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107th Congress                                            Rept. 107-763
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                      Part 1

======================================================================



 
 PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF PUBLIC LAND FIRE REGULATIONS RESULTING IN 
                            PROPERTY DAMAGE

                                _______
                                

October 21, 2002.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

  Mr. Hansen, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 4912]

  The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 4912) to increase the penalties to be imposed for a 
violation of fire regulations applicable to the public lands, 
National Park System lands, or National Forest System lands 
when the violation results in damage to public or private 
property, to specify the purpose for which collected fines may 
be used, and for other purposes, having considered the same, 
report favorably thereon with an amendment and recommend that 
the bill as amended do pass.
  The amendment is as follows:
  Strike all after the enacting clause and insert the 
following:

SECTION 1. PENALTIES FOR VIOLATION OF PUBLIC LAND FIRE REGULATIONS 
                    RESULTING IN PROPERTY DAMAGE.

  (a) Increased Penalties on Interior Lands.--Notwithstanding section 
303(a) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 
1733(a)) or section 3 of the Act of August 25, 1916 (16 U.S.C. 3), a 
violation of the rules regulating the use of fire by visitors and other 
users of lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management or 
National Park System lands shall be punished by a fine of not less than 
$1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, if the 
violation results in damage to public or private property.
  (b) Increased Penalties on National Forest System Lands.--
Notwithstanding the eleventh undesignated paragraph under the heading 
``surveying the public lands'' of the Act of June 4, 1897 (16 U.S.C. 
551), a violation of the rules regulating the use of fire by visitors 
and other users of National Forest System lands shall be punished by a 
fine of not less than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than one 
year, or both, if the violation results in damage to public or private 
property.
  (c) Use of Collected Fines.--Any moneys received by the United States 
as a result of a fine imposed for a violation of fire rules applicable 
to lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park 
System lands, or National Forest System lands shall be available to the 
Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture, as the case 
may be, without further appropriation and until expended, for the 
following purposes:
          (1) To cover the cost to the United States of any 
        improvement, protection, or rehabilitation work rendered 
        necessary by the action that resulted in the fine.
          (2) To reimburse the affected agency for the cost of the 
        response to the action that resulted in the fine, including 
        investigations, damage assessments, and legal actions.
          (3) To increase public awareness of rules, regulations, and 
        other requirements regarding the use of fire on public lands.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H.R. 4912 is to increase the penalties to be 
imposed for a violation of fire regulations applicable to the 
public lands, National Park System lands, or National Forest 
System lands when the violation results in damage to public or 
private property, to specify the purpose for which collected 
fines may be used, and for other purposes.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    Over the last ten years, human carelessness has been 
responsible for the ignition of just over one million fires, 
destroying 100,000 acres a year on average. By comparison, 
lightning has been the cause of roughly one-tenth the number of 
fires, though lightning-caused fires have resulted in more 
acres burned. Stiffer penalties may be one way to help reduce 
the number of fires attributable to people violating fire bans.
    On National Forest System lands, current penalties for 
violating existing fire regulations specify a maximum fine of 
$500 and six months imprisonment for violators. However, the 
fines are generally assessed at a far lower level, and jail 
time is rarely imposed. In many cases, fines levied are well 
below $100, lacking any real deterrent value to would-be 
violators. In at least one case this season, a prospective 
visitor to a Colorado national forest contacted a district 
ranger about the potential fines for violating the recently 
imposed fire ban. When the visitor was informed that the fine 
for violating the ban was around $50, he asked if there was a 
way to pay the fine in advance.
    H.R. 4912 revised the penalties for violations of the rules 
relating the use of fire by visitors of public lands if such 
violation results in damage to public or private property. For 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, the maximum $1,000 fine 
is changed to a minimum $1,000 fine. For National Forest System 
lands and lands under the jurisdiction of the National Park 
Service (NPS), the penalties are adjusted from a maximum $500 
fine and six months imprisonment to a minimum $1,000 fine and 
maximum 12 months imprisonment. The penalty monies are retained 
by the Secretary of the Interior (for BLM and NPS lands) or the 
Secretary of Agriculture (for National Forest System lands) and 
allows the funds to be used: (1) to cover the costs of 
improvement, protection, or rehabilitation work rendered 
necessary by the violation that led to the fine; (2) for 
reimbursement for fire response actions; or (3) to increase 
public awareness of rules, regulations and other requirements 
regarding the use of fire on public lands.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    Congressman Thomas G. Tancredo (R-CO) introduced H.R. 4912 
on June 11, 2002. The bill was referred primarily to the 
Committee on Resources and additionally to the Committee on 
Agriculture. Within the Committee on Resources, the bill was 
referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and 
the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public 
Lands. On October 8, 2002, the Full Resources Committee met to 
consider the bill. The Subcommittees were discharged from 
further consideration of the bill by unanimous consent. Mr. 
Tancredo offered an amendment which changed how the increased 
penalties were to be used. The amendment was adopted by voice 
vote. The bill as amended was then ordered favorably reported 
to the House of Representatives by unanimous consent.

