Washington, D.C./ Politics & Govt
AI Assisted Icon
Published on June 21, 2024
Biden-Harris Administration Proposes Plan to Protect U.S. Old-Growth Forests Against Climate ChangeSource: Ingfbruno, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Biden-Harris administration, continuing to advance its climate agenda, has proposed a plan aimed at safeguarding the country's old-growth forests. This new initiative, an amendment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service management plans, was announced with the intent to better manage and conserve old-growth forests throughout the National Forest System. According to information released by the White House, this framework will be informed by the best available science, making use of Indigenous Knowledge to outline management strategies for these vital ecosystems.

In an effort to fortify the nation’s forests against climate change's increasing threats, the framework will provide a consistent foundation for protecting and cultivating the old-growth forests known for their carbon sequestration capabilities, which are equivalent to more than 10 percent of the U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. With the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, the proposal sets forth protections for existing old-growth forests, drawing a plan to mitigate potential damages from wildfires and other catastrophic events that increase the mortality of these ancient woods.

A recent fact sheet issued by the administration outlines how the proposed amendment will require the development of a locally-informed adaptive management strategy within two years of the decision's finalization. This ensures the forest stewardship approach remains responsive to the evolving conditions and disturbances that threaten mature and old-growth forests across the country.

As part of a wider conservation effort, the USDA's Forest Service last week finalized a Mature and Old Growth Threats Analysis. The analysis identified wildfires, fuelled by climate change and historical fire suppression practices, as the primary danger to these ecosystems. Reduced to a minor threat today, tree cutting once posed a significant disruption, being the leading cause during the period from 1950 to 1990. Moving forward, the Biden-Harris Administration is also utilizing innovative tools such as the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, which aims to aid in the conservation and restoration of forests.

Funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, to the tune of nearly $1.4 billion, has been awarded to support urban forestry projects nationwide. Urban forests, which represent 20 percent of all forested areas in the U.S., are increasingly recognized for their importance in providing access to nature and mitigating the impacts of climate change. The new amendment and associated efforts by the administration underscore the vital role forests play in environmental health, resource sustainability, and combating climate crisis—priorities substantiated during Senior Advisor to the President John Podesta's forthcoming address at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum in Norway.