Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 457, I call up the conference report on the bill (H.R. 1904) to improve the capacity of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to plan and conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on National Forest System lands and Bureau of Land Management lands aimed at protecting communities, watersheds, and certain other at-risk lands from catastrophic wildfire, to enhance efforts to protect watersheds and [Page:
address threats to forest and rangeland health, including catastrophic wildfire, across the landscape, and for other purposes.
The Clerk read the title of the bill.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), chairman of the Committee on Resources, be recognized for 10 minutes for the purposes of controlling debate.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Today, we are finally able to bring the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, H.R. 1904, for a vote. In spite of a severely flawed process to arrive at this point, we have driven a hard bargain, and we have got a bill that the President will sign. I believe it will make a difference on the ground, but it is only a first step towards fixing what is wrong with the management of our public lands.
I worked with two other distinguished full committee chairmen, the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo) of the Committee on Resources and the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) of the Committee on the Judiciary, to craft a bipartisan bill that passed earlier this year by an overwhelming, and bipartisan, majority. I also want to note the outstanding efforts of my counterpart in the other Chamber, Agriculture Committee Chairman Cochran, and our distinguished
ranking member, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), for their efforts.
This bill seeks to address the issues that have tied the hands of our forest managers: National Environmental Policy Act analysis that drags on for months, administrative appeals that spring up at the last minute, and court actions that stall projects for so long that areas proposed for treatment frequently are destroyed by fires long before the judicial process concludes. The conference process has produced a bill that does not do as much as I would like to address on these issues. I understand
there are many in both Chambers who would like to have seen a stronger product. But this bill creates the first real relief from bureaucratic gridlock after over 8 years of legislative effort. It sends a clear signal that the Congress favors results over process and that protecting our communities, our watersheds, and our people is more important than producing mountains of paperwork.
There are over 190 million acres of forests and rangelands which remain at risk of catastrophic wildfires, insect and disease, a landmass larger than New England. Our bill takes the modest step of addressing the hazardous conditions on only 20 million acres of this total. This bill also takes an innovative approach to forest health on private lands, creating new nonregulatory, incentive-based approaches to promote conservation on private lands. In short, it takes a national approach to a national
H.R. 1904 has enjoyed broad support from groups such as the Society of American Foresters, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and others. Professional wildlife managers, sportsmen, and serious conservation groups all support this bill.
We as a Congress have more work to do to perfect our forest management laws. Forest fires are a symptom of a land management system that suffers from procedural, managerial, and practical gridlock. Our forest management laws, environmental laws, and procedural laws do not work well together. They create a process that only highly trained legal minds can comprehend; and while claiming to encourage citizen participation, they often achieve just the opposite. So we need to do more, but we should
be proud of what we are doing today. We are taking a bipartisan step toward better management of our forests. We are saying that protecting our communities, our watersheds, and our people comes before protecting the dilatory tactics of those who oppose any type of sensible land management.
I applaud President Bush for helping to bring this about. We would not be on the verge of passing this bill without his leadership. I hope he continues to exert leadership in this field to ensure that the Federal land managers act aggressively to implement this program as quickly as possible. I will do my utmost to ensure that bureaucratic inaction does not delay implementation. I urge my colleagues to support this conference report.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act conference report, and I am pleased to be here on the verge of completing legislation that will give us a chance to return America's cherished forests back to a healthy landscape. For the last century, public land managers have suppressed all forms of wildfire, including natural small-scale fires that restore forest ecosystems.
The unintended result of this policy is a decades-long buildup of forest fuel, woody biomass, and dense underbrush that is as close as the next lightning strike or escaped campfire from exploding into a massive fire. In some areas, tree density has increased from 50 trees per acre to as many as 500 trees per acre, according to the Forest Service and fire ecologists. These unnaturally dense forests are a small-scale ignition away from a large-scale wildfire. These natural small-scale fires burn
at the ground level and at relatively low temperatures, allowing some trees to survive and, in the process, renewing the forest.
The suppression of these natural small-scale fires, however, has resulted in an accumulation of fuel that supports catastrophic wildfires of unnatural intensity that burn hotter, spread faster and cause long-term severe environmental damage, sometimes even sterilizing the soil. America's forest ecosystems are being decimated at an alarming rate by large-scale catastrophic wildfire and massive outbreaks of disease, insect infestation, and invasive species. Federal foresters estimate that an astounding
190 million acres of land managed by the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior are at unnatural risk to catastrophic wildfire. Of that, over 70 million acres are at extreme risk to catastrophic wildfire in the immediate future.
During the second year of the National Fire Plan implementation, we witnessed the second largest fire season this Nation has seen in half a century. An early widespread drought, unparalleled since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, affected 45 percent of the country. On June 21, 2002, the national level of readiness rose to the highest level possible, 5 weeks earlier than ever before, and remained at that level for a record-setting 62 days. In fact, wildland fires burned 7.2 million acres, or nearly
double the 10-year average. Colorado, Arizona and Oregon recently recorded their largest timber fires of the century. And then we saw the devastation in Southern California.
