Text: S.879 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Introduced in Senate (04/06/2017)

 
[Congressional Bills 115th Congress]
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[S. 879 Introduced in Senate (IS)]

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115th CONGRESS
  1st Session
                                 S. 879

  To expedite and prioritize forest management activities to achieve 
       ecosystem restoration objectives, and for other purposes.


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                April 6 (legislative day, April 4), 2017

    Mr. Barrasso (for himself, Mr. Flake, Mr. McCain, and Mr. Enzi) 
introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the 
               Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 A BILL


 
  To expedite and prioritize forest management activities to achieve 
       ecosystem restoration objectives, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

    (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``National Forest 
Ecosystem Improvement Act of 2017''.
    (b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents of this Act is as 
follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Definitions.
                 TITLE I--FOREST MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

Sec. 101. Purposes.
Sec. 102. Definitions.
Sec. 103. Ecosystem restoration projects.
Sec. 104. National restoration treatment acreage.
Sec. 105. Environmental review for ecosystem restoration projects.
Sec. 106. Alternative dispute resolution.
Sec. 107. Bonding requirements for judicial review.
Sec. 108. Performance measures; annual reports.
                    TITLE II--CATEGORICAL EXCLUSIONS

Sec. 201. Definitions.
Sec. 202. Categorical exclusion to expedite certain critical response 
                            actions.
Sec. 203. Categorical exclusion to expedite salvage operations in 
                            response to catastrophic events.
Sec. 204. Categorical exclusion to meet forest plan goals for early 
                            successional forests.
Sec. 205. Alternative agency consultation procedures.

SEC. 2. DEFINITIONS.

    In this Act:
            (1) Community wildfire protection plan.--The term 
        ``community wildfire protection plan'' has the meaning given 
        the term in section 101 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act 
        of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6511).
            (2) National forest system.--
                    (A) In general.--The term ``National Forest 
                System'' has the meaning given the term in section 
                11(a) of the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources 
                Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1609(a)).
                    (B) Exclusion.--The term ``National Forest System'' 
                does not include--
                            (i) any forest reserve not created from the 
                        public domain; or
                            (ii) any national grassland or land 
                        utilization project administered under title 
                        III of the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act (7 
                        U.S.C. 1010 et seq.).

                 TITLE I--FOREST MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES

SEC. 101. PURPOSES.

    The purposes of this title are--
            (1) to establish a reliable and predicable timber supply 
        from the National Forest System that can be harvested, 
        processed, and sold as wood products to help fund ecosystem 
        restoration; and
            (2) to expedite and prioritize forest management activities 
        to achieve ecosystem restoration objectives.

SEC. 102. DEFINITIONS.

    In this title:
            (1) Restoration.--
                    (A) In general.--The term ``restoration'', with 
                respect to an ecosystem, means to carry out any 
                activity that helps to recover, establish, or maintain 
                the resilience or adaptive capacity of an ecosystem.
                    (B) Inclusions.--The term ``restoration'' includes 
                any activity described in subparagraph (A) relating 
                to--
                            (i) timber harvesting;
                            (ii) thinning;
                            (iii) prescribed fire; or
                            (iv) other vegetation manipulation in the 
                        National Forest System.
            (2) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary 
        of Agriculture, acting through the Chief of the Forest Service.

SEC. 103. ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECTS.

    (a) In General.--Subject to subsection (b), the Secretary shall 
identify, prioritize, and carry out ecosystem restoration projects on 
National Forest System land in accordance with applicable land and 
resource management plans prepared by the Secretary for units of the 
National Forest System under section 6 of the Forest and Rangeland 
Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1604), if any, to 
accomplish 1 or more of the following objectives:
            (1) To restore terrestrial habitat.
            (2) To sustain water quality, water flows, or watershed 
        health and function.
            (3) To create, improve, or increase early seral habitat.
            (4) To carry out a needed timber stand improvement.
            (5) To reduce the risk or extent of insect or disease 
        infestation.
            (6) To reduce wildland fire severity potential.
            (7) To implement a community wildfire protection plan.
            (8) To establish, recover, or maintain ecosystem 
        resiliency.
    (b) Exclusions.--The Secretary may not carry out an ecosystem 
restoration project under this section on any area of National Forest 
System land--
            (1) that is a component of the National Wilderness 
        Preservation System; or
            (2) on which removal of vegetation is prohibited by law.

SEC. 104. NATIONAL RESTORATION TREATMENT ACREAGE.

