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Engagement on the Forest Service's National Old Growth Amendment

On June 21st, the Forest Service published a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) outlining the agency’s proposal to amend all 128 Land Management Plans of the National Forest System “to develop a consistent management framework for conserving, stewarding, recruiting and monitoring old-growth forests.” Publication of the DEIS in the Federal Register commenced a 90-day comment period.

In the realm of environmental stewardship, the Forest Service's National Old Growth Amendment stands out as a critical initiative aimed at preserving the nation's dwindling old-growth forests. These ancient forests, characterized by their complex ecosystems, biodiversity, and irreplaceable ecological functions, are under increasing threat from wildfire, climate change, insects, disease, and, in some cases, commercial logging – points supported by the Forest Service’s recently released Mature and Old-Growth Threats Analysis. The amendment seeks to provide stronger protections for these vital ecosystems, ensuring they can thrive for generations to come.

Old-growth forests are often described as the lungs of the planet, and for good reason. They play a crucial role in sequestering carbon, thus mitigating the effects of climate change. These forests are also home to an incredible array of wildlife, much of which is found nowhere else on Earth. By protecting old-growth forests, the National Old Growth Amendment helps preserve this biodiversity, which is essential for maintaining resilient ecosystems. Further, old-growth forests offer invaluable ecosystem services such as water filtration, soil stabilization, and habitat provision. These benefits are not only to the environment but also provide tangible benefits to human communities.

Given the significance of old-growth forests, it is imperative to engage with members of Congress to garner support for the National Old Growth Amendment. Congressional backing is crucial for the amendment’s implementation and durability. Here’s how you can make a difference:

Educate and Inform: Many members of Congress may not fully understand the importance of old-growth forests or the implications of the amendment. Providing them with clear information and evidence on the benefits of these forests can help build a strong case for their support.

Personal Stories and Local Impact: Sharing personal stories and highlighting the local impact of old-growth forests can make the issue more relatable. Constituents who live near these forests can provide powerful testimonials about how these ecosystems benefit their communities.

Build Coalitions: Partner with aligned organizations, industry representatives, and other stakeholders to create a unified front. A broad coalition can demonstrate widespread support and increase the amendment’s chances of success.

The official comment period for the National Old Growth Amendment is a prime opportunity to make your voice heard. Here’s how to effectively submit a comment:

Understand the Amendment: First and foremost, ensure you thoroughly understand the amendment. Forest management, particularly for mature and old growth is complex - definitions and best practices vary significantly from one region to another. Read the full text and appendices, review summaries, and familiarize yourself with the key points and perspectives.

Be Specific and Constructive: When writing your comment, be specific about feedback and suggest alternatives or improvements when applicable. Also, be as concise as possible.

Use Personal and Local Examples: When possible, illustrate your points with personal experiences and local or regional examples. Highlighting real-world examples can make your comment more compelling. The Forest Service will benefit from a diverse set of comments and experiences will vary across regions.

Follow Submission Guidelines: Ensure your comment adheres to the submission guidelines provided by the Forest Service. This includes word limits, formatting requirements, and the September 20th deadline.

Encourage Others to Participate: Mobilize your network to submit comments as well. The more voices that are heard, the stronger the case for protecting old-growth forests and the more durable the final product will be.

The Forest Service’s National Old Growth Amendment represents a historic first step toward safeguarding America’s ancient forests. By engaging with members of Congress and actively participating in the public comment process, individuals can play a crucial role in ensuring these irreplaceable ecosystems receive the protection they deserve. In doing so, we not only preserve the natural heritage of our nation but also contribute to the global effort to combat climate change and protect biodiversity.


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