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November 11, 1997

The Honorable Wally Herger
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Re: H.R. 858; Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997

Dear Wally:

On behalf of California Farm Bureau Federation (Farm Bureau), I wish to commend you for your willingness to give innovative approaches to environmental conflict resolution such as the community-based Quincy Library Group timber strategy a chance to work, by cutting through the bureaucratic logjam with your H.R. 858, the Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997. We believe that well-meaning people on both sides of such resource disputes can and will find positive solutions if given the opportunity.

However, I must also call your attention to a problem. We are very concerned that serious harm may be done to Farm Bureau member families dependent upon seasonal grazing perrnits in the Lassen National Forest, Plumas National Forest, and Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, by certain language hastily added to H.R. 858 after Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups had reviewed and supported it in concept. We refer to section 2, subsection (c)(2)(C) on pages 3-4 of the October 20, 1997 (5:23 p.m.) draft, and particularly to lines 3-7 on page 4, applying the Scientific Analysis Team (SAT) guidelines to any livestock grazing in areas where the SAT guidelines are being applied to "resource management activities." This casual language imposes potentially infeasible limitations on grazing within up to 70,000 acres of national forest land annually, with no requirement for prior public review or findings establishing that grazing is detrimental to the resources in such areas, and no provision for appeal or other due process for the injured graziers.

It must be remembered that the SAT guidelines consist of a verbatim adoption of the document titled “Viability Assessments and Management Considerations for Species Associated with Late-Successional and Old-Growth Forests of the Pacific Northwest” (hereafter Northwest Old Growth Prescriptions), a 1993 Forest Service research paper which was directed primarily toward minizing impacts of timber harvest on the riparian and aquatic ecosystems of Pacific Northwest old growth forests within the range of the northern spotted owl. These prescriptions were based on a very different climate, geological environment, timber harvest regime, and species from the Sierra Nevada system and California spotted owl. Moreover, of course, many of the biological

The Honorable Wally Herger
November 11, 1997
Page 2

assumptions underlying this document regarding the habitat needs of the northern spotted owl itself have since been debunked by research conducted on the lands of Georgia Pacific Corporation and other responsible timberland owners operating in California under our state's Forest Practice Act. There is no legal or scientific basis for applying this document to the Lassen, Plunas, and Tahoe National Forests without substantial prior analysis and modification pursuant to a Land Resource Management Plan update under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), conducted in the full glare of public scrutiny as guaranteed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

We are not quibbling about a minor potential disruption of grazing. The above-described Northwest Old Growth Prescriptions imposed by fiat through this bill dictate 300 foot minimum buffers on either side of fish-bearing streams (600' total horizontal span), 150 foot buffers on either side of fish-bearing streams, and 100 foot buffers on either side of intermittent streams. In addition, it dictates 150 foot buffers around wetland meadows -- a highly important source of forage in these Sierra forests. Grazing may be prohibited within these buffers until and unless it is shown that grazing can be reestablished and still attain the Riparian Management Objectives." (Northwest Old Growth Prescriptions p. 451, Grazing Management paragraph GM-1.) This supersedes the grazing management standards only recently developed for these national forests to address riparian areas and adjacent uplands, including needs of forest Service "sensitive" and ESA-listed species. Overturning this established planning process is not only an afront to all who have worked tirelessly to attune grazing practices to the new riparian goals, but will undercut the considerable governmental investment in staff and permittee training that is now underway, to say nothing of the personal investments of the affected grazing permittees.

All who supported H.R. 858 as initially drafted did so in good faith reliance on the assurance that it represented the consensus product of the Quincy Library Group, encompassing accommodations and compromises worked out in a lengthy and open process with all affected interests at the table. We applaud this concept of community planning. However, the Quincy Library Group never pretended to address all economic activities, and it expressly excluded the issue of grazing management on the national forests. For people conducting economic activities covered by the group's discussions, the group process offered a rough functional equivalent of the protections provided by the NFMA and NEPA. For national forest grazing permittees on the other hand, dependent on expressly excluded economic activities, there was no consensus, no notice of potential prohibitions or cutbacks, no accommodations, no defense -- no due process. These people have been blind-sided by the section 2 amendment.

