Weekend of Op-Eds I: Democrats Now in League With Commercial Logging Interests: Hansoniana NY Times Op-ed

If you’ll recall, last week the New York Times ran its first article that pointed out that Chad Hanson’s views are not in the scientific (not to speak of practitioner) mainstream.

Well it looks like Saturday they posted another op-ed from… Chad Hanson (!) and an interesting character named Michael Dorsey. Here’s Dorsey’s bio from the Club of Rome  and one from InfluenceWatch. Apparently his affiliation with ASU is funded by the Walton foundation and doesn’t seem to have much to do with trees, or forests, or wildfire.

Of course, everyone’s entitled to their opinions. Hopefully the Times will accept another op-ed that described mainstream views. Pretty much it’s the same stuff that we have come to expect, but I’ll focus on a few new twists..

There’s the new “Trump caused logging in Yosemite” narrative. Here’s how this one goes..

Yet federal land agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, are under significant political pressure to conduct commercial logging operations that benefit timber companies but tend to exacerbate overall fire severity. In December 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing the Forest Service and the Interior Department to prioritize and expand commercial logging operations on public lands, targeting mature and old trees and forests with chain saws and bulldozers.

Yosemite National Park subsequently began an unprecedented commercial logging program, with the park’s superintendent, Cicely Muldoon, agreeing in August 2021 to initiate projects on over 2,000 acres of forest in the Yosemite Valley area under the auspices of thinning, with no prior public notice, comment opportunity or environmental analysis of impacts.

I find this to be a fascinating argument: “significant political pressure to conduct commercial logging operations that benefit timber companies” -where would that come from in a D Administration with a majority D Congress? It’s Trump’s fault. But if the project was (as the link says) an August 2021 decision, how can Trump be responsible? Have D’s themselves (suddenly) become beholden to corporate logging interests?

Then, in June, a group of House Democrats and Republicans aligned with the logging industry and led by Representative Kevin McCarthy and several others introduced the deceptively named Save Our Sequoias Act. The act would curtail environmental laws, facilitate commercial logging of mature and old-growth trees and hasten postfire clear-cut logging in giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park and national forests. In a letter dated June 17, over 80 environmental groups strongly opposed this destructive logging bill, for which its sponsors are trying to gather additional support in Congress.

Federal land agencies like the Forest Service and scientists funded by this agency have promoted logging for decades, dubbing it wildfire management or biomass thinning. The Forest Service is even in the commercial logging business, selling trees to private logging companies and keeping the revenue for its budget. In a case that involved Earth Island Institute, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit warned that the Forest Service has a “substantial financial interest,” in logging, one that creates bias regarding wildfire science.

Ah, the Ninth Circuit.. where financial interests might create bias, but ideological orientations do not. OK then.

In fact, a large and growing body of scientific research and evidence shows that these logging practices are making things worse. Last fall over 200 scientists and ecologists, including us, warned the Biden administration and Congress that logging activities such as commercial thinning reduce the cooling shade of the forest canopy and change a forest’s microclimate in ways that tend to increase wildfire intensity.

A quick look at the signatories did not show many scientists I see as actively publishing on wildfire and fuels.

Worryingly, the Biden administration announced in January a proposal to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money to log as much as 50 million acres of U.S. forests over the next decade, again using the wildfire management narrative as a justification. Under this plan, which congressional backers are attempting to enact in piecemeal fashion in different legislative packages — including a wildfire and drought package passed by the House on Friday and the new climate and tax deal in the Senate — most of the logging would occur on public forests, including national forests and national parks.

The president and Congress must instead increase forest protections from logging to reduce carbon emissions and allow intact forests to absorb more of the excess carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. A failure to do so will put countless species at risk, worsen global warming and increase threats of wildfire to vulnerable towns. Current logging subsidies should be redirected into programs to directly help communities become fire safe.

Such policies could have prevented the loss of over 100 homes in the Oak fire. After all, fires occur in forests, as they have done for millenniums. Assuming otherwise is like living at the coast and expecting no hurricanes. We need to help communities prepare.

Yes, Hanson and Dorsey are talking about THAT House of Representatives, full of logging crazies like… Joe Neguse.  The theme of “fires are like hurricanes and people should just let fires burn over their communities” has shown up in other articles recently, so there is probably a media campaign funded by some groups with ties to various editorial boards. And the Biden Administration  was not entirely responsible for choosing to spend that money, it seems to me that Congress was involved..the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and all that.


