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VA Groups Urge Feds to Protect Old-Growth Forests


Friday, February 25, 2022   

The George Washington and Jefferson national forests cover 1.8 million acres of land across several states, including Virginia. Now, advocates are pushing for new protections for the oldest residents of the forests.

A coalition of environmental groups is urging the Biden administration to establish new rules safeguarding old-growth trees on federal lands.

Elly Boehmer, director of Environment Virginia, said such trees play a critical role in forest ecologies.

"They moderate temperatures, improve our soil health and then obviously provide habitat for countless [numbers] of our favorite wildlife species," Boehmer outlined.

According to the Climate Forests campaign, 17.2 billion metric tons of carbon are stored in the country's national forests, and older trees can store more carbon than their younger counterparts.

A 2019 report from the Ecological Society of America found forests offset more than 11% of America's greenhouse-gas emissions each year.

Virginia has lost much of its old-growth woodland to centuries of logging. Boehmer explained while a complete moratorium on future logging in national forests is unlikely, establishing some form of federal guidance for timber harvesting is critical.

"So the U.S. Forest Service right now doesn't actually have a policy to coordinate the actions to protect and grow our mature trees that provide all of these wonderful benefits," Boehmer pointed out.

The Biden administration said tackling climate change is a major item on its policy agenda. Last January, the president issued an executive order which, in part, promised to create new jobs through reforestation and conservation efforts.

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