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tv   U.S. Forest Service Chief Moore Testify on Forest Management  CSPAN  April 5, 2022 4:18pm-5:20pm EDT

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testimony from oil company executives about their business practices and the fossil fuel industry's role. we'll hear from the leaders of bp, chevron, devon energy, exxonmobil, pioneer natural resources and shell. watch live wednesday at 10:30 a.m. eastern on c-span 3 or watch on c-span now, our live video app. the chief of the u.s. forest service, randy moore, testified on reducing the risk of wildfires before a house oversight and reform subcommittee. the hearing also included a second panel on forest management with carol king.
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welcome, everybody, to today's hybrid hearing. some members will appear in person and others remotely via zoom. let me make a few reminders for those members appearing in person. you will only see members and witnesses appearing remotely on the monitor in front of you when they are speaking. what is known in zoom as speaker view. a timer is visible in the room directly in front of you. for members appearing remotely,
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i know you're all familiar with zoom but let me remind everyone of a few points. first, the house rules require that we see you so please have your cameras turned on at all times. second, members appearing remotely who are not recognized should remain muted. third, i will recognize members verbally but members retain the right to seek recognition verbally. in regular order members will be recognized in seniority order for questions. lastly, if you want to be recognized yut side of regular order, you may identify that in several ways. you may use the chat function to send a request. you may send an email to the majority staff or unmute your mic to seek recognition. we will begin the hearing in just a moment when we are ready for the live stream. the committee will come to order. without objection, the chair is declared to call a recess of the committee at any time.
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i welcome everyone to this hearing. i'm grateful to our esteemed panelists for joining us today. the climate crisis and misguided forestry policies have given rise to catastrophic burning across our western forests, including in my home state of california. for decades, the forest service's strategy for managing fires was to suppress all fires. in 1935 the forest service established the so-called 10:00 a.m. policy, meaning they would put out every fire by 10:00 a.m. the next day. however, fire is a natural part of the landscape in western forests. some trees in these forests need to be exposed to fire to grow and reproduce. in recent decades, the forest service policy has changed. because the landscape was deprived of fire for decades, however, dense vegetation has accumulated. that means when there are wildfires, they burn hotter and create more damage, feeding off the dry brush. climate change is also worsening
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wildfires. last month the united nations called for urgent action in a new report warning that if we continue with business as usual, climate pollution, we will have 57% more wildfires by the end of the century. drier conditions make it easier for wildfires to spread and increase their intensity. droughts leave trees with less water to fight off disease and pests. dead and dying trees are less fire resistant. climate change combined with the fuel buildup cause extreme wildfire disasters that can be deadly. the top five years with the largest amount of wildfire acreage burned since 1960 or 2006, 2007, 2015, 2017 and 2020. from 2000 to 2018, wildfires burned more than twice as much land per area than those in the 1980s. without objection, i submit the united nations environment program report titled "spreading
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like wildfire, the rising threat of extraordinary landscape fires" into the record. we're not immune to this problem in my district in silicon valley. in 2020, santa clara university complex blanketed my district with smoke and unhealthy levels of smoke for weeks. land managers like the forest service had a hard job in addressing this crisis. they must balance first and foremost human safety from wildfires but also the economy, healthy ecosystems and meeting climate goals. unfortunately, special interests seek to produce industrial management of forest as a solution to out of control wildfires. according to public disclosures, industry interests and forestry management spent over $12 million to influence congress. not only do they spending to influence politicians, they work hard to influence the public as
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well. they spent millions of dollars annually on advertising, defending many states' weak forestry laws. special interests are influencing the policy process to acquire more contracts, saying that we can thin and log our way to fires that will be easier to suppress and control. however, this is not the full truth. while some management, including removing brush and small trees, is crucial to returning forests to a healthy state, industry is too often incentivized to remove the largest trees to sell for building materials and other forestry products. clear cutting or removing large trees puts communities at greatest resks. our forests of larger trees are often the most fire resistant. thinning forests can also increase fire risks if not done cautiously in a science-based manner. some thinning is necessary according to the science, but it has to be done cautiously and in
