Environmental groups like USDA’s focus on old trees but call for logging limits

As part of a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement on new efforts to address wildfires, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack directed the Forest Service to protect and look for opportunities to restore mature and old-growth forests.

In April 2022, President Biden issued an Executive Order that directed the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior to “Strengthen the Nation’s Forests” including developing “conservation strategies that address threats to mature and old-growth forests on Federal lands.”

Conservation groups have identified logging as a threat, highlighting 22 current federal logging projects targeting nearly 370,000 acres of mature and old-growth trees and forests in recent reports: America’s Vanishing Climate Forests and Worth More Standing.

In response to the USDA announcement, member groups of the Climate Forests Campaign issued a statement that said: “One of the most effective ways to conserve and restore the extent of old-growth forests, which have largely been lost to logging, is to let mature trees grow. While the Forest Service is doing their critical work to address wildfire, this announcement makes clear that the agency must also protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands from unnecessary logging.”

“Mature and old-growth trees are generally fire-resilient and continue to store and absorb significant amounts of carbon,” said the group, comprised of dozens of organizations that have worked to protect federal forests, wildlife, watersheds, and our climate for decades.

“We welcome this new focus on protecting these mature trees and forests for their climate, biodiversity, and other values. USDA’s recognition that necessary fire management measures must be responsive to President Biden’s direction to conserve mature and old-growth forests is important,” said the environmental groups. “The next step is clear — the Biden administration must move quickly to enact a durable rule protecting mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands from logging.”

In related news, a long-brewing plan to save 3,500 acres of forest outside Atlanta has suddenly become entangled in the national debate over police conduct after an environmental activist was killed on part of the property that’s been selected for a police training center.

The activist who was part of a group that’s been occupying the site was fatally shot by police. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the protester fired first, injuring a Georgia state trooper who required hospitalization. There’s no body camera footage of the incident, according to the bureau, which is looking into what happened.

The 85 acres that Atlanta wants to use for its training site is part of 3,500 acres of woodland that several groups say will preserve forests in a metropolitan area known for its greenery but has in fact been losing it.

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