As you may know, on Earth Day — April 22, 2022 — President Joe Biden signed his Executive Order to strengthen America’s forests, boost wildlife resilience, and combat global deforestation.
For the Tongass, this means a step forward toward safeguarding mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, strengthening reforestation partnerships across the country to support local economies, combating global deforestation to deliver on key COP26 commitments, and enlisting nature to address the climate crisis.
That last part is key. Mature trees and old-growth forests are critical in the fight against climate change. How? Not only do older forests store carbon, and continue absorbing carbon as they age, logging them actually releases most of that carbon back into the atmosphere. Carbon-absorbing older forests also protect drinking water for communities and are the best habitat for thousands of species, including Southeast-specific wildlife like black and brown bears, the Prince of Wales flying squirrel, and the Bald Eagle.
“We hope that this executive order is a stepping stone to durable and lasting protections for all old-growth and mature forests,” Matt Jackson, SEACC’s Climate Program Manager, recently told Alaska News Source.
Personally, Biden’s commitment to work with local, state, and Tribal government to map and then conserve old-growth and mature forests on public lands is exciting news. The Tongass stores more than 40% of the carbon held by the nation’s forests. This alone should be enough to tell us that we need old-growth and mature forests more than we need short-term, large-scale logging.
And since it’s still Earth Month, you can add your voice as well!
Join us in thanking President Biden for his commitment to conserving mature and old-growth forests as a critical climate solution — and call on him to support a strong, lasting rule across the Tongass.
Maranda Hamme, Tongass Forest Program Manager