[House Report 106-604]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]

106th Congress                                            Rept. 106-604
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                      Part 1




                  May 3, 2000.--Ordered to be printed


  Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the 

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1523]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 1523) to establish mandatory procedures to be followed by 
the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in advance 
of the permanent closure of any forest road so as to ensure 
local public participation in the decisionmaking process, 
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an 
amendment and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.
    The amendment is as follows:
    Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu 
thereof the following:


  This Act may be cited as the ``Forest Roads-Community Right-To-Know 


  (a) Definitions.--In this section:
          (1) Permanent closure.--The term ``permanent closure'', with 
        respect to a forest road, means the closure of the road to 
        vehicular traffic for a continuous period of more than one 
        year. The term includes a road closure of one year or less, or 
        of an unspecified duration, unless the Secretary concerned 
        certifies at the time of the closure that the closure will not 
        extend beyond one year.
          (2) Forest road.--The term ``forest road'' means any road on 
        Federal lands.
          (3) Federal lands.--The term ``Federal lands'' means--
                  (A) lands administered by the Bureau of Land 
                Management; and
                  (B) lands within units of the National Forest System.
          (4) State and local government officials.--The term ``State 
        and local government officials'' means elected officials of 
        States and counties within which Federal lands are located.
          (5) Secretary concerned.--The term ``Secretary concerned'' 
                  (A) with respect to the Federal lands described in 
                paragraph (3)(A), the Secretary of the Interior; and
                  (B) with respect to the Federal lands described in 
                paragraph (3)(B), the Secretary of Agriculture.
  (b) Advance Notice of Permanent Road Closures to State and Local 
Government Officials.--
          (1) Purpose.--The purpose of this subsection is to ensure 
        that the Secretary concerned involves State and local 
        government officials in the process by which the Secretary 
        concerned considers and plans for the potential permanent 
        closure of forest roads on Federal lands.
          (2) Annual meetings required.--At least once each fiscal 
        year, the Secretary concerned shall meet with appropriate State 
        and local government officials to describe all agency plans or 
        proposals that, within the next two fiscal years, will or may 
        result in the permanent closure of forest roads on Federal 
        lands. Such agency plans or proposals include project 
        proposals, land management plan amendments or revisions, 
        resource management plan amendments or revisions, and regional 
        or subregional plans or proposals
          (3) Elements of notice.--At a meeting under paragraph (2), 
        the Secretary concerned shall provide information, using maps 
        and other means, that at a minimum--
                  (A) shows forest roads selected or proposed for 
                permanent closure;
                  (B) shows traffic patterns and volumes on the roads 
                over the previous five years; and
                  (C) explains how users of the roads will be adversely 
                affected with longer travel times or adverse travel 
                conditions by the permanent closure of the roads.
          (4) Special rule for first meeting.--At the first meeting 
        conducted under paragraph (2) for a State or local government, 
        the Secretary concerned shall also provide information on all 
        forest roads that have been subject to permanent closure in 
        that State during the previous five years. The information 
        shall include a map showing the location of the forest roads 
        and a description of the methods and costs of the permanent 
        closure of the forest roads.
  (c) Public Notice and Comment Requirements.--
          (1) Local notice.--Before proceeding with the permanent 
        closure of a forest road, the Secretary concerned shall publish 
        an announcement describing the proposed closure in the local 
        newspaper of record for the area likely to be affected by the 
        permanent closure of the road. The announcement shall include a 
        description and map of the forest road selected or proposed for 
        permanent closure and a description of any comments generated 
        regarding the closure in meetings with State and local 
        government officials under subsection (b).
          (2) Comment period.--The permanent closure of a forest road 
        may not take effect until after the end of the 90-day period 
        beginning on the date that the announcement under paragraph (1) 
        was published regarding that road so as to permit the public to 
        submit comments regarding the decision to select or propose the 
        forest road for permanent closure.
  (d) Prohibition on Permanent Road Closures.--The permanent closure of 
a forest road is prohibited unless--
          (1) advance notice of the permanent closure of the road is 
        provided to the appropriate State and local government 
        officials in the manner provided in subsection (b); and
          (2) the Secretary complies with the public notice and comment 
        requirements under subsection (c).
  (e) Application of Requirements.--The requirements of this section 
shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, except that 
the prohibition contained in subsection (d)(1) shall not apply to 
prohibit the permanent closure of any forest road implemented during 
the fiscal year in which this section is enacted.
  (f) Effect on Valid and Existing Rights.--Nothing in this section 
shall invalidate rights-of-way designated under section 2477 of the 
Revised Statutes of 1878 (43 U.S.C. 932) or other valid and existing 
rights, including rights of ingress and egress.
  (g) Compliance With State Laws.--In carrying out this section with 
respect to a forest road, the Secretary concerned shall comply with the 
applicable laws of the State in which the forest road is located.


