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Over 200 Top U.S. Climate and Forest Scientists Urge Congress: Protect Forests to Mitigate Climate Crisis

For Immediate Release on May 13, 2020

Contact: William Moomaw, Ph.D. (William.Moomaw@tufts.edu; 617-335-3994), Chad Hanson, Ph.D. (cthanson1@gmail.com; 530-273-9290), Dominick DellaSala, Ph.D. (dominick@geosinstitute.org; 541-621-7223)    

As multiple current legislative proposals attempt to shoehorn measures that would increase logging, or increase funding for logging, into COVID-19 stimulus packages, over 200 top U.S. climate and forest scientists are now asking Congressional leaders to avoid using the pandemic emergency as a means for stripping away forest protections and promoting logging. In a historic and unprecedented letter sent to Congress today, the scientists conclude that, in order to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, moving beyond fossil fuel consumption is not enough, and we must also increase forest protections and shift away from energy-intensive and greenhouse-gas polluting wood consumption.

The scientists note that annual carbon emissions from logging in U.S. forests are comparable to emissions from the residential and commercial sectors combined. They ask legislators to reject false climate solutions that promote forest biomass logging (removal and incineration of trees for energy production) under the guise of “climate-friendly” or “carbon neutral” energy or logging for cross-laminated timber (CLT) and other wood products under the guise of carbon storage. Most of the carbon in trees is removed from forests when they are logged and quickly ends up in the atmosphere or in landfills, they caution. The scientists also note that logging, including commercial “thinning,” can often increase fire intensity in forests, while damaging soils and removing vital nutrients, which undermines the carbon sequestration and storage capacity of forests.

“Forests are our only means for removing atmospheric carbon dioxide and storing the carbon long term at the needed scale. Burning wood in place of coal is accelerating global warming and decreasing the capacity of forests to counter the buildup of heat trapping carbon dioxide,” said Dr. William Moomaw of Tufts University. Dr. Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist with the John Muir Project, observed, “The dangerous excess CO2 that we’ve put into the atmosphere with fossil fuel consumption and logging will stay there for far too long if we don’t take serious steps to bring it down, and forest protection is our best and most effective way to do that.” Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist with the Geos Institute, added, “The vast majority of scientists warn that in order to avoid catastrophic climate impacts in the decades ahead, including new pandemics potentially linked to deforestation, we need to keep dinosaur-carbon in the ground and store atmospheric carbon in forests.”

Read the full letter to Congress

Related News

Geos and conservation groups ask the Forest Service to shelve logging plans in roadless areas within the world-class Tongass National Forest

Geos Institute and conservation groups called on the Forest Service to properly analyze and reduce carbon emissions from logging in roadless areas on the Tongass National Forest, southeast Alaska, a globally significant carbon warehouse.

Read the Supplemental Comment on Alaska Roadless Rule Draft EIS Concerning New Information on Tongass National Forest Carbon Sink

Scientists announce importance of the world’s primary forests and large, old trees in climate regulation and biodiversity conservation

primary forestPrimary (unlogged) forests and large, old trees provide high biodiversity and carbon value benefits

Dominick A. DellaSala and William R. Moomaw

Summary: Primary (unlogged) forests and large old, trees (live and dead) provide multiple benefits that forestall biodiversity and climate emergencies. They have high conservation value if allowed to achieve their ecological potential to support superior biodiversity, carbon storage and ecosystem benefits.

Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala testifies in the Oregon legislature

Chief Scientist Dr. Dominick DellaSala testifies in the Oregon legislature on a proposal by state legislatures to provide $4 billion for logging Oregon’s forests, which would be a maladaptive climate change response.

Read the testimony

Read the supplemental materials

Read the additional supplemental materials on the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), climate change, thinning, and defensible space

Alaska Roadless Rule Petition Comments

EarthJustice submitted comments to the USDA Forest Service, Alaska Region on December 18, 2019 on behalf  of Geos Institute, Alaska Wilderness League, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon Alaska, Alaska Rainforest Defenders, Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Sierra Club, and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.

Geos Institute and partners release new information on the global importance of the world’s last remaining unlogged forests

Geos Institute and partners have released three fact sheets available for download.

