Skip to comments.Agriculture chief's priority: avoid jail
Posted on 02/24/2008 12:24:14 PM PST by girlangler
Agriculture chief's priority: avoid jail
By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Writer Sat Feb 23, 10:12 AM ET
WASHINGTON - He overhauled federal forest policy to cut more trees and became a lightning rod for environmentalists who say he is intent on logging every tree in his reach.
After nearly seven years in office, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey still has a long to-do list. Near the top: Persuade a federal judge to keep him out of jail.
Rey, a former timber industry lobbyist who has directed U.S. forest policy since 2001, also wants to set up state rules making it easier to build roads in remote national forests and restore overgrown, unhealthy forests by clearing them of small trees and debris that can stoke wildfires. And he wants to streamline cumbersome regulations that can paralyze actions on public lands.
A Montana judge, accusing Rey of deliberately skirting the law so the Forest Service can keep fighting wildfires with a flame retardant that kills fish, has threatened to put him behind bars.
For Rey, who faces a court date Tuesday, the prospect of jail time is daunting. But it's just one more obstacle as he attempts to rid federal policies of pesky paperwork and endless litigation that slows forest managers from cutting down trees.
Rey's signature accomplishment passage of the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act quickened approval of projects to thin overgrown forests, so they can be completed within months rather than years. The law, the first major change in forest management in a quarter-century, has helped restore healthy forests after decades of neglect and mismanagement, supporters say.
"We are now treating four times as many acres as we did when this administration came into office," Rey said in an interview, "and those treatments are showing the desired effect."
Devastating wildfires in California last fall that charred about 800 square miles and killed 10 people, burned about 2,200 homes half the number of homes destroyed in similar fires in 2003, Rey said.
Rey's critics say talk of "treatment" and "thinning" is code for Rey's real goal: cutting more trees in service of his former timber industry cronies.
Environmentalists routinely denounce Rey as the "Karl Rove of the forest": a Machiavellian figure who serves as the brains behind the Bush administration's aggressive effort to reverse Clinton administration policies that sought to rope off broad swaths of forest land for preservation. One group even declared Rey "Public Lands Enemy No. 1" after he proposed a failed plan to sell surplus forest land to private interests.
"He's tried to oversee a radical dismantling of the safeguards that the public really wants for its public lands," said Doug Heiken, conservation coordinator for Oregon Wild, an environmental group.
The object of such fury is unlikely. At 55, the short, bespectacled Rey looks more like a high-school math teacher than a ruthless tree killer. With a salt-and-paper goatee, the soft-spoken Rey has a dry wit that masks his determination to remake forest policy.
"I'm not sure forests need Karl Rove," Rey said, laughing.
Josh Kardon, chief of staff to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Rey revels in his notoriety.
"Mark has always enjoyed a good joust and likes reliving those battles while he sips wine and strokes that legendary goatee," Kardon said.
Born in Canton, Ohio, Rey became interested in forests as an Eagle Scout. He later earned degrees at the University of Michigan in forestry, wildlife biology and natural resources policy.
After a stint at the Bureau of Land Management, he began working for the timber and paper industry in 1976 and was vice president of the American Forest and Paper Association before joining the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 1995.
As lead forestry staffer for the panel's two top Republicans, Idaho's Larry Craig and Alaska's Frank Murkowski, Rey was a key figure in a number of controversial bills, including one to hasten so-called salvage logging after forest fires.
Craig, who pushed for Rey's appointment, said Rey knows more about forest management than anyone else in Washington.
"He will be viewed, I think, as one of the more successful undersecretaries," Craig said, citing the healthy forests law and increased focus on the cause and suppression of wildfires.
Chris West, vice president of American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, gives Rey's tenure a B-minus. "Mostly because they didn't get as much done as they could have and should have" with a Republican administration and GOP Congress for six years, West said.
Rey acknowledges the point, but he said budget constraints in a time of war have limited his options.
His biggest regret? "I didn't get to be undersecretary for natural resources during a time of budget surpluses and above-average rainfall," Rey said. "There's nothing I can do about either."
Is this the judge?
The Feds own way too much land. Sell it, log it, mine it, and graze it!
