Biden order seeks to protect old-growth forests against wildfire

President Joe Biden is taking steps towards restoring national forests destroyed by wildfires and drought. He visited Seattle on Earth Day to sign an executive order to protect some of the country's oldest and largest trees.

Biden order seeks to protect old-growth forests against wildfire

Old-growth trees provide important buffers against climate changes. They also act as carbon sinks, absorbing significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming.

Biden's order requires federal land managers to identify and inventory old-growth and mature forests across the country within one year. The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service are required to identify and inventory threats to older trees such as wildfires and climate change and to develop policies to protect them.

According to the White House, the order does not prohibit the logging of old-growth or mature trees.

Biden signed the order Friday to reaffirm his environmentalist credentials. This comes at a time in which his administration has been preoccupied by high gasoline and oil prices after Russia invaded Ukraine . While the high gas prices have hurt Biden's popularity, and put pressure on his political standing going into the year's midterm elections in 2013, the Democratic president has been focusing on wildfires that are increasing because of climate change.

This measure is meant to protect national forests that have been severely damaged by drought, wildfires and blight. It also covers recent fires that killed thousands of giant sequoias in California. Redwood forests are one of the most efficient in removing and storing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They also provide habitat for native wildlife, as well as watersheds that supply West-based communities and farms.

Earth scientists, tree lovers and land managers around the globe have been alarmed by intense firestorms that can kill trees. These storms are a result of climate change. A warming planet has caused longer and hotter droughts. This combined with centuries of fire suppression has fuelled flames that have extinguished trees from ancient civilizations.

Senior administration officials noted that forests absorb more US annual greenhouse gasses than 10%, and provide flood control, clean air, and habitat for wildlife. Before the order was made public, the official requested anonymity so that details about Biden's order could be discussed.

A year after taking office , Biden's ambitious climate agenda has been marred by setbacks in spite of a series of climate-related promises. Last Earth Day, the president hosted a virtual summit on global warming . The president used this moment to almost double the United States' goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and elevate the country to the forefront of the fight against climate change.

His most ambitious proposals are still stalled at Capitol Hill, despite repeated warnings by scientists that the world is heading towards extreme heat, drought, and weather.

Additionally, Russia's war against Ukraine has reshuffled politics around climate change. This led Biden to release oil from its strategic reserve and encourage domestic drilling in the hopes of lowering the sky-high gas prices, which are threatening American wallets.

While Biden is Scientists wrote that if they are left vulnerable to logging, they will not fulfill their vital functions. The letter was signed by Norman Christensen (founding dean and professor emeritus of Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment) and Mike Dombeck, former Forest Service Chief.

The scientists stated that protecting mature forests would also be "an important, highly visible example" for other countries holding large forests to follow in addressing climate change threats.

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