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New Mexico, Arizona advocates rally at Forest Service for urgent climate action 

November 16, 2022
Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org 
In This Release
Climate + Energy, Public Lands  
ALBUQUERQUE, NM Activists rallied at the Forest Service Region 3 headquarters in Albuquerque today to call on federal agencies and the Biden administration to enact meaningful solutions to the climate crisis, including protecting carbon-storing mature and old-growth trees from logging and ending fossil fuel extraction.

Holding signs and banners stating “Protect Mature and Old Growth Forests” and “Keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground,” activists hand delivered nearly six thousand comments from WildEarth Guardians, Oregon Wild, and Great Old Broads, and a letter from 153 organizations representing millions of members to Forest Service officials. The groups, including WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, NM Climate Justice, Environment NM, Sierra Club, and others, called on the Biden administration to quickly promulgate a durable, lasting rule to protect mature and old-growth forests and trees on federal lands.

“We are rallying in Albuquerque today because we are teetering on the brink of climate catastrophe,” said Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians organizing director.  “Across the world, activists are demanding the U.S. lead on climate solutions, requiring an immediate halt to the continued sacrifice of federal lands to climate-polluting industries. Meaningful climate action starts with keeping fossil fuels in the ground and protecting mature and old growth forests.”

Activists are rallying at U.S. Forest Service offices across the country this week to raise awareness about threats to federal forests and show support for a rule to protect mature and old-growth trees from logging. The rallies follow a report showing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are undermining Biden’s commitment to conserve these trees by logging hundreds of thousands of acres.

Last week groups rallied at Bureau of Land Management headquarters in Santa Fe to demand “no more sacrifice zones”, and to end federal fossil fuel leasing and drilling.

“The Biden administration needs to muster the political will to make sure these big old trees remain standing in New Mexico, Arizona and throughout our federal forests,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re in the midst of climate and extinction crises and we’re running out of time. The Forest Service needs to stop looking at these forests as dollar signs and see them for what they are — carbon-storage giants, wildlife habitat, clean water providers and havens for recreation. Protecting them should be the cornerstone of our national climate strategy.”

Supercharged by fossil fuel-driven climate change, the Southwest is experiencing record-breaking heat and unprecedented drought not seen in more than 1,200 years. For the first time in 40 years, the Rio Grande River went dry in Albuquerque.

“In New Mexico, we see our forests strained by years of unprecedented drought and extreme wildfires. I want my children to be able to hike and explore New Mexico’s Ponderosa pine forests and Aspen groves when they grow up,” said Anni Hanna of NM Climate Justice. “It’s imperative that the Biden administration enact strong rules to protect mature trees and forests from logging across federal lands – a solution for the climate crisis and for the next generations.”

On Monday the Climate Forests coalition released a report, “America’s Vanishing Climate Forests” spotlighting 12 federally-run logging projects that include cutting down mature and old-growth forests, eliminating vast amounts of naturally stored carbon and ongoing sequestration. Together with an earlier report, Worth More Standing, the coalition has highlighted 22 projects totaling nearly 370,000 acres of mature and old-growth forests and trees at risk.

“Keeping mature and old-growth forests intact is the cheapest, fastest, and most effective carbon sequestration strategy,” said Lisa Markovchick, southwest conservation advocate and ecologist with WildEarth Guardians. “Protecting these forests also protects our clean water and wildlife habitat crucial to addressing our biodiversity crisis. Despite this, and calls for their protection, logging continues to be a primary threat to mature and old-growth forests, undermining their role as part of a broader climate crisis solution.”

Federal forests sequester 35 million metric tons of carbon annually, a number that could rise steadily with new conservation measures to let these older trees continue to grow. They also offer other crucial ecosystem values, including wildlife habitat for vulnerable species, watershed function to provide water for communities across the country, and unmatched outdoor recreation.

Thousands of organizations have also called on the Biden administration to halt federal fossil fuel expansion and phase out production consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Multiple analyses show emissions from existing fossil fuel projects have already pushed warming well past the threshold scientists say would avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Go here to see a folder of materials delivered to the Forest Service today. Click here for photos of today’s protest and a map of Forest Service Region 3.

Other Contact
Lisa Markovchick, WildEarth Guardians, (928) 793-2230, lmarkovchick@wildearthguardians.org; Brian Nowicki, Center for Biological Diversity, (916) 201-6938, bnowicki@biologicaldiversity.org