Next, the administration began staffing those federal agencies in charge of forest policy with friends of the timber industry. Mark Rey, who spent two decades lobbying for timber interests, was appointed undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the Department of Agriculture. Mark Rutzick, the industry’s lead attorney, was appointed senior adviser to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with responsibility for endangered Pacific salmon. Allan Fitzsimmons, a scientist who had once said that the loss of all of the 1,200 species now classified as threatened or endangered “would be a disconcerting loss but would not constitute a crisis,” was asked to coordinate the Interior Department’s wildfire suppression programs.
With industry insiders in key policymaking positions, the timber industry delivered its wish list of proposals to increase the cut dramatically via a combination of low-profile regulatory revisions and secretive litigation settlements. The first target was the Northwest Forest Plan, a legal framework that governs the management of 24 million acres of public land in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. Derisively labeled the “Clinton Forest Plan” by the logging industry, the 1994 plan had shifted forest-policy objectives away from pure timber production toward a scientifically based ecosystem approach. As a result of the focus on habitat protection, logging harvests on federal lands dropped by nearly 80 percent in the late 1990s.