Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield 15 minutes of my time to the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), the chairman of the Committee on Resources, and ask unanimous consent that he be allowed to manage that time in opposition.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, last year this Nation lost 6.9 million acres to catastrophic forest fires. That is an area larger than the entire State of Vermont. The Federal Government spent $1.6 billion in a losing effort to save that forestland. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act would expedite hazardous fuels reduction projects on a fraction of the 190 million at-risk acres in our national forests.
The Miller substitute seeks to throw us back into the morass of inaction and delay that is destroying our natural resource base. According to the Chief of the Forest Service, last year the Forest Service spent over $250 million on land management projects. Forty percent of that amount, over $100 million, was wasted on process delays. If we continue to approach catastrophic fire losses like this, we will have lots of lawyers and still lose the forests.
The Miller substitute would reinstate the opportunities for procedural delay and even adds new unnecessary steps. This will drag the system even further into the mire that is exposing forest after forest to catastrophic fire threats.
The substitute forces 85 percent of funding for hazardous fuels reduction to be spent within one-half mile of an at-risk community. This arbitrary standard provides little meaningful protection to towns caught in the path of raging fires, the pictures some of which we have seen already in the debate, that have been observed to leap up to 2 miles past the main fire. By throwing almost all the projects into a narrow useless belt around towns, the substitute ignores the peril to watersheds, wildlife,
particularly endangered species, and the forest itself.
The basic approach of the Miller substitute seems to be: If you can't beat it, wreck it. The most puzzling aspect of the substitute is that it totally ignores most of the bill. It does a thorough job of heaping needless process delays on the hazardous fuels reduction projects, but it ignores the threat of insect infestation on public and private lands. In my part of the country, it is the disease and insect infestations that are the greatest threat in the east and the south. The substitute refuses
to accept the watersheds protection and healthy forest reserve programs created by H.R. 1904.
The Healthy Forest Restoration Act is a balanced approach to responsible conservation of our public and private forest resources. It addresses forest health problems and promotes good stewardship across the Nation. The Miller substitute is a scheme to undermine fire protection efforts and effectively pretends there are no other forestry problems worth addressing. The labor unions, conservation associations, State and local governments, and professional foresters who support H.R. 1904 disagree.
Mr. Speaker, I urge the defeat of the Miller substitute and the passage of this outstanding bill, a first step to ending the carnage of our Nation's forestlands.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the Miller-DeFazio substitute, H.R. 1261. I do so because I think we need a positive vision, and that positive vision is the Miller-DeFazio substitute.
Protecting homes and keeping people safe must be the top priority of wildfire policy. Forest Service researchers believe making homes firewise and creating defensible space near communities is the best way to achieve this goal, one that could be realized within a short period of time.
Advocating for fuel reduction treatments to be focused on community protection zones does not mean the rest of the forest is left to burn. Restoration treatments focused on prescribed burning and small diameter thinning must proceed in the forest dependent on frequent fires, such as the Ponderosa Pine. More than 50 southwest conservation organizations have been calling for precisely this type of action since 1996. With continuing droughts and tight budgets, focusing on the community is the most
effective, common-sense approach.
The Miller-DeFazio substitute is the definitive middle ground and is the only option that addresses hazardous fuels reduction and community protections.
H.R. 1261, the Miller-DeFazio substitute, protects old-growth forests, promotes thinning from below, guarantees due process, protects the NEPA review process, and, in complete contrast to H.R. 1904, actually provides guaranteed funding directly to communities, States, and tribal governments for protection of their people, their homes, and their businesses.
This is an effective solution before us today, and I ask, no, indeed I implore, that we vote for the solution in the Miller-DeFazio substitute.
Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, the Miller amendment would eliminate title 4, and it is about management techniques on an accelerated basis to stem the exploding insect epidemics. [Page: H4314]
To say that a research program is a ruse for commercial timber harvest is to ignore the plain language of this legislation. Large-scale studies are needed to test and demonstrate the effectiveness of treatments. This title creates a partnership between the Forest Service and academia to bring the very best minds in this country to solve these problems.
We want to talk about a new insect, the Hemlock woolly adelgid. It has come into the eastern part of this country. It came in 1950, and by the early 1990s this had spread into 11 States from North Carolina to Massachusetts, causing extensive Hemlock decline. This map shows where it is now spreading.