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accordance with the principles. too much thinning and forests can dry out from exposure to wind and sun and create conditions for high winds. pro publica found that public lands that were clear cut in the last five years burned hotter than federal land that cut fewer trees. we cannot short-term financial gains to substitute for collaborative, careful forest management based on the science. another reason it's important to prioritize fire prevention is to help our firefighters who risk theirs lives to protect communities and still aren't paid enough and don't have year-long health care benefits. while firefighters are grappling with longer fire seasons and longer burning fires, which means more overtime and exposure to deadly smoke. congress must conduct careful oversight to make sure that the u.s. forest service has the tools they need to reduce large fires and the reduces to pay our firefighters. we don't want to make the situation worse by removing the
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big trees that store the most carbon and slow wildfires down. we want to have a science-based approach to forest management. we need to listen to the science and pursue a community-driven process that incorporates all perspectives to forge the best way forward for our forests. i now recognize our esteemed ranking member norman for an opening statement. >> thank you, chairman. chairman ro khanna, i appreciate you holding this hearing. wildfires are an important issue. 2021, there were nearly 60,000 wildfires that burned over 7 million acres. that was devastating for so many parts of the country. i met with carol king yesterday who i'm a fan of. i grew up with her music. she thinks the world of you. we had a great conversation. my questions to her, and we've got sumpter national forest in south carolina. my question was, one, do trees
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have lives? and, two, what do we do about the four-feet thatch that's built up. a lot of fires today are in lands where nothing has been done. we had a disagreement, but the passion that she has i respect. i'd love to have an open debate about that. these fires that occurred in 2021 were on par with the five and ten-year national averages, so why are we now getting around to having a hearing about wildfires? i think the answer is obvious. last week we were supposed to have a hearing on how bad the oil and natural gas industry are, but that issue is no longer fits the democrat narrative. the hearing was cancelled and the environment subcommittee needed something to do. why else would we wait over a year until the 117th congress to talk about important issues like wildfires. for weeks the democrats berated
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board members from oil and gas companies to appear before this committee. they even threatened to subpoena witnesses that have been fully compliant with the democrats' sham investigations. given the events of recent weeks, namely russia's invasion of ukraine, democrats finally came to the realization that a continued assault on domestic energy production was no longer politically expedient. russia's grip on european energy showcases how crucial it is that america expand its capacity for production and capacities for oil and natural gas to secure our own energy independence and assist our allies with energy needs throughout the world. buying from rogue countries do not make sense, particularly now when we have russia practicing genocide on the city of -- on the country of ukraine. what president biden does not seem to understand is that america stands ready to fill the
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void on the energy needs of our allies in times of geopolitical crisis. for the sake of national security, we must position our domestic energy resources to protect the freedom of democracy, both at home and abroad. some biden administration officials think we can drive our way out of this self-inflicted crisis with electric vehicles. but this elitist idea doesn't take into account that the average cost of an electric vehicle is $55,000. the median household income is $67,000. it's completely out of touch to think americans can afford to use 84% of their annual income on an electric car. for pete buttigieg, who's secretary of transportation, to say go out and buy an electric car, he's disconnected from reality. i got a reality check for the democrats on this committee and president biden. americans are still reliant on
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oil and gas. our constituents need them to drive their cars and heat and power their homes and businesses. but democrats want the american people to risk their livelihoods and way of life. they want to end the use of oil and gas immediately. this is an unsustainable proposition. unfortunately, they're trying to accomplish this goal by berating american oil and gas companies into submission. constantly holding hearings, demanding mountains of documents and vilifying an entire industry, yet none of these actions will change the fact that we need to use our domestic oil and gas supplies now more than ever. the stakes are just too high. america has demonstrated that we can safely utilize our oil and gas reserves to the benefit of our people and can bring energy stability to a world that has turned to chaos on the whim of irrational actors.
