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tv   Senate Hearing on Forest Management  CSPAN  July 23, 2021 6:58pm-8:23pm EDT

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indept look at the trump administration's handling of the covid-19 pandemic. discussing the book "nightmare scenario." reliance on drones and the military units that operate them in his book "on killing remotely." he's interviewed by former u.s. air force officer sarah kreps. watch american history tv and book tv every weekend on c-span2 and find a full schedule on your program guide. up next a senate appropriations subcommittee hearing on forest management and preventing wildfires. outgoing u.s. forest service chief addressed western states like washington and alaska.
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ranking member murkowski and chief christensen and our other colleagues and constituents joining us in person and remotely, welcome to this appropriations hearing on budgeting for the future of forest management. while we eagerly await the release of the details of president biden's first budget request we have plenty to discuss today about the impact that funding for the forest service makes in forests and communities in oregon and alaska and in every state across the united states. chief christensen thank you for
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joining us today. as a washington state native and with your 26 years in the state department of natural resources you are well versed in the issues and ecosystems a washinge with your 26 years in the state department of natural resources, you are well versed in the things of and the dangers of climate chaos for future generations. for are in my identity of my home state of oregon. the genesis of our salmon run, the backbone of our recreation and rural economies. forest service and a dedicated professionals to make up its ranks or to the state to our people and our economy. the 2020 wildfire season was one of the most destructive in oregon history. fires devastated the towns of
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detroit, gates, phoenix, tallinn. i will never forget visiting those towns and seeing the incinerated remains. the fires burned more than a millions acres and took lives of civilians. last summer i drove from the northern boundary to the southern boundary and back, more than 600 miles and was never out of the smoke of the fires. it is clear from the science that we need to restore our forest because they play a significant role in curing the climate crisis. i'm ready to help the administration provide the resources that the forest service needs to provide -- and invest in the small towns and rural areas that anchor our nation's natural resources and recreational economies. one tool i have long supported for that goal is a collaborative force right reforestation program. we've seen so successful collaborative's --
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from across the spectrum which storing habitats, at the same time creating and jobs. it's critically important that the service -- improved backlogs that are sitting on the shelf. in oregon, there are 2 million acres that need to be reviewed and implemented. i really like to work with you chief christiansen to reduce this backlog and bank jump-start these projects. today as we examine the challenges and opportunities for the future of forest management, i'm proud to say that funding as significantly changed for the forest. austin two years, we passed landmark achievements them a lot of positive impacts -- . first the wildfire suppression -- fiscal year 2020, writing a funding stream at side of regular discretionary budget,
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protects the forest service from the routine service of fire bombing. where terrible fires occur, the forest service had to borrow from other programs in order to fight the fires, disrupting those other critical programs. but now we have a challenge because the budget caps are expiring, so the foundation of that solution also expires. we will have to come together and work to create a similar pool of funds to turn to when the ordinary budget has exceeded. if we fail, fire borrowing will come back and rollback doing major damage to the fire service and i don't think any of us want to see that happen again. fiscal year 2020, when the forest service proposed -- this restructuring created a new appropriations account -- this sounds a little bit like a sleepy account issue, but these
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changes will improve planning -- and help us target the appropriations where funds are needed the most. and last year, we enacted the great american outdoors act, which provides permanent funding to the conservation fund. this monumental legislation will allow the force service in keeping working for us forest legacy program, and bring into federal ownership special places that deserve preservation. the act also provided mandatory funding for the deferred maintenance of our -- of which the forest service will receive 285 million prepare for total of 1.4 billion by fiscal year 2025. i'm pleased of course that there are several projects like replacing the boiler at the historic and iconic kimberlin lodge, yet that is only one of the several very expensive repairs needed at mount hood
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and across the forest service lands across the state and across the nation. i look forward to hearing privatizing for future projects. chief christiansen, is a lot of work to do and look forward to your presentation today. and with that, i'd like to turn to ranking member murkowski for any comment she might wish to make. >> thank you mister chairman, good morning, and chief good morning, it's good to see you, and i'm greatly looking forward to the exchange here this morning. as we gather to discuss how to make our forests healthier and more resilient, you can't help but reflect on how that is always been a goal, it means and impediments to achieving that goal have changed, and in some ways seem like a moving target. now with the availability of the, both the foreign service and congress had the i'd ability to identify long-standing gaps the stand in the way of the progress we all
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want. and while the process has sometimes been uncomfortable, and balance it is good for the agency, and i'm grateful for the collaboration abilities efforts. regardless of these issues which we disguise, whether it's wildfire fighting -- and beyond issues revolving capacity are barriers to success. i'm glad to see that the forest service is taking the need for planning seriously. we had a way to speak to that. in way will lack of capacities directly related to funding, and some others it's related to priority. through seeing that the agency has the right people in place to carry out a prioritizing coordinated strategy to improve forest help is not gonna happen overnight, but if the forest service makes it a priority, it will yield important benefits. i know that covid presented additional challenges to the service so i'm gonna look forward to hearing to you what
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you've learned and how that will impact the long term thinking at the agency. last year, alaska was spared the catastrophic fires that we've seen in the lower 48 states, certainly mister chairman in your state, senator feinstein and so many states and just been devastating year. and alaska, we are increasingly concerned about the fire potential in areas with spruce needle outbreaks. i know that my colleagues in the lower 48 are dealing with drought and other tree mortality f issues, so many looking chief of as tear fire wall left planning. we have our first notable fire in alaska. it's in the newspaper today, and oddly enough, it is out in the bristol bay region. this is an area where we don't have big trees. they're almost more shrub like and it is a very wet, almost wetlands environment, in many
