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January 20, 2023

Environmental Groups Respond to USDA Plans to Protect Mature Forests While Addressing Wildfire

The Climate Forests Campaign welcomes Forest Service's new focus on mature, old-growth trees; highlights need for protections from logging

Contacts

Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894, rspivak@biologicaldiversity.org

Ellen Montgomery, Environment America, (720) 583-4024, emontgomery@environmentamerica.org

Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice, (585) 402-2005, jchiappinelli@earthjustice.org

Washington, D.C.

As part of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement on new efforts to address wildfires, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack directed the Forest Service to protect and look for opportunities to restore mature and old-growth forests. In April 2022, President Biden issued an Executive Order that directed the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to “Strengthen the Nation’s Forests” including developing “conservation strategies that address threats to mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands.”

Conservation groups have identified logging as a threat, highlighting 22 current federal logging projects targeting nearly 370,000 acres of mature and old-growth trees and forests in recent reports: America's Vanishing Climate Forests and Worth More Standing.

In response to the USDA announcement, member groups of the Climate Forests Campaign issued the following statement:

“One of the most effective ways to conserve and restore the extent of old-growth forests, which have largely been lost to logging, is to let mature trees grow. While the Forest Service is doing their critical work to address wildfire, this announcement makes clear that the agency must also protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands from unnecessary logging.

Mature and old-growth trees are generally fire resilient and continue to store and absorb significant amounts of carbon. We welcome this new focus on protecting these mature trees and forests for their climate, biodiversity, and other values. USDA’s recognition that necessary fire management measures must be responsive to President Biden’s direction to conserve mature and old-growth forests is important. The next step is clear — the Biden administration must move quickly to enact a durable rule protecting mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands from logging.”

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