Forest ecologists, professional land managers, and many environmental groups agree, the exploding incidence of catastrophic wildfire and disease and insect infestation pose a massive threat to the health, diversity, and sustainability of America's national forests. The Nature Conservancy, one of [Page: H12161]
the world's largest and most acclaimed environmental groups, has been a leader in the environmental community in building public awareness about the environmental
calamities that catastrophic wildfires cause.
Of the three factors that most influence wildland fire behavior, weather, topography and fuel, land managers can effectively affect only fuel. Unless we take a proactive approach to fuel reduction, the remaining components of the National Fire Plan, which include firefighting, rehabilitation, community assistance and research, will only continue to increase in cost. Local governments, volunteer firefighters, professional foresters, conservationists, and labor organizations agree, it is time to
act to protect our forests.
Fortunately, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act addresses these concerns by giving Federal land managers the opportunity to restore our forests to a more natural balance while maintaining important environmental requirements. The conference report before us allows for authorized hazardous fuel reduction projects on Federal lands, helps communities in the wildland-urban interface prepare for wildfires, improves the NEPA analysis process, and augments public involvement and review. Additionally,
the report includes titles allowing grants to use biomass, providing watershed forestry assistance, addressing insect infestation research, and establishing private forest reserves.
In closing, let me remind Members that this is not a new issue to come before the United States Congress. We have been talking about this issue for years. I remember the tremendous work done by former House Agriculture Committee chairman Bob Smith and his efforts to reach out and find a compromise, only to go down in flames because of the inability of extreme sides of this question to come together.
I am disappointed that certain Members of the House were excluded from the process that got us here today. That certainly has not been the case with the House Committee on Agriculture. I commend Chairman Goodlatte for his bipartisanship and leadership on this important issue. We all have differing opinions about the various components of the legislation before us; but in passing this legislation, we will restore America's treasured landscapes by reducing the risks of catastrophic wildfires
and insect and disease infestations.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Speaker, it is abundantly clear to all of us of all political persuasions and parts of the country that we need a vigorous, well-funded, well-prioritized hazardous fuels reduction program in our national forests.
The Nation needs that because of a ``perfect storm,'' if I may use that term, of enormous changes in our climate which have led to drought, particularly in the western United States, leaving the most explosive conditions due to the lack of moisture in over 100 years and because of our misguided and mutually ignorant policy over the last several decades, if not century, of suppressing all fire, thereby allowing certain additional density to increase. All of us know we need a well-prioritized,
well-funded, well-defined hazardous fuels reduction program.
But I, regretfully, cannot support this bill because it fails in several fundamental ways. It fails to prioritize the taxpayers' dollars where they ought to be prioritized which is the protect of human health and property first. It fails to protect our most treasured crown jewels in our Forest Service of our roadless areas, which I have to tell the Members in the part of the world where I come from, we treasure the roadless areas on our weekends and afternoons. It is part of our culture and our
families, and they are unprotected in this bill. Third, it fails to adequately solve the problem as to why we cannot get these programs completed, which is money, and I will come back to that. We today change the law, but not the appropriations that we need to get this job done.
Let me start with a failure to prioritize in this bill. If I may, this ought to be job one for the U.S. Congress when it comes to hazardous fuels reduction. Job one for the U.S. Congress ought to be protecting, with a protective buffer, the homes and towns and cabins and barns in our thousands of acres from voracious forest fire, and this bill does not follow a fundamental precept that when we have got job one and when we have got limited dollars, we prioritize. To govern is to choose, and this
bill consciously chose not to give the majority of funds in this program to protect these areas with moats, if I may, to protect them from this horrendous fire. And we have seen what happens in California when that occurs. And it ought to be a totally unanimous agreement here that the majority of our funds in our program ought to be directed to the areas around our towns and cities rather than spent up in Timbuktu harvesting commercial lumber.
We have seen that they split the baby 50/50, but spliting the baby 50/50 is not always right nor is it fair, and I will tell my colleagues why. This conference report says 50 percent of this money will go to the Wildland-Urban Interface. It will not do to tell people in this community that we have saved half their houses, and we have sacrificed the other half to the demands of those who want to continue commercial logging in our roadless areas. We failed in our duty to prioritize our precious
dollars where they belong, and we have offered a modest amendment to improve that in the conference committee which were rejected out of hand.
And let me tell the Members why this prioritization is so important. Of the dollars we have spent next year, if we double the amount that has been appropriated by the majority party, whom I respect, and I respect their positions on this bill, but if we even double the amount that was spent in the last 3 years, we will still only do 2 to 3, maybe 4 percent of the acreage of the millions of acres that need to be treated. We have to prioritize. This bill did not do it.
The second thing this bill did not do, it did not protect our roadless areas. We have 58 million acres of roadless areas which are the crown jewels of our national forest, which are pristine, and everyone loves the trees in our roadless areas. The problem is some of them love them vertically and some of them like them horizontally.
