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FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Proposes Plan to Protect and Steward Old-Growth Forests on National Forest System Lands

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Proposes Plan to Protect and Steward Old-Growth Forests on National Forest System Lands
FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Proposes Plan to Protect and Steward Old-Growth Forests on National Forest System Lands

President Biden is delivering on the most ambitious climate and conservation agenda in history, including by already protecting more than 41 million acres of lands and waters. Today the Biden-Harris Administration is taking new steps to conserve, restore, and expand our nation’s old growth forests by advancing a proposal from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Forest Service to amend all 128 forest land management plans to better steward old-growth forests across the entire National Forest System.

America’s forests are a key climate solution, absorbing carbon dioxide equivalent to more than 10 percent of U.S. annual greenhouse gas emissions. USDA’s National Forest Plan Amendment proposes a consistent framework to guide conservation and restoration of old-growth forest conditions across all national forests. This framework will also help to ensure that our nation’s forests remain resilient to increasing threats from climate change.

The proposed amendment will use the best available science, including Indigenous Knowledge, to drive management strategies that conserve, restore, and cultivate old-growth forest conditions across our national forests. The preferred alternative outlined in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement released today sets protections for existing old growth, outlines proactive stewardship and science-based management steps to reduce the threat of old-growth mortality from catastrophic wildfire, and would require a locally-informed adaptive management strategy to be developed within two years of a final decision.

The Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) together manage approximately 32 million acres of old-growth and 80 million acres of mature forests on federal lands, for a total of 112 million acres. Old-growth forests represent 18 percent and mature forest another 45 percent of all forested land managed by the two agencies. Next week Senior Advisor to the President for International Climate Policy John Podesta will share today’s progress with the world and speak about the role that forests play in combatting the climate crisis at the Oslo Tropical Forest Forum in Norway.

President Biden’s Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies and the Biden-Harris Administration’s whole-of-government approach are furthering efforts to safeguard and steward our nation’s forests, including through $50 million from the Inflation Reduction Act and the President’s Investing in America agenda to support old-growth conservation.

Other recent progress to conserve and restore our nation’s forests and expand access to outdoor space for communities include:

Mature and Old-Growth Threats Analysis: Last week the Forest Service issued a final Mature and Old Growth Threats Analysis which identified wildfire, exacerbated by climate change and fire exclusion, as the leading threat to mature and old-growth forests. This was followed by insects and disease in the West, while more varied disturbances threaten older forests in Alaska and in eastern regions. The analysis also found that two-thirds of mature forests and just over half of old-growth forests are vulnerable to these threats. Tree cutting (any removal of trees) is currently a relatively minor threat despite having been a major disturbance historically, as from 1950 to 1990 these practices were the primary reason for loss of old-growth forests. The threats analysis suggests that current land management activities may not be sufficiently responsive to rapidly changing disturbances and conditions that affect mature and old-growth forest conditions, showing the need for an updated nationwide plan.

Interim Forest Service Project Review: To ensure consistency in old-growth management as the nationwide plan amendment process progresses, last December the Forest Service issued an interim policy outlined in more detail in a letter from the deputy chief of the National Forest System to regional foresters. Under the interim policy the deputy chief of the Forest Service has reviewed over 90 projects to ensure consistency with the proposed action. Additional projects are pending review.

Showcasing Forest Conservation Projects: The Biden-Harris Administration released a beta version of the American Conservation and Stewardship Atlas, an innovative tool that offers users the ability to view a wide range of scientific information, data, and knowledge on biodiversity, climate change impacts, and equity, with the goal of helping inform and inspire land, water, and wildlife conservation and restoration efforts of individuals, land managers, policymakers, and communities. The Atlas showcases investments in forest health, urban and community forestry grant projects, and other resilience and restoration investments.

BLM Public Lands Rule: In April, the BLM finalized the Public Lands Rule to help guide the balanced management of America’s public lands and steward healthy landscapes. The final rule supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to ensure forests continue to deliver clean water, clean air, and sustainable wildlife habitat.

Urban and Community Forestry Inflation Reduction Act Grants: With urban forests making up 20 percent of all forests in the United States, urban trees are essential to helping communities access nature and reducing the impacts of climate change. USDA’s Urban and Community Forestry Program is the only federal program dedicated to the nation’s urban forest resources, reaching more than 140 million acres of urban and community forests across the United States. Through funding from President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, nearly $1.4 billion has been awarded to support urban tree-planting and management in communities across the country.

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Official news published at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2024/06/20/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-proposes-plan-to-protect-and-steward-old-growth-forests-on-national-forest-system-lands/