This insect, the adelgid, kills infected trees in 3 to 5 years after attack and spreads quickly. This next picture here shows these egg sacs that have up to 300 eggs apiece and how to identify a tree that has this insect. It feeds on the needles, and when they are done, here is what a Hemlock tree looks like. A beautiful Hemlock tree now looks devastated.
We need research. We need the ability to stop these insects that will destroy the Hemlock forests in the East. The substitute is removing the ability to do this. This substitute is not about helping fight the insects that are destroying the forests in this country.
Ms. SOLIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise also in strong support for the Miller-DeFazio substitute, and I hope that everyone in this room will proudly support that amendment as well. It puts local people first in making decisions about forest fire prevention, and it will get people to work right now before other emergencies come up. It focuses research where they are needed the most, in areas surrounding communities where people live.
I say that, Mr. Speaker, because last year we were also faced with one of our forest fires in Los Angeles, the Angeles National Forest, right on the periphery near cities that both I and the gentleman from California (Mr. Dreier) represent. By contrast, H.R. 1904 is a bill that ignores the needs of communities near forests.
H.R. 1904 drastically revises our legal review process and will create gridlock in our court system by virtually guaranteeing that every fire prevention plan be contested. It gives priority to those cases over all other legal matters, including cases pertaining to murder and civil rights.
That is why many groups and organizations that I work with, the NAACP, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National Organization of Women, and all other major environmental groups oppose H.R. 1904. H.R. 1904 ignores regional approaches to fire protection that has been carefully crafted with input from our local communities, industry, environmentalists, and State government. If we want a plan to truly protect our forests and our environment and the people that live there,
then do the right thing and vote for the Miller-DeFazio substitute.
Mr. RENZI. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to the amendment specifically because it sets a one-size-fits-all policy across the country. The gentlewoman just spoke about local control, local coordination. That is exactly what this amendment does not do. Imagine for a minute looking down on one's own garden and being told you cannot weed anywhere but within 6 inches of your tomato plants. That is what we are telling the forest officials across the West, they have a half-mile diameter radius
outside their city. That is where they will concentrate the money and weed the forest. That is where they will take out the small diameter, dog-hair thickets. Mind the scientists and the experts that proved that the vector fires, the pattern of where the fires are going to come
from, where the prevailing winds and terrain are, never mind being able to thin in those areas so the firemen have a fall-back position, thinning is only within a half mile of town. That is it, no fall-back. This binds the hands of the Forest Service. Vote ``no'' on the amendment.
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this substitute amendment, not because I think it is perfect, but because I think it is a better choice than the underlying bill. The substitute is partly better because what it includes and partly because of what is not in it.
Most importantly, the substitute includes some of the best parts of the McInnis-Walden bill the Committee on Resources approved last year. Like last year's bill, the substitute earmarks most of the fuel-reduction money for projects to protect our communities and their water supplies.
In both the Resources and Agriculture Committees, I tried to amend the bill to restore the requirement that at least 70 percent of the money for forest thinning projects go to protect communities and their water supplies. That 70 percent requirement was in the McInnis-Walden bill last year, but it is not in this year's bill. So on this very important opportunity, the substitute is more in line with the bill I voted for last year.
Also, the substitute has a sunset clause. I think it should be included because that title is strong medicine to respond to an emergency situation. It is only sound policy to allow it to work for several years and then look at how well it has worked. A sunset clause will make sure that happens. The substitute also includes essentially the same provisions on administrative appeals as those in last year's bill. The purpose is to cut red tape and to speed up the resolution of appeals to avoid unnecessary
I think those provisions are appropriate and have included similar ones in my own bill on this policy area. However, the new bill does not include any of those provisions. It simply allows the Secretary to establish any kind of appeals process the administration prefers. This is essentially a blank check. I do not think that is a good idea because it does not ensure that the result will strike the right balance between the need to avoid unnecessary delays while still affording local governments
and other interested parties a meaningful opportunity to appeal things they find objectionable.
At the same time, the substitute does not include some of the most troubling parts of the new bill. Unlike the bill, the substitute does not go beyond the scope of last year's McInnis-Walden bill approved by the Committee on Resources. Many parts of the bill are absolutely new. There are things on which we have had no hearings and which threaten to bog us down in new controversies. They may have some merits, but I think it would be better to consider them separately, not as a part of this bill.