  (a) Emergency Road Closures.--Subject to subsection (b), the 
requirements of section 2 shall not apply to emergency road closures 
where life or property would be endangered or threatened in the absence 
of the road closure.
  (b) Length of Closure.--If an emergency road closure will extend 
beyond one year, the Secretary concerned shall comply with the 
requirements of section 2 within three months after the date on which 
the emergency road closure commenced.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 1523 is to establish mandatory 
procedures to be followed by the Forest Service and the Bureau 
of Land Management in advance of the permanent closure of any 
forest road so as to ensure local public participation in the 
decisionmaking process.


    In the last few years, three times more roads have been 
obliterated in national forests than have been constructed. 
These actions profoundly influence the ability of the public to 
access national forests and of the government to manage them. 
Sometimes these decisions are made through modifications of a 
national forest's travel plan, but often, decisions to close 
and obliterate roads are done administratively without public 
input. This has a tremendous effect on the lives of rural 
people who depend on existing forest roads for work and 
    The Administration's fiscal year 2000 budget request 
provides for decommissioning of 3,300 miles of forest roads. 
The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service's decision indicates that 
the agency intends to proceed with road closures at a greatly 
increased rate, without the opportunities for public 
involvement that are required by law and that the Chief himself 
has promised to provide.
    H.R. 1523 provides that permanent road closures, including 
road decommissioning, will no longer be done by the Forest 
Service or Bureau of Land Management without adequate public 
notice and local government and public involvement. It 
specifically allows short term closures that the agencies may 
deem necessary. Finally, the bill does not affect valid and 
existing rights.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H.R. 1523 was introduced on April 22, 1999, by Mrs. 
Chenoweth-Hage. The bill was referred primarily to the 
Committee on Resources and in addition to the Committee on 
Agriculture. Within the Committee on Resources it was referred 
to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and to the 
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. On April 22, 
1999, the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health held a 
hearing on public participation in road closures and on a draft 
version of H.R. 1523. On April 27, 1999, the Subcommittee on 
Forests and Forest Health met to mark up the bill. No 
amendments were offered and the bill was ordered reported to 
the Full Committee by a roll call vote of 8 to 5, as follows:

    On May 5, 1999, the Full Committee on Resources met to 
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on National Parks and 
Public Lands was discharged from further consideration of the 
bill by unanimous consent. Chairman Young offered an amendment 
to allow immediate emergency closures of roads in cases where 
safety or property was threatened, with public disclosure to 
follow in cases where the closure was expected to last more 
than 1 year. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. The bill, 
as amended, was ordered favorably reported to the House of 
Representatives by a roll call vote of 22 to 16, as follows:


    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of Rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations 
are reflected in the body of this report.


    Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 3 of the 
Constitution of the United States grant Congress the authority 
to enact this bill.


    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of Rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) 
of that Rule provides that this requirement does not apply when 
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted 
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the 
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
    2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2) 
of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this 
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending 
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in 
revenues or tax expenditures.
    3. Government Reform Oversight Findings. Under clause 
3(c)(4) of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee has received no report of 
oversight findings and recommendations from the Committee on 
Government Reform on this bill.
    4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause 
3(c)(3) of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act 
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate 
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget 

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                      Washington, DC, May 26, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1523, the Forest 
Roads-Community Right To-Know Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Victoria Heid 
                                          Barry B. Anderson
                                    (For Dan L. Crippen, Director).

H.R. 1523--Forest Roads-Community Right-To-Know Act

    H.R. 1523 would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and 
the Interior to notify the public in advance about proposals to 
permanently close forest roads on federal land. The bill would 
apply to any road on federal land within the National Forest 
System or administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 
The bill would prohibit closing a road for more than a year 
(except for emergency road closures) unless the agencies 
provide advance notice according to the process specified in 
the bill. Such notice would have to include information on 
traffic patterns and volumes for the previous five years on the 
roads proposed for closure. According to the Forest Service 
(FS) and BLM, information on road usage is collected only for 
major roads on federal land. Therefore, enacting H.F. 1523 
would effectively prohibit most permanent road closures for 
five years while the agencies collect such data.
    The delay of most permanent road closures would save 
decommissioning costs during the period when roads would remain 
in use or be closed only temporarily. At the same time, the FS 
and BLM would incur additional costs for maintaining roads that 
otherwise would be closed under current law and for collecting 
data on use of the roads that are proposed for permanent 
closure. Based on information from the two agencies, CBO 
estimates that implementing H.R. 1523 would have no significant 
net impact on outlays over the next five years because funds 
intended for road decommissioning could be used to cover 
maintenance and data collection. That is, we expect that the 
likely savings and costs of the bill would be approximately 
equal over the next five years. However, over the long term, 
collecting data on road usage entail additional costs relative 
to current law.
    Because H.R. 1523 would not affect direct spending or 
receipts, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply. H.R. 1523 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would no 
significant impact on the budgets of state, local, or tribal 
    The CBO contact for this estimate is Victoria Heid Hall. 
This estimate was approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    compliance with public law 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                        Changes in existing law

