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Now is the Time to Speak Up for Climate Forests

America’s mature and old-growth forests — natural climate solutions that remove and absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere — could win stronger protections if enough people weigh in to urge federal agencies to act

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently announced a pathway for preserving these “climate forests,” which have been under threat from logging and climate change. The agencies are now collecting comments from the public to gather input on new policies to help develop a rule.

These actions are part of the Biden administration’s strategy, announced on Earth Day 2022, to improve the climate resilience of federally managed forests and combat both the climate and biodiversity crises.

What are ‘climate forests’?

  • These are forests that have developed over a long period of time, free from major disturbances.
  • They contain large, old trees of long-lived species, and include rare species and native plant communities.

Why are these forests important?

  • Old-growth forests are a critical natural climate and biodiversity solution and offer public health benefits.
  • Mature and old-growth forests store and sequester large amounts of carbon for centuries. Research indicates that the rate of carbon an individual tree accumulates continues to rise as the tree grows older and larger.
  • Climate forests clean the air, removing harmful pollutants that can cause higher rates of asthma, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer.
  • Forests provide natural water treatment that catches rainfall and filters out pollutants as water makes its way to the rivers, streams, and reservoirs that communities rely on for safe drinking water.
  • Climate forests are vital refuges for many at-risk species and vulnerable wildlife.

How are climate forests threatened?

  • Climate forests are under threat from a variety of factors, including invasive species and climate change, but the greatest threat is logging.
  • The Climate Forests campaign has identified at least 22 logging projects proposed for Forest Service and BLM lands that could destroy mature and old-growth forests.
  • So far, the Forest Service has withdrawn only one of those projects: the Flat Country project in the Willamette National Forest in Oregon.

What’s being done to protect the forests?

  • The Biden administration recently released an inventory that identifies more than 175,000 square miles of old growth and mature forests on federal land and will initiate a begin exploring ways to better protect them.
  • The administration will pursue a rulemaking process, which involves a public comment period. This is an opportunity to call on the administration to safeguard these forests from logging.
  • Members of the Climate Forests Campaign, a coalition of more than 120 organizations that includes Earthjustice, are calling for anyone who cares about forests to get involved by sending in comments before June 20.

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

Take action today to urge the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to protect mature and old-growth forests from logging in America’s federal forests.

Tongass National Forest, view from Deer Mountain Trail.
Tongass National Forest. (Mark Meyer / USDA)