Moss-covered Douglas fir trees, Photo credit: Friends of the Bitterroot
Protecting mature and old-growth forests from logging and other threats
Mature and Old-Growth Forests
As trees age, they develop increasingly complex features providing a range of benefits such as; habitat for at-risk plants and animals, clean drinking water, and the ability to sequester and store vast amounts of carbon both above and below ground. These forests are also reservoirs of genetic diversity, and are more resilient to climate change and wildfire as larger trees have thicker bark and cooler, wetter micro-climates. Learn more here.
In addition, there is a growing understanding that mature forests support important underground interactions. For example, symbioses between plant roots and special fungi (called mycorrhizae) facilitate plant carbon storage, water retention, erosion control, and resilience to stressors. In some cases, they may form connections amongst multiple plants, sharing of water, nutrients and communications resulting in even greater benefits. See our Forest Fungi page.
Logging Kills Mature and Old-Growth Forests
The mature and old-growth forests that remarkably exist on our National Forest lands continue to be under attack by our government agencies who literally put them on the chopping block. Federal land managers continue to authorize massive logging projects, including clear cutting (where they take most or all the trees), claiming this will restore the forest to historic conditions, and increase climate resilience. In fact, such logging often destroys the unique ecological interactions underground, in addition to removing their carbon storing ability, and conditions that support crucial plant and animal habitats. While old and mature trees can be felled in a matter of minutes, they take close to a century to regrow.
WildEarth Webinar: Climate Forests – the case for protecting ancient forests
A virtual conversation with key Guardians staff and knowledgeable guests discussing how mature and old-growth forests are critical to solving the climate and biodiversity crises.
The Solution—Stop Logging
WildEarth Guardians joined the national Climate Forest Campaign to support an effort that will end logging mature and old growth trees. We are calling on President Biden’s administration to enact a federal rule that recognizes the importance of these special forests to serve as part of a solution to the dual biodiversity and climate crises, and prohibits logging mature and old growth trees.
On Earth Day 2022, the Biden Administration issued Executive Order 14072, “Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies,” that recognizes the critical importance of America’s mature and old-growth forests to combat the climate and biodiversity crises; and directs federal forest agencies to conserve remaining mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. Learn more here.
The order did not, however, direct federal land management agencies to stop cutting mature and old-growth forests. We are calling on President Biden’s administration to enact a federal rule that recognizes the importance of these special forests to serve as part of a solution to the dual biodiversity and climate crises, and finally prohibits logging mature and old growth trees. In 2023, Guardians and the Climate Forest Coalition are garnering public support to demand real action to prohibit cutting old growth forests.
Recognizing the opportunity to shape the national definition and inventory of mature forests, independent scientists worked to complete the task for the administration. The result was published in a journal article authored by Dr. Dominick DellaSala et al. (2022) that recommends the agency define mature forests to include all stands and trees 80 years or older. Working with Dr. DellaSala, we used his data to produce a set of maps that displays mature forests within each Forest Service Region in the lower 48 states.