Outrage over proposed quadruple logging in America’s most popular forest
A federal plan for the long-term future of America’s most popular national forest proposes cutting more trees and reducing protections for old-growth areas, key ‘carbon sinks’ to combat climate change. climate crisis.
Logging is set to quadruple in North Carolina’s Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest, with more than half of public land – half a million acres – open, environmentalists have warned.
The new logging areas contain over 12,000 acres of existing old growth forest. Significant portions of world-famous hiking trails, like the Appalachian Trail, will also be open to logging.
The USFS Final Environmental Impact Statement outlines how Pisgah-Nantahala will be used and protected for three decades. It’s the nation’s most popular national forest, with nearly 5.2 million visitors last year, and a key source of drinking water in the Southeast.
The plan appears to run counter to the global commitment to deforestation officially unveiled by President Joe Biden at Cop26 last November.
At the Glasgow summit, world leaders, representing 85% of the world’s forests, pledged to end forest destruction and begin restoration by 2030. A dozen countries backed the plan with a $12 billion funding pledge.
President Biden called forests as important as decarbonizing the global economy, noting that “the United States will lead by example at home.”
A key pillar of the Biden administration’s national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is the conservation of public lands and waters, including an increase in reforestation.
The Independent contacted the White House and the Forest Service for comment.
James Melonas, who oversees North Carolina National Forests, said WLOS Friday that “in terms of forest restoration, we really emphasize the need for more young forests, which is essential for many wildlife species.”
Trees, especially those that have been around for centuries or millennia, are among nature’s greatest climate allies, incredibly efficient at pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in a process called carbon sequestration.
Research published last year in the journal Natural climate change found that the world’s forests sequestered about twice as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as they emitted between 2001 and 2019, absorbing 7.6 billion net metric tons per year, or 1.5 times more more carbon than the United States emits each year.
Will Harlan, a campaign manager at the nonprofit Environmental Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said the Forest Service’s plan “completely fails to protect ancient forests, rare species and clean water.” .
“It’s the opposite direction to where Glasgow, the Biden administration, the country and the world at large are heading towards storing carbon and protecting our remaining forests,” he said. The Independent. “Especially our older forests as carbon sinks, and all the climate benefits they provide.”
In addition to being rich in biodiversity, Pisgah-Nantahala is full of trout streams, hiking trails and bike paths. “This forest is worth much more standing than cut,” Mr Harlan said.
Josh Kelly, a public lands biologist with the MountainTrue Conservation Association in Asheville, described the Southern Appalachian Mountains as “one of the great temperate forests in the world” where the process of restoring old-growth forests has been underway for over 100 years. ‘a century.
“In revising the forest plan, the forest service found that more than half of the forest cover in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest is expected to be old, but in the revised plan, the forest service only designated a quarter of the forest for old-growth restoration, and worse, they have reserved the right to cut existing old-growth forests where they are outside the reserves,” he said. The Independent in an email.
“Combined with ambitious goals of more than doubling current levels of logging, this makes me concerned that the Forest Service is more committed to creating young forests than restoring old growth.”
Rodney Foushee, deputy national press secretary for the Forest Service, later said The Independent that the revised plan for Nantahala and Pisgah “is based on science that ensures the restoration of native forest ecosystems to be resilient to climate change”, adding that the agency’s analysis demonstrates that the proposed activities will increase storage carbon.
He continued, “Diversity is important for healthy forests, and timber harvesting is a tool to achieve that. We are not talking about deforestation.
He said the claim that more than half of the forest could be opened up for logging is “inaccurate”, calling it “alarmist and irresponsible”.
“Currently, 650 acres are harvested each year from this million acre forest. That’s less than 1/10 of a percent. In the revised plan, about 1,600 to 3,800 acres would be harvested each year, less than half a percent of the forest.
He added: “The plan increases protections for old-growth forests; it does not diminish it. In addition to the 265,000 acre designated old growth forest network, hundreds of thousands of acres of forest outside the network will continue to age and progress to old growth conditions over time.
The Forest Service received a record number of comments on the Pisgah-Nantahala plan, CBD reported, with more than 92% of respondents supporting more permanent protected areas.
The public now has a 60-day window to submit comments on the plan.
“It’s public land and we’re all co-owners of it,” Mr Harlan said. “It’s not just a short-term plan, it’s what our children and grandchildren will inherit. That’s why it’s so important and why we need to fix it now.
This article has been updated to reflect a response from the US Forest Service following the publication