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.
Protecting ~2.5 million Acres of At-Risk Tongass Rainforest
In 2008, Geos Institute was part of a team of scientists from the Society for Conservation Biology that asked the newly minted Obama Administration to protect the Tongass rainforest as a carbon and wildlife refuge. At our mutual urging, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned in his speech at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen (2010) the importance of the Tongass in sequestering up to 8 percent of the nation’s forest carbon annually. Secretary Vilsack continued his interest in the Tongass by announcing in July 2013 that a transition out of old-growth logging would take place, but not for another 10–15 years while old-growth logging would serve as an economic “bridge” to previously cut young growth not yet available for re-harvest.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service has put forth controversial old-growth timber sales that routinely get litigated by conservation groups and local mills are starving for wood. The Forest Legacies program has been working with diverse participants on a project designed to accelerate the transition out of old-growth logging by solving for economic uncertainties created by transition.
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.
|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|
Seven of the nation’s top scientific societies and 200 distinguished climate and natural resource scientists are urging the USDA and the Obama Administration to speed up its transition out of old-growth logging on the Tongass National Forest. The large trees, productive soils, and dense foliage on the Tongass store ten times more carbon than any other national forest. When these rainforests are logged, most of the stored carbon is released as carbon dioxide pollution, contributing to global warming in Alaska and worldwide.
According to Dominick DellaSala, “Quickly transitioning the Tongass rainforest out of clearcutting old-growth forests would bring certainty to the timber industry and secure the legacy of rainforest benefits for the American people.
A 2014 study of second growth timber on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska shows that the U.S. Forest Service can transition out of old growth logging in 5 years, and shift timber sales into young growth located in previously logged and roaded areas.
As Dominick DellaSala stated, “We have a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to stop the needless logging of old growth in one of the world’s last relatively intact rainforests, with the added benefit of keeping carbon in the forest and out of the atmosphere.”