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Pandemic relief could become next forest policy battleground

By Marc Heller, (E&E News, May 19, 2020)

A future coronavirus aid package in Congress might become the next battleground in a fight over forest policy.

The long-running debate about how best to care for national forests — and what to do with timber that’s taken from them — is quietly brewing again as lawmakers look for ways to promote a more intensive approach to forest management. A spending package for the pandemic offers one opportunity.

Leading the latest effort is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who introduced a broad package he said would give forest communities an economic boost while providing wildfire crews protection from the spreading virus (E&E Daily, May 12).

Sensing that a big appropriations bill could give logging advocates an opportunity, a group of scientists skeptical of the industry wrote to key federal lawmakers last week, urging them to refrain from putting pro-logging measures into any upcoming legislation, including on climate change. Continue reading

Scientists announce importance of the world’s primary forests and large, old trees in climate regulation and biodiversity conservation

primary forestPrimary (unlogged) forests and large, old trees provide high biodiversity and carbon value benefits

Dominick A. DellaSala and William R. Moomaw

Summary: Primary (unlogged) forests and large old, trees (live and dead) provide multiple benefits that forestall biodiversity and climate emergencies. They have high conservation value if allowed to achieve their ecological potential to support superior biodiversity, carbon storage and ecosystem benefits.

Scientists call for protecting half the planet to provide an equitable future for all species and a safe climate

View at Nature Research Sustainability Community. A response to Schleicher et al. “One Billion People to be Directly Affected by Protecting Half.” Nature Sustainability (2019): 1-3.

We are in a planetary recession marked by biodiversity collapse, climatic upheavals, freshwater shortages, global toxification, and unprecedented human and nonhuman displacements (Ripple et al, 2017). The only positive outlook lies in deep solutions and new narratives. Protecting at least half the Earth, terrestrial and marine, offers such an outlook. Safeguarding nature on a vast scale is necessary both to halt the mass extinction underway and to prevent the huge unleashing of carbon that will result from further ecological degradation (Steffen et al., 2018). In addition to affording robust natural solutions to the ecological exigencies that are imperiling all complex life, the Half Earth (or Nature Needs Half) initiative charts a course toward a sustainable and equitable human coexistence alongside the millions of life forms with whom we share the planet (Noss et al., 2012; Wilson, 2016; Dinerstein et al., 2017; Kopnina 2016; Kopnina et al., 2018).

In implementing Half Earth, conservationists, scientists, and policy-makers should work in concert with indigenous people and local populations (Goodall, 2015). Such efforts are aimed at ensuring that, en route to preempting further ecological catastrophes and healing the relationship between humanity and Earth, wide-scale nature protection will not adversely affect people in proximity to these natural areas (Goodall, 2015; Naidoo et al., 2019). The level of protection proposed will also bar corporate ventures, such as mining, logging, and industrial agriculture, from profiteering at the ongoing expense of the natural world and local and indigenous people (Vettese, 2018).

Guest View: Nature’s climate solution

Originally printed in Register Guard on December 14, 2019 by Dominick DellaSala, John Talberth and Ernie Niemi

Every fall, raging hurricanes and urban-wildfires remind us of the inconvenient truth: the climate is getting increasingly weird and dangerous.

Scientists have made it clear that if we hope to avoid escalating climate disruptions, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground while simultaneously drawing down carbon dioxide put into the atmosphere primarily from burning fossil fuels and global forest destruction.

In fact, experts have determined that the most effective strategy to remove carbon from the atmosphere at a meaningful scale is to protect the world’s remaining unlogged forests and replenish what has been lost by replanting trees and letting them grow to maturity. One study estimates that natural carbon solutions can provide more than one-third of the carbon reduction the world needs to meet the Paris Climate Agreements.

Would Trump’s reelection lead to climate catastrophe?

By Maxine Joselow and Adam Aton, E&E News reporters
Published: Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Ask environmental experts what would happen to the global climate fight if President Trump were reelected, and the answer is often the same.

“God help us all,” said David Hayes, executive director of the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at the New York University School of Law.

“A second term would be a disaster in general,” said Dominick DellaSala, president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute.

“It will not be good,” said Andrew Light, who served as a senior adviser on climate change under former President Obama.

Forest Legacies 2019 Accomplishments

With the support of our funders we have been able to protect primary forests in British Columbia, protect the roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest, and continue advocating for science-based wildfire policy. Full details are available in our end of year report.

More than 11,000 scientists from around the world declare a ‘climate emergency’

Study outlines six major steps that ‘must’ be taken to address the situation.

