Biden Administration Announces National Proposal to Protect Old-Growth Forests

Earthjustice applauds proposal that would safeguard old-growth trees from threats like commercial logging; calls on Forest Service also to initiate action to protect mature forests

Contacts

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

The Biden administration today initiated a process to adopt protection for old-growth trees on federal forestlands across the United States. The Forest Service proposed to adopt a national plan for forest management to include protections for old-growth trees within the National Forest System against threats like commercial logging through a nationwide forest plan amendment.

The tree protections could bolster U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis and reduce biodiversity loss by helping keep ecosystems intact and storing vast amounts of carbon in the ground. In fact, according to the Forest Service, carbon stored in old-growth trees aids “the long-term carbon storage, stability, and resiliency of forest carbon” across the National Forest System.

The new proposal represents a significant next step in response to President Biden’s Executive Order directing federal agencies to protect mature and old-growth forests for the benefit of the climate and biodiversity. Old-growth forests are very rare across the National Forest System; in some states, none is left. Protecting these trees is a critical step forward. Today’s action sets the stage for next steps that will provide protection for mature trees, which exist in much greater numbers across the 193 million acres of federal forestlands in the U.S.

In response to today’s announcement, Senior Legislative Representative Blaine Miller-McFeeley said:

“The Biden administration’s proposed plan to protect old-growth trees across the country is an important milestone for forest conservation and U.S. progress in addressing the climate crisis. Even as it works to complete this proposal, the Forest Service must take steps to fulfill President Biden’s executive order by also developing protections for mature trees, which are our future old-growth and exist in much greater numbers than old-growth, storing vast amounts of carbon. We look forward to working with the Forest Service to help it safeguard mature and old-growth forests. Conservation of these forests goes hand in hand with addressing the threat of wildfires as older and larger trees tend to be the most fire-resistant.”

Background:

In April 2022, President Biden issued a historic Executive Order directing federal agencies to protect mature and old-growth (MOG) forests for the benefit of the climate and biodiversity.

This spring, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) moved closer to protecting mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging as a part of a new, wide-ranging proposed rule. Then, the Forest Service announced a pathway for protecting MOG trees and forests. Additionally, BLM and the Forest Service released an inventory of MOG forests, the first of its kind.

In response, more than half a million people from around the country delivered comments to the Forest Service calling for both mature and old-growth forests to be protected against logging on federal lands.

An old-growth forest in Oregon.
An old-growth forest in Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Frances Eatherington)

Additional Resources

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people's health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.