This bill does not protect our roadless areas from the ones who want to do commercial logging so that they will be horizontal. It does not protect them one wit in those roadless areas, and that is most discomforting, and I will tell the Members why. We should have been able to fashion a unanimous way to protect those roadless areas. Let me just suggest one way to do it. I offered an amendment in the conference committee that would simply say that if we have to, if there is some terrible disease-ridden
patch in the roadless area that we have to build a road to get to it, to do an emergency program that would be allowed under this bill, okay; but let us at least restore the road after the project is completed to its original topography. How can anyone object to that? How could anyone object to that precept? If we are building a road in a roadless area to do a hazardous fuels reduction program, when we are done
with the program, why not put the road back in its natural topography. Who could object to it? I will tell the Members who does object to it. The timber industry who wants to use these roads to punch them into the heart of our most virginal forests and then make them available for commercial harvest, and we do not need to do that to accomplish our ends here, and it is regrettable we did not solve that problem.
The third thing that this bill does not do, it does not cut to the heart of the problem. This bill, its whole fundamental idea is if we just cut off those pesky environmentalists, by gum there will not be any more forest fires. I will give the Members bad news. We can outlaw environmentalists if we want to, and I see some nods. My friend over on this side of the aisle would like to do that. I take a different view. They are my constituents. They are people who like to go up and have clean water
out of the roadless areas. They are people who like to go on a picnic in the roadless areas, and they know, as I do, that if all we try to do to fix this program is to cut off citizen participation, [Page: H12162]
we will not solve the problem of getting these fuels reduction programs in line, and I will tell the Members why we will not. The reason we have we are not getting the job done and giving therapy to our forests is that we have not appropriated one tenth of the money that is necessary to get this job done. It is not appeals. Come on. The GAO, in their last study, after four rounds to make sure they got it right, said that 92 percent of all of these fuels reduction projects go lickity-split
right through the process without any problems and only 3 percent of them were litigated. Ninety-seven percent of these projects go through without litigation. So why have we not cut the mustard? Why have we not done enough therapy on these forests? It is because we have not invested the money to do it. We have only invested enough money to do 2 to 3 percent, and
that is not going to significantly improve in this bill. Doubling does not even cut it, even if we got the appropriation. So we are united, I think, unanimously on this floor in the belief that we need to have a strong fuels reduction program, but we cannot say that this bill will provide what the American people need to get this job done in a reasonable fashion.
The fourth, if I can, problem with this bill: It is clear that we have got to cut down a whole bunch of trees to solve this problem because they are dense, they have grown up because of our misguided fuels suppression program, and now we have got this cataclysmic fire situation. But the question is what do we cut and where? That is really the issue we need to resolve on the floor of this House. And here is a tree, a mature tree. I wish I could tell the age, marked for cutting in the fuels reduction
program. There is no reason to cut that tree except for commercial purposes. We needed to develop a firm definition, so that the Forest Service can use it to determine what trees to cut, and it would have been easier if we provided them adequate money to do it,
so they do not have an incentive to log bigger trees to generate money for this program. But we did not do it, because the appropriations process did not cut the mustard. So we have a problem that we have not given adequate definition of what to cut and where.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. POMBO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 2 minutes.
I am glad that the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) claimed the time in opposition to this because I think it is important for everyone to see just how difficult this bill has been to finally arrive at this point of developing a bill and a conference report that is so widely supported in both this Chamber and the Chamber across the Capitol, that we have brought together such divergent interests, so many people who may have initially opposed this bill that are now on board because
of the great compromise that was reached to bring this bill to the floor.
The history behind the Healthy Forests initiative, it has been, I think, 8 years now since the very first bill was introduced and the work began to finally get to this point, and we have gone through, I believe, close to 75 hearings in Committee on Resources alone on this legislation. There has been a countless number of people that have testified, and we have gone back and forth. And these past 3 years, we actually have to give a lot of credit to two of my colleagues in the House, the gentleman
from Colorado (Mr. McInnis), subcommittee chairman, and the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden) for the work that they did in pulling together with all of the different interests to bring something together, the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), former ranking member on the committee, and the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) and others to put together a bill that was really a great balance between so many different interests. And I found with interest the gentleman from Washington's (Mr. Inslee)
talk about a particular tree and saying that we need to resolve on the floor of the House whether or not that should be cut down. I have got to tell him, we do not know. That is the job of the professional foresters. The focus of this bill is to go out into the forests and let
the professionals, the scientists, the people who really do understand what is going on out there, have them decide where the best place to do thinning projects is, not on the floor of the House. That is ridiculous to think that we on the floor of the House should be doing that.
But this is a grand compromise. It is a great bill, and I urge my colleague to support it.
Mr. GUTKNECHT. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for yielding me this time.
And I want to especially thank all those who have been involved, the gentleman from Virginia (Chairman Goodlatte), the gentleman from California (Chairman Pombo), and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), ranking member, for all of their work on this legislation. And in addition, I think we should thank President Bush because of his leadership on this issue.
Nearly half of the 190 million acres managed by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior are at extreme risk to wildfire. Millions of acres across the South, the East, and in my home State of Minnesota are facing disease and insect epidemics. And yet Federal land managers will treat only about 2.5 million of those acres each year because of the extraordinarily lengthy procedural and documentation requirements.
Time and again, we have seen the destruction that forest mismanagement and drought can cause to our landscape and to our families. This year alone 4.3 million acre of our Nation's forests have burned and 29 firefighters have lost their lives. Recently, more than 750,000 acres have been burned in southern California, and 22 Californians died trying to escape those fires.
