James R. Lyons, President Clinton's Assistant Secretary of
Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, served
as a professional staff member for the House Agriculture Committee
before joining the Administration. Since he joined the administration,
Lyons has been controversial to say the least: In early 1994,
the Associated Press obtained a series of internal U.S. Forest
Service memos that suggested the agency gave the Natural Resources
Defense Council (NRDC) veto power over at least a dozen timber
sales. The memos, issued between November 4, 1993 and January
14, 1994, referred to some timber sales as "released by the
NRDC" and to others as "not released by the NRDC."
Assistant Secretary Lyons defended the memos saying "We'd
rather work with those who are concerned about the sales to avoid
challenges." In September 1995, was again a center of controversy.
The U.S. Senate voted to strip Lyons of much of his job after
he failed to comply with a court order lifting a three-year injunction
on timber sales on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest. But
stripping Lyons of much of his authority wasn't sufficient punishment
for some timber industry groups. They asked a federal judge to
throw Lyons in jail for contempt of court. Federal forest programs
have been mired in controversy during much of the Clinton Administration.
The Forest Service was widely criticized for its management policies
that many blamed for the death of firefighters in Colorado in
1994 -- said to be one of the worst fire seasons since the early
1900s. The Forest Service was also criticized for footing the
bill for Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy to attend the Super Bowl
in 1994. Espy argued that the trip was necessary because the Forest
Service's Smokey the Bear was to be honored in a public service
announcement to be shown during the game. The public service announcement
was a mere 30 seconds in length. Espy's tickets cost $900 -- $200
more than the face value of the tickets.
Selected James Lyons Quotes
The two sides of James Lyons...
"The wildfires affecting eastern Washington and other western states are symptomatic of the excessive fuels and poor condition of many forested areas in the region. " - James Lyons quoted in the Rocky Mountain News, September 23, 1994
"We agree there is clearly need for forest health. But in our view, this (bill) is not necessary to achieve forest health objectives. In fact, it may have just the opposite effect." - James Lyons commenting on a proposed bill to permit salvage logging of dead and dying trees, as quoted in The Los Angeles Times, March 17, 1995
James Lyons on why his department gave the Natural Resources Defense Council veto power over certain timber sales...
"We'd rather work with those who are concerned about the sales to avoid challenges.... clearly there is a misunderstanding about the process and what we are trying to achieve." - James Lyons quoted in the Anchorage Daily News, February 4, 1994
Version Date: March 19, 1996