Logging projects on the Green Mountain National Forest target thousands of acres of mature forest, flouting President Biden’s Earth Day Executive Order and jeopardizing US credibility at COP27
For Immediate Release: November 14, 2022
For Additional Information: Zack Porter, Executive Director, Standing Trees, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-552-0160 Rich Holschuh, Atowi Project, email@example.com
Candy Jones, 350 Rutland County, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheryl Joy Lipton, Scientist Rebellion, email@example.com
Dan Castrigano, Extinction Rebellion Vermont, firstname.lastname@example.org
Annette Smith, Vermonters for a Clean Environment, email@example.com
ROCHESTER, VT - On Saturday, November 12th, 110 activists in the Climate Forests Coalition and Save Public Forests Coalition staged a rally at the Rochester Ranger Station of the Green Mountain National Forest, one of many similar rallies taking place across the US that are timed to coincide with the COP27 climate conference in Egypt. Braving the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole, activists rallied in opposition to a rapid increase in logging on the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF), and in support of permanent protections for mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal lands. As the harm from climate change intensifies in New England, from extreme rain events to drought, a growing grassroots movement is demanding action from federal agencies to protect and restore ecosystems to store planet-warming carbon, support native biodiversity, and to make our communities more resilient.
“Before we start preaching about forest management to the rest of the world at COP27, we need to practice what we preach here at home,” said Zack Porter of Standing Trees. “The US can’t beg for forest protection in other nations while leveling mature and old-growth trees on in our own National Forests.”
In the past six years, the Green Mountain National Forest has approved 43,000-acres of logging, or more than 10% of the entire National Forest. The proposed Telephone Gap Integrated Resource Project calls for up to 10,900 additional acres of logging in a 30,000-acre landscape centered on the towns of Chittenden and Pittsfield, VT at the headwaters of Otter Creek and the White River. More than 85% of the project area is over 80 years old, a critical threshold age marking the beginning of forest maturity.
“The USFS is basing their current logging proposals on a 16 year old forest plan, which even by their own standards is outdated,” said Candy Jones of 350 Rutland County. “The plan makes no accommodations to the accelerating climate crisis. Mature forests sequester the most CO2 and therefore need to be protected from harvest.”
On Earth Day, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing federal agencies to protect mature and old-growth forests to benefit the climate and biodiversity. To date, little has changed, and many important forests continue to be targeted for logging.
In a new report released on Monday, “America’s Vanishing Climate Forests,” the Climate Forests Coalition is spotlighting 12 egregious logging projects where federal agencies are targeting mature and old-growth forests, eliminating vast amounts of naturally stored carbon and ongoing sequestration. One of the highlighted projects is the Early Successional Habitat Creation Project, also on the Green Mountain National Forest, which approved over 14,000-acres of logging in southern Vermont. Together with an earlier report, Worth More Standing, featuring the Telephone Gap logging project, the coalition has highlighted 22 projects totaling nearly 370,000 acres of mature and old-growth forests and trees from coast to coast.
“We are in a climate and ecological emergency. Protecting public forests is essential for the survival of many species that call Vermont home, including our own,” said Dan Castrigano of Extinction Rebellion Vermont. “Mature forests aren’t a renewable resource — we need to keep them standing.”
Federal forests sequester 35 million metric tons of carbon annually, a number that could rise steadily with new conservation measures to let these older trees continue to grow. Studies show that eliminating or reducing timber harvests on public timberlands, nationwide, could increase carbon sequestration by 43%. Here in New England, public forests store 30% more carbon on average than private forests, and could store 2 to 4 times more carbon if they were simply allowed to grow old.
“Scientists are fed up with the myths that are being propagated by the timber industry,” said Cheryl Joy Lipton of Scientist Rebellion. “Protecting and increasing the extent of intact forests is a natural climate solution; logging them is not.”
Of course, intact forests offer other crucial benefits, including habitat for vulnerable species, water quality enhancement, and flood mitigation. Recovering New England’s old-growth forests, which once dominated the region before being nearly eliminated by Euro-American settlers, is also important for restoring Abenaki and other indigenous connections to long-degraded landscapes.
"Those favoring extractive practices and viewing the Land and all that it holds as property are a manifestation of the same systemic colonizing attitudes that characterize this country's (and many others') historic and continuing treatment of Indigenous Peoples,” commented Rich Holschuh of the Atowi Project. “If the People are the Land and the Land is the People, the way they are going to be and have been treated will in the same manner. This is at the heart of the question of value which underlies this situation - do we see each other - human and other-than-human - as worthy of respect and inclusion? Do we embrace our mutual responsibilities for each other?"
Activists are calling for federal agencies to promulgate a new forest carbon rule that would protect all forests over the age of 80 on federal lands, like the Green and White Mountain National Forests in New England. These forests have entered their prime for carbon sequestration and storage, and are on the verge of providing high-quality habitat for native species. Less than 1% of forests in New England resemble the old forests that once blanked the region, and only 3% of forests are protected so that they will grow old. Scientists say we must manage at least 30-50% of our landscape primarily for the benefit of biodiversity if we are to stave off the worst scenarios of extinction and climate change.
“The Telephone Gap area has been recognized by the USFS as a 'biodiversity hotspot,’” commented Annette Smith of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. “Nature is the best manager of this forest at this time. Let it grow."
The Save Public Forests Coalition is planning a follow-up event on Wednesday 11/16 at 6:30pm to educate the public on myths propagated by the timber industry about logging. More information is available at this link.
"The Forest Service proposes cutting trees on 11,000 acres – a solid third of the Telephone Gap region of the Green Mountain National Forest," said Geoffrey Gardner of Upper Valley Affinity Group. "More than 80% of trees in the area proposed to be cut are more than 80 years old, many very much older than that. The supposed benefits of the destruction will accrue to very few people, while all of us will suffer the loss of this mature, intact forest and the real benefits it provides -- shelter for biodiversity, protection of water quality, flood and climate mitigation and the sheer beauty of this place. If this imbalance between the interests of the few against the interests of the many does not define terrible public policy and extreme disrespect of nature, I don’t know what does. We will stop this project."