Purchase Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests
Read more

Excerpt from Strangely Like War

Revolving Door (p. 70)

From chapter "Corruption"

Part of the reason government and industry work so closely together is that they’re parts of the same machine, working for the same ultimate purposes. One primary purpose is to maintain production, that is, to convert forests into chopsticks, two-by-fours, and newspapers. Another way to say this is that a primary purpose is to convert the living to the dead.

Another reason government so often supports industry is that a revolving door exists between the two. Politicians and bureaucrats were often pillars of industry before they went into politics or “public service,” and after politicians get booted out of office, where do they go? Back into the private sector. This revolving door provides sophisticated incentives for future and ongoing career opportunities, salaries, bonuses, and other benefits. It’s no wonder those in industry and government can believe and say, “What is good for the country is good for General Motors, and what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.” Having already defined America not as its land or citizens but as the government, they’re simply saying that what’s good for themselves is good for themselves.

Thus, soon after Lee Thomas left his job as head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) he joined Georgia-Pacific, one of the companies he had pretended to oversee. William Ruckleshaus, who also headed the EPA, went on to sit on the board of Weyerhaeuser, Browning-Ferris Industries, Cummins Engine, Coinstar, Monsanto, Nordstrom, Solutia, and Gargoyles. Sometimes the door doesn’t even need to revolve: Booth Gardner, former Washington State Governor and U.S. ambassador to GATT, is a multimillionaire heir to the Weyerhaeuser fortune. Gardner was declared exempt from a 1972 Washington State voter initiative requiring public officials to disclose their financial assets; the Washington State Public Disclosure Commissioners—appointed, conveniently enough, by the governor—renewed his exemption every year. Charles Simon, a chief researcher for the industry front group National Council of the Paper Industry for Air and Stream Improvement, was later a consultant to the US government in its investigation of the paper industry’s violations of pollution laws. U.S. Senators such as James McClure and Slade Gorton—two of the most genocidal and ecocidal American politicians since Andrew Jackson—left “public service” in order to join law and lobbying firms which cater to timber and mining corporations that receive public tax monies and public lands resources.

The list is long: Who better to oversee the U.S. Forest Service than the attorney who defended Louisiana-Pacific from charges of monopolistic practices detrimental to the people and forests of the United States? Ronald Reagan appointed such a person—John Crowell—Chief of the Forest Service. Crowell immediately set a goal of doubling timber production from the national forests by the turn of the century. That didn’t happen, in part because there weren’t that many trees left to cut, even if the market could have borne all that wood. But the cut did increase until by 1988 the United States became a net exporter of wood products for the first time, and Americans were subsidizing the U.S. Forest Service’s destruction of public forests with billions of tax dollars.

Mark Rey’s career is as a more recent example of the revolving door. In the mid-1970s he worked for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and then in the late 1970s and 1980s worked for the American Paper Institute, the National Forest Products Association, and the American Forest Resource Alliance, a “Wise Use” industry front group. By the early 1990s he was a vice president for the American Forest and Paper Association.

Then Rey returned to the government, as a staff member with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Rey designed the infamous Salvage Logging Rider of 1995 (written directly after he “left” the industry for “public service”) and worked on the Herger/Feinstein Quincy Library Act of 1998 and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (the former got out the cut under the guise of “forest health,” while the latter got out the cut under the guise of providing money for schools and economic stability for communities). He also drafted Senator Larry Craig’s—Craig being as fully genocidal and ecocidal as Gorton and McClure—rewrite of the National Forest Management Act to eliminate citizen oversight committees and other environmental protection measures. The interesting thing about this bill is that many of its recommendations replicated word-for-word statements made by the man who succeeded Rey at the American Forest and Paper Association.

At a speech given at UC Berkeley in October 2000, Rey 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.”

Rey believes—or at least states—clearcutting is “compatible with rain forest ecology,” “relatively comparable” to windstorms, and benefits wildlife by clearing out dense sections of forest for animals. He stated that the 1991 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal to protect spotted owl habitat was an “insane proposal [to] place the interest of owls above the interest of thousands of logging families and communities.” (Of course he did not suggest that automation is an “insane proposal to place the interest of corporations above the interests of thousands of logging families and communities,” although automation costs far more jobs than environmental protection.) He also suggested limiting the Forest Service’s budget to “custodial management.”

Part of Rey’s reward for such anti-environment and anti-government statements was to be named by President George W. Bush as U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment, overseeing the US Forest Service and the national forests. He is well-placed and well-connected to continue his influence over forest management in the United States: “Rey’s strength in shaping timber issues comes from his well-nurtured contacts within the federal agencies, with the media, with labor unions, and within the timber industry.” The Democrats went along with Rey’s appointment, too; it was unanimously confirmed by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and then by the full U.S. Senate.

The door revolves not only between government and industry, but also between industry and big environmental corporations. Jay Hair left his cushy job as President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation to become a PR flack for Plum Creek Timber Company, a company so outrageously environmentally destructive that even a Republican congressperson called it “the Darth Vader of the timber industry.” That the National Wildlife Federation even has a CEO is a sign of how corporate it has become. Linda Coady, formerly a senior executive at Weyerhaeuser, became vice president of the World Wildlife Fund’s Pacific regional office. Corporations also directly fund these large organizations. It’s no wonder large “environmental” corporations such as Audubon, Sierra Club (which threatened to expel members who spoke out against President Bush’s invasion of Iraq), Environmental Defense Fund, World Wildlife Fund, and Natural Resources Defense Council are more interested in raising money than raising discomfort among the economically powerful. It’s no wonder they’re more interested in defending bottom lines than forests. It’s no wonder they consistently undercut the efforts of true grassroots organizations working to protect their homes: what’s good for GM is good for America is good for the corporate environmental organizations.