Legislature(2013 - 2014)BUTROVICH 205
03/21/2014 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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SB 28-SUSITNA STATE FOREST; SALE OF TIMBER 3:42:25 PM CHAIR GIESSEL announced SB 28 to be up for consideration. 3:43:12 PM CHAIR GIESSEL moved Amendment 1. 28-GS1741\A.1 Bullock 3/20/14 AMENDMENT 1 OFFERED IN THE SENATE BY SENATOR GIESSEL TO: SB 28 Page 2, line 11, following "chapter.": Insert "The transportation objective for the Susitna State Forest is to provide access for timber management and multiple use within the Susitna State Forest." Page 7, line 14, through page 8, line 2: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 11, lines 12 - 23: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 14, lines 14 - 19: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 17, lines 11 - 27: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 21, lines 3 - 19: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 24, line 22, through page 25, line 7: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 27, lines 11 - 22: Delete all material. Renumber the following paragraphs accordingly. Page 32, line 8: Delete "2013" Insert "2014" SENATOR FRENCH objected for discussion purposes. CHAIR GIESSEL explained that this amendment adds intent language on page 2 of the bill and removes certain parcels from the Susitna State Forest. The intent language states a transportation objective for the forest to provide access for multiple use and timber management, and then some segments are removed from the State Forest. CHRIS MAISCH, State Forester and Director, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Anchorage, Alaska, explained that the proposed amendment is based on the public process they had been going through for this bill, comments by local government and others about concerns with needing additional lands close to communities for potential expansion of them, particularly near the communities of the City of Houston, Wasilla, and up along the east corridor of the Parks Highway. This amendment would delete parcels on the east side strip that run North- South, a relatively narrow corridor; this would garner additional support for this legislation. The other item concerned access to the State Forest similar to the intent that already exists in the Tanana Valley State Forest that says all parts of the State Forests over time will by accessed with a mixture of all-season and winter roads. SENATOR FRENCH asked him to summarize the general geographic changes. 3:45:22 PM MR. MAISCH said he could tell him the block names, but not exactly which lines they were on the map. There are four blocks; the first is the northern parcels (the Talkeetna block on their map); the descriptions address the Kashwitna parcel, the Willard Cash parcel, and the Houston parcel. SENATOR BISHOP asked if parcels on the east side of the highway were being stricken and the State Forest would be on the west side. MR. MAISCH answered yes. The stricken lands still be managed for forestry, because they are classified in the Area Plan as forestry land. He said it would be easier to change the potential uses of those lands when the Area Plans are updated. SENATOR FRENCH withdrew his objection. CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further objection, announced that Amendment 1 was adopted. She invited Mr. Maisch to go through the rest of the bill. 3:47:42 PM MR. MAISCH continued to explain that there are two parts to the bill; one is the State Forest portion, which he would speak to first, and then the part of the bill, which specifically addresses his timber sale authorities. He said the State of Alaska owns and manages 9.5 million acres in the Matanuska Valley and that two Area Plans - the Matanuska/Susitna Area Plan and the Southeast Susitna Area Plan - currently are identified for that area and have both recently been updated. Both are high-level allocations for different types of uses for state-owned land; State Forest, recreation, habitat, and disposal are some of the general classifications. This proposal originally suggested 663,000 acres and 33 parcels, but with the amendment the acreage drops down to 688,000 acres and 20 parcels. He said the primary purpose of the State Forest, by statute, is for timber management that allows other multiple uses of the forest to continue. One of the key concerns they heard in various public meetings and other discussions with local governments was that they wanted to be assured that the same type and same scale of use would continue to occur on the State Forests, and that is the case. In fact, they feel over time, as additional access is developed that many uses of the State Forest will benefit, particularly from a hunting and habitat management standpoint, which is where many of those comments came from. 3:49:51 PM MR. MAISCH recapped that the primary use for the State Forest is timber management consistent with multiple use and sustained yield principles. It is governed by the Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act, which also affects state, municipal, and