Operation Enduring Forests:
Exposing the Lies of the Bush/Rey Forest Service
While the Bush Administration carefully greenwashes its anti-environmental
image, logging, mining, oil and gas, and motorized recreation
interests are poised to exploit the last untouched wild areas
on America's national forests and federal public lands.
Emboldened by the 2000 election - when they contributed millions
of dollars to Bush's presidential campaign - these resource
extractive industries are now dictating the management of
192,000,000 acres of national forest lands.
Consider the fact that Mark Rey - a timber industry lobbyist
for the past two decades - is now responsible for the management
of 155 national forests as Bush's Under Secretary for Natural
Resources and the Environment.
Consequently, America's national forests have never been
so ecologically endangered and vulnerable to corporate control.
Of course, given their connections to industry, the Bush Administration
and Mark Rey are acting as if everything is fine, sort of
like "Denial with a Smile!"
Sadly, it doesn't require a lot of scrutiny to see through
the smoke screen of the Bush/Rey Forest Service's version
of environmental protection. With Mark Rey running the show,
the cutting of trees, grazing of cows and drilling for oil,
gas and other minerals is taking precedence over the protection
of clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat.
The Bush/Rey Forest Service is subtly weakening environmental
protection standards designed to preserve and maintain the
ecological integrity of public lands. A quick look at some
of the Bush/Rey Forest Service's policy decisions and proposals
reveals their pro-industry agenda:
- Failed to implement the Roadless Area Conservation
Rule: The Bush/Rey Forest Service has purposely delayed
implementation of the Roadless Rule and failed to defend
it in court against the timber industry and the states of
Alaska and Idaho.
- Misappropriated federal funds to support commercial
logging: The Bush/Rey Forest Service has inappropriately
used National Fire Plan restoration funds to conduct post-fire
salvage logging, thinning and other commercial timber sales.
- Using the wildfires of 2000 to increase logging:
The Bush/Rey Forest Service is playing on the public's fear
of wildfires to promote "forest health" initiatives
and other phony "restoration" projects in order
to rationalize logging of ancient old-growth, roadless areas
and other high-conservation value forests and to increase
the federal timber sale program.
- Proposal to create "charter forests":
Rey proposes to take national forest decision making power
away from the American public and give it to local, state
and corporate interests by creating private trusts that
are mandated to turn a profit.
"Analysis Paralysis" or "Accountability
With an eye towards increasing logging and resource extraction
from national forests, the new mantra of the Bush/Rey Forest
Service is "analysis paralysis." The agency complains
of management "gridlock" caused by our nation's
environmental laws and from too much paperwork due to excessive
planning rules and public participation requirements.
In testimony before a Senate committee Rey stated, "What
is commonly referred to as 'gridlock' or 'analysis paralysis'
is directly affecting the ability of the agency to
communities a sustainable flow of forest products." What
Rey really means is that our nation's environmental laws are
interfering with the Bush/Rey Forest Service's desire to increase
In fact, Bosworth said as much during testimony before a
Senate committee in May. Bosworth announced that "getting
work done on the ground" and "taking local needs
into account" were his top priorities along with "delivery
of forest products." Bosworth concluded that increased
logging would take several years to accomplish and could only
be possible by "streamlining" our nation's environmental
To help solve the problem, both Rey and Forest Service Chief
Dale Bosworth have proposed doing an "end run" around
the nation's environmental laws and have even stated that
a process is underway to "review" key environmental
laws, including laws protecting endangered species and clean
air and water!
Of course, the real problem facing the Forest Service is
"accountability insurmountability." The Bush/Rey
Forest Service simply refuses to make themselves accountable
to the public who they are supposed to serve. The agency has
consistently refused to follow environmental laws, to operate
in good faith and to be accountable to Congress, federal judges
and the American public.
The Bush/Rey Forest Service's wholesale meddling with our
nation's environmental laws and public participation requirements
Failing to Implement the Roadless Area Conservation Rule
Following two decades of political deliberations and three
years of unprecedented public participation involving over
two million Americans, the U.S. Forest Service issued the
Roadless Area Conservation Rule in January 2001. The Roadless
Rule would have stopped some forms of commercial logging and
roadbuilding within 58.5 million acres of national forest
Since taking office, Mark Rey and the Bush Administration
have purposefully delayed implementation of the Roadless Rule
- with the intention of scrapping it all together. In fact,
even before taking a position with the Bush Administration
in October 2001, Rey was working - through Idaho Senator Larry
Craig - on a legislative scheme to prevent the Roadless Rule
from being implemented.
These delay tactics from the Bush Administration come despite
the May 2001 promise from Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman
to support the Roadless Rule. Veneman's promise came on the
heels of Attorney General John Ashcroft's pledge that he would
also enforce the policy. In the past year, the Administration
has broken both of these promises by undermining the Roadless
Rule and failing to defend the Rule in court when it was challenged
by Boise Cascade timber company and the states of Idaho and
Clearly, the Bush/Rey Forest Service's real agenda is to open
up these pristine wildlands to more logging and development.
