Members that Committee Rule 3(d) imposes a 5-
minute time limit on questions, and I will now recognize
Members for any questions that they may wish to ask. I will
remind Members that we will have votes scheduled around 4:15,
so I am going to be a stickler on the 5 minutes.
I will recognize myself first for 5 minutes of questions.
Mr. Fite, many of us here are familiar with the term ``fire
borrowing'' and the problem that the U.S. Forest Service has
and how fire suppression activities are impacting the Forest
Service's budget. Do you believe that simply throwing more
money at the Agency will sufficiently address the fire
Mr. Fite. No, Mr. Chairman, I don't believe that simply
throwing more money at it--certainly fire borrowing is an issue
that needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed in a way that
is manageable for the future.
But we are looking at a framework where a forest management
project can take 6 years to go through the NEPA process, a
forest management project covering a few hundred acres, maybe
1,500. And you compare that to the NEPA process for a
So, if there isn't some management reform that is
implemented, as in H.R. 2936, some of the provisions there, we
are not going to be able to use any additional funds in a
reasonable and efficient way to give the taxpayer a good return
on their investment.
Mr. Westerman. Would you say if we just throw more money
then we will be back here later throwing more money if we don't
address the root problem?
Mr. Fite. I have no doubt we would be, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Westerman. And, Mr. Rigdon, you mentioned in your
testimony that nearby Federal lands receive nearly five times
the fire preparedness funding per acre per year as your tribal
land. Despite the reduced funding, can you describe how the
fire spread and fire damage on your land compares to that on
surrounding national forests?
Mr. Rigdon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
When we have had fires over the last couple years, we have
witnessed some pretty devastating fires. Currently, this
summer, we are watching the Columbia Gorge, and that type of
fire is, sending it into some of the pictures that Mr. Fite
showed, the stands are replaced and there is nothing there.
Our goal and what we are trying to do is, I think we need
to remind ourselves that we need all of the tools in the
toolbox as we talk about this. And, stopping fire, I think, is
important now and using it as a tool, when it is appropriate
doing prescribed burning. But you need to thin the forest down
through both commercial thinning and precommercial thinning in
a manner that helps get the place where it is set up so that
you can have effective fire and do the type of things that will
enhance the forest health. I think that is a real important
part of that discussion.
Mr. Westerman. So, wildfire does not know that there is a
man-made boundary when it is burning through the forest, and it
crosses the different jurisdictions and landownership
boundaries. So, while the tribes have implemented management
strategies on their own lands to reduce wildfire risk, you are
still subject to fires from adjacent national forests
threatening your land.
Can you share some of the impacts that fires originating on
Forest Service land have had on the tribes and tribal forest?
Mr. Rigdon. As we witnessed in 2009, the Cold Springs fire
in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest burned over into our
forest. The Warm Springs Tribe continually has those type of
problems with those fires, and those have direct and heavy
impacts on Warm Springs in Oregon.
And the real thing is, as fires come onto the reservation,
they are coming off these very hot, intense fires from the
Federal lands, and then they hit the reservation.
If we don't have our treatments and try to do boundary
protections, they will actually devastate into our lands and
cause damages that are unforeseen or can have a great impact
onto both the ecological things that we want protected but also
our economy that depends upon some of the timber.
Mr. Westerman. Despite being required to comply with many
of the same Federal environmental laws, what approach to forest
management and institutional differences do you believe set
tribal forests apart from other federally managed forests and
contribute to a willingness to engage in active management?
Mr. Rigdon. Well, I think it is important to recognize that
our tribal trust lands follow--we have NEPA, we do ESA
consultation for spotted owls on our reservation, and we follow
all those laws.
The one thing that I think is really important is that our
constituents, our community is tied to these things. What we do
and the activities that we are doing, our community understands
and is well-engaged into that, and that is the local community,
the tribal community. I will go into Safeway and someone will
tell me if they don't like something that has happened in our
forest. And I know that connection took place. That place where
we come from is a real critical part.
Mr. Westerman. Mr. Rigdon, following my own rule, I am
going to have to close my time here and recognize the Ranking
Member, Mr. McEachin, for 5 minutes.
Mr. McEachin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. DellaSala, what is the evidence that climate change is
currently the biggest driver of forest fires? Why isn't the
fire deficit the biggest driver?
Dr. DellaSala. Well, we look at long periods of time in
terms of how fire behaves in relation to drought cycles, for
instance. When we go back into the early 1900s, there was a
period of extended drought and a very active fire season. You
can see that from Chart 1.
The evidence that we are now in a warming period is
overwhelming. The IPCC report that you quoted shows there is a
direct climate signal that is affecting wildfire behavior in
many places around the globe, including the western United
We can now attribute about half the acres that have been
increasing in recent decades to a warming climate that is
providing the conditions for more extreme fire weather, such as
high winds, dry conditions, drought. All that adds to how a
fire behaves across an area and explains a good chunk of why we
are seeing these increases right now.
Mr. McEachin. Thank you for that.
Since we will be seeing more tinderbox-like conditions that
are going to make these types of fires common and more intense,
what type of activities should we be advocating to both prevent
and prepare for these types of fires?
Dr. DellaSala. Well, thank you for asking that. I want to
refer to two charts in my testimony. First of all, a visual,
Chart 3A and B. Those are the kinds of activities that are not
going to make forests resilient. This is going to worsen the
The top photo is from the Douglas fire complex in southwest
Oregon. There were two other fires burning at the same time
under similar weather conditions in remote areas. Those two
fires burning in remote areas burned in a very healthy
ecosystem wildfire pattern.
