Protecting big trees is one of the most important things we can do to fight climate change. And it should be one of the easiest. Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service hasn’t gotten the message.
These trees were protected from logging for the past 25 years by a set of rules called the Eastside Screens. But on the last day of the Trump administration, the Forest Service rewrote one of those rules to give itself license to log big trees greater than 21 inches in diameter on the Deschutes, Fremont-Winema, Malheur, Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman national forests.
The Forest Service’s position is now contrary to President Biden’s instructions to safeguard the nation’s mature forests, as well as to studies demonstrating the critical role big trees play in fighting the worst impacts of climate change.
The rule barring the cutting of big trees in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington must be reinstated, so act now.
On Earth Day, Biden issued an executive order instructing the federal government to enlist Nature in the fight against climate change. The order highlighted the critical role that mature and old forests on public lands play in combating the global climate and biodiversity crises. The president’s order noted America’s forests absorb more than 10 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions and directed the Forest Service to manage the nation’s forests to retain and enhance carbon storage as well as protect biodiversity.
President Biden’s order is firmly grounded in science. A global study of 48 forests of all types found that among forests with trees of different age classes, the 1 percent largest diameter trees held half the living aboveground carbon. A study of Oregon forests found trees greater than 21 inches in diameter made up just 3 percent of the total number of trees in those forests, yet held 43 percent of their total aboveground carbon. And the idea that logging a forest can preserve carbon—in lumber and other wood products—that would be lost to wildfire has been debunked.
For almost a year and a half Guardians and our partners have been asking the Forest Service to restore the Eastside Screens rule that had protected big trees. On June 14, because the agency has begun approving timber sales that will log big trees in eastern Oregon, we were forced to go to court to get the Trump rewrite thrown out. But there’s still time for the Forest Service to do the right thing and comply with President Biden’s Earth Day executive order by restoring the original Eastside Screens rule.
Speak up for the trees and tell the Biden administration to restore the Eastside Screens rule to protect big trees and fight climate change.
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