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america is blessed with abundant resources including oil and natural gas. no, but democrats don't want to use them to our advantage. i am so tired of the left's notion that we must take a back seat to russia and china on energy issues. as for the topics of this hearing today, i'm looking forward to hearing from mr. hubbard, the former undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the united states department of agriculture, who knows firsthand about wildfire responses. the democrats and the left-wing environmental groups push the narrative that climate change is the sole reason for the worsening fire crisis but that's just not the case. science clearly shows that active forest management is the best way to prevent wildfires. in 2020, 70% of the united states average that burned occurred on federal lands. that statistic is a clear reflection of the mismanagement of our national forests and public lands. we need to focus on real
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science-based solutions to ensure that the forest service can accelerate the scope and scale of federal forest management to ensure a sustainable and resilient future. i appreciate the chief of the forest service appearing today before the committee, but i would urge that if democrats are serious about conducting oversight of this administration, that they invite more federal government witnesses to these hearings. i thank the witnesses for their participation today and i yield back. >> thank you, ranking member norman. before i give it to the chair or distinguished chair, let me just say we obviously share an admiration for carol king. there's common ground there. we also, i think, share a common commitment to standing with ukraine and president zelenskyy and their fight against putin's unprovoked, brutal war. i think we're unified in this
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congress in making sure no russian oil comes to the united states shores. and in terms of the points you raise on gas, i have great respect for the ranking member, but we have genuine sometimes disagreements. but one thing i want to make clear is that i am for, and i think many democrats are for a short-term increase in production to make sure gas prices go down. i think that that is something we should -- there was a proposal to increase buying to fill up our strategic reserves. and i am for increasing short-term production. i think long term the way you defeat the petro states like russia, like saudi arabia, like iran, like venezuela, is by having a moonshot for renewable energy, but you certainly can respond after the chairwoman. i just wanted to for the record make that clear. now let me yield to our distinguished chairwoman meloni.
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>> thank you, chairman ro khanna and ranking member norman for your leadership and holding this important and timely hearing this morning. i'd like to be associated with the words of mr. ro khanna. president biden has called upon the american oil industry, which we are proud of in many ways, to pump more oil. we are hopeful that they will respond and pump more oil. they do have that oil. so we should pump that oil. he's also called for a release of oil from the strategic preserve. we all support that also. and we all just came from a heartbreaking meeting with bipartisan by zoom with president zelenskyy. and the most moving part for me was not only his plea for unity and help as he fought for freedom and justice in the world and in ukraine, but he showed beautiful pictures of ukraine and then the destruction of it
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with the bombs and the fires and how it was destroying their way of life. i think all of us love the forests that we have in our country. there are too many fires. maybe we'll understand more what's causing them. but whatever is causing them, we've got to join hands and work together to preserve our wildlife preserve, our forests, and it's important to our environment. as our country continues to experience increasingly frequent and severe wildfires and other natural disasters, the climate crisis has never been more dire. the united nations report issued last month detailed how climate change and poor land use decisions will make wildfires more frequent and intense. all seasons will be fire seasons. and extreme fires will be more common, increasing by up to 30%
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by 2050 and by up to 50% by the end of the century. the u.n. report called on all nations, including the u.s., to change how we think of wildfires. our emergency service workers and firefighters on the front lines are crucial to our response and they need more support. in addition to fire suppression, we need to prioritize fire mitigation. we have a responsibility to invest more in fire risk reduction, to work with local and indigenous communities who know the land, and to strengthen our global commitment to fight climate change. that's why i am grateful that today's witnesses are joining us to explain what congress, the forest service, and vulnerable communities can do if we work together. first we must act to address
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climate change. the united nations has found that nations' current climate pledges fall far too short of what is necessary to avert disaster. if current trends continue, global warming will exceed 1.5 degrees before the middle of the century, a point at which scientists say our planet will suffer irreversible damage. to avert this disaster, we need to immediately cut fossil fuel emissions by 3 to 4% each year and rapidly transition to net zero carbon emissions. second, we also need to protect our forests, which absorb carbon emissions out of the air and lock them in trees and soil, helping our environment. our forests are precious ecosystems that support all kinds of diverse plant and
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animal life. they also provide essential natural resources from food to medicine. forests also support the lives and livelihoods of local communities. despite their clear benefits and natural beauty, our forests are under attack. whether it's due to climate change or timber industry or other reasons, we continue to lose our forests along with the animals and plants that live in them. many want us to believe that forests thick with trees fuel bigger and more destructive blazes, but that i am told by scientists is not true. that is why i introduced hr-1755, the northern rockies ecosystem protection act or nrepa. it is the kind of sweeping, systemic solution our nation needs to preserve pristine lands and benefit our environment.
