Our oldest forests are in trouble
There’s something amazing about being in a forest. The wind in the trees, bird song, running water and the sounds of small mammals and lizards scurrying under the leaf cover give us a feeling that we can’t get anywhere else.
Some of our most special forests are mature and old-growth forests, composed of trees that have been standing for longer than most people have been alive. These complex forest ecosystems provide vital and unique habitats for birds up above, critters down below and everything in between.
Road-building, industrial logging, and mining threaten our remaining mature and old-growth trees and forests, increasing the risk of climate change and destroying essential habitat for countless species and degrading the land. But, from Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest to the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia to the Kootenai National Forest in Montana, more than 50 million acres of mature and old-growth forests on federal lands in the United States are unprotected from logging.
An opportunity protect older forests
We are calling on the Biden Administration to enact a rule that protects mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal public lands from logging, and to give old-growth forests that have been lost to logging time to regrow.
Beyond their ecological value, older trees and forests absorb huge amounts of carbon—more than 10% of our country’s annual climate pollution—and are a climate solution that we lose the moment we cut them down. Setting aside the oldest, biggest trees to act as natural climate solutions and ecological anchors is a smart strategy that should be implemented immediately on federal lands. Trees absorb carbon for free, no investment in new carbon capture technology is required.
Without mature and old-growth forest and trees, birds like the red-cockaded woodpecker and mammals like the marten will be without a home. Without forests to filter drinking water, millions of people could lose a clean source of water. And without mature and old growth forests to absorb carbon, climate change could be worse. We need these forests and trees if we are going to have a liveable future on this planet.
We don’t have much time. To ensure these forests are protected President Biden should enact this rule before the end of 2024. This will make it harder for a hostile Congress, or future administrations to remove these protections.
We’re building a movement
More than 20 years ago, we worked with a coalition to collect 1.6 million public comments to convince President Clinton to enact the Roadless Rule to project 58.5 million acres of forests in 2001.
And with our coalition of more than 100 groups across the country, we’ve already made enormous progress getting the Biden administration to prioritize forest protection. Until recently, federal policy makers weren’t thinking about mature and old-growth forests but as we started educating the public and building support for the idea of protecting older trees, the Biden administration took notice, and now it is being considered in policy discussions.
On Earth Day 2022, President Biden issued an executive order that directs federal agencies to conduct an inventory of mature and old-growth forests on America’s federal lands so that policies can be adopted to protect them.
The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are taking steps in the right direction toward rulemaking. But without a big push from the public, the agencies are likely to drag their feet and either move too slowly to hit our political deadlines or put out lackluster policies that don’t adequately protect our mature and old-growth forests. With enough public support, we can persuade them it’s in their best interest to act swiftly, and enact the strongest protections possible.
Tell President Biden: Stop the logging of our most important trees
Our national forests should be places of conservation, not destruction.
If we are successful in persuading the administration to take action, we will protect up to 50 million acres of mature and old-growth from logging. In 20, 30 and 40 years, there will be more old-growth than there is now.
Director, Public Lands Campaign, Environment America
Ellen runs campaigns to protect America's beautiful places, from local beachfronts to remote mountain peaks. Prior to her current role, Ellen worked as the organizing director for Environment America’s Climate Defenders campaign. Ellen lives in Denver, where she likes to hike in Colorado's mountains.