Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/02/1994 03:50 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATOR MILLER announced SB 310 (STATE/PRIVATE/MUNI TIMBER OPERATION/SALE) to be up for consideration. SENATOR FRANK said the purpose behind the bill is to encourage long-term investment in timber development to create long-term stable jobs on a sustained basis. He said they wanted to maintain a public process, but at the same time they want to allow the Department an additional means to have a long-term sale negotiated so that investment can be attracted under terms and conditions that will result in value-added processing. He pointed out that any forest management agreement would still fall under the Forest Practices Act and be subject to existing permits, etc. JERRY LUCKHAUPT, Division of Legal Services, said the bill deals with the sale and management of state timber in state forests. He reviewed briefly the bill's sections. SENATOR ZHAROFF commented that the Forest Practices Act took a lot of time and a lot of individuals were involved - the timber industry, the Native Corporations, municipalities, fishermen, tourism and environmental groups, etc. He asked how it changed the provisions of the Forest Practices Act. MR. LUCKHAUPT explained that Sections 6 - 15 make changes to the Forest Practices Act. Some of the changes are corresponding changes made to Title 38. TAPE 94-15, SIDE B Number 588 Sections 8 and 9 seem to be common sense changes, he noted, removing the requirement that the Commissioner notify himself whenever he engages in or allows operations on state land dealing with removal of timber. He said it does make substantial changes to the Forest Practices Act especially some of the definition changes. SENATOR ZHAROFF asked what lands were affected by this legislation. SENATOR FRANK said it would have some effect on municipal and private as well as state lands - no affect on federal lands. MR. LUCKHAUPT said that a lot of the intent in the bill was to apply to only state lands, although a couple provisions apply across the board - for example the reforestation standards. SENATOR ZHAROFF asked if the Forest Practices Act was not working. SENATOR FRANK replied it was his intent to allow the Department to do a long-term sale under a negotiated basis - with public input - so that people who have the capability of making an investment will have an assurance they will have a long-term stable supply. In so doing, they would create a value-added industry rather than just cutting and shipping. It would be done in a sustained yield manner. SENATOR ZHAROFF said one of the real problems he has with the bill is like that of SB 308 which took a real slap at the public process through the Coastal Zone Management policies. The concern is that the public process is being circumvented. SENATOR FRANK said he did understand the concern and thought different language might clarify the issue. SENATOR MILLER announced they would begin the teleconference and called on Fairbanks to begin. RICHARD BISHOP, Fairbanks, testified that statutory revisions regarding forest management should assure that overall forest management goals will be met, including the legitimate goal of producing sustained yield commercial timber harvest. Cooperation among agencies, general public, and commercial users is necessary. They cannot support the bill as written, however. He said he had submitted written testimony, but wanted to mention a few points now. He recommended doing a clear cut on the statutory language rather than selective cuts and then initiate a reforestation effort. SB 310 has elements of confusion and concern: for instance, does "a finding in the best interests of the state" adequately address forest resource interests? There is no obvious requirement for coordination of the forest management agreement over local uses of forest land. Number 489 BILL ALLEN, Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, supported SB 310, because it is essential to economic development in the interior of Alaska for investors to have access to our resources and long-term agreements must be available to insure that access. MICHAEL WALLERI, General Counsel for Tanana Chiefs Conference, introduced CHRIS MAISCH, Director, Forestry Department, who accompanied him. He said they have provided the committee with a position paper saying there were a profound number of concerns they had with the bill. There were three pages of proposed amendments and a discussion paper on the concept of sustained yield. Tanana Chiefs Conference is the largest forestry management program in the interior of Alaska and, he said, they cannot support the bill and would oppose its passage. MR. WALLERI said that basically the intent of the bill is to authorize forestry management agreements which they agree with. The bill drastically reduces public input and abandons sound planning processes and a number of standards currently in the Forest Practices Act, which isn't necessary. He said there is a big difference between the state management and private interest management. The state has a fiduciary obligation. Private individuals do not have the same obligation. MR. MAISCH testified that the way the bill is structured it removes reference to AS 38 and AS 41 in regards to regional plans and also forest management plans. Those are two important components in which local communities have invested a lot of time. He said the five year schedule was deleted in one section and that is important to retain, because it provides notice to other land owners, specifically, native allotment land owners that are inholders in the state forest or potential proposed forest management agreements. MR. MAISCH explained that through coordinated sales they can start managing for ecosystems rather than just for a piece of land someone might own, a concept he said was important. He said they could support a definition that would equate "sustained yield" to the annual harvest of growth increment on the cite. He also supported non-declining flow management as practiced in the interior. In conclusion, he said they are in favor of retention of area, regional, and site specific forest plans. They support multiple use designations for forest lands that include subsistence as a consideration. They