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Mark Rey

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As the Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Mark E. Rey oversees the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. In this position he is responsible for the management of 156 national forests, 19 national grasslands, and 15 land utilization projects on 191 million acres in 44 states. Sworn in by Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman on October 2, 2001, he is another in the long line of Bush appointees with close ties to industry. While this is nothing new to politics, the particular vehemence with which Bush's appointees have gone after basic environmental and consumer protections is unprecedented. Mark Rey is particularly noteworthy.

Born in Canton, Ohio, Rey has B.S. degrees in wildlife management and forestry and an M.S. in natural resources policy and administration, all from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.[1]

One of the nation's foremost timber lobbyists, Mark Rey spent almost twenty years (1976-1994) working for timber industry organizations including the National Forest Products Association, the American Paper Institute, and the American Forest Resources Alliance. He was Vice President of the American Forest and Paper Association, a leading advocate of logging in national forests, from 1992-1994.[2]

Rey was directly involved in virtually all of the forestry and conservation legislation considered by Congress from 1995 to 2001. He was the lead staff member to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee. The infamous 1995 "Salvage Rider" that is attributed to him, suspended environmental laws and allowed logging of old growth in the Pacific Northwest. One source noted that Rey claimed he did not author the rider, known as the "Logging Without Laws Rider" by its non-industry detractors, but went on to note that it "has his fingerprints all over it." [3] Rey also authored Senator Larry Craig's (R-ID) version of the National Forest Management Act, lifting the language of the bill almost verbatim from his American Forest and Paper Association successor's recommendations to the House resource committee. The bill would have eliminated citizen oversight and made timber harvest levels mandatory and enforceable, while making environmental standards unenforceable "policies." [4] He was also a featured speaker at the 1996 and 1998 "Fly In for Freedom," an annual event held by Alliance for America, the vehemently anti-environmental Wise Use Movement organization.

Known as an extremely astute and articulate man, Rey has applied his talents to instituting drastic alterations of environmental protections. He is particularly adept at using a variety of techniques to achieve his objectives. An environmentalist commenting on his work as Chief of Staff for Senator Craig quipped, "Hell, you have to read one of Mark's bill drafts about five times before you can figure out how you're getting screwed." [5]

A common tactic employed by Rey is to arrange the timing of his anti-environmental policy announcements to minimize scrutiny. Rey waited until late on December 23, 2003 to announce the removal of roadless protections to allow logging in the Tongass National Forest. [6] Other stealth tactics Rey has utilized to avoid public scrutiny and implement his pro-industry agenda include stalling on implementation of regulations, neglecting to enforce standards, misappropriating funds to benefit the timber industry, failing to challenge court actions against environmental laws and manipulating regulations. In "Dirty Secrets" Osha Gray Davidson describes Rey's enforcement of the roadless regulations:

"[A]fter more than two years of foot-dragging and resistance in court, the Department of Agriculture finally accepted a Clinton-era rule placing more than 58 million acres of national forests off limits to road building (and thus logging). But it added two caveats: Governors could obtain exemptions for federal forests inside their borders (as several have already done); and the rule wouldn't apply in much of Alaska, where the largest stretches of roadless wild forest are located. In June, Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey-a veteran timber lobbyist who is now the chief architect of the nation's forest policy-announced that nearly 3 million acres of land could be opened to timber sales in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, the planet's largest pristine temperate rainforest and home to several species of animals found nowhere else on earth." [7]

Diversion of Forest Service funds to benefit the timber industry is evidenced by the use of brush reduction funds for commercial timber sales:

"In April, a report by the John Muir Project of California (www.johnmuirproject.org) revealed that 83% of all projects funded by NFP brush reduction funds in the Sierra Nevada are actually commercial timber sales. Brush reduction funds were supposed to be used to reduce flammable undergrowth adjacent to forest communities in the West; however, not one of projects in the Sierra Nevada focused on the reduction of flammable brush near homes."[8]

He has also used National Fire Plan restoration funds to conduct post-fire salvage logging, thinning and other commercial timber activities.[9]

With the aid of the Justice Department, timber industry lawsuits are not challenged or are settled out of court at the benefit of industry. This has resulted in agreements to abolish key requirements of the highly successful Northwest Forest Plan (a compromise to end the war between the logging industry and environmentalists) such as the Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS) and to abandon critical habitat designations for endangered species like the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and 19 species of threatened or endangered salmon and steelhead, including Puget Sound chinook, Hood Canal summer chum, and Lake Ozette sockeye. [10]

Rey has been a key force behind the "Healthy Forests" initiative that accelerated logging, particularly of bigger trees, in wildfire-prone areas. According to the Forest Service's own research, the thinning of large trees will increase, rather than reduce, fire hazard. [11]

Rey was also the primary force behind the decision to grant exemptions to the ban on logging in roadless areas of national forests. The exemptions would allow loggers to cut trees in previously protected areas, particularly in the Tongass and Chugach National Forests, and the Giant Sequoia National Monument.[12] The National Forest Roadless Area Conservation Rule was considered by many to be the most important conservation initiative of the 20th century and had overwhelming public support. But, claiming in a February 2, 2004 letter to the Star Tribune that the "Bush administration is doing its part to safeguard Tongass forest," Rey defended removal of the roadless protection rule from the Tongass. He called it a "responsible solution that protects the environment" and ignored ramifications of the resultant timber harvesting by claiming "the Tongass is already protected and the only lands available for timber harvest represent just 4 percent of the total land base. Old-growth reserves, stream buffers, beach fringe buffers, roadless areas and other protections remain." [13] He failed to mention the 50 large-scale timber sales in pristine areas of the forest. The press release also omitted this important detail, claiming that the reason was to resolve a legal challenge by the state of Alaska and provide necessary access to the area's residents. [14] Rey also ignored the Final Environmental Impact preferred solution for the Tongass which "prohibit[ed] road construction, reconstruction, and timber harvest except for stewardship purposes in all inventoried roadless areas" and would have extended roadless protection and provided financial assistance to those affected. [15]

According the Natural Resources Defense Council, "the resulting logging and roadbuilding [will] destroy wildlife habitat, silt up world-class salmon streams, and degrade forever the pristine character of America's last great temperate rainforests." [16]

Unless it supports his pre-determined agenda, Rey dismisses public opinion, no matter how overwhelming, and chafes at traditional safeguards such as Environmental Impact Statements, claiming they "[waste] the time of resource managers and taxpayer dollars." [17] At his confirmation hearing Rey stated "counting heads should not be the way we manage National Forests" and throughout noted how laws such as "the NFMA [National Forest Management Act], the ESA [Endangered Species Act], and NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act], need to be 're-examined,' 'reviewed' and 're-opened.' These laws, according to Rey, were 'holding up projects on the ground,' and were simply 'outdated.'"[18] Rey has also pushed for getting rid of the USFS appeals process, claiming it is being abused by "high-paid special interest litigators or by college pranksters."[19] As a result, important policy changes are made without public scrutiny and without attention to public input. Broad public opposition to changes such as increased logging and roadbuilding in the Tongass and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) recommendations such as those against roadbuilding are ignored.[20]

A satirical website by Public Campaign aptly depicts the Department of Agriculture's stewardship of the environment under Mark Rey: America's national forests are auctioned off eBay-style by Rey and the Bush administration, and potential buyers are enticed with the claim "Remember…once the big trees are gone, they're gone forever, so buy now. And don't forget to say Mark Rey, former timber lobbyist, sent you." [21]

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