Carole King: ‘America’s forests are a key climate solution’

We recently discussed Carole King’s congressional testimony. Now she’s written for The Hill. Excerpts:

The U.S. Forest Service has been facilitating taxpayer-subsidized commercial logging for decades under multiple presidents from both parties. Subsidies incentivize companies to log on public rather than private land. And an operator of heavy equipment is motivated to “harvest” (a euphemism for turning a living tree into a log) the biggest, most profitable trees as quickly as possible.

Another euphemism is “thinning.” In many areas out west, feller bunchers clearcut a forest by sawing down and stripping nearly all the trees, leaving “slash” — the unprofitable branches, needles, and leaves — to dry out. That’s not thinning.

Misinformation disseminated under the guise of euphemisms such as “thinning,” “treatment,” “fuel reduction,” “management,” and “restoration” by the timber industry and by government officials has convinced much of the public that commercial logging is necessary to control wildfires.

But peer-reviewed studies by independent scientists show that removal of trees from a forest causes fire to burn hotter and faster — and that the most effective way to protect communities is to harden homes

30 thoughts on “Carole King: ‘America’s forests are a key climate solution’”

  1. Yes, left-wingers have their own sets of conspiracy theories. My Mom makes them up, all the time. Maybe someone should tell Ms. King about the clearcut (and old growth harvesting) ban in Sierra Nevada National Forests, since 1993? It’s very easy to fact-check, from solid sources.

    Sure, it is easy to just let “useful idiots” misdirect the ‘other side’, but is it ethical to let misinformation stand, from any source?

      • I was merely putting forth the idea that she was, somehow, directed to say such things. There is no doubt that conservatives do the same damn thing, to push their dreams of eliminating environmental reviews. Both extremes are merely distractions, promoting ‘radical agendas’, no matter how impossible they are to implement.

        My point was that Ms. King is being manipulated. It’s her business if she wants to believe the obvious (to me) misinformation.

  2. Sorry Carole. I love your music. But everything here is misinformation. How did Carole King become a voice to be listened to on forestry matters? I am unaware of the background here.

  3. Here’s my take.There are “powerful” (I don’t know exactly what makes them that) people who “push” op-eds in appropriate outlets.. op-eds like this are part of a broader media campaign by entities or groups of entities. I know individuals who have been asked to sign op-eds others have actually written. Not that she didn’t write this one.. I don’t know.. but that’s how it works. And that’s why some of the authors are not actually experts.

    • There are many politically active celebrities out there on all sides of issues. I read an interesting human behavior study many years ago that looked at this. It suggested that many people with undeveloped critical thinking skills were easily persuaded to change their views on an issue if one of their favorite celebrities voiced a different opinion.

      One of the things I struggle with is how so many people with strong opinions about an issue that is different from a vocal celebrity brushes them off as just being “useful idiots” as Larry stated. Some celebrities are very well versed in the issues they speak about, so I always feel it is important to review the content of their argument rather than writing them off because they belong to a group of celebrities that lean in a different political direction. Too often I think people blow off others because they don’t have the right letters after their names when they may in fact have insightful comments. The opposite is also true. Sometimes people give others with lots of letters after their names too much credit when they are just expressing their values rather than tested science.

      Personally, I don’t agree with Carole’s pure preservationist values she seems to be pushing, but some of her arguments have sliver’s of truth to them. Certainly, it is valid to question the value of the USFS’s long history of deficit timber sales. But I also think it is disingenuous to argue that not cutting commercial timber on national forest system land will assist with carbon capture when the demand for that wood will just be met somewhere else.

      • If what she was saying was true, there should be hundreds of new clearcuts on Forest Service lands, both in the Sierra Nevada, as well as elsewhere. Also, there would have been dozens of successful lawsuits and injunctions against such claimed projects. It seems useless to fight against projects that do not exist, without any actual evidence. Evidence (if it exists) should be easy to find, using Google Maps.

        SHOW US the evidence!

  4. As someone who values expertise, yeah, I don’t really give a toss what Carole King thinks about national forest management.

    That said, her arguments are not uncommon in the forest management space. From the Tongass to Warner Creek, I’ve seen ugly on all sides. Forest management issues, including the economic and ecological aspects, are emotional, complex, and poorly understood. Politicians have the incentive to sandblast those complexities into simplistic Manichean arguments, vilifying their villain of choice (enviros, industry, government bureaucrats, whoever). The result is an infantile discourse.

