Forest Legacies Programs

Forest degradation and deforestation contribute more greenhouse gas pollution globally than the entire transportation network.

Conversely, protecting and responsibly managing forests for their capacity to store carbon for long periods (centuries) along with their associated biodiversity and clean water is pivotal to stemming serious global warming problems. Thus, we seek to elevate the importance of intact forests and watersheds in the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska nationally and globally in climate change and land-use policies.

Because public lands policies depend to a great extent on which political party is in the White House or in the majority in Congress, we periodically revise program goals to be responsive to threats and opportunities on public lands. Our near-term goals are:

  • Transition logging on the Tongass Rainforest out of 2.5 million acres of old growth to about 100,000 acres of previously logged plantations within five years, thereby ensuring the Tongass will continue to sequester up to 8% of the nation’s globally warming pollution annually.
  • Defend public lands from inappropriate logging and fire management policies – Fire Ecology
  • During forest plan revisions, advocate for protection of ~1 million acres of at-risk legacy forests in the Pacific Northwest that store the equivalent of ~80 times Oregon’s global warming pollution.
  • Permanently protect 220,000 acres of a legacy landscape that may act as a climate refuge within the world-class Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion.

Trump’s trade war tests Alaska’s struggling timber industry

By Marc Heller, originally published Friday, August 16, 2019 at E&E News

KETCHIKAN, Alaska — The Trump administration’s trade war with China is hitting Alaska’s timber industry where it may hurt most: in the younger trees that everyone seems to agree are the future of the business.

China’s 20% tariff on U.S. timber is retaliation for similar levies the administration placed on Chinese goods. And while Chinese officials spoke earlier this week of trying to reach a middle ground in the broader trade battle, people close to the timber industry in southeast Alaska say they’re not sure the region’s mills that ship there can quickly recover when the battle settles.

That could throw off plans to transition out of old-growth timber harvesting in the Tongass National Forest, a practice that’s unpopular with conservation and environmental groups, as well as Alaska Native tribes, but maintains support from the state’s political leaders.

Conservationists promote the Tongass as bulwark against climate change

Conservationist Dominick DellaSala asks can the Tongass save Alaska?

By Peter Segall, Originally published Friday, August 16, 2019 at The Juneau Empire

Can the Tongass save Alaska from climate chaos?

Dr. Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, asked that question to the small audience of about two dozen gathered in the Mendenhall Valley Library Tuesday evening.

He speaking at at an event hosted by the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council about the role that old-growth forest like the Tongass National Forest can play in combating climate change.

Temperate rain forests like the Tongass soak up an incredible amount of carbon and play a pivotal role in keeping the planet’s temperature at sustainable levels. In answer to his own question, DellaSala said that the Tongass can play a part in saving Alaska from climate chaos, so long as it continues to exist in its present state.

That may be a problem as the Alaska’s logging industry is eager to get at the hundreds of thousands of acres of old-growth forest in Southeast. “Old-growth” forests are not simply forests with old trees, but forests with a complex array of features which create a unique ecosystem which have remained mostly undisturbed by humans.

These Alaska Natives want to upend Trump’s pro-timber rule

Marc Heller, E&E News reporter

Originally published at E&E News Greenwire, Wednesday, August 14, 2019

KAKE, Alaska — To the 569 residents of this island community in the Tongass National Forest, picking blueberries may offer more promise in the long run than harvesting trees.

So when the Department of Agriculture announced last year that it would consider scrapping rules that protect stands of old-growth forest, they demanded meetings with the agency.

“We said we wanted to be consulted,” said Mike Jackson, a leader with the Organized Village of Kake (OVK), in the tribal offices adorned with Native carvings and paintings. The OVK is a federally recognized tribe and has lived here, 100 miles southeast of Juneau, for generations. The Alaska Natives have seen the forests cut over in decades past.

“This is a huge decision to be making,” he said. “They’re just rolling with it.”

The tension between the Organized Village of Kake and USDA is part of a broader negative reaction in southeast Alaska to the department’s proposal to rewrite rules that protect roadless areas of the Tongass from timber harvest.

Proposed Tongass change could speed young-growth transition

By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter, Originally published at E&E News on July 26, 2019

The Forest Service is proposing to open an additional 1,144 acres of the Tongass National Forest to harvesting of young-growth timber, opening a debate about where the transition away from old-growth timber should be focused.

