Groups tell Biden administration: Let trees grow

Media Contacts
Seth Billingsley

Environmental organizations urge Biden administration to include older and mature trees in their climate plans

Environment Texas

AUSTIN, Texas – Environment Texas helped launch an effort Tuesday called the Climate Forests campaign. It will focus on protecting older and mature trees on federal lands that are most critical in the fight against climate change, including in Texas’ national forests. 

“We are facing twin crises, loss of biodiversity and climate change. Here in Texas we’ve seen floods, heat waves, and winter storms that harm people and wildlife,” said Seth Billingsley, conservation associate for Environment Texas. “The last thing we should be doing is cutting down the trees that are helping by removing climate-harming pollution, safeguarding wildlife and providing clean drinking water for our communities. We can no longer allow our most valuable trees to be logged. It’s time to adopt a new policy: Let these trees grow.”

The campaign is calling on the Biden administration to kick off a new era of climate and forest policy in which trees and forests are valued as key key pieces of the climate solution. Forests—particularly older forests—store vast amounts of carbon and continue absorbing carbon as they age. Harvesting trees in these areas releases most of that carbon back into the atmosphere. Even under the best case scenario, newly planted forests would not re-absorb this carbon for decades or centuries – timescales irrelevant to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Older trees and forests are also more fire resistant.  And they help limit the impacts of climate change by slowing soil erosion and moderating temperatures. 

While most old growth trees in Texas were destroyed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some of Texas’ best remaining forests are partially protected in our four national forests (Sam Houston, Angelina, Davy Crockett and Sabine) in east Texas. Some of the oldest American Beech trees can be found in the Mill Creek Cove part of the Sabine National Forest, east of Lufkin, where they provide home to dozens of bird species while absorbing carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the forest is home to the “largest remaining old–growth, never-harvested beech–magnolia forest known to all experts.” Nonetheless, logging is allowed in National Forests. 

“The Biden administration has pledged to fight climate change, and it needs to recognize that  our forests are one tool in their toolbox they don’t need to invent or invest in,” said Billingsley. “If we’re going to be serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions, we need to get serious about letting trees grow. Mature trees grow into old trees and both help us fight climate change better than newly planted trees.”

The last comprehensive federal policy to protect national forests, the Roadless Rule, was enacted in 2001 under President Bill Clinton. The Roadless Rule protects nearly 60 million acres of designated “roadless areas” from logging and road-building and has been the means of safeguarding much of the remaining old growth but not all critical trees are included in those roadless areas. Scientists and environmental groups say that it’s time for an update. After winter storm Uri, extreme heat, and other extreme weather conditions, it is important to act now to protect Texas’ old-growth, and younger, forests.

“Older forests on federal lands drawdown massive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, serving as a natural climate solution” said Wild Heritage Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala.  “The science is clear-cut, we cannot get out of the climate and biodiversity global emergencies without protecting these vestiges of our natural biological inheritance. Doing so, would position the US as a global leader that is serious about the president’s pledge at the COP 26 climate summit to end global forest losses whether in the Amazon or here at home.” 


The Climate Forest Campaign works to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging across America’s public lands as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy.