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108th Congress                                             Rept. 108-96
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                     Part 1

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



 
                HEALTHY FORESTS RESTORATION ACT OF 2003

                                _______
                                

                  May 9, 2003.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

    Mr. Goodlatte, from the Committee on Agriculture, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                             together with

                            DISSENTING VIEWS

                        [To accompany H.R. 1904]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Agriculture, to whom was referred the bill 
(H.R. 1904) to improve the capacity of the Secretary of 
Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to plan and 
conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects on National Forest 
System lands and Bureau of Land Management lands aimed at 
protecting communities, watersheds, and certain other at-risk 
lands from catastrophic wildfire, to enhance efforts to protect 
watersheds and address threats to forest and rangeland health, 
including catastrophic wildfire, across the landscape, and for 
other purposes, having considered the same, report favorably 
thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill do pass.

                           Brief Explanation

    H.R. 1904 contains six titles of authorities giving federal 
agencies greater opportunity to undertake a variety of land 
management activities designed to reduce the risk to U.S. 
forest and rangelands from catastrophic wildfire, disease and 
insect infestation.
    Title I creates procedures allowing federal land managers 
to carry out hazardous fuel reduction projects on certain 
federal forest and rangelands. Title II authorizes two grants 
programs to promote the removal and utilization of forest 
biomass for energy and value-added products. Title III 
establishes a new watershed forestry assistance program 
designed to maintain and improve water quality in forested 
landscapes. Title IV directs the Forest Service to conduct 
systematic information gathering on certain insect types that 
have caused large-scale damage along with early detection 
programs and treatments to prevent the spread of infestation. 
Title V authorizes a Healthy Forest Reserve Program to 
voluntarily protect private land ecosystems that are critical 
to the recovery of threatened or endangered species. Finally, 
Title VI directs the Secretary of Agriculture to develop a 
comprehensive program to inventory and monitor forest stands 
for the purpose of maintaining forest health.

                            Purpose and Need

    Forest and rangeland ecosystems in the United States are 
being decimated at an alarming rate by large scale catastrophic 
wildfire and massive outbreaks of disease, insect infestation 
and invasive species. Federal foresters estimate that an 
astounding 190 million acres of land managed by the Secretary 
of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior are at an 
unnatural height of risk to catastrophic wildfire. Of that, 
over seventy million acres are at extreme risk tocatastrophic 
wildfire in the immediate future. The summers of 2000 and 2002 were the 
two largest and most destructive fire seasons in the last fifty years. 
And, at this very moment, we are days away from the beginning of the 
2003 fire season where communities in much of the interior West, south/
central Alaska, portions of California, western Great Lake states and 
northern Maine are bracing for an above normal fire season due to 
dangerously dense forest fuel conditions, persistent drought, limited 
winter snowfall and early snow melts.
    For the past hundred years, land managers have aggressively 
moved to suppress wildland fire in all forms, including 
nature's periodic small scale burnings that restore and 
rejuvenate forest ecosystems. The unintended result of this 
policy is a decades-long build up of forest fuel, woody biomass 
and dense underbrush. In some areas, tree density has increased 
from fifty trees per acre to as many as five hundred trees per 
acre, according to the Forest Service and fire ecologists. 
These unnaturally dense forests are only the next lightning 
strike or escaped camp fire away from exploding into a large-
scale wildfire.
    Forest ecologists, professional land managers and many 
environmental groups agree--the exploding incidence of 
catastrophic wildfire and disease and insect infestation pose a 
massive threat to the health, diversity and sustainability of 
America's forests. Colorado's Hayman Fire provides a startling 
example of the kind of enduring environmental degradation that 
unnatural wildfire can cause. That fire dumped colossal loads 
of mud and soot into Denver's largest supply of drinking water, 
annihilated several thousand acres of cathedral-like Ponderosa 
Pine old growth, pushed one globally-rare species to the brink 
of extinction, and created the worst air pollution conditions 
in Denver's recorded history. Other massive fires during the 
2002 fire season claimed a similar environmental toll. Oregon's 
record-setting Biscuit fire turned 80,000 acres of prime old 
growth habitat for the endangered northern spotted owl into a 
sterile blackened wasteland. Similarly, the Rodeo-Chediski fire 
in Arizona ravaged over 100,000 acres of habitat, including 
twenty sensitive nesting sights, for the endangered Mexican 
Spotted Owl.
    But, such consequences are hardly limited to the natural 
resource environment. In 2002, hundreds of homes and other 
structures were destroyed, and thousands more were evacuated. 
Twenty-three firefighters lost their lives. The American 
taxpayer spent in excess of $1.5 billion to contain the blazes 
of 2002. And, rural economies that rely on tourism suffered 
significant financial losses.
    Using 21st century techniques, technology and know-how, 
professional land managers can restore America's cherished 
landscapes back to a healthy, natural condition. Through the 
use of environmentally-smart thinning, prescribed burns, and 
other scientifically validated management practices, 
overstocked forests can be returned to a natural balance, and 
the risks of catastrophic wildfire, insect and disease 
infestations reduced. One scientific assessment found that the 
only available means of protecting the nation's forest 
ecosystems from the ravages of wildfire is the prompt 
implementation of these management techniques on a large, 
landscape scale.
    Today, 190 million acres of federal forest and rangeland 
are threatened to be engulfed by catastrophic wildfire. Yet, 
estimates suggest that federal land managers will treat only 
about 2.5 million acres each year because of the 
extraordinarily lengthy procedural and documentation 
requirements that federal land managers face. This inability to 
act is unconscionable. The premise of the Healthy Forests 
Restoration Act is simple and clear: Given the massive threat 
that catastrophic wildfire, disease and insect infestation pose 
to the health of our pristine forest ecosystems, species 
habitat, air and water quality, and the safety of thousands of 
communities, it is unacceptable that it takes federal land 
managers upwards of several years to maneuver forest health 
projects through a maze of procedural and analytical 
requirements that do little to inform constructive decision-
making.
    During Committee consideration of H.R., 1904, concerns were 
raised regarding the impact of the bill on the conservation or 
anadromous fish and new road construction. It is the 
Committee's intent that nothing in this bill should affect the 
level of analysis required for the protection of anadromous 
fish through the establishment of buffers, or the planning and 
construction of a road which will comply with all applicable 
laws regarding fish passages and sedimentation. This intent is 
reflected in correspondence, included in this report, between 
the Department of Agriculture and Congressman Mike Thompson of 
California.

                    U.S. Department of Agriculture,
                                   Office of the Secretary,
                                       Washington, DC, May 8, 2003.
Hon. Mike Thompson,
Cannon House Office Building,
Washington, DC.
    Dear Congressman Thompson: Enclosed please find USDA's 
response to questions submitted on May 6, 2003 regarding the 
April 30, 2003 hearing on the Healthy Forests Initiative. Thank 
you for your questions and your willingness to take proactive 
steps to protect our forests, watersheds and communities from 
catastrophic fires. You also requested language addressing 
changes to H.R. 1904. This is attached.
    If you have any further questions, please contact Tina J. 
Terrell, Legislative Affairs Staff.
            Sincerely,
                                          Mark Rey,
                                           Under Secretary,
                                 Natural Resources and Environment.
    Enclosures.