    (a) In General.--For fiscal year 2018 and each fiscal year 
thereafter, the Secretary shall accomplish restoration treatments, at a 
minimum, on the following acreage throughout the National Forest 
System:
            (1) 1,000,000 acres of restoration treatment using 
        mechanical treatment methods, of which the treatment of--
                    (A) not less than 400,000 acres shall be conducted 
                using commercial thinning; and
                    (B) not less than 60,000 acres shall be conducted 
                using even-aged management techniques.
            (2) 1,000,000 acres of restoration treatment using 
        prescribed fire.
    (b) Assignment.--Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment 
of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall assign the 
annual acreage for restoration treatments, by National Forest System 
region, described in subsection (a).
    (c) Publication.--As soon as practicable after the date of each 
assignment of acreage for restoration treatments under subsection (b), 
the Secretary shall publish the acreage that will apply, by National 
Forest System region, on the Internet website of the Forest Service.

SEC. 105. ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW FOR ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROJECTS.

    (a) Applicability of National Environmental Policy Act of 1969.--
The Secretary shall prepare an environmental assessment in accordance 
with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
seq.) for each ecosystem restoration project that accomplishes 1 or 
more of the objectives identified in section 103(a).
    (b) Public Notice and Comment.--In preparing an environmental 
assessment for an ecosystem restoration project under subsection (a), 
the Secretary shall provide public notice of, and an opportunity to 
comment regarding, the applicable project.
    (c) Consideration of Alternatives.--The Secretary shall study, 
develop, and describe in each environmental assessment under subsection 
(a)--
            (1) the ecosystem restoration project as the proposed 
        action; and
            (2) a no-action alternative, the analysis of which shall 
        include a description of the resulting environmental effects of 
        taking no action on--
                    (A) forest health;
                    (B) habitat diversity;
                    (C) wildfire potential;
                    (D) insect and disease potential;
                    (E) municipal water supplies; and
                    (F) other economic and social factors.
    (d) Limitations.--The Secretary shall limit each environmental 
assessment under this section to a length of not more than 100 pages.
    (e) Deadline for Completion.--
            (1) In general.--Not later than 180 days after the date on 
        which the Secretary publishes a notice regarding an ecosystem 
        restoration project in accordance with subsection (b), the 
        Secretary shall complete the environmental assessment for the 
        ecosystem restoration project.
            (2) No supplemental analysis required.--No supplemental 
        analysis of an ecosystem restoration project that is the 
        subject of an environmental assessment under paragraph (1) 
        shall be required after the date on which that environmental 
        assessment is complete.

SEC. 106. ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION.

