Legislature(2011 - 2012)BARNES 124
03/11/2011 01:00 PM RESOURCES
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 105-SOUTHEAST STATE FOREST 1:19:26 PM CO-CHAIR FEIGE announced that the first order of business is HOUSE BILL NO. 105, "An Act relating to the Southeast State Forest; and providing for an effective date." 1:19:55 PM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON moved that the committee adopt Amendment 1, labeled 27-GH1694\A.1, Bullock, 3/8/11, which read: Page 2, lines 11 - 16: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 7, line 23: Delete ";" Insert "." Page 7, line 24, through page 8, line 7: Delete all material. CO-CHAIR SEATON objected. 1:20:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON related that although Rowan Bay and Hook Arm aren't in her district, she has been told that there are prehistoric heritage sites in these areas, as documented by the Alaska Heritage Research Survey. The two areas also have pink salmon streams, karst, and cave resources. Therefore, she expressed the need to carve out both the parcels. 1:21:14 PM REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI inquired as to how those parcels were originally selected for inclusion in the state forest and whether DNR would object to their removal. 1:21:49 PM RICK ROGERS, Forest Resource Program Manager, Central Office, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources, explained that the parcels were selected for their timber resource values and because both the Central Southeast Area Plan and the Prince of Wales Area Plan for Rowan Bay and Hook Arm, respectively, designate those lands in the general use category. The general use designation means the parcels are part of the state's managed timber base. He noted that both the aforementioned plans acknowledge the anadromous fish habitat fish resources on the parcels as well as the heritage resources. Furthermore, the Forest Resources & Practices Act acknowledges those and provide very generous riparian set asides per statute. Specifically, a 100-foot buffer is required on each side of the anadromous streams. With regard to the heritage resources, Mr. Rogers informed the committee that prior to a timber sale, a forest land use plan is prepared, which supports the best interest findings to proceed with the timber sale. During the aforementioned process, the State's Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Division of Parks, is contacted. Mr. Rogers opined that DNR can accommodate the heritage resources and would adapt the plans accordingly. Mr. Rogers informed the committee that typically the area plans in Southeast Alaska require a 500-foot coastal buffer as well. The department's past experience has been that most heritage sites are within that buffer, as that's primarily where people settled. However, it was noted that if [the heritage site isn't located in the coastal buffer], additional conditions would be placed on the timber sale. He highlighted that the statute for establishing state forest also requires a state forest management plan, which would need to be prepared within three years of the passage of HB 105. The aforementioned would allow review of any multiple use resource issues that might be involved for the two parcels in question or any of the parcels in the package. In further response to Representative Kawasaki, Mr. Rogers stated that the department would object to the removal of these parcels. This has been vetted internally with the Office of the Governor, multiple agencies within DNR, as well as the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G). He concluded that DNR wants to forward HB 105, as written. 1:25:44 PM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON surmised that DNR took these things into consideration and there is another chance for concerns with regard to the areas in questions to be discussed by those concerned in the areas. MR. ROGERS replied yes, adding that there is more than one chance. He explained that the first opportunity to address the parcels would be in the state forest management planning process and the second opportunity would be during any of the timber sales through the Forest Land Use Plan, which performs a public review and comment period prior to a best interest finding is approved for a sale. In further response to Representative P. Wilson, Mr. Rogers related his understanding that there's a 45- day review for each. He noted that there are also processes for reconsiderations and appeals. He characterized it as the normal regulatory process that DNR uses for public involvement in its best interest decisions for disposal. 1:27:44 PM CO-CHAIR SEATON related his understanding that these lands could be [available], right now, for timber sales. If a timber sale was conducted now and if the land was in the state forest, the management plan would have to be present and have the same process and restrictions. However, the difference with land in the state forest is that DNR could anticipate long-term stability that would allow for pre-harvest thinning to improve the productivity of the [second growth] forest. He asked if the aforementioned is the only difference. "If these [lands] are out, there could still be a timber sale on the land with the same kind of requirements; is that correct," he asked. MR. ROGERS answered that is correct. 1:29:04 PM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON withdrew Amendment 1. 1:29:16 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER informed the committee that she had intended to offer this amendment, but did not have one prepared after learning that Representative P. Wilson was offering the same amendment. She then announced that she wanted to offer the same amendment [ultimately labeled Amendment 2] in her name. CO-CHAIR FEIGE reminded Representative Gardner that the committee's policy is that amendments must be provided to the committee 24 hours prior to being offered. REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER said that Amendment 1 met the committee's policy regarding the submission of amendments. She then maintained that she has a right under the Uniform Rules to offer an amendment. 