RESILIENT FEDERAL FORESTS ACT OF 2015; Congressional Record Vol. 161, No. 106
(House of Representatives - July 09, 2015)

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                 RESILIENT FEDERAL FORESTS ACT OF 2015

  The Committee resumed its sitting.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Yoho).
  Mr. YOHO. I want to thank the chairmen--Mr. Conaway, Mr. Thompson, 
and Mr. Bishop--for their leadership on this issue.
  I stand here today in support of creating more jobs and improving the 
health of our Nation's forests through sustainable forest management.
  H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, is a bipartisan 
bill that will address the growing economic and environmental threats 
to the catastrophic wildfires. This piece of legislation is hugely 
important for my district and the entire southeastern region of the 
United States.
  Florida is home to a multitude of national forests, including the 
Apalachicola, Osceola, and Ocala, which span more than 1.2 million 
acres in north central Florida. These forests supply over 10,000 acres 
per year for timber production, creating jobs, lumber products, pellet 
mills for green energy, and paper products.
  This land also allows for recreational activities like equestrian and 
motorcycle trails and hunting and fishing. In addition, they produce 
roughly 600 billion gallons of fresh water, and that is all in my home 
State.
  Due to a lack of proper forest management, the risk of catastrophic 
wildfires has increased dramatically. These emergencies draw critical 
funding away from the Bureau of Land Management accounts intended to 
prevent wildfires, thus creating a chronic problem that is only getting 
worse.
  This bills ends that inefficiency by allowing FEMA to transfer funds 
to the Forest Service when these disasters occur, ensuring activities 
like prescribed burns and other management techniques are adequately 
funded.
  This bill improves management practices, helps prevent wildfires, and 
should be supported by every Member in this Chamber.
  Again, I commend Chairmen Conaway, Thompson, and Bishop.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Barletta), chairman of the 
Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, 
Public Buildings, and Emergency Management.
  Mr. BARLETTA. Mr. Chairman, first, let me thank the chairmen of the 
Natural Resources and Agriculture Committees for working with our 
committee on title IX of the bill.
  Title IX authorizes the President to declare a major disaster for 
wildfires on Federal lands and provide assistance to the Departments of 
the Interior and Agriculture for extraordinary wildfire suppression 
costs in excess of the 10-year average. These provisions protect FEMA's 
Disaster Relief Fund and preserve FEMA's wildfire assistance that is 
currently available to State, local, and tribal governments through the 
Stafford Act.
  Because this provision was not included in the reported bill, a 
legislative history document has been developed to articulate the 
congressional intent for title IX, as well as how it is expected to be 
implemented.
  Mr. Chairman, I will insert this legislative history document into 
the Record.

(Chairman Bill Shuster, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, 
                             July 9, 2015)

   H.R. 2647: Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, Title IX--Major 
                 Disaster for Wildfire on Federal Land


                          legislative history

       Definition of ``Major Disaster'': By bifurcating the 
     definition of ``Major Disaster'' in the Stafford Act, the 
     Committee preserves the existing definition, and the programs 
     that flow therefrom, and adds an additional definition for 
     ``Major Disaster for Wildfire on Federal Land,'' for which a 
     separate and distinct declaration, process and assistance 
     have been established pursuant to the new Title VIII of the 
     Stafford Act. ``Major Disaster for Wildfire on Federal Land'' 
     meets the definition ``disaster relief'' pursuant to section 
     251(b)(2)(D) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit 
     Control Act of 1985.
       Request for Declaration of a Major Disaster for Wildfire on 
     Federal Land: There are four distinct requirements that must 
     be met before the President may issue a declaration for a 
     major disaster for wildfire on federal land.
       (1) Each request must be made in writing by the Secretary 
     making the request on behalf of that Department.
       (2) The requesting Secretary must certify that in that 
     current fiscal year, the Department's wildfire suppression 
     operations account received no less than an amount equal to 
     the 10-year average. This amount cannot include any carry 
     over from previous years and must include any rescissions or 
     reductions. Also, future 10-year averages must take into 
     account the total amount expended on wildfire suppression, 
     including appropriations and assistance provided under Title 
     VIII of the Stafford Act.
       (3) The requesting Secretary must certify that all funds 
     available for wildfire suppression operations will be 
     obligated within 30 days and there are wildfires on federal 
     lands continuing to burn that will require firefighting 
     beyond the resources currently available.
       (4) The requesting Secretary must request a specific amount 
     which is the estimate of funds needed to address the current 
     wildfires on federal lands.
       The Committee does not intend for the respective Secretary 
     to have to make a request for each fire they anticipate will 
     exceed the wildfire suppression operations appropriations. As 
     the definition for ``Major Disaster for Wildfire on Federal 
     Lands'' includes ``wildfire or wildfires'', it is intended 
     that the respective Secretary's request will include all 
     known fires that will require extraordinary resources beyond 
     those remaining in the wildfire suppression operations 
     account of that specific federal land management agency. Each 
     Secretary will make a request for the resources required by 
     that particular department.
       Assistance Available for a Major Disaster for Wildfire on 
     Federal Land: The only assistance available for a declaration 
     of a major disaster for wildfife on federal land is the 
     transfer of available funds from a new account established 
     for these purposes to the requesting Secretary in the amount 
     requested.
       The Committee intends for the funds appropriated into the 
     new account established by the President for major disaster 
     for wildfire on federal land assistance will be designated by 
     Congress as being for disaster relief pursuant to section 
     251(b)(2)(D) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit 
     Control Act of 1985.
       The declaration and assistance available for a major 
     disaster for wildfire on federal lands are based on the 
     existing major disaster declaration process delegated by the 
     President to be administered by the FEMA Administrator. The 
     Committee expects the process for a major disaster for 
     wildfire on federal land will be managed in a similar manner 
     through a delegation of the President's authority to the FEMA 
     Administrator. Further, the Committee expects that the 
     account established by the President for a major disaster for 
     wildfire on federal land will be a dedicated sub-account of 
     FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund. However, pursuant to the 
     legislative language, none of these funds can be comingled or 
     transferred between these accounts.
       Once assistance is transferred to the Department of the 
     Interior or the Department of Agriculture, it is not required 
     that the assistance be used only for those wildfires 
     identified in the request. The assistance may be used for 
     wildfires that begin after the declaration or were not 
     identified in the request. Funds transferred may be used for 
     all wildfire suppression operations eligible activities. The 
     Committee anticipates these will be no year funds, available 
     until exhausted.
       It is entirely foreseeable that a wildfire that begins on 
     or severely impacts federal lands requiring assistance under 
     Title VIII of the Stafford Act could continue to grow, 
     impacting state, local, tribal governments and certain non-
     profit properties and infrastructure. The provision of 
     assistance under Title VIII of the Stafford Act in no way 
     impacts the ability of state, local and tribal governments 
     and certain non-profits to apply for assistance under FEMA's 
     other disaster programs, if eligible, including the Fire 
     Management Assistance Grant Program, an emergency 
     declaration, or a traditional major disaster declaration.
       Prohibition on Transfers: No longer can the Department of 
     the Interior and the Department of Agriculture borrow from 
     non-fire suppression accounts to fund the extraordinary needs 
     of wildfire suppression operations.