    (a) Arbitration.--
            (1) In general.--The Secretary shall establish within the 
        Forest Service an arbitration program as an alternative dispute 
        resolution process in lieu of judicial review for the projects 
        described in subsection (b).
            (2) Notification to objectors.--On issuance of an appeal 
        response to an objection filed with respect to an ecosystem 
        restoration project subject to an objection at the project 
        level under part 218 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations 
        (as in effect on the date of enactment of this Act), the 
        Secretary shall notify each applicable individual or entity 
        that submitted the objection (referred to in this section as 
        the ``objector'') that any further appeal may be subject to 
        arbitration in accordance with this section.
    (b) Description of Projects.--The Secretary, at the sole discretion 
of the Secretary, may designate the following types of ecosystem 
restoration projects for arbitration:
            (1) Projects developed through a collaborative process 
        (within the meaning of section 603(b)(1)(C) of the Healthy 
        Forest Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6591b(b)(1)(C))).
            (2) Projects identified in a community wildfire protection 
        plan.
            (3) For each applicable calendar year, not more than 2 
        other types of ecosystem restoration projects for each region 
        of the Forest Service.
    (c) Arbitrators.--
            (1) Appointment.--The Secretary shall develop and publish a 
        list of not fewer than 20 individuals eligible to serve as 
        arbitrators for the program under this section.
            (2) Qualifications.--In order to be eligible to serve as an 
        arbitrator under this subsection, an individual shall be 
        currently certified by the American Arbitration Association.
    (d) Initiation of Arbitration.--
            (1) In general.--Not later than 7 days after the date of 
        receipt of a notice of intent to file suit challenging an 
        ecosystem restoration project, the Secretary shall notify each 
        applicable objector and the court of jurisdiction that the 
        project has been designated for arbitration in accordance with 
        this section.
            (2) Demand for arbitration.--
                    (A) In general.--An objector that sought judicial 
                review of an ecosystem restoration project that has 
                been designated by the Secretary for arbitration under 
                this section may file a demand for arbitration in 
                accordance with--
                            (i) sections 571 through 584 of title 5, 
                        United States Code; and
                            (ii) this paragraph.
                    (B) Requirements.--A demand for arbitration under 
                subparagraph (A) shall--
                            (i) be filed not later than the date that 
                        is 30 days after the date of the notification 
                        by the Secretary under paragraph (1); and
                            (ii) include an alternative proposal to the 
                        applicable ecosystem restoration project that 
                        describes each modification sought by the 
                        objector with respect to the ecosystem 
                        restoration project.
    (e) Selection of Arbitrator.--For each arbitration commenced under 
this section, the Secretary and each applicable objector shall agree on 
a mutually acceptable arbitrator from the list published under 
subsection (c)(1).
    (f) Responsibilities of Arbitrator.--
            (1) In general.--An arbitrator selected under subsection 
        (e)--
                    (A) shall address each demand filed for arbitration 
                with respect to an ecosystem restoration project under 
                this section; but
                    (B) may consolidate into a single arbitration all 
                demands for arbitration by all objectors with respect 
                to an ecosystem restoration project.
            (2) Selection of proposals.--An arbitrator shall make a 
        decision regarding each applicable demand for arbitration under 
        this section by selecting--
                    (A) the ecosystem restoration project, as approved 
                by the Secretary; or
                    (B) an alternative proposal submitted by the 
                applicable objector.
            (3) Limitations.--
                    (A) Administrative record.--A decision of an 
                arbitrator under this subsection shall be based solely 
                on the administrative record for the ecosystem 
                restoration project.
                    (B) No modifications to proposals.--An arbitrator 
                may not modify any proposal contained in a demand for 
                arbitration of an objector under this section.
    (g) Deadline for Completion of Arbitration.--Not later than 90 days 
after the date on which a demand for arbitration is filed under 
subsection (d)(2), the arbitration process shall be completed.
    (h) Effect of Arbitration Decision.--A decision of an arbitrator 
under this section--
            (1) shall not be considered to be a major Federal action;
            (2) shall be binding; and
            (3) shall not be subject to judicial review, except as 
        provided in section 10(a) of title 9, United States Code.

SEC. 107. BONDING REQUIREMENTS FOR JUDICIAL REVIEW.

    (a) Bond Requirement.--
            (1) In general.--The judicial review of an action 
        challenging an ecosystem restoration project under this title 
        (referred to in this section as an ``action'') shall be subject 
        to the bonding requirements of this section.
            (2) Bond or security.--
                    (A) In general.--As soon as practicable after the 
                date on which a complaint or appeal is filed to 
                initiate an action, each plaintiff shall post a bond or 
                other security acceptable to the court in an amount 
                equal to the anticipated costs, expenses, and attorney 
                fees of the Secretary as a defendant in the action, in 
                accordance with a reasonable estimate of the Secretary.
                    (B) Requirement.--All proceedings in an action 
                shall be stayed until the bond or security required 
                under subparagraph (A) is posted.
    (b) Recovery of Litigation Costs, Expenses, and Attorney Fees.--
            (1) Motion for payment.--If the Secretary prevails in an 
        action, the Secretary shall submit to the court a motion for 
        payment from the bond or other security posted under subsection 
        (a), of the reasonable costs, expenses, and attorney fees 
        incurred by the Secretary as a defendant in the action.
            (2) Maximum recovery.--The total amount of costs, expenses, 
        and attorney fees recovered by the Secretary under paragraph 
        (1) may not exceed the amount of the bond or other security 
        posted in the action.
            (3) Return remainder.--Any funds remaining from the bond or 
        other security posed under subsection (a) after the payment of 
        costs, expenses, and attorney fees under paragraph (1) shall be 
        returned to the plaintiff that posted the bond or security in 
        the action.
    (c) Return of Bond to Prevailing Plaintiff.--If the applicable 
court rules, in a final enforcement judgment, in favor of a plaintiff 
on all causes of each action of the plaintiff, the court shall return 
to the plaintiff any bond or security posted by the plaintiff under 
subsection (a), plus any interest accruing during the period beginning 
on the date on which the bond or security was posted.
    (d) Effect of Settlement.--
            (1) In general.--If an action in which a bond or security 
        was posted is resolved by settlement between the Secretary and 
        the plaintiff, the settlement agreement may provide for sharing 
        of the costs, expenses, and attorney fees incurred by the 
        parties to the action.
            (2) Deferral.--A settlement agreement under paragraph (1) 
        may defer the resolution of costs, expenses, and attorney fees 
        to--
                    (A) further negotiation; or
                    (B) decision by the court.

