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Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 16, 2004)

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Mr. WALDEN of Oregon. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word. I rise in opposition to the Udall amendment.

I appreciate the gentleman's comments, though, about the need to have

science involved in these decisions. Perhaps he will want to support my Sound Science for Endangered Species Act provisions that require precisely that, independent, National Academy of Science panel review of decisions to list or de-list endangered species because I think science does play a role and we ought to get it right.

We ought to get it right here, too. I am glad that he has gone back 20 years and looked at the regulations from then, but they do not work now. They do not work because in a 15-year planning process under the Federal Forest Management Land Act, it takes 7 years of that 15 to come up with a plan on how to manage the forest. So you spend nearly half the time coming up with a plan.

And then those who are concerned about costs, and we heard about it in the prior amendment, $7.5 million on average to do these plans. Seven years, $7.5 million and all the while if you look over here, this is what is happening to your forests. They are getting overgrown, you are getting windthrow, blowdown, disease. As we wait and fiddle and plan for 7 years or longer and spend millions and millions of dollars pushing paper through the appeals process and everything else, Mother Nature eventually acts and this is what you get: catastrophic fire that kills firefighters, destroys homes and if you like this for habitat, you got another think coming. This is what you get.

We have to change these rules and regulations. The administration did receive 195,000 comments and they looked at them. They revised their draft plans. These regulations actually protect a wider range of species and are designed to promote action by Forest Service managers well before any need to list species under the ESA. The draft regulations provide for public involvement at every step of the way. They preserve appeal opportunities like those in the 2000 regulations proposed by President Clinton and go well beyond the minimum requirements of NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act. More timely and transparent planning will further facilitate effective public participation. That is really the key, effective public participation.

Mr. Chairman, this is what the Society of American Foresters says about this amendment by my colleague:

"The Society of American Foresters is opposed to efforts to circumvent, through funding elimination or other means, the USDA Forest Service's effort to implement new planning regulations." That is Michael Goergen, Executive Vice President, Society of American Foresters.

Here is what the labor unions say about this. Mr. Mike Draper, Vice President, Western District, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America:

"If Mr. Udall's rider passes, the Forest Service will be forced to rely on outdated rules written in 1982 or to implement a flawed series of regulations from 2000."

Professional foresters say this rider is not the way to go. Labor says this rider is not the way to go. Taxpayer groups ought to be saying this rider on an appropriations bill is the wrong way to go. If you care about the cost to the taxpayer, here is a vote that you ought to make as a no; $7.5 million per plan, 7 years to plan what to do in a national forest. In the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, $7.5 million and 7 years. The Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado, $5.5 million and 7 years. The Tongass that we were all so concerned about in the last vote and remain concerned about in Alaska, $13 million and 9 years to do the plan. We can do better than that, and we should. We owe it to our forests and our future to do better than that, to spend the money not in the planning process that goes on forever, that results in no action except catastrophic fire in many cases, but rather a planning process that produces results and actions that will help bring forests help, that will help protect species and the environment for generations to come.

Let us spend the money on the ground, in the forests, fixing fish passage, fixing culverts and roads that now block this fish passage. Let us do the healthy forest things we all agreed in this Congress to do when we passed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act. Let us get out there and do the thinning so that we do not end up with forests that are so clogged with overgrown trees, that suffer from blowdown of forest that you cannot get in and do anything about it. Because when we put off the action because we are too busy planning, the result can be, not always, but can certainly be catastrophic.

I urge a no vote on the Udall amendment.

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