tv Forest Service Chief on Presidents 2023 Budget Request CSPAN June 23, 2022 5:35pm-7:25pm EDT
next you are forced to 20 more testifies about wildfires are becoming more challenging with the rising temperatures and as the conditions. other topics include the administration's 2023 budget request, maintenance backlogs, and pay for firefighters. he took questions from members of the senate energy and natural resources committee.
. . , your appointment to the chief of the foreign service as well as thank you for joining us this morning. and i notice that we have a lot to discuss today from the billions of dollars provided by the great american outdoors act and the bipartisan infrastructure law over the last two years to the historic wildfire burning right now in new mexico buttressed. i would like to express my appreciation for the emphasis
placed on the outdoor recreation in this year's budget request. i'm glad to see that the president is making outdoor regulation a policy priority for the land management agencies including the foreign service. last month our committee announced unanimously voted to report americas outdoor recreation act of 2022 are large outdoor recreation package that illustrates the important role that outdoors plays in the hearts and minds of all americans everywhere. the last time out of recreation legislation of this size and scale was an act it was in 1963, so i'm very proud of this package and the good i believe it's going to do for all of us. the overwhelming support that we have received for this package shows us that the enthusiasm surrounding our public lands and outdoor recreation is a strong and still going to. keep up with increased visitation the package provides innovative approaches that are lead to make up about the lands more accessible and, proof of a commission infrastructure, and make it easier for businesses located in rural areas to thrive. now turning to the primary purpose of today's hearing, the
president's budget. world communities across the country depend on our national forest. provide opportunities for recreation as well as timber resources and therefore there by support jobs in local communities. but despite a more than a quarter of 1 million dollar increase last year in your annual appropriation centralization of 5.5 billion made available to the bipartisan infrastructure law, i understand that the presidents budget request of a further billion dollar increase for forest service programs -- record high that congress probably did last year a. look forward to learning why these increases are needed and for what pacific purposes this money will be used and as i mentioned the bipartisan infrastructure law provided the forest service 5.5 billion for implementing a variety of wildfire and ecological restoration initiatives. but the main thing included in the wild fire management section -- at the beginning was direction to your agency to lower the fire risk on 10 million acres of the country's most dangerous
20 million acres. the law requires the forest service to use this unprecedented level of funding as well as other funding that congress has continued to provide to significantly lower the fuel load in national forest where both communities are nearby and wildfires are being extremely difficult to control. the law also required iv tourists to publish aplenty late tailing how you would treat these acres this plan was to buy last march but the forest service has yet to release it. i would like to know how many of these acres you are protecting and projecting to change the conditions this year and i intend to ask you and your staff about your progress in meeting this requirement in each hearing going forward and in the infrastructure spending plans that you included with your budget request, i saw over and over the biggest challenge you are facing to spending this morning own shortages of acquisition and procurement staff and grants that agreement staff and the national forest program stuff responsible for the implementation of that act
the activities online i'm. sure that we will discuss this morning how long you believe it would take for you to ramp up your capacity to spend this money. but i hope it is soon. the fire season it's well underway out west on the government must carry out these imported treatments as soon as possible in. closing it is no secret that i have serious concerns about our national debt and as such i take my role as both unauthorized rags are anti popular very seriously and i fully believe we can get our fiscal house in order while supporting american programs. so i look forward to hearing from you, chief more, this morning, a on how we can do just that. and with that i'm going to turn to ranking member, senator barrasso. >> well thanks so much, mister chairman, for holding this important hearing, and chief, i want to welcome you here for your first appearance in front of the committee. congratulations again on your appointment as the forest service chief. we look forward to working with you and hearing your vision of the agency and we've had a chance to meet previously and
discuss these cases andrew as we both agree our fourth place of a number of viable roles near provide habitat and improve sole quality they yield government recreational opportunities both essential key components of the west economy and our way of life. and they could act as a carbon sinks by sequestering large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. the forest can't play any of these roles if they burned to the ground. and we've discussed that. last year we had another devastating wildfire season and wildfires burned over 7 million acres nationwide and well over this half of this destruction occurred on u.s. forest service led. the provides destroyed lives and livelihoods, while wiped out wildlife in the habitat, increased carbon emissions and reduced air quality. of the 6000 structures destroyed by the wildfires last year 60% of where family owe homes or residences. so unfortunately this year it seems to be shaping up to be another difficult fire season. severe drought and a lack of proactive management have turned many of our landscapes
into tinderbox. new mexico has already been hit with multiple mega fires including the largest fire in the state's history. this destructive fire originated from controlled burns and has raised questions around whether, when and where agencies should be utilized -- for our hope today we can get some answers of who's accountable for the situation. we also need to know what steps for service will take to ensure that such catastrophes do not happen again. the fourth service budget request for fiscal 2023 is nine billion dollars. i'm interested to know how the forest service intends to make these dollars go as far as possible. in order to proactively manage our forests. according to the agency's budget, 63 million acres, nearly one third of our national forests, are at high or very high risk to catastrophic wildfires. the agency simply must accelerate its treatment of these acres. this includes dramatically reducing hazardous fuels, including through locking and thinning projects and livestock
grazing. well planned and executed prescribed fire treatments can also be used especially when acres have already been thinned. i'm also interested to know whether the forest service plans to protect sawmills. it's almost in the west include the black hills national forest and struggling, they are struggling to survive on or near our national forests. after 120 years of successful partnership with industries, recent actions by the forest service have jeopardized the survival of timber, the timber business in wyoming and south dakota. if the industry partners like those in the black hills of forced to close, it will make hazardous fuel reduction projects even more expensive and less efficient. such closures will invariably endanger our forests and those who live near them. and a successful plan to tackle our nation's wildfire crisis must involve maintaining and utilizing our sawmill infrastructure. finally i'd like to hear what steps the agency is taking to avoid critical staffing
shortages in the wild land firefighting workforce. years of low pay, a host of other issues have significantly depleted federal firefighting workforce. as the wildfire season becomes longer and more intense by the year, simply can't afford to do without these brave defenders of our forests and surrounding communities. so, again, welcome to the committee, and thank you, mister chairman. i look forward to hearing your testimony. >> thank you, senator. and now we are going to welcome the witness today's chief moore and, we look forward to her statement, she. >> thank you. chairman, ranking member barrasso, and also members of the committee. thank you for this opportunity to testify while i discuss how we are making good on investments to steward the nation's forest and serve america i. we'll also first focus on three topics today that i believe are top of mind for all of us. you won, it's our progress to support that the wildfire and your capacity of our firefighting workforce. to, our readiness to face
another tough fire you. and three, our progress to improve forest conditions as we reduce fire risks and protect communities. we are nearing the most intense part of another tough far year in. preparation for it, we've worked to build and retain our firefighting workforce, that starts with the progress to provide the pay and benefits that they deserve. as of june we've hired more than 10,500 firefighters. that's roughly 90% of the 11,300 that we had targeted for this year. thanks to congress we expect to complete work in the coming days to increase pay for firefighters and add new job series that recognize these specialized work they do on the nation's behalf. we've worked hard to recover as many firefighters in pay as much as we can. we will pay all firefighters at least $15 an hour and funded in additional 350 shot of shots and support resilient and mental health programs.
