'Let these trees grow': climate groups press POTUS to protect old-growth forests on Earth Day

'Let these trees grow': climate groups press POTUS to protect old-growth forests on Earth Day
Recycle waste litter rubbish garbage trash junk clean training. Nature cleaning, volunteer ecology green concept. Young men and boys pick up spring forest at sunset. Environmental plastic pollution (Shutterstock).

U.S. President Joe Biden's reported plan to protect old-growth forests—which help combat global temperature rise by storing planet-heating carbon—is "grossly inadequate," one climate advocacy group said Thursday.

Biden will mark Earth Day in Seattle on Friday with an executive order on the issue, according to The Washington Post, which cited five unnamed sources briefed on the plan.

Responding in a statement, Food & Water Watch national organizing manager Thomas Meyer declared that "President Biden seems to think we're celebrating the first Earth Day in 1970, rather than in [the] depths of the climate crisis in 2022."

"Protecting forests without addressing the root cause of the climate crisis, namely the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels, will do very little to slow global warming," he warned.

"The president has many effective tools at his disposal to address the climate and public health impacts of fossil fuels in a serious way," Meyer added. "He should start by following through on his pledge to end fracking on public lands and stop offshore drilling, and directing his agencies to reject all new fossil fuel infrastructure."

The forthcoming order will direct the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to "define and inventory mature and old-growth forests nationwide within a year," as well as "identify threats to these trees, such as wildfire and climate change, and to use that information to craft policies that protect them," the Post reported.

As the newspaper detailed:

The president's order, however, will not ban logging of mature and old-growth trees, they added, and the administration is not considering a nationwide prohibition.
It will include initiatives aimed at restoring U.S. forests ravaged by wildfire, drought and insects, requiring federal agencies to come up with a reforestation goal by 2030. It will also address major problems facing tree planting efforts in the West—insufficient seeds and seedlings—by directing agencies to develop plans to increase cone and seed collection and nursery capacity.
Other pieces of the order are aimed at curbing deforestation overseas, promoting economic development in regions with major timber industries, and calculating the economic value of other natural resources such as wetlands.

WildEarth Guardians, in a tweet Thursday, highlighted that the order reportedly does not ban logging and urged Americans to pressure the administration on that front.

In February, more than 70 groups including Environment America launched the Climate Forests Campaign to push Biden to take executive action on protections for mature trees and forests on federal lands.

"We need to protect more of our forests across the globe to fend off the impending biodiversity and climate crises," said Ellen Montgomery, Environment America's Public Lands Campaign director, at the time.

"This campaign calls for the Biden administration to take the first step toward meaningful safeguards for forests in the U.S.—by protecting the most important standing trees in those forests," she added. "We can no longer allow our forests to be logged to the detriment of biodiversity and the climate crisis. It's time to adopt a new policy: Let these trees grow."

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