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing 

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

    H.R. 1523 mandates additional procedures the Forest Service 
and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must follow when 
closing roads on national forests and public lands for more 
than one year. This bill defies logic by defining ``permanent 
closure'' to mean more than one year. Even road closures 
planned for less than one year qualify as ``permanent,'' unless 
the Secretary certifies the closures will not extend beyond 12 
months. The newly mandated procedural hoops include giving 
advance notice to public officials of ``all'' agency plans over 
the next two fiscal years that ``will or may'' result in the 
``permanent'' closure of roads on public lands. Even road 
closures pursuant to an emergency must go through these hurdles 
after a three-month stay.
    A hearing was held on April 22, 1999 before the bill was 
even introduced; the Department of the Interior--an affected 
agency--never testified on the bill for that reason. 
Ironically, on a bill that purports to increase public 
involvement, there was little notice, involvement, or input. 
While public involvement and consultation in government 
decision-making is both desirable and critical, H.R. 1523 
mandates procedures for road closings that do not apply to 
road-building or timber sales, thus selectively choosing when 
public involvement is important. Opposed by the Forest Service 
and the Bureau of Land Management, this legislation is onerous, 
costly, and unnecessary for several reasons.
    First, the bill inappropriately addresses a local issue 
through national legislation. The impetus for the legislation 
came from road closures on the Targhee National Forest in Idaho 
as part of a 1998 travel management plan draft Environmental 
Impact Statement. According to the Forest Service, the plan 
addressed several concerns: (1) reducing road maintenance 
needs; (2) restoring soils and water quality; (3) enhancing 
grizzly bear habitat and recovery in accordance with U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife recommendations; (4) restoring cutthroat trout 
habitat to prevent its Endangered Species Act listing; (5) 
allowing access in certain areas where compatible with timber 
harvesting; and (6) reducing hunting pressure on elk 
populations to meet State of Idaho Department of Fish and Game 
population goals. The real issue troubling the Majority is the 
decisions--not the process surrounding the decision--to close 
forest roads on the Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
    Second, as the Forest Service testified, ample opportunity 
for public comment exists as mandated by NEPA and other 
legislation as well as agency policy. The sponsor herself 
admits that county commissioners received notice--``a whole 
stack'' of letters, in her words--about the Targhee road 
closures, but takes umbrage on the commissioners' behalf at the 
salutation of ``Concerned Citizen.'' Moreover, the Forest 
Service has reiterated its policies of encouraging public 
notice and outreach on road management, further undercutting 
any need for legislation. (Letter attached).
    Third, there are several drafting problems. ``Permanent'' 
is defined so broadly that anything that may be closed longer 
than a year is deemed a closure, which is precluded without 
advance notice to local governments and 90-day public comment. 
The amendment addressing emergency closures merely imposes a 
three-month stay on the procedural requirements the agency must 
meet, thereby restricting agency discretion to keep roads 
closed in case of floods or landslides, or lack of funding. 
``Closure'' is not defined, so that roads designed to be 
temporary may be required to stay open. ``Road'' is defined 
overly broadly so that the agency could be precluded from 
closing illegal and unauthorized roads created by off-road 
vehicle use.
    Finally, the bill reverses existing statutory and policy 
direction regarding road management. Section 8 of the National 
Forest Management Act requires the Forest Service to close and 
obliterate roads unless they are designated permanent in the 
agency's transportation management plans (16 U.S.C. 1608 (b)). 
H.R. 1523, on the other hand, would require that all the roads 
remain open unless the agency complies with these burdensome 
procedures. With an authorized road system of over 380,000 
miles, an estimated 60,000 miles of unauthorized roads, and a 
$8.5 billion backlog in repair and maintenance in the National 
Forest System, and an additional 78,000 miles of road under 
BLM's jurisdiction, the last thing Congress should be doing is 
making it more difficult and cumbersome for agencies to close 
roads for safety or environmental reasons. The Forest Service 
is looking to minimize new road construction and reduce the 
resource damage from its current road network. Yet H.R. 1523's 
data collection requirements of traffic patterns over five-year 
periods are so onerous as to effectively impose at least a 
five-year moratorium on road closures. While less than 20 
percent of the current Forest Service road system for passenger 
vehicles is being maintained to the design safety standards, 
Congress only appropriates a fraction of what it would take to 
address the backlog of repairs. This legislation offers nothing 
in the way of addressing these serious problems and instead 
would serve to obstruct closure of unnecessary and 
environmentally destructive portions of the vast system of 
roads on public lands and national forests.
                                                     George Miller.
                         Department of Agriculture,
                                            Forest Service,
                                       Washington, DC, May 4, 1999.
File Code: 7700/1950.
Route To:
Subject: Involving Local Public Officials in Planning of Road 
To: Regional Foresters and Washington Office Staff Directors.
    Management of the forest road system is one of the four key 
focus areas of the Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda. 
There are few issues that have been more controversial for the 
Forest Service than forest roads. While roads are vital for 
public, commercial and administrative access to the national 
forests and grasslands, we also find that roads can be great 
contributors to environmental damage to our lands. In order to 
address this difficult issue, we are in the midst of developing 
a new national roads policy and rewriting the national forest 
planning regulations.
    It is important that you recognize the public interest and 
potential controversy that surrounds projects and ensure that 
adequate information specifically addressing the planning of 
road decommissioning is given in your quarterly schedule of 
proposed actions, to more accurately describe the issues 
involved. For instance, when road decommissioning is planned as 
part of a timber sale, decommissioning should be identified as 
part of that sale in the quarterly notices, during scoping, and 
during the public comment period.
    It has long been Forest Service policy that local elected 
officials are valuable partners whom we advise and consult 
regarding management decisions in the national forests. 
Building and maintaining positive relationships with these 
officials is good business. More often than not, they are key 
to identification of win-win approaches to our land management 
problems. Their help means going forth with synergy instead of 
    I expect Forest Service line officers periodically to meet 
with State and local officials and other concerned citizens on 
potentially controversial issues and projects. Road 
decommissioning projects and transportation planning in 
general, are examples where I expect you to involve and 
coordinate with your State and local officials. There is 
nothing the Forest Service does on the ground that should be 
done without involvement with interested officials. 
Decommissioning roads and transportation planning is no 
    Maintaining an open and collaborative process with our 
local communities and other communities of interest will move 
us all forward in a positive way and one that we can all feel 
good about. Thank you for your attention to this concern.
                                            Gloria Manning,
                       Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System.