Many see the fires on TV and think this is only an issue for ``out West.'' Unfortunately, poor forest health is a national problem. The lack of forest management of our national forests in States across our country, including my home State of Minnesota, has placed private forests and communities at risk of fires, insects, and disease. Almost 3 million acres of the National Forest System lands in Minnesota are at high risk. Standing by and doing nothing to protect this precious resource is tantamount
to criminal neglect. Congress has an obligation to ensure that we do not neglect our national forest lands and ensure that they are available for generations to come. Too often, excessive regulation and what I call ``paralysis by analysis'' has made even the simplest management project an ordeal of years instead of weeks. H.R. 1904 is critical to begin to solve the problems of proper management of our forests.
I urge all Members to support this important legislation.
Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding me this time, and I thank all of the members of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Resources who have put so much time and effort into this. Yes, it was a long process, but I believe that a good result is worth the work. I wish we had got it done a year ago; but, hey, we are now finally going to get something in place long ahead of next year's fire season.
This bill, if properly implemented, will begin to carefully undo 100 years of mismanagement of our national forests. It recognizes that this is going to be a long and expensive process. It recognizes that it cannot be done for nothing. This bill includes a $760 million-a-year authorization. I think we could even go higher. Mr. Speaker, $1 billion a year could be productively spent in the West, given the magnitude of the problem; but it is a significant increase over the commitments we are currently
It will bring jobs to hard-hit rural areas in the forests. It sets a priority that half the funds should be spent in proximity to high-risk communities in the West, and it also sets priorities for protection of other high-value resources in high-risk areas.
If properly implemented and fully funded, I believe that we can begin to step incrementally away from the catastrophic, or potentially catastrophic, [Page: H12163]
conditions that exist throughout the West today.
It contains old-growth language that clearly reflects the intent of Congress that the objective is to return the forests to presettlement conditions, which means there will be large, fire-resistant trees more widely spaced, particularly in the inter-mountain areas; that we would leave native stands intact, but we would aggressively thin from below. We would remove ladder fuels, we would remove trees that are growing into the crowns of the larger trees.
I mentioned earlier the Davis fire in Oregon and the lodgepole that carried the fire into the crowns of the Ponderosa, that would have survived the fire otherwise, had we gotten in there and removed those lodgepoles, which have little commercial value. That is why this program will be expensive. In many areas, what needs to be removed has little or no commercial value. Where it has commercial value, we will use that to offset the costs and to amplify the program.
It does not unduly restrict the right of appeal. It does require that people participate meaningfully in the process if they are going to appeal, and that is the way it should be. I want people to be involved from the beginning in communities, meaningfully commenting on the plans and proposals of the Forest Service. It allows judicial review if the bill is misapplied by this or any future administration.
But it will move the process along, and we will begin to chip away at the backlog. But make no mistake, even if we get the $760 million a year, this is going to take a long time to return our forests to their natural state.
Mr. HINCHEY. Mr. Speaker, this is an example of not just an act that will destroy good policy, but it also destroys the language; and it is consistent with the kind of thing that has been happening here recently, particularly with regard to environmental policy.
What is the name of this bill? The Healthy Forest Restoration Act. It reminds me very much of the Clear Skies Initiative that the President was pushing and the majority in this House was solidly behind. What did we get from the Clear Skies Initiative? Increased greenhouse gases, increased acid rain, a big gift to the polluters so that they do not have to upgrade their equipment. The same kind of thing occurs here.
The rationale behind this legislation as it is stated is that we need this act in order to carry out thinning processes in places where fires are likely to occur. Now, one would have the idea, based upon that, that these thinning processes are being held up. That is what they want us to believe, these thinning processes are being held up by litigation and things of that nature.
Well, what does the General Accounting Office say? The General Accounting Office has a lot of credibility around here. The General Accounting Office tells us that the appeals and litigation are not slowing thinning projects at all. In fact, 92 percent of the thinning projects are being completed without delay.
Now, why, then, are we engaged in this?
Well, the real reason is, just like under the Clear Skies Initiative, we were not interested in cleaning up the skies, and here we are not interested in healthy forests. What we are interested in is a big giveaway to the people who want to go out and cut down the trees that are on public land. That is what this is all about.
Now, another interesting aspect of it to me is a lot of people in this House who are dead set against any activity by the Federal Government, they want the Federal Government out of everything. Now, however, under this piece of legislation it is, no problem, just give them this authority, trust the administration, trust the Federal Government. They will do everything right. Totally inconsistent, obviously.
So what else does this bad bill do? It fails to focus on projects in communities that are actually in need of protection. It undercuts NEPA by eliminating the requirement to consider a full range of reasonable alternatives. It fails to treat or provide assistance to State, tribal, and private lands. It throws up unprecedented roadblocks to citizens across the country and their access to the courts, and it is a direct threat to the independence of the judiciary in this country on this specific
issue. It curtails the rights to appeal bad projects and authorizes a new appeals process with no sideboards to be created by the Secretary.
This is an example of a bad bill and specious arguments driving bad policy.
Mr. LEWIS of California. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time. While I am doing so, I want to express my deep appreciation to the leadership on both sides of the aisle who have gone about the compromises necessary to bring this bill to the floor in the first place.