Read the open access article on SpringerLink

PrimaryTemperateForests

PrimaryTropicalForests
PrimaryBorealForests

Sources for fact sheets:

PrimaryBorealForests_References
PrimaryTemperateForests_References
PrimaryTropicalForests_References

From the Ridgetop to the Reef

Please join Dr. Dominick DellaSala at his Ridgetop to the Reef presentation titled “How Coastal Rainforests Can Help the Climate” on Thursday, January 9th, 6:30 PM at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport.

Abstract:

Receiving as much as 200 inches of annual rainfall on average, the forested western slopes of the Oregon Coast Range unsurprisingly fits the definition as rainforest. In fact, much of the Pacific Coast of North America does in the area between Northern California’s redwoods and Southeastern Alaska. This region, along with the Canadian boreal forest and the world’s tropical forests are considered the ecological lungs of the planet, filtering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to create oxygen, while also storing the carbon in long-lived trees, dead standing and downed wood, and in roots in the soil. While all plants provide this function, the quick growth rates and large sizes that our coastal trees attain provides a powerful mechanism to help absorb the additional carbon dioxide that is dangerously warming our planet.

The carbon storage benefits of conserving natural habitats such as trees, marshes, and soils, in natural and working landscapes are “natural climate solutions”, and the overarching topic of a carbon-storage focused speaker series, “From Ridgetop to Reef”, hosted by the MidCoast Watersheds Council. On Thursday, January 9th , at 6:30 PM at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport,Dr. Dominick DellaSalla of the Geos Institute, will focus on the vital role our coastal rainforests play globally. His talk will also discuss the importance of conserving unlogged forests, and how our working forests too can be managed for additional carbon benefits.

Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala is President and Chief Scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Oregon and former President of the Society for Conservation Biology, North America Section. He is an internationally renowned author of over 200 science papers on forest and fire ecology, conservation biology, endangered species management, and landscape ecology. Dominick has given plenary and keynote talks ranging from academic conferences to the United Nations Earth Summit. He has appeared in National Geographic, Science Digest, Science Magazine, Scientific American, Time Magazine, Audubon Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine, High Country News, Terrain Magazine, NY Times, LA Times, USA Today, Jim Lehrer News Hour, CNN, MSNBC, “Living on Earth (NPR),” several PBS documentaries, and Fox News. Dominick is currently serving on the Oregon’s Global Warming Commission Subcommittee on Forest Carbon and is Editor of numerous scientific journals and publications. His book: Temperate and Boreal Rain Forests of the World: Ecology and Conservation received an academic excellence award from Choice magazine, one of the nation’s top book review journals. His recent co-authored book, The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix, presents groundbreaking science on the ecological importance of wildfires. Dominick co-founded the Geos Institute in July 2006 and says he is motivated “to leave a living planet for my two daughters, two grandkids and all those that follow.”

Following the January presentation, on the first Thursday of each month until June, “From Ridgetop to Reef” will explore different habitats of Oregon’s Coast as natural climate solutions
and their potential to store carbon, and the tools and incentives needed to foster widespread actions to enhance this capacity. On Thursday, January 9th, Dominick’s presentation will begin at 6:30 PM in the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center’s newly-renovated Doerfler Family Theatre in Newport on 333 SE Bay Blvd. Refreshments will be provided. Following all presentations part of the series, the MidCoast Watersheds Council regular Board meeting will follow to review current restoration work, the monthly financial report, and the work of the technical and administrative committees.

More information on From Ridgetop to Reef.

States foreshadow legal battle over Trump’s Tongass rule

Originally published in E&E news by Marc Heller on December 17, 2019

Attorneys general in six states urged the Trump administration yesterday to withdraw a proposal to open more of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging, saying it violates several aspects of federal law.

None of the administration’s alternatives that would scale back the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule in the Tongass are lawful, said the officials, representing California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon and Washington state in a letter to the Forest Service that could telegraph future legal action.

“The undersigned States therefore urge the Forest Service to correct these fundamental legal defects or withdraw the Proposed Rule,” they said.

In their letter, submitted in advance of today’s deadline for public comments on the proposal, the officials criticized the administration for ignoring potential environmental impacts such as effects on carbon sequestration and climate change, and for inadequately consulting with the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries.

