ATLANTA, GA — Environment Georgia, SELC, Environment America, and dozens of other conservation groups launched an effort Tuesday to focus on protecting mature trees and forests on federal lands that are most critical in the fight against climate change. The Climate Forests 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 pieces of the climate solution.
“The Biden administration has pledged to fight climate change, and it needs to recognize that the Chattahoochee National Forest and other forests across our country are one tool in their toolbox they don’t need to invent or invest in,” said Jennette Gayer, Environment Georgia director. “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.”
Forests – particularly old growth and mature forests – store vast amounts of carbon and continue absorbing carbon as they age. Harvesting these trees releases much of that carbon back into the atmosphere, worsening the impacts of climate change.
“The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the South – from increased flooding to rising sea levels,” said Patrick Hunter, Managing Attorney of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Asheville Office. “Fully utilizing the potential of our National Forests to sequester and store carbon by leaving important tracts of older trees standing is the most straightforward and cost-effective climate change solution currently available to us.”
Protecting mature and old-growth forests would be a key piece of the Biden administration’s government-wide approach to tackling the climate crisis. Unfortunately, significant amounts of these forests remain at risk to commercial timber harvesting even though they are far more valuable as carbon storage reservoirs and biodiversity strongholds than they are on the backs of logging trucks.
“Sadly, our Southern forests have undergone centuries of extensive – and at times irresponsible – logging and they don’t have a lot of old growth left,” Hunter said. “That’s why it is essential that we also protect mature forests and older trees that are next in line to become old growth forests and are already providing immense carbon benefits in their own right.”
As part of The Climate Forests campaign, groups have launched a website with additional information about old growth and mature forests and details on how the Biden administration can fully use these incredible natural resources.