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Why Old-Growth Forests Matter So Much in the Fight Against Climate Change – Mother Jones

Why Old-Growth Forests Matter So Much in the Fight Against Climate Change – Mother Jones

Why Old-Growth Forests Matter So Much in the Fight Against Climate Change – Mother Jones

Caryssa Rouser is a propagation specialist at Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. She plants a sequoia in Sequoia Crest in California in October 2021.Noah Berger/AP

Few experiences have left me as amazed as that winter morning spent wandering through an ancient sequoia grove, their sienna bark glowing against snowy ground. They’re the world’s largest trees, spanning up to 36 feet in diameter and more than 250 feet in height. And they’ve been KnownTo live for 3400 years. But fewer and fewer of them are getting the chance to make it that long: In the past two years, three massive wildfires that roared through the western slope of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains torched thousands of sequoias. Experts aren’t surprised at the extent of the destruction. EstimateIt almost seems like it. a fifth of the planet’s sequoias died or suffered terminal burns during the blazes.

Sequoias have learned to live with fire, and their thick, bark protects them against damage. So the tremendous losses in the past few years can’t be chalked up to bad luck: Since 2015, according to a National Park Service Report, there has been a “dramatic increase” in severe wildfires in sequoia country due to hotter, drier conditions linked to climate change.

The Biden Administration is paying attention. The president signed an agreement on April 22. Executive order aimed at protecting the United States’ forests, especially old-growth forests like the ancient sequoia groves. The order directs the Department of the Interior among other things to inventory the federal old-growth forests over the next year and identify the threats that these trees face along with ways to protect them. One such measure is prescribed burningThis is a practice Indigenous tribes have used for centuries to stop wildfires from ravaging their land. The order also sets targets to reforest federal lands by 2030, and to reduce deforestation in the world.

Biden isn’t just drawn to protecting old trees because of their beauty, or the way they nourish biodiversity; his interest in them is directly tied to his Climate goals. As his Earth Day directive states, forests “play an irreplaceable role in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.” Old-growth trees serve as carbon sinks, keeping carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere. The United States’ temperate forests For offset about 14 percent of the country’s carbon emissions every year. This is true for all trees, but it’s especially effective for older, larger trees. As one 2020 StudyLarge trees, which are larger than 21 inches in circumference, were found to make up 3 percent of the forest on the east side of the Cascades in Oregon. However, they held 42 percent carbon.

But while Biden’s latest order makes strides toward conserving these ancient treasures, it doesn’t appear to take a step that many environmentalists and some politicians have been lobbying for: banning loggingFederal lands that have old-growth forests. The executive order references “supporting healthy, sustainably managed forests in timber communities”—code for supporting logging companies, which, as the Washington PostYou are still allowed to harvest some old-growth trees on federal property in Oregon, as the Oregon Department of Agriculture points out.

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Gov. Jared Polis

“Allowing logging of mature and old federal forests should become a practice of the past,” wrote members of Congress in a November 2021 Let me knowTom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. It will take some time and significant funding to move away from fossil fuels and flood this country with electric cars. they wrote, “protecting our natural carbon sinks represents a more straightforward climate solution.”

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