The fire that burned through those private lands with
plantations blew up when it hit the small trees that were
densely packed and logging slashed as high as three-story
buildings. That is the kind of activity that will promote more
and intense fires.
And it is not just anecdotal. This chart here shows 1,500
fires that were examined over four decades using peer-reviewed
science showing very similar results that areas with intense
logging had the highest severity of fire.
If we are going to get through this period of warming
climate, we have to learn how to co-exist with these fires by
directing more funds to helping people that are preparing their
homes for the event of more fire, by reducing this kind of
logging in the back country, and focusing activities on working
with fire and not suppressing every fire under safe conditions.
Mr. Westerman. Let me ask you, because we only have
literally 2 minutes left. Let me ask you a little open-ended
question, and that is, you have heard a lot said today. Is
there anything that has been said today that would prompt you
to comment in any way that you care to, please?
Dr. DellaSala. Yes, absolutely. First of all, the fires
that are burning in these ecosystems are not ecological
catastrophes. They are catastrophes, no question, when they
affect people. But these are not ecological catastrophes. I
have been working with scientists all over the world for the
past decade documenting the biodiversity that occurs in these
Even the slide that was shown before, that was a lodgepole
pine forest that needs high-intensity burning to open up the
seed cones. By thinning that forest, you are actually going
against its fire regime because it needs a hot fire to prop
open those cones.
I just want to point out the ecology of these areas. The
same thing with the spotted owl. I served on the recovery team.
The owl is not at risk from forest fires. What happens to the
owl is that it abandons its territory when there is a post-fire
They do quite well in a mixed severity fire event. It is
not an ecological catastrophe. We have to figure out how to
manage these fires in a way that allows for ecosystems to get
through this change in climate. More logging will not do that.
Mr. McEachin. Thank you. We have just about run out of
time, so I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. I thank the gentleman.
I have been informed that votes have been pushed back to
4:45, so we have a little bit more time, but we are still going
to stick strictly to our 5-minute rule.
I will now recognize the gentleman from Louisiana, Mr.
Mr. Johnson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It was said earlier that there have been a number of
hearings, multiple hearings on forest fires. But I just want to
go on record to say I appreciate the hearing and the
opportunity. I am one of a few new Members of Congress on this
Committee. This is valuable to us, so thank you for your time,
all of you, in being here.
Mr. Chilcott, the urgent threat to human health and safety
requires us, I think we all agree, to address the spread of
these catastrophic wildfires as soon as possible, and it
mandates a decisive response. I think it is critical that all
of Congress, everyone understands the impacts that fires are
having on Americans' lives.
I am from the state of Louisiana. We have fires but
certainly not to the extent that they have them out West, so it
is important for folks in different regions of the country to
understand all of this.
Mr. Chilcott, do you think that forest fires spreading to
areas of the country that don't usually experience wildfires is
something that we need to contend with going forward?
Mr. Chilcott. Thank you for the question, Congressman.
We absolutely need to prepare for wildfires, no matter
where they are coming from. Our human population is also part
of our environment and part of our community, and that is why
we need a strong partner like the Federal Government to come up
with the policies that help us actively manage these fires and
these stands where we can protect our community and protect our
environment, to say nothing of our water and air quality. Thank
Mr. Johnson. I have one more for you. The thing that jumped
out to me in your written testimony was the references you made
to these frivolous special interest lawsuits. And that is a big
problem in a number of places across the country. And as you
point out, it serves to delay much-needed management of the
National Forest System.
You talked about, in your written testimony, how it
provides financial incentive to litigate the projects. Can you
expand on that a little bit more today?
Mr. Chilcott. I am certainly not an expert, Congressman.
But I would say that we have created a second-tier industry in
Washington of attorneys who can sue the Federal Government at
will, recover their attorney's fees, and stop or delay a
project until it loses its value.
I think that is a problem, when we have professional land
management folks out there that we have hired to go out and
assess the resources out on the ground and come up with a
recommendation to better treat them and take care of them for
the American people and provide for the protection of our
Mr. Johnson. So, it hinders the efforts of people that are
trying to properly manage the forest system, right?
Mr. Chilcott. They have become managers of paperwork and
litigation rather than resources.
Mr. Johnson. Thank you.
Do you have particular reforms in mind that you are
prepared to talk about today on how we could fix that? Because
I think there would be a consensus among us that we would want
to try to solve that problem or help with it.
Mr. Chilcott. I know that the National Association of
Counties has policy on this, and I would be happy to get that
back to you shortly, by the end of the week.
Mr. Johnson. That would be great. I think that would be
valuable to us.
Mr. Fite, I think that perhaps some of your slides or some
of the information you have presented has maybe been called
into question here in the last few minutes. Would you want an
opportunity to rebut that or respond?
Mr. Fite. Certainly. Thank you, Congressman.
I want to talk about just the idea that this is all climate
change and we should just let everything go. Where we are at in
the western dry forest is we have catastrophic wildfires, the
likes of which we have not seen. And this is a century of fire
suppression, lack of active management, and a warming climate
on top of that.
So, if you are in a hurricane zone, you are still,
regardless of whether folks argue about whether hurricanes have
something to do with the climate, you are still going to put
your house on stilts. And that is what we are talking about. If
you do more active management, then you can build a more
resilient forested landscape.
