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Tongass logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama’s climate change policies

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.

Media Coverage

 

Obama Administration Should Protect Tongass National Forest Old Growth To Achieve Urgent Climate Change Goals

For Immediate Release on June 30, 2016

– Tongass Logging Plan Ignores Fast Exit from Old-growth Logging

– Agency Relies on Old School Forestry Tactics

– Contradicts Secretary of State John Kerry’s and President Obama’s Climate Statements

Media Contact: Dominick DellaSala, GEOS Institute | Dominick@geosinstitute.org 541- 482-4459 x 302; 541-621-7223 (cell)

Ashland, OR – The release of the Forest Service’s old-growth logging plan (Final Environmental Impact Statement) for the Tongass National Forest stalls urgent climate change protections and runs counter to the Obama administration’s climate change directives. The plan contradicts the US-led Paris Climate Change Agreement that includes measures to protect vast amounts of carbon stored in forests to help head off dangerous global warming. The Forest Service’s plan calls for continued logging of old growth trees for another 16 years, which threatens 43,000 acres of Tongass old-growth rainforest. The unnecessarily long timeframe will 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 emissions.

Tongass logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama’s climate change policies

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.

Media Coverage

 

Scientists speak out on behalf of the Northwest Forest Plan

The Northwest Forest Plan is considered a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation on 24.5 million acres of federal lands from California to Washington (mainly west of the crest of the Cascade Mountains). Since the plan’s inception in 1993, forest ecosystems have been recovering from unsustainable logging, streams are improving, and atmospheric carbon is being stored in forests as they mature. This landmark plan is up for renewal in 2017 and a science synthesis is being conducted by the Forest Service as a pre-requisite. Scientists have called on the Forest Service to expand protections afforded to forest ecosystems and imperiled species as a means of preparing for unprecedented climate impacts and ongoing land-use disturbances mainly on nonfederal lands.

Read the scientist comments

Analysis of proposed fire legislation by Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist shows public lands at risk of increased logging

In comments submitted June 10, 2016 Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist provides analysis of 6 specific pieces of the proposed fire legislation in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee:

  1. Ecological role of wildland fire in resilient and fire-adapted ecosystems is missing from the draft
  2. Restricts provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by restricting forest planning to the “no action” vs. “action” alternative and allowing for expansive use of emergency “alternative arrangements” will harm the environment
  3. Allowing for long-term (20-year) federal “hazardous fuel reduction” contracts (d – Long-Term Contracts) in dry mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forests is a disincentive to ecologically based restoration
  4. Not excluding inventoried roadless areas and other ecological important lands recognized in forest plans (e.g., Wilderness Study Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Late-Successional Reserves, “high-value watersheds”) will cause harm to public lands with some of the highest ecological values
  5. Not addressing the risk of human-caused fire ignitions from an extensive and damaging road system on public lands misses an important contributing factor to uncharacteristic fires
  6. Reducing hazardous fuels in the backcountry diverts much needed attention away from homeowner safety

Read the full comments here

Analysis of proposed fire legislation by Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist shows public lands at risk of increased logging

In comments submitted June 10, 2016 Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist provides analysis of 6 specific pieces of the proposed fire legislation in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee:

  1. Ecological role of wildland fire in resilient and fire-adapted ecosystems is missing from the draft
  2. Restricts provisions of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by restricting forest planning to the “no action” vs. “action” alternative and allowing for expansive use of emergency “alternative arrangements” will harm the environment
  3. Allowing for long-term (20-year) federal “hazardous fuel reduction” contracts (d – Long-Term Contracts) in dry mixed conifer and ponderosa pine forests is a disincentive to ecologically based restoration
  4. Not excluding inventoried roadless areas and other ecological important lands recognized in forest plans (e.g., Wilderness Study Areas, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Late-Successional Reserves, “high-value watersheds”) will cause harm to public lands with some of the highest ecological values
  5. Not addressing the risk of human-caused fire ignitions from an extensive and damaging road system on public lands misses an important contributing factor to uncharacteristic fires
  6. Reducing hazardous fuels in the backcountry diverts much needed attention away from homeowner safety

Read the full comments here

Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist speaks out on draft fire legislation in Congress

Bipartisan Senate proposal eyes funding, promotes clearing

(Originally published in Environment & Energy Daily, Thursday, May 26, 2016) Marc Heller, E&E reporter

A bipartisan group of senators proposed draft legislation yesterday that would spare the Forest Service from borrowing money from forest management to fight wildfires while encouraging more forest clearing to remove potential fuel for fires.

The draft, called the “Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act,” would allow the Forest Service and the Interior Department to tap a budget cap adjustment when the cost of fighting fires exceeds the 10-year average.

That provision is in line with requests Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made repeatedly to Congress, culminating with his pledge this year to refuse to engage in any more budget borrowing for fires.

It also resembles the “Wildfire Disaster Funding Act” proposed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) in 2013. Both of those senators joined in crafting of the new draft.

Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist speaks out on draft fire legislation in Congress

Bipartisan Senate proposal eyes funding, promotes clearing

(Originally published in Environment & Energy Daily, Thursday, May 26, 2016) Marc Heller, E&E reporter

A bipartisan group of senators proposed draft legislation yesterday that would spare the Forest Service from borrowing money from forest management to fight wildfires while encouraging more forest clearing to remove potential fuel for fires.

The draft, called the “Wildfire Budgeting, Response and Forest Management Act,” would allow the Forest Service and the Interior Department to tap a budget cap adjustment when the cost of fighting fires exceeds the 10-year average.

That provision is in line with requests Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has made repeatedly to Congress, culminating with his pledge this year to refuse to engage in any more budget borrowing for fires.

It also resembles the “Wildfire Disaster Funding Act” proposed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) in 2013. Both of those senators joined in crafting of the new draft.

Beetle outbreaks not responsible for severe fires

A new whitepaper by Geos Institute Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala summarizes the results of dozens of recent field studies in multiple regions on the effects of mountain pine beetle tree kill on fire severity.

“There is now substantial fieldbased evidence showing that beetle outbreaks do not contribute to severe fires nor do outbreak areas burn more severely when a fire does occur. Outbreaks are primarily the result of a warming climate that has allowed more beetles to survive and to have multiple broods within a breeding season.”

Vilsack pitches revamped wildfire budget to firefighters

(originally published in Greenwire, an E&E Publishing Service)

by Marc Heller, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, May 6, 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack took his plea for a new approach to paying for wildfire fighting to the nation’s fire departments last night, telling hundreds of firefighters that Congress needs to set up disaster funding for forest fires.

At the annual National Fire and Emergency Services dinner, Vilsack said the borrowing the Forest Service does within its budget to pay for firefighting hurts the Agriculture Department’s programs for small, volunteer fire departments.

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