More than 70 environmental groups launch Climate Forests Campaign, call for US to protect mature, old-growth trees and forests they say are 'critical' to Earth's climate and biodiversity

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WASHINGTON , February 15, 2022 (press release) –

Environmental Groups Call For National Forest Policy to Protect Mature, Old-Growth, Trees, Forests

A coalition of more than 70 groups launched a new campaign today called the Climate Forests Campaign and called on the Biden administration to take executive action to protect mature trees and forests on federal lands, which are critical in the fight against climate change.

“It’s completely unacceptable that federal land managers lack strong policies to protect old trees and forests, given all we know about how critical they are to our climate and biodiversity,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re calling on President Biden to safeguard these beautiful, life-giving ecosystems to have a shot at a livable planet. It’s cheaper, smarter and quicker than logging them. We just need to let them grow.”

Today’s campaign launch comes a year after Biden signed an executive order setting a path to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050 and work with partners internationally to put the world on a sustainable climate pathway.

This month marks the 117th anniversary of the U.S. Forest Service. For more than a century, the agency has focused much of its resources on logging and timber sales. The Climate Forests Campaign is calling on the Biden administration to kick off a new era of climate and forest policy that values trees and forests as key pieces of the climate solution.

Forests, particularly older forests, store vast amounts of carbon and continue absorbing carbon as they age. Logging trees in these areas releases most of that carbon back into the atmosphere. Even under the best-case scenario, newly planted forests would not reabsorb this carbon for decades or centuries — timescales irrelevant to avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

Older trees and forests also are more fire resistant and help curb the effects of climate change by slowing soil erosion and moderating temperatures.

Carbon-absorbing older forests are also the best habitat for thousands of wildlife species, including spotted owls, red-cockaded woodpeckers and pine martens.

The last comprehensive federal policy to protect national forests, the Roadless Rule, was enacted in 2001 under President Bill Clinton. The rule was adopted to protect nearly 60 million acres of designated roadless areas from logging and roadbuilding, safeguarding significant stands of remaining old growth. Though these areas act as a critical carbon sink, most older trees on federal land lie outside of roadless areas.

“Older forests on federal lands work as a natural climate solution, drawing down massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Spivak. “The science is clear that we should be protecting existing old-growth trees and allowing mature trees and forests to grow. This would show the world that Biden takes his pledge to end global forest losses seriously.”

Members of the coalition include the Center for Biological Diversity, Earthjustice, Environment America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Standing Trees, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center and Wild Heritage.

Willamette Riverkeeper - Flat Country USFS Timber Sale Willamette National Forest Oregon (2)
Willamette National Forest, Oregon. Photo credit: Willamette Riverkeeper Image is available for media use.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change.

Environment America is a nonprofit organization that protects the places Americans love and promotes the core environmental values its people share.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC

Oregon Wild protects and restores Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations, and is committed to elevating the needs of climate impacted communities and underrepresented voices.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

Standing Trees works to protect and restore forests on New England’s public lands. Based in Montpelier, Vermont, Standing Trees is the only regional organization focused on rewilding the Green Mountain (Vermont) and White Mountain (New Hampshire) National Forests.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment, rooted in the South. With a long track record, SELC takes on the toughest environmental challenges in court, in government, and in our communities to protect our region’s air, water, climate, wildlife, lands, and people. Nonprofit and nonpartisan, the organization has a staff of 170, including 90 attorneys, and is headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., with offices in Asheville, Atlanta, Birmingham, Chapel Hill, Charleston, Nashville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C.

Wild Heritage, a project of Earth Island Institute, works with scientists and indigenous groups around the world in protecting primary (unlogged) forests and restoring degraded areas.

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