                           section-by-section

       Section 901. Wildfire on Federal Lands: This section 
     defines a major disaster for wildfire on federal lands.
       Section 902. Declaration of a Major Disaster for Wildfire 
     on Federal Lands: This section establishes the procedure for 
     requesting a declaration of a major disaster for wildfire on 
     federal lands and provides for assistance.
       Section 903. Prohibition on Transfers: This section 
     prohibits the transfer of funds between wildfire suppression 
     accounts and other accounts not used to cover the cost of 
     wildfire suppression operations.

  Mr. BARLETTA. After watching the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene and

[[Page H4988]]

Tropical Storm Lee destroy the homes and upset the lives of my 
constituents, my first priority has been to protect the programs that 
come to their aid, namely the disaster relief fund.
  This is a program that helps families get back into their homes, 
businesses reopen their doors, and local municipalities clear the 
streets so that our communities can recover when the next big storm 
strikes.
  I have seen the disaster relief fund provide assistance when it is 
needed most. Our constituents rely on Federal disaster assistance. It 
should not be jeopardized under any circumstances.
  Again, let me thank Chairman Bishop and Chairman Conaway for working 
with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, can I inquire as to how 
much time remains?
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Thompson) has 
3 minutes remaining. The gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Peterson) has 13 
minutes remaining.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from Tennessee (Mr. Duncan).
  Mr. DUNCAN of Tennessee. Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong support of 
this legislation, and I thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania for 
yielding me this time.
  This bill, Mr. Chairman, will streamline the Forest Service planning, 
allowing for more forest thinning, reducing wildfire damage, and 
creating much stronger Federal forests. More national forest thinning 
means fewer forest fires.
  I served for 22 years on the Natural Resources Committee. Several 
years ago, I was told that there were 6 billion board feet of dead and 
dying trees in the national forests; yet we were cutting less than 3 
billion board feet a year. This was leading to a tremendous buildup of 
fuel on the floor of these forests, leading to millions more acres 
being burned because we weren't cutting enough trees.
  In the late eighties, we were harvesting 10 to 11 billion board feet 
a year. We had 3 to 6 million acres lost to forest fires each year at 
that time. Now, we are harvesting a little over 1 billion board feet a 
year, and the acreage lost to forest fires has gone way up: 10 million 
acres lost in 2006, 9 million in 2011, and on and on and on. It is a 
shame.
  Allowing this renewable resource to be used, everything made with 
wood--houses, all types of wood products, everything else made from 
wood--would be cheaper. This would help lower-income people most of 
all.
  If we allow more trees to be cut, thousands of jobs could be created 
not just for loggers, but also in construction and in businesses making 
wood products. This also would help lower-income people most of all.
  We shouldn't just let these forests burn. We should use them to help 
people. If you want more forest fires, vote against this bill, but if 
you want to help preserve our national forests and make them healthier 
and help the economy in the process, then you should vote for this 
bill.
  This is a very moderate response to what has become a big and fast 
growing problem. We should not give in to extremists and oppose this 
bill. This is good legislation, and I commend Chairman Peterson, 
Chairman Conaway, and Chairman Thompson for bringing this very 
intelligent, sensible legislation to the floor.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from 
Oregon (Mr. Schrader).
  Mr. SCHRADER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to clear up some 
misconceptions about H.R. 2467 and take a little time to tell you what 
this bill really is and what it is not.
  Contrary to a statement put out by the President and some of my 
colleagues on my side of the aisle, this is not a complete abrogation 
of environmental protections or NEPA process on our Federal lands.
  This is a streamlined process for a very, very small portion of 
Federal forest land subject to catastrophic natural disasters and 
already subject to expensive collaborative, resource advisory 
committee, or wildfire protection plans--a very narrow subset of our 
Federal forests.
  For the folks back East, I would like to remind them that, out West, 
forest land occupies a great chunk of our States.