It is important to know that we have been mismanaging our forests for all too long now; and if there is a need for a demonstration project relative to that, all one has to do is look at the recent devastating fires in Southern California.
My territory is directly impacted. We have lost thousands and thousands of homes. We have lost dozens of lives as a direct result of mismanagement of our forests. And as of this moment, the most pristine areas of Southern California are in jeopardy of total loss because of mismanagement by this body and by the Federal Government of their forestlands.
This bill is a good step in the right direction. It is going to cost some money, but not nearly the billions and billions of losses that we have already suffered in Southern California.
Mr. REHBERG. Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to the chorus of accolades thanking the various chairmen and subcommittee chairmen and Members who have worked so hard on this piece of legislation.
It is ironic in this country when something like September 11 occurs, or a tornado or a flood that creates massive destruction quickly, we roll up our sleeves and we get to work rebuilding. Yet the cancer that is caused by drought and insect infestation, disease and such that is occurring within our forests somehow is treated differently.
What have we seen over the years? In 1988 we burned a large area of Montana, the Yellowstone ecosystem. We assumed that something would be done, but it was not. It got stuck back in Washington, D.C., and what did they do? They talked and talked and talked. And over the years, while we talked about solutions, what have we done? We have talked our forests to death. And eventually we go to the corners, and then we sue our ways back out. It is stupid. It is ridiculous. That is not the way to present
a better forest. This piece of legislation in fact will now manage the lawsuits.
Please support this compromise. It is a good one.
Mr. STUPAK. Mr. Speaker, as cosponsor of H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003, I rise in support of this legislation because of the relief it provides to combat the challenges facing our forest system today. From hazardous fuel reduction to insect and disease infestation research, this bill gives our forest managers and our private citizens the money and the technical assistance they need to help bring our forests back to health.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1904 will work to alleviate the fire hazards that currently plague our forests. As evident by the rampant spread of the wildfires that recently ravaged Southern California, our Nation's forest system is overwhelmed with excess brush and foliage which could fuel catastrophic wildfires.
This bill provides thinning programs for up to 20 million acres of at-risk lands near communities and their water supplies, at-risk lands that serve as habitat for threatened and endangered species, and at-risk land that is particularly susceptible to disease or insect infestation.
Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1904 also provides money and technical assistance to stop the growing problem of insect and disease infestation. In southeastern Michigan, for example, Forest Service managers are battling the emerald ash [Page: H12164]
borer. This insect has decimated the population of ash trees located in a 6-county area. Luckily, officials have responded quickly, and we are in the process of containing this threat. H.R. 1904 will assist in our fight against invasive
species like the emerald ash borer and others around our country by promoting new research and quick action to reduce the impacts on these forest pests.
I strongly urge my colleagues to pass this conference agreement on H.R. 1904. I want to thank the ranking member, the chair, and all of the staff for their hard work on this. It is time we reduce the threat of wildfires to our communities and our environment. Support H.R. 1904.
Mr. HAYWORTH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of the committee, my friend from California, and I thank him for yielding me this time. I rise in strong support of this conference report, which at once is an important first step and, at the same time, is long overdue.
It has been interesting to listen to the conflicting philosophies on the floor. There is one point of view represented that true environmentalism means therapy for the forests.
Mr. Speaker, I think the questions are accurate to be asked. Is it therapeutic to have such destruction in the forests that the number of particulates in the air eclipses rush hour in many of our major metropolitan areas? Is it therapeutic in the forests to see watersheds destroyed? Is it therapeutic in the forests to see land burned so badly that, as the gentleman from Texas pointed out, the land is sterilized?
No, the sound environmental position is to have sound scientific principles embracing healthy forest management. And to the effort of protecting homes and property and people like the 20-plus who perished in California, this job is long overdue. We must pass this bill; and, quite frankly, we should do more, not only for rural America, but for suburbanites who perished in the recent fires in California.
Ms. HOOLEY of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time and for all the hard work he has put in on this particular piece of legislation. I also want to especially thank my two colleagues, the gentlemen from Oregon (Mr. Walden) and (Mr. DeFazio), for their enormous work on this piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that is very important to my home State and to my congressional district. Reduction of hazardous fuels. Oregon has been hit hard by wildfires in recent years, and I am very happy that we are finally taking steps in this House to make up for years of neglect of our Federal forests. Forests and timber are vitally important to the citizens of Oregon. The economic costs of forest fires in Oregon have been astronomical and the human costs have been even higher. It is
essential we do something about it, and something sooner rather than later.
Prior to coming to Congress, I served as a county commissioner in Clackamas County, which owned thousands of acres of forest land. I was responsible for management of those forests. I know from experience that it is possible to manage and protect a forest and that in many cases, it is necessary to manage a forest in order to protect it.
This legislation before us will have a positive impact. Not only will it help save people's homes and people's lives, it will focus money on lands that need it most and provide environmental protections.
At the same time it allows local communities and citizens to remain involved in the process. What I am most pleased about, however, is that this legislation provides funding for fuel reduction. The $760 million authorized in this bill is a great start and will help protect our forest and our communities.
The House and the Senate have reached an important compromise that is balanced, and provides money to get the job done. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join with me in supporting this legislation that fosters a healthy management and protection of our national forests.
Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Speaker, I compliment the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) for his management of this bill. Let me just talk a little bit about the judicial review test here, because I think that we are embarking on new ground. When we put in a test that talks about short-term and long-term, really what we are ending up doing is saying that if you cut down the whole forest and it is okay in 100 years, then that is all right. I mean, that is the kind of test that we
are putting into this piece of legislation. We do not know what that means. And so we are encroaching into the judicial arena, trying to tell the courts what to do. This is a new test. It is a new standard. It has never been used before.
And what is going to happen? We hear all the talk about lawsuits and litigation from this side of the aisle. Guess what, folks? This is going to be a lawyers employment bill. If there is anything that is going to come out of this, it is going to be more litigation, it is going to be more billable time, it is going to be more lawyers involved in this process. And I think what is going to happen further, if we allow this to happen, if we allow this to happen, we are going to see this appear across
the board in other areas, workers' rights, OSHA, any place where Federal agency decision-making is going on, this is going to be imposed on the Federal courts. And I think that is why the committees that supervise in the Congress judicial review have such a hard time with this provision.
With that, I would just urge my colleagues to vote against this bill.
Mr. PETERSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I rise to urge everyone if you want forests to be healthy and be managed, to support this bill. I have heard stated here that we have mismanaged, that the Forest Service and other agencies cannot manage forests under the current law. It is impossible to manage.
In the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, the finest hardwood forest in America, we just had 10,000 to 20,000 acres of blow-down in July. It has been assessed at somewhere between $50 to $100 million in value lying on the ground. The Forest Service chief there just determined that it would be at least 3 years before he could have people there harvesting trees on the ground. Tell me that the system season broke, that it makes sense to have $100 million worth of American assets to lie there
and rot because in 3 years they are of little value at all.
Folks, this system is broken. We do not want judges managing our forests. We want soil scientists, fish and wildlife biologists, and all the people that our Forest Service hires. They have every kind of scientist there is managing our forests. They should make those decisions.
Mr. RENZI. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the chairman for his leadership, and I especially want to thank the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. McInnis) for his fighting spirit and 3 years of perseverance that it took us to finally get to this point.
I also maybe want to offer a little bit of a different view for those limousine environmentalists from the inner city, who do not necessarily live in the forests as we do. Coming from Flagstaff, Arizona, the largest Ponderosa pine forest in the world, where we suffered the likes of the Rodeo-Chedeski fire, a fire of 500 thousand acres.
I want my colleagues to know there is a science that is being ignored here. We are taking half the money and putting it into wildland urban interface right on the boundaries of our communities. Yet the forest managers want to be able to attack fire in the outlands. What they understand is in the West we have canyons. While they may have concrete canyons in New York City, we have real canyons in Arizona. In those canyons, we have up-slope terrain. When up-slope terrain combines with wind and temperature,
that fire burns so hot and so fast that wildland urban interface and limiting the money will not be able to give us fallback positions for our firemen. It is a compromise that we have proposed here. Vote in favor of the bill.
Mr. BURNS. Mr. Speaker, I want to join my colleagues in support of H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forest Initiatives. I want to thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), my distinguished colleague from Texas (Mr. Stenholm). We think about the healthy forests, we think about our homes, the wildlife, the lives of the men and women who live near and certainly the forest, and we want to protect those.
In California, we saw the devastating fires of this year. I can think of no better way to ease the minds of those in the West than to pass the Healthy Forest Initiative.
In Georgia, we do not have the wildfires and the large forest fires that we see in the West, but we have pests, and we have disease. We have millions of acres that are at risk in Georgia due to the southern pine beetle and other insects. We have seen a 278 percent in increase in pine beetle infestation last year alone. This Healthy Forest Restoration Act provides the Federal land managers with great flexibility to deal with the fire dangers in the West, but it also provides them with the authority
to do innovative things in detection [Page: H12166]
and suppression of pests that really threaten eastern forests.
Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act is a national solution to a national problem. I urge Congress to vote yes.
Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Speaker, this legislation provides for major improvements in how we will manage our forests. First of all, it reduces unneeded government analysis. Second, it provides for actually more public involvement, especially in the beginning, through better notice and better participation requirements. It requires and reforms the appeals process so we can end the costly delays that do keep our professional foresters from doing the work they need to do to make our forests more
Finally, it does require the courts to more quickly move on appeals and, more importantly, consider the catastrophic affect on forest health of preventing these projects from going forward.
Now, we have heard today about the problem with the General Accounting Office, but let us talk about what the General Accounting Office actually found. This is what the GAO report found: 58 percent of eligible thinning projects in the United States were appealed in fiscal year 2001 and fiscal year 2002. Fifty-two percent of the eligible forest thinning projects proposed near communities in the wildland urban interface were appealed. Half the projects, half the projects right around communities
were appealed. The GAO found an overwhelming number of Forest Service appeals were found to be without merit. Seventy-three percent of the appeals were rejected.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have to change the process. That is what we are doing today. We are going to fund the work that needs to be done. This year alone we are going to spend $420 million to go in and thin out our forests so we will not have catastrophic fires in the future. I would like to see this bill expanded beyond 11 percent of the forests that need this kind of treatment, but that is as far as we could get under this act. I want to see our communities protected.
