Victoria Wingell, Forests and Climate Campaigner
Oregon Wild: [email protected]
John Persell, Staff Attorney
Oregon Wild: [email protected]
Madeline Cowen, Grassroots Organizer
Cascadia Wildlands: [email protected]
Ryan Talbott, Pacific Northwest Conservation Advocate
WildEarth Guardians: rtalbott@wildearthguardians.
Public comment period concludes for pathway to rulemaking on how Forest Service manages national forests
Eugene, OR – More than 500,000 people have submitted public comments to the U.S. Forest Service calling for the agency to adopt a rule that protects mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy. Activists were joined by organizers from the Climate Forests Campaign, a coalition that includes Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, and WildEarth Guardians, to deliver some of these public comments at an event at the Wayne Morse Federal Courthouse in Eugene on Thursday, July 20, 2023.
In April, the Forest Service issued a rulemaking proposal to improve the climate resilience of federally managed forests. The public comment period on the proposal closed today.
"Hundreds of thousands of people from every age group and every corner of the country weighed in to urge President Biden to enact a clear rule protecting mature and old growth forests from the Forest Service chopping block," said Victoria Wingell, Forest and Climate Campaigner for Oregon Wild. "Public support has never been higher for bold, effective solutions to keep carbon in the forests and out of the atmosphere."
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of people who weighed in, dozens of environmental and grassroots organizations submitted comments, including the Climate Forests Campaign, a coalition of more than 120 organizations working to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land from logging.
“It’s clear that the public wants old-growth and mature forests and trees to be protected,” said Madeline Cowen, Grassroots Organizer at Cascadia Wildlands. “These critical forests store carbon. They protect imperiled species. They safeguard key waterways. It’s well past time for the federal land managers to adopt a rule that provides durable protections for our forests, and recognizes them for what they are: a natural climate solution and a key ally in the fight for a livable future.”
Activists and environmental advocates gathered today to celebrate the amount of public support. At 11:00 a.m. on Thursday at the federal courthouse in Eugene, attorneys for Climate Forests Campaign members Oregon Wild and WildEarth Guardians presented oral argument in a lawsuit against the Forest Service. Oregon Wild and WildEarth Guardians have challenged the Forest Service’s unlawful authorization of commercial logging on the Fremont-Winema National Forest without proper environmental analysis. The agency authorized 29,000 acres of commercial logging, including the 16,000-acre South Warner Project, using a “categorical exclusion” to avoid detailed environmental review and public involvement.
“The South Warner Project includes commercial logging of large, old trees under the guise of “timber stand and wildlife habitat improvement,” said John Persell, Staff Attorney at Oregon Wild. “It is yet another example of why a national rule protecting mature and old-growth forest stands is needed to address the climate and biodiversity crises.”
Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concluded a public comment period for its own proposed rulemaking, with hundreds of thousands of people calling on the federal government to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging. In March, the BLM announced its wide-ranging “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule, with a goal to “promote ecosystem resilience on public lands” and included an acknowledgment of the importance of mature and old-growth trees and forests.
In addition to the two proposed rules, the Forest Service and the BLM released an inventory of mature and old-growth forests, the first of its kind, as required by the executive order President Biden signed on Earth Day 2022. The White House directed the Forest Service and the BLM to inventory and conserve mature and old-growth forests on federal land, and to implement policies to address threats facing forests.
The Climate Forests Campaign has been elevating calls from community members, scientists, and activists around the country about the necessity of protecting these mature and old-growth trees and forests, including from the ongoing threat of logging. The coalition has highlighted the threat to mature and old-growth forests and trees in two reports, citing 22 of the worst logging projects on Forest Service and BLM-managed forests.
Mature and old-growth forests are some of the most effective tools available for mitigating climate change and promoting biodiversity. They store huge amounts of carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. They also provide essential wildlife habitat and are the most fire-resilient trees in the forest. As the world experiences record-shattering heat and widespread climate disasters, protecting these forests is critical for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.
PHOTO BY ROBERT SHERLE