Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/01/1996 01:40 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HOUSE BILL 212 "An Act relating to the management and sale of state timber and relating to the administration of forest land and classification of state land." REPRESENTATIVE JEANNETTE JAMES spoke in support of HB 212 as currently revised. She noted that the House State Affairs Committee introduced HB 212 at the request of Fairbanks constituents in the timber industry. She indicated that these were people operating small lumber businesses in the local communities. Their livelihoods have been impacted by the complicated procedures they endure in order to secure timber from the State. The complication has resulted from the Department's inability to allow harvesting. The current statutes as required by Title 38 in the five year plan, have made the continuation of an ongoing industry difficult. Representative James advised that well-managed timber harvesting not only helps create and support jobs and a healthy economy, it also creates and supports healthy forests. The Fairbanks community is being prohibited from developing the basic timber industries necessary for maintaining strong forest ecology and a strong economic environment. Representative James pointed out that HB 212 addresses the 2 minimum changes necessary to ensure the survival of the timber industry in Alaska. She stated that Representative Williams had worked intensively on the legislation during the interim to create a more "diluted" bill; one which could be bipartisanly supported. Representative James indicated her support of Representative Navarre's Amendment #1. This amendment would change Section 2 of the bill. [Attachment #1]. Representative James commented that the bill would apply to timber areas throughout the State. In response to Representative Mulder's question, Representative James explained that the focus of the legislation was not to make more timber available, but to make timber available when needed. The market drives the system, and at certain times, people in the industry were not able to react because of the unavailability of timber. The legislation would make small sales of less than 160 acres available without being on the five year schedule. She pointed out that the Division of Forestry has given a commitment to try to put all small sales on the five year plan. The legislation would provide that the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adjust to each situation as it arises. Representative Navarre voiced support of the legislation, which he thought on a smaller scale should be sustainable. Representative Navarre questioned if Representative James had strong inclinations regarding Section #11 - management of the Tanana Valley State Forest. Representative James advised that portion was necessary to provide clarification of information already existing in Title 41. Representative Therriault pointed out that the Department of Fish and Game - Habitat Division fiscal note indicated increased cutting. Representative James replied that there should not be a large impact on that Department, although agreed there would be increased activity. Representative Therriault inquired if the Department of Fish and Game had provided a previous fiscal note which had been reduced to the amount requested at this time. GERON BRUCE, LEGISLATIVE LIAISON, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, stated the fiscal note would address the acceleration and that ability to quickly respond placing timber on the market. The Division of Habitat has suffered large cuts and will need the extra revenue in order to respond in a timely manner. Representative Navarre countered that the fiscal amount requested was too small to provide an adequate job. 3 Representative Navarre MOVED to adopt Amendment #1. There being NO OBJECTION, it was adopted. [Attachment #1]. MARTY RUTHERFORD, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, ANCHORAGE OFFICE, DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, ANCHORAGE, provided Committee members with the Knowles Administration's position on HB 212. She noted that with the inclusion of Amendment #1, the bill was well balanced. Ms. Rutherford advised that there has been a lot of controversy on Section #4 which would allow sales of 160 acres or less excluded from the five year timber sales. The Board of Forestry recommended to the House Resources Committee, that sales of 160 acres or less be included in not less than one of the five year timber sale plans. She pointed out that the Administration relies heavily on the Board of Forestry to provide a form for all the stock holders on forestry issues. Based upon these concerns, the Administration recommends that the Department should require that the Division of Forestry place as many of the 160 acre sales on the one year scheduled timber sale. Ms. Rutherford concluded and praised the assimilation process in passage of HB 212. JACK PHELPS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALASKA FOREST ASSOCIATION (AFA), ANCHORAGE, advised Committee members that the Alaska Forest Association supported immediate passage of HB 212. He mentioned that the bill was important to the forest product industry in Alaska, particularly for the segment of industry that depends upon the State timber sale program for a significant percentage of its wood supply. The bill would provide important support for the State Division of Forestry in its effort to make the State timber sale program effective in meeting the needs of Alaska's smaller timber operators, particularly in the Interior. [Copy of testimony on file]. MARY SHIELDS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), SELF, FAIRBANKS, referenced Section #4 explaining that Interior Alaskans want to be part of the decision making process. She asked where the public would be able to find out about the sales. Representative James commented that previous testimony from the Department indicated their intent to get as many small sales on the five year plan as possible. The only time that Section #4 would need to occur, would be when there was a demand for immediate timber. Small emergency sales would be exempt. [Copy of testimony on file]. 