Old-growth forests that were under the threat of logging in — the now withdrawn — Flat Country timber sale (photo by Andrew Kumler).

Press Release: U.S. Agencies Undermine Biden’s Public Forest Protection Pledge with Logging Plans, According to Report

November 14, 2022

Madeline Cowen, Cascadia Wildlands, 206-653-4959
Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894

EUGENE, OR — As world leaders gather to address the climate crisis, U.S. land management agencies are undermining President Joe Biden’s commitment to conserve mature and old-growth forests and trees by proposing to log thousands of acres on public lands that serve as climate-saving carbon sinks, as well as providing wildlife habitat and clean drinking water for communities.

Today’s America’s Vanishing Climate Forests report profiles 12 projects on federal public lands including the Bureau of Land Management’s “42 Divide” sale in southwest Oregon, which proposes to log 5,280 acres of mature and old-growth moist mixed conifer forests with trees up to 200 years old. Along with the 10 similar projects identified in a previous report, federal agencies currently have 370,000 acres of older public forests on the chopping block. 

“With so few old-growth stands remaining amidst a sea of clearcuts, it’s abhorrent that the government is planning to log our last older public forests like those in the 42 Divide project,” said Madeline Cowen, Grassroots Organizer with Cascadia Wildlands. “If the Biden administration is serious about fighting the climate crisis, these forests need to be immediately and permanently protected. Forests and their vast amounts of naturally stored carbon are one of the best, and last, defenses we have. ”

Today’s report comes as members of the Biden administration meet with international leaders at COP27 about climate commitments, including efforts to reverse deforestation and promote nature-based solutions to addressing climate change. Protecting mature and old-growth forests and trees is one of the simplest and most effective ways the Biden administration can tackle climate change at home and demonstrate global leadership.

“Instead of heeding Biden’s pledge to set an example for the world, federal agencies are moving full steam ahead with massive logging of mature and old-growth forests,” said Randi Spivak, Public Lands Program director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “These are some of the world’s most magnificent trees and it’ll take centuries to recover their loss. We’re running out of time. The U.S. needs to immediately change course and protect these carbon workhorses.” 

On Earth Day President Biden issued an executive order directing an inventory of mature and old-growth federally managed public forests and development of policies to protect them. Agencies can establish needed protections for these trees and forests while carrying forward the critical work of protecting communities from wildfire. 

At COP26, world leaders pledged to end global deforestation by 2030, but a recent assessment shows nations are not on track to achieve this goal. Ending logging of mature and old-growth forests and trees is a cost-effective solution that can start right now. Advocates from the Climate Forests campaign, a coalition of 120 organizations, are calling on the Biden administration to swiftly adopt a durable rule to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging.

 “Global leaders are discussing the climate crisis in Egypt this week, and time is running out for the world’s greatest emitters to begin implementing policies to stave off the worst consequences,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “A federal rule that restricts logging of critical mature and old-growth forests on federal lands is a cost-effective solution that harnesses nature to fight climate change, while preserving wildlife habitat and protecting clean drinking water.”

In July the Climate Forests Campaign released Worth More Standing, which identified 10 of the worst projects on federal forests targeting mature and old-growth forests and trees. The agencies have not reversed course on any of the 10 sales, though a lawsuit has paused two. Maps on the Climate Forests campaign website show the projects featured in the reports and illustrate the widespread logging threat across the country.