Legislature(2021 - 2022)BUTROVICH 205
05/03/2021 03:30 PM RESOURCES
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SB 85-FOREST LAND USE PLANS; TIMBER SALES 3:44:39 PM CHAIR REVAK reconvened the meeting and announced the consideration of SENATE BILL NO. 85 "An Act relating to forest land use plans; relating to forest land use plan appeals; relating to negotiated timber sales; and providing for an effective date." He noted this was the first hearing. 3:45:16 PM BRENT GOODRUM, Deputy Commissioner, Department of Natural Resources, Anchorage, Alaska, stated SB 85 seeks to modernize the processes for timber sales and the decision making for timber sales, which will help grow jobs in Alaska's timber industry. He opined that SB 85 will result in more efficient land-use planning and more predictable timber harvests. Importantly, SB 85 has a zero fiscal note, he said. 3:46:42 PM TIM DABNEY, Acting State Forester and Director, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources, Anchorage, Alaska, Introduced SB 85 with a PowerPoint titled "Forest Land Use Plans; Negotiated Timber Sales." He reviewed the presentation overview on slide 2, which read as follows: Presentation Overview • Issue: SE Alaska timber industry is struggling to survive. • How can we provide and protect timber jobs? • Step 1: Change negotiated timber sale statutes to allow local industry to sell all the timber it harvests, as export if needed. • Step 2: Provide a stable and predictable supply of timber to the industry, once a timber sale has been purchased. • Sectional Analysis 3:47:56 PM MR. DABNEY charged that the U.S. Forest Service is not providing the supply of timber needed to maintain a healthy timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Since the 1990s, the number of timber industry jobs has dropped from about 4,000 to just 325. Even those jobs are now in jeopardy, he said. Until young growth timber becomes economically harvestable in about 2030, the industry will struggle to survive. He directed attention to the inset map on slide 4 that shows state timberland sites in Southeast Alaska. He said the Division of Forestry provides the sustainable yield volume of timber on state land in this region, but this is just 46,952 acres or 0.04 percent of the land base in Southeast. By comparison, the 16.8 million acre Tongass National Forest has about 5.5 million acres of commercial timberland. MR. DABNEY offered suggestions on how to protect and provide timber industry jobs in Southeast. Step 1 would be to change the negotiated timber sale statutes to allow the industry to sell all the timber it harvests, including for export. He pointed out that the current negotiated timber sale statutes prohibit local timber purchasers from selling logs for export. Most must be used for local manufacture. He said this is problematic because the timber supply increasingly has more young growth and much of it is not marketable in Alaska. Additionally, the demand for species such as hemlock is only in overseas markets or in the Pacific Northwest. 3:50:38 PM MR. DABNEY stated the Division of Forestry offers and administers both competitive and negotiated timber sales. Negotiated timbers sales are important because this type allows the division to select the timber purchaser based not only on price, but also on the number of local jobs the sale will provide. 3:51:13 PM SENATOR STEVENS asked what hemlock is used for primarily if demand for that species is only overseas markets or in the Pacific Northwest. 3:51:33 PM MR. DABNEY answered, hemlock has a higher moisture content which makes it less desirable for dimensional lumber. Overseas it is used for smaller items such as molding. MR. DABNEY turned to slide 7 and explained that the second step to protect and provide jobs in Alaska is to provide a stable and predictable supply of timber to the industry, once a sale has been sold. SB 85 provides this protection by reducing appeals. He described the steps, listed on slide 8, leading up to awarding a timber sale. He noted that public and agency comment is gathered at each step. Agency comments are solicited from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G), and the state historic preservation officer. The first step is to develop area and state forest plans for the region. Second, each area office identifies the timber sales that are scheduled over the next five years. This is done every two years and the public has the opportunity to provide input. The third step is the best interest finding (BIF). The division starts with a preliminary BIF and works with the agencies and public to come to a final best interest finding. Once the BIF is adopted, the timber can be sold. Step four is to develop forest land use plans (FLUP) for timber harvest units. Not all FLUPs must be issued before timber is offered for sale. When the sales are large, the FLUPs are prepared in phases as access is created. He highlighted that regional planning, best interest finding, and forest land use plans are subject to public appeal. 