1:29:55 PM The committee took a brief at-ease. 1:30:32 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER acknowledged that the original sponsor of Amendment 2 has some ambivalence about it, but stated that she does not as there are important elements that need to be protected. In particular, the Alaska heritage sites are irreplaceable. Representative Gardner pointed out that HB 105 doubles the amount of the state forest land and she supports it, and eliminating the two heritage sites totals only 3.4 percent of the overall state forest lands. 1:31:21 PM REPRESENTATIVE P. WILSON remarked that she is torn because the state is trying to keep the timber industry together in Southeast Alaska. She related that she had legislation that will impact less than 1 percent of all of the timber in Southeast Alaska, which doesn't seem to be very much. However, the forest industry related to her that they have only been able to cut less than 2 percent of the timber in Southeast Alaska. Given that the same rules will apply to these parcels whether they are included in the state forest or not, she decided to withdraw Amendment 1. Furthermore, if the entire parcel is taken out [of the state forest, the amount of possible timber is reduced. If these parcels with heritage sites remain in the state forest, she opined that portions of the parcels could be set aside through the process rather than the entire parcel. In conclusion, Representative P. Wilson said she will oppose Amendment 2. 1:34:11 PM CO-CHAIR SEATON pointed out that excluding these parcels from the state forest doesn't provide a higher level of protection for them. In fact, he opined that excluding these parcels from the state forest would result in a lower level of protection because the timber harvest plan won't be required to be developed in the same way in which it is for the state forest. Furthermore, all the sites will be protected adequately under the state forest designation unlike if the sites have a general use status, which could allow the lands to go through land disposals or other processes. Therefore, he opined that placing the parcels in the state forest will provide greater long-term protection status, and thus he announced his opposition to Amendment 2. 1:35:58 PM REPRESENTATIVE KAWASAKI asked if that's the perspective of DNR as well. MR. ROGERS stated that Co-Chair Seaton's description is accurate in that the parcels will have long-term protection under the state forest designation versus the general use designation. He noted that the area planning process, which is a lengthy public process with the opportunity for public input and appeals, has already taken place. He then pointed out that the area plan language addressing both the Hook Arm and Rowan Bay parcels addresses heritage resources in the plan. Furthermore, DNR is clearly given direction to protect those areas. Although the planning document won't have the level of detail necessary to make the site specific decisions, typically much of the information is housed at SHPO. In fact, much of the information is kept confidential in order to prevent looting and other problems with heritage sites. Mr. Rogers reiterated that whether the parcels are in the state forest or not, DNR will consult with SHPO to provide adequate protection for the heritage sites. 1:38:10 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER surmised that if these two parcels remain in the state forest, they would be managed primarily for timber production. Therefore, she further surmised that it would then be more difficult to define the parcels for a different management designation. MR. ROGERS opined that it wouldn't be any more difficult to protect the heritage resources on these parcels if they were included in the state forest. Although he confirmed that Representative Gardner is correct that the guiding language for the state forest places some emphasis on forestry resources, it's still multiple use management. Furthermore, to be consistent with state and federal statute and regulation heritage resources must be protected. The mechanisms and office in DNR are present to help meet that objective. Mr. Rogers then highlighted that the state forest designation helps because it keeps the land in state ownership, whereas under the general use land designation the parcels may or may not stay in state ownership. 1:40:07 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER inquired as to the designation that would provide these historic sites the greatest protection from destruction or damage. 1:40:28 PM MARTY PARSONS, Deputy Director, Division of Mining, Land and Water, Department of Natural Resources, answered that the designations that maintain those lands in state ownership will provide the greatest protection of those historic sites. No particular designation would save a historic resource, but placing it into a state forest would keep such land from being conveyed to out-of-state ownership. He reminded the committee that these historic sites are usually one to two acre sites within a 1,500-1,600 acre parcel, and thus it's a very small percentage of the parcel. The Division of Forestry will be held to a fairly high standard for those areas, which they will also have to protect as part of the planning process. In further response to Representative Gardner, Mr. Parsons reiterated that placing the parcels in the state forest would result in the lands remaining in state ownership and provide the historic sites the most protection. 1:42:22 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER asked if the most protection is what HB 105, as written, accomplishes. MR. PARSONS replied yes. 1:42:40 PM REPRESENTATIVE GARDNER withdrew Amendment 2. 1:43:01 PM REPRESENTATIVE DICK recalled testimony that objected to large scale logging in an area because of the belief that there was enough small business in the area and performing value-added activities would be best for the community. CO-CHAIR SEATON pointed out that leaving parcels out of the state forest doesn't mean there would be no timber sale [on the parcels]. Placing parcels in the state forest results in parcels being on a longer term rotation status for management purposes. 1:45:50 PM CO-CHAIR SEATON moved to report HB 105 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 1:46:21 PM The committee took an at-ease from 1:46 p.m. to 1:49 p.m.