Guest View: Nature’s climate solution

Originally printed in Register Guard on December 14, 2019 by Dominick DellaSala, John Talberth and Ernie Niemi

Every fall, raging hurricanes and urban-wildfires remind us of the inconvenient truth: the climate is getting increasingly weird and dangerous.

Scientists have made it clear that if we hope to avoid escalating climate disruptions, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground while simultaneously drawing down carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere primarily from burning fossil fuels and global forest destruction.

In fact, experts have determined that the most effective strategy to remove carbon from the atmosphere at a meaningful scale is to protect the world’s remaining unlogged forests and replenish what has been lost by replanting trees and letting them grow to maturity. One study estimates that natural carbon solutions can provide more than one-third of the carbon reduction the world needs to meet the Paris Climate Agreements.

Tongass National Forest roadless areas hold keys to Alaska’s climate future

For immediate release December 16, 2019

Contacts: Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute, Ashland, OR; dominick@geosinstitute.org; 541-621-7223; Dr. Brian Buma, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado, Denver; brian.buma@ucdenver.edu; 303-315-7677

Ashland, OR – A new analysis of roadless area values on the Tongass National Forest, southeast Alaska, documents the enormous amount of carbon stored in the Tongass old-growth rainforest as key to Alaska’s climate future but at-risk to development by the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of 9.2 million acres of roadless protections.

With mapping help from Audubon Alaska and funding from The Wilderness Society, researchers mapped carbon data obtained from the Forest Inventory and Analysis program of the US Forest Service, the USFS Pacific Northwest Research Station, and other published sources across the Tongass. The team then distilled that information for areas currently conserved by the Roadless Rule the Trump Administration is seeking to overturn in Alaska. Researchers report exceptionally high carbon density for the Tongass rainforest on par with temperate rainforests in Chile and Tasmania, the world’s most carbon dense terrestrial carbon sinks.

“At a time when thousands of scientists have sounded the alarm that the world is in a state of emergency from escalating climate disruptions and mass global extinctions of both plants and animals, the Trump Administration is opening up America’s carbon-version of Amazonia,” said lead author, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, Chief Scientist, Geos Institute.

Dr. Brian Buma, University of Colorado, added “The Tongass is a unique national environmental treasure, integral to our national carbon balance. It is far more valuable as a carbon storehouse and on carbon markets than in its timber, which is slow growing, remote, and expensive to access relative to other parts of the country. It is irreplaceable and takes centuries to recover when harvested. Extraction is short sighted and economic development should take more creative lines, like carbon marketing and tourism.”

The report was sent to the Forest Service – along with a letter signed by 234 prominent scientists – requesting that the agency suspend efforts to lift roadless protections.

The report summarized unique national and global values at risk, including:

  • The Tongass is part of a global network of temperate rainforests that make up ~2.5% of the world’s total forest coverage but that store a disproportionate amount of carbon critically important in climate regulation.
  • The Tongass is one of only 4 other temperate rainforests world-wide that is still largely intact, which is crucial for hundreds of fish and wildlife species seeking refuge from Alaska’s extreme climate impacts.
  • The Tongass occurs within the Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest bioregion (Coast Redwoods to Alaska) that collectively comprise over one-third of the world’s entire temperate rainforest biome.
  • Carbon stored in Tongass roadless areas has an estimated value of $234 million to $2.2 billion depending on offset markets and amount of logging in the next 100 years.  Notably, Sealaska Native Corporation in southeast Alaska recently sold >$100 million of carbon offset credits to help BP offset 11 million metric tons of carbon emissions ($12 per ton of carbon; equivalent to offsetting 2.4 million car emissions in a year).
  • The Tongass may function as a climate refuge for species facing more extreme climatic conditions in the interior of Alaska and coastal rainforests further south if managed to protect old-growth forests and roadless areas.

“Carbon dioxide emissions are insidious and cumulative – we cannot see their immediate effects – but everyone on the planet – especially future generations – will eventually be affected severely by the unprecedented accumulation of fossil fuel emissions globally, deforestation in the tropics, and development of Tongass roadless areas unless we cut all emissions drastically,” said DellaSala. “This is Alaska’s best and final shot at preparing for climate change but the Forest Service has completely undervalued the climate importance of Tongass roadless areas and is squandering it away to developers.”

Here are the values provided to the Forest Service by Audubon Alaska mapping and US Forest Service datasets.

 

 

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