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We loathe Mark Rey. His beard and mustache are two different colors—how can you trust such a man? And we know it’s more than just suspicion that everything that escapes from between those mismatched patches of bristles is an odious lie!

Actually, we’re just trying to fit in. If you haven’t noticed, all around Missoula residents are seething over the recent visit by the Bush-appointed agriculture undersecretary and former timber lobbyist. If you didn’t know, Rey’s purpose for being here was to answer questions about closed-door meetings between the U.S. Forest Service and 1.2-million-acre Montana landowner Plum Creek, which plans to develop some of its property along existing logging roads that run through adjacent public land. If you rightly don’t care about road easements, this batch of them could single-handedly balloon western Montana’s wildland- urban interface to balloon-like proportions.

That’s a fancy way of saying major urban sprawl—so notice, know, and care, slacker. Sorry… we didn’t mean to take our Rey frustration out on you, dear reader.

But what has Missoulians so pissed? For one thing, it’s never pleasant to first hear about decisions with community-altering implications after they’ve effectively been made. Rey’s decision in this case was to not challenge Plum Creek’s effort to quietly “clarify” its road use contracts with the federal government. The easements in question were penned way back when the corporation was interested in logging, rather than real estate.

Acting as the hammer in this situation, Rey says, would put the Forest Service in a regulatory role over private land use and, therefore, set a bad precedent—which, apparently, is almost as bad as a bad president. The undersecretary, who will be out of office in January along with the rest of the administration, told local county commissioners definitively (and probably accurately) that Plum Creek poses a greater legal threat than Montana counties. So now Missoula County plans to sue the Forest Service the only way it can: by arguing that talking with Plum Creek should have invoked legislation mandating public involvement.

To tie up the former timber company that way will require shuffling through a pile of easements that probably all begin with “whereas” or some other word nobody uses anymore. It also means that we must forget about the celebrity of Mr. Rey, who, by the time a lawsuit lands before a judge, will be back in Washington repeating to legislators the immortal words of his then-former boss: “Wanna buy some wood?”


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