 HEARING ON THE HEALTHY FORESTS INITIATIVE, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 
                        COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE

    1. Are there safeguards in place to help prevent 
sedimentation of streams throughout the thinning projects? This 
includes buffer zones along Class 1, 2 and 3 streams as well as 
upslope sedimentation protections. This is of great importance 
to the communities in the Pacific Northwest where nearly every 
community is affected by threatened or endangered anadromous 
fish.
    Answer: In implementing projects, including thinning 
projects, under the Health Forests Initiative, units will be 
required to plan and conduct hazardous fuels reduction projects 
in a manner consistent with the land and resource management 
plan. Each forest plan identifies standards and guidelines for 
protecting riparian areas. It is through the proper 
application, monitoring and updating of these State certified 
and United States Environmental Protection Agency approved 
practices and procedures that the Forest Service will meet its 
obligations for compliance with water quality standards.
    National Forests in California must adhere to very strict 
standards and guidelines that have been incorporated into land 
and resource management plans from the Northwest Forest Plan, 
the Sierra Nevada Framework, and other large-scale management 
plans developed to protect threatened and endangered species. 
Riparian reserves that have been designated in the Northwest 
Forest Plan would be protected under the Aquatic Conservation 
Strategy, as standards and guidelines were developed that 
prohibit and regulate activities in these areas. These riparian 
reserves include those portions of a watershed directly coupled 
to streams and rivers, that is, the portions of a watershed 
required for maintaining hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecologic 
processes. The widths or buffers of a riparian reserve is 
identified in the Northwest Forest Plan and applies to all 
watersheds until a watershed analysis is completed or a site-
specific analysis is conducted.
    When implementing hazardous fuels reduction projects on 
national forests, Best Management Practices (BMP's) would be 
implemented to minimize impacts on the watershed, and 
monitoring would occur to evaluate the implementation and 
effectiveness of the BMP's.
    2. Thinning projects may require the building of additional 
roads on either public or private lands. Will considerations be 
made for fish passage and stream sedimentation reduction for 
all new roads constructed under this legislation?
    Answer: Yes, consideration will be given to maintain or 
develop fish passages. All hazardous fuels reduction projects 
must be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the land 
and resource management plan. As stipulated in the answer to 
#1, standards and guidelines will be followed, including those 
guidelines that refer to protecting riparian areas and reducing 
impacts to streams from sedimentation. Roads that are built to 
access hazardous fuels reduction projects will either be used 
in future years, or be decommissioned, and the area re-
vegetated and restored.
    If a road is to be used in future years, the unit will have 
to include this road in their Roads Analysis Process, which is 
required by the January 2001 Forest Service Road Management 
Policy. This policy provides a method to evaluate the amount of 
road that a national forest can sustain indefinitely in full 
compliance with environmental and safety laws at the current 
maintenance funding levels. Roads analysis is required as part 
of the Forest Land Management Plan revision process.
    In protecting fish passage on existing roads, the agency 
has completed surveys of most culverts in Region 10 (Alaska), 
Region 6 (Oregon and Washington), Region 4 (Utah and southern 
Idaho) and portions of Region 1 (Montana and northern Idaho). 
Surveys are being conducted in other Regions, including 
California. We are currently addressing known passage problems 
on a priority basis in key watersheds. We are identifying sites 
in coordination with our federal, state and tribal partners and 
are seeking to maximize the return on our investments by 
selecting sites that will provide the greatest increased access 
to priority habitat with the least investment.
    3. Will environmental and stream protection laws apply to 
activities conducted under Title II--Biomass?
    Answer: Yes. When a unit identifies a biomass-thinning 
projects as a hazardous fuels reduction project, an 
environmental analysis will be conducted. The level and 
intensity of the analysis will depend on the scope and location 
of the individual project. All hazardous fuels reduction 
projects shall be planned and conducted in a manner consistent 
with the relevant land and resource management plan and all 
existing environmental laws and regulations.
    4. There are documented concerns from firefighters and 
foresters that the focus for fuels reduction should be within 
the urban interface. Although the bill places a priority on 
these areas, shouldn't we devote a high percentage of the 
reduction activities within these areas to protect communities 
and watershed?
    Answer: For FY 2001 and FY 2002, the Hazardous Fuel program 
accomplishments included treatment of over 2.6 million acres, 
of which nearly 1.4 million acres, or 52 percent, were in the 
wildland/urban interface.
    A Memorandum of Understanding for the development of a 
collaborative fuels treatment program among the Forest Service, 
the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, the National Park Service, the National Association of 
State Foresters, and the National Association of Counties was 
signed in January 2003. The purpose of this Memorandum of 
Understanding is to provide the framework of a process for the 
signers to collaborate on the annual selection of a fuels 
treatment program of work within their respective jurisdictions 
to provide for community protection and enhance the health of 
forests and rangelands. We believe this arrangement will result 
in the best combination of fuels treatments across all 
jurisdictions in both the wildland/urban interface and the non-
wildland/urban interface areas.
    5. Why doesn't the Secretary need to make environmental 
concessions in areas that have documented insect infestations 
and how does the Secretary consider what is considered an 
invasive threat?
    Answer: The priority is for areas that should be documented 
insect infestations, to implement vegetation projects quickly 
to ensure an infestation is eradicated, and restoration and 
rehabilitation can occur.
    The National Invasive Species Council, of which the 
Department is a member, defines an invasive species as (1) non-
native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration and (2) 
whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or 
environmental harm or harm to human health. Non-invasive 
species that cause or may cause significant negative impacts 
and do not provide an equivalent benefit to society are a 
significant threat.
    From 1997-2001, tree mortality caused by bark beetles was 
detected by aerial surveys on approximately 14 million acres of 
forestland. Overall, about 70 million acres of all forested 
lands are at risk to future mortality from insects and 
diseases; 33 of the 70 million acres are on NFS forestland 
(based on the current Insect and Disease Risk Map).
    A separate analysis shows nearly 73 million acres of NFS 
forestland are prone to catastrophic fire based on current 
condition and departure from historic fire regimes (Fire 
Regimes 1 & 2 and Condition Classes 2 & 3). Based on these two 
maps, approximately 9.5 million acres are at risk to both pests 
caused mortality and fire.
    Invasive species of insects, diseases and plants continue 
to impact our native ecosystems by causing mortality to, or 
displacement of, native vegetation. Invasive species also 
negatively impact federally listed endangered species. The 
National Fire Plan has enhanced our efforts to prevent and 
suppress insect and disease outbreaks. Insect and disease 
prevention and suppression treatments were completed on 1.6 
million acres of forest lands in 2002.
    Finally, you inquired about the procedures for amending or 
revising the standards and guidelines in land and resource 
management plans. As indicated in my answers to question #1 and 
#2, a hazardous fuels reduction project must be consistent with 
a land and resource management plans. All national forests must 
complete a land and resource management plan as stated in the 
National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NFMA). NFMA also 
requires Land and Resources Management Plans (LRMPs) be revised 
every 15 years. This requirement recognizes that LRMPs need to 
be examined periodically to ensure management assumptions and 
guidance is correct, and new scientific information becomes 
available. The primary process for ensuring that planning 
direction is kept current is the amendment process.
    A forest plan may also be revised whenever the Forest 
Supervisor determines that conditions or demands in the area 
covered by the plan have changed significantly or when changes 
in Resource Planning Act policies, goals, or objectives would 
have a significant effect on forest level programs. During the 
monitoring and evaluation process, an agency's 
interdisciplinary team may recommend a revision of the forest 
plan at any time. Revisions are not effective until considered 
and approved in accordance with the requirements for the 
development and approval of a forest plan. The Forest 
Supervisor shall review the conditions on the land covered by 
the plan at least every 5 years to determine whether conditions 
or demands of the public have changed significantly. All 
amendments and revisions are subject to public notice and 
comment, environmental review under the National Environmental 
Policy Act, and administrative appeal.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents

    Gives the Act a short title of ``Healthy Forests 
Restoration Act of 2003.'' Lists table of contents.

Sec. 2. Purpose

    Lists the purposes of this Act, including: to reduce the 
risks of damage to communities, municipal water supplies and 
federal lands from catastrophic wildfire; to authorize grant 
programs to improve the commercial value of forest biomass; to 
enhance efforts to protect watersheds and address threats to 
forest and rangeland health; to promote systematic information 
gathering to address the impacts of insect infestation on 
forest and rangeland health; to improve the capacity to detect 
insect and disease infestations at an early stage; and to 
benefit threatened and endangered species, improve biological 
diversity and enhance carbon sequestration.

      TITLE I--FOREST HEALTH ON NATIONAL FORESTS AND PUBLIC LANDS


Sec. 101. Definitions

    Defines the terms: authorized hazardous fuels reduction 
project, condition class 2, condition class 3, day, decision 
document, federal lands, hazardous fuels reduction project, 
implementation plan, interface community and intermix 
community, municipal water supply system, Secretary concerned, 
threatened and endangered species habitat.