despite this progress though, critical firefighter vacancies still exist. we must seek solutions that permanently raise firefighter pay and we must also make other system changes that will attract and retain our talented workforce for the long term. and i want to work with you on that. we are already confronted with a difficult fire and expect activity to increase in. the southwest, as you mentioned, this spring extreme fire conditions escalated rapidly. they hit preparedness level for earlier than any time in recorded history. the number of acres burned so far have has surpassed our ten year average. we fully expect -- extreme fire conditions to continue across the west and into the fall. we are working closely with our partners at the state, tribal and federal level to fully respond to these conditions. we know however that the long term work to shift these extreme fire conditions rests in our ability to reduce fuels and create resilient forests
are. progress to to implement a tenuous strategy would help us do just that we are. working to dramatically increase the feels and forced health treatments up to four times the current treatment levels in the west. we will focus on those areas where the -- risk of homes and communities highest. we thank the congress for investments in the infrastructure investment jobs act these. funds us help us restore their long term health and resilience of the nation's forests and grasslands. working with our partners we will improve the resilience the, landscapes and watersheds across boundaries. just last month, we issued 100 and $31 million in the aisles funded to begin work with in the tenth priority landscapes in the ten west disgrace. for service is also building a new workshop to accomplish the remaining work. prescribed fires an essential pool tool in the into reduce fire risk. we've successfully conducted these bones in nearly all cases
across the country and in rare cases conditions change and prescribed burns move outside planned project areas and become wildfires. this happened recently and as a result i called for a 90-day pause in the use of prescribed fire. reconvening a national team from the broadband fire and research community to conduct a review. this reviewers salt will help us ensure future yourself this tool. this -- impacts a small portion of plaid fieldwork before because we've already competed about 90% of the work we had planned to compete for the year. and for service is committed to doing our job to -- her current and future generations. we know these lands are essential to america's health economy and raw way of life. they are the source of drinking water for more than 60 million people living in 3400 committees across 36 states. in 2020 in national forest alone supported more than 70
370,000 jobs and contributed more than 35 million to the gdp. we know what's at stake if we don't act now. to improve the conditions of these forests, therefore services committed to action. we will work together with states, neighbors, drives, and partners to be the challenges before us and we will do this with sound science as our guide. thank you for your investment and engagement in this work. and i personally look forward to working with each of you as the year goes forward. and i look forward to any questions that you might have. >> -- thank you, chief more. we'll start weather questions now. i'll begin. in 2019 to forest services deferred maintenance backlog was 5.2 billion dollars. in 2021, the number increased to 5.9 billion dollars. and now the forest service estimates that the backlog is at 6.3 billion. in spite of all this, it's budget proposed to reduce your annual funding for improved and maintaining your facilities arose in --
by 12%. two years ago, we enacted the great american outdoors act, provided you had $285 million annually for five years. to address your deferred maintenance backlog. so chief more, i just have a hard time understanding, now that you are reducing your budget, when we identified a backlog, and we give you the money to pay for it, and you are rejoicing it like it's all done and there's no more backlog. can you explain? >> yes. senator, there still is a backlog and a different maintenance, by the, way is still a priority of fires. in fifth by 22, to give you an example, congress funded about 13% of our overall maintenance these. with a g.a.o. a added we covered about 37% of the need and then we looked at what -- was able to provide on top of that we cover about 34% of those leaks. now given the high priority needs that we have and particularly as it focuses on
new while fire crisis the president's budget really reflects delivering that call and on communities while recognizing at the same time that we have needs a meeting other areas and facilities. >> hold on. this budget proposal became i would assume you all worked it and it came from you and it increased almost every other foreign service program, and this is the one that we show the greatest backlog when we basically provide the funding for it. just doesn't make sense why you pick this one. >> what we did. >> put deferred maintenance >>. really sacrificed. >> are we talking about the different maintenance >>? you funded it was -- we gave you money, turned 85 million annually for five years to try to upset some of that tougher but it keeps increasing it and, that he cut the budget by 12%. in that area. >> well i'm looking at it in terms of the overall picture that we have to do out on the landscape and i will say that gaoa give us a tremendous lift
in our ability to do that for five years and so when you look at your looking at what needs to happen out on that landscape we certainly need to do this. gaoa that's certainly been a big help to us but when you look at the appropriated funds, the gaoa funds and, then you look at what the bill is allowing us to do, we really are above 44% of those needs. and so you know this bill is really trying to we, are trying -- my time is limited. will probably explain this after this meeting. there's a problem somewhere. i understand that some of the forest service pile bringing that to what is now the wildest waffler wildfire in new mexico history and because of this on may 20th year instituted in 90 day polls on all controlled burns in the forest system lands. we are bringing in -- national forest and earlier in maine and i don't know if they're planning to burn more
or waging and seeing what the impact is going to be. someone specifically are you going to the, forest service is going to be evaluating on how it's going to continue with this 90-day pause? and what will be different when the pauses over? >> your, so that we provide a little context there. when we look at prescribe earning 99 point 8.4% of the time prescribed burning occurs without a problem. but we are beginning to see on the landscape is really concerning and i am not as sure as i want to be nor am i as strong as a need to be that we shouldn't be taking another look at our models that we're using for prescribed burning. and a part of it is because what we see happening, a little more frequently, and it's not just what's happening down into new mexico, is also what's happening across the west and other areas. to give you an example, senator, we are seeing, and we believe that is due to climate change, got conditions. all of that's contributing to
death are expected and historical behavior. and when you look at what's happening to our climate it's really exacerbating the problems. let me give you an example of what we're seeing in new mexico right now. if you are going to go to a lumber store, and if you were to buy kiln dried would, that would have about 12% moisture in it. the conditions that we are seeing out in new mexico, the fuel moisture there is about 7%. and so when you look at drought conditions, when you look at the rise in temperature, a lot of times, when those fires hit those kinds of conditions, it's really exploding into catastrophic fire. >> let me finish up on one quick because my time is running out. i'm understanding, and you tell me if this is accurate or not, people tell me, this, lawyers than companies that do timbering and supposedly forest management also, they are not allowed to fight a fire. it has to be called it and it has to be the federal government approved?
the can't go out and tried to stop a fire because it gets out of hand? that accurate? >> you know, i'm not sure what context you may have received that information >>. i received it from the largest land companies that basically are harvesting forest lands. and they are saying, they say a lightning strike, they've got to call it an, they've got teams on, only reason i'm saying this, in the mining industry, i come from the coal mining communities around my state of west virginia. everyone has a rescue team. >> right. >> that rescue team is a first responder. they've got to go. and then we get all the help coming in that's going to be needed to, of the conditions they're facing to fight that. it makes sense to be that i know we keep, talking we don't have enough firefighters we should be supporting our firefighters. but our first responders other people already in the wait until the firefighters can come and help. >> yeah. senator, if you would. imagine --
us asking just anyone to go out in front. i'm not saying just >> i'm not guessing anyone. we've got contracts with the companies that are managing, they're harvesting the chamber. and for one of the conditions should be that they have a first responding firefighting team >>. well, as of now, we don't know if they're qualified to be out fighting fires. and as i mentioned >> makes a sick they're doing a lot better than what's being done >>. i mean that's their opinion. but are they really qualified to train and trained to do that work, particularly in the conditions were sitting out on the landscape? i would hate to be okay with that >>. they're saying that they see it, they're seeing a fire that started by -- i don't know, these people have much more expertise than i do and. i'm telling you it, doesn't make common, the common sense is they tell me they see a striker, strike and the fire starts. they are not allowed to go and try to stop that fire from spreading. now, it doesn't take rocket science to -- we've got professional people and that's the livelihood and they're watching it brought up, there are lots of reasons to helped.
until the cold in immediately. your different how we handle rescues in >> and minds. with that but i was up. road continues this, chief, more i do appreciate you being here. >> with that, senator barrasso. >> thanks, mister chair. the partnership between the forest service and the forest products industry is critical for the health of the black hills national forest. also vital to preserve the economic lifeblood off many of the communities surrounding that in wyoming and south dakota and the first time we met it was to discuss the situation in the black hills. after that meeting, you said your meetings would do everything in its power to retain industry driven snow sawmill infrastructure in the forest. so can you update me on what the next steps are to retaining these crucial assets? yes. senator barrasso, i've said from the very beginning, and i'll say it to my death, that without industry we would not be able to manage the forest in the conditions we have out there on the landscape. in particular, to the situation that you are referring to on
the black hills, we had to commit to try to do all we can to look to see what are some of the options for us to keep that facility open? because i says i said, we need that facility. we have worked out a lot of the technical issues surrounding shipping material to other locations and now is really just a logistics of how we do that and surrey currently working with our partners, particularly within the industry and elsewhere, all the logistics of making that actually happen. but the technical issues we have resolved. so with you >> so will you again commit to ensuring the viability of the temper program and your industry partners on the black hills >>? yes, it's in everyone's best interests that that industry continues to grow, not be decreased. >> there's a, moving to another topic, of the lower value energy is a rural electric cooperatives remodel state of wyoming. lower valley ceased to increase the safety and decrease the cost of natural gas flying for
customers near after, why am. i was there last week. in february of 2018, you were fairly applied to construct an eight inch diameter national gas pipeline. a pipeline which occupy about 119 acres of federal land along the distance of less than 50 miles the forest service issued a record of decision approving the project in november of 2019 but earlier this year in, 2020, to two and a half years after the approval had come the forest service turned around and withdrew that record of. decision and according to the forest serves it said it didn't have the authority to approve it in the first phase two and a half years ago in this small segment of land overseen by the bureau of land management. do you know what the status is more of the efforts to address the root of the pipeline and reassure a new record of decision? >> senator i, just became aware of that issue just last night. so i will be happy to get a response to get back with you sometime this week >>. we appreciate that.