support deleting the proposed public access requirements that affect private lands. They consider authorizing coordination of state and private sales that encourage the maintenance of sustained yield and ecosystem management concepts. They are not in favor of the state selling timber at a net loss in terms of revenue generation to the state. SENATOR FRANK thanked them for the time they took in analyzing the bill and said he looked forward to working with them on it. SENATOR ZHAROFF asked them if the amendments took care of most of their concerns. MR. MAISCH said essentially the amendments put back in to place the Title 38 and 41 planning processes. They think that the coordinated timber sale is an interesting concept which needs developing. JUDY WARWICK, Fairbanks, resident supported SB 310. She said the cost and delay of duplication of forest land use plans has impeded development where no other industry has the same requirement. A mandated two year advance scheduling of sales under 500,000 board feet and long-term timber management leases have not been an option. Without the security of long-term leases, companies cannot risk the capital investment required in this type of industry. She also pointed out that the U.S. currently imports $6 million worth of birch from Canada. SENATOR MILLER said anyone could fax their comments to the Committee. JAN DAWE, Fairbanks resident, opposed SB 310. She said the written testimony is the work of approximately 20 residents and approximately 2,000 hours. She said they do not want SB 310 even if it is amended. 4,000 acres is tripling the current harvest level. CELIA HUNTER, Fairbanks resident, opposed SB 310. The changes it mandates range from completely rewriting the original purposes for which the state forests were created to a literal sell out of those forests to corporate interests and long-term sales arranged behind closed doors between the Commissioner of DNR and the corporations without any public notice or opportunity to comment until such deals are foregone conclusions. Present management policies adopted by DNR and the Division of Forestry are existing support from a comprehensive cross section of Alaska residents who have a long term stake in how their forests are managed, she said. This cooperative effort will be scuttled if SB 310 is adopted. Number 338 MARY SHIELDS, Fairbanks resident, said she cares passionately about the community. She said she is very mad, because it is the fourth time she has had to leave work to voice her concerns. She said Fairbanks residents have spent thousands of hours trying to work on forestry issues, and the general voice says they don't want large scale timber harvest in the Tanana Valley. She said the people of Fairbanks want to be part of the decision making process. Giving the Commissioner authority to make forest management agreements is an outrageous infringement of the public process. MS. SHIELDS said she worked with Senator Fahrenkamp on the Forest Practices Act and multiple use of the forest was the intent. They have no right to change that. GINNY HILL WOOD, Fairbanks resident, opposed SB 310. It blocks citizens input on economic, ecological, or forestry issues. She had testimony which she faxed to the Committee. RON RICKETTS, Executive Director, Fairbanks Industrial Development Corporation, supported SB 310. He said a majority of the people in this community support development and the forest industry as they envision it. They do not want to decimate any forest or trample over any users. They do know they need to build a tax base on a long-term basis, mostly because of the reduction in state revenues. SEAN MCGUIRE, Fairbanks resident, said that there is broad and overwhelming support for small scale local logging. He thought the exact opposite of what Mr. Ricketts said was true. There is a feeling that what they have is very special. The forest is simply too valuable to have the large scale clear cutting this legislation invites. This bill from start to finish is extreme, he said. It's guaranteed to cause a political storm. He strongly opposed SB 310. DALE HAGGSTROM, Fairbanks resident, opposed SB 310. He asked where would the kind of management described in it leave the small scale local logging operators and other forest related businesses that depend on the forest for raw materials. EVA SAULITIS, Fairbanks resident, was shocked that this bill shut out public participation. This bill would make development of commercial forest land the primary purpose of the Boards. She asked Senator Frank which constituents this bill represented, not those who are dependent on a long-term sustainability of the forest or the small scale mill operators, wood crafters, hunters, trappers, tourists, or subsistence users. This bill is designed to please the wealthy and politically influential minority. It would also benefit large outside logging companies. She said the bill was a sleazy and shameful attempt at getting around the democratic process. TAPE 94-16, SIDE A Number 001 MOLLY HUDSON, Fairbanks resident, said this bill eliminates public input. She does not want to see big business devour our forest. The authors of SB 310 do not care about small loggers, trappers, or hunting and fishing guides. She said if this bill passes, all they will be able to afford to do is change the way they vote. SYLVIA WARD, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, said SB 310 was not a fine tuning of the Forest Practices Act. She also said that the assumption timber harvest can improve the economy or make up the oil revenue shortfall is a myth with no basis in economic fact. Developing timber resources will only dig a deeper budget hole. According to a study by the legislative research agency the Department of Natural Resources lost approximately $.90 on each dollar in 1992. State timber revenues might improve as the price of timber increases. Timber harvest and processing tends to drain resources out of the economy. Most of the logs are exported to Japan for processing. In addition, logging has a serious problem with out of state hire. Only the fish processing industry employees a higher percentage of non-Alaskans. Rather than improving our communities, the influx of new residents further stresses existing city, borough, and state supported services.