10/24/2003

From: alra@governance.net
Subject: Healthy Forests - Majority Leader Bill Frist Must Hear From You

Land Rights Network
American Land Rights Association
PO Box 400  Battle Ground, WA 98604
Phone: 360-687-3087  Fax: 360-687-2973  E-mail: alra@landrights.org or
alra@governance.net  Web Address: http://www.landrights.org 
Legislative Office: 507 Seward Square SE  Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-210-2357  Fax: 202-543-7126  E-mail: landrightsnet@aol.com


Healthy Forests - Senator Bill Frist Must Hear From You


Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) needs to hear from you that you support the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HR 1904).  Senator Frist is the Majority Leader of the US Senate.

It seems that Senator  Frist's office needs to hear from some new people other than the local folks they have been hearing from.    There needs to be an all out effort from the West.

Here's the way it would work:

Call:  Howard Livengood
         202-224-3344  A Free number  is (800) 648-3516.
         Mr. Livengood works for Senator Frist.

Here is what you should say in your own words:

"Howard, I'm not a constituent of Senator Frist.  I wanted you to know how much I appreciate his efforts to bring the Healthy Forests legislation to the floor.  I just wanted to let you know how important this bill is to us in the West.  We are burning up millions of acres every year and it must stop. We need this legislation passed now!"


It is vital that you keep calling your Senators Monday and Tuesday.


Here is what you must do now:

-----1.  Call both your Senators to urge them not to support a filibuster but instead vote to pass the Healthy Forests Restoration Act (HR 1904).  Urge your Senators to support the bi-partisan bill that was agreed upon by Senators Wyden (D-OR), Feinstein (D-CA), Lincoln (D-AR), Cochran (R-MS), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID) and Domenici (R-NM).

You can call every Senator at (202) 224-3121.  Or, just for fun, use the GREENS own 800 Free Number, 800-839-5276.  Another Free Number  is (800) 648-3516.

-----2.  Call Senators Tom Harkin and Jeff Bingaman every day until the vote.  It looks like the vote will be next Tuesday or Wednesday.  So you can make calls Friday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Senator Tom Harkin  Phone (202) 224-3254 or use the Switchboard number.
FAX: (202) 224-9369.  E-mail:  tom_harkin@harkin.senate.gov

Senator Jeff Bingaman  Phone (202) 224-5521  FAX:  (202) 224-2852 
E-mail: senator_bingaman@bingaman.senate.gov

Some Senators E-mail addresses have changed.  It is possible to access your Senators' web pages to find fax numbers, email addresses and snail mail addresses at:

  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm.

Call your Friends.

Call your Neighbors.

It is really important that you call Senator Frist and your own two Senators.



More Background  Environment and Energy Daily  October 21

Democratic objections lessen chance for wildfire bill this year

The push for the Senate to pass H.R. 1904, the "Healthy Forests Restoration Act," a bill designed to streamline logging projects to reduce the risk of catastrophic Western wildfires, took a major hit yesterday when two Democratic senators objected to a unanimous consent agreement.

The sources of the objections, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Agriculture Committee ranking member Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), want hearings on a compromise amendment crafted late last month by a bipartisan group of senators that would provide statutory protections for old-growth forests in exchange for restrictions on appeals and legal challenges of fuel-reduction projects.

The Bush administration and congressional Republicans blasted the timing of the move, which could cripple efforts to pass wildfire legislation this year and limit the ability of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to implement forest thinning projects before the 2004 wildfire season.

"It turns out that the Forest Service doesn't have a monopoly on 'analysis paralysis,'" said H.R. 1904 author Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.). "Exactly 5 months after a bipartisan majority acted in the House, the Senate itself has been crippled by a couple of Democratic senators whose passion for appeals and lawsuits obviously trumps their alleged love of the forests."

But Bingaman and Harkin say they need more time to review the proposed amendment, which was filed Oct. 14. "We're just trying to understand this thing," said Bingaman spokesman Bill Wicker. "Sen. Bingaman is not trying to hold this up forever, we're not trying to be obstructionists. We just can't really make heads or tails out of the text."