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parts of it. so it speaks to i think some of the impacts that we are seeing from climate change, just warming temperatures in these areas, and so how we address to this, how we respond is important. i was in iceland last week at the arctic council ministerial, and it's fascinating to me that in the conversations that we have amongst the arctic nations, we are talking about the impact from significant wildfires. we saw the fires out of russia these past couple of seasons, and the impact that these fires have and then moving literally moving that ash and that cinder throughout the jet stream area. so wildfires are significant for us throughout the country and really throughout the world. it's no secret that the foreign service plays an outsized rule role in alaska's economy. chief, i know that you are very aware of the complexities
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associated with activities in the tongass. i know that this administration is taking a different approach in the tongass than the previous one. i am disappointed that rather than building on the good work done over the past few years rather than evaluating the -- that the administration has kind of hit the pause button on all of this. this is disheartening to all of those who are involved with timber harvest. the timber program transition from old two young growth timber in the forest is one that has been underway. it hasn't been easy for a lot of people to accept, but many who have were hopeful but they are losing faith as the old growth bridge that was promised has failed to materialize. those that took a leap of faith and invested early in the transition have also been disappointed by the services lack of action, and we had an opportunity to speak on the other issues as they relate to
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tariffs and the impact that that is. add as you know, the role in the thomas is not about is tongass. the road less rule has been the largest single impediment to economic access because it acts effects every sector of. including mining, recreational tourism, and -- we don't have to choose between a healthy forest and a healthy economy in the southeast. i'm certainly that near in a nearly 17 million acre forest we can find a way to have both, so i would hope that we can work together. we will work with need to provide some sort of relief to the folks in the southeast. chief, i know that we are waiting to see the final outlines of the presidents budget, but i'm looking forward to your testimony this morning as you inform us of your vision on how we can provide provide resiliency. with that mister chairman, i thank, you i'm looking forward to the conversation. >> thank you very much senator
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murkowski. i know alaska, oregon, california and new mexico are represented by these senators in this room, or all states who have issues connected to force. we're gonna turn to question periods now, and because of senator feinstein's commitment, we will turn her first. >> i'm sorry, i missed what you are saying, that you're turning to me for -- >> for your first question. >> okay, thank you. my main concern mister chairman, and the distinguished site senator from alaska, is the salary situation. let me put it right on the table. we have 19 million acres under federal jurisdiction. state pay is 70,000 dollars. that's what cal fire pays to the state firefighter. the united states force service pays 38,000 dollars.
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that's the differential, that's the problem, and the loss in fire is just tremendous. i think that we have to move some way in a bill to make that change, and i would like to ask the question of the leader of the department. chief, do you believe that this inequity in a makes a big difference in california which has a 19 million acres of federal fire land? >> thank you senator. good morning. thank you so much for the question and for acknowledging what is a real gap in competitive pay.
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it's very acute in california, but we have competitive pay issues when those are compared to state, local and even the private sector. you named it, average for u.s. forest service firefighter is 38,000 dollars a year. state, local and private and eighties can range from 70,000 to 88,000 dollars a year, and their benefits are better. we have folks that are absolutely committed to the mission of the forest service, but at that wage -- that gap in the wage, they are going on to work for other entities. so we really appreciate working with you to bridge this gap and to discuss, we need more of a year-round workforce as well. >> well thank you, chief anchor very much for that. because, i have been around a
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long time, it was a mayor for nine years of the city and i have never seen a pay differential this stark as the difference between federal firefighters pay and state firefighter pay. and california is paying with 19 million acres that burned last year, 10,000 structures burned, and half of those were homes. so the reason i am here is to say we need to move and do something about it. so let me ask another question. do you have the mobility chief to make the necessary moves to prevent this inequity from showing an actual fire fighting? >> senator, thank you. we certainly can bring a strong voice to this problem but we have to work across the federal
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government with the office of personal management and with, of course other agencies, federal wildfire department of interior being the largest with the u.s. fire forest service. secretary mill sap has made a commitment to bring leadership to this and we really look forward to working for with you in congress to address this issue. >> thank you. i don't want to take more time, but i hope to members of this committee can see this differential. a starting salary of 38, 000, 500 dollars as opposed to california foresters being paid 70,000 dollars and having a state where 58% of the forest is under federal jurisdiction. that's a situation, those are the actual numbers, so it's a real problem, and i would hope the committee would work with me and others in trying to
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solve it. >> thank you very much, senator for making that important point. we will now turn to opening statement for chief christiansen. >> chairman merkley, and ranking member murkowski and members of the community. thanks for the invitation. today i will highlight the work we are doing to serve the american people and steward the nations for us. i'll share how this work lines up with the new administration's highest priorities. specifically, i will detail how the forest service is backing the effort to end the covid pandemic. i will share our resolve to employ science to tackle climate change, fight wildfires and sustain productive resilient forests. we are also doing our part to spur job growth, boost economies, and rebuild infrastructure. lastly, i will touch upon our staunch commitment to advance racial equity as we create an
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inclusive workplace where every employee feels respected and valued. controlling the covid-19 pandemic, i'm proud to say last year despite the pandemic as well as historic natural disasters, the forest service rose to the challenge. we hosted 200% more visitors on than the national forest as they sought respite from the pandemic. in the last four months, the forest service played a sizeable role in helping usda administer well over 2 million covid vaccines across the u.s.. but the long term challenge we must confront is the crisis facing americas forests and grasslands. the crisis results from a changing climate. it induces severe wildfires, droughts and disease, and invasive species, infestations. in the severity and frequency
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of our wildfires is increasing significantly,'s impacting our nations forests at an unprecedented rate and destroying homes and businesses. the 2020 fire year became a call to action. we saw the most acres burned on the four service land since the big burn of 1910. in many places forests will not come back on their own which impacts the potential for carbon storage and limits the lands capacity to further mitigate climate change. despite the pandemic, the forest service sustained our hazardous fuels reduction work, but we know it's not enough. we need a paradigm shift. under the presidents jobs plan, president biden is calling on kroger's to significantly invest in protection from extreme wildfire.