i want to be something we've also discussed, the good neighbor authority, which allows the states and counties and tribes to perform restoration and protection of hazardous fuels on federal forests and range lands. this is critically important to leverages non federal efforts when iv services unable to do the work alone. substance could neighbors for the projects are already being carried out by states, by counties, and by tribes, they are poised to shoulder the overhead and the administrative burdens themselves. however, we've heard concerns from our state partners that forest service intends to spend a significant portion of its finding on forest surface overhead and administrative expenses. so can you explain how much of that hundred and 60 million in the budget allocated to these efforts is actually going to go to projects on the ground? >> so i'm not sure the information you have, but generally, you know, when we look at this, this is what we are planning to do. because we don't really know
how much is going to take to do that work. i've also heard rumors that we are limited to 2% of those farms for june day. i have not been able to find out anywhere in our direction in terms of a limit on how much we spend. but we are well aware and we do not want a majority of that to go two for his service salary and you know that money is really working with partners and bringing partners in to do the work to protect those communities. and so i will commit to you that we will take a good look at how much we are using for administrative purposes or even for salary and expenses. but we understand that that's not the intended purpose, even though some is required. >> and that we've seen in recent weeks, while prescribed burn fire treatments to have benefits, there can be risks as well, and we've seen that. is my understanding that we use risks can often be lessened in addition to wildfire fire mitigation efforts came through activities like stemming, mechanical thinning. jeff more, can you elaborate on
when it makes sense to carry out thing projects prior to prescribed burns? i don't know if you have an idea of how much acreage should be seen before the prescribed fire treatments could be used in a safe and effective manner. so let me provide context again. so in our, particularly in our -- ecosystems and if you were to mimic historical conditions, they had about 40 to 60 trees per acre in those conditions. what we have now is upwards of 600 or more trees per acre. and so, to prescribe a burn in those conditions would not be wise. and so what we have to do is go in and then that area first and then we run and prescribed burn through there and we have great evidence that some of the fires we've had in the last year or so, bootleg fire in southern oregon, was a perfect example of that, where we had three different types of treatments. one was no treatment and it looked like it was -- , burned very hot.
one area where we are is where we only dissenting, and while it was still well, it was still scorching that landscape. but where we had the best results was where we went in and did sitting first and then we really ran a prescribed burn underneath that. and when that fire moved long the landscape, it behaved as expected. certain we know what to do now, based on, and thanks to congress again, based on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation, we are able to use those types of treatments and skip levels rather than isolated parts of. because we know that if we're going to make a difference on the landscape decides of the treatments has to match the sides of the fires. >> thank you. thank you, mister chairman. thank you >> thank, you senator. now we have senator wyden. >> thank, you mister chairman. chief, welcome, and chief, i've appreciated our conversations. and thank you also? chief? for your help in the eastern oregon situation with our meals. chief, oregonians were telling me last week everywhere i went that the shortage of a
permanent wild land fire positions, if not addressed is on its way to becoming a four alarm or who. already in oregon there's a 20% vacancy rate in these possessions and western states are actually trying to borrow firefighters from each other. chief, that's a recipe for trouble. what's the most important response? better pay, decent benefits for these courageous firefighters so they can pair their rent and buy groceries. that is not the case today, according to firefighters talking to me. i was told last week that if a firefighter in oregon has a small family and him sized roof over their head, it takes for paychecks to make a months worth of rent. and we already see these help
wanted signs offering much better pay and better positions. given the billions of dollars that congress provided in the bipartisan infrastructure act, particularly for forestry, the main question from oregonians is obvious -- how is the department going to use that money to fix the shortage of permanent wild land fire positions? thank you for that question. you know, senator, if i had the ability to set pay for more firefighters i would certainly do that. i am left with trying to implement direction that is given through legislation. and to take the bipartisan infrastructure legislation as an example we are going to take a veto within that legislation to pay our firefighters more because they are very deserving of that and it's dirty, nasty hard work. and they do preserve better pay. they deserve better benefits
they deserve better care in terms of mental and physical health conditions out there. and so, we are implementing the declaration that is in the bio legislation, and we are doing it with viktor, to be honest with you have we need it and we just so appreciate congress's ability to pass that bipartisan infrastructure package. >> but i say, chief, and i'm interested in working with you. you saw the letter that i sent yesterday. we're going to really need, i believe within two weeks, answers to those questions. because they go specifically to the sections of the bipartisan infrastructure bill that let us attack this issue. and so, is that acceptable to get an answer within two weeks expect-able to next question, chief, is millions of acres of dead and dying material is piling up on the forest floor. and this material is a magnet
for fire. and as you and i have talked about, the fires, they are joe grandfathers prize. they are bigger, they're harder, they are more powerful. we've got to reduce the backlog. here's your opportunity to talk to the people of oregon and i think senator heinrich and our colleagues and cortez masto, all of us the west are seeing the same thing. what's the plan for significantly reducing this enormous backlog of dead and dying material? what's striking, the chairman, a friend from west virginia, you know, talked about different maintenance is particularly as it relates to quality of life and recreation and all kinds of other very important issues. i'm talking about what we've got to do to reduce fire risk, because that did and dying material is a magnet for it. so tell america what we are doing to reduce the backlog. >> thank you. so in response to the back --
infrastructure law. we created this tenured strategy to get that this problem with vegetation on the landscape. and this tenured strategy it has three objectives. one, we continued about 220 -- going to treat an additional 13 acres of federal, tribal and private lands, and then the third one is that we are going to have a maintenance program so that we can go back in and it depends on the fire -- return but between 10 to 15 years, to to the areas that we've made this investment in, trying to create those conditions. now, let's talk about how should we be preparing our community of people to really help us in this vein? one is that we need to do it with partners. we can't do it without partners. so we are all in this together. the other thing is that if we look at how fires are, are taking place on the landscape, they don't really care about jurisdictional boundaries. and so what we have to do is make our treatments at the
right scale and at the right pace. and it actually, in the right locations. and so we're looking at the landscape level treatments because we know that if we treat the landed a landscape level, is going about the scale of the fires that are taking place there. so our plan is to look at 50 million acres within this timeframe to treat in order to make a difference on how that fire is behaving across the, particularly the west. >> in the letter i sent you yesterday, yes we talked, the two big areas are the shortage of firefighters and treatment of the backlog. if we can get at those two in a meaningful way, we can send a message to the west this year that we are really getting tangible progress with respect to fire risk. but we've got to do it. i look forward to response within these two weeks. again, thank you for working with me, and look forward to doing it frequently. >> thank you, senator. senator lee. >> thank you, mister chairman. if more, before i begin, i want
to recognize some, the individuals are the forest service for their hard work and the dedication. their acts of the forest service are filled with people who fight forest fires, who protect livestock from protection, facilitate finger timber harvesting, and responsibly conserve public lands for future generations. i'm thankful to these people and for the work that they do for my home state, the state of utah. on an administrative level, i have some concerns that i need to express, this administration can use to support infrastructure. it claims that it supports domestic meaning. but in all truthfulness, when constituents come to me, all i hear about is still diligent permitting, unanswered calls and regulatory uncertainty, especially when it comes to the forest service.