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my bill would designate approximately 23 million acres of wildlands in the continental northwest as wilderness. it would also designate approximately 1,800 miles of rivers and streams as wild and scenic rivers. this legislation would bring us significantly closer to president biden's goal of protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030. my bill would also help us meet the goals of the paris agreement by preserving large swaths of forests and help cancel out our nation's carbon pollution emissions. it will allow generations of americans, including our children, our grandchildren, to continue to enjoy these pristine, beautiful, wild places. i want to thank forest service chief randy moore and each of
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our witnesses for their testimony today and their service. i am particularly grateful to the songwriter and great singer, probably the greatest in our time, carol king is with us today. she is one of the few singers who is in both the songwriters hall of fame and the singers hall of fame but she is here today as an environmentalist. she has been a champion for our public lands and for the struggle to preserve them for future generations. i am very thankful for her leadership in advocating for the northern rockies ecosystem protect bill. we will pass this bill and help our country meet its goals of protecting our country, our lands, our shared waters, and combatting fires, combatting climate change. i look forward to this hearing and the topics that will be covered today. i want to thank the chairman and ranking member for calling this hearing and i yield back and a
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very special welcome to mr. moore and thank you for your public service. we look forward to your comments. i yield back. >> thank you, madam chair and thank you for your leadership in helping make this happen and the conversations that you've had with carol king and others. you've been a great leader on this topic, so thank you. ranking member norman, i want to give you out of fairness if you or anyone on your side wants to say anything, that's fine. if you don't, that's fine too. >> no, thank you, chair ro khanna. i would just say what's before us now is what we're discussing today is important, but it is pale in comparison to what's going on with this administration and getting from the strategic oil reserves is not going to do it. we've got to open up what he has shut down, which is the keystone pipeline and oil from alaska and oil from canada. and to buy it from opec, which is 15 countries made up of iraq, iran, venezuela, these countries do not have our best interests
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at heart. so why are we not self-sufficient like we were under the trump administration. we were exporters of energy. we are just feeding the beast that is conducting genocide on an innocent country that we saw heartbreaking pictures today of children. the people of ukraine did nothing wrong other than want freedom. and to be attacked and then for this country to be beholden to countries that are aiding and abetting russia is simply wrong. president biden either doesn't understand or is totally disconnected from reality to keep these oil and gas reserves shut down in our country. i call on him now, open back up the reserves. let's get this country back up and running. let's quit buying it from opec. on the wildfires, 70% come on forests -- on the natural federal lands that are managed
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by the federal government. as i mentioned before, all you've got to do is walk it. mr. moore, i'd be interested to hear your comments. the thatch is 3 feet. one match would strike the whole fire. as i learned from carol king, who again i like and the doctor that was with her, they simply -- they would let good soft timber trees die because it holds carbon. we are -- america emits 1/6 of the carbons across the world now, 1/6. yet china is building a coal plant every week. so it doesn't make sense. as greta thurberg said, what are you going to do about china? that's not acceptable in a world today as we see the horrors run by other countries. >> now i would like to introduce
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our witness, mr. randy moore. the witness will be unmuted so we can swear him in. sir, please raise your right hand. do you swear or affirm that the testimony you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you god? let the record show that the witness answered in the affirmative. thank you. without objection, your written statements will be made part of the record. with that, mr. moore, you are now recognized for your testimony. >> chairman khanna, ranking member norman, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the invitation to testify before you today. caring for the land and serving people, that's what we are really all about. we cannot fulfill this mission without successfully combatting the wildfire crisis that is occurring. our job is to sustain the healthy, resilient landscapes for all the benefits of the
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people both now and for generations to come. nationwide, more than 60 million people living in 3,400 communities across 36 states depend on the national forests and grasslands for their drinking water. this includes great cities like portland, denver, atlanta, san francisco, los angeles, and many more. the national forest system is a tremendous source of jobs and economic opportunities for hundreds of millions of americans. in 2020, for example, the national forest system supported more than 370,000 jobs and contributed more than $37 billion to the gdp, and that's a very conservative number when you look at the value of water that flows through our national forest systems lands. that is many times more than the annual budget of $8 billion that the forest service receives. all of this is now at risk on forests and grasslands nationwide. changing environmental conditions have lengthened fire seasons into fire years, and
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worsened wildfires across the west. drought has contributed to outbreaks of disease and insects that have killed tens of millions of acres of forest across the west. at the same time that our forests are getting ever more overgrown and unhealthy, developers put in ever more homes into fire-prone landscapes in the wildland/urban interface, increasing wildfire risk. altogether, it's a recipe for catastrophic wildfire, especially in the west. we face a national wildfire crisis that has been building for decades. over the past 20 to 40 years, we have seen growing fires, more extreme fire behavior and fire seasons lengthening into fire years. more than 10 million acres burned nationwide, that's more than six times the size of delaware. this unprecedented scale and extent of wildfire threatens
