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New Report Finds That Northwest Old-Growth Key In Global Warming Fight

“Climate Control” Calls For Protection of Older Trees to Fulfill Carbon Storage Potential

A new Oregon Wild report shows that protecting and restoring old-growth forests may be the most significant contribution Oregon and the Pacific Northwest can make in the fight against global warming.

New Report Finds That Northwest Old-Growth Key In Global Warming Fight

"Climate Control" looks at the link between old-growth forests and climate change

Portland, Ore May 16, 2008

As Republican and Democratic candidates debate their global warming strategies, a new report by Oregon Wild shows that old-growth forest protection may be the most important contribution that Oregon and the Pacific Northwest can make to the fight against global warming. The report, titled “Climate Control: How Northwest Old-Growth Forests Can Help Fight Global Warming,” recommends forest management policies that protect older forests and restore younger forests with the goal of mitigating climate change. The sixteen-page report examines the latest and best science on how forests in the region store carbon and what role logging and fire play in greenhouse gas emissions.

“We all know how devastating the effects of global warming could be,” said Jonathan Jelen of Oregon Wild. “What we haven’t yet realized is that the old-growth forests in our own back yard can play a huge role in slowing climate change. But only if we protect them.”

The report highlights the importance of forest management in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, along with the necessary policy changes in sectors such as transportation, land use, energy policy and urban design. It also clears the air about some of the myths that have been perpetuated about the interplay between forests and carbon dioxide (CO2) the predominant greenhouse gas.

“Forests can be part of the problem or part of the solution to global warming,” added Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “For the last 60 years, irresponsible clear-cutting of Northwest forests has resulted in massive releases of global warming gases. Now we have an opportunity to be part of the solution by protecting our last best old-growth forests.”

Myths that the report addresses:
§    Only tropical forests matter for global warming. In fact, Northwest forests store more carbon per acre than any forest type in the world.
§    It’s better to store carbon in wood products. A full accounting reveals that carbon is stored in trees that live hundreds of years rather than in wood products such as paper and pallets with life spans of only days or weeks.
§    Forest fires release all the carbon that forests could hold. In truth, forest fires release a small fraction of the carbon in forests while logging releases the majority.

“It would be easy to ignore the problem and continue to clear-cut the climate by liquidating our remaining old growth,” added Jelen. “However, a warming planet and a landscape without our largest, most awe-inspiring trees is not what we want to pass on to future generations.”

Responding to the best available science on global warming and logging (much of it being carried out at Oregon State University), the report also makes several recommendations for improved industrial logging practices on private forestland including: longer harvest rotations, thinning instead of clear-cutting, retaining more dead wood after harvest, and reducing road systems and soil erosion.

The old-growth forests of the Northwest have long provided the region’s communities with clean drinking water. In addition, old-growth forests contribute greatly to the Northwest’s reputation as a world-class outdoor recreation destination. Forests also provide ideal habitat for many unique and endangered species while keeping streams clean and clear for native salmon and steelhead.

“Global warming predictions forecast dire consequences for salmon and steelhead runs in the Pacific Northwest,” said Tom Wolf, with Trout Unlimited. “Protecting big, old trees not only preserves prime habitat for these fish, but helps to capture the most carbon possible to slow down global warming.”

View the report at:
http://www.oregonwild.org/oregon_forests/global-warming-and-northwest-forests

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