                              {time}  1545

  Over half of my State of Oregon is Federal forestland. Most of that 
is managed by the Forest Service or the BLM.
  Three-fourths of my State is distinctly rural, little access to this 
postrecession recovery. Frankly, indeed, these guys were in a recovery 
for the last 20, 30 years, when timber harvesting came to a screaming 
halt under our so-called forest plans. Their recovery, their 
prosperity, is irrevocably entwined with smarter, healthier forest 
policy that promotes resiliency, which this bill does, and 
sustainability, which this bill does.
  This bill is narrowly crafted to build upon the growing trust, 
hopefully, between old environmental and timber adversaries by showing 
what can be done with good forest policy in a collaborative framework 
on our Federal forestlands.
  Currently, dead, diseased, wildfire-subjected Federal forestland 
contributes millions of tons of carbon annually to our atmosphere. 
Rotting trees are carbon polluters. Burning forests are carbon 
polluters.
  Our forests need to be cleaned up and made healthy again. If you care 
at all about climate change or the health of our Federal forests or, 
hopefully, the health of rural communities around America, you should 
be for this narrowly crafted bill to collaboratively build a 
sustainable forest policy.
  I would like to reiterate that this bill only pertains to a narrow 
set of projects and lands, including areas affected by or likely to be 
affected by these natural disasters.
  This only deals with lands subject to collaborative processes or 
under these federally sanctioned resource advisory committees already 
in place or covered by community wildfire protection plans. In other 
words, these are areas that already have had extensive proactive 
management discussions on these lands with community partners across 
the environmental and timber resource spectrum. This is exactly where a 
streamlined NEPA process should be placed.
  Contrary to information you have received, this is not eliminating 
environmental impact statements. It does permit a small exclusion of 
5,000 to 15,000 acres for a narrow type of project.
  The Forest Service is currently spending hundreds of millions of 
dollars on NEPA compliance, the single biggest factor in limiting the 
amount of work the agency can get done on the ground.
  It also has an innovative approach to restoring forests after a 
wildfire. No permanent roads are allowed to be built, current stream 
buffers stay in place unless the regional forester has a compelling 
reason to change them, and reforestation is required with an eye to 
creating more successional habitat, something our environmental 
community has wanted for a long time.
  You can't accelerate the process here. Where are you going to do it? 
Didn't we accelerate the process a little after Sandy or Katrina?
  You know, some of our colleagues, some of my citizens, several of my 
constituents out west are feeling that there is a lack of fairness in 
our disaster policy.
  It is common practice for radical groups to file a litany of alleged 
grievances on any forest project that is suggested, mostly just to drag 
out the process and delay good forest policy they disagree with, at 
great taxpayer expense. Most of these claims are purely procedural.
  We must reform this legal gotcha game by forcing these groups to 
focus on legitimate, substantive claims of impropriety that they feel 
they can win on. That is fair, and that is what this bonding proposal 
actually does.
  Folks, for people in rural Oregon and rural America, they are being 
left behind. The timber economy was the major economy for these 
forested regions for decades. They are not seeing large companies, 
high-tech manufacturing moving into their remote areas. These are 
communities that have depended on our renewable natural resources for 
their livelihood.
  Our forests are a catastrophe waiting to happen. They are much less 
diverse

[[Page H4989]]

than they used to be. This drought is about the worst it has been out 
west in a long, long time. Our forests are tinderboxes waiting to burst 
aflame.
  Let's begin to work collaboratively. Give local communities the tools 
they need and have to deal with and prevent these catastrophes, 
frankly, learn how to work together again to build healthier forests 
and healthier rural communities.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of 
my time.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chairman, I don't believe I have any additional 
speakers. I could yield time to the gentleman from Pennsylvania if he 
wishes.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. I have some additional speakers. That 
would be appreciated.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Chair, I ask unanimous consent to yield the balance 
of my time to the gentleman from Pennsylvania to finish out.
  The Acting CHAIR. Without objection, the gentleman from Minnesota 
yields the balance of his time, which is 8 minutes, to the gentleman 
from Pennsylvania to control.
  There was no objection.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. I thank the ranking member for his 
generosity and his leadership on the important issue of agriculture, 
and certainly on this bill as well.
  Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Alabama (Mr. 
Byrne).
  Mr. BYRNE. Mr. Chairman, thank you for your work on this critical 
legislation.
  The Resilient Federal Forest Act is key if the Forest Service is to 
have the flexibility it needs to actively manage our Nation's Federal 
timberland.
  Now, I come from a State where forestry is critically important to 
our economy and our ecosystem. In fact, forestry is a $13 billion 
industry in Alabama. Thankfully, my State does not have a serious issue 
with wildfires due to our active forest management. That said, it does 
not mean that my area isn't impacted by the wildfire crisis.
  The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management are forced to 
spend so much money fighting wildfires that they have to take money 
away from other nonfire accounts that, ironically, help prevent 
wildfires, like thinning and controlled burns.

