AFRC on USFS Notice of Intent on Old-Growth Forests

By American Forest Resource Council

American Forest Resource Council President Travis Joseph had the following to say regarding the U.S. Forest Service’s Notice of Intent (NOI) on Old Growth forests:

“The American Forest Resource Council is reviewing the Forest Service’s NOI and will submit substantive comments. On the surface, however, the proposed policy fails to take meaningful steps to address the true risks to old growth forests on National Forest System lands – specifically severe wildfires, insect infestations and disease that have already destroyed nearly 700,000 acres of old growth forests on federal lands over the past 20 years.

“The Forest Service’s data confirms logging poses a negligible threat to old growth forests, and existing federal environmental laws and forest plans provide direction on managing and protecting old growth. Yet the agency is now being directed to embark on a new, massive bureaucratic process – during a wildfire and forest health crisis – that will likely make forest management more complex, costly, and contentious.

“Protecting old growth requires intentional, thoughtful action on the ground – not more paperwork.  It’s not clear how amending every single Forest Plan will help the Forest Service implement the Biden Administration’s own 10-year wildfire strategy that calls for a threefold increase in forest health treatments. Rather than giving our public lands managers the policy tools and support they need to sustain our forests and all the values they provide, this policy will force them to focus limited time and resources on more process and that will do nothing to address the real risks on the ground.

“AFRC and its members share concerns about climate change and how it is contributing to larger and severe wildfires that emit massive amounts of carbon and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and threaten communities.  Any national forest amendment process for old growth should be razor focused on increasing science-based, active forest management to address our wildfire crisis, and to make our forests healthier and more resilient.  Paperwork protection of old growth forests is not a climate solution as unmanaged western forests owned by the federal government are quickly converting into carbon emitters, according to Forest Service data.

“Scientists at the local and international level, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recognize the climate benefits of forest management, timber harvest, and wood products. Just this month in Dubai at COP28, the United States joined an international coalition committing to, by 2030, advancing policies and approaches that support low carbon construction and increase the use of wood products from sustainably managed forests to construct our homes, offices, and other buildings. Such policies and approaches will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and an increase in stored carbon in forests and the built environment. In the western U.S., this can be achieved by actively managing National Forest System lands and providing sustainable wood fiber to meet these goals.”

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