Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/28/2003 03:33 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 88-FOREST RESOURCES & PRACTICES STANDARDS MR. BRIAN HOVE, staff to Senator Seekins, sponsor of SB 88, gave the following sponsor statement. This bill revises the riparian management standards of the Forest Resources Practices Act (FRPA) for Region III by strengthening protection for fish habitat and water quality in a manner that continues to support both the timber and fishing industries. The current standards for Region III were adopted as an interim measure in the 1990 revision of the Act. Under these standards, harvesting can occur up to the bank of anadromous waters on both public and private land under some conditions. With the proposed bill, all anadromous and high-value resident fish waters are classified and riparian standards are established for each classification. The requirements are tailored to the characteristics and fish habitat needs of each stream type. A no- harvest buffer will be required on most anadromous and high-value resident fish waters. However, along glacial rivers where some of the most valuable timber occurs, the standards allow harvest of up to half the large white spruce in the landward half of the buffer. This allows landowners to capture some of the economic value within the riparian areas while keeping enough large trees to provide woody debris. This bill is not a wholesale revision of the Act. It has substantive changes for riparian management standards applying to Region III only. Other technical revisions include changes to the statewide nomenclature for water body classes to prevent confusion between water body types in different regions. The bill also moves definitions of regional boundaries from the regulations to the Act and makes a minor change to the regional boundary on the Kenai Peninsula to better match the difference between forest types. Most forestland in the affected area is in federal ownership, so there will be minimal impact on other landowners. SB 88 helps ensure that the FRPA continues to be certified for compliance with federal Clean Water Act and coastal zone management requirements. This means that the Act continues to provide 'one-stop shopping' for the timber industry with respect to state and federal non-point source pollution and coastal management standards. This bill is founded on the best science available including an extensive review of existing research and recommendations of an interdisciplinary Science & Technical Committee. The committee included experienced field staff from the state resource agencies and private sector as well as the University of Alaska and federal scientists. MR. HOVE offered to answer questions and noted Mr. Jahnke was present and Marty Freeman was on line to answer questions. CHAIR OGAN asked Mr. Jahnke to testify. MR. JEFF JAHNKE, Director of the Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the presiding officer for the Board of Forestry, gave the following background on how this legislation was developed. This bill is a response to a Board of Forestry request to review the Forest Practices Act in 1996. We began that review in Region 1, which is the coastal region that encompasses most of coastal Alaska. This is the second step. That actually resulted in a change to the Forest Practices Act in 1999. The second step of that - we moved to the Interior and this review was completed...in 2001. This is the second session that this bill has been...brought forward. We really thank Senator Seekins for sponsoring this bill. CHAIR OGAN commented this bill is the result of a consensus that was worked out. MR. JAHNKE noted members of the fishing industry, fish, wildlife and timber scientists, and the environmental community agreed upon this bill. He continued: This bill was developed the same way the Region 1 was. We started with a science committee basically that put together the science of catching the fisheries management and riparian zone management. Following that, an implementation group was put together to look at the results of a science group to make sure that things could be done on the ground - that it would actually work. In following that, of course the Board of Forestry reviewed it at length and what's before you is pretty much the result of all three reviews. A couple of important points - it's a science-based bill. It's a science-based proposal. It has very good scientific background and it has, like I said earlier, [the support] of a broad range of industry, fisheries, environmental groups, the Board of Forestry, etcetera. This act does three things to help ensure the goal of the Forest Practices Act. First it provides adequate protection for fish habitat in water quality and supports the continuation of healthy timber and the fishing industry. Second it helps to ensure that the Forest Practices Act meets the water quality requirements in the Clean Water Act in the coastal zone management act and that's very important. The third item that's probably worth mentioning is this bill is, as you heard Marty mention earlier, this bill is a one-stop shop for forestry activities. It meets the requirements of the coastal zone, if in fact they meet forest practices, and these changes help to ensure that that continues to be the case. Having said that, with the Chair's permission, I'd ask Marty to go into the specifics and then we can take questions then or we can do it now. CHAIR OGAN noted that he does not plan to move SB 88 out of committee today and that he would like to give priority to the people who signed up to testify. SENATOR ELTON asked if SB 88 is a replica of last session's HB 131. MR. JAHNKE said it is. CHAIR OGAN took public testimony. MR. ALBERT PAGH told members he and his son have owned and operated 4 Star Lumber in Fairbanks for 33 years. His father had portable mills so he spent his childhood days living in the forest. He said he can see no reason for this legislation. If the purpose of SB 88 is to reduce erosion, he has observed that if trees are left up to a stream bank, the soil under them is worse off. The stream undercuts the tree, pulling the back roots and a lot of soil from the bank. When trees are cut the sun exposure allows new plants to grow, establishing root systems and stabilizing the bank. [Much of Mr. Pagh's testimony was inaudible due to transmission problems.] MR. RICK SMERIGLIO of Seward stated support for SB 88. He has been a member of the Board of Forestry for over five years and watched this bill develop from an idea. He thanked the agencies, particularly the Division of Forestry and Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), for all of the work they