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after confronting record wildfires last year, we expect another long and arduous fire year in 21. we are prepared but we remain deeply concerned about the welfare and the pay of our thousands of firefighters. we are grateful for your help in finding solutions that addressed pay equity, fatigue and the mental well-being of our firefighters. just this monday, a firefighter was seriously injured in new mexico. he's a smoke jumper from montana, and this demonstrates the seriousness of this business. our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family as i know yours are as well. you know, our infrastructure needs are pressing as are the economic needs of americans. when we improve the infrastructure of the national
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forest by upgrading roads, travels, trails and sites, it spurs growth and boost economies. thanks to the great america outdoor act, we expect to create an additional 4400 jobs and contribute and estimated 420 million dollars to the g pd annually. and i understand the expectations that come with the fire funding fix which went into effect this fiscal year, or fiscal year 20. i want to assure you that the forest service remains a good investment. we understand congressional expectations for increasing accountability and oversight of fire spending. and during fiscal year 21 we did transition to the new budget structure that helps us increase the transparency of our spending. do national forests and
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grasslands belong to every american. there should be equal access and every american must feel a personal invitation and a connection to their lands. every american deserves to have a motivated workforce that reflects our values, provides exemplary service, and mirrors our population. we are committed to both, starting in our own house. the forest service continues to work hard to and harassment, manage conflict, and create a work environment where every employee feels safe, valued, respected and has a sense of belonging. thank you so much. i look forward to your questions. we will now turn to questions from senator murkowski. >> thank you mister chairman. and chief, thank you for your comments. i want to start my questions in this first round with some more
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parochial issues, some of which you and i had an opportunity to discuss earlier this week. as i mentioned to you, the bloodless rule has an impact on our ability to do more in the tongass area. we had great news at the beginning of the week when president biden signed into law the alaska tourism restoration act that will allow us to get us tourists back up in the state to southeast. that will be very helpful, but when the tourists come, we want to be able to access the opportunities that we have there in the tongass, all of southeast, part of the tongass national forest. and so the issue of special use permits. last year, with covid we just didn't see the visitors, so we didn't have that need to really handle many of the use permits, so if you can explain or
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provide to me this morning what the forest service is doing to provide to prepare firsts tourists to the southeast and the tongass this summer, we talked yesterday, of the day before yesterday about the forest service enterprise approach to provide for additional support for the special use permitting program. you've made it through some of the backlog, but what else do we have to do to address the matter of these permits? >> yes, thank you senator, and certainly putting emphasis point of how important tourism is for southeast alaska's alaska, tongass national forest being a central part of that. let me just say, at last year during covid, the region really worked on helping the business opportunities, particularly for
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the outfitter and guides that had no longer had guides to take out. we helped mitigate their hardships putting delaying, or billing, or actually putting special use permits into a bands. then, where we could, we hired them as contractors to do some very important maiden its work, so at least they had employment. that got us through 2020. the great news is that the cruise ships will be returning. you know, after you and i talked, i believe monday, i called our regional forester up because he was so excited about the cruise ships coming back, and i said, okay dave, you are ready? right we can activate all those permits, we can get access everywhere? he said chief, we are ready and we have our arms open, i'm really excited to get tourists back into southeast and work
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with, you know, the businesses that are so important. in regards to our special use permitting, yes, our workforce planning is really pointing to our need to have a surge capacity where we have special emphasis and an example of that is we have an enterprise program where we can deploy to many of our regions for special needs. and in particular, there are several needs there and being more responsive, as well as being more efficient and how we do our special use permits. there are some enterprise team resources on the to gas, in march we -- that had long been worked on and had extra capacity. overall we have reduced the backlog over special use
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permits by over 40%. we are putting in a new system in place where we will be able to map of the special use permits specially and provide more electronic services for those vendors who so want to choose to work electronically in the special use permit. those are just a few of the top lines of what we are doing. >> let me ask in a short time i have remaining. we discussed a little bit before the hearing here, discussed park beetle infestation that we have here in alaska and in other parts of the country. that is a real concern as we are thinking about the impact of fire and the spread and the greater risk of fire. i want to make sure that we are doing everything we can with monitoring, public education, and also making sure that we have adequate resources provided for this western bark
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beetle initiative. and working with the alaska division of forestry, but making sure that we are doing all that we can to help facilitate robust tree removal and fuel breaks anne, complementing the community wildfire protection plans and these spruce bark impacted communities. again, this is a big issue in so many different areas, so this is not just of interest to me but to so many other colleagues. or >> it is senator, and i won't just say we are working very closely with the state of alaska. we put it through our state and private forestry forest health funds, we put extra dollars into the effort there in southeast, because it's all of those components, preparedness, and corral-ing the spruce where the spruce warm is a.