This legislation relies on the underlying National Forest management plans to protect old growth forests. My colleague, the gentleman from Washington (Mr. Inslee) talks about protecting old growth. We do that in this bill because the underlying plans protect the old growth. And the alternative of defeating this bill is to have old growth forests that are blackened, burned and destroyed, and I will not stand for that. Vote for the bill.
Mrs. MUSGRAVE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer my gratitude to the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the ranking member, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), and especially to my colleague, the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. McInnis).
In the West we care very deeply about this legislation, particularly in Colorado. We have had the Buffalo Creek Fire, we have had the Hayman Fire in Colorado, we have had massive loss in acres of our beautiful forest land. We have had immeasurable damage to the environment, to our water quality.
The Denver Water Board spent over $20 million cleaning up after the last fire. Habitat has been destroyed. Our tourism industry has been harmed greatly. And, more importantly, we have lost the lives of our brave firefighters in Colorado.
We are in strong support, those of us that care about our national forests and our private forests, are in strong support of this conference committee report. And I commend all those who have worked so hard on this conference committee and this legislation.
Mr. DREIER. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of this conference report. And I was told that I had to spend my entire 2 minutes praising the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), but I am going to instead talk about the benefits of this bill. And I want to compliment my colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Pombo), and the chairman of the conference, our good friend, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte), the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture,
the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden), and others who have been so involved in this measure.
I happen to represent the Los Angeles area in southern California. And the world knows that we have just suffered devastating fires in the southern California area. It impacted the districts of my colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Lewis) who represents the area in the Inland Empire to the east of Los Angeles, further east of the area I represent, and several others of our colleagues in San Diego. I know that my colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Hunter),
as we all know, lost his home. And this impacted the district of the gentleman from California (Mr. Cunningham). And I can go through the litany of our colleagues. Many members of the California delegation had their districts impacted by this. We lost lives, we lost a tremendous, tremendous amount of property. I lost in excess of 50 homes in the area that I represent.
And I was very pleased when the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) was before the Committee on Rules yesterday and talked about the fact that within this measure we will be able to have resources to deal with things like the bark beetle which has played a role in creating a problem in southern California when these trees were not cleared. And that played a role in starting these fires.
We know that some resources were provided through the Department of Agriculture to deal with this, but it was not handled appropriately from the reports that we had from the head of the Office of Emergency Services there. It is important for us to do everything that we can to ensure that the loss of life and property is diminished. I am convinced that passage of this conference report will go a long way towards doing just that. And I thank all my friends who played such an important role in making
Mr. SMITH of Michigan. Mr. Speaker, our Committee on Agriculture is a great committee in terms of Republicans and Democrats working together.
Our forests in this country are one of our strong resources that not only help us economically but also help the environment, and conserving the environment is important. Our forests certainly are an important part of Michigan, but they are also a very important part of our economic strength in the United States.
In the West, catastrophic wildfires recently have decimated those forests over the last several years. We have made a mistake over how we want to control forests. And sometimes in our overzealousness to protect from fires, we have increased the potential of additional damage. Two days ago, we [Page: H12167]
passed an energy bill. In this bill there is also language to utilize the natural renewable resources of our woodlands of America to also contribute to energy.
Mr. McINNIS. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the yeoman's work of the chairman and the guidance of making sure that we could get this bill through. I also wish to acknowledge deeply the gentleman from Virginia's (Mr. Goodlatte) service and especially the service of the staff who have worked so hard in making sure that we could come together on this side of the aisle so that when we approached this side of the aisle we had a package that had common sense. We had a package that people
like the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm), the gentleman from California (Mr. George Miller), and the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) could come to the table and work with us on. And a lot of that was guided, a lot of the going back and forth was guided by someone who I consider an artist and that is the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. Walden), somebody who can negotiate between both the Republicans and the Democrats.
It was about 99 years ago when Teddy Roosevelt used his State of the Union address to urge Congress to create a national forest system to ensure proper stewardship of these tremendous assets that we have in our huge public lands. And by the way, I live in a district that has 23 million acres of public lands. It is fitting now that 99 years later, 99 years later we have one of the most significant pieces of forest legislation that has come in since.
What this piece of legislation does is over the 99 years we have seen the leadership, the guidance, the expertise and the science taken away from the Green Hats, who I complimentarily refer to as our Forest Service people, the people who understand the forests, the people who dream of running the forest, the people who have been educated in the forests. We have seen through some very tactical maneuvers their power and their authority taken by the Sierra Club-types and moved to the courts and
moved to the Congress.
What this bill does is this bill allows this authority to go back to those people on a commonsense approach, on a balanced approach which is demonstrated by the fact that this will pass with bipartisan support, to let it go back to the Green Hats, to let the Forest Service manage those forests.
The passage of this legislation today means that the Congress, all of us are responding to the America forests health crisis, the crisis that was demonstrated recently in the State of California, the crisis which we have seen in the State of Oregon, the crisis through bug infestation, not just fires, but bug infestation down in the South. Storm King Mountain, the mountain that I grew up on, the mountain that I took bodies off of, we finally are responding and we are coming back. I am pleased
that we are coming back and giving that authority where Theodore Roosevelt thought that authority ought to exist, and that is with the United States Forest Service.
