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.

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.

Listen to more episodes from Conservation Today

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New Alaska-based office!

Forest Legacies opens new office in Juneau to protect the Tongass magnificient rainforest

tongass dds

The Geos Institute has been working on the Tongass rainforest for many years as part of its Forest Legacies initiative. Through our work to protect old growth and roadless areas on the Tongass we decided to open an office to increase our presence and reach with decision makers given the Tongass is a world class rainforest and recognized climate sanctuary.

Juneau Office
175 South Franklin Street, Suite 320
Juneau, AK, 99801

Dotty Owl: Born in Fire

Dotty Owl travels back in time and visits young forests emerging from the charcoal after intense wildfire. Forest fires burn at varying severities leaving a mosaic pattern on the landscape. While burned forests appear stark immediately after a fire, one of the best kept secrets of fire is how quickly the young forests emerge and thrive after fire. Join Dotty and see with your own eyes how many plants and animals thrive in burned forests.

Watch Episode 1 here.

Community Fire Protection Alternative for Fire Safety

Conservation groups announced a new fire protection alternative designed to protect homes and firefighters from wildfires as a counter to pro-logging approaches that create fire- and climate-unsafe landscapes. The alternative was sent to Oregon Governor Kate Brown and has relevance to fire fighting efforts in California as well, where California Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed massive logging that will do nothing to prepare communities for wildfire safety.

Read the response to Governor Brown’s Executive Order on Oregon’s Wildfire Response Council

The Paradise fire: Could it happen to us?

By Dominick DellaSala and Dennis Odion
Originally published on December 23, 2018 in the Medford Mail Tribune

Smoke from wildfires is gone for now, but this year’s tragic California fires are a stark reminder of what could happen here. There are many take-aways that can help us prepare.

The Camp Fire of Paradise Valley, which took the lives of 88 people and destroyed thousands of structures, had nothing to do with whether the forest was thinned. It was a structure-to-structure fire. Startling images from GoogleEarth reveal surrounding trees untouched while homes burned to the ground. Blown by high winds, embers advanced miles ahead of the flame front, landing on unprepared homes and taking them out in a domino-like fashion.

In Southern California, tornado-force winds are known to spread fire rapidly through shrublands that at one time supported diverse wildlife habitat, but are now sprawling developments. Wildlands were gobbled up by developers during a mid-20th century climate-cool down that made fire suppression effective and created a false sense of security.

California now has unbridled traffic jams and global warming-related fires that destroy entire towns with no end in sight, as over 1 million new homes are planned in harm’s way by 2050. Insurance companies also have taken notice, anticipating increased wildfires related to global warming that will impact everybody’s bottom line.

So, what have we learned that can be applied in the Rogue Valley?

Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service -- Los Padres National Forest/Facebook

Are feds over-fighting fires? Critics point to this blaze

By Adam Aton, E&E News reporter, originally published Thursday, December 13, 2018

Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service -- Los Padres National Forest/Facebook

Firefighters saved the homes. Then they went into the woods.

California’s 2016 Soberanes Fire broke records for costing the most money to fight a wildfire — much of it in a national forest near Big Sur. That’s the kind of place where experts say fire is good; the ecosystem depends on it, and the flames don’t threaten people or property.

(Photo: Firefighters working to contain the 2016 Soberanes Fire in Los Padres National Forest in California. U.S. Forest Service — Los Padres National Forest/Facebook)

Instead of letting it burn, the Forest Service unleashed an air show. By the end, 3.5 million gallons of flame retardant blanketed the area. Bulldozers cut through 60 miles of woodland, costing the Forest Service as much as $1 million a day to repair, according to a new report.

That lesson threatens to be lost in the whiplash pace of fighting fires.

Fire Seasons Without End (KBOO Interview)

Aired Monday November 2, 2018

The wildfires in Northern and Southern California this month are a grisly foreshadowing of a world in the fiery grip of climate chaos. It is apparent – unless you’re a climate denier – that climate change is upon us and that fire seasons without end are a stark indication of how much human activity and fossil fuels have intensified wildfire regimes as well as catastrophic weather events.

On this episode of Locus Focus, host Barbara Bernstein talks with fire and forest ecologist Dominick DellaSala, with the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon, about what we need to be learning from California’s escalating problems with destructive wildfires, driven by a warming, drying climate, and a massive expansion of housing in the wildland–urban interface.

Get more information or listen to the recording at the KBOO website.

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