President Joe Biden signed an executive order in Seattle on Earth Day to safeguard some of the country’s biggest and oldest trees, which have been destroyed by wildfires, drought, and disease.
Carbon dioxide and other glasshouse gases contribute to global warming, and old-growth trees are critical climate change buffers and carbon sinks.
Within one year, federal land managers are mandated by Vice President Biden’s directive to identify and catalogue mature and old-growth forests throughout the country. The order mandates that the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service identify and implement strategies to protect older trees from dangers like wildfire and climate change.
According to the White House, the directive does not prohibit the logging of mature or old-growth trees.
While his government has been dealing with rising oil and gas costs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Vice President Joe Biden may publicly reaffirm his green credentials by signing the directive on Friday. While rising gas prices have hurt Vice President Biden’s popularity and generated short-term political challenges ahead of this year’s midterm elections, the Democratic president has been focused on climate change-related wildfires.
Thousands of enormous sequoia trees in California were destroyed in recent wildfires, drought, and blight, and this act aims to protect the nation’s national forests from further harm. Native wildlife and watershed supplies in the West rely on redwood forests for their habitat, which are among the world’s best at removing and storing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
There is little doubt that climate change is having a devastating effect on trees across the globe, as seen by fierce fires that have killed trees that were previously thought to be almost fireproof. Ancient civilizations’ trees were extinguished by a combination of longer and hotter droughts and a century of fire suppression that choked forests with thick undergrowth.
In addition to absorbing more than 10% of the country’s yearly emissions of glasshouse gases, woods also serve as a flood barrier, purifier of groundwater, purifier of air, and refuge for a variety of animals. In order to explain the directive’s specifics before it was made public, the official requested anonymity.
A year after he began office amid a flurry of climate-related pledges, Biden’s ambitious climate agenda has been plagued by failures. Last year, the White House sponsored a virtual meeting on global warming. His decision to roughly quadruple America’s aim for decreasing glasshouse gas emissions in the battle against climate change was taken advantage of during this time.
Despite increasing warnings from experts that the globe is speeding towards a hazardous future defined by excessive heat, drought, and storms, his most far-reaching recommendations remain frozen on Capitol Hill a year later.
Because of Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, Biden has decided to release oil from the nation’s strategic reserve and promote more domestic drilling in an effort to cut sky-high gas prices that are emptying the pockets of Americans nationwide.
Even though Biden has increased fuel efficiency requirements for automobiles and incorporated green initiatives in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, the absence of larger progress throws a cloud on his second Earth Day as president.
This new regulation would add additional complexity to a forest management structure already struggling to keep up with climate change’s increasing wildfires, says timber sector advocate Nick Smith.
Smith, a spokesman for the American Forest Resource Council, an Oregon-based business organisation, said it would undermine the Biden administration’s objective of tripling logging and controlled burns over the next decade in the tinder-dry West.
This can only be achieved by effectively managing our sick and overstocked federal forests, he added.
Jim Furnish, a former Deputy Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, disagreed, saying that removing smaller trees that might spark uncontrolled blazes while keeping older trees in place would be more effective in addressing wildfire threats and climate change.
The Forest Service has long authorised the logging of elder trees because they are more valuable, according to Furnish, and doing so helps pay for the removal of smaller trees. However, that’s no longer required since Congress allocated more than $5 billion to lower wildfire risks in last year’s infrastructure package, he said. The bill provides funds for the hiring of 1,500 new firemen, all of whom will be paid a minimum of $15 per hour.
More rigors thinning of stands to eliminate tiny trees and plants that feed wildfires has been promoted by both Republicans and Democrats in the last two decades, more than doubling the amount of timber sold from federal forests nationally.
Officials are under criticism for allegedly permitting the destruction of too many fire-resistant elder trees, according to critics, including many forest experts.
Biden was urged by 135 climate experts to safeguard mature and old-growth forests as a key climate solution in a letter they all signed.
“Most carbon is stored in older forests, with mature forests and bigger trees driving most forest carbon buildup in the next decades. However, if they are exposed to logging, they will be unable to perform their essential roles,” the scientists stated on Thursday. Norman Christensen, Duke University’s founding dean of the Nicholas School of Environment and professor emeritus, was among the signatories of the letter.
Protecting mature forests is equally crucial “The scientists said, “would establish an important, highly visible precedent for other large forest-holding countries to follow as they address climate change risks”.