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and our science is playing a critical role in helping to develop pheromones that can attract the beetle into one place for more easier treatment. there is a lot going on, and we have several good neighbor agreements as well, as we're working across boundaries as well. >> you mentioned southeast. i don't think we have the spruce bark beetle in the southeast. >> no i missed, okay for correcting me. >> i was gonna say please keep it out of there. thank you miss chairman. >> thank you. senator murkowski, and chief christiansen, the presidents american jobs plan prioritizes investments in protecting communities from wildfires which is great. and that means hazardous fuels reduction on. the fiscal year 21 bill, directed you to provide congress with an estimate to treat and restore federal and non federal acres classified as high risk for wildfire. how are we doing on getting
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that report to congress? >> yes, thank you senator merkley. a fire hazard potential report you are referring to, and that's with department of the interior. the report is in its final clearance and it really has activated our collective science on this paradigm shift of what we really have to do to strategically treat at least two to four times more than what we do now. if we are going to, we have a scale mismatch, and we have to mitch the treatments for the landscape. so you will be seeing very soon after makes it out of clearance. >> so i am almost happy with your answer but not quite. because the date and law was to be delivered by march 27th, very pacific specific. can you make calls and get that out of clearance? we need to have it in order for
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this subcommittee to be able to do its work to determine can we, do we need to advance far more funds for forest treatments which i believe we all think we have to, do but we really need the analysis. can you make sure that we get this by the end of this month a few days from now? >> i will do everything i can. i really hear you on the need chairman. >> thank you very much, because i think understanding the scope of the challenge is essential for us to act appropriately. now we have the fire fix problem, in which we have this pool of funds that was outside of the interior subcommittee funded committee so, essentially the equivalent of a fema fund to cover the expenses if we had a terrible fiery year, so it enough to do fire bureau. so now it has expired for 2022, we do have the situation where we no longer have the underlying foundation in which the fix existed.
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so have you already connected to the secretary of the interior and r&b about the importance of reestablishing the fire fix by having an appropriate fire emergency fund? >> he has senator, i will say affirmatively that just a need to emphasize the importance of the fix. you said it, it froze the rising ten year average for covering suppression from our regular budget, so prevented the fire burrowing. the usda and omb are aware of the situation as well. >> great. well i'm happy to engage, so we cannot fail, in order to support your agency. we cannot fail to and fire borrowing a lot that return to be the norm in fiscal year 22. turning to clarity force --
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cfo our projects, we have portland, oregon credibly effective upbringing people across the spectrum, the environmental side, the timber signed, to work -- for the forest, making a forest more fire resilient, producing jobs, that's my opinion, what's your opinion? the cfo l our program, is it working? >> it is very much working. it has outsized itself in the results for the investments. there's 11% treatable national forest acres, and just 9% of the agencies spending went to see f lrt. with that 11% funding, 19% of the agency's total goals were established to see of lrt. 50% of the timber volume and
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15% of the habitat enhanced was accomplished. >> so given that it is so successful, we've already authorized doubling the size of the program, i think it's time we try to fund the doubling of the size to 80 million. my current understanding out of 24 projects across the country, we doubled the funding, can we get for a proud project? >> there are very much. >> great, looking forward to looking with you and. that >> when we do this work in the forest, we have had a challenge in which the forest service has not been completely transparent about its contracting process, and the rule of domestic american workers versus cruz brought in from out of the country. alex this was an issue that came up in 2009 when senator -- and iowa and others and i and others push for -- the contracting process was one in which crews were recruited
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out of state, required out of country, required foreign languages, never consulted with the 5000 people who were on the list, who wanted to do this work within oregon. we need to make sure that eight to be is a backup for workers when americans are not willing to share these jobs. we get fulcrum mission transparency from the four service on this issue? >> yes sir we are happy to work with you on this, and we are already providing information. i'm really drilling into the implementation of the great outdoors act. some 70% of that work will be done through contracts and agreements, but we have a special focus on small businesses and minorities in the local area. the other piece of the work through grievances or agreements that is work being done by the civilian conservation corps or the
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conservation corps, so we are working with ngos there. i will be happy to track with you on how we doing on -- senator. >> thank, you and one aspect of the center want to emphasize is the one possibility of having firefighters becoming year-round cruise, where they turned fire fighting to fire restoration, which could be great as family jobs don't, really pillars in our forest communities that come from douglas county. it's one of the most timber intensive counties in the united states. people say they are born with a chance on, hands ready to do work in the woods. one of make sure they are never unaware of opportunities to pursue that work. will now turn to senator high smith. >> thank you mister chairman. thank you for convening today's hearing, and to discuss the presidents budget here for the united states for's service. i'd like to thank chief christiansen for appearing before the subcommittee and work walking us through these
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highlights. i enjoyed visiting with you prior the meeting, and i look forward to a thorough review of the presidents request when it's released later this week. the first question that i have chief. i was pleased to hear in your testimony that the forest service is finding new and innovative new ways to host more visitors to the forest system and i'm also glad to hear that the service is providing jobs -- stability for rural and local economies. mississippi is a rural state, and as we discuss we are a would basket in mississippi. i have raised this issue before with the force service, but i want to raise it again, because it's really important and significant to rural communities and my state. to the rural economic development and southwest mississippi, which is one of the prettiest parts of our state, that's where we can capitalize on, is the forest
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there. it just has tremendous potential. section 80 6:31 of the 2018 farm bill is the amendment of the that i gave to authorize a transfer of 150,000 acres from the u.s. for service to the scenic rivers development alliance, which is a regional organization dedicated to rural economic development and outdoor recreation. they are in southwest mississippi. the land surrounds a kiss lake. it's a 1075 acre recreational lake for our fishing, boating, picnicking and swimming, and it's just absolutely beautiful. unfortunately, the lake alone is not doing very much for the surrounding rural communities. we spent a lot of money developing that lake, but it's just not offering enough to the state or the surrounding areas for overnight visiting. but the provision that is in the 2018 farm bill was included
