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President Biden moves to strengthen forests, boost wildfire resilience

President Biden will sign an executive order in Seattle today that will ultimately save some of America’s largest and oldest trees. The goal is to help mitigate climate change by preserving old-growth forests, which are valuable carbon stores. The order also aims to restore national forests that have been devastated by wildfires and drought, including forests in California that recently lost thousands of giant sequoias to fire. 

The executive order requires the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service to take inventory of the country’s old-growth forests within a year. 

The agencies have been directed to identify threats to older trees and to develop policies to help protect them, along with the establishment of a reforestation goal by 2030. The experts will address some of the biggest challenges of tree planting efforts in the West, such as expanding the capacity for seed collection and seedling production. 

According to a report from the Washington Post, the executive order is also aimed at curbing deforestation overseas, promoting economic development in regions with major timber industries and calculating the economic value of other natural resources such as wetlands.

Collin O’Mara is the president and chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation. He said the order may be an incredibly smart fire resilience strategy.

“We know old growth forests are less prone to megafires, especially when they’re managed well,” O’Mara told the Washington Post. “And apart from the benefits for wildlife and water quality and carbon sequestration, this also could be something that mitigates a lot of the fire risk if we do it right.”

A team of 135 scientists, including Former Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, called on President Biden to protect mature and old-growth forests as a critical climate solution.

“Older forests provide the most above-ground carbon storage potential on Earth, with mature forests and larger trees driving most accumulation of forest carbon in the critical next few decades. Left vulnerable to logging, though, they cannot fulfill these vital functions,” the scientists wrote on Thursday.

The experts said that protecting mature forests would set an important, highly visible example for other major forest-holding nations to follow as they address climate change threats.

President Biden will speak today in Seattle about his administration’s plans for action on climate change and other environmental threats. The event is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET, and the live feed can be accessed here.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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