Sec. 102. Authorized hazardous fuels reduction projects

    Allows for authorized hazardous fuels reduction projects on 
federal lands that: (1) are located in an interface or intermix 
community, (2) are located in proximity to such communities, 
(3) are condition class 3 or 2 and located in proximity to a 
municipal water supply (or a perennial stream, including rivers 
and other permanent natural flowing water sources feeding a 
municipal water supply), (4) are condition class 3 or 2 and 
have been identified as an area where windthrow, blowdown, the 
existence or threat of disease or insect infestation poses a 
threat to forest or rangeland health, or (5) contain threatened 
and endangered species.
    Requires projects to be planned and conducted in a manner 
consistent with land and resource management plans or an 
applicable land use plan.
    Limits the acreage available for authorized hazardous fuels 
reduction projects to 20,000,000 acres.
    Gives the Secretary concerned sole discretion to plan and 
conduct an authorized project within certain parameters, 
including tree diameter size, tree density and species 
composition.
    Prohibits the Secretary concerned from conducting an 
authorized hazardous fuels reduction project on the following 
federal lands: a component of the National Wilderness 
Preservation System, federal lands where the removal of 
vegetation is prohibited or restricted by a Congress or a 
presidential proclamation, or wilderness study areas.
    Prohibits the construction of any new permanent roads in 
any inventoried roadless area.

Sec. 103. Prioritization for communities and watersheds

    Gives priority to authorized hazardous fuel reduction 
projects which provide for protection of communities and 
watersheds.

Sec. 104. Environmental analysis

    Gives the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management 
discretionary authority to limit the analysis ordinarily 
required under the National Environmental Policy Act (``NEPA'') 
to the proposed agency action, meaning the agencies would not 
be required to analyze and describe a number of different 
alternatives to the preferred course.
    Codifies the public participation requirements set out in 
the Western Governors Association 10-year wildfire management 
strategy for use in conducting hazardous fuels reduction 
projects.
    Directs the Secretary concerned to sign a decision document 
for each authorized hazardous fuels reduction project and 
provide notice of that document.
    Requires the Secretary concerned to monitor the 
implementation of authorized hazardous fuels reduction project.

Sec. 105. Special Forest Service administrative review process

    Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish an 
administrative review process for the Forest Service within 90 
days after the enactment of this Act that will serve as the 
sole means by which a person can seek administrative redress 
regarding an authorized hazardous fuels reduction project.
    Limits the administrative process to be developed to 
persons who have submitted specific and substantive written 
comments during the preparation stage of the project.
    Clarifies that the Appeals Reform Act, section 322 of P.L. 
102-381, 16 U.S.C. 1612 note, does not apply to an authorized 
hazardous fuels reduction project.

Sec. 106. Special requirements regarding judicial review of authorized 
        hazardous fuels reduction projects

    Establishes a time limit for filing a challenge to an 
authorized hazardous fuels reduction project to 15 days within 
notice of the final agency action.
    Limits the duration of any preliminary injunction granted 
on an authorized project to 45 days subject to renewal.
    Requires a court in which an action or an appeal is filed 
to render a final determination within 100 days of when the 
complaint or appeal is filed.

Sec. 107. Standard for injunctive relief for agency action to restore 
        fire-adapted forest or rangeland ecosystems

    Directs the court, in considering a request for injunctive 
relief, to consider the public interest in avoiding long-term 
harm to the ecosystem.
    Directs the court to give deference to any agency finding 
that the balance of harm and the public interest in avoiding 
the short-term effects of the agency action is outweighed by 
the public interest in avoiding long-term harm to the 
ecosystem.

Sec. 108. Rules of construction

    Clarifies that nothing in this title shall be construed to 
affect or limit the use of other authorities by the Secretary 
concerned to plan or conduct a hazardous fuels reduction 
project on federal lands.
    Clarifies that nothing in this title shall be construed to 
prejudice the consideration or disposition of any legal action 
concerning the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

                           TITLE II--BIOMASS


Sec. 201. Findings

    Lists Congressional findings as to the need for forest 
management activities to be conducted, including the removal of 
biomass.

Sec. 202. Definitions

    Defines the terms: biomass, Indian tribe, person, preferred 
community, Secretary concerned.

Sec. 203. Grants to improve the commercial value of forest biomass for 
        electric energy, useful heat, transportation fuels, and 
        petroleum-based product substitutes

    Establishes a biomass commercial use grant program to 
extend assistance to any person who owns or operates a facility 
that uses biomass as a raw material to produce energy.
    Establishes a value-added grant program to extend 
assistance to persons to offset the cost of projects to add 
value to biomass.
    Authorizes $25 million for each of the fiscal years 2004 
through 2008.

Sec. 204. Reporting requirement

    Requires the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with 
the Secretary of Interior, to submit a report describing the 
results of the grant programs by October 1, 2010 to: House 
Agriculture Committee, Resources Committee, Senate Agriculture 
Committee, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

                TITLE III--WATERSHED FORESTRY ASSISTANCE


Sec. 301. Findings and purpose

    Lists Congressional findings relating to the need for 
protection of watershed health in forest management practices. 
Describes the purpose of this title.

Sec. 302. Establishment of Watershed Forestry Assistance Program

    Authorizes the Secretary, acting through the Forest 
Service, to provide technical, financial and related assistance 
to private forest landowners through the State foresters and 
equivalent state officials. Focuses assistance to the purpose 
of expanding state forest stewardship capacities and activities 
through best management practices to improve watershed health.
    Includes a technical assistance program to protect water 
quality and a watershed cost-share program. Directs the 
Secretary to make awards under the cost-share program to 
communities, non-profit groups (which would include 
conservation districts) and non-industrial private forest 
landowners for watershed forestry projects.
    Authorizes $15 million for each of the fiscal years 2004 
through 2008. Directs the Secretary to devote at least 75 
percent of the funds appropriated in a fiscal year to the cost-
share component.

    TITLE IV-- ACCELERATED INFORMATION GATHERING TO ADDRESS INSECT 
                              INFESTATIONS


Sec. 401. Definitions, findings, and purpose

    Defines the terms: applied silvicultural assessment, 
federal lands, Secretary concerned, 1890 institutions.
    Lists Congressional findings as to insect infestation, 
resulting damage and needfor assessment and treatment.
    States the purposes of this title.

Sec. 402. Accelerated information gathering regarding bark beetles, 
        including southern pine beetles, hemlock wooly adelgids, 
        emerald ash borers, red oak borers and white oak borers

    Directs the Department of Agriculture, acting through the 
Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey, to conduct an 
accelerated program to plan, conduct, and promote systematic 
information gathering on certain insect types that have caused 
large-scale damage to forest ecosystems.
    Directs the Secretary to assist land managers in the 
development of treatments and strategies to improve forest 
health and reduce the susceptibility of forest ecosystems to 
future infestations.
    Directs the Secretary to disseminate the results of such 
information gathering, treatments and strategies.
    Directs the Secretary to establish and carry out the 
program in cooperation with scientists from universities and 
forestry schools, state agencies and private and industrial 
landowners.

Sec. 403. Applied silvicultural assessments

    Enables the Secretary concerned to conduct applied 
silvicultural assessments on federal lands that the Secretary 
determines in its sole discretion are at risk for infestation 
with certain named pests. Limits such assessment areas to 1,000 
acres per assessment. Applies an overall acreage limitation to 
250,000 acres.
    Requires the Secretary to provide notice of each applied 
silvicultural assessment proposed to be carried out. Requires 
the Secretary to provide an opportunity for public input.
    Creates a categorical exclusion from further analysis under 
NEPA which eliminates the Secretary's responsibility to make 
any findings as to whether the project has a significant effect 
on the environment.

Sec. 404. Relation to other laws

    Clarifies that the authorities provided to the Secretary 
concerned in this title are supplemental to authorities 
provided in any other law.

Sec. 405. Authorization of appropriations

    Authorizes the appropriation of such sums as may be 
necessary to carry out this title in fiscal years 2004 through 
2008.