private lands, and which is primarily designed to protect fish habitat and water quality. So, mandatory stream buffers are required in harvest units with a large number of rivers already having the recreation corridors along them (that in the Valley are a quarter mile on each side of the river). He said the Forest Management Plan for the State Forest must be completed within three years of the Forest being established and that is has a very extensive public process, including establishment of the Citizens Advisory Committee to give advice on uses and any potential conflicts that could develop. The Tanana Forest already has an advisory committee, but not the Southeast State Forest or the Haines State Forest, because they are much smaller in size, and in the case of the Southeast State Forest, very remote, so there aren't a lot of different users using those lands. MR. MAISCH said it was left up to their discretion as to whether to establish that Citizen Advisory Committee or not; it would have 12 members that would mirror the Board of Forestry that has 9 members, but it would represent a range of constituents, users - business and local government in the Valley - and they would be advisory and appointed by the Division of Forestry. He said the Management Plan will address future transportation planning, timber sales, and kind of all the standard things one would like to see in a plan about how they intend to manage that property. 3:51:05 PM MR. MAISCH said there had been extensive public outreach consisting of community meetings as part of the Area Planning process where the State Forest concept was discussed starting in 2009 and six open houses across the Valley in that timeframe, in 2012 there were 12 public meetings in communities up and down the Valley, and 10 meetings in 2013 including 2 webinars which tried to reach the remote areas of the borough where people couldn't easily travel into the community meetings. It was so successful that they plan to continue those. They also had 11 different news articles, radio stories, or other topics in the Valley in publications statewide on the topic of the State Forest. So, it has been well-vetted and discussed among the different interest groups. They also recently received support from the Matanuska Susitna Borough at their Tuesday Assembly meeting with a vote of 6-1 for a resolution in support of the State Forest concept. Numerous other letters in the record do the same thing. He paused for questions. 3:52:29 PM SENATOR MICCICHE asked what the primary species is in that area. MR. MAISCH replied spruce and white birch for hard wood and black cotton wood and cotton wood, and an occasional tamarack and aspen. SENATOR MICCICHE asked what the state practice is for reforestation after harvest. MR. MAISCH explained that three different regions in the state are under the Forest Practices Act, which requires reforestation of harvested lands within five years; that's in a "free-to-grow" state, a seedling that is essentially growing aggressively and vigorously and not overtopped by vegetation and grass. Finding no further questions on the forest portion of the plan, she invited him to go on to the timber sale provisions and authorities. 3:53:43 PM MR. MAISCH said some background on the department's authorities would help put into context what they are trying to do with this change. Currently, the Division of Forestry has five different statutes that allow it to sell timber using different methodologies in Title 38.05.115 and .117. The sale method used most frequently statewide is the competitive sale process in .120; those are sealed bid or oral outcry sales offered in their different area offices. They are competitive with the sale going to the highest price. A couple of other sales methods encourage local and domestic manufacturing; in Southeast Alaska if they offered all the timber sales by the .120 process, all the logs would go to the round log export market, because it is a much more valuable market against which the domestic market cannot compete. So they have developed other alternatives that still have a competitive piece on the front end, but then allow them to negotiate the sale. Mr. Maisch explained that they tried to do just round-log export restrictions in the late 70s and that case found its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the state lost it, because they were trying to regulate inter-state commerce, which a state cannot do. That is where the other authorities have sprung from: creative ways to encourage domestic processing, create jobs and more of an economy in the local communities. The first one is ".115 authority," which are sales for less than 500,000 board feet. Those typically go to a small saw mill or firewood operator. The next one is the ".117 authority," which is for salvage sales after a fire, insect and disease, and wind throw. It is an expedited process to get that wood to market as quickly as possible to salvage some of its value. The ".118 sales" are the large negotiated sales for 20-25 years, the topic of this legislation. And the ".123 sale," which is value-added