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specifically to support that rural economic development at the areas around the lake so we can truly capitalize on the investment that we spent in developing at. the forest service has worked very well with scenic rivers and the transfer is nearly complete. they tell me the deed is in the mail. but the development plan for the lake, it includes a large style hotel, a conference center, and several other amenities to attract visitors from this remote, and deserved area of the state. and it updated forest master plan for the national forest could really compliment scenic rivers development plan in a really significant way. that would provide additional hiking, biking, trails picnic, swimming areas and many other things to really enhance what we are doing there to create
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jobs in that area of the state. it's just kind of been an issue of getting them to be engaged in giving us this plan, so my question should congress provide additional in 2022 for the forest service to update its master plan for the national forest. will you help to ensure the forest service works closely with the alliance to ensure the maximum benefits of this rural economic development project that everybody in mississippi is excited about? but we really do need your help and getting that plan. person so i want to go there. yes, and thank you for recognizing the limited thank you for that, senator and
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thank you for describing that very special place in mississippi. i understand it's a fisherman's paradise and i am a fisher person so i want to go there. yes and thank you for recognizing the limited resources on our capability. we would be happy to work with you at the will of congress, will certainly engage in how we can help with economic development there. i think we all know we have a backlog of $5. 9 billion current infrastructure and of course great america outdoors act at 285 million a year for the next five years will go a long way. that's where we really focus on the job creation doing a master plan and working across boundaries for special place in the forest in southwest mississippi. we will do everything we can with the right resources. thank you,
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i appreciate that. my second question since i have some time left, mississippi has 19. 7 million acres of forest land in a small state, less than 3 million people. we have 125 million forest land owners. in good years, forest related economic activity in mississippi can generate 60000 jobs and nearly $3 billion in income. and like many other states, production was down in mississippi in 2020 for obvious reasons and the fiscal year 2021 omnibus and covid relief and responsive act last december provides $200 million for the secretary of agriculture to provide relief to timber harvesting and hauling businesses that experienced revenue losses during the pandemic, which was significant. i was a strong supporter of this provision and i am pleased the timber industry is now actually
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eligible for this relief. can you give us the status of the implementation of this provision, and how has the forest service been working with the usda farm service agency to ensure we can get relief to timber harvesting and hauling businesses as quickly as possible? thank you. thank you, senator. usda, we take this very serious to get this relief out and we don't advise on annual crops very much but when it comes to forests and the timber sector, farm service agency has reached out to us and we have a strike team, quite frankly, we're the subject experts working with fsa because the vehicle is through their processes to allocate all recovery across the sector but very much inclusive of the forest, forest
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sector as well. it will be sometime mid to late summer that those monies will be available as i understand but we will keep your office updated if that changes. thank you very much and i look forward to working with you you. thak you, senator. senator heinrich. thank you, chairman, welcome. across the west balancing multiple use mandate can be very challenging and one of the places we've seen this in the southwest is where we have occasionally have wildlife complex, particularly with big horn sheep, if trout and endangered mexican gray wolves. one of the tools to resolve the conflicts that's been successful in a very limited number of cases but quite successful as a voluntary
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requirement of grazing allotment permits and it provided quite a bit of economic certainty to individual producers. i've heard from several producers new mexico would like to retire their permits and very much want to keep the families'property because so many family members are tied up in those places but there's really no clear process for doing this even in cases where there is a very obvious and demonstrated local conflict that we are trying to resolve. so can you explain why there's not a clear administrative procedure for the forest service to accept abnd retire grazing allotments at the request of the permit holder as a way to resolve these long-term resource complex? yes, i think two issues that need to be responded to. first, many may responded to. first, a
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permittee may choose to waive their grazing permit back to the forest service at any time. there is no prohibition on that. the decision to actually close the grazing allotment is made by the forest service and it is guided by the goals and objectives and of the management plan of that particular forest. but then you mentioned different conflicts so that would be a part of the decision evaluation that the forest service would make. i think this is a place that warrants additional focus, and particularly the idea of making sure that families can keep their base properties as part of the process of resolving some of these conflicts. and certainly, i look forward to
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working with you on this. i'd be glad to do this, thank you. you heard a lot about cf lrp and one of the challenges we have, we all recognize how many acres of forest need to be treated right now both with hazardous fuels and more broadly toward a goal of restoration. in new mexico, we have a large backlog already nipa permitted projects where the backlog is not delayed because of environmental permits or lawsuits just because we have not adequately funded these projects and because of staff restraints so i wanted to get your thoughts on the need for increasing the scale of these programs that we know work and that all of us, if you listen to republicans and democrats from the west on these issues, we know we need
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to do more. so is the biggest solution available to us just scaling up those existing programs like cfrp? thank you, senator. yes, and -- those cfrp good neighbor agreements stewardship contracting, they are all the important tools and to leverage in the right place and we have to look at the whole landscape and we use what we do best, the states have some resources, they are good at some things. forest service might be good at some other things, the tribes bring incredible traditional knowledge. we need to work on the whole mix of landscape and all the tools are important. and the state forest action plans and new mexico has just completed their state forest action plan and it calls for
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significant increase. but it's not just an increase, it's strategically placing those treatments. our scientists have mapped the fire sheds across the whole country. we know where the highest priority firesheds are that transmit the most fire. if we can treat strategically 40% of that landscape, we can bring it back into balance so we need to be strategic and up our game two to four times more than what we do now already and that's going to take resources and significant staffing capacity. chairman you heard two to four times what we are doing now and that something we should all be supporting. i think your concept of marrying up the need for firefighters throughout much of the year now, if not the entire year with restoration as well so that we can get the forest back in a
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condition where prescribed fire can actually be used much more readily to maintain the forest condition is a path to a lot more sustainable and healthy forests in the future. thank you very much, senator, and i look forward to exploring that idea thoroughly with the forest service. i think that has a lot of potential value. senator murkowski. thank you, a follow-up on the comments from senator from mexico and what you mentioned about local knowledge that we have. again, i mentioned my time in iceland last week and in the conversation about wildfires in the arctic, good discussion with the participants, with the some of the permanent participants, indigenous peoples from different parts of the arctic and there is a working group focused on wildland fires the permanent
