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Forest Service urged to strengthen protections for mature and old-growth forests in draft national old growth plan

June 21, 2024
Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians, arissien@wildearthguardians.org , Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, rspivak@biologicaldiversity.org , Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice, jchiappinelli@earthjustice.org, Ellen Montgomery, Environment America, emontgomery@environmentamerica.org , Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Jnemes@elpc.org , Andrew Scibetta, NRDC, ascibetta@nrdc.org, Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, sp@oregonwild.org, Ian Brickey, Sierra Club, ian.brickey@sierraclub.org , Zack Porter, Standing Trees, zporter@standingtrees.org
In This Release
Public Lands  
#Climate Forests, #ForceForNature, #PressStatement, #Rewilding

WASHINGTON – A coalition of environmental groups called on the U.S. Forest Service Friday to strengthen protections for the nation’s mature and old-growth forests and trees. The move came in response to the agency’s release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) with proposals that could conserve old-growth across all national forests. This is the most recent step following President Biden’s Executive Order, issued in 2022, to develop policies to protect mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands and follows an initial scoping period, which closed on Feb. 2

90-day public comment period will begin following publication of the DEIS in the Federal Register.

Mature and old-growth forests store huge amounts of carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. They also contain essential habitats, provide clean drinking water for communities and feature highly fire-resilient trees. As the world experiences record-shattering heat and widespread climate disasters, protecting these forests is critical to preventing the worst consequences of climate change.

The vast majority of old-growth forests have already been logged. Federally managed public lands have a critical share of our remaining old growth – and the mature forests that could become old-growth. Groups have identified dozens of logging projects that target mature and old-growth trees on federal lands.

The Climate Forests Campaign is a coalition of more than 120 organizations working to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land.

Members of the coalition, including Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Earthjustice, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, Standing Trees and WildEarth Guardians, issued the following statement:

“This summer, the Climate Forests Campaign will work with our partners across the country to engage hundreds of thousands of Americans to ensure a strong final plan. The U.S. Forest Service must fulfill the direction of President Biden’s Executive Order to protect mature and old-growth forests for the climate, clean water and imperiled species.

This draft is a step, but the final policy must be significantly improved, including ending the practice of sending old-growth trees to timber mills. Logging old-growth trees to save the forest is a false solution — they are worth more standing.

The agency must also take concrete action to recover the old-growth that has been lost over the past centuries. In many parts of the country there is little to no old-growth left, and by protecting mature forests, we can help ensure they become the old-growth of future generations. We need meaningful protections for both mature and old-growth forests to ensure our national forests meet the most pressing environmental challenges of our time.”

Logging on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Oregon, 2021. Photo: Oregon Wild.