December 3, 1999
Mr. Michael Dombeck, Chief
U.S.D.A. Forest Service
201 14th Street, S.W.
P.O Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20090-6090
Dear Chief Dombeck:
When President Clinton convened the White House Forest Conference in Portland, Oregon in April 1993, he urged the opposing sides in the Timber Wars to "get out of the courtroom and into the conference room" to find fair, balanced, scientifically credible solutions for the national forests. We in the Quincy Library Group have honored Mr. Clintons request, but have found the Forest Services enthusiasm lacking to date. We hope you will help turn that around.
The QLG Pilot Project presents a variety of opportunities for the Forest Service to test current ideas in service contracting, the design and economics of restoration forestry in the Inland West, forest health monitoring, and forest fuels and wildfire management. We invite you to make the QLG Pilot Project a veritable Government Reinvention Laboratory. But please give the Pilot a chance to succeed. Please do not starve it of resources or leadership.
As we strive together to implement the first year of this historic and landmark collaborative effort under the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, it is imperative that the appropriated funding levels be sufficient to meet the environmental, social, and economic objectives and goals of both the Act and the QLG Community Stability Proposal. We request that you ensure (1) that adequate funds are contained in the President's FY 2001 budget that he will submit to Congress in January; and (2) that any supplemental funding request by the President that moves before the regular appropriation process contains enough funds for full implementation of our collaborative project in FY 2000.
Though the QLG was instrumental in achieving the additional $8,000,000 earmarked in the FY99 appropriation process, it appears that the FY 2000 planning and implementation targets are currently geared to achieve only 40 percent of the acreage figures authorized and required under the Act. This 60 percent reduction in acres treated in the very first year of implementation has a significant impact on the citizens and environment in the Pilot Project area, and does not strengthen the good will we have fostered over the years. In addition, it will not allow the requirements of the law to be met: the schedule means that 40,000 fewer acres will be treated in Year One.
From a social and economic standpoint, the current meager schedule of work launches the Pilot Project under a defeatist attitude and with an immediate 12 percent reduction in the potential economic activities and benefits outlined in the FEIS. From ecological and species viability perspectives, the Pilot Projects slow start exacerbates the risks of incurring more events like the recent 250,000 acres of catastrophic fires that destroyed lives, homes, and wildlife habitats in and surrounding the Pilot Project area since the signing of the Record of Decision. Over 48,000 acres burned this year on the Plumas National Forest alone, including high-intensity, intentional "burn out" fires that significantly, adversely affected eight California spotted owl SOHAs and Protected Activity Centers in September.
We understood that the combination of earmarked funds and the flexibility contained in Congressional committee report language would supplement the baseline appropriation levels for the Forests involved, to implement the Pilot Project at the appropriate scale and pace outlined in the Act. Indeed, the legislative history of the QLG law bears out this notion. This novel approach for the budgeting process was based upon our groups members long involvement in service contracting and stewardship contracting policy issues, as well as on discussions with local agency management staff. But our attempt to overcome the agencys adminstrative and bookkeeping obstacles was severely challenged when the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Pilot Project projected costs that are much higher than earlier promised or than they need to be. Our friends in Congress tell us that we are experiencing yet another example of the Forest Service bureaucrats "raising the bar," so that when they fail to perform, they will have an excuse.
Although the implementation costs outlined in the Pilot Projects FEIS are considerably higher than the Congressional Budget Office estimates in Senate Report No. 257, you should know that the CBO and Congressional estimates came directly from your agency. Even so, with the inflated costs projected in the FEIS, the subsequent gross revenues also generate a much higher cost-benefit ratio that still warrants full support and leadership from your office in securing the necessary funding for full implementation of the pilot project. This increase in "cost-effectiveness" as specified by the Act and outlined in the FEIS is precisely the kind of problem solving sthat generated the support of 429 members of the House of Representatives in July 1997.
Since we are in the first quarter of the FY-2000 period, we request your immediate attention to correcting the current course of action. We request that you ensure that the President's budget fully funds the QLG project to meet the acreage targets that are central to the QLG collaborative agreement. To maximize the social and environmental benefits in Years Two through Five, we request your leadership and support in initiating the appropriate actions to secure the necessary funding levels.
Again, thank you for your immediate attention to this request, and we remain available for any assistance that we may provide.
Linda Blum Ed Murphy
cc: Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Slade Gorton
Senator Ted Stevens
Congressman Wally Herger
Congressman Don Young
Congressman Bill Young
Congessman Ralph Regula