Earthjustice, a member of the Climate Forests campaign, issued a statement today in response to a proposal targeting mature and old-growth forests included in a newly unveiled bill entitled Promoting Effective Forest Management Act of 2022. If passed, this bill would, among other things, falsely recognize mature forests only for timber value, endangering vitally important trees and forests on publicly owned lands. Senators Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Manchin (D-W.Va.) introduced the bill, which aims to prioritize logging industry profits at the expense of sound environmental policy and the climate, including the ongoing efforts of the Biden administration to develop policies to conserve mature and old-growth forests on federal lands as a step toward enhancing carbon storage and conserving biodiversity with stronger protections for these trees.
The proposed bill claims that more intensive forest management and the “thinning” of trees is necessary to prevent wildfires but would undercut the significant role that mature and old-growth trees play in absorbing carbon and mitigating the climate crisis, which worsens wildfire conditions. Old-growth and mature trees are generally more fire-resilient than younger trees, and accelerating logging of these giants is not a solution to protecting communities from wildfires. Just this month, more than 120,000 people nationwide submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior asking the agencies to define “mature” trees as 80 years and older to durably protect trees of this age and older from logging. Scientific research, compiled in this one-pager The Significance of Carbon Emissions from Logging on Federal Forests, from the Climate Forests campaign, indicates that logging on federal forests is a substantial source of carbon dioxide emissions that is at least comparable to — and likely greater than — emissions associated with wildfires.
“The bill that Senators Barrasso and Manchin have proposed completely misses the role that mature and old-growth trees play when it comes to viable solutions to the climate crisis,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “This bill misinforms the public instead of protecting it. The bill will benefit the logging industry; not communities or the climate.”
The Climate Forests campaign seeks to protect mature and old-growth forests and trees on federal lands from logging as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy. As a next key step, the Biden administration must establish a rule to create durable protections for these vital trees.