take the resolution copper mine in arizona for an example. copper is a scarce resource and a very valuable, important. when is critical to the deployment of our nation's infrastructure. not to mention in a clean energy future that president biden wants to pursue. but the resolution couple of mine started permitting in 2013. 2013, and still doesn't have the authorization necessary to start operations. the project was moving forward but president biden blocked it in march of 2021 after years of regulatory work on the part of the project the project applicant. and more recently, critical infrastructure projects in my own state has come up against the forest surfaces stalling tactics. again, the president claims that he's during all that he can. but he and his family also that he's doing nothing to block
investment in domestic oil and gas. but i have to say's actions seem to tell a very different story now i'm sure you are aware of the un a basin railway project. this is a proposed railroad that would boost the economy is on a tribal reservation and in other disadvantaged communities by helping to transport isolated petroleum and other projects another project itself is so funded and the ute indian tribe of the -- and -- racist reservation our partners and project participants in the project. this is a project that is supported by the airfield ceo, the other collaborating agencies supported, including the surface transfer quotation by, that the fish and wildlife service, and the army corps of end of engineers now in the first services onwards project, quote, can be constructed and
operated with mineral minimal adverse impacts of concern to environmental resources, close quote. but for months now the ford service has him, hot, and refused to sign the record of decision, the last element in the improve your profits process, one that should be perfunctory at this point given the other materials that have been assigned assembled and the other approvals granted. i grew frustrated with the lack of movement and so i asked to speak to your boss, the secretary of agriculture. it took off three month, a month, for him to find 15 minutes to call me back to talk about the status of the project. now, when we finally did talk, it was cordial. we had a protective exchange and we talked about some specific actionable items and he said he would check in on some of those items and get back to me. that was a couple of months ago and he still hasn't neither has his staff.
and don't have to tell you. i'm tired of waiting and so are the people of utah. and the people of this country who are being harmed as a result of this. people need to know. it isn't just the oil and gas leasing that the biden administration is blocking. it's also really critical infrastructure like the -- this incident is a project that as to which there's no budget about objection, the necessary practical approvals happen obtained by just just show the full -- there is no legitimate reason to withhold signature on that. the biden administration hopes perhaps that can just postpone these projects to death, projects like these are being blocked across the nation and americans are suffering as a result. thank you, mister chairman. >> thank you. >> chairman me, how respond. >> yes, very quickly, please. >> so a couple of things here, senator.
you can always call on me and i'll give you a response right away, at least to one that i have, in terms of this project we do recognize this is important to a lot of stakeholders where. we are now, is that this is the iss that the surface transportation board is putting together is under litigation, and now this is we are trying to work with arc but department of justice to figure out what is the posture with isn't within this litigation. but even saying that, i'm optimistic that we'll have regulation with discussion sometime this month. so i don't think we are far away but i would point out that it is currently under litigation. and that's in the holdup. >> thank you, so. >> i'd be delighted if that were the case. thank you very much -- . thank you. senator heinrich? >> chief, i appreciate you being here today. you and i have discussed the forest services direct responsibility for the home and began calf canyon fire.
one of the things i -- guess what i should say is i'm not, i'm not arguing for taking prescribed fire out of our tool box. but hundreds of people lost their homes. and we owe it to those folks who lost their homes to understand exactly what went wrong. and in talking to people on the ground and in particularly researchers in new mexico, one of the things that i've learned in the course of the last couple of months is that our fires are behaving radically differently right now. you mentioned her dry standing timber is. and that is one of the, one of the things that historically has been offered our fire behavior is the amount of moisture that's in that standing timber. and it is in a different place than it's ever been before. one of the other things that you. used to buffer our fire
behavior is the soil moisture itself. . we are putting data into models right now that's not capturing the changes in these things. so i want to ask you to specifically kind of outline how the forest service is doing this review so that we know when you plug things into a model they're actually going to behave the way we expect and not get out of control. and to kind, of update us on the specific status of the hermits peak fire and fire investigation. >> thank you, senator. and let me start by saying, you know, it literally breaks my heart when these fires take place across the country, and you see the devastation that their communities. and just so you know, we live in these same communities, and we're doing everything we can to respond to the types of fires that we're seeing out there some of the behavior that you talked about what we are finding out is that one of those fires that started had
snow on it 2 to 3 different normally you would think that that should be enough to put it out only to have the conditions change within our another year or so the containment lines. that's not the only place is happening. it's happening across other places in the west. and so we, that was one of the reasons i called a pause. there's things happening now that has never happened before and we think that because of the increase in the heat the root system is retaining its each and then as conditions have is moving laterally across that's why cause so called the pozner timeout to get a team of people looking at the different aspects of what's going on, including the model that we using to make sure that they're still current. and so we, the team that i've put together, it's a team not
just for surface firefighting, it's from the wildfire communities. states, research and forced surface looking at having different perspectives, different opinions about what's happening and then how we might want to zero in on the specifics of some of the models that's guiding our decisions. >> one of the things that made fighting these fires this spring so challenging is we have been experiencing wind events that are different than what we've had historically. multiple red flag days in a row. it is hard for people to understand why a prescribed fire would be used on a red flag day and that was the beginning of hermits peak. is that something that -- where are we determining whether that was consistent with the
guidelines that normally would cover whether we ignite -- or not any given? day >> yeah. you know the reason we want to -- move first of all i've got this team that's looking at that particular incident pointed back to me on june 21st. so we'll find out what happened. we are going into this the team felt like they were within prescription. but they will be to look at the nuances of that and some of the specifics to see what really happened out there. and so i'll have the results of that, that review, around june 21st, and then we'll take a look at that and do a little sense making of that and then report back on what we see. >> thank you, chairman. >> thank you, senator. senator her own. >> thank you, mister chairman. it's good to see you again and i want to thank you again in another capacity. you came to hawaii for a field
hearing that i conducted relating to water security in hawaii. so i know that you are aware that our native forests continue to be attacked but invasive species, some change, human population demands, increasing scale in and intensity of wildfire et cetera. and of course water security is therefore impacted by all of those aspects. and that hopeful that the senate will pass by bill, passed 554, which will require for service to study the possibility of designating a national forest in hawaii. we don't have that yet but that doesn't mean that we are not working with you. and in fact, the forest service is now a partner with us. two years ago the first services specific pacific near southwest region and your leadership, along with the natural resources conservation services, signed and mou with the hawaii department of land and natural resources on shared
stewardship of hawaii's forest and watersheds and the purpose of the mou is to make mention and restore healthy, sustainable forest and watersheds in hawaii that continue to provide benefits for all of our people. so, as we are already halfway through the five-year mou, i hope we can discuss a little bit about the progress made to date with this shared stewardship mou as well as the various parties that have been engaged and then provide additional details to my staff following this meeting. >> senator hirono, yes. first of, all i am i enjoyed my time in the pacific southwest region, and particularly going to hawaii and beating you and a lot of extensions. >> who wouldn't you? welcome back anytime? >> [laughter] in terms of the possibility of establishing a national forest there, one of the discussions we had a few years back was, you know, we didn't want to be the government coming in, saying,
we want to establish a national forest. we really felt that that needs to be a grassroots effort coming from the ground up, requesting that we do a study. and so, we were requested to take a look at that. and that's what we are currently doing now. but i want to be very careful because the culture, as you know, of hawaii is not the same culture that we have in other parts. and so how do we be respectful of the culture and yet talk about creating something that we feel would be beneficial to all of the citizens there? i would love to have the opportunity to meet with you to go over some of the specifics of where we are with that study and with that agreement. >> well thank you for that sensitivity toward our native hawaii culture and their practices and i would say that probably you would be welcome to develop a program that would actually protect our native forest and four and one. one of the budget hearings that
we had last year, then chief christiansen mentioned that the 2018 research article mentioning that at the racial minority tucson asheville forests at lower rates than than other white counterparts and there would be efforts to conduct outreach to minority populations occupied 80s. so how is that going? are you making progress along those lines? >> yeah. we are starting to make a number of changes in this area. i'll give you an example. now, as we design our recreational facilities, are we designing them to be inclusive of all americans, not just some americans? and so we are looking at we designing some of our recreational facilities. we've also created this equity program to make sure that as we make decisions that that decision is inclusive and that we are looking at equity and how we describe yet those decisions across the landscape. we are doing that now even with the tenure strategy that our we
are watching projects, are we working in areas that would benefit disadvantaged communities? and so, we are taking it good, hard look at the decisions we make and how we make those decisions, and the impact that they can have on all of our communities. >> thank you. attention must be paid, because this kind of equity doesn't happen because we think it's a good idea. we actually have to focus on that. i just want to mention that the forest legacy program, president has included partial funding for the valley project. i want to thank you folks for the attention that you're paying to some of our forest projects, including them as priority projects. i will continue to work with you and my colleagues to obtain more funding, more complete funding, for these projects. thank, you mister chairman. >> senator. no, senator king.
