Protect Our Climate Forests

What's At Stake

Mature and old-growth forests are also known as “climate forests” because they offer natural climate solutions that remove and absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere while providing vital refuges for many at-risk species and vulnerable wildlife. 

The U.S. Forest Service has proposed a policy that could protect old-growth trees in national forests from most logging. But to achieve the Forest Service’s important goal, key improvements are necessary:   To recover from our nation’s severe deficit of old growth, the policy should protect mature trees, which are our future old-growth forests and exist in much greater quantities than old growth. The protections should end the commercial exchange of old-growth trees. And the protections should cover southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, which stores more carbon than any other national forest and is exempt from the proposed policy. 

Together, we have urged the administration to protect mature and old-growth forests to address our climate and biodiversity crises and we need to keep the pressure on. We need the administration to commit to strengthening the proposed protections for old growth and also protect mature trees across federal lands from logging.  

Safeguarding and expanding carbon-rich forests on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands is one of the most important, cost-effective, and immediately available strategies to fight the climate crisis. Older trees accumulate and store enormous amounts of carbon over many centuries and provide vital wildlife habitat, clean water, clean air, and mitigation for floods and droughts. Larger, older trees are also more fire resistant.    

We need to ensure both mature and old-growth trees and forests remain in place to mitigate climate change, and to maintain their natural benefits for future generations. And we need to ensure that the Tongass, the nation’s climate champion, is protected under the final policy.   

The Forest Service’s promising new proposal rightly recognizes the importance of mature and old-growth forests and trees.  Protecting them is exactly the direction federal forest management needs to move.   

We need to ensure our country’s mature and old-growth trees and forests remain standing to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and continue providing their natural benefits for future generations. 

A river winds through a forest seen directly from above near Klamath Falls, Oregon.
A river winds through a forest seen directly from above near Klamath Falls, Oregon. (Brian Handy / Getty Images)

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