Protecting the Forests, and Hoping for Payback


The giant evergreens of the West have long been proclaimed essential, whether the cause was saving salmon and spotted owls or small towns and their sawmills. Now, with evidence showing that American forests store 15 percent or more of the carbon gases produced in the nation, expectations are growing for them to do even more.

Over the next 50 years or so, experts say, some forests could be cultivated to grow bigger, more resilient trees, potentially increasing their carbon storage by 50 percent and providing an important “bridge” to a time when the nation will theoretically have shifted away from greenhouse-gas producing fossil fuels.

…“The Forest Service as a public agency should be managing the forest for the people,” Ms. Tuttle said. “Part of that is to make them resilient to climate change and at the same time find opportunities where appropriate to use the forest as a carbon sink.”