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The Trees Are Our Climate Keys

Forests can help save us from ourselves. And it starts with protecting our nation’s mature trees and forests—the arboreal champs of carbon sequestration and storage.

That’s why 128 organizations called on the Biden-Harris Administration to protect older stands and trees on federal forestlands from logging.

As the U.S. pursues climate leadership in the wake of the Glasgow Climate Change Conference, the Administration must take bold action to conserve and restore its climate critical forests nationwide. The country cannot respond to its global climate commitments unless it robustly protects its older trees and forests as nature’s climate solution. The Administration has already started down this path with its commitments to protect Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. It’s time to take the next step.

White Mountains National Forest (David Mark/Pixabay)

Older trees and forests are key parts of the climate solution. They hold a disproportionate amount of a forest’s above ground carbon. They continue to sequester carbon throughout their lives. And they have the structural complexity that can enable an abundance of biodiversity.

Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (Joshua Mayer via Flickr, CC BY-SA 4.0)

But they remain under threat on federal forestlands across the country.

Neither the Forest Service nor the Bureau of Land Management is poised to robustly protect these forests and trees. And neither has yet produced proposals for conserving older forests and trees on their lands nationwide. Instead, they have advanced plans that would log our federal forests, and hope that short-lived wood products will suffice to retain the carbon held by trees. But current science does not support that hope: storing and sequestering carbon on the landscape is clearly the better path.

Fortunately, the Biden-Harris Administration has the opportunity to chart a new course in federal forest policy by protecting older trees and forests from logging. They can end the liquidation of our climate critical trees. They can reorient forest management toward optimizing climate and biodiversity benefits. And they can allow the nation’s forests to start healing from centuries of industrial abuse.

Garett Rose is a Staff Attorney at NRDC. He works with a range of stakeholders, including scientists and local groups, to preserve Alaska's lands, waters, and wildlife through litigation, congressional advocacy, and participation in the administrative process.


The Worth More Standing report spotlights federal forest-management practices that are liquidating mature and old-growth forests and trees every day. It includes 10 examples that are part of a pervasive pattern of federal forest mismanagement that routinely sidesteps science to turn carbon-storing giants into lumber. Learn what actions you can take to protect Climate Forests across the country.

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