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106th Congress Rept. 106-604
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
2d Session Part 1
FOREST ROADS-COMMUNITY RIGHT-TO-KNOW ACT
May 3, 2000.--Ordered to be printed
Mr. Young of Alaska, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the
R E P O R T
[To accompany H.R. 1523]
[Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]
The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill
(H.R. 1523) to establish mandatory procedures to be followed by
the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in advance
of the permanent closure of any forest road so as to ensure
local public participation in the decisionmaking process,
having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an
amendment and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.
The amendment is as follows:
Strike out all after the enacting clause and insert in lieu
thereof the following:
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ``Forest Roads-Community Right-To-Know
SECTION 2. FOREST SERVICE AND BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT PROCEDURES FOR
PERMANENT CLOSURE OF FOREST ROADS.
(a) Definitions.--In this section:
(1) Permanent closure.--The term ``permanent closure'', with
respect to a forest road, means the closure of the road to
vehicular traffic for a continuous period of more than one
year. The term includes a road closure of one year or less, or
of an unspecified duration, unless the Secretary concerned
certifies at the time of the closure that the closure will not
extend beyond one year.
(2) Forest road.--The term ``forest road'' means any road on
(3) Federal lands.--The term ``Federal lands'' means--
(A) lands administered by the Bureau of Land
(B) lands within units of the National Forest System.
(4) State and local government officials.--The term ``State
and local government officials'' means elected officials of
States and counties within which Federal lands are located.
(5) Secretary concerned.--The term ``Secretary concerned''
(A) with respect to the Federal lands described in
paragraph (3)(A), the Secretary of the Interior; and
(B) with respect to the Federal lands described in
paragraph (3)(B), the Secretary of Agriculture.
(b) Advance Notice of Permanent Road Closures to State and Local
(1) Purpose.--The purpose of this subsection is to ensure
that the Secretary concerned involves State and local
government officials in the process by which the Secretary
concerned considers and plans for the potential permanent
closure of forest roads on Federal lands.
(2) Annual meetings required.--At least once each fiscal
year, the Secretary concerned shall meet with appropriate State
and local government officials to describe all agency plans or
proposals that, within the next two fiscal years, will or may
result in the permanent closure of forest roads on Federal
lands. Such agency plans or proposals include project
proposals, land management plan amendments or revisions,
resource management plan amendments or revisions, and regional
or subregional plans or proposals
(3) Elements of notice.--At a meeting under paragraph (2),
the Secretary concerned shall provide information, using maps
and other means, that at a minimum--
(A) shows forest roads selected or proposed for
(B) shows traffic patterns and volumes on the roads
over the previous five years; and
(C) explains how users of the roads will be adversely
affected with longer travel times or adverse travel
conditions by the permanent closure of the roads.
(4) Special rule for first meeting.--At the first meeting
conducted under paragraph (2) for a State or local government,
the Secretary concerned shall also provide information on all
forest roads that have been subject to permanent closure in
that State during the previous five years. The information
shall include a map showing the location of the forest roads
and a description of the methods and costs of the permanent
closure of the forest roads.
(c) Public Notice and Comment Requirements.--
(1) Local notice.--Before proceeding with the permanent
closure of a forest road, the Secretary concerned shall publish
an announcement describing the proposed closure in the local
newspaper of record for the area likely to be affected by the
permanent closure of the road. The announcement shall include a
description and map of the forest road selected or proposed for
permanent closure and a description of any comments generated
regarding the closure in meetings with State and local
government officials under subsection (b).
(2) Comment period.--The permanent closure of a forest road
may not take effect until after the end of the 90-day period
beginning on the date that the announcement under paragraph (1)
was published regarding that road so as to permit the public to
submit comments regarding the decision to select or propose the
forest road for permanent closure.
(d) Prohibition on Permanent Road Closures.--The permanent closure of
a forest road is prohibited unless--
(1) advance notice of the permanent closure of the road is
provided to the appropriate State and local government
officials in the manner provided in subsection (b); and
(2) the Secretary complies with the public notice and comment
requirements under subsection (c).
(e) Application of Requirements.--The requirements of this section
shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act, except that
the prohibition contained in subsection (d)(1) shall not apply to
prohibit the permanent closure of any forest road implemented during
the fiscal year in which this section is enacted.
(f) Effect on Valid and Existing Rights.--Nothing in this section
shall invalidate rights-of-way designated under section 2477 of the
Revised Statutes of 1878 (43 U.S.C. 932) or other valid and existing
rights, including rights of ingress and egress.