  Mr. Chairman, this bill just makes sense. By simplifying the 
environmental process requirements and reducing burdensome regulations 
that hinder active forest management on Federal timberland, we can help 
reduce wildfires and protect our Nation's forests.
  So I want to thank the gentleman from Arkansas and others for their 
work on this bill and the continued leadership on behalf of our 
Nation's foresters.
  Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues in this House to support this 
legislation, and I call on the Senate to act on this bill right away.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
distinguished gentleman from Oregon, (Mr. Walden), an Eagle Scout.
  Mr. WALDEN. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the members of the 
committee on both sides, my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, for 
their great work on this legislation. This is really, really important.
  My colleague from Oregon (Mr. Schrader) spoke eloquently about what 
our State faces and our rural communities face, and that is why this 
Resilient Federal Forests Act is so important to beginning to be a game 
changer, to getting us back into active management of our Federal 
forestlands, to reducing the threat of wildfire, the cost of wildfire, 
the destruction of wildfire, and the incredible pollution from 
wildfire.
  As we speak here today on the House floor, brave firefighters are 
still trying to contain the Corner Creek fire, which has already burned 
nearly 29,000 acres of forestland near Dayville, Oregon, in my 
district--29,000 acres already burned. And unfortunately, this fire 
season in the West has only just begun.
  Among the many strong provisions in this bill are streamlining 
planning, reducing frivolous lawsuits, and speeding up the pace of 
forest management. Several in particular are helpful to our great State 
of Oregon.
  For national forests in eastern Oregon, this legislation repeals the 
prohibition on harvesting trees over 21 inches in diameter. Now, there 
is no real ecological reason for this. It was a temporary measure put 
in place 20-some years ago, nearly. It remains today. It didn't make 
sense then, it doesn't make sense now, and it will be repealed.
  This flawed one-size-fits-all rule illustrates, I think, just how 
broken the Federal forest management has become. So it greatly limits 
the flexibility forest managers have to do what is right for the health 
and ecosystem of the forests to make them more resilient, more fire 
tolerant.
  This bill also includes legislation I wrote with my colleagues from 
Oregon, Representatives DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, pertaining to 
Oregon's unique O&C Lands. It will cut costs, increase timber harvests 
and revenue to local counties.
  The BLM is also directed to revise their flawed management plan 
proposals to consider the clear statutory mandate to manage these lands 
for sustainable timber production and revenue to the counties.
  Finally, one look at the fires around the West makes clear that the 
status quo simply is not working for our forests, for our communities, 
or for the environment. We need to do better. This Resilient Federal 
Forests Act will do that. It will bring better and healthier forests 
and healthier communities.
  I thank the committee for taking up this good piece of legislation 
and encourage my colleagues to approve it.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from Montana (Mr. Zinke).
  Mr. ZINKE. Mr. Chairman, as a fifth generation Montanan, I grew up in 
timber country. Our mills and train yards were in full swing, and 
visitors from around the world flocked to see Glacier Park. Revenues 
from the timber industry were reinvested in the community, and 
conservation efforts of the Forest Service helped our timber harvest.
  Building a strong tourist economy and a strong timber economy are not 
mutually exclusive. That is why I support--strongly support--the 
Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015. It does what it should do. It 
encourages local organizations to work together on collaborative 
projects that revitalize the economy. But not only that, it revitalizes 
our forests.
  Think about it. As we debate this bill today, there are two wildfires 
in my home State of Montana, just a few miles from where I grew up. And 
as of today, more than 3.9 million acres across our Nation have burned 
in wildfires this year alone. That is larger than the entire State of 
Connecticut.
  We are on track for more than double, if conditions don't improve. 
Just last week, the Forest Service, whom I visited, said we are in the 
perfect storm. In the words of the former Chief of the Forest Service, 
Chief Bosworth, we don't have a fire problem as much as we have a land 
management problem. That is why this bill is so important.
  Last week, when traveling across my district, I toured the site of 
the Glacier Rim fire. This fire is burning the same ground that burned 
in 2003. I was told by people on the ground that the reason why this 
fire is burning is the Forest Service was not able to conduct a salvage 
operation for fear of lawsuits, among other reasons, and those lawsuits 
left standing timber which cannot be addressed by crews, which only can 
be addressed by helicopters, and that is a $1 million project. And 
habitat, it is a member, a part of the core grizzly habitat. It has not 
burned once; it has burned twice in 15 years.
  So we need more scientists in the woods and less lawyers, and I urge 
my colleagues to join me in a bipartisan effort to support this bill.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I yield 2 minutes to the 
gentleman from Nevada (Mr. Amodei).
  Mr. AMODEI. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank my colleagues from 
Pennsylvania and Utah and their committee work on this.
  Management reduces catastrophic wildfire. In the high desert 
rangelands of Nevada, as well as the conifer forests of such mountain 
ranges as the Sierra Nevadas around Lake Tahoe, the Ruby Mountains 
around Elko, or the Toiyabes around Austin, Nevada, we have a 100-year 
resource there. Once it burns, it is 100 years before it comes back by 
the time you take into account those moisture regimens and everything 
affiliated with that. And then

[[Page H4990]]

when you have years-long processes after it burns to get permission 
just to go after that, this is great legislation.
  I want to thank my colleague from the Razorback State for his work on 
it and the other folks that have helped him.
  One of the reasons that this is so important to our State is, in the 
last 20 years, just on BLM land, we have burned between 6 and 7 million 
acres. And guess what. We are dealing with a thing called the sage-
grouse listing, where they talk about loss and fragmentation of 
habitat. It is nobody's fault, mostly lightning-caused fires 40 miles 
from the end of the nearest dirt road--6 or 7 million acres to 
catastrophic wildland fire.
  More management, more restoration, thinning of fuels, and also the 
ability to recognize that the funding for this is something that needs 
to be a FEMA-related thing rather than just through the normal budget 
process are all great ideas.
  I want to thank my colleagues for their help. On behalf of the people 
of the Silver State, thank you very much.
  Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Mr. Chairman, I want to thank all my 
colleagues, Ranking Member Peterson, who all spoke on this very 
important bill.
  H.R. 2647 is a commonsense, bipartisan solution to start fixing a 
broken system.
  Right now, miles of red tape and constant litigation, usually from 
groups that refuse to come to the table, are preventing our forests 
from receiving the active management they desperately need. This leads 
to more catastrophic wildfires and more money diverted from other 
priorities to fight fires.
  This legislation will aid in reversing this cycle. It gives the 
agencies more flexibility to manage our Federal lands, which protects 
wildlife habitat and surrounding watersheds, spurs growth in the rural 
economy, and saves time and saves money.
  I want to thank Mr. Westerman for his leadership on this, Chairman 
Conaway, Chairman Bishop, Ranking Member Peterson.
  I yield back the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1600

