The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods

PublicAffairs: Perseus. Jun. 2023. 480p. ISBN 9781541768673. $32. NAT HIST
This passionate book recounts how the ancient redwood forests of Northern California were cut down during the 20th century and describes protests carried out against lumber companies. King (coauthor, Rumours of Glory), a journalist and activist grew up in Sonoma County, CA, among majestic stands of the largest trees in the world. His historical investigation turned up widespread corporate theft of forest land in the state; strong, lightweight and rot-resistant, redwood lumber was in demand for building the modern infrastructure of the West. King also uncovered a false-flag operation, the Save the Redwoods League, which co-opted public dismay at clear-cutting operations but merely preserved strips and groves. During the 1980s, King joined nonviolent protests against further destructive clear-cutting. He was arrested and received death threats while opposing company goons, loggers, and sawmill workers. When lawsuits by the Sierra Club began to affect logging operations, governments bought back some areas as parks, where redwood ecosystems might begin to regenerate.
VERDICT King’s engaging narrative exposes the maneuvering of lumber companies that plundered redwood forests for decades, with the collusion of powerful individuals in politics, academia, and civil service.
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