                TITLE V--HEALTHY FORESTS RESERVE PROGRAM


Sec. 501. Establishment of Healthy Forests Reserve Program

    Establishes a Healthy Forests Reserve Program within the 
Forest Service to restore degraded forest lands and to promote 
the recovery of endangered species.
    Directs the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out the 
program in cooperation with the Secretary of the Interior, 
acting through the United States Fish and Wildlife Service 
(``FWS'').

Sec. 502. Eligibility and enrollment of lands in program

    Directs the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with 
the Secretary of the Interior, to designate rare forest 
ecosystems to be eligible for the reserve program. Limits 
enrollment to 1 million acres.
    Allows lands to be enrolled pursuant to a 10-year cost-
share agreement, a 30-year easement or a permanent easement 
with a buyback option. Leaves the enrollment method up to the 
owner.

Sec. 503. Conservation plans

    Requires participating landowners to develop a conservation 
plan with the FWS describing the land use activities to be 
permitted on enrolled lands.

Sec. 504. Financial assistance

    Sets forth the payment structure for 10-year, 30-year and 
permanent enrollment options as well as the procedure to 
exercise a buyback option in the case of a permanent easement.

Sec. 505. Technical assistance

    Directs the Forest Service and FWS to provide landowners 
with the technical assistance necessary to comply with the 
terms of agreements and easements created in this program.

Sec. 506. Safe harbor

    Directs the Secretary of the Interior to provide a safe 
harbor under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act to 
participating landowners when such enrollment will result in a 
net conservation benefit for listed species.

Sec. 507. Authorization of appropriations

    Authorizes $15 million for each of the fiscal years 2004 
through 2008.

                   TITLE VI--MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS


Sec. 601. Forest stands inventory and monitoring program to improve 
        detection of and response to environmental threats

    Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out a 
comprehensive program to inventory, monitor, characterize, 
assess and identify forest stands in units of the National 
Forest System and on private lands with the consent of the 
landowner.
    Directs the Secretary, in carrying out this monitoring 
program, to develop a comprehensive early warning system which 
will enable forest managers to treat the land before a threat 
to forest health gets out of control.
    Authorizes $5 million for each of the fiscal years in 2004 
through 2008.

                        Committee Consideration


                              I. HEARINGS

    In response to the catastrophic wildfires of the 2000 
season, Congress urged the Administration to develop a 
comprehensive plan for reducing the fire hazard, and 
rehabilitating burned areas. This effort resulted in the 
National Fire Plan, and the Comprehensive Strategy for 
Implementing the Fire Plan. The Plan is a collaborative effort 
of the Department of Agriculture, Interior, the States, 
Counties, and numerous private conservation, environmental and 
interest groups. In August 2002, the President announced the 
Healthy Forest Initiative (HFI), in response to a catastrophic 
fire season (the season of 2002).
    On April, 30, 2003, the Committee on Agriculture held a 
hearing on the President's Healthy Forests Initiative which 
identifies real solutions to some of the problems facing our 
forests and the communities surrounding them.
    The first panel of witnesses included Mark Rey, Under 
Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment of the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, Rebecca Watson, Assistant Secretary 
for Land and Minerals Management of the U.S. Department of the 
Interior, Dale Bosworth, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, and 
Pete Roussopoulos, Director of the Southern Research Station 
for the U.S. Forest Service.
    The second panel included Steven Koehn, Maryland State 
Forester, National Association of States Foresters from 
Annapolis, Maryland, Dr. John Helms, Professor Emeritus at the 
University of California Berkeley on behalf of the Society of 
American Forester from Berkeley, California, Mr. James Walls, 
Executive Director of Lake County Resources Initiative in 
partnership with Sustainable Northwest from Lake County, 
Oregon, and Mr. Jeffrey Hardesty, U.S. Director of Global Fire 
Initiative of the Nature Conservancy from Gainesville, Florida.

                    II. FULL COMMITTEE CONSIDERATION

    The Committee on Agriculture met, pursuant to notice, with 
a quorum present, on May 8, 2003, to consider H.R. 1904, the 
Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003, and other pending 
business.
    Chairman Goodlatte called the meeting to order and made an 
opening statement as did Ranking Member Stenholm. Without 
objection, H.R. 1904 was placed before the Committee and open 
for amendment at any point. Counsel was then recognized to give 
a brief summary of the bill.
    Mr. Lucas of Oklahoma was recognized to offer and explain 
an amendment to limit technical assistance to the Environmental 
Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP), Farmland Protection Program 
(EPP), Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP), and the Wildlife 
Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). Discussion occurred and 
without objection, the amendment was withdrawn.
    Mr. Udall of Colorado was then recognized to offer and 
explain an amendment to require the Forest Service and Bureau 
of Land Management to determine priorities for fuel reduction 
projects after consultation with State Foresters and 
consideration of the recommendations of statewide advisory 
councils. Discussion occurred and by voice vote, the amendment 
failed.
    Mr. Udall was then recognized to offer and explain a second 
amendment to restore priority community protection, a sunset 
clause, and administrative stays to Title I. Discussion 
occurred and by a voice vote, the amendment failed.
    Mr. Udall was recognized to offer and explain a third 
amendment to exempt additional lands from insect assessments 
under Title IV and prohibit the use of herbicides in insect 
assessments on lands in municipal watersheds. Discussion 
occurred and by a voice vote, the amendment failed.
    Mr. Udall was again recognized to offer and explain a 
fourth and last amendment to the bill to delete section 403(d), 
permitting applied silvicultural assessments on Federal lands. 
Discussion occurred and by a voice vote, the amendment failed.
    Mr. Thompson of California was recognized to discuss report 
language regarding buffer zones along Class 1, 2, and 3 streams 
and conditions on road construction. Discussion occurred, and 
without objection, the report language was accepted.
    There being no further amendments, Mr. Stenholm reminded 
Members in which the spirit this Committee has always operated 
under in the acceptance of Minority, Additional or Dissenting 
Views to a committee report.
    Chairman Goodlatte then advised Members that pursuant to 
the rules of the House of Representatives that Members have 2 
calendar days to file such views with the Committee.
    Mr. Stenholm moved that H.R. 1904, be adopted and reported 
favorably to the House with the recommendation that it do pass.
    By voice vote, the motion was agreed to in the presence of 
a quorum, H.R. 1904 was ordered favorably reported, without 
amendment to the House of Representatives.
    Mr. Stenholm then moved that pursuant to clause 1 of rule 
XXII, that the Committee authorize the Chairman to offer such 
motion as may be necessary in the House to go to conference 
with the Senate on H.R. 1904, or a similar Senate bill. Without 
objection, the motion was agreed to.
    Without objection, staff was given permission to make any 
necessary clerical, technical or conforming changes to reflect 
the intent of the Committee.
    Chairman Goodlatte thanked all the Members and adjourned 
the meeting subject to the call of the chair.

                   Reporting the Bill--Rollcall Votes

    In compliance with clause 3(b) of rule XIII of the House of 
Representatives, H.R. 1904 was reported by voice vote with a 
majority quorum present. There was no request for a recorded 
vote.

                      Committee Oversight Findings

    Pursuant to clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee on Agriculture's 
oversight findings and recommendations are reflected in the 
body of this report.

           Budget Act Compliance (Sections 308, 402, and 423)

    The provisions of clause 3(c)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 308(a)(1) of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (relating to estimates of new 
budget authority, new spending authority, new credit authority, 
or increased or decreased revenues or tax expenditures) are not 
considered applicable. The estimate and comparison required to 
be prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office 
under clause 3(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives and sections 402 and 423 of the Congressional 
Budget Act of 1974 submitted to the Committee prior to the 
filing of this report are as follows:

                                     U.S. Congress,
                               Congressional Budget Office,
                                       Washington, DC, May 9, 2003.
Hon. Bob Goodlatte,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1904, the Healthy 
Forests Restoration Act of 2003.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Megan 
Carroll.
            Sincerely,
                                       Douglas Holtz-Eakin,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1904--Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

    Summary: CBO estimates that H.R. 1904 would authorize the 
appropriation of $70 million in 2004 and $350 million over the 
2004-2008 period to research and restore forests on federal, 
state, and private lands. Assuming appropriation of the 
necessary amounts, CBO estimates that implementing the bill 
would cost $12 million in 2004 and $278 million over the next 
five years. Enacting this legislation could affect offsetting 
receipts (a credit against direct spending), but CBO estimates 
that any such effects would total less than $500,000 a year.
    H.R. 1904 contains no intergovernmental or private-sector 
mandates as defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) 
and would impose no costs on state, local, or tribal 
governments. CBO assumes that states' participation in the 
watershed forestry assistance programs authorized by this bill 
would be voluntary. Federal funds authorized for these and 
other programs would benefit state, local, and tribal 
governments.
    Estimated cost to the Federal Government: The estimated 
budgetary impact of H.R. 1904 is shown in the following table. 
The costs of this legislation fall within budget function 300 
(natural resources and environment).

