Legislature(1997 - 1998)
02/19/1998 01:14 PM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 373 - FOREST RESOURCES CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced the first order of business was House Bill No. 373, "An Act relating to forests and forestry practices." Number 0069 REPRESENTATIVE GAIL PHILLIPS, Alaska State Legislature, sponsor of HB 373, stated she is pleased today to bring a bill that would greatly enhance protection of Alaska's salmon resources and water quality, thanks to a major cooperative effort between timber and fishing industries, environmental groups, and state agencies. House Bill 373 is designed to improve the present Forest Practices Act (FPA). The cooperative effort represents a commitment from these groups to periodically reevaluate protection for Alaska's streams and new fish protection measures. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS explained in February of 1996, the Board of Fisheries heard reports from state agencies regarding the effectiveness of the FPA. The board found that the Act was working well, in general, to protect salmon habitat and water quality, but there were some concerns resulting in the formation of the Forest Practices Act Science and Technical Committee. The committee included scientists from timber, commercial fishing, and the environmental community, as well as federal and state research agencies. After intensive review, the committee identified opportunities to strengthen habitat and wildlife protection. A stakeholder meeting then convened to incorporate the findings into recommendations to present to the Board of Forestry. At last month's meeting, the board heard the recommendations and endorsed a series of amendments to the FPA with broad consensus support from all of the participants. The cooperation shown by board members and the implementation group is laudable. As a result, the state is now looking forward to better protection for its valuable salmon resources without unreasonable cost to industry or private land owners. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS explained the changes to the FPA would add several important protective measures to the riparian protection standards for private forest lands in the coastal forests of Region I. For clarification, "riparian" means living or located near a stream or river bank. In essence, the changes would accomplish the following: 1) Classify all segments of anadromous streams as to type, depending on size, deepness and bank structure. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS explained the scientific definitions of the streams are contained in the bill. In addition, the changes to the FPA would accomplish the following: 2) Extend the no-cut buffer zones to all anadromous streams relative to type. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS explained the 1990-FPA legislation required a 66-foot no-cut-zone along the most important salmon streams on private lands. House Bill 373 would require a buffer along all streams irrespective of their characteristics. In addition, operations within 100 feet of the streams, or at least to the break of the slop, would be conducted in compliance with established slope stability standards for Types A, B, C and D streams. In addition, the changes to the FPA would accomplish the following: 3) Retain low-value timber along Types C and D streams, where prudent, so that large woody debris (LWD) eventually travel down stream and form natural pools, an important habitat for juvenile fish. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS stated, in conclusion, the state of Alaska has one of the most effective Forest Practices Act in the nation. The collaborative process undertaken by the stakeholders is the first step forward in a path towards managing Alaska's marketable resources while protecting them for future generations. Number 0451 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON commended Representative Phillips for putting together the different user groups and coming away with something that they are willing to sign off on. CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON announced for the record that Representative Reggie Joule arrived some time back. Number 0499 REPRESENTATIVE RAMONA BARNES asked Representative Phillips whether HB 373 is like the dead trees bill. REPRESENTATIVE PHILLIPS replied, "No." It is much better than the dead trees bill. It is to prevent dead fish. Number 0590 DOUG YATES, Representative, Alaska Boreal Forest Council, testified via teleconference in Fairbanks. The council is in favor of the changes detailed to the FPA in HB 373. The measure demonstrates that the legislature supports scientific findings as they relate to sustaining Alaska's fisheries and wildlife, and protecting continued reliance on salmon fisheries in Southeast Alaska. However, as recognition of the need for adoptive management, there are significant gaps in scientific analysis for similar issues in Southcentral and the Interior - Regions II and III. Salmon spawning protection is needed statewide. There are no mandatory buffers north of the Alaska Range which needs to be corrected as soon as possible. In conclusion, he favors the passage of HB 373 and suggested that the science and technical committee process be used as a model for adaptive management for streams in the Interior and Southcentral. Number 0708 DALE BONDURANT testified via teleconference in Kenai. He is glad there is support for a wider no-cut portion along these streams. There is, now, recognition of the need for a continued supply of LWD into anadromous streams that is vital to the sustained yield principle of