UNPRECEDENTED: Biden Administration Set to Ban Logging Across Federal Lands

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In a move rural Americans are calling counterproductive and dangerous, President Joe Biden is set to ban logging across millions of acres of federal land for the first time in U.S. Forest Service history.

Under a new proposal from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), all 128 forest land management plans nationwide would be updated to ban timber harvesting on old growth and mature trees. The Biden administration claims this is to help curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Forests Abandoned

In recent years, wildfires have increased in size and frequency across the American West. Some attribute this to climate change, others to a combination of human factors.

Native Americans historically practiced regular control burns to manage overgrowth and prevent fires from getting too big. Fire was accepted as a natural event that played an important role in Western ecosystems, but needs management.

In recent years, this approach has been abandoned. The U.S. Forest Service, responsible for Smokey the Bear (“Only you can prevent forest fires!”) shifted the focus from forest management to fire suppression.

Strengthened by the emerging pro-wilderness, anti-human mentality toward conservation, traditional clearcutting and prescribed burn tactics were abandoned, with firefighting forces militarized to tackle blazes taking the place of foresters deployed to use logging and fire as strategic tools for cohesive forest management.

Today’s fires are larger, hotter, more frequent, and more deadly, as unchecked fuel loads routinely stoke small blazes into months-long mega-fires.

Rural America Suffers the Consequences of Abandoned Forest Management

New research has begun to shed light the impact of these severe wildfire seasons. A recent study found a connection between wildfire smoke and increased suicides in rural America. Urban America was not affected.

Rural Americas say their quality of life is damaged by summers of smoke-polluted air. In Southwest Oregon, a report found residents saw an average 13 days of unhealthy air from wildfire smoke every year between 2013 and 2022–a sharp increase from one to two days annually from 1985-2012.

In California, researchers discovered that wildfires could be turning natural metals into deadly carcogenic compounds. Chromium-6, which entered the national consciousness as the “Erin Brockovich chemical,” exists in high rates at burn sites on the state’s North Coast. This chemical is known to increase cancer risk when ingested or inhaled.

“A Land Grab If There Ever Was One”

This decision to end logging across 25 million acres of old growth forest simultaneously is a first in Forest Service history. The Wall Street Journal editorial board called it a gift to Joe Biden’s friends in the climate lobby and a “land grab” that is destined to backfire by causing more uncontrolled wildfires.

“For years the feds have struggled to manage overgrown forests to prevent wildfires, and the Biden proposal will add to the challenge.”

A letter to the editor written in response expands on this perspective. The author is a 40-year veteran of the Forest Service. He writes that harvesting old trees allows for new growth, and that young forests have a much lower fire risk.

“Banning the harvest of timber on 25 million acres of ‘old growth’ forest will have the direct opposite effect on carbon emissions that the Biden administration wants by precluding the effective protection of those lands from devastating wildfires.”

Climate Change Efforts Up in Smoke

Released along with the forest management announcement, a White House fact sheet claims America’s forests absorb 10% of the nation’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. But critics argue that the emissions caused by wildfires dwarf any sequestration from old growth. Unmanaged forests are carbon bombs waiting to go off. Across the globe, forest fires were responsible for releasing 33.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide between 2001 and 2022.

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