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                                       By fiscal year in millions of dollars--
                                                                    --------------------------------------------
                                                                       2004     2005     2006     2007     2008
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                  CHANGES IN SPENDING SUBJECT TO APPROPRIATION

Estimated authorization level......................................       70       70       70       70       70
Estimated outlays..................................................       12       41       61       80       84
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Basis of estimate

    For this estimate, CBO assumes that H.R. 1904 will be 
enacted before the end of fiscal year 2003 and that amounts 
estimated to be necessary to implement the bill will be 
provided each year. Estimates of outlays are based on 
historical spending patterns for similar activities. Provisions 
that would affect spending subject to appropriation and direct 
spending are described below.
            Spending subject to appropriation
    S. 1904 would specifically authorize the appropriation of 
$60 million in 2004 and $300 million over the 2004-2008 period 
for the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior (DOI) 
to support research and restoration of federal, state, and 
private forests. The bill would authorize those agencies to 
make grants to eligible entities that use biomass to produce 
energy, provide states with technical and financial assistance 
to support watershed management, purchase conservation 
easements from private landowners, and assess the health of 
federal and private forests. Based on information from the 
agencies and historical spending patters for similar 
activities, CBO estimates that these programs would cost $9 
million in 2004 and $230 million over the next five years.
    Based on information from the Forest Service and DOI about 
the level of effort required to investigate infestations of 
forests by insects and to develop treatments to reduce the risk 
of infestation, CBO estimates that S. 1904 would authorize the 
appropriation of $10 million a year over the 2004-2008 period. 
We estimate that fully funding these activities would cost $3 
million in 2004 and $48 million over the next five years.
            Direct spending (including offsetting receipts)
    Title I would authorize expedited procedures for planning 
and conducting certain projects to reduce the risk of wildfires 
on certain federal lands managed by the Forest Service or the 
Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Under the bill, those 
expedited procedures would limit some environmental assessment 
requirements and shorten administrative and judicial appeals. 
According to the Forest Service and BLM, the expedited 
procedures could affect the timing of some projects that 
generate offsetting receipts, such as timber harvests, that the 
agencies plan to conduct under current law. Based on 
information from the agencies, however, CBO estimates that any 
subsequent change in offsetting receipts would total less than 
$500,000 annually.
    Intergovernmental and private-sector impact: H.R. 1904 
contains no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as 
defined in UMRA and would impose no costs on state, local, or 
tribal governments. CBO assumes that states' participation in 
the watershed forestry assistance programs authorized by this 
bill would be voluntary. Federal funds authorized for these and 
other programs would benefit state, local, and tribal 
governments.
    Previous CBO estimate: On May 7, 2003, CBO transmitted a 
cost estimate for S. 14, the Energy Policy Act of 2003, as 
introduced on April 30, 2003. A provision in that bill is 
substantively similar to a provision of H.R. 1904 that would 
authorize grants to eligible entities that use biomass to 
produce energy, and our estimates of the cost of such grants 
($25 million a year) are the same under both bills.
    Estimate prepared by: Federal costs: Megan Carroll; impact 
on state, local, and tribal governments: Marjorie Miller; 
impact on the private sector: Cecil McPherson.
    Estimate approved by: Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy Assistant 
Director for Budget Analysis.

                    Performance Goals and Objectives

    With respect to the requirement of clause 3(c)(4) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
performance goals and objections of this legislation are to 
improve the capacity of the Secretary of Agriculture and the 
Secretary of the Interior to plan and conduct hazardous fuels 
reduction projects of National Forest System lands and Bureau 
of Land Management lands aimed at protecting communities, 
watersheds, and certain other at-risk lands from catastrophic 
wildfire, to enhance efforts to protect watersheds and address 
threats to forest and rangeland health, including catastrophic 
wildfire, across the landscape.

                   Constitutional Authority Statement

    Pursuant to clause 3(d)(1) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee finds the 
Constitutional authority for this legislation in Article I, 
clause 8, section 18, that grants Congress the power to make 
all laws necessary and proper for carrying out the powers 
vested by Congress in the Constitution of the United States or 
in any department or officer thereof.

                        Committee Cost Estimate

    Pursuant to clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the 
House of Representatives, the Committee report incorporates the 
cost estimate prepared by the Director of the Congressional 
Budget Office pursuant to sections 402 and 423 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974.

                      Advisory Committee Statement

    No advisory committee within the meaning of section 5(b) of 
the Federal Advisory Committee Act was created by this 
legislation.

                Applicability to the Legislative Branch

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not relate to 
the terms and conditions of employment or access to public 
services or accommodations within the meaning of section 
102(b)(3) of the Congressional Accountability Act (Public Law 
104-1).

                       Federal Mandates Statement

    The Committee adopted as its own the estimate of Federal 
mandates prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office pursuant to section 423 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform 
Act (Public Law 104-4).

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

  In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (new matter is 
printed in italic and existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

      SECTION 6 OF THE COOPERATIVE FORESTRY ASSISTANCE ACT OF 1978


SEC. 6. WATERSHED FORESTRY ASSISTANCE.

  (a) General Authority and Purpose.--The Secretary, acting 
through the Forest Service, may provide technical, financial, 
and related assistance to State foresters and equivalent State 
officials for the purpose of expanding State forest stewardship 
capacities and activities through State forestry best-
management practices and other means at the State level to 
address watershed issues on non-Federal forested lands and 
potentially forested lands.
  (b) Technical Assistance To Protect Water Quality.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary, in cooperation with 
        State foresters or equivalent State officials, shall 
        engage interested members of the public, including 
        nonprofit organizations and local watershed councils, 
        to develop a program of technical assistance to protect 
        water quality, as described in paragraph (2).
          (2) Purpose of program.--The program under this 
        subsection shall be designed--
                  (A) to build and strengthen watershed 
                partnerships that focus on forested landscapes 
                at the local, State, and regional levels;
                  (B) to provide State forestry best-management 
                practices and water quality technical 
                assistance directly to nonindustrial private 
                forest landowners;
                  (C) to provide technical guidance to land 
                managers and policy makers for water quality 
                protection through forest management;
                  (D) to complement State and local efforts to 
                protect water quality and provide enhanced 
                opportunities for consultation and cooperation 
                among Federal and State agencies charged with 
                responsibility for water and watershed 
                management;
                  (E) to provide enhanced forest resource data 
                and support for improved implementation and 
                monitoring of State forestry best-management 
                practices.
          (3) Implementation.--The program of technical 
        assistance shall be implemented by State foresters or 
        equivalent State officials.
  (c) Watershed Forestry Cost-Share Program.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary shall establish a 
        watershed forestry cost-share program to be 
        administered by the Forest Service and implemented by 
        State foresters or equivalent State officials. Funds or 
        other support provided under such program shall be made 
        available for State forestry best-management practices 
        programs and watershed forestry projects.
          (2) Watershed forestry projects.--The State forester 
        or equivalent State official of a State, in 
        coordination with the State Forest Stewardship 
        Coordinating Committee established under section 19(b) 
        for that State, shall annually make awards to 
        communities, nonprofit groups, and nonindustrial 
        private forest landowners under the program for 
        watershed forestry projects described in paragraph (3).
          (3) Project elements and objectives.--A watershed 
        forestry project shall accomplish critical forest 
        stewardship, watershed protection, and restoration 
        needs within a State by demonstrating the value of 
        trees and forests to watershed health and condition 
        through--
                  (A) the use of trees as solutions to water 
                quality problems in urban and rural areas;
                  (B) community-based planning, involvement, 
                and action through State, local and nonprofit 
                partnerships;
                  (C) application of and dissemination of 
                monitoring information on forestry best-
                management practices relating to watershed 
                forestry;
                  (D) watershed-scale forest management 
                activities and conservation planning; and
                  (E) the restoration of wetland (as defined by 
                the States) and stream-side forests and the 
                establishment of riparian vegetative buffers.
          (4) Cost-sharing.--Funds provided under this 
        subsection for a watershed forestry project may not 
        exceed 75 percent of the cost of the project. Other 
        Federal funding sources may be used to cover a portion 
        of the remaining project costs, but the total Federal 
        share of the costs may not exceed 90 percent. The non-
        Federal share of the costs of a project may be in the 
        form of cash, services, or other in-kind contributions.
          (5) Prioritization.--The State Forest Stewardship 
        Coordinating Committee for a State shall prioritize 
        watersheds in that State to target watershed forestry 
        projects funded under this subsection.
          (6) Watershed forester.--Financial and technical 
        assistance shall be made available to the State 
        Forester or equivalent State official to create a State 
        best-management practice forester to lead statewide 
        programs and coordinate small watershed-level projects.
  (d) Distribution.--
          (1) In general.--The Secretary shall devote at least 
        75 percent of the funds appropriated for a fiscal year 
        pursuant to the authorization of appropriations in 
        subsection (e) to the cost-share program under 
        subsection (c) and the remainder to the task of 
        delivering technical assistance, education, and 
        planning on the ground through the State Forester or 
        equivalent State official.
          (2) Special considerations.--Distribution of these 
        funds by the Secretary among the States shall be made 
        only after giving appropriate consideration to--
                  (A) the acres of nonindustrial private 
                forestland and highly erodible land in each 
                State;
                  (B) each State's efforts to conserve forests;
                  (C) the acres of forests in each State that 
                have been lost or degraded or where forests can 
                play a role in restoring watersheds; and
                  (D) the number of nonindustrial private 
                forest landowners in each State.
  (e) Authorization of Appropriations.--There is authorized to 
be appropriated to carry out this section $15,000,000 for each 
of the fiscal years 2004 through 2008.