sales for up to 10 years, are meant to provide raw materials to mills and facilities that add a high level of value to the product, like the pellet mill in Fairbanks. A list of materials that qualify for high-value production can be found in 11 AAC 71.055. MR. MAISCH said that their ".118 authority" has three criteria that have to be in place to use: the census district that the proposal is in has to have a high level of local unemployment, it has to have an under- utilized annual allowable cut in the timber supply, and it has to have under-utilized manufacturing capability at the facility that would use it. All three of those are hard to align especially the high unemployment piece. This bill proposes to strike all three of those clauses, and that would make it easier to use and be consistent across the state. One other thing SB 28 does is that currently the language in that statute just refers to timber, and to make that more inclusive and clear they added, "timber and fiber" (meaning all types of wood products). 3:58:01 PM SENATOR BISHOP commented that Mr. Maisch did a good overview and really knows his timber. SENATOR FRENCH asked if this is like former Senator Linda Menard's proposed legislation. MR. MAISCH answered yes; the forestry proposal is essentially the same, but it didn't have the change to the timber piece (.118). 3:58:53 PM CHAIR GIESSEL opened public testimony. 3:59:03 PM WAYNE NICHOLS, Professional Forester and member, Board of Forestry and Society of American Foresters, representing himself, Juneau, Alaska, supported SB 28. He said compared to other states, the Alaska State Forest has a lot of benefits, the primary one being that it makes good management of it possible by well- qualified professional people of which Mr. Maisch is "an outstanding example." His staff also have other disciplines that relate to it. Designation as a State Forest enables investments like planting a tree, a 100- year investment, instead of the land being subject to being changed for some other use. It is also valuable in that better roads and bridges can be built. Pruning and thinning are also long-term investments. SENATOR DYSON thanked him for his service. 4:03:20 PM NICK STEEN, Ruffed Grouse Society, Wasilla, Alaska, supported SB 28. He said the president of the Southcentral Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, Dr. Michael Fuller, recently contacted several members of the legislature expressing opposition to SB 28 as written. He explained that they enthusiastically support the concept of a State Forest, however the accelerated development in the Alaska Bowl and the Matanuska Susitna Valley is transforming the character of the area into an urban sprawl. A forest would preserve public lands and resources for effective forest management that promotes economic use of the forest resources, enhancement of wildlife habitat close to major population areas, and maintenance a large block of land for public recreation. Their concern is the fractured nature of the proposed boundaries, and Dr. Fuller asked him to express his and the Chapter's conditional support of SB 28. Their Chapter has been working during the development of the Susitna Matanuska Area Plan (SMAP) to establish a State Forest on all unencumbered state land west of the Susitna River between the Beluga River and the south boundary of the Denali State and National Parks draining into the Susitna River. They oppose the SMAP as developed since it has designated a series of non- contiguous lands for forest management interspersed with land designated as mining or for disposal as recreation and agriculture. This hampers effective forest management and restricts public and multiple use. SB 28 perpetuates this approach by identifying only the land designated for forest management by the SMAP as a Susitna Forest. It does not address the issues of access for effective forest management, uniform regulations for total area management, boundary identification for recreational use, and the loss of public access for recreational purposes by transferring land to private ownership. However, there is insufficient time in their mind in the legislative session to make the major changes needed to fix these issues. Therefore, they feel that getting the Forest established is critical and would like to support the current bill, but ask their help in making it more effective by considering modifications to the boundaries in future legislation and directing the DNR to suspend implementation of any land disposal programs in the SMAP west of the Susitna River until their concerns are addressed. SENATOR FAIRCLOUGH joined the committee. 