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107th Congress                                            Rept. 107-502
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 2d Session                                                      Part 1

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



 
EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF CONGRESS THAT FEDERAL LAND MANAGEMENT AGENCIES 
  SHOULD FULLY IMPLEMENT THE WESTERN GOVERNORS ASSOCIATION
  ``COLLABORATIVE 10-YEAR STRATEGY FOR REDUCING WILDLAND FIRE RISKS TO 
  COMMUNITIES AND THE ENVIRONMENT'' TO REDUCE THE OVERABUNDANCE OF FOREST 
  FUELS THAT PLACE NATIONAL RESOURCES AT HIGH RISK OF CATASTROPHIC 
  WILDFIRE, AND PREPARE A NATIONAL PRESCRIBED FIRE STRATEGY THAT 
  MINIMIZES RISKS OF ESCAPE

                                _______


                 June 11, 2002.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______


  Mr. Hansen, from the Committee on Resources, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                    [To accompany H. Con. Res. 352]

    The Committee on Resources, to whom was referred the 
concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 352) expressing the sense 
of Congress that Federal land management agencies should fully 
implement the Western Governors Association ``Collaborative 10-
year Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities 
and the Environment'' to reduce the overabundance of forest 
fuels that place national resources at high risk of 
catastrophic wildfire, and prepare a National Prescribed Fire 
Strategy that minimizes risks of escape, having considered the 
same, report favorably thereon with amendments and recommend 
that the concurrent resolution be agreed to.
    The amendments are as follows:
    Amend the preamble to read as follows:

Whereas catastrophic wildfires not only cause environmental damage to 
    forests and other lands but place the lives of firefighters at risk 
    and pose threats to human health, personal property, sustainable 
    ecosystems, wildlife habitat, and air and water quality;
Whereas upon completion of the 2001 wildfire season, 81,681 fires 
    burned 3,555,138 acres, which threatened rural communities 
    nationwide and killed 18 firefighters;
Whereas 8,422,237 acres burned during the 2000 wildfire season--
    equivalent to a 6-mile-wide area from Washington, D.C., to Los 
    Angeles, California--destroying 861 structures, killing 17 
    firefighters, and costing the Federal Government $1,300,000,000 in 
    suppression costs;
Whereas upon completion of the 1999 wildfire season, 93,702 fires 
    burned 5,661,976 acres nationwide and killed 28 firefighters;
Whereas an April 1999 General Accounting Office report to the House of 
    Representatives, entitled ``Western National Forests: A Cohesive 
    Strategy is Needed to Address Catastrophic Wildfire Threats'' (GAO/
    RCED-99-65) states that ``The most extensive and serious problem 
    related to the health of national forests in the interior West is 
    the overaccumulation of vegetation, which has caused an increasing 
    number of large, intense, uncontrollable and catastrophically 
    destructive wildfires'';
Whereas an October 2000 Forest Service report extitled ``Protecting 
    People and Sustaining Resources in Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: A 
    Cohesive Strategy'', in response to the 1999 General Accounting 
    Office report, confirms the previous report's conclusion and 
    further warns that ``Without increased restoration treatments . . 
    ., wildfire suppression costs, natural resource losses, private 
    property losses, and environmental damage are certain to escalate 
    as fuels continue to accumulate and more acres become high-risk'';
Whereas the July 2001 General Accounting Office testimony entitled 
    ``The National Fire Plan: Federal Agencies Are Not Organized to 
    Effectively and Efficiently Implement the Plan'' (GAO-01-1022T) 
    before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Forests and 
    Forest Health reported that ``The Federal Government's decades-old 
    policy of suppressing all wildland fires, including naturally 
    occurring ones, have resulted in dangerous accumulations of 
    hazardous fuels on Federal lands. As a result, conditions on 
    211,000,000 acres, or almost one-third of all Federal lands, 
    continue to deteriorate'' and ``[t]he list of at-risk communities 
    ballooned to over 22,000'';
Whereas the escaped prescribed burn that created the Cerro Grande Fire 
    in May 2000, that consumed 48,000 acres and destroyed 400 homes 
    with losses exceeding $1,000,000,000 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and 
    the escaped prescribed burn that created the Lowden Fire in 1999 
    that destroyed 23 homes in Lewiston, California, highlight the 
    unacceptable risks of overreliance on prescribed burning by Federal 
    land management agencies;
Whereas similar catastrophic wildfire resolutions were passed by the 
    California Legislature (AJR 69) and Western Legislative Forestry 
    Task Force (R00-1) in 2000 and Oregon (HJM 22), Idaho (SJM 104) and 
    Montana (HJ 22) in 2001, and South Dakota (HCR 1018) in 2002; and
Whereas in 2000, Congress provided an unprecedented $2,900,000,000 in 
    funding for wildlife firefighting agencies of the United States 
    Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to 
    prepare for future fire-suppression efforts and take proactive 
    steps to reduce wildfire risk on all Federal lands: Now, therefore, 
    be it