The photographs were from a fire called the National Fire
in southern Oregon. Lodgepole pines, in certain respects, are
fire resistant, especially the old ones. But the natural role
of fire is they come through, and you still retain some live
trees. That is what you have when you have a living forest. You
do not have everything die like it did in the unthinned stands.
And also, just to address your question about forest fires
spreading to new areas, we saw in 2015 a forest fire that
lasted 6 months or more in the Olympic National Forest, which
is basically a rain forest, and that shows you where we are out
of balance in how we are managing our forests.
Mr. Johnson. Thank you.
I am out of time. I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman yields back.
You know it is a good hearing when you hear discussion
about the serotinous cones of lodgepole pine, and then an
attorney talks about frivolous lawsuits all in one meeting. As
we continue on, I recognize Mr. Clay for 5 minutes.
Mr. Clay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I thank the
witnesses for their participation today.
Mr. DellaSala, we hear the claim that the intense fires we
are seeing recently are due to forests being poorly managed by
the Federal Government. But based on your testimony, it seems
like a lot of science has gone into helping land managers make
educated decisions about fire, climate change, native species,
and the wildland urban interface, and how they are affecting
My question is, do you think that our national forests are
suffering from a lack of active management and that they are
overgrown and unhealthy?
Dr. DellaSala. Thank you for that question.
First of all, as a scientist, I don't deal in anecdotal
observations, and I have been hearing a lot of anecdotal
observations about fire behaving one way or another. I deal in
data. When I look at how a fire is behaving, I look at it over
a statistically representative sample size, and I am not
hearing that in a lot of the statements.
So, when I look at the full range of data, over 1,500 fires
were looked at, areas intensively managed, burned in the
highest intensities, areas protected in national parks and
wilderness areas burned in lower intensities.
The problem is not the national forests. The problem is--
this landscape will burn as a firebomb. Plantations burn hotter
in a forest fire than native forests do. We know this from
numerous studies based on peer-reviewed science.
When we talk about active management, we need to be clear,
what do we mean? Are we talking about thinning? Salvage
logging? Clear-cut logging? They all have different effects on
Clear cuts, by and large, will make the area a firebomb.
Thinning may reduce fire intensity, but not under extreme fire
weather. Post-fire logging will only reduce forest resilience
because it removes the very components that forests need to
For example, this beautiful picture here, I had to retrain
my eye in terms of what a forest was. I was working in rain
forests for 10 years, and then I started to look at fire-
dependent forests. I was used to seeing this beautiful old-
But that beautiful old-growth forest, at some point, is
going to burn, and it is going to look like this beautiful
blackened forest. The two of them are linked together. You
cannot have one without the other. When you pull out these big
trees, whether they are alive or dead, that prevents the forest
from going through its natural process of becoming an old
growth over time.
That is what logging removes. That is not resilience. That
is setting the area up for something other than a forest over
time and increase in fire hazards.
Mr. Clay. It sounds like one of the problems is that we
have some science deniers here.
Let me ask you this--every year, the Forest Service spends
more money and puts more and more firefighters at risk with
multiple fatalities each year. If climate change continues to
go unabated, is there anything that will reduce the risks to
firefighters, or reduce the amount the Forest Service spends on
Dr. DellaSala. Great question. Thank you for that. I just
went through a very active fire season in southwest Oregon. The
Chetco Bar fire was burning essentially pretty close to where I
live, and the Forest Service did the right thing.
It is incredibly steep canyon country, some of the steepest
country in the world. This is why wilderness areas are still
wilderness. They are remote. Putting firefighters into that
area would have been a death trap.
And if my son or daughter was a firefighter, I would not
have wanted them in the Chetco Bar fire area. It would have
been hazardous. There was no way out. The Forest Service made
the right call. The fire burned naturally, and then the winds
kicked up, the temperature increased to 115 degrees and the
fire took off.
That is the new novel climate that we are headed to. If we
want to solve this problem, we need to work on greenhouse gas
emissions, mostly coming from the burning of fossil fuels and
That is the real driver of hurricane intensity, of fire
increases, of sea-level rise, of melting glaciers. This is
happening all over the planet. There is no one-size-fits-all
solution to getting out of a climate change fix.
Mr. Clay. Sounds as though we need to look at the data and
the science and start making decisions based on what is real. I
thank you for your answers, and I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman's time has expired.
I now recognize the gentleman from Idaho, who has certainly
seen his share of forest fires in his state, Mr. Labrador.
Mr. Labrador. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for
holding this hearing today. The topic we are discussing could
not be more relevant to what is happening on the ground in
Idaho right now.
This year is one of the worst fire seasons in U.S. history.
Nationwide, over 8.5 million acres have burned, and in Idaho
almost 600,000 acres have burned. Idahoans have suffered
throughout a summer of terrible smoke with air quality reaching
unhealthy, and even hazardous levels. I know that the lack of
proper forest management by the Federal Government is not the
sole cause of these fires, but the lack of management is
definitely a major factor.
Mr. Rigdon, do you consider yourself a science denier?
Mr. Rigdon. No, I do not.
Mr. Labrador. No. Mr. Chilcott, do you consider yourself a
Mr. Chilcott. No, sir, I do not.
Mr. Labrador. Mr. Fite, do you consider yourself a science
Mr. Fite. I do not, Congressman.
Mr. Labrador. All right. So, Commissioner Chilcott, when I
travel throughout my district, I hear the same two things from
my County Commissioners--first, that they are scared that the
unhealthy conditions of the Federal forests that surround their
communities pose significant risks to the safety of their
constituents; and second, that they are concerned about the
impact that the lack of active management is having on their
I believe that we can address both of these concerns by
increasing active management on our Federal forests. Do you
believe that the lack of management has led to an over-
accumulation of hazardous fuels in the forest?