                            A P P E N D I X


                          House of Representatives,
                                  Committee on Agriculture,
                                      Washington, DC, June 1, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: On May 5, 1999 the Committee on 
Resources ordered to be reported H.R. 1523, the ``Forest Roads-
Community-Right-To-Know Act.'' As you are aware, the Committee 
on Agriculture was granted an additional referral of this 
legislation on those provisions of H.R. 1523 that fall within 
the jurisdiction of this Committee.
    Knowing of your interest in expediting this legislation and 
in maintaining the continued consultation between our 
Committees on these matters, I agree to discharge H.R. 1523 
from consideration by the Committee on Agriculture. I do so 
with the understanding that by discharging the bill the 
Committee on Agriculture does not waive any future 
jurisdictional claim over this or similar measures. In 
addition, in the event a conference with the Senate is 
requested on this matter, the Committee on Agriculture reserves 
the right to seek appointment of conferees from this Committee 
to be represented in such conference.
    Thank you very much for your courtesy in this matter and I 
look forward to continued cooperation between our Committees as 
we deal with these issues in the future.
                                             Larry Combest,

                          House of Representatives,
                                    Committee on Resources,
                                      Washington, DC, May 28, 1999.
Hon. Larry Combest,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter regarding H.R. 
1523, the Forest Roads Community Right-to-Know Act. I 
appreciate your cooperation in not insisting on your additional 
referral of the bill.
    I will of course support your request to have the Committee 
on Agriculture named to any conference on H.R. 1523 if one 
should become necessary, and copies of our correspondence will 
be made part of the committee bill report.
    Thank you again for your cooperation and that of Lance 
Kotschwar, Greg Zerzan and Dave Tenny of your staff. I look 
forward to seeing H.R. 1523 debated on the House Floor soon.
                                                 Don Young,