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Geos Institute helps communities build resilience in the face of climate change

April Newsletter: Forest Legacies springs into action!

In this issue:

  • Tongass Logging Transition Not Moving Fast Enough
  • On the steps of the nation’s capital for permanent protection of the world-class Kalmiopsis area, southwest Oregon
  • Celebrating Earth Week by Recognizing Conservation Gains in Northwest Forests

Tongass Logging Transition Not Moving Fast Enough

tongass old vs new forestsAt 17 million acres, the Tongass rainforest in southeast Alaska, the nation’s largest national forest, is a global champion at scrubbing the atmosphere of our dangerous carbon dioxide pollution and storing it long term in long-lived trees. Its among the world’s last relatively intact temperate rainforests and supports a world-class salmon fishery. For the past two years, Geos Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, retired Deputy Chief of the Forest Service Jim Furnish (Geos Institute board), and Catherine Mater (Mater Engineering) have been asking the Forest Service to speed up its transition out of old-growth logging. The agency claims that it can’t transition fast enough and needs to log old growth for at least another 16 years until young forests are ready to shoulder timber needs.

Geos Institute and partners recently completed the most comprehensive computer mapping and ground-based surveys of young forests initially clearcut in the 1950s, have since regrown, and will soon be ready to offset logging of old-growth rainforests. Our studies show:

  • By 2020, there will be more than enough young trees (>55 years) on a much smaller logging footprint than current logging to meet timber demand without relying on irreplaceable old-growth rainforests.
  • Alaska mills are ready to participate in an economic study we proposed to determine processing and manufacturing needs of young trees and retooling of mills to accept small logs, which can occur swiftly and at a low cost – much sooner and cheaper than estimated by the Forest Service.

We have been meeting with top level officials in the Obama Administration to show them how the transition can occur quicker than the Forest Service’s plan that, because of carbon dioxide releases from logging old-growth rainforest, is at odds with President Obama’s climate change leadership. The Tongass rainforest is much too valuable as Alaska’s first line of climate change defense. The Forest Service can and should do more to transition rapidly as hundreds of scientists and conservation groups have been urging them to do so. 

On the steps of the nation’s capital for permanent protection of the world-class Kalmiopsis area, southwest Oregon

The Kalmiopsis region of southwest Oregon is one of the most biodiverse, unprotected landscapes in the American West. World Wildlife Fund recognized the region as among the top ten temperate conifer forests in the world. It includes the last remaining relatively intact roadless areas along the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Canada and contains continentally important fisheries. Based on studies by Geos Institute the region has been recognized as a potential climate refuge, if protected from its main threat – industrial scale nickel mining in the heart of relatively pristine and endangered waters.

kalmiopsis dc trip
In March, we teamed up with local conservation groups, DC activists, and local businesses (featured in the photo) to make a case to decision makers for permanent protection of the world-class Kalmiopsis area. If successful, our quarter-million acre proposal will become part of a complex of protected landscapes that includes nearby redwood state and national parks, designated wilderness, roadless areas, and the Smith River National Recreation Area.


(In the photo, left to right: Andy Kerr, Dave Strahan, Dominick DellaSala, Alyssa Babin)


Celebrating Earth Week by Recognizing Conservation Gains in the Northwest Forests

pnw forest streamThe Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1993 as the nation’s first large-scale ecosystem management plan designed to protect imperiled species like the northern spotted owl. It shifted federal lands management from timber dominance to conservation on nearly 25-million acres from the California coast redwoods to the Olympic rainforest. Recent studies by Geos Institute and partners summarized over two-decades of gains made in water quality, recovering riparian areas and old-growth forests, and salmon populations. Both the Bureau of Land Management (currently) and the Forest Service (in 2017) are in the process of revising this landmark plan. Early indications are that the BLM is unfortunately moving away from some of the protective elements of the plan by proposing to increase logging by some 38% in the coming decade. Geos Institute and partners have been engaged in outreach to both the Forest Service and BLM to build on the Northwest Forest plan gains given increased threats from climate change. We recently submitted detailed comments on the Forest Service’s science synthesis, a prelude to revising the plan, and published an opinion piece in the Medford Mail Tribune during Earth Week celebrating the Northwest Forest Plan.

(Photo by D. DellaSala. Streams like this one in the Pacific Northwest are improving due to advances made under the Northwest Forest Plan.)

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