4:06:41 PM ERIN MCLARNEN, member, Board of Forestry, representing "the recreational users of Alaska", Willow, Alaska, supported SB 28. She also personally supported the Susitna State Forest. Not only would it create jobs and stimulate the economy over time, but it would guarantee all users a place to recreate. MS. MCLARNEN said she is a 17-year long-distance dog musher and frequently uses state forest lands for training her dogs. These are her favorite runs for their access and the roads created during harvest, and she wanted more users to have those same opportunities. She said the local Willow dog mushers have formed a strong relationship with the Division of Forestry and DNR, as well as the logging operators. In September they all come together to talk about their harvest plans for roads and then the mushers overlap their trails onto that. A lot of the operators will actually reroute their trails during harvest times so that those training grounds won't be lost, actually suspending harvest for two days for a 100-mile kids' dog race on their trail system. 4:09:04 PM RICK ROGERS, Executive Director, Resource Development Council (RDC), Anchorage, Alaska, said he is also a certified forester that had performed forestry on and off throughout Alaska since 1981 and supported SB 28. It represents the state committing a long-term land base to promote long-term sustainable forestry practices. He said LNG is speed dating compared to forestry, because forestry is an extremely long-term commitment. Forest rotations in Alaska can span from 60 to 100-plus years. So, if they are going to do the job right and encourage long-term forest productivity and encourage the private sector to invest in what it takes to harvest and process that timber to generate jobs and create wealth in our communities, then we need to commit the land base so they know that state is committed and that the land is going to be available. The lands in question are already being managed for forestry, and this bill makes it official. MR. ROGERS also noted there were over 3 million acres of other legislatively-designated lands for things like parks, refuges and public use areas throughout the Mat- Su area and a designated working State Forest is needed to balance that out. He said this isn't a new experiment in Alaska that already has the Tanana Valley State Forest, the Haines State Forest, and the Southeast State Forest, and they are all good models from which to build one in the Susitna Valley. He noted that Mr. Steen encouraged some future look at boundaries and that historically the Tanana Forest has had at least one, and maybe several, modifications over its history. So nothing keeps them from improving on the boundaries that are presented today. He hadn't looked at the amendments in detail, but would give deference to the committee and DNR for working with the local community. If they can gain support by reducing some of those areas, perhaps they could be considered in the future for adding to the State Forest at a later date. MR. ROGERS summarized that this bill represents a long- term commitment to good forest management and the private sector is likely to respond favorably to that. It is consistent with the state's constitutional mandate to manage these resources sustainably for the long term benefit of Alaskans. 4:13:34 PM ANDY ROGERS, Alaska Chamber of Commerce, Anchorage, Alaska, supported SB 28. He liked the 100-plus year commitment and thought it was an opportunity for the state to be a good steward of its resources and to ensure long-term economic stability with the potential for growth. 4:16:19 PM CHAIR GIESSEL, finding no further comments, closed public testimony and moved conceptual Amendment 2. She explained that this management plan would not be as well written as the one for the Tanana State Forest, but adding the following language from that plan to page 32, line 2, would resolved that: (e) The wildlife management objective of the Susitna State Forest is the production of wildlife for a high level of sustained yield for human use through habitat improvement techniques to the extent consistent with the primary purpose of a state forest under AS 41.17.20. CHAIR GIESSEL explained that this amendment would maximize the area for wildlife management and not just for timber management. SENATOR FRENCH objected for discussion purposes and said he preferred to see the amendment in the bill and to have enough time for consideration of it. CHAIR GIESSEL responded that it goes to the Finance Committee next. SENATOR FRENCH withdrew his objection. 4:19:22 PM MR. MAISCH said he supported the conceptual amendment and that its language is currently in AS 41.17.400 (e) for the Tanana Valley State Forest. SENATOR BISHOP said that should go a long way to make the Ruffed Grouse people, who would hunt grouse there, a lot happier. MR. MAISCH said he hoped so, too; they are serious about habitat and forest management that really go hand-in-hand. CHAIR GIESSEL announced that Amendment 2 was adopted. MR. MAISCH summarized that this is a statement about long-term commitment and a sustainable resource that can be managed to help Alaska's communities. It's about the "the triple bottom line" of society, environment, and the economy. When done right it can get good results for the people of the state. 4:21:18 PM SENATOR DYSON moved to report SB 28, version 28- GS1741\A, as amended, from committee to the next committee of referral with attached fiscal notes and individual recommendations. There were no objections and CSSB 28(RES) passed from the Senate Resources Standing Committee.