Mr. Chilcott. Yes, sir, I do.
Mr. Labrador. And that is because you deny science?
Mr. Chilcott. No, sir, I do not deny science.
Mr. Labrador. Is this over-accumulation of hazardous fuels
a safety threat in your county?
Mr. Chilcott. It is.
Mr. Labrador. Why do you say that?
Mr. Chilcott. It is a threat to not only our public safety
personnel who address the fires, fight the fires, and evacuate
the citizens, but to our respiratorily-compromised population
who has to leave our jurisdiction to find clean and safe air;
the impact to our water and water quality; the impact to our
economy through the loss of revenue from the tourism base; from
the cost to local government to mitigate the impacts of the
fire and to pay the personnel that are responding to the fire.
That is why we need a partnership with our Federal
Government and our state to better address the problems that
are facing our citizens and our economies.
Mr. Labrador. What impact would an increase in active
management have on the fuel load and the economy in your
Mr. Chilcott. What impact?
Mr. Labrador. Active management, what would it do for your
community? What would it do for the fuel load in the forest,
and what would it do to your community?
Mr. Chilcott. Thank you, Congressman. Sorry for
Mr. Labrador. No, it is all right.
Mr. Chilcott. It would reduce the fuel load, increase jobs,
enhance the economy, produce revenue for not only loggers or
people on the ground but also for the Agency and for local
government to produce revenue to create infrastructure and
education opportunities for our students.
Mr. Labrador. Thank you.
Mr. Fite, opponents of active forest management offer the
argument that fire is a natural part of the landscape and,
therefore, we should not manage the forest to prevent
wildfires. In your written testimony, you state that fires and
actively-managed forests actually behave more consistently with
the historic role of fires in the ecosystem. Can you explain
why this is the case?
Mr. Fite. Absolutely, Congressman, that is because of a
lack of active management and decades of fire suppression led
fuels to build up well above the historic ranges, and the
composition of forests are outside the historic range of
So, when a fire comes through, it doesn't act like fire has
historically. What it acts like is the catastrophic fires that
we have seen. And, in fact, the science bears this out. There
are several scientific studies each year about the threat of
megafires, for example, to old forest species.
Mr. Labrador. But your colleague sitting right next to you
says the opposite, that science actually shows that active
management increases the intensity of fires.
Mr. Fite. Well, I respectfully disagree. And I would point
out, we at the industry, we have worked with a lot of
conservation-minded organizations and that is because they are
following the science to where we need to do active restoration
work in a lot of our Federal forests.
So, I think that if you follow the broad stream of where
the science is taking you, without cherry-picking, that is, I
think that is where you should end up.
Mr. Labrador. Let's talk about cherry-picking. Are you
familiar with this chart that he just presented? He says that
between 1950 and 1980, there were less fires. Wasn't there more
active management of forests between 1950 and 1980?
Mr. Fite. There was, Congressman.
Mr. Labrador. Thank you.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman's time has expired.
I now recognize the gentlelady from the beautiful island of
American Samoa, who is blessed with a beautiful tropical rain
forest, for 5 minutes, Mrs. Radewagen.
Mrs. Radewagen. I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman, along
with the Ranking Member for holding this oversight hearing to
explore solutions to reduce the risks of wildfires.
I also thank the panel for your appearance today.
You know, Mr. Chairman, as we all do, when the fire bell
rings, there are no politics among the response of our brave
men and women in the firefighting corps. The firefighting
family is a very close-knit group extending throughout the
United States and all its territories, including a small place
where I come from, American Samoa.
Firefighters from American Samoa, based in the National
Park of American Samoa, just this past August, recently fought
side by side with their fellow firefighters in Modoc National
Forest in Alturas, California, and Sheehy Memorial Fitness Park
in Redding, California, last year.
The Samoan firefighting crew responded to the call to help
their fellow firefighters in multiple instances in California
and Nevada over the past several years. And last year, I
visited our Samoan firefighters at their work site in Redding,
There is a long and proud tradition of courage in both
Samoan and firefighting culture, and I commend all the
firefighters in the states and territories for putting
themselves in harm's way in order to protect the natural beauty
of all our parks, for the recreation and enjoyment of everyone.
I have a question for Mr. Chilcott. In addition to a
reduced wildfire threat and an economic boost from timber
harvest, what other benefits might communities and the
surrounding ecosystems enjoy from healthier actively managed
Mr. Chilcott. Thank you, Congresswoman.
The benefits are broad. Certainly, the economic benefit you
mentioned is critical to our communities. The impact of an
enhanced environmental position where we do not have to breathe
in hazardous smoke, the improvement of our water quality are
important. We have seen scarring that lasts for decades from
these catastrophic wildfires in a valley that is 73 percent
owned or managed by the Federal Government, limiting what we
can do and perform to protect our viewshed. So, active
management is critical, and your partnership is critical for us
to move forward. Thank you.
Mrs. Radewagen. Mr. Rigdon, how do other important natural
resources on tribal land depend on effective forest management,
and how does the successful forest management ensure that the
tribes can continue to utilize those resources?