SEC. 108. PERFORMANCE MEASURES; ANNUAL REPORTS.

    (a) Performance Measures.--The Secretary shall annually evaluate 
the degree to which the Secretary is achieving--
            (1) the purposes of this title, including--
                    (A) the number of acres covered by ecosystem 
                restoration projects;
                    (B) the number of acres treated by mechanical 
                methods under ecosystem restoration projects;
                    (C) the number of acres treated using stewardship 
                contracts and stewardship agreements under ecosystem 
                restoration projects;
                    (D) the number of acres treated using timber sales 
                under ecosystem restoration projects;
                    (E) the number of acres treated by prescribed fire, 
                mowing, and other noncommercial product producing 
                activities under ecosystem restoration projects; and
                    (F) to the extent practicable, a summary of acres 
                receiving more than 1 type of treatment; and
            (2) the acreage requirements established under section 
        104(a).
    (b) Annual Reports.--Not later than 1 year after the date of 
enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the Secretary shall 
submit to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate 
and the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of 
Representatives--
            (1) a report that describes, with respect to the preceding 
        year, the results of evaluations using the performance measures 
        described in subsection (a); and
            (2) a report that describes, with respect to the preceding 
        year--
                    (A) the number and substance of ecosystem 
                restoration projects that are subject to arbitration 
                under section 106; and
                    (B) the outcomes of the arbitrations under that 
                section.

                    TITLE II--CATEGORICAL EXCLUSIONS

SEC. 201. DEFINITIONS.

    In this title:
            (1) Catastrophic event.--The term ``catastrophic event'' 
        means any natural disaster (such as hurricane, tornado, 
        windstorm, snow or ice storm, rain storm, high water, wind-
        driven water, tidal wave, earthquake, volcanic eruption, 
        landslide, mudslide, drought, or insect or disease outbreak), 
        or any fire, flood, or explosion, regardless of cause.
            (2) Categorical exclusion.--The term ``categorical 
        exclusion'' means an exception to the requirements of the 
        National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et 
        seq.) for a project or activity relating to the management of 
        National Forest System land.
            (3) Collaborative process.--The term ``collaborative 
        process'' means a process relating to the management of 
        National Forest System land by which a project or activity is 
        developed and implemented by the Secretary through 
        collaboration with interested persons, as described in section 
        603(b)(1)(C) of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 
        U.S.C. 6591b(b)(1)(C)).
            (4) Forest management activity.--The term ``forest 
        management activity'' means a project or activity carried out 
        by the Secretary on National Forest System land, consistent 
        with the forest plan covering that land.
            (5) Forest plan.--The term ``forest plan'' means a land and 
        resource management plan prepared by the Forest Service for a 
        unit of the National Forest System pursuant to section 6 of the 
        Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 
        (16 U.S.C. 1604).
            (6) Salvage operation.--The term ``salvage operation'' 
        means a forest management activity carried out in response to a 
        catastrophic event, the primary purpose of which is--
                    (A) to prevent wildfire as a result of the 
                catastrophic event, or, if the catastrophic event was 
                wildfire, to prevent a reburn of the fire-impacted 
                area;
                    (B) to provide an opportunity for use of forest 
                materials damaged as a result of the catastrophic 
                event; or
                    (C) to provide a funding source for reforestation 
                and other restoration activities for the National 
                Forest System land impacted by the catastrophic event.
            (7) Secretary.--The term ``Secretary'' means the Secretary 
        of Agriculture (acting through the Chief of the Forest 
        Service).

SEC. 202. CATEGORICAL EXCLUSION TO EXPEDITE CERTAIN CRITICAL RESPONSE 
              ACTIONS.