In a proposed amendment to the forest management plan for the Tongass — the nation’s biggest national forest at nearly 17 million acres — the agency said it would allow more harvesting of young growth on a landscape known as moderate-vulnerability karst, which is typically underlain by a soluble rock like limestone.

Moderate-vulnerability karst doesn’t have caves or sinkholes — which are typically found in high-vulnerability karst landscapes — and the Forest Service said those areas can handle management activities such as timber harvesting. In addition, the agency said, regulations have been written in an inconsistent way that would allow cutting of trees in those locations if they were old growth.

“Analysis of old-growth harvest on moderate vulnerability karst has demonstrated that the standards in place were sufficient to maintain the natural processes and productivity of karst lands. This amendment will align the standards for young-growth and old-growth harvest on moderate vulnerability karst,” the Forest Service said in a news release.

Wildfire – Forest Webinar

A recording of a recent webinar discussing the role of climate change in wildfires and how forests can help fight climate change. The webinar was held on July 18, 2019.

Panelists:

Climate change calls for new look at fire, experts say

By Caitlin Fowlkes of the Tidings

Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist at the Geos Institute in Ashland, says more scientists agree that forest thinning in the backcountry is futile.

At a presentation he gave Friday during a symposium on fire, DellaSala said that according to a 2017 study, less than 1% of areas that were thinned had a forest fire.

He said thinning doesn’t work well in extreme fire weather, it can increase wind speed and vegetation, it doesn’t last longer than 10 to 15 years before it must be redone, and it can make land more prone to fire.

DellaSala, speaking at the 100th annual meeting of the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said there’s just no way to tell where lightening is going to strike.

“A lot of it is in backcountry, in steep areas that you can’t get to it anyway,” DellaSala said. “In many areas you don’t have access, and there’s no way you can treat enough of the landscape to make enough of a difference.”

Roadless areas are nature’s climate solutions

Pristine areas must protected from relentless development

Originally published May. 29, 2019 8:00 p.m.at the San Francisco Examiner

Ancient forests, like Muir Woods National Monument, are vital for carbon absorption.The 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Alliance of World Scientists, and #Scientists4Future all warn that if we do not transition away from fossil fuels quickly, climate change will threaten civilization itself in the coming decades. Scientists are now saying that pristine areas, like roadless areas and unlogged forests, can buy us time as we transition to a carbon-free economy but only if protected from relentless development.

Unfortunately, the fate of millions of acres of roadless areas in Alaska and Utah is now at risk from the Trump administration’s efforts to upend one of the nation’s landmark conservation achievements – the Roadless Area Conservation Rule of 2000. This is coming at a time when we need every wild place to avoid an unprecedent global crisis of 1 million species extinctions, as the authoritative Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services recently warned.

Anyone in the Bay Area who cares about wild spaces ought to be alarmed by the pending extinction crisis and the administration’s efforts to usher in clearcut logging and road building in Alaska’s coastal temperate rainforests and Utah’s roadless forests. Here’s why.

Tall and old or dense and young: Which kind of forest is better for the climate?

  • Scientists say reforestation and better forest management can provide 18 percent of climate change mitigation through 2030. But studies appear to be divided about whether it’s better to prioritize the conservation of old forests or the replanting of young ones.
  • A closer look, however, reconciles these two viewpoints. While young forests tend to absorb more carbon overall because trees can be crowded together when they’re small, a tree’s carbon absorption rate accelerates as it ages. This means that forests comprised of tall, old trees – like the temperate rainforests of North America’s Pacific coast – are some of the planet’s biggest carbon storehouses.
  • But when forests are logged, their immense stores of carbon are quickly released. A study found the logging of forests in the U.S. state of Oregon emitted 33 million tons of CO2 – almost as much as the world’s dirtiest coal plant.
  • Researchers are calling on industry to help buffer climate change by doubling tree harvest rotations to 80 years, and urge government agencies managing forests to impose their own harvest restrictions

Read the full article by Paul Koberstein & Jessica Applegate at Mongabay

Conservation Today talks wildfires with Dr. Dominick DellaSala

Dr. Dominick DellaSala talks about fire, including how wildfire is beneficial to our ecosystems. Does thinning help reduce fire? Does it help the forest? It depends. In any case, Dr. DellaSala explains why salvage logging a burned forests is so destructive. Dr. DellaSala also explains the relationship between climate change and forests, and the carbon capture and release of a forest. Finally, Dominick summarizes the green-new-deal from congress.

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Geos Institute