By Bill Schneider
The New West
Mark Rey, public lands enemy Number 1?
In October, recently retired Forest Service planner Richard Artley made a few headlines when he blew the whistle on his former employer's secretive plan to close thousands of recreational facilities. Now, he's blowing the whistle on the man behind it, his former boss, Mark Rey, who currently holds the position most people don't know even exists.
Officially, Mark Rey is called the Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources & Environment. Unofficially, he is often called much less complimentary names, but I won't go into that here. Suffice to say, he is considered the enemy of those trying to protect our public lands from commercialization and privatization.
Rey is President Bush's handpicked controller of the Forest Service, and he has done and excellent job for his boss. In his position, he sets policy for our national forests, and is the person behind recent controversies such as:
- Proposals to sell off large chunks of national forests to fund rural schools,
- Repeal of Clinton Era Roadless Rule and endless litigation to fight court reversals of the Bush administration's repeal of the rule,
- Tacking the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act or RAT, the Recreation Access Tax, as a rider on a must-pass spending bill and then making sure the FS aggressively increases current fees and initiates new fees to limit access to national forests, especially by those least able to afford it.
- Secretively launching and keeping under wraps for four years the Recreation Site Facility Master Plan process, which will result in the closure and "demonstration" (i.e. become fee based) of thousands of campgrounds, picnic areas and other recreational facilities on national forests.
With those exceptions, plus about twenty more detailed by Artley, Rey has been a good steward for our national forests.
Artley, a retired forest planner from Idaho's Nez Perce National Forest, recently posted a long letter detail many other misdeeds by Rey. In my experience in working with government, you don't see officials trying to "out" their agency and former bosses. If you do, it has much deeper roots than a disputed performance review. You can read his detailed letter here.
"I watched from the inside as Rey's tragic policies unfolded on a daily basis," Artley claims in his "Open Letter to All Americans," which has been posted on several environmental websites. "Forest Service managers still implement them without question. It will take Congress time to purge the many unacceptable Bush land management agency appointments. However, for each week that Rey controls Forest Service policy, our public land suffers."
Artley goes on to encourage people to write Congress and ask for Rey's removal.
"Mark Rey is an intelligent man," Artley admits. "He has been using his intelligence to deceive America into allowing him to create hundreds of thousands of corporate industrial tree farms on your public land."