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key ecoloical values. unless we do something about the wildfire crisis, it will only get worse. based on decades of science and experience, we know what to do. to protect communities and natural resources, we need to restore healthy, resilient, fire-adapted forests. in overgrown forests, we need to use mechanical and other means. then return low intensity wildland fire to those fire-adapted forests. in the right places, thinning and burning works. we have case after case and study after study to prove it. last year the caldor fire in california blew right through scattered small treatments on the national forest, then hit an area of treatment at scale on
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the lake tahoe basin management unit. these treatments at scale modified fire behavior enough for firefighters to get the fire -- to keep the fire from burning into south lake tahoe. for decades we've been putting fuels and forest health treatments into place, but rarely at the scale needed. it will take a paradigm shift to confront the wildfire crisis facing the nation. the old paradigm is to use limited funds and capacity to scatter treatments randomly across the landscapes to the best of our limited ability. the new paradigm is to step up the pace and scale of our treatments to match the actual scale of wildfires across the landscapes. we need to put that paradigm into action and that's what we're here to discuss. we work with scientists, state, tribal governments and partner organizations to prepare a ten-year strategy and draft implementation plans for confronting this crisis. we plan to dramatically increase fuels and forest health
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treatments by up to four times the current treatment levels in the west. where the wildfire risks to homes and communities is highest. we will fully sustain treatment levels in the south, the midwest and the northeast. we deeply appreciate congress' passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law, which provides a significant down payment on the work we intend to accomplish under this strategy. we now have the science and tools we need to size and place treatments in a way that will truly make a difference. less than 10% of fire-prone forests in the west account for roughly 80% of the fire risk to communities. we will focus on the highest priority fire sheds for the risk to lives, homes, communities and natural resources is greatest. under our ten-year strategy, we will place treatments over and above our current treatment levels. we will treat up to an additional 12 million acres on national forest system lands and work with partners to treat up
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to an additional 30 million acres of federal, state, tribal lands. the forest service cannot succeed in this alone. the wildfire crisis facing the nation confronts us across ownerships. this is not just about the national forest systems, we're all this together. fortunately we have decades of experience working through partnerships and shared goals and shared landscapes. in closing, i am grateful to the leaders across the country for stepping up to have the plan for our wildfire crisis strategy. i'm grateful to our partners for helping us carry out the strategy. finally i'm grateful to you all for your interest and support. thank you. >> thank you. i now recognize myself for five minutes of questioning. the department of agriculture announced a plan to address our wildfire crisis that calls for
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treating 20 million acres on national forests and grasslands and 30 million acres on government and private land. how will you accomplish the targets laid out in this ambitious strategy? >> our first goal is to work with our partners across the many different landscapes. we have put together this ten-year strategy, 20 million federal forest service lands and another 30 million other lands. what we are trying to focus on initially is to look at those fire sheds that are high risk and put communities at the highest risk for fires. now, this bill, this bipartisan infrastructure bill gives us a really good downpayment on trying to address those
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communities that are at risk. so our goal by this spring is to release the projects we have chosen to start this process. we're having to make some tough choices in some locations, because while the bipartisan infrastructure legislation is a good shot in the arm, it does not address all of the communities at risk. i mentioned 3400 communities at risk from that. but we'll start the selection process this spring in april. then we intend to have projects on the ground and actually working toward the ten-year strategy this year. >> do you have enough resources and funding to carry out this plan or do you need more resources? i understand a lot of the wildfire firefighters get paid maybe 40 grand a year putting their lives at risk, don't have health care. what do we need to do to pay
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them more? >> it does layout some things we want to do for firefighters. one is to hire 1,000 additional firefighters between forest service and department of interior. the other thing is to really look at the minimum pay for a firefighter particularly down at the entry level positions. then the bill also allows us to create a firefighter series to put them in. it's a special pay series that we're working with doi and opm trying to get that implements. >> would more resources help? >> yes. more resources would certainly help. >> now, i want to turn to thinning because a lot of the issues on these hearings will be about that. do you acknowledge that there are times thinning is needed. do you acknowledge there are times that contractors with
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thinning may leave behind more flammable material like dead branches or go into large fire resistant trees and increase the fire intensity if it's not done properly? one of the problems we have is we need to create new and different markets than we currently have. the vast majority of the material we have is low value wood. we need to work with the industry and others to help create new industries to utilize that material. in some cases we're having to pay to remove it out of the woods because it would become a fire hazard for our firefighters but also for our public visiting our national forests. so we do need to find a source to use this material. >> you agree there are times
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that we shouldn't be thinning large trees, for example, right? >> well, that requires a really complicated response. what we need to be looking at is the scale of the fire. we need to treat the scale of the problem at a landscape scale. while i talk about low value material, we don't want to limit ourselves about what's needed. i think we need to be realistic about the industry that we have in this country and look at how we can balance how we make that landscape healthy. >> would you be committed to sitting down with some of the other advocates who are concerned about the thinning process? i understand there's different science here but there's some consensus that sometimes the thinning may go too far.