                        Committee Correspondence

                          House of Representatives,
                                  Committee on Agriculture,
                                       Washington, DC, May 9, 2003.
Hon. Richard W. Pombo,
Chairman, Committee on Resources,
Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.
    Dear Chairman Pombo: On May 8, 2003, the Committee on 
Agriculture ordered favorably reported H.R. 1904, the Healthy 
Forests Restoration Act of 2003, without amendment. The bill 
was referred primarily to the Committee on Agriculture, with an 
additional referral to the Committee on Resources.
    As you know, H.R. 1904 is a critical part of the 
President's Healthy Forest Initiative and the Leadership of the 
House plans on scheduling the bill for consideration by the 
full House of Representatives as early as next week. Therefore, 
I respectively request that the Committee on Resources waive 
further consideration of bill.
    Of course, by allowing this to occur, the Committee on 
Resources does not waive its jurisdiction over H.R. 1904 or any 
other similar matter for all purposes. Finally, in the event a 
conference with the Senate is requested on this measure, I will 
support the naming of members from the Committee on Resources 
to the conference committee.
    Thank you for your cooperation 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,
                                             Bob Goodlatte,
                                                          Chairman.
                                ------                                

                          House of Representatives,
                                    Committee on Resources,
                                       Washington, DC, May 9, 2003.
Hon. Bob Goodlatte,
Chairman, Committee on Agriculture,
Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter requesting 
that the Committee on Resources not insist in its additional 
referral of H.R. 1904, the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 
2003. The Committee on Resources has had a long-standing and 
active interest in forest health issues in public forest, and I 
have enjoyed working with you, Forests and Forest Health 
Subcommittee Chairman McInnis and your staff on this critical 
contribution to the President's Healthy Forest Initiative.
    Knowing your interest in expediting consideration of this 
bill by the full House of Representatives in advance of the 
upcoming fire season, I agree to allow the Committee on 
Resources to be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 
1904. This action does not waive the Committee's jurisdiction 
over any provision in H.R. 1904 or similar provisions in other 
bills. In addition, I ask that you support my request to have 
the Committee on Resources represented on the conference on 
this bill, if a conference is necessary. Finally, I ask that 
you include this letter in the Committee's bill report or the 
Congressional Record during debate on H.R. 1904 when it is 
considered by the House of Representatives.
    Thank you again for your leadership on this issue and I 
look forward to working with you again on matters of mutual 
interest.
            Sincerely,
                                          Richard W. Pombo,
                                                          Chairman.

             DISSENTING VIEWS OF REPRESENTATIVE MARK UDALL

                              INTRODUCTION

    I have serious concerns about several aspects of H.R. 1904. 
But, above all, I am disappointed with the manner in which this 
legislation has been developed and considered.
    I do think we need to act to protect our communities and 
their water supplies, by reducing the built-up fuels that add 
to the fire dangers that threaten them.
    That's why I have introduced legislation to expedite those 
thinning projects. It is also why last year I joined with my 
Colorado colleague, Representative McInnis, and other Members 
to develop the bill the Resources Committee approved last year.
    I voted for that bill last year. And if H.R. 1904 was the 
same as that bill, I would vote for it again. But this is not 
the same bill.
    Instead of building on the work the Resources Committee did 
last year, the Resources and Agriculture Committees were 
presented with a quite different measure--one that adds a long 
list of new provisions while omitting some of the key parts of 
the bill I voted for last year. Some of the new provisions may 
be desirable, but others clearly will be controversial.
    It seems to me it would be better to keep the focus on 
speeding up work to reduce the risks to our communities and 
their water supplies. Adding new issues and new controversies 
can only complicate matters and make it more difficult to pass 
a bill to accomplish those goals.
    I fear that going forward with H.R. 1904 as it stands means 
missing an opportunity to shape a bill that can attract much 
broader support. I also fear that the bill as it stands will 
exacerbate disputes and lead to increased conflicts and 
litigation.
    That is why, as both the Resources and Agriculture 
Committees considered this legislation, I sought to revise it 
so it would more closely resemble the bill reported by the 
Resources Committee last year. Unfortunately, those efforts 
were not successful, and so I am not able to support the 
legislation as it stands.
    Now, let me take this opportunity to explain my views and 
concerns in more detail.

                               BACKGROUND

    Many western communities are at risk of unusually severe 
wildfires. The cause is a combination of severe drought, the 
overgrown conditions of many federal forest lands resulting 
from past fire-suppression policies, and the growing number of 
settlements pressing against or into forested areas. I have 
consistently worked to reduce those risks.
    Last year's terrible fires in Colorado and other States 
were a dramatic confirmation of those risks, but my concerns 
began much earlier. Since my first election to Congress, I have 
made it a point to visit parts of Colorado that have been 
burned by very severe wildfires or that are at risk of similar 
fires. I have walked areas that have been treated through 
controlled fires and mechanical thinning and seen the dramatic 
difference that such treatments can make in reducing wildfire 
risks. I have been to the front lines of a burning wildfire--
the Big ElkMeadows fire near Estes Park--and have talked with 
homeowners, foresters, forest ecologists, forest users and 
conservationists to try to better understand what strategies can reduce 
the risks to lives and property.
    As a result, I am convinced we need to do more to reduce 
the risks to our communities, our water supplies, and our 
citizens. That is why I have introduced legislation (H.R. 5098 
of the 106th Congress; H.R. 3948 of the 107th Congress; H.R. 
1042 of the 108th Congress) to expedite the work of removing 
excessive fire-prone materials and to require the government to 
focus its efforts in the areas where this work will have the 
most immediate benefit for the most people.
    H.R. 1904 purports to share some of these purposes--but it 
also includes provisions I consider not only unnecessary but 
unwise and inappropriate.