the state's fishery resources. He agreed with the previous speaker that it should be expanded to cover all of Alaska. It is well known that not enough LWD is going into anadromous streams were there are narrow protection zones. In conclusion, the bill should be supported and expanded. Number 0810 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON called for a motion to adopt the proposed committee substitute. Number 0821 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES made a motion to adopt the proposed committee substitute for HB 373, version 0-LS1461\E, Luckhaupt, 2/18/98, as a work draft. There being no objection, it was so adopted. Number 0869 JEFF JAHNKE, State Forester, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources, announced the Administration supports HB 373. The process and the resulting recommendations were based on the best available scientific information. It was open to the public and a wide range of interests were involved in each of the steps. The results were supported by the Board of Forestry with representation from commercial fishing, the forest industry, Native corporations, environmental organizations, mining, fish and wildlife biology, professional forestry, and recreation. The committee substitute was the result of consensus and any change to it would make consensus difficult to sustain. The Administration urges the passage of the bill as written. MR. JAHNKE introduced Martha Welbourn to talk about the specifics in the bill. Number 1005 MARTHA WELBOURN, Deputy Director - Management, Division of Forestry, Department of Natural Resources, stated she was also the co-chair of the science and technical committee that made recommendations leading to HB 373. She explained the bill is not a wholesale revision of the FPA. The changes affect only the parts that address stream protection in terms of classification and riparian management on private lands in Region I. It would only affect private lands, and lands under the regulations of the Mental Health Trust Commission. Under current protection standards, streams are classified into three types - A, B, and C. Types A and B are anadromous, and type C includes the steeper tributaries to anadromous streams. In addition, there are some streams, including anadromous streams, that are not classified under the existing Act. And there are buffer management practices that govern road construction, maintenance, and timber harvest that apply to both classified and unclassified streams. However, requirements to maintain tree cover apply only to classified streams. Tree cover is important because it provides woody debris for fish habitat, helps stabilize stream banks, and provides nutrients to the stream. Type A streams are the only ones that have a buffer covered under the Act. There are no buffer requirements for Type B streams, except under slope stability standards for road construction, timber yarding, and tree felling, to prevent erosion. The standards also direct the land owner to leave low-value timber according to the operators' discretion and where feasible. Slope stability standards also apply to Type C streams, except to a narrower zone than anadromous streams. MS. WELBOURN further explained when the science and technical committee reviewed the issues dealing with the FPA, it kept with the legislative intent and looked at the Act periodically. For many issues, the committee recommended no changes to the Act, except for two. Firstly, the committee said that all anadromous streams and all tributaries to anadromous streams should be classified - about 20 percent are not classified under the FPA. The committee also stressed the scientific literature on the value of stream buffers to protect fish habitat. Secondly, the committee said that more woody debris was needed in Type B streams for fish habitat and for washing down stream into Type A channels. MS. WELBOURN further explained that HB 373 would classify all tributaries to anadromous streams and all anadromous streams. She reiterated it would not affect Type A streams. It would classify all tributaries to anadromous streams as Type C or D, based on the slope's gradient. It would also change the management standards so that all anadromous waters would have a 66-foot buffer zone, or up to the slope break, whichever is less. Previously, buffers were only on Type A streams. In addition, the slope stability standards would apply up to 100 feet from the stream bank, or up to the slope break, whichever is less. The slope stability standards would apply to both Type C and D streams with different standards depending on the slope's gradient. It would also strengthen the standards to encourage retention of low-value timber along the streams by removing the operators' discretion criterion and saying the timber "shall" be retained, where prudent. It would also apply to all trees within 25 feet of Type C and D streams, or up to 100 feet for Type C, and up to 50 feet for Type D streams. MS. WELBOURN further stated, in conclusion, that the changes matter because they help protect the main goals of the Act. They also support Alaska's timber industry. They would strengthen stream protection in coastal Alaska in a way that would be workable for the timber operators and the private land owners. The changes would also continue to ensure that the Act satisfies the requirements for non-point source pollution prevention under the Federal Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. Number 1490 REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN referred to beatle kill of trees and asked Ms. Welbourn what would be the policy for areas that are virtually dead. Number 1517 