Oregonians Rally to Protect the Climate through Defending Forests

Contact: Michael Krochta
Phone: (530) 902-9027

Oregonians Rally to Protect the Climate through Defending Forests

Climate change activists will rally alongside forest advocates today at Terry Schrunk Plaza in downtown Portland, to urge land managers to protect publically-owned forests as carbon sinks - capable of offsetting the majority of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. The rally is part of a week of actions being planned to respond locally to the UN's Climate talks in Paris.

This event will be held from 5:00-6:00pm across from the Edith Green – Wendell Wyatt Federal Building at 1220 SW 3rd Ave, which houses the Pacific Northwest Regional office of the U.S. Forest Service.  Representatives from both forest advocacy and broader climate change movements will be speaking along with street theater and accessible information on ways the public can get involved in raising awareness on these issues.

With the COP21 talks continuing in Paris this week, many are watching the climate negotiations with avid interest.  While these talks may feel abstract to Oregonians, there are pressing climate issues much closer to home. One routinely overlooked is the management of Oregon's forests.

Forests that are actively "managed" store less carbon. This includes forests that have been clearcut or even selectively logged. Forests that are left to grow and sequester through their own natural processes with little or no human intervention, do so the most effectively. However, for each tree that is commercially logged, approximately only 15% of its carbon is stored in wood products. The rest is released into the atmosphere, contributing to human-caused carbon emissions (compare this to the average 70-80% of carbon that remains stored in a forest after a fire). In a recent report by the Center for Sustainable Economy, the GEOS Institute and Oregon Wild titled "Clearcutting our Carbon Accounts", the authors highlight that logging has recently been found to be the second highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Oregon.

On the national level however, intact forests currently offset approximately 16% of U.S. emissions from burning fossil fuels annually. Altogether, the top-ten carbon-storing forests (all located in Oregon, Washington and southeastern Alaska) hold approximately 9.8 billion metric tons of carbon on about 19 million acres, which is equivalent to all the fossil fuels that are burned in the U.S. over a year.  Yet the outdated forest plans which identify their values make no mention of this critical role. One of these top carbon-storing forests, Mt. Hood National Forest’s 24 year-old management plan never mentions carbon sequestration.  Neither does the regional, 20 year-old Northwest Forest Plan – which had the original intent of providing a science-based blueprint for forests within the range of the Northern spotted owl.

Portland made history in 1993 by being the first U.S. city to create a local action plan for cutting carbon emissions, while our local forests currently have no management direction to cut these same emissions. But that will soon change. The U.S. Forest Service is just now beginning the multi-year process of revising these outdated plans across the state, and it is critical that maintaining these forests' roles as a carbon sinks is the primary goal of the new plans.  It has been shown by even the agency itself that the best way to do this is to decouple the Forest Service's budget from its timber sale program.  With the revision of public forest plans out on the table, shall our forests be managed as carbon sinks, or carbon polluters?

Public, federally managed forests which are meant to be managed "for the greatest good" have the greatest potential to capture additional carbon, and more quickly. “Since the effects of climate change will and already are impacting the entire U.S., this issue should take precedent over corporate extractive interests which benefit relatively few,” said Karen Coulter, director of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project. “With less than 2% of Oregon’s economy based in logging and wood products industries, it is time to reframe this debate to reflect the changing economic and natural environments in Oregon.”

“Intact forests provide us with more than just a carbon offset,” said Brenna Bell, Staff Attorney with the Portland-based group Bark. “With 98% of Mt. Hood National Forest providing municipal drinking water, not logging the forest to ensure adequate clean drinking water for the growing local population in a changing climate is crucial to for long-term regional health and stability.”

“With the public's support, the growing strength of Oregon's climate movement can create the demand for a shift away from an extractive, destructive commercial profit model,” stated Audie Fuller, volunteer with the Portland Climate Action Coalition. “We need to ensure that forests can do the important work of producing clean, cold water for spawning salmon, wildlife, and the millions of people - as well as sequestering tons of carbon from the atmosphere and storing it for centuries.”

For more information visit: https://www.facebook.com/events/444020362453866/444078059114763/