Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/10/1995 03:38 PM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
 SRES - 2/10/95                                                                
                SJR 12 U.S. FOREST SERVICE PLAN                               
  CHAIRMAN LEMAN  called the Senate Resources Committee meeting to             
 order at 3:38 p.m. He said they didn't have a quorum yet, but would           
 begin to take testimony on SJR 12.                                            
 SENATOR TAYLOR, sponsor, said early in December the Forest Service            
 announced its "reinvention plan" which would centralize the                   
 decision making in Washington, D.C.  This policy flies in the face            
 of President Clinton's Executive Order 12875 calling for "enhancing           
 intergovernmental partnerships."  It also goes against Vice                   
 President Gore's report on empowering state and local governments             
 and decentralizing the decision making power.                                 
 Under "reinvention" regional forest supervisors and other front               
 line leaders who now have decision making authority would be                  
 replaced with four people in "leadership teams" answerable only to            
 the Chief of the Forest Service and the Secretary of Agriculture.             
 Gone is any pretense of involving local and state governments in              
 U.S. Forest Service decisions.                                                
 The plan consolidates the regional offices now located in Alaska              
 and Montana to a central office in Oregon.  SJR 12 calls for                  
 suspension of this plan and true partnership meetings with states,            
 communities and tribal governments.  His suggested Committee                  
 Substitute adds ANCSA Corporations to that list.                              
 SENATOR TAYLOR said the "reinvention scheme" goes far beyond the              
 relocation of regional offices.  It will mean Forest Service policy           
 dictated from "on-high" without consulting the people most impacted           
 by those policies.                                                            
 He noted a poll that was taken by the federal government that                 
 included less than 15% of respondents living west of the                      
 Mississippi River.  85% of the people polled about what to do with            
 our Forest Service live in states that don't have a Forest Service            
 office.  The majority of the 15% lived in either Los Angeles or in            
 one of the midwest cities around St. Louis.                                   
 He said he was contacted by five retired members of the U.S. Forest           
 Service who were very upset with the "reinvention" process.  He               
 said all of their comments were completely disregarded in                     
 Washington.  They received a letter from Jack Ward Thomas telling             
 about the reinvention and one of the primary concerns was that the            
 Forest Service Offices reflect "ecosystem management."  He said now           
 they have semi-arid dessert areas of Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and              
 Washington connected up with the rain forest environment of                   
 Southeast Alaska.                                                             
 This resolution, SENATOR TAYLOR said, calls upon the federal                  
 government to listen to the people that are affected.  He noted               
 that this community stands to lose a significant portion of its               
 employment base, but the biggest problem is that they will be                 
 further diluted in their ability to do effective decision making in           
 the area being regulated.                                                     
 Adding the ANCSA Corporation members to the resolution is very                
 important, he said, because they are the largest private land                 
 owners within the Tongass.                                                    
 Number 186                                                                    
 CHUCK ACHBERGER, Director, Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said the               
 history of the Tongass is one of compromise on the part of                    
 industry.  Out of 17 million acres we are down to 1.7 million acres           
 of harvestable area for timber.                                               
 The regional mandate of the Forest Service was to create economic             
 growth using federal lands.  This has been sacrificed to the                  
 current politics of special interest groups who would merge the               
 Forest Service into a Park Service.                                           
 In closing, he said, the Forest Service cannot be trusted.                    
 Washington D.C. continually succumbs to the political pressure of             
 the environmental community.  We have one of the largest forests              
 "in the world" and we can't support a mill.                                   
 Number 214                                                                    
 VERN MILLER, Executive Director, Southeast Conference, said that              
 while many aspects of the Forest Service reinvention plan may have            
 merit, the Southeast Conference is strongly opposed to two specific           
 elements:  merging the Alaska region with the Pacific Northwest               
 region and moving the headquarters to Portland.  That would take              
 Forest Service people who make decisions that affect Alaskans and             
 move them out of Alaska.  And second, regardless of where the                 
 headquarters is located, replacing a regional forester with a four-           
 person management team will result in decisions being kicked to               
 higher levels, once again having the net effect of taking the                 
 decision making outside of Alaska.  Both of these run counter to              
 what the President is trying to do which is decentralize decision             
 making, empower state and local governments and enhance                       
 governmental partnerships. The Conference would support a                     
 resolution that makes those two points strongly.                              
 SENATOR LEMAN asked him if he had seen the Committee Substitute?              
 MR. MILLER answered yes and he supported it.                                  
