President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Earth Day this year, while visiting Seattle Washington, that aims to strengthen the nation’s forests, communities, and local economies by conserving and restoring America’s forests, particularly mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. The order directs the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to inventory and conserve these forests as a key part of US climate policy.
The order includes actions aimed at protecting and restoring forests and land across the country. These actions include implementing science-based and sustainable practices for forest management, investing in forest health and restoration, and utilizing nature-based solutions such as climate-smart forestry.
In addition to these efforts, the administration also plans to support indigenous communities by recognizing and honoring their traditional ecological knowledge and cultural, as well as upholding tribal treaty rights.
Furthermore, the order reaffirms the commitment to combatting deforestation and promoting sustainable land, water, and ocean management on a global scale.
According to the executive order, mature and old-growth forests are essential in addressing climate change and biodiversity loss. These forests are known for their ability to store large amounts of carbon.
Land-based ecosystems absorbed around 30% of the carbon emissions generated through human activity. In the United States, forests absorb more than 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions.
Old growth forests are often defined as forests that are at least 80 years old and have not been significantly disturbed by human activities. However, this definition can vary depending on the specific characteristics of the forest and the ecosystem it supports.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), United States Forest Service (Forest Service), and the United States Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have invited public comment to help define old-growth and mature forests on Federal lands.
Unfortunately, the world’s forests are rapidly disappearing, and only a small percentage of mature and old-growth forests remain. Threats to forests include climate change, wildfires, insect infestations, and disease.
The executive order is a positive step towards strengthening and conserving America’s forests, as well as addressing the climate crisis and supporting local economies and communities. By prioritizing science-based, sustainable management, investing in restoration, the order aims to create a more resilient and sustainable future.