    Strike all after the resolving clause and insert the 
following:

That it is the sense of Congress that--
          (1) in the interest of protecting the integrity and posterity 
        of United States forests and wildlands, wildlife habitats, 
        watersheds, air quality, human health and safety, and private 
        property, the Forest Service and other Federal land management 
        agencies should--
                  (A) fully implement the ``Collaborative 10-year 
                Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to 
                Communities and the Environment'' as prepared by the 
                Western Governors' Association, the Department of 
                Agriculture, the Department of the Interior, and other 
                stakeholders, to reduce the overabundance of forest 
                fuels that place these resources at high risk of 
                catastrophic wildfire;
                  (B) use an appropriate mix of fire prevention 
                activities and management practices, including forest 
                restoration, thinning of at-risk forest stands, 
                grazing, selective tree removal, and other measures to 
                control insects and pathogens, removal of excessive 
                ground fuels, and prescribed burns;
                  (C) increase the role for private, local, and State 
                contracts for fuel reduction treatments on Federal 
                forest lands and adjoining private properties; and
                  (D) pursue more effective fire suppression on Federal 
                forest lands through increased funding of mutual aid 
                agreements with professional State and local public 
                fire fighting agencies;
          (2) in the interest of forest protection and public safety, 
        the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department 
        of the Interior should immediately prepare for public review a 
        national assessment of prescribed burning practices on public 
        lands to identify alternatives that will achieve land 
        management objectives to minimize risks associated with 
        prescribed fire; and
          (3) results from the national assessment of prescribed 
        burning practices on public lands as described in paragraph (2) 
        should be incorporated into any regulatory land use planning 
        programs that propose the use of prescribed fire as a 
        management practice.

    Amend the title so as to read:

    A concurrent resolution expressing the sense of Congress that 
Federal land management agencies should fully support the 
``Collaborative 10-year Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to 
Communities and the Environment'' as prepared by the Western Governors' 
Association, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of the 
Interior, and other stakeholders, to reduce the overabundance of forest 
fuels that place national resources at high risk of catastrophic 
wildfire, and prepare a national prescribed fire strategy that 
minimizes risks of escape.

