Tree talks sprout protests
By Reid Magney
La Crosse Tribune
Logging forests in America is better for the environment
than getting wood from tropical rain forests, the Bush
administration's top forestry official said Wednesday
in La Crosse.
Mark Rey, under secretary for natural resources and environment
at the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture, spoke at a conference
on sustainable forestry in the Great Lakes region.
Outside the conference at the Radisson Hotel, 25 activists
including Sierra Club members held a protest of administration
Rey said the United States' consumption of wood and fiber
products exceeds its production, meaning the country imports
from forests in Canada or developing countries. "It
makes sense to manage our forests to meet the larger share
of consumption and reduce demand on foreign (forests),"
Forests in temperate areas, where the nutrients are held
in the soil, are able to regenerate growth, Rey said.
Tropical rain forests hold nutrients in the trees themselves,
and the countries are less well equipped to sustain forests,
he said. Before being appointed by President Bush, Rey
worked as a Senate staffer on forestry issues. In the
1980s and '90s, he worked as a timber industry lobbyist.
The Sierra Club issued a statement accusing the administration
of "opening up millions of acres of wild, roadless
forests to damaging logging, road building and other development."
"We're here to tell the Bush administration that
we disagree with their plan of ‘leave no tree behind,'"
Barb Frank of La Crosse said at the protest.
"We need the Bush administration to protect public
forests, not timber companies' profits," said Frank,
the Sierra Club's Midwest regional conservation committee
Guy Wolf, co-chairperson of the Down River Alliance, said
the government needs to do more to reduce demand for trees
by requiring more recycled materials in products.
"We're putting it in our landfills and burning it
in our incinerator," Wolf said.
Larry Severeid of La Crosse, a Hixon Forest board member
who attended the sustainability conference, went outside
to meet with the protesters. He told them he was disappointed
because the protest cast a shadow on the "virtuous
group" sponsoring the conference.
Severeid invited Frank inside to participate in a discussion
about sustainable forests.
Environmentalist protests are fairly common at events
where Rey speaks. He's often accused of advocating timber
"This position is controversial," Rey said.
"Whoever holds it has to reconcile disparate views"
on how to manage the forests.
Rey told the conference that while stakeholders in America's
forests all complain, he doesn't think anybody really
wants change. He went on explain that after he became
a staff member with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources, the committee held 18 hearings
on all aspects of federal land management.
"Not a single witness was willing to stand up for
the status quo," Rey said. Although willing to complain
about the way things were, none were willing to compromise,
If groups interested in changing government policy on
national forests want change, Rey said, they need to get
together with the people who oppose them and negotiate