Dozens of proposals are now on the table to open up national
forest roadless areas around the country.
In just the Clearwater National Forest in Idaho, two massive
timber sales endanger four pristine roadless areas containing
rare low-elevation, old-growth forests. The North Lochsa Face
timber sale is located within the North Lochsa Slope roadless
area encompassing segments of the historic Lewis and Clark
Trail. An even larger timber sale, the Middle Black, threatens
the integrity of the Mallard Larkins, Siwash and Pot Mountain
roadless areas. Together, these timber sales would cut enough
trees to fill 35,000 log trucks lined up for over 300 miles!
In addition, this May - in a major test of the Bush/Rey Forest
Service's stance on the roadless issue - the New York Times
reported that "the Bush Administration plans to recommend
that 9 million [roadless] acres of the Tongass National Forest
in Alaska be opened for logging, mining and road building."
Currently, thirty-three roadless area timber sales - totaling
over one billion board feet - are planned for the Tongass
National Forest, many in ancient, old-growth temperate rainforests.
Misappropriating Federal Funds to Support Logging
Following the wildfires of 2000, Congress passed a bill mandating
the implementation of the National Fire Plan (NFP). To date,
over $6.6 billion in taxpayer dollars have been allocated
to the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior for
NFP implementation. According to the NFP website, the NFP
"is a long-term investment that will help protect communities
and natural resources."
Alarmingly, under the Bush Administration, NFP funds have
either been misappropriated or misused to promote commercial
logging. According to a November 2001 report released by the
Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General, the
Forest Service inappropriately used National Fire Plan (NFP)
funds intended for fire restoration to conduct commercial
timber sales - including the nation's largest timber sale
on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana. Contrary to
what Rey would have us believe, the report also stated that,
"commercial timber sales do not meet the criteria for
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.
This is occurring despite the fact that the NFP warns that
the agency's wildland fire policy "should not rely on
commercial logging or new road building to reduce fire risks"
because "the removal of large, merchantable trees from
forests does not reduce fire risk and may, in fact, increase
To make matters worst, the GAO reported in February 2002
that the Forest Service and Department of Interior have failed
to identify communities that face a high risk of wildfire,
and have not reported on what was accomplished with appropriated
wildfire funds. The GAO report also criticized the Forest
Service and Interior Department for failing to effectively
coordinate their activities.
Using the Wildfires of 2000 to Increase Logging
Mark Rey, the Forest Service and the timber industry recognize
that the wildfires of 2000 may perhaps be their last real
opportunity to return to the glory days of the Reagan Administration,
when taxpayer-subsidized logging and roadbuilding dominated
our national forests.
Unfortunately, Mark Rey and the Forest Service are promoting
a great deal of misinformation about wildfire, hoping to capitalize
on public fire hysteria, and minimize public opposition to
increased logging and roadbuilding in our national forests.
Wildfire has emerged as the driving force behind the Bush/Rey
Forest Service's logging program: virtually every single timber
sale in the West - and many in the East - are now couched
in terms of "reducing fuels" or "restoring
For example, backcountry "thinning" is frequently
justified as a method of protecting people's homes. Yet the
Forest Service's own Fire Science Lab has said "the likelihood
that a home will ignite from wildfire is almost entirely determined
by the landscape within 40 meters of the building and by the
materials and design of the building."
Rey even went so far as to say in a recent interview that
while logging will always be controversial, it also remains
"the best thing for the environment." While science
has unquestionably demonstrated that the real "forest
health" problem is a result of logging, roadbuilding,
grazing and fire suppression, Rey and the timber industry
would have us believe that we can log and road our way to
healthier national forests.
The most egregious example of the Forest Service using the
wildfires of 2000 to increase logging is found on the Bitterroot
National Forest in Montana. In April 2001, the Forest Service
proposed to "restore" the Bitterroot National Forest
with the largest timber sale in Forest Service history. Forest
Service officials based their entire plan on an unproven "re-burn
theory," which even they admitted had no scientific basis
In December - once the Forest Service and Mark Rey realized
that its controversial plan would not withstand public scrutiny
- the Forest Service illegally circumvented the public appeals
process when Mark Rey signed the record of decision for the
logging plan, followed by a U.S. District Court judge criticizing
the Forest Service for electing "to take the law into
its own hands." Rey and Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth
later took part in a highly political mediation that resulted
in a settlement releasing the largest current national forest
timber sale in the country.
Proposal to Create "Charter Forests"
With their "charter forests" proposal, the Bush/Rey
Forest Service is attempting to transfer the management of
some national forests from the Forest Service to local "trusts"
consisting largely of "user groups." The "user
groups" could include logging and mining companies as
well as hiking and ATV groups.
In other words, the Bush Administration is proposing to give
exclusive management control of America's national forests
to local interests that live adjacent to these lands and to
corporate interests who profit from them. This proposal completely
leaves the hundreds of millions of Americans - who are currently
equal owners of federal public lands - without any say in
their management. This would be like giving control of the
Statue of Liberty only to residents of New York!