did. Local residents of the Interior had an opportunity to provide input. He said HB 131 came close to passing the Senate last year but the Senate ran out of time. He said most of the testimony the committee will hear will be supportive of SB 88. He pointed out the Board of Forestry is on record in support of this legislation. The requirement to have buffer zones has gained acceptance in Southeast Alaska because they protect fish and other riparian values. He believes it is a good idea to apply the buffer zone requirement to northern waters. He said the Board of Forestry has taken tours of the affected area in the Interior. He has seen areas that have been logged to the stream bank and areas with buffer zones. He believes the areas with buffer zones are better served. He stated support for SB 88 and asked members to take action on it as soon as possible. CHAIR OGAN agreed that buffer zones are good. He said years ago he was concerned about the woody debris in a creek behind his home but was told by ADF&G that it provides good fish habitat. MR. ERIC PYNE told members he has been involved in the timber industry in Fairbanks since 1979. CHAIR OGAN called an at-ease to address teleconference transmission problems. MR. PYNE continued his testimony. He has been involved in the planning process. During that process, ADF&G stated the buffer zones would simply be a starting point and not an end-all. The Division of Forestry assured him that the buffer zones would be in regulation and not just a starting point. As long as that is the fact, he supports the bill as written. MS. LESLIE GUSTAFSON, Salcha, said she is an owner of a timber harvesting business. Her husband has harvested on the Tanana River and lived there since 1968. They have been watching this bill progress. They support SB 88 as is. She explained her concern is that different segments have come to the table; she does not want to see special interest groups come along and stop logging. She would like to see regulations in place so that loggers do not have to address each and every harvest or redefine plans. She said she is a board member of the Alaska Forest Association. She believes SB 88 will provide consistency across the state. MR. ROBERT OTT, Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), told members that TCC supports SB 88. This legislation represents a lot of work by many different groups. It protects fish habitat and water quality standards mandated by the Forest Practices Act. TAPE 03-35, SIDE A MR. JAMES V. DREW, testifying from Fairbanks, said he recommends favorable action by the legislature on SB 88. He said he has watched the changes in the forestry issues in Alaska over 20 years as director of the Agriculture and Forestry Experiment Station at the University of Alaska. He has also served as a member and chair of the Alaska Reforestation Council. He explained that riparian areas in Alaska's forests are of interest to foresters, fishermen, and wildlife managers. The lack of reasonable standards for forest management within these riparian areas has led to inefficiencies in managing these areas for wildlife habitat and timber production. SB 88 was developed from input from two different working groups: the interdisciplinary science and technical committee; and the implementation committee, which involved a lot of people and discussion. The Board of Forestry established both of those committees. He said the bottom line is that SB 88 meets habitat requirements for fish and allows limited harvesting of white spruce and buffer strips to capture some of the economic values within riparian zones. Last year, HB 131 underwent considerable review by the natural resources committee of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. That committee recommended the bill. He strongly supports SB 88. MS. JAN DAWE, Alaska Boreal Forest Council director, stated support for SB 88 because it represents such an exemplary process. It provides industry and the entire community with the confidence that the Forest Practices Act is being competently administered for conditions specific to the region north of the Alaska Range. MR. CHRIS STARK, a fisheries biologist on the Board of Forestry, told members he is also representing the environmental community on the Tanana Valley State Forest. He said he is also representing and working for the Bering Sea Fisheries Association, Yukon River Fisheries Development Association, and a few other small non-profit organizations. He said his associations are happy to support this bill primarily because it is scientifically based and establishes a buffer zone. However, the environmental community would like a larger buffer zone requirement. SB 88 was a good compromise. CHAIR OGAN announced that with no further participants, public testimony was closed. He said that normally he would hold the bill in committee longer but this bill was reviewed by both bodies last year so he would be willing to move SB 88 from committee today. SENATOR SEEKINS said this bill made it through the House and Senate committees last year, but in the rush to adjourn, it was not scheduled for a floor vote in the Senate. It had almost unanimous support throughout the entire process. The concerns expressed are questions that need to be addressed after more information is gathered, such as harvesting trees close to a stream bank. He said the intent of the bill is to provide for planned, orderly growth and development in concert with the principles of good stewardship. His intent is to build the timber industry in a responsible manner. SENATOR DYSON moved SB 88 from committee with individual recommendations and attached fiscal note(s). SENATOR LINCOLN objected for the purpose of discussion. SENATOR SEEKINS said that rather than hold the bill in committee, he is willing to look at revisions to the legislation farther down the line. SENATOR WAGONER expressed concern about the word "prudent" on page 2, line 31, and asked who will determine what is or isn't prudent. MR. JAHNKE informed members that an intense discussion took place about the word "prudent" when Region 1 was reviewed. "Prudent" is determined by the Division of Forestry in consultation with the other agencies. SENATOR LINCOLN noted the word "prudent" is defined on page 3, line 26. She then noted that members were told that SB 88 is identical to HB 131. She asked if HB 131 was amended when it went through the legislative process last year. MR. JAHNKE said it was not amended. SENATOR LINCOLN pointed out the definition of "prudent" in the bill is not helpful because the definition uses terminology that is not firm. She then withdrew her objection to moving SB 88 from committee, therefore the motion carried.