Our focus at The Wilderness Society is preserving spectacular lands like the California Desert and our national forests, but the critical decisions that determine their future sometimes take place inside the rarified realm of a federal courtroom.
When Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stepped to the podium at a park in Seattle last week, he didn’t just make a speech about the Obama administration’s vision for managing national forests in the 21st century: He ushered in a whole new era for the Forest Service – one that makes restoring the health of our forests the top priority for the agency.
You know about the contributions deforestation makes toward global warming, but now some scientists are asking the seemingly counter-intuitive question of whether harvesting timber can actually help decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
No doubt, the premise is appealing: Use the forests to soak up carbon dioxide from the air, then store that carbon dioxide elsewhere by harvesting the timber and turning it into home-building materials and other wood products. As new trees grow in the harvested area, the cycle begins again.
Pacific Log & Lumber has been harvesting timber from the Tongass National Forest for 30 years. But owner Steve Seley is ready to try something new. After observing for himself the long-term damage clear-cutting can do, hearing the concerns of The Wilderness Society and other conservation groups in progressive roundtable meetings and seeing the science to back it up, Seley is taking steps to try to put sustainable timber management into practice.
As I sat down at my computer yesterday morning and looked at my overflowing email inbox, a new unread email subject line caught my eye: “Secretary Salazar to Announce Decision on Pacific Northwest Forest Management.”
The day had come! The Obama Administration would finally decide the fate of Oregon’s ancient forests, which have been under serious threat from a Bush-era plan that proposed to more than double the amount of logging on some 2.6 million acres of Bureau of Land Management forests.
The Wilderness Society is working to change our nation’s old approach to fire management. Protecting communities from fire is paramount, but effective policies on fire management should focus on protecting communities, while restoring ecosystems, and sustaining fire’s role in fire-dependent landscapes, where safe to do so.
A decade or so ago a friend suggested to me that instead of my normal spring backpack into my favorite north Georgia trout fishing hole that I instead try the Fires Creek watershed in Clay County, North Carolina. I had seen the mountains that make up this magnificent watershed for years as I drove to various spots along the nearby Appalachian Trail for hiking, but knew little about access to the area, or developed trails.
A few months ago, President Obama signed legislation to help communities revitalize forests and boost economies. The law sets the stage for Congress to provide funding so the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (FLRA) can put additional shovels on the ground next year.
It offers communities the opportunity to work together to look at larger scale, long-term restoration activities that benefit both forests and communities.
Just six months into Obama’s presidency, we’re already beginning to see just how much we can get done with an administration that values strong scientific evidence. Last week, after years of foot-dragging by the Bush Administration, the White House released a landmark multi-agency government report on the effects of climate change on the U.S. Just a day later, a scientific report from the U.S.