The Biden administration’s plans to help federal forests combat and adapt to climate change fail to protect mature and old-growth forests, a glaring omission conservation groups noted in formal comments submitted today.

“Among the most significant and far-reaching steps the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior can take to enhance climate adaptation and resilience on public lands is to protect older — mature and old-growth — forests and trees across all federal forestlands,” the conservation groups said.

The groups and federal lawmakers are calling on the administration to end logging of mature and old-growth trees. In a letter to President Biden, dozens of House and Senate members said the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees national forests, and the Department of the Interior should have included recommendations to protect carbon-sequestering old forests and trees in their climate adaptation and resilience plans.

“Biden pledged to protect forests internationally, and now he needs to make the same commitment to our public forests here at home,” said Randi Spivak, public lands program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The absence of even a mention of older forests and trees in these climate action plans is a glaring omission that ignores science. Protecting forests and other natural ecosystems is cheaper and smarter than destroying and trying to rebuild them.”

The conservations groups’ comments said the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should prohibit logging of older forests and trees on public lands and include forests as part of the solution to addressing the climate emergency, drought and wildlife extinction.

“It’s a no-brainer. From clean water to carbon storage to flood mitigation, old forests do it better,” said Zack Porter, director of Standing Trees, a new organization dedicated to protecting and restoring forests on New England’s public lands. “Restoring natural, old forests on federal public lands is an inexpensive, scientifically proven, and rapidly deployable strategy to rise up to the climate and biodiversity crises. It’s time for a new definition of the ‘greatest good for the greatest number in the long run.’ The science is clear: Let them grow.”

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