  The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Hultgren). The gentleman from Utah is 
recognized for 15 minutes.
  Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity of 
being here, talking about this significant bill that is going to 
increase and improve our status quo.
  I yield 5 minutes to the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Westerman), to 
begin our portion of this debate, who is the chief sponsor of this 
particular bill, who has a personal background, actually, having earned 
a degree in forestry even from the State of Arkansas.
  Mr. WESTERMAN. Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of H.R. 2647, 
the Resilient Federal Forests Act. This bipartisan legislation will 
give the Forest Service tools it needs to better manage our national 
forests.
  As a professional forester, I see that our forests are in decline and 
lack resiliency.
  President Teddy Roosevelt, who worked alongside a fellow Yale 
forester, Gifford Pinchot, to create the U.S. Forest Service, are the 
two I would credit as the fathers of our national forest.
  Roosevelt said, ``The Nation behaves well if it treats the natural 
resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation 
increased and not impaired in value.''
  We have problems with our current forest policy that is leaving one 
of our most treasured natural resources less resilient, decreased, and 
impaired in value.
  It is not only our forests that suffer. Without forests that are 
healthy, we have poor water quality, poor air quality, less wildlife 
habitat, less biodiversity. My bill aims to fix these problems, and it 
aims to fix them through proactive and sound management.
  First, our forests are living and dynamic, but we have a problem of 
delayed decisionmaking or, even worse, no decisionmaking at all. This 
bill incentivizes collaboration and speeds up the implementation of 
collaborative projects while safeguarding strong and timely 
environmental reviews.
  We have a problem of not salvaging timber destroyed in catastrophic 
events, which makes the forest more dangerous, increases future 
wildfire problems, and makes it difficult for reforestation. This bill 
sets up requirements for salvage and reforestation. The Forest Service 
would have to implement greater reforestation in response to 
catastrophic events.
  Typically, less than 3 percent of an area is reforested after a 
catastrophic event. This is unacceptable. My bill requires 75 percent 
reforestation within 5 years.
  We have a problem in our rural communities that not only depend on 
our forests for their sustenance, but also provide emergency services, 
education, and support for the forests and residents who live near the 
forest.
  As our forests are decreased and impaired in value, our forest 
communities immediately suffer and suffer even more in the future.
  My bill gives counties flexibility in spending Secure Rural Schools 
funding and puts 25 percent of stewardship contracts into the county 
treasury for our schools and other public services.
  There are other policy problems this legislation solves, but none are 
more important than problems caused by having to spend too much of our 
Forest Service budget for reactive fire suppression rather than on 
proactive sound management and fire prevention.
  This bill ends the destructive practice of fire borrowing in a 
fiscally responsible manner. It creates a subaccount under the Stafford 
Act specifically for fighting wildfire.
  I would like to thank Chairmen Bishop, Conaway, and Shuster for their 
assistance with this critical bipartisan bill. Our national forests 
desperately need scientific management to become resilient again.
  In the words of Roosevelt, I call on us to behave well, to treat our 
forest resources as assets that we will turn over to the next 
generation increased and not impaired in value.
  I look forward to advancing this bill today and call on the Senate to 
act promptly to ease the burdens of the summer fire season.
  The Acting CHAIR. The gentlewoman from Massachusetts is recognized 
for 15 minutes.
  Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Our national forests are a public good that are tasked to provide 
multiple benefits to the American people. These include clean water, 
clean air, wildlife habitat, open space, as well as robust recreation 
and timber economies that provide jobs and partner with Federal land 
managers to improve forest health.
  Everyone agrees that we must increase the pace of restoration work to 
limit the impacts of catastrophic wildfires and to improve the long-
term health of our forests.
  H.R. 2647 does contain some new thinking and potentially useful 
concepts that, if done right, could help the Forest Service achieve its 
long-term goal of healthy, sustainable forests.
  For example, the bill provides incentives for collaboration, which 
has been identified as a priority by witnesses from both sides of the 
aisle.
  It also proposes some creative ways to finance forest restoration 
projects developed through collaboration.
  H.R. 2647 also offers a potential solution to the devastating impact 
of fire borrowing, the practice of transferring funds away from forest 
restoration projects for use in fighting wildfires.
  Throughout the debate over forest policy and this particular bill, 
Democrats, including myself, have urged the majority to deal with how 
we pay for the largest and most catastrophic wildfires, which represent 
only 1 percent of wildfires, but consume 30 percent of the entire 
agency's firefighting budget.
  I am glad that the majority acknowledges the urgent need to address 
the fact that over 50 percent of the Forest Service budget goes to 
fighting wildfires, squeezing out funds needed for all other critical 
Forest Service programs, most especially those that focus on forest 
health.
  However, these helpful provisions do not offset the many serious 
concerns that I still have with this legislation, which was developed 
without any input from Natural Resources Committee Democrats.
  In fact, when the Federal Lands Subcommittee held its hearing, the 
bill was still in draft form. This process even left the Forest Service 
without

[[Page H4991]]

the opportunity to provide adequate or meaningful testimony.
  Instead of working together on a bipartisan basis to improve the 
health of our national forests, about which we all care, this bill 
irresponsibly chips away at the environmental safeguards of the 
National Environmental Policy Act and places tremendous burdens on 
American citizens seeking to participate in the public review process 
of Forest Service projects.
  For example, H.R. 2647 would ``categorically exclude'' or exempt a 
wide range of timber and restoration projects from critical 
environmental analysis and public review. This means that thousands of 
acres of sensitive ecosystems would be much more vulnerable to 
degradation and damage.
  The changes to the judicial review process raise serious 
constitutional concerns, eroding some of the bedrock principles of the 
American legal system that protect the basic rights of citizens to 
participate in the Federal decisionmaking process and to hold their 
government accountable.

