Steve Pedery (he/him), Oregon Wild
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity
Becca Bowe, Earthjustice
Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice
Ellen Montgomery, Environment America
Medhini Kumar, Sierra Club
New report identifies ‘climate forests’ at risk
Federal agencies are targeting mature and old-growth forests for logging despite these trees’ extraordinary ability to curb climate change and President Biden’s directive to preserve them, according to a new report spotlighting the 10 worst logging projects in federal forests across the country.
In the report released today, Worth More Standing, the Climate Forests coalition details federal logging proposals targeting nearly a quarter of a million acres of old-growth and mature forests overseen by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The report outlines “a pervasive pattern of federal forest mismanagement that routinely sidesteps science to turn carbon-storing giants into lumber” and calls on the Biden administration to pass a permanent rule to protect these big old trees.
"Chainsaws and logging are a problem for forests in the United States just as they are in developing countries like Brazil," said Steve Pedery with Oregon Wild. "Climate-driven forest fires are a threat in some areas, but that threat is only made worse when the Forest Service fails to protect carbon-rich mature and old-growth forests from logging."
The threatened forests are in North Carolina, Vermont, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, California, and Oregon.
Oregon projects featured in the report are:
- The Flat Country Timber Sale in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, which includes 2,000 acres of older forests, half of which would be clearcut.
- The Poor Windy Project in the Medford, Oregon, District of the Bureau of Land Management, which includes almost 4,600 acres of mature and old-growth trees.
- The Integrated Vegetation Management Project in the BLM’s Medford District, which includes 20,000 acres of trees that are more than 150 years old.
“The best way to protect these carbon-storing giants is to let them grow, but our federal agencies keep turning them into lumber,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Biden administration can help curb climate change by permanently protecting mature and old-growth trees. It takes centuries to make up for the carbon lost when these trees are chopped down and we don’t have that kind of time.”
Mature and old-growth forests hold enormous amounts of carbon. Preserving old-growth and mature forests is a meaningful, cost-effective measure the Biden administration can take immediately to mitigate climate change. Biden issued an Earth Day executive order directing an inventory of old forests and policies to protect them.
“Without a federal rule in place to restrict logging of these critical forest tracts, these mature and old-growth trees could be lost, along with the opportunity to make significant progress toward addressing climate change,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, Senior Legislative Representative at Earthjustice.
Also today, more than 100 groups sent a letter to the U.S. Agriculture and Interior departments requesting an immediate start to a rulemaking process to ensure permanent protections for mature and old-growth trees and forests across federal lands, while allowing for necessary measures to reduce wildfire risk. Large, older trees are more resistant to wildfires and studies show logging them doesn’t reduce the risk of climate change-driven fires.
“This report highlights what we have -- but also what we stand to lose,” said Alex Craven, senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club. “Our old and mature growths are a natural climate solution, and we must protect these trees if we wish to tackle the intersecting climate and biodiversity crises.”
Scientists have pointed to forest preservation as one of the most effective ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere. U.S. federal forests sequester 35 million metric tons of carbon annually, a number that could rise steadily with new conservation measures. Protecting older forests also safeguards clean water, clean air, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and recreation opportunities.