Advocates push to protect old growth forests on Oregon’s federal lands

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Environmental advocates delivered more than 45,000 comments Tuesday to two federal agencies considering rules that would protect mature and old-growth forests in the state.

The comments are on two proposed rules — one for the Bureau of Land Management and the other for the U.S. Forest Service — that would prohibit timber harvesting of Oregon’s oldest trees.

The rules would have a big impact on Oregon, where more than half of the total land in the state is managed by federal agencies.

“Our forests, especially mature and old-growth forests, are part of what makes Oregon a special place to live,” Celeste Meiffren-Swango, state director with Environment Oregon, said at a press conference outside of the Federal Building in Portland. “We’re calling on the Biden Administration to prevent timber companies from logging mature and old-growth trees on all federal land in Oregon and across the country.”

Mature and old-growth forests are an integral part of Oregon’s wilderness, Meiffren-Swango said — providing natural beauty, habitat for thousands of species and serving as an important tool in fighting against climate change.

Trees store carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas most responsible for our warming climate. Nationwide, forests can store as much as 10% of total annual carbon emissions for the U.S.

Victoria Wingell, forests and climate campaigner for Oregon Wild, explained that the older the tree, the more carbon it stores.

“Here in the Pacific Northwest, I’ll use the example of the Douglas Firs. In their first 20 years of life, trees are actually respirating carbon back into the atmosphere,” Wingell said. “But they really start to hit their stride in terms of carbon sequestration once they hit around 80 years old.”

The comment period for both rules are still open — The Bureau of Land Management rule until July 5 and the U.S. Forest Service rule until July 20 — and anyone can offer their opinions on the rules within that timeframe.

For Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director with Environment Oregon, she hopes the rules pass for the sake of Oregon’s forests.

“Our mature and old-growth forests are a natural treasure worth protecting and one of our best allies in the fight against climate change,” Montgomery said in a statement. “Oregon is known for its amazing forests and trees. The Bureau of Land Management must take action to protect our mature trees and forests from logging.”

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