MS. WELBOURN replied, according to the Department of Fish and Game, a tree that is killed by beatles and falls into a stream is not a problem because it provides large woody debris. The question is whether new trees would grow without some disturbance to provide large woody debris for 50 years from now. She cited on the western Kenai Peninsula, where there is the most intensive beatle kill, it is not an issue because most of the streams are in valleys where there is a non-forest edge so it would not affect them. Number 1561 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked Ms. Welbourn, for clarification, whether the bill would include mental health lands, as well as private lands. MS. WELBOURN replied, "Correct." In accordance with regulations, mental health lands are treated as private lands under the FPA. Number 1595 MARC WHEELER, Representative, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC), read the following statement into the record: "Founded in 1970, SEACC is a coalition of fifteen local community, volunteer conservation groups in twelve Southeast Alaska communities, from Ketchikan to Yakutat. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council's 1,200 individual members include commercial fishermen, Native Alaskans, hunters and guides, tourism and recreation business owners, value-added wood product manufactures, and Alaskans from all walks of life. The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is dedicated to safeguarding the integrity of Southeast Alaska's unsurpassed natural environment while providing for balanced, sustainable use of our region's resources. "While SEACC has always advocated for freshwater fish habitat protections in Southeast Alaska and we applaud any additional protections given to fresh water fish habitat, we must tell you today that this bill is too little, too late for buffer protections on private lands in our region. With most of Southeast Alaska's Class B streams on private lands already cut to the banks, the minimal additional protections afforded by this bill will not significantly improve quality of freshwater fish habitat in our region. We urge the state legislature to use the 1995 report to Congress, the "Anadromous Fish Habitat Assessment", as the guidebook for fish habitat protections in Southeast Alaska. The Forest Service recently adopted improved fish stream buffers with its new Tongass plan to comply with the recommendations of this report. To protect the integrity of Alaska's public trust fisheries resources, the state legislature should ultimately require private landowners to adopt fish habitat protections equivalent to the new Forest Service fish stream buffers. We also urge the state legislature to begin a public process to consider freshwater fish habitat protections for lands in other parts of our state." CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON asked Mr. Wheeler whether or not SEACC supports the bill. MR. WHEELER replied SEACC supports it as a first step. It is not adequate to protect the long-term health of Southeast Alaska's salmon stocks, however. Number 1706 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES asked Mr. Wheeler to define "public trust fisheries resources." MR. WHEELER replied the state of Alaska has jurisdiction over the fisheries resources which belong to all of the people and they must be managed for the long-term health of the stocks. Number 1728 CO-CHAIRMAN SCOTT OGAN asked Mr. Wheeler what would be SEACC's ultimate solution to protect the salmon streams. Number 1738 MR. WHEELER replied the 1990-Congressional report said that even forest service buffers were not big enough to protect the long-term health of salmon stocks in Southeast Alaska. The report recommended additional protections including headwater stream buffers. CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN asked Mr. Wheeler whether the report included no logging. MR. WHEELER replied, "No sir." Number 1769 JACK PHELPS, Executive Director, Alaska Forest Association, Incorporated (AFA), stated the AFA appreciates Representative Phillips for introducing the bill and the House Resources Committee for hearing it and moving it along. As the committee members have heard, it is a direct result of a two-year scientific review process with full participation from the industry. The AFA is proud of the work done and grateful for the participation of the fishing industry, the Board of Forestry's review, and the participation from the Administration. The timber industry recognizes that there will be some cost associated with the bill, but it is appropriate given the nature of the interaction between fisheries and forestry. He urged the committee members to move forward with the bill, without changes. It is a collaborative process and the details of the bill are very important to maintain its collaborative nature. Number 1853 REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Phelps whether the only change in the committee substitute is in the title. Number 1860 MR. PHELPS replied there are some other technical changes to make sure the bill is consistent with itself. There are no substantive changes in the committee substitute, however. REPRESENTATIVE GREEN asked Mr. Phelps whether the change tightened the title. MR. PHELPS replied, "Yes." Number 1903 JERRY McCUNE, Representative, United Fishermen of Alaska (UFA), stated the UFA supports HB 373, as written, 100 percent. He thanked the private land owners and the Board of Forestry for working together with the seafood industry to accomplish the bill. He called it a united front which should be a message to the legislature itself. Number 1932 CO-CHAIRMAN