(g) Compliance With State Laws.--In carrying out this section with
respect to a forest road, the Secretary concerned shall comply with the
applicable laws of the State in which the forest road is located.
SEC. 3. EMERGENCIES.
(a) Emergency Road Closures.--Subject to subsection (b), the
requirements of section 2 shall not apply to emergency road closures
where life or property would be endangered or threatened in the absence
of the road closure.
(b) Length of Closure.--If an emergency road closure will extend
beyond one year, the Secretary concerned shall comply with the
requirements of section 2 within three months after the date on which
the emergency road closure commenced.
PURPOSE OF THE BILL
The purpose of H.R. 1523 is to establish mandatory
procedures to be followed by the Forest Service and the Bureau
of Land Management in advance of the permanent closure of any
forest road so as to ensure local public participation in the
BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION
In the last few years, three times more roads have been
obliterated in national forests than have been constructed.
These actions profoundly influence the ability of the public to
access national forests and of the government to manage them.
Sometimes these decisions are made through modifications of a
national forest's travel plan, but often, decisions to close
and obliterate roads are done administratively without public
input. This has a tremendous effect on the lives of rural
people who depend on existing forest roads for work and
The Administration's fiscal year 2000 budget request
provides for decommissioning of 3,300 miles of forest roads.
The Chief of the U.S. Forest Service's decision indicates that
the agency intends to proceed with road closures at a greatly
increased rate, without the opportunities for public
involvement that are required by law and that the Chief himself
has promised to provide.
H.R. 1523 provides that permanent road closures, including
road decommissioning, will no longer be done by the Forest
Service or Bureau of Land Management without adequate public
notice and local government and public involvement. It
specifically allows short term closures that the agencies may
deem necessary. Finally, the bill does not affect valid and
H.R. 1523 was introduced on April 22, 1999, by Mrs.
Chenoweth-Hage. The bill was referred primarily to the
Committee on Resources and in addition to the Committee on
Agriculture. Within the Committee on Resources it was referred
to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and to the
Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands. On April 22,
1999, the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health held a
hearing on public participation in road closures and on a draft
version of H.R. 1523. On April 27, 1999, the Subcommittee on
Forests and Forest Health met to mark up the bill. No
amendments were offered and the bill was ordered reported to
the Full Committee by a roll call vote of 8 to 5, as follows:
On May 5, 1999, the Full Committee on Resources met to
consider the bill. The Subcommittee on National Parks and
Public Lands was discharged from further consideration of the
bill by unanimous consent. Chairman Young offered an amendment
to allow immediate emergency closures of roads in cases where
safety or property was threatened, with public disclosure to
follow in cases where the closure was expected to last more
than 1 year. The amendment was adopted by voice vote. The bill,
as amended, was ordered favorably reported to the House of
Representatives by a roll call vote of 22 to 16, as follows:
COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of Rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of
Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations
are reflected in the body of this report.
CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT
Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 3 of the
Constitution of the United States grant Congress the authority
to enact this bill.
COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII
1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of Rule XIII of the
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be
incurred in carrying out this bill. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B)
of that Rule provides that this requirement does not apply when
the Committee has included in its report a timely submitted
cost estimate of the bill prepared by the Director of the
Congressional Budget Office under section 402 of the
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.
2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2)
of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this
bill does not contain any new budget authority, spending
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in
revenues or tax expenditures.
3. Government Reform Oversight Findings. Under clause
3(c)(4) of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives, the Committee has received no report of
oversight findings and recommendations from the Committee on
Government Reform on this bill.
4. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate. Under clause
3(c)(3) of Rule XIII of the Rules of the House of
Representatives and section 403 of the Congressional Budget Act
of 1974, the Committee has received the following cost estimate
for this bill from the Director of the Congressional Budget
Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, May 26, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1523, the Forest
Roads-Community Right To-Know Act.
If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Victoria Heid
Barry B. Anderson
(For Dan L. Crippen, Director).
H.R. 1523--Forest Roads-Community Right-To-Know Act
H.R. 1523 would require the Secretaries of Agriculture and
the Interior to notify the public in advance about proposals to
permanently close forest roads on federal land. The bill would
apply to any road on federal land within the National Forest
System or administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The bill would prohibit closing a road for more than a year
(except for emergency road closures) unless the agencies
provide advance notice according to the process specified in
the bill. Such notice would have to include information on
traffic patterns and volumes for the previous five years on the
roads proposed for closure. According to the Forest Service
(FS) and BLM, information on road usage is collected only for
major roads on federal land. Therefore, enacting H.F. 1523
would effectively prohibit most permanent road closures for
five years while the agencies collect such data.