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would you be willing to sit down with all the communities to see how we can have the best science dictate our policies? >> absolutely, i would. >> i recognize ranking member norman for five minutes of questions. >> thank you, chairman. chief moore in 2020, 70% of the acreage burned in the united states was on federal lands. this seems like a clear reflection of the state of our national forests and public lands. can you explain why a large majority of acres burned is on federal lands, not on private lands? as mentioned, i got the impression from ms. king and the doctor with her, they just were not cutting any size tree at all
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and were willing to let the that much build up two or three feet. that's a fire hazard. that's one of the reasons why. i asked them. they thought the atmospheric conditions of the land that's privately owned started the fires. by having a conversation on at some point cutting trees there's economic benefit to this country whether thinning it or not. trees have lives, am i not right? can you discuss some of this? >> if i understand your question, congressman, let me start by saying that everyone is right in their position, but a lot of the times there's no context with it. when i look at the problem that's really occurring, 90% of
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the fires that start are human caused. those forests that start on national lands, we have a 96% suppress rate before they turn into large fires. we're talking about the 2% of fires that grow into large fires and they're devastating. what is happening, though, is we have conditions out on the landscape that is ripe for catastrophic fires. we need to remove a significant amount of material off the landscape. >> what do you mean remove it? >> we need to take it off the landscape. you called it brush.
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>> thatch. >> that's kindling for a fire. when that fire starts on the ground, it climbs up the ladder of the different levels of vegetation until it gets in the crown of the trees and the wind carries it significantly. >> does that contribute to it? >> yes, of course it does. >> if you can't cut logging paths through the forest, which there's not any type of access to it, does that not drive up the cost of these catastrophic fires? >> the problem is a lot more complex than that. we do have endangered species that we have to be concerned about so we have to consider that. 1935 when we had the 10:00 a.m. policy where we look to put the fire out before 10:00 a.m. the
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next morning. that was the right decision at that time. but 100 years later almost we look back at this decision. this country has changed significantly. it's more populated, more urban. so we can't allow those fires to burn because there's too much at risk. so what we have to do now is really not do away with the traditional industry. we need that. we need to be looking at new industries, new markets to look at how do we utilize that material that doesn't have a not of value, that material that's not a saw log. but how do we make use of that to create job opportunities in small rural communities. that's the challenge we have and that's what we want to pursue >> i have 28 seconds. does that not mean when the timber gets to a certain
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diameter that you cut and on the thatch getting the timber out? >> we have a forest plan. in that forest plan we have a desired condition. it's almost like a section all across the forest. we want to achieve certain desired conditions out there. so we use our prescriptions to get that desired condition. recreation by some cases it's a bike country in some cases we want to do what you said. in some cases it's back country. in some cases it's roadless. in some cases it's wilderness. each one of those areas requires certain management types to take place to keep that desired condition out there. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. i now recognize representative
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gibbs for five minutes of questioning. >> first, i want to comment on your brief colloquy you had at the beginning, mr. chairman, where you talked about the encouraging oil production. you talked about short-term. the problem is when the other side of the aisle keeps talking about windfall profits tax on energy companies, that is not encouraging investing in this country, because to put a well in takes millions of dollars. a short-term investment, that's not going to make it happen. it's really sad we had that ukrainian thing today. we could solve a lot of our problems if we warp speed our energy production in this country and it puts putin behind everything and we could solve a lot of problems and create a lot of jobs and do it environmentally friendlier than the rest of the world.