    A better Forest Service would take it upon itself to educate the public, in an interactive rather than didactive manner, about the complexities of forest management writ large, and how those play out in the relevant local district. Many (I think most} FS employees I’ve interacted with do exactly that, but they have at best sporadic WO support, not because the WO is evil, but because it is overworked and, under any administration, subject to enormous political pressure.

    If these were easy questions they would have been solved years ago, so I don’t minimize the difficulty here. I would be interested in anyone’s views, not on Carole King, but on the broader question of how the FS could best adapt to these 21st century challenges.

    • Steve Wilent is probably too humble to mention this, but he edited a book with way divergent authors (think Doug Bevington to Duane Vaagen) but sadly we all signed agreements not to post elsewhere. If someone had the interest, they could certainly excerpt and start discussions here. I think it would be great, as there are many fantastic ideas among the 43 authors.

  5. Wow, very impressive how desperately you’ve circled your wagons around your pro-logging agenda. So much so that you’re making vast sweeping accusations of misinformation, rather than understanding that land use practices naturally change as we learn more about the science.

    If ya’ll weren’t so eager to defend the worst of the bad actors who preach how logging save the forest from fire, then you’d have far more people being willing to meet you half way and and agree with you by saying only some types of logging save the forest from fire. But look at your comments? They read more like an agenda of a cult than an inquisitive science that’s guided by knowledge rather than a personal agenda.

    But I get it… It’s not science with ya’ll it’s dogma. And you’ll use every excuse in the book to keep logging your unsustainable tree farms that are turning into ashes faster than you’ll ever be able to profit off of everything you’ve invested into growing them. Of course you don’t want to talk about that part, do you?

    • Deane: Are you somehow confusing your anti-forest management biases and opinions with “science?” I think your obvious adversarial position would be more compelling if you used facts instead of name-calling. Probably not a lot more compelling, though, from my perspective.

      • Do you have the basic ability to tell the difference between logging that is harmful vs. logging that is beneficial? I think this is the root of your problem when it comes to studying the latest science as we learn more over time.

        Again and again you take the position that the only value of science is when it justifies firing up the chainsaw and cutting down more trees and anything that doesn’t allow this is anti-science and anti-forest management.

        The whole point that myself and Carole King make is there’s a huge difference between different types of logging in terms of what’s harmful and what’s beneficial and we shouldn’t be coerced into trusting that anyone with a chain saw is beneficial to the forest.

        And maybe that’s not what you think, but that’s how you and all the other anti-conservation comments on article are saying. It’s dogma not science that says cutting down the forest is the only “science” that matters and anything that doesn’t cut down the forest is not science, nor is it management. Totally irrational by every measure unless your view of the world is so narrow it can’t see any other reality than the one that created your paychecks over the years.

        • Well… that’s what sustainable forest certification was about. There are people who work on the land, and the people who developed the standards, and work hard on the nitty gritty of good and bad practices. There are people that go out on the land to check on them.
          This has been a major effort by many good willed and knowledgeable people, bringing environmental and industry concerns together (I’m talking FSC here, to avoid inter-system drama.).

          I don’t think anyone here at TSW has ever been paid by timber industry. I was only paid by the US Government and universities. So clearly my views are not influenced by previous paychecks.

        • Hi Deane: Yes, of course I have the ability to determine the difference between “harmful vs. logging that is beneficial,” and apparently you do, too. Those are personal value statements, though — not facts — and vary by individual. In my defense, I do have significantly more forestry experience and scientific research than Carole King. Way more.

          Caution: statements like “Again and again you take the position that the only value of science is when it justifies firing up the chainsaw and cutting down more trees and anything that doesn’t allow this is anti-science and anti-forest management,” sound stupid, because they are stupid. I’ve never taken that position, you aren’t a mind reader, and again, it’s a stupid assertion. And will usually be taken that way by most adults.

          Name-calling and dumb mental excursions are offensive, inaccurate, and an impossible way to win an argument. In my opinion. And documented experience.

    • The last clearcut I participated in was during a severe beetle epidemic in 1989, and all those trees were dead or dying.

      Google Maps recently upgraded and here’s a new example of a cutting unit where I led the marking crew. We utilized the ‘clumps and gaps’ directive as much as we could. THIS is what a real modern thinning unit looks like, after it is done. You might also notice the lack of logging slash, too.,-120.3266256,287m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en

        • And there’s scientists in Calif who think that HRV was much less dense than folks would feel comfortable with today.

            • I’m not sure of your point, Larry, but for national forests, species composition and diversity must occur within the natural range of variation (NRV uses HRV as a starting point). If changing climate means a species is not likely to persist in a plan area (NRV = 0), how to respond to that assessment is a discussion and disclosure that should happen in the planning process.