4 TOMAS H. BOUTIN, STATE FORESTER, DIVISION OF FORESTRY, DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME, noted that every sale except for those listed in Section #1 of the legislation would require a forest land use plan. Section #1 of the bill would exempt sales of 10 acres or less from a forest land use plan. In response to Ms. Shields, Mr. Boutin stated that the Department would publish a notice of "best interest findings" in the daily newspaper in the legal section. Ms. Shields interjected that would not be acceptable. She recommended that all sales be on the five year schedule. Representative James reminded Ms. Shields that the proposed legislation was a "compromise" bill. STU PECHEK, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, testified in support of HB 212. MARK LUTTRELL, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), PRESIDENT, EASTERN KENAI PENINSULA ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION ASSOCIATION, SEWARD, recommended Committee members to veto passage of HB 212. He concurred with Representative Navarre, that currently a lot of clear-cutting has occurred on the Kenai Peninsula. He disagreed with Section #2 and Section #3 - the site specific plan. Mr. Luttrell also objected to Section #4, noting that 160 acres would be too large a parcel. Mr. Boutin advised that beetle kill areas would be harvested and then reforested which could enhance the fish habitat. Absent reforestation, beetle kill timber would die and the second growth would take a long time to mature. Mr. Boutin added that the Division of Forestry concurs that the five year forest schedule is very important and that they will try to have all sales on every five year schedule. He reassured listeners that the five year schedule should be comprehensive so to be valuable to the timber industry and the public. Representative Navarre asked if sales of 160 acres or less would be shown on the schedule in order to guarantee advance notice. Mr. Boutin said absolutely. ED DAVIS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), BOARD MEMBER, ALASKA WILDERNESS RECREATION AND TOURISM ASSOCIATION, VALDEZ, praised the House Resources Committee for well done work on the proposed legislation, then indicating the remaining problem areas. He thought that Section #2 would weaken the need to address the long term cumulative effects of timber harvest activities in a forest land plan. As timber resources are developed, the long term effects of 5 harvest activity would impact the tourism industry. He added, Section #4 allows an unlimited number of timber sales to be exempt from the five year schedule, provided each sale is less than 160 acres. Mr. Davis thought that could be a potential loophole leading to abuse of the planning process. [Copy of testimony on file]. Co-Chair Hanley pointed out that Mr. Davis' concern had been addressed with Amendment #1. Mr. Boutin replied that every sale larger than 10 acres would require a forest land use plan. He explained that the plan would be distributed to the Department of Fish and Game, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and sometimes to the Department of Commerce and Economic Development (DCED). Following the agency process, the bills are modified with input from the Department of Fish and Game. At that time, the forest land plan is used to support the notice. (Tape Change, HFC 96-24, Side 2). LARRY SMITH, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), ALASKA FOREST PRACTICES ACT REVIEW STEERING COMMITTEE, HOMER, spoke against the passage of HB 212. He referenced the strong positions taken by three resource agencies, emphasizing that the present is not the time to create a greater unfunded mandate to further subsidize the export of raw timber and chips. He noted that those agencies suggested to the Board of Forestry, the program for providing minimal protection for our fish and wildlife, clean water, and wood resources, is presently dysfunctional and would require a budgetary implant in order to implement the existing Title 38 and Title 41 provisions which comprise the forest practices act. [Copy of testimony on file]. Mr. Smith concluded that the legislation is untimely because the State at present: 1. Has no mechanism for limiting exports; 2. No mechanism for making the cost-causer the cost- payer; 3. Has an underfunded, misdirected and inept forest practices program; and 4. Lacks a fiscal note describing additional agency staff needed for the oversight. SEAN MCGUIRE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), BED & BREAKFAST OWNER, FAIRBANKS, noted the importance of the State's support of tourism. Mr. McGuire stressed that most tourists come to visit Alaska's vast wilderness which are being harvested. He urged Committee members to vote against HB 212 in a strong statement of support for Alaska's 6 tourism. Co-Chair Hanley pointed out that there will continue to be public notice required. He countered Mr. McGuire's argument regarding the timber harvested, pointing out that many Alaskan's feel the same way about tourism, an industry which imports many people from out of State and investing the profits out of State. Co-Chair Hanley added that all the resource and mineral industries in Alaska export most of the product available. Co-Chair Hanley agreed with Mr. McGuire that the State does need value added products. This legislation is an attempt to provide some of the harvest to the small business owners. CARL PORTMAN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL, ANCHORAGE, voiced support for effective forest management initiatives to create a stable timber supply with increased access to Alaska's vast forest. He stated that the legislation was important and would help meet the needs of the smaller timber operators. HB 212 would allow the Commissioner of DNR to respond to short term timber supply needs. Mr. Portman added that it was imperative that a timber base be established in order to provide for a stable supply. HB 212 would help guarantee that stable supply, a necessary element in attracting the investment capital needed to build a healthy forest industry, diversifying the economy. Mr. Portman noted that the bill was good public policy; it would simplify the information of available timber sales which would retain environmental protection and public involvement. HB 212 would reestablish "true" multiple use management of State forests, balancing projection utilization and replenishment of timber resources with other uses. That would promote the long standing objectives of economic diversification while insuring the sustainable harvest of timber in State forests, originally created for the timber resources. Mr. Portman reiterated that the Resource Development Council strongly supported CS HB 212 (FIN) draft and urged the Committee to pass the bill. DAN RITZMAN, BOREAL FOREST COORDINATOR FOR THE NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER, ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL LOBBY, JUNEAU, stated