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mr. moore, forestry management and i've seen pictures with major forest fires on public lands and right next door would be a private managed land and fire didn't seem to get a hold. is some of that because they're timbering in that and they're managing it better? i guess that leads into my couple questions. what's the policy of the forest service when it comes to timber harvesting and controlled burns? >> we have a policy and program to look at a timber program. i mentioned context earlier. i want to say that we have to go back a little ways where what has happened to the forest
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service where we're not managing the forest to the level we used to in the past and a part of that has to do with how fire has significantly grown in this country and as fire has increased and seasons have turned into fire years, we've had to put a lot of our resources to fire. we are about 40% below our natural resource professionals. those were the professionals who put together timber sales and put together a lot to have resource areas to keep the forest healthy. we're down to about 40% of resources to manage the forest. with the bipartisan infrastructure language and legislation, we are very hopeful to start filling those positions. in fact, we just filled hundreds of positions. we currently have 200 forestry positions out there we're looking to fill now. this infrastructure legislation
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has given us a shot in the arm to try to recover some of those positions we've lost. >> you're saying we haven't had the personnel in place to put the contracts together. that could be a policy change that came from washington, d.c. to discourage timber harvesting? >> i look at it as though it's not so much timber harvesting as it is managing the vegetation on the forest. managing that vegetation on the forest, you have a number of products that come off. timber sales is certainly one of those products we use to help manage the forest. we still need to do more of that because we have so much material on the landscape. i'll give you an example. when you look at conditions back at the turn of the century and even before and when you look at a ponderosa forest, these are
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fire adapted ecosystems. you probably had about 60 trees per acre. today you could have 800 trees per acre on that same piece of land. when you talk about trying to get that piece of land back to a healthy, resilient system, it means removing a lot of the material out there now because it contributes to these catastrophic fires. it's not all that. it's that plus the conditions from drought, from disease and insects in many places. california, where i came from, we had over 160 million trees that were affected through climate change, through disease and insect infestation. it creates these types of conditions wherever we go. that's why we need to talk about vegetation management. >> are we doing controlled burns in certain areas? >> yes, we certainly do controlled burns.
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in fact, last year we burned right at about 1.5 million acres totally across the country. we've treated about 3 million acres across the country. >> quick question. is that done while fighting a major wildfire, or do you do controlled burns when there's not a fire present to do management? >> i believe you may be referring to fire to resource benefit wildfires. do i have time to answer? >> go ahead and answer, yeah. >> that's different. it's one tool in the toolbox. we try and give that tool to the incident commander of the fire as well as the supervisor about making that decision about what tool is needed. that's not a tool that we use all the time. we only use it when the conditions warrant it. our scientists are telling us we
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do need to introduce more fire on the landscape, but we need to do that when conditions are right to handle a fire. and in many cases we need to go in and do mechanical thinning on the landscape before we do the fire. otherwise you've created a disaster. >> representative fallon. >> i have a question for chief moore. chief, the infrastructure and jobs act included several new authorities. that includes fuel breaks up to 1,000 feet near roads and trails and encompasses up to 3,000 acres. and controlled harvest for insects and disease infestation, hazardous fuels, removable up to 10,000 acres. can you provide an update on how
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the forest service intends to utilize these new authorities? >> one is a new exclusion for linear fuel breaks. we're developing the guidance to end out to the field so we have understanding of what we intend with this new language and new opportunity that we have. we're working on that now. of course with the department getting ready to send that information out quickly. >> do you have a timeline? weeks, months? >> we want to start looking at projects this spring. so we want to have that out before we start the project selection and implementation. i can't give you a time but it will be this spring.