9 thoughts on “Weekend of Op-Eds I: Democrats Now in League With Commercial Logging Interests: Hansoniana NY Times Op-ed”

  1. Maybe the authors of “Adapting western North American forests to climate change and wildfires: ten common questions” will write an op-ed.


    The authors discuss Hanson’s claims in several areas, such as where he claims that, with that thinning and fuels reduction: “In fact, a large and growing body of scientific research and evidence shows that these logging practices are making things worse.”

    The “ten common questions” authors, who cite numerous sources, white that “The scientific evidence that fuel reduction treatments can mitigate fire behavior and effects strongly supports a conclusion that expanding treated areas – including the use of forest thinning, prescribed burning, cultural burning, and managed wildfires – will lead to greater landscape resilience to future wildfires.”

  2. “significant political pressure to conduct commercial logging operations that benefit timber companies” -where would that come from in a D Administration with a majority D Congress?

    The way it looked to me back in the day was that Congressman/Senator X, regardless of party, would visit with the local national forest manager about things that would get them more votes, and where the timber industry was a major employer, more logging got more campaign contributions from the industry, which led to more votes. I think this was how “industry capture” traditionally worked.

    “Ah, the Ninth Circuit.. where financial interests might create bias, but ideological orientations do not.”

    I don’t think this court was asked to consider the ideological orientations of the agency it was reviewing. I’m not sure how it could, independent of the arguments being made by in court by the agency (in this case for more logging).

  3. To call Dr Michael Dorsey an “interesting character” could be funny if you have any experience working with him, but in the context that language was used here reveals an ignorance about environmental justice issues and stakeholders that is truly alarming and reeks of racism. I don’t often chip in on these threads but time and again I am struck by the narrow minded and disparaging framing used in many of the posts in this forum to attempt to disqualify what experienced advocates say about how our public lands are being managed.

    • Hi Gary: I was following your statements until you came to the accusation that calling Dr. Dorsey an “interesting character” was ignorant and “reeks of racism.” Say what? Not sure what you are considering as “narrow minded,” but am really disappointed in your injecting racism into this discussion.

  4. Dr Dorsey is a well recognized stakeholder in national environmental politics and has a wealth of experience on matters related to forests, energy, climate and the management of our public lands. It remains alarming to me that this experience and knowledge that Dr Dorsey offers is being disparaged in this forum, with little effort to learn more about how and why it is that Dr Dorsey can provide informed positions on these matters, much less endeavoring to elevate him as an expert on environmental politics that readers can learn from. Instead the effort is to continue to belittle him and disqualify him as not having the appropriate expertise, a tactic used again and again to marginalize diverse voices in public policy discussions. Note that I was approached by email about perhaps editing my comment above because my reference to how the disparaging characterization of Dr Dorsey ‘reeks of racism’ was deemed ‘meanspirited and inaccurate.’ Recognizing that there are those who are going to take offense at my raising concerns related to how white supremacy is manifested and perpetuated in this country, and in particular how white supremacy can be central to developments impacting our public lands, I think it is important that my comments in this instance be noted and left as they were originally written. I take responsibility for what I wrote in that comment and I hope it is cause for reflection and instigates an effort for addressing prevailing dynamics on this forum that tend towards the rude and insulting. This reflection will include my tempering and adapting my own participation in the future to avoid making comments that are ‘meanspirited and inaccurate’ when drawing attention to inappropriate and demeaning characterizations of experienced and informed actors on these matters.

    • Gary: Dr. Dorsey has apparently linked himself publicly to Chad Hanson. Hanson, in my opinion, is an opportunistic lawyer with deep roots in the environmental law racket. I also think he’s white and, using your logic, he’s apparently a white supremacist. Is Dr. Dorsey aware of this reality? Or am I misunderstanding the racial point you seem determined to make?

    • Hmm. so if I don’t think he is a wildfire scientist, that’s because I’m racist? My first wildfire prof (in the 1970s) was an Asian American, so I’m not clear on the racism/technical expertise thing.

  5. One could also say that Hanson and crew have a “substantial financial interest” in filing lawsuits, one that creates bias regarding wildfire science. We’ve all seen significant ‘bias’ (and ‘false claims’) coming from Hanson. He has yet to bring his claim of Forest Service clearcuts in the Sierra Nevada to court. He doesn’t really seem to have any real evidence.

    Plain and simple…. Hanson is an unreliable source of information.


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