    (a) Availability of Categorical Exclusion.--A categorical exclusion 
is available to the Secretary to develop and carry out a forest 
management activity on National Forest System land in any case in which 
the primary purpose of the forest management activity is--
            (1) to address an insect or disease infestation;
            (2) to treat land at risk of insect or disease infestation;
            (3) to reduce hazardous fuel loads;
            (4) to protect a municipal water source;
            (5) to maintain, enhance, or modify critical habitat to 
        protect the habitat from catastrophic disturbances;
            (6) to increase water yield; or
            (7) any combination of the purposes specified in paragraphs 
        (1) through (6).
    (b) Acreage Limitations.--
            (1) In general.--Except in the case of a forest management 
        activity described in paragraph (2), a forest management 
        activity covered by the categorical exclusion granted by 
        subsection (a) may not contain harvest units exceeding a total 
        of 5,000 acres.
            (2) Larger areas authorized.--A forest management activity 
        covered by the categorical exclusion granted by subsection (a) 
        may not contain harvest units exceeding a total of 15,000 acres 
        if the forest management activity is--
                    (A) developed through a collaborative process;
                    (B) proposed by a resource advisory committee (as 
                defined in section 201 of the Secure Rural Schools and 
                Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (16 U.S.C. 
                7121)); or
                    (C) covered by a community wildfire protection 
                plan.

SEC. 203. CATEGORICAL EXCLUSION TO EXPEDITE SALVAGE OPERATIONS IN 
              RESPONSE TO CATASTROPHIC EVENTS.

    (a) Availability of Categorical Exclusion.--A categorical exclusion 
is available to the Secretary to develop and carry out a salvage 
operation as part of the restoration of National Forest System land 
following a catastrophic event.
    (b) Acreage Limitations.--A salvage operation covered by the 
categorical exclusion granted by subsection (a) may not contain harvest 
units exceeding a total of 5,000 acres.
    (c) Additional Requirements.--
            (1) Road construction.--A salvage operation covered by the 
        categorical exclusion granted by subsection (a) may not include 
        any permanent road construction.
            (2) Stream buffers.--A salvage operation covered by the 
        categorical exclusion granted by subsection (a) shall comply 
        with the standards and guidelines for stream buffers contained 
        in the applicable forest plan, unless the standards and 
        guidelines are modified for a specific salvage operation as 
        part of a categorical exclusion by the Regional Forester.
            (3) Reforestation plan.--A reforestation plan shall be 
        developed under section 3 of the Act of June 9, 1930 (commonly 
        known as the ``Knutson-Vandenberg Act'') (16 U.S.C. 576b), as 
        part of a salvage operation covered by the categorical 
        exclusion granted by subsection (a).

SEC. 204. CATEGORICAL EXCLUSION TO MEET FOREST PLAN GOALS FOR EARLY 
              SUCCESSIONAL FORESTS.

    (a) Availability of Categorical Exclusion.--A categorical exclusion 
is available to the Secretary to develop and carry out a forest 
management activity on National Forest System land in any case in which 
the primary purpose of the forest management activity is to modify, 
improve, enhance, or create early successional forests for wildlife 
habitat improvement and other purposes, in accordance with the 
applicable forest plan.
    (b) Acreage Limitations.--A forest management activity covered by 
the categorical exclusion granted by subsection (a) may not contain 
harvest units exceeding a total of 5,000 acres.

SEC. 205. ALTERNATIVE AGENCY CONSULTATION PROCEDURES.

    (a) Forest Management Activities.--
            (1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), for each forest 
        management activity covered by a categorical exclusion granted 
        by this title, the Secretary shall satisfy the applicable 
        interagency consultation obligations under section 7 of the 
        Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1536) by achieving 
        compliance with the alternative consultation procedures 
        established in subpart D of part 402 of title 50, Code of 
        Federal Regulations (or successor regulations).
            (2) References.--For purposes of this subsection, all 
        references contained in subpart D of part 402 of title 50, Code 
        of Federal Regulations (or successor regulations)--
                    (A) to the term ``U.S. Environmental Protection 
                Agency'' or ``EPA'' shall be considered to be a 
                reference to the Secretary; and
                    (B) to the term ``FIFRA action'' shall be 
                considered to be a reference to a forest management 
                activity covered by a categorical exclusion granted by 
                this title.
    (b) Interim Timelines.--Until the date on which an alternative 
consultation agreement under subpart D of part 402 of title 50, Code of 
Federal Regulations (or successor regulations), is entered into with 
respect to a forest management activity under subsection (a)--
            (1) any formal or informal interagency consultation 
        regarding the forest management activity shall be completed by 
        not later than the date that is 30 days after the date on which 
        the Secretary submits a written request for consultation; and
            (2) a biological opinion or letter of concurrence, as 
        appropriate, shall be issued by not later than the date that is 
        10 days after the date of completion of that consultation.
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