Finally, as I said, the substitute is not perfect, with all due respect to the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller). If it was just up to me, it would be different in several respects. In fact, it would read just like the bill H.R. 1042, the bill I introduced with my cousin and colleague, the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. Udall). I would have a broader definition of the wildland urban interface. If we are to truly address the risks to communities and their water supplies,
we must include lands that are sometimes outside an arbitrary mileage limit from the edge of a particular community.
That is why my bill uses a definition based on the one developed by our Colorado State forester. On this one point, H.R. 1904, as well as my bill, is closer to the Committee on Resources bill from last year. But, unfortunately, my bill is not one of the choices before the House. We have to choose between H.R. 1904 and the substitute.
The substitute builds on the bill the Committee on Resources passed last year, while H.R. 1904 throws away some of the best parts of that bill and adds many new and troublesome provisions. I think the substitute is the better choice, and I urge its adoption.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, who supports our bill? I would tell my colleague from Colorado, the Colorado State forester supports our bill.
Mr. Speaker, the Society of American Foresters, the National Association of State Foresters, and the Western Forestry Leadership Council support the underlying bill, H.R. 1904. These are the professionals in the field in the forests who want to do the work to prevent this kind of catastrophic fire. These are the people who come to us every day and say free our hands so we can do what we were trained to do in the colleges and universities across this country, to cut the underbrush, to tend to
the garden for more than half a mile.
There is no scientific, underlying purpose to limit the scope of either of these bills to half a mile. There is not. That is a political decision somebody made. Members want to talk about the abuse we are getting on this side for somehow doing away with NEPA? Check the substitute, page 16, that grants the Secretary's categorical exemption, and let me read from line 4. The Secretary concerned need not make any findings as to whether the project, either individually or cumulatively, has a significant
effect on the environment. They do not even have to do an analysis. We require an environmental assessment or an EIS in these areas, but theirs to do hazardous fuels says they can do whatever they want as long as it is within a half mile from the community, no NEPA required. There is a specific exemption from NEPA. That is on page 16, beginning line 4, categorical exclusion.
But let us talk about what is really at stake here, and that is what we do to prevent fires from engulfing our communities, destroying our watersheds, wiping out habitat of threatened and endangered species. And let me quote from the National Association of Forest Service Retirees who wrote: ``The big fires of 2002 came roaring out of interior forests, and nothing but a change in the weather stopped them. The consequences of only thinning around communities will be to give residents a false sense
of security that may put property and their very lives in danger.''
Mr. Speaker, a false sense of security. That is what the Miller-DeFazio substitute gives people in communities. We say we are solving the problem, but we are only going a half mile back. We ought to be stopping catastrophic fires that affect the watersheds and people; but they would not qualify for the kind of quick, hazardous fuels reductions that we both want to see happen throughout the forests.
Once again, where does this not apply? The legislation does not touch national parks, national wildlife refuges, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, national monuments, or roadless areas. It does not get into any of those areas. This is a very small step forward, 20 million out of 195 million acres we want to get an expedited process in to see if we cannot make a difference. We want to do the assessments and the research to figure out what the best way to stop the bug and disease infestation
we have seen in our forests.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to wipe out our hardwood forests and our softwood forests across this country if we debate this to death and do not act. I urge defeat of the Miller-DeFazio substitute, and I urge enactment of H.R. 1904.
Mr. RADANOVICH. Mr. Speaker, 190 million acres of our Federal forests and rangelands are at unnaturally high risk to catastrophic wildfire. Currently, only 2.5 million of these acres are treated by forest managers. This is due to the immensely bureaucratic, litigious process that prevents proper forest management. The Miller amendment does not address this.
An example of the crisis facing our national forests was evident last year when a fire was blazing out of control in the Sequoia National Forest. The fire, called the McNally Fire, was raging dangerously close to an ancient sequoia grove within the National Sequoia Monument. Firefighters were prevented from controlling the blaze for several days because it was too dangerous.
In total, the McNally Fire charred over 150,000 acres of the forest; and it could have decimated the sequoia trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old. Responsible stewardship would have prevented this problem and would have minimized the amount of trees, habitat, and watersheds that were destroyed in the Sequoia National Forest. The Miller amendment would almost guarantee that this fire could happen again.
The McNally Fire is just one example demonstrating why the Healthy Forests Restoration Act is necessary. The enhanced flexibility given to local forest managers in the bill will better protect our forests. By streamlining procedures and ensuring public participation, forest management projects will be finished within months rather than years. The Miller-DeFazio amendment falls short of this goal.