that the proposed legislation was not necessary. He pointed out that HB 212 would make substantial changes to Titles #38 and #41, statutes which cover the entire State, not just "small" sales in Interior operators. He continued, the development of the Forest Resources and Practices Act was a long process involving 7 representatives from a variety of interests, timber industry, fishing industry, and conservation organizations. [Copy of testimony on file]. Mr. Ritzman addressed specific concerns: 1. Currently the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) do not have the revenue to carry out their existing statutory requirements. The legislation will further stress these Departments and put populations of fish and wildlife at further risk. 2. Section #2 appears to eliminate an important requirement that the State use the best available data to evaluate the cumulative and long-term effects of forestry activity on both the trees and non-timber resources. Mr. Ritzman recommended reinserting the language "immediate and long term" effects of "individual and collective" forest activities. (Addressed by Amendment #1). 3. Section #4 would eliminate the five year schedule requirements for sales of 160 acres or less, which would mean that over 70% of the sales in the Interior and a fair number of sales in the Kenai would not appear on the schedule. Mr. Ritzman pointed out that the five year schedule was the only consistent tool to notify the public and other commercial users of the forest harvest. He recommended that the Committee adopt the language suggested by the Board of Forestry, that sales of less than 160 acres appear in at least one five year plan. WILLIAM WOLFE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, testified in opposition of clear-cutting. He pointed out that it takes a long time for forests to recover from clear- cutting and the environmental damages it causes. BOB ZACHEL, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, stated that he was the operator of a small saw mill. He has had a difficult time acquiring quality logs during the past few years, a need to insure continual operation of a consistent business. Mr. Zachel commented that he was disappointed in some of the compromises made within the legislation, although supported the concept of the bill. He urged members to pass the bill from Committee. CARL OLMSTEAD, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, commented that he had been involved in the timber harvest 8 issue for many years, and thought that the legislation was not necessary to represent those concerns. He suggested that regulations could be made at the discretion of the Commissioner of DNR and then worked through the Division of Forestry. Mr. Olmstead voiced concern specifically with the exemption of the 160 acres from listings. The five year plan is the instrument where the public is involved. Mr. Olmstead pointed out that those who use the forest for a number of purposes, know that logging is the most destructive purpose and has the most long range impact. Mr. Olmstead strongly supported the amendments written by Representative Navarre. [Attachment #1]. DAVE LACEY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, urged the Committee to vote against the proposed legislation. He spoke against the 160 acre sales, indicating that they would be too large. He also requested that the public be involved with the one year notice, voicing support of further expanded funding for the Division of Habitat. (Tape Change, HFC 96-25, Side 1). Mr. Lacey addressed the issues of economic development which he felt should be driven by the quality of life and education concerns. He stressed that the legislation was not needed and that those concerns could be addressed through regulations from the Department. LARRY LANDRY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, echoed the concerns of Mr. Lacey. He supported the objectives of the legislation although voiced concern that the public process would be eliminated, pointing out that most of the sales in the Fairbanks area are under 160 acres. He strongly supported Amendment #2 as prepared by Representative Navarre [Attachment #1] and voiced opposition to Section #11. SYLVIA WARD, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NORTHERN ALASKA ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER, FAIRBANKS, questioned the merit of Section #7. She stated that local use provides that all users have equal footing, although the wording of that Section leaves the concept of "multiple use" muddled. She requested that the Committee keep the concept "simple". Ms. Ward addressed her concerns with using the language "emergency sale", and the loop holes which that concept would provide. She summarized that to address concerns raised by small loggers, the community would need to endorse 9 a proposal requiring a change of behavior on the part of DNR. Ms. Ward requested that Committee members look closer at the operations before passing the legislation. ERIK HOLLAND, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, provided Committee members with an illustrated copy of a poll which he conducted at various locations in Fairbanks. [Copy of testimony on file]. He stated that the graphics illustrated five stages of clear-cutting. The results astounded him; they indicated the people of Fairbanks did not want clear-cutting or logging in the Tanana Valley. Representative Navarre commented that on the Kenai Peninsula, some small operators were having a difficult time obtaining logs because of the amount harvested being exported. Representative Martin pointed out that the Homer area was filled with diseased trees and that they should be harvested. Representative Grussendorf reminded Committee members that dead trees are important to wildlife habitat and the bird world. Representative Grussendorf reiterated that it was important that the agencies involved were adequately funded to handle the additional load. In response to Representative Martin's statement, Representative Navarre explained that the legislation is not restricted to dead trees. He requested that Amendment #2 be considered in the next Committee of referral, advising that he would not offer Amendment #2 or #3. [Attachment #1]. Representative Mulder MOVED to report CS HB 212 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. There being NO OBJECTIONS, it was so ordered. CS HB 212 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with fiscal notes by the Department of Fish and Game and zero fiscal notes by the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources dated 1/24/96.