The delay of most permanent road closures would save
decommissioning costs during the period when roads would remain
in use or be closed only temporarily. At the same time, the FS
and BLM would incur additional costs for maintaining roads that
otherwise would be closed under current law and for collecting
data on use of the roads that are proposed for permanent
closure. Based on information from the two agencies, CBO
estimates that implementing H.R. 1523 would have no significant
net impact on outlays over the next five years because funds
intended for road decommissioning could be used to cover
maintenance and data collection. That is, we expect that the
likely savings and costs of the bill would be approximately
equal over the next five years. However, over the long term,
collecting data on road usage entail additional costs relative
to current law.
Because H.R. 1523 would not affect direct spending or
receipts, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply. H.R. 1523
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would no
significant impact on the budgets of state, local, or tribal
The CBO contact for this estimate is Victoria Heid Hall.
This estimate was approved by Robert A. Sunshine, Deputy
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.
compliance with public law 104-4
This bill contains no unfunded mandates.
Changes in existing law
If enacted, this bill would make no changes in existing
H.R. 1523 mandates additional procedures the Forest Service
and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must follow when
closing roads on national forests and public lands for more
than one year. This bill defies logic by defining ``permanent
closure'' to mean more than one year. Even road closures
planned for less than one year qualify as ``permanent,'' unless
the Secretary certifies the closures will not extend beyond 12
months. The newly mandated procedural hoops include giving
advance notice to public officials of ``all'' agency plans over
the next two fiscal years that ``will or may'' result in the
``permanent'' closure of roads on public lands. Even road
closures pursuant to an emergency must go through these hurdles
after a three-month stay.
A hearing was held on April 22, 1999 before the bill was
even introduced; the Department of the Interior--an affected
agency--never testified on the bill for that reason.
Ironically, on a bill that purports to increase public
involvement, there was little notice, involvement, or input.
While public involvement and consultation in government
decision-making is both desirable and critical, H.R. 1523
mandates procedures for road closings that do not apply to
road-building or timber sales, thus selectively choosing when
public involvement is important. Opposed by the Forest Service
and the Bureau of Land Management, this legislation is onerous,
costly, and unnecessary for several reasons.
First, the bill inappropriately addresses a local issue
through national legislation. The impetus for the legislation
came from road closures on the Targhee National Forest in Idaho
as part of a 1998 travel management plan draft Environmental
Impact Statement. According to the Forest Service, the plan
addressed several concerns: (1) reducing road maintenance
needs; (2) restoring soils and water quality; (3) enhancing
grizzly bear habitat and recovery in accordance with U.S. Fish
and Wildlife recommendations; (4) restoring cutthroat trout
habitat to prevent its Endangered Species Act listing; (5)
allowing access in certain areas where compatible with timber
harvesting; and (6) reducing hunting pressure on elk
populations to meet State of Idaho Department of Fish and Game
population goals. The real issue troubling the Majority is the
decisions--not the process surrounding the decision--to close
forest roads on the Targhee National Forest in Idaho.
Second, as the Forest Service testified, ample opportunity
for public comment exists as mandated by NEPA and other
legislation as well as agency policy. The sponsor herself
admits that county commissioners received notice--``a whole
stack'' of letters, in her words--about the Targhee road
closures, but takes umbrage on the commissioners' behalf at the
salutation of ``Concerned Citizen.'' Moreover, the Forest
Service has reiterated its policies of encouraging public
notice and outreach on road management, further undercutting
any need for legislation. (Letter attached).
Third, there are several drafting problems. ``Permanent''
is defined so broadly that anything that may be closed longer
than a year is deemed a closure, which is precluded without
advance notice to local governments and 90-day public comment.
The amendment addressing emergency closures merely imposes a
three-month stay on the procedural requirements the agency must
meet, thereby restricting agency discretion to keep roads
closed in case of floods or landslides, or lack of funding.
``Closure'' is not defined, so that roads designed to be
temporary may be required to stay open. ``Road'' is defined
overly broadly so that the agency could be precluded from
closing illegal and unauthorized roads created by off-road
Finally, the bill reverses existing statutory and policy
direction regarding road management. Section 8 of the National
Forest Management Act requires the Forest Service to close and
obliterate roads unless they are designated permanent in the
agency's transportation management plans (16 U.S.C. 1608 (b)).
