"The Darth Vader of forest policy"


If you paid any attention at all to national forest issues during Bush's tenure, you heard the name "Mark Rey" a lot. Appointed Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, Rey oversaw the Forest Service for eight years. From the start, environmental groups were wary of Rey's logging-friendly record, while his supporters praised Rey's expertise in forestry and his emphasis on local involvement.

Over the years, HCN covered Rey's often-controversial actions extensively: helping create the "Healthy Forests" plans; "streamlining" the forest planning process; attempting to sell off thousands of acres of public lands; shutting down  a Forest Service team that analyzed public comments; planning the closure of thousands of national forest campgrounds and sites.

Now, three months out of office, Rey spoke to Martin Nie (associate professor of natural resource policy at the University of Montana)  about his years as undersecretary. Nie asked some incisive and fairly pointed questions; Rey answered in his usual style, neatly evading some, and replying to others with exhaustively detailed, bordering-on-pedantic responses. The 38-page transcript is posted on Headwaters News:

On his bid to undo the Clinton roadless rule and replace it with a state-by-state process:

In the case of trying to do a nationwide rule, you know you can get all the political closure you want to finally end the debate. You can have the president of the United States stand on the side of a ridge in southern Virginia and announce the outcome, but as the courts have told us, it’s hard to do justice to all the technical detail that is required to make the decision sound from the standpoint of a reviewing judge.

On the other hand, if you deal with this on a forest-by-forest basis, you can—by virtue of the fact that you have a lot less data to deal with—deal with it more intelligently.

On his attempt to "clarify" federal road easements that would have made it easier for Plum Creek Timber to develop millions of acres of Montana inholdings:

The last thing we need is the Forest Service slopping over and confusing and otherwise confounding regulatory decisions that (the states are) already poised to make.

On whether there was ever an issue that he advanced as Undersecretary despite his personal opposition to that issue:

Nope. I always prided myself in being able to mold the policy to that which I supported so at the end of the day I was either oblivious to the fact that I opposed it or clever enough to change it.

On who his most formidable adversary was:

Well, if you try to understand the interest that you’re working with, what motivates them, what are the external variables that they’re reacting to, what are their objectives, their priorities, they cease to become adversaries. It’s really hard to call somebody you’ve gotten to understand that well your adversary. And if they cease to become adversaries, they cease to become very formidable. So I’d be hard pressed to call anybody that I’ve interacted with at any length, an adversary.

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