Roadless areas are nature’s climate solutions

Pristine areas must protected from relentless development

Originally published May. 29, 2019 8:00 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.

family hiking

In-the-Blink-of-An Eye We Save Humanity from Itself

“Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you’ve got ‘Till it’s gone”
Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi (1970)

family hikingI was just 14 when Big Yellow Taxi struck an emotional chord in me. Nearly a half century later, these words matter more to our own survival than any time in human history. This May, carbon emissions hit an all-time high as temperature gauges near the Arctic Circle in northwest Russia recorded the unthinkable: 87 degrees F when it’s supposed to be in the 50s! Perhaps, even worse, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released findings that 1 million species will soon go the way of the dodo, as humanity draws down more of its share of the planet’s life-giving systems. This is a crisis of immense proportions and most of humanity really won’t know what we got till it’s gone.

Every single species on this planet is a freak of the Universe. We were born out of a Cosmic explosion billions of years ago triggering swirling star-dust clouds and Cosmic debris that eventually coalesced into this amazing and highly improbable (unique) blue-ball-of life.

With blatant disregard for the great Mystery in all this, we face an ultimatum.

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

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Scientists sound the alarm on Earth Day

Originally published on April 21, 2019 in the Medford Mail Tribune

south kalmiopsis dellasalaBy Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann

Another Earth Day is here and it’s time to see how the planet’s life-support systems are doing and what it means for Oregonians.

Since clean, renewable energy solutions are becoming increasingly available, we remain hopeful. Given the risk, though, that they might not be deployed at scale, and because the planet is creeping dangerously close to a tipping point, it’s hard not to be alarmed.

For decades, scientists have been monitoring the planet’s systems like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. We scan satellite images of humanity’s growing ecological footprint on the world’s forests, rivers, and oceans that is setting the stage for the biggest extinction event since the dinosaurs went extinct. We use thousands of weather stations to track rising global temperatures and super-computers that forecast catastrophic impacts awaiting future generations if we ignore these telltale signs.

Sounding the alarm on Earth Day

originally published April 21, 2019 at OregonLive

By Dominick A. DellaSala, William J. Ripple and Franz Baumann

Another Earth Day is here and it’s time to check on the planet, our climate, and what it means for Oregonians. While we remain hopeful that climate change is solvable if we act now, it’s hard not to be alarmed.

For decades, scientists have been monitoring the planet’s life-support systems like the warning lights on a car’s dashboard. We scan satellite images of humanity’s unprecedented ecological footprint on forests, rivers, and oceans. We use thousands of weather stations to track rising temperatures and super-computers to forecast impacts.

In 1992, we joined 1,700 scientists in issuing a warning that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required if vast human misery is to be avoided.” In 2017, more than 21,000 scientists from 184 countries issued a second warning that conditions had worsened and time was running out.

Defending America’s ‘Climate Forest’

The Tongass stores hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, tons of carbon, keeping the heat-trapping element out of the atmosphere.

Conservation scientist Dominick DellaSala of the Geos Institute knows all too well the importance of the Tongass for fighting climate change. “If you hug a big tree, you’re actually hugging a big stick of carbon that has been taking up and storing up carbon for centuries,” he says.

Scientists have long understood that logging old-growth forests triggers a cascade of negative effects on wildlife, eroding the biodiversity of places like the Tongass. More recently, DellaSala and research collaborators have shown that old-growth logging worsens climate change.

Click here to read the full article by Rebecca Bowe in the spring 2019 issue of Earthjustice magazine. 

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.


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