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For Immediate Release

Contact

Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894, rspivak@biologicaldiversity.org
Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice, jchiappinelli@earthjustice.org
Ellen Montgomery, Environment America, (720) 583-4024 emontgomery@environmentamerica.org
Medhini Kumar, Sierra Club, medhini.kumar@sierraclub.org
Steve Pedery, Oregon Wild, sp@oregonwild.org
Zack Porter, Standing Trees, (617) 872-5352, zporter@standingtrees.org
Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 370-3147, arissien@wildearthguardians.org

Press Release

More Than 122,000 Call for Protecting Mature, Old-Growth Federal Forests, Trees From Logging

WASHINGTON -

Environmental groups delivered more than 122,000 public comments today urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Interior Department to protect mature and old-growth forests and trees on federal public lands from logging.

The comments are in response to President Biden’s executive order to protect and inventory mature and old-growth forests on national forests and other federally managed lands. Today’s comment deadline was for defining mature and old-growth forests.

“Logging is the greatest immediate threat to the beautiful old trees and forests on our public lands,” said Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program. “Tens of thousands of people have told the Biden administration that they want these carbon-storing giants protected. By letting old-growth and mature trees grow, we’ll be safeguarding carbon, clean water and air, and biodiversity. Our climate and future generations depend on it.”

In addition to the public comments, more than 100 climate and conservation organizations signed a letter calling for a strong, lasting administrative rule to protect these essential climate solutions.

Environmental groups said mature and old-growth forests and trees should be defined as 80 years and older to protect against logging, which undermines Biden’s directive to retain and enhance carbon storage and conserve biodiversity. By 80 years of age, trees have accumulated decades of stored carbon and provide significant biodiversity benefits.

The groups are calling for a federal rule that would designate stands and trees older than 80 years off limits to logging, with carefully tailored exceptions for non-commercial activities such as those that support Tribal cultures or appropriate measures to protect structures from fire.

The U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management opened the public comment period in July following Biden’s Earth Day order to define, inventory and develop policies to protect mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. Biden said these public forests “represent some of the most biodiverse parts of our planet and play an irreplaceable role in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”

Preserving mature and old-growth forests and trees is a meaningful, cost-effective measure the Biden administration can take immediately to mitigate climate change. U.S. federal forests sequester 35 million metric tons of carbon annually, a number that could rise steadily with new conservation measures.

“There is no question that mature and old-growth trees are vital to the current health and livable future of our planet. In the face of the worsening climate crisis, a federal rule must be established to protect these trees for future generations,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “As thousands have clearly expressed during this comment period, creating a simple definition is a key first step, and the administration should now move forward swiftly to protect these giants from logging and all threats, before they are gone.”

Mature and old-growth forests store and sequester vast amounts of carbon, making them an essential resource for achieving our nation’s climate commitments. They also offer other crucial ecosystem values, including wildlife habitat for vulnerable species, clean water for people across the country, and recreation.

“Trees capture and store the pollution that causes climate change, and the older and larger they become the more effective they are,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director with Oregon Wild. “Protecting mature and old-growth forests on America’s public lands is one of the biggest single steps we can take to combat climate change. President Biden should move quickly to adopt a national rule to protect these vital climate forests.”

Larger, older trees are generally more resistant to wildfires. Preserving mature and old-growth forests and trees is a meaningful, cost-effective measure the Biden administration can take immediately to help mitigate climate change. 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.

“Carbon storage moving into the future is essential, as we address our ever-changing climate and its rippling effects,” said Alex Craven, senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club. “One of the most effective tools for carbon removal — mature and old-growth forests — are literally right in front of us, and all we need to do is protect them and keep them standing.”

While the public comment period was underway this summer, the Climate Forests coalition published a report detailing federal logging proposals targeting nearly a quarter of a million acres of old-growth and mature forests and trees across nine states, from California to Vermont. The report called on the Biden administration to pass a permanent rule to protect these critically vital trees, which would align with its pledge to protect federal forests as well as live up to its climate commitments.

“Mature and old-growth forests are North America's ‘lungs’ as they draw down and store massive amounts of atmospheric carbon vital to reducing severe climate impacts,” said Dominick A. DellaSala, Ph.D., chief scientist at Wild Heritage.

“Today’s mature forests are our children and grandchildren’s old growth,” said Zack Porter, director of the New England-based public land advocacy organization Standing Trees. “Healthy forests are complex ecosystems, but protecting them for the benefit of future generations is remarkably simple: It’s past time to end logging of forests over age 80 on federal lands.”

“Our forests do it all. They filter our air and water, provide habitat for hundreds of species and help us fight climate change,” said Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director with Environment America. “Our older forests are the real champs, performing all of these functions better than their younger counterparts. If we leave our 80-year-old trees and forests standing, they’ll become more valuable every decade.”

In addition to public comments, more than 100 climate and conservation organizations submitted a letter calling for a strong, lasting administrative rule to protect old-growth forests from logging.

“Undoubtedly, the Biden administration should move quickly to protect mature and old-growth forests, not only to ensure their role as a natural climate-crisis solution, but also to protect crucial habitat for plants and animals,” said Adam Rissien, rewilding manager with WildEarth Guardians. “Sadly, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management fail to recognize logging as a threat and are moving quickly to chop down these forests under the guise of reducing wildfires.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive. 

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