  If this legislation were to become law, a citizen challenging a 
Federal decision would be required to post a bond equal to the 
government's cost, expenses, and attorneys' fees.
  If plaintiffs lose, the government is paid out of that bond. But if 
plaintiffs win--and by win, I mean a court has to rule in favor of 
plaintiffs on all causes of action--plaintiffs simply have their bond 
returned and are precluded from getting an award of attorneys' fees.
  As our colleagues on the Judiciary Committee can attest, this 
provision flies directly in the face of American legal precedent.
  Public lands, including our national forests, belong to all 
Americans. They are a public good. Bedrock environmental laws, like the 
National Environmental Policy Act, makes sure that the public voice is 
heard and that critical habitats are protected not only for species 
that rely on our national forests and grasslands, but also for American 
citizens who depend on these lands for their drinking water and 
economic livelihoods or simply to enjoy their treasured beauty.
  I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on this legislation, and I 
reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. BISHOP of Utah. I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. TSONGAS. Mr. Chair, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from 
Oregon (Mr. DeFazio).
  Mr. DeFAZIO. I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
  Mr. Chair, I have been working on forest policy for my entire tenure 
in Congress. I have some of the most productive and fabulous forest 
lands in the entire Federal system, both Forest Service and BLM lands, 
under a unique O&C management.
  But here we are again headed into a very, very potentially bad fire 
season, June record heat, no precipitation. We had very little snowpack 
last winter, and the heavy fuels are already as dry as they get.
  We have seen this before. The fires will break out. BLM and Forest 
Service can't stop fighting the fires. So they will borrow from other 
accounts, including fuel reduction to protect forest values and 
communities, forest health, and a myriad of other programs.
  This happens year after year after year. It is time to end that, and 
this bill takes that first step in ending that practice of fire 
borrowing.
  And that is of tremendous benefit to the resource agencies, the 
resources themselves, and our preparedness and capability of fighting 
fires. That alone gives this bill tremendous merit.
  It deals with some other longstanding issues in Oregon. We adopted 
something called temporary eastside screens back in 1993, I believe, 
saying you couldn't cut any tree over 21 inches in diameter.
  It makes no biological sense, and it makes no sense to the premier 
forest scientists in the world, Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson.
  You have nonnative fir trees that are growing there, because of 
repression of fire for the last 100 years, that are 100 years old. They 
are over 21 inches.
  But they are growing in stands of ponderosas that are 200 years old, 
and they are going to kill the ponderosa stands, the native trees.
  But the Forest Service can't go in and deal with that issue. With 
this legislation they finally can.
  On our unique O&C lands, there is a provision of the Northwest Forest 
Plan called Survey and Manage, literally crawling around on the forest 
floor, looking for slugs, snails, calling for owls, and doing all these 
things 3 years in a row.
  This, again, is not necessary, according to the premier scientists, 
and is incredibly expensive and time-consuming on the part of the 
Bureau of Land Management.
  In fact, the Bureau of Land Management's new plans--each plan, no 
matter what the output level, would do away with that practice. So this 
bill does away with that practice, saving the BLM resources and moving 
ahead with better management.
  There are a number of other issues that relate to these O&C lands. I 
want to thank Chairman Bishop and Chairman McClintock for working with 
myself, Mr. Schrader, and Mr. Walden in order to address these issues, 
extending the comment period, developing new management options.
  BLM is refusing, despite the Oregon Delegation's bipartisan request 
to extend the comment period on these critical management plans. So 
that itself is also great merit.
  There are provisions in the bill that I don't like and don't support.
  We will be given an opportunity with the Polis amendment to deal with 
the bonding issue and the cost recovery issue, which I don't think 
belongs in this bill.
  I have concerns about the magnitude of the CEs for fire recovery and 
salvage. But, on balance, the other parts of this bill are important to 
the point where the bill should receive support from people that care 
about the future of our forests.
  Mr. Chair, I have been working on forestry issues for a long time--
nearly 30 years. I represent a district with some of the most 
productive public timberlands in the entire world. I also represent a 
district that cares deeply--passionately--about the environment and our 
incredible national forests.
  For 30 years I have been trying to find a middle ground on national 
forest policy--a balanced approach. I believe that having a healthy 
timber industry, good paying jobs in rural communities, and permanent 
protection for our nation's most iconic resources--like old growth 
trees and pristine rivers--are not and should not be mutually 
exclusive.
  Do I think the bill before the House today is a perfect bill? 
Absolutely not. But when you are working on a contentious, complex, and 
often emotional issue like national forest policy--there is no such 
thing as a ``perfect bill.''
  The truth is our national forests are burning up at an alarming rate. 
They are dying from disease and bugs. Our land management agencies 
don't have the financial resources or tools to deal with existing 
threats let alone emerging threats, like climate change. The Federal 
Government spends billions of dollars every year to fight fires on 
public lands, rather than investing those dollars in forest health and 
resiliency to reduce wildfire risks.
  Our rural and forested communities continue to suffer from double 
digit unemployment. Even the mills that have retrofitted to process 
small diameter logs are struggling to make it. And rural counties 
dependent on timber receipts are failing to keep violent criminals in 
jail, sheriff deputies on our roads, and kids and teachers in the 
classroom.
  So, again, no. I don't think this is a perfect bill. But, Congress 
needs to do something to change the status quo for our forests and 
rural communities. We need to have this conversation and work together 
to find middle ground.


