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HR 858 -- 07/09/97

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Office of Management and Budget


July 9, 1997

H.R. 858 - Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of
(Herger (R) CA and 12 others)

H.R. 858 would direct the Secretary of Agriculture to conduct a pilot project within the Plumas, Tahoe, and Lassen National Forests in California to implement the Quincy Library Group (QLG) Community Stability Proposal. The QLG proposal would address various aspects of forest management, including timber salvage sales, fire hazard reduction, watershed and riparian area restoration and monitoring, and forest planning.

The Administration supports the goals of H.R. 858 and is currently implementing the Quincy Library Group Proposal using existing statutory authority, consistent with environmental laws and available funding. Therefore, the Administration believes the pilot project required by H.R. 858 could be implemented administratively.

The substitute amendment to H.R. 858, as allowed under the rule, attempts to address several funding and environmental concerns previously expressed by the Administration. Based on an initial review of the draft substitute amendment, the Administration continues to have concerns that need to be addressed before it can support the amendment.

Subsection (m) of the substitute amendment specifically states that nothing in this section exempts the pilot project from any Federal environmental laws. Certain provisions in the amendment, however, are inconsistent with environmental law compliance or current environmental procedures. These provisions and others, as described below, could result in delays and confusion in implementing the pilot project and result in unnecessary litigation. The Administration will work with the Congress to resolve these issues as recommended below:

  • Subsection (d) of the substitute amendment should be amended to state that the pilot project will be carried out to the extent consistent with all Federal environmental laws.

  • Subsection (c)(2) would freeze the Scientific Analysis Team guidelines for riparian system protection to those in effect on the date of enactment for the term of the pilot project. New information could necessitate revisions to these guidelines that would need to be applied to remain in compliance with environmental laws. Accordingly, subsection (c)(2) should be deleted.

  • Subsection (f) would restrict the Secretary's ability to consider and mitigate the cumulative environmental effects of the pilot project activities in the affected forests. Subsection (f) should be deleted.

  • Subsection (i) does not comply with current National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) procedures and should be amended to do so. For the purposes of environmental analyses, the subsection would group together all resource management projects over the whole pilot project area into a single environmental analysis rather than separating projects into individual, site-specific analyses. Such broad environmental analyses make it difficult for the agency to disclose site-specific impacts and alternatives for specific projects and increases the likelihood of litigation.

  • Subsection (h) requires that the pilot project end on the later of: (1) the completion of the revised forest plans, or (2) five years after the date of commencement of the pilot project. This section should be amended to state that the project would end on the earlier of these two dates. Without this change, subsection (h) requires the Secretary to continue the pilot project even after the plan amendment process has been completed, which would be inconsistent with the normal operation of environmental laws.

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