Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/05/1995 08:20 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HRES - 04/05/95 SJR 12 - U.S. FOREST SERVICE PLAN Number 580 JOE AMBROSE, LEGISLATIVE ASSISTANT, SENATOR ROBIN TAYLOR, PRIME SPONSOR, stated SJR 12 is not in opposition to the Reinvention of the U.S. Forest Service Plan. SJR 12 asks for a suspension and review of that plan. He said early in December, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) announced its Reinvention Plan. He told committee members a copy of that half-inch thick document is on file in Representative Taylor's office and noted the devil is in the detail. MR. AMBROSE explained that the plan would centralize decision making in Washington, D.C. He said such a policy flies in the face of President Clinton's Executive Order No. 12875, which calls for enhancing intergovernmental partnerships. The plan also puts lie to Vice President Gore's "Report on Reinventing Government," with its stated goals of "empowering state and local governments" and "decentralizing decision-making power." He stated under reinvention, regional forest supervisors and other front line leaders, who now have decision making authority, would be replaced with four people leadership teams answerable only to the Chief of the Forest Service and the Secretary of Agriculture. He noted gone would be any pretense of involving local and state governments in the USFS decisions. The plan goes so far as to consolidate the regional offices now located in Alaska and Montana to a central office in Oregon. MR. AMBROSE told committee members that SJR 12 calls for a suspension of the plan and true partnership meetings with states, communities, and tribal governments. He noted that a committee substitute has been suggested which would add the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act corporations to the list. He said the goal would be the development of a new plan--one that would involve the affected entities up-front. He stressed the reinvention scheme goes far beyond the relocation of regional offices. If left to stand, the plan will mean a new era of USFS policy dictated from on high, without consulting the very people most impacted by those policies. MR. AMBROSE noted that in committee members folders, there is a memo from John Sandor, the former Regional Forester and former commissioner, which was developed by Mr. Sandor in conjunction with a group of resource professionals from around the country, including Mike Barton, who is also a Regional Forester. He stressed these professionals are very concerned about the direction the reinvention plan takes the USFS in the future and the lack of involvement with the entities most impacted by future decisions. Number 620 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES noted the memo referred to was not very readable. He wondered if the original was available. MR. AMBROSE said the original is on gray paper and does not duplicate very well. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stated he supports the basic intent of SJR 12 but expressed concern about page 2, lines 8-10. He wondered how moving the Alaska Region Forest Service office is an example of flawed science. MR. AMBROSE requested committee members to refer to the memo just mentioned. He said the second paragraph says, "One striking example of the flawed scientific basis for and definition of ecosystems and ecological boundaries is illustrated in the proposed realignment of Forest Service Regional Office boundaries. The strategic plan states that regional boundaries will be realigned to more closely follow natural ecological boundaries. Incredibly, the strategic plan announces the timetable for incorporating Alaska's diverse and unique forest ecosystems under the direction of a Forest Service leadership team headquartered in Portland, Oregon. None of Alaska's forest ecosystems are the same as those represented in the Pacific Northwest. As a matter of fact, many of Alaska's boreal forests are more closely related to the ecosystems of the Northern Lake states and adjacent Canadian provinces." He added the stated goals and the plan to carry them out does not make any sense. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt the premise for the paragraph just read is somewhat strange. He said it appears the premise of the USFS is to align their administrative boundaries with ecological boundaries which he thought was odd. He noted usually administrative boundaries are aligned more closely with political boundaries for operational reasons. He stated if that is an example of the science involved, it is flawed science. He thought good science could be done on ecosystems in Southeast Alaska from New York State. Number 665 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES referring to page 3, lines 7-8, of SJR 12, stated he does not understand the intent. MR. AMBROSE said Senator Taylor's intent with this language was that the compensation level, cost of living, etc., for USFS employees be more reflective of the productivity of the USFS. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES asked if that means Senator Taylor does not want the USFS employees to be paid at all. MR. AMBROSE replied no. