Tackling climate issues through U.S. forests

Climate Change is a dominant theme in the new administration and it is leading the conversation among ag leaders in Washington and in the fields. This week policymakers are looking to the forests as a priority.

Forests in the United States recapture more than 14 percent of all carbon emissions, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Dr. Cynthia West, Director of the Northern Research Station told House lawmakers that wood products are a critical part of proper forest management.

According to Dr. West, “Increasing markets for renewable wood materials and products makes a positive economic incentive to retain private forests... and to mitigate the effects of climate change. Innovative wood products diversify and support a vibrant forest product sector which is essential for forest health and sustainability.

University of Maine Forest Resources Professor, Stephen Shaler also testified that more forestry innovation is needed to support rural economies and reduce emissions.

“Accelerating innovation in forest products and application is key to meeting increasing global demand for low carbon materials, chemicals, and fuels that come from forests, but that innovation must occur within the context of a vibrant interconnected network of the environment, society, and economy,” Shaler explains.

Although, any gains in carbon sequestration can quickly be undone when wildfires sweep through American forests.

Speaking at the Agri-Pulse Food and Ag Policy Summit, Dave Tenny, National Alliance of Forest Owners President, told attendees that both public and privately owned forests need to be properly managed to reduce fire risk.

“Think about our forests across the landscape and put management in place that helps create firebreaks... that reduces stand densities to more natural levels, that allows trees to grow bigger, [recieve] enough nutrients and water and sunlight to grow and be stronger and more healthy.”

California Republican Jay Obernolte recently opposed House legislation that he says took forest management in the wrong direction, by redesignating 1.5 million acres of land as “wilderness.”

“I believe it’s possible to be a conservationist without being a preservationist, and the thing about a wilderness designation is it’s very restrictive in what we can then do to manage those forested areas,” Obernolte states. “Being wilderness means that there can’t be any roads, there can’t be any motorized vehicles, and there can’t be hardly any fuel reduction.”

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has also called on lawmakers this week to invest more funding in forest management, as resources are frequently redirected to wildfire suppression, leaving the Forest Service underfunded for regular maintenance.


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The West Coast wildfires are not the result of global warming, according to one university professor

Bipartisan policy center looks for carbon solutions for forests and farms