                            wildfire funding

  And there are some good provisions in this bill. One of the most 
important provisions attempts to end ``fire borrowing''--a top priority 
of mine when I was Ranking Member of the Natural Resources Committee 
and a remaining priority of mine as Ranking Member of the 
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that has jurisdiction over 
FEMA.
  Right now, when federal land managers exhaust congressionally 
appropriated dollars to fight fires, the agencies have to borrow money 
from other accounts. Often times those accounts fund the very 
activities--like thinning overstocked plantations, reducing hazardous 
fuels, or completing work in the Wildland Urban Interface--that can 
actually help reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires! That's a 
terrible way to do business.
  Catastrophic wildfires should be treated like other natural disasters 
and we should stop robbing Peter to pay Paul. The wildfire funding 
language in this bill--while not perfect--moves us in the right 
direction.


                            eastside screens

  This bill also includes provisions that will improve forest 
management in the Pacific Northwest. The bill would remove the 
unscientific

[[Page H4992]]

and arbitrary ``Eastside Screens'' that prohibit the Forest Service 
from cutting any tree in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington that is 
larger than 21 inches in diameter.
  Supporters of the Eastside Screens forget that the 21 inch rule was 
intended to provide interim protection for larger, older trees until 
scientifically based standards for old growth were established. Well, 
guess what? After more than two decades those standards have still not 
been established, handcuffing the Forest Service from carrying out 
common sense forest projects.
  Today, even if there is a non-native, 22-inch diameter Douglas fir 
tree that is outcompeting and putting at risk a native, 200 year-old 
stand of ponderosa pine, you can't cut that fir. That would violate the 
Eastside Screens.
  That doesn't make any sense. Yes, we need protection for old growth 
forests and I was the first to pass permanent, legislative protection 
for old growth in Western Oregon out of the House last year. But, those 
protections should be scientific and implementable.


                               O&C lands

  The same goes for standards established more than 20 years ago, known 
as Survey and Manage, that literally has land management personnel on 
their hands and knees on the forest floor looking for liverworts, 
fungi, slugs, snails, mosses, and 300 other types of flora and fauna 
before any forest activity can take place. I am all for robust analysis 
and considering the impacts of human activity on rare and special 
species. But we also need to be responsible stewards of taxpayer 
dollars and aware of the consequences of over-analysis, lengthy delays, 
and not taking action.
  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agrees with me. That's why all of 
the Resource Management Plan alternatives for Western Oregon would 
eliminate Survey and Manage.
  Unfortunately, the BLM still has some work to do on the Resource 
Management Plans for the statutorily unique O&C Lands. Despite requests 
from most of the Oregon Congressional Delegation to extend the public 
comment period to analyze thousands of pages of documentation for the 
alternatives, the BLM decided not to award an extension.
  I want to thank Chairman Bishop and Chairman McClintock for working 
with me, Rep. Walden, and Rep. Schrader to include language that would 
direct the BLM to consider additional alternatives for the O&C Lands-- 
ranging from a sustained yield alternative to a carbon storage 
alternative--and to extend the public comment period by 180 days. These 
Resource Management Plans will govern management on the O&C Lands for 
years to come--perhaps decades--and we must get them right. Taking time 
to analyze new alternatives and giving the public more time to review 
and comment is absolutely crucial.

  I also want to thank the respective Chairmen for incorporating the 
Public Domain lands within the O&C land base. These lands in Western 
Oregon are already managed in the same manner. Reclassifying the Public 
Domain lands as O&C Lands will improve management efficiency, provide 
clarity to the BLM, and create additional revenues for the O&C 
Counties.
  But, as I mentioned, this bill isn't perfect. In fact, it includes a 
number of troubling provisions that should be completely eliminated or 
substantially modified before being signed into law.


                         Provisions of Concern

  For example, the bill would allow categorical exclusions (CEs) for 
salvage logging projects up to 5,000 acres in size. That's 20 times 
larger than the current 250-acre size limitation for salvage logging 
CEs adopted by the Bush Administration. Unfortunately, the Committee 
adopted an amendment during markup that eliminated key restrictions on 
the construction of temporary roads within the salvage project area. 
These provisions are a non-starter.
  The bill allows CEs for projects intended to create early 
successional habitat. I worked with the pre-eminent scientists in the 
world on pilot projects in Oregon with similar management goals. But 
for these projects to work and for there to be social buy-in, there 
need to be strong sideboards for such projects, like green tree 
retention requirements and old growth protection.
  Language has been added that could exempt the application of 
herbicides from a full environmental impact statement when used to 
``improve, remove, or reduce the risk of wildfire.'' I understand the 
Forest Service uses herbicides in limited circumstances to address 
noxious weeds and other threats through manual application. But such 
application should remain extremely limited, publicly transparent, and 
restricted to manual application instead of aerial application. There 
should be no ambiguity in this language and its intent, nor should it 
expand herbicide application on public lands.
  This bill would make it harder for a person with a legitimate 
grievance against a federal land management agency to sue by requiring 
that person to post a bond covering the anticipated costs, expenses, 
and attorneys' fees of the government to defend the lawsuit. I 
understand you want to limit frivolous lawsuits or lawsuits from 
parties that don't meaningfully engage in the public process. But this 
isn't the way to do it. I will be voting for an amendment later today 
to strike the entire section.
  Mr. Chair, this bill has some important, balanced provisions. It also 
has some controversial, unnecessary provisions. We know that this bill, 
in its current form, will not be signed by the president. But I want to 
keep this conversation moving forward and I want to work with my 
colleagues on both sides of the aisle, House and Senate, to do 
something meaningful for our rural communities and national forests. I 
will support this bill today with the understanding that this 
legislation still needs work, significant improvement, and further 
compromise.
  Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chair, I am pleased to yield 2 minutes to the 
the gentleman from California (Mr. McClintock), the chairman of the 
Subcommittee on Federal Lands, who has helped shepherd this bill 
through the committee process.
  Mr. McCLINTOCK. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
  Mr. Chairman, excess timber comes out of the forest one way or 
another. It is either carried out or its burned out, but it comes out.
  Years ago, when we carried it out, we had healthy forests and a 
thriving economy. We managed our national forests according to well-
established and time-tested forest management practices that prevented 
vegetation and wildlife from overgrowing the ability of the land to 
support it.
  Revenues from the sale of excess timber provided for prosperous local 
economies and a steady stream of revenues to the Treasury which could, 
in turn, be used to further improve the public lands.
  But 40 years ago, in the name of saving the environment, we consigned 
our national forests to a policy of benign neglect. And the results are 
all around us today, not only the impoverished mountain communities, 
but an utterly devastated environment.