Mr. GILCHREST. I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of those who participated in the process of the healthy forests reform legislation for doing a pretty good job. I think we are moving in the right direction. In this piece of legislation today we are moving significantly in the right direction. It does not go the whole way that all of us want to do, but we move significantly in the right direction. For those Members who will support the Miller amendment and oppose the underlying bill, the democratic process is
a never-ending story, so we will always have opportunities to do what we want to do in this constant management regime.
The other thing is, we do something, I think, that is extraordinary in the underlying bill and that is that it deals with the hydrology, or the watershed approach, to our national forests. This kind of approach takes out the fragmentation piece by piece, the politically charged process of dealing with what we need to deal with, and that is healthy forests. What were they like 10 years ago? They were not very well 10 years ago. What were they like 20 years ago? Healthy forests did not exist 20
years ago. But what were they like 500 years ago? It was a natural process. What we are trying to do in this legislation is go through a process to get back to restore the prodigious bounty of nature and our healthy forests.
Ms. WOOLSEY. Mr. Speaker, my Republican colleagues should hear themselves over there. I have been sitting up in my office listening to this debate. They are saying our forests are diseased. They are right. But I ask, when was the last time they supported adequate funding for forest disease research in any of our bills?
They rightfully worry about fires devastating our forests. But I ask, when last did they support any kind of growth control, any kind of control that would prevent neighborhoods from butting up against our forests?
Their solution is right, cut the trees. Because if there are no trees, there will be no forest fires.
Mr. OSBORNE. Mr. Speaker, I must at this time speak in opposition to the Miller-DeFazio amendment. As a member of both the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Resources, I saw the evolution of the McInnis-Walden bill, H.R. 1904, heard it debated at length and heard it amended at length. The base bill provides desperately needed safeguards for our Nation's forests. It is well crafted, it is thorough, it is comprehensive.
I have five major concerns with the Miller-DeFazio amendment:
Number one. As has been stated many times today, the one-half-mile thinning zone is not adequate obviously to protect many homes and many residential areas. Many fires have jumped further than the one-half-mile limit.
Number two. The Miller amendment does not adequately address bug and insect outbreaks. This has been particularly a big problem in the South, in the East, and in some of the areas in the Midwest which abut to the State of Nebraska. The red oak disease has been particularly predominant in that area.
Number three. This amendment prohibits new road development. Certainly no one wants a lot of new roads in our forests, but new roads occasionally are [Page: H4317]
critical to firefighting. Last summer that was one of the major problems that we had; we could not get to the fires. And so at times some road building will be necessary.
Number four. The Miller amendment requires several mapping and reporting procedures which will slow down the decision-making process necessary to reduce fuel loads. We need less paperwork; we do not need more. The base bill, I think, does eliminate paperwork, and that is very important.
Number five. There is a concern that this amendment does not address some watershed concerns that are critical to clean water. I am a fisherman. I am very concerned about streams. I am concerned about habitat. The base bill, I think, does a better job of protecting the watershed areas.
The base bill is comprehensive and thoroughly crafted. I urge its passage without amendment.
Mr. SHADEGG. I thank the gentleman for yielding time.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the base bill by the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. McInnis) and in opposition to the Miller amendment. I note that today's New York Times calls this a flawed fire bill. I might suggest that The New York Times would do better to look at the credibility and believability of its reporters, indeed to their veracity, than at fire policy because they have got this one dead wrong. What they do is they attack the McInnis bill for not doing enough to protect
the areas where there is human habitat. Indeed, they say the bill does nothing to protect our communities. They say it allows logging to go forward in back country areas where fires offer no threat to human safety. I would suggest to The New York Times and to my colleagues that the issue behind forest thinning is not human safety. The issue behind forest thinning is to protect our forests.
It is true that we have a situation in the southwestern United States where our forests are gravely overgrown, but they are not just overgrown on the urban interface. They are overgrown everywhere. And the experts such as Dr. Wally Covington at Northern Arizona University and others all concur that we have an unnatural condition in our forest which is a radical danger. We need to protect not just the urban interface. We need to protect the entire forest. Indeed, to protect endangered species,
if we do not do the remote parts of the forest where it needs to be thinned to protect wildlife, then we will destroy their habitat.
I strongly support the base bill and oppose the Miller substitute.
