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Conservation groups call on Biden administration to protect old-growth trees on public lands

Old growth
A stand of old-growth ponderosa pines in the Deschutes National Forest in Oregon.

A coalition of more than 70 conservation groups are calling on the Biden administration to protect old-growth trees from logging on federal lands. They say the trees are critical in combatting climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and others have begun the Climate Forests Campaign. It urges executive action from President Joe Biden to end the felling of mature trees throughout the U.S.

The groups say federal land managers lack strong policies to protect older trees, which store vast amounts of carbon and are critical to slow climate change. They say logging in old-growth forests releases most of that carbon back into the atmosphere. They also point out that mature trees are more fire-resistant, slow soil erosion and provide critical habitat.

Last summer, the administration halted logging on Alaska’s nearly 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest. It was the only national forest that still allowed old-growth logging on a large scale. It reversed a Trump-era decision to expand harvesting.

Arizona’s 2.5-million-acre Four Forest Restoration Initiative is designed to thin mostly smaller trees. The project’s founding documents call for blanket old-growth tree protection and state that no trees pre-dating European settlement will be cut.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom as executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.