Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/04/1996 09:25 AM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 212(FIN) An Act relating to the management and sale of state timber and relating to the administration of forest land and classification of state land. Co-chairman Halford directed that CSHB 212 (Fin) be brought on for discussion and referenced SCS CSHB 212 (Res). BARBARA COTTING, aide to Representative James, came before committee. She directed attention to a sponsor statement and bill analysis (copies on file in the original Senate Finance Committee file for HB 212). She explained that the bill was introduced at the request of constituents in the timber industry in Fairbanks. It has subsequently received wide state support. Interested constituents are operators of small timber businesses in local communities. Operations have been impacted by overly complicated procedures that must be endured to secure timber from the state. It is not a lack of timber but inability of the Dept. of Natural Resources to allow harvesting that has caused the problem. Current Title 38 statutes, requiring five-year planning and three-year updates, make continuation of an ongoing industry very difficult. Well-managed timber harvesting not only creates and supports jobs and a healthy economy, it creates and supports healthy forests. Communities are prohibited from developing basic timber industries necessary for maintaining strong forest ecology and a strong economic environment. HB 212 provides flexibility to the division of forestry to meet the needs of small timber operators in a timely manner. It also makes small adjustments to Title 28 and 41 intended to secure a sustainable forest products industry. A truly cooperative effect stemming from introduction last year and work during the interim resulted in the bill in its current form. In response to a question from Senator Randy Phillips regarding the planning process, Ms. Cotting advised that sales of ten acres or less would be exempt from all requirements of the forest land use plan. An additional key provision is that small sales are defined as 160 acres or less. The division of forestry will closely monitor sales. TOM BOUTIN, State Forester, Division of Forestry, Dept. of Natural Resources, came before committee. In response to an inquiry from Senator Zharoff regarding operation of the ten- acre exemption, Mr. Boutin explained that sales now "have to go through two, separate, unrelated processes." They have to be in the five-year schedule for at least the two prior years. Each sale also has to have a forest land-use plan. The latter is used to substantiate the best-interest finding needed for disposal of any state land-use resource. Section 1 of the bill remove the requirement for sales of ten acres or less. It would also mean that the department would not have to prepare a plan when it sells timber and is not involved in the harvest. He cited, as an example, a raft of timber stolen from state land which was ultimately made available for fire wood because sale by the state would have required the expensive public process involved in developing a land use plan. Section 1 would have alleviated that situation. Mr. Boutin cited the situation at the Ft. Knox project as a further example. Co-chairman Halford asked if the department supports the bill. Mr. Boutin replied that all concerns raised when the bill was introduced have now been answered. He acknowledged concern by the environmental community regarding exemption of sales of 160 acres or less. Aside from emergency situations, the division is committed to "having every sale in the five-year schedule." The division will work on a department order that will define that. Information from operators indicates that the market window can open and close in a two-year period. Co-chairman Frank MOVED for passage of SCS CSHB 212 (Res) with individual recommendations and accompanying fiscal notes. No objection having been raised, SCS CSHB 212 (Res) was REPORTED OUT of committee with a ($3.0) fiscal note from the Dept. of Natural Resources, $19.6 note from the Dept. of Fish and Game, and a zero note from the Dept. of Environmental Conservation. Co-chairmen Halford and Frank and Senator Rieger signed the committee report with a "do pass" recommendation. Senators Donley, Phillips, and Zharoff signed "no recommendation."