By Andrew Freedman
Published November 5, 2019 at the Washington Post

A new report by 11,258 scientists in 153 countries from a broad range of disciplines warns that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency,” and provides six broad policy goals that must be met to address it.

The analysis is a stark departure from recent scientific assessments of global warming, such as those of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in that it does not couch its conclusions in the language of uncertainties, and it does prescribe policies.

The study, called the “World scientists’ warning of a climate emergency,” marks the first time a large group of scientists has formally come out in favor of labeling climate change an “emergency,” which the study notes is caused by many human trends that are together increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Purchase Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation, edited by Dominick DellaSala

Greens lash out at plans to speed NEPA reviews

By Marc Heller, Originally published August 27, 2019 at E&E News

Conservation groups and scientists are bashing the Forest Service’s plan to revamp the National Environmental Policy Act. (Photo of The Elliott State Forest. Photo credit: Tony Andersen/Oregon Department of Forestry/Flickr)

A Forest Service proposal to accelerate environmental reviews of forest management projects has generated thousands of public comments, including criticism yesterday from conservation groups.

In comments submitted to the agency, the Western Environmental Law Center and other groups said the proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act’s procedures would diminish public input while opening national forests to “sweeping destruction” through increased logging, mining and other projects.

Scientists Oppose Draft Forest Service Rule

For Immediate Release, August 26, 2019

Contacts: Dominick DellaSala, dominick@geosinstitute.org, (541) 621-7223 | Chris Frissell, leakinmywaders@yahoo.com, (406) 471-3167

Over 230 scientists oppose Draft Forest Service Rule That Would Block Scientist Voices, Gut Bedrock Environmental Law

Washington, DC― Over 230 scientists submitted comments strongly opposing a draft US Forest Service rule that would overhaul regulations that implement the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one our nation’s landmark environmental laws. The proposed rule is designed to speed up logging and other damaging activities across the 193 million-acre national forest system, while cutting the public and independent scientists out of the vast majority of all national forest decisions.

The letter, signed by scientists with expertise in conservation biology, ecology and hydrology, raised concerns about the proposed changes saying they “would hamstring the agency from making informed decisions in an era complicated by unprecedented climate change and a legacy of land-use impacts to the national forest system.”

“In shutting scientists and the public out from forest planning decisions, the Trump Administration continues its reckless policies that will change the very future of our nations treasured forests and rivers, said Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Chief Scientist at the Ashland-Oregon based Geos Institute, and lead scientist on the letter. “The Forest Service is chipping away at public accountability with severe consequences likely to our national forests.”

For nearly half a century NEPA has guaranteed public transparency, federal government accountability and ensures that the best available science is considered in federal decisions on public lands. The current NEPA rules require that the Forest Service to notify the public of pending logging, mining, drilling and other projects on national forests and to require the public, including scientists, to comment on these decisions.

The rule would cut out scientist and other public voices from most extraction and development projects on national forests by ending early notification, called scoping, and by creating a host of new loopholes known as “categorical exclusions.” Among many new loopholes, two would allow logging up to nearly 7 square miles and bulldozing up to 5 miles of new logging roads at a time without any public engagement.

“Logging roads cause permanent, elevated levels of erosion and pollution of waters by sediment and nutrients, said Dr. Chris Frissell, a freshwater ecologist and watershed expert in Fisheries Science with 37 years of experience. “We now know how environmentally devastating these accumulated harms to water quality are around the world. The Forest Service’s irresponsible proposal to build more roads without strict limits on road construction and active restoration of the existing road system will increase harm to wild fish and our rivers and streams.”

Categorical Exclusions are reserved for categories of actions that do not cause significant harm either individually or cumulatively like campground modifications and parking lots. The new rules would now apply to mining and oil and gas drilling as well as pipelines and transmission lines that could permanently cut through national forests without any public engagement.

The Trump administration has ordered the Forest Service to increase timber targets to levels not seen in 20 years. The draft rule also weakens standards for categories of extraordinary circumstances such as threatened species, or the presence of wilderness when a more thorough environmental review is required.

“The national forest system stores massive amounts of atmospheric carbon and provides clean drinking water to millions of citizens in rural and urban communities. These values will be increasingly important in helping society slow and adapt to global heating and are unduly being compromised by the Forest Service,” added DellaSala.

Geos Institute is a science-based organization that works to make communities whole in the face of climate change.

Dr. Chris Frissell (PhD, MS, BA) is an ecologist and fisheries scientist and founder and principal scientist at the firm of Frissell & Raven Hydrobiological and Landscape Sciences. He holds an affiliate professorship at the Flathead Lake Biological Station, University of Montana.

The link to the scientist letter can be found here – https://geosinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/FS_NEPA_Comments_Scientists_Final.pdf 

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