Today, the Forest Service took the first official step in its long-rumored effort to amend the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan.
Oregon Wild Conservation Director Steve Pedery:
The visionary Northwest Forest Plan was intended to protect and restore mature and old-growth forests and imperiled salmon and wildlife on federal public lands in the Pacific Northwest. It was the first landscape-level ecosystem protection plan adopted anywhere in the world and remains an international model for conservation. The plan has had enormous benefits for clean water, salmon, and wildlife because of its protected reserve system. These reserves, with their general prohibition on logging forests over 80 years old, have allowed many areas to recover from the epidemic of old-growth clearcutting that ravaged the region in the 1970s and 1980s.
The announcement today comes just a few days after the end of the COP 28 climate conference in Dubai, where nations from around the globe spoke to the urgent need to pursue climate and carbon solutions–including the protection of mature and old-growth forests. Unfortunately, the document the Forest Service released today is dangerously vague about its goals when it comes to carbon and logging. While it rightly acknowledges President Biden’s Executive Order 14072 on forests and climate change and speaks extensively about the risks climate change poses to forests, the agency ignores the EO’s related direction to retain and enhance carbon storage as a natural climate solution. While we applaud the document’s acknowledgment of the need to better consult tribal communities and protect tribal treaty rights, it mostly ignores the Northwest Forest Plan’s importance for ecosystem services such as salmon and clean drinking water.
In the coming months, it will be very important that conservation groups, tribes, scientists, and concerned citizens work together to ensure that the Forest Service does not weaken protections for our mature and old-growth forests, clean water, wildlife, and climate here in the Pacific Northwest. The Biden administration has given the Forest Service clear direction about the need to recover mature and old-growth forests as a natural climate and carbon solution. Through grassroots activism, public education, policy advocacy, and the courts, we need to work hard to ensure that direction is followed, and to ensure that the Forest Service adopts strong protections for mature and old-growth forests all across the country.
PHOTO: Willamette National Forest by Sage Brown