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Old Growth crucial to fighting Climate Change

Published November 17th, 2020 in Conservation, News, UW Blogs
Forest Carbon

Why Old-Growth Trees Are Crucial to Fighting Climate Change

Brooke JarvisScience, 04.01.2020

Nature is already socking away a lot of carbon for us. It could soak up a lot more—if we help.

37%: The part that “natural climate solutions” could play between now and 2030 to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees C.


Meeting GHG reduction targets requires accounting for all forest sector emissions

TaraWHudiburg1,4 , Beverly E Law2, William RMoomaw3 , Mark E Harmon2 and Jeffrey E Stenzel1


Atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHGs) must be reduced to avoid an unsustainable climate. Because carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and sequestered in forests and wood products, mitigation strategies to sustain and increase forest carbon sequestration are being developed. These strategies require full accounting of forest sector GHG budgets.

We find that Western US forests are net sinks because there is a positive net balance of forest carbon uptake exceeding losses due to harvesting, wood product use, and combustion by wildfire. However, over 100 years of wood product usage is reducing the potential annual sink by an average of 21%, suggesting forest carbon storage can become more effective in climate mitigation through reduction in harvest, longer rotations, or more efficient wood product usage. Of the∼10 700 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents removed from west coast forests since 1900, 81% of it has been returned to the atmosphere or deposited in landfills.


Coalition Challenges Washington State Plan to Boost Marbled Murrelet Conservation


A coalition consisting of Washington Environmental Council, Conservation Northwest, Olympic Forest Coalition, and 6 individuals filed a lawsuit in Washington State Court arguing that the State of WA has the legal discretion to adopt a long-term conservation strategy that would have provided more conservation than the current plan. The Oregon fish and wildlife commissioners are reconsidering whether to grant endangered species protections for the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in coastal old growth forests (Capital Press).


Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala testifies in the Oregon legislature


Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala testifies in the Oregon legislature. Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala testifies in the Oregon legislature on a proposal by state legislatures to provide $4 billion for logging Oregon’s forests, which would be a maladaptive climate change response.


Mapping Tool Reveals Extent of Past and Ongoing Logging in Oregon

In a state covered in nearly 30 million acres of forested lands, it can be difficult to get a sense of the scale and extent of logging across Oregon. A view from above, looking down from an airplane window for example, can give you a better sense, but this is still just a snapshot in time. This is one reason Oregon Wild volunteer Ricardo Morin spent hundreds of hours over the past year developing a “Logging in Oregon” web tool for analyzing the extent of logging on both public and private lands in Oregon, both historically and recently.

Bear Grub Timber Sale in Oregon Threatens Northern Spotted Owl Habitat

The forests of the project area support endangered wildlife such as the Northern spotted owl and Pacific fisher, significant populations of the Great gray owl, and more common species such as black bear, cougar, coyote and large herds of black tailed deer. The region’s mature, closed canopy forests provide nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the Northern spotted owl, denning and resting habitat for the Pacific fisher, nesting habitat for Great gray owls, and thermal cover for a variety of wildlife species.

Final letter opposing H.R. 5859, the Trillion Trees Act

While we support ecologically sound tree-planting as a means to increase carbon sequestration and climate adaptation, this legislation presents a false solution for addressing the climate crisis by misallocating resources to focus on industrial logging rather than on urgently needed steep reductions of fossil fuel emissions. The bill would significantly increase logging across America’s federal forests, convert millions of acres into industrial tree plantations, increase carbon emissions, increase wildfire risk, and harm wildlife and watersheds.

Guest View: Nature’s climate solution


Every fall, raging hurricanes and urban-wildfires remind us of the inconvenient truth: the climate is getting increasingly weird and dangerous. Scientists have made it clear that if we hope to …read more at.


Researchers find some forests crucial for climate change mitigation, biodiversity


A study by Oregon State University researchers has identified forests in the western United States that should be preserved for their potential to mitigate climate change through carbon sequestration, as well as to enhance biodiversity. Those forests are mainly along the Pacific coast and in the Cascade Range, with pockets of them in the northern Rocky Mountains as well. Not logging those forests would be the carbon dioxide equivalent of halting eight years’ worth of fossil fuel burning in the western lower 48, the scientists found, noting that making land stewardship a higher societal priority is crucial for altering climate change trajectory.

There’s Carbon in Them Thar Hills: But How Much? Could Pacific Northwest Forests Store More?


In 1994, federal agencies overhauled the management of forests in the PNW with the development of the NW Forest Plan. Prior to that point, our forests emitted far more carbon they absorbed due to aggressive clearcut logging – but thanks to the NW Forest Plan, our forests are now a “carbon sink,” meaning they absorb more carbon than they emit.


In fact, the National Forests of Oregon and Washington accumulate 7 million metric tons of carbon per year, the equivalent of 24% of all fossil fuel emissions in both states! Despite these gains, our National Forests are only storing 63 percent of their maximum carbon storage capacity, which means there are significant opportunities to dramatically increase the amount of carbon stored in our forests.


Webinar: Wood, Forests & Embodied Carbon



Fire and Wildlife

Chrystal Clear Timber Sale Threatening Owls Rejected by Federal Court

This 12,000 acre logging project on the Mt. Hood National Forest proposed thousands of acres of mature and old growth forests in ways that the best available science shows could increase fire risk, and adversely affect threatened Northern Spotted Owls. The ruling didn’t simply ask the Forest Service to tweak a few sections of their Environmental Assessment—it recognized, as Bark, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild asserted—that the scope of this project requires the more in-depth analysis of an Environmental Impact Statement.

Birds and Burned Forests: Patterns of bird species occurrence in relation to anthropogenic and wildfire disturbance: Management implications


Two important management implications follow directly from these findings: (1) the presence of the full complement of bird species in a landscape cannot be maintained through land management that either suppresses fire or acts to reduce overall fire severity through widespread forest thinning or through the application of homogeneous, low-severity, prescribed burning across the broader landscape—only severe fire can produce the variety of post-fire conditions used by species that are nowhere more abundant than in burned forests; and (2) the presence of many species (especially those most specialized to use burned forest conditions) is incompatible

with both pre-fire and post-fire timber harvesting.

Money to Burn

In addition to the concerns that the post-fire logging is counterproductive, Hanson and other forest defenders are raising alarms that misappropriated federal dollars are funding much of the work. Moreover, they argue that some of the logged trees will likely be processed into fuel for a biomass energy facility—a second round of burning that, according to some climate scientists and air quality experts, represents a terrible climate calculus that puts even more carbon pollution into the atmosphere.

Forest, Wildfire and Climate Change Factsheet and Messaging Guide


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