Mr. Rigdon. I think that a critical part of this
conversation is, historically, our lands are shaped by the use
of fire by my ancestors, by the people there before that lit
fires and created the habitats that were necessary, that made
the West what the West was with the large ponderosa pine and
savannah forests of those areas. There is food. There are
natural resources. There are things that our community depends
upon today. There are cultural practices today that are
dependent upon that type of habitat that is there. It is
important that the role fire plays was historically done
through our people. And sometimes I get it, kind of, management
has always been a part of the land, and I think it is an
important part. Our people did it in a way to sustain our way
of life in that place there. That traditional ecological
knowledge is a very important part of the history of what the
land tells us, and 100 years of not recognizing that science,
and fire suppression, and those activities have helped lead to
where we are with some respect to the unhealthiness of the
forest you see.
Mrs. Radewagen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. The gentlelady yields back. The Chair now
recognizes the gentleman from California who is also no
stranger to catastrophic wildfire in his district, Mr.
McClintock, for 5 minutes.
Mr. McClintock. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When the Ranking
Member complains we have done too many hearings on catastrophic
wildfires, I think maybe his perspective would be different if
he could have been at the command center at the King Fire a few
years ago, for example, in my district where we were in
imminent danger of losing two entire towns, Georgetown and
Forest Hill, to that fire. One of the firefighters, with tears
in his eyes, came to me and said, ``Congressman, I can't even
get to this fire on the ground. We used to have good timber
roads. I could get equipment there. All I can do now is drop
stuff from the air and pray to God the wind shifts.''
The wind shifted. Those towns were saved. If it hadn't, we
would have lost not only those towns, the fire would have
burned into the Tahoe Basin, which is catastrophically
overgrown. I wish you could have been at the Rim Fire. We were
told we rely too much on anecdotes. When I was at the command
center for the Rim Fire, which took out several thousand acres,
I asked the firefighters there, ``What message can I take back
to Congress, in your name?'' They said two words: treatment
Where the fire hit treated areas, it slowed, it broke up,
they could put it out. But they said there is just too little
of it here. That is the advice of the people actually on the
But I want to explore this notion that, oh, it is just
climate change. We really cannot manage our way out of it.
Mr. Fite, if the climate is growing warmer, and it is. It
has been on and off since the last ice age, that is undeniable.
And we are looking at less precipitation. I am told that snow
in overcrowded forests is trapped in the canopy and ends up
evaporating rather than being absorbed into the ground as
groundwater. And I am told the transpiration rate of
overcrowded forests is a huge problem, even in normal years. In
a drought, it is absolutely lethal. If we are looking at warmer
temperatures and less precipitation, doesn't it make more sense
to thin our forests so that we can match the tree density to
the ability of the land to support it?
Mr. Fite. Absolutely.
Mr. McClintock. The assumption is that increasing levels of
carbon dioxide in our atmosphere are creating an artificial
global warming. What is the effect of wildfires on carbon
Mr. Fite. Congressman, catastrophic wildfires like we have
seen, they shoot tons and tons of carbon into the atmosphere.
Mr. McClintock. Well, in fact, there was one estimate that
just a single fire in California recently released more carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere than had been saved by all the
Draconian California laws over a period of 3 years, making a
mockery of all of those laws. Yet, we are told, ``Don't worry,
just let the fires burn, they are nature's friend.''
How is that a consistent scientific argument? I don't
Mr. Fite. I don't believe it is consistent. When you have
forests that are in need of management, if they are managed,
they become good stores of carbon, and you can produce products
with wood. You can build things that are so much less carbon-
Mr. McClintock. In fact, trees are a huge source of
sequestration for carbon, are they not?
Mr. Fite. Absolutely.
Mr. McClintock. What absorbs more carbon, a young
adolescent growing tree or on an old tree?
Mr. Fite. Generally, the younger tree. And if you don't
Mr. McClintock. Doesn't it make sense to harvest the older
trees and replace them with young growing trees to sequester
Mr. Fite. It depends on the specific landscape.
Mr. McClintock. When we mill timber, isn't that carbon then
sequestered indefinitely in that milled timber? Hundreds of
years it was used for a building, for example.
Mr. Fite. It is, and that is a much less intense process
than some other building materials.
Mr. McClintock. Our Committee, in the hearings that we have
had, has often been shown aerial photographs of forests
throughout the western United States. And you can very clearly
tell the boundary between managed land and neglected land
simply by the condition of the forest. It is absolutely
dramatic. I have seen it myself from the air on aerial tours in
the Sierra. You can tell exactly where the property line is.
How clever of it is the climate to know exactly where the
boundaries are between privately-managed lands and the public
Mr. Fite. It seems quite clever.
Mr. McClintock. We are told that controlled burns are an
important tool. They are. But the Detwiler Fire that we just
had in the Sierra, near Yosemite Valley, as a matter of fact,
we were told that they cannot get permits for controlled burns.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman's time has expired. I
appreciate the gentleman joining the Committee today. Also,
another new Member of Congress, but certainly no stranger to
forest fires from the great state of Montana, Mr. Gianforte,
for 5 minutes.
Mr. Gianforte. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Ranking Member.
Forest fires have devastated Montana this past summer. I
have been on the ground on five of those fires, and I have seen
firsthand the result of failing to manage our forests. We
burned over 1.2 million acres in Montana this past summer. That
is equivalent to the state of Delaware--blackened. We lost
lives fighting those fires, livelihoods were threatened,
habitats were destroyed, and we had dangerous air quality in
our communities throughout the entire summer. Our fire season
is longer, and it is further depleting these resources and
Commissioner Chilcott, in your testimony, you highlighted
the growing costs associated with wildfire suppression. And you
believe that, from your testimony, that the Forest Service's
hands are really tied when it comes to forest management
because of the onerous NEPA process and also the Endangered
Species Act. You also mentioned Equal Access to Justice being
an impediment. You advocate for more active forest management.