Once again I want to compliment my colleagues on the Democratic side that have worked with us. And I want to point out those who have not. It amazes me that one like the gentleman from New York City (Mr. Hinchey) would stand up and make the kind of statements that he made and speak from a wooden podium. A little ironic.
This is a good bill. It is bipartisan, and it is going to make a big, big difference.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
I will yield to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Goodlatte) if he would like to engage in a colloquy on monitoring.
Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I will clarify a point that the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Stenholm) is interested in. Let me state that the projects authorized by title IV are primarily scientific efforts, and scientific methods should be the primary means of assessing them. While we encourage multiparty monitoring, it is not our intent to require it, particularly for projects conducted under title IV.
Mr. STENHOLM. Mr. Speaker, I will state I certainly agree with the chairman. I understand the benefit of multiparty monitoring. However, the chairman is correct in expressing that our intent with respect to projects conducted under title IV are to be scientifically conducted and multiparty monitoring is not a requirement of these projects.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by thanking all who have worked so diligently for so long to bring us to this point to where we truly have a compromise that will move our forest policy in a desirable direction.
I thank the staff, all who have worked on both sides on the aisle so diligently under somewhat trying conditions from time to time as we have had some of the internal strife that unfortunately finds its way into this House of Representatives. But that certainly has not been the case regarding [Page: H12168]
the House Committee on Agriculture, and the bipartisan support there is something that I have enjoyed and working with the chairman and the gentleman from California
(Mr. Pombo) and others as we have strived to put together what is basically a good bill.
When you read the bill, much of the complaints about what we have heard today are not in the bill. If you are going to have sound forests, if you are going to have a sound forest policy, sound science, common sense has got to replace the opinions of many who have a difference of opinion regarding what is good conservation, what is good management, and how we do, in fact, manage our forests so that we do have lumber for housing and other projects.
So all in all, this is a good sound compromise worthy of overwhelming support of this body. I thank all of those who have worked on it. It certainly has been something that I personally have worked on for many, many years. I am glad to see it is getting to this point. I urge a very strong vote in favor of the project.
Mr. INSLEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I commend all of the people who have worked on this bill. There are a lot of technical and difficult issues trying to fashion a hazardous fuels reduction program. And I am unable to support this and I hope my colleagues will join me and the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters and other main-line commonsense groups who have committed their lives to protecting our national forests in defeating this bill and moving on to a better one, and I hope that my colleagues will
Underlying that position is the basic belief that the medicine that we are providing here is both inadequate and misguided. It is misguided because it is based on a myth; and that myth rising to an urban legend is that these fires have consumed thousands of acres because people have questioned what some government officials have done, and that is an abject falsehood.
The GAO report shows that 92 percent of these projects go ahead unimpeded. In California, you know why the California projects did not get done? It was not environmental project appeals. In the last 3 years, there has not been one hazardous fuel reduction program that held up national forests in Southern California the last 3 years. The reason some of this work did not get done is Uncle Sam, us, did not appropriate enough money for California to do the job. The State of California asked for $430
million last April to solve this problem. And what did Uncle Sam do in the Bush administration? They did not give it to them. And the fires occurred.
This is a failure of appropriations, not a failure because certain citizens once in a blue moon have the temerity to stand up on their back legs and question decisions by the Forest Service to do disguised commercial logging which has on occasion happened, thankfully not very often. Maybe 2 percent of the time. We are not doing enough to really solve this problem.
What we have done is in one of the most serious reductions of citizens' ability to question their government is reduce the ability to have their oversight of our Federal officials.
Now, it is kind of a conservative position to be rightfully sometimes distrustful of our Federal officials. Now, I have got to say there have been occasions, thankfully few, where these projects have been disguised timber sales. And the reason is because we are not appropriating enough to the Forest Service to do their job. And when that has happened, less than three pearls of the time there has been a brief appeal of that decision, and most frequently these things get worked out. But until we
increase tenfold our appropriations, we are not going to cut the mustard in this program.
Now, let me mention something else, too. We have not talked about what the real debate is about here. The debate is as much about roads as it is about forests, because the real issue here is where we are going to build roads. We have 440,000 miles of Forest Service roads in our forests, 440,000 miles. They are falling apart, and we ought to be putting our money in and fixing those roads before we punch new roads into roadless areas.
Let me put this into real-life perspective. Take a couple in northeast Washington who is not getting adequately protected by this bill. Their house is surrounded by pine trees in the national forest. We have not prioritized those pine forests around their home for treatment like we should have in this bill. We did not do it. Now, when that couple leaves their home to drive over to the Olympic Peninsula to the Jupiter Ridge Roadless Area, if they hike out to a nice little picnic spot, they will
find two trees. They are about maybe 6, 7, 8 feet in diameter, cedars, right next to each other. We call them Jefferson and Washington.
In this bill, neither protects that couple in their home surrounded by the pine forest, nor the two trees they go to visit in the roadless area.
Their home is not protected from fire adequately, and those two trees are not protected from chainsaws adequately in this bill.
It is my hope that this bill will be defeated and we will come back and make some very modest but important improvements on it to solve both of those problems.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.