The "charter forest" proposal is rooted in a libertarian
approach to federal land management policy - the premise that
all management activity should be to turn a profit. But this
approach ignores the reality of why public lands were set
aside over a century ago. The primary motivation behind the
creation of our federal public lands system was to keep these
lands out of the control of industry and to manage them in
the public trust - for all Americans.
Rey's "charter forest" plan is included as a "legislative
proposal" in the Bush Administration's FY 2003 Forest
Service budget. Though the proposal is vague, Rey has stated
that he wants to use one or two national forests - perhaps
the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota or the Clearwater
National Forest in Idaho - as case studies to see if the government
can remove "procedural bottlenecks" that occur in
day-to-day management and emphasize local involvement in decision-making.
While Rey has stated that the goal of "charter forests"
is not to increase a particular activity - such as commercial
logging, mining or ATV use - given Rey and the Administration's
strong pro-industry ties, you can bet that increased resource
extraction is a certainty.
Meet Mark Rey:
A Devoted Timber Industry Lobbyist
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Room 217-E, Jamie L. Whitten Building
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
As President Bush's Under Secretary for Natural Resources
and Environment, former timber industry lobbyist Mark Rey
is responsible for the management of 155 national forests,
19 national grasslands, and 15 land utilization projects on
192,000,000 acres of publicly-owned lands in 44 states.
October, 2001-Present: Sworn in as Under Secretary
for Natural Resources and Environment by Agriculture Secretary
Ann M. Veneman. In this position, Rey oversees the U.S. Forest
1995-2001: Rey served as a staff member with
the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Rey was the committee's lead staff person for work on national
forest policy and USFS Administration, where he was directly
involved in virtually all legislation concerning the USFS
during this time period, with principal responsibility for
a number of public lands bills. Specifically, Rey was the
"key architect" (National Journal, 1997) of Sen.
Larry Craig's (R-ID) 1997 version of the National Forest Management
Act, which would have eliminated citizen oversight and made
timber harvest levels mandatory and enforceable, while making
environmental standards unenforceable "policies."
The Act would have allowed the USFS to fine citizens up to
$10,000 for filing appeals to halt timber sales for an "improper
purpose." Rey is also widely known as the author of the
infamous 1995 Salvage Rider, which suspended all environmental
laws, giving logging interests the go-ahead to clearcut ancient
forests in the Pacific Northwest (National Journal, 1996).
1992-1994: Vice President of Forest Resources
for the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA).
AF&PA is the leading national voice for more logging in
national forests. Rey pushed for getting rid of the USFS appeals
process, claiming it was being abused by "high-paid special
interest litigators or by college pranksters" (Lewiston
Morning Tribune, 1992).
1989-1992: Executive Director of the American
Forest Resource Alliance, a coalition of 350 timber corporations
formed by the National Forest Products Association to oppose
"Option 9" - a plan to designate habitat in the
Pacific Northwest for the endangered northern spotted owl.
Rey publicly promoted the idea that the Endangered Species
Act unfairly restricts business (National Journal, 1992) and
authored a 1991 "secret" proposal circulated to
the first Bush Administration calling for logging quotas in
these ancient forests (Gannett News Service, 1991).
1984-1989: Vice President of Public Forestry
Programs for the National Forest Products Association, a precursor
to the American Forest and Paper Association.
1976-1984: Served as "Environmental Forester;"
Director of Water Quality Programs; and Director of Water
and Air Quality Programs for the National Forest Products
Association/American Paper Institute.
Other Major Accomplishments and Public Statements
- Stated in 1991, "Claims that our forests are being
overcut are simply not true. Not one forest in the entire
national forest system has come close to meeting the timber
harvest levels called for in its forest plan." (Mark
Rey, letter to The New York Times, October 23, 1991).
- In responding to a 1991 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
proposal to designate 11.6 million acres of the Pacific
Northwest as prime northern spotted owl habitat, Rey stated,
"With this insane proposal the government has placed
the interest of owls above the interest of thousands of
logging families and communities." (Wall Street Journal,
- Has stated that clearcut logging, while "not aesthetically
uplifting" is "compatible with rain forest ecology"
and that the practice is "relatively comparable"
to windstorms (Sunset Magazine, 1997).
- In 2000, Rey handled Sen. Craig's opposition to the Roadless
Initiative (Almanac of the Unelected, 2000). Helped develop
Sen. Craig's plan to stall the policy until the new Bush
Administration could take office by introducing legislation
to require a congressional oversight committee to investigate
how the policy came about, effectively delaying enactment
for at least a year (Oregonian, 2000).
- At a speech given at UC Berkeley in October 2000, stated,
"Our public lands are now under the protection of sweeping
laws, like the Endangered Species Act, enforced by powerful
federal agencies. There is no emergency that warrants this
unilateral exercise of executive authority."
Special thanks to EarthJustice and the Clearinghouse on
Environmental Advocacy and Research for background information.