Could you provide some examples from your community in the
Bitterroot, about forest management on private land adjacent to
Federal lands, how the fires reacted when they came off the
public lands onto the private lands that had been managed?
Mr. Chilcott. Thank you, Congressman. It is a great
question. Yes, I would be happy to.
In my written testimony, I included pictures of the Tabke
private land, as well as state trust lands that had been
mechanically treated and had harvested timber that were
adjacent to the Lolo Peak Fire. When the Lolo Peak Fire hit
those managed lands, the fire intensity dropped to the ground
and was able to be controlled, in my opinion, saving the
community of Florence, Montana. These are examples that
demonstrate how active management partnership between public
agencies and the private sector work. And they also protect an
enhanced stand, our stands of trees, and reduce the mortality.
That is why I am here today, to ask for policy that promotes
Mr. Gianforte. Commissioner, we have heard other testimony
today from the panel that forest management and thinning really
does not help. In fact, it makes things worse. I have been in
Ravalli County, the Roaring Lion Fire last year. It was a
devastating event. We almost lost the town of Hamilton. I
remember the fire coming down the hill, and it intersected with
the Roaring Lion Ranch there, which had been managed. And the
fire behavior changed dramatically when it hit that boundary.
You have been out on-site with these fires in Ravalli
County. Can you describe what it looks like when a fire comes
off of these unmanaged lands onto a managed forest?
Mr. Chilcott. Again, thank you for the question,
Yes, when we see the fire and the fire crews fighting a
fire that is catastrophically engaged and it is coming down a
mountain toward one of our--in fact, our largest community in
Ravalli County--and it hits these managed lands that were done
on private property, and the fire intensity drops almost
immediately and gives our fire suppression personnel an
opportunity to engage the fire head on, and stall or stop the
fire at that point, it will work around those managed lands and
stay in the untreated land and continue to create havoc. But
they are critical to the survival of our communities.
Mr. Gianforte. I recognize that is just an anecdote. But
when I was on the ground there meeting with the sheriff in
Ravalli County, he told me that because those lands had been
managed, hundreds of homes were saved. I just say that is a
pretty good anecdote.
We had over 40 fires burning in Montana just a month ago.
And many of our communities were choking on smoke. I know your
community was one of those.
Can you talk briefly about the impact of the smoke on your
county and on your people there, particularly those with
breathing disorders like asthma or other?
Mr. Chilcott. Again, thank you.
Air quality in our community often in late summer is
unhealthy or hazardous forcing our respiratorily-compromised
population to find another place to reside at their own cost.
Our visitors don't visit, our hikers don't hike, and our
fisherman don't fish. The economic impact is incredible on a
tourism-based economy. Our residents go inside to escape the
thick, dense, hazardous smoke. It still permeates our
buildings. It particularly hits our elderly and our young.
Active management will help mitigate the impacts of this smoke.
Mr. Gianforte. Thank you, Commissioner.
I yield back, Chairman.
Mr. Westerman. The gentleman yields back. The Chair now
recognizes the gentleman from Arizona who is certainly familiar
with dry climates and forest fires, Dr. Gosar.
Dr. Gosar. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. DellaSala, in your professional opinion, would you say
that the Southwest ponderosa forests are healthy?
Dr. DellaSala. I don't know what ``health'' means. I would
have to have a definition of your health versus my health.
Dr. Gosar. Well, then tell me what your definition of
Dr. DellaSala. Well, I look at ecosystems in terms of----
Dr. Gosar. Well, then, let's get right after it.
Tell me about the ecosystem of the Southwest forest on
Dr. DellaSala. OK. Southwest ponderosa pine forest is----
Dr. Gosar. Is it healthy?
Dr. DellaSala [continuing]. Predominately a low intensity
fire system with frequent return intervals. There are examples
in the Southwest where, because of suppression, there has been
a buildup of small trees. And there are some good thinning
projects going on in that system because it is a low-intensity
fire system. And there are also other factors that are out of
balance with the Southwest ponderosa pine system. The loss of
old growth, the extensive road densities that are in that
system, the diminished water quality because the sediment
related to logging impacts along roads, salvage logging. I can
Dr. Gosar. So, tell me also, give me an example--is the
sterilized soil that we had in the Lolo Fire, is that a healthy
Dr. DellaSala. Again, it depends on what your definition of
``health'' means. A fire does not destroy soil horizons. A
Dr. Gosar. No, no, no. Unfortunately, it does. Typically,
in a ponderosa fire, you have low level fires that are in
grasses because a ponderosa tree has a very thick bark. It is
very fire retardant. So, what ends up happening, typically in
the past, we have seen these grass fires that were really
incidental. But now what we see are crown fires that burn so
incendiary that we actually sterilize the very topsoil that we
don't get growth for up to 50 years, sir.
Let me ask you another question since you are the scientist
here. If I was an M.D., and I actually admitted 100 patients to
a hospital, and three of them survived, would I be a good
Dr. DellaSala. Absolutely not.
Dr. Gosar. You bring up the endangered species, because
that is the rate, less than 3 percent of species have we been
able to take back off the endangered species list because of
poor management by the Fish and Wildlife Service. That is
hardly a success story that I want to talk to you.
Let me ask you another question. Are you a lobbyist?
Dr. DellaSala. No, I am not a lobbyist.