                          PURPOSE OF THE BILL

    The purpose of H. Con. Res. 352 as ordered reported is to 
express the sense of Congress that federal land management 
agencies should fully support the ``Collaborative 10-year 
Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks to Communities and 
the Environment'' as prepared by the Western Governors' 
Association, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of 
the Interior, and other stakeholders, to reduce the 
overabundance of forest fuels that place national resources at 
high risk of catastrophic wildfire, and prepare a national 
assessment of prescribed burning practices to minimize risks of 
escape.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    During the 2001 wildfire season 81,681 fires burned 
3,555,138 acres, killed 15 firefighters and threatened rural 
communities nationwide. More than 7.4 million acres burned 
during 2000, destroying 861 structures, killing 16 firefighters 
and costing the federal government $1.3 billion in suppression 
costs. Catastrophic wildfire is the greatest threat facing our 
western national forests today. Ecological, social and economic 
values are at high risk of catastrophic wildfire on 211 million 
acres of federal lands nationwide. More than 22,000 communities 
are at risk to catastrophic wildfire.
    The key to reducing risk of catastrophic wildfire is to 
actively manage forests to ensure they can withstand drought, 
insects and disease by achieving appropriate tree density and 
promoting native mixes of species. Reducing forest density and 
improving the ability of healthy forests to survive wildfires 
must be the number-one priority for federal forest managers. It 
is time to end catastrophic losses of wildlife habitat, forest 
resources, homes and communities and most importantly, human 
lives on all federal forest lands. Thinning practices necessary 
to ensure our forests are able to survive future catastrophic 
wildfires must begin without delay.
    This resolution expresses the sense of Congress that 
federal land-management agencies should (1) fully support the 
Collaborative 10-year Strategy for Reducing Wildland Fire Risks 
to Communities and the Environment; and (2) immediately prepare 
a national assessment of prescribed burning practices on public 
lands to identify alternatives that will achieve all land-
management objectives and minimize the risk associated with 
prescribed burning.
    In August 2000, then-President Clinton directed the 
Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to develop a 
response to severe wildland fires, reduce fire impacts on rural 
communities, and ensure effective firefighting capacity in the 
future. The result was the National Fire Plan, which Congress 
later supported through language in the Fiscal Year 2001 
appropriations act for the Department of the Interior and 
Related Agencies. As part of its direction, Congress mandated 
several reporting requirements including the creation of a 
coordinated national 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy. It also 
called on the Secretaries to work collaboratively and 
cooperatively with Governors in the development of this 
strategy and as partners in planning, decision-making, and 
implementation.
    This resulting strategy has been developed by federal, 
State, tribal, local government and nongovernmental 
representatives. The purpose of the strategy is to improve the 
management of wildland fire and hazardous fuels, as well as 
meet the need for ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation in 
the United States on federal and adjacent State, tribal, and 
private forest and range lands. In addition, this strategy 
outlines a new collaborative framework to facilitate 
implementation of proactive and protective measures that are 
appropriate to reduce the risk of wildland fire to communities 
and the environments.
    The primary goals of the 10-Year Comprehensive Strategy 
are:
    1. Improve Prevention and Suppression
    2. Reduce Hazardous Fuels
    3. Restore Fire Adapted Ecosystems
    4. Promote Community Assistance
    A detailed implementation plan will establish detailed and 
consistent operational ways of doing business between federal, 
State and tribal entities. These operations will ensure 
financial and other resources are available and utilized in an 
integrated, targeted, and cost effective manner and that legal 
and technical requirements are met. The implementation plan 
will also include a system to identify and promptly address 
implementation issues. This implementation plan is expected to 
be approved by the Western Governors Association, the 
Departments of Interior and Agriculture and other parties on 
May 23, 2002.

                            COMMITTEE ACTION

    H. Con. Res. 352 was introduced on March 14, 2002, by 
Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA). The resolution was referred 
to the Committee on Resources, and within the Committee to the 
Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health and the Subcommittee 
on National Parks, Recreation, and Public Lands. On May 22, 
2002, the Full Resources Committee met to consider the 
resolution. The Subcommittees were discharged from further 
consideration by unanimous consent. Mr. Pombo offered two 
technical amendments to correct minor errors and clarify 
points. They were adopted by unanimous consent. The resolution 
as amended was then ordered favorably reported to the House of 
Representatives by unanimous consent.

            COMMITTEE OVERSIGHT FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

    Regarding clause 2(b)(1) of rule X and clause 3(c)(1) of 
rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives, the 
Committee on Resources' oversight findings and recommendations 
are reflected in the body of this report.

                   CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY STATEMENT

    Article I, section 8 of the Constitution of the United 
States grants Congress the authority to adopt this resolution.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH HOUSE RULE XIII

    1. Cost of Legislation. Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the 
Rules of the House of Representatives requires an estimate and 
a comparison by the Committee of the costs which would be 
incurred in carrying out this resolution. H. Con. Res. 352 is a 
sense of the Congress resolution and has no budgetary impact.
    2. Congressional Budget Act. As required by clause 3(c)(2) 
of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and 
section 308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, this 
resolution does not contain any new budget authority, spending 
authority, credit authority, or an increase or decrease in 
revenues or tax expenditures.
    3. General Performance Goals and Objectives. This 
resolution does not authorize funding and therefore, clause 
3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives does not apply.

                    COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLIC LAW 104-4

    This resolution contains no unfunded mandates.

                PREEMPTION OF STATE, LOCAL OR TRIBAL LAW

    This resolution is not intended to preempt any State, local 
or tribal law.

                        CHANGES IN EXISTING LAW

    This resolution would make no changes in existing law.