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Public Statements

Department of The Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005

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Location: Washington, DC


Department of The Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 16, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 674 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 4568.

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AMENDMENT NO. 3 OFFERED BY MR. UDALL OF NEW MEXICO

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The Clerk will designate the amendment.

The text of the amendment is as follows:

Amendment No. 3 offered by Mr. Udall of New Mexico:

Add at the end (before the short title) the following new title:

TITLE V-ADDITIONAL GENERAL PROVISIONS

SEC. 501. None of the funds appropriated or made available by this Act may be used to finalize or implement the proposed revisions to subpart A of part 219 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations, relating to National Forest System Planning for Land and Resource Management Plans, as described in the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on December 6, 2002 (67 Fed. Reg. 72770).

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to offer an amendment to protect our national forests and ensure that they continue to be managed using long-standing scientific principles. My amendment will stop a radical rewrite of 27 years of bipartisan forest management policy. It will prohibit the use of funds provided in this bill for the finalization of the Bush administration's proposed changes to the National Forest Management Act of 1976. It will allow the Forest Service to spend another year developing these regulations so that new regulations follow more closely the directives of the National Forest Management Act.

The proposed regulations constitute a radical departure from the United States' history of sustainable forestry and from the current forest management policy first adopted and implemented by Congress and the Reagan administration over 20 years ago.

The proposed changes will greatly reduce the amount of environmental analysis, wildlife protection, and public involvement currently required in the development and revision of forest management plans. Many of these changes reflect the timber industry's so-called wish list. In at least eight specific instances, the proposed regulations closely mirror policies favored by the timber industry. To name just a few, the proposed recommendations eliminate ecological sustainability as a priority of the Forest Service, reduce protections for wildlife, constrict the public appeals process, ignore scientific opinions, and render meaningless most mandatory standards for forest management.

The National Forest Management Act established new duties to conserve biological diversity, to ground management decisions in sound science, and to ensure extensive public participation opportunities in the forest planning process. These measures were designed to strengthen Forest Service accountability.

The proposed regulations depart in a number of ways from sound forest management policy that has existed since Ronald Reagan's administration.

First, the proposed regulations would effectively exempt forest management plans from the National Environmental Policy Act. Second, the administration's proposed rules would eliminate the requirements to maintain viable populations of native wildlife. Third, the changes would increase the likelihood of harmful logging projects based on multiple use values. Fourth, the administration's proposal would also reduce overall environmental standards and accountability by allowing management plans to be revised to accommodate individual projects.

Finally, these changes would drastically limit public involvement and eliminate sound science as a basis for forest management. The current 90-day time period in which a citizen can request an administrative review or file an appeal would be confined to a 30-day objection-only period during which a citizen would have to convince the Forest Service that the plan is illegal.

The proposed regulations were developed without a Committee of Scientists, a statutorily authorized body that has informed the development of every other change in NFMA regulations since their inception.

The administration's dismissal of the principles of sound science and NEPA highlights its contempt for public involvement and scientific input. The recommendations of the independent Committee of Scientists have guided the rewrite of every NFMA regulation since 1979. Ronald Reagan used a team of scientists to write the original regulations. Four years ago, Bill Clinton revised the regulations with significant input from scientists. If it was good enough for President Reagan and good enough for President Clinton, why does President Bush insist on throwing science out the window? Because the scientists will not give him the answers his timber industry friends want.

These proposed regulations were developed with maximum input from the timber industry and minimum input from the American public and the scientific community. The proposed regulations received nearly 200,000 public comments, almost all in opposition. A near-final draft leaked by the Forest Service in September 2003 showed that practically none of these comments were incorporated. These regulations were also strongly opposed by the environmental community, sportsmen's clubs, Republicans for Environmental Protections and members of the Committee of Scientists.

In public comment, 325 scientists from across the Nation are urging the Forest Service to withdraw the proposed regulations. Given the administration's refusal to adequately consult the scientific community, let alone listen to its comments, Congress must intervene and stop this flawed and environmentally damaging rulemaking.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

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Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the requisite number of words.

I rise in support of the amendment that has been offered by the gentleman from New Mexico because I share his concern on the extent to which the proposed regulations would revise the system of forest planning put in place during the Reagan administration. There are many reasons to support this amendment, but I want to focus for a couple of minutes on the reduction of public involvement that I believe would result from this amendment not being passed.

The National Forest Management Act was landmark legislation that greatly increased the extent to which the public could hold the Forest Service accountable. It included a mandate for the agency to base its management decisions on sound science on one hand and, on the other hand, to ensure extensive public participation in the forest planning process.

If we truly look at these new regulations, they would downgrade forest plans and effectively exempt them from review under the National Environmental Policy Act, NEPA, and would thus limit opportunities for public involvement.

This amendment, if we really look at it, would just simply impose a moratorium on the proposed new regulations. And I think that makes good sense because whatever the problems with the current planning regulations, I do not think they should be just swept away without more intensive oversight by this body and by the other body; and that has occurred so far.

This is particularly important because these new regulations were developed without any input from a committee of scientists; and this is a stark departure, a stark departure, from the process that has been used in connection to the development of any other changes in the National Forest Management Act regulations.

In fact, during the public comment process, many of the scientists on whom we depend asked for the withdrawal of these proposed new regulations.

So, in short, this amendment just simply maintains the public involvement that I think we all value and we all acknowledge has been important, because, as my colleague from Washington (Mr. Inslee) pointed out, it gives the taxpayers, who, by the way, own this land, a chance to be involved, and if we pass this amendment, we maintain that public involvement while we in the Congress take time to look further at these proposed changes.

There has been a lot of talk here about forests and forest management as we move into a new fire season. This amendment would not change the work that is under way in managing our forests more effectively, given the 100 years that we have faced of suppressing wildfire, not understanding the ecological processes in our forests. This does not prevent that planning from proceeding, it does not prevent us from responding.

My colleague from Washington also talked about the need for more resources so we can do the requisite thinning and fight the fires when they start.

So, in sum, this amendment ought to be supported. We ought to maintain public involvement in this important process. The past has proven that this process works. I urge adoption of the Udall amendment.

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. I yield to the gentleman from New Mexico.

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, the key issue here is independent science in good forest management. President Reagan used a committee of scientists, independent scientists, to promulgate his regulations. President Clinton did the same thing, through a 3-year period, to develop them.

When the Bush administration got in, they swept aside that 3 years of effort, did not use any independent scientists, had a 2-day workshop with internal scientists, and that is it. And that is what the key here is, is they do not care about the science. They have an agenda and they are moving it down the road.

Forest planning can be preventive in terms of fire, can be preventive if you let it work. But, as we know, many of these forest plans where speakers have talked, where they have been delayed, it has been because Congress has put in amendments delaying forest planning. So you cannot attribute all of that delay necessarily to the Executive Branch.

But the key here today is President Bush, through his administration and his Forest Service chief, now seeking to promote forest planning rules without independent scientific review. That is really what we are talking about here today.

Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, reclaiming my time, I want to underline the point that independent scientific review has led us to make many of the right decisions so our forests are protected and our lands are managed in a way for the long-term interests of future generations.

Mr. Chairman, I urge adoption of the Udall amendment.

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The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. Thornberry). The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. Udall).

The question was taken; and the Chairman pro tempore announced that the noes appeared to have it.

Mr. UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. Chairman, I demand a recorded vote, and pending that, I make the point of order that a quorum is not present.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 6 of rule XVIII, further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from New Mexico (Mr. Udall) will be postponed.

The point of no quorum is considered withdrawn.

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