Earth Shakers: The Counter-Enviro Power List

Mark Rey: Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, Dept. of Agriculture

May 1, 2005
Outside Magazine

A former timber-industry lobbyist from Ohio, Rey is head caretaker for America's 193 million acres of national forest. Throughout his career, he's been a forceful opponent of what he considers the red tape surrounding wildlife-preservation measures and environmental-assessment reviews, and he has advocated giving state and local agencies real input into the management of federal lands. His critics claim this is just a cover for hardball rollbacks that will open protected lands to more road building and logging. "Rey is the architect of an across-the-board attack on national forests," says Niel Lawrence, director of the forestry program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

As forest chief since 2001, Rey, 52, has been instrumental in creating new "categorical exclusions" to environmental-impact reviews required by the 35-year-old National Environmental Policy Act. Typically, these exclusions have allowed forest managers to relax the reviews when they want to fix a trail or structure. The new exclusions, part of the Bush administration's Healthy Forests Initiative (first introduced in August 2002), allow the removal of "hazardous fuels"—like trees—in forests where wildfires pose an increased threat. The change has already led to fire-prevention logging on more than 11 million acres.

SOUND BITE: Rey once described forest-conservation laws as "bedtime reading for insomniacs as an alternative to War and Peace."

NEXT UP: Rey plans to revamp the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Clinton-era regulation that halted new road building and logging in designated areas in national forests. The rule, which was already repealed in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, is expected to be replaced in May with a far less stringent one, potentially giving the timber, oil, gas, and mining industries access to 58.5 million acres of currently protected areas.

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