Environmental groups are calling on the White House to take more concrete steps to shield the nation’s most important forests — the vast majority of which are on federal lands, and most of which have no formal protection.
“It’s the large trees — the oldest trees in the forest — that are our best carbon reservoirs,” forest scientist Dominick DellaSala of advocacy group Wild Heritage told reporters on Tuesday.
About 35 percent of U.S. forestland is composed of these forests, principally on federal land, according to a study DellaSala co-authored in September, published in Frontiers.
Yet only a quarter of those most valuable forests are under explicit protection, the authors found — and if logged over the next decade, would result in a significant uptick in U.S. emissions.
...DellaSala’s comments came the day after the Biden administration on Monday unveiled a sweeping new roadmap at the U.N. climate change conference COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, committing to using “natural climate solutions” to address climate change and the loss of the country’s wild lands and biodiversity.
...Behind that call for specificity is the fact that natural climate solutions — such as the role of forests themselves — are a notoriously squishy category, espoused in very different forms by groups ranging from the National Resources Defense Council to logging giant Weyerhaeuser.
...In 2020, the chief executives of several dozen logging companies signed a shared statement of principles, headlined, “Private working forests are a natural climate solutions.”
But DellaSalla and other scientists said that this math doesn’t work for old-growth and mature forests — defined as those forests which have either never been cut or have fully recovered from past damage.
...DellaSalla’s skepticism echoes that of more than a hundred climate and forest scientists in a 2020 letter to Congress arguing against tapping forests for energy — or increasing logging in general.
“We find no scientific evidence to support increased logging to store more carbon in wood products, such as dimensional lumber or cross-laminated timber (CLT) for tall buildings, as a natural climate solution,” they found...MORE