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>> thank you. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. chair. i wasn't quite ready. thank you, chief moore. so good to meet you in person. this could be your lucky day because i'm listening to you talk about some of the tools and items you need in order to have healthy forests. i've introduced a bill called the biochar act. i'm asking you to take a look at it because what it does is takes the small diameter low value ground cover and small timber and uses it for biochar. we can use it in our ag applications for fertilizer. it can create jobs for these rural communities. i grew up in the lincoln national forest so i'm very
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familiar with this ground cover. i would really like for your office to look at that because this could be an opportunity. i thank you for mentioning the number of trees. we've seen that where the tree growth has been in the hundreds per acre and what that does to the underlying watershed is zas devastating, especially for an arid state. it's been hard for my twenties especially when it comes to the new mexico jumping mouse or thelesser prairie chicken. it doesn't feel like there has been much interagency help or communication. these are allotments, these are forest areas. what i'd like to know is, is there anyway to improve interagency communication with fish and wildlife to achieve a
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workable solution to mitigate the impact whether it's the jumping mouse or the spotted owl, et cetera? >> i'm pleased to say we do have a wonderful relationship with the u.s. fish and wildlife service. your challenge, of course we accept to get together to try and work through some of these concerns. also please understand that under the endangered species act we are obligated to manage these species to protect them and we're obligated through legislation by congress, of course. so we will work to find that balance in how we do that. it is so complicated when we talk about endangered species whether they're threatened or endangered. when you look at how that potentially impacts our lives as we are now, there's no easy
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answer. a lot of times we are just in stark disagreement with how to do that. we have to continue to try and work and find that balance in that discussion. but it's a tough decision. >> we'd like to work with you on that. i also know that grazing on federal lands is both a forest and wildlife management tool. it also helps -- it's an economic necessity for rural communities, especially in the west. are there any plans to improve grazing access for ranches and to repopulate grazing allotments left vacant? >> thank you for that question. one of the problems we've had is that we've lost 40% of our resource professionals. with this bipartisan infrastructure law, we are hopeful to start gaining some of those resources back so we can start addressing some of these
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really significant issues we have, particularly in the west when it comes to grazing. we would look forward to working with you as we begin to build our capacity internally, but also increasing our partnership levels externally. >> i appreciate that. >> look forward to seeing you in new mexico. i yield back. >> thank you, chief moore for your testimony today and for your continued leadership. oh we have the ranking member of the committee at large, representative scuss with you a e forest service in my congressional district, landed between the lakes national recreation area also known as
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lbl. el comer. >> land between the lakes national recreation area, also known as lbl. it has a logging history. it was home to native americans and known as land between the rivers. in the 1930s the area was acquired by the department of interior. later, the tennessee valley authority formed the rivers into kentucky and barclay lakes for hydroelectric dam projects. this project displaced and forcibly relocated former residents. in 1998 congress passed the lbl protection act and transferred the management to the forest service. today lbl is the site of a great historical and emotional significance for many former residents and their families in my congressional district. around two-thirds of the u.s. population lives within a six-hour drive.
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it encompasses 170,000 acres of forest and open lands and at distracted visitors from all over the world. unfortunately, lbl has suffered from several deferred maintenance projects and chronic understaffing. lbl has also suffered from a shortage of law enforcement officers to cover the extensive federal lands. the lbl advisory boards recently expired charter compound these issues. committee obviously we want as the oversight committee,
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obviously we want to ensure the federal government is properly managing the federal fund progress voided for the management of lbl. chief moore, will you commit to working with the valuable local partners and elected officials in kentucky and tennessee to ensure the forest service is efficiently managing and addressing issues within lbl? >> yes, i would, congressman. >> can you also commit to that federal fund progress voided lbl is to address maintenance and recreation projects in consultation with the advisory board and local elected officials as required by federal statute. >> certainly, yes. >> one of the issues we've had there, it's such a huge amount of land as i described earlier. so there's no taxes being paid
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to the local government because this is federal land. but yet because of the staffing shortages of law enforcement, any time there's a wreck or a call, there's been no federal law enforcement agents there. so we've had to use local law enforcement. it's very expensive and they don't get the tax base there because that section is off the tax rolls. so there are required law enforcement officer quotas for patrolling that area that haven't been met for many years. we want to make sure that the funding is used to make sure there's appropriate law enforcement protection for the tourists and the local residents of that area. >> thank you for that, congressman. since the last time we talked, i have looked into that and we have made a commitment to hire
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up to six additional law enforcement personnel there. so that is completed now. also committed to sending our director for law enforcement out to meet with the locals there. that meeting has been set up and i believe it's somewhere around april. that is in motion. we now have six law enforcement personnel there on that unit. >> well, thank you very much. look forward to working with you in the future. i yield back. >> chief moore, thank you for coming here today and your testimony and thank you for your continued leadership on this important issue. the first panel is now excused and we will pause for a moment while we get the second panel ready. >> thank you, chairman. >> thank you.


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