Old-Growth and Mature Forests Resource Page
Updated June 6, 2023
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) manages more than 193 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands—or roughly a quarter of all federal lands across the nation. Since the agency’s inception in 1905, that management has been largely focused on maintaining forest economic productivity through logging and other activities over conservation—the result of which meant the loss of undisturbed mature and old-growth forests.
Mature and old-growth forests provide wildlife habitat, are sources of clean water, and mitigate the effects of climate change by pulling massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and trapping it deep in the soil.
This natural ability to fight climate change makes their destruction through logging and other activities that much more tragic. Today, 18% of federal forests are classified as old-growth and 45% as mature. Since the 17th century, more than 85% of North America’s old-growth forests have been lost to logging.
The USFS has opened a 60-day commenting period to ask for the public’s input on an upcoming rulemaking to identify the best ways to sustainably protect, conserve, and manage the nation’s forests and grasslands given the increasing impact of climate change.
The USFS is asking for input on several questions, however we recommend you respond to at least the following two:
- How should the USFS use the mature and old-growth forest inventory together with an analysis of threats and risks to determine and prioritize when, where, and how different types of management will best enable retention and expansion of mature and old-growth forests over time?
- Given our current understanding of the threats to mature and old-growth forests, what policy, management, or practices would enhance ecosystem resilience under a changing climate?
The best place to start any rulemaking in regard to mature and old-growth forests is to, first and foremost, stop cutting them down! A mature forest obviously cannot become an old-growth forest if it’s allowed to be turned into stumps by the logging industry, and old-growth forests—once lost—may take hundreds if not thousands of years to fully recover.
Tell the USFS that we need clear and meaningful rules to ensure mature and old-growth forests and trees are protected from logging and other destructive practices so they can continue to help mitigate the climate and biodiversity crises!