Mr. McINNIS. Mr. Speaker, first of all, keep in mind, Mr. Miller, that the national fire plan has hundreds of millions of dollars in there. This big tree argument is nonsense. We are not going out there and saying, gosh, we have got to go to the redwoods or the sequoias and cut down all this beautiful stuff. That is an emotional argument that is used for one purpose and that is to divert from the science.
Mr. McINNIS. I do not mind the gentleman making that comment. The fact is it is not accurate, Mr. Miller, and you know it is not accurate. We are not going out there saying let us pick the most beautiful big tree we can find and cut it down. That is exactly the kind of picture you want to portray to the general public out there so you can divert from the fact that we have reached this status quo on trying to fight these forest fires, on trying to protect our wildlife habitat,
on trying to protect our watersheds.
The gentlewoman from California (Ms. Woolsey) gets up here, my colleague. She starts lecturing the Republicans. I want you to know the partisan portion here is the Democratic substitute. You have no Republicans on your substitute.
My bill, the underlying bill, is a bipartisan bill. It has heavy Democrat support. Mr. Miller, what do you do for the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Ross)? What do you do for the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. BARRY)? What do you do for the gentleman from Utah (Mr. Bishop)? What do you do for the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm)? You take out all the bugs and the infestation problems.
Folks, we have got problems out there. We have got fire problems, and we have got bug problems. And the courts do not wear green hats. They are not forest rangers. They are not going to get this resolved. We cannot afford one more fire season sitting on our haunches, twiddling our thumbs and pretending these horrible fires are not occurring.
Let me mention Mr. Udall. Mr. Udall says our language guts the injunctive relief. Mr. Udall, for your information, that language is called the Feinstein language. Why do you not take this issue up with Senator Feinstein?
Let us go on here a little. When we talk about what we are attempting to do, look at the substance of the bill.
Mr. Udall from Colorado, it is never good enough for you. At some point we have to say, enough is enough. Let our forest people go back to managing the forests. Let the forests be managed by science, not by emotion; and the way you drive emotion is to stand up here on this House floor and talk about how we are going to cut down the big trees, that in order to pay for this we are going to take the big trees and take them out.
Not at all. The fact is, we need to manage our forests. We cannot take the position of the radical environmental organizations like Earth First and the Sierra Club. We can take the position of a bipartisan group on this floor, Democrats and Republicans, and that position is represented by the underlying bill.
I urge a no vote on the Democrat non-Republican partisan substitute, and I urge support for the underlying bill that is bipartisan, has heavy Democrat and Republican support.
ANNOUNCEMENT BY THE SPEAKER PRO TEMPORE
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Speaker, I feel like I have been watching the screenplay from Dumb and Dumber. We all admit that the last few years of managing our forests has been dumb. If we pass this substitute, we are even dumber than I thought we were. We are changing this bill from a healthy forest bill, by passing this substitute, to a healthy community bill.
I am not against healthy communities, but I can tell my colleagues, from being in an area where we fight these fires, the communities are the first things that we come in to protect when the fire gets treated. We go in with bulldozers, and we clear it out. So they are probably the last ones that need our help because we always find the money when the fire is going on.
What we need to understand is that dead and dying grass is every bit as bad as overgrazed grass. The dead and dying trees are every bit as bad as overlogging trees.
I look up in the audience and I look out at America and I see people with hard hats and what do I think of? I think of heroes, because they use their capital, they use their labor, and they use their equipment to go in and cut down the trees. We tell them to.
I look at the gentleman from Washington's (Mr. Inslee) picture of a tree. The Members cannot tell me whether [Page: H4319]
that is a healthy tree or not sitting 2,000 or 3,000 miles away looking at a picture of it.
A Congresswoman from the other side of the aisle graced us with her presence for about 30 seconds to come down and tell us she was watching this debate on TV. That is the problem. Too many bureaucrats are sitting in Washington, D.C., making a determination of what is a healthy forest without ever getting out on their hands and knees, we call it the buns-up kneeling position, and looking and counting bugs and looking at the grass and determining what the mineral cycle looks like and what the grass
and the trees and the endangered species are actually doing.
Let us pass something sensible. There is finally a piece of legislation that makes an effort to start removing the cancer of the dead and dying forests that are causing a problem within this country. We have an opportunity to finally show some leadership after so many years of a lack of leadership that has allowed this country to kill its forest with kindness. Pass this bill. Let us oppose this substitute.
Mr. DeFAZIO. There is some room for agreement here. This is what we want to prevent. It is a fire in my congressional district last summer.
