Carole King: ‘America’s forests are a key climate solution’
I was one of four majority witnesses invited to testify before a House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing Feb. 15, 2022, on H.R. 1755, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. NREPA is a large landscape preservation bill that will protect 23 million acres of federal land owned by all Americans. Most of those acres are in our national forests. NREPA does not affect private land.
Preserving all those publicly owned forests — and the carbon they store — is an existing natural climate solution known as “proforestation” that will significantly advance President Biden’s Jan. 27, 2021 Executive Order, Section 216 goal to preserve 30 percent of areas of land and water in the U.S. by 2030 (a.k.a. “30 x 30”).
Because the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior usually testify at land use hearings, I wrote to administration officials ten days before the hearing to suggest that the Forest Service not oppose NREPA to be consistent with 30 x 30. Three days later, I was notified that the hearing had been “postponed.”
On March 1, Ranking Member Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho) of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands publicly thanked Subcommittee Chairman Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) for “canceling” the NREPA hearing.
The hearing has yet to be rescheduled.
Who doesn’t want a hearing to educate the public about NREPA’s benefits? And why?
The U.S. Forest Service has been facilitating taxpayer-subsidized commercial logging for decades under multiple presidents from both parties. Subsidies incentivize companies to log on public rather than private land. And an operator of heavy equipment is motivated to “harvest” (a euphemism for turning a living tree into a log) the biggest, most profitable trees as quickly as possible.
Another euphemism is “thinning.” In many areas out west, feller bunchers clearcut a forest by sawing down and stripping nearly all the trees, leaving “slash” — the unprofitable branches, needles, and leaves — to dry out. That’s not thinning.
Misinformation disseminated under the guise of euphemisms such as “thinning,” “treatment,” “fuel reduction,” “management,” and “restoration” by the timber industry and by government officials has convinced much of the public that commercial logging is necessary to control wildfires.
But peer-reviewed studies by independent scientists show that removal of trees from a forest causes fire to burn hotter and faster — and that the most effective way to protect communities is to harden homes.
President Biden’s Executive Order on Earth Day 2022 says: “America’s forests are a key climate solution.”
Those are good words — but America’s youth want action. Many believe that the federal government is harming them by continuing to subsidize industries that emit massive amounts of carbon. And it’s not just fossil fuels. Annual carbon emissions from logging in the U.S. are comparable to annual carbon emissions in the U.S. from burning coal.
President Biden needs to reassure climate voters of all ages with action, not just promises. Here are four things he can do right now:
- Announce his support for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.
- Ask Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) to reschedule the NREPA hearing without delay.
- Order a moratorium on commercial logging in our national forests while the administration does its mature and old-growth inventory.
- Hire an independent entity to develop a plan with measurable steps and deadlines to restructure the Forest Service to incentivize preservation, not logging — and make the plan public no later than Dec. 1, 2022.
2030 is just seven and a half years away. Warming is accelerating. Clean drinking water is diminishing. Oceans are rising. And species — potentially including our own — are going extinct.
“America’s forests are a key climate solution.”
And so is NREPA.
Carole King is a singer, songwriter, author and environmentalist. A 44-year resident of Idaho, she has advocated for the passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act for over three decades. Follow her on Twitter @Carole_King and on Instagram @carole_king. Her Facebook is: https://www.facebook.com/CaroleKing
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