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participants are involved with but a discussion about how, not necessarily applicable to new mexico but how you can safely do prescribed burns not in the summer but in the spring where you still have protective layers of snow or the roots of the trees are still frozen so you can do some impressive management without the risk but these are ways of management that have been in practice for many years by local people on the ground who know and understand so tapping into some
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of the as a resource is wise for us. i want to ask about pre-commercial and recognizing the value we see for help he service and wildlife habitat as well as to grow the economic stands, the scale decades ago in the 60s to the 90s resulted in proliferation of young gross now in significant needs, you seen it yourself, approximately 85000 acres across the forest but i think we recognized you've got a window of time in which you can actually have thinning the effective, it's not a viable strategy so to do that, address the backlog treating about 6000 -- 8000
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acres a year, there's so much support to do this work but we are not seeing that level of activity happening. can you let we're not seeing that a level of activity happening. so chief can you let us know what's going us know is going on regards to on addressing the backlog in the in with regards to addressing this backlog in the thinning and what more do you need to be precommmercial thinning and what more do you need to be effective? i'm not a more effective here? >> thank you so much senator. i'm not a forest her from alaska but the closest state next, washington state so you're need to be effective? thank yhou so mjuch, senator. i'm not a forrester from alaska but the bringing back closest state next, washington state so you're bringing back practices near and dear to my heart. practices near and dear to my precommercial thinning heart. precommercial thinning is very important to grow those structures of the mature forests that we need for habitat and other critical benefits that flow from the forest. you know, we would be glad to work with you, there are needs and it is prioritization and
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resources, so it's part of the young growth transition strategy that we create some structure in these young growth for us, and that includes these entries that are called precommercial prior to the commercial entry. so we'd be glad to work with you in the committee and what we need to accelerate those. efforts >> i would like to explore that further. i've raised with secretary vilsack. it was really during his tenure that there was this big push to do this transition from old growth to young growth, and so again it was hard to do. not everybody embraced it, but trying to move to that so if we want to have opportunity for good habitat, we want to have
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opportunity for some economic benefit there. making these investments prior tours inc. precommercial thinning i think is gonna be an important part of fulfilling that plan, that vision for the secretary. i raised with him as a raised with you the concern that we are seeing right now from the chinese tariffs on the spruce and hemlock coming out of southeast. those who made the investment to move to young growth at considerable expense to them developed and created that market over in china and then they get hit with these chinese tariffs that have literally crippled the efforts that they have made in regards to any form of the timber industry there. so i raised with you this week the possibility of perhaps
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expanding the covid timber program to cover the losses that we saw as a result of these tariffs. that is something again that i would ask you work with us to see if there aren't, if there's anything more that we can do to help in this regard trying to deal with the impacts of these chinese tariffs on the region. it is just been really hard. we have asked for help nicely in politely but in fairness people are really quite anxious and many are quite angry. so we need some relief here. >> we will absolutely work with you senator. thank you for highlighting those important issues. >> thank you mister chairman. >> thank you chief christiansen, as you and i have discussed there is a significant backlog of projects that have their
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environmental reviews. i was interested to hear that the senators say that they have a backlog of acres ready in new mexico. what does it take to get these projects that have already cleared environmental controls underway? is it a single limitation, is it just money, or is it anything else? >> it certainly is resources, and if you think about an environmental clearance, we take whole projects of everything that needs to be done from restoration to timber harvest to maybe some recreation upgrades, and some of those activities such as timber sales we can begin immediately, while others we don't have the resources, the money or service contracts that are needed, and that takes resources in place. so as a result we have to be
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opportunistic about doing the right resources and the right match for these projects. so we are leveraging a lot more work on the ground through our good neighbor agreements, stewardship contracting. >> i'm going to have you shorten it a little bit there. i think your answer was essentially yes, it's funds. >> it's funds but there's always things we can do to improve how we get work done on the ground. but it is funds at the end of the day. absolutely. >> 25% of that backlog in oregon is of high hazard and i'm going to work to see how those acres correspond to the woodland urban interface so that we can really understand how we can get the maximum effect on protecting the towns that fear the kinds of results that we had last september when towns were burned to the ground. i want to turn to recovery from
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those 2020 wildfires. the damages unforced service lands alone are estimated to be 100 million dollars an infrastructure and a billion dollars of forest restoration work. those are big numbers. is that disaster restoration something that you are tracking both on the infrastructure and the new national infrastructure restore frustration? >> we most certainly are, chairman merkley. the impacts from the 2020 fire here, and we had significant impacts from the hurricanes as well in the southeast. we have tracked and we are always ready for the questions when asked, where the impacts. so we have all that data. without supplemental funds, we are quite frankly re-prioritizing appropriate funds to get the most critical hazardous trees and recovery down where we can. >> so i heard that magic words,
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supplemental, and i think that is something very important for the senate to look at, is a disaster supplemental to address that devastating destruction and the backlog of unfundto get the right restorat. i absolutely can say that with -- affirmatively. >> thank you. i want to turn to the importance of research on the forests. just thinking about things that are going on in oregon, we have sudden oak death, invasive water-borne pathogen, that is killing oak trees and can have a big impact on our production of shrubs for the landscape world, as well as impacts on the forest. we're very concerned about that. we're very concerned about understanding exactly the role of forests in carbon absorption
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and storage, often referred to as see quest operation. we're interested in corbyn on forest management practices both directly and in terms of their impact on the fires. so, in other words, how do we really think about the forest in this role of carbon storage? also, about different -- how different forest management practices work in different types of forests to increase fire resilience. we had the milley fire that was bearing down on a town in central oregon, sisters, and it came to oregon. it came to an area where the ponderosa pine had been thinned, mowed, and the fire essentially came to a stop. not only because the fuels were reduced but because the thin forest let the firefighters get access to the front line of the fire, far more effectively.