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stressed he really does not understand the intent of this language. MR. AMBROSE responded it is Senator Taylor's belief that one of the primary functions of the USFS in its management of the national forests is timber production. Senator Taylor feels the USFS employee compensation should be reflective of their productivity level. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES clarified if the USFS employees are not producing timber, they should not be compensated. MR. AMBROSE replied it is Senator Taylor's position that if the USFS is not producing timber, they should probably be a part of the National Park Service. TAPE 95-46, SIDE B Number 000 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES stressed he cannot support that kind of statement. He felt the Resolves in resolutions need to be directed at issues the legislature can attempt to influence. He seriously doubted the legislature would be able to impact the federal compensation policies in a manner such as SJR 12. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES made a MOTION to AMEND SJR 12, on page 3, lines 7-8, delete the entire FURTHER RESOLVED. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN OBJECTED. CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS wondered how this Resolve pertains to the real intent of the resolution. MR. AMBROSE stated a similar motion for amending SJR 12 was made when the resolution was debated in the Senate. He said Senator Taylor felt this Further Resolved was in keeping with the general tone of the entire resolution in regard to asking that the entire process be reassessed. He noted this language was the subject of a debate in Sitka. The Sitka Borough Assembly passed a resolution supporting SJR 12 and were called to question by members of the community. They revisited the issue including a briefing by USFS on ecosystem management, and did not withdraw their support for SJR 12. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES said the reason he moved the amendment was because he supports the basic notion in SJR 12, but does not feel it furthers the legislature's position in asking for things to happen by putting things in resolutions which can be taken as insulting. He stated unless the language can be removed, he cannot support the resolution. If the language is removed, he would support SJR 12. Number 082 CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS agreed with Senator Taylor's position on this Further Resolved. He noted he comes from an area which is basically run by the USFS. He stressed the USFS is not making enough timber available to keep the mills working and described the situation in the Ketchikan area. He noted the USFS is making timber available but it is not possible to get the timber because of the weather. He felt it was important to keep this Further Resolved in SJR 12, as it will send a strong message. He did not feel it was embarrassing but felt shutting down an entire industry is embarrassing. MR. AMBROSE stated this is one of the issues Senator Murkowski raised with the new Secretary of Agriculture and he has made a commitment to reassess the USFS role. He noted the Senate did not feel the language in SJR 12 was too strong and added that the Senator who proposed the same amendment as Representative Davies, ended up voting for the resolution. Number 145 REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES felt what happens in the Senate is irrelevant to this committee. He stated the issue is whether or not timber is available for the mills in Southeast Alaska. He said he did not believe that Senator Murkowski discussed USFS employee compensation with the Secretary. He thought it would be more appropriate for this Further Resolved to consider the Secretary's compensation or the Regional Administrator's compensation rather than USFS employees in general, because USFS employees are carrying out policies set by their supervisors. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES pointed out there are USFS employees just as frustrated as others about the rate at which timber is being made available. However, those employees are required to work at the direction of their supervisors and their supervisors are required, by law, to operate under the laws of the U.S. He said if there is a desire to change how that fundamentally is done, then there is a need to change those laws. He said it is not fair to single out one class of federal employees and reduce their pay because of a frustration with the law they are working under. CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote on the amendment. Voting in favor of the amendment was Representative Davies. Voting against the amendment were Representatives Austerman, Kott, Ogan, and Williams. The MOTION FAILED 4-1. REPRESENTATIVE OGAN made a MOTION to MOVE CSSJR 12(RES) with attached fiscal note out of committee with individual recommendations. REPRESENTATIVE DAVIES OBJECTED. CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS asked for a roll call vote. Voting against the motion was Representative Davies. Voting in favor of the amendment were Representatives Kott, Ogan... CO-CHAIRMAN WILLIAMS announced SJR 12 would be held until a later date.