Biden’s proposal aims to conserve U.S. old-growth forests, offering a natural climate change solution.
In a significant environmental step, the Biden administration proposes to conserve old-growth trees in the United States. This move targets national forests, aiming to curb the impacts of climate change.
This proposal follows an Earth Day 2022 executive order. It focuses on expanding logging restrictions in national forests. According to The White House and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), these actions are key to tackling climate issues.
The White House emphasizes the importance of old and mature forests. They say, "Old and mature forests are vital to providing clean water, absorbing carbon pollution, and supplying habitat for wildlife. Today’s actions include a first-of-its kind proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to amend all 128 forest land management plans across the country to conserve and restore old-growth forests across the National Forest System."
U.S. forests play a crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide. They offset over 10 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.
This new proposal adds to the already protected 26 million acres under the administration. It directs the U.S. Forest Service in restoration and conservation efforts.
Sadly, most U.S. old-growth forests have been lost to logging. The remaining ancient trees mostly exist on federally managed public lands. The Climate Forests Campaign notes that at least 370,000 acres of these forests are marked for timber sales.
Old-growth forests are vital for carbon sequestration and wildfire resilience.
Ellen Montgomery of Environment America says, “Americans love our forests. They’re natural playgrounds for people and wildlife alike. That’s why more than half a million people this summer asked the Forest Service to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests.”
The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management oversee around 80 million mature and 32 million old-growth forest acres. Mature forests form 45 percent, and old-growth 18 percent, of federally managed forests.
WildEarth Guardians' Adam Rissien comments on the necessity of these protections. Rissien says, “Mature and old-growth forests are an essential component of a broader climate-crisis solution — but only if we protect them from logging. Today’s announcement by the Forest Service establishes necessary and long-overdue protections for old growth forests, limiting when they can be cut and sold commercially. Taking the next step and developing a national rule covering both mature and old-growth would deliver on the Biden administration’s commitment to protect these trees once and for all.”
Additionally, the Forest Service will update the Northwest Forest Plan for the first time since 2007. This plan, initiated in 1994, guides management of federal forests in Oregon, Washington, and California. These regions hold about a quarter of the national forest system’s old-growth trees.
NRDC’s Garett Rose praises the administration's recognition of this issue. Rose says, “The administration has rightly recognized that protecting America’s mature and old-growth trees and forests must be a core part of America’s conservation vision and playbook to combat the climate crisis. This announcement is an important step toward meeting these goals. The Forest Service should move forward to develop the strongest possible safeguards for these forests.”
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