In 2025, Joe Biden intends to prohibit the practice of logging in old-growth forests located in the United States.
The Biden administration revealed a fresh plan on Tuesday to prohibit the harvesting of trees in old-growth forests, in an effort to safeguard countless trees that are crucial in combatting the effects of climate change.
In 2022, the president issued an executive order on Earth Day instructing the US Forest Service and land management bureau to perform a survey of mature and old-growth forests and create safeguards for their preservation.
According to the US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, this action will enable us to efficiently and tactically address the most significant dangers that old growth forests encounter. Ultimately, it will safeguard not only the forests themselves but also the associated culture and heritage.
The US Forest Service is responsible for managing 193 million acres of forests and grasslands, with 144 million acres being specifically designated as forests. After President Biden’s executive order, the agency conducted an inventory and discovered that 80% of the forests it oversees are either old-growth or mature. This amounts to over 32 million acres of old-growth forests and 80 million acres of mature forests on federal land.
According to the land management bureau, old-growth forests are characterized by trees that have reached later stages of growth, typically at least 120 years old depending on the type of tree. An example of an old-growth tree is the giant sequoia found in California. Mature forests, on the other hand, have trees that are in the stage of development just before becoming old growth.
For a while now, supporters have been urging the Biden administration to clearly prohibit the logging of old and mature forests. These trees, in their advanced stage of growth, have the capacity to store more carbon than younger trees, making them an effective tool in combatting the climate emergency.
In 2022, a group of over 130 scientists wrote a letter to Biden urging for a prohibition on logging in mature forests, just before he announced his executive order.
According to the letter, mature forests and larger trees are crucial for storing the most above-ground carbon on Earth. However, if these forests are logged and left vulnerable, they will be unable to fulfill this important role in the next few decades.
The prohibition will be implemented in the beginning of 2025, giving the Forest Service sufficient time to establish regulations that will safeguard old-growth forests from being cut down. As it falls under an executive order, its continuation is contingent upon the outcome of the 2024 presidential election, causing concern among supporters about the vulnerability of these protections to the political climate of the country.
However, federal agencies have faced pressure from the timber industry to allow logging in order to stimulate the economy and prevent wildfires. The suggested plan primarily targets old-growth forests, while still permitting logging in mature forests. This approach attempts to strike a balance between the concerns of environmentalists and those of the timber industry.
According to Chris Wood, who serves as the president of Trout Unlimited and has previous experience with the US Forest Service, the new policy is a positive step forward.
Wood stated that the Forest Service has announced their new policy to prioritize the protection of old growth for the first time.
Some supporters are highlighting that this is merely the initial action by Biden to carry out his executive order.
Randi Spivak, director of public lands policy at the Center for Biological Diversity, stated in a press release that it is crucial to safeguard our old-growth trees from logging as a starting point in preserving their ability to store large amounts of carbon. However, she also emphasized the need for protection of other older forests. In order to fully comply with President Biden’s executive order and tackle the urgent issue of climate change, the Forest Service must also prioritize the protection of mature forests, which have the potential to become future old-growth forests if left to grow.