OGAN stated he hopes there will be the same spirit of cooperation on the subsistence issue as well. Number 1946 RICHARD P. HARRIS, Senior Vice President of Natural Resources, Sealaska Corporation, explained the cooperation has about 300,000 acres of land in Southeast Alaska, of which, about 220,000 acres are commercial forests lands. All of the lands are regulated by the existing FPA and the amendments in the committee substitute would increase the oversight. The corporation supports HB 373 because it would provide supplemental environmental protections that would enhance fish habitat and water quality. Since 1992, the AFA, Sealaska, and several timber owners have been conducting forests practices effectiveness monitoring and are happy to report that the FPA is protecting fish habitat and water quality. The monitoring also showed that the Act could be further strengthened. As a result, the corporation supports the bill. He thanked the participants of the process. It was long and difficult at times, but an understanding was developed on how to cooperate and find solutions to complex problems. Number 2042 RICK SMERIGLIO, Environmental Representative, Board of Forestry, testified via teleconference in Seward. He thanked the committee members for adopting almost verbatim the recommendations of the Board of Forestry. He supports the bill because of the process. The best information was brought forward, the stakeholders were at the table, and it was not rushed. Consequently, there is a product that everybody can support as the testimony indicates so far. All of the salmon streams would be protected - big, little, private and public, a plus for the environment. He pointed out that in HB 373 the words "harvest of timbers" and "timber operations" are used sometimes. He suggested, for clarity, just using the word "operation." In statute, operation is clearly defined to mean harvest of timbers, logging, and timber operations. In conclusion, as the environmental representative on the Board of Forestry, he supports HB 373. He asked that the same process be brought to bear for Southcentral and the Interior - Regions II and III, respectively. In the October meeting of the Board of Forestry, there was overwhelming public testimony for protections of riparian zones for those regions. Number 2166 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON explained to Mr. Smeriglio his suggestions are in the committee substitute that has already been adopted. Number 2177 KEN FREEMAN, Executive Director, Resource Development Council (RDC), explained RDC is a statewide membership funded organization, working on behalf of Alaska's basic industries including timber, mining, oil and gas, fishing and tourism. The RDC strongly supports HB 373 and urges its passage. It is a product of a sensible process based on public involvement and sound science. In reference to the riparian buffer zones, the committee did not specifically recommend a 66-foot buffer on Type B streams. The committee recommended a source of large woody debris be provided for the streams. The timber industry found, however, that a 66- foot buffer would more than adequately meet the goals of the recommendations. The buffers would require the industry to leave trees of value in the riparian zone minimizing the adverse effects on harvests. The RDC applauds the efforts of the committee and the Board of Forestry for crafting statutory language to ensure the responsible development of Alaska's timber resources, while respecting private property rights and protecting the environment. Number 2340 SYLVIA WARD, Representative, Northern Alaskan Environmental Center, testified via teleconference in Fairbanks. She explained the center can not say that it supports the bill because they are not from Southeast Alaska. It does not understand the technical issues, but it respects the process of everyone coming together from different sides of the issue. The center is concerned because the FPA does not protect the Interior fisheries, water quality, and other aspects. It is the people in the Interior who work to protect the areas and the law does not provide them support, nor does the Administration provide adequate planing and support. She cited two timber sales in the area that were very controversial. In fact, Senator Bert Sharp wrote a letter of opposition to the sales. House Bill 373 ignores the needs of the Interior and of the people offshore who depend on the fishery habitats in the Interior. It is also biased towards the high-value timber in Southeast. The Interior does not have high-value timber, but it does have other resources of high value - fish, tourism, hunting and trapping. TAPE 98-13, SIDE B Number 0000 MS. WARD continued. This is more than just a science and technological issue, it is an economic and quality of life issue as well. She referred to the recommendation classifying all streams and wondered whether it would apply to all streams statewide. In conclusion, she hopes that there will be funding for research and an expansion of people's views to include the Interior rather than on a case-by-case basis for timber sales. It is not healthy for timber businesses. She would like to see some needed leadership from the House Resources Committee to address the gap and responsible protection of fisheries, water quality, economic, and non-economic activities along the rivers in the Interior. Number 0075 CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON thanked Ms. Ward for her comments and stated maybe there might be an opportunity to combine an appropriate group to try to expand it to the Interior. Number 0087 CATHY MERRITT testified via teleconference in