North Carolina’s oldest trees are in danger
North Carolina’s forests are a vital part of our natural heritage. From the whitewater falls in Nantahala to the mile high peaks and forested slopes of Pisgah, our national forests are a big part of what makes North Carolina such an amazing place to live and visit.
But recently the Forest Service approved plans to log old growth trees in the Nantahala National Forest near the Chattooga River headwaters, putting vital ecosystems at risk.
An estimated 33% of the forest targeted for logging is over 100 years old and the trees on top of Brushy Mountain have been around for almost 200 years, according to Chattooga Conservancy. Why are these old forests so important? Not only do they provide critical habitat for threatened green salamanders, but they are vital allies in our fight against climate change. In fact mature and old-growth forests absorb huge amounts of carbon– more than 10% of the U.S. annual climate pollution– and are a climate solution that we lose the moment we cut them down
President Biden can save our oldest trees
President Biden and Secretary Vilsack should pause the “Southside Project” and all other projects targeting old-growth trees. Then they should issue a rule putting mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land off limits to logging so projects like this cannot be approved in the future.
Less than 1% of trees on the east coast are old-growth. If we don’t save these trees, it will take hundreds of years to grow them back. Our oldest forests support a vast network of plants, animals and insects, sheltering the diversity of nature. And trees grow even faster the older they get, storing more carbon from the atmosphere and acting as a natural climate solution. Protecting our old-growth and mature forests is one of the easiest things we can do to help tackle climate change, save wildlife habitat, and keep North Carolina beautiful.
We’re building momentum to save our forests
We’re already making progress toward our goal. Together with our research partners at Environment America Research and Policy Center and coalition partners, we put out a report highlighting harmful logging projects, including the Southside project, last summer. Together with our national network we’ve collected petitions, got media coverage and lobbied members of the Biden administration. This spring, the Forest Service announced that they are considering a rule and they are accepting public comments through July 20, and we know that they are starting to pay close attention to the public response to logging in old and mature growth forests
Our national network Environment America has led efforts to protect our forests for decades. We were a big part of collecting 1.6 million public comments to get the Roadless Rule enacted in 2001. More recently, we spearheaded an effort that helped secure permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund – which helps fund many of North Carolina’s parks and recreation areas. And this summer, we’re knocking on doors in North Carolina and across the country building support to protect our forests.
You can help us win
The Biden administration should enact a rule to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests in national forests before the end of 2024, ideally in the spring. This timeline will protect the rule from attacks by a hostile Congress or an anti-environmental administration.
Join the campaign to protect our oldest trees. Submit a public comment before July 20. After July 20, call the White House and tell your friends and neighbors to act to oppose logging projects that target old-growth trees like the Southside project.
With enough support, we can protect some of the oldest trees in North Carolina and help ensure that in 100 years, the threatened Saw Whet owl will still have a forest to call home, majestic stands of Willow Oak and Tulip poplar will still be our allies in the fight against climate change, and our national forests will still be doing their part to provide us with clean water, and an escape from the pressures of everyday life.
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.