>> chief more, i am very frustrated by this h and i'm not angry at you because you have to deal with things like secretaries of agriculture and omb and those are the things. but there is some points that i think just quite out to be discussed. now before, that i have a suggestion. we have something called the national reconnaissance office that's in charge of satellites. and i just looked on their website and one of their task is assessing the impact of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis -- and facts are. hope you're in touch with the national reconnaissance office and if you're not you should. be because they have amazing capabilities that are not going to go into in this setting that could be very helpful in terms of dealing with forest fires. i hope you will pursue that. are you in touch?
do you work with nro? >> so we work with d.o.d. fargo and. within the farc that we can get realtime detection of disasters including what five. >> i hope your for through that even further. because i think you'll find that nro has an amazing capacity. that's one. maintenance and come on man the make budget goes down it's the only two lines in your budget that go down we've moved hair their nose to pass the great american outdoors act to deal with the matters black hole large and you're getting the whole deeper and you've got to advocate with omb or whoever it is. i hope you'll come back to me for the record with the value of your assets because you should be spending by national standards two to 4% of your asset value every year on maintenance. i guarantee the budget that's in here doesn't meet that standard. so i hope for the record your come back and give me the value of your assets. but it's but it's just some
skeptical that we don't make this back blog or could you break in the problem worse by. the way, you're not anyone. i've observed this in other agencies in the park service and the maintenance backlog is growing even while we funded and integrated the american outdoors act so. you know the account argue with the numbers and there's only two numbers out of your the go down and one of them is capital improvement in maintenance. okay? we advocate for me make this money, funding, please? >> a senator, yes. the short answer is yes. and i'll not be the first one to tell you that. we have huge needs and it's just -- >> mother not going to improve fish for cutting maintenance! >> but it's a matter of balance in all those needs. so you know, we are not doing as good a job as perhaps it would be to in some areas. >> well i don't know about my other colleagues, but i'm going
to have a hard time advocating in congress at 2 to 3 years from now to redo the great american outdoors act to deal with different maintenance when you guys i continuing to defer maintenance. okay? i made that point. the next point is about cutting trees. you testified a few minutes ago that you have a typical acre has got to have 40 trees has, 420. you need to get more trees. in the 80s it was a ten billion board feet a year or more and now for this year's 2.8. that's one of the problems that's! one of the problems with these forest fires is there's too much waste blow with that is laying around on the floor of the force because it's not being cut. and somehow you've got to deal with this issue and i know there is litigation and all those kinds of things. come to us and tell us what's holding us up. why are we only cutting 2.8 instead of your goal was for and the real number i don't know whether we are the right number is somewhere between ten and 2.8, but i believe it's a
significantly higher. >> yeah, senator, yeah. our goal is 3.2 billion board feet. and when you look at it -- >> but that's not enough! ten billion in the 80s, what's the difference? where we denoting the national forests in the 80s? >> so if i can respond, to your question and outcome there, you know, we had 3.2 and the fires we had last year burnt up that 400 board feet to get up to three point to sue our response to the goal of 3.2. >> the ball will be 3.2 times areas whatever saying. i'm not talking about this year. i'm talking about the damage trenton harvesting on federal lands that i think is inimitable and it's added to the fire danger and it's killing the sawmill industry in the west. >> no, senator, you're right. but you know our numbers have gone up in the last 20 years
and they're constantly gone up the. problem is compounded and it's a little more complex which -- >> is a polite that data please? because i haven't seen that data. >> -- that did. but you'll see us on a turned up. and if you look at what is -- >> not trusted off. final point is the pay. november, president valuable and the idea was to get the pay it determines the cement it hasn't happened. and i read that what's holding it up is the secretary's have to determine that the position is located within a specified geographic region in which is difficult to retrieve or retain a federal wild land firefighter. i'll tell you what that geographic area is. the united states of america! tell tom vilsack, everybody in this room can tell you, it's the united states of america. it's difficult to retain and how firefighters anywhere particular in the west and to go into the fire season with these this fe progress that we voted last november, seven
months ago, is outrageous. it's unfair, it's unfair to these people, it's unfair to the people that are victims of these fires, eisenhower really took this building 11 months and you can't do a periods in 11 in seven months! come on! you know, this is the differing round, we've got to have this equity fight, you know, in the geographic area. that's easy. thank you, mister chairman. >> thank you very much, senator king. senator cortez masto. >> thank you, mister chairman. chief, let me follow up on a. some of the conversation around composition for wild land fires. so for our firefighters. so i can have a better understanding of this. in the fiscal year 23 budget request, your agency looks like it has -- to put on the bipartisan infrastructure law to enhanced compensation for our water and fire fighters. the request also references the agency's was and foreign management workforce framework to analyze and adhere to workforce needs to workforce needs. you do it in phases.
let me just go through those phases. i have a question at the end of that. phase one is to conduct an assessment of the current land firework force. we're based he was a workforce analysis which will be completed. phase three is recruitment and retention strategies will be identified. an implementation action plan will be developed. phase four will consist of monitoring, evaluation, and revision o this practice is identified. so, these are paid for me the consultation issue that we were hearing about now that that is not being put on hold. so that you can do this this face for analysis and i hope that's not the case and my next question is how long is the face for at least four faces off analysis islands, that going to take a? >> so we're hoping to have that done this year, senator. i can tell you specifically when will have it done. >> at the end of this year we hope to have at least the analysis on you workforce
retention issues done? >> yes. >> but the conversation that we're talking about that we've already allocated is now being held up because you want to do that analysis. >> no, in fact the composition plan we are hoping to have that completed within the next couple of weeks. >> when you say completed, what does that mean? it will actually go out to the firefighters? >> hopefully they'll have paychecks in their actions by the end of this month. that's the goal. that's what we're shooting for. >> okay. and what we're told that up? why wouldn't it happen? >> well, i don't think it will be held up. >> okay so, it's not helpful, it is, it's going to happen. >> yes. >> all right. thank you. i appreciate that. because i do think it's important. i hear from my firefighters all the time. i was just back home talking with them, and there is concerns, not only about the competition with the challenges that they're having a retaining but i look forward to this analysis that you are doing but i hope it doesn't take too long. and i hope there is follow-up with the workforce retention issue because it is, it's a problem that we have right now. you've heard from all of us in the west, these firefighters are happening all of the time
now. and you mentioned that, i believe, in your testimony when you talk about the fact that there is a changing environmental conditions have length in the fire seasons into fire years and wasn't of the wildfires across the west. you also point out that this is caused bandwidth issues for the agency and that u.s. efforts has only been able to focus on treatments where it can rather than locations with the highest need so can you talk to me a little bit about that because that is of concern as well. >> you know in the past is almost like peanut spreading peanut butter that's our method of how we're allocated finds out. everyone gets a little bit, and so we're doing a lot of work but it's not that the skull that we really need, to make a difference on what's happening in the landscape. and so where we switch into now is that you know everyone don't get a little bit because that's not creating a conditions that
we need out in the landscape. so what we have done and we're using a ten-year strategy as an example, we've mapped what we call fire sheds all across the country. and that's about plots of land of about 250,000 acres. because as we, you know, do the work with those fire sheds, we know that's how we are going to stop how that fire behaves when it's set out there. and so now we're looking at we've identified ten landscapes that we want to focus on with some of the bill funded at first. these are just the first ten places and it's across eight different states. and so we are in a process now of going in and doing work with those fighters because as i said earlier, we know that when we have treatments had a landscape leveled that fire behave differently. the bootleg that's another one of those examples, where we saw how that fire behaves when it hit large treatment areas, as opposed to our own method,
where you have smaller treatment areas. the scale of those fires float right through those areas, so the tenure strategy is really to give us a much better chance of providing treatment on the landscape at scale to match the scale of those fires that we see taking place. >> when you are talking about bandwidth issues, is that an issue that you don't have enough resources, you don't have enough personnel, what's the bandwidth issue? >> so, you look at the number of firefighters that we might need. it's not just for service firefighters. the firefighters within the welfare community. it's the federal firefighters, it's the state firefighters, it's those local volunteer and department fire fires. when you look at the firefighting community, based on the fires that we have now, we don't have enough firefighters to really successfully stop fires from how they're behaving. they are behaving in a catastrophic manner. that needs to continue, we also need to focus on the removing the vegetation off the landscape. that's going to give
us our best chance to change the behavior of that fire. so this conversation is not one dimensional. right now, it's all about firefighters, it's all about having enough firefighters, are we don't have enough firefighters. we need to do things like, based on the type of material we have on the landscape, will our current facility utilize that material? the answer is, it'll utilize a lot of it. we need to be looking at new markets. cross laminated timber is one of the things we need to really look at, turf eyed would, would innovations is a piece that we need to be focused on. unless we can work with an industry and others to expand how they do their work, we are not going to be able to utilize that material. what you see us doing now is pile burning. we treat those landscapes, we pile it up, excuse me, we pile it up, there's no market for that material. how do we work with congress to create markets to utilize that material to get up
off the landscape? that is a part of our focus that we want to look at within this ten-year strategy. we know that we need to keep the existing industry. we need to keep it and expand it. we also need to look at diversifying the industry as well to be able to utilize it. utilize the low valley material on the landscape. >> i want my time, mister chairman, chief, thank you. >> senator daines, -- >> senator manchin, thank you. i want to talk more about the ten-year strategy. you all adds a ten-year strategy to address the wildfire crisis. these increasing catastrophic -- one of our mitigation tools here, certainly, is thinning our forests. the treatment projects. you called the increased treatment levels fourfold, which i hardly support. however, as you can see, based on five recent montana examples, projects are sometimes delayed for over ten years. they require hundreds of thousands of times of pages of analysis for just one project. there are some factors
contributing to this trend outside of your control. we are trying to help you on this. and that is a little geisha, case law, such as the ninth circuit cottonwood decision which, i am determined to reverse. chief more, can you confirm that the bill language that my office received on march 3rd is the same bill taxed that was developed through an inter agency process and cleared through the respective departments? >> yes, senator, it is. >> my colleagues there, on the other side of the dais, chairman, this is the language, the bill that the committee must vote on. it was clear through their respective departments, and needs to pass without changes. that is what we are asking for, if we are, if we have any hope of getting and moving forward here on the four fold increase in treatment projects, which i think we need to do for a lot of reasons.