   ENVIRONMENTAL ANALYSIS AND PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AS RELATED TO FUEL-
                           REDUCTION PROJECTS

    I do not think our national environmental laws are the 
obstacle to improving our response to the wildfire-related 
risks to our communities. So, I see no real need to make any 
fundamental changes in those laws.
    This is not to suggest that our national environmental laws 
are beyond improvement, nor that we cannot explore ways to 
reduce bureaucracy and lawsuits. But I think we should be very 
cautious about proposals to lessen public involvement in 
decisions about the management of the federal lands.
    I think a better approach is to increase public involvement 
during the planning and other initial stages of fuel-reduction 
projects. That was the purpose of an amendment I offered during 
the markup of the bill. The idea is to make it less likely 
those projects will be delayed by controversies or lawsuits, by 
developing support at the front end for projects that are 
urgently needed, narrowly tailored and scientifically sound. 
Toward that end, the amendment would have built on the public 
collaboration provisions already in the bill, to make it a 
truly cooperative program.
    The amendment called for creation of statewide advisory 
councils to work with the Forest Service and the BLM on the 
selection of specific projects. These councils would include 
broad representation of interests and would include scientific 
participation, and would develop projects in a collaborative 
fashion so as to avoid opposition, delays and appeals at the 
back-end when projects are being implemented. I think this 
would be a good way to foster real community involvement in 
developing good projects and so reduce controversies, resulting 
in faster action to protect people's lives and property. A 
similar approach has shown real promise in New Mexico, which is 
why similar provisions are included in H.R. 1042, which I 
introduced with my colleague and cousin, Representative Tom 
Udall. I regret that this amendment was not adopted.
    H.R. 1904 as reported would permit the Forest Service and 
the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to implement a fuel-
reduction project without the full documentation normally 
required by section 102(2) of the National Environmental Policy 
Act of 1969 (NEPA).
    I do not think such provisions are necessary, because NEPA 
has not been a major obstacle to progress in reducing risks to 
communities and water supplies. Instead, the main obstacles 
have been inadequate focus on the highest-priority areas and a 
failure by the relevant land-managing agencies--under both the 
last Administration and this one--to do enough to develop and 
implement narrowly-tailored thinning projects that can enjoy 
broad support.
    Accordingly, I think any provisions such as those in 
section 104 of H.R. 1904 should apply only for a temporary 
period, after which Congress can consider whether to extend 
them.
    The bill reported by the Resources Committee had such a 
sunset clause, but Title I of H.R. 1904 does not. I offer an 
amendment to add one to the bill; rejection of that amendment 
is one reason I cannot support the bill as it now stands.

               PRIORITY AREAS FOR FUEL-REDUCTION PROJECTS

    I think the highest priority for fuel-reduction work needs 
to be on the forest lands where accumulated fuels present the 
most immediate risks to our communities--those within the 
wildland/urban interface, or the ``red zone,'' as it is called 
in Colorado--and to municipal water supplies. These are the 
places where forest conditions present the greatest risks to 
people's lives, health, and property, and so they should be 
where our finite resources--time, money, and people--are 
concentrated.
    To properly focus on these areas, we have to properly 
identify them. In that regard, I have no quarrel with the 
provisions of H.R. 1904. By referring to lands within either an 
``interface'' or ``intermix'' community, it provides an 
appropriate limitation on the discretion of the agencies 
without drawing an arbitrary mileage line that would not 
appropriately reflect the reality that a community's exposure 
to the risk of wildfire depends on terrain, forest conditions, 
and other factors that can vary greatly from one place to 
another and over time.
    However, proper focus also requires assured priority status 
for funds to carry out projects to protect communities and 
their water supplies. The bill reported by the Resources 
Committee last year required that at least 70% of the funds 
provided for fuel-reduction purposes be used for such 
projects--but no similar provision is included in H.R. 1904. I 
offered an amendment to restore the provision, and failure of 
the Committee to adopt that amendment is another major reason I 
cannot support the bill as it now stands.

          ``ANALYSIS PARALYSIS,'' APPEALS, AND JUDICIAL REVIEW

    As was true of legislation introduced in the 107th 
Congress, H.R. 1904 clearly reflects the premise that the land-
managing agencies are laboring under procedural burdens that 
unnecessarily delay work on fuel-reduction projects.
    I think that premise has not been proved beyond doubt.
    The Chief of the Forest Service has testified that the 
agency has been slow to act to reduce the risks of catastrophic 
wildfire because of ``analysis paralysis,'' meaning that the 
fear of appeals or litigation has made Forest Service personnel 
excessively cautious in the way they formulate and analyze 
fuel-reduction (and other) projects.
    The chief may be correct in that diagnosis--certainly he is 
in a better position than I am to evaluate the mental states of 
his subordinates. But it is important to remember that the 
Chief has also testified that he does not think revision of the 
environmental laws is required in order to treat this 
condition--and on that point I am in full agreement.
    And if fear of appeals and litigation is the cause of 
``analysis paralysis,'' how realistic is that fear? Over the 
last year or more, there has been considerable debate over that 
point, in Congress and in the press. I think it is fair to say 
that debate has been more heated than enlightening, and that 
thequestion remains unresolved. I am not convinced that the 
case has been fully made that the ability of people to seek 
administrative or judicial review of Forest Service decisions has had 
such adverse effects that stringent limitations on those processes are 
essential.
    Nonetheless, I think some streamlining of the 
administrative appeals process would be appropriate for high-
priority fuel-reduction projects. That is why I supported 
provisions on this subject that were included in the bill 
reported by the Resources Committee last year and why similar 
provisions are included in H.R. 1042, which I introduced with 
Representative Udall of New Mexico earlier this year.
    However, H.R. 1904 does not include similar provisions. 
Instead, in section 105, it merely directs the Secretary of 
Agriculture to develop a new administrative appeals process for 
such projects. This amounts to giving the Secretary a blank 
check, which I think is not the best way to proceed with regard 
to so important a matter.
    In addition, the bill as reported includes provisions 
related to judicial review that I raise very serious questions.
    The bill reported by the Resources Committee last year also 
included provisions dealing with judicial review. They were 
less far-reaching than those in sections 106 and 107 of H.R. 
1904, but the only reason that I could support their inclusion 
in last year's bill was the fact that the bill also included an 
automatic stay of agency action until the completion of 
administrative and judicial reviews. This is another provision 
of last year's bill that is not included in H.R. 1904. I 
offered an amendment to restore it, and the rejection of that 
amendment is another major reason I cannot support H.R. 1904 as 
it stands.
    In the absence of any automatic stay, I think it would be 
better if sections 106 and 107 were not part of this bill. I am 
very concerned by expert analyses suggesting that they would 
place new and unprecedented restrictions on judicial review, 
and seem designed to have the effect of unfairly and 
arbitrarily shutting the court house door on our citizens, 
making the federal government less accountable to the public in 
the management of our public lands and national forests.
    Section 106 says that ``Notwithstanding any other provision 
of law'' an action in U.S. court challenging an authorized 
fuel-reduction project must be filed within 15 days after an 
agency decision is made public. This time limit, which counts 
weekend days and holidays, supercedes any notice of intent to 
file suit requirement or filing deadline otherwise applicable 
to a challenge under ``any provision of law.''
    This raises the prospect that through a backdoor approach, 
the bill in effect is amending the Clean Water Act, the 
Endangered Species Act and a host of other laws which could be 
applicable to federal agency actions. For example, a Clean Air 
Act-based challenge by a local government to prescribed burning 
on public lands would be precluded after 15 days. It is 
difficult to conceive that many local governments across the 
country could consider complex federal plans and authorize and 
bring lawsuits within 15 days. Private parties, of course, 
would face the same practical and logistical challenges.
    I am also very concerned that the limitation would force 
appellants to anticipate litigation from the onset of the 
environmental analysis process. The deadline essentially would 
create a use-it-or-lose-it situation, wherein the appellant 
must either have the appeal pre-prepared, or else scramble 
madly to meet such an unrealistic deadline. Ultimately, this 
subsection seems likely to create a perverse incentive to file 
lawsuits against fuel reduction plans, since failing to do 
socloses the court house door thereafter.
    Section 106(a)'s notice requirement also raises concern. It 
provides that the Secretary publish notice of final agency 
action of fuels reduction project in the ``local paper of 
record.'' In areas that have multiple newspapers, a troubling 
situation could arise if the Secretary published notice in more 
than one paper. If, for instance, two or more different local 
papers published the notice on different dates, the appellant 
could potentially miss the deadline because it relied on the 
wrong newspaper. As amazing as this seems, this scenario is 
definitely within the realm of possibility. It well might make 
better sense to publish the final agency decision in the 
Federal Register to ensure predictability and certainty of the 
dates of publication that are beyond dispute.
    Further, this part of the bill tilts excessively in favor 
of the federal agencies, which already have very broad 
discretion.
    Section 107 sets what I understand to be a new standard for 
injunctive relief by mandating that courts must give deference 
to any federal agency determination of the balance of harms and 
the public interest. Notably, unlike the filing deadline and 
other provisions included in section 106, this new standard of 
deference applies not only to hazardous fuels reduction 
projects, but to any agency action on federal lands that the 
agency decides is ``necessary to restore a fire-adapted forest 
or rangeland ecosystem.'' The boundaries of this provision are 
very unclear, at best, because most forest and rangeland 
ecosystems have evolved so as to adapt to fire--suggesting that 
deference would be given to essentially any agency action.
    I am concerned that Section 107 seems intended to allow 
federal agencies to determine the public interest and might 
make it excessively difficult for even misguided agency actions 
to be corrected.
    The section mandates that a court ``give deference to any 
agency finding, based upon information in the administrative 
record, that the balance of harm and the public interest in 
avoiding the short-term effects of the agency action is 
outweighed by the public interest in avoiding long-term harm to 
the ecosystem.'' This standard--which I am told appears to be 
unprecedented in any prior law--seems designed to allow a 
federal agency to determine whether its own plan is in the 
public interest and, in effect, to have that determination be 
presumed valid by the court.
    In other words, I am told there is a serious chance that 
this standard would allow a federal agency to make a unilateral 
decision regarding what it construes to be in the public's best 
interest, put in the administrative record, and then bootstrap 
that decision in federal court. I am told that this well may 
violate the Constitution's separation of powers doctrine 
because it seeks to intrude upon the equitable powers of the 
judiciary. My understanding is that the courts currently 
exercise the authority to consider the public interest or to 
defer to the agency when reviewing agency action and 
considering whether an injunction should be issued. I am 
concerned that section 107 appears intended to prohibit judges 
from exercising their judgment by directing the court to defer 
to the agency's balancing of the harms.
    This problem would be made worse if a standard based upon 
an agency's balancing of the harms should become routine in 
cases involving agency compliance with NEPA, so that even if 
plaintiffs would prevail on the merits they would have had a 
very difficult time getting an injunction to halt an improper 
activity.
    There is also a serious question about the propriety of 
having the Resources and Agriculture Committees include 
provisions addressing judiciary review. That is not properly 
within the power of the Resources or Agriculture Committee to 
determine, since under the House rules suchmatters would seem 
to be within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee--a concern 
raised by a letter from the Ranking Member of that Committee.