Dr. Gosar. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.
On your CV that you submitted, you said that you are a
lobbyist since 1995.
Dr. DellaSala. I am not a registered lobbyist.
Dr. Gosar. You said you are a lobbyist.
Dr. DellaSala. I come here and I lobby to Congress like
every other American citizen does.
Dr. Gosar. Let me ask you another question. There is plenty
more on your CV here.
So, who do I believe? The false scientists or the fake
lobbyist when you testify?
Dr. DellaSala. I am not a fake lobbyist.
Dr. Gosar. You put it on your CV.
Dr. DellaSala. OK.
Dr. Gosar. President Rigdon, I want to thank you so very,
very much for the way the tribes handle their forests. In the
Wallow Fire--by the way, in my first two terms, I had the
largest, worst fire in Arizona history, the Wallow Fire. Where
did it stop? Where the White Mountain Apache had thinned the
forest. I mean incredibly. It knocked it down. Plenty of facts
along that aspect. But it goes over and over again what your
tribes have been able to do that we haven't been able to do.
So, I want to say thank you so very, very much in regards to
Is there more that you can do? I know that Steve Pearce
from New Mexico has really sought to get the tribes involved in
forest management to lands associated and close by the
proximities of the tribes.
Mr. Rigdon. An important part of the Westerman bill, the
activities that we talked about are the provisions for tribes,
the Tribal Forest Protection Act and the concept of anchor
forests I think are critical. So, I would say those type of
things play a key role for allowing us to play a part into the
resource discussion that is out there.
Dr. Gosar. Mr. Fite, would you see the same incidence where
working with the tribes in surrounding areas would be a benefit
and very, very helpful?
Mr. Fite. Absolutely, Congressman. There are a number of
areas in the areas where we work where tribal forests and state
or Federal forests are next to one another, and it is important
to coordinate those activities just like it is important to
work with your neighbors to make sure your neighborhood stays
clean and safe. It is important for those owners to work with
one another to manage their forests.
Dr. Gosar. Mr. Chilcott, in regards to the Federal
Government, wouldn't it be very wise to work with the tribes as
well as the state forestry agencies to expand the forest
Mr. Chilcott. In my opinion, absolutely.
Dr. Gosar. And how fast do you think that could be done.
Mr. Chilcott. By the Federal Government?
Dr. Gosar. No. By the state government.
Mr. Chilcott. I think the state of Montana works very well
with our tribal partners.
Dr. Gosar. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Mr. Westerman. Thank you, Dr. Gosar.
The Chair now recognizes the Ranking Member, Mr. McEachin,
who wishes to enter something into the record.
Mr. McEachin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would ask
unanimous consent to enter into the record a report by the
Dogwood Alliance that details exactly why logging, even when it
results in durable forest products, does not result in a net
gain in carbon emissions. Again, I ask for unanimous consent to
enter this into the record.
Mr. Westerman. Without objection.
I thank the witnesses for their valuable testimony and the
Members for their questions. The members of the Committee may
have some additional questions for the witnesses, and we will
ask you to respond to these in writing. Under Committee Rule
3(o), members of the Committee must submit witness questions
within 3 business days following the hearing by 5:00 p.m., and
the hearing record will be held open for 10 business days for
If there is no further business, without objection, the
Subcommittee stands adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:21 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]
[ADDITIONAL MATERIALS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD]
Rep. Westerman Submissions
National Wild Turkey Federation,
Edgefield, South Carolina
June 26, 2017
Hon. Rob Bishop, Chairman,
Hon. Raul Grijalva, Ranking Member,
House Committee on Natural Resources,
House of Representatives,
Washington, DC 20515.
Dear Chairman Bishop and Representative Grijalva:
On behalf of the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) and its
230,000 members, we urge you to take swift Committee action on H.R.
2936 the Resilient Federal Forest Act of 2017. The NWTF is a leader in
wildlife habitat conservation in North America and is dedicated to the
conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting
heritage. We are currently working toward our 10-year Save the Habitat.
Save the Hunt. initiative in which we aim to conserve or enhance 4
million acres of critical habitat, recruit 1.5 million hunters and open
500,000 acres for outdoor enjoyment.
Active forest management is crucial to establishing healthy and
sustainable forests and decisions for forest management should be based
on sound science. As such, the common sense solutions offered in H.R.
2936 are imperative to the health and future of our nation's forests
and important to the NWTF to help achieve our objectives. In total,
H.R. 2936 has many reasonable solutions to the challenges that the
managing agencies face to increase the pace and efficiency of active
forest management on our nation's federal lands. We take this
opportunity to highlight those solutions that we believe will make the
most immediate difference and offer recommendations as to how we
believe the bill can be further improved.
We support increased availability for Categorical Exclusions (CE)
in order to deal more effectively and efficiently with threats like
pests and disease and for addressing urgent wildlife needs like
critical habitat for endangered species. We are especially supportive
of the CE that will allow for activities that enhance early
successional forests for wildlife habitat. Unlike some critics of CEs
who will suggest, they do not exempt the action from the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), rather they apply the NEPA review to
like or similar actions to expedite the process. These are administered
under Council on Environmental Quality regulations and other guidance.
Increased use of CEs is one of the best opportunities we have in the
short term to increase the pace of active forest management.
