Statement on EPA climate change hearing in Seattle, WA

May 21, 2009

SEATTLE - On behalf of The Wilderness Society and our 400,000 members and supporters in the United States, I want to thank the EPA for holding this public hearing in the Pacific Northwest.

The Northwest is rightfully proud of the beautiful peaks and glaciers in the Olympic Mountains and North Cascades; the mighty salmon and steelhead that populate our free-flowing rivers; and majestic forests that support exceptional biological diversity.

Yet all of these wilderness resources, upon which so much of the Northwest’s public welfare and quality of life depend, are now endangered by global warming caused by excessive pollution of our atmosphere with greenhouse gases.

Looking from Seattle across the Puget Sound, we can feel sorry for the future generations who — because of global warming — will not be able to admire the snow-capped peaks of the Olympics as we can today.

This loss of the region’s glaciers and summer snow-pack will harm far more than scenic vistas. Less winter snow and more rain in the mountains will mean more frequent and destructive floods in places like the Skokomish River valley and along the I-5 corridor south of Olympia.

Less snow in the mountains and earlier spring run-off also spell trouble for the region’s agriculture, such as the bountiful crops and orchards that rely on water from the Wenatchee and Yakima rivers east of the Cascades.

And the salmon and steelhead — icons of the Northwest — face a perilous future in rivers that are too shallow and warm to support fish that depend on abundant cold water.

Global warming will also mean longer and more intense fire seasons in the Northwest, threatening our forests, wildlife habitats, and human communities.

So, yes, clearly this region’s public health and welfare — including its water, fish, wilderness, and other natural resources — are endangered by the greenhouse gases that are causing global climate change.

As the United States develops its national strategy for dealing with climate change, we should recognize the importance of another environmental icon of the Pacific Northwest — our magnificent old-growth and mature forests.

This region’s ancient forests are world champions in their ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it for exceptionally long periods of time in the trees and soil.

The Wilderness Society and other forest conservation groups in Washington State have developed a climate-based vision for Washington’s national forests. We are calling on the Obama administration and Congress to adopt a series of measures to protect the old-growth and mature forests and to restore the natural resiliency of our watersheds.

Among other things, we recommend that the federal government establish a Climate Reserve to safeguard the old-growth and mature forests along with their carbon stores and other ecosystem services. The Climate Reserve will act like a forest carbon savings account and provide a forest conservation model for the rest of the world.

Statement by Mike Anderson