I can think of some congressmen who helped :
Rey’s signature accomplishment passage of the 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act ...
Another liberal hit piece :
” quickened approval of projects to thin overgrown forests, so they can be completed within months rather than years...”
We are still waiting for many of these projects from blow downs, etc. to start...they can not even get past the Sierra Club and their lawyers ( since before 2003 )...
MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press writer, prefers endless federal pesky paperwork ?
The feds have actually been removing hundreds of miles of existing, historical roads under the title of no new roads.
” making it easier to build roads in remote national forests ...”
Hopefully this judge and the enviro wackos don’t succeed in putting him in prison but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Undersecretary Mark Rey is one of the few people that realize and treat our timberlands as a renewable resource. Sadly, the lib enviros have many lib federal judges in their hip pocket.
Tree harvest is not “exploitation”. On the contrary, it is a very necessary step in the successful management of our forest resources.
Wood is, and has been for centuries, a very necessary component in housing and as a source of energy. Forest products include a wide range of highly valuable adjuncts to our current standard of living, from the paper we read in the morning to the natural filtration of pollutants from the air, to the conservation of soil and water deemed so necessary to maintaining the balance of life. But the trees have to be HARVESTED to complete this balance.
Old-growth forests are the most inefficient means of carrying out any of these functions. These old stands of trees have effectively smothered out almost every other plant life in their shadows, they sap the moisture from the surrounding soil, and they contribute little in the capture of carbon dioxide from the air, as compared to young, swiftly-growing plant growth, be it grass, young trees, or algae growing down on the pond.
Nature’s harvest, of course, is at a much slower rate than mankind’s, through beetle infestations the kill trees, the rot and decay of dead trees through the actions of bacteria and saprophytes. Much swifter and more effective are the natural fires that start in old-growth timber, and burn away all the accumulated fuel, a process that had been going on for countless eons long before mankind appeared on this planet. After the passing of the fire, new growth springs up almost immediately, as seeds from suppressed species of plants sprout, and an immediate demand for the raw material of this growth, carbon dioxide, clears the atmosphere swiftly, replacing all the oxygen that was consumed in the vegetative fuel burn.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, and never rises to level much above its current ratio to other gases in the atmosphere, as long as there are plenty of young, growing plants and adequate energy from sunshine. No matter HOW much “fossil” fuel is burned.
Thanks, I am an advocate of sane forest management, including logging. I don’t like eco idiots efforts to turn them all into wilderness areas, and locking out the public. I know logging and successional growth forests are the best thing for wildlife.
I posted that story just to bring attention to Rey’s situation.
I married into the logging business about ten years ago. Having the opportunity to actually cruise timber in the 3 states that we logged for house logs, I can share with you some observations.
Most of the existing forests are second or more growth timber. The original forests of Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona were clear cut in the mid to late 1800’s and what is here now is what grew in after that. The original forest was widely spaced large trees. Natural fire prevented the growth of the “hair” or ladder fuel that we now have.
An acre is an area of ground that is about 208 feet wide by 208 feet long. In healthy forests, there would be about 20 large trees on that parcel of ground, there being some grass and small shrubs in between which are periodically burned. In healthy forest, lightening strike fires can burn between and under the large trees without the huge fires that you see on TV every year.
Because of the tinkering of environmentalists, the large trees are mostly gone, and now replaced with stands of small closely spaced trees referred to as ladder fuel. I have cruised timber around Flagstaff, AZ that has tree counts of around 16,000 trees per acre.
As long as the “forest managers” continue to restrict logging and sane population management, the fires will continue, and the destruction of homes and personal property will persist. Fox News just mentioned this morning that 3500 homes were burned in 2007 California wildfires. Forest thinning and fire breaks would have prevented almost all of that.
As in anything, logic and moderation is the solution.
From another standpoint, I have watched as the enviro idiots here in the Southeastern U.S have litigated and tied forest managers’ hands to the point the grouse populations here are basically non existing now.
The USFS used to manage logged over areas for grouse and other wildlife, but this is not allowed any more.
The damage they do to people and wildlife is disgusting.
There is no place that liberals have touched that is better because of it. I live in the woods, and I have logged. It made my woods better.