Mature and old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are becoming increasingly rare, with only 10 percent of Oregon’s original old growth trees still standing. These forests play a critical role in protecting us from the ravages of climate change.
Research shows that older forests in the Cascade Mountains provide some of the highest carbon sequestration on the planet.
Climate scientists say that decreasing logging in the Pacific Northwest is one of the most effective land-use strategies to mitigate climate change. Tragically, Oregon’s forest carbon stocks have been severely depleted by large-scale industrial logging. With each new timber sale, they are increasingly compromised.
The rapid rate of clearcutting in Oregon mountains has resulted in a sharp increase in carbon sequestration “dead zones,” wastelands that emit more carbon than they absorb. In fact, a report released by the Center for Sustainable Economy and Geos Institute shows that the forestry sector is Oregon’s second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Research also shows that cutting mature trees makes forests more vulnerable to drought and wildfire. Large, old trees of fire-resistant species are the ones most likely to survive a fire. No scientific justification exists for logging or thinning our mature forests.
As last summer’s heat dome and the devastating 2020 wildfires demonstrated, catastrophic climate change is already occurring. Protecting the stability of the climate is the most urgent task our world faces. Older trees have a critical role to play in sequestering and storing carbon, and they are the last remnant of a magnificent heritage.