 Number 247                                                                    
 DAVID KATZ, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, said he wanted             
 it on the record that of the 17 million acres that nominally                  
 comprise the Tongass National Forest only around 15% of those acres           
 are actually acres anyone would want to harvest.  Those also turn             
 out to be the acres that are most important for wildlife, fish,               
 subsistence, tourism, and all the other uses that we put this                 
 forest to.  The Tongass National Forest is a multiple use and                 
 sustained yield forest. Conflicts over habitat areas are about all            
 wildlife - supporting wildlife for future generations of Alaskans             
 for hunters, fishermen, and guides, etc..                                     
 MR. KATZ said he knew of no one in his organization or anyone else            
 that wants to make this whole area into a park.  They want to                 
 maintain the integrity of the Tongass as a multiple use and                   
 sustained yield forest.                                                       
 Regarding SJR 12, he thought it tried to do too many things and               
 confuses a couple of things.  First he thinks it is reasonable to             
 keep management of the forest close to the people who live in it.             
 He did not think management strategy would change by combining                
 offices.  On line 10, page 2 it's important to realize that                   
 community stability depends on forest ecosystem health.  Looking at           
 the long term health of ecosystems helps improve community                    
 Secondly, he didn't think reinventing government turns away from              
 providing a continual flow of renewable resources.  It doesn't                
 concentrate on just timber, but all uses.                                     
 He urged the Committee to turn away from this single purpose bill             
 which confuses the idea of reorganizing government with changing              
 the entire mission of the Forest Service - two things which are not           
 connected.  He would support a different resolution keeping the               
 regional office here in Juneau for the purposes of managing the               
 forest for multiple use and sustained yield.                                  
 Number 324                                                                    
 SENATOR TAYLOR said he asked the Forest Service for a number of the           
 total amount of acreage harvested since it became a forest in                 
 around 1908.  They told him that 450,000 acres had been harvested             
 in that period of time.  He asked what number of millions of acres            
 is currently locked up in the single use of Wilderness?  MR. KATZ             
 answered around 5 million acres are in Wilderness.                            
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked if Wilderness was a multiple use concept.  MR.           
 KATZ said his understanding was that you could access Wilderness              
 areas by fixed-wing craft in Alaska.  He said a balance had to be             
 reached in the types of land available in the forest.                         
 SENATOR TAYLOR said he was only concerned with what percent of the            
 forest could be utilized for people to earn a living on harvesting            
 trees and opening it up for other recreational uses.                          
 MR. KATZ said the Forest Service now plans to harvest 1.7 million             
 acres of the forest over 100 years.  They believe that will sustain           
 the industry that is here.                                                    
 SENATOR TAYLOR asked him if he thought that was appropriate.  MR.             
 KATZ answered he thought that was appropriate if it could be done             
 in a way that balances all the uses in the forest.  He said it is             
 important to realize that all acres are not created equal on this             
 forest.  The vast amount of harvesting has occurred in the highest            
 value fish and wildlife habitat.                                              
 Number 399                                                                    
 SARA HANNAN, Alaska Environmental Lobby, said she applauded a                 
 couple of the Resolves in Senator Taylor's resolution.  She said              
 the communities that depend on our forest resources are complex in            
 their economics and ecosystem.  She applauded Senator Taylor for              
 urging government entities to work with local users in resolving              
 resource disputes.  She was also very concerned with the loss of              
 jobs to Juneau and other Alaska communities.                                  
 The other FURTHER RESOLVED she approved of was including tribal               
 governments that are frequently overlooked when the State talks               
 about partnerships and resource use in the "true partnership                  
 Number 430                                                                    
 SENATOR LEMAN officially called the meeting to order saying the               
 Committee had had a quorum for at least the last fifteen minutes.             
 SENATOR TAYLOR moved to adopt the CS to SJR 12.  There were no                
 objections and it was so ordered.                                             
 SENATOR FRANK asked what was the history of fish populations in the           
 Southeastern waters for the last 50 years.  Had it been declining?            
 SENATOR TAYLOR answered going back to 1945 fish populations were in           
 the decline.  By the early 50's fish levels had declined                      
 dramatically.  Logging started with some intensity with the                   
 building of the pulp mill in 1954.  Since about 1962 or 1963 fish             
 runs have been on the increase.  Today a normal run in Southeast              
 Alaska has three times the volume of salmon that a run had in the             
 late 50's or early 60's.                                                      
 SENATOR TAYLOR moved to pass CSSJR 12 (Res) from Committee with               
 individual recommendations.  There were no objections and it was so           

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