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Friday, December 09, 2022

Biden order aims to protect old-growth forests from wildfires

In This Photo Provided By The National Park Service, Fallen Trees Smolder After A Wildfire At Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument In Arizona On Wednesday, April 20, 2022.  Winds Are Expected To Intensify By The End Of The Week As Firefighters Battle In The Southwest.  ,  Resources Are Tight, And Firefighters Are Scrambling To Get The Crew In.  (Richard Ullman/National Park Service Via Ap)

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In this photo provided by the National Park Service, fallen trees smolder after a wildfire at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Winds are expected to intensify by the end of the week as firefighters battle in the southwest. , Resources are tight, and firefighters are scrambling to get the crew in. (Richard Ullman/National Park Service via Associated Press)

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In this photo provided by the National Park Service, fallen trees smolder after a wildfire at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument in Arizona on Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Winds are expected to intensify by the end of the week as firefighters battle in the southwest. , Resources are tight, and firefighters are scrambling to get the crew in. (Richard Ullman/National Park Service via Associated Press)

SEATTLE ( Associated Press) – President Joe Biden is taking steps to restore national forests devastated by wildfiresDrought and Frost, Using Earth Day Travel to Seattle to sign an executive order protecting some of the largest and oldest trees in the country.

Old-growth trees are major buffer against climate change and provide important carbon sinks that absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Biden’s order instructs federal land managers to define and list mature and old-growth forests across the country within one year. The order requires the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service to develop policies to identify and protect older trees, such as threats from wildfires and climate change.

The White House said the order does not prohibit the felling of mature or old trees.

By signing the order on Friday, Biden could publicly re-establish his environmentalist credentials at a time when his administration has been preoccupied with high oil and gasoline prices. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas cost There has been a strain on Biden’s popularity and short-lived political pressure in this year’s midterm electionsYet the Democratic president’s attention has been focused on the wildfires that are intensifying because of climate change.

The measure aims to protect national forests that have been severely damaged by wildfires, droughts and blight, including recent fires that have killed thousands of giant sequoias. in California. Redwood forests are some of the world’s most efficient at removing and storing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and provide important habitat for native wildlife and the watersheds that supply farms and communities in the West.

Blasts so intense to kill trees once considered virtually fire retardant have alarmed land managers, environmentalists and tree lovers around the world – and demonstrated the dire effects of climate change. A warming planet that has produced longer and hotter droughts, combined with a century of fire suppression has suppressed forests with thickets that have extinguished the trees associated with ancient civilizations.

A senior administration official noted that forests absorb more than 10% of America’s annual greenhouse gases, while also providing flood control, clean water, clean air and a home for wildlife. The official, who insisted anonymity, insisted on discussing the details of Biden’s order before making it public.

Biden’s ambitious climate agenda has faced setbacks a year after he took office Amidst a flurry of climate-related promises. President hosted a virtual summit on global warming Last Earth Day at the White House. He used the moment to nearly double the United States’ goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, bringing the country to the front line in the fight against climate change.

A Year Later, His Most Extensive Offers Have Been Paused Despite new warnings from scientists on Capitol Hill that the world is headed for a dangerous future marked by extreme heat, drought and weather.

In addition, Russia’s war in Ukraine has reshaped climate change politics, forcing Biden to release oil from the country’s strategic reserves and encouraging more domestic drilling in hopes of stoking skyrocketing gas prices that stifled American pockets. are emptying.

While Biden is raising fuel economy standards green policies for vehicles and in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure lawThe lack of much progress casts a shadow over his second Earth Day as president.

Timber industry representative Nick Smith said before the order was made public that loggers are concerned it will add more bureaucracy to a forest management framework that is already unable to keep up with the growing wildfires caused by climate change.

Smith, a spokesman for the American Forest Resource Council, an Oregon-based industry group, said tinder-dry waste would undermine the Biden administration’s goal of doubling the amount of logging and controlled burning in thin forests over the next decade.

“The federal government has an urgent need to reduce massive greenhouse gas emissions from severe wildfires, which can only be met by actively managing our unhealthy and overcrowded federal forests,” he said.

But former U.S. Forest Service deputy chief Jim Furnish said wildfire risks and climate change would be better addressed by removing smaller trees, leaving mature trees that can fuel uncontrolled blasts.

Furnish said that for many years the Forest Service has allowed older trees to be logged in order to bring in money for the removal of smaller trees. But this is no longer necessary after Congress approved more than $5 billion in last year’s infrastructure bill to reduce the risk of wildfires, he said. The law includes funding to hire 1,500 firefighters and making sure they earn at least $15 an hour.

Lumber sales from federal forests across the country have more than doubled in the past 20 years, as Republicans and Democrats push for more aggressive thinning of stands to cut down small trees and vegetation that fuel wildfires. Huh.

Critics, including many forest scientists, say officials are allowing the removal of too many old trees that could face fires.

A letter signed by 135 scientists called on Biden to protect mature and old-growth forests as an important climate solution.

“Older forests provide the most carbon storage capacity on Earth, with mature forests and large trees accumulating most of forest carbon over the next few decades. Left vulnerable to logging, however, they do not fulfill these important functions. Former Forest Service chief Mike Dombeck and Norman Christensen, founding dean and professor emeritus at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, were among the signatories to the letter, the scientists wrote Thursday.

Protecting mature forests will also “set an important, highly visible example for other major forest-holder countries as they address climate change threats,” the scientists wrote.

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Associated Press writer Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana contributed to this story.

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