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we want to understand how the different practices work in different types of forests. do those same practices work as well in the west side wetter forest, douglas fir forest, or does thinning the fire increase the fire risk, affecting the amount of oxygen provided to the fires in the trees? because this sense of using forest management to increase fire resilience, producing jobs, sounds like a win, win, win. we want to make sure we're getting it right. we want to understand the role of mass timber products in sequestration. we can create a great market for our lumber products but also, do something that sounds like it could be very environmentally
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valuable as well given the difference between the carbon impacts of steel and concrete versus mass timber. and what was exciting to me to visit the first cross laminated timber mill just south of myrtle creek where i was born. the dr johnson company put together a hand made press and riddle was where my father was when i was born. so it seemed like particularly closing a loop. we have a very sophisticated, almost science fiction, automated mass plywood mill. so there are many parts of this role for engineered products. so my basic point here is we need to have the research that is necessary to answer these questions. and then we need to have it compiled into reports that are digestible to inform congress as a whole, to inform public
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debate. can we work with you to make sure the research is being targeted to these types of questions that are important? there are other important questions, of course, in different parts of the country. then we get the time of reports that will really help inform our discussion? >> absolutely, senator. we would be glad to let you know what we're working on. let me make two quick points. our research stations, the pacific northwest research station and the pacific southwest, we saw so much fire across oregon and california in particular, it is in the don't waste a crisis. what can we learn from these west side forests compared to the forests in the sierra nevadas and the whole spectrum. it is not a one size fits all answer. working with our universities and other collaborators are really putting together a package of what the key questions are. relative to the innovation, you mentioned mass timber.
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here's a little known fact that many people don't realize. the forest service has incredible work in innovation and we have patpatents. these are patents for the public in the last three years. we've had 24 patents just from our direct forest service scientists. and we work through cooperative research, development agreements with private industry, and those have led to at least 150 patents. and here's just a couple of examples. super strong carbon foam, mobile biochar, production unit, and nonformaldehyde wood adhesives are some of these products. those are just examples. and the general technical reports that we issue are consumable for the regular
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practitioners. if there's more we can do, we would be glad to work with this committee. >> just one point before i turn it over to senator murkowski. you mentioned biochar. i just heard from a wheat farm better a mobile biochar that is going into the piles of leftover waste that we would normally burn in the forest, sending the byproducts of timber thinning products or logging contracts, turning it into biochar and then plowing it into the soil for the wheat farms, and they produce the largest wheat bushels per acre and the largest organic content that we've ever seen. and having had this story told to me, i'm anxious to both see the mobile biochar report that you referred to and to actually do a little bit of research to understand better the results of this experiment.
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>> great. >> chief, i want to ask you about where we are with vegetation management issues, as you know. and the fy 18 omni we included language to amend existing vegetation management regulations. forest service issued guidance, or proposed guidance directives in january that include implementing guidelines for proposed utility operating plans and agreements that cover the vegetation management inspection, the operation and maintenance activities along the power lines that are located on forest service lands. so the question to you this morning is, how is forest service working with collaborating with utilities in
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terms of developing an fish process for reviewing and approving the plans, and more specific to that, i worry about our smaller utilities. as you know, in alaska, they're pretty local co-ops. we don't want them left behind when it comes the taking advantage of authorities to reduce the wildfire risks by managing the vegetation and the rights away. so if you can speak to what's going on and working the utilities and then also the level of coordination that forest service is participating in with the bureau of land management to ensure that we've got compliance consistent across our federal agencies. >> thank you for that question. and i'm really pleased to say we've made significant progress. we have a very collaborative
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relationship working across the utility sectors. it is not a one size fits all. the public, the rural cooperatives. in fact, i personally participate in their highest level round tables every quarter because we want to make sure when the leaders speak, that we're having the actions of this work that we're doing it together on the ground. we did take some time to make sure we could bring, as you said, the department of interior primarily, blm and the forest service, that we could have alignments so folks didn't have to do two different sets of interpretations, if you will. and then the practices and the learning of how we have these master operating agreements. and someplace like alaska, maybe you might just work on one forest.