The gentleman who just preceded me talked about bureaucrats. This bill is a bureaucrat's dream, because this bill gives all the discretion to appointed bureaucrats, and I know that that party would not be supporting this bill if there was a Democrat in the White House. They would not want to give Bruce Babbitt this authority. But they do want to give it to this administration.
This bill was written at the White House and sent down. This is not the bill we negotiated last fall. If this was the bill that we had negotiated last fall, and I give the gentleman from Colorado and others credit for sitting down in tough negotiations where we took flack from both sides, from the environmentalists and from the industry, and came up with something that would have worked, would have gotten this done, would have turned this into a nonpartisan problem. If it was that, I would vote
for it in a split second. But it was not, so I tried to offer some amendments to improve it.
No, we cannot have any amendments because the House has to adjourn at 5 o'clock this afternoon. Why? I do not know. Someone has got a golf game. People have got to make fund-raising phone calls for the big event tomorrow night. I do not know. We do not have time for amendments. This is only the Congress after all in the House, no time for amendments.
There has been a lot of talk about whether or not this would allow the harvesting of big old trees. The bottom line is we do not do this on the cheap. It is 100 years of mismanagement. The only good study was done in Oregon at Oregon State. Sixteen hundred and eighty-five dollars an acre is the estimate to do this work. And guess what? They do not get $1,685 an acre for a bunch of brush and dead poles, do they? No. If they are going to generate that much money to do the work that needs to be
done, they are going to high-grade the damn forests the same way that they high-graded them early in the last century when we were really stupid.
That is what is going to happen under this bill. It gives the discretion to protect or not protect old-growth to Mark Rey. I love Mark. Great guy. But I do not want to give him that discretion. I would like a definition of what has to be protected and what is not. No, he has that authority and people cannot hardly appeal his decisions because the White House wants to pretend it can be done on the cheap.
The President's budget, his big request is $230 million for fuel reduction this year. At that rate, if we did all of the land that they want to put into this bill, it would take 174 years. So I do not think the President is exactly asking for the money needed.
Where is the rest of the money going to come from? How are we going to do it more quickly than a 174 years? There is only one answer: The gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller) said the truth, and the truth hurts. We have got to take high-value products out.
What is a high-value product? It is a big old tree. And only one person stands between cutting that tree to fund this bill and the reality of that, and that is an appointed bureaucrat.
This is really too serious to consider in this way, and it affects too many of us too much. I am really sad that it has come to this.
I was willing to take the heat, and I did last fall. A couple of Democratic Senators took a lot of heat, attacked by national environmental groups for trying to do something that made sense in this area. The environmental groups, they succeeded. They stopped the bill last year, and now we are going to see something in the House much worse. There is a lesson in that.
But there is also a lesson in overreaching. My colleagues know this bill cannot become law as it is. It is either a bargaining chip with the Senate. That is one thing I hear. It is a bargaining chip with the Senate to try to pull them back, or it is a political event so that they can blame a couple of prominent Democrat Western Senators who are up for election for stopping the bill over there and use it against them as an election year issue. I do not know which one it is.
I do not know which one it is, but either are pathetic reasons to stick this bill through in this way without a single amendment being allowed.
Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.
Mr. Speaker, I wanted to respond to my colleague from Colorado, for whom I have great respect and just make this set of remarks.
I have never seen a piece of legislation that cannot be improved. In fact, it is our responsibility as Members of this body to work to improve legislation as it comes forward. I did vote for the McGinnis-Walden bill last fall, proudly, and would have supported it this year if it came to the floor in that same structure.
But my approach has been to try and create consensus and trust and involve all of us. We could have had the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio), the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. Udall), and myself on this bill, brought it to the Senate with a true broad-based bipartisan coalition, and moved ahead.
I am worried we are going to have more stalemate, more litigation, more problems, and we are going to get the very result that we are all worried about here, which is no treatment of our fuels, no reduction of these hazardous materials, and an even bigger fire season; and we are all going to bear the responsibility for that outcome.
Mr. HAYES. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for yielding me time. I will go back from passion to policy for just a minute.
The Miller amendment ignores the forest health crisis in Southern, Midwestern and Eastern forests. I strongly oppose the Miller amendment.
In spite of the fact that millions and millions of acres of pristine forests are spoiled each year by large-scale and unnatural insect and disease outbreaks, in this amendment the words [Page: H4320]
``insect and disease'' do not appear in the text.
