Currently affiliated with The Livingston Group, Mark E. Rey served for eight years as the nation’s Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

As Under Secretary, Rey oversaw the programs for the U.S. Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Serving on Capitol Hill for the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, he was responsible for drafting legislation and organizing more than 100 legislative and oversight hearings.

Timber Products Company recently caught up with Rey to talk about the state of the nation’s forests. Here is the third of five questions we asked him regarding the U.S. forests. The first question focused on the biggest issues facing manages of our federal forest resources, and the second focused on balancing economic and environmental issues. Check back with Panel Talk to see additional questions. 

Timber Products: What can be done to reduce the number and magnitude of wildfires?

Rey: There are two critical needs in this area. The first is to continue to make investments (assuming there is any money) in fuels treatment work. The second is to move to modernize the large air tanker program. Large air tankers are a primary initial attack asset. They keep new ignitions from becoming large fires. As such, they save firefighting costs. However, the current fleet is falling out of service and falling out of the sky. The planes are substantially older than the pilots flying them. Here again, assuming there is any money left, Congress must provide the federal firefighting agencies with the tools to keep fires from becoming catastrophic.

 

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