3:55:18 PM MR. DABNEY described the difference between the best interest finding and the forest land use plan outlined on slide 9. Best Interest Finding Forest Land Use Plan Decision document: Implements BIF on the ground • Should we sell • How will the sold this timber? timber be harvested? MR. DABNEY reviewed the existing requirements for timber sales on slide 10 that read as follows: Agency and public input is gathered at each step of a timber sale. Timber sales must adhere to the Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act (FRPA, AS 41.17), which: • protects fish habitat, • protects water quality, and • ensures prompt reforestation. 3:56:26 PM MR. DABNEY reviewed slides 11 and 12 that lay out what SB 85 would do to help provide a stable and predictable supply of timber. The slides read as follows: Under current statute, a timber sale can be appealed more than once, even after it has been purchased. An appeal on a purchased sale can halt harvesting, which can be disastrous to a logging company. SB 85 ensures that once the decision has been made to sell the timber, and it has been purchased, no further administrative appeals can occur. Input would still be gathered from public and agencies. SB 85 focuses appeals at the BIF stage, before timber is sold. • Provides stable and predictable supply of timber once sold. • No interruptions of harvest at a subsequent FLUP stage. 3:57:27 PM SENATOR MICCICHE referenced the statement that demand for species such as hemlock is from an overseas market that makes molding or trim. He shared his dream of Alaska businesses someday employing Alaskans to create Alaskan goods. That could be making trim in Alaska from Alaskan hemlock. He asked how that could ever be a reality if a forest product company isn't encouraged to invest in the machinery to make something like trim in the state. The finished product could be exported instead of the raw timber. MR. DABNEY answered the department would advocate doing what it can to keep the industry alive long enough to introduce new manufacturing opportunities for hemlock and second growth timber. 3:59:26 PM SENATOR MICCICHE asked if new manufacturing opportunities would be less likely after the removal of the requirement to use most of the timber for local manufacturing. MR. DABNEY answered removing that provision from the statute is not intended to remove the option, it just removes the requirement. 4:00:40 PM SENATOR STEVENS asked if reforestation would be part of the presentation. MR. DABNEY answered no. The Alaska Forest Resources and Practices Act (FRPA) requires regeneration following harvest, but that is not part of the bill. SENATOR STEVENS asked who does the work and pays for reforestation. MR. DABNEY answered the land manger is responsible for reforestation. In some places in Alaska reforestation is a natural process and in others hand planting is required. SENATOR STEVENS stressed the importance of ensuring that state land is back in production as soon as possible after it's been logged. He said he'd like to discuss that further at another time. 4:02:34 PM SENATOR KIEHL said his question was about removing the ability for Alaskans to appeal a forest land use plan after the initial sale. He noted the presentation indicates that DNR will continue to listen to comments from the public and agencies throughout the process. However, if the public did not think DNR was meeting its obligations, there would be no process to stop the department once a phase 5 or 6 forest land use plan had created access in a harvest unit. He asked how to ensure that public and agency comment remains meaningful. 4:03:27 PM MR. DABNEY answered DNR gives due deference to DEC and ADF&G comments that are within their purviews. DNR is bound to comply with the requirements from those agencies and it must adhere to the Alaska Forest Practices Act and the documents that preceded the FLUP. This includes the best interest finding and the area plans, all of which were subject to comment and appeal. To the question about public comment, he said public comment is solicited for the forest land use plans and the Division of Forestry has an excellent track record of working with the public to make necessary changes to the harvest. He cited a hypothetical example of moving a boundary in a harvest unit due to visual impacts or wind. SENATOR KIEHL said his concern is that if there is no opportunity for an Alaskan to appeal if they believe the department has gotten it wrong, the objections may be louder in the future. 4:06:18 PM CHAIR REVAK opened public testimony on SB 85; finding none, he closed public testimony. 4:06:50 PM CHAIR REVAK announced he would hold SB 85 in committee for future consideration.