Funding the cost of fighting catastrophic wildfires outside of the
agency budget is paramount to the agency's ability to deliver on other
aspects of their mission. We are supportive of a fix that will allow
catastrophic wildfires to be considered a disaster. Until agencies are
freed from the burden of fighting catastrophic wildfires through their
annual budgets we will be unable to make meaningful progress toward
proactive forest management. We recommend capping the firefighting
budget at the current 10-year average to protect further erosion of the
U.S. Forest Service budget in other important mission delivery areas.
We support the bill's provisions for large scale reforestation on
fire-impacted lands. While public input and review is essential to
public lands management, currently it can result in delayed action and
result in an inability to accomplish the necessary objectives. We
believe the deadlines set for plan development and public input, as
well as the prohibition on restraining orders and preliminary
injunctions strike a reasonable balance. We recommend that this
provision of the bill clarify that proper ecological restoration is
allowed as a mechanism to salvage forests post catastrophic events as
reforestation may not always be the best action for the ecological
The NWTF strongly supports arbitration as an alternative to
litigation. This will conserve valuable U.S. Forest Service resources
and expedite work getting done on the ground. Additionally, we support
the provision that does not allow plaintiffs challenging a forest
management activity to receive any award or payment obligated from the
Claims and Judgment Fund.
We support the approach for allowing evaluation of only action/no-
action alternatives for collaborative Forest Plans, Resource Advisory
Committee and Community Wildfire Protection Plan projects. Limiting the
number of alternatives will expedite the development of environmental
assessments and allow work to get done on the ground more quickly. We
also support the requirement to look at consequences of a no-action
alternative as a no-action decision would still have an impact on the
We understand budget concerns counties face and are supportive of a
portion of retained receipts from stewardship contracts going to the
counties. Stewardship Contracting is an important tool for active
forest management. Ultimately this change will remove one impediment to
utilizing Stewardship Contracting and help garner support from the
counties. We recommend modifying this section to reflect that payment
should come only from retained receipts on completed projects, versus
strictly from timber value within ongoing projects. This will maintain
the ``exchange of goods for services'' function of Stewardship
Contracting while also preserving the balance of timber dollars and the
investment of matching funds from organizations like the NWTF to expand
the scope and scale of projects, thus accomplishing more active
management and fire protection across the landscape and within
We appreciate the recognition of the importance of funding planning
activities for forest management. We are concerned that the provision
could potentially provide justification for the U.S. Forest Service
staff to refrain from fully utilizing product value and partner match
dollars for on the ground work. While we feel the 25% threshold is too
high, the provision of allowing some of the stewardship project
revenues to cover the costs of planning additional projects could be
beneficial and incentivize project planning.
We also appreciate the common-sense amendments to the Endangered
Species Act (ESA) that will improve the process of protecting
endangered and threatened species and their habitat. The bill overturns
the ``Cottonwood'' court decision, which directs that if additional
critical habitat is designated under an approved Forest Plan or
Resource Management Plan, a section 7 programmatic re-consultation of
the entire Forest Plan needs to be done. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and the Obama Administration argued that the section 7
consultation needs only to be done on the portion of the project
covering the additionally designated acreage of critical habitat. The
remedy in this bill will greatly reduce the debilitating process that
the federal court decision directs. The bill also affirms current U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service policy that no ESA section 7 consultation is
required if the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management
determines through informal consultation that the proposed action will
not likely have an adverse affect on species or critical habitat. We
further support the 90 day threshold on a CE established by this bill
because it will conserve agency resources and expedite management
activities on the ground.
We commend Congressman Westerman, the co-sponsors, and Chairman
Bishop for their dedication to restoring and maintaining our federal
forests under management informed by science, and offering the
appropriate reforms to management practices. We respectfully urge that
you expeditiously report H.R. 2936 out of Committee and to the House
Rebecca A. Humphries,
Chief Executive Officer.
National Wild Turkey Federation,
Edgefield, South Carolina
September 27, 2017
Hon. Bruce Westerman, Chairman,
House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations,
Committee on Natural Resources,
Washington, DC 20515.
Dear Chairman Westerman:
Thank you for your continued dedication to improving the management
of our federal forests to reduce wildfire threats and improve wildlife
habitat, by holding today's hearing ``Exploring Solutions to Reduce
Risks of Catastrophic Wildfire and Improve the Resiliency of National
Forests.'' As you know, the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)
strongly supports H.R. 2936, your ``Resilient Federal Forests Act of
2017.'' We request that you submit this letter and the attached letter
that we provided for H.R. 2936 previously, for the record of today's
The NWTF is committed to working with you to pass H.R. 2936, and to
working with the Senate on their Federal forest reform and fire-
borrowing legislative initiatives. We acknowledge the Senate's 60 vote
threshold to pass a bill, and are prepared to work with the House and
Senate to achieve a bill that satisfies our principles, can get 60
votes in the Senate, and that will be signed by the President. Please
let me know what else we can do to help you in this effort. Thank you
for your continued commitment to science-based natural resources
Rebecca A. Humphries,
Chief Executive Officer.
[LIST OF DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD RETAINED IN THE COMMITTEE'S
Rep. Westerman Submissions
-- Article titled ``Carbon, Fossil Fuel, and Biodiversity
Mitigation With Wood and Forests,'' from the
Journal of Sustainable Forestry, published March
-- Letter from James D. Ogsbury, Executive Director of the
Western Governors' Association to Chairman Bruce
Westerman and Ranking Member A. Donald McEachin
dated September 26, 2017.
Rep. McEachin Submission
-- Report titled ``The Great American Stand: U.S. Forests
and the Climate Emergency--Why the United States
needs an aggressive forest protection agenda
focused in its own backyard,'' published by Dogwood