chief, some factors contributing to the trends show on the chart behind me are within your control. my question is, will your treatment goals be attainable with business as usual or not? >> they will certainly not. >> >> what are you doing to improve the nepa process, minute to mitigate some of the litigation risks, and hold local offices accountable to achieving your new acreage targets? >> standard or, respectfully, i think i would need your help to do something with nepa. as we have it now, the bipartisan infrastructure legislation does allow us some extra ability to use exclusion as an example, particularly as we look at linear rights of way. if you look at, to give an example, if you look at trying to treat landscape levels, if you look at powerlines as an example, those are the linear types see
ease that we will be looking at, groves as well. when you have a community of people contributing to how we have that landscape, it gives us a better chance of leveraging the funds that congress had allocated to us. it also gives us a chance to treat landscapes at a much larger scale to make a difference on the landscape. what you will see that is different is not a business as usual. we are going to be focused on fire sheds, particular where camp protects communities. but also provides job opportunities for those small, rural communities where a lot of our national forest are. >> when i was a kid growing up, i said this line many times during this meeting, 30 active sawmills in montana when i was growing up. we are down to six. we cannot lose that infrastructure for future treatment. we are literally, this becomes an existential threat, if we lose that infrastructure, how do we even get the treatment done, assuming we get these limitations with fixing cotton.
last fall, congress provided the for service with a new cnn, new categorical exclusion for fuel breaks and emergency authority. to expedite projects to respond to disasters. they fully utilize these -- can assist the agency and a existing new treatment goals. unfortunately, region one, the most litigated region, has yet to use the field brake c e. headquarters has yet to stand up to the emergency authority. my question is, why hasn't region one been able to utilize the c e? when can we expect the new emergency tools we put in place. we have authorized. that >> i trust that the region is looking at what gives on the best opportunity to treat these landscapes. i would certainly talk to the regional forced to ask her what's her response to this question. >> i would appreciate that. let us know if you find. this is a lost opportunity. montana developed the map shown behind
me, a multi year collaborative projects which includes reason when, in order to identify the highest priority treatment in areas. unfortunately, the four service, the fire sheds map, exclude many of these areas. could you assure me the fire service will continue to prioritize treatment and infrastructure funding in areas not designated as a fire shed? >> senator, that is something we probably should have continued dialogue on. we do have the ability to make some exceptions. if you look at these fires. if you look at the impact it can have on communities, these fire sheds, in many ways, in many locations, are protecting communities. when we are trying, to do it's hard to make a national decision and have it apply
appropriately across a whole country. that's why we're leaving a lot of those decisions up at that local level. our intent is to treat the fire sheds. now, how that is carried out at the local level, we want local to people to be involved in that decision and how it's bag. i will give you an example. -- some of these communities, they can decide where they want to prioritize us to work with them to get this work done. we are seeing that in some locations. so, the short answer is that i really like local involvement and how we carry out leaders and tens at the national level. that is my approach. >> i assure you, what is behind me there, as a multi year collaborative effort. in fact, working with region one folks. so, we need to try to resolve that. we have a disconnect. this is as bottom-up as it gets. i would appreciate if we can resolve that difference. we need to all get on the same page. >> i will talk with the regional senator.. >> senator kelly?
>> thank you, mister chairman. chief more, miss weeks, thanks for being here today. chief, in april both arizona and senator heinrich's david new mexico were elevated to preparedness level five. this is the highest wildfire readiness, that was in april. that is the earliest po five declaration in both of our states history. that usually doesn't happen until june. two months early. according to the forest service, six out of the top ten forest in the southwest region are located in arizona. almost all of those high-risk forest in arizona are inside about two and a half million
acre area known as the four forest restoration initiative. i am sure you are well aware of for fry. it's understood that if we mechanically thin an estimated 560,000 acres in that area, wildfire severity decreases significantly over that entire 2. 4 million acre area. as you realize, we have to start solving this problem now. the longer we wait, this just becomes a crisis and a timebomb of a potential fire there. chief, in january, we are out there together the. forest service announced an initiative to use some funding to start this thinning process. can you give me an update on how that is going? >> you are absolutely correct. we focused a lot on that area as you know. we have also
focused on some areas outside of it. we've allocated a lot of the money already for them to begin the work and what we call region three, between arizona and new mexico. they are working on that. as you also know, it takes time to build capacity we are in the process now a building that capacity. i think one of the questions that was asked earlier, you know, that infrastructure you need for that capacity, like contracting, grandson agreement, that kind of thing. we are building that now so we can add that additional capacity. we have already allocated finding out to the different regions for them to begin to work on the fire says. >> do you feel your budget reflects your commitment to accelerating these types of projects in these areas? like williams, arizona? i am very thankful to congress for this bipartisan infrastructure legislation. it has given us
the best opportune that we had perhaps 100 years. now, is it enough? is it ever enough? i think this 5. 5 or 5. 6 billion dollars, it's really a shot in the arm. it is a very good beginning. it is not going to fix the problem that we have on our landscapes. it's her going to give us a good start. >> you talk a little bit about the capacity and building it. we are talking about removing billions of tons of excess timber and dead parts of trees. as you know in the law, there is a new grant program for investing in bio mass facilities and wood processing to help remove these millions of tons. i understand that there is a 1960s law that bans the export of unprocessed timber from forest service lands. in asia, there is a
market for this bio mass. would waving that ban in these high-risk for us to be a revenue generator, potentially, for the treasury, for the forest service? could your budget team, i know you're going to have to work through this, could you get back to us on that? >> sure, i would be happy to. >> i was surprised at this 1960s law, saying we basically can't export this timber. that we need to, i mean, it's millions, millions of tons. >> we can do any of us, the secretary could wave that. there's so much more involved in a decision like that. we do have industry here in this country that might want to diversify to be able to utilize that material. when we look at the type of material that we might want to ship overseas, do we have the ability by creating a different industry using wood innovations to utilize that material here within the states? the answer, of course, is yes.
