Biden administration proposes to limit cutting old-growth trees

The Biden administration is proposing new protections for old-growth forests, but stopping short of blocking all logging of the carbon-storing plants.

The Forest Service on Thursday proposed to limit the culling of these mature trees in national forests, stoking ire from some in the timber industry and cheers from environmental groups.

Studies have shown that old-growth trees store significant amounts of carbon dioxide — making their protection important for fighting climate change.

“Our old growth forests breathe in carbon pollution, cleaning up the air, and filter our water, cleaning up rivers and streams. These forests are an essential partner in tackling climate change,” national climate adviser Ali Zaidi said in a written statement.

“Today’s action will help better inform the stewardship of the national forest system and strengthen our work to deploy nature-based solutions that improve the resilience of lands, waters, wildlife, and communities,” he added.

The administration’s new proposal would restrict cutting in such places to cases where even with tree cutting, the area would still be considered old-growth forest.

It would also require government land managers to take on proactive projects to bolster these forests.

The American Forest Resource Council, a trade group representing timber companies in the western U.S., described the proposal as “politically driven” and said the administration should instead focus on the threat of wildfires.

“Instead of increasing bureaucracy and obstacles to active forest management, the Biden Administration should prioritize the implementation of its wildfire strategy that calls for more forest health treatments,” said Travis Joseph, the group’s president, in a written statement.

Environmental advocates, meanwhile, said that the move represented a positive development.

“Conserving what remains of our oldest forests is undoubtedly a positive step towards climate action. We look forward to engaging in this process to ensure the amendment not only retains, but increases, the amount of old-growth forests across the country,” said a written statement from Sierra Club forest campaign manager Alex Craven.

The administration previously indicated in December that it would issue a proposal aimed at protecting the trees. The Forest Service’s website estimates that the agency could finalize the proposal around the beginning of January.

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