Because of your long-standing history of assistance to our ranch family members, we know it was not ever your intent, or the intent of other sponsors of this bill, to injure grazing permittees dependent on these national forest resources, or to deprive them of the protections offered either by existing resource management laws or by a public consensus process. We trust that in sponsoring this bill as amended, you intended any and all potential adverse impacts to these folks to be addressed and avoided in the implementation process for the pilot project. We look to you for continuing interest in this issue as the pilot project is put into effect, and for direct assistance in resolving any potential conflicts with grazing activities during the term of the project.

The Honorable Wally Herger
November 11, 1997
Page 3

In this regard, we believe that your continuing involvement in the following pilot project planning issues would go far to prevent needless conflicts from arising:

  1. Scientific Panel -- because grazing management is now directly addressed in the proposal, it is essential that the "Scientific Panel" (paragraphs (k)(1) and (2)) include range scientists, preferably both a range scientist and a hydrologist with range science expertise, affiliated with the University of California Cooperative Extension.
  2. Implementation Committee -- all counties in whose jurisdiction the pilot project takes place must have a representative on the Implementation Committee to ensure consideration of regional public-private land economic interdependency effects.
  3. Funding -- implementation funding provided pursuant to paragraphs (f)(1)(A) and (B), and (f)(3), which authorize use of funds expressly provided by the Secretary of Agriculture for this pilot project, as well as "year end excess funds" and "all available excess funds," must not be allowed to de-fund scheduled range planning, monitoring and improvement projects, including environmental analyses on range allotments required for necessary NEPA documentation. Paragraph (t)(4), respecting funding of nontimber multiple use activities, must be stringently observed. You and your staff were very helpful in ensuring that funds would not be siphoned away from sister national forest units for the Quincy Library Group strategy; now that grazing is addressed by the plans, it is equally important to ensure that support continues for on-going national forest grazing management programs within the three covered national forest units. You havc been instrumental in seeing that considerable science, labor, consensus and money have been invested in those programs, and we are confident that you are committed to seeing these programs fulfill their promise too.
  4. Mid-Term Review -- the annual status reports prepared by the Secretary pursuant to paragraph (j)(1), and the Scientific Panel report pursuant to paragraph (k)(2), should be directed to include recommendations for positive grazing management strategies that would resolve potential upland or riparian resource conflicts in a manner that both protects resources and maintains or, if possible, enhances the economic viability of the grazing use. The whole point of the Quincy Library Group process was to enhance community economic stability while improving environmental values. Since grazing issues were left out of that process, it is essential to ensure that these Quincy Library Group strategy implementation bodies be given an affirmative duty to carry forward the twin economic stability and resource protection goals into the treatmcnt of grazing under the SAT guidelines.

In conclusion, we repeat that we appreciate your strong record of support for our ranch family membership whose livelihood depends on continuing access to these national forest rangelands. You helped us through the NEPA crisis, when good range stewards were threatened with the loss of their summer range because of artificial paperwork obstacles. We believe and trust that you will be there

The Honorable Wally Herger
November 11, 1997
Page 4

for these folks again to ensure that this late-breaking amendment to H.R. 858 is not allowed to override grazing management by the three national forests through their established resource planning processes, and that it is not manipulated by interest groups which are philosophically opposed to livestock in the national forests, to force suspension of grazing in any area. One season's loss of forage can break most of these small family ranches, and the loss of our members base ranches will harm the Sierra ecosystem more than the positive aspects of the Quincy Library Group strategy could possibly mitigate.

Thank you for your continuing assistance.

  Yours very truly,



cc:  Congressman Vic Fazio
    Dan Glickman, USDA
    Richard Rorninger, USDA
    Lynn Sprague, USFS, Region 5
    Michael Jackson