To avert the worst climate change impacts, old forests and their massive carbon reserves must be protected.
By Thomas E. Lovejoy
Originally published in High Country News on November 17, 2016
In Paris last December, the world turned a major corner on climate change. Some 195 nations agreed on the urgency of the threat. They also agreed to take steps to combat it, including promoting forest protection and reforestation — steps that are necessary, though not in themselves sufficient, if we are to avoid consequences as extreme for our economies and health as they are for the environment.
By Elizabeth Shogren
Twenty years ago on a beautiful November day, Robert Bonnie and Dominick DellaSala got an unexpected and unforgettable opportunity to play hooky. Both were working for environmental groups, Bonnie for the Environmental Defense Fund and DellaSala for the World Wildlife Fund. But when they arrived at Yellowstone National Park for a meeting about large carnivores, they learned that the park was closed and their meeting had been cancelled: The federal government had just shut down over a budget battle between President Bill Clinton and Congress. Somehow, they talked their way into the park anyway and hiked through Lamar Valley, peering through binoculars at newly reintroduced gray wolves and distant grizzlies and watching a peregrine falcon circle overhead.
Many years later, Bonnie recalled that adventure when he and DellaSala met at the Agriculture Department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters to discuss the fate of the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, the nation’s largest national forest and the last where large-scale clear-cutting of old-growth trees is permitted. Bonnie, now the undersecretary of Agriculture who oversees the Forest Service, said that day had been one of the best of his life. DellaSala challenged Bonnie to top it by saving the Tongass. “That would be a conservation legacy,” DellaSala, 59, recalls.
Now, however, three years later, Bonnie and DellaSala are on opposite sides of a battle over climate change and the Tongass.
Objections to Tongass Forest Plan amendment start rolling in
by Aaron Bolton, (originally published in KSTK News)
August 3, 2016 6:00 am
The U.S. Forest Service announced its plan for a 16-year transition toward young-growth Tongass timber harvests in late June. In the midst of the 60-day comment period, industry and environmental groups are starting to submit their objections.
Both the industry and environmental groups on either side of the Tongass Land Management Plan amendment can agree on one thing: the Forest Service needs to complete a full inventory of young-growth Tongass timber.
But their reasons are fundamentally different.
The Tongass is one of the world’s last great temperate rainforests and is under threat of clearcut logging that will eliminate over 43,000 acres of old growth, mostly in the next 16 years. The logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama’s climate change policies as it would lead to emissions equivalent of nearly 4 million vehicles annually. There is a better way to transition logging to previously logged and regrown forests that will help save Alaska’s rapidly changing climate and create sustainable timber jobs but only if President Obama steps in to direct the Forest Service’s rogue logging plan.
Read the full objection here in a letter sent July 27, 2016 to the USDA Forest Service
By Dominick DellaSala, Catherine Mater, and Jim Furnish
For The Register-Guard, July 16, 2016
The recent release of the U.S. Forest Service’s old growth logging plans for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest stalls urgent climate change protections and relies on old school forestry.
What happens in the Tongass is important to Oregonians, and the nation, because this national forest absorbs about 8 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide pollution annually — far more than any other forest. And what is happening in the Siuslaw National Forest can inform the Tongass.
The Tongass plan calls for continued old growth logging, mostly over the next 16 years, threatening 43,000 acres of Tongass rainforest. This long time frame will unnecessarily release the equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually over the next 100 years at a time when nations are looking to cut back on carbon pollution.
The Tongass National Forest is the nation’s carbon champion, storing about 8% of the nation’s annual global warming emissions in its productive old-growth rainforests. The Forest Service proposes to clearcut 43,000 acres of old growth, mostly in the next 16 years. Logging emissions would release the equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually while squandering one of the world’s last relatively intact temperate rainforests.
A new article “Opportunity in Crisis: How Second Growth Timber in Alaska Will Help” by Catherine M. Mater outlines the opportunity for a rebirth of a healthy forest products industry in Alaska that doesn’t depend on old growth logging. Read the full article here.
By Dominick A. DellaSala and Jim Furnish, for the Juneau Empire
Change is not for the risk averse. It is scary stuff that takes us out of our comfort zones and into the unknown.
It’s also how we adapt, meet challenges and improve outcomes for our communities and ourselves. People in Southeast Alaska know that better than most. Over the past quarter century, the region has been moving beyond boom-and-bust cycles of unsustainable resource extraction and export. Today, world-class, sustainably managed fisheries, tourism and recreation lead economic diversification that has replaced most old-growth logging.
The time is past due for the Forest Service to ride the change wave. In 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recognized that when he announced a transition away from logging old growth and roadless areas on the Tongass would help “communities stabilize and grow new jobs.” His Alaska Regional Forester agreed, saying that the Forest Service would transition “quickly.”
Geos Institute released a new report demonstrating the importance of the Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska as the State’s first line of climate change defense. Old-growth rainforests on the Tongass store more atmospheric carbon than any national forest in the country and therefore act as a carbon “sink.” The recent Paris climate change agreements called on nations to enhance and maintain forests as a carbon sink. Continued logging on the Tongass releases greenhouse gas emissions that will further place at risk Alaska’s climate and world-class wildlife and fisheries.
Only about one-third of the world’s forests remain as intact primary forests with no roads or logging having taken place. Scientists have long recognized the unique values these forests provide including unmatched biodiversity, clean water, and, more recently, climate benefits. Geos Institute was part of an international team of scientists and conservation groups calling on countries, including the USA, to protect their dwindling primary forests as part of the historic climate change agreements negotiated this December in Paris.
Read the full article.
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|Tongass rainforest – primary temperate rainforests on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska sequester (absorb) the equivalent of about 8% of the annual US greenhouse gas emissions. No other forest in the nation sequesters and stores more carbon. Geos Institute works to preserve these rainforests for their climate and biodiversity benefits. ||Tropical rainforest, Australia – tropical rainforests are a global carbon “sink,” absorbing atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis and storing it in long-lived trees, dense foliage, and soils. Geos Institute is a member of the steering committee of “IntAct,” an international effort to protect the world’s primary forests. Photo credit: Dominick DellaSala |