Scientists from Woodwell Climate Research Center are among the 195 leading experts in forest ecosystems, climate change, and the carbon cycle who have come together to urge the Biden Administration to immediately declare a moratorium on all logging in mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. The signers include seven members of the National Academies of Sciences and some of the most notable names in climate science.

The letter comes amid growing concerns within the scientific community around the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s response to an executive order, issued by the Biden Administration on Earth Day 2022, to establish guidelines and best practices to safeguard mature and old-growth forests on federal lands. The letter was initiated by Dr. Beverly Law, Professor Emeritus at Oregon State University, and Dr. Bill Moomaw, Professor Emeritus at Tufts University and Distinguished Visiting Scientist at Woodwell Climate. Last week, Woodwell Climate Senior Scientist and signatory Dr. Rich Birdsey delivered the letter’s message to the Mature and Old Growth Science Summit, hosted by the Forest Stewards Guild, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Society of American Foresters.

“Old-growth forests are made up of our oldest, and typically largest, trees that store massive amounts of carbon,” said Dr. Rich Birdsey. “We need to protect old growth, as well as younger mature forests that can attain old-growth characteristics with time.”

“The carbon storage function these forests play is essential to our efforts to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impacts of the rapidly changing climate, yet millions of acres of mature and old-growth forests stand on federal lands that are vulnerable to logging,” said Dr. Beverly Law. “To align with the United States’s commitments to ending global forest deforestation and degradation, we must urgently halt any additional logging of these critical natural resources.”

The scientists point to recent efforts by the agencies to increase timber sales and logging of these forests rather than increasing their protection as directly contrary to these objectives, and call on President Biden to issue a new executive order prohibiting activities that further forest degradation in the short-term, while the Administration works, in partnership with policy and climate leaders, to develop and implement effective, long-term management policies. Reducing timber harvesting of carbon-dense forests can have an immediate effect of lowering emissions and is the most significant action that the U.S. can take to immediately limit greenhouse gasses.

“With their 2022 executive order to protect mature and old-growth forests, the Biden Administration laid the groundwork for the U.S. to emerge as a global leader in conserving these forests and making good on international climate commitments,” said Dr. William Moomaw. “Halting logging in the interim is necessary to protect these resources now, while also working with the agencies to develop strong, long-term policies consistent with the Administration’s commitments to addressing climate change and safeguarding forests as a natural climate solution.”

The full letter can be found here.