The Miller amendment would strip out the bug and insect provisions in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act that have given the bill such broad backing with Members from every region and every political orientation.
The Miller amendment would transform this nationally focused Healthy Forests Restoration Act into the ``California and Oregon Unhealthy Forests Act.''
Living in the South, where Southern pine beetles and red oak borers have destroyed millions of acres of old-growth forest, or in the Midwest, where the emerald ash borer is raking across America's forests, I am very disappointed by the Miller amendment.
Wildfire is an important part of the healthy forests debate, but not the only part. Are western forests inherently more valuable than those east of the Mississippi? The author of the amendment apparently thinks so.
Mr. Speaker, I urge a vote against the amendment and support the underlying bill.
Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, 7.2 million acres last year. When is enough enough? This is a 20-year-old problem. How did we get there? On the Allegheny National Forest, which I represent, we have foresters, biologists, hydrologists, soil scientists, game biologists, fish biologists, and renowned research labs trying to help to do things right.
One college student with a free lawyer from the university and a judge who knows nothing about forestry suddenly stops the whole process, and that is why we are having a problem in this country.
This bill is trying to open up at least 20 million acres so we have the ability to prevent forest fires; 7.2 million last year.
I flew over with a group in the West a few years ago with the Speaker. We flew for an hour and a half. We never saw a blade of grass, never saw a green leaf, where the fires had been the year before. The streams were full of mud; the hillsides were washing into the valleys. You talk about devastation: no bugs, no insects, no birds, no animals. That is what is left in the path of these forest fires.
You talk about environmental degradation? These forest fires are the worst, and we must stop them.
Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I would just say that I think that this process that we have seen with this bill is indicative. It gives us warning about the Forest Service process. Here we see this bill being rammed through the House of Representatives, no amendments being offered, on a day when we do not have a full schedule; but the intent and the purpose is to ram it through without the full participation and the deliberations of this body.
It is reflective of what is in this bill. It is an effort to ram through these treatment programs, the cutting programs, the logging programs, the fire treatment programs, and limit the public participation to the greatest extent possible. That is what is wrong with this legislation.
The suggestion that somehow we are going to unilaterally turn over the decision on whether or not to protect old forests, or protect old growth, to protect large trees, to mark gray unilaterally without review, is like turning the banking system over to Bonnie and Clyde. It just does not make any sense in terms of the well-being of these forests, in the long-term, multiple use of these forests.
If you are just out there hunting for large trees to cut and you need a rationale to cut them, then this bill will give you the ability to do that, because it throws open the doors to logging of those large trees that matter the most to the communities in the West, matter to the citizens that we represent, matter to the citizens sense in our State; and that is what this bill does.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, when I look at the Democrat substitute to this bill, I am kind of reminded of the old sign show. They used to say it was a show about nothing. Well, the Democrat substitute is the substitute about nothing.
They come to the floor, and they say all the right words. They talk about how concerned they are about protecting our communities, protecting the health of our forests, stopping the catastrophic fires. The truth is that their substitute leaves all of the problems in existence.
To make matters worse, and this is probably the most difficult part of the Miller substitute, is that by limiting most of your effort to that half mile around our communities, you completely ignore the real problem.
What we have tried to do in the underlying bill is to give the local foresters, the local people the chance to look at their forest and determine the areas that really need to be protected, the areas that they really need to go in and treat. Sometimes if you go up a canyon, that is more important, maybe 2 or 3 or 5 miles away from the community, it may be more important to treat that than a half mile radius around that community.
You heard people testify already today about fires this past year that jumped 3 or 4 miles because of the high winds. Your substitute does nothing to deal with that. You give some false sense of protection to our communities that we are going to treat a half mile radius around the community. That does nothing to protect them.
You talk about how you want the local people to be involved with this; but then you cut them out of the process, and you are going to dictate from Washington exactly what they can and cannot do.
Through this entire last couple of years that we have been negotiating this bill, we have sat down and tried to work this out; and the resulting bill, the underlying bill is an effort of that compromise. We came from over here to compromise in the middle, and now you want us to go over here. Bipartisanship is when we meet somewhere in the middle; it is not when we agree with you.
When we work our way through some difficult issues like this, it is a little give and take. I know there were Members on that side that tried to work with us, and they were unable for one reason or another to come to final agreement on that. But the underlying bill is our best shot at protecting our forests from increased risk of catastrophic fire.
Mr. Speaker, I urge Members to oppose the Miller substitute and support the underlying bill.