H.R. 1523, on the other hand, would require that all the roads
remain open unless the agency complies with these burdensome
procedures. With an authorized road system of over 380,000
miles, an estimated 60,000 miles of unauthorized roads, and a
$8.5 billion backlog in repair and maintenance in the National
Forest System, and an additional 78,000 miles of road under
BLM's jurisdiction, the last thing Congress should be doing is
making it more difficult and cumbersome for agencies to close
roads for safety or environmental reasons. The Forest Service
is looking to minimize new road construction and reduce the
resource damage from its current road network. Yet H.R. 1523's
data collection requirements of traffic patterns over five-year
periods are so onerous as to effectively impose at least a
five-year moratorium on road closures. While less than 20
percent of the current Forest Service road system for passenger
vehicles is being maintained to the design safety standards,
Congress only appropriates a fraction of what it would take to
address the backlog of repairs. This legislation offers nothing
in the way of addressing these serious problems and instead
would serve to obstruct closure of unnecessary and
environmentally destructive portions of the vast system of
roads on public lands and national forests.
Department of Agriculture,
Washington, DC, May 4, 1999.
File Code: 7700/1950.
Subject: Involving Local Public Officials in Planning of Road
To: Regional Foresters and Washington Office Staff Directors.
Management of the forest road system is one of the four key
focus areas of the Forest Service Natural Resource Agenda.
There are few issues that have been more controversial for the
Forest Service than forest roads. While roads are vital for
public, commercial and administrative access to the national
forests and grasslands, we also find that roads can be great
contributors to environmental damage to our lands. In order to
address this difficult issue, we are in the midst of developing
a new national roads policy and rewriting the national forest
It is important that you recognize the public interest and
potential controversy that surrounds projects and ensure that
adequate information specifically addressing the planning of
road decommissioning is given in your quarterly schedule of
proposed actions, to more accurately describe the issues
involved. For instance, when road decommissioning is planned as
part of a timber sale, decommissioning should be identified as
part of that sale in the quarterly notices, during scoping, and
during the public comment period.
It has long been Forest Service policy that local elected
officials are valuable partners whom we advise and consult
regarding management decisions in the national forests.
Building and maintaining positive relationships with these
officials is good business. More often than not, they are key
to identification of win-win approaches to our land management
problems. Their help means going forth with synergy instead of
I expect Forest Service line officers periodically to meet
with State and local officials and other concerned citizens on
potentially controversial issues and projects. Road
decommissioning projects and transportation planning in
general, are examples where I expect you to involve and
coordinate with your State and local officials. There is
nothing the Forest Service does on the ground that should be
done without involvement with interested officials.
Decommissioning roads and transportation planning is no
Maintaining an open and collaborative process with our
local communities and other communities of interest will move
us all forward in a positive way and one that we can all feel
good about. Thank you for your attention to this concern.
Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System.
A P P E N D I X
House of Representatives,
Committee on Agriculture,
Washington, DC, June 1, 1999.
Hon. Don Young,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
Dear Mr. Chairman: On May 5, 1999 the Committee on
Resources ordered to be reported H.R. 1523, the ``Forest Roads-
Community-Right-To-Know Act.'' As you are aware, the Committee
on Agriculture was granted an additional referral of this
legislation on those provisions of H.R. 1523 that fall within
the jurisdiction of this Committee.
Knowing of your interest in expediting this legislation and
in maintaining the continued consultation between our
Committees on these matters, I agree to discharge H.R. 1523
from consideration by the Committee on Agriculture. I do so
with the understanding that by discharging the bill the
Committee on Agriculture does not waive any future
jurisdictional claim over this or similar measures. In
addition, in the event a conference with the Senate is
requested on this matter, the Committee on Agriculture reserves
the right to seek appointment of conferees from this Committee
to be represented in such conference.
Thank you very much for your courtesy in this matter and I
look forward to continued cooperation between our Committees as
we deal with these issues in the future.
House of Representatives,
Committee on Resources,
Washington, DC, May 28, 1999.
Hon. Larry Combest,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter regarding H.R.
1523, the Forest Roads Community Right-to-Know Act. I
appreciate your cooperation in not insisting on your additional
referral of the bill.
I will of course support your request to have the Committee
on Agriculture named to any conference on H.R. 1523 if one
should become necessary, and copies of our correspondence will
be made part of the committee bill report.
Thank you again for your cooperation and that of Lance
Kotschwar, Greg Zerzan and Dave Tenny of your staff. I look
forward to seeing H.R. 1523 debated on the House Floor soon.