Press Release | April 20, 2023

Biden administration takes key step toward protecting old-growth forests

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Today, the Biden administration announced that it is seeking public input on conserving old-growth and mature forests in the face of climate change. This historic announcement marks the first time that federal land managers have attempted to develop a consistent national policy for the protection of older forests. Federal leaders also released a nationwide inventory of old-growth and mature forests, and are nudging local officials to prioritize projects that retain large, old trees until the new policy is in place.

Forests pull massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, and old-growth forests can store centuries’ worth of carbon. While old-growth forests are rare in the South because of past logging, allowing mature forests to age can restore old growth, slowing the effects of climate change. Simply put, protecting old-growth and mature forests from logging is a simple and cost-effective way to fight the climate crisis.

Older forests also clean our air, filter water for communities living downstream, and create important habitats for rare and endangered species.

Despite these remarkable benefits, old-growth and mature forests on publicly-owned lands in the South are still being cut down. The U.S. Forest Service has sold irreplaceable old-growth forests in North Carolina at below-market prices, and those forests are currently waiting on logging trucks to arrive. The recently-published Nantahala-Pisgah Forest Plan, which maps out the long-term future for two of the nation’s most popular national forests, anticipates logging up to 50 square miles of mature forests in the next decade alone, including some of the South’s last remaining unlogged tracts.

In response to today’s announcement, Patrick Hunter, Managing Attorney of SELC’s Asheville Office, issued the following statement:

“Old-growth and older forests hold tremendous amounts of carbon and are the most straightforward climate change solution currently available to us. We applaud the Biden administration for taking a commonsense step to protect these important areas.  

Still, old, biodiverse, carbon-dense forests are routinely put on the chopping block in the South. We encourage federal leaders to act swiftly to finalize a policy protecting these important areas and ensure that on-the-ground agency decisions slow climate change, not speed it up.” 

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