how do we do that? how do we bring industry into this decision to be a part of the decision? we are looking at what that would mean, in terms of lifting the -- i would say that in general, if that is agreed upon, industry will probably only agree with that as a temporary measure. not as a permanent measure. >> the key is building a market this material. >> thank you, senator, -- he has to leave very quickly. thank you. >> chief, i was recently talking to new mexico state universities chancellor, doctor daniel bijou, who sits on the president's council of advisers on science and technology. one of the things that has become evident to that board is that we pull people out of fire towers and relied more on technology. there was a very
lunar year increase in the number of acres burned, and the average size of fires i think many of us assume that it would be relatively easy to replace firepower personality with technology that would allow us to get on fast attack quickly. but the chairman's benefit, there are times when the force service wants fires to be able to burn for resource benefit. and then there are times we need to go into full suppression, depending on what the conditions are. i think what we are learning, during those full suppression periods, we are not getting on those small starts fast enough to actually distinguish them. they have to be managed as a wild land fire instead of being extinguished. when are we doing to make sure we get on those
starts faster? what combination of technology and personnel do we need to make sure that we are able to respond in time to actually extinguish fires when they need to be, when we need to be in full suppression mode? >> senator, in terms of fire towers, we have been using some other technology that really replaces a lot of what we are doing with the fire towers. to give you an example, when i was in california, the tenth lake tahoe area, we used a series of cameras. it pans landscape, it can detect smoke, anything that's going on on the landscape. we do have the technology and the ability to spot fire even in remote locations where we have the technology on board. i mentioned earlier, the use of satellite information also gives us the ability to be able to detect a lot of fires out there. very seldom -- is it easy. to give an example, back in 1935, when the chief at the time decided we are going to
put every fire out the next morning. we were very successful at that and very good at that. in fact, we were so good that it also has contributed to the problems we have today. the question always comes up about management for resource benefit versus full suppression on every fire. that will always be a debate,
depending on what your perspectives are on that issue. it is not easy to solve our resolve. one of the things that we are finding out, in these fire adapted ecosystems, they need a fire in order to maintain the integrity of that ecosystem. the question is not about fire, whether we should use it, it's how do we get that land in shape so they can have fire crossing. we can't do that just talk about fire. we have to talk about removing vegetation, way to talk about an industry that can utilize that vegetation, you can create jobs, particular and small, rural communities. that discussion has to be multidimensional, and not only about fire, spotting the fire early. when you look at the facts of what we're doing, we are putting out 90% of those fire. this conversation we have the country, as about 2% we don't get to. how do we manage the 2% that get away from us? i find that always very interesting. we don't look at the 98%, we look at the 2%. it creates a lot of destruction. >> those are the fires you never read about the papers. they burn the way we are expecting them to do. one of the challenges we have, reflecting the comments from senator king. in the 80s, we are pulling 30 inch, 36 inch
ddh ponderosa pine out of these for us. people would pay for those. now we're pulling eight inch, ten inch, deviates trees that we have to pay to be removed. that is a very different dynamic to exactly your point, why we need to figure what to do with the small diameter. the very flammable fuel. try to figure out a market. right now, we are literally having to pay to get that out. it is a giant challenge. it is bigger than we seem to be capable of accomplishing. at least with the current resources. thank you, chairman. >> senator, murkowski. >> thank you to senator murkowski for her patients. >> it was an important question. we are certainly seeing that in my state. chief, good morning. it is good to see you. while we are not experiencing fire like new
mexico has seen this year, our fire season has begun. yesterday's paper has three fires up in the south central area near skwentna. one is really concerning out in southwest, which is what we usually regard to as thunder country, it is 12 miles from st. michael. we are on alert. we have had a super beautiful, fabulous spring and summer. this is unalaska tan that i am sporting. we love it, we are really afraid right now. the fire alert is so intense, and so high, the ground is so crackling out in places like battle. you kind of expect it in places like fair banks. it is not a good place right now in terms of fire threat. we are on high alert. the question for you this morning is how we can do a better job. in the preparation and mitigation efforts. so we can respond
effectively when we need to, when we are called upon. as you well know, we have put 3. 3 billion dollars to force services in the infrastructure bill. specifically for the mechanical thinning, the controlled burn, the fuel breaks, everything else to try to address how we can work to reduce wildfire risks. right now, i am hearing that these resources are not yet out on the ground. we haven't seen them in alaska. i'm wondering if you can tell me if any of the funding from the iija has been utilized in alaska. if not, why is it taking so long? the fire is not going to wait for any of us, we got the money, we got the authorization, we got
the money, let's make it happen. what more do you need to do in order to get it out on the ground? >> thank you, senator murkowski. we cannot do business as usual. when i mean by that if we dissent the money out, we would do it we've always done. we are trying to say, we have to have a plan. i want to look at what you are proposing to do. and then we will find your proposal. particularly when it has community support. that is one thing. -- >> it could take a long while. you talk about taking down people's trees, getting that committee support, developing the plans, do we not have these plans in place? >> not that component of it. in a lot of those cases, on private lands, we are already having state fire systems, granted monies. when those with those who come in, we are already issuing money to states now to work on things like that. i was referring to the other piece, looking at a whole fire shed. to talk specifically about your location, i would have to look at what is really
being requested in alaska. now, in terms of fire, well, you are the conditions that you described. we do have the ability now to preposition resources when we have a high chance of fire taking place in these locations. we have those types of abilities now. in terms of land or worship, moving trees around their homes, a lot of times we do that in partnership with the state. so let me ask you though, again, more specifically, we have a lot of money through the infrastructure act that was directed towards building out these men -- and, you know, i can assure you that there are plans in place for how we can work to do just that, how we can do more when it comes to the prescriptive thinning. quite honestly, we have so much that is dead and still standing from spruce bark beetle. you
have heard me talk about it, it is wiped out, it is all the way up the road system, almost to the denali area. unprecedented, just from last year the how quickly that has spread northward. it is all just standing there waiting for the next lightning strike. and so, there is lots of -- when i'm not hearing is your assurance that, yes, we're dealing with these funds out the door. we are doing so in a way that meets the urgency of the situation, whether you're in alaska, whether you're in other parts of the country. so what is it that you need for me? what is it that you need from the state of alaska to help direct more of these monies more readily? >> so, as of now, we have sent
out about 100 and $33 million. i can't tell you, have consulted with the staff there, the process also is to have proposals come in from the different regions on what they're proposing to do and those proposals. some reasons, i don't know specifically about alaska, they're trying to create capacities so that they can start implementing some of those projects and some of those programs. so, we will look and see specifically where alaska is that, i don't know if they have set any projects just yet. our tinder strategy team, certainly a look into that and get back with you on with alaska. >> maybe what we might do is set up a meeting with us and some folks on your team. i want to ask a little more specific about what we're doing with this funds on mitigation. i also have some very specific questions and want to update you with some of the issues that we are encountering right now. more than a little bit of
resistance out of the national forest when it comes to some of our outfitters there. specifically six mile creek capacity. it's just a situation where it seems like it's a good example of the forest service not being a good partner to our concession areas, to our neighbors in the communities. so i need to address that and we must, must, must be able to sit down and resolve this land study issue within pointing fingers back and forth between -- i want you to be able to commit to me that you'll sit down with blm, my staff and let's finally resolve this. it's an easy issue that should, it commands an easy answer. i look forward to that. thank you. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, mister chair.
pleasure to see you again. i think both of you for your service. you haven't gone to talk as much, that's cause you have somebody so knowledgeable in the hot seat, as it, were beside you. i know you won't have this off the top of your head, i didn't put it over to your office earlier. but i know most of the governors who've dealt with wildfires on an increasing basis are painfully aware of the difficulty to measure success when we're fighting fires. what is the cost benefit? you measure that in terms of private property that's at risk, and so often, you can get fire under control and then you have the wind change and all of that work becomes meaningless. so, do you guys have a program, can you give a quick one sentence answer, all check back with you on this. why are the processes
and the programs by which you're measuring, the expenditures versus their benefit? we do have some examples, the water in california, we work with a number of partners looking at the cost analysis. we looked at the a deal of, if we made an investment in that landscape to prevent a fire, here's the cost that we could avoid. and, very conservatively, it's almost a 10 to 1 type of cost that we can avoid if we invest in improving the resilience of that landscape. we do have a couple of those studies across the country that we have relied on. >> i'm getting more granular, this is the nature of a governor, we always end up getting more granular. the actual process of fighting the fire, how much water you use, the expensive aerial impacts are sometimes early in the fire
much more successful, sometimes less so later on. i'm curious about how you measure that success? >> we have not looked at it in that detail. perhaps that something that we should. >> a couple governors have done small projects. the other thing is we had some success in colorado working with the insurance industry, and with that wild land urban interface, that so-called -- >> i'm not sure who came up with a acronym, its ping rich dividends to this day. so many of people that live in that wildland-urban interface do not take the basic fire prevention protections clearing around their homes, making sure it shakes on your roof, which people do still. despite all
the wildfires we've seen. and really, we're all paying for that. every single citizen in americas paying for that increased insurance cost. is there some way the forest service could take some of those efforts that have been done in these laboratories and democracy across the country and maybe convene a national discussion about how does the insurance industry, that appears to have a self interest, there seems to be a very likely partner to bring in a public private partner to help the forest service, again, diminish losses when you do have fires. >> it's interesting that you bring that up because i do believe we have one example in california, northern california, around the area where the insurance industry is a part of that project. a part of the reason we wanted to engage the insurance industry in this work is because we are finding that they were dropping insurance, particular if they lived in a fire danger area. without getting into the nuts and bolts
of that, you know, we asked, is it possible that if you are taking our maps that says, hot fire danger areas, is it possible that if we go in, the community goes in and improves that landscape to not be as dangerous as before, would you remove that sticker so that they would retain insurance? so, we're experimenting with that now, senator, i'm very interested in what the results say, i'm very interested to, the insurance industry, how are they viewing that? what kind of progress can we make? we know that it's a problem in many areas. particularly urban interface areas. rather than scaring the life of people, is there a way we can work with what their concerns are that
also provide protection for some level of security? >> that kind of alignment of self interest is where good things happen. i think you guys might be in the right place to bring together those interests and see if you can get them to align. anyway, she, if you are the right person, i look forward to working together. i yield back. >> thank, you senator. >> thank you mister chairman, thanks for holding this important hearing. i can't tell you how important is to my state and many of my western colleagues. chief more, thank you for your leadership and dedication, i would say were the last several congresses, more and more of our colleagues have given the forest service more and more tools to deal with fire. at the same time, we're seeing an acceleration of hotter and drier conditions, more fire starts, and then the strategies having to be really thought and reconfigured. one of the issues was to end fire borrowing, that wasn't helping
us plan for the resources that we needed to do. then, we gave the firefighting workforce the technology tools to increase the drawing capacity, increase the mapping, now we're focusing on whether. the chairman mentioned that our last hearing about hasty response, the fact that we need to get a more hasty response system. that's an integrated, we say in the northwest, an integrated county township, you know, community approach to helping put out fires quickly in coordination. because we have so many more fire starts, we just visited with the noaa facility in spoken on the one are forecasting on the command unit from idaho. they're the ones that you all the mapping. we're now seeing weather in smoke forecasting, also very critical and all of this to in giving people notice. bad practice, give you more resources, i
think you have five billion out of the 8. 9 billion, five advise for fighting, dedicated for fighting fires. my colleague from alaska was asking these questions. you know, besides better cashing, which were all for better cashing, resources on the ground, i have questions about our air capacity and where we are with our air capacity. we previously have this discussion with the forest service, wanting them to have more ready resources. the forest service, i think, at that time, didn't want to be in the fleet management business, said we would rather contract. how is it, how are you viewing those air resources now that we know we have so many more fire starts? we have so much more capacity, as our colleague was saying, we want to know that we have that early phase retardant or water to help with this system. how is the forest service managing that given the
huge increase in fire starts? >> so, as you may know now, we have access to about 27 large air tankers, also the large air tankers. so far, we are not running across the need for an additional tankers in this particular case, and at this particular time. we also, i don't know why the decision was made in the past about the aircraft, we do know that the very expensive to maintain it for service had ownership over them. there's pros and cons about that. i won't really go into that. i'm not familiar with what went into that decision many years ago. in terms of aircraft, we certainly need aircraft to help us with the fire suppression. we also know that there is limitations
on aircraft as well. aircraft don't put out fires, it's the boots on the ground that get the fires put out. our focus has been on trying to improve our firefighting capability in the ground. also take advantage of possible technology that we're not looking at. but we certainly are in support of the aircraft, which is needed. we know that aircraft alone won't put the fire out. >> right, i think we need from the forest service is given the amount of fire season we're going to see, how do you believe that that air mobility plays into it? i'll give you an example, in our state, when we had the complex, the central part of our state, it was so bad, it consumed all the resources. a few several counties over, literally, they were left to themselves. literally, the elected officials and whatever volunteers they could get, they had communication, that burned down, they couldn't communicate to people. they were on their own. they wanted to know where the air support was. that was their question to me. where is the air support? in this case, i'm not even sure they were
thinking about a big tanker. i think they were thinking about some resources that could help given the number of starts that were happening throughout the county. and, again, we left a small geographic area to their own defenses. we left americans basically saying, go ahead, fight this fire complex on your own. i just think that we have to have an answer from the forest service about that level of, i guess, if i was gonna write it up, i will write it up, i will write it up and submit it to you, if i was posturing that right now, i would say, we need to know with the volume across the mapping that noah has now given us for the weather forecast, white really would be the level of air support that we would like to have? forget for a second whether you've contracted it yet, whether you have it,
whether any proposals about ownership again, we're not even proposing, that were just saying, given the continued increase in fire starts and drier conditions, and more volatility, what would regional air support look like, what benefits would it have? if we say, well, its limitations, great. for us, because of the cascades, you know, we have some pretty challenging areas. particularly with our blowout condition rules, which are, don't go into these areas where you have serious weather events that are gonna put firefighters life at risk. some of the only resources you have at that point are the air mobility. i just wanted to get that, will write it up for the record, you can give us some comments. i have one more question real quick. i know that senator king has one. mine very quickly as this, chief. enacted in march
2019, moved by march of 2021, the forest service provides safety gear to its firefighters, including gps locators, and realtime maps as well as it fires. 15 months past the deadline, the force services is not equipped firefighters with the safety gear, despite the technology having been commercially available on the shelf for many, many years. despite congress having appropriate $15 million but as. maybe you have an explanation. >> senator, no one believes in this more than i do -- >> we know, we are very appreciative. >> let me say -- >> is there something wrong? >> let me say that we did experiment to see how that technology is used. there is a use for it, a valuable use for it. you threw me, you talked
about it being funded. my staff is telling me that it was not funded. -- >> if there is a difference, we'll get together with our staffs. >> i will certainly follow up on that piece of it, senator. i will tell you -- >> we appropriated 15 million, was the appropriation dispersed? >> i will look into that. i do believe, and i am a hunter percent supportive of being able to know where our firefighters are at an even time. >> let's put all the stats together so we are on the same page, we can help each other a little bit here. senator king. >> i want to end our interaction on a more positive note. perhaps it was apparent in my prior questioning. one of the things that become apparent today is that we have a
different force than we've had in the past. in the sense of the number of smaller diameter trees. i think one of the most important things you said today was that we need to find new markets. i want to commend you on the work in the timmer enervation area. for example, we have a company in maine that's just starting up in an old paper mill making insulation from wood products. it is very promising. you mentioned cross laminated timber, i am a huge believer in that. i hope you'll continue that. i mean i, think one of the most fruitful areas of work is research and development in timber innovation. which in turn will help us to solve these other problems of how to create a market for this lower value would that will help us to manage the forest more efficiently and effectively. i commend you for that work. and anyway we can be of assistance, please let us know. >> thank you, senator. >> thank you, mister chairman. with that, we have concluded. what we will do, as we will wait till what? -- for any questions that have not been
submitted. they'll have to -- tomorrow? close the business tomorrow. for any questions you want submitted by the committee. >> okay, the record is duly recorded. with that i want to thank you very much for being here today. and all of your answers. i look forward to work with you, to correct some of the concerns we may have. with that, the committee is adjourned. the chief of the u.
a senate hearing focusing on ongoing syrian conflict, in the strategy in the region. among those testifying, syrian eyewitness who was forced to dig mass graves in syria, the witness, who is able to escape to germany detailed the atrocities that he had experienced, and urged the u.s. and its allies to act against