                  OTHER SHORTCOMINGS OF REPORTED BILL

    In addition to the aspects of Title I discussed above, H.R. 
1904 includes a number of other problematical provisions.

                           TITLE II--BIOMASS

    For example, Title II, like a corresponding part of the 
energy bill (H.R. 6) developed in the Resources Committee, 
deals with use for biomass purposes of material removed from 
forest lands in order to reduce fuel loads. I am a supporter of 
biomass, and I think the biomass title is one of the better 
parts of that energy bill. So, I do not object to its inclusion 
in H.R. 1904. However, I think it should be more tightly 
focused.
    Title II would provide people who own or operate biomass 
plants with cash grants, which could be used to buy material 
removed from the forests in order to reduce fuel loads. I think 
that additional subsidy should be used only to buy material 
taken from the areas of highest priority--the ``wildland-urban 
interface,'' or ``red zones''--that are nearest to communities, 
the places where people's lives and property are most at risk. 
In the Resources Committee, I offered an amendment to make that 
change. I regret that it was not adopted.

                     TITLE IV--INSECT INFESTATIONS

    As I said during the Committee's markup, I would prefer 
that Title 4 be completely eliminated--for two reasons.
    First, I have serious concerns about the broad scope of its 
provisions and am not convinced that such sweeping legislation 
is necessary.
    Second, I fear that its inclusion will make the bill more 
controversial than necessary, and so make it that much harder 
to pass a sound, balanced bill to expedite needed work to 
protect our communities and their water supplies.
    In the Resources Committee, I offered an amendment that 
would have deleted this title entirely. I regret that the 
amendment was not adopted. In the Agriculture Committee, I 
offered two amendments intended to make the title less 
problematical.
    The first of these amendments would have narrowed the scope 
of the Title, in several ways.
    It would have expanded the list of lands that would be off-
limits to the ``applied silvicultural assessment'' projects 
authorized by section 403. It would have exempted the lands the 
Forest Service's own forest plans recommend for protection as 
wilderness. It also would have exempted the inventoried 
roadless areas that are covered by the Forest Service's 
roadless conservation rule. And it would have exempted any 
other lands that are now being managed in a way that preserves 
Congressional options about their possible designation as 
wilderness in the future. I proposed those changes because 
while section 403 already exempts wilderness areas and some 
wilderness-study areas, I think the bill should give the same 
status to the other lands that are being managed as potential 
wilderness areas, and to the roadless areas that have such high 
environmental and ecological value. The amendment also would 
have explicitly banned use of herbicides in municipal 
watersheds. The fact that this amendment was not adopted is 
another reason I amunable to support the bill as reported.
    My second amendment to Title IV, which I also offered on 
behalf of Representative Hill, would have deleted the provision 
of section 403 that says the ``applied silvicultural 
assessments'' are ``categorically excluded'' from review under 
NEPA. I think that provision is one of the most troubling parts 
of the entire bill.
    To start with, section 404 defines these ``assessments'' 
very broadly. It says they can include ``any vegetative or 
other treatment . . . including timber harvest, thinning, 
prescribed burning, and pruning'' or any combination of those.
    And, under section 403, the Forest Service or BLM could 
carry out these activities on any Federal lands that the 
agency--in its sole discretion--determines either has an 
infestation problem or is at risk of insect infestation. That 
is very broad, too--in fact, it seems practically unlimited, 
since almost any land with trees is at some risk of 
infestation.
    I am not disputing that insects can be a serious problem. 
And there may be a need for drastic actions to try to prevent 
insect damage, now or in the future. But I certainly see no 
reason we should exempt those actions from complying with any 
of the environmental laws.
    If these projects are necessary and sound, they can 
withstand scrutiny under NEPA. And if they are unnecessary or 
not well-designed, a NEPA review can bring that out. That is 
what NEPA is for, why it is on the books. The Udall-Hill 
amendment would not have banned these projects. It would just 
have provided for them to be reviewed in the usual way.
    That does not necessarily mean there would have to be an 
environmental impact statement in every case, because under 
NEPA, there would be a case-by-case decision about what kind of 
documentation was required. In some cases, that might mean that 
an environmental assessment--an EA--would be enough. But if a 
project was big enough--and, under section 403, each 
``treatment'' could involve up to 1,000 acres--then a full 
environmental impact statement might be necessary. And, of 
course, cumulative impacts of multiple projects should not be 
overlooked. That is what the law provides now. I think it 
should continue to apply. That was the point of the amendment--
not to prohibit these projects, but to have them comply with 
the law. The fact that this amendment was not adopted is 
another major reason I cannot support H.R. 1904 as reported.

                               CONCLUSION

    I do think it is appropriate for Congress to act to improve 
the effectiveness of the way the Forest Service and Bureau of 
land Management are undertaking to reduce the risks of 
catastrophic wildfires to the lives, health, and property of 
people living in communities near federal forest lands. That is 
the purpose of the legislation--H.R. 1042--I introduced earlier 
this year.
    However, I think H.R. 1904 is not well-designed to 
accomplish that goal. That is why I have sought to improve it. 
I will continue to work for its improvement and for enactment 
of more appropriate and responsible legislation.
                                                        Mark Udall.