Executive order launches process for protecting mature and old-growth forests on federal lands
Today, President Joe Biden will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to conduct an inventory of mature and old-growth forests on America’s federal lands so that policies can be adopted to protect them. The administration framed the move as a key strategy to store carbon and address climate change.
“Protecting America’s old-growth forests, and letting new giants grow, is one of the biggest single steps we can take to combat climate change,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director with Oregon Wild. “We thank President Biden for taking this important first step, and we look forward to working with the White House to enact strong, permanent protections for mature and old-growth forests on America’s public lands.”
Oregon Wild and other members of the Climate Forests Campaign welcomed the President’s commitment to forest protection. The spotlight is now on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to quickly develop a policy protecting mature forests and big trees from threats, such as logging, that can stand as a global model for forest protection.
“Mature and old-growth forests in Oregon are a powerful tool for fighting climate change, and can capture and store more carbon per acre than even the Amazon,” said Lauren Anderson, Oregon Wild’s Forest Climate Policy Coordinator. “President Biden’s Executive Order underscores the urgent need for the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to stop logging these carbon-storing giants — they must continue to stand and protect future generations..”
135 climate and natural resource experts sent a letter to the president that affirmed the importance of mature forests and big trees. Older trees accumulate and store tremendous amounts of carbon over many centuries, providing vital wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, and mitigation for floods and droughts. Protecting them is a key tool in the fight against climate change.
Reflecting widely held scientific agreement on the urgent need to protect mature and old-growth forests as a climate solution, the executive order directs the USDA and DOI to complete an inventory of old-growth and mature stands on forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) within one year. The EO includes public “O&C lands” managed by the BLM. This process should quickly inform a rule-making process to confer durable protection for mature and old-growth across all federal lands.
The announcement comes just two years after the Trump administration revoked protections for large and old-growth trees in Eastern Oregon with the repeal of the 21” Screens, and as controversy continues over Forest Service plans to log 150-year-old trees in the Flat Country timber sale, East of Eugene. In Southern Oregon, the Bureau of Land Management is also targeting trees up to 200 years old in the Poor Windy timber sale. Despite public opposition in Oregon, and across the country, the Forest Service and US Bureau of Land Management continues to log thousands of acres of mature and old-growth forests each year.
Oregon Wild will partner with conservation groups throughout the country in the coming months to engage with the Biden administration to develop a strong, lasting rule applicable to federal forest lands that permanently protects remaining mature and old-growth forests.
PHOTO: Willamette National Forest by Sage Brown