              • Jon, I think your basic point is true, but it is easy to hide behind forest-wide HRV in order to plant nothing but commercial species after logging and fires. My working experience is limited to the Rio Grande and Tongass NFs, but I never saw subalpine fir, white fir (of course those would be difficult as shade tolerant sp.), limber pine, etc planted on the Rio Grande NF, and never saw red cedar, yellow cedar, and Western hemlock planted on the Tongass. And in my travels in the NW, it seems like most clearcuts were planted as pure Douglas fir while surrounding uncut forests included other species. One other point tied to other comments in this string: I have read (take it for what its worth) that in places like the Black Hills NF, many of the “thinning” units involved taking large commercially valuable ponderosa pine rather than focusing on the smaller trees – in fact I seem to remember an employee publicly criticizing the forest for this. I have also read this happens in R3 a fair amount.

                • Mike, I don’t know about other areas, but where I worked in reforestation, we focused on species that were not likely for various reasons to regenerate themselves, and for which we had known seed collection, storage, nursery and planting practices.

                • The NRV requirement didn’t become a formal requirement until the 2012 Planning Rule (and arguably only applies to projects implemented under plans prepared under that Rule, of which there are few). (The Planning Rule does not apply directly to projects.)

                  Revised forest plans should directly address the role of reforestation in achieving ecological integrity. Here’s an example objective from the Flathead that could be read that way: “Vegetation management treatments (e.g., timber harvest, planned ignitions, thinning, PLANTING) occur on 62,000 to 174,000 acres of the Forest to maintain or move towards achieving desired conditions for coniferous forest types and associated wildlife species, and for other resources” (emphasis added).

                  Not the the FS shouldn’t be changing their approach any way, or they are going to have more composition they would have to restore to desired conditions after they revise their plans.

                  • Jon: I was a successful reforestation contractor for more than 20 years and personally planted more than 2 million trees. There was never a single moment in which I thought that “the role of reforestation [is] in achieving ecological integrity.” I’m calling bullshit. This is the exact type of crap that SHOULD cause the USFS to “change their approach.” In my opinion. It’s gibberish and needs to be called out before more lawsuits are filed.

                    • Yes, that change was my point – now you would have to do that for any plan revised under the 2012 Planning Rule because it requires ecological integrity as a desired condition in the forest plan, and all project activities (including reforestation) must be consistent with the forest plan. (You could try “calling out” the Flathead by suing them, but I think that ship has sailed.)

              • Jon, that’s where things diverge.

                The reg says that ” those things must occur within NRV” but there is no actual way (so far) to go back in time. So if big fires burn more area and differently than Native American practices, there is not much a regulation can do about it.

                Even today’s Native American practices might not do the same thing due to a changing climate and all the other changes.

                • NRV is not “back in time” (unlike HRV). NRV has to be possible. §23.11a of the Planning Handbook lists six circumstances where “it is NOT appropriate, practical, possible, or desirable to design plan components to restore past conditions” (emphasis in original). They include “likely future environmental conditions.”

                  Unfortunately the Handbook is confused about some of this, but the real bottom line is that Planning Rule also requires conditions that “can withstand and recover from most perturbations imposed by natural environmental dynamics or human influence.” You can’t plant something that won’t survive.

    • Well if what is quoted to be said by Carol King had some truth to it maybe we could have a discussion. Ever since the Northwest Forest Plan the FS and BLM, at least in Southern Oregon and except for hazard tree salvage, has sold nothing but thinning sales. These sales remove the smaller trees and leave the larger ones. These sales are obvious when taking a dive through our federal forests.
      Also due to reduction of timber sold on federal lands our private lands have been heavily logged.
      As far as below cost timber sales, I guess that is what is ment by subsidizing the timber industry, I always though below cost timber sales were caused by administrative costs. We should remember that timber sales are now sold with the highest criteria being forest health.

  6. Is there anything CK said above that is not true?

    There seems to be some disagreement among the dictionaries whether “misinformation” must be false (apparently the majority) or just misleading (such as by providing selected facts as was done here).

    (I would characterize CK’s claim of “misinformation” as her opinion.)

    • She accuses the Forest Service of things done on private land, by private timber companies. That is something the preservationists often do, despite the actual evidence. She appears to ‘demonize’ the logging companies, not realizing that loggers are often merely contractors, working for the purchaser of the project.

      Using this same logic, Jon, one could also, in truth, say that “In some areas, environmentalists put lives at risk with dangerous booby traps and illegal direct actions.”

      It would be nice if we could leave the misinformation out of these issues.


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