            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 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants 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. The Committee believes that 
enactment of this bill could possible result in increased 
revenues to the federal government if the higher fines are 
levied against violators of fire regulations on public lands.
    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, credit 
authority, or an increase or decrease in tax expenditures. 
Under this bill, the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary 
of the Interior can retain the fines for violations of fire 
rules and spend them for specified purposes relating to 
restoration, response or public education associated with fire 
regulations on public lands.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This bill does 
not authorize funding and therefore, clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives does not 
apply.
    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 requested but not received a cost 
estimate for this bill from the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This bill contains no unfunded mandates.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This bill is not intended to preempt any State, local or 
tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    If enacted, this bill would make no changes to existing 
law.

                        COMMITTEE CORRESPONDENCE

                          House of Representatives,
                                    Committee on Resources,
                                  Washington, DC, October 17, 2002.
Hon. Larry Combest,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, Longworth House Office Building, 
        Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: I ask your cooperation to help schedule 
an early consideration by the House of Representatives of H.R. 
4912, to increase the penalties to be imposed for a violation 
of fire regulations applicable to the public lands, National 
Park System lands, or National Forest System lands when the 
violation results in damage to public or private property, to 
specify the purpose for which collected fines may be used, and 
for other purposes.
    H.R. 4912 was referred primarily to the Committee on 
Resources and additionally to your Committee. The Committee on 
Resources ordered the bill reported with an amendment on 
October 8, 2002, by voice vote. I have forwarded a copy of the 
reported text of the bill to your staff for review.
    Because of the small number of days remaining in the 107th 
Congress, and because of the importance of this bill to its 
author, Congressman Tom Tancredo, I ask that you allow the 
Committee on Agriculture to be discharged from further 
consideration of this bill to expedite Floor scheduling. Of 
course, this action would not be considered as precedent for 
any future referrals of similar measures. Moreover, if the bill 
is conferenced with the Senate, I would support naming 
Agriculture Committee members to the conference committee. I 
would also be pleased to include this letter and your response 
in the report on H.R. 4912.
    Mr. Chairman, I have been very pleased with the tremendous 
degree of cooperation between our two Committees this Congress 
on the many bills which affect our national forests. Your staff 
has been responsive and thoughtful, and my staff very much 
appreciates their support and teamwork. I hope that you will 
give my request serious consideration and I look forward to 
your response.
            Sincerely,
                                           James V. Hansen,
                                                          Chairman.
                                ------                                

                          House of Representatives,
                                  Committee on Agriculture,
                                  Washington, DC, October 17, 2002.
Hon. James V. Hansen,
Chairman, Committee on Resources, Longworth House Office Building, 
        Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for forwarding a draft copy of 
H.R. 4912, a bill to increase the penalties to be imposed for a 
violation of fire regulations applicable to the public lands, 
National Park System lands, or National Forest System lands 
when the violation results in damage to public or private 
property, to specify the purpose for which collected fines may 
be used, and for other purposes.
    Under clause 1(a) of rule X, the Committee on Agriculture 
has jurisdiction over bills relating to forestry in general and 
forest reserves other than those created from the public 
domain. In exercising this jurisdiction, the Committee on 
Agriculture has worked cooperatively in the past with your 
Committee regarding general matters relating to forestry.
    Aware of your interest in expediting this legislation, and 
after conferring with Chairman Goodlatte of the Subcommittee on 
Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry, I 
will be glad to waive further consideration of this measure so 
as to allow its timely consideration by the entire House of 
Representatives during the remainder of the 107th Congress.
    This action is not intended to waive this Committee's 
jurisdiction over this matter for all purposes, and in the 
event a conference with the Senate is requested, I would 
appreciate your support in the naming of members from the 
Committee on Agriculture to the conference committee.
    Thank you once again for the extraordinary cooperation this 
Congress in which our respective Committees have worked 
together and I look forward to working with you in the future 
on matters of shared jurisdiction.
            Sincerely,
                                             Larry Combest,
                                                          Chairman.