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but in utilities in california, 18 national forests, some of these very linear projects might go through and have to work with 18 different forests is not easy work. so one master agreement. then they keep the local relationships about what they're doing for the hazard tree removals and what not. that is working really well. we've run into a lot. we're adopting them in other places. now they're webinars. with our actual on the ground managers and on the ground utility sector managers so we can understand what a, what an issue might be or how do we
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understand the way the utility works in linear sectors, and we work more in large land sectors. those kinds of things. all of that is going really well. we have more work to do. we're keeping the priority on all of this collective work. >> that's a priority for so many. i think we recognize that. this is where some of the frustration is. this is where we see some of the fires that take hold and if we had done a better job on the vegetation management, perhaps we wouldn't be in this place. sometimes it is literally, the agency is not talking the same language. or the breakdown with the facilities. i mentioned monday in our conversation, i asked for an update on where we are with the region land study that is
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required as part of the dingel act. you indicated to me, with covid and just all that went on last year, that that is delayed a little bit. i don't know if you had an opportunity to get a better read on when we might anticipate the delivery of that study so that we can move forward with this. >> thank you, senator. i have not been able to get a precise update. as you know, the department of interior was lead but we were primary working with them. so all the comments are in as far as we know, it is a final package. and i will reach out to the department of the interior to see when we can expect that to get to the congress. >> i would appreciate if you can get back with us on that. we also had a good conversation about one of the fun projects
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that i'm working on. the alaska long trail. so we'll continue to keep close with you about what the agency is doing, in terms of prioritizing some of the operations and maintenance. and a recognition about what we can do to better facilitate that. we also want to have further discussions about the situation with the forest service cabins and just making sure that this extraordinary opportunity that exists on our public lands and our forests, these very, i think they're pretty unique in what they provide to families. and quite honestly, for those who just need a safe place out of a storm. we want to make sure that they're maintained and that local residents can also feel
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welcomed and participate as we ensure that these cabins are there for years going forward. so we've got a few issues on our list. we welcome you at any point in time to visit. look at some of our good projects that we have ongoing. i'm going to hope, we'll keep our fingers crossed, and. this year for a fire season, that it does not have the intensity that it brought last year. but give our thanks to the men and women who get out this. go into the fire to provide for protection of life and safety. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator, i will.
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and thank you for the touch back with our great employees. >> there are hundreds of miles of old tinder roads in our national forests that often are eroding and creating silt in the streams which really affects our salmon runs. so there are the legacy roads and trails remediation program. i think you're very familiar with this. >> you bet i will. >> my wife and i have just set out to explore, not knowing where it will lead or what we'll see. sometime we end up on roads that are incredibly eroded so they are no longer passable, even with four wheel drive. so i want to draw attention to the importance of continuing the work when these roads are doing
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damage to the streams. >> yes. we totally agree, senator. >> thank you. the civilian conservation corps, the job corps mission, ties in to the president's plan for $10 billion investment in a civilian climate corps to mobilize a next generation of conservation and resilience workers. this job core the existing programs, which i'm a strong supporter of, is a model that can play a significant role in guiding the development of a new climate corps. and i'm sure we'll all be confused by the two ccc's into the future. are you participating, or is your leadership team participating in discussions with the administration on how to develop this knew climate
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conservation corps? or civilian climate corps? >> yes. it does get confusing. yes. we are working very close when i the administration. because forest service has a unique expertise in history and leadership with these civilian cores dating back to the original ccc's which now we are a part of the job corps networks. now the 21st century conservation corps. i did it, excuse me. the climate conservation corps would be additive to the great work that would be done. they would gain these conservation skills and be leaders and have employment
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opportunities for the future and we'll be able to expand and grow to do more resilience related projects, including in our urban areas. >> and is it the case that these ccc projects, both existing and the proposed -- let me speak just to the existing. play a significant role in giving a lot of youth a second chance to get their feet on the ground? often finding that they've lost a sense of purpose or mission? and joining a core gives them structure and purpose that can really put lives back on track? >> you said it spot on, senator. there are some highlights of this work that i do, the honor to serve as chief. when i get to connect with those kids that now have a passion and something they care about, it is the best part of this work.
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>> well, i really look forward to seeing this vision move to reality of the new civilian climate core. >> i appreciate that. we look forward to working with you. >> i'm going to close with asking a little bit about the budget reforms that i spoke to in my opening statement. which whenever this sort of thing occurs, it requires significant restructuring efforts. it is a test of leadership. do you feel like the process is well underway in the forrest service to implement those budget reforms? >> senator, i'm going to say yes. it is well underway. but i'll be frank that it has been a challenge. it is opening up incredible insights and opportunities for the future.
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so the purpose of this budget reform is really good and needed. i do many employ and partner engagements and this is top of mind for many employees. i won't try to sugar coat this significant of a change on how we do business. we are putting top priority. we did have to manage through covid this year as well. so we had multiple top priorities. the human capital planning piece of what we're looking for in this budget reform is very revealing. we've just completed phase one and we're excited to get to phase two so we can have more transparent and coherent projections of what our needs are when you ask me, chief, what do you need? what are the gaps?
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we can be much more articulate and clear about what that is. >> i think as you speak to that, it is really speaking to the fiscal year 21 bill. to basically right size the agency for near years and years down the line. so i think that will be very helpful to guide the service and to help fund what you need. >> what we need now and into the future. absolutely. >> do you have any other questions would you like to raise? >> well, thank you very much. chief christiansen, and let me note that the hearing record will be open until two weeks after the arrival of the president's fiscal year 2022
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budget request. >> which day are we getting that on in. >> friday, sir. >> all right. we're looking forward to reviewing it. thank you. this hearing is adjourned. l in e
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house, and former senator joe lieberman.


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