Fairbanks. In general, she supports the bill. It falls short of ideal protection, but it represents an improvement to Southeast. There are similar needs for the rivers in the Interior and Southcentral Alaska as well. She is concerned about the lack of protection of the rivers for the fish, recreational activities, and the aesthetics. She just returned from dog mushing and flying over some of the Interior rivers so the crucialness for a healthy river to preserve the wildness of an area is very clear. In regards to the logging issue mentioned earlier, there was tremendous public opposition to the two timber sales in the Interior largely due to the lack of protection along the rivers. Therefore, it appears it would be easier for the timber industry to move ahead with its sales if there were protections. She would like to see a similar bill to include the Interior and Southcentral Alaska. Number 0152 DAN STEIN testified via teleconference in Fairbanks. He is a recent graduate in forest ecology. He supports the bill, but it is lacking because it does not include the protection of the riparian zones in the Interior. Riparian zones play an important role in terms of water temperature, large woody debris that add to fish habitat for invertebrates, and for fish to eat the invertebrates. Without a buffer for the riparian zones, temperatures increase, the whole issue of global warming in oceanic areas. In addition, if the temperatures increase a couple of degrees, there is a mass die- off of different species. In addition, particles in an intact riparian zone absorb filtration which decreases the temperature of the water. He reiterated he is in favor of the bill, but would like to see the Interior and Southcentral Alaska included as well. Number 0243 LARRY SMITH testified via teleconference in Homer. He has been a builder of Alaska's forest products since statehood and is dependent upon the dollars generated from fishing the marine waters around Homer to pay for the construction work. He has served on various forest-related task forces including the Alaska Forests Practices Act Review Steering Committee which lead to the statutory revisions in 1990 that put in place the current riparian management zones. He expressed his appreciation to Marty Rutherford of the Department of Natural Resources and to Representative Gail Phillips. He is not, however, in favor of the passage of HB 373, unless there is an appropriate fiscal note to take care of the additional work load. It is part of a larger commitment and it is a step forward because the fish habitat have not been well protected in the past. While the bill will not correct the serious losses of fish production capabilities because of poorly regulated logging practices, it will help if there are sufficient resources available. At present, the FPA Administration is grossly under funded, and the addition of more classifications will not make a weak system for protecting fish habitat much better. It is interesting to note that on public lands in Alaska both the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the United States Forest Service recognizes the needs for no-cut, no-variation buffers, larger than the private lands requirement of 66 feet. For example, in a recent timber sale on the Kenai Peninsula, the Department of Natural Resources required a 300-feet no-cut, no-variation buffer zone. In addition, a Native corporation with serious interest in both fish and timber would require a 600-foot buffer zone for ongoing timber operations. Thus, not only is the present proposal modest, it is also severely limited geographically and will have less impact in the northern part of Region I. It will probably have no affect at all on the portion of the Kenai Peninsula in Region I. It will not affect the Kenai, Yukon, Kuskokwim and Susitna rivers. In conclusion, it is interesting to note that the House Resources Committee is also addressing HB 285, an act for a point system for commercial fishing violations, because there is no provision for a violation for those who illegally kill fish in connection with logging operations. He said, without enforcement, the FPA will never disturb the careless and indifferent logging activities that allow some companies to flout the state's best attempts to protect fish, wildlife and water quality. Number 0468 NANCY HILLSTRAND, Representative, Pioneer Alaskan Fisheries, Incorporated, testified via teleconference in Homer. She appreciates the improvement of the FPA into a more vigilant stance. There are declines in some of the salmon streams on the Kenai Peninsula, therefore, there can not be any chances with minimal regulations to repair habitat. Upper tributary protection in Southcentral and the remainder of Alaska is also needed. She appreciates the protection in Southeast, but the rest of Alaska has been waiting a long time. She asked the committee members to amend the bill to include Regions II and III. She also recommends the formation of a riparian protection act, aside from the FPA. She appreciates the work of the legislators, but the fishing industry on the Kenai Peninsula is one of the life bloods of the area, and if it is allowed to falter through a lack of regulations and enforcement, it will be lost. CO-CHAIRMAN HUDSON called for a motion to move the proposed committee substitute out of the committee. Number 0601 REPRESENTATIVE BARNES made a motion to move the proposed committee substitute for HB 373, version 0-LS1461\E, Luckhaupt, 2/18/98, out of the committee with individual recommendations and the attached zero fiscal note. There being no objection, CSHB 373(RES) moved out of the House Resources Standing Committee.