Losing our best weapon against climate change

Did you know that the loss of forests accounts for the release of more heat-trapping pollution than the world’s entire transportation sector?

This is an incredible statistic and yet, according to the U.S. Forest Service, the United States continues to lose about 6,000 acres of open space a day as natural ecosystems are developed for urban, agricultural and industrial uses.

With more than 20 percent of green house gas emissions worldwide stemming from deforestation and land conversion, wise forest management has never been more important.

Recognizing that, The Wilderness Society and several other organizations are calling on Congress to ensure wise forest management is part of the strategy to combat dangerous global warming.

Forests can help fight climate change in three ways:

  1. Protecting forested acres prevents conversion of the land to uses which increase emissions, such as tract housing;
  2. Maintaining forests prevents the release of large amounts of carbon from timber and wood-product manufacturing, transportation and disposal; and
  3. Managing forests in a natural state of older, mature forests can help boost their capacity to store carbon.

A March 18 letter signed by The Wilderness Society asks Congressional leaders to design a strategy for valuing forests that allows for their conservation, restoration and sustainable management.

Specifically, we're urging Congress to ensure that forest carbon sequestration on private lands can be used as offsets under cap-and-trade, but that rigorous standards are applied to guarantee that a ton of carbon sequestered in a forest is equivalent to a ton of carbon emissions avoided from a factory or powerplant.

We must also allocate auction revenue from any cap and trade legislation for enhancing forest conservation and stewardship.

Climate change is already impacting our forests and will continue to do so for decades to come. If we are to help forests adapt to changing climates and protect their ability to store carbon, public land managers in particular need long-term funding that is not subject to the annual appropriations process. Dedicated funding from a cap and trade system will help protect forests that filter the air we breathe and the water we drink while also serving as ecological centers and economic drivers.