The deal was manufactured by a bipartisan group of senators, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Michael Crapo (R-Idaho), Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and features statutory protections of old-growth forests from a bill Feinstein and Wyden had introduced earlier this year.

Environmental groups have criticized the amendment, objecting to alleged loopholes in the language on old growth and restrictions on project appeals and judicial review. In addition, many fear the Senate version will be trumped by the House language in conference committee.

The Democrats involved in the compromise have said they will not support the House language and have called on the White House to publicly support their compromise amendment in conference.

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey yesterday repeated the administration's support for the compromise but said it is too early to endorse conference language before the Senate actually passes a bill. "I'm confident the Senate compromise is close enough to the House bill that reconciliation won't be a problem," Rey said, "but that's assuming the bipartisan compromise gets through the Senate."

Once the compromise gets to the floor, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT.) may offer amendments that would alter or repeal provisions in the bill regarding the project appeals process and judicial review, likely based on a bill he introduced with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) this summer. Boxer and Leahy did not object to the request for a unanimous consent agreement, staffers said.

Senate Republicans defended the path H.R. 1904 has taken and called for swift action on the floor. "I find objection to letting this bill come to the floor beyond belief," said Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.). "After long months of give and take, we have an amendment and a bill that is balanced and fair and good for our forests and our communities."

Bingaman is calling for hearings in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as opposed to the Agriculture Committee which considered the bill in July, but Domenici praised the job Agriculture Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) did with the bill and in the negotiations for the compromise amendment. "They did a better job than we could have," Domenici said.

Still, Bingaman and Harkin showed no sign of backing down. "The reality is, this is an entirely new piece of legislation," Wicker said. "There were too many deals that were being made in other rooms, and we feel we have the right to have a hearing."

Even though it did not have formal jurisdiction over H.R. 1904, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee did hold an oversight hearing on the issue in July.

Domenici spokesman Chris Gallegos rejected the call for additional hearings, saying the Senate has held numerous hearings on the issue over the past several years. "At this point there's not a whole lot of use to repeating issues at hearings," Gallegos said.

Senate Republicans are calling for a cloture vote, which would open up 30 hours of debate that would only end if they can muster 60 votes. After that, another 30 hours of debate would be followed by a majority vote. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) had previously said he would not bring H.R. 1904 to the floor without 60 votes to avoid a filibuster.

"We believe there's 60 votes for this legislation, so if we can't get a consent agreement we will pursue other ways of getting it passed," said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call. Under Senate rules, a cloture vote on the bill could not occur until Thursday at the earliest.

Fuel-reduction projects generally occur in a 100-day window after winter runoff subsides and before the wildfire season kicks up in early summer, meaning the Forest Service and BLM could not use the abbreviated planning methods the bill would authorize if it does not pass before Congress adjourns, Rey said.

"I suppose that will incentivize some people to move faster and get others to drag their heels even more," Rey said.

Language differences

In addition to the provisions on old-growth forests, the Senate compromise amendment would avoid using proceeds from timber sales to pay for fuel reduction projects by authorizing $760 million annually, with a requirement that at least half of those funds be used in wildland-urban interface areas near residential communities. Other funds would go towards thinning in watershed areas, endangered species habitat or areas damaged by insect infestation.

The House bill, on the other hand, includes regulatory changes that would limit alternatives that can be studied under required National Environmental Policy Act assessments, thus increasing the use of categorical exclusions that allow agencies to bypass the study process altogether. Supporters say the NEPA rules and lawsuits by environmental groups slow down needed thinning projects.

The House bill would give federal judges 45 days to review preliminary injunctions against logging projects, while the Senate compromise would grant 60 days as well as remove a provision requiring judges to give weight to findings by the Interior or Agriculture departments when making decisions. Such language would end a pattern of environmental groups delaying projects using procedural measures, supporters say.


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