                              {time}  1615

  Our forests are now dangerously overgrown. Trees that once had room 
to grow and thrive now fight for their lives in competition with other 
trees from the same ground. In this distressed condition, they fall 
victim to pestilence, disease, and catastrophic wildfire. My goodness, 
we can't even salvage dead timber anymore.
  This legislation is the first step back towards sound, scientific 
management of our national forests. It streamlines fire and disease 
prevention programs. It expedites restoration of fire-damaged lands. It 
protects forest managers from frivolous lawsuits, and it does so 
without requiring new regulations, rules, planning, or mapping.
  Mr. Chairman, the management of our public lands is the 
responsibility of Congress. The bromides of the environmental left have 
proven disastrous to the health of our forests, the preservation of our 
wildlife, and the welfare of our mountain communities.
  This bill begins to reverse that damage and to usher in a new era of 
healthy and resilient forests and an economic renaissance for our 
mountain towns.
  Ms. TSONGAS. I yield 4 minutes to my colleague from Arizona (Mr. 
Grijalva).
  Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 2647, the 
so-called Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015.
  Before I address the many concerns with the underlying bill, I must 
commend my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. They have finally 
taken a step toward addressing the 600-pound gorilla, that is, the 
enormous cost and impact of fire borrowing under the Forest Service 
budget.
  I offered an amendment at a committee markup that would have required 
Congress to address the issue of fire borrowing before this bill could 
take effect, and we have been calling on House Republicans to address 
the issue for years. My amendment was rejected, but I am glad it 
encouraged the sponsors of this legislation to address the cost of 
wildfires.
  The newly added title IX is not a perfect solution, however. By 
amending the Stafford Act to include wildfires under the definition of 
natural disasters, this section creates a mechanism to address the very 
disastrous practice of fire borrowing.
  There is a small hitch, nevertheless. Congress would still have to 
fund this

[[Page H4993]]

new disaster relief fund, similar to the process for funding recovery 
from Superstorm Sandy, which did not go smoothly, to say the least. 
While this might be a positive step, it does not make H.R. 2647 a good 
bill.
  With regard to title IX, the additional disaster relief fund, 
hopefully the majority will not rob Peter to pay Paul within the Forest 
budget in order to fund this disaster relief fund or leave title IX 
just as an empty hollow and useless gesture that never gets funded.
  In the name of forest resiliency and health, H.R. 2647 undermines the 
NEPA process, discourages collaboration, distorts the intent of the 
Secure Rural Schools program, creates an extraordinary burden on 
citizens' access to the courts, and transforms the judicial review 
process.
  This bill, quite frankly, is not about forest health. It is about 
increasing the numbers of trees removed from the forest.
  The White House just communicated its strenuous opposition to H.R. 
2647, and let me quote from that communication:

       The administration strongly opposes H.R. 2647. The most 
     important step Congress can take to increase the pace and 
     scale of forest restoration and management of our national 
     forests and the Department of the Interior lands is to fix 
     the fire suppression funding and provide additional capacity 
     for the Forest Service and Department of the Interior to 
     manage the Nation's forests and other public lands. H.R. 2647 
     falls short of fixing the fire budget problem and contains 
     other provisions that will undermine collaborative forest 
     restoration, environmental safeguards, and public 
     participation across the National Forest System and public 
     lands.

  Categorical inclusions that are part of title I are not the product 
of thoughtful consideration of the legislation. Instead, they pave the 
way for up to 8 square miles of clear cuts of old-growth trees with 
little or no environmental review.
  Title II reduces to 3 months the time for environmental assessments 
and environmental impact statements for reforestation or salvage 
operations following a large-scale fire. The Forest Service testified 
that this time limit is unrealistic, encouraging snap judgments that 
can have horrible long-term consequences.
  Title III strips away access to the courts that other speakers will 
speak to as well. You know, think about the group that would dominate 
the collaborative decisionmaking without any judicial review.
  The bill also eliminates the Equal Access to Justice Act for 
successful litigants and forces them to do a prebond, a one-sided bond 
requirement to limit, if not eliminate, citizen activism and public 
participation in a problem that they can help solve rather looking at 
this as a threat.
  I urge a ``no'' vote on the legislation.
  Mr. BISHOP of Utah. Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now 
rise.
  The motion was agreed to.
  Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. 
Thompson of Pennsylvania) having assumed the chair, Mr. Hultgren, 
Acting Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the 
Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the 
bill (H.R. 2647) to expedite under the National Environmental Policy 
Act and improve forest management activities in units of the National 
Forest System derived from the public domain, on public lands under the 
jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, and on tribal lands to 
return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands, and for 
other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.

                          ____________________