Excerpt from Forest Service Appeals Process: Oversight Hearing Before the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Lands of the Committee on Resources, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, Second Session on the Effectiveness of the U. S. Forest Service's Administ... rative Appeals
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:02 a.m., in room 1324, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. James V. Hansen (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.
Statement Of Hon. James V. Hansen, A U.S. Representative From Utah; And Chairman, Subcommittee On National Parks, Forests And Lands
Mr. Hansen. The Subcommittee will come to order. The Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Lands convenes today for our sixth hearing on oversight on national forest management issues. Today, we will review the effectiveness of the U.S. Forest Service's administrative appeal procedures.
There are now three different procedures for appealing agency land management decisions, and we would like to determine how each of those are working. We are also hoping to learn how much each procedure is costing the taxpayers so that we can better compare their effectiveness.
When Congress got involved in this issue in 1992, we concluded that, too often, appeals were filed by appellants who did not inform the agency of their legitimate concerns before decisions were made. Instead, they waited until after a decision was made before filing an appeal.
At that time, Congress directed the Forest Service to provide an early notice and comment period for all project decisions and to streamline the procedures for appeal of those decisions.
After two-and-one-half years under this procedure, Congress should assist the agency in reevaluating the effectiveness of the requirements we established. In addition, we need to ask why the Forest Service does not streamline its procedures for appealing forest plans. Several plan appeals have been pending for over nine years, since 1987, which points to a problem with a process that takes too long to resolve fundamental land management decisions.
I know the Forest Service has made progress in implementing its project appeal procedures, but I believe the record shows there is still room for procedural improvements. I hope the witnesses, including the Forest Service, will provide their suggestions, as we all have a stake in making sure that the appeals process is effective.
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